Run Wild, Run Free and Run Happy and that’s how it was running Itogonia. The route featured both the nostalgic yellow trails of Camp John Hay and the unexplored Itogon trails for the longer distances. It was not an easy run as the technical descent on wet surfaces and unlimited climbs added to the spice of the run.
Itogonia Wild Country Trail Run
There’s so many stories to tell about Itogonia as I was there since Day 1. I was able to try a one way route to the turning point of the 32 kilometers. I also tried out the 16K route and I raced the 8K route. Since Day 1, it has always been planned as a runner’s race from the overall feel, to the pricing and to the inclusions.
We were also lucky enough to be supported by sponsors from Camp John Hay through JHMC and BCDA, who’s always gave us access to the trails. We had the all out support of the Municipality of Itogon and the town Mayor even shared a few words during the awarding. Then there’s the usual support of SRI which included Brooks, Drymax Socks and Gu Energy Gels. We had the support of Suncoast Brands with Lightwater, Vitamin Boost and Emco Musli. Off Grid Racing & Exploration (OGRE) designed the shirts. Amihan Sports Gear also provided some of the prizes and assisted in the logistics for the shirts. Sanctband and Off The Grid Outdoor Co provided the prizes. Le Monet was also our gracious venue host while Suntrust Properties Inc. also provided man power and logistics support. Cinco Antonio Bistro provided the post-race food. Smart provided the finisher arch. Of course, special thanks to the volunteers who manned the race route during the race.
Since the event was co-presented by Pinoy Trails together with Team Malaya and Active Pinas, I was at the Le Monet at 2:00 am for the race preparation. So to cut the story short, I did part of the hosting, part of the gear-check, saw the earlier waves on their gun start and all the little chores just to make sure that the event goes on smoothly.
After all the 8K runners claimed their kits, I joined them and started at the back of the runners. The 8K route is the traditional Yellow Trail loop taking the lower part of the trail then followed by a steep climb mid-way and an out in back to the tree-top adventure area before heading back via the upper part of the Yellow Trail. That’s also my regular route every time I do a training run at Camp John Hay.
The first kilometer was mostly downhill but this was my slowest kilometer because of the slippery surface from the wet trails. When the trails are wet, gravity becomes a disadvantage. It was a slip and slide first kilometer and since we’re just doing 8K, this would only be our technical descent compared to the longer distance who get a longer descent until Gumatdang area in Itogon. When the trails went smoother after about a kilometer, I shifted to brisk walk pace on the rolling terrain.
While the surface was wet, the soil was more compact so it was more tolerable. I love the lower part of the Yellow Trail with its pine rich backdrop that gets better when you go deeper. The single track leads to the log cabin and the trail heading downward. There’s a fork in this area, one which leads further downward to the 16K and 32K routes while we had to take the steep trail upward.
About 4 kilometers into the race, it s the steep climb that’s about 200 meters in elevation in just 500 meters in distance. For me, this was the race in itself since after this part, it would be a walk in the park already. I divided my effort with several pushes on the climb and 3 resting breaks until I finally reached the top. Upon hitting the upper part at the Embassy Area, we proceeded to the out and back to the tree top adventure area. This has been my favorite spot on the trail as this area gives you a view of the Cordillera Mountain Range.
I started doing some run-walk stretches at this part until the u-turn slot at the red fire hydrant heading into the tree top adventure area. It was the same run-walk effort going back as I was counting down the remaining kilometers of the race. I started to pass runners at this time. I stopped a bit at the embassy area for one final shot before heading back with about 2 kilometers to go.
The next part of the trail was a mixed of single track and some stretches with mud puddles as it started to rain. I went to run most stretches at this point and passed a few more runners who took it slow on the mud puddles. It was run and brisk walk at this point as I traversed the upper part of the trails. It really helps that I am familiar with the trails so I know when to push or reserve my energy. With a few effort I was back to the road segment and then to the finish line.
That concludes the race part and the race was to see the other distances finish throughout the day. Congratulations to the finisher as it was not an easy race especially for the 16K and 32K distances. Seeing the finish times, the 16K felt like 25K on normal surfaces and the 32K felt like 42K on normal surfaces. Hats off to everybody and continue to Run Wild, Run Free and Run Happy.