If it’s not difficult, it’s not Xtrail!!! Last April 9, 2016, Salomon Xtrail Pilipinas 2016 has again lived up to being a tough man’s race. The climbs were forever, the trails were technical and the heat of the sun was at its full summer blast. The best race stories are those that test your character and finding the strength of will in you to conquer the path of most resistance. #SalomonXtrailPilipinas2016 #TrailLove
- Incoming: Salomon XTrail Pilipinas 2016
- Salomon X-Trail Pilipinas 2014
- Salomon X-Trail Pilipinas 2015
- Salomon City Trail Manila 2014
- Salomon City Trail Manila 2015
Salomon XTrail Pilipinas 2016
I have a very high regard for Salomon XTrail Pilipinas races because it’s among the toughest you can join. The past two years had me finishing on an empty tank. It’s something you had to prepare for both physically and mentally. For me, a race does not start at the starting line but it begins from the previous weeks build up entering race day. I was practically on panic mode the whole week since I missed some key training and a lot of sleep owing to a busy work schedule. I was scheduled for 24K (which later on became 25.3K) with 5 hours cutoff. I contemplated to downgrade distance but eventually decided to go with the 24K distance and just run by feel. I hope that I have invested enough trail mileage to cover the distance and the elevation gain.
It was also a welcome relief that there are over thousand runners and outdoor enthusiasts who would also be braving the different distances for the Salomon XTrail Pilipinas 2016. It’s one of the most anticipated trail running event in the Asia Pacific region for the past five years. With competitions held in unique and exotic locations in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hongkong and the Philippines, it is reputed for mounting the most challenging and scenic trail running races that feature a mixture of different terrain surfaces, including vertical ascents, long uphill climbs, with multi-surfaces of dirt, rocks, sand, and concrete paths. In the Philippines, the races had been held in exclusive venues – ensuring that the race venues not only demonstrate the majestic beauty of nature but also, offer participants a stimulating and unique trail running experience. This year, Salomon decided to hold its 5th installment at the Subic Freeport Zone in Zambales, where new trail routes were created exclusively for this year’s race.
Race Photos are available at Salomon Philippines Facebook Page.
Race Maps and Elevation Profile
The race starts at Binictican Drive and goes on 4.5 kilometers of paved roads with a total ascent of 70 meters with a rolling terrain. The route shifts to the trails of El Kabayo for another 50 meters ascent over the next 1.5 kilometers. It goes on a steep descent over the next 1 kilometer covering a descent of 110 meters. The race goes back on a steep ascent of 150 meters over single track trails for the next 1.5 kilometers. The race goes on another 4 kilometers of fire and dirt roads with an elevation gain of 220 meters to the u-turn slot at Hill 394. The route goes back on the same course from the u-turn slot.
We took our bus ride from R.O.X. at Bonifacio Global City at 1 am and arriving at Subic around 4:15 am, which was enough time to claim our kit and warm up in the venue. It was also good that I was able to catch a short nap at the bus since I needed every rest I can take before the race. The 32 Kilometer runners had their gun start at 4:45 am while we had ours at 5:10 am. It’s always an anxious time when you are up against a vertical race with an added challenge of a cutoff. We had a 5 hour cutoff and that’s not an easy cutoff for a 25K trail run with about 800++ meters worth of elevation gain.
There’s a 4.5 kilometer worth of roads before entering the trail at El Kabayo. This was a chance to invest some time before things get slower at the trails. It was a hot and humid morning so even at 5 am, you can already feel the heat. At gun start, I took advantage of the flat terrain to start fast on the first 1.5 kilometer. The elevation shifts to a rolling terrain over the next 3 kilometers so I pulled my pace a bit since I wanted to be fresh when I entered the trail.
The plan was to be conservative at the first half of the race since it’s mostly climbing anyway and assess if it’s worth chasing the cutoff at the u-turn slot halfway into the race. It was good that it was a bit bright already once we entered the trails. The trails were mostly single track route that had roots, twigs, branches, leaves, bamboo shoots and rocks on the trail. It was run-able but at the same time, caution is also important as you can easily trip on the roots, twigs and other debris. The first 1.5 kilometers were uphill climbs so I just went on an easy walking pace making sure that I won’t over exhaust myself on the climb.
After the climb comes a steep descent. I went on at a brisk walk pace being mindful of the uneven trail so I won’t trip. Every time I tried to speed up, I always ended up slipping, sliding or tripping. It’s run-able but the steepness made it a bit technical so I had to opt for which sections to run and which to walk. The downward trail led to the Boton River and El Kabayo Falls.
Whenever there’s a river, expect a climb to follow. It’s actually a 5.5 kilometer climb covering about 370 meters worth of elevation gain but I had to divide this into two section. The next 1.5 kilometers were on technical and steep trails that really challenge your lung power as you really have to huff and puff your way towards this stretch. Funny thing that it was at this point that I thought I lost my bib. Even during the time that I thought I lost my bib, I still went on with the torturous climb hoping that I’ll find it on my way back.
I was always amazed at the beauty of the forest in Subic. It always had the thick forest reserve that’s so refreshing to look at and really scenic. During the Salomon Xtrail, we were deep in the Subic forest reserve. Even if it’s a challenge, the backdrop was beautiful. It lacked the overlooking views that some mountain trails offer but the thick forest view was what set this trail apart. The thick forest was also our protection from the sun as you can count the spots during the trail, where the trail was open.
I managed to crawl my self through the steep part of the trail and finally hit the fire trails and dirt roads at kilometer 8.5. It was at the water station that I came to realize that maybe my bib wasn’t lost at all so I checked my race belt again only to find out that the bib shifted to my back. I guess I was just to caught with the difficulty of the trail that I failed to check my bib at my back.
The next four kilometers were mostly climbs with short descents or flat areas. My strategy was just to walk it as fast as I can. I wanted to run the short descents and the flat areas but I decided against it. I wanted to be fresh whenever I would start the climb. So I lost some time on the descent but was able to be more consistent on the climbs. The next 4 kilometers felt like forever. The fire roads shifted to single track dirt roads and became a lot steeper. The toughest part was braving the last kilometer heading to the u-turn slot. It was practically a crawlfest. It was nice though that I met a lot of friends along the route.
The halfway point was at the top of Hill 394. It had a nice overlooking view of Subic. I was able to reach the half way point sub 2:30, which meant I had a shot at meeting the cutoff. I was assessing the course as the large part was downhill except kilometer 18 and 19, which were steep ascents. I made my way down the hill doing run walk sets to speed up without straining my knees. I had to stop shortly at Kilometer 14 to assist a 32K runner who had cramps. I tried to help him loosen up the tightness. He told me, he wanted to rest it off a bit. After I left, I told one of the Marshall who I saw after a few meters to assist the runner. I went on to continue on the trail and stopped and rest at each hydration station.
I was able to speed up going to the water station at kilometer 16.5. The trails then shifted back to single track and technical trails, which had me shifting to brisk walk pace and had me running some parts. I was also reserving my energy for the climb at kilometer 18 and 19.
After crossing the river, it was the toughest part of the race. Kilometer 18 and 19 had long stretches of steep climbs. This was also my slowest part of the race as I had to stop once in a while to catch my breath. The climb felt endless. You just have to endure those lung-busting moments until you’ve reached the top of the climb. After being several hours in the trails, fatigue sets in and the ascents challenges your endurance and climbing threshold. After the end of the climb, it was a straight descent heading to the road part of the race at kilometer 20.5.
The road part started on uphill stretches that gave us the feel of the hot Summer Weather in Subic. I had about 40-50 minutes to cover this stretch to meet the cutoff. Coming from running on soft trails, it does feel so heavy on the knees when you shift to paved roads. It started with the uphill stretches. I was brisk walking on the climbs so I was able to cover the next two kilometers at a faster pace. With about 2.5 kilometers to go, I felt that it would be a bit risky just walking the remaining part so went on a run walk stretch until I reached the finished line and I was able to finish within the cutoff at 4:54. It was a hard earned medal indeed.
Outfit of The Race
- Top: Adidas Climachill with #TaleOfTheTrail Designe by Breakout Design
- Bottom, Cap, Hydration Bag, Calf Sleeves, Arm Sleeves : Under Armour
- GPS Watch: Suunto Ambit 3 Sports
- Eyewear: Oakley Racing Jacket
- Shoes: Salomon Wingsflight
- Gaters: Ahon.PH
- Socks: Features