Add a little bit of rain and the trail becomes a whole new playground. Soleus Cross Country Challenge was a challenge indeed. It was a challenge on how you’d navigate the muddy and slippery trail. It was a challenge on your courage as you go daredevil mode on the long and steep descent. It was a challenge on your sanity as you endure a very long ascent back to the finish line. It’s tough but we just get tougher with all these challenges!!!
- Incoming: Soleus Cross Country Challenge
- Soleus Run for the Aspins
- Soleus Valley Trail Challenge
- #TaleOfTheTrail: Camp Sinai Pintong Bukawe Casile Inigan (San Mateo, Rizal)
Soleus Cross Country Challenge
This race is both a fast trail and a slow trail. There’s a huge part of the race that gives you a long descent to blitz if you can go on fearless mode. It gets slow on the way back as you crawl your way back from the river. I had the perfect game plan and that was to cruise the descent and remain steady on the climb. That’s until the rain came in. It was a totally different trail adventure as the descent goes slippery. The muddy area was even harder to navigate as you struggle to find balance while your shoes gain added weight from the accumulated mud. Well, it’s a challenge after all so let’s so how we do on this trail.
Race Map and Elevation Profile
The Race starts at Camp Sinai with the first 2 kilometers on rolling and muddy trails. It goes on a long descent for the next kilometer in the next 4 kilometers until the river for the u-turn. The race shifts to climb as you navigate 400 meters of elevation over the next 4 kilometers until Pintong Bukawe. It then goes back to the muddy trails for the remaining distance to the finish line.
It has been raining all week before the race so the question on my mind was never whether the race will push through or not but on how wild it’s gonna get. It becomes an all new adventure when you go on wet trails. There was a slight change in the route, which takes away the river stretch for safety reasons. It’s all systems go and we’re ready to roll.
I was the designated driver for today picking up Mark and Glads in Makati at 3:30 am and Mike and Inja in QC at 4:00 am. It’s always an earlier start when it comes to out-of-town trail races. You have to factor in the travel time. San Mateo is about 45 minutes to 1 hour away from Quezon City. We arrived at the venue past 5:00 am with still a lot of time to warm up stretch and socialize with running friends. It was nice to see the large turnout for the event.
The 21 kilometer runners were released at 6:00 am and we had our gun start at 6:20 am. As soon as we had a gun start, I knew it was a totally different trail because of the wet and muddy trail. The descent gets extra slippery so you have to watch your step. It was also a bit congested because of the single track trail. I had to stop and reassess my strategy.
The mud made the trail extra challenging. It was slippery and it also makes your shoes heavier. I took it easy on the congested part to preserve my energy when the trail gets wider. I went on to speed up if I see more solid surfaces so I can pull my way out of the congested area. I had to walk on the climbs and remain cautious on the slippery parts and that’s the strategy for the first two kilometers.
The Long Descent
As soon as I got out of the muddy stretch, I started to run and this would be more 4 kilometers worth of descents. The first 500 meters were on paved grounds so took advantage of this stretch to speed up. The surface then shifts to rough roads with some stones. The stones can be a bit slippery so I used my poles to add some balance when I run. I also visualized the course and opted on the areas where the surface is more solid.
The wet trail changes the game as even when gravity is on your side. It can also make you slip, slide and fall. I just braved the descents but remained cautious and alert on the changing surface conditions. I inserted a few seconds of walk in between. I don’t want to over exhaust myself on the descent as I would need all the energy on the climb. I descent goes steeper as you approach the river area. I was finally able to reach the river area and went on at a relaxed pace to ensure my heart rate is low when I start the climb.
As I went on the u-turn, I knew this was the tough part. It took me an hour to hit this spot and it would surely take much longer going up. I switched to using two poles as it would be more efficient on the climb. There’s no easy way of doing the climb, you just have to endure it. I made a mental note of dividing the climb into 2 segments. The first 2 kilometers had a much steeper slope while the next two would be moderate but continuous ascent. I’ll take it easy on the first 2 kilometers.
I went on with the climb with a steady walk and using the pole to let the upper body assist in the climb. I was just focused on taking one step at a time while greeting fellow runners a huffing and puffing good morning as I struggled on the climb. It was really steep on this part with no flat area to recover. There’s a water station after my first kilometer of climbing. I took time to take my energy gel, eat a banana and drink water before I resumed on a much steeper 2nd kilometer of climbing.
My Toughest Kilometer
The 2nd Kilometer Climbing and the 8th kilometer of the race was my longest. It had a more technical surface with a tougher incline. No other way to do the climb but to endure it. I went on with the crawlfest and I just went one step after another. It was a mental challenge but I knew if I would make it past this stretch it would be a lot easier. I just tried to endure this stretch, a bit slower but I did it with consistent effort.
Last Two Kilometers of the Climb
The good part of dividing a climb is that it’s easier to think about it in chunks. The next two kilometers were moderate climbs and there were a few stretches of flat lands or descents. I used this area to recover so I have my full lung capacity when I resume the climb. It was a steady effort until I hit the paved area and eventually heading to the final two kilometers of the race.
The Final Two Kilometers of The Race
While the final 2 kilometers were not my slowest kilometer, it was the most mentally challenging part. The wet and muddy surface had me slipping every step I take. It also makes my shoe heavier because of the accumulated mud. I can’t even speed up on the descent as it could mean slipping or falling of somewhere. You could hear the host of the event on some sections of the trail yet it still felt far. I just ignored everything focusing on each step making sure that I was moving forward.
I was inching my way to the finish line. The last 300 meters was a tough one as it was a continuous ascent on the muddy trails. Some times you move up two steps and slip one. I just went on to move forward until I finished the race. Time check, 2:37 covering 12.5 kilometers of Soleus Cross Country Challenge. I enjoyed the race and the challenge.