“ Soleus Valley Trail Challenge gave us a full tour of Nuvali’s premises from a slow ascent to the peak of Nuvali to the lush green stretch that rivals the beauty of New Zealand to endless forested area and dirt track surrounded with wild grass. The sun’s scorching heat made the race even more challenging and crossing the finish line a lot more fulfilling.”
Soleus Valley Trail Challenge
During the launch, I initially selected 15K distance though immediately changed it to 30K distance after Inja told me that the 15K won’t get me a peek at the famed New Zealand area in Nuvali. A few days before the race it was suggested just to make it a loop course instead of an out-and-back course so the 30K runners would get to see the whole race course. The consequence was an additional 2 kilometers in the race. 32 kilometers, so be it. That’s what trails are made for, to give you a better view of the place.
I love the trails since it’s done at a more relaxed paced on the road and the views are much better. I’m never a fast runner on trails as I spend so much time appreciating the views and also I am more cautious because of the uneven terrain. This is gonna be a long journey but it’s where you develop strength of character and perseverance. Ready or not here I come!!!
Race Course and Elevation Profile
The race starts at the club house and proceeds to the trails for 6 kilometers of pure trails with rolling terrain before proceeding to the Rotonda and back to Nuvali Main Road heading to the next stretch of the trail. The next set of trails is a slow ascent covering an elevation of more than 100 meters until the 16th kilometer of the race at the back of Venare area in Nuvali, The race descends 90 meters going to Diversity Ave at kilometer 20. The race goes on rolling terrain from Diversity Avenue to Nuvali Main Avenue before entering the trails again on the Canlubang side of Nuval until Kilometr 25. The race shift back to Nuvali main for about 2 kilometer stretch going to the Rotonda and back to the first set of trails enroute to the finish line.
The gun start for the 30+2K was at 4 am so I was in the venue before 3 am which just meant a lot of time to catch up with some people and just chill before the race. It was a more relaxed setting compared to the usual wait for the gunstart on road races. We had our race briefing 15 minutes before the race and at 4 am, it was time to GO!!!
What Could Go Wrong 5K?
Having a good start to a race can really help boost my confidence going into the race. Well, I didn’t have that as I broke the strap of my hydration bag 3 minutes before the start of the race and felt the drag without the firmness of the bag when I started. It also mixed up the wires of my ipod so I decided to do away with the music, placed the ipod on my bag and went on. My legs also felt stiff because of the uneven terrain and slippery surface. What to do? Well, it happens so I just went on with the run allowing my legs to slowly warm up. The first three kilometers was a climb so had to go slower than usual until my legs warmed up. The next two was downhill and it was slippery but it’s a good thing that everybody was warning each other on slippery areas or if there were big holes to avoid. At the 5 kilometer mark, there was a logjam as there was a steep part going down the bridge and crossing over to the other side.
It’s time to catch up!!!
After 1 hour, I was only able to cover a little over 5 kilometers, which is still ok but might be too close to the cutoff time considering you’ll have to settle for a slower pace on the later kilometers. I had to catch up so it was another half kilometer out of the trail and then the climb to the Rotonda and descent again to Nuvali Main Road before entering the trails once again halfway into kilometer 7. The good part was that the morning has come and we don’t have to grope in the dark any longer. The next few kilometers would also be a climb but the good thing about Nuvali trails is it’s not that steep as the ascent is distributed over the next 8-9 kilometers. So the strategy was two do a lot more effort in this part. I added a few minutes of run with the walk intervals. This part had tall wild grass in the dirt track and also had a forested area that was really scenic. The kilometers started to pile up and before you know it you could already see the roads in Miriam College area in the tall wild grass surrounding the trails. By kilometer 15, we were in the water station and given the spacing between the water stations, I spend time eating watermelons, drinking and splashing water over my head as it’s already scorching hot at that time. One more kilometer and we were at the peak of Nuvali and the view was just amazing.
Welcome to New Zealand
I was able to cover around 17K by the 3 hour mark and at the peak of Nuvali was such a splendid view. It was known as New Zealand because of the lush green grassy look of the area. I just had to stop to take my photo taken here. On hindsight, I should have taken more photos here as the area was really breathtaking as you could see several kilometers of green surfaces and it was just a visual treat being on this part of the trail. This was until around kilometer 18 before it switches to the area where there are large construction work. With the matching heat of the sun at this time of the day, it felt like a dessert for the next two kilometers and it was a struggle because of the heat of the sun. I was pacing with Inja at this time already.
Kilometer 20 and beyond
Going into kilometer 20 and Diversity Avenue, we felt really thirsty and we were lucky enough to see some Good Samaritans in the form of Team Sikad, who was there for their bike training. An ice cold Coca Cola and Gatorade really helped us go on for the next kilometers. The water stations was about a kilometer away so we took our time there hydrating and getting some ice to cool down our system from the scorching sun. Up next, was another 4 kilometers of trails in the Canlubang side of Nuvali. We saw our Good Samaritans again at the around 23K and they gave us another bottle of Gatorade before heading for the final two kilometers of this stretch of trail. The trails at this part felt recurring as it was a nearby subdivision and the trails just went straight.
Francky, we have a problem
We were back on the road again at kilometer 25. I noticed something odd as my hands were swelling and really bloated. This was my first time to have swelling hands so I was thinking it had to be some imbalance in the system. (Post race: It turns out that the swelling of the hands while running means that there is too much salt in my system which can be remedied by peeing). I applied some ice on my hand as we hit the next water stations at that time. There was a one kilometer stretch of road to the next water station and from there I ate banana, apple, watermelon and others just hoping that one of those items would balance things out. We proceeded to the Rotonda and proceeded to the last set of trails.
5 Kilometer to Go!!!
The last 5K of the race was also the first 5K of the race. While the first 5K went like a breeze, the last 5K felt like my watch being so conservative with the mileage slowly just trickling in. It was a brisk walk that felt endless with the heat of the sun at its strongest. The area was surrounded by tall grasses and you can definitely feel the rays of the sun slowing hitting raw flesh to slow you down. It’s all a matter of heart and perseverance at this point. The key is just going on and never stopping before the finish line. After what seems like an eternity and probably me wishing a hundred times for the rain to fall, we finally hit the finish line. The weariness of the legs, the sun burnt body, the exhaustion after 32 kilometers was replaced by the satisfaction of finishing once I crossed the finish line and yes with a lot of time to spare before the cutoff. That was a great race by Soleus!!!