Breaking Boundaries! That’s what #TNF100Ph2016 is all about. It may be your first chance at trail at 11K or a stronger 22K run. It may be testing the limits of your endurance with the 50K and 100K categories. This is why we keep coming back to this torturous race. It’s to break boundaries and to push ourselves beyond our limits.
The North Face
The North Face 100 is among the toughest trail races in the country and yet weekend warriors like me wouldn’t pass up the chance of being a part of the thrill of the trail. It’s where lifelong stories are made and those who brave the challenges end up to be much tougher. It is pushing your mental and physical limits to adapt to the constantly evolving and oftentimes, uncontrollable nature of the outside environment. It is about always being ready to explore, and that is what The North Face is all about. Baguio and Benguet’s terrain are among the most scenic and toughest trails you’ll ever encounter with its pine-rich forest reserve and its unlimited uphills. It challenges endurance runners through several distance ranging from 50 and 100 kilometers for endurance runners and 11K and 22K for the rest.
The North Face has also launched the outdoor training regimen that will harness the athlete’s mental and physical agility, strength, balance, and core power like never before. Because the outside elements can be unpredictable and extreme, it is imperative that the practitioner uses apparel that gives superior breath ability and durability that complements their training. For trails as tough as this, The North Face has developed its Mountain Athletics line that applies technology specifically suited for the outdoors, making its wearer Get Better and Go Further in their outdoor training
TNF 100 is among the most important trail event in the country and in the region. This is one of the reasons I never dare miss it. What makes this edition special for me was the effort I had to put into it just to make it to the starting line. It was a busy week for me as I had to squeeze in a 3-day Singapore business trip before eventually rushing my way to the event last April 30 coming from a plane ride from Singapore and a Bus Ride from Manila. It was exhausting just trying to catch the event but Baguio is my home court and I wouldn’t dare miss this one.
Race Route and Elevation Profile
The Race Starts at the Open Grounds at Ordonio drive. It starts with a short 500 meter parade loop before entering the Eco Trail, which is a 3 kilometers out and back trail with rolling ascent. The race shifts to the yellow trails passing at the side of Le Monet for another 2 kilometers worth of rolling trails until the aid station. The trail goes on a net descent of 200 meters over the next 5.5 kilometers. The trail goes on a climb back the Aid Station until kilometer 16.5. It goes to the upper part of the yellow trail and descends to the Embassy area until kilometer 18.5. The race goes back to the yellow trail and the finish line at Ordonio Drive.
I was up early on race day and arrived at the venue at 4:30 am just to have sufficient time to warm up and get to meet familiar faces. Camp John Hay is practically my training ground as I’m always at the Eco-trails and Yellow Trails every time I am in Baguio. I have familiarity on my side but on the other hand, I have fatigue and rustiness coming from a business trip in Singapore. I will try to race smart and play it by feel (Of course, mindful of the cut-off). I also brought my trekking poles to aid me on the ascents. Since I am not yet familiar with trekking poles, I decided to keep it in my bag and will only use it when needed.
There were about 500 runners for the 22 kilometers category. The parade loop would be critical in spreading out the runners before entering the trails. I tried to move fast here just to make sure that I would be in a less congested group entering the eco-trail. Coming from the rains, the eco-trail was a bit slippery. I started slow and cautious in the first two kilometers as there were some bottlenecks on some areas of the eco-trail. It would also allow my muscles to slowly warm up coming from rustiness and a cooler weather. After reaching the u-turn slot towards the end of the eco-trail, I started to speed up already and it helped that I was familiar with the trail.
I started to play the terrain game by speeding up on the descents and resting on the inclines. As the race shifted to the yellow trails, I went on further to speed up and went on with the pace of the group, which was mostly a series of runs and a few walking breaks. The yellow trails had a flatter and run-able course so it was great to pick speed up here. The weather was cool, the trail was damp and I really love the rich pine reserve of Camp John Hay. It was always refreshing being on the trails.
After reaching the aid station at Kilometer 5.5, we proceeded to the adjacent trails which would lead to the lower part of the Yellow Trails. The next 500 meters was a steep descent but since I was comfortable with the traction of my shoes, I felt safe to go faster on this part. Of course, I knew that this would be the tough part on the way back. The descent was followed by a kilometer worth of climb and another two kilometers on rolling terrains. It really helped that I wasn’t using the poles yet at this time as I was a lot more mobile at this stretch. There were a few technical trails on this stretch so I had to slow down on that section.
At about the 9th kilometer, we exited the trails and headed to South Drive to explore the next two kilometers of descending trails there. The trails were a bit technical so it was more at walking pace on the descent and the short climbs. I would run on the fire tracks and slow down on the steep single tracks. The trails also had the common pine facade of Baguio and it led us to the trails heading to the DENR area. This was also the lowest part of the trail and what goes down, must go up.
I waited for the time that I would be in the lowest part of the trail before I brought out my trekking poles. I never tried using two poles in a trek so it was time to learn the art of using it fast. It really helps using two poles as it uses the upper body to crawl yourself out of an uphill climb. After the u-turn, I had one carb gel and went on with the climb. I didn’t want to count down the kilometers of the climb since it would feel so dragging because it was 2 kilometers. I just tried to take it one step at a time and reduce my resting breaks as much as I can. To my surprise, the poles helped a lot and it was less of a torture taking in the climb part.
I shifted back to the Camp John Hay trails and I realized it was not as comfortable to run with two poles. Fatigue also came in to play so instead of running, I went on a brisk walk pace. I’ll get better at running with poles in time but I’ll make do of the brisk walk pace for now. It was not as fast as I wanted but it was decent pace. I also was getting my mind ready and body relaxed for the steep climb at the 17th kilometer. The 17th kilometer was a killer climb as you had to hurdle 100 meters of elevation in 500 meters of distance. It took a lot of heart beat raising steps to reach the top of the climb and I’m just about 5 kilometers away from the finish line.
The next part was the upper part of the yellow trail. which is among the more run-able part of the trail. I had a mental footprint of the route and the 17th kilometer should have been the toughest climb of the race or so I thought. I really thought that they would just do a simple out and back on the upper part of the trails. I said I’ll walk this off and speed up on my way back just to catch my breath.
Surprise!!! Surprise!!! After nearing the end of the trails we were asked to head down the embassy area, which meant we had to descend 100 meters of elevation over the next 300 meters of distance and climb back the same distance and the same elevation. It was one of the steepest climb and descends I’ve ever had. The trails were technical and the pine needles made the trails slippery. It was important to be strategic on this part. It was crawling pace especially on the climbs and I had to stop several times to catch my breath. Needless to say, it was my slowest kilometer of the race. TNF goes unli… unli uphills, I meant.
After this stretch, I was certain that this race is over as it’s basically on flatter grounds. I took the next half kilometer at walking pace just to catch my breath and after that it was time to speed up for the finish line and I managed to finish faster compared to the last time TNF was held in Baguio City. It was a tough race but I guess I’m a lot tougher now. Great job TNF!!!
Outfit of The Trail
- Shirt – Berghaus with #TaleOfTheTrail Design by Breakout Design
- Compression Shorts – CWC
- Cap, Arms Sleeves, Calf Sleeves, Hydration Bag – Under Armour
- Shoes – Salomon Speed Cross
- Watch – Suunto Ambit 3 Sports
- Trekking Pole – Black Diamond Distance Z Poles
- Socks – Ahon