Itogonia 8K felt like a struggle to me. I’m no longer used to the frenetic pace of a race or a climb. I’m more or less down to being a recreational trail runner. My legs and lungs would disagree but I did have a good time revisiting my home trail.
When Don started Itogonia 5 years ago, I had the chance to have a first look at the course with and 8K Camp John Hay to Poblacion in Itogon run. Then there was another time from Poblacion to Kotkot Saddle and also another variation of the course from John Hay to Gumatdang. So there’s such a legacy already with the Itogonia race. Somehow, it was always a wet day at the trail. 2023 had a scare before the race as there was a typhoon before the race, which resulted to having the plan B route (Camp John Hay trails).
Camp John Hay
Camp John Hay is home trails for me and I’ve probably gone through all the variations of the course since it’s always part of my routine when I go home in Baguio City. If I wanted an easy day at the trail, I’ll take the upper part and head to the lower part and if I want more challenge I would usually start from the lower part take the steep climb to VOA Embassy and enjoy the upper part.
Fun Before The Race
Day before the race was kit claiming and race briefing. On the lag times, I had a chance to play basketball with the Race Director Don. I also welcomed our guest Ms Aura International 2021 Faith Garcia and team who had a chance to stay at Casa Cielo at Pinewood Ridge.
Medtecs also supplied their ultra light facemasks, which is perfect for running especially that Baguio has the regulation of mandatory wearing of masks indoors.
It was also great to meet running friends and meet new ones as well.
8K had an adjusted gun start of 8 am. Since this is Baguio and the Camp John Hay trails were mostly shaded, It was really nothing to worry about. I usually run on the trails at 10 am or noon so it would be a bit warmer. I’m a bit rusty on the run since I haven’t been running lately due to workload so this was a brisk walk pace kind of run.
First kilometer of the route was from CAP John Hay to the riding circle, which was mostly paved roads. I was just walking at this point allowing faster runners to go first. The plan was go conservative until the steep climb at kilometer 3. After the riding circle, it was a steep descent to the lower part of the trail. I always enjoy the views from this part with a rich Pine Forest Trails, which also transform to a moderately ascending trail heading to Kadaklan before it descends again for the lowest part of the trail.
Whenever I race I always identify the challenging part and this was it. From kilometer 3, it was around a 600-700 meter ascent with about 30%+ gradient. From a constant walk pace, I shifted to a run and rest pace. I tried to do 50 steps and take a few seconds to catch my breath before making the next effort. Since we are using the trail part of the climb, it was more challenging than the road ascent adjacent to this because of the switchback climbs. It was a struggle but I know it’s only a short stretch. The climb led to the road stretch and then one final climb. Up there was the aid station with a lot of familiar faces led by Papi Otep. Upon reaching the Voice of America Aid station. It was also my mind saying the race is good as accomplished as I am done with the hard part.
Whenever I do this trail, I like the stretch from the upper part up to the red fire hydrant as it gives you a peek of Itogon mountain range on several part of the trails. I met Faith at this stretch on her second loop for her 16 Kilometers distance. This stretch is mostly flat with a short climb in the middle and a short descent heading to the red fire hydrant. It felt like routine at this point but it still felt tiring especially with no training.
On the way back, I met Naethan who’s also a marshal of the course. We were at talking pace discussing about the trails. Most of the time when I’m on the trails, I bump into Naethan doing his regular plogging and clean up of the trails. He also supports our trail academy advocacy. We separated at the VOA Embassy Gate and it’s less than 3 kilometers for me back to the finish line. This part of the trail was mostly single track but mostly flat with a few ascents and descents until the riding circle. I exited the trail on the horse back riding area and then it was the road part back to the finish line.
I enjoyed feeling the race environment again though I’m still convincing my legs and lungs to do more race like this. Congrats Itogonia Team on a well organized race.