Soleus Cross Country Challenge has been an annual adventure. It gives a fiery downhill blitz in the first half of the race and an endless uphill assault for the second half of the race. The rain and the mud made the trails extra exciting this time.
Soleus Cross Country Challenge
3 years, 3 different flavors of Soleus Cross Country Challenge. The first year, the trails were wet and muddy. Last year, it was fast and dry. This year, it was wet, muddy and raining. You can visit a trail several times but its never the same experience. For this race, I always go for the 12K distance even If I did recon the longer distances several times. I just want to test how I can push myself in the same distance with each passing year.
Early start with usual trail buddies in Rene and Jun, who are also doing the 12K distance. It was raining even before the start of the race, which makes the race exciting. I prefer more extreme conditions when it comes to races because it’s a lot slower and just about my pace. I’m also coming from a long lay-off from joining races which is about 2 months now. It’s always nice to see familiar faces to start the run.
It was a short warm up for the 21K before they took off and then our categories was up next a few minutes after.
The first 2 kilometers was a mud fest with the soft muddy grounds of trails near Mount Sinai. The descent wasn’t as fast as I wanted as the mud was slippery. It was good that I had a good traction with Hoka Speed Instinct 2. I made use of the more solid surface near the side of the trail to go at a brisker pace. I love the mental aspect of the slippery trail as you have to react immediately to the surface to move faster and not fall too much. The second half of the Sinai trail was mostly climbs and I have adopted to moving on mud-filled shoes. The drag though can really be energy-draining. I’ve finally reached the road part of Pintong Bukawe headed to Kasili.
There was about 300-400 meters of paved part leading to the descent in Kasili. I took the chance to go on active recovery by going on brisk walk instead of runs. I wanted to be fresh once I hit the downhill trails of Kasili. The next part of the trails was about 4 kilometers of descending trail to Mapua bridge by the river. The trails here were mostly fire roads with a few rocks but was definitely more solid than the previous set of trails.
I started running again when I hit the trail area in Kasili. I then realized that I was having side stitch since I wasn’t used to running on longer intervals lately. I need to relax a bit and do proper breathing. I tried to run in burst so I’d go on a 30 seconds to 1 minute run then take a walking break to normalize my breathing. In this way, I still save some time on the descent. I was also making a mental note on the flats and ascents in the first half of the race since this would be areas where I can recover when the race goes uphill.
There were some muddy stretches along the route where I had to slow down because it was slippery. I would resume running when the surface is a bit more solid. This is a really run-able area even on rainy days as the surface is soft and the grainy surface has a better traction compared to mud. The last 2 kilometers was a lot steeper and I was slowly mentally preparing myself for the uphill part of the race.
I was able to hit the u-turn slot at Mapua Bridge, where I had to queue for a photo. The few minutes of rest on the queue could really reserve my energy on the climb. I took one slice of Bico and I was off to the second part of the race, the Climb.
I also was mentally tough for this one after enduring a lot tougher Mount Semeru climb a few weeks ago. I also tried counting my steps just to distract my mind from the unlimited climb. I usually would count to 100 then I’d decide if I would go for another hundred steps or rest a few seconds. Fortunately, I had minimal stops as I made my way out on the steeper part of the climb.
When there were segments that had flat areas, I knew the tough part was over. Partly exhausted, I was just thinking that I’d rather be here on the upper part than the bottom part of the trail. I met the faster 21K (Noy, Chard, Don) and was also able to overtake some 12K and 8K runners. I wasn’t really trying to be competitive but I just wanted to push myself hard after being away for quite some time. With a steadier pace on the second half of the climb, I’ve finally reached the road stretch again.
I walked on the paved surface since I knew I need to reserve my energy on the last 2 kilometers, which was the muddy part. The first part of the muddy area were mostly descents. This time, I was moving a lot faster as I am now comfortable moving on the mud tracks. The last part heading to the finish line was another unlimited climb on the muddy part. I just went at a consistent pace had a few breathers and moved forward. It was another steep climb to the finish but seeing the finish line always gives you a burst of energy to finish the race.
I’m happy with my time given the trail condition. I really did miss the finish line and I’m just glad to be back in the race again. It was a totally different adventure from the previous Soleus Cross Country Challenge. I also love that it rained since it’s always fun to run in the rain. Great job to BBG events on a well planned race.