There are no wasted moments when it comes to Sta Fe Trail Run. Each part of the trail will have your eyes feasted with the raw beauty of nature that includes a rich Pine Tree infested Forest, a ridge-view of the mountain ranges and the Ampucao Ridge. That beauty comes with a struggle as you have to huff and puff your way to steep climbs and brave the descents, which would leave you stronger and satisfied as you cross the finish line.
Sta Fe Trail Run
It’s staring to become a trail-centric first quarter for me. First on the trail calendar is Sta Fe Trail Run at Itogon, Benguet. I had a better grasp of the trail route as we did a trek here last December. The area is one of the most scenic sites I’ve ever seen with the panoramic view of the mountains and the lush green surroundings. That’s one of the reason I had to join the race again and would probably visit the area again in the future. I opted for the 10K category which is an out and back from Ampucao Elementary School up until the Ampucao Ridge and back. The 21K distance had their share of the road before they enter the Sta Fe Trail head and return to Ampucao via the Sta Fe / Mount Ulap / Ampucao Trail. I made sure my legs were ready for the race as it’s gonna be a climbfest. Since the trail master Rene Villarta of Jazzrunner.com came along, I just had to show him the yellow trail of Camp John Hay, which served as an excellent warm up.
Race Route and Elevation Profile
The Race Starts at Ampucao Elementary School and heads to Philex Road before entering the trail head at Km. 1. The next two kilometers is inside a pine tree forest with a total steep ascent of about 300 meters. The trail then enters the ridge for the next 1 kilometers with a rolling terrain. The climb resumes at kilometer 4 with a 80 meter climb hitting the u-turn slot at the Ampucao Ridge. The race then heads back to Ampucao Elementary School.
Since Ampucao is about 40 minutes away from Baguio, we left our home at around 4:30 am and arrived at the area at around 5 am. It was freezing cold and it was a good thing I had a sleeved shirt and arm sleeves. It’s always a more relaxed feel at the start of trail races compared to road races. It was glad to meet friends, familiar faces and the rest of the trail running community. We had enough time to get our kit. The race just had the right amount of participants so the trails won’t be too congested. the 21K runners were sent off at around 5:30 am and it was our turn to be sent off at 5:45 am. I was taking note of the time since Sunrise was about 6:30 am and I should be in the ridge area by then.
The first kilometer was on road so it was a chance to speed up but I decided to take it at a more relaxed pace as I want my heart rate steady when we hit the trails. Since I was familiar with the route, the mindset was survive the first 3 kilometers of the race and the rest would be easy. There’s a short cemented but steeply inclined road heading to the trails. The trails were a lot more slippery compared to my previous visit due to morning moisture so I had to keep it slow but consistent. I paced myself in the climb part and would recover in the flatter areas.
The next two kilometers were on forested pine tree trails which had single track. It was really great having the fresh scent of pine accentuated by the early morning dew. There were certain areas giving you peeks of the mountains but the beauty of the area was the pine trees as they were all around you. There were sections that had steep and slippery ascent so I had to trust the traction of my shoes as well as use some stones for additional balance. There are also areas where the climb is moderate. This is where I try to speed up and recover. Whenever I feel tired, I will just remind myself that things will be easier once I hit the ridge part of the race.
I was at the ridge area around 45 minutes into the race, which is just in time for that wonderful view of sunrise. When we did our trek here a few weeks ago, it was mid day so I was really looking forward to this. It was my reward for enduring about 300 meters worth of climb. The ridge area also had a more tolerable rolling terrain but what makes this area special is the panoramic views of the mountains. You have the trail view in front of you, the mountains view on both sides and the view of the rich pine tree reserve below you.
The next kilometer was a rolling terrain. Coming from a long climb, the climbs here felt easy. I tried to insert some runs on this stretch and would just slow down on some stretch that’s a bit technical. It’s also a bit scary at some stretches as when you look down and it has deep ravines. I kept my focus on my footing and the trail as any misstep could mean falling. It was refreshing to run in this area with all the views that surrounds you. Even when the sun was up, it still felt cool as there was a cold breeze.
At kilometer 4, the climb resumes. The trail shifts to a more technical terrain with some rocks and rock formation in between. Since it was slower moving here because of the technical surface, it didn’t feel as exhausting as the first climb. It was also great seeing runners on their way back either cheering you on or greeting you, good morning. Seeing runners on their way also meant, I am closing in on the u-turn slot. I think I’m faster now at adopting to the different trail surfaces.
I was able to reach the ridge area, which was the halfway mark. The ridge was a bit slippery so for that time there were no photos at the ridge. It was a great thing I had a photo here on my last visit. I then went on my way back, which should be easier compared to the climb at the first half. The road from the ridge area was a bit technical so I was watching my step along the single track trail. Once the surface is a lot more stable, I start to run again.
I started to speed up on my way back. It was nice seeing cows along the route too. I adjusted my strides depending on the steepness of the descent and the type of surface. If it’s a bit steep, I try to be more careful. I started meeting runners on the way back too and would also greet them good morning or tell them that the u-turn slot is near. After a while I started to be more comfortable with my balance on the descents. There were also some ascents in the area so I just tried to endure them knowing that this is the way back.
I was counting down the remaining kilometers. By the 7th kilometer, I was back in the Pine Tree forested trails and it was all down hill from there. There were also trekkers along the route who were also courteous to greet me a good morning or try to step aside so as not to interrupt my downward momentum. This is one thing I like about the trails, people aren’t always in a hurry to finish, they have time to greet each other and exchange pleasantries. One of trekkers asked why I was alone and I just smiled. By this time, we were all spread apart in the trail and somehow, I wanted to be a lone wolf as it’s all about competing with myself in the trail.
As I approached the end of the trail, the elevation goes steeper. I would then be more cautious on the steeper part as the wet soil tends to be slippery. I would also run with my strides outwards to add more balance. I guess when it comes to steep descent. It’s as dragging as a steep climb. It’s just less tiring. After hitting the end of the trail, I was one kilometer away from the finish line. I did a run – walk on the ascending part of Philex Road before cruising in the road heading to the finish line. I finished the race at 2:28, a few minutes within the cutoff. There was a post race breakfast, which is one of the things I love with local races here. There’s a community feel in it. Great Job Frontrunner for the race.
Outfit of the Race
- Shirt – Berghaus witH #TaleOfTheTrail design by Breakout Design
- Shorts, Trucker Cap, Arms Sleeves, Calf Sleeves, Hydration Bag – Under Armour
- Shoes – Newton Boco Sol
- Eyewear – Oakley Racing Jacket
- GPS Watch – Suunto Ambit 3 Sport
- Socks – Ahon.PH