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The Road to On A Trail Mission

Posted by on 7. October 2022
Classes Ongoing at Ave Maria, Poblacion, Itogon

Organizing ON A Trail Mission was not the hard part, it was convincing myself to un-retire and be back to the event scene once again. Sometimes, you just need to go back to your ‘whys’ and dig deep to unlock the things you are passionate about.

Trail Academy

By the end of 2019, I decided to quit doing events. It was an easy decision at that time as I was plain and simple, tired and exhausted. Then came the pandemic and more responsibilities at work and I was completely a different person. I still have my usual trail runs on weekends and from time and again, I would tag newbie friends along for them to appreciate fitness and nature. Maybe I can still do what I used to do but not on a large scale level. It took almost 3 years for me to realize that the trails are part of who I am and it’s among the things that keeps me alive.

With Zell of On Philippines and Don of Itogonia

Don came up with the idea of having a Trail Academy on a mountain setting either Mount Ulap or Mount Bidawan. Previously all of our Trail Academy sessions were in Camp John Hay and Timberland, which were moderate terrains and manageable for newbies. But, this could work and my only hesitation was it may not be newbie friendly and the venue is remote. Next in line was our title sponsor. I always like to work with brands as I believe this is a win win for everybody. Brands gets the exposure, we get the event and the runners gets all the benefits. So along came On Philippines, and surprisingly, we had common interest to mount the event. It was ON (pun intended)!!!


Less than 6 weeks lead time to event day and the first thing we had to do was to check the course. I had to do Mount Ulap, Camp John Hay Yellow Trails and Mount Bidawan in a 3-day span. Mount Bidawan was the first choice for the event since it’s the one that is least explored and it also needs a boost in terms of tourism. If Mount Bidawan felt too difficult, I might opt to shift it to Camp John Hay. The previous time I was here, it didn’t feel easy since we had to do a Vertical Kilometer before the ascent to Ave Maria Shrine and Kotkot saddle. This time, it felt manageable with a kilometer of steep uphill, a 500m descent to the hanging bridge, 2 kilometers of moderate climb and a technical for the last kilometer to Ave Maria Shrine. Game Face ON(Again, Pun Intended)!!!

On A Trail Mission

We just wanted an intimate event and opened up only 50 slots, which was gone within a few days. Dans, Polar, Skratch Labs, Lightwater, Vitamin Boost and Medtecs were added to the sponsors list. We also got the support from Itogon and Sacred Heart High School Itogon and Saint Charles Borromeo Church of Itogon. Roots and Bones, Zepoh Creations and Bon Bantilan covered the event.The one thing I like about Trail Academy compared to an actual race is its easier to setup and less stressful.

The weather was perfect for the event. We waited for sunrise to setup the event area. By 6:30 am, we were all set. The runners were group based on pace groups (Fast, Moderate and Walkers). At Trail Academy, we believe that runners will enjoy the run if they go at the pace they are comfortable with. Each group also had their own cheer to break the ice and allow them to bond.

It was surreal opening up the festivities since after almost 3 years, it meant that I was back doing what I love to do – refreshed, recharged and raring to make a difference. I turned over the stage to Don who discussed about training and gear. He also led the warm up before sending off the runners by wave.

I joined the walkers wave and we were the last to start. While we were on the walkers wave, we went at a consistent pace even on the climbs. We also had several pitstops to highlight some key techniques on the climbs. The first kilometers were purely climbs and happy to note that we did well in this section. Reaching the end of the first climb was a welcome relief as it was 500 meters descent to the hanging bridge. The hanging bridge was shaky so it was both exciting and scary.

Up next was 3 kilometers worth of climb. The first 2 kilometers had moderate ascent so we went at a consistent pace at this part while appreciating the sceneries at Mount Bidawan. The last kilometer of the climb was a bit steep and technical so we slowed down a bit by dividing the steep climb over several steps and rest stops. The view gets even better at this stage.

We’ve finally reached Ave Maria Shrine, where we converged with Fast and Moderate Group for the next two lessons. Class at 1,120 MASL overlooking the mountain ranges was such a refreshing site. All previous talks for Trail Academy were done in event village but having this at the peak of the climb was a real game changer. The next talks were about nutrition and injury management. It was a cool morning so being in the summit felt cool. The talks were interactive and after about an hour of talks, we were on our way back. It was a fast descent back to the event village to wrap up this session of Trail Academy. ‘Til the next one.

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