Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kalatungan Ridge Ultimate Race: Toughest 30K Ever!

The quaint town of Pangantucan in the southern part of Bukidnon was the race venue of the Kalatungan Ridge Ultimate Race held last September 25, 2015. The challenging trail run offered two distance categories which both started and finished at the Pangantucan Town Hall: 42K which traversed the peaks of Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Wiji and the shorter 30K which had the View Deck at the lower part of the range as its turning point. Being both newbie trail runners, Malou and I joined the 30K category. In spite of its shorter distance, however, the route was never lacking of toughness, challenges and of course, spectacular countryside and mountain views.
 The Town of Pangantucan

Pangantucan is situated in the south-western part of Bukidnon Province. It is about 75 kilometers from my hometown Malaybalay which is also the province's capital. Pangantucan is bounded on the western part by the municipality of Kalilangan and on its northwest portion is the Mount Kitanglad Range. Valencia City, lies its northern part while Maramag and the Municipalities of Don Carlos and Kadingilan are found on its east and south side respectively. 

Having done a number of job-related field works in the past made me quite familiar with this place. It is a largely agricultural town which has a few commercial establishments in the Poblacion. We checked in at Pangantucan Travelers Inn just a few steps away from the bus terminal. With a rate of P500.00 per night, we had an airconditioned room good for 3 persons. The room is pretty basic with no TV and has a common toilet and bath. Just a few meters away is George Tower, a recently built 4-storey commercial building which houses a department store, grocery, meat shop and a restaurant where we ate our dinner the night before the race.

Mount Kalatungan

Mount Kalatungan, is a stratovolcano with no known historical eruptions and classified by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) as a potentially active volcano.it is regarded as the 5th highest mountain in the Philippines at 2880 MASL. It has grown a reputation as being one of the most difficult climbs in the country. 

Race Day

Gun start for both 42K and 30K was scheduled at 3 AM. Malou and I woke up at around 1 AM, ate the cheeseburger we take-out the night before and prepared our stuff for the race. It was cold and foggy when we stepped out of the inn and walked towards the start and finish area which was only about 500 meters away.

Twenty nine (29) runners showed up for the race-13 for 42K and 16 for 30K. After the opening prayer led by the town's Parish Priest, final race briefing and picture taking, the starting gun was fired.

The first 600 meters was the only paved and well-lighted portion of the route. After that we were already running on dirt roads with only the participants' headlamps and flashlights lighting the way. After passing Poblacion proper we were already on farm roads with uneven terrain made muddy and slippery by the previous days' rain. In this portion of the route our struggle began. As the headlamps I ordered from Lazada failed to arrive on time, Malou and I resorted to using a small flashlight and  a mini-headlamp with low capacity. Our gears proved no match to the pitch-black darkness so I told Malou that we will just mostly walk as we could not clearly see the trail. 

Our slow start brought us at the rear end of the pack. At about 7K, Malou decided that we will run as she thought we were already on flat terrain, It proved too costly as after a few strides, she slipped hard and sprained her left ankle. As I pulled her up from the ground, I could see the the she's pain. At that moment, I thought the race was all over for us. But then my wife is one tough woman. She bravely strecthed the sprained part and after walking a few meters told me she felt a lot better. I could see that she's walking straight and can even run slow. At the first aid station (7.5 KM from the start) we refilled our hydration containers and ate bananas and watermelons. 

The aid station was followed by a wide and compact dirt barangay road. It lasted for less than a kilometer then we descended on the left side of the road. It was a narrow single track path flanked by lush vegetation. Fortunately, day light is already creeping in so we have an easier time tracking down the trail. In this portion of the route we crossed two rivers aided by bamboo bridges.

Malou and I just cruised along the route since we could not run fast due to her injury. The very easy pace gave us more time to soak in the view of barrio scenery, forest trees and mountain ranges, feel the naturally cold air and hear the chirping of the birds. We were definitely enjoying our run and l I was also confident that we could make it to the cut-off (5 hours at the turning point and another 4 hours at the finish). Until bad luck struck us once again at about 10KM.

Two misplaced trail markings at the fork of a road made us took the wrong turn and then we were lost. It took us awhile to notice that we were already following an unmarked trail. But since we could still see some sole marks on the ground, we thought we were still on the right way. It was until we're already passing underneath tall bushes that I sensed we're already lost. Then Malou heard the sound of an emergency whistle. I blew my own whistle in return and when I heard another response, we followed the direction of the sound. In a short while we met the two other runners who got lost ahead of us. It turned out that the the sole marks we were following on the ground were theirs.  

I took my cellphone out to check my GPS-enabled Sports Tracker app. It turned out that we were looping towards the route we previously passed so we were obviously very lost. So we made our way back until we saw the misplaced trail markings. By then we we already lost one hour of our time .After finally following the right track, we already met Malaybalay Runners teammate Bass Salang making his way back to the finish. He told us we were still about 5 kilometers from the turning point. Glancing at my watch, I sensed that we could still make it to the cutoff so we went on.

We passed by Barangay Mendis, the known jump-off for hikers climbing Mt. Kalatungan. There were a few meters of paved road in the barrio proper then after making a right turn we're on a dirt path once again. The trail was mostly rocky and muddy and it is also where we saw one of the most beautiful sights during the race: thick layers of fog moving upward from the cliff down below.

After passing another bamboo bridge, it was non-stop climb up to the view deck. Malou and I were really both exhausted but thankfully the cold air and beautiful scenery were there to energize our spirits. 

Finally a 4 hours and 17 minutes , we reached the View Deck. We still have plenty of time before the 5-hour cut-off so we took the chance to rest and eat bananas, watermelons and then carbo-loaded with the very filling arroz caldo.

 The View Deck at 1,625 meters above sea level

"The Lost 4". Our fellow runners who also got lost in the route.

After refilling our hydration we then started our descent. It was mostly downhill and flat in going back to the finish but the slippery ground still slowed us down. We would run slow only on compact dirt and I was already confident that we would not get lost since I can simply follow the track on my GPS app.

Lake Napalit as seen from the trail

We passed by the portion where we got lost earlier and I noticed that the incorrect markings were already fixed. I bet we could have reached the turning point faster if only we did not get lost. Anyway, we just shrugged it off knowing that in trail runs, you can always "expect the unexpected".  

I felt a bit relieved upon reaching the 1st aid station we passed earlier. It was manned by Arthur, a schoolmate in high school who now works and resides in Pangantucan. We ate fruits and boiled eggs and freshened up with softdrinks for that badly-needed sugar rush. With still a little over 7K to go, I was thankful that the weather was still gloomy. The remaining portion is mostly open trail in between sugarcane fields and we would be surely have a hard time making it to the finish if the sun is on full blast mode.

We mostly ran this last part of the route until the last 2 KM when Malou felt her sprained ankle starting to swell. We slowed down even more until finally we're getting near the Poblacion. At the last 1 KM, a marshal on motorbike guided us back to the finish. When he saw Malou having difficulty with her steps, he asked if she wants to backride on his bike. Malou, of course, refused his offer because that would mean cheating on the race. So we continued on our very slow run until finally we crossed the finish line at 8 hours and 18 minutes.

We made it way before the 9-hour cut-off. I knelt down not only due to exhaustion but also in gratitude to the Almighty for helping us finish the very grueling race. I could say that it was the toughest run we've ever joined, one that did not only test us physically but also mentally . 

Malou with fellow Malaybalay Runners and 30K Champion Bass Salang

I have to salute my wife for being tough and determined despite some unfortunate circumstances we've gone through. As a reward, aside from our finisher's medals, she also bagged the second place trophy in women's category.  

With race organizer and director Doi Calbes

Special thanks to Doi Calbes, race organizer and director for the tough but beautiful route; to the race volunteers and support crew for hydration and food at the aid stations; to Pangantucan LGU, DENR-PENRO Bukidnon and Pangantucan PNP for keep us safe all throughout the race and to fellow runners we met and new friends we made during the race.      

1 comment :

  1. Very nice! We've been to Bukidnon to try out the first vertical bivouac offered by Adventure Technology Outfitters. You have very beautiful mountains! We plan to climb the Kalatungan range next year 2016.


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