Friday, November 3, 2017

Samal 50: Trail Run from Beach to Mountains and Back

Samal 50 Half/Ultra Trail Marathon was recently held last October 14-15, 2017 in Peñaplata, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte. It was organized by Base Camp and Bagani Active Gear.  I believe this is already the second edition of the race, with its inaugural event last year named IGACOS50. The event featured two categories: 22K and 50K.

I, together with my wife Malou and our couple friends James and Blessie opted to join the 22K distance as we deemed the 50K category too hardcore for our trail running capabilities.

Here's a narrative of our Samal 50 trail run experience...

Race Venue:

The race started and finished at Casa Estrella Beach Camp. As it offers only tent accommodations, we opted to stay in the nearby Fernandez Beach and Garden Resort the night before the race.

Unlike most races I have joined, Samal50 does not have singlet and finisher's shirt as race inclusions. Instead, participants were given Bagani Hydration Vest. As I support local outdoor gear products, I am sure that this vest will be useful in my future trail and ultra races. 

Fernandez Beach and Garden Resort

We booked our stay here as it is adjacent to the race venue. The resort has a number of airconditioned cottages, swimming pool, restaurant and a white sand beach.

Our native-style airconditioned cottage has a rate of P1,500 per night. It is good for 2 persons and has its own toilet and bath. Overall, we have a comfortable stay in this resort.

Hagimit Falls

As we still have time to spare after claiming our race kit the afternoon before race day, we decided to visit Hagimit Falls as it is only about 3 kilometers away. Motorcycle fare from Peñaplata town proper to Hagimit is P30 per person one way.

Hagimit Falls is one of Samal's most popular attractions. It is consists of a series of short cascades of cool, bluish green waters. We spent about an hour here, enjoying the cool dip and even jumping from a rock down to one of its deepest portions.

Race Day

We arrived at the race venue about 20 minutes before gunstart, giving us enough time to check in and do some light stretching.

The race promptly started at 3 AM. With our headlamps on, we run from the beach camp and into the highway. The route was consist of concrete-paved roads for more than 5 kilometers, half of which was hilly before  we made a right turn to a wide compact dirt road.

Aid station was located about 7 km from the starting line. Aside from the usual water and sports drink, it is well-stocked with fruits, candies, eggs and arrozcaldo. It happened to be the only aid station in the whole 22K route, so proper management of food and water provision was in order.

A short downhill followed then began the long and slow climb to Puting Bato Peak. The wide grassy lands dotted with coconut trees gave way to narrow single tracks, some of which are along deep ravines.

We were fortunate to catch the beautiful view of sunrise along Canibad side just as we were approaching the peak.

At about 11 KM, we finally reached the peak of Puting Bato. At 528 meters ASL, it is the highest poing of the whole Samal Island. Surprisingly, the place was shrouded with fog, its coldness a welcome relief from the hot and humid atmosphere in the lowlands.

From the peak we made our ascent along a steep, narrow and sometimes slippery trail, taking extra care with each step to avoid slipping down.

We resumed our running upon arriving at the main road. It brought us back to the aid station we passed by earlier. We rested, refueled and took some photos before running back again.

As we made our way back, we were directed into another right turn. It passed through some narrow dirt roads and single track trails which, to our surprise, brought us to Hagimit Falls.

We almost got lost as we thought that we would be going through the falls main entrance. Thankfully, two other runners caught our attention and told us we're going the wrong way. We found out that we have to cross the river pass through another uphill climb, more narrow trails before reaching a barangay road.

It was then all downhill going back to the highway and into Peñaplata proper. Thankfully, the overcast skies protected us from the heat of the sun all throughout the race. Despite of the grueling terrain, we still have enough to make a strong finish.

Finally, after 4 hours and 26 minutes and 25 seconds, Malou and I reached the finish line together. We were then surprised to hear that Malou finished 3rd among all female runners. Consequently, we ranked # 24 and 25 among 67 runners, a decent performance on the challenging route.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Samal50 experience. The route was challenging and beautiful as it brought us to the peak of Puting Bato, Samal's highest point. The early gunstart also made us catch the amazing view of the sunrise and the foggy summit was a welcome surprise. I also love that trail markers are well placed and the lone hydration station has ample supply of filling food and cold drinks. Lastly, Malou's unexpected 3rd place finish fittingly capped off our action-packed weekend well spent in the beautiful island of Samal.   


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