When your legs don’t work like they used to before. Ed Sheeran has never been this accurate. Our legs literally refused to work after completing that 58km trail run within the given cut-off.
Up until this moment, I still couldn’t fathom how I did that. Less than three months into this madness introduced by Chiarra and Jet, there I was, cursing once again the dirt trail – consciously reviewing my poor decisions in life while dealing with killer ascents – but still opting for the worst every single time.
Crazy. Why am I even doing this?
For some reason, the meaning of ‘fun’ has now evolved into a pretty much messy definition. From what used to be a chill hike – to temporarily escape the strains of mundane life – now we’re pressured with time, endless assaults, unforgiving downhells, and intense mental battles.
Muspo Ultra Trail Run 2022
After getting scammed by Chiarra at CN100, she once again convinced us that we’re capable of completing another ultramarathon this year. This time, on trails. (Reminder to self: Don’t get easily swayed by unsolicited hype of motivation. XD)
We agreed to do a quick hike one Saturday morning when Chiarra brought up Muspo100 once again. She has been long bugging us about it in our group chat but Jet, Shiela, and I have been successfully dodging the said activity knowing the risks and training – not to mention the logistics – the event requires.
But persistence is Chiarra’s middle name. She prohibited Jet and I to go home without her seeing that we’d completed the registration. Man, that was holdup in broad daylight.
To cut it short, we found ourselves in Valencia, Bukidnon alongside other ‘funrunners’ and elites – who were aiming to get new points race for the Asia Trail Master Championship and Grandmaster Quest in the Southern Philippines.
Presented by ultralight, Muspo Ultra Trail Run brought us to the hilly terrains of Mount Musuan of Maramag, Bukidnon which gives a panoramic view of the province and around the bewitching beauty of Lake Apo in Valencia, Bukidnon. Hence, the term MusPo (Musuan and Apo).
Drenched and Toasted at Muspo Ultra
You can skip this drama. Don’t tell me you didn’t get warned.
Gun start for the 50km category of Muspo Ultra Trail Run started at 1am at the Valencia City Oval. It rained hard hours before the event so trails are expected to be muddy and slippery. Route started with a five-kilometer road ascent before we started battling with the muddy trails and hilly terrains.
As if the icy cold weather was not enough, after crossing the five-kilometer mileage, we were prompted to cross a river – where a number failed – which left many runners soaked and freezing. Fog began to envelop the area and with trail signs quite difficult to recognize in pitch-black zones, we derailed from the trails. Good thing though that the tail pack was religiously following the GPX provided (which was also changed a day before the event) and informed us that we were no longer en route.
Back on track, we started trailing the hilly terrains leading to the Viewing Deck. Coming from an island that prides itself of its 1,013 masl tallest peak, Bukidnon’s 2,460 elevation gain and loss dwarfed whatever training we had prior to the event. So, this is what is ‘hilly’ for them.
Rain began to pour adding more challenge to the already slippery trails. Beboy, a fellow from Cebu, had so much fun documenting all the slips, turns, and exhibitions. One by one, runners began to succumb to their pain relievers as leg cramps began to surface. (It even became an inside joke on how to easily spot an ultrarunner among the sea of funrunners. Their smell screams a wild mix of sweat, mud, and Omega, Efficascent, Salonpas, or Pau.)
We reached the second aid station, which was strategically located at an 800-meters elevation gain, by early morning. From there we had to proceed to the trails leading to Apo Lake jumpoff, circuit around the majestic body of water, and head back to the aid station before going to the Viewing Deck. From there, we ran downhill in hopes of meeting in time the 15-hour cutoff.
Upon reaching the national road, it’s easy to think that you simply have to accomplish a road run going to the finish line. But the organizers have something else in mind. The yellow ribbon was purposely placed across the road, providing a signal that one has to cross and continue the run to Musuan Peak – from an elevation loss of 400 masl to an elevation gain of almost 380 masl. Simply put, from the Viewing Deck, you have to downhell to the main highway and from the highway, you have to make almost the same ascent. Ano ba pinaglalaban natin.
It was already past noon, and the sun was happily roasting us. This time, I was on my own, reflecting on the many things I regretted doing. I was already calculating my pace and the remaining distance that I had to cover. Marathon Math led me to one conclusion: if the distance was strictly 50km, I’d still make it through the timeframe. But Strava proposed otherwise.
It’s easy to calculate your pace with the distance that you have to cover. However, you also have to consider the capacity of your body to keep up with exhaustion and lack of sleep. Most elite runners don’t struggle with this. They are prepared for this. Such noob I am.
While the trail leading to Musuan Peak offers no shortage of breathtaking views, the trail is literally to die. The only shaded nooks available are located at 473 meters elevation – with no hydration supplied at the aid station. There I saw Chiarra already discerning about her life choices, ready to break down any moment soon. I offered her the apple I picked from the Apo Lake aid station, to which she refused. Frustration was all over her face.
According to Strava, we’re already at 42km but no finish line was in sight. Instead, GPX tells us to still summit and from there, make a turn and head back down to the highway and cover another 8km of paved road. I have already accepted the fact that I may not make it to the cutoff. Nonetheless, given that I spent time, effort, and money to get to the destination, I might as well finish the race – within or beyond the cutoff.
Going ahead of Chiarra, who was still busy sulking, I met another group of runners taking a rest near the junction where we had to summit. One was already calling for backup as he has decided to DNF. But one of the seasoned runners with them refused to do so. “Walay mu-DNF. Humanon tani.”
His conviction got us all moving. The pace was slow but at least we were inching. Everyone was tired, frustrated, and dehydrated, but the dedication to persevere was there. The irony though was that, while most runners were cursing as they made the assault, each turn actually leads to a station of the Via Crucis. Such sorrowful journey it was. We saw Shiela on one of the stations, trying to make amends with herself and her feet. She was already on her way down and told us that no water is available in the aid station at the peak. Imagine, the last aid station was at the 32km turn and we had to endure the scorching heat of the sun with extremely limited hydration to reach 50km.
If it’s of any consolation, the water provided at the gates of Mount Musuan Zoological and Botanical Garden was served cold. Going down I met Yuna of ZTR, who was also taking her time descending. We exchanged stories of frustration, exhaustion, and everything else encountered along the way.
We waited for Chiarra at the aid station before we hit off the road going to the finish line.
Muspo Ultra Trail Run: In a Nutshell
While our legs don’t work like they used to before the day after the race, I’m certain that our eyes still smile from our cheeks for successfully crossing the finish line. Overall, the event provided good memories and some sprinkles of heartbreaks – with a pinch of crunchy curses and frustrations. Nonetheless, we thank the universe for allowing us to witness the beauty that is Bukidnon and its people – who were both curious and concerned upon looking at every runner passing through their community, for keeping us safe all the way back home, and for gifting us the strength to complete the 50km ultramarathon race.
I hope to visit Bukidnon once again – hopefully with more energy and finances to sustain the cravings for adventure. As the biggest province in Mindanao (and third in the whole country), there are indeed lots of wonderful places that can still be discovered. Some friends are even entertaining thoughts of relocation.
Despite the lapses, thank you, still, Muspo Ultra Trail Run organizers for making this event happen. Thank you as well to all those whom we have encountered along the way, particularly to the angkol who prohibited us from DNF-ing. To all the Marshall and volunteers (especially the one stationed at Musuan Peak who became the recipient of the outbursts of dog-tired runners), thank you for feeding us and giving us that much-needed motivation.
My heart is forever grateful as well to my merese friends who keeps sending running events in our group chat. Lemme rest people. Tita n’yo pagod na. Gusto ko nalang manood ng concert ni Ed Sheeran. XD