TNF 100: The Thrill of the Trail Tales I

Looking for something new to try, I ticked The North Face 100 as one of my choices for my race list. I had second thoughts of inviting the girls (as I might receive another “cold treatment” in our email loop like the one I got when I suggested that we train for a 21k at the Condura run). So, I opted to invite a friend who was a finisher at last year’s TNF.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” he said. He added that at last year’s trail run, he tripped twice.

Now that made me think twice.

Top it off with the river crossing, I thought clumsy me didn’t have a spot in the list of runners.

No backing out
That was, until Nonette said she’d be running her first 10k in Pampanga and asked me if I’d like to go, too. I promised I would.

And when we met up in May, I was able to connect the dots of details: Pampanga, last week of May, off-road run.

“Nette, is that the TNF?” I asked.

“Yup,” she said, sounding like it was just another road race.

“It’s a trail run and it has river crossings,” I pointed out.

She was aware of all these, but she didn’t appear to be troubled by the possible challenge, so I thought I shouldn’t be afraid of the trail, too.

Getting slots
I went to the nearest North Face branch for registration, but learned that registration had closed. My heart sank, until Kathy—a friend who loathed my small collection of running and crosstraining shoes—got two slots: one for me and one for herself.

Our next problem was accommodation. Nonette had secured me a spot, but Kathy only decided to take on the TNF challenge two weeks prior to the race. I didn’t know which party to join. Fortunately, Virna and Randy (Nonette’s friends, who I first met at the Greenfield City Run) were kind enough to accommodate all three of us at the villa they were getting at Fontana, and even offered a ride.

Excitement overload
It was the first time for the five of us to get together, so there was rarely a dead air while we were on our way to Clark. And in those rare moments, at least one of us would feel the excitement and declare so.

TNF marks Nonette’s, Virna’s and Randy’s first 10k, while it marks’ Kathy’s first race. Technically, it’s also my first trail run (as the Nuvali Challenge was labeled “cross country”). So what do you expect from this bunch of trail virgins? Excitement overload!

The stress and the thrill
We immediately ate lunch at the villa after unloading all our stuff. It was about 2pm and we were starving!

Pampanga is known for its tocino and its sisig. Randy’s friend served these specialties along with other protein-rich food. Yum! We had protein overload. I’m not a huge fan of sisig, but the sisig wowed me that I forgot about the race (haha, seriously. I ate more than I could bear).

We wanted to go for a swim, but it rained. So we waited until it stopped and went to the base camp instead, which was about 9km away from Fontana.

Team Excited!

When we got to the parking lot, instead of feeling the excitement, a pinch of fear crept in among Team Excited. We saw limping runners—100km runners, we supposed—on their way back to the base camp. Some of them were in their bare feet. We went to the base camp, too, to claim our race packets and to address Nonette’s problem.

Our arrival wasn’t in good timing. We heard coach Rio informing the 100k runners that the rain had disrupted the race: the river rose in levels that may not be safe for runners, forcing them to change the race course.

Our problems, however, are just a matter of race kits, which the organizers said we could claim on race day. But because we were dubbed Team Excited for a reason, we just couldn’t leave our spots until we could be assured that we’d be official runners the following day.

Minutes later, one of the organizers—our angel—arrived. After some phone calls, two packets arrived, mine and Kathy’s. A few phone calls later, and Nonette got a new packet. We almost broke into tears from joy. Haha. Should I name him? Hmm. Let’s just call him Race Angel.

Before we left, we got another glimpse of some 100K runners, which we described as runners who looked like they were about to conquer Mt. Everest. They had backpacks, reflectors, hydration belts, long sticks (I don’t even know what they’re called), and some of them carrying their shoes and socks, which looked soak.

More excitement
DSC00400We ate a not-so-heavy dinner at the Villa, watched some TV and got ready for bed. At 10pm, we dozed off.

I woke up for a bathroom break and felt like I had enough sleep. It’s probably 3AM, I thought. I considered taking a bath, so that I could give Nonette and Kathy plenty of time to prepare later on. But then I checked my watch and realized it was only a few minutes before midnight. Fortunately, it was easy to go back to sleep.

At 3:45, my phones started to alarm. I snoozed them both. Nonette woke up and suggested that she goes to the bathroom first before I do (which was the original plan). I agreed, checked my wrist watch and almost decided to go to sleep when it said it was five minutes before 5AM. Yikes!

Virna and Randy were ready even before I was able to take a shower. So much for misplaced excitement.

“Good morning, team Excited,” were the couple’s greeting.

While they ate breakfast, I tried to get ready as fast as I could. I hurried to the spare bathroom where there was no water heater.

Good thing last night’s excitement made me prepare all my stuff such that after a quick shower, a large gulp of water and Gatorade, a must have drink whenever I race a 10K, I was ready.

We made it on time for some warm-up, pre-race photos and bathroom (or portalet) break. It was my first portalet experience and Nonette’s instructions were “inhale before going in, exhale when you get out.” Ugh. Nasty.

Since this entry is now a novel (haha), I’ll post the real “thrill of the trail” in another entry. All our excitement is worth the race itself.


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