Caliraya 360: Surviving the “Hells” of Laguna

If you are going through hell, keep going
– Winston Churchill

Churchill’s words perfectly summed up how I survived Caliraya 360. Hell is one thing, getting through hell is another.

When I signed up for Caliraya 360, I was aware that the race will be challenging. It was, however, an understatement of the decade! The route was rather intimidating, at the very least for someone who has not raced in the mountains. So let me tell you how the Tabachingching Runner survived the “hells” of Cavinti, Laguna.

13 September 2015
12:35AM – Buzzer beater…

I crossed Ayala Avenue in the middle of the night trying to catch the shuttle to the race venue. I made it in the nick of time! A good warm up! Took us about an hour and a half to reach Lumban, Laguna where the race starts and ends.

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When we reached the covered court facing Lumban Town hall, the sky graced us with its tears. It was a light shower but it gave me a bit of worry for my non-water resistant flashlight c/o ADP (Philippines), Inc. The gun start was delayed which bought me some time to calm my nerves. I was alone in this race far from the Metro in an unfamiliar race route. It takes some getting used to…and then there was that slow send off. The inner streets of Lumban was narrow. The crowd slowly dispersed at the highway going to Pagsanjan.

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Leaving the town proper of Pagsanjan, we started the hike up Cavinti, Laguna. It wasn’t very steep at the beginning. The slope was manageable and I was able to jog up the hill. The view was breathtaking when the morning light started to crack over the mountain. The play of colors was just irresistible (wish I have some photos to share, but I was too distracted that I forgot to take some pictures).

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All hells broke loose after taking a selfie on the bridge over Bumbungan Eco-Park! (not because I took a selfie though). The hills were like devils on your knees and legs! It felt like a never-ending steep slope! But it’s a beautiful devil! The greens were endless and the air! …nothing can be more clean and refreshing! I can smell the leaves and the ground…dirt has never smelled that good!

Running up the mountains and seeing how the community thrives was grounding. Life is simple up there. They have that piece of peace minus the effort. How I wish I can wake up in the chirping of birds and cocking of the roosters in the early morning.   I longed for that laid back morning lounging under shades of majestic trees and enjoying slices of fruits…It is heaven…you see, for someone who has been living in the urban jungle for so long, these simple things are novelties! You don’t see it often.

When the road began to even out and the slopes became gentle, I met the lake I thought was Caliraya. I’ve been running and hiking and felt I’ve covered a lot of distance against the 34 kilometer stretch of the race. I stopped and admired the view. The water was quiet, as silent as the morning while the wind whispers sweet nothings, inviting the weary thoughts to lay on the greenery and dream. Then reality decided to pinch the aching legs…It’s Lumot Lake! We’re only halfway to the finish line.  So the runner has to continue on as the sun rises to warm the sleepy village…

A couple more slopes and the back’s screaming! The legs were starting to contract more often and running seemed to be a growing challenge.  How ironic that it was supposed to be a running event! It reminded me of doing more stretchings and more training! That one cannot take for granted every bit of opportunity to get those legs in good shape…I was at the brink of giving up…that every ambulance I passed by looked so inviting…that every stop was an open invitation to take the easy way out. But if there was one thing I never missed to train, ’twas my mind and my heart. I have always believed that when my legs have given up the fight, the heart pumps it’s hardest to lead me to the finish line…

Then there was that water stop…the good marshall cheered us…it’s just 10 more kilometers! 10 more! the head screamed silently to the heart! And a few more limping, skipping and walking, I saw the iconic dam…the emblem of this race – the Caliraya Dam…

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And hope breathed anew. The cool lake view and breeze blew away the nagging anxiety of not living to see the finish line so I stepped on those heels…

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I enjoy long distance running, not because I want to prove that I can…I mostly run the distance because I get that opportunity to speak to myself…to take that long silence inside and see through my inner thoughts and dig in my reverie so I can find the lost pieces when I am battling with my self-doubts and inner demons.

The road heading towards the finish line seemed so far after I turned my back against the breeze. My stomach was complaining. The energy gels no longer appease the monsters inside making me regret not taking that bag of M&Ms with me. Then there was this small sari-sari store by the road that sells slices of cakes and brownies. I asked for just a slice because I don’t want to get an upset stomach before I even see the finish line. I gave ate 20 pesos and was about to leave when she called and gave me my change. She said it’s only P 2 for a slice. Then it came to me that I am starting to read things wrong…Geez! I thought it was P 20 a slice! I smiled and thanked ate  for her honesty…that too was refreshing!

After the killer slopes that smashed my knees comes the heat of the morning! The intensity of Mr. Sun’s enthusiasm at 9 in the morning cannot be ignored. This time, I was wishing for some trees, for some cover but I only got grass which sometimes were higher than I am. A few steps, a limp and some skipping and the road started to roll down…It’s the last stretch and the longest four (4) kilometers! The rolling downhill was suppose to be easy. Gravity was suppose to make it easy…but…with an aching calf, blasted knees and shredded legs, running the last 4 km downhill was as challenging as the uphill!

I finally found myself being guided by a police officer to cross the street on the next turn making sure I am safe. I followed the streets as they narrow into the town center and to the gates of San Sebastian Church – the oldest stone church in the entire province of Laguna. I was back to where it all began! I was asked for by BIB # – it was 669…

After six hours of running, limping, skipping walking and figuratively crawling across the hills of Cavinti, Laguna, I finally made it!


34 Kilometers

360 Degrees around Laguna

Lumban – Pagsanjan – Cavinti – Caliraya – Lumban

Over six hours of hard labor


 

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And  I thanked God for staying with me while I  fight my inner demons. I thank the friendly runners who have shown concern when muscles contracted and I halt on the track. I say thank you to the supportive residents of Laguna, especially the children who cheered me and gave me hope! Thank you Runmania for letting me experience the beauty and hell of the mountains…I survived the ‘hells’ of Laguna…I conquered Caliraya 360 and lived to tell the tale…

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Photo Credits: RunNurse Photography • Tara Trip Tayo • KrProd Photography

Journey to my first Full Marathon

When I started running back in 2013, I strongly admire those I have seen finishing long distance categories. I never saw myself crossing finish lines like they did.  It just doesn’t seem possible for someone like me. I can think of a million reasons. I was comfortable being able to finish half of a marathon distance often and that’s it!

2014 came with me getting hooked at fun runs and along with it took Unilab Active Health’s challenge to “Exceed Yourself”.

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ULAH and Run Rio’s Run United starts in the month of March. Last year’s was last March 16. The goal was to exceed one’s self by progressing through the series (trilogy), a magic set of numbers (21-32-42) representing distances

  • Half Marathon (21 km)
  • Afro-man Distance (32 km)
  • Full Marathon (42.195 km)

Just because I have been running half marathons for quite sometime now that the memory was vague. The most that I can remember now is that I crossed the finish line with close to no injury. I ran my best in the history of my half marathon history.

run united 2 2014 And this was me “crawling”…err…limping about 100m to the finish line.

I was sprinting the final kilometer when both my calves contracted so damn tight I froze under the scorching summer sun…With a heavy heart and stiff pair of legs, I moved one foot at a time with inexplicable level of pain radiating to the torso with every step…

And I hit the mat! That mat I so wanted to step on since I slammed on The Wall

I felt so beaten at the same time victorious, bitter-sweet success! When I started I wasn’t in a battle against time, nor any other runner on the road…I was in a constant challenge to finish the race regardless, even if it meant slamming The Wall like a wrecking ball… and laughing at it as I cross the finish line…

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October 05, 2014 — The day that made my eyes glassy as I crossed the finish line. Never in my wildest dreams have I thought of running a full marathon and finish with so much pride. The experience was surreal! My legs, my calves, they were hanging in there, moving under the sweltering morning heat. With 14 kilometers remaining, my back started screaming silently. I was in the brink of giving up, to sit on the roadside…I reminded myself that I must make it because I want it, because I did not come to be defeated…I came to finish what I’ve started…

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And I told myself…”so this is how it feels like…”  No, I’m not talking about the pain. I didn’t feel the burning and stabbing sensation of that horrendous blister and muscle contractions all over…it was pure joy…that which made me forget what “pain” was…Finally, a realization of a dream that began when I crossed my very first starting line back in 2013…this has got to be one of my greatest achievements…

2014 Run United Trilogy Medal

When I crossed the finish line, the race has ended…but the story of 42Km races has just began…

“A marathoner is a marathoner regardless of time. Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental, that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow.  It’s all in conquering the challenge.” – Mary Wittenberg, President, New York Road Runners Club

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Caliraya 360: Will I Survive the Hills of Laguna?

Caliraya 360 2015

With the very advanced registration for this year’s Run United Philippine Marathon happening in October, I feel like I need to scale up my training to get my legs ready for another full marathon (my 3rd for 2015). July has been a month of abstinence in running (birthday month – excuse). Now that it’s August with no scheduled race/run I was hunting for one.

I stumbled upon a new race – Subaru Marathon. I wanted to get in the groove and condition my body for the full mary in October so I was set to register for the 21K category.  The registration fee is quite steep but I needed a pre-marathon race.

This week though, while reading an article about ultra running for noobs (like I am), Caliraya 360 popped in! Not a 21K…not yet a full mary! It’s a 34 kilometer run organized by Run Mania. Below are some bits and pieces about the event I fished out from Pinoy Fitness.

 

September 13, 2015
Lumban Town Plaza, Laguna
34K/20K/8K/4K/1K

Registration Fees:
1K – P300
4K – P400
8K – P450
20K – P750
34K – P900

Inclusive of Singlet, Race Bib, Certificate, Medal for 20K finishers, trophy for 34K finishers.

Registration Venues:
*In-store Registration
– Mizuno Outlets : MOA, BGC, Trinoma, Festival Mall, Paseo de Sta. Rosa
– Red Gloves Boxing Gym Branches : Los Banos, Canlubang, Calamba City and Pagsanjan, Laguna
– Dotcom Internet Cafe (In front of 7Eleven near SLSU Lucban, Quezon)
– A/X Fitness Sta. Cruz, Laguna
– Alexis Gym Sta. Cruz, Laguna
– Run Mania Headquarters (122 Burgos St., Lumban, Laguna)

The race being outside Manila will be refreshing. Getting close to nature (read: trees, fresh air and Caliraya Lake) is something new for me who’s been running along the city roads for so long. In addition, I’ve read that the route is quite interesting (read: Challenging = uphill/downhill).

Credits: Photos grabbed from PinoyFitness.com

 

It’s all about pushing myself to the limits (with a lot more attention to health and well-being). It has been my personal mantra to listen to my body when I run.  I am not exactly the best fit runner so I make it a point to really take the cue from my legs and heart as well as other signs of pain or exhaustion.

With the decision to take the out-of-town race over the Subaru Marathon around the usual route, all I need now is to look for a Mizuno store to enlist.

Update (08/09/2015)

I found myself filling out the registration form at Mizuno  – Mall of Asia this afternoon for the 34K race.

Caliraya 360 bib + singlet
Registration Details:

  • Registration fee – P 900
  • Shuttle fee (Optional) – P 400 (round trip)
    • Pickup point –  Shell Gas Station (Ayala Avenue)
    • Time – 1AM – 1:15 AM
  • Assembly time at Lumban Town Plaza – 3AM
  • Gunstart: 4AM

Good luck and see you all on September 13!

 

 

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