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