3:50 a.m. Valentine’s morning found me driving on the SLEX all the way to Sta. Rosa Laguna for the TNF Thrill of the Trail in Nuvali. Since I was taking it easy this week, I decided that I would run a relaxed pace and take plenty of pictures of the scenery.
I arrived at the site just before 5 a.m. and the first thing I noticed as I got down from the car was the chilly air from Tagaytay. I zipped up my shirt to neck and brought down my old TNF Xenon Hydration Belt. I had packed 2 500ml bottles of sports drink, an energy bar, gel, and my camera. As I walked towards the 11-K starting area, I glanced at my watch and mentally calculated the sun’s arrival. It was still quite dark and I wondered whether I should bring my headlamp and my sunglasses. With the 22-K race start at 5:45 a.m., I figured I wouldn’t need the headlamp for long so I decided to leave it. Fear of river crossings and losing my glasses to the water, made me decide not to bring them as well. I saw some familiar faces : Bards, Dingdong, Marga, and Hector but none of them were running the 22-K. After saying our hellos and happy valentines, I boarded the bus which would bring the 22-K runners to the starting line at the Montecito gate from the race site.
A few minutes after the last of the 22-K runners had been ferried to the starting line, we were soon off and running into the dark.
With so many runners jostling for space as we made our way to the Mahada plains, I slowed down and began taking photos until I was at the tail end of the group. At the back, I could take my time and not pose a danger to the runners behind me. The open landscape, overcast sky and strong cool breeze felt like something out of a TNF advertisement in the US.
At the end of the plains was a forested area which we ran into until we came to a steep ravine leading down to the first river crossing. I made friends with the 2 runners behind me, Aaron and Cris as we made our way to the bottom.
While negotiating this part of the course, I met Jen Wallace, an avid runner and teacher from Brent. We would run together past the river, to the spine exit, until the second river crossing. At this point , we were running part of the 11-K course already although most of them had already finished running.
We had been running for more than 2 hours now. Despite 2 river crossings and the debris that had accumulated in my shoes, my feet were still okay. At the end of this river, I cleaned out my shoes for the last 6-K of the course of mostly mountain bike trails which I imagined would be harder with the sun shining down on us already and little shade provided by the wall of talahib grass. From there, I raced all the way to the finish line hardly stopping even to hydrate. It had been a beautiful run but I needed to get home to my Valentine.