This year’s TNF100 for me is walking, but is anything but a walk in the park. This is definitely the most tiring race I’ve ever had. I was merely walking uphill but it was so long and steep that even that makes me catch my breath (takes the word “breath-taking” to a whole new level). This was on the way to the second radar station atop Mt. Sto. Tomas, the highest peak of the race.
I had gained some significant distance from my buddies but I knew they’d eventually caught up with me as I was “walk-only.” Not having anyone upfront to follow, my no-sense-of-direction kicked in, and I got lost, twice, on the way back down. Thankfully it wasn’t a significant length and I was still able to backtrack my way, and as expected my buddies were able to catch up and I again had someone to follow. What’s an adventure if everything went as planned, right?
Eventually we were back to “km35.” With no GPS reference and considering all the distance we covered I can only assume that it was the “real” km45. It was a breath of fresh air, and it was lunch time! We arrived just before 12PM, cutoff time reached, almost halfway complete!
Down, Down, Down
My buddies were eager to keep up the momentum we had so they went on ahead while I decided to stay behind to eat lunch. Alone once again. Still I don’t mind, the sun is still up. Moments later an old friend came, Ronald, a fellow BDM finisher but TNF100 “avenger.” I had originally wanted to pace with him to “pull” me into finishing the race as I knew he had a score to settle. I fear that with my knee problem I may give up easily. Now he’s here I can at least be assured that someone would “pull” me to finishing the first loop—the goal for now.
After a quick lunch Ronald and I were on our way back to complete the first loop. Eventually we were able to catch up with another fellow BDM finisher, Jonel (Bugobugo85). It was downhill once again, on the way back to the lowest point of the race—steeply going down! TNF100 didn’t give us any break! The uphills were very tough and tiring, and the downhills were much worse! My not-so-good right knee was doing quite well all this time but when the dreaded downhills came, so does its condition! Just about every step on my right foot was dreadfully painful! And it came at the worst possible time during the toughest, most intimidating sets of steep downhills with crumbling earth. Eventually I was left behind to handle to course on my own, and I was glad I did because it was my worst frustration during the race.
There’s no place for quitting in the middle of the mountain. No one can help you but yourself, and in case you need help there’s only a few place to get it. For the mean time that kept me focus, just make it to the next station, bear the pain. The steep downhill that’s keeping me in pain would end, eventually. And eventually the downhill eased up and I was finally able to join Ronald and Jonel. It was quite a relief to be back at the “basin” of the route to rest awhile. Here we were joined by more runners on the way back to the base camp. Do I still want to quit? Easily, yes—but who says I’d take the easy way out?
Stairway to Heaven
After a few minutes of rest the gang was heading back to base camp, but first we have to tackle the stairs—dreaded by my right knee. On the bright side it was going up which was more bearable, bearable but not painfree. Eventually the steps went out but the pains remain.
While gradually moving towards the base camp, the sun was also slowly setting. It was already a very long day and it was just the first loop we were about to complete!
Ronald, Jonel, and I, being no strangers to TNF100, knew how difficult it was to be alone in the trails particularly at night so Jonel asked us to make a pact to stick together through this ordeal—I think I answered with a smile. All I can think about then was just to finish the first loop—my right knee was then feeling worse as I feel like crying with each step! Of course I didn’t want to slow us down so I didn’t show it and just exclaimed a deep sigh. My mind was already playing the DNF tune and I don’t know how long I can bear the pain. Fortunately I was able to keep my sanity up until the paved roads leading back to Burnham Park. We were bumping into the leaders already completing their second loop—the thought of completing the race was sweet until you realize you’re just completing your first loop. Saying it out loud when we crossed the Finish line (to complete the first loop) wasn’t fun as well.
Now that I’m safely back at the base camp my mind was split between staying and calling it a day, or going back, enduring the pain and completing the remaining 33K—a choice of pain, hunger, and sweat versus rest, food, and comfort. Not a very easy choice to make in such arduous state.
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TNF100 2010 Chronicles: