Lahar Chronicles: Columbia Eco Trail Run Pinatubo Encounter

It was another sleepless race—that’s one of the downsides of having an out of town race.  But it doesn’t matter—what matters is that after two years, I’ll be back onto one of my favorite trail routes of all time: the lahar fields of Mt. Pinatubo!

The surreal view of the lahar fields

Our adventure starts pretty early in the morning of that Saturday.  There were some delays before we were on our way from Bonifacio High Street but since the starting line (Clark Expo) is just a little over an hour away from Manila, it wasn’t a big deal.

Starting my 25K race with the 12K runners…

The big deal came when our bus driver failed to bring us to the starting line on time!  The reason: he got lost!  He didn’t really know his way around and he didn’t bother asking for directions until he was contacted on our whereabouts.  Here comes the curse of out of town race commutes!  So the moment the bus arrived at the starting line, we rushed to the baggage counter, deposited our bags, dropped our raffle stubs, and headed for the starting line.  The 12K was about to start then so I just opted to tag along.

It’s quite hard to distinguish between 25K and 12K runners as all bibs are of the same color.  It was still a bit foggy when the 12K race started.
Entering the trails…
Enjoying the last of the paved roads…
In action 🙂

This race was likewise a trip down the memory lane for me.  The starting line was the site of the base camp of my first ultra-marathon race, The North Face 100 (TNF100) back in 2009 where I did 100K, and the route is pretty much that of Philippine Association of Ultrarunners (PAU) Pinatubo two years ago where I did 50K.

That bridge holds a lot of memory for me, from my first ultra to my last visit to Mt. Pinatubo
One of the numerous markers along the route
The lahar fields of Mt. Pinatubo is probably one of the widest “trails” you can find
I don’t know what they were burning but it was a bit of a concern as the smoke occasionally blows towards runners
Hello lahar! I don’t think I missed you 😀
The first “river crossing”
This beauty is practically unchanged since I last visited two years ago
It’s not all lahar, there are also rocks (which gets bigger as you get closer to the crater)

The first parts of the route were mere dry lahar and some shallow water flows, but as the race progressed towards the mountain, the water level gradually rises until eventually, it’s futile to resist getting wet!

Here comes the “real” river crossing!
One of the event marshals on his bike. Nice ride! 🙂
“Trails” starting to narrow
…and “wetter”
…until it’s all water and walls!
Staying dry is futile!
Moving on!
Pit stop to remove excess lahar in my socks and shoes
…and narrower
Just to remind you who’s behind the camera 😀

Running towards the first half of the 25K route wasn’t easy as you’re running gradually uphill and against the flow of the river, eventually slowing a lot of runners down, myself included.  I didn’t mind though as I was preoccupied most of the time admiring the masterpiece nature has bestowed upon this area which was once the site of a violent volcanic eruption.  Before I knew it, it was time to turn around—already?!

Before I knew it, I’m already midway into the 25K route!
One of the numerous water stations dotting the route. This was just after the 25K turnaround.
So far, yet so near!
Heading back…

Heading back was much easier than I thought!  First, we’re running downstream; and second, we’re running with the flow of the river!  As I ran with the river I realized that it’s easier to go with nature than against her.

Notice the water levels receding
Some sections actually gets dry
Look at this interesting landscape!
It’s interesting how banana plants were able to live in such a volatile location

The previously tiring river becomes shallow flowing waters but the heat from the rising sun and fatigue starts kicking in at these stages of the race so it still wasn’t smooth sailing to the finish.  In fact, it’s at these stages where a lot of runners start walking, again, myself included.  Although I can still run, a lot of times I preferred walking—my sports drink ran out and am just taking in water.  Without replenishment for lost nutrients (and hunger), I really felt exhausted!

There’s sun, sand, and water, why not get some tan? 😀 But seriously, I’m avoiding tan lines 🙂
Now I remember this place vividly from way back TNF100 (2009) days: I was wearing a trash bag as poncho, crazy strong rains were pounding me like there’s no tomorrow, wind winds gusting like it wanted to blow me away! Today, it’s a perfectly sunny day. 🙂
Eventually, I’m back to where I started
After almost three hours, the finish line! Taken as I was running to the finish. 🙂

After all that walk and hanging around to get that hard to miss lahar out of my socks and shoes, I was surprised to finish in under three hours!  But I was really, really hungry when I crossed the finish line.  And what do you know, Columbia thought that we’d be and provided two pieces of pandesal, a banana, a bottle of sports drink, and a huge bottle of water!  And of course, a very nice finisher’s medal!

I so love this unique finisher’s medal ♥
I actually don’t know this fruit when I ate it! I was still so hungry that I ate practically anything edible I can find! (To those who don’t know either, apparently this is a pear and I’d say it’s a close relative of apples 😁)
Reverse side: so that we won’t forget
A Land Rover on display at the activity area. Too bad it wasn’t raffled off and no free ride. 🙂

In the end, Columbia Eco Trail Run Pinatubo was one of the most fun races I’ve had recently.  I actually think that 25K is too short to appreciate the lahar trails of Mt. Pinatubo (a longer distance next time, say 50K? :D) but that’s probably just me.  I loved that there was no shortage of water and it could’ve been better if there were some sports drinks even if it’s just in the 25K turnaround area, but who’s complaining?  I also liked that I didn’t saw anyone litter, except for that lone running sock that I saw lying on the ground that still looked new.  The race may be far and a bit expensive due to travel, but overall, it was a really great race!

To Columbia, thank you for a great weekend!
To all the finishers, Congratulations! 😀

And now the question is, how do I get rid of all those lahar inside my shoes? 😀

* * *


4 Comments Add yours

  1. sierra says:

    hi dennis! anong shoes yung gamit mo for this run?


    1. dhenztm says:

      Saucony Kinvara 2, just a regular running shoe that I was willing to get down and dirty with 😀


      1. sierra says:

        thanks for the feedback dennis. i thought you might have used saucony trail shoes for this event. but good to know you were able to use the kinvara 2’s for this.


        1. dhenztm says:

          My Kinvara was scheduled to be washed so it was the obvious choice 🙂


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