Back on the Trails of Hamilo Coast: Salomon XTrail Run

After a long time of hiatus from joining races, I finally got back.  And it was Salomon XTrail Run that got me back on my feet for my first race of the year.  I can’t say no when Salomon invited me, and I can’t miss the chance of running in one of my favorite places in the Philippines, Hamilo Coast.

A route marker of Salomon XTrail Run

It was another sleepless race.  Hamilo Coast being quite some distance away from Manila, we have to depart quite early.  And it was more difficult for me this time around as my day start much earlier than before because of my work.  It was just around midnight and I can hardly keep myself up.  Well, sleepiness doesn’t really bother me much whenever I run in races anyway.

Hamilo Coast is now more accessible from Manila via CAVITEX and Ternate-Nasugbu Highway
The starting line, about an hour before the 32K gun start

As I promised myself from last year’s race, I did join the race this time with a longer distance.  I did 12K this year, double from last year’s 6K.  I’m joining the race for fun so I’m leaving the “pros” deal with the much longer distance.  Besides, I’m always looking forward to finishing early so I have some time to spend at the beach.

Because my race pack did not include pins, I had to improvise…

The 12K started 6AM with the starting line in the same spot as last year’s, near the beach front.  And like year, an uphill greeted runners so early in the race.  Little did we know that that’s nothing compared to what lied ahead of us.

Just before our gun start

We were immediately greeted by some serious uphills.  Naturally, these spots became bottlenecks as some struggled, but to my surprise strong runners from longer distances that started ahead of us were rubbing elbows with us casual participants so they were stuck.  I can only assume that they took other routes before reaching our spot so they were seriously stuck with us.  Overtaking is not an option as it would mean finding a trail for your own.

Uphills so soon in the race
Followed quickly by the trails
And right behind this curve…
…is that very long climb!
Don’t forget to look back: you may be missing some great views!

Uphills seem never ending with this race, but they’re actually the easy part.  Downhills were just ridiculous, not to mention very dangerous.  There were some parts where ropes were in place to assist in climbing up or going down, but these are only in a very few select spots.

This is one major choke point.  Up there a lot of people got stuck because it was so steep and you can only climb using the provided rope.  This is also where I saw the first injured participant in the race.
Nowhere else to go but wait your turn…

Salomon XTrail Run is not a fun event.  It’s very technical and the risk of injury is very high so it’s definitely not for your everyday casual trail runner.  In fact, this particular race had the most injuries I’ve ever seen in any race!  It’s very easy to underestimate “12K” when you’re doing much longer road races so I guess many were caught by surprised by the trails.  To those who had their debut trail race here, I hope this does not discourage you from exploring more trails!

The 12K route

The middle of the 12K route were pleasantly flat.  These were the only parts where you can really run and overtake if you please.  This was the best part to gain back some lost time and be ahead of many people as many were already spent by the time they got here.  As a consolation to those who have ran out of juice to run, these were also some of the best spots to view the beautiful peaks of Pico de Loro.

Finally, out of the narrow trails!
Great views around…
Some interesting crossing 🙂
See the twin peaks of Pico de Loro?
Bamboo bridge 🙂
Clean but hot water gushing out of this…
Another nice segment of the course

Afterwards, it was back to some really, really long and steep uphill.  Of course downhills came after, and we ended up in some rocky place that I assumed to be a dried up river.  It wasn’t that difficult traversing this area, but it’s not that easy as well and the chances of twisting your ankles are high.

Another choke point

We left the trail ending up near the Pico Sands Hotel.  I was a bit disappointed at this part since I realized that we won’t be reaching the part I used to hate last year on the other side of the cove.  But on the good side, I was nearing the end of my 12K race.

12K route elevation

I ended my 12K in a little less than two and half hours, a few minutes before the cutoff of 2.5 hours.  Whew!  Half-marathon effort!  I felt that the cutoff was unnecessary, and I had no idea how many participants in the 12K race actually made it through.  Soon after finishing my race, I made a quick dip on the beach, and just enjoyed the view.

My photo as I approach the finish line, courtesy Running Photographers.   Thank you! 😀
Purple flag on the beach…
…because of the possibility of jellyfish sting
But that didn’t stop me from taking a dip! 😀

Overall, this race had some ups and downs: the route was good, the venue was great, there were snacks after the race (albeit served a little late), and there were outdoor showers (no toiletries though).  On the downside, the route was a little too technical, the cutoff was too stringent, and I’ve heard that water ran short for longer distances.

What’s the best thing after a tiring run?  Eating of course!

For those looking for some serious trails, Salomon XTrail Run is excellent (if you take the shorter distances), but otherwise I won’t recommend it, particularly for beginners.  But if you ask me if I’d do it again, sure I would!  But I won’t be running after the longer distances as I always look forward to spending more time at the beach.  I mean, how many trails do you know that ends up in a good beach?

View of the beach club from the waters

To all the participants, whether you made it through the cutoff or not, Congratulations!  Many thanks to Salomon for inviting me to join this challenging race.

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