Slip and Slide: Salomon X-Trail Run Pilipinas 2017 Race Recap

I’ve always enjoyed going to the mountains but it’s been a very long time since my last climb.  Probably the closest thing I can do in place of that is a trail run, so I always look forward to Salomon X-Trail Run.  Here’s my recap:

The trails of Subic were again host to this year’s event

The road to the trails started when I attended the media launch of the Salomon X-Trail Run Pilipinas 2017.  Salomon X-Trail Run always had this notorious reputation of being anything but a walk in the park so even the shorter distances were a challenge.  This year promised a new set of trails so for a while I toyed with the idea of doing a longer distance.  Eventually, I picked the 12K distance primarily because I wanted that extra sleep (as it starts 1:30PM) and I’m not really that prepared go long (both in terms of time and distance).

Actual 12K route taken via GPS on my phone.
I lost my GPS signal shortly after the turn around leading to that unaligned path leading to the sixth kilometer.

Our shuttle was scheduled to depart at 7AM from R.O.X. in Bonifacio High Street.  I was hoping it would be a bit later, but I guess it’s much better than the early morning one of the longer distances.  And because there weren’t any incidents along the way, we arrived in Subic a little over three hours prior to our gun start—the earliest I’ve ever been prior to a race! 💤

And what do you know, I wasn’t getting bored yet when news of the leaders of the 32K approaching the finish line was announced!  My body automatically directed itself to the finish line to see what’s going on—probably my media instincts from all the event coverages I did in the past.  But as I’m not familiar with the setup at the finish line, I realized that I’m not in an ideal spot to take a good shot (especially that I’m just using a cellphone camera) until the would-be winners arrived.  Nonetheless, I’m glad to have captured this neck-and-neck finish. 😲

The winner and runner-up of the highly-competitive 32K event as they approached the finish line.

I got to spend the rest of the waiting period socializing with some fellow runners, exploring the activity area and sampling some of the products from sponsors, and having my last meal before the race.  It was a very nice, festive atmosphere.  It’s quite interesting though to see the gears the participants were wearing and how much items they’re bringing into the trails.  Compared to them I’m practically naked as aside from my trail shoes, compression shirt (short sleeve), below-knee compression socks, and regular running shorts (with pockets), all I’m carrying was a Fitbit Charge 2 and a cellphone (for GPS-tracking), a non-disposable water bottle, and a race belt with a lone sports gel.  I don’t even have an arm strap for my phone as my last one got torn in a race (I guess I underestimated the size of my arm 😋)!

The 12K and 6K starting to assemble prior to their gun start.

I came into this race simply to enjoy the trails.  That’s how it’s always been for me and this race is no different.  That’s also why I didn’t mind starting from behind—let the fast runners pass and stay away from their way.

See me?  I’m fiddling with the GPS tracker apps on my phone when this was taken.
Courtesy @salomonphilippines

Contrary to my expectation that an afternoon gun start is better than an early morning one, starting at 1:30PM proved to be a bit of a challenge for me.  Despite the afternoon being cloudy, it was quite humid and I felt really, really heavy when our leg started.  The fact that it was mostly uphill for the first three kilometers did not help.  I think I only started to “normalize” when we entered the trails.

The first of three water crossings for the 12K distance.
At this point everyone can still opt to stay dry.

Since it rained the night before the race, everything was muddy.  There’s the sticky mud, there’s the soaking wet mud, and there’s the slippery mud.  And as our entrance to the trails was mostly uphill, you can just imagine how tiring it was.  The sticky mud kept clinging onto our shoes and avoiding the mud puddles made our paths slightly longer.  But the most challenging part was the slippery mud that made it feel more like you’re skating on ice—uphills! 😖

I was minding my own business, trying my best to avoid the mud puddles when I heard a voice from behind talking to me, saying something like, “Don’t disappoint me now, I’m following you…”  After all these years, it seems like I’ve again become someone else’s target!  Back in my early days of running (circa 2008, 2009) we used to “target” other runners with the secret aim of finishing ahead of them.  But that’s in the “old” days and on the roads, not on trails.  I then realized that wearing an Ironman compression shirt made me a very easy “target” for anyone.  In a way, I felt some pressure to do my trail run a bit more seriously. 🎯

The second and longest of the water crossings.
There’s no way to avoid getting wet so everyone accepted their fate after this. 😂

For the most part of the first half of the race, the one targeting me was ahead of me as I really didn’t want to succumb to pressure, but he did pull me from becoming too far behind.  In a way, the roles reversed!  Less than a kilometer before the turnaround, the tides reversed again and I guess I didn’t look back from there.  Somehow, I found my second wind and that combined with the downhills that followed the turnaround point allowed me to get some time back.  I even surprised myself that I can still run a sub 6:00/km pace when I got back on the road on the last few kilometers of the race!

Another great shot from the official race photographers!
No, I haven’t noticed the photographer yet when this was taken…
I’m smiling because I know my suffering is nearing its end! 😇
Courtesy @salomonphilippines

In the end, I was able to complete my 12K in 1:52:33 based on the unofficial results.  Good enough to place 22nd for men and 29th overall. 👍

The aftermath on my trail shoes (yeah, it’s a different brand 😉).

After the race, there’s the usual post-race program which included a beer mile contest, some raffles, and eventually the awarding ceremonies.  Of course, the booths of sponsors were still open to give out samples of their products.  But the most popular post-race attraction was the showers.  Everyone’s got mud somewhere, and everyone wanted to wash.  But to my surprise, the men’s showers were completely out in the open with no attempt at privacy whatsoever, and there were only two of them.  I assume the ladies’ showers were somewhere more private as I’ve not seen it.  This was an issue last year so I don’t quite understand why it still is this year.  The men’s changing room near the showers didn’t gave much privacy either so apologies if anyone got offended by the sight of my rear-end while I was changing! 🍑

The start/finish line prior to the arrival of the 32K/24K participants and 12K/6K gun start.

To summarize, Salomon X-Trail Run Pilipinas 2017 is another great event by Salomon.  If I were to recommend any trail running events around Metro Manila, Salomon X-Trail Run would definitely be at the top of my list.  It’s anything but easy, even on the shortest distances, and at times you’d even question yourself what predicament have you gotten yourself into, but at the end of it all is that feeling of accomplishment! 🏆

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