I just ran the Lumban Falls Callenge trail race this weekend. I am really liking the promoter Trail Mania's trail selection. I often select the longer distances as the shorter runs sometimes lack the challenges and scenery of the longer races. Not so for the Lumban Falls Challenge trail race. The 8 kilometer run was very technical with lots of scrambling and river running. At the midpoint, the Lumban waterfalls were awe inspiring.
One reason I got into trail running was because it was a great opportunity to experience nature in the Philippines. By picking races in different locations, I have been able to explore different sights around the islands. I live in Laguna, so I am partial to races in this area. I love Rizal, but if I can arrive at the race location in a couple of hours, that is an added bonus. The Trail Mania people are doing a great job of locating great race venues in my area. In my opinion, their races have been getting more challenging and technical over the last year. My first Trail Mania race was the Trails 2 Cave Challenge in Cavinti. I enjoyed the race, but everything about their recent races, from the finisher shirts to the trail selection has improved. The Lumban Falls Challenge was technical, had great views, and the waterfall was the perfect destination for the 8K and 16K races.
Last year I ran the Conquer Ascend 42K trail race in Maragondon Cavite. It went well, but I didn't feel like I was in my best condition. Running long races in the 21K to 30K range about every three weeks prior to the 42K race was not a good strategy. Therefore this year I will use shorter races to get my trail sense but run longer training sets to build up the distance. The Lumban Falls Challenge 8K race seemed like the perfect race to start this new year.
The Lumban Falls Challenge started at the Lumban Covered Court in the center of Lumban Laguna.
After a great sizzling pork chop at La Parilla restaurant, I returned to the covered court. It was about 7 am and the place was almost empty with just a few kids hanging out and a couple of guys welding some scaffolding so I decided to set up my tent. A guy walks over and asks what I am doing. I tell him about the race and he asks me a few friendly questions. He then tells me that there is a musical practice for teenagers that will be taking place. I ask him if I should leave but he tells me that is not necessary although it may get a little loud. I see only about 5 kids so I decide to stay and get some rest. It is probably about 8 p.m. by this time. My tent is at the far end of the basketball court and in dark so I don't think I will be noticed. I fall asleep.
At about 9:30 or 10:00 pm I woke up and there were probably about 300 middle school age kids sitting on the floor listening to instructions and loosening up for some kind of mega-production. Now that the lights were turned on I realize that my tent was actually right at the edge of this massive musical. I really need to go to the bathroom but since they were in the middle of practice I felt I would cause a distraction if I left my tent. The show was really complex with moving props, dancing, feathered costumes, and singing. It felt like Rio at Carnival time and my tent was right on the edge of the stage. The practice continues until about 12:30 am when I can finally left to go to the bathroom. At this time other runners were allowed to enter and several start pitching their own tents. I only had a few hours till I could claim my race kit.
Gun start for the 8K race was at 6 am so I had plenty of time to get ready. Like all good trail races, the first part of the race is on paved streets that are wide enough for the racers to pass and runners to get spaced. On my first trail race, the start was a narrow steep downhill single track. There were many first-time runners who walked down the hill making it impossible to pass. The going was way to slow even for me. When I finally had a chance to pass, I had to run through some thorny bushes; scratching up my legs. Since then I always try to start strong enough so that I don't get held up by people walking up or down those first hills. I am older so I tend to slow down on the technical stuff, I need to make up the time when it is possible to run.
After a nice start on pavement, the trail became a pleasant scenic single track through rice fields andthen up a decent slope. After a few easy stream crossings the trail became quite technical. At first we were scrambling along the steep bank along the river, traversing a narrow rocky inclines, and finally scrambling the rocks right in the river itself. The last 700 meters to the falls were straight up the mountain in one of those gut busting climbs with ropes and rock to rock scrambling. If all you do is run on pavement, a slope like this will have you wondering why you ever started in the first place. For us trail runners, we only smile because we know that this is the moment we've been waiting for; there's no runners high for us; we've gotta pay attention to the trail, grab that root, tighten the stomach muscles, lift those legs and push to the top. If were lucky we'll only lose a few toenails, slip but not fall, and finish with no debilitating injuries.
I could tell that I was in a serious race because there were very few people at the waterfall when I
The Trail Mania people had done a great hop of clearing and marking the trail. A couple of years ago I ran a different race where the organizers had cut a narrow steep path through a patch of young bamboo. They had left a narrow slippery trail lined with foot tall bamboo spikes. At that race, I slipped like three times going down the trail; each time I thought I would be impaled.
I was reminded of this experience on the Lumban Falls race. Along a narrow steep cliff, I noticed a few small trees cut off a foot above the ground leaving three sharp spikes. Momentarily distracted, I placed my foot on a loose stone which gave way. I pitched forward towards the spikes. I landed on my knee and threw my elbow forward, stopping with one of the spikes barely missing my stomach and the other poking into my pectoral muscle right next to my armpit. It just barely pierced my t-shirt; slightly breaking the skin under my arm. I got up and test my knee and made sure my ankle wasn't twisted. Since everything seemed to be working, I started running again. I couldn't help but think how lucky I am. You just don't get experiences like these at road races.
The Lumban Falls Challenge 8k race was the very definition of adventure. I loved this race; from the musical show the night before, the technical trails, the beautiful old church, to the slippery rocks and river running. It doesn't get much better than this. Every day that I can get up and run a trail race is a great day to be alive!