Albay road-goating: The day god tried (and failed) to burn me alive

A short note: all photos here are owned by Rico Manallo and taken from the official album of Mayon 360 Albay Ultramarathon. 

First the backstory. Sometime in April I attempted to run my first trail ultra–it turned out to be a massive failure. Haha! I stopped at KM 32 thinking I’m past the cut-off time for the “halfway” checkpoint and there’s no way they’d let me continue after the dropbag station.

Can you believe my frustration? My adobo was waiting right there in the magical dropbag, but I never got to eat it.

Around 6:30 AM past Rangyas Peak. Photo by Nik Jamisola.

I spent two nights regretting that decision and looking for other races within the next two months for a chance to just fucking redeem myself. Ang weak ko, putang ina.

There was only one requirement: road or trail, it can’t be shorter. I scoured the running sites and looked at calendars, then lo and behold Mayon 360–80 kilometers on road / asphalt around country’s biggest, hottest cone.

Registration closed. Hijo de puta. 

The long and short of it is that I begged the race organizers for a slot even if they already have a starting list. Like ATE KUYA PLS-levels.

And off I went this wonderful place hoping to just wing the remaining 30-kilometers. Warning: do not try this at home. If you say you’re ready for 50-kilometers, do not go 50-miles.

BRB dying.

This is me at KM 72-ish. During that time, I’ve probably lost what remains of my body fat. I was teary-eyed in pain, burned, and I just wanted to book an Uber to my hotel and take a cold shower. And in my head, I just tried to say “katumabas na lang to ng limang ikot sa acad oval, minus the taho.” Minor set-back: walang Uber. Haha! I spent the last two hours of the race just walking, savoring the agony.

You know what’s amazing? A dog with a bib outran me. No shit. The furry boy finished with his human at approximately 13 hours, while I clocked in at 14+.

There’s only one explanation for this: he’s got better shoes!!! LOL!

I thought carefully how people managed to smile after KM 55. The road past Ligao was sweltering and although there was a bit of rain at Tabaco City, it only brought a short reprieve. Then an awful lot of blisters. Ouch.

Hindi ito pa-cute na ouch ha. Tangina, masakit talaga, nababalatan ka na ng buhay eh. 

My goal was to finish while the sun was still up. It didn’t happen. One aid station offered watermelons so I stayed there for a good 10 minutes chatting up the volunteers and munching slice after slice. I had to do more of those extended stops. It was too much. Haha! Kudos to the race organizers and the RD for sticking to their promise of having aid stations every five kilometers. I seriously doubt if I’d be able to finish if I had to be entirely self-sufficient.

It was about 6 PM when I got back to Penaranda Park aided and paced by this nice runner from Ateneo de Naga (I forget his name, but thanks brotha!).

My first 50-miler in summary: 14+ hours of running, 5 really gross blisters, one dead toenail, approx. 30 square inches of burned, peeling skin, 8 energy gels, three eggs, 8 bananas,1 Fita, 1 pack of Growers spicy peanuts, 2 packs M&Ms. And–


Jjampong.

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TWT Detour: Snapshots of Mt. Mayon

A Mt. Mayon trek is probably the toughest side trip I ever took. While on a boat off the coast of Dancalan in Donsol, I saw the perfect cone and thought maybe I could spend some time in Legazpi City to see the volcano up close. The same day, I did a quick Internet search and found a guide, by the name George Cordovilla (+63 915 422 45 08)–an accredited naturalist, who has gone up and down about 300 times since he was 17.  Holy mother, right? The following day, we met at the Central Bus Terminal and quickly went to the Department of Tourism Office, where I registered and left the car.

In 2013, Mt. Mayon had a phreatic eruption that killed four Germans and a Filipino guide. A year later, around September, it showed signs of unrest with lava accumulating up the crater. Below is a very popular photo taken by Bullit Marquez of Associated Press back in 2006.

Mt. Mayon Bullit MarquezI must admit, the ‘horror’ stories made me even more excited. Getting hit by a glowing hot boulder, what are the chances, right? Apparently, better than winning the lottery. Due to these incidents, however, going up the crater is now prohibited and hikers can only go as far as the Knife Edge.

Mount-Mayon-(7)

We started the trek late, around 9AM. From the highway, it was just a nice dirt road leading to the Golf Course (the traditional trail) with a very intimidating view of the volcano.

Mount-Mayon-(8)Passing by a wide open space with such a view up ahead is quite an experience–it’s only when you try to look back that you’d see / notice the change in elevation. Careful of landmines (aka horse shit) because they are aplenty. From time to time, you’ll get a bit of shade until you reach a secondary forest.

Mount-Mayon-(15)Now the good thing about having a very experienced guide is getting a shitload of information. Sir George (upon seeing my limited lung capacity) called for a lot of quick breaks, during which, we talked mostly about what’s edible and what’s not. Haha.

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Like this thing I kept on eating along the trail.
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And this wild pineapple.

Truth is, there are quite a lot of things that I would’ve failed to notice, had they not been pointed out.

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Yes, this was the first time time I ever saw a REAL bird’s nest.

Mount-Mayon-(9)Mount-Mayon-(13)Mount-Mayon-(12)Mount-Mayon-(16)

I think it was about 11AM when we reached Camp 1, which is marked by an old, dilapidated stone house and a grotto. I swear, this is such a great place for all things paranormal.

Mount-Mayon-(17)Mount-Mayon-(2)

The Gully

Holy mackerel. The gully is something that took shape because of lava flow ages ago. I call it the Giant Slide of Death, because god knows where you’d end up in, if you make a misstep–maybe in hell. It also has a lot of depressions that trap rainwater. And speaking of rain. Holy Week vacationers in the coastal areas of Quezon were asked to go home because of Typhoon Maysak (Chedeng). A little after lunch, we experienced a minor change in weather because of it. This made the gully slippery, so I opted to take my shoes off–very noob!

Mount-Mayon-(1)Mount-Mayon-(18)The rain, despite increasing danger for most climbs, made our descent very pleasant. I didn’t have a poncho so I was practically drenched when we reached the Lava Front. But it was all good!

Mount-Mayon-(4)Mount-Mayon-(3)Mt. Mayon, in its rainy glory is a beauty to behold. I look forward to the day, though, that the local authorities would let people hike up to the crater once again. The more challenging part of the climb, according to most accounts,  is rock climbing and scrambling past Camp 2, where the trail becomes steep and the rocks are loose. So maybe, I’ll save that for another day. Haha!

After the dayhike, I stayed in Cagsawa and walked around town before the following day’s grueling drive back to Manila.

Mount-Mayon-(6)Mount-Mayon-(5)

Cheers to adventure!

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This blog post is part of my 2015 travel project called #epic7107 — to vist as many places within the home-country as possible and to write not just about destinations, but also, people.