Four Lakes Trail Recon Hike

Tuesday morning we enjoyed locally made buns slathered with peanut butter and both strawberry and pineapple jam (both of which had been made home grown ingredients in Baguio) before heading out for a hike.

Our guide took us on what he thinks (and from the map as far as I can tell) is the trail for the race. It is basically a thin dirt road with the occasional motor bike passing by. At the beginning of the hike, so much was passing through my mind. Driving from Baguio the day before had prompted some serious doubts. The climbs seemed much steeper and higher than I’d imagined, it was hotter that I had predicted, and i’d just spent three weeks traveling through the Philippines, not running much at all. To top it all off, I was getting over a cold that I’d picked up the week before. Altogether not quite an equation that adds up to doubling the distance I’d ever completed.

Over and over I was hearing advice from friends leading up to leaving North America. I was also thinking about my experiences that lead me to this point (the four peaks attempt, training runs, the Grizz and three years ago where it all began, Running Tunisia).

It was cloudy for most of the hike but we got home before the first of many thunder showers throughout the week.

It was cloudy for most of the hike but we got home before the first of many thunder showers throughout the week.

As we climbed and I stirred all my thoughts around I just got more excited. First of all, if this road was the race trail, it was more runable than I’d imagined. Unlike the hiking trails in Kananaskis which go straight up the mountain, these wound around gradually building altitude (for the most part). It made sense really, since these roads are what supplies many small communities or extensions of Kayapa. Don’t get me wrong, there were steep parts, which after yesterdays roller coaster road was no surprise. But generally they started giving me back a little confidence.

Taking a short cut to the top (which don't worry, I didn't use on race day!)

Taking a short cut to the top (which don’t worry, I didn’t use on race day!)

The winding around, up and down was building into what I think is one of the race check point, Indupit. Indupit is a tiny community where our guide lives, essentially on top of a mountain. I was sorry that I didn’t have my gps with me when we reached the top (one of the items sacrificed as unessential when packing for our three month trip). I wanted to know how much we’d climbed and how far wed come. Luckily we had an old race map that gave us an idea. It was about 700 vertical meters from Kayapa and approximately 7 km.

Lucky for me Keith gets snap happy with the camera so we have lots of shots of the view!

Lucky for me Keith gets snap happy with the camera so we have lots of shots of the view!

Although we’d decided this would be the end for the day, we wondered a little further to turn a corner to get a better view of the trail. Ahead along the ridge we could see another future check point and the peak of Mount Ugo in the distance. From Indupit it would be around a 5km (very rough estimate) ridge run before a long descent and ascent to the top of Ugo which would be the highest point of the race and the second out of four mountain peaks. Ugo was mostly covered in fog but peaked out just enough to wink at me with a promise of it’s challenges to come.

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We took a short cut down, led by our guide. My legs complained a little bit as we spent about an hour going down the steep type of trail that we normally hike at home. I’m crossing my fingers that the road is indeed the race trail or there will be a lot of hiking not running in my future.

Steep hike down. While I didn't do this trail, there were plenty of steep parts in the race that killed my legs on the way down.

Steep hike down. While I didn’t do this trail, there were plenty of steep parts in the race that killed my legs on the way down.

All in all it was so great to test out what I will be doing in a few days. It was just a fraction of what I’ll have to do, but gave me a preview of the stunning scenery I will have as my running buddy for the duration of the race. It also allowed us to learn a little more about the area from our guide and even helped my scout out some potentially excellent pee break places (what could be better than that! Haha).

There were many fences like this in the race. They looked totally thrown together but by the time I'd climbed over enough of them, I realized that they all had similar design.

There were many fences like this in the race. They looked totally thrown together but by the time I’d climbed over enough of them, I realized that they all had similar design.

That's the ridge that would take me to mount Ugo (peeking out behind), the highest point in the race. Too bad we had to descend before climbing it!

That’s the ridge that would take me to Mount Ugo (peeking out behind), the highest point in the race. Too bad we had to descend before climbing it!

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I have a feeling that after another good sleep tonight I will start getting impatient for the start horn to sound!

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Kayapa Bound

I am currently travelling in South East Asia and as part of my trip I decided to do the Four Lakes 100km Ultramarathon in Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines on May 25th, 2013. Because of it’s remoteness, Kayapa does not have internet, however I wrote a few blog posts while I was there and will post them retroactively.

Tuesday May 21, 2013 – Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

We arrived in Baguio City on Sunday after a long trip that began Friday night in Naga City. As Keith and I got closer to Baguio, we both felt that we were in our element; we were surrounded by mountains.

For one blissful night we enjoyed a reprieve from fried meat and rice, eating at two vegetarian restaurants and relishing in the many delicious types of vegetables grown in the fields around the city. At home the biggest part of most of my meals are fresh fruit and veggies, and while the freshly picked mangos are divine, they just can’t fill in for all the other veggies and fruit.

Monday afternoon we caught a roller coaster to Kayapa. The van was the most insane journey I’ve ever taken, much more crazy than a traditional roller coaster and lasting just over two hours. The mountains in this area are serious, the tallest one stretching 2922 m above sea level (and unlike Alberta where we live, the ocean is really close). The roads are literally on the side of mountains. Neither Keith or I have ever seen roads like this, especially not at speeds that these vans go. In the 75 km ride we probably climbed ten mountains. We would start at the very bottom of a valley at a river and climb all the way to the top. The views (when we could tear our eyes away from the road) were stunning. Lush greenery, big open sky, just a dusting of mist, it was like a fairy tale.

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No photo can truly do the roller coaster justice but will give a small idea, I hope.

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And nothing like I had pictured in my mind. Somehow, even though I knew the elevations, I had expected more rolling hills. After all, I live in the Rockies which mostly consist of steep climbs with abrupt summits. It’s not as rocky here so how could it be steep was my (deluded) logic. So not only was my stomach upset from the roller coaster, it was also getting more and more butterflies with every mountain we saw.

Even on these crazy roads people cram jeepneys FULL and sit on top..maybe a little dangerous, just sayin'.

Even on these crazy roads people cram jeepneys FULL and sit on top..maybe a little dangerous, just sayin’. Oh and no one hesitate to fly around a blind corner in the opposite lane passing a slower vehicle.

Arriving in Kayapa was unnerving. We were dropped by the town hall and could see both ends of the village from that spot. Kayapa has 20,000 residents but only some live in the village. The rest live in/on the mountains farming (where you’d never imagine farms could exist – think next to vertical fields). Jonel, the extremely helpful race director had warned us of Kayapa’s size and told us to ask the nearest person for the Baltazar residence, where we would be staying (there are no hotels in villages of this size).

Once we found the place (“It’s the green house over there” which was about 25m away), we were welcomed with open arms by Sheryl, the Baltazar’s daughter and her adorable three year old son Charles Ivan, who was quick to warn us about the “scary trees” surrounding the village. Our room was clean, quite and comfortable, just what I needed for some pre race R and R.

I was the first runner to arrive which made me both nervous and excited to welcome the others who arriving later in the week. My goal was to acclimatize to the altitude, do a little hiking and get some serious rest after all of the sleep depriving travel we’d done in the last month.

I can’t wait to meet everyone and explore the mountains!