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XTerra Off-Road Duathlon Debut

Joining an off-road Duathlon is one of my target achievements since last year, but I can only select which events to join due to transportation and venue accessibility issues. Here in the Metro, the most feasible venue for me is La Mesa Forest Reserve because it is much accessible by taxi or buses in the wee hours. Timberland is also okay, if only cab drivers would easily agree to bring me and my bike to the topmost of Timberland Heights where the starting line mostly is.

For the Vaseline-Men XTerra Off-Road Duathlon last October 12, I was glad that the venue was at La Mesa Forest Reserve.

A week before the race, I and together with other members of Team Hunyango Multisport (THM) -- Cris, Dan, and Jonas were supposed to have a recon ride at the venue, but due to each other's bike problems which manifested the same morning of our reconaissance, we were not able to meet but just made our own way back home to fix our bikes. My bike got its rear derailleur replaced for having a "life" of its own while traversing San Mateo-Marikina road (J.P. Rizal St.). This paid-off though as my bike had better rear shifting during the race.

Come race day going to the venue, I hailed a cab which carried my bike at the back-seat from the house to SM Fairview, and from there I pedaled my way to the remaining distance of 2.5-km towards La Mesa Forest Reserve.

At the starting line with Cris, Dan, and Jonas (photo by Bave DC)

With more than an hour before the gun-start upon arrival, we were able to lighten-off our tightening nerves as we (with THM) were all first-timers for this race. Some Multisport teams who graced the race were members of Team Suunto Philippines, Alaska Tri-Aspire, Sante Barley, and other strong individuals known in the Running and Ultrarunning community, and celebrity Onemig Bondoc who represented his Power Pops Tri Team.

The muds of La Mesa Forest Reserve, when compared to the muds of Timberland Heights (which is orangey), has blackish color, an indication of high organic matter content due to the naturally decomposing plantations in the area. Being a Forest Reserve, the venue is also known to be a mixed of fire-roads, single-track trails, and varying distances and elevation with unpredictable hills and curves. The mud was an all throughout bonus challenge as it has been raining the week before race day.

Lake view at mid-point of the 6-km run

The first leg was a single-loop of 6-km run which took us to a beautiful lake view of the Reservoir at the midpoint of the route. This part was still relatively easy as my body is still fresh, finishing the 1st-leg course of 5.65-km at a little less than 38-minutes.

At the transition area, I munched my choice of energy source of 6-pieces of jelly candy (not the sports gel) before heading out to the bike course. I forgot to start my watch upon starting so my recorded bike distance is short of around 600-meters.

The bike route is a two-loop course, traversing the fire roads and single-track trails within the center area of the forest. This is where many of the participants bonked, fell, and even almost tapped-out due to the varying condition of the mud and trails -- slippery, sticky, slimey, or even rice field-like-mud! On the first loop, I also almost fell down from my bike when I lost my balance on a rough downhill, when I was about to ascend in one of the uphills and lost the momentum, and in another downhill where I thought that the break was not gripping.

Messy bike at the transition

During second-loop, the course became more challenging as the trail was already much beat up! There were some muddy single tracks when our wheels are rolling but the bike is no longer moving, while some areas of the trail have already formed crevices, most specially on downhill parts due to slipping of the tires. I even almost fell on a bridge leading to a stream in one portion of a downhill with a deep crevice. This made me wonder if this kind of damage is just fine for a Forest reserve. Well, I think that the people managing La Mesa is regularly reconstructing the damaged parts of the trails after an event like this (I hope!).

I finished the bike course at less than three (3) hours, or around 1-hour and 25-mins for each 12.5-km loop -- almost similar to my average speed of running the same trail by foot! By this time, most of the elite and stronger participants are already well-rested at the finish line while we are still struggling and with another 3-km run to complete.

While inside the bike course, I realized some thoughtful things that are applicable not just on off-road biking, but also to our daily lives:

it's okay to push;
learn to plow thru the mud;
getting dirty is fun;
keep your balance;
when you fall, just stand up and move on.

The final leg of 3-km run was already a struggle to survive. My quads are now stiff and about to cramps already. I still managed to jog about a kilometer but walked most parts of the route. I finished the final 3-km run in 32-minutes -- just less than 7-minutes difference from my first leg's 6-km run. :)

Overall, the experience was great! It gave us a new kind of high within the compound of nature -- the fresh air and the muddy but definitely cleaner than the unseen litters of the streets.

Going home, I just rode my newly carwashed bike-washed ride, and while pedaling the length of Commonwealth avenue, the rain poured really hard. Since I was already stinking, I decided to just ride through the rain. It seemed that the rain was also travelling from Fairview to Diliman as upon entering Kalayaan Ave., the road was still a bit dry until the hard rain poured again. It stopped at the same time as I arrived home.

Pressurized bike wash at only Php 40.00
The full route, elevation (white lines) and pace. Click image for details.

When we keep staying at the same course for a long time, the experience no longer becomes exciting or fruitful. We become bored, unchallenged, and stagnant. But when we endeavor for a new challenge in whatever aspect of our life, the new knowledge, wisdom, and experience that we gain gives us a greater kind of bliss.

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