04 April 2012

MT. UGO King of the Mountain Race Report


My last run was Friday after work. A quick hilly run in Donggwang where the rain the night before made the trail/ground slippery. The treacherous condition of the trail was however compensated by the cool breeze of the coming night. There is always a primal sense of communion with Nature when one is all alone trail running with nary a care and virtually detached from civilization. That Friday, I purposely did not bring my Fenix as the run was not long. I miss running all alone at night.


Last Saturday morning, Don, Jael, Noel, Precy, Lucy, Wyda and Boyet congregated in our house in Clark before the trip. Jael and Don came from Manila and left their car. Carpool is always advisable and fun. Environmentally-friendly too. So we were told that the travelling time would be like 6-8 hours via Baguio. It took us 9 hours with pit stops here and there and a late lunch at the Cafe By The Ruins in Baguio. The Molo soup was good and the Pan Au Chocolata as well. Please do not eat them together :) The Bagnet was so so. I've had better. In fairness , the ambience was good. Ok I better stop as this is a blog about ultrarunning and not gastronomy :)

It was only after the race that we realized there is a faster way to get in and out of Kayapa and that is via Nueva Vizcaya. Sorry for us, no strawberries on the way back.


Downright basic amenities. We were provided with pillow and blankets. I chose to sleep on the wooden sofa with no mattress . The trick was several blankets on it for cushion. Rooms are communal. The toilets as well and there were only 2 of them. One user even managed to clog it with used tissues. Crap. And one has to go treacherously down the stairs (not wide enough) to the ground floor to use it. I shudder at the thought of using it when one is drunk and has to pee. Yay! I thought of arinola of yesteryear. For P/200 pesos (5 US dollars?), I don't have much right to complain really. Give me anything flat to rest my back on and I can sleep.

These basic amenities complement what Kayapa is all about. Simplicity at its best. I must admit I cannot entirely do justice to describe what Kayapa town is. Spending 1 night and 1 day (even the daytime was spent running our sorry a@*#!s off up and down the mountains) was obviously not enough. People are very friendly and hospitable. There is prevailing serenity in the town and one can even sense or see it across the faces of the town folks. The locals looked at us with amalgam of curiosity, caution and humor. Perhaps, the environment and cool crisp weather have made them that way. It even crossed my mind to perhaps consider erecting a small vacation hut there and no longer in Sagada and train on its trail 'til Kingdom come. Perhaps, that is the only way to beat those Baguio boys :)   
Food was so darn cheap! I loved their "nilagang baboy" (boiled pork - any culinary name for this food?). The soup was tasty/refreshing after the run and the meat was tender. If you haven't done it, try gnawing the tendons, ligaments and meat off the bones. That too is primal :)

So all in all, I subscribe to RD Jonel's description of Kayapa. If the town and people will stay the same (I mean it in a complementary and positive way), the King of the Mountain will attract more local as well as foreign runners in its subsequent editions subject to improvement on the quality of accommodation for the discriminating runners.


With Vener, Doc, Don, Thumbie and moi with trekking poles
 (Photo courtesy of Thumbie)

I will not bore the readers with too much details of the race like who was in the lead pack, etc., etc. Rather, I will concentrate on the beauty of the trail and the surrounding area and briefly explain why this race should be in the bucket list of ultrarunners.

(Photo courtesy of Jake Manzano. That is Don huffing and puffing 
and so most of us :)

It is pretty obvious that the raw beauty of the terrain is the primary attraction. Ever-present mist, clouds you can almost touch, the pine-scented air and strong winds that constantly buffet the runners as they approach the Mt. Ugo summit. The weather helps to cool the body from exertion and is thus refreshing. Temperature is perfect for this kind of race. Some part of the trail is covered with moss and dead leaves.  One can tell that people hardly use it. Running on this part of the course provides the runner with nothing to distract him/her. It is only the runner and the terrain. Psychologically, it motivates the runner to keep moving and cliche as it may sound, there is that feeling of independence mixed with desperation and anxiety of varying degrees. This is what trail running is all about. It connects the runner to his primal instincts. The runner knows he has to propel himself using only his two legs to reach the finish line because no one is there to rescue him/her or help to do that for him/her. In our local parlance, we say: Bahala ka sa buhay mo! And that is self-reliance. In so many ways, trail running is good for your soul.

Post race, one runner posted a mobile picture of wild boars on the trail. This lends credence that the area surrounding Mt. Ugo is almost untouched by civilization. These animals are quite aloof and extinct is most parts of the country.

  (Photo courtesy of Jingle)

Surprisingly, the course is well established and almost an exact distance for marathon. I even mentioned to RD Jonel that if he had this sub-4 challenge then the distance should be spot on. The winner is an elite Baguio runner and came in 4:17. Sub-4 is doable but it will be hard to do so. One has to train for it preferably on the same route based on the principle of specificity of training and to avoid getting lost like some runners did during the race. When one has a target time, it sucks to to deviate from the course.


I took the risk of getting a massage when I came back home which I normally do 1 or 2 days after a race. This time I was just curious. The next day I was able to do a recovery workout (more like jog-walk-jog type of thing) around the grassy part of the Parade Ground. There is no absolute certainty whether the light massage worked but I was a little sore. My right heel was tender though and the only explanation I could come up with was the probability of my right foot hitting a rock during those killer downhills while being chased by Thumbie, Almar and Rey :) My heel during the recovery run last Tuesday was already okay.     


The challenge I set up for myself was well worth it. I had more energy and speed for this race than during PSA. It is obvious from the finish time. 5:48 in PSA whereas 6:11 for KOM inspite of the disparity in the distance. A good prospect for TNF100 given I have 2 more weeks to tweak my training. Race results here: http://bugobugo85.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/2980/

Overall, the race was well-organized except for insufficient marking on some critical junctions (or perhaps we were not looking enough). Some runners did get lost. Some of us had to stop at major intersections just to find the right turn. Good thing there were some locals present to point the right way. Other than that, majority of the course was well marked. I am happy to note that Jonel is the RD who listens and welcomes observations from runners because that is the only way to improve the succeeding editions of KOM. Even CM50 had some lapses on markings despite our best effort to mark the course the day before the race. As they say, no matter how well you mark the trail course some will always veer off and complain later on. Believe you me, it is not easy to organize, manage and conduct a trail race. Been there, done that.

Also, the RD might want to consider putting up structured aid stations with sufficient fluid and fuel stations once this race gets popular both for local and foreign runners. It is to be noted that runners from other countries avoid initial editions of races because of kinks in the organization, management and conduct of these races. Most often than not, it is in the subsequent episodes of these races that those kinks get sorted out. Perhaps, all these observations will help in the conduct of the inaugural opening of the Four Lakes 100K / Old Spanish Trail 60K ultramarathon races on 26-27 May 2012.

So RD Jonel, FrontRunner and his team did a fantastic job. I will definitely recommend the succeeding edition of Mt. Ugo King of the Mountain race to my fellow runners. It is a blast! To the people of Kayapa, thank you for your hospitality.

Jon (aching to feel the burn in his quads)


  1. thank you for your kind words, ato. and rest assured, i shall take into consideration your suggestions as has been the case with those of the other runners. like you, i am already hunting for a small plot of land to plant on and build a summer hut. sana nga, in the years to come, amenities will get better but maybe as it is, it adds to the charm of kayapa altogether. salamat and congratulations....jonel

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.