My First Timberland Experience: Recon Ride for 7-Eleven Trail 2016

Since February 1, Monday, was declared as a holiday in our school, I decided to do a solo recon ride for the upcoming 7-Eleven Trail 2016. I was longing to see the actual race route in order for me to familiarize myself with the terrain, and I took this chance to ride X, my faithful Trinx XC3, from house to Timberland. I left home at around 5:30 a.m. after a quick breakfast; I decided to load up since I knew I would be out for a few hours.

A few weeks ago, I posted in the 7-Eleven Trail Series FB Event Page asking if I could join anyone who would be doing a recon ride. Sad to say no one heeded my post, thus I decided to just search for a Strava recording from any of the participants from last year’s race. Anyway, as mentioned in the official 7-Eleven Trail 2016 website, there were just slight changes in this year’s route. Armed with my cellphone holder which I bought from Gear Me Up, I just followed the Strava route I got.

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My new accessory – waterproof cellphone holder

I started out slow, knowing I had to conserve my energy for the long bike ride ahead of me. I reached the Timberland gates without stopping, zigzagging across the Wall 1 road to have less incline instead of just directly shooting the roads.

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Finally entered the pearly gates of Timberland Heights!!!

It’s my first time to get past the gates of Timberland, and now I was faced with Walls 2 and 3. I followed the same strategy, zigzagging the uphills to have energy to make it through the ride. After huffing and puffing for almost 45 minutes more, I finally reached the start of the trail of Blue Zone.

This is now the point where I put my trust in my worthy Strava companion. Since it was a Monday, there were only a few bikers in the area, and there was only little chance that I could come across anyone of them and follow them. I entered the Blue Zone, glancing across my Strava route every now and then just to see if I was still on the right track.

The Blue Zone was every newbie trail biker’s nightmare excitement. It consisted of rolling uphills and downhills which could test your strategy on how well you could use your gear settings and speed, sharp turns wherein one needs to have technical skills to maneuver properly without sacrificing too much speed (which I do not have yet!), and jumps which will make flying bikes out of your ordinary mountain bikes (I rode around these jumps because, again, I was not yet armed with the proper jumping skills yet!). The terrain also changed inside the Blue Zone. There was lush vegetation at some parts; you have to move your head back and forth and sideways to avoid being hit by some low-hanging twigs from the trees. Some parts will be fire trails under the heat of the blazing sun, and some parts with be as dusty and as loose as the summer Mt. Batulao soil. I admit that I almost fell of my bike several times had I did not pulled on my brake levers enough.

Since I was the only one in the area, I took my time along the Blue Zone, especially in the parts where there were steep descents. However, newbies like me should strategize properly how to survive in these parts during the race, with all other participants either rushing from behind you or letting you bite their dust before you.

There were parts where I got off my bike and just pushed it all the way to the top. And there were also parts where I missed a turn and ended up with my face being caught in spiderwebs, making a u-turn later on and backtracking to the missed turn. As such, towards the end of the Blue Zone, several other bikers were able to overtake me. No pressure, I said to myself. It was obvious that they were gunning for time, as I’ve seen on how skilled they were in the different turns they were taking. I was still a newbie in the trails, and for now, familiarizing myself with the route was the important objective I had in mind.

I took a 10-minute rest stop at the store selling ice cold Mountain Dew (woohoo!!) near the gate dividing Timberland trails and Sapinit Road. Several other bikers arrived a few minutes after to rest as well, each of them having their share of stories to tell of their trail experience. From what I have heard of them, they were all preparing for the 7-Eleven Trail 2016 as well.

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Selfie at Sapinit Road!

The next part of the trail was the route going to Ka Vergel’s Store, however, it would be passing through private property, and on that day, the gate was closed. Studying the race map, I could have just easily backtracked for a few hundred meters and just entered a part of the race route passing through Ka Vergel’s Store, but decided not to. Instead, I rode my bike for a few kilometers along Sapinit Road until I made a right turn to the Pestaño Farm Trail. Upon exiting, I continued biking until I passed by the Sandugo Bikers’ Caamp, and reached the left turn point to the San Mateo MMDA landfill at Brgy. Pintong Bocaue. Here I stopped to rest again for a few minutes before deciding to finally make a u-turn and start my way heading home.

Since I was already tired and felt sleep already creeping up in my eyes, I planned on biking via the Basic Trail and all the way home already. However, since I also originally planned on covering at least half of the race route for today’s recon ride, I took a left turn at the chapel into the Tree Nursery Trail. The trail here was significantly easier than the Blue Zone trail! I did not have a hard time at all here! Of course, the scenario would be much different during race day when there would be other bikers competing for the trails. The Tree Nursery trail ended in a gravel-ly segment, and from there on, I biked all the way from Timberland back to home.

Here is my ride route and trail elevation profile courtesy of Strava:

As a first-timer trail biker in Timberland, here are some of my notes-to-self to prepare myself better for the race:

  • Medyo technical pala sa Blue Zone! May ilang ahon at baba na nilakad ko na lang!
  • Huwag magtipid sa brakes!!!
  • Gotta learn how to do jumps, especially in the Blue Zone jump areas!
  • Kulang ang 2 liters ng hydration! Next time, 3 litro na dadalhin ko!
  • Don’t forget to bring enough trail food!
  • Mala-Mt. Batulao sa alikabok ang Timberland trails pag tuyo!
  • Buy a bike bell already! Mas madaling bumati sa kapwa biker na patunugin na lang ang bell kaysa kunaway habang humaharurot ng 50 kph pababa!!
  • Walls 1, 2, 3: walang tigil, walang pahinga (maliban na lang sa entrance ng Timberland kung saan ako nag-iwan ng ID). Yeaahh!!
  • First time ko sa trail. Kahit may lakad, I think I did good enough. 🙂

I was not able to take lots of pictures for this recon ride as I was in-the-zone (naks!) of practicing my skills as, as I’ve said, it was my first time to ride my bike in the trail. A few more weeks of practice left, and I think I’m gonna be ready for the race! For those who are still interested, a few days left and registration will close! Register now! Let’s go! 🙂

Disclaimer: 7-Eleven Trail 2016 web banner taken from official registration site. Although I used to work in 7-Eleven Philippines (which was, like, duh, 10 years ago??!!), I am not in any way affiliated with the company. I just wanna share my own experiences of how I am excited for the race. Hehe.

 


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