So I was able to do another recon/training ride for the 7-Eleven Trail 2016 last Monday, February 8, 2016. As it was the Chinese New Year Holiday, I expected many would also be going up the Timberland trails to train, especially now that the race day is nearing, thus I went there as early as 5:30 a.m. Several other bikers were already there when I arrived, but since they were waiting for their other groupmates, I went ahead and started my solo recon ride a little before 6:00 a.m.
From the parking area at the Timberland Sports Club, I rode X, my trusty all-stock Trinx XC3, back to the entrance of Mandala East where the starting line would be. This signified the start of the infamous Walls 2 and 3 as well.
As the website mentions, Walls 2 and 3 “serve to separate riders before the singletrack.” Here’s a look-back view of Wall 2 from where I was:
Finally, after huffing and puffing for about 30 minutes, I reached the trailhead of the Blue Zone:
Continuing for a few hundred meters, the track diverged into the A or B lines:
A-Line is shorter, but harder. It is for the experienced biker as the track have jumps which needs technical know-how to clear them. As for me, I took the longer B-Line. B-Line did not actually mean easier! It had quite steep descents where I decided to disembark from my bike and just walk instead! Anyway, since I was still alone in the trails, I could take my time.
For a biking newbie like me, the Blue Zone, as I’ve said in my previous entry, is a trail biker’s
nightmare excitement-come-true! One of my favorite parts of the Blue Zone is this descent:
The Blue Zone foliage now turned to trees and shrubs where the temperature would become a little cooler, mainly due to having descended quite an elevation, plus the fact that the trees provide much-awaited shade from the blazing heat of the morning sun.
A couple of bamboo bridges became part of the route:
A few more ascents beyond these bridges then took me to the last open parts of the Blue Zone:
Now, instead of following the race route exactly, at some point, I decided to deviate from the route so that I will be able to recon the Ka Vergel segment of the race:
From last week’s ride, the Araneta nursery gate was closed upon reaching the back gate of Timberland Basic Trail, thus I was not able to recon the Ka Vergel segment. This time, I sacrificed a few hundred meters off the actual race route to see the parts I was not able to ride last week. Take note that this was NOT part of the race route.
Turning right led me to a descent which ended up in a small stream:
After this, a steep incline (which my leg power cannot yet fathom!) greeted me all the way to a clearing which led me to Ka Vergel’s store:
Uphill fire trails greeted me again past Ka Vergel’s Store which lasted for about a kilometer more. At this point, I was again huffing and puffing while pushing my bike! What made it even harder was this ascent was quite slippery as the bare trails became quite muddy (again!) due to the rains the previous days.
I decided to take a quick 5-minute rest at the pile of bamboo poles resting at the side of the trail after the series of ascents after Ka Vergel’s Store, to also put on my buff and arm warmers as the sun was already quite high up in the sky.
Following the trail once more led me to the Pestano Farm Trail. The first part of the wide trail here was a gentle descent where I imagined one could use the terrain to overtake other slower participants, or to take a much-needed quick respite for the legs. This segment ran for about three kilometers, passing by Phillip’s Sanctuary and finally ending up in Sapinit Road:
Following Sapinit Road, past Sandugo Basekamp Biker’s Camp, the route turned left at Pintong Bocaue by the MMDA San Mateo Landfill:
Before turning left, I decided to have another rest stop at one of the stores there. As a biking newbie having visited the place for just the second time, I assumed that bikers really do are a staple sight here as some stores already have bike racks installed in them.
The Pintong Bocaue gate of the Araneta property was closed for today, as I believe this is another private property segment of the race route which will open only during the race day itself. Thus, I just biked all the way to the gate, took a picture, and then biked all the way back to the back gate of Timberland trails before entering Roxas Loop:
Having crossed paths with a lot of bikers at this part of the segment, I guess, then, that it would be just nice to say “hello” or “good morning” to every one of them. Or just a simple tap on your bell will do. 🙂
I took the Roxas Loop instead of the Basic Trail. From what I could recall when I did my trail running trainings before here, the first part of the Roxas Loop was a little bit slippery when wet due to slight presence of moss growing on the cement road. Fortunately, it was already dry when I biked that day.
Roxas Loop was of a slight descent at first, with several fallen trees lying around the road. It became an ascent again at some point, with single track fire trails to bike in. After about a kilometer, I found myself back to the Basic Trail which will turn right after the chapel. The trail here continued as a descent towards the Tree Nursery Trail, but later on ascended along a gravelly wide trail going back to Timberland main road:
A lot of bikers were already present at the rest station at the intersection of the Basic and Tree Nursery Trails. Take not that this is the cut-off point of the race; I reminded myself that whatever happens, I must be at this point by my wave’s cut-off time, else, I will be screened out of the race and declared as DNF.
Anyway, the route led to the New Green Zone. This single track trail was much cooler and refreshing compared to the single tracks of Blue Zone as it is entirely covered by canopy of the trees above. However, one should strategize properly on how to overtake slower bikers, or let faster bikers overtake them, in these parts of the route:
The route appeared again at the rest stop where a lot of bikers were resting. I continued through the Timberland main road and turned right at the big intersection where construction was still going on. Nothing too fancy here save for another descent on the concrete road – another chance to rest my already-tired legs. A few more kilometers, I kept saying to myself, and I’m done!
The concrete road ended and the Trail 1000 Black Diamond started. The thought of finishing my recon ride soon faded away as this last trail segment of the race had a mixture of steep descents and ascents, rocky and bumpy terrain, and loose pebbles – all to test one’s physical limits.
I was almost dead-tired at this point, with my bladder almost empty of water. I disembarked from my bike at certain points where I was not sure of my balance anymore due to the very uneven and bumpy terrain, and just assisted my bike going down. And I think I just walked all the remaining ascents as well. Some ascents, I think, could only be biked my the very experienced. As for me, my arms were also tired from pushing my bike uphills for several hours already.
The last few hundred meters of the Black Diamond segment was a descent, however, surprise surprise! There are two jumps present here again!
Unlike the Blue Zone where newbies like me could choose the B-line to avoid jumps, these did not present any option anymore. That means newbies such as myself really have to take these jumps! Good luck to me in these last parts of the race!
The trail ended and I exited the trail at an obscure portion, reappearing by the roadside of Timberland main road again:
A little less than a kilometer of downhill road sprint and I was done for my recon ride! 🙂 31.7 kilometers of biking done! Here are my Strava screenshots of my recon ride:
Here are some personal random notes which I would like to share, especially for my fellow newbies, from my experience of this recon ride:
- Lower your saddle! It will gonna be a pain in the balls especially during the bumpy segments if your saddle is high enough to hit them!
- Increase arm strength! Our arms will carry majority of our upper body weight during descends, especially during bumpy descends. I felt mine getting numb at some point. That means I have to increase my arm strength.
- Strategize on how to let faster and stronger bikers pass you at single tracks! Either hurry up and hope that there’s an opening up ahead where you could stay for a while to let them pass you, or try your best to really step aside for them.
- Do a recon ride! So at least you know how to plan your moves in parts which you might find difficult.
- Bring your tools! My saddle kept getting loose during my first recon ride, so I have to stop by several times and tighten them with my tools.
- For the 29ers like myself, keep your center of gravity low during uphills and downhills! The Science teacher in me knows that since my center of gravity is higher due to a taller bike (because of bigger wheels), lowering my center of gravity during uphills and downhills will help me avoid toppling over.
- Know how to play with your gears! Know when to shift to lower or higher gears before it’s too late. Wrong gearing (especially during uphills) would mean a waste of a lot of energy.
- Know how to adjust your suspensions! I’m using a hardtail, so my suspension is only in the fork. Haven’t tried a full sus yet, so make sure you adjust them properly!
- Bring trail food! Magugutom ka! Trust me! 🙂
- Do uphill training! Since I live just a few kilometers away from Timberland, I’ve been visiting Wall 1 twice a week after work for the last two weeks. I think the training is paying off!
- Check your brakes! Make sure your brakes are working! You really need them here!
- Make sure your tires are good! I am using an all-stock bike, and I don’t have the budget to buy tires more suitable for trails, so just make sure your tires are good enough for the trails.
And that’s that! Good luck to all fellow participants! A little more than a week to go! Let’s train hard, but enjoy the race! I am excited for my first trail bike race. 🙂
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.
You could read my first recon ride blog entry here.