Cordi 7

As this year started, I had my eyes set on this particular race. I’ve already heard so much about the Cordillera Challenge, how hard the last “Cordi” (as other people affectionately call it) was and how spectacular the view of mountains is. It’s always good to have something to look forward to and to train for.

However, just three weeks before the race, I was involved in a crash while we were training in Montalban. It was supposed to be a normal ride as we’ve rode this route before. But that day was hot and the dust on the road was at least an inch thick. It was a steep descent and I was going too fast, I guess. My head hit the road, my helmet was almost torn in half, and the right side of my body covered in wounds. Nursing an uneasy feeling on my left shoulder, I took the time off the saddle up until race day. I could feel that my cardio-fitness was a bit down, but my legs are fresh though.

Sometimes I forget that mountain biking is an extreme sport. #crash #training #mtb

A photo posted by Edward Palomo (@edpalomo) on

Fast forward to race day, we were a bit late to the venue and the race has already started when we arrived. We haven’t anticipated the long travel time to the town of Kapangan. Maybe this was discussed on the orientation held a day before the race which we decided to skip. Before I joined the group of riders already starting, I opened my phone to record my ride on Strava. It took a while because my phone didn’t respond while I was wearing my gloves. Then when I went on to join the race, I remembered I haven’t deflated my tires yet to a lower pressure. Geez, so much time was wasted! As I entered the trail, I was trying to look for familiar faces. Almost all of my teammates has passed me by that time. As the first part of the grueling uphill started, I began to catch up on some of them.  I could see the sea of clouds in my peripheral view but I’m too focused on the race to appreciate it.

While tackling the steep climbs, I bumped into a few riders and tried to stay on with their pace. There’s this one particular rider who was wearing a traditional Igorot garb. It got me thinking, “Ah, homecourt advantage!” I haven’t done a “track read” on this route so everything was a surprise. I have no idea where I need to push myself or to reserve my energy. There were locals watching and cheering as we traversed along the mountain side and I tried to say good morning to all of them. Then there was this long steep road which I had to walk along with everyone else. By this time, another team-mate caught up with me and we tried to stay together until the end of the race.

As we approached the turning point which more than half of the 75 kilometer route, the sun was at full blast. I tried to hydrate as much and fill my hydration bladder with enough water. I also ate bananas for my aching knees and tried to cool down before I went on to race again. After a quick rest, I was excited to head to the finish line. This time, the road is almost paved. The only thing that’s bothering me was the searing heat. There was also this long descent which I enjoyed very much. But at the back of my head, every time I went down and down, I need to pay by going up later.

The last few kilometers to the finish is composed of a gradual climb. But after tackling almost 60 kilometers of steep climbs and muddy descents, all I can do is to maintain a high cadence so I won’t have to think of cramps. I was relieved to see the finish line with a nice medal waiting for me. I only hoped for a photo at that moment while I crossed the finish but there was no camera there. I thought it was nice to capture that moment where sheer determination was on full display. All in all, this race was everything I hoped for, and more. New friends, new experiences, and more reasons to make this a yearly pilgrimage.

*All 14 of our group finished before cut off, 8 epic finishers and 6 mini-epic finishers. I ranked 46 out of 121 epic finishers. I hope to finish within the top 30 next year!

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