Mount Sembrano Mountain Run

That was one tough race.
  • Date: May 29, 2016
  • Venue: Mount Sembrano, Malaya, Pililia, Rizal
  • Distance: 15 km
  • Organizer: MGM Productions

Mount Sembrano Mountain Run was just epic.  It had a long uphill climb that was both technical and steep.  The reward after a long climb was a really magnificent view of Mount Sembrano summit and the rest of Pililia Area.

Mount Sembrano Mountain Run

Mount Sembrano Summit

It has been an all trail summer for me. I opted for the 15-kilometer distance since I got word that the first 4 kilometers was a killer climb.  It was ascending 750 meters for that first 4 kilometers before the course shift to a rolling terrain.  It was a tough course indeed.


Race Map and Elevation Profile

Race Map is powered by Suunto Ambit 3 Sports.
Elevation profile is powered by Suunto Ambit 3 Sports

The Race Starts at the Malaya, Pililia Barangay Hall and heads to the main access road heading to Mount Sembrano. The roads shifts to technical trails for the next 4 kilometers until the summit with a total climb of about 750 meters. The race then shifts to a rolling terrain across the ridge of Mount Sembrano for the next 4 kilometers heading to the aid station. There’s about a kilometer’s worth of a circular trail around another peak before the trails heads downward the rest of the way.

The Race

Entering the climb

I had no goals for this one.  I was just planning to survive the first 4 kilometers of the race and for sure, the rest was a walk in the park.

Battle Ready – Photo by Jose Ramizares of Running Photographers.

Our race started at 6:30 am. I started out slow and relaxed since I want my heart rate low before the climb.  The first kilometer was a short flat stretch before the climb gets moderate. It does get tougher and a lot more technical as you move further to the succeeding kilometer.

Here Comes the Killer Climb

The start of the technical part of the trail.

It was a crawlfest entering the 3rd kilometer.  It was technical and really difficult.  I was barely registering any movement in my mileage because of how slow we were on the inclines.  If there’s such a thing as forever, I guess this is it.  Just to keep my mind on the slow pace, I started just monitoring the altitude instead of the distance.  It was the halfway point of a 75o meter elevation climb.

Trails are mental battles.

It had the identity of my toughest climb.  It was as technical as the final 1.2 kilometer of the Mount Makiling Summit or the trails of Mount Kinabalu.  It was as long as the 4-5 kilometers stretch of most Tanay trails.  It;s as steep as the 3rd Kilometer of the Akiki Trail in Mount Pulag. Mount Sembrano all had the ingredients of a tough climb.

It was a foggy morning.

One step at a time.  It was a continuous cycle of climb and rest as I try to reach the end of the climb.  I was just thinking of the 4 kilometers vertical challenge instead of the full 15 kilometers.  It was a strategic climb as you find a way to climb the safest and fastest way possible.  It was a covered trail so when I finally saw sunshine entering a part of the trail, I knew that the end of the tough part is near or so I thought.

Out of the Forest Shade

Tired and about to reach the summit – Photo by Jose Ramizares of Running Photographers.

We were out of the Forrest shade. It was a welcome sight seeing the range of mountains surrounding you even on a foggy morning. We’re just 3 kilometers into the race. There was a short stretch of flat area and guess what??? It was back to climbing again. The scenery made up for the tough climb. I’m trying to endure the next 500 meters to the aid station and next 500 meters to the summit.

Heading to The Summit

To the Summit – Photo by Jose Ramizares of Running Photographers

It was a thin single track uphill trail with a lot of tall grass surrounding it. I went a bit faster on the short descent and remained consistent on the ascent. The last 100 meters to the summit was probably the steepest part.

The Summit

The Summit

It was a foggy summit but it was really great reaching this point after all the hardship. It’s always worth it when you work hard for it. I’m glad that it was foggy at this part as the heat would have made it a lot more difficult. This is the finish line of my 4 kilometers vertical challenge and now to start thinking of the rest of the race.

Going Down – Photo by Jose Ramizares

The first part of the descent was a bit tough with the steepness. I just trusted the traction of my shoes and the added support of my trekking poles. We headed back to the aid station before switching to the long ridge of Mount Sembrano. It was rolling from this point on. I just went on a brisk walk on the descending part instead and maintained the pace on the climbs.

The Long Ridge of Mount Sembrano

The look back shot. – Photo by Jose Ramizares.

I love ridges since it gives you a panoramic view of your surroundings. You can see the mountains on one end. You can see the Laguna Bay at another. You can even see the Pililia windmills at some part of the course. Even if I had the option to speed up, I just opted to enjoy this part. It was about a 4-kilometer stretch heading to the next aid station. It felt brief since I was already moving faster and the views were amazing.

Laguna de Bay

Surprise!!! Surprise!!!

We’ve reached the next aid station and we were given another surprise. It was a long loop with a steep climb at another peak. It was a struggle going up another steep incline but considering the climb during the first four kilometers, this is fine. The climb was just about 200 – 300 meters so had to do it with a few pushes. After this stretch it was all downhill.

It’s Downhill Time

Look I’ve been on the trails all Summer

I had a short stop at the aid station for another round of hydration. It was a straight downhill trek of about 5 – 6 kilometers from hereon. The descent started on technical and rocky surface. I just went on brisk walk pace at this point and just went steady on the descent. It then shifts to long stretches of descending paved roads. After being on mostly covered trails, it was this time that I felt the hot rays of the sun. I took a softdrinks break at one of the store and went on to finish the race.

Let’s do this again.

Thanks DBB for an redefining an EPIC race for me. I also love the circular loop, which gave us more views and challenges. It’s a race that will make you think why you are doing this but in hindsight, you would gladly do it again.

Trail is like pag-ibig. Madalas masakit, minsan masarap pero gusto pa ring ulit-ulitin. #hugot

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Post Author: Franc Ramon

Franc Ramon is a Marathoner, Mountaineer and a Duathlete. He has adopted the fitness lifestyle since mid-2010 and loves sharing them in his personal blog . While he's not on the trails, the road or on an adventure, he spends his time in the finance field.