As early as September, I was already scouting for a bike race to join before the end of the year. Then I came upon the Gran Fondo Baler event organized by my friend, Patrick Joson. I had been to Baler only once before in 2013 so taking part in this race gave me a chance to revisit this amazing place. I haven't joined much bike races so I didn't really know what to expect. At first, choosing which distance to sign up for proved to be a dilemma. My heart said go for the 160km but my head was more cautious telling me to stick to 120kms. However, months of training (averaging about 300kms a week on the bike) made me feel ready enough to tackle 160kms.
It was a beautiful morning on the day of the race with a bit of December chill in the air. I estimate there were about 70 bikers who joined. I was excited, anxious and nervous all at the same time. Race started at 4:30 am right before daybreak while still under the stars. As expected, Baler proved to be a beautiful backdrop for this race. We biked along the coastline that provided endless beach views and mountains ranges dotted by coconut trees and lots of green. Some portions though presented killer uphills stretching about a kilometer long. Some hills were so steep that I had to dismount my bike a few times and just walk it. A group of us eager beavers, myself included, over shot the course and was forced to turn back all because we overtook the lead car that was designated to guide the bikers along the race route. With food and water running low, I had to stop several times to buy from a sari-sari store along the road and fuel up. We finished before noon pretty much exhausted with skin burnt after spending hours under the scorching sun. Nevertheless, I still cherished every minute of it. This has to be one of the best bike rides I have ever done in my life thus far. I can't wait to do this again next year!
Thank you Patrick Joson and Ige Lopez for giving this novice useful pointers on how to tackle Baler, to survive the route and enjoy at the same time.
The 3 " Patrick's "
Toasted under the Sun
Reconnecting with my First Love ..... Running