Monday, March 18, 2013

Race Recap: Bataan Memorial Death March - My 1st Full Marathon

Race Location: White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico

Race Date: Sunday, March 17, 2013

Race day - 2:
Well, the day had finally come. It was time to get ready to head towards my very first full marathon. Admittedly, I hadn't trained anywhere near as much as I should have. I had a case of nerves that I hadn't really felt since my first half marathon or the first time I did Spartan Sprint last month. In late February I had received an injection of confidence and purpose when a Facebook friend told me the story about her great-aunt who was a military nurse taken as a POW after the surrender at Bataan. I decided to dedicate this race to her and the other female military and civilian nurses and healthcare workers taken prisoner after Bataan. However, even with this new sense of purpose I had a recurring sense that I was about to fail at probably the most meaningful race I could have entered to date. I actually considered paying the $50 fee to change to the short route, but I had dedicated 26.2 to the 26.2 miles it would be.

My veterans dedication bib and my special dedication bib
for the Angels of Bataan.
The bib I printed to wear during the race dedicating it to the Angels of Bataan.
The husband was on Spring Break from the college and university so the timing couldn't be much better. I had managed to get almost all of my pre-race ritual housecleaning done on Thursday and just had a few things I needed to do plus get my packing done. We finally left at about 12:30pm or so for the roughly 5 hour trip to White Sands Missile operating Army missile base that you may have seen parts of on Mythbusters. We stopped in Roswell to get the husband a boonie hat for the race as well as something quick to eat. Why is it that I only seem to eat at McDonald's when I travel for races?? Yuck! (And I used to be a huge McD's fan!) After that it was pretty much a straight shot to WSMR. We got to the Community Center on base where they were doing the marchers in processing. You have to go through a series of rooms to get everything done but it wasn't too bad since we arrived for the first day of registration. I think, IMHO, that in the future they should move it to a more open area but this was still workable. We picked up our packets, hubs was doing the 14.2 Honorary March) and looked around at the race merchandise for a bit. I really wish I was paying more attention because if I had seen the "I Survived the Bataan Memorial Death March" decal I would have bought one for sure (just in case).

Race packet swag.
Commemorative timing chip.
Commemorative dog bling except for those who place.
Certificate of participation.
We headed back to Holloman AFB just about 40 minutes east of WSMR where we were going to be staying for the next two nights. After we got into our room we headed into Alamogordo to eat at Carino's to continue the carb loading that is my habit for the week prior to a race. We got back to the room around 10pm and started getting our race gear together and made plans to make a trip into Las Cruces for breakfast, to buy some tech shorts for the hubs and watch  21 & Over (5th time for me, 2nd time for the hubs).

Race Day -1:

We got out the door and headed for Las Cruces at about 9am and stopped at The Village Inn for breakfast...great timing because the place filled up just after we were seated. We then stopped at Dick's Sporting goods before heading over to the Telshor theater to watch my 2nd favorite movie after Pitch Perfect! LOL! After the trip to Las Cruces we had to run back to the room to pick up some virtual race medals for the team from West Point Military Academy who would be competing in the Military - Heavy Division (full uniform with packs > 35 pounds. After we picked up the medals, we headed back to WSMR to attend the meet and greet for the survivors. The meet and greet was in the Professional Development Center and broken out into several different rooms with a survivor speaking in each one. There were no survivor's names assigned to the rooms so it was kind of a pot shot as to who we'd be hearing from. We ended up in the auditorium where Col. Ben Skardon was scheduled to speak. The man, 94 years old now, had a sense of humor about surviving the March and captivity, along with a deep reverence for his comrades who were no longer living as well as a sly, sparkle in his eye when talking about the Angels of Bataan (whom I had asked about) as well as the nurses who cared for him after liberation from a Japanese POW camp. After his talk I went up to thank him for his time and asked if he knew Lt Thor, the Angel that I was dedicating my race to. Unfortunately, he didn't know her but he saw that I was Filipina and he went on to talk about working with the Philippine Scouts in the region of Cebu where some of my family hails from. I cannot tell you how many times I had tears in my eyes during his talk, nor the amount of laughter that he was able to elicit while talking about such a deep subject. This man would be walking 9 miles of the route the following day with the help of his family.

Blurry cell phone shot of Col. Ben Skardon during his talk.
Click here for a video of Col. Skardon talking about his captivity in 2012.

After the presentation we headed over to the Frontier Club for the pasta buffet. I looked around for some of the Team Red, White & Blue members and knew that the West Point cadets would be with them. This is when I presented their medals to them. I spoke for a while with one of the national leaders and took the photo of the West Point-ers. While eating we also met a couple of Marathon Maniacs (I had purposefully planned to wear my Half Fanatics shirt to meet other HFs or MMs) one of whom was an active duty colonel at Wright-Patterson AFB and another girl from San Jose plus her friend who was from San Leandro (both some of my NorCal SF Bay area neighbors). We had a great time just chatting about races, doing Bataan for the first time and encouraging each other...

The four cadets from West Point, there was a last minute addition from
Annapolis Naval Academy to round out the team who is not in the picture.
My new Marathon Maniac running friends on race morning.
Dan-O was competing in the Individual Military Light Division.
More Marathon Maniacs and I. I'm the only true Half Fanatic.
Some of the Maniacs are Double Agents, meaning that they are both
Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs...I'll be one of them by fall.
We were going to watch the movie Forgotten Soldiers which was about the men of the Death March, but we wanted to try to get to bed early since we would have to be heading to the base at 3:30-4am the next morning. Instead we headed back to HAFB at about 7:30pm to finish getting our gear ready and try to get some sleep. I popped a milligram of Xanax hoping for some decent sleep since 26.2 miles was going to be a distance that I'd never done and I wanted to be rested...I'd find out the next morning if it was a good idea or not.

Race Day:
Well, as always on race day the alarm went off too soon...this time at 2:30am. I was a little slow to wake up and by the time I did the hubs was already out of the shower. I had just a slight Xanax hangover which was quickly washed away after a nice, hot shower...yes, I'm one of those people who has to take a shower in the morning to wake up even on race day. Taped up my knees, calves and shins for what I truly expected to be a long and rough day then got dressed. We got everything packed into the car since we would be making...or rather the hubs...the nearly 5 hour drive home right after the race. We checked out of lodging and were on the road for the 30 minute or so drive back to WSMR.

We got there at about 5am and traffic was slow but not painful. We managed to park right across from the staging area and get everything set up. We headed over to the Team Red, White and Blue RV to meet up with some of the members and see if a "before" pic were to be had. Unfortunately there wasn't so we headed across the street to get in line for the call of nature before heading over to the fire truck that was flying the gigantic Stars and Stripes to find the group pic for the Marathon Maniacs and the one lone Half Fanatic (me). By the time we got the pics taken, it was time to get to our separate staging areas for the start. Hubs made his way to the back end of the group where the Honorary (Short Course) marchers were while I took my place among the Civilian - Light marchers.

The temp was in the low 50°'s and the wind was fairly calm. The local high school choir sang The Star Spangled Banner and a bagpipe regiment played after the names of the most recently deceased survivors were announced. Prior to the names of the recently deceased, the survivors in attendance were identified in a roll call with their voices strong over the sound system. The poem written by journalist Frank Hewlett during the war to call attention to the men of Bataan was read:

The Battling Bastards of Bataan emblem
with the Philippine Defense medal.

We're the Battling Bastards of Bataan,
No Mama, No Papa, No Uncle Sam,
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces,
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces,
And nobody gives a damn!

It was after this that the tone of the start focused solely on why this race was remember those men who suffered through the 80+ mile forced march with little in the way of provisions, medical care and in the worst possible conditions during their days as POWs. This race is to be sure that their courage, bravery in the face of adversity will never be forgotten.

There was a multi-wave start with the Wounded Warriors leading the way. With each different wave a cannon announced their start. There were the survivors at the sides of the start shaking hands with those of us who went towards them. There were 15 total survivors in attendance and I had the opportunity to shake hands with 3 of them as I headed out on the course.

The first part of the course was on the roadways of the base, by mile 3 we were on groomed/bulldozed trails  out past the sports complex. Things were a bit crowded, but the course was flat. I found it necessary to jog past people occasionally to get past slower groups or to simply get away from the dust being kicked up by so many people in one place. The sand as never too bad here and most of the course was fairly well packed.

Around mile 3 or 4...
By water/aid stop #3 we were back on the asphalt. This was also where the two different routes diverged and I headed off the base towards the "hills." We remained on the roadway for a few miles with some slight inclines and then came this view...

Water/Aid stop #3/#9...the point where the two routes split up.
Not too long after I was passed by the 3rd runner headed
back to the finish...his mile 19!
Around mile 9...the hills begin.
At about mile 10 they had set up some bad the wind was blowing one side of the mist back onto the desert instead of the marchers! By about mile 11 we were back on groomed trail although it was quite a bit sandier than the previous portion of trial...

Back on the trails at around mile 11. The sand isn't too deep, but it's there. 
At this point in the race it became mostly an uphill climb...near constant. Those of you who know me know that I am not a fan of hills, but I persevered often wondering to myself if this climb will ever end. I made it to mile 13 and was elated that I was almost at the halfway point. I also thought that I was at the top of the climb, but WRONG!! There was still more to go...I stopped at the mile 14 water/aid station (and hot dogs, hamburgers, chips station) to empty the sand out of my shoes for the first of many times during the remainder of the race. By mile 15 or 16 I had reached what I think is the pinnacle for the climb...

The Canadians had been here!
Yeah, that's WSMR way down yonder!
I was fooled again into thinking that it was all downhill from here. It was downhill for a bit and then the climb started again. At about mile 16 or 17 they had a clock up and this is my time as of then...

I didn't think that was too bad for hiking the course.
By the time I got back on the asphalt at about mile 18 or 19 I was never so happy to be on solid ground. I had stopped at least 6 times since my first stop to empty the sand from my shoes. My feet were tender from forcing myself to keep going with the sand/pebbles in my shoes and I was tired from all the climbing. Lesson learned from this first year and thereafter I would wear gaiters or running boots!

I was happy to be back on the asphalt for even just the few miles before we ended up back on a trail. My feet were tender and tingling like pins and needles. About a mile past the #3/#9 water and aid stop where the two courses had split up, we turned across the road and back onto groomed PT/marching trails. The sand in some points was terrible, especially in the region of mile 21 where I'm told that the man made "sand pit" is. The sand did seem slightly deeper here than in other places, but I didn't think it was as bad as people were saying...until I went in nearly ankle deep and got a bunch of sand in my shoe again! I stopped at the mile 22 water/aid station and literally sat there for 10 minutes emptying out my shoes and just long enough for the med techs to come and check that I was okay. I was just dreading putting my shoes back on because since I had rested them there was blood flowing freely again and I knew that as soon as I stood up the pins and needles sensation would start all over again.

I had received a text from the hubs saying that he had finished and to let him know when I got to mile 24 so he could meet me. From that point on all I could think about was my cold post race chocolate milk, teriyaki beef jerky and the ability to take of my shoes and put on my Birkenstocks! I kept moving on listening to my music with a lot of Pitbull and David Guetta in these last few miles. That beat really kept me going and still singing to myself (aloud if no one was around) taking one step at a time. By the time we hit the backside of base housing the wind had whipped up and was probably well into the 20+mph range. A few times I actually had to use my bandana to keep from breathing in the thick dust. Then I saw it...that magic mile 26 marker. There were a bunch of active duty Army women there doing the Military Light Division resting and just getting up to try to keep going. It was nice to know that I wasn't the only one moaning and groaning about my tender feet! I took a group pic for them and they returned the favor and took my first pic at mile 26 (hopefully one of many to come).
Hot damn! I'm actually doing this!! Only 0.2 miles to go!
We all pretty much headed out to the finish together. In the last 100 feet or so each of the Army ladies took off in a jog to finish (teams had to finish within 20 seconds of each member) and once they were all there they crossed the line together. I started a strong jog about 75 feet from the finish...I didn't even really look at the time but I think it was about an 8:31 clock time (my MotoACTV had died along the course so I had no real idea of my time). I went straight for the med tent just to get some ice to ice up my calves but you had to go through and get seen and checked out even if all you wanted was ice. Along the way I reassured one of the other Team Red, White & Blue females that I was just wanting to ice my legs and that nothing else was wrong. So because of all the red tape I skipped that and headed ever so slowly back to the car. 

After we got settled we drove by and saw that most of the Team RWB camp was broken down already so we headed back to Holloman AFB so I could go to the gym to take a shower and so that we could stop at Popeye's for dinner. I could've gone to the base on WSMR but they had people sleeping in there for the race so I thought it would be less of a hassle at HAFB. Once at Holloman I had the hubs drive me to the door of the gym and I slowly made my way to the women's locker room. I knew I was going to have a crazy suntan between my compression shorts, KT Tape and compression socks and this is what I ended up with...

I'll never have an even tan this summer unless it's fake!!
Unfortunately, I didn't have any baby oil to loosen the adhesive
so I ended up taking a layer of skin off while removing the tape in the shower...

After I finally finished my shower we headed over to Popeye's to eat only to find out that they close early on Sundays. We ended up at Denny's where I ordered fish and chips but barely at any of it. It may have been the quart and a half of chocolate milk I drank, plus nearly half a liter of Gatorade but this was the first time in many races that I wasn't anywhere near being starving at the end of a run! So odd!

All in all it was a great, inspiring and challenging weekend. This is a race to do for all the right reasons...not necessarily a race to complete for time or a new personal record. This is a race to remember the sacrifice of the men and women of Bataan/Corregidor.

What I liked (loved) about this race?
Everything!! Seriously...the reason and importance of the remember those that suffered through the Bataan Death March. I'm honored to have had the chance to meet and/or shake hands with some of them. This race touches me on so many different levels from being a female military veteran, to being a nurse having worked in the Air Force and Veterans Affairs healthcare systems to being a full blooded American born Filipina. The story of the "Angels of Bataan" or "Battling Belles of Bataan" is something that I will not let die and be forgotten! I also thank Col. Skardon for telling me "...the Philippine Scouts/Army doesn't get the recognition it deserves..." in reference to the Death March and WWII. That truly means a lot to me.  Course support is OUTSTANDING even though it's primarily a closed course.

What I did not like about this race?
The only thing really is the in processing...everything else was great! Well...I wouldn't mind the hills not being there but that's what this race is all about...being uncomfortable in a controlled situation unlike the veterans of Bataan.

Will I do this race again?
I will be here annually from now on...possibly at the expense of the Virginia Beach Shamrock Marathon which has been on my radar since I started racing. It'll be on my calendar for the rest of my racing/running life!! :D

Not too far off of the middle of the pack...totally happy with that!! :D

Gender: 376/668 
Clock Time: 8:29:18 
Chip Time: 8:19:47 
Pace: 19:04 
Bib: 1502

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