Sunday, July 13, 2014

Race Recap: Bataan Memorial Death March - Year 2

Bataan Memorial Death March
Sunday, March 23, 2014 @ 5:30amm
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

This was my second time doing the full course (26.2 miles) and the hubs first full ever. He had done the Honorary or Blue Course (15.2 miles) last year and decided to do the full course with me this year. I thought that it would be like last year with not much sand, but I was in for a rude awakening both mentally and physically.

Saturday, March 22, 2014 - Travel Day

After getting the K9s ready for an overnight without us we left home at about 9am so that we'd arrive at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) at about 1pm for packet pickup. This not like an expo with only a few vendors there (USAA, Team Red, White & Blue, Army, local writers, organizations having to do with the Bataan Death March and merchandise) it's basically just a packet pickup. 

We bumped into my friend, Teresa, at packet pickup and chatted for a while before we headed out to Holloman AFB to check into our lodging for the night. After settling in we headed back over to WSMR to attend the pasta feed. Nothing much else occurring on this night other than setting up the gear for the next morning.
Packet pickup swag.
The quiet before the storm...finish line.
My bib honoring Col. Ray O'Day,
Cpl. Willard Howard both survivors of the
Death March,all the Filipino troops and guerillas
and my fellow veterans.
Gear for the race.

Sunday, March 23, 201 - Race Day

We were up and getting ready at 3:00am since we had close to an hour's drive back to WSMR. We checked out and unlike last year when there were no other people leaving the lodging at the same time as us there were probably 2-3 other cars that seemed to be getting ready to head over to WSMR. We arrived at WSMR just before 4:30am and ended up in a fairly decent line of cars as we came to the parking area. I thought we'd end up out in the boonies like last year when I had to walk an extra mile or so on painful feet but luckily just a couple of cars ahead of us the line was diverted in the opposite direction and we ended up parking less than a block from the finish area. Score!

We grabbed our gear and headed to the staging area. The wind was blowing pretty good so we tried to huddle next to one of the buildings where we met another Team Red, White and Blue member. About half an hour before the race we took a group pic with Team RWB before heading out to the Civilian Light division staging area. The opening ceremonies were as emotional as the year before with the names of recently deceased survivors announced as well as the names of the survivors that were attending the festivities. The Wounded Warriors were announces as a group and then it was time to start heading for the starting line. The WW always lead the race followed by Military Heavy division (military members in full gear including a 35+ pound ruck), Military Light division, Civilian Heavy division and finally Civilian Light division. It took more than an hour for us to finally get up to the starting line. (NOTE: Wait until you're actually out on the street making your way to the start to use the portapotties, there's absolutely no line!) I didn't get to shake any of the survivor's hands this year since we were stuck in the middle of the crowd, but those on either side of the crowd were able to. And then we were off!

Hubs and I feeling good pre-race.

I was feeling pretty good at the start while we were on the asphalt, but by the time we hit the marching trail I realized that there was much more sand than there was last year. This made running and passing people a bit difficult. The one good thing with the extra sand is that there wasn't as much dust blowing around as last year. There was a bagpiper playing on the side of the trail (he was also doing the race) around mile 2 or so.
First mile.
On the trail approx mile 2.

We came to the first aid station at mile 3 and I was feeling pretty good still even with all the sand. We grabbed some fluids and fruit and headed on our way. We kept going until we hit the aid station at mile 10, by this time I could feel that I was building a blister on the ball of at least one of my feet. I stopped to take a look at it and put some duct tape on for a little protection. My feet at this point were burning and throbbing but after a short rest and fighting with my shoe to get it back on we continued on our way. It was at this point I started my moaning and groaning saying that I'd hop on the first bus headed back to the finishing area. I never did, but the poor hubs had to listen to me bitch and moan for the next 16+ miles. 
First time I've seen one of these on the course.
We finally made it to the half way point. This is a large aid station where they sell burgers, hot dogs, chips and drinks every year. My feet were extremely painful and although I took my shoes off, I didn't pull my socks of the check the damage for fear that it may make me quit. I think I was near tears at this point from the pain. We rested for about 20 minutes and again I had to fight to get my shoes back on. I struggled to my feet and we slowly continued on our way. I gotta say, I'm glad that the old man was with me this year because I would've quit if he wasn't. I was going to finish his first full marathon with him even if I had to crawl. I'll tell you though, I was never in this much pain last year!
Captain America incognito?
As we came around the back side of the mountain, my feet were feeling somewhat numb which made progress a little easier. We made it back to the mile 10/18 aid station and I again had to stop to take off my shoes. Again I seriously considered getting on the buses headed back to the finish but talked myself out of it. Shoes went back on with a fight and we were off again even slower than before. 

After crossing the road, we headed into the "Sand Pit." This is the sandbox of the race. I thought the sand early on was bad, this sand was literally 2-3" deep. Last year this area wasn't bad at all and I remember thinking, "What's all the hullabaloo about the "Sand Pit" that everyone keeps talking about?" Well, this year I found out...and I wish I hadn't. Thankfully this year I had gaitors on so I didn't get much sand in my shoes but the going came to a crawl at this point. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got out of the sand (that's figurative, there was still sand on the rest of the course but not as much as in the "Sand Pit") and reached the mile 22 aid station. Again I stopped and took off my shoes and I must have looked pretty bad because for the second time this race a medic/RN came to check on me and see if I was okay. I told I was fine (I was not) and eased my shoes back on and began the slow last 4.2 miles to the finish. The trail wasn't as sandy as earlier portions of the race but there were a couple of small hill which seemed like they never ended to me. I could see the water towers by base housing and near the finish line and they seemed to get farther away instead of closer. 

Eventually we made it to mile marker 26 and took hub's obligatory "my first full marathon" photo there.

The old man's first full marathon, almost complete.
We crossed the finish line together taking a full 40 minutes longer than I took last year...damned feet. But I was feeling good enough (better than last year when my feet were burning and tender from sand in my shoes) to head directly over to the free burgers and hot dogs to have some nourishment before the five hour drive home. We walked to the car and I finally took off my shoes and socks to discover large blisters covering most of the balls of each foot plus a smaller blister to the right foot and heel. Those would eventually take a few weeks to heal even after draining them. 

Even with the pain, I was happy with myself for not giving up and continuing on. I can now say that I have completed this race for 2 years and yes, even with the difficulty of this year I'll be back for more torture next year because it's not about me. It's about remembering the men who died/survived the Death March and the women who were interred during this same time. They had no choice, it was march or die for them. For me the pain that I had to endure was nothing compared to theirs.

2014 Dog tag, front.
2014 Dog tag, back.
As close to legs on the wall as I could
get during the drive home.

What did I like about this race?
What it stands for, the emotion that goes into the race, the people it strives to remember.

What did I not like about this race?
The amount of sand compared to last year.

Would I do this race again?
This race is one of my annual races...I will continue doing it for as long as I can.