Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bataan Death March Ultramarathon 2013 Edition

My first foray into the world of Ultra Marathon and it had to be a distance of 102km!  Not 50km, 60km or 70km or even 80km.  It had to be 102km!  That is an equivalent of 2 and a half marathons!

This was never part of my plan but as I trained and completed the Goofy Challenge, Alvin said that this race is doable for me.  The cut-off time for this event is 18 hours, which translates to 10.5 minutes per kilometer pace, which is considered super slow if you compare it to any other race.  But it's the distance that's daunting!

Early in 2012, Alvin registered and paid for my fees for the 2013 Bataan Death March.  I told him that he will only be wasting his Php 3,000 as there is no way I am doing this race.  For one thing, I had seen the course and it is difficult to do.  The first 6km alone feels like going up the steep hills of Tagaytay Highlands with no street lights and having the danger of being sideswiped by speeding trucks and buses.  The next 30 kms is of no help to runners as there are hills everywhere!  It is a rolling course and not in a good way (if there is a good way to it).  The next 15 km would be better as the road is a bit flatter but by the time you reach 50 km, a new threat would arise and that would be the heat from the sun!  There are no shaded areas here, no place to hide from the burning sun and the roads become more difficult to run on as you would eventually have to venture on the pebbly sidewalks since traffic would increase during the day.   

This is a race were there are no marshals, no water stations, no enclosed roads for runners.  No kilometer markers, no aid stations, no ambulances, no street lights, nothing.  It's just you, the road and your support crew who can't even drive side by side with you. They would have to park ahead of you and you would have to cross the road to get to them! 

This isn't a normal road race but a race for hardcore runners!  And I was caught in between!  Haha!

But I was glad to have Alvin by my side as my pacer and our support crew was a one-woman show (and loving wife of Alvin).  These two were pretty much dedicated to me finishing the race, no matter what. And I thank them both from the bottom of my heart!

We were all in Mariveles, Bataan Friday night and found a place to stay there.  Come Saturday night, we drove to the starting line at kilometer zero where Lani dropped us off.  It was 9:45pm and by 9:58pm (according to my Garmin), the gun was fired and we were off.

It was a run walk strategy for me and Alvin.  We would walk the uphills and run the downhills.  We saw some familiar faces.  Alvin had the headlamp and the bottled water and I would follow him.  The weather was cool and a bit windy.  I felt good here.

We saw Lani at the 6km mark and I was proud of myself for conquering the difficult hills.  But the race had just begun and there was no reason to celebrate this soon.  We kept on going, drinking water and Gatorade and eating pizza slices and bananas.

At one point though, I tripped and tumbled on the hard road.  I shouted so loud that Alvin feared I got hit by a car or something.  Some minor bruises and cuts on my hands but that woke me up (as super sleepy!) and kept me going.

We reached the 50km marker with little difficulty and I was ecstatic.  This was the farthest distance I have ever ran and I still felt good.  But things became harder as the sun came up and heat was slowing me down.  I couldn't run as much anymore and I could never do the fast walk.  The average pace slowed down some more, which was discouraging.

At 60km, I was having some difficulty and started to shed some tears.  I knew it was useless to do so, so I dug deep, stopped crying and kept on going.  My feet were giving me problems and I was feeling the chafe in my thighs but that didn't stop me either.

At one point I saw that my hands were swollen!  And that frightened me!  I couldn't close my left hand without getting some sort of tight feeling and I got worried.  Alvin said that it was fine and I was simply overhydrated.  He gave me some salt, chips and lots of chocolates to ward off the hydration.  That kept me strong for a little bit.

But at 70km to 80km, I hit the wall!  I didn't want to run anymore.  I didn't want to race anymore.  What was even more discouraging was my average pace (which had hit 10:25 or so).  It was a mental game, and sadly, I lost to it.  Alvin tried to push me forward and gave me some more stuff to eat.  But it seemed my saliva had dried up and I couldn't chew anything in my mouth.  I ended up spitting them and even vomiting.  Ironically, even with lack of saliva, my hands were still abnormally swollen.  So I didn't know whether to drink liquid to wash down the food or stop drinking because of my swollen hands.  I kept on walking but felt defeated already.  I didn't care anymore.  I had lost.

Slowly, runners overtook me one by one.  Whatever lead I had, I lost.  I missed the time limit and I didn't want to run anymore.

With 8km to go, Alvin asked if I wanted to continue.  We both knew that it was fruitless to do so as we won't be able to see anything at the finish line.  I was unmotivated to run as I know I wouldn't get there by 4pm, even if I did.

But I didn't want to quit either.  So we walked the last 8km, very slowly and very zombie-like.  That was our Death March!  Lani was still supportive and stayed with us, parking at every 1km marker and waited for us there.  We were the only people on the road as those who were behind us had already quit, knowing that they wouldn't reach the cutoff time.

But I was determined to see this through.  Whatever it takes.  And that 8km took forever!  At one point, I wanted to stop but Alvin said, "might as well finish what we started".  And so we kept going forward at a snail's pace.  Slowly but surely.

Lani was the only one cheering us on.  It was quite a disappointment.  More so when we reached the 102km mark and there was nobody there.  A local resident shook our hands and congratulated us but I felt hollow and defeated.

There was no finish line, no ringing of the cow bell, no medal, no trophy, no cheers and applause.  Just silence.  Like there was no race to begin with.  But I have nobody to blame but myself.  It was a heavy feeling and I felt bad because I not only let myself down but my support crew and pacer as well.  It wasn't a good feeling and the next day was even worse. When I was home safely and as I reflected on what I could have done differently to have made it work, to succeed in finishing the race and be an Official BDM Finisher, nothing came into my mind.  Sometimes, that is just how life works.  You don't get everything you wish for.

Two days later after the said race, I felt better.  I posted on my facebook the following status:

After all is said and done, I STILL did 102km and that's something I can be proud of!

To God Be The Glory!


Bee Yen said...

first ultra and bdm right away? even i wouldn't be that crazy! but you finished it, yes you did and very few can make that claim. kudos to you and i expect to see you again at the starting line next year! ;-P

janine said...

Still proud of you, Den! *hugs* :)

Running Fatboy said...

hi bee yen, that is very true. 102km is no laughing matter. thanks for the support

hi janine, thanks :)

Mary said...

Galing! You could have given up but you didn't! Good job!!! :)

Jeanne said...

dennis i think this is too much but i'm glad you finished it in one piece! you made all of us proud, really...

Anonymous said...

Sir..You've been my role model as a runner.
Congratulations.. that is still something to be proud of.
I'm going to try it next year and finish it no matter what.
See you on the runs...Cheers!!

Running Fatboy said...

hi Mary, giving up did cross my mind soooo many times especially with what was happening to me, but figured being a finisher would be a lot better than quitting :)

hi Jeanne, Thank you! Yah, might be too much. haha

hi anonymous, thanks!

Running Atom said...

Dennis, here's a fact: You braved a 102, and still got courageous to finish it!

I haven't done it yet, and have never crossed my mind to do a 102km distance. You have the edge than most of us :)

Still congratulations to you :)

Roelle said...

Medal or no medal, you're still a finisher in my book. Congrats Dennis!!!

Running Fatboy said...

thanks pedz and roelle for your kind words :)

pjong said...

Hi! Your story motivate me... I will also try to finish the mayon 360 this april.. If I have given a chance, I hope to see you on BDM102 2014... Salute!

deemenrunner said...

idol! i can't even imagine going beyond 42k! congrats on finishing 102kms!

Running Fatboy said...

hi Pjong
Good luck on BDM 2014. I don't think I want to repeat this ordeal again. haha

hi Deemenrunner,
It should be EASY for you! hehe