Unlike many other decisions I have made impulsively over the years (some I regret having made but let’s not get into that), joining the Bataan Death March (BDM) 102 was a deliberate one. Except for the timeline, which was rather hard to ascertain because of the nature of my job. Will it be in 2012? 2013? I really couldn’t tell for sure at that time. Late last year, however, I had made my intentions to run BDM 102 known to my runners friends, and of course, Mr. Baldrunner himself, and the feedback were all positive. So when KB Runner signed me up on the last day of BDM 102 application and I eventually got accepted (Note: There are certain criteria to be met for one to get accepted as a BDM race participant), I was 50 percent sure I’d do it – the other half is obviously dependent on my work schedule.
2011 ended and while nearly all of the 2012 BDM 102 runners were busy planning for the race and training properly by logging precious mileage and incorporating heat training into it as well, I was busy working. And working some more. In fact, since 2012 started, I think I was only able to log a total of 40k running mileage and by ultramarathon standards, that is far from ideal. And then I was supposed to be somewhere for a company event on BDM 102 race dates so it didn’t occur to me to make time for some strength training at least. I was prepared to just cut losses and perhaps go at it next year. Next thing I know, our event was moved at a later date which leaves my March 3-4 weekend wide open for some ultrarunning action. By then, I only had three weeks to put together a game plan; look for kindhearted friends willing to be my support crew (whom I have found, praise God!); and psyche myself into BDM mode. Just to make sure my legs are still in good running condition, I joined two 10k races and carbo-loaded. I must say that was the best part of my preparation – EATING. I ate more than my usual amount of food intake, constantly reminding myself each time I would feel guilty that ‘Yeah, i’m going to burn all of it anyway come BDM 102!’ And so I ate like the buffet cart was going to run out soon.
The only time that the enormity of my decision to run BDM this year dawned on me fully was when I attended the Briefing Ceremony and Carbo Loading party two nights before the actual race. Seeing nearly all of the BDM 102 runners there and making a mental note of how strong and capable they all looked, I began to doubt myself. Seriously, what was I thinking?! It’s one thing to do 50k or even 65k and perhaps finish sterlingly (I did so with my two 50k races but DNF’d with my 65k race in Nuvali) BUT 102k is clearly something else! Reylynne and I would find ourselves staring blankly at the projector screen while BR was doing the briefing and clearly not able to put a finger to what it was that we were both feeling at that time. Nervous, unsure, excited, confident are only some of the decipherable emotions at play that night.
Finally, it was the night before race day. I had been long done shopping maniacally for supplies (thanks, too, in large part to my brother who shared my BDM grocery expenses with me!) and I already have my Reebok gear, Lightwater and VitaminBoost, Smith Optics Pivlock shades, reflectorized vest with lamp from ARC Ph all locked-and-loaded. JJ of my running group Team UNGAS, also gave me some supplies for the race – all of which came in handy, especially the first aid kit. My amazing support crew which I’m sharing with Cris Dela Cruz, consisting of Eric Caramay, Running Atom, and Jennybave were likewise ready to rock and roll. I went to the salon for foot spa hoping it will relax my mind so that I would at least be able to clock-in some decent zzz time. Weirdly enough, I found myself tossing and turning until about 2:30am, playing scrabble on my iPad. It seemed my mind decided to race ahead of me because I would see snippets of various BDM scenarios being played out in my head! I woke up at 6:30am and even though gun start is not until 10:15pm, I couldn’t convince myself to sleep some more. Instead, I spent my time making cheese pimiento sandwiches, boiling eggs, and packing my running gear and accoutrements.
At 4pm, we were on the road to Mariveles, Bataan.
We made a short pitstop at NLEX to have lunch. In my nervousness, I forgot to eat something during the day. Funny story: Just as we were leaving HenLin, we were sandwiched by this small crowd of people having their photos taken with this guy who turned out to be friggin’ Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and I didn’t get a chance to have my photo taken with him because he was quickly whisked away by his posse before I could even reach for my camera or BB! Nakakainis lang!
We reached KM0 in Mariveles, Bataan at around 8:30pm and as much as we wanted to cram sleep, we opted to prepare for the race. Jennybave took pains in taping my feet, especially my toes which are all blister-prone. I had wanted to use my Reebok Zigtech but after the layers of Leukoplast on both feet, the shoes were already a bit tight for me ( I must remember to get a bigger size next time!) and so I wore Claudia instead which was a good size bigger and has had an ultramarathon experience at last year’s 2nd PAU T2N 50k. It’s important that I give my feet some room to breathe given that it’s inevitable that feet will expand due to constant battering during the race. With my running gear all in place, I looked just about ready to head out to war.
At the KM0 marker, ultrarunners gathered and chatted away. Photos were being taken, as well. In just a few minutes, Baldrunner would call everyone to order and he appointed some runners to sing the US, Japan, and Philippine national anthems. And then we were told to move to the starting line for the prayer and gun start.
At 10:15pm, we were off like a marauding colony of worker ants. Destination: KM 102 marker at San Fernando, Pampanga. Cris, my BDM partner, and I started off strong. Even while taking it very easy in the first 6kms which was a steep uphill climb, we managed to clock-in sub-6 for the first 42km. And just as I was feeling somewhat invincible, I was brought down to earth when I heard my left knee give off a loud click followed by a very sharp pain I had to cry out. It reminded me so much of my trail run in Nuvali where my knees locked and I couldn’t move and I had to be carried back to the start/finish line on a stretcher, bereft of pride. Hello, deja vu. We immediately called on our suport crew to assist me. Bave put cold compress on injured knee and gave my legs a good rubdown. I put my knee support back on and continued running. Just a few kilometers after, my right knee gave a similar jolt. That’s when I got scared and slowly see my BDM 102 dreams fall apart piece by piece. Knee injury at any race is never a good thing. I decided to take Arcoxia to manage the pain. Cris, too, at around the same time, twisted his right ankle. And so it came to be that we were both limping even before we reached KM50.
At KM48, I was starting to feel very sleepy I felt like a somnambulist. I told Cris that I would need a 10-minute nap once we reach the pitstop if I am to perform well in the second half of the race. And so we both cat-napped and our support crew woke us up in time for us to see the sunlight slowly peeking out of the night skies. To feel better and refreshed, I brushed my teeth, washed my face with Physio Radiance (yes, plugging!), and brushed my hair. JJ also forced me to eat puto and drink coffee to send me on my way. My knees were feeling better but there was no telling when both will go bust again. We knew it was going to be a very sunny morning/afternoon going into Dinalupihan and all the way to San Fernando so I made sure to protect my eyes with Smith Optics Pivlock V90 Max.
Just when I thought my painful knees were all that I had to manage, my left shoulder also caved-in due to the pressure of swinging my arms for a long period of time. It got so painful I had to beg RA to administer makeshift arm sling just so I can keep it stable and not moving to and fro much which only aggravates the pain. So with my knees and left arm now all in pain, I couldn’t possibly suffer more, right? I mean, Murphy could not possibly be that cruel, surely? WRONG. Because when the sun finally came out, the heat emanating from that cosmically-gargantuan ball of fire nearly burned everything on terra firma, including my skin. I thought all those years of sunbathing in the beaches of Boracay, Phuket, Davao and Bali will give me some advantage but NOTHING could have prepared me for the kind of heat that confronted us from Dinalupihan all the way to KM83 where I nearly passed out – hungry, dehydrated, and burning up!
It was then that I seriously considered throwing in the towel and calling myself a loser. I was too weak and in so much pain to even consider going further. I wanted to quit and probably never show my face at races anymore. I prayed hard for God to give me one last boost and as a testament to just how faithful HE is to his promise of keeping us safe under his care, my boost came in the form of my support crew and running group friends JJ, Leya, and Ambo. They refused to hear my protestations and declaration of surrender and instead, pushed me to give it one more go. In between force-feeding me with fruits, making me drink Oresol, and wrapping my burning skin with very cold towels, they would encourage me to get up and run the remaining distance and lay claim on my BDM 102 trophy. My support crew realized that I have not exactly been eating all this while. I would have a slice of apple, orange, watermelon, and a piece of banana and nothing more. My hydration, also, left a lot to be desired. I would only take a few sips of Lightwater, VitaminBoost, and Pocari and feel as though I’m drowning in my own skin. So weird! At KM83, my apparel were soaked and the heavy fabric of my top and shorts were weighing down on me so I changed into fresh top and running bottoms. I also discarded my knee support and patella band because at that point, the contraptions were impeding blood circulation.
With barely 2 hours left ’til the 18-hour cut-off and still 12kms away, I regained some of my strength and my stride went from power walking to what my support crew surmised to be almost 6:30 pace all the way to the finish line. I took back the lead some of the guys snatched away from me when we were forced to just walk from KM70 because of our injuries and soon after, managed to squeak-in a strong finish with more than half and hour to spare.
Seeing the FINISH LINE tarpaulin and the runners who crossed way ahead of me, including all the support groups, standing just behind the arch waiting to welcome the finishers was INCREDIBLE! That 500-meter stretch to KM102 was for me the best 500 meters I would ever cross – except maybe when I get married and have to do the same ceremonial crossing, only this time, down the flower-decked aisle and preferably with the feel of powder-soft sand beneath my sandaled feet. *ahem. ahem.*
I FRIGGIN’ MADE IT TO THE FINISH LINE!!!
It was such an emotional moment for me that I couldn’t contain my tears. I cried and Bave cried with me. I have wanted that BDM 102 trophy and medal since the first time I tried ultrarunning at Mr. Pinatubo and now it’s mine! And I have a laundry list of friends and sponsors to thank for making my BDM 102 dream a reality. Thank you so, so, sooo much! You guys know who you are.:)
Oh, and one more thing. If you ask me what else would I write down as great BDM moment for me, I would have to say — and you gotta keep your mind open about this and your sense of humor ready just in case — those times where I would no longer care where and how I pee. Honest truth! Bear in mind that I was competing against a lot of runners and this is where being a lady is sometimes a disadvantage – but I learned to adjust, adopt, and accommodate. Grassy patch, behind the car, in between car doors, in a dried-out canal, inside a held-out malong — name it, I’ve done it all! But only during night time when it was dark and there were hardly any people around. During the day, I would knock at people’s homes and gasoline stations and beg them to allow me the use of their bathrooms. Those times, I was never without my wet wipes which I would now declare to be among the essentials a female ultrarunner must have when running an all-nighter.
Pains and killer heat aside, I would say my BDM 102 experience is something I will never EVER forget. On the 3rd of March 2012, I went berserk and made true my dreams of doing the ultimate ultra – not for cash or freebies BUT for pride, honor, glory, and that little kilometer marker trophy I have always wanted to have. I am no longer just a road warrior dreaming dreams of pushing myself the limits, I am a survivor – A BDM SURVIVOR!
Thank you REEBOK, ARC Ph, Lightwater and VitaminBoost by Suncoast, Smith Optics, Toby’s, CW-X, Chris Sports, FTW magazine, Team Reebok, Team UNGAS, my fellow BDM-initiate and partner Cris and my amazing support crew! To those who prayed for me and wished me well on my BDM journey, my deepest gratitude as well. We’re all made of WIN!