I’M A SURVIVOR: My BDM 102 Story


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.

Registered!

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.

2012 BDM 102 Briefing and CLP at Camp Aguinaldo

BDM warriors with Sir Jovie aka Baldrunner, the brains and might behind Bataan Death March

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!

With my support crew and runner friends.

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.

‘Ultra Vicky’ says my ARC Ph shirt.:)

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.

Dear God, we pray for safety, strength, perseverance, and courage as we conquer Mariveles, Bataan all the way to San Fernando, Pampanga…

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.

Oh my knees! (Subtitled: Parang mag-gi-gym ka lang ah!)

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.

Good morning sunshine! With my Reebok cap, play-dri top and shorts, you can always tell I mean some serious running business!

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!

Check out my cool arm sling!

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.

Nearly there…

KM 102, come to Mama!

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!!!

And here she comes barreling through the odds stacked up against her…Vicky, FTW!!!

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.

BDM 102 now officially crossed-out of my bucket list! BDM 160 na ba?;)

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! 

My BDM 102 story.

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!

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Almost BDM-ready.


So I guess this is it. The day of reckoning has come for me. Since I started developing deep passion for running, I knew I wanted to be an ultrarunner. Lucky for me, we have a very dynamic running community in the Philippines. As D-day nears, I am overwhelmed by excitement and trepidation. Do I have what it takes to complete 102 kilometers? Is my body up for some serious pummeling by the intense March sun? Knowing how highly competitive I am, I know I will fight tooth and nail to cross that finish line. True, I haven’t had the luxury of training for this but I have made this commitment and I will make sure I see it through to its end.

As I have mentioned in one of my previous entries, I am running BDM 102 in support of the Black Pencil Project’s advocacy program called Run For Pencils. I have already received pledges and it is such an incredible feeling making a difference this way and inspiring people to do the same. It doesn’t matter if you pledge a peso or five pesos for every kilometer I cover, that amount will certainly go a long, long way. I’ve heard it said before that one should give until it hurts – so please, I am encouraging you to share a little bit and let me worry about the hurting. I have my first aid kit and health card for that.:) The Mangyans and I will be eternally grateful for whatever support you can give.

My most heartfelt gratitude also goes to Reebok Philippines, Toby’s, RUNNR Philippines, CW-X, Smith Optics, Lightwater/VitaminBoost, FTW magazine and my support crew composed of Eric and Running Atom and Team UNGAS. To those who have given their pledges for the Mangyans, especially my Boss – THANK YOU ALL for your love , support, and prayers!

LET’S DO THIS!

Black Pencil Project: Run For Pencils


On March 3 to 4 (Saturday-Sunday), I will be among the 200 or so runners participating in the legendary Bataan Death March (BDM) 102 race. Since my heart was won over by ultrarunning, it has been my dream to run and complete the 102-kilometer course. In large part because of pride (bragging rights, feather in my cap, etc) and honor, and also because I consider BDM to be the mother of ultras – locally, at least, and something that i still consider to be well within the range of my intestinal fortitude.

But as much as I am a proud woman, I am also in possession of a heart that is as soft as marshmallow. That statement, by the way, does not pertain to romantic feelings because let me tell you now, I don’t do romantic. Okay, maybe only in small portions. What I’ve always had is compassion, to a fault sometimes. Although maybe that is somewhat of a paradox because I believe one cannot be too compassionate. Goodheartedness simply does not go out of style.

So what’s the point i’m making? One might ask. Let me get right down to it then as I know we are all busy, career-driven people here.

For my BDM 102 quest, I volunteered to run for a cause, supporting Black Pencil Project’s (BPP) cause-oriented initiative called RUN FOR PENCILS. Under this project, donors can pledge a corresponding amount for each kilometer that the volunteer runner is able to complete. I believe there is a minimum amount of P10.00 (10 pesos) set, per kilometer. The money to be raised will be pooled together and utilized to buy school supplies and other learning facilities for the school children among the indigenous tribe of the Mangyans in the Philippines.

Vicky Ras is running for pencils.

I intend to finish all 102 kilometers and if all of you will support me, imagine how much money we will be able to raise to uplift the educational level and experience of our Mangyan children who, otherwise, will not be able to gain access to proper education! I will let you do the math because, uhrrrm, numbers and I are such strange bedfellows.

Kindly visit this site for details and also to make your pledges under my name.

http://www.blackpencilproject.org/201201/bpp-runners-2012/

If you ask me, I am a ball of agitated nerves right now, with barely two weeks left until D-day and never having the time for  proper training and all because I had been traveling and working like a dog. Two things I like very much, by the way, so I don’t really mind the long hours and late nights.  So aside from the money you will be donating, I also ask that you pray for my safety as I bravely attempt to cover 102kms within the cut-off period of 18 hours.

Thanking all of you (and your generous hearts) in advance!

 

xoxoxo

-Vicky-

In Which I’m Not Allowed To Get Sick


But I’m only human and so yesterday, I did. And it was so horrible I couldn’t talk because my throat was inflamed; I couldn’t move much because my joints ached like there’s no tomorrow; and I couldn’t feed myself due to combination of the first two. And so it came to be that I must’ve lost 2lbs at least from yesterday’s unwanted house arrest. All I managed to eat at around 8:30pm was half a cupcake and a glass of milk.

I thought it was perhaps the long hours of meetings and work from my last trip that somehow took toll on my body. And of course, in one of my most stupid stunts yet, I made STC+hiphop+bodyjam nonstop my first agendum when I arrived. Hoping that sweating out the early signs of flu would deter it. I was wrong. My immune system only got vulnerable to the virus’ onslaught. So in the end, there I was in bed yesterday, fever-ravaged and majorly debilitated.

But, now I’m back. Still feeling weak but hellbent on coming to work and getting stuff done. And perhaps, later, if I’m good, I would treat myself to Old Spaghetti’s newest lunch set promo which I have recently favorited because it’s good stuff – and cheap! I’m still thinking if I’m up for pole dancing + power yoga later after work because I’m still really not a hundred percent okay. We’ll see.

On a totally unrelated note, lately it’s been pretty warm outside I’m always nauseated. The other day, I walked no more than 30 feet outside the building and my back was already drenched in sweat within five minutes! I miss those chilly days, and especially the chillier nights, of the ‘ber’ months. Remember those days? They seemed to have gone on a semi-permanent retirement, never to be felt again in our side of the planet. But as Nora Ephron would say, consider the alternative. I would take my sweat-drenched clothes anytime over having to wade in waist-deep flood waters which, as you know in the Metro, is almost similar to opening the floodgates to various water-related diseases and infections and literally inviting them to take your mortal body hostage. This climate change is really alarming and I would loathe to imagine how the next generation would cope if the worsening situation is left ignored.

***

So I bit the bullet and finally registered for Bataan Death March (BDM) 102 next year. That’s right, 102 kilometers and over 10 hours of nonstop road-pounding under hot weather conditions. I know a few people who survived the ordeal which gives me some level of comfort that I won’t be signing my life away…hopefully. But that does not, in any way, excuse me from being lackadaisical when it comes to my training (it hasn’t started yet so i’m starting to feel jitters sprinting up and down my spine) – a major character flaw of mine, I must admit. I’m such a slacker I never would have made it as a serious athlete!  But just so you know, I’m an entirely different animal at work. My dedication, loyalty, and hard work are unquantifiable! Hello, colleagues! *wink*

This is it!

No why am I even doing BDM 102? Good question. It’s because I can. haha. No, seriously, it’s because I see it as the apex of my ultrarunning career (naks!) while my knees are still good. I’m 32 and obviously, I still want to keep my knees for many years (and I heard you need them for walking down the aisle, i’m just saying…) so at some point, I will have to take it very easy. But only after I have carved my name in BDM history.

So, training it is. But aside from that, I also need to talk to serious runners and get valuable ultrarunning pointers from them because my bara-bara ways simply won’t cut it anymore. I can usually charm my way out of anything BUT I don’t think I can charm my way out of a DNF, haha. I’m still carrying emotional scars from my last DNF, thank you very much, and I have resolved never to take that course again. Dinamay ko pa si Dennis the RunningPinoy!

So tomorrow, I will start running again, only this time, I am breaking-in my pair of Reebok RealFlex – which I’m thinking of naming Basia because the original Basia (my pink ZigTech) along with Chris’ pair of Zigs were stolen a few months back, sob sob sob – which I’m reviewing for Total Fitness. RealFlex is Reebok’s major entry to the lightweight footwear category  and it is truly light at only 9.2 ounces in weight. I am also very excited to see whether the famed 72 “sensors” underfoot really work in  providing a new free form and natural movement experience while running. I just love Reebok’s innovative technology and fresh designs!

Check out the 72 sensors...in purple!

Basia in another form - sleeker and lighter.

***

Oh, by the way, if you guys happen to be at the Megamall area on November 30 to December 4, drop by Megatrade Hall 2 for Royal Sports SUPER Christmas Sale! Get jaw-dropping discounts on brands such as Reebok, Diadora, Teva, Rockport, Oakley, GBX, Everlast, to name a few! And if you’re a hoarder like me, you would probably end up buying something from each brand. Mark your calendars, people!

ROYAL SPORTS SUPER SALE!

Claudia is my homegirl.


I am in a running funk. Seriously, I have been logging some serious mileage the past weeks I’m afraid I might be wearing my legs out already, but then it doesn’t seem to be the case really because I have been performing quite well in races – stellar in some, even.  Whoa, that was one long sentence I think a comma or semi-colon should have made its way somewhere in those group of words.  And whoa, did I just say stellar? Such unabashed conceit I have half a mind to edit statement – but I won’t. You know why? Because I have been training fairly well and rather consistently that I feel I have the right to stake a claim on my little accomplishments- like that sweet podium finish at the 2nd PAU 50k Tagaytay to Nasugbu Run, for example.

Tooting my trumpet one last time...

Though I think I have tooted my trumpet pretty darn good about that race and for a good number of days, too, I believe I have done someone a disservice by not giving her a bit more attention: Claudia.

You all have met Claudia, right? She’s officially my homegirl. That day at PAU T2N, she made me experience ultrarunning like I had never before: In which I managed to complete a 50-km stretch of hardcore road pounding with absolutely no injuries – not even a dead toenail.

Claudia, my homegirl.

Since I got Claudia in June, I had scarcely been separated from her. She and I would run around Ortigas area, sometimes going all the way to Pasig or Katipunan, and she would always surprise me with surefooted spring in my stride that just gets better each time.

And her cushioning? Ohmy. I could just go on and on and on about it being absolutely perfect it does make me feel as though I am literally running on clouds.  Except that I probably cannot say literally because I haven’t run on clouds – yet. So should I say ‘metaphorically running on clouds’? Running 50 kilometers is no joke, least of all for people like me who grew up without a single athletic bone in their bodies.  Unless you count playing chinese garter, patintero, luksong-baka, or climbing aratiles and mango trees as proof of hardcore athleticism then, by golly, I am a super athlete!

Like I said in my previous post on PAU 50k T2N, unlike my other attempts at long distance running, I must say, I did pretty well in my training. For two weeks before the race, Claudia and I would set out every morning, clocking-in an average of 15k on weekdays (just before I go to work) and a minimum of 20k on Saturdays. My Sundays are for Church and catching up on my Criminal Minds and other tv series obsession and my reading, of course.

In those two weeks of committed running and sporadic Insanity routine, I have come to love Claudia. Nay, ‘adore’ would be more appropriate a word to describe our two-way romance. She is like the best sister and girl friend I never had! Also a formidable competition with the way she pushes me to go beyond my preconceived limits.

Have you guys read The Game of Thrones or watched the series, at least? You know how they say that for a swordsman to become really dangerous in fights, his arms and sword must be one. The sword must cease to feel like a piece of fashioned steel he’s clutching, but rather a part of him. That’s how I would describe Claudia. When I have her on, she ceases to be this sexy, sleek pair of kicks. She becomes part of my body.

My LSD partner, KB Runner.

BREAKING NEWS!!!! I got the sweetest email in my Yahoo inbox — I qualified for BDM 102!!! Thank you Baldrunner for ending my week-long trepidation!

Now it seems Claudia and I will have to start seriously training for next year’s BDM 102and I am mighty glad to have enlisted the help of this lovely gentleman called KB Runner who agreed to train me for the big race. He’ll be mapping out wild LSD routes for us to conquer on weekends until I’m all set and confident to rock BDM – in sexy style.

I just hope Claudia would still be very much around by then. Oh but she’s one tough cookie, I’m sure she’ll keep it together until we cross that finish line.