Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Bataan Death March 160 Support Experience

It's a critical training time for my first Marathon come next month and I'm so busy making the most out of it. I am sticking to my training plan and covering the mileage that is required for us to do. Having this marathon jitters also pushed me to train diligently, but when Kuya Zaldy called out for help for whosoever can give time to support our BDM 160 warriors, I never had second thoughts about it.

Bataan Death March KM 0 Marker in Mariveles, Bataan (Wikipedia.com)


What is BDM 160? BDM or Bataan Death March 160 is a race organized by Major General Jovenal D Narcise AFP (Ret), a veteran ultramarathoner whom we fondly call Bald Runner or BR. This is a by invitation only race that usually happens every January. The race starts at Mariveles, Bataan and ends in O'Donnel Shrine in Tarlac, mostly the same route where the Bataan Death March of April 1942 happened. This is to honor the fallen soldiers of what they consider as the most inhuman act being done to prisoners by an invading force in the history of warfare in the world. (Information from http://bataan102.blogspot.com/)

I ditched my Caliraya and Subic races for the weekend because I chose to support my Teammate, Kuya Carl. He did not ask us but we felt he needed us so we made the initiative. It was all at the last minute. No preparations was done. He managed to run without support for 84 Kilometers before we came in. The only thing we had then is an empty Water Dispenser and my packed food (Melon, Boiled Saba and Kamote). We just got supplies from the other support team and from buying stuffs at the stores along the way.




He was still running strong until we reached midnight of Sunday where his body is already tired and sleepy, not to mention the foot blisters and chafing on his body. There are times when he needs to lay down and sleep for 15 minutes and goes out running again. It was the most challenging part for all the runners. We even saw some that literally is sleepwalking/running. It's like they are on autopilot that when we talk to them they don't usually respond or they don't recognize us at all.

The route is very dangerous. Pampanga and Tarlac is not a good place for running safe at the wee hours of the night. There are a lot of drunken men who tried to play around the runners. There was even a mugging incident but gladly the runner and his pacer was able to get out of the situation safe and all their possessions intact.




Then I was told I need to do Pacer duties because Ate Lori is not feeling well and she needs to drive as substitute to Kuya Tong. Before I went to support, I packed my bags thinking that I may need to do this but I never thought it's gonna happen. I just prepared for the worst case scenario and it came true. No sleep, tired and nervous? The thought that I'll be pacing an Ultramarathoner? I just prayed and hope I can do it.

At 6am, when the Sun starts to rise, it's my turn. Capas Tarlac is a nice place and the breath of fresh air is very beneficial for me to sustain an almost continuous run that I never expected for someone who already did around 140K can still do. He regained strength as the morning blossomed and more when he changed clothes. I was trying my best to keep up with him and entertain him by telling him stories, jokes and I even sang him songs! Well, I guess it's not really for him but it's mostly for me, to take myself away from the thought of stopping because I can't, and I won't. I'll never be the cause of him slowing down.





At around 7am, the Sun starts to shed out its heat on us. I need to thank myself for the heat training I've been doing for the past months from running in late morning and swimming at high noon because it really helped me sustain the running pace even if it's scorching hot. I lost my fair complexion, but I gained heat resistance.

When we saw the Shrine, it was really a booster for him. It means that we only need to cover around 12 Kilometers to finish. I was not running beside him, I was running infront of him all the time just to give him a chasing game ambiance, trying to get at least 20 meters ahead of him and more so he would feel the need to catch up on me, which he always do. I'm also checking in at the support vehicle every 2 or 3 Kilometers to make sure I replenish his cool water supply and get supplies in case he needs to eat. I also check on him so to know if he needs anything.




When I'm looking back at Kuya Carl I saw a deep determination and courage. Most of his fellow runners looked wasted already and he still looks cool, calm and strong. His running form is maintained despite the pains that he's going through. He's one of the most cheerful and appreciative person ever at this part of the race, he never was grumpy or irritated or in a bad mood. He's one hell of a source of positivity and he never will go out of stock! I can say that he is the kindest person ever because in every small things we do for him he never fails to say thank you and give his sweetest smile. I never had a dull moment because he responds when I try to keep a conversation going on. This person is admirable!

My pacer duties ended at the last 7K of the race. At this time, he is already picking up his strength and speed. The most shocking part came at around 4K, where he is sprinting to the finish! We tried to get to him every 500 meters to give water and shower him with cold water. Even our support vehicle can't keep up with him. It was an amazing sight. Seeing him in all strength now while the night before he could barely run properly makes me teary eyed. After all the hardships the finish line is almost at hand!



Kuya Carl finished the race sprinting with a time of 29:21:13, he passed by a total of 15 runners who were infront of him and just walking at the last 4K stretch. As what he say, that's his trademark.

After the event, I wrote him a letter that I posted on his Facebook profile.



Dear Kuya Carl,
I want you to know that we are so proud of you! Even if your support team (us) were really unprepared for this because of such a short notice, you managed to adjust with our shortcomings. You managed to support yourself alone for 84 Kilometers and it's so great. Despite all the pains and sleepiness you still are the most cheerful and most positive runner at the race. We never heard you throw tantrums or complain. When we say run, you run, when we say wake up, you wake up, when we say you need to eat you eat. You are always appreciative in every small things that we do for you. You make supporting easy for us.
Thank you for giving me a chance to be your emergency pacer since Ate Lori can't do it because she needs to take over the driving duties. After you changed your clothes that morning and ran with me I admit I was so challenged to maintain an almost continuous running for 2 1/2 hours. I couldn't believe someone who ran around 140K can still run as fast as you do! I keep on thinking that I will never stop so you won't and we did it.
When we saw the Shrine you gained more strength, I don't know maybe it's because I started singing then. Actually it was not really for you, it was for me, to take away the pain I was feeling on my legs so I can continue running with you. After a while I was able to pick up your pace and I can run with you. Pacing an Ultramarathoner wasn't easy but with you it was worth it!
My pacer duties with you ended at the last 7K. You were gaining more strength at this time but the most epic part was the last 4K. Even our support vehicle can't keep up with you. I should thank my bike support training I was able to give you a cold water shower just in time when you pass by.
You were zooming in super speed that Ate She can't even keep up with you. You managed to pass by almost 15 runners who were infront of you that were mostly walking at that time. You even take time to congratulate them as you pass by them. Seeing you run fast and strong, I was all teary eyed. After almost 2 days of running non stop and all the months you've trained so hard for this finally the finish line is almost at hand, and you made it! Even if you were an hour late for your target when we reached 102K you were able to compensate for the lost time which is amazing!
You deserve an additional award for the most fresh looking finisher in this race! While everyone looked so tired and wasted when they reached the finish line, on the other hand you look like you can still do another 160K when you finished.
Congratulations for finishing the race in 34th place. You are such an inspiration to all of us! I'm so inspired it makes me think of doing this race in the future as well... Nah! Just kidding! :P
Love,
Mandy

What I have learned from this support experience? Well, it was really different from supporting the BDM 102 race. I saw how the strongest of runners become so weak and could barely run or walk. The effectiveness of the support crew is crucial, the quick thinking pacers after the Km 102 and most especially the ones assigned during the nighttime. Keeping the ultramarathoner awake and running is a challenge, ensuring that he won't lose much time from walking or resting to get to the finishline before the cut off.

I experienced knocking on houses just to use their bathroom. Going through every convenience stores to get ice and supplies. Looked for an Eatery that is open at 2am to buy food that Kuya Carl requested. Keeping myself awake and alert even if I feel so sleepy and tired, I still managed to do pacer duties in the morning, and after reaching the finish line it was all worth it!



The Shrine has become a sought after place to get to that time, and ofcourse before the 30 hour cut off time.


The medal, buckle and the trophy were all well deserved by Kuya Carl. Though in this battle where 60 warriors fought, only 43 made it on time. Alex made it as the last qualifier and though Kuya Brai didn't make it before the cut off, he is still a finisher!




Will I brave this 160 Kilometer race? I guess not but I'll surely be glad to be a support crew and pacer again for the next batch of BDM 160 warriors come next year and this time, we'll be prepared!

(Photo credits to Tong Pascua Photography)

Good Vibes everyone and Sweet Running! ^_^

4 comments:

ronz said...

Hi!

i have here a survey that aims at understanding your basic preferences before, during and after the race. The results will help us come up with innovations to make our running experience more enjoyable and engaging.

here’s the link:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1RcXe3wn6RkSEeFLLLlGj4imrAxDFVS9DiPsF5mBPHKM/viewform?pli=1

please do share the link! (sorry for this off-topic comment but i will truly appreciate your help) Thank you in advance!

RunningAtom said...

Nice account Amanda! Truly being a BDM support crew is crucial and at the same time, very fulfilling... You will witness every aspect going on and off from the runner, from being strong to becoming weak and regaining the strength and courage, etc.

Like you though, I will be much happier also to just becoming a support crew than joining the BDM distance, hehehe :)

RunningAtom said...

BTW, congratulations to Kuya Carl, he indeed is friendly and a joyful person. Nakakahanga 84-km before needing a support? Grabe!

Congratulations also to you, his support team! :)

Michelle Manait said...

Thanks Kuya Peds! ^_^