Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon Race Report!

This was my second year doing this marathon in White Sands, New Mexico. It is a primarily military marathon, but many civilians enter as well. The course is surrounded by mountains in high desert and is held on the White Sands Missile Range. The purpose is to honor the soldiers that died in the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines when they were surrendered to Japanese forces during World War II. They were forced to march 65-100 miles in 100 degree heat through jungles without food or water. Some survived, but many died. They do a ceremony before the race to honor the men. Before the race starts, all runners/marchers get an opportunity to shake the hands of the survivors who are still living. It was very moving and one of the reasons I do this event. During the opening ceremony, a fighter jet flew over us and the underbelly of it was painted like an American flag. An American flag is flown at the start line that is so big, it is held up with a crane.

Another reason I do this event is the running terrain. Here is the approximate breakdown of the course:

Miles 1 and 2 - pavement through the base installation
Miles 3 through 8 - dirt road, lots of sand, last several miles uphill, mountain views
Miles 9 - 12 - pavement, all uphill, surrounded by mountains
Miles 13 - 18.5 - dirt road, trail, sand, uphill for the first few miles, around a mountain through a range
Miles 18.5 - 20.5 - pavement
Miles 20.5 - 21.5 sand pit. Here is a picture - just like running in a 'wash'. Looks like dirt, but the sand is fairly deep.
Miles 21.5 - 26.2 - dirt road
I woke up late for the race! I stayed in Las Cruces in a house by myself on the same property as my nephew's girlfriend Valerie. Valerie and her mom Leslie were doing the 15.2 mile option, so they were leaving at 4:30am, also. It is about a 45 minute drive to the base and they said lines would be long and to arrive early (the race started at 7am). Well, I had a rough night's sleep and Valerie came in the house at 4:20am wondering why I wasn't up! I guess I either didn't hear my alarm or it didn't go off. They went ahead and left and I didn't get to the base until 6am. They said lines were crazy for them, but I just drove right in and parked! So, I had plenty of time to stand in line at the port-o-potties and was able to see the starting ceremony. Needless to say, the panic
I felt upon awakening did not feel that great, but it all worked out fine thankfully.

Here are my times and reports by mile (s):
1 & 2 - 18:42 (9:21 average) Not sure where mile 1 was. I realized I went out a little fast so I slowed it down. My shins felt tight and I was worried, but they loosened up later on.
3 - 9:35
4 - 9:37
5 - 9:31
6 - 9:36 I'm thrilled with my 'Steady Betty' pace the last 4 miles.
7 - 9:56 Starting the 8 straight miles uphill. My legs are really feeling it.
8 - 10:38 I'm enjoying watching the comraderie among the teams out there. Some of these guys and gals are wearing 35 lb. packs (heavy category - I'm in the light category).
9, 10, 11 - 33:39 (11:13 average) I think I was in an uphill zone and kept missing the mile markers. The big misting machine is at about mile 10, which was such a welcome sight.

12 - 11:44 The view is wonderful - I'm surrounded by mountains on all sides. The 8 mile uphill section is relentless, though. I cannot believe I am still running and did not walk any portion of the uphill. I'm passing a lot of people on this part, which feels great! I can see an aid station at the top of the hill - looked like a mirage in the desert! I did wear my camelbak (about 2 liters with Heed), but it was so hot that I stopped and drank small cups of water at about 6 different aid stations.

13 - 12:38 Seeing mile marker 13 gave me a smile because I knew I was about halfway through. Only one more half marathon to go!

14 - 10:55 Uphill is starting to level out.

15 & 16 - 19:21 (9:40 average) Ahhh, we are starting to head down hill now. The aid stations are like big parties with lots of people and tents set up. Some look like 'MASH' units.

17 - 9:34 Wow, the downhill feels great. I also took some Perpetuem which revived me.

18 - 11:03 Lots of up and down rolling hills. No. More. Hills. My legs were so tired from that uphill section by this point.

19 - 9:33 Back on pavement, straight down hill, which felt so great! I was passing a lot of marchers who were still heading up and getting a lot of positive feedback from them which was motivating.

20 & 21 - 21:29 (10:45 average) Entering the sand pit, which is about a mile long.

22 - 12:58 I had to walk a good part of the sand pit. I just didn't have the energy to run it. I knew I was missing my goal time, but I didn't care at this point. I was hot and I was tired. I just wanted to finish. I don't think I could eat one more Shot Blox.

23 - 10:32 I am thinking I am paying for my previous uphill battle now.

24 - 10:48 I am trying to not think of anything at all. One foot in front of the other.

25 - 11:49 I am dreaming of an ice cold bath. I am seeing signs now about what those Bataan soldiers went through and realized I could make it two more miles.

26 - 10:11 My mind is running the race at this point. It is so mental at this stage. But, I'm picking up the pace!

.2 - 1:57 I can see the finish line and I run through the chute surrounded by lots of cheers! What a good feeling.

I finished in 4:35:46. Last year, I did it in 4:54, so I was happy. I was hoping to do it a little faster, but the conditions weren't as good this year. The sand was really deep, especially in the pit, which was probably due to all the rain over the Winter, I guess. I ended up walking that portion, because my legs were so wiped out. The heat was oppressive! Last year, I was freezing at the start of the race, so it heated up gradually; this year, I started the race already pretty comfortable in my tank top. I was going to wear my Moeben sleeves (there was a cool breeze early in the morning) but took them off at the last minute and threw them back in my truck. Good call. It was pretty dry and dusty from lack of rain, and we had a fairly good headwind for a lot of the race coming from the West. So, with all of those things going on, I felt good about my time.

Yay! I'm done! I should have some 'action' shots once race pictures are posted.
There are all sorts of 'categories' - light/heavy (35 lb. pack), civilian/military, team/individual, male/female. I came in 16th out of 508 individual women in the light category (military and civilian combined). For men and women combined (both military and civilian) in the light category, I came in 96th out of 1,623. Now, a lot of people 'march' this marathon, so if you run, you have a pretty good chance of ranking right up there. At any rate, I was happy with my accomplishment!
They have great food at the finish line, so I enjoyed a bratwurst on a french roll and called my husband Ken in Arizona to report my accomplishment. Problem was, I couldn't find my truck, so I walked about another mile or so until I found it (good cool down). I decided to go ahead and drive back to Arizona after the race - about a 4.5 hour drive. I felt pretty energized and just listened to upbeat music all the way home. I stopped a few times to stretch and got a few strange looks (was it the dirty legs? the crusty running clothes? the salt covered skin? the crippled way I was walking?)

I'm pretty sore, but was a good girl and took my ice bath afterwards. For the most part, I had no big specific aches and pains during the race - I did have a little knee soreness at some point in the race, followed by some hip flexor pain, but just felt overall worked out. My shoulders and neck are very sore - strange?

I wore my Inov-8 Rocklite 315 trail shoes and they were great! No blisters and very minor sore feet. I didn't specifically need trail shoes for the race, but the Roclite 315's have a fine mesh over the top that helps keep sand out, and I think they gave me a better grip on the sand. I also wore my Dirty Girl Gaiters over the top, which worked great!

I sent off my race entry for the Zane Grey 50k today. In less than a month, I'll be doing 33 miles. Can't wait to kill myself again.


angie's pink fuzzy said...

alright!!! you're in such great shape - you'll do great at Zane Grey!

man, I don't know that I could do a sand pit at mile 20 of a marathon :)

Sarah said...

Sounds like a really neat event. Congrats!