Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon Race Report - 2010

My fourth Bataan Marathon in a row! An annual trek for me now. I love this race.

After running my OP50 two weeks ago (and having my highest mileage week ever - 64 miles!), I kept the mileage low, doing about 25 miles the week afterwards, and only 4 miles the week of the marathon. Basically, it was a combo recover/taper period.

I had no real problems after my first 50 mile race, except a little soreness on the arch of my right foot. I've never had many foot problems and just figured it was par for the course (I had a sore left foot - the ball - after my 60k in October, but I chalked that up to 37.2 miles of pavement, which I'll never do again, thank you!)

So, all systems are go and I drive over to NM for the marathon the day before. My brother in law pulled his trailer on base for me again, so all I had to do was get up on race morning and walk 10 minutes to the start line. Thank you Gary!!! My temporary casa on base:

The Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon was created to commemorate those soldiers that were captured in 1942 and were forced to march long distances without food or water through the Philippine jungles. They did the usual pre-race ceremony, which starts at 6:35am, recognizing the soldiers that were still alive and those that had passed on in the previous year. It is always emotional. If this isn't your thing - go to some other marathon - this is why I come here. A flag the size of a house is flown from a large crane.

The sun started to peek over the mountains before the race started. I found Boone and John from Tucson, but didn't find my other Tucson friends (record crowds this year!)

At the end of the ceremony, F-22 fighter jets flew over before the start of the race - woosh!!! Wow!!!
The amputees go out first, a little after 7am, and then the rest of us. I got to shake a lot of the survivors' hands on the way to the start line and thank them for their service. It won't be long before there will be none left - many are in their 90's.
It was very cold at the start - below freezing - and I was in a skirt. I was wrapped up in a blanket until race start, at which time I discarded it. Good idea!

I wore a tank and sleeves and a 'throwaway' sweat jacket, which I ditched around mile 9.

This race warmed up, but this year, not as hot as previous years. Nice!

Time: 4:19:48
Last year's time: 4:19:21
Not bad for doing a 50 mile race 2 weeks ago!
Distance: 26.2 miles (I calculated 25.9 on the Garmin, like last year)
For all 'light' category women (civilian and military), I came in 17th out of 637 finishers. Most people 'march' this marathon. Maybe one year, I'll do the 'heavy' category, which is to carry a 35 lb. pack for 26.2 miles. Impressive!
Elevation, start of race: 4,368 feet
Cumulative elevation gain/(loss): 2,426/(2,404) feet
Highest elevation: 5,423 feet

Here's the scoop:
The race is on pavement for about 2 miles, transitioning to dirt/sand road (which they appear to have graded nicely this year!) and is basically slightly downhill for the first 6 miles.
It then goes uphill until around mile 13. Part of this section is pavement from around mile 9-12. Then, after mile 13 or so, the glorious downhill starts. The views are awesome.
The problem for me was this - around mile 5, the arch on my right foot started bothering me. By mile 10, it was excruciating. I took 2 Aleve and considered dropping out. I did a lot of walking between miles 11 and 13. I felt a little better when the downhills started, but decided it wasn't getting any worse, so I pressed on (nothing's broken and you aren't puking, so get going - something overheard in many ultras!!) I wanted to finish the race. My gait was affected by it, but so be it. It was manageable, but pretty painful. This race was very mental for me, and the music from the iPod could not drown out much of this. Tenacity is the word that comes to mind. Having nice scenery helps, too!
After passing mile 13, and the decision to stay in the race was made, I started the second half of the race. It goes around a small mountain, and the rolling hills start, but mostly it is downhill and fast running! The pavement picks back up again around mile 18 and that is when the wall of marchers becomes visible!
One of the best parts of the race. They are cheering on the few of us runners heading downhill, and they are hauling the heavy packs!

And yes, I'm taking pictures while I'm running! I do this a lot!!!

One of the aid stations I pass is starting to look like a M.A.S.H. unit!!!
Around mile 21, the race veers off pavement to dirt/sand road, to the infamous 'sandpit', aka sandy wash (about a mile long). This part of the race will tire you out and leave you with not much left in the tank for the few hills which occur right afterwards!

The last couple miles of the race, I got my motivation by following two young military men traveling at a good pace. Can you blame me?
I finally passed them in the last mile and whisked into the final .2 of the race through the chute and to the finish line and the cheering crowds! One more Bataan conquered! Woohoo!
I saw Wayne from my trail running group come in (he and his wife Patricia did the race because I talked it up!) and he was feeling good - he had done OP50, too.  Another guy from TTR, Chase, did the 'heavy' division.
I was starving, so I then headed over for my annual Bratwurst (another reason for doing this race!). Yummy! This race has real food afterwards! I'm all about the food. :)
I hung out for a bit with Boone and John from Tucson, who were pretty wrung out from their speedy finishes.
Good lyrics for this race from a song that I listened to on my iPod:

'I got soul, but I'm not a soldier...'
'While everyone's lost, the battle is won
With all these things that I've done
All these things that I've done
If you can hold on
If you can hold on...'

~ The Killers

To experience some pain today was nothing compared to what those soldiers endured. I walked away this year with a lot of respect for the man willing to risk his life for his country. The courage of these men amazes me.

Courage: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.
Have courage in your life. Today.

After getting sufficiently sunburned sitting out in the sun after the race, I returned limped to the trailer and showered (right foot, ouch! left calf from overcompensating gait, ouch!) I drove back to Tucson the same day, stiffening up hour after hour. But, driving alone is always a time to reflect in my life. I sure have a lot to reflect on right now in my life. Past, present and future. Changes. Letting go. Embracing new. All good stuff. Life. Life!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run

I finished my first 50 mile race!!!! Woohoo!!!!! It was a 100% journey into self and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Total time: 11:48:22.
I came in 64th place out of 122 finishers. There were also a number of people that dropped from this race without finishing as well.

Distance: 50 miles – well, the course is actually a little longer than 51 miles…I actually ran 54. More on that later. :)

Cumulative elevation gain/(loss): 7,000/(7,000) ft - that is what the race website reports. My Garmin read 9,115/(9,204) ft. There were some good climbs in that race.
Elevation at Kentucky Camp (Start/Finish): 5,142 ft
Kentucky Camp is an old mining camp.
Low point in course: 4,031 ft
High point in course: 5,847 ft
I saw a lot of my TTR friends at the start of the race. Me and stoic Gene:
The race countdown happened right at 6am and we were off down the dirt road in the dark!
We were greeted with a sunrise within half an hour.
I just really picked my feet up until then and tried to ‘borrow’ some light from others who were wearing head lamps. Mine was in my drop bag at the 40 mile aid station, in case I needed it for later on in the evening.
First aid station (AS) - #3. Eating a chocolate chip cookie already!!!
I ate a lot today - gels, boiled potatoes w/salt, Clif Rox, Gu Chomps, cookies, fig bars, Odwalla bars, m&m's, dark chocolate, you name it!
This is a beautiful course.
I lost my sunglasses around mile 7 at my first bathroom stop (the woods). They must have come off my visor when I pulled my pack off. I spent the rest of the day dealing with sun glare - oh, well.
Ross from TTR was snapping pictures of runners coming in. I was so happy to be out running and so happy to see Ross!
Coming into AS 19:
Before I left that AS, I went to get a picture of Ross, but he got a picture of me taking a picture of him! Dueling cameras!!! 
Chase and Trish from TTR were there, too, and I left that AS in a great mood.
I was chatting with a friend I met at Cave Creek, Jason (that's him in the pic above) and we missed the ‘hard left’ turnoff at mile 20. We kept going down the dirt road for 3 MILES. After we figured out our gaffe (we already had ultra brain?) we got a ride back from a mom and her son to the spot where our turnoff should have been. I figure that off-course part cost me and Jason about 40 minutes. Yes, Trish had mentioned something to me before I left AS19 about the turn (I recall it now). :) But, I was so high energy at the time, that I didn't even hear what she was saying to me. I'll pay attention next time!!

Psychologically, that was tough – coming to grips with the fact that I was not only doing my first 50 miler, but I would be doing 53 miles today! I very shortly passed a fellow runner and shared my mistake and he told me that I would actually be doing 54 miles, since the course was a little long. I decided to just go with it and have a great day! I was feeling pretty good at this part of the race; no problems so far. Onward! With a good attitude! Next goal - get to AS 25!!!

I finally arrived at AS 25 (28 miles for me!) much later than planned and got to see Dallas from TTR.

He greeted me with a smile and was a sight for sore eyes; it was so good to see a friend. I told him my ‘tale of woe’ about going off course and he just went to work helping me get ready for the second half of the race. He quickly filled up my hydration bladder with water/electrolytes and I resupplied my pack with gels/other stuff from my drop bag.

He then ran with me as I left the aid station for a quarter mile, giving me a pep talk that I really needed (you can do it!). Thank you Dallas! I really needed that emotional/mental uplift at that point in the race. I was ready to continue on.

The big uphill portion of the race started and I struggled a bit, doing a considerable amount of hiking, but was continuing to pass people, as I had since I got back on course at mile 20 (mile 23 for me). I was passed by a person here and there, but I would eventually pass them again for good. I was making up for lost time…
Saw a cowboy out there - that's Arizona for ya!

I zipped through AS 29 and 33, stopping briefly to grab a snack and gab a minute. The course was fairly rocky through here, but very pretty.
Just outside of AS 40, I could hear Bob from TTR, "Git’ 'er done! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!" What a comforting and hysterical welcome – I remember it from the Zane Grey race very well. He snapped a pic of me crossing the creek and gave me a hug and said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you!’

I snapped a crazy pic of me and him and then headed up to the aid station to resupply. What a hoot.
I also saw Rachel, Bruce and Bob’s wife MaryAlice. Lots of dogs at this AS!
I really had a tough time after leaving AS 40. I had been walking here and there during the race (walk the hills, run the flats and downhills, just like everyone told me!) but this time, every time I started to run, my legs just revolted. I became discouraged. At least the view was nice!
Suddenly, after a mile or so, I felt good again! When my watch beeped at 41 miles, I started crying with joy. I thought, I can do this!!! I pulled myself together and things turned around quickly. It 'never always gets worse'! They were right!
The last part of the race, the course crossed multiple creeks. Rather than tiptoeing around on rocks to avoid getting wet (like others were doing), I just plowed through all of those water crossings like a kid without a care in the world. It was a blast! Even with running with wet feet for the last 10 miles, I never had a blister or any foot problems. Toe socks rule!
Even with my 3 mile detour off the course, (whoops!) I finished under my 12 hour goal. I passed fellow TTR Gene before the end of the race. It was good to see him. I felt pretty good at the end, running pretty strong the last 5 miles.
The last 2-3 miles, it was just me and my shadow.
Finally, I rounded the last bend and Kentucky Camp came into view. 
I was about to complete my first 50 mile race! Unbelievable.
I received my first ever belt buckle after crossing the finish line from the RD, Lynda Hendricks (who is awesome, by the way).
It was silver and gold – beautiful! Belt buckles are standard finisher ‘medals’ for ‘real’ ultramarathons. Yes, I’ve done distances greater than marathon length (26.2), but I think finishing this race officially makes me an ‘ultramarathoner’.

My friends Steve and Boone came to watch me and another TTR, Joe, come in at the finish, which was a surprise.
I also saw Donna, Steve and Mary - all volunteering. You guys rock! I wolfed down one of Steve's yummy burgers shortly after getting some whey protein in me. I always crave a burger at the end of a big run.
I feel like I 'met myself' out there on the race trail. It was an experience I'll never forget - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I hung out quite a while after my finish, watching other weary trail runners come across the finish line in the dark.
I didn't leave until Jason, who I had gotten off-course with earlier in the race, came through at 13:34. He made it! Victory hug! His beautiful wife, Chris, took the picture of us.

As I was walking up that road to the parking lot after the race, I looked up and beheld the most magnificent amount of stars in the sky! Wow! What a fantastic way to end a perfect day.

A huge thank you to all of the volunteers and other trail runners who were loving and friendly and made this race very special to me. There is nothing better than being outdoors with close people. Okay, maybe a few things. ;)
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."
~ Friedrich Nietzsche