About Me

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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

March 17, 2012

2012 BATAAN DEATH MARCH 102-KM ULTRA : The 2ND HALF


I BELIEVE

 
Km 51 to Km 60: 

Starting my second half of the 102-km race, out of the Km 50 marker in Abucay, I noticed that most of the runners, particularly those who reached the halfway point  ahead of me, were still there and seemed to be in an easy partying mode (chit chatting with their support crews and having some breakfast already; iba nga naghaharutan pa) while I was in a hurry to rush out (I only stayed in the KM 50 mark in less than 10 minutes, eating banana and then changing my Asics Cumulus 12 with my Asics Cumulus 13, the one given to me by my wife Marianne last Christmas).  At around 5:30 am, the morning sun was still not present, and I figured I could squeeze in a few more kilometres until the sun rose.


Emboldened, I continued to push my pace (adopting 1 min walk breaks  per  kilometer  marker instead of the more relaxing 4:1 Galloway)  until I was already in the town of Samal.  I  earmarked Km 60 as the point where I would  take my breakfast.  The KM 60 marker was a kilometer or 2 away from Jollibee Orani and I communicated to my support vehicle to go ahead to Orani town and  order for  a one-piece chicken joy.    


Nearing Orani, I got to run with a young runner from Laguna.  I tried to follow his pace for a couple of kilometers and when he stopped for his support vehicle at the town center of Orani, I continued to run, feeling good about myself that I could run stride per stride with a young stud.    


Pretty soon, I could see my First Balfour support vehicle at the Km 60 marker, parked near  an Iglesia ni Cristo church.  This brought a smile to my face.  My Jollibee breakfast awaits.  And  when I looked at my watch I was hitting  60 kilometers in a time of 9 hours and change.  This means that for the next 42 kilometers to Km 102, I would have roughly 9 hours to finish the ultra.  Almost 2 hours of buffer before the 18-hour cut off time.    This further increased the shine in my smile.


Then disaster struck.  I guess it took less than an Usain Bolt 100-meter world record time for the smile to be  replaced by anguish on my face.


Seconds before disaster at Km 60


I got hit by cramps on my left calve and I could barely walk the 20-meter distance to the support vehicle.  Upon reaching the van, I sat down,  called for Orly to remove my shoes and asked him to massage using Omega pain killer.  While sitting down, cramps hit my right calve as well.  My first time in any of my running races (be it a half marathon,  a  marathon or an ultra) where I got hit by cramps, and in true Murphy’s law fashion, it was on both my legs.  


It is at this point that a primal scream came out of my mouth.  More than the physical pain, the scream came out as a result of a realization that I might not finish my first 102-km ultramarathon.  The dream  of being a Bataan Death March survivor was quickly fading into a nightmare of being a BDM failure.


Good thing, in addition to Orly, Ed was there and he calmly suggested to me that I eat already my breakfast while having both my legs massaged. I followed his advice and eating my chicken joy seemed to calm me as well.


While sitting down and eating, I saw the other BDM runners pass by the van.  Some waved, some smiled.   Many of their faces were the same faces I saw chit chatting and taking it easy at the  halfway point in Abucay.     I should have taken it easy there, too.


The massage break and breakfast at Km 60 took more than 20 minutes.  Ed and Orly advised me to just walk and not to attempt running.  Prudent advice because I really had no way of running as the pain started to intensify everytime I attempted a jog.  


Km 61 to Km 66:

From Km 60 onwards, I requested Orly to do 1-km breaks instead of the 3-km leapfrog of the support vehicle.   For each kilometre  break  from Km 60 to Km 64, I was lingering more in the van to have my legs massage.  


And while trudging from 1 kilometer to the other, I felt like I was hearing some unseen voice tempting me to stop the walking and to get my celphone and  text the Bald Runner already about my DNF.  The unseen voice even was using mathematical logic to convince me of my impending failure in finishing the 102-km ultra within the 18-hour cutoff time.  Given my cramps, the unseen voice rationalized that I should be walking slowly the rest of the 40 kilometers.  At an average speed of 4 kph, it would take me 10 hours to tackle the remaining 40 kms.  My buffer was only 9 hours.  Thus, I would overshoot the cutoff time by more than an hour.  Why bother continuing the race?    The tempting voice reasoned out.


I am a reasonable person and I conceded much that the probability of my DNF scenario increases for every minute and hour that I walk rather than run.  Thus, I reached out for my cellphone at the back of my Amphipod  hydration belt and texted.  Not to Bald Runner but to my wife and brother Nonoy to inform them to dissuade my father from proceeding with his planned trip to San Fernando, Pampanga in the afternoon to await my crossing of the finish line.  My father made plans to be there at my BDM experience as he is a history buff and he was delighted that his son was participating in an event that was honoring an heroic event in Philippine history.  Since there were doubts already about my ability to finish within the cutoff time, I did not want my father to be there to witness my possible failure.  It would have brought sadness to him and doubly mine.  Both my brother and wife texted back immediately saying ‘OK’ that they would stop my dad from going but they also implored me to stop my running for health concerns.


There was no quitting in me.  True, I may not finish within the cut off time but I will cross the finish line even if I have to walk and crawl the rest of the way.  


But the idea of not being able to finish within cut off time made me feel sad.  I would not want to disappoint my  family, my parents, my friends and classmates, and my officemates in First Balfour.


To combat the sadness, I decided to pray the rosary again, while walking thru Orani to Hermosa.  This time with the Glorious mysteries.   


Km 67 to Km 83 :

As I passed the Km 66 marker, I got to finish the 5th Glorious mystery and as if on cue from above, a pair  of runners were about to pass me.  As they were about to pass me, they stopped their jog and started walking.  They were doing a Galloway.  I looked at the face of one of the runners and it was a familiar face.  It was the guardian angel.  Ooopppss....Not really but the closest thing to one in the ultrarunning scene.    The runner was Jonel Mendoza (Bib # 707), the publisher of Frontrunner Magazine.  


I had a chance to run with him a couple of kilometers before at the Mayon 360 80-km ultra. But I wasn’t sure he would remember me. Nonetheless,  I greeted him “Good morning, sir”.  

He replied, “Kumusta?”  

I answered, “Not good.  I think I will not finish within cut off time.”

He fired back, “Nonsense. Marami pang oras.”


This jolted me and I was a bit challenged, buoyed by the idea that I might still finish within cut off and not DNF.   So, I decided to tail them.  When they walked, I walked. When they jogged, I jogged.  


Soon, we were at Km 67.  The start of the dreaded Dinalupihan to Lubao stretch.  The Waterloo of many BDM ultrarunners.  It is a straight highway with many buses barely acknowledging the puny presence of runners.  A wide and dusty highway with almost no shade from the heat of the sun.



But surprisingly, my spirits were relatively more upbeat than a few kilometers back.  I was running with a group of runners being led by a veteran and wise runner, the frontrunner himself. I was running in a pack with a focus.  I was thankful of the temporary company the frontrunner and his group had given me. I believe in a power much bigger than ours.


At Km 68, smiling coz I am with a pack of determined runners

Jonel said that we would be running the Galloway 5:2.  I smiled amused, saying to myself, “Babalik din pala ako sa Galloway.  Dapat hindi ako salawahan.”      
     
So we did our slow yet steady run and pretty soon, we were passing the Arch on the road that signified we were leaving the province of Bataan and entering the province of Pampanga.  First town is Lubao, the longest town of the province and the birthplace of President Diosdado Macapagal.    


To combat the heat in the highway, I was already wearing my frontrunner white cap and the Zoot running sleeves with  IceFil technology.  Also, my First Balfour support vehicle was laden with lots of ice and lots of watermelons.  Pretty soon, many runners were stopping by our van and Ed and Orly were giving out the cool tropical fruits to them.


Following Frontrunner entering Lubao


Aside from reintroducing me to Galloway, Jonel shared with me the fartlek technique.  This running technique incorporates sudden burst of speed for a short period of time, say 10 seconds or 20 seconds.  The objective, aside from speeding up the run a little bit, is to break the running monotony of the slow jog, thereby putting to work other running muscles which otherwise lie dormant in the face of a slow motion.    


At Km 74, I got to part ways with the group of Frontrunner.  They were beginning to increase their pace and I could not catch up anymore.  Fortunately for me, when the “guardian angel” went on his way, he got to be replaced by a pair of “young angels.”  From Km 74 to Km 78, I ran with Vicky Ras (Bib # 629) of Team Reebok and Cris  De la Cruz (Bib # 649) of Team CB.  Vicky suffered an injury on her shoulder earlier in the race and  both of them were doing Galloway.  Cris got to teach me a better form of power walking which I utilized with much gusto.



Along the long and hot Dinalupihan to Lubao highway stretch with Vicky and Cris


Pretty soon, I was power walking faster and I got to leave the pair at Km 78 as they had to take a longer stop with their support vehicle.  But the Almighty Above continued to provide me with running companions: from Km 79 onwards, another “angel” in the person of June Villamor (Bib # 654).  She started the BDM 102 ultra race with her lawyer husband but in the middle of the race, she had to go solo as her hubby got injured.  Unfortunately, the 2 of them only had 1 support vehicle and this  vehicle was supporting  her husband.  She was without a support vehicle at that point.  So I told her to feel free to get hydration and food from the First Balfour support vehicle.     


Avoiding the beast of the highway


Power walking at Km 83 with June Villamor

          
We ran together from Km 79 to Km 83.  At the crucial Km 83, I was informed by Ed and Orly that Ernie was only 3 kilometers ahead while Fards was only a kilometer ahead of Ernie.  I was surprised.  I was thinking that my fellow 83nean runners would have been at least 10 kilometers ahead of me.  This was proof that  the heat of the Pampanga sun was slowing many BDM runners down, even my strong 83nean friends.


Km 84 to Km 85:


Passing the Km 83 marker, I suggested to June that she could go ahead as I noticed that she was itching to walk and run faster than my pace.  I told her that I was slowing her down and that she could go for a faster finish.  True enough, when she moved forward, she ran with a strong pace and pretty soon, I could not see her anymore upfront (she eventually finished at 103rd place with a time of 17 hrs 4 mins).    

I was again alone.  I was again walking most of the time.  It took me almost 30 minutes to tackle the 2 kilometers up to Km 85.  I was cursing this town of Lubao for being so looooonnngggg......


This Lubao Town is loooonnnggg....

At KM 85, I sat down at the FB support vehicle in pain,  very tired and very hungry.  After taking three High5 Isogels (60 ml) and six High5 EnergyGel (38 ml) for roughly 15 hours already, on top of a chicken joy five hours ago,   my body was begging for more solid carbo food.


The pain was coming from a blister on my right foot. I asked Orly to remove my shoes and socks and to give me a massage. While being massaged, I dozed into a light sleep.  I was woken up by Ed but I told him that I was thinking already of quitting the race.  My legs were  cramping up again  and the blister was getting bigger. 



I was quitting but  Ed and Orly both disagreed with me.  Ed, being a true coach, tried his best to motivate me.  He kept pointing to the other ultrarunners passing us by, telling me that I was visually in better physical shape than some of them.  


And he uttered one of my favorite  mantras – “Old man my ass!”.


This jolted me back to my old feisty self.  I reached for my 3rd pair of running shoes and running socks.  This Asics 13 running pair was the one bought for me by my sister, Leila, for my birthday last September.

I muttered to myself, “This old man gonna run his ass off till I finish, Bald Runner  or no Bald Runner at the finish line .”


Km 86 to Km 94:


But first, this old man needs some grub.  So I requested Ed and Orly at the support vehicle to motor ahead and buy me some hot meal, may it be bulalo, chicken mami or even kinalas.


I continued my slow Galloway run of 4:1, powered by Mountain Dew for the meantime till the food arrived,  and I passed another barangay of the long town of Lubao.  This was siesta time already and I noticed  many of the houses to have some sort of get-together in the garage area of the ground floor. Upon  clearer focus, I found out that these were actually gambling card games among neighbors.  Lubao, aside from being a very long town, is proving its repute as a gambling center of some sort in the province.  


How ironic.  I was now nearing the end of my run in Lubao and I could just imagine that a bet is being placed on whether I would  finish or not.  My advice to bettors.  Don’t bet against an old man with a bad-looking  ass. Hahahaha...........


Food salvation came at Km 91 when I entered the town proper of Guagua.  Old reliable Jollibee was there, and Ed bought me the  new product offering of the leading fastfood chain – Chicken and Mushroom Pasta.  I gobbled the pasta and washed it away with a cold glass of Coke.  


There must be something in those mushrooms beccause in no time, I was running and feeling better again and this time I was trailing a runner with sandals.  Ed again was motivating me to keep pace with this runner.  He was telling me if this runner could do it in sandals,  what more with me in those comfy Asics? This motivation worked and I was still with this runner as we passed the old yet lovely St.  James the Apostle Church in Betis, Guagua.  The halo-halo being offered at the food stands in front of the church looked very enticing, but I had to postpone my craving for this cool refreshment as  Ed was in his coaching/drill sergeant mode as he cajoled me to push my old   ass on the road. 


I must persevere.


Km 95 to Km 100:


Pretty soon, I crossed a high bridge which signalled to me that I was now entering  Bacolor, the last town before the provincial capital city of San Fernando.  Like any satellite town in the province, Bacolor is a small and short one, easily mistaken for a big barrio of the neighboring big city. 


Flashing the “V” sign entering Bacolor
 

After a couple of Galloway walk breaks, I found myself at Km 96, the town center of Bacolor. Ed flashed me the hand signal that I had 6 more kilometers to go with 1 hour of running before cut off time.  Ed and Orly were jumping up and down.  They knew that with my Galloway running I could take down these last  6 kilometers with less than an hour of running.  

Witnessing   my support crew whooping it up brought tears to my eyes.  I was touched by how much they cared about me finishing.  Band of brothers, indeed.


I could not afford to fail them.  I could not afford to fail myself.


And there were only 2 ways now that could prevent my finishing this BDM ultra.  One was  if I get hit on the road by a reckless driver.  Two was  if I get hit by severe cramps again.  The first one I couldn’t prevent if it were meant to be but the second one I could manage.   At my stop in the van at Km 96, I requested Orly to be  ready to massage my legs in each of the next 4 stops that I would make with the support vehicle van, just in case the cramps start acting again.


Pushing on, I get to cross the bridge between Bacolor and San Fernando and from a distance of 5 kilometers I could see the big Iglesia Ni Cristo Church which shadows the old railroad station where Km 102 is located.  This spurred me on and I found myself overtaking a couple more of BDM runners.  


Then, I saw Km 99 marker and in the background Km 100.  These 2 kilometer markers are very near each other visually, but  it is hard to comprehend that they are 1 kilometer apart. I pushed on and got to utilize the fartlek I just learned a few hours ago from the frontrunner.  I could see Ed and Orly waving me on further as I  passed Km 100.


Km 101 to Km 102:


After 8 more minutes, I was already at Km 101 and I stopped at the FB support vehicle to change my white shirt to the Under Armour shirt given to me by US-based HS Batch 83 classmate Gerry Cortez.  Embossed in front of the grey shirt are the words “runnin8 m3n for others”.  My pact with my fellow 83nean runners Fards, Bob and Ernie is that we should finish the BDM ultra wearing our Batch 83 shirts.


Tired after 101 kilometers but focused to do one more kilometer

With a change for a fresh running shirt, I jogged for my last kilometer in this ultramarathon, for a date with personal history.  I passed by the Pampanga Capitol and there were many support vehicles parked and the support crew cheering the runners on to the finish line.


Looking left for the turn to the old railroad station


A few more short burst of speed, I was now turning left  to the old railroad station.  Many runners were on the side of the road and many were cheering.  A handful of familiar faces gave me high fives.

I could see the finish line and then I could hear the cowbell.  Sweet music to my ears.   

Then I rushed the finish line with cameras clicking.  I looked at the clock by the finish line.  It read 17 hours 44 minutes 30 seconds. Good for a 148th ranking among the 160 finishers.  


Rushing to the finish line to the sound of the Bald Runner cow bell

The Race Director about to hug me
 
As promised, the Bald Runner was on hand to give me a victory hug. I told him, "Thank you sir." 

Mission accomplished.  I am now a Bataan Death March finisher. 


With my finisher medal

The BDM 102 km finisher trophy

I believe in the  power of the rosary.  I believe in the camaraderie of ultrarunners and my fellow 83nean runners. I believe that without the two, I would not have  survived the BDM 102km Ultramarathon.  

I am a  SURVIVOR .   Proud and standing tall yet humbled by the valiant effort of those heroes who have gone ahead.
         

6 comments:

  1. congrats sir vic! you are a survivor and a true warrior! cheers!!!

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  2. mabuhay ka, vicboy! isa kang magiting na kawal sa larangan ng takbuhan...akoý nagpupugay saiyo, kaibigan.

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  3. Thank you very much Mau and Ernie. Nothing is impossible.

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  4. Macky, this was truly inspirational! Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Great report and congratulations po! Inspirational indeed!

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    1. Thank you sir for the kind and generous words. Quite an honor for me and my running blog to receive a comment from a Pinoy runner who has finished in the 247km Spartathlon. You made my day.

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