Race Report: 9th Bataan Death March 102km Ultra Marathon Race

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hi, folks! I am back from my backpacking trip but before I tell you all about it, let me post this because it's been long overdue. 

More than two weeks ago, I just finished the race that I have been preparing for in the past year. It is the 2017 edition of the Bataan Death March 102km Ultra Marathon Race. It's an ultra running event that commemorates the Bataan Death March where approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops were forced to walk from Bagac and Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga. This took place in 1942. They were starved and tortured to death in the process, and it was a dark part of the Philippine history.

The race, on its 9th year, took place on January 28 and 29. As I have said, I've been preparing for a year for this, starting with sending the letter of intent to join the race. Once I got my invite and paid the registration fee, I knew that there was no turning back. Which led me to joining more ultra marathon races to prepare myself for long distance runs, building a stable mileage base, cross-training, heat-training, and taking proper nutrition. This meant that I had to cut down on rice, fast food, and unhealthy stuff. It was a big adjustment on my part but I knew that it was necessary. It also helped me maintain a healthier lifestyle.

On the evening of January the 28th, I was surprised that I was feeling the least bit nervous. Partly because I have finished a 100km run before and partly because I trained my mind to think that it was just another ultra race. I knew that being nervous won't do me any good. I had a plan and it was simple: to just keep going no matter what, minimize the hydration stops, and fuel up consistently every 5km. It was a fool-proof plan that got me through several ultra marathon races. No new gimiks or anything. 

The race started at 10pm and I was feeling calm. I kept a slow but steady pace because the first 7-8km of the route is mostly uphill. I didn't want to exhaust myself that early in the race. When the hilly parts were over and I was back on flat roads, I maintained a 4:1 run-walk strategy. It worked for me and I reached my mental checkpoints in my own target time. I was taking it slow. In fact, I was too slow that the sweeper vehicle started tailing me. I know that it was a part of the race but I found it kinda annoying so I sped up a bit, passing other runners, until the vehicle was no longer following me. Hah!

It was in the 40th km when my feet started to ache. My feet were already swelling, as it normally does when running long distances, but my original plan was to change shoes at the 50th km and I didn't want to ruin that. So I willed myself through it, withstanding the pain, just so I could stick to my plan. The 50th km was where most runners took their longest break, I think. I ate some noodles to refuel. I also removed my shoes to give my feet a break. I changed from compression pants to shorts and from a shirt to a singlet. I also changed into slippers, and as suggested by a fellow runner, I ran in it for the next few kilometers and for the first time in that race, I felt some relief. I found it quite comfortable to run in a faster pace while wearing slippers so I did it for the next 7km. After that, I changed into my second pair of shoes. 
Photo Credits: Day Walker

I was nearing the 65th kilometer when I started feeling pain in my legs. I had a few injuries in the past year and they started creeping up during that part in the race. My knees started to ache. My ITBS and Plantar Fascitis were acting up. And to top it all off, the swelling in my feet was back and it was worse. The best that I could manage was to run for very quick intervals and walk for longer duration. I had already taken two tablets of pain-killers but they did not seem to work. I asked my support crew for a stronger one and they promised that they would find some. It was also scorching hot, but that was the least of my concerns. I had gotten used to the heat.

I had about more than 20km to go with a little more three hours left. My support crew was pushing me to run faster. I knew that they were already feeling panicky and worried that I wouldn't be able to make it in time. By then, I had already taken a stronger painkiller medicine. I felt some of the pain subside but it was not totally gone. Still I couldn't go any slower because if I did, I will not make it. So I set a target of finishing each km in at most 10 minutes and I stuck to it, conserving my energy while making sure that I had enough time.

Last 6km and I still had an hour and lots of energy left. I was on target. So I decided to give it one final push and run the last 6km. I still had some walk breaks though, but they were shorter and my pace was faster. Last 2km and I changed shirts in my attempts to look all fresh when I finish. Last 1km and I had less than 20 minutes to go. My legs and feet were still aching so I took one final 30-second walk break before sprinting towards the finish line for that final stretch. And I did it!
Photo Credits: Run Lipa

It was an epic finish moment with ten minutes to spare before the 18-hour cut-off. The last 200 meters before the finish line was the best 200 meters that I ran in my three years of running. I could see the finish line, which is a product of a year's preparation and hard work. Lots of people, spectators and fellow participants, were clapping and cheering me on. And when I toed that line, there was a feeling of pure bliss and relief. I was expecting to cry but no tears came because my happiness was overwhelming. I even manage a wide toothy smile.
Photo Credits: Active Pinas

At this point, I want to thank the people who supported me in this race. I have already expressed my gratitude through my Facebook posts but I couldn't thank them enough. The BDM 102 was my dream race and they were a HUGE part of making it a dream come true for me. I want to thank my team mates from Team Ayala Triads, Team SCR, and Active Pinas for all the training sessions, training tips and racing tips, and the support that they have given me throughout the past year when I was preparing for the race. Thank you to Del for supporting and encouraging me in all my races, and for helping me keep my sanity throughout this craziness. And for pushing me to continue when I started to entertain thoughts of not starting at all. Thank you to my mom and sister for the moral support in all of my runs. I know that they constantly worry whenever I'm doing ultra races, but they never discouraged me and they supported me, and I truly appreciate that. To the other teams who extended their support and to the spectators along the way who helped, many thanks to you. Last but not the least, thank you to my support crew (ma'am Misty, ma'am Margot, sir Eric, Meneses, and master Bong), for everything that you have done for me during the race. For keeping my hydration and nutrition in check, for the massage, for helping with my numerous outfit changes, for giving into my whims of sugar rush, and for the pep-talk when my spirits were low. Thank you, thank you!

So, I guess that's it for me and ultra running. Two years of ultra running and it was a bittersweet journey. There were some lows and highs along the way, all of which were memorable and life-changing (life-changing, talaga?). And while you may no longer see me running ultra races, you will still definitely see me on the roads. Or maybe in a new terrain? (Hint, hint!). I've finished my dream race and I guess it's time for me to chase a new dream. Haha. I've already said a lot but yes, there will absolutely be no quitting for me. As long as I can run, I will. :)
rank: 208th out of 212 finishers, 232 participants in total
official time: 17:50:17

2 comments:

  1. Congratulations Eva! I can't imagine how my legs would be like after finishing this kind of crazy distance. What an inspiring achievement!

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