We arrived at White Sands early enough to not have the worry of waiting in a long line of cars and were able to park very close to the starting area! That is a good thing; we could wait in the car while the wind gusted to at least 40mph and blew sand everywhere! Mellody named the wind Bob and Bob really blew that day! Bob blew so hard he seemed to move the rental car, and he forced the trees to bend over! Bob was however, good enough to blow a trash bag my way so I could wrap up in it in order to block some of the wind. LOL Bagpipes played for morning entertainment as we waited for the beginning of the opening ceremony. The three of us tried to stick together in the crowd and ended up near the front for the opening ceremony which began at 6:35am. The ceremony was very moving, as the role was called. First the survivors responded “here”, followed by the role call of all the survivors who have died since the last memorial march in 2010. No one answered. One of the survivors stood throughout the ceremony. He was wearing is full dress uniform with all his medals. What an impressive sight he was, and when the battle poem was recited, several cried out with a resounding YEAH! Then it was time for the fly over, courtesy of Holloman Air Force Base. The cannon sounded, and the group of Wounded Warriors started the march.
The course began to head around the mountain with lots of rolling terrain along the way. I was still running a little on the down hill sections, mainly because it was easier to run down than to try and walk, risking slipping as some of the downs were pretty steep. I found out later from my other friend Deb (she is a nurse practitioner and stopped to render aid more than once during the race) that one soldier had fallen somewhere in this section, breaking his leg. The view from this side of the mountain was amazing! We could see the Organ Mountains, named such because the vertical rocks on the mountain peaks look like a pipe organ! White Sands Missile Range was also visible off in the distance (at +/-4500 feet), and far below the +/- 5,500 feet we were now motoring at. A border patrol officer was stationed at one of these high points on the course, I guess his job was to make sure all the people out there had race numbers attached to their uniforms.
The course then headed back to the road, and a steep downhill. I racewalked down the whole hill, averaging a 12:30 pace at this point, which was still pretty good, coming up on 20 miles of this really tough course. My racewalking form provoked a little teasing, which I took with a grin, inviting the soldiers to “Walk this Way!” HMMM, only 10k to go, and the infamous sand pit was still to come. As I made my way through the sand pit, which seemed more like the consistency of cat litter, I came upon two soldiers who were having serious muscle cramping issues. I had enough Endurolytes for me and maybe a couple of extras, but I gave each of them 4. I really hope it helped these two guys make it to the finish! I am sure I will never know, but it was the right thing to do at the time. I thought I would be ok with what I had left and I did still have some Heed. One more time, I had to sit down and dump the rocks out of my shoes, and this time I turned my socks inside out. I was told to get up off my ass because there were only 2 miles to go. I got up and caught the sergeant who had ordered me to get up… let him know I was passing him now. LOL I kept playing tag with a couple of other soldiers and one kept threatening to jump on my back so I could carry he and his pack to the finish. I said, come on, jump on – we will go down together!
I also had the good fortune to meet the parents of the young man who created the Bataan Memorial March as his ROTC project. It has grown into an awesome thing over the 22 years it has been held, and this young man should be very proud of himself.
We had our celebration meal of Mexican food, and all I could manage was a fajita salad with fresh sliced avocados, sliced tomatoes, sour cream and a roasted green chile on top! It was delicious... and I did have flan for dessert, because if you climb a mountain in the desert, you deserve dessert!
I won't bore you with the details of the trip home... except to mention it was uneventful. No accidents, no speeding tickets, no heavy duty border patrol activity. I am happy to report we were not searched by the border patrol at the point of entry! Whew!