Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 2, March 27, 2011 Bataan!!!

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. 
 We had expected a wave start, but were warned during the opening ceremony that there were just too many of us to enforce corrals, so people just mingled and got into the starting chute when they were ready. No problems with all us civilians mixed in with all the military personnel! They seemed to be having as much fun as we all were!

I stopped to shake a few Bataan survivors’ hands on the way to the starting line. They are a proud group of men, totally deserving of this event to commemorate their suffering, and remember all the lives lost in service to our country. We were now out on the marathon course. The first part was relatively flat, though at a higher elevation than I am used to. We started out on the road for about the first mile before our turn off into the desert. This desert section was rolling and sandy, with little or no elevation gain. I started out running this section until I reached a team or group walking abreast, took a breather while following them, then ran to the next group of congestion, all the while trying to stay up wind of the blowing sand. I do not usually carry my camera with me during marathons, but really wanted to have photos from this one. I took several photos during this first section. I was making pretty good time under the conditions, averaging a 14:17 mile through mile 6. Then we turned out onto the road, preparing for the climb. I really expected the gaiters I was wearing to be a lot more effective at keeping the sand and rocks out of my shoes, but no luck. I had to stop here at the aid station and dump the debris out of my shoes, and needed a quick potty stop. There was a short climb out of the main base property, across highway 70, and then up the mountain into a 40mph headwind. Mellody caught up to me, (she took a lot more time shaking Bataan survivors’ hands than I did) and we made the climb together. I tried to take a picture of us with my camera and it would not open any more. Methinks me got sand in my camera.  I was amazed that the elevation did not bother me as much this time as it had at ET. I attribute this to Paleo. Of course, my big mistake that morning was not bringing any protein along for breakfast, (should have brought the turkey jerky or the buffalo jerky along) and the continental breakfast they were serving was all pastries, so no breakfast was presenting sort of an issue for me. I was fueling with my Hammer Perpetuem and Hammer Gel, eating a few oranges, taking my Endurolytes and alternating drinking Heed with water.

I had to stop at the next turn off into the desert to mix another bottle of Perpetuem, and it was still very windy, so I took a lot longer at this stop than I wanted to and Mellody took off ahead of me. It is all good when we do the same race, we can walk together, but we do our own race. I just enjoyed visiting with the soldiers, and took off when my fuel was mixed. We were still steadily climbing, and I was feeling strong… just slow. At this point, I already knew I was not going to break any land speed records, so decided just to enjoy the event. I had heard tales of an aid stop at mile 14 (the top of the climb) that would be selling hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and cold sodas. I was glad that I tucked a $10 into my fuel belt, because I was totally out of gas. I walked up to the table and told the guy I would pay the whole $10 for a couple of meat patties. “I’m hungry, and all I need is some BEEF!” That got a good laugh and $5 in change. My maniac friend Nina was sitting down finishing her hamburger, so I joined her. Those were the two best hamburger patties I had ever eaten. Now as it is time to rejoin the marathon, I came upon a young man with a picture of a Bataan survivor on his t-shirt. When I asked if that was his grandpa, he told me no, it was his great, great uncle. The young man must have only been about 14 years old, and he was not the youngest marcher I saw that day. I thanked him for being so tough!
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 started to approach the finish area, and even at 7 hrs 25 minutes, there were lots of cheering spectators. I thought I would try to run across the finish line, since I had done a fair amount of running in this race. My legs simply said HELL NO, and both of my calf muscles locked up completely. I was very lucky not to fall on my face. Apparently, I needed more Endurolytes than I thought. ;) I grabbed the fence, stretched out those lead calf muscles, and proudly walked to the finish line! I had the key to the rental car, so walked straight to it and my Recoverite, pineapple juice and Fage Greek yogurt recovery shake. I was feeling fine, and looking for some of my friends who were also doing the race. I found Lori Sherwood and Susan Bell, her husband Britt and their friend Terri. We took some photos, and then I went to get some of the post race food. I asked for a hamburger patty, bratwurst and sauerkraut. No bread, still Paleo all the way. I could not eat it all and was hoping I would be able to eat a decent meal later… All I kept saying all day was fajitas for two, just for me!

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.

Finally, Mellody found me and we went to watch more finishers coming in. We were beginning to worry about Deb, but she finished while we were looking the other way. Mellody had a great race, shaving time off her first Bataan march in 2007, and Deb shaved a lot of time off her first Bataan march in 2006. I was just happy to have finished! I have recently completed my first 100 mile race, and the difficulty level of this marathon is right up there with that, but the difficulties we faced here are NOTHING compared to what our military face EVERY DAY. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

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!


  1. Sounds fun. And no knee problems on the mountain?

  2. surprisingly enough, not one twinge of knee pain. Thanks to the Paleo diet, a lot of my inflammatory conditions are improving... including my allergies. Usually this time of year, I am really suffering and taking Zyrtec. I have not taken a Zyrtec in over a month and have only sneezed a few times from the tree pollen. I am a true cavewoman for life!