1st Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race: April 5, 2009 (Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga)
After reviewing my past posts, I found out that I did not post the usual “Lesson Learned” from my participation in the 1st Bataan Death March 102K Ultramarathon Race. What I posted in my blog immediately days after the conduct of the race was the lessons I’ve learned as the Race Director/Race Organizer of the said Road Race.
In view of the incoming BOTAK 100K Paa-Tagalan Ultra Race this coming Sunday, I am posting this “Lessons Learned” from the BDM 102K to guide the “first-timers” in ultramarathon race with the hope of helping these runners join the ranks of ultra runners in the country.
The following are the lessons learned in the said race:
1) Think always “the end-goal”—Finish The Race. Ultramarathon race is an endurance sports, just like a marathon race but the distance is longer which usually covers the standard distances of 50K, 50 Miles, 100K, or 100 Miles. For a runner who have finished his first marathon race and jumping in to the ultramarathon distance, he knows what to expect and what he has to do to last up to the finish line. As a runner, I always believe that if you run a marathon race, it is a “sin” to walk within the said distance and you can not afford to hit and experience the dreaded “Wall”. But in ultramarathon distance running, walking during the race is a good strategy in order to conserve your energy and have the enough endurance to finish the race. The “Wall” to me is just a word and it does not hit a well-trained ultra runner. At this advance age of running technology and research, the “Wall” should be removed from the articles and stories of runners. If a runner knows his training, hydration, food, and possesses the right equipment, there is no chance that a runner would experience such. If you are trained for the ultramarathon distance, you should have experienced in your training at least running for about 6-8 hours under the heat of the sun. In my training for the BDM 102K, I had to experience running for a maximum of at least 8-9 hours at my easy pace which is 70% of my total effort. If I can not run, I saw to it that I would walk around Metro Manila during day time for a maximum of another 8 hours just to train the body to be exposed under the heat of the sun. Remember, speed is not considered and what counts most is a proper & positive attitude for you to finish the race.
2) Don’t ever think of quitting—Most of those runners who quitted after running more than 50, 60, 70 kilometers in the BDM 102 could hardly slept, ate, and focused their minds few days and weeks after the race because they committed the gravest mistake in their running careers—to quit the race! It is easy to say that there will be another ultra running event in the future where you could redeem yourself but the damaged had been done because you are already branded as a “quitter”. Don’t ever, ever, do this…don’t quit. You must remember that ultra running is NOT a battle in between you and the other runners or the course, but it is a battle between you and yourself! So, if you quit in an ultra running race, don’t whine and blame the weather, the race organizer, your shoes, your blisters, your body “issues” and others reasons, but instead, you should be blaming yourself ALONE. In the BDM 102, I prepared for this race not to quit but to finish the race and be an “example” to everybody with the saying/idea, “If I can do it, you can do it, too!”
3) Be prepared and have the necessary “equipment/tools“—Think and prepare for your needed equipment for your hydration system, food support, lighting system. running apparel (to include night running attire), shoes, socks, medicines, salt tablets, and other miscellaneous needs like cash, communication device, & sunblock. The number one mistake that I committed during the BDM 102K was my hard-headedness to use only one running shoes for the whole duration of the race and using only one pair of socks! (I used my ASICS Gel-Kinsei 2, Eddie Bauer Coolmax Running Socks, Patagonia Trail Shorts & BDM 102 Long-sleeved race shirt)Though I did not have any blisters or any foot-related “issues”, using a fresh and dry running shoes and socks every 50 kilometers or 35 kilometers would be highly recommended to ease some numbness or pain on the feet. Wearing a fresh pair of socks and running shoes along the race has a psychological effect. You think that you are just about to start another race if you wear a new set of running shoes and socks. I also consider wearing another fresh set of running apparel once you change your shoes and socks as highly recommendable to ultra runners. In the use of medicines, please refer to my earlier post on the “dirty secrets” of ultra trail running.
4) Recon, recon, & recon the route—The “test run” for the BDM 102, which was conducted almost two months before the day of the race, had greatly helped most of the finishers and participants. Aside from knowing the general terrain of the last 52 kilometers of the course, they also experience what to expect on the weather and the intense heat of the sun during daytime in Bataan and Pampanga. However, I still advised the participants to find time to, at least, conduct a “windshield” tour aboard a vehicle on the the first 50K of the course just for them to know what to expect during the race. Knowing the overall terrain and actual walk-through of the race route will enable the runner to come up with his race, hydration and food intake strategy. This item or lesson learned guidance is always my number 1 advise to runners who are participating their ultramarathon distance races, whether it is road race or mountain trail run…run or walk-through the course!
5) Drink, drink, drink & eat, eat, eat—In one of the ultrarunning books that I have read for the past weeks, ultra running is best described as a running event with lots of food to eat and fluids to drink and lots of miles to finish. I think, it’s true! But the very essence of running an ultramarathon distance is for you to determine the limits of your body’s endurance and capability and after finishing the said race, you will determine and find out of what you are capable of. For you to finish the race, you have to replenish your body sweats and body minerals by drinking water and sports drinks. Your body would be able to use your muscles and you burn some calories in your body. These burned calories should be replaced immediately by eating some solid foods or else you will be exhausted and tired, thereby, making yourself quit from the race or making your pace slower. During the BDM 102, I had to alternately drink water and sports drinks every two kilometers, making sure that my sweating is continous. If my sweating stopped, it was a sign that I need more water to my body. What is good about my body is that I sweat a lot and that is a good barometer if I am fully hydrated or not. Since the course, have an Aid Station every 20 kilometers and at the 50-Km point where solid foods are served, I had to take in a considerable amount of food to provide fuel to my body aside from the GU Roctance Sport Gel I’ve taken every 10 kilometers. These rtiuals of hydration and eating of solid foods along the way helped my a lot to finish the race. By the way, while running, I have to wear my Nathan (Small on The Back) Water Belt and a Hand-held Water Bottle. The Nathan container held my sports drinks while my hand-held container held my water supply. Since there was a “Roving Aid Station” during the race, these containers were easily replenished with their contents along the way in-between Aid Stations. I just hope BOTAK 100K Race Organizers will be deploying these “Roving Aid Stations” during the race. Anyway, since most of the roads will be wide, it is wiser to have your own support vehicle tagging along with you or “leap-frog” along the course. Correct hydration does not only mean drinking water and sports drinks. It also means lowering your body temperature when running under the heat of the sun. Unable to maintain your normal body temperature would result to dizziness, hallucinations, cramps, shortness in breathing, and “heat stroke” or even death to a runner. Maintaining your normal body temperature takes a lot of ingenuity—some runners would pour cold water on their head/runner’s cap regularly, some would place water sponges on their napes and backs, some would use wet bandanas on their wrists and necks, some would regularly pour cold water on their groin area, some would wear two runner’s caps on their head and in between them, they place crushed or tube ice, to provide coolness on their heads and some would simply shower cold water to their body. All of these, I’ve done them in the BDM 102K in order to finish the race. Scott Jurek, at one time in his Badwater Ultramarathon Race where he won, he totally immersed his whole body to a big ice chest filled with ice in order to stabilize his normal body temperature when he started having some “issues” with regards to the effect of high temperature in the desert of Death Valley to his body.
6) If you think you can’t make it & don’t want to quit, then do not cheat!—My experience and observations as a runner-participant during the conduct of the 1st BDM 102K confiirmed reports of cheating of some of the runners. Some took advantage of riding in their support vehicles under the cover of darkness in the early stages of the race and some also missed or lacked with them the correct number of bands as a “sign” that the runners passed on a certain checkpoint which means that they took a ride in their support vehicles on the last few kilometers before the finish line. I could not believe what I’ve observed among these runners whom I considered as “cheaters” in the said race. One case of cheating was for a runner infront of me for about 100 meters in Hermosa, Bataan to just simply “vanished” along the stretch of Dinalupihan-Lubao Highway (where I could see the back of the runner infront of me for about one kilometer) and seeing his back again inside a poblacion, 12 kilometers from the finish line. Another case of cheating during the race was for a certain runner who was checked on the last station as number 29 runner and this runner was able to overtake another runner along the way on the last 9 kilometers to the finish. Instead of this runner finishing # 28, he finally finished # 30 without any runner overtaking him on the last 9 kilometers. Somebody had overtaken this runner by riding in his support vehicle and alighting from his vehicle at least 2-3 kilometers from the finish line. Another case of cheating is with a runner who could hardly cope up with our regular “runabouts” in Metro Manila and even practically did not finish our “test run”. It was a surprise that he was able to develop an aerobic stamina/endurance and strength on his legs for a period of one month before the race for him to finish it. This guy was so Amazing! Some of the runners made also a “shortcut” on the route on the first 50 kilometers and even went to the extent of questioning or correcting the Road Marshals’ instructions to the runners on intersection along the highway. In the end, these “cheaters” did not win any awards but they seem to be legitimate “finishers” of the said race. Why am I telling all these things? Because in any group of 13 people, there is always a “Judas Escariote” who will undermine or betray the very noble intention or mission of the group or activity. No amount of “safeguards” and “ways and means” to deter these cheaters in road races but they are always there taking the risks. If you are reading this post, make sure to be honest with yourself and to others. Please respect the route and the Race Organizers because it took them a lot of time, money, and effort to plan and prepare for a certain road race. In the first place, you run and compete in a road race because you want to enjoy the fun and savor/celebrate the experience. This is just a GAME and this is not a BATTLE where you want to SURVIVE and let the losers DIE on the road! By the way, if you cheat in a road race, whom do you think you are cheating?
Good luck to all the BOTAK 100K Runners and “soon-to-be” ultra runners! Wishing you the best of luck & my prayers will be with you!
Just “shut up & no whining” and by all means finish the race!!!…but please, don’t cheat!