I DID IT…WE DID IT…WE SURVIVED!!!
This is my race report as a competitor in this event. Later, I will publish my race report as the Race Organizer and as the Race Director.
After simple ceremony before the start, the excited and nervous participants had a group picture at the very first kilometer post/obelisk (Km 00) of the Bataan Death March as a symbol and evidence of our start for a new experience and challenge in running. I knew that many passionate runners had ran the course before but this is the very first time that an ultramarathon race is being done with a cut-off time of 18 hours to finish the race. It is started as a dream..an idea..and now a reality after nine months of planning, preparation and training.
I officially started the race with a simple shout of Ready..Set..Go! and the front runners immediately ran towards to the entrance/exit of the Batan Death March Park. I immediately checked on my digital watch to register the official start of the race. The race started at 12:33 AM of 05 April 2009 after a brief drizzle of rain which I concluded as a good sign of a successful event and a blessing from the overall orchestrator of things in this world. After handing over the megaphone to Coach Salazar, I started my slow jog out of the Park and ran towards the main road going to Mariveles EPZA (Export Processing Zone Authority).
While running along the straight road towards the Bataan/Mariveles EPZA covering the 1st kilometer, I was reviewing my race strategy…finish the race with a consistent pace and prove that I can finish the race within the cut-off time. It was some sort of “Setting The Example” as one of the time-tested Principles in Leadership and applying it to this particular ultramarathon race. If the Race Organizer/Race Director Can Do It, A Runner-Participant Can Do It, Too! This was the “attitude” I wanted to impart to all the first-time participants of this race. While running on the first 3 kilometers, I was with the group of Christian Alacar who requested to congratulate me and offered his hand for a handshake. Christian congratulated me for organizing this very first ultra race to commemorate the Bataan Death March. He said that it is seldom to see a Race Organizer/Race Director joining his own race as one of the competitors, and at an ultramarathon race at that! We shared some stories for the next 2 kilometers and I was joined by Edilberto “Nonong” Severino, Jr of the Globe Runners Club whom I’ve been seeing a lot at the ULTRA Oval Track weeks before this race as he was running continouosly for 3 hours every late afternoon to evening. However, Christian would later slow down and Nonong and I left him after passing Km Post # 3. At this point, the road is starting to go uphill and we are about to start a 4-Km winding road on a mountain that separates Mariveles from Cabcaben, the next town from Mariveles. The plan was to start walking on the steep portions of the road and jog on the level part of the road/mountain and I did what I planned to do. Nonong was also running beside me imitating what I was doing. Once I started walking, he walked and once I resumed running, he ran with me. It was too dark along the road that I had to use my handheld pin flashlight from MagLite to see where my feet were about to land. More stories were shared between me and Nonong. Gene Olvis, one of the hardcore runners, later joined us during our ascent to the mountain and we started sharing stories. Our discussion later went to the participation of Tess Geddes, the first and only Philippine representative to compete in the 24th edition of the Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara Desert (Morocco), a woman at that! Gene told me that he sent some messages to Tess Geddes during the race and he actually monitored the race everyday. Later, Gene had to pick-up his pace and slowly went ahead of us. I was not thinking who were following us on our backs but the first aim was to get out of those steep uphill curves and inclines from Km 3 to Km 7. After alternately brisk walking and slow jogging, we finally reached Km Post # 7 and the last inclined road towards the highest point of the mountain was already infront of us. After walking, we finally reached the peak and we started to run again going downhill. Another downhill and slight uphill..and then repeated again until we reached the Km 10 marker. It was a very slooow 10K and allowed the CAMANAVA Runners (Atty Jeffrey Abenina, Albert Henson & Francisco Lapira, Jr) going ahead of us in a synchronated pace. My race plan was followed and I knew I was able to conserve a lot of energy by alternately walking and jogging on the said mountain.
Most of the runners tried to speed up their pace after the hardest uphill climb was on our backs. I depended on the availability of the “roving/mobile” Aid Stations by asking bottled water for my hydration needs. I did not use any of my hydration belts and bladders during the race. Instead, I tucked in one bottle of water on my back and held one bottle alternately with my two hands. I had to drink one Gatorade bottle every 5 kilometers just to be sure that my body electrolytes were not depleted. I have to take a sip of water from my bottled water every kilometer and didn’t wait for me to be thirsty. Nonong Severino was still with me during the run. I knew that the Km # 20 Post is at the vicinity of the entrance from the Roman Highway going to the DND Government Arsenal and the terrain of the road is a rolling one. I always tell Nonong not to worry about the uphill climbs and try to brisk walk on them because there are more downhill portions of the first half of the race. We were at the higher level and wait till we reach Pilar, Bataan where the terrain of the road will start to be relatively all flat. It would be better to gain more speed on the downhill portions in order to regain the loss of time we encountered in brisk walking in uphill climbs. And that was the thing we did. Jerome Cartailler, the French runner, was the one infront of us and his running style was so unique that he sways sideways but we could hardly reached him. He was fast, too in going downhill. The last two kilometers seemed to be very far but I knew the 1st Aid Station was getting nearer. I told Nonong to eat whatever food he can eat as we reached the Aid Station. I told him also that I will eat some hard boiled eggs and boiled bananas as my fuel for the next kilometers to come. Finally, we reached the 1st Aid Station at Km Post # 20 and the marshals/checkers/ and the volunteers were there cheering us and offering us food and drinks. I was happy that the volunteers got my instructions to copy what I’ve experienced while I ran the Bulldog 50K Ultra Trail Run last August 2008 in Calabasas, California. In this Aid Station, Lester and Margaret were there also to serve the runners. It was him who informed me that Jonel aka Bugobugo was still at the back aprroaching the Aid Station. Robert, the PhotoVendo Guy was also there to take pictures to every runner passing or stopping at the said Station.
After a roller-coaster terrain along the main highway, we turned right to a narrow cemented road which was part of the original route of the Bataan Death March. Suddenly, Nonong Severino slowed down and asked me if there is a gasoline station near ahead. He seemed to be doing Number 2 after eating some food at the 1st Aid Station. I did not notice him as he slowed down along the way. I was already running alone on the dark road of Limay. However, I noticed that a biker from my brother’s Light Armor Division was all the time on my back following me and one of the three (3) Ambulance Vehicles was posted on the middle of the race purposely under orders from my brother to assist/support me. At that time, my support vehicle was busy checking the preparations in every Aid Station and checking the road marshals on the critical crossroads along the way. My support vehicle became the overall supervising administrative vehicle for the whole race. It was again an undulating and rolling dark road passing along the Poblacion of Limay and then at Orion where the people were starting to get out from their houses for the Palm Sunday celebration in the towns’ churches. I was already running alone and from time to time the roving Aid Station would offer water and Gatorade. The Ambulance and the biker gave me company on those dark roads of Limay and Orion. Ralph Salvador would be my next companion along the road but he would overtake me and then stop to walk and stretch. Later, I would overtake him but he would be strongly running again. He always went ahead of me but he was always on my sight at least 50 meters ahead. It was a see-saw running with Ralph for the next few kilometer.
I knew my average pace would fluctuate from 6:45 minutes per kilometer to 7:30 minutes per kilometer and my GF 305 was about to register a running time of four hours. During my training for this ultra race, I conditoned my running legs to be within this range of pace and at least have an average pace of brisk walking from 8:45 minutes per kilometer to 10:00 minutes per kilometer. At this point, I did not have any urge to speed up my pace and tried to consistently maintain my planned average pace. There was nothing wrong with my legs..no pains..no aches..my legs were on their “automatic cruise” control and I maintained my shuffling style of running, making sure to remember what Coach Titus would always remind us in our training…”be light, be quick, with the feet as they touched the ground & swing arms in a relax way”. I was using my ASICS Gel-Kinsei 2, which is almost one-year old and the heaviest among my running shoes. It is also the most expensive one but the cushioning and comfort/stability of the shoes were uncomparable with other shoes. I was confident that these running shoes will bring me to the finish line without changing to any other shoes even if I brought along my new ASICS Gel-Kayano 14 for the last stretch of the race. I was using a new pair of socks from Eddie Bauer’s CoolMax which is the same brand of socks that I used in the Bulldog 50K Ultra Trail Run and my feet were completely covered with petroleum jelly before wearing my socks. As for my racing apparel, I decided to use the Bataan 102K Shirt and my light-gray Patagonia Trail Shorts which has 3 zippered pockets. I had 2 bars of Cloud 9 Chocolates on my left front pocket; my MagLite Pin Flashlight was secured on my right pocket; and I had 3 packs of GU Roctane in my rear pocket. One bottled water tucked on my back and one on my hand. Of course, my pink bandana was tied loosely on my neck to absorb the perpiration coming from head and neck and the damped bandana acted as my coolant for my nape while running without the heat of the sun. At this point, my support vehicle was back to assist me but they got an emergency call that the volunteers at the Km # 40 Aid Station were being harassed by a drunken guy. So, I sent Maj Ed Tubiera, one of my trusted officers to find out the real situation on the said Aid Station. As I approached the town of Pilar, I knew I was nearing Km Post # 40, the 2nd Aid Station. From a distance, I saw the M-35 truck (6 X 6) properly parked at the Aid Station with the uniformed Philippine Army soldiers securing the volunteers. I knew that the emergency situation had been settled. I reached the 2nd Aid Station and started to eat the available foods on the table and drink some more of the electrolyte drinks.
As I was eating, I was informed by my staff that one of the lady runners, Kim O’ Connel was transported out of the race due to emergency situation. I tried to call the source of the information but I could not make any contact with the people who are in the know. I looked at my watch and I wondered what could had been the cause of the emergency call since it was too early in the morning and the sun was still about to rise on the horizon. I immediately finished eating and resumed my running and try to reach the halfway to get more information about Kim. Captain Quilo of the Light Armored Division, Philippine Army who was the Overall Team Captain of the Medicall Team decided to pace me after eating some foods at the 2nd Aid Station. I knew he would pace me up to the halfway point where we pre-positioned one Aid Station, where we served “hot food” for all the participants and volunteers. The road was already flat and after running for 4 kilometers, we reached the city limits of Balanga. We were not able to see Km Post # 44 as it was transferred to the City Park which is one block away from the old road. After crossing some small bridges and long stretch of cemented road, I knew the halfway mark was within our reach. Capt Quilo was trying his best to keep up with my slow pace and he was starting to perspire. I tried to offer water to him but he declined as he has some water support coming from his soldiers. I tried to increase my average pace as it reached 5:50 to 6:00 minutes per kilometer. It was a nice sight to see the 3rd Aid Station where bowls of Arroz Caldo (rice porridge with chicken) were ready to be picked-up once a runner reached the said Station. Another option was for the runners to be served with “hot noodles”. The volunteers were very supportive and responsive to the needs of the runners. While I was eating, I tried to get more information about Kim but nobody could give an accurate information about her incident.
I was able to eat two bowls of Arroz Caldo and drank two bottles of Gatorade. While eating, Jonel and Dr Joe aka The Loony Runner arrived at the Aid Station. After eating, I was requested by one of the local reporters to have an interview and photo-ops for his news report and obliged to his request. In my estimate, it took me at least 15-20 minutes to stay at the halfway point.
Jonel, Dr Joe, and I started the second half of the race. I was surprised that we left the place at 7:25 AM, almost the exact time when we started our “Bataan 52K Test Run” two months ago. While we were running, I told Jonel that we are running the 2nd half exactly the same time that we had our “test run”. I was sending him the message that the last half would be as easy as the “test run” as we had experienced the heat of the sun and learned our lessons. Jonel acted as the pacer & frontrunner as we ran in line with me following him and Dr Joe on my back. Our steps were synchronated, placing the same foot forward as if we were soldiers running in cadence. Almost all of the time we were running on the dirt side of the road for a softer landing/strike and lesser heat from the ground. We shared stories while maintaining a pace of 6:48 minutes per kilometer. I told Jonel of what happened to Kim and we discussed that it could had not been due to the heat of the sun. Anyway, we discussed some medical requirements and medical protocol to be applied to each runner-applicant in future Bataan 102 editions. Dr Joe suggested that each runner must be able to submit the most current medical certificate to the Race Organizer prior to competing in this race. I immediately approved the suggestion of Dr Joe. I tried also to get feedbacks from Jonel & Dr Joe as to the conduct of the race and so far, they are satisfied with the support system. After lots of discussion, we were surprised that we are approaching the next Aid Station (3rd). We were reminded of Ben Gaetos advice on mixing Coca-Cola or Mountain Dew with Salt for the last leg of the race. So, while drinking cold Mountain Dew, we were licking lots of salt grains poured on our palm and hands. I ate a lot of FITA Biscuits while drinking water and got more cold sponge to pour cold water on my head. The sun was already getting hotter and I knew this was the actual start of the race. I knew that after leaving this Aid Station, the challenge will be on more on mental attitude and fighting the heat of the sun.
After passing the Municipality of Samal, we were already in Orani, Bataan and Hermosa, Bataan would be next. As we reached Hermosa Poblacion, which is Km Post # 63, I started to lead and become the pacer setter and front runner of the three of us. We agreed to reach the junction of Roman Highway and the road that goes inside Hermosa as we passed the Hermosa Church as this will boost our morale. As we left the Poblacion, I knew we have at least 4 kilometers more before reaching the Roman Highway. I increased the pace but I was surprised that Jonel and Dr Joe made a brief stop at their support vehicle, a few meters outside the Poblacion. I slowed down my pace but kept on jogging. As I reached Km Post # 67 at the Junction, I observed that the biker-soldier was the only one on my back and I asked from him what happened to my other two companions. He answered that he could not see them on his back. Running along the Highway as I approached the Dinalupihan Crossing to Subic was a big boost afterall. I knew I could make it. I used my loose bandana to cover my nose and mouth as if I am one of those runners joining the Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara Desert while I was passing by the dusty part of the road where a bridge is being constructed with all the heavy traffic of vehicles on my left. As I reached the Layac Crossing in Dinalupihan, I knew I still have 34 kilometers more to go and at the rate I was running, I could finish the race in 14+ hours. Two more kilometers of running, I was already at the Km Post # 70.
This part of the route is a straight road as far as your eyes can see. At a distance I could see the thick traffic of vehicle and thick dust where almost all the vehicles were moving very slowly and some were on full stop. The target of my run on this segment was this part of the road where there was road construction. I ran alone on this part of the road with the biker-soldier and the ambulance on my back who served as my support vehicle. Captain Quilo handed me the much-needed ice-cooled sponges, Gatorade drinks and water. I could feel that my wet hat could easily dry up because of the intense heat of the sun. I saw to it that I asked sponge every 500 meters that I covered and this became a ritual all the way to Guagua. Suddenly, a car was on my back as I was running along the wide dirt sidewalk of the highway and I was surprised to see Jonas & Sheila who offered me bottled water and took some pictures of me while running. At this point, I could still afford to smile to the camera despite the intense heat and the fatigue I was starting to feel after running for about 74 kilometers. Lester and Margaret were also in constant roving mode along this road as they offered water and sports drinks. Guys, thank you very much for those much-needed support. Since Km Post # 80 is located in the middle of the road construction, the last Aid Station was relocated at Km Post # 79. I stopped and ate some more food and drank lots of sports drinks. I asked some questions to the volunteers on their observations of the runners ahead of me and they gave me vital information. I asked them to be vigilant and alert for the other runners and advised them to immediately offer assistance and food/water to them. I did not stay long at the Aid Station and as I reached the Poblacion of Lubao, I could see a group of runners approaching the Lubao Bridge.
I started to increase my pace and I was surprised to see Norio Tanaka being paced by at least six (6) runners from Runnex, though they were already walking. I passed them as I crossed the Lubao Bridge and at this point, I just passed Km Post # 82. I knew that in about 2 kilometers, I would reach the road intersection leading to the town of Guagua. At the intersection, I was surprised that we are going on detour because of another road construction. At this point, another runner, Arman Abalos, who was already walking joined me. I started to talk to him and get more details about him. He is from Lukban and I was surprised that he is lagging behind. He said that he was too tired already. I told him to join me and pace with all the way to the finish line. I instructed Captain Quilo to extend support to Arman from the resources we still have in the Ambulance. So, whenever I ask for sponge or water or sports drinks, he would get the same treatment as with me. He was actually on my back trying to tag along with me…when I walk, he would walk..when I jog, he would jog, when I increse my pace, he would try to increase his pace. This became our ritual up to the point until we reached the Poblacion of Guagua.
At Kilometer 88, I started to notice a Motorcycle Security Escort passing and going to the direction of Poblacion Guagua. I knew that these escorts were the point guards of the Presidential Security Group’s Convoy of President GMA. Knowing where the President would actually ride in her provincial sorties, I started to wave my right hand, show my face and slightly tilted my body to my left as an Executive Bus would be approaching on my left side. I raised my head and face to make sure the President would recognize me. As the bus passed me, one of the windows opened and I saw the face of the President and hand waving back at me!!! I guess that gesture made me run faster up to the point when I reached Km Post # 90 near the Guagua Poblacion. I was thinking of the “worst scenario” to happen where the Presidential Convoy would suddenly slow down or stop and have a brief chat with the President while I was running. Yesterday, I was informed by the President’s Chief of Staff that PGMA knew that I was the one running and waving at her in her Presidential Bus.
Before reaching Guagua, Pampanga, I saw Jerry aka High Altitude and Ellen Tolentino sitting at the open baggage back compartment of their support vehicle and I asked him if he finished the race already and he said “No”. I immediately shouted at him as if I am still an active General shouting to a soldier. I shouted at him, “C’mon, Stand Up and Join Us…Let’s Go!” In a few seconds, Ellen Tolentino was already running beside me and Jerry was already trying to catch up. Slowly, Ellen and Jerry picked up their pace and they left us for good! As soon as I reached the volunteers at Km Post # 90, I stopped and asked one of our staff on my present placing/ranking and she said that I was # 29.
I decided not to drop by at the Razon’s for their famous Halo-Halo and continued to brisk walk as I was looking for a place where I could hide and make a pee! In an alley, I was able to relieve myself and started my shuffle run and I was feeling already fatigued and tired. More sponges..more water to drink..more sports drinks…and more Cloud 9 to chew. I opened my 2nd to the last GU Roctane and I was confident to slow jog and brisk walk up to the finish line. After I passed Km Post # 92, my brother, General Samuel met me aboard his service vehicle together with his security and joined me with my brisk walking. We brisk walked all the way up to the Km Post # 100 and shared stories. He informed me of a news story featured in the day’s Philippine Daily Inquirer on page 4 about the Bataan Death March Ultramarathon. I immediately asked for the newspaper and it was true about the report that I was reading the newspaper while I was on my way to the Finish Line. I enjoyed brisk walking with my brother and personally thanked him for the support he provided for the success of this very first Bataan Death March Ultramarathon Race. Moreso, of the personal attention and support provided by his Medical Team and biker-soldiers.
From Km # 100, I forced my legs to shuffle with shorter strides and brisk walked and shuffle again until I reached the alley leading me to the last 100 meters towards the Finish Line. My brother and I practically brisk walked for almost 8-9 kms for about one hour plus and it was my subtle way to cool-down for the ultramarathon race. There was no point to force myself and set a faster time. I knew I have proven something worth to remember and savor in my running career. I knew that finishing this race would start a new beginning in the history of running in the country.
At the Finish Line
I was awarded by Maj Ed Tubiera with the Bataan 102 Finisher’s Medal with the inscribed ranking of # 30 with an unofficial time of 15 hours and 15 minutes and I got my Finisher’s Trophy and T-Shirt. From here, I awarded the Finisher’s Medal, Trophy, and T-shirt for the next 33 Finishers who arrived within the cut-off time of 18 hours.
As my son, John would say in his SMS he sent at least 12 hours before the start of the race—” A new era is dawning…” Yes, a new era is dawning in the history of running competition in the country. And I was able to prove it…I did it…we did it…and we were able to prove to the world that we can do an ultramarathon race on the very exact place where history happened.
What’s next? I will be the full-time Race Organizer and Race Director for the 2nd Edition of the Bataan 102K Ultramarathon Race and other Bataan 102K Race Events. Let us help our surviving heroes who experienced the infamous Bataan Death March which happened 67 years ago and revive the awareness to the younger generation and other generations to come that our forefathers had to sacrifice their lives in the name of freedom and independence.
Start training now!!!