RUN DMD

I run…therefore I am


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My BDM 160 km story: The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of the Feet


I had to walk like some astronaut on the moon’s surface as I make my way to the waiting lounge of the Marikina Orthopedic Centre.  I have learned to endure the blistering pain on both soles of the feet but I’m more concerned with the ITBS (left then right) which might take time to heal and the stress fracture (which turned out be a sprain) near the arch of the right foot.  Having conquered ultramarathons quite aplenty for the past 2 years, I’ve learned to accept the usual symptoms that come after (generalized leg pain, warmer body temperature, mild palpitation, chronic hunger pangs, etc.).  But of course, this was THE longest I’ve run (maybe ever) in my brief running career of 3 years.  Thus, the visit to this clinic.

swollen feet, deflated spirit...

I’m still trying to recollect and fathom what I went through during those 26 hours and 51 minutes of the Bataan Death March 160 km.  What was clear was 70% of that time, my spirits were quite high (check out my pics) and I learned to embrace the agony, in all its forms and sizes.  This is my story:

silver (buckle) aspirations...

P R E P S:  And it all comes down to this…

It’s easy to compare forming an ultrarun support team to preparing for an expedition – it’s detailed, tedious and subject to modifications and adjustments throughout.  A month before Jan. 28, Team Toto (sorry for being self-indulgent) was created consisting of Boringers Ina, Francis with girlfriend Ruby.  Francis was to be my pacer with Jerome alternating in between.  Our designated driver was replaced twice before we had Lonie who would endear himself to the group with his reliable helpfulness.

If you fail to prepare...

Our run notes (in individual folders) would evolve and expand and 2 weeks before the run, I met up with Ina & Ruby to thresh out the final details.  I created the Team Toto secret group in Facebook for the final arrangements, corrections and additions as B-day hovered.  Having gotten used to just ‘tagging along’ with Team Buban (my running/training partner David’s family), it became an exhaustive process for me to oversee my newly formed support group.  Since I didn’t have to only mind my own requirements (drinks, food, apparel, etc.) but the crew’s (all 5) as well.  But the Thursday before the run, every piece seemed to have fit in perfectly.

with Frio, Yanyan, Dave, Paz & Ina before the start...It's the deep breath before the fall.

The afternoon we were traveling for Mariveles, Bataan, the sun was beating quite hard so I psyched myself up on the impending conditions the next day.  Along with other Team Boring BDM runners and support people, we checked in at Villa Imperial, 17 kms from the starting line.  The mood was generally upbeat but the tension and sense of panic was palpable as well.  I had a total sleep of 5 hours and though intermittent, it was long enough for me prior to an ultrarun.

battle ready for Saturday...

0-50 Kms:  Galloping into the Sunrise…

Lord, lead me the way...

the few and the insane...

and it all starts here...

Along with 72 insane ultrarunners, I showed up at the Km. 0 post of the Bataan Death March in Mariveles, Bataan at 5 am then shoot out into the dark.  As always, I searched for someone I can tag along with and maybe push me.  I found him in Carlito Buenaventura – co-BDm 102 runner Dave and I met during the training runs.  Up to Km. 4, the pace was quite furious then slowing down on the uphills as we power walked/ran up to Km. 7 where the rolling terrain began.

co-runner # 1

morning has broken...

my 15-second break...

As agreed upon with my support crew, the first stop will be at Km. 10, regressing into 5 kms. stops thereafter.  Replicating my tried and tested ultrarun strategy, we try to make pondo (invest in miles) while the sun is in ‘breaking dawn’ mode.  In the vernacular, it sounds more descriptive with “bago pumutok ang araw”.  Luckily for us, the full rising happened way after 7 am.  With the mercifully cool breeze and verdant mountains all around, one can only keep going faster.  I knew this won’t last for long so I took advantage of the perfect condition, even punctuated by a slight drizzle.  My stops were less than 30 seconds with some exchanges of fluid and new food supplies, when necessary.  We were on a roll – along the rolling terrain of Roman highway.

yum...

Around Km. 15, I caught sight and joined mamaws Alfred, Beeps and Keshia.  Alfred and Carlito would later speed up and disappear into the landscape.  After Km. 23, Keshia & Beeps would advance and leave me on my own devices.  By this time, I was doing short running bursts followed by some walking.  So far, no major injuries in the offing (walang nagbabadya), but I had visibly slowed down.  By Km. 32, I learned I was ranked # 28 so I tried to keep that status by trudging on amidst a 20-minute rain and a number of runners zooming past me.

running wet...coming soon: blisters galore.

strolling, strolling...

never a dull moment with this girl

At Km. 35, we entered the town of Balanga at 9:47 am (way earlier than the targeted 10:05 target time).  My attitude was still upbeat until around Km. 40 when some twitching started on the lateral portion of my left knee.  It became quite uncomfortable that at the next stop, my crew had to massage the area (and thereafter).  My steps were now concentrated more on the right to lessen pressure on the left but the massage + swabs of Bengay seemed to work wonders so that on the final stretch to Abucay, I did more sprightly runs than walks.  I had spent many a summer in my dad’s hometown of Abucay so I had a pretty good idea of the landmarks along the main highway.

so far, so good...

A 15-minute break at Km. 50 was an opportunity to rest the legs and wolf down a yummy pasta dish while the crew massaged and applied cold towels all over.  For a few minutes there, I felt like the Sultan of Brunei.  Now’s the time to get back to the action.  It’s 12:21 pm.

Checking for collateral damage with Ina & Francis...

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My BDM 160 Km. Story: Km. 51-102 Kms: Blisters in the Sun


The last frame at Km. 50...

Instead of feeling energized from that break and supposedly running on ‘fresh’ legs, my feet were re-orienting themselves to my new shoes (my Asics-Cumulus 13) and socks (a thinner Dry-Max).  At least 3 of my toe nails were gasping for dear life.  Plus, the knee pain on the left seemed to aggravate at every step.  At Km. 53, I had to wear those thicker Dry-Max and reluctantly take 500 mgs. of Mefenamic Acid (not in the battle plan) while indulging on Ina’s & Ruby’s massages.  Fifteen minutes later, I was feeling a lot better and threading the last few towns of Bataan.

I walk therefore I am...

why I survived BDM...bow!

I had thought of saving those adrenalizing songs I’ve compiled for this run at the final 50 but when boredom and heat set in, I knew I had to let music take control and take me for a spin.  Soon enough I was entering Pampanga and that never-ending post-lined highway.  At every 3-km break, I was devouring a variety of drinks (a rotating supply of Pocari, water, Gatorade, protein shake) and solid foods (banana, chocolate, peanut butter sandwich, chicken pie and my fave, chilled fruits).  I seldom took a piss but when I did Francis would check on it for signs of dehydration (never happened).

Ina intercepts me at every station to lighten my load...

Jerome joins us at Km. 65...

Nearing the Lubao intersection from km. 65, I was chasing Paolo Osmena and envying his near continuous pace while all I could do was intermittently run and walk, though the knee twitching seem to be in hibernation.  The highway was being plied by large vehicles so the poor runner is pushed to the rocky sidewalk to enjoy his blistered sole (like a million pins pricking each foot).  I catch up with Paolo and remind him that it had been a generally cloudy afternoon coupled with those morning showers so there’s no reason for us not to finish this race.  So we chase the sun.

when music and running become one...

My oasis at every 3 kilometers

At Kilometer 73, the familiar smiling faces of Jael, Chito and Rene (BDM 160 km veterans) greet me to proclaim I’m runner # 24 (!).  But since I’m walking I soon became runner # 25 in less than a hundred meters.  We take right then left turns at this highway junction in Lubao as the road narrows and the sidewalks/streets become more crowded.  Soon enough, the sun sets and streets take a new character under the cloak of night.  Km. 83 had me taking my dinner of black rice & adobo at 6:40 pm.   At the next stop, I took my 2ndmedication (approx. 6 hours after) – a 200-mg Celecoxib, a stronger NSAID that’s ideal for muscle/deep pain.

spreading the love across Pampanga...

Runner # 24!

I wait for the drug to kick in but it hardly happens.  So I shift to total power walking mode.  By km. 90, the blisters were just too much that I had to put blister patches to lessen the pressure (but due to their sizes, they hardly did).  I’ve survived ultrans running on blistered feet so I easily adapt to the situation.  The last few kms. into the 2ndpitstop was a series of dark highways, near-canine encounters and close brushes with rushing vehicles.  I reached km. 102 almost groggy, fatigued and injured all over but elated that we got there by 8:45 pm (1 hour earlier than the 9:45 target). 

I inquired about Dave’s whereabouts from his pacer Reylynne who gave a big sweaty (mine) hug.  I had a short meal, changed to new socks (which I later changes back to the old one), enjoyed more massages then promptly zoom out into McArthur highway.  This time, I was no longer alone.

why DNF is out of the question...

whew...made it in one piece...58 to go!


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My BDM 160 Km. Story – Km. 103 into eternity: Night of the Living Dead


The last scene at Km. 102...

Prowlers in the dark...

My first pacer, Jerome Jamili, was my Simon of Cyrene on the early stations of my cross.  It felt great to be half-thinking and half-drifting (since the senses were no longer fully functioning) and have a kind soul to lead me on.  It was jarring at first to have someone carry my hand-held bottle, light my path (for possible obstacles), remind me to eat/drink and just basically entertain me throughout the journey.  But soon enough, I was enjoying it even if I was already trashed and sleepy.  At certain points, I just wanted to throw myself on any flat horizontal surface and sleep until September ends.

brotherhood on the road...

But if you have one enthusiastic team – rooting, supporting and pampering you all throughout, you feel you have a duty and mission to finish.  So stroll, powerwalk, slither, saunter and amble I did just to chop off the miles, along lonely avenues into red light districts of the highway and neon-lit strips of commercial palaces.  At least there was a variety of gaudy sceneries and shadowy characters (GROs, trannies, vendors, suspicious walkers) to keep me awake, amused and be on guard.  One of my greatest fears was being hit by a speeding car so I made sure we were properly illuminated and mostly stayed on the sidewalks.  An unlikely accident past midnight actually did happen, injuring 2 supporters of our fellow Team Boring runners somewhere in Angeles City.

the crew takes a break, as well...

At km. 120, Francis, who had been with the support group from the start, takes over and alternates with Jerome every 10 kms thereafter.  As expected he guides me through the dark roads of Angeles City, protecting me from any undue harm that may slow me down while keeping a brisk pace.  I was running very light – in a favorite, comfy singlet (QCIM), shorts & shoes with nothing dangling by my waist  or head (except for the headlamp).  There was nothing to weigh me down except my own fatigued body or injured leg which at times would suddenly wander off in the middle of the street (good catch, Francis).  Since km. 110, I had taken my tea drink followed by slurps of strong coffee just to zap me out of my stupor to no avail.  I was still a walking zombie searching for sanctuary before dawn breaks.

Good night, Angeles City...

The stillness and solitude soon magnify as we made our way at the edge of Pampanga into Tarlac.  The soreness magnifies as well so I had it massaged and took a new drug (Skelan) at Km. 132 courtesy of another support group.  It’s 2:49 am and we start to power walk.  I hardly keep up but was soon getting into the groove.  We start to anticipate once the McDonalds store signs begin to sprout along the highway.  Capas was just a few breaths away.  pant. pant.

The McDonalds resto along Capas told us we were 18 kms away from paradise.  It’s 4:40 am.  We entered a darkened alley and soon found ourselves in the middle of an expansive cemetery.  I was just waiting for the tombstones to open up and unleash an army of walking dead and jolt me to a running finish.  I guess when the senses are numbed, you hardly feel any supernatural entity even if it’s clambering by your shoulders.  We were 8 kms away from the BDM Capas monument but it seems to take us light years to get there.  I was just thankful we were doing this without the glaring solar rays to roast us, the way we witnessed the last batch of 2011 runners beating the 30 hour cut-off.

crew in waiting...Francis & Ina

But the dark can also become meditative friend as I prayed to be closer to Him spiritually and to ask healing for my mom who just underwent a hip implant operation a week before.  It was also an effective way to ward off the torturous agony by putting purpose and reason to it.  Soon the tower of Saruman beckoned.  I knew we had 10 kms to go.  Woooohoo!

Breaking Dawn with Edward & Jacob...

I’ve run 150 kms for the last 25 hours so going through a series of mild uphills was no longer a joke.  I was hardly inching but kept going and embracing (later cursing) the sunrise.  The road seems to lead nowhere as we end up in one grassy plain to another only to ascend some more.  Finally, we found the km. 118 marker, promptly touched it then made our way down.  By this time fellow Boringer Gab had joined us as his pacer Daphne was having a hard time propping him up, emotionally.  But once he had cleared up his petty issues, Gab & Daph were gliding down the hills leaving me with Francis into the final kilometers.

the son also rises...

Four for the Road

the final surge with Ruby...

end of a journey...

The sun had fully risen but I could already smell this journey’s end.  With Ruby pacing me (while Francis taking the pics & Ina filming), we enter the gates of Mordor.  In the final footage of this adventure, I let out a cacophony of emotions I was feeling at the moment – awe, exhilaration, agony, gratitude and appreciation.  It was not the grand finish I was hoping for with music blaring in the background (‘Firework’ by Katy Perry) and my crew bopping to the beat behind me like Hitler’s storm troopers marching into Brandenburg gate in slow motion as confetti rained from the sky.  But THIS was more than enough – I had survived one of the worst ordeals in my life overcoming doubt, pain, regret, defeat and emerging triumphant and victorious in the end.

it is done...

the moment...

surprise, surprise...

I embrace race director, Gen. Jovie Narcise who presents me a nice silver surprise (the Buckle) and something unexpected – I am 18thoverall in a line up which started at 73 and dwindled down to 53 finishers.  After the customary picture taking, my ever faithful crew brings me to one corner and starts accounting the casualties of war (blister over blister, ITBS, dead nails, etc.).  They soak my jelly legs on the ice cooler and I lie down on the warm concrete floor.  The sun glistened and the clouds hovered over.  Finally, I am home.

post BDM stretch...

why my BDM didn't feel like a run...

Epilogue

For 2 days after the BDM ordeal, I was limping and walking like a newly castrated eunuch.   I doubted if all these hardship and tribulation were really worth it.  During these 2 days, thoughts of retiring from the running scene swirled and swayed in my mind.  I want to keep running into my 60s, still strong and injury-free.  Finally on Wednesday, when I started to driving and doing clinic works, I knew what I will be doing – Run more smartly.  Next goal would be the TNF 100 this April.  But first, it’s time for my regular ITBS drills and perhaps, some deep tissue massage.  Coach Titus, you reading this?

the agony and the ecstasy

Special thanks for the amazing shots of Rene Vallarta, LA Thomas (of Team USB), Ruby Bambalan & Jeffrey Avellanosa