Race Reports



Titanium Race Review: +++++ [five out of five Titanium Crosses]:

The BATAAN DEATH MARCH Ultramarathon remains to be the toughest footrace in the Philippines. It boasts not just of hills and rolling terrain, but your feet will get to experience all types of conditions on the roads as well. Some areas are paved with hard concrete, other areas are asphalt giving the knees a breather from the pounding, still other times one will be running on sandy terrain, and if there’s rain there’s mud here and there thrown in. In short, the BDM160 offers an ultrarunner a glimpse of all the hardships of a true 100 Miler ultrarunning event outside the country. It is not just a testament of the enduring strength of the human body, but more of the strength of the spirit to withstand great difficulty to reach the finish line and say that —- “I have overcome my own demons, I have reached another destination,” … but this is not the end but just the beginning of new challenges beyond the 160.

1. Support Crew ++ [two out of five Titanium Crosses]

Since this ultramarathon does not have hydration stations, I will be reviewing my own support crew. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I made a lot of mistakes with this year’s support crew. One, well-meaning friends wanted to watch and observe but they are not runners, nor are they even interested to take up exercising per se. They just wanted to see something different. Next year, I am not going to allow anyone on my team who does not even at least share a passion for healthy living because these well-meaning friends mostly slept during the most critical parts of the race. Second, I assumed that they knew me well enough because I really had my food packed with me. I am a pesco-vegan and so halfway through the race, I ran out of food! Yes, that is what happened and I think that’s one reason why I even reached the dreaded wall. I was not able to stick to my game plan for my nutrition intake. Again, this is not entirely the fault of my friends because I should have told them ahead of time that the food was meant for me and that they should leave something for me. It was my assumption that led to my own ruin because they FORGOT that I did not eat chicken, I do not eat beef nor do I eat anything else that is four legged anymore for almost a decade now.

More than not finishing the BDM160, I felt bad about this because it shows that they were not really there for me. And when I went home after the said event, there were still lots and lots of food left! What the!??!? And they were saying there was no food for breakfast? Man, I love you guys… but don’t expect me inviting you over to other ultramarathon events even if you wanted to. I should have trusted my gut instinct from the beginning that it was a bad idea to even invite people who do not know me well enough, or people who assume to know me well enough. Apparently, they just didn’t know me enough to even bother that I did not eat certain kinds of foods. Ultrarunners who are vegans have a more challenging time than regular ultrarunners. It’s not easy to plan for a race, more so to plan for what to eat and what not to eat during an entire race. The lack of protein source for about five hours did me in.

Another thing I realized about having a Support Crew is that for a 100 Miler event, it is best to have one support crew dedicated to one runner. I know this is a logistical nightmare for the race organizer, considering that more runners and more vehicles on the road would mean more traffic congestion on the highways, but it makes sense because sharing in a support vehicle would only mean that runners would have to wait for each other. It also means that runners would need to have a similar pace. What happened to me was that my fellow runner was several kilometers away from me and I was left to my own and relying on other support vehicles. So thanks to Snail Runners, thanks to Takbo.ph people, thanks to the other teams that were there during the said event. It was a big help. Special thanks to the family of Sherwin Botabora who introduced me to Cliff energy gels which really revved me up during the KM90 towards reaching the KM102 post. So for those intending to do the BDM160, it’s best not to share a support vehicle. I know it’s more expensive, but in the long run, it will be most helpful to the runner.

Since the cutoff time is 30 hours, try to provide an alternate driver too. We rented a van and only had one driver but at a certain time, he gave up and needed to sleep too. So my friend, photographer and support crew Estan Cabigas also became one of my drivers for the said event! Goodness! I really felt ashamed at this point because he was already doing much, supporting two runners, taking fabulous and fantastic pictures of all the runners of the said event FOR FREE, and now he is driving the van for all of us. Thank you, Estan. You are indeed not just a good friend, but a real friend at that.

So here are important things to remember about your Support Crew [this is aside from the article that I wrote the previous month]:

a. Orient them on what they will be doing. If you can provide a check list of five to seven items that they will be doing, do it and make them commit to it. If they cannot commit to even one, then to hell with it… find someone else to be part of your team.

b. Orient them on your nutrition plan. There will be times and there are runners whom I heard does not really like taking in solid food during utlrarunning events but they are forced to eat due to their support crew. In my case, I know I LOVE TO EAT… which is one thing that I enjoy about utlrarunning… taking regular breaks and enjoying the time. Alas, make sure that your own food is already separated from the food meant for your support team/crew.

c. Get family to help. Family members are still the best ones to involve as a support crew. We all have different definitions of what family is, but I am referring here to close kin, biological ones. But if that one does not work for you, then go for the next best thing instead. I define family as those people who at least know who I am, who could at least understand what I am going through when I throw in a fit, and who could also be kind enough to know my needs at any given time.

2. Race Kits and Website Information +++ [three out of five Titanium Crosses]

For the 2011 BDM events, the race kit was very simple. Information was provided through Bald Runner’s blog, though I was wondering when will the BDM website be updated? It would have been great if there was more information being populated in the website. I would be very much willing to help volunteer to help update the website [and here's me speaking like I don't have a challenging time updating my own blog... ha ha ha]. I really like the fact that there is pacer bib! I hope that next year, I will be able to get someone to pace with me during KM102 up to the finish line.

Since there will no longer be test runs for the BDM next year, then it makes sense to update the website with more information for the runners, especially the foreigners who will be joining the said event. I recall in 2010, there was a map given to the runners of the BDM102k that details the different points. I would really hope that for next year, this map would be fully uploaded in the BDM website, then upon clicking the map or certain portions of the map, there will be a photo of the area. This would then serve as the landmark for the runners of the said event and would give runners a better visual understanding of the route. This would eliminate the need for having too many marshals deployed at different stations of the route. Honestly, isn’t that part of ultrarunning training that runners know how to read, discern and interpret maps? It wouldn’t be an ultramarathon event if everything is provided for, and everything is pampered. If you ask me, though this race remains to be the toughest footrace in the Philippines, to a certain degree it also remains to be the most lavish in terms of providing support to the runners. And I am saying this with reference to ultrarunning events that I read about abroad. Most of them have only drop bag areas and not support crew vehicles. Besides, these different road marshals can be utilized better too. Alas, I do understand the need for check and balances since the other purpose for these marshals is to ensure that there is no cheating or it would be lessened.

Another thing that would be great about the BDM website for 2012 is that as early as now, there should be an archive of articles, pictures and videos of the events related to the BDM. This is what I could see in the Comrades Marathon website. You can go see pictures of previous events and just select which year you want to view. Since the BDM has been taking place for three years now, there is more than enough pictures and video going around the different running blogs that would help create such a wealth of information and history that international ultrarunners would sure like to read up on. You see, I really desire that the BDM becomes a more international ultramarathon, with more nationalities joining in and with more global presence because the BDM is among the most unique races in the world. One, it offers different landscapes and terrain during the entire distance. Two, it offers the opportunity to train in the heat of the sun, especially for those gearing up for Badwater ultramarathon in the USA. Three, it’s the only historical race that commemorates what transpired during the World War II. The US has a version of the Bataan Death March, but they don’t run.. they walk. And I don’t understand why they commemorate something when there were more Filipinos who died during that dreaded time. I also do not understand how they continue to commemorate it and re-live it in the USA when in fact the place of history is here in the Philippines! If you ask me, they should all come here, walk the entire course of the BDM160, and see for themselves the names of those who died at the Capas National Shrine.

3. Race giveaways [ TITANIUM LEVEL -- THE FIRST race to ever get this review. Titanium Level means that it exceed five Titanum Crosses and has reached a level of seven Titanium Crosses. It shows the exemplary performance of this category of the race and what it has contributed to the running community]

For the first time ever, I am giving the race giveaways a TITANIUM LEVEL. This is the highest possible score that any race event could ever have. And why am I giving this? For several reasons.

One, the BDM160 silver buckle is among the most unique race giveaways to date. It is useful and also it is indeed made of silver! It is made from Cebu by Suarez. They are known for quality silverworks. Furthermore, don’t you get tired of trophies that only gather dust at home? The need to constantly clean them once in awhile and nobody really paying attention to it other than you when you feel down and you need a reminder of what you have been through? I like the silver buckle because it is functional. When you wear it, once in awhile people will ask what it is, and that is a great way to share about our passion for running, to share about the BDM experience and to share about its historical significance to the Philippines.

Two, the BDM event is the ONLY event that has the most number of race giveaways that is a thing of beauty. For instance, there’s the kilometer marker trophy. But wait! There’s more! There’s even finishers medal?!?!? Man, this is overkill! Say what? there’s a finishers shirt that comes along with all of these things? This is just too much! And people are complaining about the 5,000 pesos registration fees? For all the things that were given to the finishers, it is more than what they will definitely get doing ultramarathons outside the Philippines.

Three, the quality of the trophy, the medal and even the silver buckle is just AMAZING! I am saying this as a two-time finisher of the BDM102k [Yes, I was crazy to run the BDM102k in less than a week coming from the BDM160 DNFed at 110k.. more on the BDM102k on another review]. Last year’s medal and trophy still looks great and they don’t wear out easily like other race medals that I have from other races. So finishers, be proud of your BDM memorabilia! They are indeed a work of art and I am betting that when more ultrarunners and organizers read up on this, they will start changing and bringing their race giveaways to the next level too. Mark my words, the BDM is going to be a trailblazer in this respect.

4. Race Results +++++ [five out of five Titanium Crosses]

The BDM events have indeed joined the tides of time because race results for the BDM160 came out in less than 48 hours after the end of race event. This is significant because there are no timing chips, and all things considered, the race director needed to catch up on much needed rest and sleep before blogging and updating the social networking sites. Keep it up, Sir Jovie! I know this is a difficult race, a tough act to follow. But you have a dedicated team who are there for you! Kudos!

5. Race Medal +++++ [five out of five Titanium Crosses]

I already mentioned this earlier, but I also want to mention it again here that the quality of the race medal is indeed AMAZING! What I like about the events organized by the Bald Runner is that the medals actually have the ranking on the medal, so that you know how you faired and could easily refer to the medal. I also find it very admirable of Bald Runner that even though there were runners who did not make it to the cutoff time, he still gave these “brave warriors” their finishers medal, their trophy and even their finishers shirt MINUS the silver belt buckle. This makes sense from a logistics point of view too because since there are trophies already prepared for the BDM160 finishers, there’s no point for the extra ones to just gather dust somewhere.

6. Race Route +++++ [five out of five Titanium Crosses]

Since the race started early in the morning just before sunrise, it was a welcome change because for the first time I was able to see the changing landscape as in previous test runs and in last year’s BDM102k, the first few hours was spent running in total darkness. This time around, I could see that I was passing through hills, with vegetation to my right and left, and a view of the open seas to the left on the horizon where the sun was rising. Add to this breathtaking moment of running, the weather was cool and a bit windy, so it was refreshing and an enjoyable ride to run into. The cool weather lasted till around nine in the morning, and it was a bit cloudy too so that the sun only came out near noontime. This was a big help to the runners as they took advantage of the cool weather to run faster.

In terms of the race route, since the route traces the road of the historical Bataan Death March, there were moments that I would feel nostalgic. I kept thinking of how I am running this race while the soldiers at that time barely had enough to eat, with some nursing physical and emotional wounds of losing the war. I could only imagine how tough it was to walk those long miles without even water and food and for the first time ever, I know exactly how that feels thanks to the fact that I ran out of food to eat for my nutrition intake for this run. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I hit the dreaded Wall at the KM110 post.

I’ve run the route of the BDM several times now due to finishing two BDM102ks and also doing the test runs. And yet no matter how many times I’ve run it this year, I can tell you that one still needs to respect the road. They say that familiarity breeds contempt among peers. But the truth hurts more for runners — that the more they keep running the same road, the more they realize that they have still a lot to learn about themselves, their runs and learn the road itself. It just keeps changing over time, much like how the weather affects the performance of the runners, the road and the way it looks, bends and curves changes everything. Let me explain what I mean here. When I first ran the BDM102k last year, I knew that it was uphill from the beginning, but because it was dark, I could not see that much of it and how it was truly a high hill to overcome. I remember that back in the BDM102k, I walked less during the first few hours. True, I walked uphill but it was because I knew I had to conserve my energy. But during the BDM160, I saw how steep the roads were and part of me held back. Now that I think about it, I was indeed overcome by fear, and so I walked instead of doing a steady uphill run. And yet when I got home even with my DNF and woke up the next day, I felt no soreness on my legs — which only indicated one thing — I did not push hard enough. My mind played tricks on me and I let it govern my run, my actions and even let it get the best of me.

I really ought to have run more than walked more during the BDM160 as you can see here Estan captured more walking than running!
In other words, the daylight changes the way a person views the road. Some view it as something easier to deal with. Some view it with disdain as the light also indicates that the heat is about to sink in and it will be a very hot run ahead. For me, it showed that I was not afraid to run and move forward in the darkness. I was more afraid of stumbling in broad daylight. So for 2012, I will make sure to conserve my energy. But also, I will make sure that I will run those hills with gusto, with my heart and not so much with my mind. I shall learn to trust my instincts more and prove to myself that I can run faster, I can conquer myself and I can make the roads of Bataan as close as a friend could have in real life.
Another mistake that I failed to prepare was the weather. I was ready for the heat. But I was not ready for the cold. I did not bring any jacket along with me to run in. So this too affected my run. I did not bring any portable heater or at least a flask with hot water in it for soup or noodles to eat during the times that I was running in the early evening when the cold was piercing my skin beyond belief. I had to layer myself with two race shirts just to keep warm. But since I was mostly walking the entire route from KM102 onwards, it was just difficult for me to deal with. Though some runners found the cold weather a welcome to run into, for me it became my anathema that caused me to slow down and finally hit The Wall.

7. Race Marshals and Emergency Vehicles +++++ [five out of five Titanium Crosses]

I can say that there are adequate race marshals for this race and also for the very first time, because of my left foot injury I had to approach the ambulance for help. And so I did get help from the ambulance at KM102. I think that aside from the concept of a roving emergency vehicle, I think that for the next BDM160, it would be great that runners would know exactly where these are stationed so that they can immediately call for help to their support team and know where to bring them.

8. Race Venue ++++ [four out of five Titanium Crosses]

Since the race venue of the BDM will forever remain the same, I guess what I would like to see happen is that the place to be more well lighted during the event. The BDM KM0 marker is a small park, but it barely has any lights lit inside of it. I like the finish line area of the BDM160 at the Capas National Shrine. It’s that obelisk structure at the back of the photo above. Surrounding the said structure is a list of all the soldiers who participated during the WWII and who walked the infamous Bataan Death March. It was a sober reminder for me as I walked around that area after waiting Kelly Lim reached the finish line and was resting and tending to her wounds. I took the opportunity to go around the area and read the names and look for the names of my ancestors if there are any [more on another blog entry for this]. And though I did not finish this race, I cried passing through these halls because I kept thinking — these brave men fought for freedom and justice, and many of them died for their country. And yet, many of us take for granted the civic liberties that we have, and more sad than taking things for granted — many of today’s youth have no regard for nation building but instead are on a quest to move out of this country, to go to greener pastures, to live for themselves and not make sacrifices in behalf of the nation. Where then is the concept of “… Ang Mamatay ng Dahil Sa Yo!” which is in our national anthem?

I am turning 33 years old this year. And as I was going home from that monument, I prayed that somehow.. I would live life worthy of what God has given me. That I would not forget about the brutal history that has made this country limp on till now. And I guess I am praying that my life would make an impact to those around me, that they would see hope, that they would see change is possible — that change comes from the inside out, from making a statement of faith in front of everyone. Yes, I believe that running has changed my life and the BDM experiences I have I will forever cherish, even this first BDM160 which I DNFed in. For though the historic Bataan Death March reminds us that we lost the war, I am reminded that we did not lose the entire battle. And like history, our nation moved forward ever so slowly… and I too will move forward ever so slowly and strongly in 2012 towards the finish line of BDM160.