Bataan Memorial Death March and the day after

Yesterday was one of the most difficult days of my life.  I participated in the 21st Annual Bataan Memorial Death March held at White Sands Missile Range, NM.  To summarize what the event is, this is from the website:  "The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging march through the high desert terrain of  White Sands Missile Range, N.M., conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives."   Challenging is an understatement, but we’ll get to that.

The morning started at 0300 when my alarm went off.  I finally got out of bed about 0315 and took my laptop into the bathroom so I could have light to get ready.  Yes, our hotel room had lights.  But the light for the bathroom was connected to a light that was not in the bathroom and I didn’t want to wake my guys up.  I headed down to the lobby about 0345 and grabbed a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee and met up with Chief and her friend S.  I was riding with them so that my guys could sleep in.

We got to the parking area and it was very well organized.  We sat in the car for a while as it was only 28 degrees outside.  Brrrr.  But then S saw people carrying cups of coffee and she wanted one, so off we went.  They had breakfast stuff at the start area, but I didn’t have anything.  They had heaters set up, so we huddled around one of those with lots of other people.  Eventually the 2 guys from the band that were participating also showed up.  FV and EF.  So the 5 of us hung out together by the heater until it was time to move to the starting corrals for the opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony was very nice.  They brought the colors in, played Reveille – after the commands of "Bataan Marchers, Attention" and "Bataan Marchers, Present Arms", a high school choir sang the National Anthem.  They introduced survivors of THE Bataan Death March.  There were some short speeches.  The colors departed.  They had a roll call for survivors who have died in the past year.  Then Taps was played and it was time for the race to start.  We had to wait a while before we got to cross the start line, but as we were approaching the start line, the survivors were lining the start area and we got to shake hands with all of them!  That was very cool.  And then we were off.

The 5 of us started off together, but they were walking and I had planned on running some.  So I walked the first 3 minutes and then said my good byes.  I walked 3 minutes and ran 3 minutes pretty steadily for the first almost 10 miles.  It started on paved road for the first couple of miles.  The first water stop was about mile 2 and that’s where I got rid of my first layer – my "throw-away" sweatshirt I had gotten at the thrift store for $1.10.  They collect all the discarded clothing and donate it to charity, so it’s all good.  I also filled my 2 water bottles on my fuel belt up.  I had gatorade powder in them, but the only water I could find before the start was in the form of coffee.  Shortly after the first water stop, we were on a dirt trail.  This trail wasn’t bad, but it was CROWDED and I had a hard time with my run segments sometimes.

Eventually we got back on paved road and headed under the interstate to where the first "suck" began.  Somewhere before the first suck started, I took off layer number 2 – my NYC marathon shirt – and tied it around my waist.  After mile 8 it turned to trail again, sometimes with loose gravel & sand, and it went UP.  It had gone up some between miles 7 and 8, but after 8 it went UP.  UP UP UP UP UP for 5 miles.  And we were going around a mountain, so you really couldn’t see too far ahead.  My 3 minutes of walking turned into a lot of minutes of walking, but I was still doing well.  At mile 14 I stopped to see the medics as my fingers were really swollen.  The medic that checked me out was clueless I think.  He recommend that they call the trucks for me to be taken to the clinic because he had "never seen anything like that before."  Well, they can’t make you quite, and I was feeling fine other than the fingers, and I told him there was no way I was quitting.  He did help me get my rings off with lots of lotion and twisting and now I have bruised knuckles.  But he got the rings off.  He did recommend that I not run with my rings for future distance events, and I agree.

The downhill was fun – downhill for 3 miles, a slight up hill, and then down for another 3 miles!!  I was able to get some more running in during the downhills.  At mile 18 we finally got back to the paved road and had made it around the mountain.  I stopped at the medical station to change socks after cleaning all the sand off my feet and out from between my toes.  Clean socks sure felt great!!  And it was nice being back on the paved road again.  We headed back toward main post, under the interstate again.  And about the point where we got on the paved road earlier after the first trail section, we left the paved road.  That’s where the second "suck" was.  Welcome to the Sand Pit.  That’s about a 2 mile stretch of LOOSE sand – think "fluffy" beach sand.  At that point, the things that kept me going were several – seeing all the marchers with 35+ pound rucksacks/backpacks on their backs, the older lady doing the march but she was on oxygen (her daughter? was carrying the oxygen in a backpack), and just thinking of THE Bataan Death March and the fact that what they went through was MUCH more difficult than what I was – no food, no water, no medical support.  So I trudged on through the sand.  And at that point, that’s about what it was – a trudge.  I was going about a 35 minute per mile pace for a little bit.

And then there was mile 22 and the end of the sand pit!!  I stopped at the medical station again to sit on a cot to dump the sand and rocks out of my shoes and rest my hips.  My hips were killing me, but I kept going.  Mile 24 – another aid station and another sit down break.  Mile 25 1/2 – the last water stop and another sit down break.  And then my hips didn’t want to go anymore and I was crying cuz it hurt so much.  Two other girls came up next to me and talked me through the pain and helped encourage me and we made it.  And then I came around the last corner, and the best sight in the world was there – my guys!!!!  And Robert was on my side of the fence and he got to cross the finish line with me!!!

I finished in 7:54:29.  My goal was 8 hours.  The next guy from the band finished an hour after me.  And the other guy almost an hour after him.  And Chief finished about 45 minutes after him.  But all 4 of us finished.  It was an AWESOME experience, but definitely a difficult one.  I probably will do it again someday, but right now my brain and my body are saying NO!  I did that with very little training, so imagine what I could do if I actually trained for it!!  In fact, maybe I WILL do it again someday to see what a difference proper training can make.  I don’t know that I’d do it in the military category and have to wear my uniform and boots, but we’ll see.

After it was over, we hung around for a while before walking to the van and getting on the road.  We stopped at the same diner in the truck stop for dinner and had the same waitress.  And then the 4 1/2 hour drive home.  We stopped a few times for potty, and once at Walmart about 1/2 hour from home to get a few things.  It was good to sleep in my own bed last night!!

This morning I got up and got Robert up for school.  I had a doctor’s appointment to get my lab results finally.  Everything they tested for was well within the normal range.  So the blah-ness could be from the higher blood pressure I’ve had or just a down after the excitement of the marathon in January.  After that was done, I went to the allergy clinic and got another allergy shot.  After my half hour wait, I headed home, making 2 stops along the way – the gas station for gas and Discount Tire for an air pressure check up on my tires.  After I had been home for a little while and got caught up on my 100+ e-mails from yesterday and today, I went and got a massage and then a manicure and pedicure.  The massage and manicure were good ideas.  The pedicure, not so much.  My toes sure were tender from yesterday, and I did get a couple of blisters on my right little toe and 4th toe.  But it was a good relaxing way to spend part of my day.

I crocheted for a little bit before Ryan and I went and picked Robert up from Child Time and headed to the Cove for his first day of swimming lessons.  There are only 3 in his class.  Both of the others have had lessons before and had no problem jumping into the deep end of the pool.  Robert was a little scared at first, but eventually he got in the water and was holding onto his teacher (probably a high school boy).  They moved a little shallower and that helped Robert and they were kicking on the wall, and the instructor took each of them in his arms to "swim" a little away from the wall.  Robert said he had had a good time and was looking forward to tomorrow.  Then it was home for dinner (chicken pot pies) and more crocheting.

Today’s high:  77
Current:  61

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