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“I can’t do it, I just can’t,” shaking my head in defeat, I met Gie and Trixie, good friends and ever efficient support crew for all my three BDM participations, at the kilometer 92 marker. Having run for almost 11 hours and no runners in sight both in front and back, I had decided to give a sub-12 hour finish a try as additional motivation to finish strong but now found myself with the seemingly impossible task of running the last 10 km of the race in 1 hour and was afraid that I was about to let my team down!
With barely a month to rest/recover/taper/train for the BDM 102 after finishing the 2nd BDM 160 at the end of January, I was also battling cold and fever which I had very little time to recover from after a very busy start of 2012: BDM 160 on January 28-29, Condura 42K on February 5, and then 40, 30 and 25 km long runs the next Sundays leading to the 4th BDM 102 on March 3.
So to say that I was not sure what strategy to take even a few minutes before gun start is an understatement. Part of me wanted to take it easy like how I started BDM 160 and try to see how things would play out but the other side was trying to tell me I should go for it and not repeat what to me was conserving too much energy when I crossed the finish line at the 3rd BDM 102. When I met my support crew for the first time at km 14, 1 hr 28 mins after the 10:15 pm gun start, I eventually decided to try to finish the first 50 km between 5 hrs 30 mins and 5 hrs 45 mins and cut down on the 30 minute pit stop the previous year. I was the 28th runner at the first check-in point.
Competitive support crew
After a couple of scary ankle twists and surviving a fall in the dark all in the next 10 km, Gie was now telling me I should start making a move if I wanted to finish 7th like last year or better as the top 10 runners were starting to really pull away.
Gie’s words probably woke me up and I was able to overtake a few runners one at a time with a steady 6:00 minperkm pace meeting my crew for rest and nutrition every 5 km. And after a couple of hours more of running in the dark with the dogs and night owls of Bataan, I made it to km 50 in Abucay in 5:37, well within my and my team’s target and a 20 minute improvement from 2011. A quick change of shirt and shoes and a few bites more and then I was off to race again in the dark after 14 minutes, also a marked improvement.
It was now almost 4 am and I was still feeling the cool breeze and once in a while getting tissue from the pocket of my hand held bottle to relieve myself of the discomfort from all the sneezing and sniffing but was surprised to be able to improve my 7 min run, 3 min walk Galloway and was now doing 17:3 passing two more runners along the way.
A new dawn, a new day
With the sun now starting to peek in signalling the start of a new and memorable day for 186 runners who started this race organized by the Bald Runner to commemorate the historic Death March and the fallen heroes who walked the exact route that we were now running 70 years ago, it was a welcome sight to be a few minutes away from good friend and Powerpuff teammate Junrox who seemed to be struggling but still looking strong in the 65 km marker.
Entering the dreaded Dinalupihan stretch, I felt like the sun had given me renewed energy to increase my pace and change leads with the next two runners putting me in the 6th position as I traded good mornings with the locals who were either just starting their day or already on their way to church.
Surprises at km 83
I was trying to maintain and/or increase my pace a bit to try and catch the fifth ranked runner who I heard from other support teams was just 1 km away at the 70 km point. But after 10 more kilometers, there were still no signs of him so I just maintained my pace only to find out at the km 83 check-in that I WAS the fifth ranked runner but the first four runners had all checked in more than an hour earlier. Surprised, I found myself smiling while running and now thinking about a bet I had with Ronnel that I would buy them burgers if I could duplicate my 5th place finish at the BDM 160. What I also did not expect was that my race time said 9:47 at that point meaning I had 2 hrs and 13 mins to run the last 19 km if I wanted to go for the sub-12 finish!
Math and Ultramarathons
One of the things that keep me occupied while running ultras was calculating in my head—the pace, number of hours, and distance to whatever goal I set at that exact moment. So a quick mental math told me that I needed to run faster than 7 min per km from that point on. Which was both exciting and nerve wracking considering that heat and fatigue were now starting to be a factor as I asked my support crew to meet me every 2 km from km 90, meaning more rests which would eventually slow down my pace.
Mental roller coaster
My mind was telling me I was tired and should rest more but when my calculation for the required pace for a sub-12 hour finish yielded 6:45, then 6:30 and then finally a 6:00 at km 92, for the first time during the race, I doubted myself even though Trixie and Gie were encouraging me to go on. I hid the tears of frustration which were different from the tears of joy that welled in my eyes 30 kms ago when I was overwhelmed thinking of the kindness and support my team had shown me even sacrificing a weekend away from their loved ones just so I could join this race.
I pushed further shortening my breaks and increasing my pace until the km 100 check-in where Gie told me the “good news” that I was now the fourth-ranked runner (I later found out that one of the Fast Four took a rest at km 87). Knowing that I had a full 18 minutes to cover the last 2 km, I took time to enjoy the moment, reflect on the modest achievements I had made and thank God and all the people who helped and inspired me to join the race, not forgetting the 20,000 soldiers who didn’t make it to the “finish line” of the old train station in San Fernando, Pampanga in 1942.
As I made the final turn to the finish line and seeing 11:54:XX on the clock, I could not help but be emotional, holding my head in disbelief and then raising both hands in triumph in this mental and physical battle of being able to accomplish what other people or even I myself would have never thought possible.
View official results here.