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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!

Hectic 2012

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.

Singing the Japanese national anthem this time in tandem with a Japanese runner

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.

Just a few meters ahead of two runners in Dinalupihan, that stage of BDM that has seen some DNFs over the years

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

Digging deep at the last 10 km while heat and exhaustion play tricks on runners

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.

50 meters near the finish line, I still could not believe that thanks to the help and support of my ever dependable support crew, I was about to cross BDM 102's finish line for the second time

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.

Nothing is sweeter than crossing the finish line after investing blood, sweat and tears

After running for nearly 12 hours, it is definitely a joy to see RD at the finish line

Team Small, Medium and Large + KB, top 10 finishers all!

Getting the 4th place medal from Gen. Narcise, Race Director

Couldn't have done it without you, Trixie and Gie!!!

At the Awards Night receiving the Grand Slam prize from RD Ret. Gen. Jovie Narcise for having finished BDM 160 and BDM 102 in one calendar year

The three BDM trophies (2012 BDM 102, 2012 BDM 160 and 2011 BDM 102) I collected in less than a year!

View official results here.

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Everytime a BDM event comes up, my failed attempt to run the 2nd staging of BDM 102 in 2010 comes to mind.  That was when I got injured while training 2 months before race day.  I was so green in envy but nonetheless happy for my friends who finished the race.  But rather than sulking and feeling sorry for myself, I took it as a challenge to bounce back and finish the 2011 race organized by the Bald Runner to commemorate the heroes of that event in our history.

Fast forward to 2011 and the deadline for registration was fast approaching.  It was October and having no decent training plan, I signed up for the 2012 BDM 160 km Ultramarathon with the QCIM and Milo 42 k races in the first and second weeks of December as my only real “long” runs in preparation for the race.  What made me even more nervous was the fact that I got sick towards the end of last year what with the numerous get-togethers and Christmas parties coupled with sleep deprivation.  Suffice it to say that if I’d have any hope of finishing the race, it would be close to the 30 hour cut-off.

While still coughing and sneezing and sometimes bothered by fever, I made the most of whatever little time I had after the holidays and started running 5 times a week in January.  As I could not afford to miss my Saturday work, I wasn’t able to join out of town marathons and running events which other participants used as long runs for the BDM.  Instead, I tried my best to log in one relaxed run and three to four 20+ kilometer runs plus back-to-back weekend long runs the first two weeks of January.  The third week should have been taper week, but as I never really peaked during my training, I was left with just doing four easy runs.  Someone told me to run with my heart not with my legs.  I guess I’d need a much bigger heart if I’d give myself any chance of finishing.

So when people asked me for my target time, I would always say that I’d be happy just to finish, hopefully in one piece, injury-free.  But I told some friends that it will be a big bonus if I finish within 24 hours and in the top 10.  Wishful thinking I thought…

I didn’t even have a strict nutrition plan for the race.  But with my ever efficient husband and wife team of Gie and Trix, who also supported me in the 2011 BDM 102, I knew I was in good hands.  I just estimated the amount of sports drink, water, cookies, fruits and sorts gel I would need for the race and decided to leave everything in the hands of my support crew.

With Beeps at the briefing and CLP

And after two friends said no when I asked them to be my pacer for the 102 to 160 km leg of the race, I started to like my chances of finishing when Cebu 1oo k finisher and Fitness First instructor Don agreed to be my pacer knowing I would not be running the most difficult part of the race all alone.

Start, January 28, 4:58 a. m.

Having fun at the starting line while we could still laugh... (Photo by Dick Balaba)

The Japanese National Anthem "Kimi Ga Yo" (Photo by Keshia Fule)

Team Powerpuff Boys teammate and good friend Beeps and I ran together after the gun start like what we talked about at the carbo loading party.  A few runners decided to speed up from the very start but we stuck to the plan and run/jog at 6:00 to 7:00 minutes per km pace.  After 2 km of flat road, I suggested to Beeps and the others that we start running at the left side of the road knowing how accident prone the uphill was at that early stage of the race.

5o km in 6 hours and 6 minutes

Beeps and I were now running with another teammate Keshia at the first check-in at km 14.  We moved up a bit at the ranking but were still at the bottom of the top 30 runners.  There were some rain showers that we thought would have been more helpful had it come at the latter part of the run.  We enjoyed running at such a cool morning nonetheless as Keshia and I came in 15th and 16th at kilometer 50.  That was the last I would see of Keshia for quite some time as she took off with the other runners while I took about 30 minutes to eat, rest and change running shirt, shorts, socks and shoes.

Chow time at the km 50 pit stop

Rested and feeling fresh, even though the temperature had climbed to 35 degrees, I jogged at a relaxed pace to allow digestion of the lunch I took.  I was able to gain and overtake a few runners along the way and thought it would be smooth sailing after that but I was wrong.  I was dead wrong.

Lubao, I have a (breathing) problem

I was meeting my crew every 5 kilometers for a mandatory quick rest and nutrition break.  After 60 kilometers, the thought of not being able to finish came to me for the first time in the race when I started having problem breathing.  It was at this point that I began employing the Galloway run-walk method.  And since I would do 7 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking when I was getting tired during the other ultra races, I decided to do the same, trying to mimic yoga breathing exercises while walking for 3 minutes.  And fortunately, after 10 more kilometers, my breathing returned to normal as I crossed the welcome arch of Lubao, Pampanga.

102 km after 14 hours of running

The presence of runner-volunteers at kilometer 83 was a sight for sore eyes.  It was then that I found out that I had improved to 11th place, while thinking that the race had just started a few kilometers after the halfway mark.  I carried on with the same seven-three run-walk strategy until I crossed kilometer 102, the finish line of BDM 102 but now just a pit stop with 58 kilometers to go after running for 14 hours.  I again took time to recover, rest, eat and change running gear even if four runners had overtaken me during the almost 30 minute break.

It was almost 8 o’lock when I met Don, my pacer, at the McArthur highway (Don had to endure weekend traffic and sleeplessness after working on a Saturday just to run with me).  After agreeing on our pace which was about 7:300 to 8:00 minperkm, we did 5 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking or brisk-walking, knowing the last 10 k of the route would include an uphill to DPWH kilometer 118 post.

McArthur leg

But before that turn-around to the finish line, there were some serious battle for the top 10 slots along McArthur highway.  After about 25 kilometers and nearing the 12 midnight mark, I was able to overtake more runners and had moved up to 10th.  There was only one more runner I could see in front of me and no one behind me as I was able to distance myself from the 11th place runner at that point.  The runner, whom my pacer and I lovingly called by the color of his pacer’s jacket, was also doing Galloway and would trade position with me every so often, looking stronger and stronger as the race progressed.

No to DNF!

Just when I thought it would be an easy top 10 finish, disaster struck with 30 kilometers left.  My pacer noticed the drop in my body temperature and asked me if I was cold.  I thought I was fine until I noticed that I could almost no longer move my legs and my knees seemed to start locking up!  As what Don would do every break, he did some stretching and massaged where it hurt but this time I had to lie down on the ground of a gas station for 15 minutes.  I changed shirt and wore my fleece jacket.  After 5 kilometers and still trading 9th and 10th posts with THE other runner, I started sweating again and my body temperature normalized (whatever normal was at that point anyway).

Support Crew plus one

Gie and Trix were still very patient and efficient supporting my cause but Don’s friend, Jinky and Dennis, were now done with a quick nap and ready to contribute whatever they can to ensure a strong finish for me.

Upon making right at that fork towards the last 16 km of the race, Jinky estimated the distance between me and the runner in front of me to be 3 km.  She added that I may be able to overtake three more if Don and I continued our present pace.  By this time, Don made it clear that he would be strict in following the 5:3 and then 5:2 Galloway.  He would have none of my haggling anymore when I would tell him that I didn’t think I had recovered enough in the earlier stages and added another minute of walking.

Last-ditch effort

Climbing up to that km 118 post and slowly but surely closing the gap between me and the next runner, I told Don that it was time to make the move even though I wasn’t sure if I could maintain the 5:00 minperkm pace (at some points even faster!)  And after more than 100 kilometers of running and walking I finally saw Keshia again, still looking very strong!  (My respect for her and how strong a runner she is grew a thousand fold!)  A few more minutes and we were able to overtake one more, two more and finally, the 5th placed runner at that stage of the race.  After the turn-around and as we made our way down nearing the Capas Shrine finish line, Don and I were more inspired to run like there was no tomorrow.

And as I was within 1 kilometer of the finish line, there were so many things running through my mind:  my family who had to put up with me every time I could not join them to train instead for the race, the survivors of Typhoon Sendong to whom Ronnel and I dedicated the race to raise funds and hopefully help in our own little way, the actual survivors and the not so fortunate ones who had to go through the Bataan Death March, all the runners and support crew who became my source of inspiration during the race, to BR and his crew for putting up BDM therefore providing the opportunity for us to “Go Beyond our Limits,” and the list just went on and on.

As I crossed the finish line after 23 hours 46 minutes and 47 seconds panting in exhaustion after running my fastest 10 kilometer leg of the entire hundred miles, it was as if I was being transported to another realm.  One where I was overcome with great disbelief, relief, joy and pride finishing the race where even I was not sure I would be able to do if you asked me a month before the race.  I will be forever thankful to God, to RD Gen. Narcise and my family and friends for always supporting and believing in me.  This success is yours as much as it is mine!

With the RD and my pacer Don gettng my medal, trophy and silver buckle

Couldn't have done it without you guys!!!

With overall runner-up Dick and female champ Keshia (Photo by Dick Balaba)

See you in the next BDM Ultramarathon!

Thank you Jinky for the post-race massage! (Photo by Millette Rances)

View full results here.

Thanks Jepoy for the amazing shots!

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