Arrival at Bataan 2018…

Bataan Bibs - 2018 - EditedAt 3:00 o’clock this morning, the husband and I packed up the car with the large North Face duffel bag, my large Blackhawk Assault pack, and some miscellaneous hydration sized bags. By 3:30 we were off…well, I was off while the husband snoozed/listened to an audio book through his earbuds. After four hours of driving through a pitch black, no moon, overcast night we arrived at White Sands Missile Range for the Bataan Memorial Death March in-processing shenanigans. However, I was a little disappointed when we stood in line for ten minutes before the doors opened only to be out of the building (packets in hand and smiles on our faces) 5 minutes after we were let in. So sad.

There was positive energy among the eclectic gathering of people in line. A woman in her 50’s will be running the marathon; a pair of veterans with their wives laughed about old times in the Army; a veteran behind us met up with an old friend he hadn’t seen in years. For the most part, the husband and I stood quietly, taking it all in and enjoying the atmosphere.

Young ROTC cadets from NMSU standing by the door in slacks and button downs looked cautiously over the people, probably wondering if they would ever measure up to some of the veterans looking back at them. If I could share a morsel of wisdom with them it would be simple: don’t try to be those who came before you, push the limits and set new standards. I look forward to seeing some of these cadets on the route come Sunday.

The base is very clean (as almost all military installations are) with clean rock landscaping in lieu of grass in most places. Civilian contractors roamed in packs of 4 with wee-eaters and hoes making slight improvements to an already exceptional post. The personnel we encountered were polite and courteous, filled with a positive energy that helps up the motivation levels for Sunday.

Now, for the bad news (or at the very least, cautionary news). I registered for the heavy division (35 pound pack minus water or other consumables) with the expectation of a 4 month train-up to this event. However, I fell pray to stress at work, general laziness, and an overall lack of motivation. These are not new things and I believed I had appropriately taken them into account when planning this whole endeavor – unfortunately, I was unsuccessful.

Since the beginning, I have had no intentions of competing in my age group for 1st or 2nd place (the only two positions who receive a medal per age group); I merely wanted to complete the event without crippling myself. When I factor in the lack of training/preparation, I am merely cautiously optimistic that I will 1. finish and 2. not be injured in some way. My plan is to keep a reasonable, steady pace despite 1,100 feet of elevation gain from mile 8 to 15 and deep sand sections. Fortunately, I have the husband beside me in the Light (no pack) Division to help keep pace and feed me protein bars.

Alright, I am going to wrap up this post but intend on writing more about course conditions and weather tomorrow – come back and see! I will leave you with this beautiful picture of White Sands National Park (we stopped in on our way to the hotel after in-processing).

Bataan - Not the Course - White Sands NP
White Sands National Park – Not a part of the Bataan Course

Have you completed the Bataan Memorial Death March? What training tips do you have for the uninitiated? Were you Heavy or Light Division, Military or Civilian? Share your experience in the comments! 

 

 

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The Bataan Memorial Death March

2018-01-01 (2)With such an ominous name as “Death March” one could wonder why anyone would voluntarily participate in such an event. For me, it is a simple answer: Bucket List item.

For those who don’t know, I served a little over 6 years in the Army as an Infantryman. One of the primary tasks an Infantryman must be able to perform at any moment is walking from Point A to Point B within a designated amount of time. Something that you practice time and again until you can go all day or night without thinking twice about it.

Sounds simple, right? Well, add in the requirement to maintain X number of meters between you and the person in front of you while remaining cognizant of the person (or people) behind you. Don’t forget to keep your head on a swivel to ensure the enemy isn’t going to ambush you and kill you and your friends.

Still easy? Okay, put a bag on your back that contains everything you will need for Y amount of time – clothes, shovel, water, food, sleeping bag, poncho, ammunition, rain gear, cold gear, more ammunition, parachute cord, magazines (for aforementioned ammunition), your buddy’s ammunition, maybe a tripod – and try not to think about the fact that all of this stuff weighs 65 pounds or more (really try not to think about that 65 pounds being a third of your total body weight).

Anybody can do that, what’s the big deal? I gotcha, carrying around all that weight and remaining hyper-vigilant of your surroundings (for an enemy attack – you know, the kind that want to kill you) is easy. Now stop and go, never taking the weight off your shoulders, only being able to take a knee – no sitting for you hard ass – or hunch over for a moment’s relief for 12 hours through the night and over two mountains.

Maybe that’s got you thinking, “okay, maybe not for me”? But wait, that’s not all! After walking as far as you walked with all that weight on your back and ensuring nobody ambushed you or your friends along the way, you now get to drop that bag! Only to prep weapons and perform a furious, violence on the objective filled assault on a target. Sounds fun? Imagine walking a marathon carrying what amounts to the lower half of your body on your shoulders then sprinting 2 miles. All without sleep or any meaningful amount of food or water.

Not so easy, right? So why would I put a lighter version of all this on my bucket list? That answer is a bit more complicated.

My experiences in the Army showed me what I could do physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, as bad as it sometimes was, I never had to experience the sheer hell the men captured in Bataan had to endure. Those men were tougher than nails, harder than granite, and committed to preserving not only their lives but the lives of their fellow man. In the Army, we put ourselves through pain and undesirable physical conditions to pay tribute to those men who have done so much more than most will ever do. This is my tribute to those soldiers.

Another reason for voluntarily walking 26.2 miles with 35 pounds on my back through southeastern New Mexico desert in late March is: the challenge. Have you ever wondered, “how far can I go?” or “is that my limit or do I have more in me?”. These questions have always pushed me to take risks and pursue less traveled paths in life. I am by no means a pioneer or adrenaline junky who jumps off cliffs in a wing suit – I simply want to know how far this body and mind can go.

If you are interested in joining the thousands of people who participate in this event each year, you can register here for the 2018 Bataan Memorial Death March. The price of registration goes up in February!

What is the most challenging physical feat you have ever done? Why did you do it? Share your thoughts and comments below!