Sunday, February 12, 2012

Road to Redemption (Last of 3 parts)

Two weeks before Bataan Death March 160  I was resigned to running the last 58 kilometers of the dark and treacherous Mac Arthur highway alone.

 Then like manna from heaven, God gave me Ken Alonte and his partner of eight years Emmilie Cuizon. 
My pacer Ken Alonte sent to me by the gods of ultramarathon running.
Cebuano ultrarunner and adventure racer Ken Alonte is a veteran of the 2011 edition of BDM 102.  He was registered to run BDM 160 this year with Emilie as his support crew when an opportunity to travel Europe for a month came up.  Ken and Emilie decided to divert their money and logistics for the trip to Europe and  selflessly volunteered as my pacer and support crew instead.  This, despite the fact that prior to BDM, we did not even know each other and were not even friends, yet.

As pacer, Ken had to make sure that we run the last 58 KM’s at 9 minutes per kilometer. He was to be my eyes and ears, as I trekked Mac Arthur highway groggy, sleepy and cranky after having run 102 KMs.  Emilie on the other hand was to assist Eugene who had been driving since KM 0.       

I reached Km 102 in 16 hours 52 minutes - still an hour ahead of schedule, still running strong, still wide awake.  I had Jolly Spaghetti for dinner and lay on Ken’s yoga mat for 15 minutes and stretched.  The race plan called for a 30-minute nap, but I decided to skip the shuteye and take advantage of my lead.

As Ken paced me through the 20KM road leading to Angeles City I knew we were nowhere near 9 minutes per kilometer.  We were running at 7 minutes per kilometer!  It was way too fast!  When we reached Angeles City, I asked Ken why he wasn’t following our race plan.  He said “Kaya mo pa modagan ug kusog even after 102KM, it means kusgan pa ka.  Let’s take advantage of it.  Let’s try to run strong, for as long as we can.”   After that, I decided to put my full faith and not question my pacer, who had full faith in me.

The best crew any runner could hope for - MAJ Eugene Cabusao, Ms. EmmilieCuizon and Mr. Ken Alonte

 When we reached Mabalacat,  we met Bro. Carlo Bacalla who had earlier decided to DNF at KM 118 after he could no longer keep food and fluid down. Ken and I promised to finish the race for him.  

 We forged ahead and ran two kilometers before taking minute-long rests in between. Surprisingly, despite our fast clip, I had no cramps and felt no tightness in the quads and hams.  During breaks Emillie fed me , helped me find a clean restroom for the number 2, stretched me and even thoughtfully remembered to put balm on my dry lips to keep them from bleeding.  I had the best crew any runner could hope for.  Eugene, Ken and Emmilie knew exactly what I needed, even before I knew I needed it.

Fatigue finally set in when reached Bamban town and our pace slowed.  It was already light when we reached the Capas-Concepcion junction which signaled the final 16-kilometers to the finish line.  “Pang ilan ako na babae?”,  we asked Baldrunner’s marshall stationed near Mc Donald’s Capas.  “Ikaw pa lang ma’am!”  I was   aghast.  What?  That cannot be.  I knew Keisha Fule and Kelly Lim were both ahead of me.  But this bit of wrong information fired us up as we entered the rolling and undulating road towards the Capas, National Shrine.  At 10K to go before the finishline, we were met by Ungo runner Jinky Yray who was there to cheer on runners informed us that the first female – Keisha Fule crossed the finish line in 23:56:31 and that I was now second after Kelly Lim DNF’ed. 

It was so close.  I cannot pass out now nor get run over by the speeding tricycles.  To guard my second place position, I tasked Eugene and Emilie to trace the road behind us and look for the third female runner.  Was she behind us?  Yes, 6 KM behind.  Was she still strong?  She’s suffering just like you are.  “Just keep running slow and steady.  Don’t drop the ball now, no time for crying, it will sap your energy.”  Eugene would tell me.  Then I told Eugene.  “We’ve been on this same road the year before, but today we’ve turned ourselves from zero to hero.”  For the first time after 28 hours on the road, I took off my shirt and changed into my club colors which proudly proclaimed – “Cebu Ultrarunners Club”.

As Ken and I entered the Capas National Shrine for the victory lap I was choking in my own tears as images of my yearlong sacrifice, self denial, discipline and obsessive training through heat, rain and sleep deprivation came rushing through my head.  

Consummatum est at 28:42:56!  I was second female, but I definitely felt like a champion.  The third female, Emma Alvarez finished in 29:30:42.

Two days after BDM 160 I resumed life as I knew it before training for BDM 160.  Went back to writing reports at the Court of Appeals and resumed anchor duties for TV Patrol Central Visayas.  On my first day of airing after a 4-month hiatus, my co-anchor Leo Lastimosa asked me this:  “How could you postpone life in order to give time for an abstract passion like running BDM 160?” 

BDM 160 Finishline @ Capas National Shrine with Race Director retired Army MGEN Jovenal Narcise

It’s hard to explain the reward of running 100 miles, but it’s like this.  It is a fact every runner knows – the miles you run are one of the very few things in life you truly earn on your own merit.  No one else  can give it to you. 

While the pursuit of this hundred-mile journey was obsessive at times and cost me a small fortune, I’d like to think I’ve succeeded in showing that women can be anything they want to be.  I did not postpone life, I’ve enriched my life.  I’m no longer just daughter, wife, lawyer, journalist, soon-to-be-mother, I am also 100-mile road warrior who’s earned one of only 88 BDM silver buckles in the country. 

 In the end my message is simple.  If an average like me can do it, so can you.


Anonymous said...

Hello Marathon Foodie,


Your accomplishment/s added tiers (happy tears, as well) to your life!


goldie said...

congratulations haide! you're an inspiration to the participants of the upcoming all-ladies 50k ultra! may the force that you had be with us also :)

Anonymous said...

88 BDM 160 Silver Buckles in the whole world!!! very nice!...BR

Grace C. Hernando said...

Congratulations, Ms. Haide!
We are all proud of you.
Thank you for inspiring more women runners to go beyond the limits.

Aimee said...

Congratulations Marathon Foodie! You inspire me. :)