Welcome back to the wild world of ultramarathon training. By this point, you’ve read all about my current training cycle, my successes at the Bear Bait 25k, my semi-failure at the BUTS Bearly Heavy half, the pain of training in times of COVID, and the ups and downs as I chase down that ultramarathon goal. Its been a long journey: four attempts with three failures over five years, an ER visit, and enough self-doubt to sink a person. But you’ve already read about the triumph, I finally completed the Mississippi 50k!
Today you’re getting my full race report for the 2021 Bataan Memorial March (26.2 miles)
This race as different from all the other this seas for two reasons. First, unfortunately we aren’t far enough out of COVID times for them to have held the race in person. I was very bummed in December when the race coordinators made the call but I understood and think it was the right call at the time. Second, due to extenuating circumstances you’ll read below, we had to break the race into two separate days that were almost a month apart!
Check in/ Starting line:
Hahaha. I got my packet in the mail nearly three months ago, we picked out date, and hoped for the best. Check in was me giving a quick safety brief to all the runners locally who wanted to go with us, even if they didn’t complete the full distance.
This is my home court. I have run literally hundreds of miles on these loops as I trained for BUTS Bearly Heavy half, Bear Bait 25k, and the Mississippi 50k. It was on this particular trail that I realized I couldn’t breath and ended up in the ER three weeks before the 50k.
One of my running partners and I decided to train for the Bataan Memorial March way back in August. We had trained for four months before word came down that they were making the race virtual. Both bummed, we realized that our usual Friday 5k(+) loop, run 8 times, was almost exactly the 26.2 miles needed for the virtual race. Our plan was to complete 8 roughly 5k laps, starting at the top of each hour until we completed the race. Given our usual run paces, it would have given us 10-15 minutes down time between laps to restock on food and water. Or just to kick out feet up while perched on my hatchback. Our initial run date was 09 April 2021 and we finished on 07 May 2021. Yeah, it took a month.
Weather: Oof. The first planned day was in early April, which in the Florida panhandle is warm and rainy. April showers bring May flowers… but also torrential downpours and lightning. Our first lap started at the sun broke the horizon through a light drizzle. But fo’ shizzle, that drizzle… turned into a torrential downpour in minutes. By the second lap, we could hear peals of thunder and it was darker than it had been at dawn. Just past what I knew to be the last turn around point (meaning it was shorter to continue the loop) the lightning was directly overhead. One of my pacers/partners jogged up our line to tell me we needed to stop. We had a quick running conference as I knew we needed to stop but we needed to get people somewhere safe and figure out if the race was recoverable.
Here’s where it sucks to be “the adult in the room” sometimes: it was my plan, my race, my team, and ultimately my call. I elected to call a 30 minute halt, put everyone in the relative safety of their vehicles. I spent the time calling the local base’s weather Squadron for an update. Unfortunately, the weather was there to stay and I made the heart wrenching choice to postpone the race until another day. I hated making the call, but it was the safe call and therefore the right call.
It took almost a month before we could get all our runners time away from work to complete the remaining 6 laps but, the day of Part II, the weather was absolutely perfect.
Trail conditions: Overall, great and exactly as expected after eight months running on them.
Terrain: The first 1.25 miles is a steady rise of roughly 60 feet followed by a long flat section and then a gentle decent. There are two minor hills on the backside of the loop which we ended up walking after the initial two laps.
My car! Like the looped course at Bear Bait 25k, we used my car as a snack staging area. With the loops only being 5k, we didn’t really need to carry vests since we were back at my car every hour.
Did I hit the Pain Cave?
Yes, but only a little bit. With 10-15 minute breaks after each lap, it was a delightful mental and physical reset before each lap. I had a few moments on the last lap that I felt bad but being among my team and the breaks meant it was very smooth.
The weather was the only real unknown. It sucked but we made it through
Yes! For the first time I had a whole crew out there running. This wonderful group of people was made up by folks from my workplace who’ve been poke, prodded, and motivated by a crazy leader who runs too-long distances. I don’t have a great photo of the group from the first attempt but it was largely the same group. One of the folks who finished the whole distance has been training with me since day one. Another two have been doing long Sunday runs and the Friday 5k(+) with me since the early part of the year. I was humbled to have so many folks who decided to join me in this crazy, virtual race.
The finish line:
I would love to say we sat around with beers but unfortunately, we had work! Six of us sat huddled around my work phone as we listened in on a teleconference from the trailhead. I don’t regret it though, that allowed us to get the maximum number of folks out running without missing work events.
Really, it’s tough to stay. We averaged 40-45 minutes a lap over the eight total laps but since there were both a month between attempts and the wait between laps it could be counted as one month plus eight hours, eight hours total time (including rest time), or about six hours moving time. I don’t care, it was the joy of running with friends that was my win.
This was my last day in my current job and extremely “on brand” that I would skip working in the office to take my team for a run. While I’m sad we didn’t finish it the first time and it was a gut wrenching call to make, it did mean that I got to close this chapter of my work life doing what I love.
The Gear List:
My gear lists so folks can see what I’m carrying and how it changes between courses and weather. As usual, some affiliate links, most aren’t; I am not sponsored by any specific companies.
Mask: Under Armour Adult Sports Mask – Yes, I’m doubly vaccinated now, but we used masks when needed.
Tank Top: Pearl Izumi running top, circa 2010, no longer sold – This one is a good top for warm runs and I’ve worn it for nearly a decade now.
Bra: SheFit ULTIMATE SPORTS BRA – a qualified “good.” I like that you buy based on cup size and both the chest band and shoulder straps are adjustable; it’s probably the most comfortable sports bra I have. That said, the metal loop that holds the chest band tab tears my back up after 5 miles. I now put two strips of sports tape under the tab and it works perfectly.
Shorts: Nike Fast Shorts – What a game changer for me! I have thick, thicc thighs from trail running and squats. They rub together. All the time. In tights, it’s not an issue but in loose shorts, I end up chaffed. And most stretch shorts only have a 5″ inseam which means the end *right* where my thighs rub. However, Nike’s new trail shorts have a blessed 7″ inseam which left me chaffing free, even after almost 20 miles.
Socks: Balega Blister Resist Quarter Socks – These are thick and comfy, but the “blister resist” is only as good as how well you lace your shoes and how wet your feet get. At some point, no sock/shoe combo will save you from everything.
Shoes: Altra Olympus Trail Shoe – The Olympus have the thickest soles of my trail shoes which were good for keeping my feet comfy over the full ~20 miles. I keep at least two of these in my inventory at all times so I can swap for dry shoes.
Gaiter: Altra Trailer Gaiter – Designed specifically for Altra trail shoes and fits well (will not work on other shoes!). They kept out the small sticks, rocks, and debris of the trail.
Hat: My trusty finishers hat from the River Cities Tri a few years ago. It wasn’t cool enough to need a warmer hat.
Vest: Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 4.0 – This is my “new to me” but “older model” vest I got on sale for half price. There’s a new version, but I’m glad I gambled on buying this one as it’s been a real champ. Lots of easily accessible pockets, good bottle holders, and the bladder holding set up keeps it from rattling around or slipping its loops like my other vest. Not as easy to access the bladder for refills once it’s on, so I had to completely remove the pack AND bladder to refill between laps. Not super convenient, but I don’t feel like I lost a lot of time and almost all packs will be like this.
Liquid Salt/Carbs: Gatorade Endurance Formula Powder – purchased with coupons on the Gatorade website, which is good because I still don’t love it. It’s not as strong a flavor as regular Gatorade and it does well for replacing salt/carbs quickly but… I dunno, maybe I’m too picky, I don’t love it. But, I’m kind of a cheapskate and won’t buy anything new until I finish this container. Note: I also refilled with Heed at one aid station, which was WAY sweeter and I’m happy to stick with my Gatorade mix.
Snacks, self carried: Both the Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews (caffeinated version) and the Honey Stinger Organic Waffle. These were tough on the last two races due to the cold, but this time the temperature was perfect. The chews were easy to consume and the waffle broke like it was supposed to. Maybe too easily because I think I inhaled a few crumbs as I ran.
Sacks, from the car: I made my team brownies. 🙂
GPS: Garmin Forerunner 945 – Y’all know I love this watch and I’ve talked about it before, the good and bad. I didn’t have any tracks walk-offs today and I’m confident in the recorded distance/time accurately.
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