Bataan Memorial Death March training
What is the BMDM?
The Bataan Memorial Death March is a tribute to the men and women who defended the Philippines at the onset of World War II. They suffered greatly and many perished either during the defense, after they were surrendered and were forced to march (having subsisted on quarter rations prior to the start of the march), at the inhumane prison camps, the hell-ships that carried them to Japan or in the forced labor thereafter.
Some of those men and women, now in their nineties (or more!), are still alive. In 1989, members of the Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University started an annual march to honor these veterans. The march has grown considerably since then and although it was initially open only to military members, they began allowing civilians early on. These days, participation is about half and half. For the record, I am a civilian, although my father was in the Air Force and there's a good chance one of my daughters will serve.
Why do I do it?
I attended my first BMDM in 2010. I knew that in principle it was a good cause, but it wasn't until I heard the vets tell their histories that I was hooked.
Although that first march took me seven and a half hours and beat the hell out of me, I decided to return each year as long as the original vets were still coming out. I also decided to volunteer for search and rescue (SAR) since I realized I met the physical requirements and knew that SAR was a tiny way I could say thanks with more than a word and a handshake.
In addition to honoring veterans, training for BMDM keeps me fit for SAR missions.
How do I train?
I was totally unprepared my first year. I did only four practice hikes, each with a 35 pound pack, each with an increasing distance. My hikes were in sandy terrain, because I had read about the sand pits, and I wore hiking boots. That was not a heavy enough pack to train with; that wasn't enough training days, and the surface was too soft. So, when I attended my first BMDM, my feet hurt quite a bit by mile six. I could barely walk the last several miles.
Somewhere around 2014, I started training in November. Then, in 2017, I started doing weekly pack runs in late August. From 2014 until 2018, in my non-training months I tried to do something with my pack at least once a month in my "off season" (i.e., between BMDM and whenever I started my weekly pack runs). Often that was a search and rescue mission or two, but when my SAR team had no missions for a month I did something like a big hike with a fifty pound pack.
Since 2014, I've been ramping up my training starting in November. Until 2018, I'd run with my pack on Wednesdays and on Saturdays. Starting in 2018 I did that but also ran with my pack on Mondays. My Wednesday runs were done as quickly as I could and started from and ended at my house. Typically I increased the distance by a half mile each week. My Saturday runs alternated between a level run at race pace and a run five miles up and five miles down La Luz Trail (i.e., the local mountain). My level run distance typically increased by three miles. My mountain run stayed the same distance, but in theory I tried to do it faster each time. In reality, we had so much snow this year that I was more concerned with avoiding injury than I was in improving my time. My Monday run was 13.1 miles, but incorporated 12 75 second all-out intervals in the middle.
In addition to my pack runs, I also ran without my pack the remaining days of the week except Sunday, when in theory I rode my bike. In reality, I only rode my bike seven times (not counting The Quad) between November 1st 2018 and March 23rd, mostly due to weather.
Is this training plan safe?
No. If you run with a pack, you risk injury. I have worked up to this training plan over several years. A plan of doing two pack runs a week with running and cycling in between is probably doable for anyone who has already run a marathon or two, although the times, distances and weight should probably be lessened. Three pack runs a week is probably a bad idea for almost everyone. In fact, I think three pack runs a week for me in my 2018-2019 training cycle was slightly excessive. For one thing, the abrasions on my back never completely healed, but additionally my resting heart rate crept up slowly. I haven't figured out the specifics yet, but for 2019-2020, I'll probably do more than two, but less than three pack runs a week, perhaps it'll be as easy as strictly alternating between three pack run and two pack run weeks.
In previous years, my BMDM training has begun in mid November. I was not happy with my performance @ BMDM in March of 2017, so that year I started doing Wednesday pack runs in late August. I also stopped tapering and taking recovery days after my August through November races.
I did fine without the taper or recovery days for all of my races until the Tucson marathon (December 2017). I caught a pretty bad cold (or maybe it was the flu) a week after Tucson that I may have avoided had I either spent a little time recovering or not done as much celebratory drinking. On the other hand, my son had caught the same bug before I did and my wife caught it shortly after. Friends and relatives caught it around the same time, so maybe I'd have fallen sick regardless.
During my 2018-2019 training season I have only missed a few days due to sickness and I'm not sure, but I may not have missed a single pack run for that reason, although there have been some search-and-rescue missions that I've not attended due to sickness. I'm much more willing to push myself training when under the weather than go on a SAR mission, because I don't have to worry about infecting others or letting people down if I can't follow through.
Back to base building, my post 2019 BMDM tentative plan is to do a pack run a week, probably on Wednesdays, probably 13.1 miles and probably for speed. The rest of my training will be more tuned to ultra running than BMDM, at least until November.
On March 29th, 2018 I went down to UNM and was hydrostatically weighed. My body fat percentage was 21.95%. That was a wake-up call, so I decided to experiment with losing weight and trying to not lose power. I was a little nervous that doing so would interfere with my ability to finish Cruel Jewel 100, but it was just the opposite. I finished CJ100 much quicker than I expected, in part—I believe—due to my weight loss.
My goal was to get my body fat percentage down to 7.3%. Based on my first hydrostatic weighing, that would have been approximately 156 pounds, except I had a second hydrostatic weighing on June 4th. I weighed 159.6, which was a 25.9 pound loss, but 8.5 of that was lean muscle mass.
After that weighing, I raised the number of calories and the amount of protein I was taking during some of my more lengthy runs. The change was successful. I had my third weighing on July 26th and I lost 8.6 pounds of fat and gained .4 pounds of muscle. Similarly, I had my fourth on November 8th and lost only .7 pounds of fat, but gained 1.9 pounds of muscle.
|Test Date||Body Weight||Fat Weight||Fat Free Weight||Body Fat %|
Even though I didn't hit 7.3%, I ramped up my carbohydrate intake and increased the intensity of some of my training days. I'm still did some of my diet protocol, but chose not to have another hydrostatic weighing during my BMDM training, since I don't think I'd have changed anything based on the numbers.
After BMDM, close to March 29th, I'll have another hydrostatic weighing and then figure out what to do as I train for the Hardrock 100. My guess is I'll return to trying for 7.3%.
The remainder of this document uses the present tense rather than past, but really it documents what I did up until BMDM 2019. I'm running the Boston Marathon in April and am likely to do very short runs for a week or two after BMDM 2019 until my resting HR is back in the mid forties (it was 51 on March 13th). I'm also planning on doing a two week taper for Boston, so basically I'll be on a very reduced training schedule for about a month and after Boston I'll be training for HR100.
During the week I do slow runs from my house out to Albuquerque Academy, some distance around Albuquerque Academy and back to my house. On Sundays I ride my bike along the Bosque Bike trail. How far I ride is dependent on weather, mood, how much time I want to be out and to a lesser extent how beat up I am from my Saturday activity. I usually ride my bike between 35 and 50 miles the day after a La Luz pack run and 35 miles the day after a Bosque Bike Path pack run.
On Mondays I run from my house to Albuquerque Academy, run three laps around AA, back to my house and then do another .9 miles to bring the total up to 13.1 miles. However, during that half marathon, I do twelve all-outs of seventy-five seconds with only thirty seconds of rest in between.
In theory, I try to keep my heart-rate at about 130bpm for my slow runs and bike ride, but if it's chilly or I'm rushed or otherwise feeling frisky I may run, or bike, a bit faster.
This is what I did up until BMDM 2018
|Sunday||Bike Ride||35 - 70 miles|
|Monday||Interval Training||8.9 miles|
|Tuesday||Slow Run||3 miles|
|Thursday||Slow Run||5.6 miles|
|Friday||Slow Run||3 miles|
Starting in April 2018, I upped my schedule to:
|Sunday||Bike Ride||35 - 70 miles|
|Monday||Interval Training||13.1 miles|
|Tuesday||Slow Run||8.9 miles|
|Thursday||Slow Run||8.9 miles|
|Friday||Slow Run||13.1 miles|
On November 19th, 2018, I started doing my interval training with my pack, so Monday is no longer a non-pack day.
Starting Friday, January 11th, I wound up taking four of the following seven Fridays completely off from running so I could run harder on Saturdays.
Pack (and exception) days
In the following table,
speed means as quickly as I can to minimize
the total time I spend. This year it should be about a 9:30
minute/mile pace when running with my pack. My speed during my
non-pack races (e.g., Sandia Snowshoe Race and the Mt. Taylor Winter
Quadrathlon) varies greatly.
Race is my race goal of 10:18 minute/mile.
Mountain means I'm running
up and down a mountain and trying to minimize my time. I run the same
mountain course every other weekend. As my fitness increases, so does
my pace. My record, in February 2016, was a 14:15 minute/mile pace. I
should be able to better this year.
Comfort means I'll
keep my HR between below 150bpm during the training or event.
I'm out there to have fun.
Interval Beginning November 19th, I began doing interval training with my
forty pound pack, wrapped with enough low heart rate running on either end
to be a total of 13.1 miles with an average heart rate of 130bpm. The
intervals themselves are 12 all-outs of 75 seconds each, with 30 seconds
of light running as rest in between.
Prior to November 19th, I had done interval trainings on Monday, but without the pack.
Pace meant whatever it took to be the best pacer possible for my
brother-in-law as he finished his first Leadville 100. Turns out
the little bugger was plagued with GI trouble that slowed him down
for much of the return from Winfield, then—after that
subsided—he wanted to run the final
seven or eight miles. Fun!
When I run from my house, I typically run over to Albuquerque Academy, then run around it some distance before coming back. As such, I typically have to wait at a stoplight a couple of times or more and it's hillier than the Bosque Bike path, which has neither stops nor hills.
|Apr 26||8.9||comfort||31.5||from house||1:41:58, 130bpm, 11:28 min/mi|
|Apr 28||6.6||comfort+||31.5||from Philmont (trail)||1:20:42, 148bpm, 12:15 min/mi|
|Apr 29||8.1||speed||31.5||from Philmont (road)||1:27:15, 145bpm, 10:45 min/mi|
|May 9||5.55||race||36.5||from house||53:21, 150bpm, 9:36 min/mi|
|May 16||2.24||race||40||from house||19:46, 155bpm, 8:50 min/mi, 5# plate too far forward|
|May 18||106||comfort||0||Cruel Jewel 100||39:12, 116bpm, 22:13 min/mi|
|May 26||3.1||race||35||Believe in Heroes (Los Lunas)||26:06, 154bpm, 8:26 min/mi|
|May 30||12.26||comfort||40||from house||2:36:46, 128bpm, 12:47 min/mi|
|Jun 2||27||comfort||40||Sandia Crest Trail||12:31:29, 103bpm, 27:59 min/mi, 2.5 gallon water brick leaked, should have been 50#|
|Jun 6||12.52||comfort||38||from house||2:30:12, 133bpm, 11:59 min/mi|
|Jun 9||34.34||comfort||0||Chimney Melon 50k||13:29:03, 118bpm, 23:23 min/mi, Not a race, just a fun group training run|
|Jun 13||13.11||comfort||40||from house||2:35:08, 141bpm, 11:50 min/mi|
|Jun 16||8.65||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||1:25:45, 149bpm, 9:54 min/mi|
|Jun 20||13.11||comfort||40||from house||2:28:51, 132bpm, 11:21 min/mi|
|Jun 27||13.10||comfort||40||from house||2:27:40, 132bpm, 11:16 min/mi|
|Jun 30||18||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||3:09:21, 142?bpm, 10:31 min/mi|
|Jul 4||13.11||comfort||40||from house||2:24:45, 128bpm, 11:02 min/mi|
|Jul 11||13.12||comfort||40||from house||2:24:17, 130bpm, 10:59 min/mi|
|Jul 18||13.11||comfort||40||from house||2:23:35, 130bpm, 10:57 min/mi|
|Jul 21||13.10||comfort||40||from house||2:19:55, 130bpm, 10:40 min/mi|
|Jul 25||13.10||comfort||40||from house||2:27:14, < 130bpm, 11:13 min/mi|
|Aug 4||31||comfort||0||Baldy 50k||10:56:27, 118bpm, 20:22 min/mi|
|Aug 8||13.11||comfort||40||from house||2:28:43, < 130bpm, 11:20 min/mi|
|Aug 9||5.57||comfort||40||from house||54:58, 131bpm**, 9:52 min/mi|
|Aug 10||8.89||comfort||40||from house||1:33:31, 130bpm, 10:31 min/mi|
|Aug 11||8.56||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||1:16:15, 143bpm, 8:54 min/mi|
|Aug 14||2.21||speed||40||from house||18:56, 138bpm, 8:33 min/mi|
|Aug 18||50||pace||10||Leadville Trail 100||15:26:35, 117bpm, 18:13 min/mi, Paced Jeff, my brother-in-law, the last 50 miles|
|Aug 25||27||comfort||10||Sandia Crest Trail||9:38:56, 99bpm, 21:30 min/mi, did not wear 50# pack because I'm tapering for Tahoe 200|
|Aug 29||6.56||comfort||40||from house||1:09:02, 130bpm, 10:31 min/mi|
|Aug 31||6.56||speed||40||from house||58:30, 148bpm, 8:55 min/mi|
|Sep 4||3.28||comfort||40||from house||32:46, 131bpm, 9:58 min/mi|
|Sep 7||205||comfort||15||Tahoe 200||89:23:05, ~13 hours sleeping, a few more hours lazing around aid stations, no crew or pacers, would have been faster if I hadn't stubbed my toe on the second day|
|Sep 16||100*||comfort||0||Tour de Cheapskates||*Self-supported 100 mile bike ride 6:46:51, 117bpm, 14.7 mph|
|Sep 19||6.56||comfort||40||from house||1:17:38, 129bpm, 11:50 min/mi|
|Sep 21||33||comfort||0||AA 50k||7:54:58, 106bpm, 14:10 min/mi|
|Sep 26||13.10||comfort||40||from house||2:25:49, 130bpm, 11:07 min/mi|
|Sep 29||31||comfort||0||Mt. Taylor 50k||6:13:03, 138bpm, 12:21 min/mi|
|Oct 3||13.10||comfort||40||from house||2:21:02, 130bpm, 10:45 min/mi|
|Oct 6||6.05||mountain||40||La Luz||1:31:29, 133bpm, 15:06 min/mi|
|Oct 10||5.55||race||40||from house||57:07, 141bpm, 10:17 min/mi|
|Oct 17||13.11||comfort||40||from house||2:22:44, 130bpm, 10:53 min/mi|
|Oct 20||31||comfort||0||White Mesa Fat Ass 50k||6:46:54, 130bpm, 12:39 min/mi|
|Oct 21||26.2||comfort||0||Duke City Marathon||5:00:03, 114bpm, 11:27 min/mi|
|Oct 27||99.9||comfort||0||Javelina Jundred||20:10:40, 117?bpm, 12:07 min/mi|
|Oct 31||13.11||comfort||40||from house||2:17:04, 131bpm, 10:27 min/mi|
|Nov 3||53||comfort||0||Deadman Peaks Trail Run||11:14:48, 127bpm, 12:48 min/mi|
|Nov 7||13.11||comfort||40||from house||2:14:37, 130bpm, 10:16 min/mi|
|Nov 11||30.63||comfort||0||Ghost Town 50k||5:45:30, 139bpm, 11:16 min/mi|
|Nov 14||6||speed||40||from house||53:05, 145bpm, 8:50 min/mi|
|Nov 17||9.86||mountain||35||La Luz||2:19:50, 131bpm, 14:10, alternate trailhead|
|Nov 19||13.1||interval||40||from house||2:09:37, 130bpm, 9:53 min/mi|
|Nov 21||6.5||speed||40||from house||56:07, 147bpm, 8:40 min/mi|
|Nov 23||4||speed||0||Black Friday Turkey Trots||28:20, 156bpm, 7:00 min/mi|
|Nov 24||32.57||comfort||0||Bosque Bigfoot 50k||4:59:29, 135bpm, 9:11 min/mi|
|Nov 26||13.1||interval||40||from house||2:15:56, 126bpm, 10:22 min/mi|
|Nov 28||7||speed||40||from house||1:01:53, 146bpm, 8:49 min/mi|
|Dec 1||15||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||2:22:11, 136bpm, 9:28 min/mi|
|Dec 3||13.11||interval||40||from house||2:14:11, 134bpm, 10:13 min/mi|
|Dec 5||7.5||speed||40||from house||1:07:18, 145bpm, 8:50 min/mi|
|Dec 8||9.88||mountain||35||La Luz||2:19:27, 141bpm, 14:07 min/mi|
|Dec 10||13.1||interval||40||from house||2:25:36, 132bpm, 11:06 min/mi|
|Dec 12||8.0||speed||40||from house||1:10:34, 150bpm, 8:48 min/mi|
|Dec 15||18.01||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||2:51:19, 139bpm, 9:30 min/mi|
|Dec 17||13.11||interval||40||from house||2:09:34, 143bpm, 9:53 min/mi|
|Dec 19||8.5||speed||40||from house||1:14:16, 153bpm, 8:43 min/mi|
|Dec 22||9.5||mountain||35||La Luz||2:27:47, 133bpm, 14:56 min/mi|
|Dec 24||13.11||interval||40||from house||2:18:52, 133bpm, 10:36 min/mi|
|Dec 26||9||speed||40||from house||1:18:21, 149bpm, 8:41 min/mi|
|Dec 29||18||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||2:49:44, 137bpm, 9:22 min/mi|
|Dec 29||3||race||0||The Grinch Lunch||24:48.2, 149bpm, 7:59 min/mi|
|Dec 31||13.11||interval||40||from house||2:18:13, 135bpm, 10:32 min/mi|
|Jan 1||11.11||comfort||0||Foothills Fat Ass 50k||3:05:51, 118bpm, 16:44 min/mi, blizzard wiped 50k|
|Jan 3||5.6||speed||40||from house||50:36, 149bpm, 9:08 min/mi, day late due to weather, tiredness|
|Jan 5||7.97||mountain||35||La Luz||2:43:39, 127bpm, 20:32 min/mi, dangerous snow|
|Jan 7||13.12||interval||40||from house||2:10:56, 138bpm, 9:58 min/mi|
|Jan 9||10||speed||40||from house||1:26:07, 148bpm, 8:35 min/mi|
|Jan 12||21||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||3:15:40, 141bpm, 9:18 min/mi|
|Jan 12||3.76||race||0||Resolutions Stink!||28:21, 155bpm, 7:32 min/mi|
|Jan 14||13.11||interval||40||from house||2:09:16, 139bpm, 9:51 min/mi|
|Jan 16||10.5||speed||40||from house||1:31:53, 151bpm, 8:44 min/mi|
|Jan 19||7.72||mountain||35||La Luz||2:30:25, 130bpm, 19:28 min/mi|
|Jan 21||13.10||interval||40||from house||2:07:58, 143bpm, 9:45 min/mi|
|Jan 23||11||speed||40||from house||1:36:16, 149bpm, 8:44 min/mi|
|Jan 26||2.71||race||0||Sandia Snowshoe Race||29:27, 157 bpm, 10:55 min/mi|
|Jan 28||13.11||interval||40||from house||2:10:14, 140bpm, 9:56 min/mi|
|Jan 30||11.51||speed||43||from house||1:42:58, 148bpm, 8:56 min/mi|
|Feb 2||24.01||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||3:44:23, 142bpm, 9:20 min/mi|
|Feb 4||13.11||interval||40||from house||2:09:36, 141bpm, 9:53 min/mi|
|Feb 6||12.01||speed||40||from house||1:48:23, 150bpm, 9:01 min/mi|
|Feb 9||9.91||mountain||35||La Luz||2:45:42, 131bpm, 16:42 min/mi|
|Feb 11||6.56||interval||40||from house||1:03:39, 139bpm, 9:41 min/mi|
|Feb 13||5.54||speed||40||from house||46:01, 154bpm, 8:18 min/mi|
|Feb 16||43*||comfort||0||Mount Taylor Winter Quadrathlon||*bike/run/ski/snowshoe 5:55:22 140bpm|
|Feb 18||6.56||interval||40||from house||1:04:22.3, 139bpm, 9:48 min/mi|
|Feb 20||6.21||speed||40||from house||53:32, 151bpm, 8:37 min/mi|
|Feb 22||24.01||race||40||Bosque Bike Path||3:43:27, 143bpm, 9:18 min/mi|
|Feb 23||3||race||0||V Day Run||18:58, 147bpm, 7:53 min/mi|
|Feb 25||13.11||interval||40||from house||2:12:20, 143bpm, 10:06 min/mi|
|Feb 27||13.11||speed||40||from house||2:02:12, 149bpm, 9:19 min/mi|
|Mar 2||5.02||mountain||35||La Luz||1:05:44, 146bpm, 13:05 min/mi|
|Mar 4||6.55||interval(6)||40||from house||1:04:08, 144bpm, 9:47 min/mi|
|Mar 6||6.56||speed||40||from house||56:11, 154bpm, 8:34 min/mi|
|Mar 9||6.17||race||32||King of the Hill||57:38, 153bpm, 9:17 min/mi|
|Mar 10||3.51*||race||0||BBT Crowning||31:32, 137bpm, 8:00 min/mi *I missed a turn and did .42 bonus miles|
|Mar 11||3.28||interval(3)||40||from house||32:06, 140bpm, 9:47 min/mi|
|Mar 13||3.28||speed||40||from house||26:50, 153bpm, 8:11 min/mi|
|Mar 17||26.2||race||35||Bataan Memorial Death March||4:45:48, 150bpm, 10:54 min/mi|
Wah! Wah! Wah! My Pack Broke!
I was in first place for the first two checkpoints, but the timing info shows Jason Stuck having passed me on the third leg, during which I required a porta-potty break, probably due to my having had too large of a high fiber lunch the day before.
I really fell apart though after the descent down the asphalt portion of mineral hill. I normally start to have trouble around then. However, it's likely that my pack frame broke as I did an 8:27 minute mile.
I'll never know for sure that my pack broke then. Nor will I know if that is what caused the huge amount of hip/lower-back discomfort I felt, but I do know that when I looked at my pack the morning after my run the upright tube that supports the stay that holds the pack open was indeed broken in half and the stay and pin were free floating.
Although there's a tiny chance that the break happened after the race, I've seen my finishing line photos and my pack looks pretty skewed. Additionally, although during the race, and even the day after, my pain felt uniformly spread around my hips, that changed. My left side healed much faster than my right. In retrospect, I think that is another sign that the pack break put undue stress on one side and eventually the discomfort was so severe that it overwhelmed everything.
Even prior to this year's run, I had been debating using a different pack for a while (and even briefly experimented with an internal frame pack a few years ago). This most recent break was the final straw. For 2020, I'll train and run with a different style pack. Joseph Altobello: if you're out there, please send me email. I value your opinion and would like to discuss pack options with you. FWIW, I'm interested in hearing from others, too, it's just that Joseph and I have talked after the race a few times and I've forgotten to get his email address (or I got it and misplaced it).