I only had one state left to round out the west coast in my 50 State quest. That state was New Mexico. Unlike other west coast states, there are not very many races to choose from in New Mexico, but everyone I asked said that The Bataan Memorial Death March was the race to do due to it's historical significance. What is the Bataan Death March? Watch the video below to get a sense of why this race/march is so special. By participating we honor those who survived and died at Bataan.
On Thursday night, March 20th, my friends Tough as Nails Teota , King of the Inappropriate One Liners Jim and Air Force Ray loaded into Teota's car and started the 15 hour drive to Las Cruces, New Mexico and the White Sands Missile Range.
We decided to drive to Monticello (about an hour outside Moab) to sleep a little before making the bulk of the drive Friday. When we got there, all four of us crammed in a little hotel room and hit the hay! We got up early, got some breakfast at a little roadside restaurant and got back on the road!
Nothing hits the spot like a breakfast burrito and some homemade apricot jam!
With such a long drive ahead of us we really tried to make it fun!
Ray, Jim, Teota and I take a good selfie!
The scenery was stunning!
Once we made it to Las Cruces, we went straight to the expo to pick up our race packets. We knew that Saturday would be a mad house and wanted to beat the crowd a little.
When we got there we saw people weighing their rucksacks on a big scale out front. There are 2 divisions for both military and civilians: Heavy (carrying at least a 35lb rucksack) or Light (no rucksack). Jim and I went light (for fear of dying) and Teota and Ray went heavy (because they are bad ass and a little nuts).
The expo was small. It took place inside the gym on base. We made our way through the line, picked up our packets, got our certificates and headed out to have them signed by one of the remaining survivors of the Bataan Death March, then took them to be framed with our dog tag medal and 25th Anniversary challenge coins.
Phillip Coon is a 94 year old survivor of the Bataan Death March and just adorable! Here he is signing my certificate.
This is the only race I have ever done where you get the bling before the race!
Map of the course.
After the expo we drove back to Las Cruces and checked into our hotel and headed out to dinner.
Ray, Teota and Jim enjoying a cold one at dinner!
After dinner we headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep! It was heavenly not to get up at the crack of dawn Saturday!
We got up on Saturday, got some breakfast at the hotel and headed back to the base just to check out the action and see Jim's friend Kandy and her sister, who were also running/marching.
As predicted, the expo was a mad house, but since we had already waited in the line we just looked around and visited with people.
As the non-gun owner, it was strange to hold this one. I went big out of the gate! While these are great for the military, I stand by my opinion that there is no reason to have one of these in your house! A burglar would kill me before I could set the thing up!
After leaving the expo, we headed into Mesilla for lunch. Andale's was recommended by one of the local volunteers at the expo. While in New Mexico, we wanted some good Tex-Mex food and Andale's did not disappoint! We each ordered the 4 taco plate with a different meat (chicken, beef, and pork) and shared. The tacos came with small flour and corn tortillas and you filled them yourself. We had so much meat left over. I was bummed that Zoe and Toby were not there. That place would be doggie heaven!
Jim and Teota at Andale's!
After lunch we walked around the town of Mesilla and found a few interesting things.
The Basilica of San Albino
This shop was part chili pepper store/museum/farm/yard sale!
They had all sizes of dried chili peppers.
In this display you see the Virgin of Guadalupe and Buddha on the same table getting along famously!
Lots of Crucifixes
Then there was this. I really wanted it, but was too cheap to spend $16.99 for it. ;-)
After exploring, we headed back to the hotel to start getting ready for race morning. The race started at 7:00am, but if you were not in the starting area for the Opening Ceremony at 6:30am, you would not be allowed to run/march.
We were told by a gazillion people to get on the base by 4:00am as the traffic is terrible getting onto base in the morning. We were told it's best to get there early and sleep a couple of hours in the car. So that's what we decided to do.
As we laid out our stuff, Jim took his brand new gaiters out and went to put them on his Hokas, and they didn't fit. So he and I made the desperate search for anywhere that might have them. Of course, every place we went had sold out of them. We settled on a pair of socks that I made into gaiters with nothing but scissors and safety pins!
When we got back, we ordered pizza for dinner and hit the hay at 9:00pm for a 2:30am wake up call!
Flat Angie and Teota ready to go!
The alarm went off at 2:30am and Jim went down to the lobby to get coffee. Note to everyone, don't mess with Jim and his coffee! He had to wait 15 minutes for it to brew and he was pissed! Ha Ha! Love you Jimbo! By 3:30pm we were out the door and heading to the White Sands Missile Range!
It's 3:30am and we are heading to the Base!
We parked and had our breakfast in the car (bagels and Pop Tarts) and just relaxed until it was time to go to the Opening Ceremony. Ray and Teota needed to weigh their packs one more time. The rule is you have to start with at least 35lbs and end with 35lbs and your pack can't go under that during the race, meaning you can't fill it full of water, drink all the water (making the pack light), then fill your pack closer to the finish). They asked marchers to fill their packs full of food (rice, beans, canned food) which could be donated to the food bank at the finish.
Ray weighing in at 40lbs!
Teota weighing in at 40lbs!
My pack was heavy for me at 3lbs!! Ha Ha!
I didn't organize a Maniac photo at this race as I didn't know the logistics of this race well enough to know the best place and time to meet. I was lucky when I saw a bunch of Maniacs near the scales and we were all able to get a good photo!
Just a few of the Maniacs at the start!
Found some more Maniacs later! CONGRATULATIONS TO AARON BRAUNSTEIN (in the blue cap) FOR FINISHING HIS 50 STATES!! WHOO HOO!
After the photo we headed to the potty line where I was having fun flirting with all the cute young soldiers! I asked one soldier how old he was (as they all look older in uniform). "24 Mam!" Then I would ask another. "23 Mam!" Teota roared when I fired back, "Heck, if I take both of you, you are just my age!" Ha Ha! This race was already fun!
Holy cow was it cold and windy at the start. I was afraid our fun was going to turn into torture soon. I could not wait for the sun to come up!
Once the Opening Ceremony started, a reverence came over the 6,200 people in attendance. We were welcomed by the Commanding Officer of The White Sands Missile Range, the presentation of the Colors and New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich said a few words (he also marched).
Old Glory flying high!
Presenting the Colors
The Survivors and their families.
6,200 Marchers and Runners.
The most touching part of the Opening Ceremony was the survivors roll call and the reading of the names of the fallen service members who died this past year, followed by the blowing of Taps and cannon fire. Jim an I had lost Teota in the crowd and just prayed that she was not alone at this time. Luckily, Ray's friend Jim was there with her. We found her minutes later and gave her lots and lots of hugs!
When the ceremony ended, the survivors and Color Guard took their places at the starting line (where runners and marchers stopped to shake their hands) and the race/march was under way! Luckily the wind died down, but I ran with my Delta Airlines blanket wrapped around me for the first 3 miles then at the drop of a hat, it got hot!
Teota and I at the start.
One last group shot before we cross the timing mats! I really love this photo! (Note Jim's fancy gaiters! He said they worked really well!)
Color Guard at attention as we start the race.
The start of the race was on a paved road and was very congested for runners as most folks were marching. This was fine. I was not lugging 40lbs on my back so I was happy to slow down or even walk until a hole opened up. It wasn't long before we hit a dirt road.
This was the easier trail to run on!
It was not long after that that we were running in sand. I remember a fellow Maniac telling me that there is a light dusting of sand until you hit the sand pit at mile 21. Well, that was not my experience AT ALL! I would guess that 60% of that course was like running on the beach!
All branches of the Military were represented here. We even saw troops from Australia and Germany our there!
Jim and I were running 3:1 intervals where the terrain would permit (running deep sand was useless). We kind of made a game out of it as everywhere we were there were troops. So every one minute walk break, whomever was next to us, we would ask their name, branch of service, where they were from, where they were stationed and what was their job in the Military. It was fun and a great way to meet and thank the men and women that serve our country.
My new boyfriends help Wounded Warriors do amazing things! ;-)
This man was not only super nice, but sums up what this march is all about! Loved these guys!
The aid stations looked like camps!
I wanted the keys to that tank so I could drive it through all that sand to the finish! Hee Hee!
Police on horses!
Besides getting to the base early the other sound advice we got was to bring a little cash with us as around the half way point, the aid station would be selling hamburgers and hot dogs. Now this is something that I would never eat during a normal marathon (and rarely eat at home), but since this was no normal marathon, it's kind of a tradition (I was told), we were starving and we could smell them cooking before we even got to the aid station, we stopped for burgers! They were only $1 each, so both Jim and I took what money we had left and bought burgers or hot dogs for any of our service members that didn't bring money.
Jim, Kara and I enjoying a burger mid race and it was really good!
It was fun when the troop I stopped to talk to was the University of Utah ROTC!!
For their service, I will be a Ute for a day! ;-)
If this race needed anything, it was more cowbell!! This guy was going strong all day!!
There was a short bit of the course that was on paved road that went straight up hill. It sure felt better going down it. The only problem was shortly after we left it, we hit the sand pit around mile 21. The sand pit was a mile long stretch of really deep sand, which was impossible to run in (at least for me).
I could not believe how sore my hips and knees were from the hiking through the sand. I wanted to run just to stretch things out. I have never got leg cramps from walking, but this course was tough!
I had lost Jim for a few miles and was glad to see him for the last 3! We did some intervals for the last couple of miles as the trail was a little less sandy.
Jim and I at mile 26!
When Jim and I rounded the corner at mile 26, We could see the red and white finish tent and ran it in! We were sore and exhausted, but we did it!!
It was humbling to cross the finish line and see the survivors of the real Bataan Death March cheering for us. I went over to their tent to shake their hands and thank them for their service.
This sweet 95 year old survivor is Harold Bergbower and was a sweet talker! He didn't want a handshake, he wanted a hug! When I asked if I cold take a photo with him he patted his knee and told me to take seat! I was afraid I would break him!
It was so awesome to see Phillip Coon again. He is just the most adorable little guy ever! He was just chatting with me telling me that this was his 4th year being at the march and that he loved it!
It was awesome to meet fellow Maniac Ruth Clymor. We ran a few miles together leap frogging each other. She ran the same time we did, except she did it with a 40lb pack on! She came in 2nd place (women) and just puts the beast in BEAST MODE!!!
Fun to see Kara and David at the finish!
After we finished Jim and I headed back to the hotel to get a shower and a nap before heading back to the base to see Teota and Ray finish. They were expecting to finish in 9 hours, but as we all found out this course was a little harder than we expected and our projected finish times went out the window. Jim and I finished in 6:30 (a bit longer than we expected).
We got a text from Ray letting us know that they were going to take a little longer. At this point we decided to just keep the hotel another night in Las Cruces rather than head to Albuquerque. Plus my right eye was hurting really bad (either from the sun or a headache) and I could not keep it open. It would not be good for me to drive.
As the sun went down, we waited for Teota and Ray. With 45 minutes left before the cut off we saw them come in! Jim and I were on our feet screaming our heads off!!
Let me tell you something about my friend Teota. This was more than just a march for her as she carried her fallen son Brandon Parr's 40lb rucksack for 26.2 miles, this was a mission! I am the first to admit that I worried about her doing it. This race was tough enough with the heat without going heavy. Jim made a joke that it might look like a "Polish wedding" out there when she starts throwing the rice out of her pack, but she showed us all. I have spent enough time with her to know that she is one tough cookie, but I can't tell you how absolutely proud I was to even know her when she crossed that finish line. Teota is my hero, friend and one bad ass lady! I love you girl!!
Teota weighing her pack at the finish!
The 3 Bad Ass Amigos (Jim, Teota and Ray) weighing their packs at the finish!
We all headed back to the hotel for Teota and Ray to shower, than hit the Olive Garden for dinner. Food never tasted so good, but my eye was in such pain it was a little hard to fully enjoy it. I knew I just needed to get to bed ASAP so I could shut my eyes.
When we got back to the hotel, I took 800mg of Ibuprofen and went right to sleep (in fact I don't even remember getting in bed)!
At 3:30am we got up and were out the door by 4:00am for the 15 hour drive back to Salt Lake City.
The drive was not as bad as we thought and we saw some really beautiful scenery and by 8:00pm I was home.
Moab is BEAUTIFUL!
I think I really want to do this race again!
No Mama, No Papa, No Uncle Sam! I can't wait to sew this on my kilt!
New Mexico Done!