By Mile 3 it was already warming up considerably so we stopped to shed a layer. I was flooded with relief when I dropped my back on the ground and didn't look forward to putting it back on! We then resumed our hike; the rest of my team walking while I ran a little in front because I was wearing my running leg and it was difficult to walk on it. By Mile 4 we pulled out our first flask of Wild Turkey Whiskey and passed it around. We were all in good spirits, laughing and joking as the people nearby looked on in shock as we swigged down shots from the flask. It was also quickly passed outside of our circle to other competitors who dared to cross the line from ridiculous to stupid with us!
Our jovial disposition then began to shift as the grade of the hill grew steeper around Mile 6. We began the long journey up the 6 mile hill that would take us up to the halfway point! The terrain grew tricky at this point too, constantly playing with your head. You could see the top of the hill just ahead (or at least you thought you could), but then when you got to the top, the road would turn ever so slightly and continue up at an even steeper grade. You felt as if the tumbleweed along the sides of the road were laughing at you each time your bubble was burst at the "top" of each hill. I couldn't wait for the halfway point.
The halfway point finally came. Volunteers were grilling burgers and hotdogs for a price although I stuck to the usual orange Gatorade, strawberry banana Powergels, and banana slices that were being offered for free at every aid station. At this point one, Nick was beginning to cramp, mostly his hamstrings, and his pace was slowing as he struggled with the uphill. So we took a nice break at Mile 14 to allow him some time to recover. It was hard to get moving again after that break, but luckily the next 5 miles were a gradual downhill that allowed us to pick up the pace a little and make up some of that lost time at Mile 14. I felt really good and would continue to run off ahead because it was much easier and less wear and tear on my body than walking. Every 2 miles (at the aid stations) I would wait for the rest of the Ranger Up guys to catch up. We'd regroup and then take off again after addressing everyone's needs (huger, thirst, alleviating the many aches and pains like blisters, sand in shoes, etc).
Our next slow down came around Mile 19 when John felt a pop in his foot and experienced significant pain. He slowed his pace, hoping to find a more comfortable way to walk, but continued moving forward. We then hit the 2 mile long sand pit at Mile 20 which slowed us all down significantly. You feet would sink a few inches with every step and since it was also uphill, your feet would also slide backwards considerably with the weight of the ruck on your back. It was a lot like walking on the soft sand near the water at the beach, except worse. And there was no water nearby for mental alleviation. At least the end of the sand pit brought us to Mile 22 and just 4 miles from the finish line!
I continued waiting for the RU guys at every aid station until we made it to the Mile 24 marker. I could feel my stump slowly swelling under the trauma of running with a pack and knew that I might not have long before I'd need to take it off and let the swelling go down. So I told my team I'd seem them at the finish line and took off for the final 2.2 miles of the race after a quick swing of rum. I picked up a comfortable pace (about a 13 min/mile) that would be easy to maintain for a few miles and just kept moving. As I rounded the 25 mile marker I began to feel the toll of the race. But a nice little buzz kicked in from the rum I'd had earlier and I started to pick up my legs a little higher! With a mile to go I caught up with the only other person running so I settled in next to him and we started to talk our way to the finish line. With a 1/2 mile to go I kicked it in and we finished the race at a 10 min/mile pace! It was awesome. It was awesome to be done. To put down my ruck. To meet all of the inspiring people on the course and survivors from the actual Bataan Death March.
If you ever have the chance, I'd recommend adding this race to your Bucket List.