Day at the Office

Day at the Office
All Terrain Vehicle
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. - Phillppians 3:14

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Rescue Mission, Fast Cars, and Butterfly Kisses

Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci was described as quick study but certainly not a cerebral person. He graduated West Point 264th out of 276. What he lacked in academics he made up in charm and brute force. Only standing at 5’ 8”, he was a physical fitness fanatic being accomplished in boxing, swimming, basketball and lacrosse. The West Point year book described Mucci as one who, “does not choose to be a classroom expert, but rather the field leader he is: the man who thinks on his feet, who inspires others beyond the powers of persuasion”… and that was why he was perfect to lead the mission at hand.

The Army Rangers were a brand new concoction, derived to be America’s response to the famed British Commandos. Covert and Special Op tactics were not completely developed yet…no book to read from. Mucci understood that the Ranger training to be grueling, bordering on cruelty, but the combat skills inherited would be paramount for the rescue mission set in motion January 28, 1945. A 121 hard charging Army Rangers (and 80 Filipino guerrillas), do not “hurry up and wait” very well and commencing a high risk raid to rescue Bataan POW’s was a much better use of time in most of there minds.

The 6th Army Ranger unit would negotiate a highly hazardous obstacle course of jungle and rice plants…with little, or are at the least, questionable intelligence.

Two years and 9 months prior, Abie Abraham, was struggling to survive. He had a piece of shrapnel lodged in his back and a slow healing bullet wound in his thigh, but his immediate problem was thirst. The Japanese guard had halted the marching column of American soldiers on the East Road just feet from a fresh spring, but would not allow any of them to drink. In the Jungle Heat, the Japanese guards would walk down the row of prisoners stealing whatever struck their fancy…from cigarettes, watches, rings, etc. One Japanese Soldier wanted a West Point graduation ring from one American. Unable to remove the ring due swollen hands with beriberi, the guard severed the finger with a sword to obtain his prize, leaving the American whimpering and returning to the ranks.

One man could no longer stand…and made a mad dash to the water hole. To the shock of all the Americans, the Japanese guard brandished a sword and decapitated the thirsty POW.

The growing exodus of prisoners marched all day along the East Road, four abreast in long columns of approximately 100 men. The prisoner evacuation was behind the Japanese Commander’s schedule, providing additionally stress among the Japanese
troops. The POW’s were too weak….to many diseases that ran rampant for the soldiers to physically be able to march at any pace.

At times a prisoner would stumble time and time again…and then maybe stay down too long. The angst ridden guards, realizing the problem on hand would either beat the POW to unconsciousness with a single rifle butt stroke to the head or explode with rage and drive the bayonet deep into the abdomen and twist in the shape of a “z” to scramble the bowels….leaving the body to rot in the sun.

Abraham’s friend, First Sergeant Authur Houghtby was in bad shape, staggering and stumbling. Abie took his friends right arm and draped over his shoulder, praying to make before receiving any undo wrath from a Japanese guard. Abraham described it as, “Death was with us every step, watching us like buzzards.”

On to Bataan Memorial Marathon Training...

Saturday morning, I found the tentacles of 600 thread count sheets causing me to struggle and escape it’s warm confines. I had beaten my alarm up at 0450. I stretched my body and the muscles all tightened up. My back, shoulders, quads, abs, calves all tensed up in protest in what they were about to endure. Hearing my old Drill Instructors shout that the Soviets were not sleeping in (yes, I grew up in the Cold War…doesn’t that seem so distant now?) I crawled out of bed, donned my cold weather running gear as it was 25 degrees outside and took off with my new “bestest” friend…the 40 lb pack. It was a 15 mile with the pack kinda day. At the 12 mile split, I was 3 minutes ahead of the last time I did this. The last 3 miles with the pack were tough…not on the legs….but the upper body. I ran another 3 miles at the end without the pack…totaling 18 miles in all. I look at that 18 miles and the Ultramarathoner in me says, “is that all you ran on Saturday.” I have to say though that after that 18...15 with the pack…my body feels like it ran 36 to 40 miles. Each and every weekend the pack seems to be less of a least till the last few miles. The back muscles begin to tighten and spasm...the hip flexors let you know that this was not a "normal run"...and the shoulders ache with each and every step. Sunday included a 5 mile pack run…just for grins.

After the Saturday run, a couple of hours of recovery, and then off to the Cub Scout Pinewood derby for Luke. I love this and it’s funny, how when the cars start racing, the dad’s get more and more into it. The past 2 years Luke won 2nd place. This year not so good….I knew the car didn’t have what his previous cars had and spent about an hour on my Saturday run contemplating how to make it faster. Luke and I reworked the wheels a bit after my run, but it still wasn’t enough.

I had to leave a bit early from the Derby as it was the Daddy – Daughter dance in Plano on Saturday night. Macy is not the type to voice her feelings or what she is thinking…but looking at the pictures…I can tell she has had the time of her life. We ate with all her little friends at Macaroni Grill and then went to the dance. Let me tell you…a bunch of middle aged white guys with no rhythm….frankly it’s sad…also let me say I AIN’T on of them….this homeboy can bust a move! ;-) At one point the DJ played “Butterfly Kisses”…and I thought for a brief moment…wow…my kids won’t be around forever…and yes…one day Macy will take another last name…that day may kill me….but not tonight…tonight we are having a ball….and I got pictures to prove it…

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bataan Memorial Marathon...and a Month of Birthdays

General King of the U.S. Army had surrendered at Bataan and the EL Supremo Commander, General Macarthur had safely arrived in Australia.

The men of Bataan knew little to what to expect…most clung to the slender hope that the Japanese would adhere to the Geneva Convention rules and regulations regarding a captured prisoner of war. Never had America fought against an enemy they knew so little about….and a lesson was about to begin that would have been better forgotten.

Japanese General Homma did not feel victorious despite the Bataan Surrender. The main goal for the Imperial Army was to have the Japanese Navy control and utilize the docks and wharfs of Philippines’ Manila Bay. Geography did not permit this without controlling Corregidor…and at the moment U.S. General Wainright refused to surrender Corregidor. General Homma would need an immanent artillery barrage but before that could be begin, the U.S. Soldiers of Bataan would need to be swept off stage right.

The prisoners were to be marched to Camp O Donnell, a Philippine Army Training facility laying 75 miles north. Those able would march it…but reasonable distances of 10 miles a day. There would be adequate food, shelter and water. There would also be adequate transportation for the sick and wounded.

There were two major flaws to this plan. The first was that the Japanese intelligence thought that there were 25,000 troops…there were closer to 100,000 in number. Second, there was grave underestimation of the health and well being of the American soldiers. There was no sense of the scale of starvation and disease that racked the troops.

The MARCH would still commence, but under much different circumstances…and those slender hopes of Geneva Convention protocol would be hopelessly dashed.

Three years later, an Army Ranger Unit would be traipsing through that territory on a high risk rescue mission…but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

Bataan Marathon training continues. The month of January is the busiest months for TEAM ELLIOTT…4 out of 5 of us celebrate our birthdays….which tells me we really like to celebrate Easter. ;-) My wife’s birthday was this past Saturday and we’ll celebrate Macy’s next weekend. Fortunately it was the 4th training week, aka, recovery week. I embrace the recovery week. Ten miles total on Saturday, the first 5 with my beloved 40 lb pack…that sits idle in the corner during the week but early on Saturday morning beckons like a whore in heat. Another easy 5 “pack” miles early on Sunday morning. The body continues to hold up well….due to, in my opinion, all the core work. The week workouts consist of speed work on the track, boot camps, strength training and more cardio. I have learned that this race is not run with the legs….but with the back. Because of the aforementioned January Craziness, I plan on picking up fund raising efforts next week for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. This fund helps the U.S. Servicemen and their families, providing everything from special wheel chairs, home modifications, and travel expenses of families to where the serviceman may be rehabilitating. Many of you have donated. I can not put into words what that means to me and am humbled. I realize some would love to donate but cannot at this time…they have wished me all the best….I am humbled by that too. I am blessed…and try to have a spirit of gratitude…even in the later miles where that pack becomes heavier with each passing shuffled step.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Heart is Troubled...and other stuff

It is nearly 1:00 in the morning...and I can't sleep. Do you know how rare that is? I fell asleep in the craziest places when in the amphibious personal carriers, helicopters, mud puddles....

My heart is troubled. I always vowed that when I blog, I would never make it sound like a bed of roses...for every bed of roses has it's share of thorns...these thorns are not directly affecting my family. I lay awake tonight...thinking about Luke and Macy's little friend that just got diagnosed with Leukemia...a buddy of mine out of work...a running buddy who has a coworker that has not been found in Haiti...a friend and father of two who will start Radiation treatment at the end of this month...he had testicular cancer. (I joked with him about the Doctor giving him Lance Armstrong riding skilz). Usually I try not to let this stuff bother me, I pray for them an move on down the road...not tonight.

Luke turned 9 yesterday. I have mentioned he is a great kid with a big heart. He is anxious to start this spring triathlon season. Last fall, you recall, he came in 4th place for his age group in his first TRI. Four days ago, I get a text message from my wife. Upon hearing about his friends bout with Leukemia, he came out of his room declaring to dedicate this year's Triathlons to raising money for Cancer...he did this on his own.

Five days ago I turned 40...and so when Bren asked what I wanted to do this weekend, I responded...Train.

Saturday morning found me up at 0430 to get out the door. The day would be pun intended. I ran 16 miles...the first 12 with a 40 lb pack...and those 12 miles were completed in 3 hours 7 minutes....Sunday I completed 5 miles with the pack in 1 hour 12 minutes....The body is holding up well.

On Saturday, I come in from the run at about 8:45, tell Bren to fix me something to eat and to get a map to where Macy's Y princess event was to take place. I literally jump in the shower...get out with Bren holding a map and food...get dressed and out the door...who needs recovery time. Come back from the event...grab Luke to go build his pinewood Derby car...get back in time for Luke to get dressed and to his Basketball game.

I always vowed the make sure my running minimized the impact on the family...even if it means I run all night long.

Times will not always be so Father told me so..."Let not your heart be troubled...." and so I run on!

(next up Bataan Death March part 3)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

To Die A Thousand Deaths

Dr. Ralph Emerson Hibbs

Dr. Ralph Emerson Hibbs had succumbed to malaria. The disease that he had seen a thousand times on Bataan had now ravaged his malnourished body. Laying in a ditch, delirious with chills, the attack came over him suddenly. The Plasmodium vivax “bursting forth from his liver and into his bloodstream.” There was nothing he could do to treat himself….at the end of the first week in April 1992, quinine had all been used up to treat the

other thousands of cases of malaria that had run rampant through the U.S. Soldiers. Dr. Hibbs was serving as the 2nd Battalion of the 31st Infantry Regiment surgeon.

The attack on the the Philippines began the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack, December 8, 1941…due to the international date line the calendar shows them to be on different days. By Christmas 1942, Washington had already deemed Bataan as a lost cause and soon President Roosevelt demanded that the Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur to withdraw…and he did…to Australia. Feeling the neglect, the soldiers would chant:

We’re the battling bastards of Bataan,

No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam

No aunts, no uncles, no nephews,no nieces,

No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces,

…and nobody gives a damn.

For 4 months the battle raged on Bataan. Bullets and bombs did little to the American G.I.’s compared to disease and starvation. The soldiers would catch dogs, cats, monkeys, slugs, rats…anything to eat. The locals taught them how to prepare hound haggis. Hibbs recalled, “It was a custom to eat the stomach of a dog that had been gorged with rice before sacrificing it. The warm rice mixed with the mucus of the stomach was supposedly a delicacy." If the war didn’t kill you, disease would. As many as 24,000 warriors were crowed into field hospitals.

It’s hard to fathom a tropical, humid, disease ridden jungle when it’s 11 degrees outside. Yet at 0615 on this past Saturday, that’s what the most recent cold front offered North Texas. I had never run in temperatures that cold…never. There are a lot of reasons I love living in Texas….and being a warm climate is at the top of that list. Knowing time is of the essence, I had no choice but to breach the cold temperature in the darkness. The first 6 miles were sans pack. I do this to get the miles in while at the same time being able to adjust to running with a pack. I was to run 15 miles total, with the last 9 being with a pack. Throw another 5 mile pack run in on Sunday morning. My hands went numb and the water in my Camelbak froze. There were icicles on my headphone wires and the buff to cover my mouth and nose was frozen solid around the neck.

Last week after putting in a total of 11.5 miles with pack, I weighed it Sunday evening. The scale responded that I was freaking crazy right after it indicated that the pack weight was 40 lbs….5 lbs over the required limit for the Bataan Memorial Marathon. I have left it at 40 lbs. My body feels good so let’s train heavy!

The pack seemed to be less cumbersome than the previous week. Running with it is a complete adjustment. All my core work of the past 2 months has completely paid off and only the shoulders are a bit sore after a back to back days running weekend. It’s hard for me to commence with any speed with all that mass on my back. I feel nimble of foot…but a 14 minute mile is about as best I can muster on a fairly benign surface. The heart rate never gets to high. I continue with core work at least 4 days a week and continue with speed work as well.

On April 9, 1942 Major General Edward King adorned his cleanest uniform and prepared to meet Japan’s General Masaharu Homma for a surrender of the 78,000 American and Filipino soldiers under his command. Seventy-seven years to the day prior, General Lee had met with General Grant at Appotmattox Court House for the exact same reason. Being a student of the Civil War, General King lamented that he now knew how Lee felt on that fateful day when he said, “I would rather die a thousand deaths.” The Battle of Bataan was over…and the worst was yet to come.

(Historical accounts derived from the book Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides)

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Race and History Lesson to Go...Please!

When I got done with Palo Duro…I was DONE….more mentally than anything else. Burned out and frankly at one point didn’t care if I ever ran another Ultra or otherwise in my life. Frankly, that scared me. If you would have told me, in November, to go for a 6 hour run, I would have mauled you on the spot with no mercy….no remorse. I was toast. I did continue to run a bit…once a week. On a different front found joy in going to spin classes, early morning boot camps and core strength classes. There was no pressure….no training schedule….no mile repeats…no long runs…and if I missed a what?!! For two months I did this….and in December started to go longer on the weekends….about ½ marathon on Saturday and 4 to 6 miles on Sunday morning. I came through the holidays in great shape…dropped four pounds and an inch of my waist…and mentally started coming back around. I love this endurance stuff…deep in my soul….for a moment I thought it left me. I came out of this stronger and ready to roll…and that my peeps is a very good thing!

So at the North Texas Trail Runners Christmas party where the main 2 questions are: “What ya training for?” and “You going to Bandera?” I didn’t know how to respond to the first one and didn’t want to respond to the second one! Come to find out, Luke’s first basketball game is on the weekend of Bandera so that took care of itself in a way.

In mid December, I mentioned to a few of my “inner circle” that I wanted to run Bataan March…the Marathon Distance and I want to run it Heavy! That thought did not take long to take root grow…and after that…well forget about…IT’S ON THE SCHEDULE! Everyone of my close buddies followed up with the comment…”That is your style of race…freaking do it”…or something like that. The race organizers try to have some of the Bataan Survivors at the finish line…and truthful wanted to run this before they all pass on.

So here I am…telling you on March 21 in the desert of White Sands New Mexico, I am running a marathon with a 35 lb pack. The Bataan March Marathon is to honor the survivors of that fateful event in World War II history. Below is pulled from their website:

The Bataan Memorial Death March honors a special group of World War II heroes. These brave soldiers were responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines.

The conditions they encountered and the aftermath of the battle were unique. They fought in a malaria-infested region, surviving on half or quarter rations with little or no medical help. They fought with outdated equipment and virtually no air power.

On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces. The Americans were Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. Among those seized were members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard.

They were marched for 66 miles in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of a prisoner of war camp. Others were wounded or killed when unmarked enemy ships transporting prisoners of war to Japan were sunk by U.S. air and naval forces.

I have an acute sense of history…in fact I only have left a handful of college hours to have a degree in history…so this race took root deep in my soul…and being a Marine…all the more so.
We are in uncharted territory running with a pack. I keep telling myself it is only a marathon…but after this weekend of donning a 35lb pack for the first time and running a total of 11.5 miles….well, let’s say it’s going to be a little tougher than sauntering through a normal 26.2 miles.

This brings me to my last, and maybe most important issue. I have decided to raise money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. A fund that helps injured Soldiers, Marines and Sailors and their families….from everything of housing, transportation, specialized equipment. God has blessed me to be able to embrace endurance sports….I have served a stretch in the Corps without a scratch (ok...there was that HUMVEE thing...but nobody got hurt!) …and so when I think of the men and women sacrificing…sometimes ultimately…this is the least I can do. I understand these are not the best economic situations…and some may not be able to help out financial. Trust me, I understand. If you can, I ask that you do…my goal is $5,000.00. You can do it anonymously as well. I will only periodically mentioned this and ask that you spread the word a bit too. The link to do so is at the top of this blog.

Additionally, as I blog about my training from time to time…I want to take us on an historical account of what happened at Bataan….I ain’t going to make it boring…you know that…and so let is run on….NO MAMMA, NO PAPPA, NO UNCLE SAM…REMEMBER BATAAN!