Sunday, May 13, 2007

DANCON - May 13, 2007

The march Director announces that there are 30 nations participating and over 2000 Soldiers. DANCON stands for Danish Contingency and the march is obviously sponsored by the Danish. Funny thing is that he makes his final instructions in English. The march is set to start at 0830.

I had previously agreed to march/jog with SGT D, but this was before I knew how carrying 25 lbs of extra weight meant; this on top of the combat boots that tend to make my ankles roll.

The march begins and we have a couple of hundred Soldiers in front of us. We start jogging on the right flank. It’s difficult passing people. We march on. We hit the main road. It’s black top, thankfully. We try jogging again but my heartbeat goes haywire. The temps are in the high 80s, in the shade mind you. I realize the heat and the extra weight will cause havoc on me if I attempt to follow our plan. He is young and wants to take off. I tell him to go on; I expect to reel him back; I use the experience of having run 35 marathons. Ahh, but this march is an entirely different beast altogether.

So he takes off and I am left by myself as the only US Soldier in the near vicinity. I am surrounded by Italians, Germans, Swedish, French, and other nationals. Up ahead, two Italians are handing candy out to the local children. The road is a mild descent and I am clicking 9:10 klips. If I can hold this pace I will break 4 hours. A far cry from what the eventual winner will do, 2:17. That’s right, the winner averaged 8:45 mpm!!! Humbling to the nth degree.

I manage to keep a steady pace and not too many Soldiers pass me. At the 6 Km marker a fellow CPT catches up to me and chats for the next three Ks. We reach the first aid-station and I grab two water bottles (500 ml) and head down a mild descent. I lose the Captain. The road is unimproved and I already feel the blisters burning the bottom of my feet. The friction between my feet and the boot is increased three-fold.

Have you danced with the Devil lately?
Have you marched with the devil lately?
Have you marched with blisters lately?

Two female Soldiers pass me. It hurts my male ego, but I accept the fact that they’re the better Soldiers. I rationalize that they’re full time Soldiers and I am just a part-timer. I wonder how we would match each other in a marathon.

No worries. I march on. The road is in poor condition. It’s hard to have a good footing. Then we hit Km 13 and the start of the only significant ascent. And what an ascent it is. It is quite steep and the disrepair of the road makes it more difficult. It will be roughly 2.5 kilometers of constant climb. Several Soldiers choose to take breathers by the shade. I keep on marching hoping to get over the climb, the sooner, the better. I pass more Soldiers. My heartbeat is in the 170s. The climb is not for the faint of heart. My lungs scream, kind of like in a 5K race. My ipod provides me invaluable company. I wish I had pain-killers, to make the soul forget what the body is going through. I want to separate the two entities. [take that Decartes]

Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name…

We're beaten and blown by the wind
Blown by the wind

The views remind me of the Santa Monica Mountains. I get a little nostalgic. I reach the apex of the loop-course. The descent is awaiting me. I dread it because I know my blisters are getting worse by the minute. I wish I can use the pull of gravity to make up time lost in the climb. Several Soldiers pass me. It is quite humbling. The road seems to flatten. My ankles have rolled several times, but luckily none have resulted in sprains. At Km 17 my left ankle rolls once more, but this time I cannot keep my balance and I tumble to the ground. A Swedish and a German help me get up. They ask if I have been drinking water. It is apparent that they think I dropped due to heat stress. I tell them I am fine. And I am. I only bruised my hands and an already bruised ego.

I march on. 8.2 Klips to go. I keep repeating this mantra: pain is nothing [tm]. The music helps sooth the pain; it even seems to disappear. I pass another km marker. More Soldiers pass me. It's becoming the norm rather than the exception. We reach a village where black water is coming from practically every house; the foul odors are hard to bear. I breath in through my mouth. Children ask us for candy I surmise. I am not sure if they're speaking Albanian or Serbian.

I reach Km 21, and I know I am not too far from the finish. The road is even worse here. There are several puddles and I am forced to walk around them. I march on.

I am closing in on Km 24, and this female Soldier passes me. Damn. I am really losing steam, not that I had any. There is this made up bridge. After I cross it, there are only 1.2 kms to go. I decide to jog this last section. My feet are burning, my shoulders are sore. No matter. I go for it. No guts no glory. Pain is nothing, I remind my soul.

I pass the entrance to the Danish Camp. I can smell the finish. I make one turn. Another turn. Where the heck is the finish? Finally, there it is. I cross it with my watch saying 4:10, or 16 mpm pace. I am not done though; I still have to make way to the registration table where I will get my medal (military) and my certificate of completion. The end is so anticlimactic. No crowds to cheer you in. I then head to the medical tent where they will treat the dozen or so blisters. Ah, if I could only have a couple of brewskies. SGT D finished in 3:23, second US Soldier finisher and 47 minutes ahead of me. I sincerely congratulate him on a job well done. I head to our van to drop my backpack. I am so sore, and my feet are in so much pain it's hard to take a single step. My only consolation is that a fabulous Danish brunch is awaiting me.



Love2Run said...

That's a brutal way to get a 1/2 marathon under your belt. Boots and a heavy pack make such a huge difference in the result. Great job in hanging in there.

Sempre Libera said...

Holy moly, that's a tough one. Nice job out there~

Uptown Girl said...

Yowzers, that's a true test of guts!

greg said...

That was some run. Here in Charleston, SC, some of the local Marines ran the Cooper River Bridge Run (, a 10K, to raise money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. With 55-lb packs. I can't imagine doing it for a half-marathon.

DJ said...

That WAS an awesome brunch. It almost made up for three days of hobbling around on blistered feet :) Just now getting around to reading your blog... good stuff! Good luck during the year to come... I still get the LDESP reports and it sounds like things are moving along over there, albeit characteristically slowly.

Quinto Sol said...

Four days later my feet seem to be better; at least I am not limping anymore :-). I even ran four miles; thank god for moleskin.

I made several mistakes pre-march. 1.- Did not 'train' for the march; felt that my running was enough. 2.- Did not heed the advice of wearing two socks. and 3.- Did not load my backpack evenly; I loaded it with weights and they sank to the bottom. Very uncomfortable (see 1)

There is another one in two weeks; I am thinking of doing it...... NOT! :o)

I cannot fathom marching with 55-lbs, unless you're in the Infantry, right DJ? I hear they do it with 65-lbs!!!

The Salty One said...

Thanks for the nice comment on my blog!

You overconfident runner, you! I can't even imagine running 14(?) miles with 25 lbs on me + the heat + those darn boots! Man, that's crazy. But awesome!! I'm glad you're feeling better and back on the roads.