Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Javelina Jundred Race Review - My First 100 Miler!

I'm not sure how to describe in words what a profound, challenging, painful, rewarding experience it was to complete my first 100 mile ultramarathon. (It was 101.4 miles to be exact.) It was life-changing.

I knew the Javelina Jundred would be the perfect opportunity for my first 100 mile attempt. Its barren, rocky, desert trails are very similar to where I train which proved to be a big advantage. I felt right at home on the trail. The race was 15.4 mile loops run washing machine style (go clockwise one direction, then turn around and do it counter-clockwise). I didn't get bored with this. In fact I LOVED having these shorter loops. It was easier to break the race down psychologically, easier to crew, and I never felt alone. I think this is one of the reasons that Javelina has so many runners (almost 400!). This was at Javelina Jeadquarters where you turn around after each loop (plus meet your crew, and there is an aid station):


When you're standing at the starting line of an ultramarathon there is such an intense sense of togetherness and purpose and determination. I felt honored to be standing there with a bunch of other crazies.


The temperature in the morning was perfect - around 55 degrees. We ran in the dark for about 45 minutes until the sun started coming up. The sunrise was beautiful and I couldn't help but stop to take lots of pictures.


I saw a lady up ahead of me who seemed to be stopping as much as I did to take pictures. I caught up to her later and said "I think we'd make good training partners. I don't like to train with people because I stop so much for pictures, but I think you and I could run together." I found out it was Susan Donnelly who has run more than 40 100 milers! Simply incredible. (She ran a 100 last weekend!) She gave me some great tips. Later I emailed her and told her thanks for her help. She wrote back "I'm always happy to help but I've seen a lot of first timers and don't think you needed help. Every time I saw you, you were pacing steady and looked naturally in good shape." (+1 for my self-esteem.)


In the afternoon it started to get warm (I heard around 75 degrees). I knew it was getting hot but I think all the heat training I had done really paid off and it didn't wipe me out. My little girls made me some bracelets to wear during the race so I could think about them. I also wrote a little reminder to myself for when things got hard:


By this time I had switched to my Hoka shoes. I was a little concerned because they give me blisters, but they are so much better for my feet and knees. I guess you just take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life. (I would have KILLED for an ipod to get that horrific song out of my head during the race! Killed!) The course was just beautiful. We were surrounded by enormous saguaro cacti.


I've been scared of rattlesnakes since my close encounter with one a few months ago but thankfully I didn't see any the whole time! The scariest thing I saw was a guy who ran out of the bushes right in front of me after taking a bathroom break. Scared the bejeebers out of me! I also saw six of these:


Let me tell you again: I LOVED having this be a loop course! Loved it! It was so fun to watch the race unfold and have the faster people come by going the other direction. I just loved cheering them on. But what was awesome was that they were cheering people on too. When the fastest elites would pass me they would smile and say "Great job!" or "Way to go!" It made the race feel more like a family of runners instead of being out in the middle of nowhere without seeing another runner for hours on end.

The course was very runable but certainly challenging. There are ultras with way more elevation change but this course has its share of hills. Hills that drag on for miles and miles and miles. Some parts of the course were sandy and level:


Some parts of the course were very, very rocky. This can take a toll on your feet after a while.


I liked this withered, rotted tree. Mel saw this picture afterward and said "This is how you felt at the end, isn't it." Um, yep. This picture PERFECTLY describes how I was feeling at the end.


About halfway through the loop you reach Jackass Junction. (I can't think of a more appropriate name for an aid station at a 100 miler.) You can have a drop bag at this point so I stocked some warm clothes just in case the weather got ugly. (Spoiler alert: IT DID.)


The aid stations were the best I have ever seen in a race. Over the course of those 101 miles I ate: brownies, gummy worms, M&Ms, pretzels, pizza, a turkey sandwich, PB&J, Ramen noodles, oranges, bananas, watermelon, hot chocolate, pumpkin pie, and Oreos. And I didn't just have a little. Since my stomach was cooperating, I ate lots.

But I came across two items sent straight from heaven: Nutella sandwiches and bean burritos. At each aid station I was popping those like a drug fiend. (I know......bean burritos + ultramarathon = ultradisaster. But by some act of God, they never caused any problems!) I expected a nuclear attack in my gut but it never came. (Thank goodness, because, whoa. Whoa, that could have gotten ugly.)


Physically, one of the best parts of the race was that I somehow managed to keep my stomach the whole time. I never had any GI problems. I never threw up. I was able to eat just fine at all the aid stations. I was so thankful because if you can't keep calories down, your day is over. The sun was starting to go down on day 1 and you can see some menacing clouds on the horizon.


I finished my third lap at 45 miles as the sun went down and saw a simply amazing sunset. I got goosebumps. I felt so grateful that I was witnessing something so beautiful and was so happy to be participating in this experience.


I headed out for lap 4 by myself in the dark. It took a few miles for me to get my sea legs night legs but when I got accustomed to running in the dark I caught a serious second wind. I felt so, so good and it felt like I was gliding up and down the hills and rocks. It was smooth and effortless. I finished lap 4 (60 miles) with a huge jump across the start/finish line at Jeadquarters.

And then the race got ugly. Super ugly. At first the rain started to sprinkle. Then it started coming steady. Then the downpour started. (This is Arizona for crying out loud! It rains here like every decade or something!) The trails became slick and muddy and much harder to run. At this point I picked up my first pacer: my kind wife Mel. We wore garbage bags which helped keep our tops dry but my shoes were wet and I was cold. I asked her to say a prayer that I would be alright.

The coyotes were howling. At one of the aid stations we stood under their canopy for a minute. I told Mel "Let's take a picture right here. This is what I look like inside my pain cave." After about 65 miles I definitely had entered the pain cave. My knees and feet hurt and I was tired. It was probably around 3:00am and I had been running for 21 hours.

In life I think it's important to try and stay positive and smile even if things really suck and you're going through a hard time. I tried to do that during this race also. I had pulled up a Lazy Boy inside my own personal pain cave and things were really starting to suck but I tried to still stay positive:


Lap 6 (miles 75-90) were indescribably difficult. Words can't describe how challenging those miles were. My incredibly awesome sister Hollie joined me for this lap to keep me on track. There wasn't a ton of running during this lap. But there was more rain on and off. I'd guess it rained a total of seven hours during the race. No bueno. My only hallucination was during this lap. I saw an aid station tent coming up around the corner. I said "Yes!" But we went around the corner and it wasn't there. We kept going and then it was nowhere in sight. I was distraught. I swore I saw it, but it never appeared. I never did see any Care Bears or unicorns. I was definitely glad to have Hollie there for company.


Hollie was positive and encouraging but I just couldn't run very much. My feet felt like I was walking on burning coals and the pain in my knees was excruciating. It was humbling but refreshing to see my second sunrise of the race. (I had a poncho attached to my back because more rain was forecast.)


Hollie was the official crew photographer. I told her to take pictures of everything, good or bad. This was a photo where I was utterly exhausted and teetering on the edge. I am not a gifted athlete. But I am tenacious and determined and stubborn. And that can take you far.


For the race I averaged a 17:22 minute mile. You think to yourself "Easy, I could walk that fast." Very true. But when you add in hills, and rocks, and rain, and physical exhaustion way beyond anything you have ever experienced before, 17:22 is no stroll through the park.

I finished lap six and received the one thing I had been coveting for many hours: a glow bracelet! You get one of these when you reach the start of lap 7 - the final lap. I could have cried, I was so happy.


Mel joined me for the last 9 miles. Even though I was happy to be on the last lap, I was a complete mess. I knew I would make it to the finish line, but I honestly did not know how I was going to get there. Every cell of my body was screaming. My gas tank was completely dry and I had nothing left to give. Mel just held my hand and kept me walking. "You'll be wistful for the "wall" off the marathon when you hit the "death grip" of the ultra." ~ Bob Glover


I had heard that in an ultramarathon you experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. For me, those things happened at the exact same time. And it was at mile 95. I was only six miles away, but that finish line might as well have been in Portugal. I started sobbing. Not loud weeping. I just silently walked as tears rushed down my face. Normally I'm not a very emotional person, but at that moment my eyes were like faucets.

I was crying because of the crippling pain. I was crying because of complete exhaustion and despair. I was crying because every single step hurt worse than the one before. I was crying because I so desperately wanted to be at that finish line. I was crying because I was so grateful for the body my Heavenly Father gave me. I was crying because I thought of my family and friends and their tremendous support. I was crying because I was so thankful to be part of this incredible experience. I was crying because I knew that the last 40 miles had been so difficult which would make the finish line that much sweeter. I was crying because I was so, so happy.

The "slow and steady, one foot in front of the other" approach was slowly getting me closer to the finish line. I was ecstatic to finally see this sign for the home stretch. (I just couldn't bend down to get any closer to the sign.)


In the last mile a coyote was hanging out on the side of the trail. I didn't care if he ate me. And then I arrived after 29 hours and 22 minutes. Words can't describe how happy I was to be here. Even though my sweet wife snapped the picture a little too early, I did jump across the finish line.


And then I was handed the Javelina Jundred belt buckle. I will cherish this little piece of metal for the rest of my life. It symbolizes all those long months of training, all those early mornings waking up to run, all those gallons of sweat I lost doing my heat training. It will always remind me that I can do hard things.


It was amazing to see how quickly my body shut down after the race ended. I started walking to the car to leave and had to kneel down because I almost passed out. I also had a few dry heaves but managed to make it to the car. Hollie snapped this on our 15 minute drive back to the condo:


Warning: Gross Pictures Ahead. Just to prove that the ultra wasn't all smiles and fun, I'll show you a few post-race pictures. When we got back to the condo I got out of the car and immediately had to stumble over to the stairs because I almost passed out again. Everything went black but I don't think I completely passed out. Then the throwing up started. I felt not-so-awesome.


I haven't been able to eat very much over the last few days since the race because I become really nauseous whenever I eat. My knees are pretty sore and I'm walking like Frankenstein. And not only did my feet feel like I was walking on hot coals. They also look like I had been walking on hot coals. But considering everything I went through this isn't too bad. I was actually expecting to be in much worse shape.


If I were to design a perfect race, it would be the Javelina Jundred. The course was beautiful. The volunteers were simply incredible and supportive and encouraging. The organization was flawless. I can't think of one thing I would change. The finisher rate for this race is only 49%. I was so thankful to be counted among the finishers.

Completing a 100 mile race truly was a profound, challenging, painful, rewarding, and life-changing experience. Crossing that finish line transformed me and I will never be the same.


"Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further.....past what your mind wants to let you. That's what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you've never known." ~ Rex Pace

57 comments:

  1. I puffy unicorn heart love this recap, especially the part about not caring if the coyote ate you and the vomiting. :)

    You are so awesome for staying strong and finishing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are so awesome! I especially loved how you are so grateful for your body even when it was in the most pain you've ever been in. Congrats for all you hard work this year culminating in that belt buckle! I don't know what else to say, other than I'm in complete awe of you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great recap. Sounds like you have an amazing family and support crew too! I wish you a quick recovery in the days ahead. Recovery run anytime soon? just kidding. Thanks for sharing your story, it is inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Loved reading this recap! You did super amazing! I am in awe. It definitely does NOT make me want to do an ultra ;)!! It did make me hungry, though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Congratulations on finishing something so extraordinary! That is one incredible distance, and you did it with such style! Way to go! I had so much fun tracking you throughout the day(s). I saw ya a couple times, and you looked really good. Those feet look REALLY painful! I hope you're recovering and feeling good. You've got an awful lot of friends and family that love you. That's obvious! Great job!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congratulations Cory! What an amazing accomplishment! Sounds like you had an amazing experience. My boss has ran the Wasatch 100 twice and never gave us much detail as to what happens during the race (at least all the not-so-great stuff). So glad Mel & your sister were there to help you with some of those last laps!

    can't wait to see what you are planning next!

    ReplyDelete
  7. LOVED this race report, I hung on for every single word! 49% finishing rate? I had no idea it was that low...yet there you were, at the finish, jumping across even! Words can't even describe how incredibly proud of you I am right now! Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Absolutely AMAZING. That was the best race report I have ever read - I got goosebumps!!

    My favorite line: "I didn't care if the coyote ate me."

    CONGRATS, CORY!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fast Cory,

    I've been reading your blog for many months now, ever since Amylee and I saw Ponytail Guy at the Wasatch Back Ragnar and died in a fit of giggles thinking about your post. (I have seen him at almost every race I have ran since!) I LOVE THIS BLOG. I hardly ever comment on blogs, but I decided it's time to finally delurk and say THANK YOU for your amazing example. I got really choked up reading this post because to me, that is what running is all about: getting to the finish line in your own way. I am so amazed and impressed. Please keep taking amazing photographs and running in my home away from home, Southern Utah. There is nothing quite like the glory of the desert. :) Way to be a finisher!

    ReplyDelete
  10. WOW DUDE!! This is just amazing. I am so inspired!!! very very cool -- hey what kind of camera do you carry on your runs? The pics are just stunning!

    Again -- congrats!! What a feat. wow wow wow!

    ReplyDelete
  11. SO amazing. What a great recap! Your poor feet! I'm so glad you were able to push through and endure. You are right--You CAN do hard things. REALLY hard things. So inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Cory this seriously gave me goosebumps. you CAN do hard, tough, amazing, incredible, inspiring things. Congratulations! I really am just in awe...you inspire me daily to be better!

    ReplyDelete
  13. What an experience! I felt so happy and honored and privileged to share the experience with you. Running a lap together was one of the highlights of my life, and I felt so blessed to be there with you during one of your most challenging AND rewarding moments of life.

    I was and am so proud of your accomplishments during this race. Mel and I sat at the finish line and watched many runners come through at every lap. There were many who looked like they were ready to die. Even if you felt that way, I was continually impressed at your positive attitude and how cheerful you always remained. It was SO INSPIRING!!

    Thanks again for the experience and your super hero example. I cannot adequately articulate just how much I love and admire you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. You FINISHED. I was so emotional reading your story. I couldn't help but draw so many parallels to our life here on earth, and our Father in Heaven. I am sure that when your wife was running with you that she wanted nothing more than to carry you when you were in your moments of despair and pain. How hard it must be for our sweet Father to watch us struggle when all he would have to do is swoop down and carry us in his arms. BUT THAT ISN'T WHAT IT IS ABOUT. It is through the refiner's fire that we find out who we are and what we are made of.

    Cory, you are made of diamonds and steel- beauty and strength. Nothing can break you.

    Praying for a fast recovery for you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Simply amazing! I am short on words right now as I am still trying to comprehend everything but wow you are an inspiration to so many people and I am so incredibly proud of you. Thank you for proving to me that hard things are possible with enough determination and heart.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow! I am super impressed. GREAT JOB!. Sounds awful and wonderful all at the same time. Take care of yourself and recover well.
    Can't wait to hear what is next for you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh my heavens! You are so freaking awesome. I can NOT even fathom what you just accomplished. SO many amazing lessons you will be able to share with people for the rest of your life...especially your kids. I kind of want to be your friend.

    ReplyDelete
  18. WOW. I am in awe of your determination and total all out tenacity. You, Cory Reese, are something quite phenomenal. Walk, crawl, barrel roll... whatever it took you DID IT! I'm posting this blog everywhere I can, so people can read it on this blah Wednesday and realize that there are still people out there striving for greatness and doing amazing things.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have tears in my eyes after reading this. Just amazing! Amylee's comment says it all.
    So, is there another 100-miler in your future?

    ReplyDelete
  20. This was a wonderful race report. You are truly one of my favorites. You almost made me want to do one of these, and I definitely do NOT want to do one of these!

    Congratulations! Wow.

    ReplyDelete
  21. First, congratulations on a huge accomplishment. Second, thanks for the great race report, you did a wonderful job of capturing the agony and the ecstasy that is your first 100 mile finish.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am officially a fan of yours for life. You are AMAZING Cory!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I LOVED your line about not being a gifted athlete but being tenacious and determined and stubborn. That is absolutely me...plus 75 or so miles.

    This whole report was just amazing. The pictures (of course), your early strength, your awesome wife and sister...and the last lap with your wife had me tearing up a little.

    CONGRATULATIONS! So happy for you! What an amazing accomplishment.

    ReplyDelete
  24. wow cory!! you are freaking amazing! you make me almost want to do an ultra (or maybe never do one, i'm not sure which.) i love that you captured the ugly moments. we seriously need to have a potluck when you get your appetite back so we can get more details of the experience.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I LOVED reading this race report - I felt like I was right there with you! I've never done a 100 miler but I have done a 72-hour adventure race and I've experienced those exact same highs and lows... Have you ever heard of sleep monsters? When I read about the coyote at the end I had to wonder if he was actually there or a hallucination :) And that total crash at the finish - oh man! An hour after my husband and I finished the 72-hour race, we attempted to drive to a friend's cabin an hour away. We made it thirty miles - in three hours - before giving up and stopping at a motel for the night.

    Congratulations, Cory - what an awesome experience.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Best recap in the history of recaps. You are my hero. I want to be you when I grow up. I can't even imagine how tough that was but your pictures, story and humor helped us understand just a little bit. Outstanding, my friend!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Wow, amazing job!!! Hard to believe that you did 100 miles - no matter the pace I couldn't imagine doing basically 4 marathons in a row.

    The scenery did indeed look great!

    That really sucks about the rain, that would really be tough to get through.

    That pic of you with your hands on your legs bending over - you look famished and a zombie for sure. I'm glad you had a partner the last couple laps, almost seems dangerous to be out there alone when you are that tired. I'm assuming that you stayed up for the entire 28 hours? That is a long time to stay awake!

    Congrats again and enjoy the recovery from this!

    ReplyDelete
  28. That was probably one of the best ultra stories I have read in a long time. You encompassed it all. Congratulations on your race. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  29. my friend, i would say that you are a mighty gifted athlete. not many people are brave enough to take this challenge on, it takes a certain athlete with certain gifts to do this...and you completed this challege heroicly! again, many congrats. hope that the healing is going well.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Cory I have told you before that you are amazing..but YOU truly are..you constantly inspire and those who follow you are encouraged to make more of their own lives. Only a runner would know what you truly experienced during this ordeal..but also only a runner would know what the feeling is when you have leaped all fatigue, and enemy barriers to cross that finish line. Never quit writing your adventures..Thanks goodness with your camera you actually can take us with you..HUGS and Speedy recovery!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Wow! You ran 100 freaking miles. Unbelievable! I am so in awe. Congratulations!

    And I love how your wife took pictures of you puking afterwards. That is love.

    ReplyDelete
  32. You are really amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am a new follower and can't wait to see where else you take your running.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing this incredible experience! As usual great pics! Those feet OMG! Wow...I just don't have the words. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
  34. That is such a wonderful story. You take the most fantastic pictures and you shared the good the bag and the ugly this time!

    What a fantastic achievement. So glad you had your wife and sister along to help you.

    I do hope you start to feel better very soon and your feet heal up quickly, too.

    Just awesome, truly awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Oh, you look so TIRED! thank you thank you for documenting this and for sharing. you're so inspiring, Cory. CONGRATULATIONS on earning your buckle!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Congrats! You are amazing. AMAZING!

    ReplyDelete
  37. I can't fathom eating bean burritos during ANY race. You are jard core! And I jope there weren't any jalapenos in it. :)

    Way to stay the course. What an INCREDIBLE accomplishment that God saw you through. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Congrats Cory, that was an inspiring write up on a tough 100 mile course! As always, great pics. Put your feet up for the holidays now...and let your body take a breather!

    ReplyDelete
  39. I really enjoyed reading this. Congratulations Cory. Such a huge accomplishment!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Way to go Cory! That is amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  41. What an incredible journey! Thank you so much for sharing it. I am in awe of your accomplishment!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Congrats on the 100-mile finish! Your recap was pretty awesome too! I plan on getting one of those buckles someday!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Your amazing recap makes me want to try this someday! I think I need to try a marathon first though eh? You are truly inspirational though.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Holy WOW!! THAT was a good read. I'm so amazed by your accomplishment. WAY. TO. GO. CORY REESE!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Hi Cory! I ran JJ too! My first. Check out my race report at http://duffyville.blogspot.com/2011/11/1014-miles-of-desert-fun.html
    My feet looked just like yours!!! I was told that horrible rash is from the red clay in the sand. I just fought off a nasty bout of strep throat post race...not so fun. Awesome job. Great read. Check out the Hal Koerner and Liza Howard interview on ultrarunner podcast. Happy trails!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hi Cory!! AWESOME RR. Seriously, so well written, thanks for sharing!

    Makes me almost want to run 100 miler!! Almost.

    Those feet look OWWWIE!!!

    ReplyDelete
  47. I loved reading about your experience - Congratulations on an incredible accomplishment!!

    ReplyDelete
  48. Great recap. An impressive accomplishment for sure. I hope I can get to say I did 100 and collect a buckle some day.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I don't know you - but the Jundred is a goal of mine in 2012. My longest race is a 50 - so this is a big leap for me. Excellent recount of your experience and a huge inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  50. You are so totally awesome and I loved your write up about your first 100! Having just done my first two weeks ago, so much of what you wrote, I could relate to. Thanks for making me laugh and sharing your story! :) Great job!!

    ReplyDelete
  51. As I am getting close to my first 100 attempt I am back reading again. I love that quote, "...introducing you to a self you've never known."

    Your post creates many emotions in me today. I am again so happy for you. I am filled with nervous excitement for myself. I am very ready to keep putting one foot in front of the other for longer than I have yet done. But mostly I am just eager to meet that me that is out there waiting on the other side of that 100 mile finish line.

    Thanks for being so inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Hey Cory, even though there was not a single mention of a Hostess product, I still think that this is one of the best race reports I have ever read. Kudos to you for including the picture of you throwing up. I always leave that one of me out, but perhaps now I will be inspired to follow your lead and include it. I also have wished for a wild animal to eat me near the end of certain hundreds. I have called out "here kitty, kitty" hoping for a mountain lion at Western. Alas, this rarely happens. Mostly you just have to keep going. Very nice work. Can't wait to meet you at Zion this weekend. You got your May/June UR right? You look great!

    ReplyDelete
  53. That last comment was from me. I think I am not Unknown anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Just found your blog after you commented on mine. This report is awesome! I put a 100 miler on my life list, and everyone thinks I'm nuts....since I've yet to run a 1/2 marathon (running that in August). Anyway, really enjoyed reading your recap.. and congratulations! So awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  55. Congrats on your first 100 mile finish! Love the photos and the story, very well written :)

    ReplyDelete
  56. It was great to read your recap! You rock! My wife and I will be out there with you this year for our first 100 miler. I cant consume enough info on this crazy event. Thanks for stoking my fire of excitment!

    ReplyDelete
  57. Great race write-up Cory! I ran the Jundred last month and your blog was very helpful.

    ReplyDelete