Wow, I had quite the 100 mile running adventure over the weekend at the Javelina Jundred. It is so crazy to think that this was my first 100 mile race two years ago. It was such an amazing experience that I came back again last year (which ended a few miles shorter than I hoped for). I was nervous but excited going into this year's race.
I submit that you won't find a race with a more fun, happy atmosphere than Javelina Jundred. It's like a 100 mile Jalloween party. I wasn't going to wear a costume after last year's traumatic experience. But we found this big foam wig at Target the night before the race so I figured I'd give it a whirl. Here is my mug shot:
I was so thankful to have my wife and son, Mel and Jackson join me on the trip to Arizona. After Jackson's experience crewing at the Bryce 100 he was so excited to be involved again. We went the day before the race to check out the trail. This is at Jeadquarters where runners pass every 15.4 miles.
One of the things I was most excited about was to run with my coworker and friend Catherine. We've run a bunch of races together and I was psyched to be with her as she went for 100.
Around 400 runners set out to tackle the 100 miler (with nearly another 100 going for 100k). It wasn't cold at the starting line at 6am so we knew we'd be in for a hot couple days on the trail.
It is a beautiful thing to watch the sun come up and see the little dots of a conga line of runners spread out on the trail up ahead of you.
We kept getting a good laugh from other runners who said they were puzzled when they saw this shadow coming up behind them with an enormous Bride Of Frankenstein head.
Catherine is about the happiest, funniest person you could spend a race with. Our goal was to stay very, very conservative for the first 50 miles and we did a good job of staying on pace. We were having a blast! (Of course there were still 87 more miles to go.)
The course consists of six loops of 15.4 miles and then one last 9 mile loop. You have 30 hours to cover those 100 miles. On our second loop we spent some time with new trail friends Ian and Leslie. Leslie said something like "We're looking forward to noon so we can say to ourselves 'At least we'll be done with the race by this time tomorrow!'"
It wasn't just humans that we spent time on the trail with. Thankfully no rattlesnakes, but we saw a few well-fed tarantulas.
As the hours went on, temperatures continued to soar into the 90s. Reports from Jeadquarters got up to 96 degrees and out in the middle of the desert people were getting up to 102 DEGREES! Trying to go 100 miles in the middle of that heat is a huge challenge and we started seeing people hunched over barfing or trying to lay in a thin sliver of shade from a cactus. We kept plugging forward.
Despite the crazy heat, Catherine and I were feeling as good as new. Here is the secret: ice in a tube sock! This was the first time I've used this and it was nothing short of a miracle. Mel had sewed some Velcro to the end of a tube sock so we could fill it with ice and then seal it. It kept us cool and the ice dripped down our shirts keeping our core temps very manageable. I also filled my hat with ice at each station. These things made a WORLD of difference. I really think this little icy sock puppet saved our race.
One of the things I was most happy about was being able to manage nutrition and hydration better than I have in any other race. I probably got 80% of my calories from liquids. After each loop I refilled my pack with Tailwind to get the calories and electrolytes. I also took some hits of Coke along the way. I'd say I got another 10% of calories from Honey Stinger chews just because sometimes I felt like I wanted something to eat. And another 10% of calories from food at aid stations like a few pretzels or a little piece of pumpkin pie. The Tailwind had electrolytes, and in the heat of the day I also took one salt tablet around once an hour. I had no stomach issues for the whole race. This little chunk of sandwich was the only substantive solid food I ate for 30 hours:
We kept plugging along knowing that once the sun started to go down the temperature would cool off. Sometimes Catherine and I would tell each other funny or embarrassing stories. Sometimes we'd just run in silence. But it was so, so great to have that company out on the trail. I was so thankful for her support and focus.
When we were around mile 42 we got passed by ultra running legend Hal Koerner who was at around mile 77 of his race. We cheered him on and he smiled and said "Way to go, keep it up!" You can see Catherine in the background thinking "What just happened?!?" That guy was cruising. He went on to crush the race with a winning time of 14 hours 56 minutes. We joked that Hal could run 100 miles, go take a shower, eat a nice dinner, sleep eight hours, have breakfast in bed, and watch a movie by the time we finished the race. Props.
We witnessed a completely spectacular sunset. I kept thinking how thankful I was to be doing what I was doing. It simply does not get better than this.
Mel and Jackson volunteered all day at the Jeadquarters aid station. They are the best! It was so cool to have their support each time I came through. It wasn't just Mel and Jackson that were awesome, each aid station was full of the best volunteers you'll ever find at a race.
We finished 45 miles and picked up a pacer for loop four- a friend of mine named Kristin. We have corresponded for years but never met in person. This kind soul drove two hours to the race, paced us for 15 miles, then hung out and waited at the finish line until the end. She kept us motivated and moving steady. I can't thank Kristin enough for her help.
Some crazy stuff went down on loop four. Somewhere around mile 52 Catherine stopped moving. Then she hunched over. I knew she was about to join the ranks of those real runners who leave part of their dinner on the trail. She said her stomach felt much better after barfing and she kept right on moving. For photographic purposes she recreated the scene.
It turns out that we didn't need to recreate that scene......because it happened two more times. But here is the amazing thing - Catherine kept right on going. She was passing through some dark times that are inevitable in a race this long. But she was determined and kept fighting. To see her feeling yucky, then barf, then keep persevering - it made me cry. I was so inspired.
We finished mile 61 with Kristin then headed out on loop five on our own. It was pitch black outside but the temperature was absolute perfection. To be honest, I only remember one thing about that lap. It was at mile 69. My feet and knees had been sore, but mile 69 is when I plunged into the pain cave. Make that the pain penthouse. Holy ouch. Bob Glover said "You'll be wistful for the 'wall' of the marathon when you hit the 'death grip' of the ultra." Very true. Here is the entrance to the pain penthouse:
We arrived at mile 76 and ready to begin loop six. Our pacer for the loop was none other than Catherine's awesome husband Kacey. Unfortunately Catherine's feet were not happy campers. She had some blisters going on that would make you blush.
We had to bust a move if we were going to cover the last 24 miles of the race before the cutoff. Catherine and Kacey said that considering how she was feeling, it was looking like she wouldn't make it in time. They told me over and over that I needed to go now or else I wouldn't finish. I kept resisting but eventually agreed. It was hard to leave after going almost 80 miles with Catherine but I pressed on.
My feet were SCREAMING. I have what is known in the medical community as WOHCS (Walking On Hot Coals Syndrome). Every step feels like walking on a bed of fire. That kicked in around mile 40 and grew progressively worse with ever mile but after doing these races I'm slowly starting to learn that I can keep running despite a raging case of WOHCS.
I got to enjoy my second sunrise of the race. Seriously - how funny is it that you can be running for so long that you see a sunrise, a sunset, and another sunrise?!?!? This cool cactus threw me a peace sign.
I don't know what got into me but a fire was lit and my little chicken legs started hauling. I was feeling better than I could have hoped. One of the things I love most about Javelina is that after you finish loop six you are given a glow necklace as you head out on your last lap. I can't tell you how much I looked forward to that necklace for 91 miles. You can buy one of these for ten cents, but for me, this thing is priceless.
When I got to Jeadquarters Mel said she was ready to come out on the last loop with me. I told her I didn't know if that was a good idea. She hasn't run in three weeks since we ran the St. George Marathon. Plus it was scorching, scorching hot. (No ice sock puppet on day two.) Plus I was having this freak of nature thing where my legs were running like lightning. But she insisted. And you know what? She held up like a champ! She kept up with every burst I threw at her. I am so happy that I was able to share those miles with her. She is amazing. I love her.
The last four miles of the race are different than the rest of the course. They are lovely, silky smooth downhill rollers that kept my legs whipping. I was in heaven.
I finished in 29 hours and 33 minutes after running the last 20 miles faster than any ultra I've done. Mainly I just wanted to get done so I could take my shoes off and sit down.
I was highly thankful to get those shoes off.
So here's the conclusion in all of this: I have the best family ever. That girl Catherine?? Yea. She's amazing. Amazing. She earned herself a very well-deserved 100k belt buckle and pushed through more than anyone could know. I really admire what she accomplished. Running 100 miles is seriously hard and seriously rewarding. Out of the 400ish people who started this race only 41% finished. Now that's a hard race!
I have now finished five 100 milers. These ultramarathons change you. I feel like the person who started the race is not the same person who finished the race. I was again given the chance to peer inside myself in a way that only 100 miles can make you do.