I didn't die. And my love for ultramarathons began.Three years ago I stood at the starting line of the Javelina Jundred so scared that I couldn't see straight. It was my first 100 miler ever and I was fairly certain I would die. ("Hmmm. Who should I leave these Boys II Men CDs for if should I pass away?") But
I returned to Javelina again over the weekend hoping to make it my 15th 100 miler. I drove down to Arizona with some of the nicest guys I know, my friends from the Ultra Adventures crew. (Think Zion 100, Grand Canyon 100, Antelope Canyon, etc.) This is George, Rick, myself, Turd'l, Mikey, and Matt the night before the race.
One of my race highlights happened the night before the race when we got to chat with Gordy Ainsleigh, the pioneer of 100 mile ultramarathons. (And is it just me or does Gordy not look exactly like the lovable sasquatch in the movie Harry And The Hendersons???)
The Javelina Jundred is always held on the weekend closest to Jalloween so many people wear funny costumes. I saw this awesome Three Amigos shirt from INKnBURN and knew that's what I'd wear.
Out of the Ultra Adventures crew that I traveled with, Turd'l Miller was the only other person actually running the race. The others came to crew and pace. Turd'l and I started the race together and worked to stay very conservative. At one point I looked behind us and saw only one other person! That patience pays off BIG TIME later in the race.
Turd'l burst my bubble a little bit as we were running and he said that my hat looked less like The Three Amigos and more like Jessie from the movie Toy Story. Ouch. And true.
There was a 100 mile option and a 100k option, and between those two distances there were around 700 runners. Wow! I didn't see many of them at first though because I couldn't stop admiring one of the most amazing sunrises I've ever seen. It was stunning.
One slight concern was that it wasn't cold at all in the morning. And you know that if it's not cold in the morning, the day is going to be toasty hot. But that sunrise? That sunrise? Simply beautiful.
The day did indeed get toasty hot. But not nearly as toasty hot as last year's race when I felt like a piece of raw chicken sprinkled with 11 secret herbs and spices and then dropped into burning hot oil at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Despite being hot, this year's weather was the best I've seen in the four times I've run Javelina.
Javelina is a series of 15.3 mile loops through the desert. On paper this race seems like an easier 100 miler. There isn't a ton of elevation gain. Most of the trails aren't very technical. Great aid stations. But let me assure you that there is no such thing as an "easy" 100 miler. There's no way around the minor detail that a 100 miler is......well......100 MILES. I believe the race generally only has 45-55% of runners finish. This is a typical view of the course:
Turd'l and I ran on and on. Hour after hour. After hour. Sometimes we'd travel in silence. But most of the time we were joking and laughing. Turd'l is a funny guy. (The first time my kids ever met him, they asked me afterward "So his first name is Turd and his last name is 'l?" Then my daughter asked me to change her name to Monk'ey.)
Mid day I caught a once-in-a-lifetime picture. Some members of the Tarahumara Tribe came to run the race. I stopped to take a picture of the scenery then saw that Arnulfo Quimare from the book "Born To Run" was coming up behind me. It was a beautiful thing to watch his running flow.
I had the expected and usual low points during the race. I think it's pretty normal to, for example, get 40 miles into a race and think "HOW IN THE WORLD CAN I KEEP DOING THIS FOR 60 MORE MILES?!?!??! PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY BASH MY HEAD IN WITH A CROWBAR." It is incredibly, incredibly difficult to tune out that mind chatter when you start feeling tired and sore and you just want to stop.
It's amazing how your brain can come up with dozens of legitimate, reasonable, justifiable reasons to stop. It's amazing how utterly horrible you can feel in those low times. But what is always even more amazing to me is that a lot of times those lows pass and you start feeling okay (or even good!) again. It doesn't make any sense to me but I know it's true.
Another highlight was being able to spend some miles with one of my running heroes Ed "The Jester" Ettinghausen. No matter how many times I run with Ed I always leave feeling more impressed and inspired. He is the World Record holder for most 100 milers in a year (this was his 31st 100 miler this year!!!). But he is also so kind and encouraging to everyone. He runs races with a cowbell to cheer for other runners along the way. Total class act. I'm proud to call him a friend.
At mile 45 my friend Rick came out on the course to pace me for 30 miles. Rick is one of the kindest people I've ever met. Here is one of many examples to prove it. During the race we met Jenn Thompson who was bit by a rattlesnake TWICE while running recently. We met Jenn in the middle of the night alone and she said she was really struggling with PTSD from the snake issue. She had six more miles to finish the 100k and at the moment I was moving okay but she was having a tough time. After a few minutes I turned around to tell Rick that I would go up ahead but that he could stay with her to get her through the race. But when I turned around they weren't there. Rick had already made the choice to stay behind with Jenn. He knew that at that moment she needed his help more than I did. He is quite the incredible human being.
Matt Gunn, the race director for the Ultra Adventures races volunteered to pace me the last 25 miles of the race. He is at least 3/4 mountain goat and could have run those 25 miles twice as fast as I did them. After six loops and 92 miles there is one last partial loop and runners are given a glow necklace. I can't describe how amazing that feeling is to get that necklace. You could buy one at the store for ten cents but when that necklace means you're almost done with the race, it is priceless.
When we were a few miles from the finish line a Kelly Clarkson song came on my mp3 player. I added it to my music not because I seriously dig Kelly Clarkson but because she reminds me of my family. Last year we went to a huge fireworks show where Kelly Clarkson sang so her music always makes me think of my kids. And after you've run 95 miles your emotions get pretty raw. And then you have a conversation with yourself on the trail that goes like this: "Please don't let Matt turn around to see me crying while listening to Kelly Clarkson."
The second sunrise of the race was equally spectacular. I was so humbled and thankful that Rick and Matt would be willing to spend all those miles with me and help me finish the race. I have some really amazing friends.
Finally after 27 hours and 9 minutes I jumped across the finish line and was handed this cool piece of metal.
One of my very favorite parts of the weekend was making a 100 mile dance party video. I'm really happy with how it turned out. Here is proof that despite passing through times that feel like the lowest of lows, running 100 miles can be a RIDICULOUS amount of fun. Enjoy!!!