I won’t soon forget where I was for Jalloween 2009. Last year, Brian was planning to run Javelina Jundred but injury got in the way of his plan. He and Kelly had already bought their tickets so they decided to go anyway and volunteer at the race (that’s just the kind of awesome people they are) and they were so taken back with how great the race was that Brian vowed to come back and run in 2009. Fast forward to June 2009, I’m talking to Brian about my plans for the rest of the summer and figuring out what races I still had left in me – he seized the opportunity to plug Javelina. I didn’t pay much attention but clearly he planted a seed. Before long, I was looking at the website and thinking it might be a good race to do, for a lot of reasons: 1) It would be a chance to do a race with Brian. 2) I love the desert southwest. 3) It was a logistically easy race to plan for. 4) The timing was good. 5) The race looked like a lot of fun. That was enough for me, I was in.
Brian was successful in recruiting a few others to go as well, so on Friday, there were eight CHUGs hanging around at the Javelina Jeadquarters; five of us were there to run and the other three to pace and crew. It was a festive environment with an area set up for camping, a check-in area, a food line, and a patio with table/chairs. After we had checked in, we picked up our great race goodie bags. They weren’t skimpy on the swag, we got a cool bag, water bottle, awesome long-sleeve North Face technical running shirt, and a bunch of little treats inside the bag. Next, we were off to take some pictures – the Corson boys taught me a long time a go that any picture worth taking is that much better as a “jumper” so I explained the concept to the crew and a jumper was born. Granted, this probably wasn’t the best idea on a sore ankle, in loose soil, with slip on shoes, but I wanted the shot. With our picture taken, we were off to get some food. The race hosted a small pasta dinner complete with beer and dessert. After dinner, we listened to a guy who goes by Caballo Blanco; he was one of the main individuals in the book ‘Born to Run’. He offered some thoughts on his experiences living among and running with the Tarahumara. He also talked about the race that he is RD for which supports the local runners and their communities – it was fun to hear about how different cultures can be.
Back at the hotel, we were bunking up with Brian and Kelly. Just one week after our trip to Wisconsin with them, the roles were reversed and it was Brian and I who were prepping for the next day while the girls relaxed. I’ve worn my favorite shorts for nearly every long run and all my races over the past eight or nine years and they have become inappropriately thin in the inner thigh area, so I’ve been trying to find an adequate replacement for them. This summer, I found a combination that was working pretty well and I decided to try it for the race. With clothes prepped, it was time to relax. Paige, being her usual awesome self, rubbed my legs and back before we called it a night at roughly 9PM. I slept well and woke up feeling pretty rested at 4AM. We dressed at the hotel and headed for race jeadquarters by 5AM. Paige and Kelly were volunteering from 5AM – 1PM, the rest of us got our stuff situated and finalized our race prep.
The morning was cool but nice. It was quite clear and the moon/stars were bright. It was a good idea to have a headlamp but it would turn out to not be completely necessary for most of the trail. The excitement built as the countdown approached start time. Final hugs and kisses were given and off we headed into the early morning darkness. It felt good to be running and I was excited for the day.
The first 5 miles were mostly uphill, a gentle and hardly noticeable hill but a hill never-the-less. The footing was decent with a few sandy sections and one modestly rocky section. I was carrying two handheld water bottles – one had a concentrated Perpetuem mix that was measured to fuel me for one loop and the other carried just water. I reminded myself to drink early and often to keep ahead of my hydration needs before the heat of the day set in. We hit the Coyote Camp aid station (AS) at 5 miles, we’d see plenty more of this one throughout the day. The next section was my favorite section of the course, it was rolling and had a wider variety of terrain. The hills were still runnable but also short enough and steep enough to remind you that you could take a walking break if needed. This time through, I ran most of the hills. I soon met up with a lady who was on a mission to run fifty 50 mile races this year to celebrate her 50th birthday. She counts a 100 mile race as two, she was on 43/44 today and it has only been 8 months since she started – wow! The next AS was Jackass Junction at 10 miles. I refilled my water and kept moving. The race had 250 starters and was finally starting to thin out a little. A few minutes out of the AS, I passed the leaders on their way back the other direction – this meant that they were already several miles ahead of me – yikes, they are fast! Like the first section, this section was a gentle but steady hill with one exception, it was a downhill for nearly 5 miles into Javelina Jeadquarters aid station (JJAS). I was moving along at a pretty good pace and felt happy the sun was up and revealing the beauty of the area we would be running in for the rest of the day. As I rolled into the AS, Paige was there and helped me fill my bottles while I changed my shorts. Yep, one lap was all I lasted before reverting to my favorite (virtually see through) shorts. I was already feeling some chaffing and I wasn’t going to let it get any worse. With fresh bottles, I headed out on loop two back the direction I just came from. The course is a 15 mile loop that starts clockwise at “3 o’clock” and then reverses and goes counterclockwise for the second loop. This is a great format for a couple of reasons, it keeps it a little more interesting and it allows you to see people several times throughout the day.
On my way back, I got to see all the crew – everyone looked good and seemed in good spirits. The day was starting to warm up but it felt good to me after the several weeks of cool weather we’ve had in Chicago. I have a long standing fear of snakes as well as a knack for finding them even when I am not looking for them, so you can imagine the amount of mental prepping I did before coming to run for a day in prime rattlesnake country. As I was turning the final bend before the AS, I was startled out of my running zone by a loud and quickly identifiable sound – no, not the terrifying rattle I’d prepared for but the snorting and hoof stomping of horses – WILD horses. Wild as in, you can keep them if you can catch them. They were about 25 yards away and they were awesome! They quickly bolted into the brush leaving behind a huge plume of dust – my first animal spotting of the day.
As I left the Coyote Canyon AS and started the long decent into JJAS, I simultaneously felt a sharp stabbing feeling in both my right hip and my right knee. The pain brought me to a hobbling walk. This was a pain that I’d never felt before which was a little unsettling and I wasn’t sure what to think of it or do about it. I was fine on the flatter sections of the course but anytime it turned to a downhill, the pain was right back. It was early in the day and I was concerned that I was going to have to deal with this for the rest of the day. When I got to JJAS, I stretched a little and took some ibuprofen before heading back out. As is often the case with random running pains, they come and go – after hobbling for nearly 5 miles, I never felt the pain again.
I may have not felt the mysterious pain again, but I was starting to feel the effects of the day. I was taking more walking breaks and starting to notice some mild dehydration effects – namely, cramping. I drank more water, more Gatorade and took my SaltStick every 20 minutes instead of every 30 minutes – soon I was feeling better. It was on this loop that I saw my first (and second) coyote of the day. He crossed the trail about 20 yards in front of me and appeared to be barely touching the ground beneath him. It was warm at this point and I was pretty glad to not be wearing his coat of fur. The next several miles were relatively uneventful, though I did meet and run with a great guy named Rob from Salt Lake City – not the infamous Rob Corson, sadly – but a great guy just the same. The day continued to wear on me and my pace began to slow. I had started the day with no doubt that I would finish well under 24 hours but now it was beginning to look like I was going to have to keep an eye on things just to make that goal.
Paige was taking good care of me but I missed her each time I’d leave JJAS and was really looking forward to her joining me. The next lap brought me to my knees. I started out and walked a good chunk of the first 5 mile uphill. My legs were tired and my lower back was tight. I allowed myself a lot of leeway considering I had nearly 50 miles under my belt but also had over 50 miles to go. About halfway through the loop, it became apparent to me that I should have brought my headlamp as the sun was already getting low in the sky even though it was only 5PM. Just as I was having this thought, I notice something out of the corner of my eye on the edge of the trail. At first it didn’t register – after all, I was a little fuzzy at this point, but then it dawned on me what it was… one of the most feared animals that haunts people’s night mares and inspires creepy movies – the tarantula. Turns out I wasn’t the only one that was fuzzy : )
Sure enough, it got dark with a little over 4 miles to go. It took a few minutes to get comfortable but soon, I realized that the moon and stars were bright enough that I could see quite well. When I got to JJAS (mile 61.6), Paige was dressed to run – my heart leapt with joy. I warned her that there was going to be a lot of walking but she wasn’t deterred, I felt a new energy. Though I didn’t feel great, it did feel great to have Paige with me. The first few miles were slow going but there were a few stretches of running. As we left the Jackass Junction AS, we started running and continued most of the way into JJAS taking advantage of the long downhill. After a quick stop, we walked out of the AS, me on very stiff legs. Paige encouraged me to ‘shuffle’ a little – I didn’t want to but once I got going, it felt pretty good. We ended up running the entire 5 mile uphill back to the AS seeing my third coyote of the day in route.
The ultra is a fickle friend and after a couple of minutes of sitting down at the AS, I was walking on planks again despite the past five miles feeling so good. Paige was a patient pacer and encouraged me to run when I could. We got through the lap and as we left JJAS for the final time, they gave me my glowstick neckless, to signify to the CCAS that I was on my final lap and to instruct me where to turn. At this point, I knew that I wasn’t going to make my goal of breaking 24 hours and cutting that idea loose felt good. We saw Jerret at the AS, he was sitting down but had that look of a finisher in his eyes. With only four short miles left, we kept moving. About a half mile into the last section, I felt a sharp buzzing pain in my right pinky toe. It felt like one of those trick hand shake buzzers was in my shoe. I spent the next four miles favoring my right foot and enjoying the sunrise. Paige and I savored the last few miles, took a few pictures, and enjoyed the thought that I was going to finish this thing.
We rolled into JJAS for the last time and from among the random cheers at the finish line came a booming voice, “That’s what I’m talking about, get ‘er done!”. I know this guy said this to everyone who crossed the line but it felt like it was directed just to me and I loved it! Paige is more than tired of the phrase, which I’ve adopted as my own this week. Even though it was much slower than anticipated and it was tougher than I had imagined, I thoroughly loved the race. Its a mixed bag of emotions when crossing the finish line of a long race – the obvious emotion is the joy that comes with completing the distance but the less obvious emotion is the sadness that the day is over. I’m sure that sounds a bit odd but there is something about the simplicity of running a long race that is hard to replicate anywhere else in life. The feeling of focusing on one objective and letting all else fall by the side is refreshing and rejuvenating. I always walk away from longer races feeling better emotionally, mentally and, while sore, even physically. I feel recharged.
This race was my second 100 miler and will certainly not be my last – Paige and I are already throwing around ideas for next year. At the end of the day, I saw 4 wild horses, 4 coyotes, 1 tarantula, 1 jackrabbit, and 1 lizard. I learned a lot this go around and feel excited to apply that to the next go around. Things I will do differently: 1) do more strength training, 2) get my shorts figured out, 3) have two sets of bottles to shorten the transition time, 4) incorporate more hill training, 5) run fewer total miles but more quality miles. Things I will do the same: 1) Perpetuem, 2) have Paige as my pacer, 3) run Javelina.
I can’t verbalize clearly just how thankful I am for everyone’s support especially Paige. Her plan was to crew for the day and then run the last 25 miles but she saw me hurting and jumped in to run the last 40 with me – what a trooper.