“Here are some who like to run. They run for fun in the hot, hot sun. Oh me! Oh my! Oh me! Oh my! What a lot of funny things go by. Some have two feet and some have four. Some have six feet and some have more. Where do they come from? I can’t say. But I bet they have come a long, long way.” Dr. Seuss
What is a javelina? I’ve never heard of the word before. Maybe…a female javelin-tosser? No. Um…a pig-like thing? Not really. They are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. Javelina are common in much of central and southern Arizona, including the outskirts of the Phoenix area, most of Tucson, and occasionally as far north as Flagstaff. Javelina form herds of two to more than 20 animals and rely on each other to defend territory, protect against predators, regulate temperature and interact socially. They use washes and areas with dense vegetation as travel corridors. Javelina are most active at night, but they may be active during the day when it is cold.
So…I’m about to run in my next 100-mile race, which is named after THIS thing. It still looks like a hairy pig to me, maybe with a smidge of anteater thrown in.
Why run this race at all? I’ve already proven myself at this distance. Sure, I earned a DNF at Leadville in 2011. However, I learned from the experience and finished the 2011 100 Miles of Boulder (placing 2nd overall female, something I still can’t quite explain), and the 2012 Rocky Raccoon 100. Did I really need another 100 mile finish? Need, no. Want, yes. Why? Because it’s now something that I can do, that many other people can’t (or won’t). I think that everyone needs something like this in his/her life. Something that makes you feel just slightly special, something that makes you feel proud of yourself. Oh, and I’m very much addicted to the damned things. Ultras from 50k to 100 miles. Gimme a race. Sure, I’ll do smaller races. They’re fun, and I don’t feel like death afterward. However, it’s that struggle with my abilities in the ultras that keeps me coming back for more.
10/26/12 – I arrived at race ‘Jeadquarters’ (everything with a capital J in this race is pronounced with an H) with friends Trevor and Jenn. Trevor was also running the race, while his girlfriend Jenn was part of his support crew, and would be be pacing him the last 9 miles. After surviving a drive through a snowstorm to get to the Denver airport (we actually saw an SUV flip over an embankment not far ahead of us), figuring out the rental car in Phoenix, and driving in a new town that was a completely new world to me, I was glad to be at the main staging area of the race. Much of the Jeadquarters was already up and ready, and I went to find my tent. Along with my race registration, I signed up for a large tent and cot to be ready for me. This turned out to be an excellent move, as it was a huge tent (I could stand up in it), and it was quite comfy for my stay Friday night. It also wound up being the crew staging area for me, Trevor, Elizabeth, and Coach David. The cot would be utilized by passed-out crew/pacers for most of the race, and by passed-out runners after the race.
Much of Friday was spent getting our stuff together, going to packet pick-up (LOVED the race shirt and bag), finding cheap food at the local Safeway (we opted out of the $15 pasta dinner), and then trying to go to bed early. Everyone except for me stayed at local hotels. My tent was just fine, especially when the Jeadquarters music turned off at around 9, and most of the talking (and loud children) quieted down by 10. I read the heck out of my Kindle, and then wrapped up in my sleeping bag for a fairly chilly night. I actually got decent sleep, and only had to do a bit of preparation in the morning before stepping out just a few yards from the starting line.
I easily found Trevor, Elizabeth, and Coach David (our awesome running coach from Denver’s Runner’s Edge of the Rockies). Jenn was also there, and I showed her where my tent was, so it could be used for the entirety of the race. The rest of the crew (Jessica and Samantha) that I would be sharing with Elizabeth would show up as soon as the buses could get them there (crew not staying at the campgrounds had to be shuttled in). We talked away a little nervous energy, and lined up at the start. We were all hoping to run for a while together, even though we all generally had different paces. The idea was to start out slow, conserving energy early on, and then running by feel. The average dropout rate for this race was about 50%, partially due to people pounding out a killer first loop and then not having enough to get through the heat of the day. Another reason for the dropout rate was that the race allowed runners to stop at the 100k mark. There was even a 100k buckle. That siren song would be strong for many! I actually looked around me and realized that one out of every two people I saw would not be finishing the 100 miles. This was a sobering thought. I wanted to be one of the people coming out on top!
We had a brief countdown, and then we were off! We were starting on the first of six 15.4 mile loops, finishing with a seventh 9-mile loop. It was dark, and it was still cool. I was in shorts, a white short-sleeved tech shirt, a hydration pack, bandana, arm sleeves, and a headlamp. I kept the headlamp on for perhaps 20 minutes (my friends didn’t wear theirs at all, but I’m more prone to tripping and falling so I used the extra light). I kept the arm sleeves on for maybe an hour. Once the sun came up, illuminating the gorgeous landscape, it warmed up fairly quickly. I had a borrowed pair of sunglasses that I kept on for all of the sunny hours (I normally never run in the things). It was good that I had them on, since after the race my eyes were red despite having the shades. God knows what might have happened without them!
I’d run in a desert environment once before, in Fruita, Colorado. That wasn’t the best experience to draw upon, as I wound up dropping from the 50-mile distance to a 25-mile finish. This was even more desert-like than that area, and I was attempting 100 miles in it. The air was moisture-sucking dry, and the temps were supposed to reach at least 82 (they actually wound up hitting 87). I resolved to keep up my spirits, even as I pushed to keep up with my friends. The terrain was fine, and was certainly runnable at this stage of the race. We walked the hills quickly, and ran everything else. The problem was that the runners were still bunched up, and I kept getting separated from my friends. Also, we were running about 1 minute/mile faster than I’d planned. I eventually realized that I’d have to drop them if I wanted to keep my plan of running an ‘easy’ first loop. I had to run my own smart race, and not keep straining to keep up with my friends. With a bit of a heavy heart, I began dropping back.
After a few minutes, this actually didn’t feel bad. It wound up taking away the pressure I was feeling, trying to keep up with people. I just ran within myself and started to enjoy the things around me. It really was an alien environment, with mountains that looked like crumbled rock, cacti all around me, and I realized that it would be best to touch NOTHING. Even accidentally brushing past a low-hanging scrub bush branch gave me a scratch on my arm early on.
There was a total of 5 aid stations on the course (Javelina Jeadquarters at the turn-around counting as one). I (and most other runners) skipped the first aid station on the course (Coyote Camp), and then the next one (which wasn’t set up yet) was Tonto Station and would be water-only. Tonto was also where loop 7 would turn, taking runners on an easy downhill down to the finish line. This was the ‘magical path’ that I was certain didn’t really exist except in Fairy Land. After this, was Jackass Junction. This was my first stop on Loop 1, as this was also where runners were allowed to have a drop bag. I resolved to drink a coconut water each time I passed through here for the first 4 loops, hoping the added electrolytes would help out with the growing heat of the day.
After Jackass, the race course turned amazingly nice. The rocks from the ‘rocky section’ (that would grown in abhorrence for me each loop) died off, and most of this section was a gentle downhill. I really tried not to think about what it would be like having to run back up it, as this course was built on the idea of washing machine loops. Run a loop one way, then go and run it the other way for the next loop. Back and forth. This way, you got to see most of the runners on the course, and it was hard to get really bored. Especially since runners were encouraged to wear costumes since we were so close to Halloween. I didn’t wear a costume, since I figured running 100 miles was already difficult enough without worrying about some extra chafing somewhere. Some runners did dress up, and they were enjoyable to see.
Running downhill in what was still cool weather made this section feel like a dream. I even had a certain cheesy theme song playing in my head.
I got some fruit and ginger ale at the last aid station, Rattlesnake Ranch, and ran the last 3 miles into Jeadquarters. It was during the last bit of running when I saw Coach David, Elizabeth, and Trevor all running toward me (separated from each other by a little bit now), heading out on their second loop. Trevor was actually leaving Jeadquarters just as I was arriving, so I wasn’t too far behind. Really, it wasn’t a big deal. This was my race, and I wasn’t trying to keep up with them. Still, it was good to see them looking strong.
I arrived at Jeadquarters, running Loop 1 in 3:06. This was a little faster than my projected 3:15, which was probably why I didn’t see my crew anywhere at the turn-around. Panicking, I ran into my tent and tore through my bags, trying to get the stuff I would need for my next loop. I couldn’t find any of it! ARGH! Feeling the minutes slipping by while I wasn’t getting any miles done, I ran out of the tent and looked around some more. This time, I saw my crew, standing at the turnaround, looking for me. I ran over to them, and they got me over to a chair. I did not yell, I don’t think I did, anyway. Jessica and Samantha were friends, and were only trying to help me out. I came in early, which threw them off. I resolved not to turn into a running diva, and drank/ate/did whatever they told me to do. I ate my fruit cocktail, drank my Mix 1, replenished the bags of gels and Endurolytes in my hydration bag, and got my liquids refilled with Gatorade. It was time to get onto Loop 2! The crew angels (this is what they were) walked me out going the correct direction (I know I would have eventually screwed this up if it wasn’t for them).
Loop 2 was getting warm, but it was still quite tolerable. I tried not to think about what it would be in the next (and hottest) loop. I walked/ran the first few miles to the aid station, where my body suddenly told me it was time for an emergency porta-potty break. I won’t describe what happened in there, but suffice it to say that eating fried chicken strips from a store deli the night before a 100 mile race wasn’t the best idea for happy bowels. I immediately felt fantastic after this stop, eating some potatoes and fruit at the aid station. Even though most of the next section was uphill, it was gentle enough that I ran most of it. I was really enjoying myself! I was mostly enjoying myself! The one thing that got to me in this section was the overwhelming ‘sameness’ of the geography. I almost felt like I was running in place, with nothing changing around me in the vast desert. I actually felt a little bit of panic at this. Thankfully, the weird hit of agoraphobia didn’t last too long.
I got past Jackass, and started into the rocks. I climbed the hills, and ran what looked manageable. Really, most of it was runnable, but I was being a little extra-cautious. There were rocks, and there were wooden ties placed at intervals to help prevent erosion on the trail. Any of these things could trip someone like me, who tended to fall at least once each race. I eventually got into a smoother section, and came across Rick. He and I ran most of the rest of the loop together, talking about our ultra experiences, and he shared tricks for keeping cool in hot weather. It was already getting that bad. Ice, ice, ice! Wet down the hat, wet down the bandana, put ice in each, hold ice in your hands. Keep the core temp down! Rick was awesome to run with, and we got separated as we ran into Jeadquarters. If I’m looking at the correct Rick from Wyoming in the results, he wound up finishing the 100 mile race in 28:42. Great job!
Not long before reaching Jeadquarters (finishing Loop 2 in 3:43 – quite a bit slower than intended), I saw Coach David and Elizabeth run by me with encouraging words. They were still separated, but not by much. I was worried that I hadn’t seen Trevor. He was my buddy, having paced me in two ultras (Leadville and the 100 Miles of Boulder), and we’d run together much of Rocky Raccoon (finishing at the same time, down to the second). We’ve run more training miles together than I can count, although he’s admittedly passed me by in terms of speed. I wanted to see my buddy and know he was still running strong.
He wasn’t running, he was sitting down. Oh, crap. Well, it really wasn’t too bad. He was having a hard time with the heat, and was just taking an extra few minutes sitting in the shade. Trevor cheered up noticeably when he saw me run in, and asked if we could start the next loop together. I didn’t waste a second before responding with a happy, “Yes!” I relished the idea of running any miles with a friend. I slurped down some more fruit cocktail, drank a Mix 1, had my liquids replenished, and drank a 5-Hour Energy. I was good to go!
Trevor and I got our bodies misted down by the awesome aid station folks at Jeadquarters, and then we took off! Well, we shuffled off. Loop 3 was the hottest loop, and it was hard to get going again. Strangely enough, I had good mojo for quite a while (maybe it was that 5-Hour Energy), while Trevor was really dragging. I tried to keep us moving, running as much as possible, and Trevor followed my lead whenever possible. I dropped to a walk whenever I heard him slow down. More than once, he asked me to just go on since I was feeling so well. More than once, I said no. I was enjoying being with a friend more than I needed to get ahead by a few minutes. Finally, as we were slogging under that unholy death ray, that burning Eye of Ra, that James Bond torture device, Trevor asked me one more time to move on ahead. I finally agreed, since we were pretty close to the Jackass aid station. I said I needed to use the potty and access my drop bag anyway. Once I was done with all that, he would probably get to the aid station.
That’s exactly how it went down. I ate some food and drank my coconut water while Trevor replenished his coveted ice. We moved off again. Even though the next section was the gentle downhill that I loved so much on the first loop, this was when the switch got flipped. Trevor, after getting refreshed with ice, was doing a million times better. I was the one wilting under the sun this time, and my tummy was unhappy. Maybe doing the extra running to the aid station threw me off? Whatever it was, our roles were reversed. He was the cheerleader, and I was doing my best to not hold us up. I asked Trevor to move on ahead, and he refused. This made me smile. We made it to the next aid station, where some ginger ale and crystallized ginger eventually perked me up again. I got slightly concerned as I started shivering as soon as I got misted at the aid station, but resolved to not let it bother me. We moved on to Jeadquarters, getting passed by Elizabeth (still looking strong), and eventually getting passed by Coach David. Coach told us to keep icing up and to keep our core temperatures down. Luckily, we were in the late afternoon, and the temps were starting to go down a little. The hell march was ending, and we were hoping to find our second winds. Trevor and I made it to Jeadquarters (this loop took 4:21 – a sign of how hot it was), and did our usual replenish/restock. We decided to start Loop 4 together, feeling revitalized as the sun began going down. Fuck off, you burning piece of shit!
We did a walk/run the long uphill section of Loop 4, although Trevor’s walk was actually so good that I often had to jog just to stay caught up with him. This was actually one of his ultra-running super powers. Another was his ability to rally after getting beat down by some kind of adversity in a race. Trevor was certainly rallying now! It was dark, we had our headlamps on, and Trevor was a moving machine. I kept up with him until Jackass, when I told him I needed to let him go. He looked concerned, but I promised that I was feeling fine. He was just moving a little faster than what was comfortable for me. Trevor made me swear that I would not quit, or even drop to the 100k distance, and then he moved on.
This was also where I saw another friend of mine, David Clark. He tottered into the aid station and looked like Death Warmed Over. David is normally a very strong and FAST runner, so I had to ask what was wrong. He had come into the race with a tweaked knee (ironically, this had occurred in his last race, which was also a race that I had run – the 50-mile 2012 Bear Chase Race in Lakewood, CO), and then had run the first couple of loops here at Javelina far too fast. He had nearly dropped at the 50k mark (after two loops), but pushed himself nearly beyond the limits of endurance so that he could get the 100k finish/buckle. David is strong beyond belief, and he got that 100k finish. I’m so proud just to know him and to be his friend!
I left the aid station and continued on with the loop. There really wasn’t anything else extraordinary that happened. It was still fairly warm (although a million times better than Loop 3), so I didn’t have to worry about being cold. I did overhear some interesting things at the aid stations, though. One female runner was followed on the course by a curious coyote. Four runners somehow got themselves caught up in a spiky cholla bush. Beware the cholla! When someone gets too close to this cactus, parts of the branch break off and embed themselves, sometimes requiring pliers to remove. Ouch! I touched NOTHING out there, even when I had to answer the call of Nature off the side of the trail.
I finished Loop 4 in 4:33. It was a shame I couldn’t have run it faster than the massively hot loop, but I was still doing great on time. I didn’t stand a chance in hell of getting the naive 26 hour finish that I’d envisioned, but I was still fine to finish in under 30 hours. That was really all that I cared about at this point. I did my usual routine, and got walked back out onto the course for Loop 5. What kept me going? The knowledge that I should be getting a pacer for Loop 6. Another friend of mine, Rachel, had introduced me to a friend of hers right before the race started, saying that he would be my pacer for Loop 6. I was overjoyed with this, because it meant that I just had to get through one more loop alone.
I ran Loop 5 listening to music, and got myself from aid station to aid station. The distances took abominably long to cover, as I was going so slow (even though I tried to run as much as possible). I ate whatever I could force into my stomach at the aid stations (usually Ramen soup and Mountain Dew), and kept moving. Continuous Forward Momentum. Run when I felt good. Walk when running was too hard. Rinse and repeat. Try to get some energy out of the current song playing. Only stop to pee – and try not to pee on my own feet. Well, there was also that one unanticipated stop where I took a header over one of the wooden trail ties, but I won’t go into that.
It felt like it took forever, but Loop 5 only took 4:43. ONLY! YES, IT DID TAKE FOREVER! I got to the aid station and Samantha was waiting for me to get some calories into me and get me going again. But…wait…where was my pacer? Samantha looked confused for a second, and then said that the guy who had been waiting had taken off with another runner.
Okay, I knew it was a possibility, since I’d come in so far after my projected time for finishing this loop. However, I never really thought it would actually happen. He would wait…he would wait, right? Nope. He was gone. The loop I thought I would be running with someone (even a stranger), I would now be running with myself. And my music. And that was all. It was up to me, myself, and I. Samantha asked the announcer guy at the start/finish to ask if anyone was willing to pace me, hoping that since so many runners had dropped, someone would still be there and want to pace.
I started to cry. Yes, there is sometimes crying in ultra-racing. “How am I supposed to do this loop? How am I supposed to do this on my own? This damned loop is almost all uphill in the direction I have to run it!”
“By doing what you have been doing,” Samantha answered. “By putting one foot in front of the other. You are STRONG, and you have to continue to be strong!” She got me up, and started walking me to the start of the loop. I did my best to compose myself and steel my resolve. Samantha walked/ran the first mile with me, and then had to go back because she needed to pace Elizabeth for her last 9 miles. Before leaving, Samantha promised to pace me my last 9 miles when I finished Loop 6. I knew that a promise from her was rock-solid, and that she’d be there for me hours later. I took some strength from this and started running again. My thought at this time, “This Loop, and this Race, are fucking MINE!” I could think nothing else. I believe I actually said this out loud. Thankfully, I had my music back in, and didn’t hear Samantha’s encounter with a snorting/shuffling THING in a bush just behind me. She thinks it may have been the elusive javelina. I’m glad it didn’t show itself!
I made myself move this loop, even when I had some breathing problems early on (stemming from the fit of crying I’d had). My inhaler had stopped being effective for exercise-induced asthma. Well, crap, Yet another obstacle to overcome. When I finally made it to the first aid station, I drank a bunch of caffeine (I’d heard that this can help with asthma). Maybe the caffeine helped, but my breathing eased up in the next hour. Thank God for that!
I spoke with God a lot during this race, especially during this Loop. I had asthma issues, both IT bands were aching, and it was taking so long to get through each mile that I could have sworn I’d entered some kind of time anomaly. I asked God to help me finish my race. I didn’t want to beat anyone, and I didn’t feel the need to get a specific time. I just wanted to officially finish 100 miles under 30 hours. This was to be my last 100 for a while, as I was planning on trying to become a mommy in the next year. I needed this finish, so I could move on to the next stage of my life with no regrets (not that I’ll leave 100s behind forever).
I walked, I ran, I peed. The Ramen soup was liquid going straight through me. Hydration was certainly never an issue. I said “Hi, and good job” to headlights passing me both ways in the night. I was thankful for each aid station that I passed. I watched the bright moon as it eventually set, and knew that I would be able to see the rocky section easier soon. I also knew that the sun would be rising, along with the temperature. I would have to deal with heat again eventually. After 4:57 and continuing to be on my own, I finally got back to Javelina Jeadquarters.
Samantha was ready to go, as promised. I could have kissed her! Jessica got me to switch to her hydration pack, as it was lighter. I didn’t argue. Elizabeth had already finished her race, getting in just under 24 hours (amazing lady). I was about to start my last 9 miles, but now I had a friend with me!
Samantha and I take off, and a burden is lifted off my soul. No, the race wasn’t magically easier. It was just suddenly not the suck-fest that it had become. I had a friend with me who kept me moving, even if much of the first half of it was at a walk. Samantha kept up an easy chatter as I grunted and panted behind her. I prefer a chatty pacer, so she was perfect. Talk about whatever you want, just keep talking! She even ran up ahead and behind me to get some photos.
It literally took 5 million years, but we finally got up to the Fairy Land trail where I could turn off and go down the easy last few miles before the last turn to the finish. Samantha said that we could walk it in and still finish with plenty of time under 30 hours, or we could do some running and try to finish in under 28:15. A bit of my fighting spirit came back, and I decided to run.
Oh, holy crap, but going back to a run hurt! I felt like a geriatric patient, trying to run to Jello night at the Bingo hall. I ran a lot of this section, as it was so gentle and rock-free that it would have been a crime NOT to run. I kept going, wanting it all to be over. I swore that if I could just finish the race, I would never make myself run another 100. Not after a baby, not ever. This was the last one of these.
Samantha kept me going, and then we hit the final turn-off where there was a sign advertising just over a mile to go. I switched over to my New Skin singlet (wanting to finish in this shirt), and then we took off again. After about a quarter of a mile, I decided that I would run in the rest of it. I had enough to do it. I would not walk! Samantha pointed out the finish area, and it kept getting closer and closer. I was going to do it! I was going to finish this tough race! Samantha peeled off at the last moment, and I ran through the finish line. I’d done it! I’d finished the 1oo mile race in 28:09:12! Hallelujah!
I was all grins as I finally stopped and realized that I didn’t have to start running another loop. The race photographer took tons of pictures of me hugging Samantha, my amazing 9-mile pacer! I then wandered over to where the rest of the crew and my running friends were, and got an amazingly warm reception. Trevor woke up in time to see me finish (he’d finished in 26:47, taking more than an hour off his previous 100-mile PR). Coach David had finished right when I was starting my last 9 miles, with a time of 25:24 (also a PR for him). I sat down, peeled off my shoes and socks (receiving only one blister), and clutched my hard-earned 100-mile finisher’s buckle. I’d done it! 364 people started the 100 mile race, and 160 people finished, a rate of 44%. I’d defied the odds and earned my buckle!
What did I learn from this race?
1. Don’t eat a bunch of protein the night before a 100. It didn’t do me in, but it didn’t do me many favors, either.
2. I’d hydrated correctly, and took the right amount of Endurolytes.
3. Running in the heat sucks monkey-butt.
4. I can run without a pacer, but that takes so much of the fun out of my race. If it’s not fun, than what’s the point? When I finally run another one of these (and I will, despite what I was telling myself during the last part of this race), I will find a way to afford to bring at least one friend with me.
5. I’m strong, in mind and in body. I just have to remember this whenever times get tough.
I’d like to thank Jessica and Samantha for crewing me, and Samantha for pacing me those last 9 miles. Thanks go to Jenn for helping with the crewing, and for putting a smile on my face. Trevor is an amazing runner and friend, and I have to thank him for running 1.5 loops with me during the hottest part of the day. Thanks to Coach Manthey and to Elizabeth for giving me encouragement each time I saw them on the trail. Finally, thanks to my husband, Jim, for putting up with this crazy hobby of mine.
What’s next for me? Baby planning, but I’ll continue to run. I just won’t run ultras while pregnant. Otherwise, I’m signed up for a marathon in the Spring. When I have a baby, and can figure out how to be a Mommy and train for an ultra, I think that my comeback 100 will probably be Umstead. I just don’t know when that will be. 😉