Sitting down to write this, I’m half-expecting Clippy to popup. “I see you’re writing a race report 3 months after it happened. Need a hand?”
“Probably”, I would say.
So why return to the blog with an oldish race when I’ve got a fresh, shiny WS 2020 lottery qualifier right in the rearview mirror? Because running is weird and this is a personal blog. So here we go. A race report for a race that often had me asking why. Why run 100 milers? Why does it matter to run Western States? Why do you need to be seen as an ultra runner? I think all those “whys” are because runner is what defines me more than anything else. And for months, running was one of the toughest things to do consistently.
For much of 2018, I felt like I was standing in my own shadow as a runner.
- How’s re-qualifying for Boston going? Not happening.
- How’d that lottery ticket at Miwok go? DNF #2.
- Remember when you used to run 3000 miles a year? Thanks, Strava.
But a lot of “life” stuff happened. Life stuff that I wouldn’t want to give up even if it makes my personal brand a little more fuzzy. We moved! We got married! We got new jobs! We traveled! Like dang, we had so much going on. And all that would go on, I’d mumble “Stress is Stress” and eat half a sleeve of Oreos.
But then, the life stuff slowed down and before I knew it I was toeing the line for a hundred miler. Not only that, I was gunning for a sub-24 hour time. I told myself at the start of 2018 that I was going to take a break from the ludicrous distance. But if there is anything that is quintessential to the brand of being a runner, it is that you make bad decisions.
Like the outdoorsmen (outdoorsPEOPLE, Colleen said to herself while editing) we are, Colleen and I pitched our tent in the grand wilderness of the Greater Phoenix metro area. We got to the start early, went for a shakeout run, and relaxed prepping for the long day ahead. Javelina has an amazing camping set up with tons of dining options and activities.
Camping made sense on paper. It was cheap, it was close to the race, and it’s part of the Javelina experience. But like always when reading “on paper”, you know something went wrong. And this time, we made the unfortunate decision of camping next to someone whose snores could shake the earth. Colleen and I were rattled awake several times through the night. Getting up to get ready for the race, the tent adjacent to use was packing up their gear to move camp for the next night to avoid the snore. I don’t try to let much get in my head for something as mentally tough as 100 miles, so I laughed it off and got ready.
Javelina Jundred is a looped, 20 mile course that you run in alternating directions. Not overly technical, hilly, or breathtaking by any stretch of the imagination. But it hot. It very hot. And it isn’t pancake flat. Loop after loop, this course starts to chip away at you. From the start, Javelina Jeadquarters, the race climbs up to Jackass Junction, then goes back down again. Sections start to feel endless. Rattlesnake Ranch and Coyote Camp break up the 10 mile segments each way. My 100 miler experience is still limited, but after running it 2 times I think this race is just a smidge tougher than the Vermont 100.
I knew from last year that the race gets hot quick. My goal was to keep it extremely easy while it was cool and keep it so I could run later in the race. The gun went off and hundreds of runners shuffled their way out of the starting area onto the trail. About 2 miles in I ran into Katie. Katie was running her first 100 miler and was settling in for a pace that seemed right to me. We shared ultra stories and tactics and decided to stick together for the foreseeable future. As they always do early on, the miles ticked by effortlessly. We rolled through aid stations at mile 5, 10, 15 until we were back at Javelina Jeadquarters. The heat of the day was already fast approaching and Katie and I took plenty of ice and cold water to brace for it.
We were running. Compared to Javelina 2017 this was spectacular. By this time last year, I was already reduced to a walk in the heat. Right from Jeadquarters, the 10 mile ramp to Jackass was a shuffling cramp-fest in 2017. With Katie, we were grinding away! The easier start, additional ice, and Texas summer made the early heat feel manageable.
Around mile 30 or so, Katie and I split up briefly as I slowed down coming in to Jackass. I was entering my first low of the day and wasn’t ready to dig to fight out of it, so I let it happen knowing it would be gone eventually. We reconvened at the aid station and a switch flipped – I was good to go again. For the first time, I started to lead the charge back to Jeadquarters and Katie followed. But with 3 miles left to the start, my stomach started to disagree with me. Katie and I split up once more and thankfully I was greeted with a bathroom conveniently placed at a trail-road intersection. With my stomach feeling off and the heat reaching its peak, I closed out the second loop and took some additional time in the aid station to get ready for more.
My memory is fuzzy, but I remember this section of miles 40-60 being touch-and-go. My stomach remained annoying until I was close to returning to Jackass. The heat in 2018 wasn’t as crushing as I remembered in 2017, but it was still really freaking hot! I still was running on occasion, but the walking was becoming more frequent. It took until the mile 50 stop at Jackass for me to start to feel normal again. Fortunately, at Jackass I ran back into Katie. Going through her own low patch, we agreed to stick together back to Jeadquarters to pick up our pacer. We left the aid station with a purpose and moved well until Coyote Camp. From here, we split up for the final time, only running into each other one final time on my last loop. I was hitting an extremely low spot and was not moving well. The final 4 miles back to the start were slow and tough.
I had intended to have Colleen pace me my final loop, but I was being a baby and needed a pacer now. 60 miles into the race, I was feeling toast. The sun was set, but the heat of the day was still radiating off the ground. 60 miles already feels so far and having another 40 always feels impossible at this point. So, Colleen put on her headlamp and joined my pity party. We hiked a ton of the loop back to Jackass, but moved relatively well.
Leaving Jackass to run towards Rattlesnake is my least favorite section, though. And I let Colleen know it. This is a 10K section that feels like 50K. It’s the most technical portion of the course. I just don’t like it. We went slow, we lost a lot of time, I bitched and moaned. But we got it done. And Colleen kept me moving.
The homestretch. Just 20 miles. You know, more than most people run consecutively in their entire lives after you’ve just done 80. No big deal. Except, it actually didn’t feel like a big deal. The final miles in all my past 100s have been soul crushing. But for the first time, I was excited. I had my first caffeine of the day in the form of some crazy Starbucks energy drink, started blasting Titus Andronicus, and started charging.
I don’t use a GPS during 100 miles, but I’d love to know what pace I was actually running. It felt so fast for what I’m sure was 13 mins/mile. But who cares, I was flying. I passed Katie and her pacer coming into Rattlesnake, tossed back some Mountain Dew to keep the caffeine coming, and flew through my least favorite section of the course.
Unfortunately, this running took a bit of a toll. I didn’t have any blister-prevention left and I developed a huge, painful one under the ball of my foot. With about a mile left to Jackass I was back to walking. I made it to the aid station where a lovely medical volunteer had the unsavory job of bandaging the blister. But the additional cushion helped, and I was able to run-walk to the finish.
I crossed the finish with a time of 22:46 – plenty quick for my big buckle dreams of sub-24 hours.
I hobbled around to take some photos and wait for Katie to finish. I ate 3 bites of pizza and got my eyes flushed because the dust had caused some serious irritation. Katie came through a bit after me with all the emotion you’d expect from someone finishing their first 100. We made my way back to the tent and I honestly couldn’t tell you if the snorer was still there.
Javelina wasn’t my fastest 100. Nor my toughest. But it was still 100 miles! I try not to take it for granted that I am able to run that distance. Finishing the race didn’t magically hit the reset button on my motivation. But being surrounded by fellow crazy athletes and seeing all the positive encouragement definitely helped remind me why I do it.
So with that, onwards into 2019. Oh, and getting started on the Bandera race report…