Wow .. what an incredible experience. I was looking for a big challenge when signing up for the Javelina Jundred 100 mile ultra and definitely got that and more. On my bucket list is to run the famous Western States 100 and the way to that goal is to run a qualifying race which the JJ100 is. To provide some purpose and additional motivation to see this through decided to partner with the USARC in Big Bear to raise funds for their Adaptive Sports program.
Put in my highest mileage and longest training runs ever to give me the best odds of completing this race in one piece. Weekly mileage was usually in the 90 to 100+ range and my longest run was just over 7 hours and 50 mile distance. Practiced my nutrition, pacing, night running with headlamp and tried to get ready mentally for a race that starts at 6am and can go well into the next night. There is historically about a 50% drop out rate for the Javelina Jundred, not because it’s a particularly difficult course but because it can get really hot in the desert and the temptation to drop down to the 100k distance can be strong.
Arrived in Fountain Hills Arizona, 2 days early so I could unwind from the long drive and have a chance to pre-run a bit of the course. So the day before ran 7 miles of the course in 85 degree temps and experienced the rocky and dry wash-bed parts of the Pemberton Trail (McDowell Mountain Regional Park). Then met up with a friend Alin who was also attempting the 100 miler and his sister Alina who was going to crew for us. We went to the packet pickup, waited in a long line (over 500 runners signed up for the 100 miler). A big highlight was getting to meet the 4 Tarahumara Indians from Copper Canyon who were there to race, including Arnulfo Quimare who was a prominent figure in the popular book Born to Run.
The 6am start was in the dark as sunrise was around 6:40. I lined up near the front of the corral since I knew the first few miles were going to be crowded. But it was a low key start as everyone went out at a leisurely pace. The first 15.3 mile loop (CW direction) was really nice .. the sunrise in the desert was beautiful, the legs were fresh and while there were plenty of people to run with it didn’t feel crowded. There was a coyote sighting along with many Saguaro Cactus, occasional granite boulders and views of the distant mountain ranges. I kept reminding myself to slow down, that it should feel like I was running too slow, conserving energy and keeping my HR low (around 135). Near the end of the first loop I started to see the race leaders coming the other way (loop direction was reversed every time). A couple of the Tarahumara Indians were in the top 3 positions and Kaci Lickteig, the ‘pixie ninja’ was in the top 5 and first woman. My first loop time was 2:14 which was a little faster than the plan but felt totally in control.
The second loop (CCW direction) featured warmer temps as the desert was heating up. I continued to run with just one water bottle, containing a carb drink called Vitargo and refill the water at every aid station. But that was not quite enough and I ran out of fluids at one point. My heart rate started to move up to 145. I tried to slow down a little to bring it down but wasn’t having much success. I think the hydration and heat were starting to affect my HR fairly early. The second loop, gave me a 30.6 mile total and 4:31 elaped time.
The third loop (CW direction) is where things started to unravel. I carried two water bottles because of the heat (around 82 degrees at this point I think). I was wearing a long sleeve white shirt which can be a good choice in really hot sunny conditions but the fabric did not breath enough and was a little too tight fitting. Then as I was making my way up through a long rocky section made the mistake of catching a toe on a rock. This sent me flying and I landed on my back.. on some rocks. It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen hard on a run and it shook me up some. I assessed the damage and fortunately hadn’t done too much damage.. just some soreness on my lower back/hip area and some light scrapes. The rest of that loop involved being much more careful with foot placement and some cleaning up at the aid station. I finished the 3rd loop, mile 45.9 with an elapsed time of 7:29.
I started the 4th loop (CCW direction) and almost immediately felt not so good. I was dizzy and had some nausea. Spent some time at the next aid station holding onto a table and trying to regroup. I ran another 1/4 mile and stopped on the trail. The dizziness/nausea was making it too hard to run so I sat down for a minute. Then my legs started to cramp. I laid down hoping I would feel better. Runners would ask if I was ok.. ask if I needed help. It was really nice that people were showing concern but overall I was ok .. just needed to get through this rough patch. Maybe 5 minutes passed and I got up and started to walk. This was the lowest point of the race for me both physically and mentally. Even walking felt hard, my legs didn’t want to move and I didn’t know how I could make it another 52. But I remembered what an ultra friend had told me a few days before. He said “John enjoy your 100 mile experience…its up to you whether it is incredible or miserable.” So I tried to listen to my body, be smart and not push myself into misery.
After walking 2 miles I decided to try to run some. It was slow but faster than walking. I continued to jog with some short walk breaks the remainder of the 4th loop and crossed the timing mat at mile 61.2 with 11:17 elapsed time.
It was good to get back to the main start/finish area because I needed to regroup for the last 40 miles. I sat down in a chair but my legs started to cramp. Alin asked what I wanted to eat. Nothing sounded good except the Ramen noodle soup he suggested. After drinking the Ramen broth I decided to lay down on a foam mat. Alin asked how long of a break I wanted, that he would set a timer. I said I would just let him know when I was ready to go out again. My legs continued to cramp but I rubbed some liquid that is supposed to help with cramping and I chilled out. Eventually I started to feel better and decided to go out on my next loop. About an hour had passed… oh well ultras operate on a different time schedule and now it was getting dark and cooling off.
I felt much better on loop 5 (CW direction). I was able to run almost everything. It was slower because of the dark but my mood was much better. I remember almost stepping on a small rattlesnake that was coiled up in the rocks. As I got closer to the Jackass Junction aid station I could hear the music .. it was in full party mode. The music was loud, the volunteers were dancing, some of the runners were drinking beer. 🙂 I continued to eat the Ramen noodle soup, stayed hydrated with water and avoided the beer. Time to move on and I ran the final 6 miles of this loop with no walk breaks and at a fairly good pace. I hit the 76.5 mile point with an elapsed time of 15:47. Much slower than anticipated but I was still moving well.
Loop 6 (CCW direction) was the last full loop which brightened my spirits further. I was feeling and moving fairly well but having some issues seeing the trail with the light I was using. My arms were getting tired from many hours of carrying two water bottles so I would let my arms drop and focus on gliding over the ground. I felt more relaxed running like this and the miles passed quickly. Another run in with a rattle snake on the edge of the trail. Still lots of other runners out there, many walking during the night and giving/receiving encouragement helped keep the spirits high and passed the time. Loop 6 ended at mile 91.8 and 19:35 elapsed time. It was 1:30 in the morning and had only another 9 miles to go.
I borrowed a brighter hand held flashlight, took just one bottle and headed out for the last loop. They had given me the ‘ring of fire’ .. a glow ring necklace to signify that you were on your last lap. Apparently I was in 52nd place at some point late in the race and decided I would try to improve on that placement on the last 1/2 loop. Heading out I was feeling good but knew there was a long hill with lots of rocks to negotiate. I loved the brighter flashlight though.. amazing how a little change can make a big difference. I passed 3 runners on the initial hilly section. I stopped at one point to stretch my legs, turn off my light and look at the night sky. I soaked in the desert air, thought about how much I had been through that day and was grateful for making it this far. I started running again and eventually turned right onto the Tonto Tank Trail that headed back towards the finish. This was a smooth, slightly downhill trail that lasted for almost 3 miles. I continued to pass some other runners and felt I hadn’t run this fast/strong since the early miles of the race. The miles were winding down.. the last long section of sandy wash.. the lights of Javelina Jeadquarters shining in the distance. I encouraged anyone I passed to stay with me for the last mile.. to run strong to the finish. After 21 hours, 38 minutes, 41 seconds I leaped across the finish line. Total relief and with a huge sense of accomplishment I received my sub 24 hour finish buckle 🙂
Official results show 39th place, 34th male and 1st in the 50-59 age group.
That was definitely the hardest endurance event I have ever done. It truly challenged and tested me which made the achievement so satisfying. I made plenty of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons for future ultra races.
Almost all my gear was Pearl Izumi which worked flawlessly. The N2 Trail shoes are great shoes along with the PI wool socks. No blisters! The Ultra shorts worked great with a big rear pocket and two side mesh pockets. I wore the ultra shorts with integrated boxer liner which was a good choice to prevent chafing. Both the long sleeve tops I wore were PI. Turns out I wore the slightly thicker one in the day and the thinner one at night.. my mistake and should have switched those around.
For the fundraising I received tremendous support which resulted in about $4000 of donations for the USARC. 🙂
I signed up for the Western States 100 lottery and will find out if I get selected on Dec 6th. Thanks for reading.. thank you for your support.. Dream big and go after your goals.