Sunday, November 8, 2015

Javelina Jalloween Jundred ~ 2015 Race Report
Guest Post ~ Chuck Radford (a.k.a. Slim Shady)

"Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?"
Just two and a half short months ago, I was elated and was celebrating what was perhaps the best race of my running career at the Leadville Trail 100 with a 4th place finish in 18:43. I had very few thoughts of my next race, the Javelina Jundred (JJ) and even fewer thoughts of any expectations or plans. To make matters worse, I incurred another knee injury from a fall mid-race at Leadville leaving me without the ability to run, train or find the energy and motivation to change my lack-luster attitude about JJ.

After about 4 weeks of trying to cobble together training runs on a bum knee, things started to take a turn for the better. I did, however find myself still struggling with glute and ITB issues throughout training as JJ was approaching at rapid rate. After only about one and a half months of good training, JJ was here and it was time to race. I had many conversations with AJ about the race as we both found ourselves with a ho-hum/indifferent attitude going into the race. Not a great place to be pre-race, but I was trying to muster up some excitement each day that final week of taper. I set out what I thought was a “soft” goal of 17 hours hoping that would give me some structure and drive to push, but not too hard. This was a B-race after all.

AJ (100K), Jon (100M), Mike (100M), Heidi (Mike’s wife and all our single crew) and Wyatt (100M) all headed out to Arizona the Friday before the race. I knew from the start, race aside, this was going to be a fun guys weekend …and it was. We checked into our hotel, grabbed some food, met with our local Arizona friends (Steve and Thomas) and checked out the race start/finish line all the while trying to stay relaxed and energized. Off to bed, up at 3:30 and off we went to the race start Saturday morning.

Photo by Heidi Mizones
From left to right: Steve, AJ, Wyatt, Mike, Slim Shady, Jon

Loop One ~ 15.3 miles (31st place ~ 8:44 pace)

With a plan to go out around 9:45 pace, I quickly realized everyone was going to push this first lap. I tried to get out front and once there, had no problem letting some people go. However, when more and more people were passing me, I started to get the itch and let the 9:45 pace go opting for a responsible pace that wouldn’t end my race on the 2nd lap. We were told by a friend that the first hill was significant even if it was only around a 2% grade (child’s play for us Coloradoans right? Right?!?). When I was headed up the hill, I barely even noticed it and wondered if I was even on it. Later I would realize that hill was like Mt. Kilimanjaro and I would soon die on it. Being a cool start and a beautiful sunrise, I tried to take in the pretty scenery and kept my eye out for Javelinas (which I never saw one throughout the day/night).

After finally making it to Jackass Junctions 8 miles in, we were greeted by early aid station staff, who were clearly unprepared for the onslaught of runners headed their way. However, they were upbeat and more than willing to make you anything you wanted before heading out. Now that we hit this middle aid station, it was almost all downhill into the first “turn”. I found the grade nice and runnable and the trail non-technical, which made holding back even harder, but I did my best. I was beginning to notice signs of body ache …already!! This was not a good sign so early in the race and I suddenly realized I was not as fresh as I should be this early in the race.

I wasn't feeling fresh, but apparently looked fresh enough to smile

Loop Two ~ 30.6 miles (19th place ~ 8:53 pace)

After maneuvering through the awkward headquarters aid station (also the “turn”), I saw Heidi (Mike’s wife) who was very willing to help in any way. She gladly filled up my water bottles for me and mixed in some Tailwind while I had a Vespa Jr. and an Epic Bar. I dawned a cap and sunglasses, tossed my torch, thanked Heidi and was out of the aid station in less than 3 minutes. My best transition of the day …as it should be.

As the Javelina course is set up for washing machine style loops, I headed back out in the direction I just came. I was looking forward to seeing my friends coming at me the opposite direction, as we’d encounter numerous times through the day. I first saw Wyatt, then Jon and Mike and later would see AJ and Steve who got an hour delayed start in the 100K race. Everyone looked happy, healthy and fresh and all looked happy to be finishing up lap one.

I was immediately struck with how much harder heading back up the gradual uphill was. It certainly didn’t seem that steep when we were heading down, so it was certainly something to factor in later in the race with more walk/running. At this point however, I was still fresh enough to run almost all of the uphill back into Jackass Junction. I was also surprised with how far that aid station felt. I expected to see it much sooner than I did, but was happy once I got there. I started eating candied ginger at this aid station and would do so all day in a pre-emptive strike to hold off any digestive issues. I also refilled a bottle with Skratch (the only brew I drank the rest of the day besides water). The next stretch was the longest between aid stations and the sun was heating things up quickly.

Again, I was surprised with how long it felt between aid stations and while I tried to be patient with it, it was just downright frustrating. I was also getting pretty angry with my angry body (the first angry part of my legs were my hip flexors which did NOT like the downhill at all). I started considering some Tylenol, which seemed very early in the race for, but wanted some relief. Hitting the short 2-mile uphill back into the turn took a little pressure off of the hip flexors and I started to mentally prepare for what I needed at the “turn”.

 Dead heat of the day!!!
Photo by Sweet M Images

Loop Three ~ 45.9 miles (10th place ~ 10:02 pace)

Once again greeted by Heidi, she offered me a chair to sit in, which I was tempted to deny, but like a dirty little pleasure, I took her up on it. I once again fueled on Vespa and an Epic bar as Heidi refilled my bottles. This time I took a little longer washing down my Epic bar and complaining to Heidi about how hard these loops were starting to feel. Combined with the heat, which was just starting to get worse and worse, I was finding myself in a negative frame of mind and wondering how I was ever going to hit a 17-hour finish. After about a 5-minute stop, I thanked Heidi again and went back in the direction I just came …this time knowing exactly what I was in for.

The hill that I didn’t think was much of a hill was now staring me straight in the face in the dead heat. I was already starting to feel fatigued, hot and now my glutes were yelling at me. I made sure to drink as many fluids as possible between the “turn” and the Coyote Camp aid station so that I could top off before heading off on the long 6+ mile stretch between aid stations. As I noted earlier, these stretches just seemed longer and longer with each loop and this time, it felt no different. I knew I’d be seeing the gang again soon, so I tried to keep my head up enough to see them without tripping on a rock. Saw everyone in the same order and everyone seemed happy still, which was great news.

Another stop at Jackass Junction meant I had some nice downhill ahead of me and my glutes were about to find some relief. My drink rate was really starting to increase and I was wasting water on this stretch as I drenched my hat, buff and arm sleeves to stay cool. This would become the pattern for the remainder of this loop and the next.

Mustering a smile in the face of HEAT!!!
Photo by Sweet M Images

Loop Four ~ 61.2 miles (10th Place ~ 10:30 pace)

Greeted again by Heidi and finding that great camping chair, I continued to push the Vespa and my last Epic bar of the day. Heidi not only filled my water bottles again, but also took my soaking wet Cabela's neck gaiter (I’m pretty sure her response when grabbing it was “ewww, that’s so gross!!!”) and filled it with ice. This turned out to be one of the best cooling options of the day and worked great …for about 30 minutes.  I also had to wheel and deal with Heidi to give me some Tylenol …the largest safe dose before heading out to take the edge off.

The heat was getting hotter (peak time of the day) and I once again drank as much as possible before leaving the Rattlesnake Ranch aid station. Once again faced with a long sustained hill, I knew I would be walking much of it and found myself at times forgetting that I needed to run at least some of it. I willed myself on and tried to adopt the “just get from aid station to aid station” mentality. I crossed paths with the crew again and everyone was definitely looking hot and a little drained.

After hitting and leaving Jackass Junction I was starting to get more and more negative. I began to think about not only letting the 17-hour finish go, but also entertained (if only intermittently and briefly) calling it good at a 100K and ending my day. However, I talked myself through the little meltdowns and reminded myself of the toll running takes on my family and myself and knew I couldn’t call it quits especially when nothing was drastically wrong (besides my piss poor attitude).

Now that my hip flexors and glutes had their turn, my IT bands were starting to really tighten up, which was causing knee pain in my left knee. My feet were hurting, but were protected by my Hoka Stinson so I planned to stick with them through the race.  Unfortunately the Tylenol was not helping much and I wished I had an I.V. drip of something stronger to keep me moving. Down the hill and back into the “turn”.

Definitely looking tired and ready to be done ~ With Steve Poling
Photo by Heidi Mizones

Loop Five ~ 76.5 miles (10th place ~ 11:50 pace)

Completely drained and entertaining the idea more and more of stopping at the 100K mark, I sat down once again and gratefully accepted Heidi’s help again. She once again hooked me up with a nice ice buff bath. I had another Vespa and rummaged through my nutrition bag for something to eat since Epic bars were no longer appealing. I found an Electro-Bites Fuel bag, crunched them into fine powder and ate them with some Skratch. I also took another bag along with a LaraBar and put it in my waste pack. After carrying two handheld bottles for hours, I wanted a break and headed out with my waste pack …not before I tried to talk Heidi into more Tylenol only to be turned down (Heidi is a P.A. so who was I to argue?).

Being the fifth loop, I was at least a little relieved to know this would be the last long loop in this direction. It didn’t make the monster hill or long stretch out to Jackass Junction any easier, but I was accepting that the race was over the big hump and now into the final few legs. I began to really struggle with my lack-luster performance today and couldn’t figure out why I had no energy or pick up in my legs.  I let negativity in and couldn’t push it back out again. I was disappointed and finding it hard to stay positive or happy about ANYTHING.  Then, all of a sudden, I passed my first 100 miler in many, many miles. I somehow glided right past him and found a tiny bit of energy. Sadly, he passed me back again only 5 miles later and ended up finishing 7 minutes overall ahead of me at the end of the race.

In and out of Jackass Junction and hating life all the way back to the “turn”. It quickly dawned on me just how hard it is to race a 100 without a pacer. It was lonely out there and I found it hard to motivate myself to do more running.

Loop Six ~ 92 miles (10th place ~ 12:52 pace)

It was now dark, headlamps were a must and we all started to encounter runners with pacers clogging up the trails more with blinding lights. I sat down again, had my last Vespa and nothing else with it. I refilled only one bottle, had 2 more approved Tylenol from Heidi and changed my shoes into the Altra Olympus just for a change. I then headed out again with my waste pack, this time freeing up my hands completely.

Still down and still negative, I once again found solace in the fact that this would be the last time I had to do this loop in this direction. I was working (and working hard) towards the finish with every step being on step closer to finding a shower, some pizza and bed. I started to get a little punch drunk and began talking to the trail and myself. I would look at a cactus and say, “that’s the last time I see YOU cactus”. I would then do the same thing with a rock …and then a bush …and so on. This somehow made me giggle and helped me pass the time. The heat finally let up a bit, not much, but enough to ease some of that pain. Final long hill climbing back to Jackass Junction where I was greeted by a blitzed M.C. who wouldn’t leave me alone as I was trying to get through the aid station fast. He grabbed me, talked with heavy alcohol on his breath not making any sense and then let me go. I yelled in victory, “that’s the last time I see YOU Jackass Junction” to applause from those that heard me.

This stretch to the next aid station felt the longest of the day. Time was at a standstill and every step I took felt like a monumental step that took me nowhere. I passed runners when I could, tried to be cordial and tried not to get run over by runners and pacers from the opposite direction. I looked down at my watch and knew that 17 hours would no longer be in play. I struggled with what I could have done differently, but couldn’t find answers. It no longer mattered in the grand scheme of things and just getting the finish was the next goal.

My legs were tired and my focus was weak as I started to kick rocks and stubbing toes. I swore I broke my big toe at one point protesting loudly. My confidence was a little rocked and I began being more cautious on the technical sections. I continued to trudge along working my way to the “turn” for my final stop. Everything was aching, my thoughts on the race were twisted, but my resolve to finish at this point was solid.

Loop Seven ~ 101.1 miles (11th place ~ 12:20 pace)

Greeted by AJ this time instead of Heidi, I sat down and just shared a moment of silence with him. I think we both just caved to the course and knew without even saying a word how hard this day turned out to be. He said, “no fun huh?” to which I emphatically agreed. AJ and I are training partners and have been through a lot together, so having him there at this point was good mentally. There wasn’t much more to do at this point except refill my bottle, get back out of the Olympus and back into my Stinson for more protection and just get this race over with. With a little push from AJ, I was off for the grand finale.

Up one last time through the technical trail and power hiking as much as possible, I felt like I was never going to get to the half way mark. I asked a few runners if it was ahead as I started to worry I missed the turn. After finally making it there, I immediately heard two voices behind me. I hoped they were runners still heading out on their 5th lap …nope. A racer and his pacer came flying by me with such energy I was dumbstruck. I don’t often get passed in races (sounds cocky …sorry), so for it to happen to me with 3 miles to go, I was upset. Knowing I couldn’t do anything about it at this point, I just pressed on and tried to put in some strong final downhill miles. The trail was amazing and for once during the race, I was happy. I was pushing 8 ½ minute miles, but they felt like sub-6 miles. I was pushing, but undoubtedly looking like a lumbering cow. All of a sudden, I looked back and saw a headlamp approaching. CRAP!! I immediately increased my speed and kept looking back to see if I was being caught. I pushed as hard as I could all the way into the finish and beat the guy …only to find out he didn’t do the laps correctly and cut loop 6 short taking the cutoff …at least I found some final motivation to get it over with. I was greeted by AJ and Steve, received my buckle, took some photos and sat my butt in a chair.  It was over, I finished and I was happy to be done.  Final time was 17:54, 11th OA, 10th Men, 3rd Masters.

After a shower and cheering Wyatt and Jon on to their finishes, we all celebrated with some food and beer before finally heading back to the hotel for some uncomfortable sleep. That was a tough day, but we rewarded ourselves amply with more “cheat” foods and beer than you can imagine and all the while telling our own personal story from our race. We compared notes, licked our wounds, confirmed our struggles and celebrated our finishes together as a crew. It was perhaps the best “guys weekend” I’ve ever had!

Parting Thoughts

This race did NOT go the way I planned. I’ve had an incredible 2 years of racing and really have nothing to complain about. Yet, I find myself unsatisfied and frustrated with this race. Was I not fully recovered from Leadville? Was my compressed training not enough to achieve my goal? Was my heart never really in it and as a consequence neither was my drive? Am I getting older and less competitive? Did I just have a bad day? I find myself considering all of those things, but not finding an answer. Maybe I don’t need an answer and maybe it shouldn’t matter, but for some reason it does. It’s not the way I want to end the race season even though I killed Leadville. It’s left a sour taste in my mouth, but each day it’s losing more power over me and I’m just accepting it. I didn’t have a terrible race and even on a bad day, I finished my fastest 100 in hard conditions. You can see the decline in my paces through the day, but my place stayed steady, which means I ran a controlled race throughout. I made memories with friends, tested my fortitude and found persistence I wasn’t sure I had at one point. Will I run two 100’s again in a year? Unlikely, but this year I did and I will remember this season fondly.

If you haven’t seen the movie “Southpaw”, I highly recommend it.  There is a scene in the beginning where Billy Hope (fighter) is sitting in a chair post fight, bleeding everywhere and looking like death.  His wife asks him if he needs help getting his socks off and he simply says, “Nah, I’ll just shower in them”.  That captures the way I feel after a 100 to a “T”.  You are broken down to pieces, bleeding and you don’t care if you shower in your socks or not.  You simply want to find your way back to basic humanity after feeling like a dead dog.

The race was incredibly well organized, full of life and energy and easy to self-crew and self-pace (although I would never prefer it over having the support of family and friends).  I found the loop system incredibly difficult mentally to handle. The course was beautiful (although not always especially when you’re dragging arse and struggling) and the camaraderie on the course was fantastic. I doubt I’ll ever run it again, but would certainly consider the 100K option. I would recommend this race to anyone, but would certainly make sure they understand the complexities of a loop course as well as how to deal with the heat.

I wish my family was with me during the race and that I could have seen their supportive and beautiful faces. However, it was the vision of those beautiful faces that helped me press on and never give up in that race. Whether they were there in person or not, they were there in my heart and in my thoughts. My wife and I shared a nice long deep conversation the next day. My daughter flipped the script on me when I got home and complained about my performance. Her cute voice told me in simple terms, “Daddy, you finished 100 miles and you finished 10th …that’s amazing”. Damn, I love these people to death.

The reward for a hard earned finish.

1 comment:

  1. Well done report man! Way more "honest" than "negative", which is always the thing I love about race reports -- unless it is a witty writer that can make me laugh! As to what went wrong? Well, I have my theories, namely that it was some combination of all those things you've mentioned. As Anton said after his 2009 LT100 DNF, "On a good day, running 100 miles is f**king hard. Period. On a bad day, it's borderline impossible." When so many obstacles mount up like that, it near impossible to keep the negativity away. I know, I've lived it with you by my side :)