When I planned out my year, I considered doing two 100s with the idea of using one to train and learn. My selection into the WS100 changed all that. Honestly, I didn't think I'd do another race after Western States and was barely able to squeeze by the idea of going to Phoenix on the home front to be with my buddies as a sort of "guys trip". Steve recommended the race after pacing Thomas last year and the reputation of the event speaks for itself. I knew at least 8 runners at Javelina this past weekend and it was a blast to see them all race. Each is at a different point in their running "careers" right now: some are ultra vets where others are 100 mile rookies. Some are round-the-clock training guys. Some prefer to approach it a little more casually.
Chuck, Jon, Mike, Wyatt and I flew in on Friday morning and wasted little time heading to the race hotel before settling in, hitting the expo, and scoping out the start area. Steve and Thomas met us to show us around the start area and get us prepped for what awaited us Saturday morning.
|Our group of guys, the four on the right (Wyatt, Mike, Chuck, and Jon) all did the 100 mile race.|
We awoke about 3:30 am on Saturday morning and got ready before catching the shuttle to McDowell Mountain Regional Park. The 100 milers took off at 6 am and then those of us doing the 100k tried to stay warm as we awaited the hour later start.
Mike's wife, Heidi, joined us guys for the trip to support her husband and kindly acted as a crew member for us all from the start/finish area. She was also the expert photographer in these photos.
|Steve and I awaiting the 100k start.|
Lap 1 - 15.3 milesThe 100k started with Steve and I situated near the front of the pack. However, it didn't take but a few minutes before everyone was passing us and we dropped 20 spots in the race. I knew it was likely I'd finish top 10 with a good day and I was stunned how fast runners were starting this race -- like 8:30 pace. In hindsight, I suppose using the relatively cold start to "bank" some quick miles was not a terrible strategy, but it definitely contributed to the carnage later on. We stopped to pee at the first aid station (about 2 miles) and I immediately stepped on a cactus. That was a sure sign I wasn't racing in Colorado anymore!
After we picked the cactus out of my Altra Olympus, Steve and I resumed running and took on the 600 foot climb up to the midpoint of the loop, Jackass Junction. The climbing was very gentle and only technical in a few spots, so I pretty much granny-geared the whole thing. While we wanted to run together for a bit and catch up (he lives in AZ), I felt like Steve was wanting to slow it down some. He maintained the pace with me until Jackass Junction where we did a quick stop to fill water before starting down the very benign, very runnable second half of the lap back to the start/finish area.
Not long after leaving Jackass Junction, I was running sub-9 pace very comfortably and just cruising the plush downhill. Steve finally said goodbye and let me go ahead. I plugged in my iPod and began passing some back-of-the-pack 100 milers and began to see some front-of-the-pack 100 milers -- who were now on Lap 2 and going the opposite direction -- coming back at me. I said hello to all my friends and they all looked happy and solid, which was great considering there was a ton of racing left to go. I was a bit surprised that Mike and Jon had split up, but I later learned there was a slight mix up at aid that caused it. I could tell right away that the first place woman and first place man both looked incredible. It is hard to extrapolate much off of being only 15% done, but they looked focused and strong. They both went onto cruise to victory; the first place woman crushing the course record and climbing into the history books with one of the best 100 mile performances ever for an American woman.
I arrived at the start/finish area in 2:23, well ahead of my projected time of 2:45, and made a quick change, grabbing my waist belt for additional water and chugging down a Vespa. I also attempted to eat some real food, but it was getting warm in my drop bag and didn't go down real well. Somehow missing Heidi, I took off down the trail for Lap 2.
|Photo of me finishing Lap 1|
Photo by Ceton's Photo Place
Lap 2 - 30.6 miles
|Photo of me starting Lap 2, less than an hour later, totally covered in sweat|
Photo by Ceton's Photo Place
Lap 2 was pretty uneventful (and easy) until about the point I arrived back at Jackass Junction. It was starting to warm up considerably and my fluid intake was starting to sky rocket. After having gone the entire first loop with just a handheld, my drink rate was reaching the point where two handhelds might not be enough. Worse, leaving Jackass, you sort of mentally expect to go downhill but the course actually undulates for several miles before a true downhill section kicks in. And, the downhill this direction is more technical, forcing you to pay attention more and not "cruise" quite so easily. I wound up preferring the clockwise (odd number) direction much more.
After the undulating miles, two runners settled in behind me and began to chit-chat, clearly using me to pace them. I didn't mind and actually enjoyed listening to their banter, but stayed with my iPod and just tried to keep in race mode. I was a bit worried because they sounded much more relaxed than I felt at this stage of the race. In fact, much of my body was feeling a bit achy (hip flexors, hamstrings, quads) and a bit crampy. I attribute this to the now nearly 50k of runnable terrain. I rarely run a consistent pace/effort for the length -- typically being in the mountains and alternating between hiking and running more. At some point, I took a nasty toe stub, probably from looking at my watch, and had to speed up dramatically to keep myself from falling. I could hear them both sort of gasp and then ask me if I was ok. Fine, fortunately. In addition to being hot, I was expending quite a bit of energy dodging on coming runners and trying to implement Fartleks to pass slower 100 mile runners that I was now catching by the dozen.
I once again saw my friends -- first Chuck, then Wyatt, then Jon, then Mike. Jon and Mike remained split and I could tell Mike wasn't feeling great. Chuck even threw out a mention that he thought Jon may catch him -- he wasn't having his finest race and was digging for motivation. Steve and Thomas both seemed really loose and trying to just enjoy the day.
I completed lap 2 in 2:26 (4:49 total) and arrived at the start/finish area feeling quite haggard. My only request from Heidi was a few Tylenol before I filled up my bottles, applied sunscreen and left. It was getting hot now and I had gone out fast, so I was already expecting the next two laps to be a real battle. My lone wish was that I hadn't been so cavalier about the heat -- it was "only" 80 degrees -- and taken more dramatic measures to stay cool. I forgot my hat in Colorado and wound up with a burnt forehead among other things... I forgot/neglected to employ many of the tricks I told my friends about.
Lap 3 - 45.9 milesThe uphill section of Lap 3 was a real grind. I did my best to run all of it (and think I managed to) but it was taking a HUGE toll on me. I could tell I was breathing hard and starting to overheat. At each aid station, I would ask the volunteers to put ice in my buff around my neck. I wish I had also worn my arm sleeves and put ice in them as well -- a trick I told Jon about and he used quite successfully! I took toe stubs along the technical section, once going completely down. Ugh. This race was real now.
I once again arrived at Jackass Junction, this time getting soda for my calories. I should have been using these aid stations to catch up on water. Instead, I would just fill up my bottles to the top and take off. The trouble was that I'd gulp down half my bottle before I was half a mile down the trail and then half to start conserving it in order to make it to the next aid station. I bet my drink rate was approaching 40 oz an hour, close to what I had done at Western States this year. On top of being 80 degrees, the dry, breezy air contributed to drying runners out.
On the cruiser downhill, I found myself slowing down and wanting to walk. Uh-oh. Now I knew I was in real trouble and began to wonder how I'd make it through my last lap. Truthfully, I briefly wondered if I should continue at all. Those thoughts quickly left my head as I thought about how much I put my family through (and how much I personally invested) in getting to this race. I was going to finish this race even if I had to walk the last lap.
Halfway between Jackass Junction and the start/finish area, two guys set up a tent and were serving Otter Pops. It was difficult to eat and run, but I managed to put down two of them! I was fatiguing fast, but I continued to push on and made my way to the start finish area with a lap time of 2:40 (7:30 total time). There were moments where I pondered the possibility of a 10 hour finish. While I was technically on pace, I knew I was fading too hard for that to happen. The good news was that I was far enough ahead of pace to leave a headlamp behind, figuring worst case was that I'd walk a few miles in the dark to finish, if I blew up THAT BAD. (I nearly did.)
Lap 4 - 61.4 milesThe woman working at the aid station dumped ice cold water my head and introduced me to her husband, Brian, one of the two gentleman that had been following me at the end of loop 2. He waited for me and was hoping we'd work together on our final lap. He did a great job motivating me and we chatted for several miles, but I eventually had to tell him to keep going as I implemented a walk-run strategy to minimize the damage done.
I was extremely dehydrated and just felt fried. I had nothing in the tank. That said, I was proud of the effort I gave in constantly finding the will to run after short breaks, often pushing the run segments I had negotiated with myself longer than I agreed to! Brian had mentioned to me that there were 4 runners ahead of us when he checked at the aid station. (We later learned live tracking was having issues all day and that was wrong.) I began using my placement in the race as motivation to keep working hard and just hoped those behind me were hurting too. I ran out of water about a mile before Jackass Junction and became desperate to get there.
This time, I drank a ton of fluid at the aid station before heading out. I also had them dump water on me (it was too dry and my shirt wouldn't stay wet) and washed some of the salt off my face -- the latter felt amazing. Nothing much changed with the onslaught of fluids though, lots of walk/run and just pushing myself as far as I my mind would allow. Finally, a man in the 100k passed me. I tried briefly to keep up with him but could only muster the energy for about a quarter mile. I tucked in behind a woman that seemed to be struggling too and used her to pace me. She'd walk hills and then run, so I copied her. Then another 100k runner flew by me. He had to be running close to 9 pace and I didn't bother to keep up with him. I then realized the woman I was following was a 100 mile runner and decided to dig a bit deeper and try to avoid getting passed again. I was sick of my iPod and messed with turning it on and off again about every 15 mins. The encouragement from other runners was great, but I felt terrible and didn't have much energy left to reciprocate their well wishes. I was also struggling to deal with the reality of my situation.
I arrived at the final aid station (2 miles from the finish) and resolved to run the remaining distance no matter what. I topped off on fluids and headed down the trail. This section is undulating and I gave it everything I had to keep from walking. Eventually, I had to stop briefly to untie my shoe because the top of my right foot was killing me. About each tenth of a mile I'd look over my shoulder to make sure no one was coming. No one was, but I continued to run anyway.
Just before arriving at the finish, I saw Jon heading out for his 5th lap and he looked very good, and I was happy for him. Then I caught up to Wyatt -- who looked a bit rough -- and said hello to him. I finished the fourth loop in 3 hours flat, good for 10:30 total time and 8th place overall. I beat my goal time by close to an hour, but somehow felt awful about how the race had gone down. The last lap was such a struggle and I HATE getting passed that late in a race. I could tell from the salt on my clothes that I was dehydrated. It took almost a gallon of water and several cups of broth before I began feeling better.
AfterwardI was the first one of the eight guys in our crew to finish, so I hung out at the finish line to watch them all finish. First was Mike, who dropped from the 100 mile at the 100k mark. Then Steve and Thomas finished the 100k (Thomas also dropping from the 100 mile). Then Chuck finished the 100 mile (his second in 2.5 months). Then Wyatt and finally Jon (his first 100 in an impressive 20:23). All in all, I was at the finish line for 9 hours waiting for my friends. I spent that time enjoying the live music, some Freak Brothers Pizza, and a half dozen trips to the aid station for food (mostly pickles and broth). I tried to nap in people's tents at the finish, but I was in too much pain (and still cramping), plus I wanted to see my friends each time they came through.
We finally arrived back our hotel and hit the sheets about 4 am, a full 24 hours after I'd woken up. The night's sleep was short and we woke up early, mostly due to the discomfort of tossing and rubbing against the sheets. Sleeping after an ultra is the worst! So, we headed into town and got some junk food. After 18 months on a strict diet, some crappy food was just the recipe to indulge and enjoy the moment. We spent Sunday eating junk food and watching football as we recounted the day's events through a series of conversations with all our running group. It was really a good time and well worth staying in Arizona the extra day. Sharing stories is half the fun of these events, but that moment can get lost if you rush home to normal life. I am quite proud of all my friends for putting themselves out there.
After some reflection, I have come to peace with my race (and my overall season). I may have been able to make a few changes that would have made the final lap more comfortable, but I don't think it was going to dramatically change the outcome. The theme was much the same as my year: good energy and a good gut plus a bit of mental fortitude led me to a very good race performance. I raced four times and pretty much met or exceeded my own expectations in each of those races. I don't know what 2016 holds, but I do know that I am over due for some rest and gym time.