When my time to properly train for Javelina Jundred started to slip away in September, I did not hit the panic button. Instead, I settled on what training I could complete. In the final six weeks, I found just enough time in my schedule for a 20 and 22-mile run. After seven years of ultrarunning, I was going to need to find a way to run comfortably for 100-miles. I was going to have to rely heavily on my experienced body and mind to get to the finish line.
Throughout my race reports, I try to make note of my hydration and calorie intake. Over the years, these notes have helped me to realize that I do not consume enough pure water. In addition, I tend to push too hard in the initial stages of a race. Thus, my focus for getting through the 2017 Javelina Jundred was on patience and hydration. When focused on these two factors during the 2017 Tahoe Rim Trail 100 everything went well. That is, until I fell twice on the snow, injuring my calf and dropping after 50-miles. The result of this focus at the Javelina Jundred was probably the most comfortable (not the fastest) hundred miler I have ever run. Here is my story from the race…
My journey to the Javelina Jundred began shortly after dropping Samuel off at daycare on Thursday morning. I drove till around 3:00 PM, reaching Lake Havasu City, and spent the night there. After sleeping in on Friday morning, I drove the remaining 4-hours to the Javelina Jeadquarters outside of Fountain Hills, Arizona. When I arrived at the race venue, all I could think about was the heat and lack of shade. I knew coming into the race that it was the desert, but until you are in it, you don’t fully understand the exposure. In my mind, I was having a tough time imagining myself running well through the heat of the day. I set up my camp in the middle of the tent city that had formed in the desert. Then, quickly made my way back to the air-conditioning of my car.
The race expo was staged a few miles away at La Puesta Del Sol at Fort McDowell. Taking full advantage of the coolness of my car, I elected to get my race number now. Unfortunately, the expo was an outdoor venue as well. Not being able to escape the heat and sun this weekend was finally setting in. I began to cope with this reality by drinking more water, Tailwind Nutrition, and Gatorade. I collected my race number and race swag, then made a quick loop through the vendors that were set up. The race swag consisted of a nice long-sleeved three-quarter zip shirt with awesome Javelina graphics, a Javelina branded dry sack, a Javelina and Hoka One One buff, and some cool Javelina stickers.
With the sun and heat still bearing down, I drove to Target to pick up some last-minute needs. Thankfully, by the time I returned to the Jeadquarters around 4:30 PM my tent was starting to catch the shade of nearby structures. I could now feel the coolness of night starting to set in. The decrease in temperature restored some of my confidence as I thought about the total duration of heat to deal with during the race. I was now expecting to suffer from about 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, a total of 7.5 hours.
I spent the short evening enjoying some pizza from Freak Brothers Pizza Company and hanging out with a few Dusty Bottom Trail Runner members. Then, turned in for the night around 8:30 PM. I was surprised with how quiet the Jeadquarters got at night with so many people there to run, pace, and crew. I felt that I got a good night sleep considering I was sleeping on a cot in the desert. Unfortunately, the Jeadquarters started to wake with noise around 3:00 AM. Considering that we were already at the race site, I thought this was strangely early. With the race not starting till 6:00 AM, the plan was to sleep until 4:30 or 5:00 AM. After 30-minutes of tossing and turning from the noises around me, I started getting ready for the race.
LAP 1 – THE DESERT HEATS UP QUICK:
After an exciting start with a loop around the Jeadquarters, 500+ runners were now out on the desert trails. Our first loop was run clockwise and totaled 22.3 miles using the Pemberton, Shallmo, Cinch, and Escondido trails. After about 20-30 minutes of running, I was able to shut-off my headlamp and store it away till it would get dropped at Jackass Junction. There were long lines of runners forming at different paces. However, passing each other was very easy with wide-open trails. I was amazed by the number of little rolling hills as we ran in and out of sandy washes and desert drainage areas.
It was 4-miles to the first aid station, Coyote Camp, and the majority of that was a gradual uphill. I focused on drinking at least one bottle of water, half my Tailwind, and eating half a Clif Nut Butter Filled Bar. I stayed focused as I entered the Coyote Camp aid station, quickly refilling one water bottle before moving on. Over the next 6.5-mile stretch to Jackass Junction, I ran occasionally with Thomas Lopez and Peter Fish, both from Dusty Bottoms Trail Runners. It was nice having the time to chat with runners I knew. Each of us had our own reasons for being there and were focused on running our own races. Eventually, Thomas pushed ahead of me after I took several bathroom and walking breaks. While Peter was staying conservative with a run/walk approach, so he fell slightly behind me for a while.
The section of trail between Coyote Camp and Jackass Junction felt extremely long as we traversed various terrain through the desert. During this section, the trail became rockier and continued slightly uphill. Eventually, the surface of the trail smoothed out and switched to frequent elevation changes of 20 to 50 feet in and out of sandy washes. I kept searching the horizon for the next aid station, but it was nowhere within sight. As we kept winding our way through the desert, I realized that this 6.5-mile stretch was going to be the biggest mental challenge throughout the day.
Once at Jackass Junction, I made another quick stop to refill both water bottles and my flask of Tailwind. In the first 10.5 miles, I had drunk 60 fl. oz. of water and 16 fl. oz. of Tailwind (diluted to approximately 100 calories). I also ate one Huma Gel (100 calories), and one Clif Nut Butter Filled Bar (230 calories). I had only been running for 2-hours, so at first thought, 430 calories and 76 ounces of fluids may seem like a lot. However, I knew that it was going to get difficult to consume calories during the heat of the day. Around 200 calories and 40 fl. oz. per hour was a great start to keeping my energy up and GI distress to a minimum.
After packing away my headlamp in my drop bag, I was out of Jackass Junction and onto the second half of the first loop. Within the next couple miles, I realized my first mistake on the day. We were now running mostly into the rising sun and it was getting hot. I had started the race with a beanie on my head but had forgotten to clip my hat to my pack and bring my sunglasses. In addition, I was wearing a black t-shirt and no sunscreen on my face or neck. These are minor and easy to fix mistakes, but it made the next 11.8 miles more uncomfortable than necessary. Thankfully, from Jackass Junction to Rattlesnake Ranch (5.2 miles) the trail was either flat or slightly downhill.
The run-able miles into Rattlesnake Ranch clicked off quickly and I remained extra focused on my hydration. On this first loop only, after leaving Rattlesnake Ranch, we had to go 6.6 miles to reach the Jeadquarters. I finished off another 40-fl. oz. of water and 16 fl. Oz. of Tailwind during this stretch. The trail changed back to small rolling hills and more rocks. Everyone around me was thankful we didn’t have to repeat this portion of trail again. With about 3-miles to go on the first lap, Peter Fish and Jennifer Yelland caught back up to me. The three of us ran together and arrived at Jackass Junction in a time of around 4 hrs 30 min for the first 22.3 miles.
LAP 2 – SHORT AND SWEET, OR IS IT SWEAT:
With no designated crew, I had to make sure I took diligent care of myself throughout the race, especially early on. In the closing miles of the first lap, I kept repeating in my head what I needed to do at the Jeadquarters. I needed a white shirt, sunscreen, my hat and sunglasses, and a refill of Tailwind and other nutrition items. Nowhere in this mental checklist did I think of changing socks. A mistake that would come back to haunt me later. Within 10-minutes of entering the Jeadquarters, I was off to start my second lap.
While we would be running on the same trails all day long, each loop was run in the opposite direction from the previous loop. This added a bit more variety to the course. Also, it meant that you would almost constantly be seeing runners throughout the race. I felt that the feeling of not being alone on the trails would make it easier to stay focused and positive as the miles added up. Since the trails were wide, passing oncoming runners was not an issue like it is on true single-track trails.
The four remaining laps were each 19.4 miles in length. After going 22.3 miles on lap one, the second lap felt like it went by fast. Before I knew it, I had gone the 3.7 miles from the Jeadquarters to Rattlesnake Ranch and covered the 5.2 miles from Rattlesnake Ranch to Jackass Junction. I was keeping a conservative pace, covering 31.2 miles in 6 hrs 45 min (approximately 13 min/mile). To help keep my body cool in the heat, I stuffed ice into my Orange Mud arm sleeves, into the buff around my neck, and under my hat. I bought the Orange Mud Arm Sleeves at the Western States 100 expo this past here and they were an excellent investment. Each sleeve as two pockets, one on the wrist and one just above the elbow, perfect for packing full of ice.
The refreshing feeling from the ice would only last for about 2-3 miles. However, the feeling helped to make those few miles go by quickly each time. In addition, I was scheduling in short 2-3-minute walking breaks every 15 to 20-minutes. These walking periods allowed my heart rate a chance to come down and my rate of breathing to slow. I used these times as well to hydrate and eat more calories.
For the race, I was using the Orange Mud Hydraquiver Vestpack 2 for the first time. The pack allowed me to carry two 20 fl. oz. water bottles, double the bottles from my first Orange Mud Pack. I chose to carry insulated bottles to keep my water ice cold between aid stations. In one of the chest pockets, I carried a softflask of Tailwind (diluted to 100 calories). Then, stuffed in various pockets in the pack and in my Patagonia shorts were Huma Gels, RunGum, S-Caps, Ginger Chews, and a Clif Nut Butter Filled Bar.
The assortment of nutrition options was nice to have between aid stations. If for a period, I did not feel like eating anything, I drank water and took S-Caps and sucked on a Ginger Chew until my appetite came back. Besides the S-Caps and diluted Tailwind, I was reserving most my electrolyte replacement for the aid stations. From experience, I have found that the main cause of my GI distress in ultras comes from not drinking enough pure water. So, I was hopeful that this restriction of electrolytes and focus on water would have a better result in the heat. At each aid station, I would grab some Pringles or watermelon, a glass of Coke or Gatorade, and be on my way.
At Jackass Junction (mile 31.2), I had expected to eat something a little more substantial. However, keeping up with 200 calories and 40+ ounces of fluids per hour, left me feeling full and comfortable. Thomas Lopez had entered Jackass just after me and seemed to be suffering a bit more in the heat. As I made my way out of the aid station, I checked in on him at the medical tent. He just needed to get out of the sun for a few minutes and the medical tent was pretty much the only place to do it.
The next 6.5-miles from Jackass to Coyote Camp were very hot! Despite keeping up with my fluid intake, I had stopped going to the bathroom as frequently. Confident that I was drinking all that I could, I figured my body was just doing enough to keep up with the heat of the day. My run/walk frequency decreased over this stretch to 8-minutes of running and 2-minutes of walking. At nearly 40-miles, I was now into the point in a 100-mile race where my muscles started to spasm and question when would things would be over. It’s a 10-15-mile stretch in every race that I must push through. Then, my muscles seem to reach a point where they can’t be in any more pain and things are fine. As I approached Coyote Camp (mile 37.7), my energy levels felt low for the first time.
Even though Jeadquarters was just 4-miles away, I took a few extra moments at Coyote Camp to eat and hydrate. As I left the aid station, I started making another mental checklist of what needed to happen at the Jeadquarters. A re-fill of fluids, re-stock on ice, re-fill on nutrition, drink an Ensure, and a re-apply sunscreen seemed to all that was needed. I felt like I walked more than ran from Coyote Camp to the Jeadquarters, but at last, arrived. After 41.7 miles in 9 hrs 13 min, I was still holding a sub-24-hour pace. However, I was not too concerned with that in the heat of the day. The focus was still on staying under-control and getting to the cooler temperatures of the evening.
LAP 3 – REPRIEVE IS COMING:
Once at the Jeadquarters, I stopped off at my camp, then proceeded to the main aid station. I ended up not only drinking my Ensure, but also eating a handful of Pringles, watermelon, and half a PB&J sandwich. This was a lot of calories to put in all at once, but I felt like I needed it. As I started my third lap, I noted that I had approximately another hour of serious heat to push through. I elected to take the next 4-miles to Coyote Camp extremely easy. This allowed time for all the calories I just consumed to settle and to hydrate even more before pushing the pace forward again.
With about 1.5-miles to go before Coyote Camp, a small hill to the right of the trail cast a long shade across the trail for about a quarter mile. With the shade came cooler temperatures and the motivation to push harder to get to the next aid station. The food from Jeadquarters was now starting to provide some energy and I moved quickly to get in and out of Coyote Camp. As I left, I noticed that the sun was starting to duck behind a large mountain range up ahead. It wasn’t going to be much longer before we had shade and nightfall. About this same time, I received an update on my phone that Ohio State had come back to knock off Penn State! These two factors combined gave me a little extra pep-in-my-step to cover the long 6.5-miles to Jackass Junction.
After a few miles, I hit the start of the shaded trail from the mountain range and I rejoiced on the inside. I still had over 50-miles to go, but I had at least made it through the heat of the day in one piece. However, I now realized there was another challenge just in front of me. It was getting dark. I had elected to not take a headlamp from my camp back at mile 41.7. I had a headlamp stowed at Jackass and I thought I would be there before dark. Now, I wasn’t so sure. I ended up using a little more energy than planned to get to Jackass Junction literally just at last light.
With the extra expended energy, I found myself at mile 52.2 in 12 hrs 15 min. Despite the slow start to my third lap, I had made up some time over the last 10.5 miles. I sat in a chair for the first time all day to sort through needed items in my drop bag. A volunteer approached me to ask if I wanted a hamburger. The thought initially made me feel sick, but a few moments later I motioned for the volunteer to come back over.
I decided to have that cheeseburger after all, and it tasted oh so good! It was honestly the first time in an ultra that I have had a hamburger that was not overcooked and dry as dirt. As I ate, I changed to a long-sleeve shirt, grabbed a fresh beanie hat, and positioned my Petzl Tikka on my head. After about 15-minutes of rest, I left Jackass Junction and proceeded down the dark trail.
Up until this point, runners coming toward me had not bothered me all day. However, now they were coming toward me in the dark with torches on their heads. With each passing runner came a small loss in night vision. I found myself running excessively with my eyes pointed down and head turned slightly to one side. It was an uncomfortable running style, to say the least.
Thankfully, I found myself moving down the trail at longer running intervals. I was going 15-minutes before walking, then 20-minutes before walking, and I reached Rattlesnake Ranch with little issue. Shortly after leaving Rattlesnake Ranch, I started feeling the burning sensation of blisters forming on the inside part of both heels. It was this point that I finally realized that I had not changed socks all day. Nearly 100-kilometers of running through the sand and heat of the desert with no sock change was a bonehead move. Now, I just needed to make another 3.7 miles to reach Jeadquarters without doing too much damage.
Over the next 3.7-miles, the pain in my feet was magnified by my tiredness. The less than ideal training for Javelina was starting to catch up with me and the blisters felt like they might be my breaking point. By the time I reached the Jeadquarters, my feet were all I could think about. I grabbed a fresh pair of socks and plopped down in a chair under the Dusty Bottoms tent.
LAP 4 – WHY DO MY FEET HURT!
Sitting in the Dusty Bottoms tent, I pulled off both shoes and socks to reveal a dime-sized blister on each foot. We elected not to pop either blister. Instead, I put a bandage on the top of each, re-applied Squirrels Nut Butter, and slipped on a new pair of socks. I slipped my Hoka Speedgoat shoes back on and walked over to my camp just a few hundred feet away.
My next move was to switch to the Hoka Arahi for a little softer cushioning. However, when I sat down, I realized that I did not have these shoes with me. Instead, my backup options were a beat-up pair of Hoka Challenger ATR and a pair of Nike Pegasus. How did I forget my only other good pair of running shoes? I was mad at myself and I needed to talk to Nicole to help reset my negative mindset.
After a 10-minute phone call with Nicole at 9:00 PM, I decided to wear the Challenger ATR. Even with the worn-down cushion, I was hoping that they would reduce the pain in my feet. Nearly 45-minutes spent at the Jeadquarters, but I was now finally starting my fourth lap.
Taking the extra time at the Javelina Jundred Jeadquarters, gave me more energy over the opening stretch of the fourth lap. I moved quickly to reach Rattlesnake Ranch. Wasting no time now, I was moving toward Jackass Junction. Unfortunately, about a mile before Jackass Junction my energy faded. In addition, the pain in my feet was reaching a new high. It was not just the blisters now that hurt, but the entire soles of my feet just ached. Both my lack of energy and sore feet was probably partly related to the lack of proper training. I tried not to focus on that fact at this time though.
On the opening stretch of this lap, I had cruised past Jennifer Yelland. Now, we both entered Jackass Junction together at mile 70. We both expressed are displeasures for several reasons to each other. However, somewhere inside we both knew we needed to keep moving. Despite the wild party that was going on, we both made it out of there in less than 5-minutes.
Shortly after leaving the aid station, Jennifer went around a blind turn a few hundred yards ahead of me. When I rounded the corner, she was sitting on the side of the trail. She had taken a fall and scraped up both palms of her hands. I asked if there was anything I could do to help, but there was not much I could do other than to give her some words of encouragement.
Dealing with my sore feet and other frustrations, I continued down the trail. I kept looking back for the next 15 to 20-minutes to see if Jennifer was still coming behind me. There were a few other headlamps bouncing along the trail behind me. I anticipated that one of them was her. I was very happy to see her come into Coyote Camp just a few minutes after me. She still was not happy, but she managed to leave the aid station and get back to the Javelina Jundred Jeadquarters before me.
With about two miles to go before the Jeadquarters, I found myself alone on the trail when two coyotes came out of the brush. I know that coyote attacks are rare, but in a tired state of mind, it startled me. I took off at a hard-running pace for the next half mile or so to distance myself. After a few minutes, my heart rate slowed back down, and my thoughts drifted back to my hurting feet.
I arrived at the Jeadquarters and completed my fourth lap at 2:50 AM. My time had now drifted too far from a potential sub-24-hour finish. As I made the turnaround at the start/finish line a lady handed me a wristband that I needed to wear for my last lap. I took the wristband from her but also exclaimed that I might not be going back out. Just like the end of lap three, I plopped down in a chair at the Dusty Bottoms tent and took off my shoes.
My blisters were now the size of quarters on both heels. Time seemed to move fast despite how slow everything else was going around me. Eventually, I got both blisters popped, drained, and bandaged back up. When I slipped my shoes back on and stood up, the sting of the blisters made it 100-times more unbearable to walk than before. How was I going to continue now?
As I left the Dusty Bottoms tent, I told those crewing, “If you see me again, I either dropped or finished.” Then, I limped back over to my camp and fell into the tent. With my body on the tent floor half in and half out, I called Nicole one last time. I was in pain and mad! However, in the end, she was able to convince me to change shoes one more time and get back out there.
We decided that my hydration had been good enough all day that my body would tolerate ibuprofen. Normally not a good choice during an ultramarathon, but I needed something to lessen the pain in my feet. I put on my beat-up Nike Pegasus and limped back to the trailhead to start my fifth and final lap.
LAP 5 – FOCUS ON FORWARD PROGRESS:
It took 10 to 15-minutes, but the sting from my popped blisters and aching in the soles of my feet slowly subsided. I decided not to run for a while and to conserve energy for closer to the finish line. Along with more walking, I told myself not to spend more than 2-minutes at an aid station. As I made my way toward Coyote Camp, I passed several Dusty Bottoms members on their way in to either finish the 100K or to start their last lap as well. It was encouraging to see runners I knew still working hard as well.
Shortly after leaving Coyote Camp I found myself with a small group of runners. We hung together for 2 to 3-miles in the dark of the desert. When I suspected that I was just 2-miles out from Jackass Junction, I decided to start running a little more. The sun was slowly coming up. If I could start mixing in running now, I could potentially be done by 8:30 AM, 26 hrs 30 min.
Just as I had reached Jackass Junction at mile 52.5 right at sunset, I arrived now, at mile 91, at sunrise. I moved quickly to re-fill my water and retrieve my drop bag. With the sun coming up meant the heat was soon to follow. I stripped down to my t-shirt, left my headlamp behind, and grabbed a few snacks for the trail.
I was now in the final stretch of a 100-miler where I say to myself, let’s just get this race over with. This feeling usually comes with 10 to 15-miles to go and I start running like I have 100% fresh legs. Just like the plan during the day on Saturday, I was cruising along with 10-minutes of running and 2-minutes of walking. I ran from Jackass Junction to Rattlesnake Ranch, 5.2-miles, in 55-minutes. At Rattlesnake Ranch, I grabbed a handful of M&M’s and Pringles, re-filled one bottle, and took off down the trail.
It was getting hot even faster today than yesterday and I just wanted to be done. Unfortunately, I still had 3.7-miles to go to reach the finish line.
About a half mile after leaving Rattlesnake Ranch, I looked ahead to see Jennifer walking down the trail. She had left the Jeadquarters to start her fifth lap a good 20-minutes ahead of me. With all the walking I did the first half of the lap, I figured that I would not see her again. As I passed her, I said, “We’re both going to get this thing done after all.” A few moments later, I looked back to see that she had begun running again and this made me happy to see.
I continued with an 8-minute run and 2-minute walk interval all the way into the finish line. After 26 hrs 22 min, I finally crossed the finish line of the Javelina Jundred!
POST-RACE – PACK, EAT, DRIVE, THEN CRASH (sleep):
After finishing Javelina Jundred, I sat down in the Dusty Bottoms tent for a few minutes to chat with everyone. Originally, my plan was to finish and sleep for a while before it got hot. Unfortunately, it was already hot! As I sat there, I was trying to figure out the best course of action. I had no place, other than my tent, to stay. I knew that I would not make it all the way back to Modesto. So I just needed to find a way to at least make it part of the way today.
Finally, I decided I needed to change my clothes and pack up. After that, I could then reward myself with another Freak Brothers pizza and a beer. It took a while, but eventually, everything was packed in my car. I returned to the Dusty Bottoms tent to cheer on other runners coming to finish and enjoyed my pizza and beer.
Around noon, I decided to go sleep in my air-conditioned car. After an hour of uncomfortable rest, I started to drive. Right away, I noticed that my eyes were having trouble focusing in the sunlight. They were bloodshot, and I was fighting exhaustion. On the other side of Phoenix, I pulled into a rest area to sleep for 30-minutes. When I awoke, I decided to reserve a hotel room further down the road. After two more 30-minute snoozes in the car and 90-miles of driving, I finally made it to Blythe, CA. This would be the end of a long past 36-hours.
After I long hot shower and two Burger King Whoopers, large French Fries, and a piece of Hershey Pie Cake, I was finally feeling better. As I laid in the hotel bed, I started to process the events of the race. On the remaining drive home on Monday, I processed through the pieces of the race that allowed me to finish on such little training.
First, my training directly leading up to Javelina Jundred was not what anyone would want or expect for a 100-mile race. However, I had worked very hard from March through July to get ready for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. On that race day, I covered 50-miles in 14-hours, up and down mountains at high altitude. From that day, July 15th, to Javelina was 15-weeks. After just a few weeks of recovery, I maintained 25 to 40-miles of training from mid-August to the week before Javelina. So yes, my training was not great, but if anything, I entered the race with enough volume and well rested.
Second, I did not put any pressure on a time goal right from the start. Sure, a sub-24-hour finish was something to strive for. However, with no designated crew, not ideal training, and the unknown of running in the desert, the only real goal was to finish. I did not hesitate to walk or get frustrated by feeling the need to walk early on. I moved in and out of aid stations quickly, except for Jeadquarters. And, when things got difficult, I was able to push myself to just keep moving forward.
Third, with less focus on time goals and keeping a hard pace, I was able to focus much more on my hydration and nutrition. I have never drunk so much pure water during an ultramarathon. With that, I have also never gone to the bathroom as frequently as I did. Switching to the Orange Mud VP2 from the VP1 was a great solution to easily carrying more water. The result was that my stomach was able to handle calories and electrolytes throughout the entire race. Especially when my energy levels were low. This focus may not always play out the same, but I now understand what it means to properly hydrate during an ultramarathon.
Finally, this is the second time I have run a 100-miler without Nicole and I will never do that again. Sure, having a crew is great and very much needed. However, there is something special and motivating about having her along for the ride. Thankfully, just hearing her voice on the phone at several critical points in the Javelina Jundred was enough to keep me going.
My name is in the lottery again or Western States 100 in 2018. If the not Western States 100, I’m not sure what races I will do. I could absolutely find myself back in the desert for another running of the Javelina Jundred!