100 Miles in the Desert -- Javelina Jundred Race Report

JonRoig.com | Posted: 2009-11-05 09:31:00 | 17156 hits | View in Hi-Fi Mode

I ran 100 miles! It took 28:20.

Holy crap... right? I mean... that's a really long way to run. When I tell people that I ran the Javelina Jundred on Halloween, they're generally like, "WTF?"

... at least that's the reaction of the people that don't know me. The folks who do know me, they know I've been hard at work, training for this thing. But that's not to say that skeptics don't have a point.

I mean... there's really no good reason to run 100 miles. It's not about health, that's for sure -- it's hard to explain. For whatever reason, it's just one of those dumb things I've wanted to do ever since I found out it was possible.

... and yeah. Obviously, I've been hard at work. For months and months and months, my life has been: wake up, run, go to work, swim or bike, sleep, repeat... pretty much endlessly. This has taken something a toll on my regular social life, but I've fallen in with a cool crowd of athletes from around the valley. Training... it hasn't really been a chore or a bore at all; to the contrary, I've had a blast. Every weekend has been an adventure.

I guess I've been really lucky like that.

This race, though, was all about revenge for my failure to complete the Vermont 100 back in July.... and I think we can all agree that "revenge" is the second best reason to do anything. (The first, is, of course... women... and you know I do it all for the ladies *cough* *cough*)

Having learned a ton from my first DNF, I was way better prepared this time out. I was certainly trained better. Besides my normal base of 50-60 miles/week running, all that swimming really hardened my core. The biking has just been fun, a nice, low impact way to see the far reaches of the Valley. In pretty quick succession leading up the race, I did a rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon, paced my pal Dr. Ora into a Boston Qualifier in the PDX Marathon, and ran Honey and Debbie's crazy 18 miler up in the Mazatzals.

In terms of strategery, I was on way better footing as well. Not only do I know the Pemberton trail really well, having run out there a million times, I had a much better sense of what my body needs in terms of nutrition and water and salt and whatnot. The central tenant of my plan was simple, though: grow a beard, let my hair get long, and channel my inner mountain man self into a long, slow run through the desert.

This time, I was ready.

The festivities kicked off in earnest with a dinner at PF Chang's Mesa hosted by the legendary / infamous Caballo Blanco, "The White Horse" of "Born to Run" Fame. He showed a race video and whatnot... and also had the chance to meet Fireman Scott and Sarah aka Rainbow Brite aka the other Jewish girl who does this crazy stuff who isn't Dr. Ora. Obviously, that girl is pretty rad... and it's always a pleasure to meet other likeminded Jews. There are a handful of us who do endurance sports and whatnot, but not that many. We should start a Facebook group or a secret sub-cult or something....

Friday night, I joined them again out in Fountain Hills for dinner. We were also joined by The Vogels, a nice couple out of Virginia, both of whom do a variety of distance races. I ended up staying out at the Fort McDowell Radison since it was closer to the course and meant I didn't have to go all the way home to Tempe then back into the heart of Fountain Hills. Cheap... surprisingly classy. I'd totally stay there again. I wanted to eat their bath soap.

Saturday, I began my weekend like I always do: got up at 3:30 in the morning, thew on my Jesus costume, and went to Starbucks to grab a pre-race mocha. Obviously, people were pretty excited to see their savior at 4:45 in the morning. (It turns out, when you're a Jewish dude with a beard and long hair who generally wears sandals, all you need is a white robe and a red sash and you're in business...)

Before I really knew what was happening, it was 6:00 am... race time!

I've gotta say, the race itself is totally a blur. I'll try my best to recount what happened during that 28 hours out in the desert, but due to the endless repetition of the course and the general toll this kind of thing takes on your brain, it's hard for me to say with certainty when things really went down. I should also say here that I didn't actually run in costume... I just went to the start like that. (I ran in all black, my attempt to be the Johnny Cash of ultramarathons.)

Lap one was easy. I've run out there a billion times... banged it out in around 3:00. That seemed a little fast to me at the time, but not too crazy, given my PR out there at 50k (2 loops) is 4:22 and it was perfect running weather and still really early in the race. That the thing about the Pemberton trail, though -- because it's so runnable, it sucks you in and, if you're not careful, will totally destroy you. I didn't even really stop at the aid stations.

Lap two was about the same. Took it easy... chatted with folks. One of the rad things about the format of this race -- you run around the 15.4 mile loop one way, then reverse directions and go back the other -- is that you see everyone on the course, from fastest to slowest. At this point, everyone was friendly, having fun. It was still a nice, cool, AZ morning. Towards the end of the loop, Dr. Ora joined me for a few miles and we chatted with a woman who's name totally escapes me, but she puts on races up in the Gorge by Portland. From my experience at the VT100, I'd learned that it pays to take care of foot issues earlier than later. After the the second loop, I stopped at the start / finish area for awhile and had Kachina Rescue tape up my feet and to eat a bunch of soup. Can't say enough nice things about those guys -- they're all volunteers and without them, I'm pretty sure I'd have been in real trouble. My socks were filled with dirt, so I changed 'em.

Lap three it started to heat up. I tagged along with Tricia, an aspiring Badwater runner, and Craig, some nut who's done every major crazy endurance challenge short of Barkley. He successfully defended Across the Years, a 24/48/72 hour race out in the West Valley where you run endlessly around a 300m track. I was skeptical, but his explanation made sense -- where else can you really experiment with different distance running techniques? If you want to try something new you just give it a shot... and if it doesn't work, stop for a little while, recover, and get back after it. Makes sense, right? Since it was quite warm, I took it nice 'n' slow... I pretty much powerwalked everything, mixing it up with a nice slow jog once in awhile. This, also, was Craig's suggestion... and also a good one. Running, he said, uses different muscles than walking, so the best way to avoid fatigue is to alternate.

Lap four I was still feeling good. This round, I grabbed a headlamp and headed back out. It wasn't dark yet, but I was slowing down. When I started, I'd already been out there for 14 hours, but I felt fine... especially after a nice long break at the aid station for a sock switch and a toe retaping session. It was during this time that Dave James finished in 14:20... amazing! I was like, "Awww man... I've still got 40 miles left to run!"

I was actually going a little faster than a 24 hour pace, so I knew I'd have to slow it down, but I wasn't sure how. While talking to a guy dressed as a fox, he was telling me that he'd been researching 24 hour races and was doing a run 25/walk 5 strategy, regardless of terrain. I didn't have a watch, so that wasn't really an option for me, but it worked out great for him -- I ended up seeing him finish right around 24 hours as I was headed out on my final mini loop. The sun set dramatically over the desert to the west and I kept moving, feeling good but without a particular plan as to how to proceed. On the way out, I ran for a bit with a very healthy looking coyote.

Lap five I roamed the desert alone in the middle of the night. Since it was so bright with the full moon, I didn't really need a headlamp, except for the occasional steep downhill. The pack had thinned considerably at this point, so I'd only occasionally run into other people. I pretty much walked the whole thing... it took me five hours. The most surreal moment of the race was hearing a party off in the neighborhood adjoining the park on the north side and not knowing if it was a real thing or noise from the aid station or just some weird hallucination. I actually asked some other runners if they'd heard it, too... and they had. It was real. Also real -- running into Sean Pfunder pacing Casey O'Connor somewhere out there in the wasteland. Casey took the honorable dropout at 100k... as did Fireman John, Fireman Scott, and Rainbow Brite... but all of them pretty much kicked ass out there.

Lap six I picked up my pacer, Robin. She's been my training buddy pretty much all summer and I don't know what I'd do without her. Honestly, I didn't even really think I needed a pacer... 'cuz, I mean, what's the worst that could happen out on the Pemberton trail? Man, we saw it all that night... people suffering breakdowns, running zombies, people who suddenly got huge surges of energy to push forwards... it was amazing. I had no idea that I could get that tired. At one point, I kind of started hallucinating. The moon had gone down so we were using a headlamp and I just couldn't focus on the light anymore... I just wanted to lay down and sleep. Weirdly enough, though, I popped a couple of pretzels into my mouth and everything snapped back in to focus. Without my pacer, though, I probably would have wandered off into the desert.

The 92 mark came as a relief, just as the sun came up. It just seemed like all the hills were getting taller, the aid stations further apart. The fact that it took me about 3:25 to get through the last 10 miles of the course, that really says a lot, right? I was a mess... definitely not the worst one out there -- I was still in a good mood, although extremely whiny -- but I did get passed by Karsten Solheim.... and that guy is 72 years old! (And, obviously, kind of a local badass...) "This time experience beats youth!" I yelled. Sportingly, he did say, "You know... there is something you can do about it..."

... but, really, there wasn't. It was a death march. I mean... I knew I would make it, but it was really uncool of Jamil the RD to keep moving those aid stations. I cursed him and everyone else under my breath. We saw Lane out there, running along, actually looking pretty strong. We also ran across Tricia, all messed up from going out too fast at an early part of the race. She finished... but she looked, literally like a zombie when we saw her. She barely acknowledged us as a we passed... just kind of mumbled something in response. We also saw some dude laying in the middle of the desert. What's the right thing to do in that situation? I asked him if he was ok and he was like, "Leave me alone! I'm napping!" Uhh... ok....

Eventually, a pack of three mountain bikers came barelling up and they were like, "Roig?"

... At first, I was a little stunned, partially because I'd just travelled 95 miles through two sunrises, but particularly because everyone had been calling me "Jesus" all day. It turned out to be Cheryl, Dr. Ora's tri coach rolling with her crew, out for a normal mountain bike workout on Pemberton. Very odd. They'd been dispatched to check in on me and seemed satisfied that I was in good hands. How nice is that?

That aid station was so awesome to finally see. From there it was just a slow slow slow ouch ouch ouch ouch hike back to the finish and, after 101.4 miles and 28:20:25, I was done.

At the finish line, someone was like "Run it in!" Really, who would I be kidding after taking so long?

Obviously, this was really a remarkable thing to get to do. I still kinda can't believe I ran 100 miles. Totally ridiculous.

Post-race damage is pretty minimal, considering. My right little toe is horrible, but in general, the New Balance MT100's worked out really well on that trail. Part of me seriously wonders if I should have switched to Chaco's in the last 10. It might've actually helped.... as might have gaiters, for that matter. The Kachina Rescue folks told me that they see a lot less foot damage in people who wear them; on a dusty course like that, I think it's probably a great idea if you're gonna be out there for awhile.

I weighed myself at the kennel when I went to pick up my dog. Incredibly, I weighed more or less the same as I started... but I think that's because I did a really good job with nutrition. Every lap, I would begin by filling my bottle up with Perpetuem and water. After the third lap, I did this: perpetuem at the start / finish, gatorade at the first aid station, water at the final aid station. I popped occasional SCaps as I've started to get a better feel for how those should be used, plus I ate a ton of soup and watermelon. I drank an ocean of Coke, too... love that stuff. It's no substitute for real food, I feel like it's perfectly engineered to give you quick calories your body can digest. I also ate a bunch of that Gu Rocktane and some of those Powergel things. I mostly laid off that, though.

It's hard to say what, if anything, I've learned from all this except that people are really awesome. This type of event wouldn't have happened without a ton of hard work on the part of Jamil, Nick and the Coury family, as well as all the amazing volunteers. If you read this, thank you so much!

Props to everyone who got out there and gave the Javelina Jundred a shot this year. Dunno if I'll ever run that thing again, but I'll certainly be lurking around in some capacity, either pacing or volunteering or whatever.


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