I finished my first 100 miler!!! I can’t believe it. It feels incredibly surreal. After my disappointing DNF a month ago at Mountain Lakes 100, I decided to get right back on the horse and try again. My coach recommended the Javelina Jundred (not a snowflake in sight!), and it turned out to be the perfect choice. Despite having to fly to Phoenix to get there, the logistics for this race were considerably simpler than Mountain Lakes. It was relatively close to civilization (our Airbnb was 10 minutes from the Start), and crew is only allowed at the main headquarters (“Jeadquarters.”)
Course map, courtesy of Aravaipa Running
Total Elevation Gain = 7,900 feet
The course for Javelina is 5 loops at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, run “washing machine style,” which means loops 1, 3, & 5 are run clockwise, and 2 & 4 are run counterclockwise. I’d never run a course like this before, but because the trail was wide enough, it wasn’t too crowded and really nice to see everyone multiple times. The trail was very runnable with only one rocky section and no huge climbs. Also, this race was big compared to most of the others I’ve done. 535 runners started the 100 mile distance, and 209 the 100K distance! Generally I don’t like huge races, but this one changed my mind. It was a fantastic community of people who all turned out to support the runners and have fun!
Loop 1 – Mile 1-22.3 Loop Time: 4:25, Total Elapsed Time: 4:25
At 6:00am sharp we headed out into the desert, and because Javelina is such a large race, it was slow-moving conga line on the trail for 20 minutes or so. It was a good way to ensure you don’t go out to fast. Right away some guy started shouting, “I’m SO. EFFING. STOKED to be here!” I think it summed up everyone’s feelings fairly accurately. 🙂
Two very distinct memories come to mind about the first few miles: The fine dust in the glow of our headlamps, and the stunning beauty of the sunrise behind the foothills that put all of the saguaro cacti in silhouette.
Sunrise on the first day, with some runner’s headlamps in the distance
I went through the Coyote Camp aid station (mile 4) very quickly as I really didn’t need anything yet. Next up was the first round of the technical part of this trail. Roughly three or so miles of rocks with a section lined with jumping cholla and prickly pear cacti. Ugh. But at least it was just a few miles, and most importantly, no frickin’ snow! (Some context: 20 miles of unexpected snow killed my first 100 miler attempt due to a missed cutoff.)
At the Jackass Junction aid station (mile 10.5), I joined all the other runners in dumping ice in every possible place to stay cool. Hearing the click of ice in my sports bra became my new favorite sound, lol.
What much of the trail looked like
As the day heated up, and we all settled into our pace, I started chatting with another runner near me named John. He’s from Wisconsin too – how crazy! We ran together for awhile, and it was nice to have the distraction.
The last part of this loop was longer and a section we only did once. The sun was beating down on us, and I felt a bit worried for the afternoon. However, it was great to come back to Jeadquarters (start/finish). Some friends of ours, Meredith and Therese, kindly offered to share their pop-up tent alongside the route so Adam would have a place to store things, hang out, and meet up with me to restock supplies. I was looking forward to seeing familiar faces!
I spotted Jess Mullen, my coach, right away. I’m glad that I did because she pointed where I needed to go (you have to go through a mass of tents to tag the timing mat, and then back again to start the next loop.) Shockingly, I’d run the loop so fast that Adam wasn’t there yet! However, Jess was fantastic and immediately took charge of me. She filled up my water, and helped me with grabbing food since I couldn’t replenish from my personal stash. And then she drenched me in icy water and it was the best effing thing ever. Ice in my bra, buff, and sleeves – time to go!
Loop 2 – Mile 22.3-41.7 Loop Time: 5:17, Total Elapsed Time: 9:42
I’m so glad I got a pep talk with Jess before the second lap. She reminded me I was good on time, and that it was incredibly important to take care of myself in the heat and not get completely wrecked. I could pick up the pace once the sun went down.
The miles to the Rattlesnake Ranch aid station (mile 26) were lovely and runnable. Continuing on to Jackass Junction, though… Whew. Hot. I heard someone say it was 92 degrees. That’s one way to melt a Seattleite.
I decided I needed to get my head in the right space for when it started to get really tough in the heat (and at night), so I kept telling myself, “I am strong. I am determined.” My mind is quite skilled at spiraling negatively when the going gets rough, and I wasn’t allowing that today.
It being Arizona, the air was super dry so I felt constantly parched (yet I was drinking lots of water.) I tried sucking on a hard candy for awhile, just to keep my mouth moistened. It helped a little bit – definitely not a challenge I’m used to with the PNW’s damp climate!
Back at the Jackass Junction aid station (mile 31.2), I spotted a friend, Sean, at the ice bucket! He was part of the group that ran the Grand Teton and Yellowstone half marathons back in June. We headed out on the trail together, and it was great to have some company!
Sean and I! Photo thanks to Howie Stern
The next three hours (with a brief stop at Coyote Camp [mile 37.7] for more snacks and ice) were great mentally for me. Even though it included the three miles of technical trail, and it was hot, it was made better with Sean’s easy demeanor and cheerful attitude. During this part, we also spotted many runners in costume (a common thing for Javelina), and one in particular that struck me was a guy running in just a thong. I don’t think I was hallucinating, but I wouldn’t swear to it. 😉
We rolled into Jeadquarters (mile 41.7), and there was Adam! After replenishing everything I needed, Sean decided to stay for a bit to cool down. I was a bit bummed to lose his company, but knew I’d see him again at some point (and hopefully soon).
Loop 3 – Mile 41.7-61.1 Loop Time: 5:35, Total Elapsed Time: 15:17
At the start of the loop there was a volunteer dressed as a Tusken Raider, and being the Star Wars geek that I am, I had to get my picture with him. What a perfect outfit for the location!
“Sand People always ride single file, to hide their numbers.”
Back out on the trail, it was still bloody hot, but sunset was a mere two hours away (I couldn’t wait). I met up with John from Wisconsin again, and it was great to have conversation to distract us… although we were trudging a bit. Of course we talked about our past races, and the future races we’d like to do. (Seriously, only ultrarunners talk about wanting to do challenging races in the future, while in the midst of one.) After we’d gone through Coyote Camp (mile 45.7), and as sunset was beginning, Sean caught up!
He was reenergized and John and I did our best to keep up. Sean was running with pure joy, and as the sun dipped beneath the hills he said, “What a privilege it is to be out here!” He was so right, and his mood was infectious. His burst of energy jolted me out of a death march mindset and it was great.
Sunset in the desert!
After the sun went down, we heard coyotes howling and yipping in the distance. It was one of the magical elements of experiencing the desert at night. The only other wildlife “encounter” was a little Arizona pocket mouse sitting in the middle of the trail that we had to jump over. No snakes and no scorpions. (I’m not disappointed we missed them!)
Sean and I ran 15 miles together, and had some excellent conversation, but I honestly can’t remember any of it. Ha! We came into Jeadquarters in good spirits, and I was really looking forward to picking up my pacer and friend – Tara!
Loop 4 – Mile 61.1-80.5 Loop Time: 5:41, Total Elapsed Time: 20:58
Tara was to be my second pacer at Mountain Lakes 100, and it was a real bummer that the race didn’t end up working out. However, she graciously agreed to pace me on this race, and I couldn’t be more grateful! She has a bubbly positivity that is quite the juxtaposition to my own more cynical outlook. I treasure friends like her that allow me to bask in their sunshine! Anyway, she was excited to pace and I was psyched to have her.
After checking in with Adam and eating some chicken and stars soup (yum), we grabbed Sean and headed out into the night. As we ran back out on the trail we saw Jess pacing her friend Adrienne, who was finishing her 100K. Go Adrienne!
Because this loop was all at night, and we’d been going so long already, I only remember flashes of things. The moon was incredibly bright and we watched it set behind the hills. The stars were also stunningly bright and it felt like you could touch them. At one point we even saw a shooting star, and we all agreed that it was good luck!
As we moved through the aid stations we had a solid routine. I typically grabbed chicken broth right away, maybe a bite of something else, ginger ale, and a caffeinated gel. While the night wasn’t really that cold (I only needed a long-sleeve over my t-shirt), it got chilly just standing there. After eating, then walked a bit to digest before getting back up to speed (relatively speaking!) I was so impressed with the volunteers and how they were assisting all of us filthy and woozy runners in the middle of the night. And Jackass Junction (mile 70) was an absolute trip at night. There was a disco dance floor complete with Xmas lights and tiki torches, and music blaring. Quite the party atmosphere (with a random cheerful drunk or two, handing out glowstick accessories.)
As we continued on, I do remember our conversation getting a bit loopy. While I can’t remember the details, Tara told me about one instance where Sean was waxing philosophical about fonts and letters and I followed up with some related story about a children’s book. Then apparently I stopped in the middle and said, “I don’t know what I’m saying. None of the that was true.” LOL.
Even though we had run so many miles so far, and still had some distance to go, I started to believe I might actually finish this thing. I am strong. I am determined. Even though we still had one lap to go, it was fun to say, “this is the last time we have to run it in this direction!”
I was pumped when we came back to Jeadquarters. They gave me a green bracelet to identify that this was my last lap. YES!
Loop 5 – Mile 80.5-100 Loop Time: 6:43, Total Elapsed Time: 27:41
I had originally found a second pacer to take the last lap, just because I didn’t want to ask Tara to run 40 miles just for me. She told me ahead of time that she was going to come prepared just in case, and we could play it by ear. Thank goodness she did because my second pacer ended up getting tied up with her first runner, and we were also ahead of my predicted pace. Tara graciously said she’d do the last lap with me, and I was thrilled. Sean was feeling good and said while he enjoyed hanging with us, he really wanted to push the pace the last lap. He’s a much faster runner than I am typically, so I was just grateful for all of the hours we had together. Go get it, man!
With the first four loops I honestly didn’t have any big issues. I felt a bit nauseous, but nothing debilitating. I knew I had blisters, but again, nothing bad enough to stop my race. Sure, my legs hurt, but nothing that I couldn’t tolerate. I was incredibly lucky! However, on this last loop, my gut had finally had enough and let me know that it was done with this nonsense. I began to get cramps that caused me to slow dramatically. I had suspicions that my gut distress was due to the many gels I had consumed, but had no real way of dealing with it besides taking the Pepto-Bismol pills in my pack and begging my guts to hang in there for just a little bit longer!
I knew we had lots of time, so I wasn’t worried. However, this course is very runnable, and I wanted to enjoy that! At the same time, I was extremely grateful that my gut began its tantrum when it did and not earlier in the race. As the cramps continued, I was worried about having to run off the trail for some… ahem… relief, but didn’t want to end up with an butt full of cacti. After all, this isn’t the PNW with its far less aggressive flora!
After Coyote Camp (mile 84.5), it was the last time for those three miles of rocks! Tara suggested we listen to some music as a distraction, so I cranked up my playlist. Who doesn’t love some rockin’ tunes at 4am?
Even though I stayed surprisingly awake through the night, I began to get sleepy around 5am. However, as soon as the sun began to rise, our spirits did too. Truly, sunrise in the desert is magical. We began to look in earnest for Jackass Junction (mile 91)… and there it was! For breakfast they had mini pancakes with maple syrup to dip them in. YUM. Chewing had become quite the chore, but it was really lovely to taste something different. And now only 9 miles to go!
Love this photo!
Does YOUR pacer have motivational cards pinned on her pack? Mine does. ❤
We began to see other users of the trails again – like mountain bikers. For some reason, that touchpoint of civilization (and “normal” people who sleep at night instead of run through it) was somewhat startling to my sleep deprived brain.
Photo by Tara!
After sunrise, the temperature began to rise rapidly as well. At Rattlesnake Ranch (mile 96.2), it was back to dousing myself in icy water and stuffing ice everywhere again. At this point, it became clear my gut wasn’t going to bargain with terrorists and was more insistent with its displeasure. (There may have been a fair amount of groaning/cursing when cramps hit.)
Without seriously oversharing, everything came to a head at approximately mile 98 or so (so close to the end!!!) It involved me dashing off the trail and while I didn’t get a butt full of cacti, I did get my shorts full of some other sort of prickly flora. And I inadvertently mooned my fellow runners. Oops. (To be fair, there was that guy running in the thong, so I don’t feel so bad…) This just highlighted that there is nothing dignified about running 100 miles!
A bit after that incident, we spotted my friend Wendy on the trail, heading out to run in her friend, Ross. She gave me a high five and some final encouragement. So lovely to have so many friends out there!
A quarter mile from the finish there’s one last turn on the trail, and there was a guy there who pointed towards the tents in the distance and said, “there it is!” I immediately started crying and Tara hugged me. The man said, “you’re not done yet!” Yes, we know, but let us have our moment! 🙂
One last little lap to go through the tents. I handed off my pack to Adam, and started crying again when I saw Jess, my coach. High fives from Therese, and cheers from the countless people in the tents as Tara and I went by. One group lined the trail, arms up to make a tunnel and cheered – it was awesome! Tara grabbed my hand as we crossed the finish line, AND IT WAS AMAZING. I’m struggling to articulate what I was feeling in that moment, but I will never forget it.
Tara’s parents, Adam, and Jess were there to greet us, and my tears continued to flow. I feel compelled to state that I’m not typically a crier, but doing an event like this strips you raw in the best way. Tara’s wonderful mom had the presence of mind to take some photos, and I’m so glad she did. Immediately after finishing, I felt tired, but lucid. Apparently I was slurring like a drunk, but I felt shockingly okay.
Jess, myself, Tara, and Adam!
Finishing time: 27:41:04
Elevation gain: ~7,900 feet
Place: 247 of 346
Calories consumed: Not a damn clue, but I ended up using more aid station food than my own. A bit unusual for me, but it worked out mostly fine! (Bar the incident at mile 98.) It included bites of tortilla with refried beans, oranges, pancake, chicken broth, ginger ale, sweet potato/apple baby food, a ham and cheese roll up, Glutinos, and the aforementioned gels! (I have long avoided them following intense nausea during past road marathons.)
I’m still processing this entire experience, but I can safely say I feel immensely grateful and humbled. I had a really good race and was lucky that my body did so well. I chalk this up to the spectacular training of Jess Mullen for the past ten months. Not only did she have me put in the miles, she also had me put in some serious sauna time in preparation for the heat. I’m certain it saved me from serious implosion. My body was ready.
I’m also exceedingly grateful for the many people that helped me on this journey, but especially Adam and Tara. I couldn’t have done it without them. It was also a joy to have so many friends around either supporting the race or running it. The encouragement from friends far and wide was also wonderful. These words appear inadequate to express the depth of my gratitude, but seriously, THANK YOU.
The last takeaway for me was unexpected, but probably the most life-altering. After the race, I felt (probably for the first time in my life) complete contentment with my body. I ran 100 miles – how effing amazing is that?! If you’re lucky enough to live without insecurities, it may sound like a silly statement. However, the gratitude I feel for my body, and its strength and endurance, is something I sincerely hope to carry with me going forward. We are always capable of far more than we expect, and this was a glowing example of it for me. I AM strong. I AM determined.
This was an amazing journey.
And yes, I’d totally do it again. After some more naps. And food. And a dram of whisky. 🙂 Thanks for reading!