November 12-13, 2011
So… once I had gotten into my head that I was going to run 2 each of every standard medium and ultra distance, I needed to find a 100-miler to complete that collection. Regardless of setting that additional goal, I wasn’t exactly confident that having finished ONE 100-miler, that I would be able to finish a second one.
What helped in picking Javelina (pronounced “Have-a-LEEN-a”) was that two of my buddies from Team Runners High were also doing it. Another deciding factor was that there was a wimp-out option of 100K if you had a bad day. Mitsuye “Mitzi” Morrissey was 100% going for the 100K, figuring it was her best option to finish a 100K, with an especially generous time limit.
The other runner was the (in)famous Hwa-Ja Andrade, who had finished many ultramarathons AND 100-milers. Both of these gals were part of the group that convinced me to try my first ultramarathon… and I thanked (cursed) them every day for it.
We worked out our best bet was to drive out to Phoenix a few days ahead of time (split the driving) and give Hwa-Ja adequate time for preparation. (I am usually prepared from the point when I leave to go to the race.)
Earlier in the week, I was looking for a book on tape to listen to and got Born to Run for $10…. and glory be, neither had listened to it yet. I also brought a mixtape (though if you know me, you know that that means classical music and opera) just so the drive wouldn’t be too bad.
We left on Thursday mid-morning. I couldn’t believe all of the stuff they were bringing. Didn’t they know there were aid stations, and that we were running a 15-mile loop and could get back to our bags every few hours? I had a bunch of Hwa-Ja’s snacks in the car, including seaweed rolls and rice, presumably all homemade.
We listened to part of the book on the way out, but when they talk over the tape, it’s hard to follow the “plot.” Also, there was some issue with the playback in Mitzi’s car, where it skipped sections. We changed over to music when the talking got to be too much.
We arrived decently early and checked into the hotel in Fountain Hills, a little outside Phoenix, somewhat near Scottsdale.
For dinner, we drove around a bit trying to find just the right place. I don’t know WHAT I wanted, but didn’t want to spend a lot or eat something that would be churning around in my stomach. We finally opted on a Mexican restaurant (busy!) and saw a number of other runners there as well.
Back at the hotel, I had one bed and the two of them shared the other (but would have been just as happy with the floor). Found out that they keep extremely early hours, so at 7:30pm, I went down to the TV room in the hotel and hung out there until 10:30… because I couldn’t go to bed at 7:30!
On Friday, we went and picked up the packets and staked out a space. Actually, we somewhat shared the space with Jean Ho, a runner I had met previously at AREC and on the trails. Then we went back to the hotel to drop off Hwa-Ja, who had preparation to do. Mitzi said “Leave her to it, or she will stress out.” Of course, that meant we needed to do something to give her a chance to finish everything.
We headed over to the Cineplex and saw J. Edgar (the movie), and then got a bite to eat from Burger King. It wasn’t the best, but it was on sale and hit the spot. When we got back 4 hours later, Hwa-Ja was just about done! (Still?)
We headed back to the check-in location for the mandatory pre-run briefing. We also got a little dinner, but I didn’t overdo it, as this is what I will have to deal with in my stomach tomorrow.
Once back at the room, it was the same deal… the ladies going to bed early and me just trying to relax and watch some TV downstairs. Obviously I would be up early tomorrow, but I don’t do great squirming around in the dark for hours.
On Saturday morning, we drove over to the park where the race was held. There was a bit of a line to get in, which was frustrating since we wanted to get to the start and get going. We couldn’t even park at the start, so I believe I dropped them off at the start, drove to the remote parking lot, caught the shuttle back and then walked the half mile from the drop-off to the start line.
Pretty soon it was start time. I glanced down at Hwa-Ja’s pile of stuff near the start/finish line. I’ve never seen so much stuff!!!
The course is 6 – 15 mile loops plus 1 – 10 mile loop (basically the same 15-mile loop, but with a shortcut – when you finish 6 loops, they give you a necklace which allows you to take the shortcut). You don’t run the loops in the same direction each time, but rather switch directions after you finish each one.
They pick the date of the race to be close to Halloween, so many were in costume, and then they also want the moon to be full, so that it will be bright at night (“You won’t need a flashlight,” it states. Yeah, right.).
6:00am. The Start. The first aid station, Tonto, is at 2 miles and has only water. I try to run conservatively, as I don’t want to gas out immediately. I do 27:37 (about 13:40/mile).
The next section is a bit of uphill on a sort of gravelly surface and double-track wide trails. It’s rockier than I thought, but not technical rocky… just sore feet rocky. It’s 6.4 miles to the next aid station, Jackass Junction (“Yackass Yunction?”) and it takes me about 90 minutes, so I am maintaining that 13:40 pace.
From here, I have 4 miles to Rattlesnake Ranch, which is mostly on a fire-road, and a net downhill. I take the opportunity to run the downhills and speed up to 11 minutes per mile on the section (and 13:00 overall).
The last section takes me back to Javelina Jeadquarters [sic] and is about 3 miles, some fire-road, some sandy swale swatches. This is particularly nice, because I am starting to see runners (the lead ones) coming towards me. It gives me an idea of how slowly I am running in comparison to everyone else. Since it is relatively flat (and some downhill), my pace is about 12 minutes per mile, and I finish my first loop in 3 hours, 19 minutes.
I grab some Clif Shot, grease my unmentionables some more, get some grub from the aid station, and now head in the opposite direction towards Rattlesnake.
Now it is 3 miles of flat and some uphill, so I am about 90 seconds/mile slower than before.
Out of Rattlesnake, towards Jackass, it is a steady uphill climb, on fire-road (yuck). The temperature is starting to increase, but it is not as bad as I feared (Arizona in November!), because of the cloud cover, effectively keeping the sun from beating down on us. I reach Jackass going at a 16:00/mile pace.
From Jackass back to Tonto, it is now the downhill double-track on gravel. I pull some more time off, averaging 13:30/mile… but on the last 2 miles back to the Jeadquarters, I am starting to get chafed and have to walk like a cowboy… and average 23 minutes (!) per mile.
I try to do what I can with the Vaseline. I am not sure why I am getting chafed so badly. I have basically done a 50K, and it is just about the worst I have ever felt in that arena. My 50K split (+ or – a few tenths of distance) is 7:17, so not too bad. I avail myself of a Subway sandwich (arriving at the aid station at 11am (it’s now around 1pm)). Now I will head back in the original direction.
I get about 20 minutes out before I see Mitzi, and Hwa-Ja is about 30 minutes behind me. I, myself, am concerned about cutoffs (in the long run), so I feel like Hwa-Ja should be a little further along. I am less worried about Mitzi, since she is “only” doing the 100K.
The Vaseline seems to be working its magic, as I “speed up” to 18 minute miles en route to Tonto, and even a little better (16:47/mile) to Jackass Junction.
Between Jackass and Rattlesnake, I encounter a gal with headphones on who is grooving quite a bit. I somewhat run with her, but we don’t really talk at all. At Rattlesnake, where they are playing Frank Sinatra tunes, I sing along, and that ends up sparking a bit of a trail friendship. Maria Walton and I run together for a bit, but she takes off again anytime that I slow to a walk. (I later learn that she was the paramour of Caballo Blanco, the protagonist of Born to Run.) I have maintained sub-13:00s to Rattlesnake, but slow down on the 3 miles back to the Jeadquarters – a combination of sore feet and chafing. I have now finished 46.4 miles in 11:29.
It’s almost 5;30pm, so I have some pizza (I think they had cheeseless for the vegans and that works for me, dairy-wise). By the time I return, they will be on to burgers and hot dogs.
One thing that I have enjoyed on this race is how they utilize the chip-timing. It’s not affixed to your shoe, but rather part of your number. It’s the sort of foam-padded attachment that you see occasionally. When you pass through the readers (side and above sensors), it beeps, and then your name and time appear on a large monitor (like a flatscreen TV), as well as distance. It is somewhat disconcerting to see that some of the runners ahead of me are already 15 or 30 miles ahead!
Now I trudge back up the hill to Rattlesnake at a respectable 17:06 pace. It is starting to get a bit dusky and that will continue until it gets dark. I am somewhat concerned about the cloud cover. I mean, I ALWAYS have a flashlight, but it could be really dark OR it could rain.
Just past Rattlesnake I am now over halfway. Given that I am a little over 12 hours, and the time limit is 30 hours, I am feeling pretty good. I have had some slow-ish stages in the middle here, but I am still maintaining a faster-than-needed pace to just finish… and that’s really my only goal.
I do slow down even more en route to Jackass (where I do have an additional drop bag, with some Blox and a jacket), maintaining 19 minutes a mile, and stay at that pace all the way to Tonto.
Once I get to Tonto, I am semi-bad shape. My feet are killing me – BLISTERS!!! – and because of all of the rocks and gravel, I am beside myself with pain. I hobble extremely slowly into the Jeadquarters, at a 37:00/mile pace. (Note: My pace takes into account my stoppage at the aid station. If I finish 2 miles in 20 minutes, but stay at the aid station for 10 minutes, then my average pace is 15:00/mile. On this particular section, I did not ACTUALLY do 37:00/mile, but I did go to the First Aid and seek treatment for my blisters. This took around 30 minutes… so I probably did 22 minute miles… PLUS a long NECESSARY stop at the aid station).
I have now completed 61.6 miles in 16:19. According to the RD, “100K.” (Technically, that’s 62.2 miles, but the 0.6 miles is less than 1% of that total, so whatever.) My time is comparable to my two Miwok races (16:14 and 16:05), though I think Miwok is harder, elevation-wise.
I set off back towards Tonto. In the back of my mind is the time cutoff. The first (of two – the second is the 30 hours overall) is 23:30 for 76 miles. This means I have almost 7 hours to do 15 miles (around 30:00/mile). My worst previous split for 15 miles was 5:23, so I should be OK… except that if I am right up against that time, I will have just 6.5 hours for the final 24 miles… that could be problematic. I just need to keep going. Gosh. I wonder where Hwa-Ja is?
I get to Tonto in about 40 minutes. It is pretty dark out and the clouds are menacing. It is a few minutes after midnight. A few minutes after I depart the aid station, I spot Hwa-Ja. Let’s see… she has another 30-40 minutes to the Jeadquarters. Her window of opportunity is even smaller than mine.
Just then, it starts to rain. First, somewhat annoyingly, and then it increases to unbearably. Luckily, I do have my Buff, so I pull it up over my hat to give me a little extra protection, but there is no doubt that I am going to get extremely wet. Wish I had my jacket (6.4 miles away)!
In another hour, I encounter Mitzi. I’m not sure where I am on the course, but she is on her homestretch, headed for HER finish, somewhere around 18 hours.
The biggest difficulty on the course is it is really hard to see where to go. There are some glowsticks out there, but what was abundantly clear by day is NOT at all by night… and most of the course is ankle-deep puddles. The blisters are still bugging me, but more than anything, it is just being so wet and the slow-going.
When I finally reach the appropriately-named Jackass Junction, it has taken me 3 hours (!) to do 6 miles. I fetch my jacket from my drop bag and shiver uncontrollably by the Coleman heater (and consume lots of hot food).
I am at a crossroads here. Do I continue? I had some leeway, but it just took me 3 hours for 6 miles! I have less than 3 hours for the next 6… and then I will be on the path I fretted on before. It is STILL raining really hard. I think I should just cut my losses now. I decide to drop from the race at mile 70, and take my 100K finish. Disappointing, but the right decision.
There is a truck available to drive several of us back to the start (lots of drops here). They don’t have room in the cab, so we are in the bed, covered with a blanket. Well, legs are covered. We are still getting pelted in the race by raindrops! And it’s COLD!
It’s a really rough ride. I think, gosh, I would have hated to run on this (well, I mean, I did run on this, but it would have been a rough run, in the dark, in the rain). I make a few friends on the 6 mile (probably hour drive) back to the finish.
When I get there, I am horribly cold. I go to the first aid tent and sit by a blast heater and try to get warm (ironic now, being in Arizona). I am so wet, that it doesn’t work that well. I can’t even really lie down because my feet stick out the end of the blanket and that is probably the coldest part.
As soon as I get as dry as I can, I try and seek out Mitzi, who should have finished by now. I am told that she went back to get her car and park it at the finish (because there is space now) and she is napping in the car. I join her in the car nap and await whatever finish Hwa-Ja will have.
A few hours later, Hwa-Ja finishes… well, not the finish she was hoping for. She is not fast enough for the final 24 mile loop-and-a-half. Her 100K time was 18:24, but unfortunately for us (and for her as well), she didn’t finish the 76 miles until a little past the 23:30. Later, she said that she wished she’d known that I dropped and she would have stopped sooner… especially because she had an awful (not helpful) pacer.
On the plus side, we get an earlier start back because we can leave at 8am, rather than noon or later, with an up-against-the-time-limit finish. It was a pretty quiet drive back. Hwa-Ja slept most of the way. I drove most of the second half and was able to listen to the rest of “Born to Run.”
In the end, all of us got an 100K finish. Hwa-Ja missed her goal of finishing an 100M and qualifying for Western States. I missed my late-added goal of finishing 2 each of major long and ultra distance races (to clarify – 5K, 10K, Half, Full, 50K, 50M, 100K, 100M)… and Mitzi got her long-awaited 100K finish.
There can often be disappointment when you don’t reach your ultimate goal, but at the same time, deep satisfaction in finishing any race, no matter what the distance.