I was disappointed after Mountain Lakes, but confused about whether I should focus my energy on another 100 mile race or wait until next year. On the one hand, I really wanted to finish a 100 miler this year. I'm confident it would have happened at Mountain Lakes so not getting that 100 mile finish there, surrounded by friends and family, was a huge let down. But on the other hand, it had been a long season and I was tired. I've seen other people miss getting a 100 mile finish and then jump right into another one to fail again. I wasn't sure I had the mental fortitude to do it.
Javelina on October 26th was a possibility, but as I was visiting my family in the Phoenix area the weekend after Mountain Lakes, I still wasn't sure. I did a few runs and it felt hot and dry. What a contrast to the prior weekend. My parents live in a retirement apartment complex with a central dining hall where most of the residents eat their meals. As my parents introduced me to their friends and neighbors, they often mentioned I was a runner. To all these people I was a young person and I heard many stories of the good old days, mostly now a distant memory. It made me realize I need to take advantage of every opportunity given to me in life. I had been fearing another failure , but I now knew I had to seize every moment. I would come back again in 3 weeks to give it another shot at the Javelina Jundred.
Getting back into training mode for another three weeks was difficult. And then Marc had a medical emergency which resulted in a four day hospital stay. I didn't think I'd be able to make the trip after all. And honestly I was a little relieved. But as he recovered enough for me to leave him I realized I really wanted this second chance for a 100 mile finish in 2013.
This race consists of six 15.3 mile loops and one shorter 9 mile loop. The loops are run washing machine style so you always head back out the way you came. Since I would be without a crew I decided to splurge on a small tent to keep my stuff. The day before the race I went out to drop off some gear and scored a tent not too far from the turnaround. At packet pickup I saw my good friend Desiree who was also down from Portland looking for her first 100 mile finish and Dana, who was crewing and pacing someone else. It was nice seeing friendly, familiar faces since I was missing "Team Sarah" - Rose and Seth who had been with me for my other 100 mile attempts.
|Can't run a race without wearing my Animal Athletics shirt! pic by Dana Katz|
Before long race morning was finally upon me. Since I had to take the shuttle to the start I got there early and by 4:45 I was all ready to go. I met a few friends (Rick and Renee!) whom I had only known online, which was fun. We socialized and took some pictures and before I knew it the 100 mile journey began.
|With Desiree, waiting for the start. Pic by Dana Katz|
|With Dana, Rick and Rick's wife. Pic by Brian August|
|We're off to a blazing start! Not. :) Pic by Aravaipa Running|
Loop 1- clockwise
Mile 0 to 15.3
Des and I decided to stick together for the first loop. We'd been warned that the course was very runnable and we'd need to make an effort to keep it slow so we wouldn't burn out. My goal was to keep it to 13:30 pace which didn't exactly happen. But I never felt like we were running too hard. It was nice to have the company and we spent the time chatting away just as if we were on Wildwood in Forest Park.
|Not yet 9am and I already have my sleeves rolled down in the warm conditions||. Pic by Aravaipa Running|
Loop 2 - counter clockwise
Mile 15.3 to 30.6
It was already starting to get warm so I took the time to change into my cooling sleeves, cooling shirt and hat with flaps. The pace slowed down on this lap, but this also takes into account the time spent at Jeadquarters (about 12 minutes) plus extra time at the aid stations on course. I wore my Mountain Hardwear fluid race vest with a 1.5 liter (50 oz) bladder. The first loop I didn't need to fill, but with temperatures rising I now wanted to make sure it was always topped off with water and ice. The main thing I remember about this loop is that I started out by downing a chocolate coconut water from my cooler and then immediately ate a trail butter wrap. Ugh. Too much all at once. What a rookie mistake. The only good thing is that it forced me to slow up compared to Loop 1. I walked and slowly ran a lot of the first 4 miles which helped my stomach digest and settle.
Loop 3 - clockwise
Mile 30.6 to 45.9
This was the expected hot loop I'd been dreading. I'd committed to the race only 2-1/2 weeks prior but had managed to get in eight sauna sessions of 20-35 minutes each. I read and re-read Pam's post about how she conquered the heat at Western States. I drew the line at cotton (going with the cooling clothes instead) but took to heart the advice to get and stay as wet as possible. I also bought and used one of those crystal cooling bandanas. It all worked. The ice in my bladder helped keep my core cool, along with the baggie of ice I'd put by my chest in my bra. I dunked my hat in the ice water buckets at the aid stations and used the sponges to soak my sleeves. I put chunks of ice in my sweatband against the inside of my wrist. A few times it even felt too cold and I had to temporarily work the ice around to the outside of my wrist. The crystal bandana never felt as cold as the ice but I'm convinced the constant coolness against my neck that never dried up or melted away made a big difference. When I finished this loop at 4:30, as the air was cooling off, Dana asked how I felt. It wasn't bravado that answered "It didn't feel that hot." Loop 3 was actually one of my better loops and I was able to run a lot more than I expected. My time for Loop 3 was only three minute slower than Loop 2, but I probably spent longer at the aid stations filling up. So that means I actually made better time in the heat than I did in the cooler temps of the morning. When I found out after I'd finished the race that temperatures had reached 95+ on course I was surprised.
Loop 4 - counter clockwise
Mile 45.9 to 61.2
With the sun due to set in about an hour I changed out of my cooling shirt and hat and into my 2013 Mt Hood 50 mile shirt and visor for the last of the sun. I also grabbed my light. It was only supposed to get down to 60 at night and I had a long sleeve at my midway drop in case it cooled much more than that. I also took the time to turn on my phone to text my brother who was planning to join me for Loop 5. As my phone started up I could see alerts from Facebook and Twitter, but couldn't take the time to look at any of them. However, it was nice to have a bit of tangible evidence that my friends at home were following along and cheering for me. About 4 miles into the loop I saw Desiree up ahead and was able to catch up to her. We were just at the point that we needed to turn on our lights. (Side note: From the tracking it probably looked like we had been running together all this time. We did run the full first loop together. But Des was ahead of me the whole second loop Then on the third loop I caught up with a few miles to go and we finished together. But Des was able to leave more quickly than I did again. All in all, I think we ran about 30 miles together which was really nice.) We went on to run the rest of Loop 4 together. I can't express in words how much it meant to me that we were out on this course together. We'd put in numerous miles together over the last few years and shared many highs and lows. Crewing Des at her first 100 mile attempt inspired me to give the distance a try myself. Being able to finish our first 100 on the same course would be extra special.
Loop 5 - clockwise
Mile 61.5 to 76.5
My brother, Phil, was waiting for me at the timing area as I finished Loop 4. After a moment at the tent to grab some more fuel we were off. Phil is a very experienced runner and racer. He was varsity on a top cross country team in high school, ran for his college and continued on to run marathons and other races in his twenties. (His marathon PR is 2:32 ---- no joke!) He still races and is involved in his kids' cross country team but hasn't run longer distances in a few years and not a lot on trail. I warned him we would be moving pretty slowly. We hadn't really talked about his "job" as pacer, but it didn't matter because he did great! For the first half of the loop, which covered the more rocky, technical section, he followed my lead and walked when I walked and ran when I ran. But as we rounded the loop and the trail was more runnable, he encouraged me to run when I otherwise might not have. He distracted me with stories. It was a great time for both of us. He provided me with support and encouragement at a critical part of the race, but also got to experience a new kind of race for him. (And between you and me I think he may have caught the trail ultra bug!).
I had been feeling pretty good physically up to this loop. (For a time on Loop 3 I had some knee pain but it went away. ) But halfway through I felt a painful hot spot smack dab in the middle of my left foot. At the midway aid station I stopped to relube and change my sock, hoping that would help. Also near the end of this loop, my stomach started to feel queasy. Up until that point I had been fueling consistently on my every 30 minutes and felt pretty good (except for the Loop 2 mistake). I switched to more liquids such as broth and soda, but ended up coming into Jeadquarters with my stomach still feeling off.
My time goal for this race was to finish the first six full laps in 24 hours or under and then finish the race in 27 hours or under. With my brother leaving me and not feeling so great, I was sure I wouldn't reach my goals. I thought I would end up slowing down a lot on Loop 6. But Phil was super encouraging and told me he believed in me --- I could do it!
Loop 6 - counter clockwise
Mile 76.5 to 91.8
Back at my tent I decided I needed to check out my hot spot more closely. Sure enough it was a deep blister under a ball of the foot callus. I spent a lot of time trying to drain it without success and ended up just putting on a blister pad, hoping that would cushion it and make it less painful to run on. I'm pretty sure I spent way too much time messing around when I needed to make up some time and get out of there. I got some broth and headed out. Within a few miles I saw Des coming towards me as she finished up Loop 5. I had been wondering about her, but expected her to be ahead of me instead of behind me. Turns out we had passed her while she was taking a bio break. Loop 5 had been a tough loop for her so I gave her as much encouragement as I could. She has been at all my other 100 mile attempts (plus numerous other races) and we were determined that we were both going to finish this one. Des is emphatically not a quitter, but so much can happen in a race that's out of your control. So I was worried. I knew I could not be truly happy with my finish if Des didn't finish too.
Much to my surprise I moved a lot better on this loop by myself than I thought I would without Phil's company. I actually ran a lot of the gradual uphills. My foot was killing me, but eventually both my feet ached. So the blister spot didn't seem so bad. Even if I had been able to relieve the pressure there I'd still have the general foot ache. It became one of those things I just had to try not to think about. Same with the nausea. It was always there but I decided to stick to broth, coffee and coke and hard candies. I knew I could make it the rest of the way on fumes if I had to. But man these miles were hard. Much of it is a blur now, but I remember having doubts and wondering why it was so difficult. I never truly thought I'd quit or wouldn't finish, but at the same time wondered if I really had what it takes.
The night seemed to go on forever. I never felt super sleepy but I did have a few mild hallucinations. I recall admiring the Christmas yard decorations, which turned out to be cacti, of course. And I saw a brilliant shooting star, which wasn't a hallucination. But mostly I just looked at my feet and the trail in front of me, focused now on the finish.
Loop 7 - clockwise
Mile 91.8 to 100.8
Finally, I made it back to Jeadquarters and could now go out on my final, shorter loop. I had been so inspired by the other runners with their glow stick necklaces, showing that they were on their final loop. Now it was my turn! It would get light again soon so I changed into a short sleeve, grabbed my visor and got back out there as soon as I could. I'm pretty sure I left by 5:55 which meant my brother was right and I had made my goal of finishing the first six loops in 24 hours. I tried to do the math in my head and thought it might be possible to finish in under 26 hours. I pushed for this goal but eventually my only care was about finishing. The sun came out and it felt warm really quickly, much more so than the day before. About a mile and a half in, who do I see but Des! I was so happy to see her! She couldn't stop, but I yelled encouragement to her as she passed. Seeing her gave me a little happy boost and I pushed on. However, it seemed like forever to go 5.5 miles to the turnoff to the finish. I was still running some, but this section was generally uphill and rocky so there was a lot of hiking. I hadn't fallen or tripped the whole race and I didn't want to now! Finally I reached the turnoff. It was only a gradual 2.5 mile downhill then one mile of rolling/flat to the finish. I thought I would be running most of the 2.5 miles down, but still had to stop for walk breaks here and there. I knew I'd finish over 26 hours but I didn't care. I was going to finish!
Finally I reached the turn to the finish with a mile to go. Soon more people lined the course and as they cheered for me I started to get very emotional. I wanted to smile as I crossed the finish line, not cry! So I tried to smile, but as soon as I was done I bent over and put my head in my hands. Relief, joy, pain. I had done it. 26:10:57
Finishing my first 100 mile trail race felt incredible. It had been over a year in the making. I enjoyed quite a bit of it, but there were also many moments of pain and wondering why. Someone wrote somewhere I can't remember right now, that they ran 100's because it was one of the only times in life that required they give all of themselves 100 percent. That is so true. You can't fake your way through 100 miles. I'll add that much of the appeal is also the joy, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment you get after the fact. I know I'll be feeling this glow for quite a while. And when it wears off, I'm pretty sure there's another 100 mile race in my future.