Friday, November 06, 2015

Javelina Jundred -- a 76 Mile Journey

Javelina Jundred sadly did not go as planned. I was aiming for a 19 hour finish to this 100.9 mile race in a desert in Arizona, but I became dehydrated during the heat of the day and I paid the price from miles 61 to 76. After spending two hours in the medical tent, I was getting better and the dizziness faded but I decided to call it quits at around midnight, which was 18 hours after the race started. I did receive a 100K belt buckle which is a nice consolation prize.

I'm extremely grateful that my friend Amanda was there for me as crew and pacer and that my friend Boone came out to visit, too. I'm also very grateful to have so many friends and family who thought about me during the race. Life goes on. There will be other races, although perhaps not hundred milers.

In the two months leading up to the race, I did a number of long runs:

  • 30.2 miles on 8/15
  • 36.9 miles on 8/30
  • 51.3 miles of mostly speed hiking in the Tahoe 200 race, on 9/13
  • 26.2 miles in the Portland Marathon, as a training run, on 10/4
  • 40.0 miles on 10/9
  • 30.6 miles in two separate runs on 10/19

So, I was happy with my long runs and I did weekly speed workouts, too. However, I ended up being light on my total mileage. These are my weekly total miles leading up to the race:

  • 56
  • 67
  • 62
  • 77
  • 55
  • 73
  • 37
  • 31 (went camping)
  • 66
  • 76
  • 55
  • 80 for the week ending on 10/25, six days before Javelina Jundred

I think I should have gotten in a couple of hundred mile weeks and a couple of 80 mile weeks.

The Plan
Perhaps I should have done more research, but based on my past races and Ultra Sign-up's prediction of a sub-18 hour finish time, I decided to aim for an aggressive but hopefully reasonable goal of just under 19 hours. I did not want to have to run and hike all night, like I did four years previously at Headlands 100 (race report). I would take it easy early on with 11 minutes / mile on the gradual uphills and 10:15 per mile on the downhills. During the heat of the day, I would give myself 30 seconds more per mile. (Hahaha, I'm shaking my head now as I write this!) Then at night, I would speed up again. (Hahaha!) I allowed myself 45 seconds per aid station except for headquarters, where my drop bag and crew were, in which case I gave myself 4.5 minutes.

Race Weekend
I flew to Phoenix with my friend and pacer, Amanda, on the afternoon before the race. It was a beautiful evening.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, on a beautiful evening before the race
The expo was an easy short drive away and then it was time for an early dinner in nearby Fountain Hills, at Euro Pizza Cafe. Mmm...
$10 marinara spaghetti -- perfect!

California-style Greek pizza? Yummy!

We took a nice shuttle from the parking lot to the tent city at the race headquarters. People were excited and in a good mood!

The headquarters was a large and well-organized operation. There was a documentary playing on a large screen and dozens and dozens of tents had been set up for us already. I had paid for a large tent with two cots, and we picked out an available tent that was close to the restrooms and showers. My thought was to experience the full vibe of the race plus to make getting to the race easier and save money on a hotel. The downside was that with so many people crammed in so closely, it was relatively noisy throughout the night, plus it was surprisingly cold. It felt much colder than the predicted high 50s.

Fortunately, I had gotten a good night's sleep on Thursday night and I had brought earplugs, and I still managed to get some solid hours of sleep on Friday night. I woke before my 3:30am alarm and used the restroom and ate my breakfast (two bagels and a Clif bar) and lay down for another hour.

Finally, it was time to get up and get ready!

A rocking DJ to get us pumped up!

Javelina Jeadquarters in the morning

Loop #1, Miles 0 to 15.3
6am rolled around, and we're off!
I was about two-thirds of the way back and it was a bit of a log jam. I think it took 30 seconds to reach the start line. I had to hike behind others for a while but then I started getting in little bits of running. I passed people when I could, while still trying to be patient. We reached the first aid station, Coyote Camp, 2.1 miles later. To my surprise, there were no people there and no food, but water and sports drink were in large coolers, and I quickly filled up. My stupidly detailed plan called for picking up 100 calories, but I told myself I'll pick it up next time.

Not too far later, a runner a little ways in front of me side-swiped a jumping cholla cactus. He had a large clump stuck in his calf and what looked like 30 or 40 needles elsewhere. I told him not to use his hands to scrape the large clump off and I used my GPS watch instead. I got a needle in a finger in the process which stung for a couple of hours. Poor guy.

Dramatic re-enactment of what I saw. Source.
The desert was cool and the sunrise was beautiful. A minor muscle pull or tightness in my inner thigh made itself known, but I've had it for a couple of months, and I wasn't worried. Otherwise, I felt pretty good.

Loop #2 -- Miles 15.3 to 30.6
I planned on arriving at the headquarters (HQ) aid station at 2:45:00 and I rolled in at 2:44:34 -- essentially exactly on schedule!

Feeling good at mile 15.3

Coming in at mile 15.3
I quickly got some food and headed out again, this time counter-clockwise on the loop course. It was fun seeing everyone and I got to chat with a couple people. The time and miles went by easily. I did start warming up in the strong sunlight and higher air temperature. I was feeling a little bit sore as I hit the marathon mark (in 4 hours 48 minutes approximately), but I felt good!

Loop #3 -- Miles 30.6 to 45.9
I arrived at mile 30.6 at about the 5 hour 30 minute mark, whereas the plan had me arriving at 5:38. I wasn't too worried since I was being quicker than planned at the aid stations so far and I felt good. Boone was there! Awesome! Amanda took a look at my feet and suggested putting moleskin on some developing hot spots on the top of my foot near my ankles, where perhaps my shoe laces were a bit too tight. I reapplied sunscreen and Body Glide. I declined to take the bandanna to fill with ice because I didn't think the heat was that bad. And I was off!

Mile 30.6
The temperature was much warmer now, and I consciously slowed down. I was getting somewhat more sore but I wasn't too bad. I ran out of water for maybe 20 minutes on the 6.5 mile mostly uphill stretch between Coyote Camp and Jackass Junction.

The sun felt very strong and bright. The desert environment felt very hostile. I occasionally removed my sunglasses and it seemed like I was running in a furnace. It was only 80 degrees predicted, but with no shade and rare breezes, I think I was losing a lot of water.

Somewhere around mile 42, I went to take another salt pill and I pulled out my little ziplock bag and it was open and empty! All my salt pills and a few pain relief pills had fallen on the trail somehow! I realized later that the bag had developed a hole. At Rattlesnake Ranch (mile 44.4) I was able to restock my salt pills and then at HQ I happened to have a few more pain relief pills in my drop bag. I told Amanda and Boone that I needed to slow down due to the heat and would add about 15 minutes to my expected time. I wish I had actually followed my own advice.

Loop #4 -- Miles 45.9 to 61.2
I arrived at mile 45.9 at about 8:39 which was basically on target with my planned 8:36 arrival. I was feeling the miles and the heat.
Mile 45.9
I hit the 50 mile mark around 9 hours 33 minutes or so, and I did an assessment. I felt rather spent and beat-up and was probably getting dehydrated since I had only urinated a small amount since loop #2. I wasn't sure what to do differently, and I wanted to make my time goals.

Along this loop, the sun was finally going down far enough to make the nearby hills cast some blessed shadows. I enjoyed the occasional cool breeze. I wasn't slowing down much though, all-in-all. I was definitely not trying to take 15 minutes longer on this loop.

Somewhere around mile 58, in a long rocky section, I had entered a shadow again and was still wearing my sunglasses when I solidly kicked a rock and I was running too fast (or my reaction was too slow) to stop myself from falling. I did a Super Man style landing and cursed loudly. A runner ahead of me asked if I was OK. "Yeah, I just need to shake it off." Ouch. I had minor cuts on my right knee and left hand, and maybe some damage on my chest, but nothing serious. I started running again.

I felt "on edge", like I was too close to the performance cliff that I know so well, where by pushing too hard, my body can dramatically take a turn for the worse.

Loop #5, mile 61.2 to 76.5:
Fixing my feet at mile 61.2
I arrived at mile 61.2 at around 11 hours 40 minutes. I could finally have a pacer! Amanda!

This was a longer stop, to examine my feet since I felt a problem on my right middle toe (where I had kicked the rock). I had a huge blister going, so we put some moleskin around that. Boone was there, too, to help out. I got my headlamps and cold weather gear (just arm sleeves and gloves). And then we were off!

Amanda and I, at mile 61.2

Amanda and I begin loop #5
I was running much slower now and had to walk more. I was having difficulty eating as much, too. I attributed this to being dehydrated. I spent a good chunk of time at Jackass Junction, at mile 69.8, where I sat down for a while. Amanda got me some delicious noodles and broth. Maybe I should have stayed longer, to drink and eat more.

As we neared HQ, I told Amanda that we should be quick and just keep on moving even if we were walking. I suddenly felt light-headed.

The Ending, mile 76.5
It was around 9:45pm and I had been mostly running since 6am that morning, so that was about 15 hours 45 minutes of effort. I didn't feel well,  I didn't want to continue, and I was light-headed. I went to the medical tent and asked Jen-the-EMT her opinion on whether or not I should continue. She had me lie down and took my blood pressure. It was low, but in the normal range. Then she had me sit up and she took it again; it was 20 points lower. So, there was some evidence of a problem. I was shivering, too, and she brought a blanket.

During all of this, Gordy Ainsleigh was brought in, and lay down in the cot next to me. Gordy was the first runner (in a horse race) that eventually started the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. He's a legend. Sadly, he had suffered a bad fall, and had a huge welt and cut on his forehead above his left eyebrow, and his left cheekbone was bruised and cut, too.
It turned out that Gordy had probably fainted, while running or walking, and had crashed to the ground unconscious, which explained the seriousness of his injuries. He was lucid in my presence, but the medics convinced him to take an ambulance to a hospital in case his brain was bleeding. He turned out OK and was at the HQ late the next morning.

Gordy's experience was another influence on my decision to drop. After about two hours of lying down, and after having drank 60 oz of water, I was feeling better and I asked to have my blood pressure measured again, this time while standing. It was normal. I didn't feel dizzy. The medic said I would get worse again over time, if I were to go back out. I was tired and sore. I did not want to stay up all night because I had a new job to start on Monday and I had to head to the airport at 1pm. I estimated that it would take me 8 hours to finish hiking the remaining 25 miles, which would let me finish around 8am. I felt like there was a risk of having to stop somewhere on the trail in the middle of the night, and getting too cold. There was a possibly slight risk of fainting, like Gordy. Ultimately, I was not mentally prepared to pay the price to finish; it was far from being worthwhile.

Six days later, as I'm writing this, I wish I had finished. I would have been miserable for many hours, but it's also possible that I could have started running again, slowly. If I didn't recover enough Sunday night, I could have delayed my first day of work and they would have understood. I'll never know for sure how the night would have turned out if I had continued. In the moment, I was definitely happy to be done.

Decision made, I talked with a race official and she handed me a 100K belt buckle. Nice! I had forgotten that would be a consolation prize. Shortly after dropping, I had a huge urge to urinate and my urine was nearly normal, which I hadn't seen since the end of the second loop. I showered and was greatly relieved to lay down in my sleeping bag. I slept like a log except for having to wake up to urinate three more times throughout the night. So, my body was apparently processing that 60 oz of water just fine.

Life, Challenges, and Running
We, as humans, need to be challenged. We need to overcome challenges, and occasionally fail, in order to get stronger and wiser, which in turn leads to us having happier and more fulfilling lives. A life of complete comfort and convenience is not a good life. But there must be some point at which the challenge is too great to be worthwhile. In the realm of running, for some a 10K race is too much. Or a half-marathon. Or a marathon. For my friend Dan, 200 miles is probably at his limit. For me, I'm starting to think that 100 mile races are just too much of a good thing. Even though I wasn't working for the two months leading up to this race, and I have a supportive family, and I have a great network of running friends, I don't necessarily want to spend 8 hours doing 40 mile training runs (by myself, at any rate). I don't think I feel enough of a sense of accomplishment to justify suffering all night, trudging along. I guess that's why I was so focused on finishing on the fast side -- it was the only way to make the whole effort feel worthwhile.

What Went Right

  • I finished 5 loops and got to mile 76.5, which is no joke.
  • I earned a 100K belt buckle for finishing 4 loops.
  • I'm uninjured!
  • I didn't get lost.
  • I think I paced myself well for the first 46 miles or so, although I may have pushed too hard from 46 to 61.
  • I had great support and pacing from my friend Amanda.
  • I think I got in enough long training runs.

Things to Improve

  • I wasn't mentally or logistically prepared to finish at all costs. I was very focused on having a 19 hour finish, which caused me to take risks that jeopardized finishing at all. On the other hand, I really did not want a repeat of Headlands 100, where I struggled through the night and finished around dawn.
  • I fell around mile 58. I should have been more careful in the transition to shadows in the late afternoon, and taken off my sunglasses.
  • I didn't properly appreciate the heat. Even towards the end of lap 2, the heat was noticeable and maybe I should have slowed down more. Certainly in laps 3 and 4, I should have focused more on staying well-hydrated. I probably should have taken my bandanna and filled it with ice, too.

Random Details
  • I saw three snakes during the race. The largest one was a shiny reddish-orangish color. Neat!
  • I heard coyotes the night before the race, while in my tent. They woke me up.
  • Weight the morning before: 165.3 lbs
  • Two days later: 164.4 lbs
  • Garmin data