|Pre-race photos with the guys. Left to right: Steve, AJ, me, Mike, Chuck and Jon. Photo by Heidi Mizones.|
First off, I can't say enough about how well-organized and executed this race is. The Coury brothers have built an incredible event. It's a trail running festival with music, dancing, drunk emcees, crazy-good food, lots of alcohol, a huge tent city with a "Burning Man" look to it, and all the fixings you could ever want. From the pre-race communications to the race itself, it's a world-class experience as far as ultras go. The ice in the aid stations was plentiful and a God-send!
My only suggestion is that runners need to be reminded pre-race of the need to stay single-file on the trail. Late in the race, after it was dark, I was hit by approaching double-file runners (usally running as a group of friends) four times. It got old fast. I also found the amount of "running-while-texting/talking" on the course quite distressing. Really? If you need to talk to someone, get off the trail. Better yet, do what I did--leave your phone in the car.
I'm very satisfied with my result: 20 hours and 13 minutes, which was good for 24th place out of some 465 starters. My lap times were 2:27, 2:34, 3:04, 3:29, 3:26, 3:15, 1:58 (final "short lap). I rallied on the sixth and seventh laps (more on that below). I'm proud of the fact that I had no crew or pacers, though I did have plenty of friends on the course, such as AJ Wellman, Chuck Radford, Jon Ahern, Mike Mizones (who was crewed by his lovely wife, Heidi), Scott Schrader, Trevor Emory and others. In the absence of crew and pacer support, I "talked" to myself a lot. I reminded myself to take in salt, eat, drink, etc. And that was the perfect situation for me in this particular race. I'm now wondering if I need pacers at all in hundreds.
Another thing I want to note: I didn't turn on my iPod until mile 54 and I think that made a huge difference. The music really resonated with me in the last 48 miles because, by then, I really wanted to listen to some tunes. "Foreplay/Long Time" by Boston really got me fired up--I listened to that song probably 30 times.
I was gunning for a sub-20-hour result but it fell by the wayside when I found out that the course was actually closer to 102 miles. It didn't really matter much to me--that was two more miles of fun.
As far as shoes, I wore my newest pair of Hoka One One Cliftons (second generation) the whole way. The Clifton is the greatest shoe I've ever worn. I also wore Thorlo socks--the thick, heavily cushioned kind. Thorlo isn't "cool" among ultrarunners but I've been wearing them since day one. They work for me. I wore a North Face singlet and TNF shorts, my trusty CWX compression shorts, and my Outdoor Research Badwater-style hat with flaps, which held plenty of ice and kept me pretty cool when it was wet. Other equipment included Oakley sunglasses and my well-worn Ultimate Direction AK vest (first generation).
I have not said this to anyone--not even my wife--but after my Bighorn DNF, and really after my 2014 Leadville 100 (which I finished but it was ugly), my confidence as a runner was shattered. I didn't know if I could finish another 100. I questioned not only my gut but also my mental toughness. Had I lost it? I wasn't sure. If I lost it, I seemed to have found it at Javelina, where I ran every step of the last 27 miles, passing scores of runners because I had a deep desire to perform at my best. I thought about my wife and our son every step of the way in those final 27 miles. I wanted to make them proud--and I wanted to prove to myself that I can still run 100s and be a good "closer."
Javelina is harder than advertised. The 600-foot climb on each loop wasn't terrible but it was just enough to wear you down over the course of the 102 miles. The trail has some sweet smooth sections and a few fairly technical stretches. There are some stretches where you can really open up the pace. That said, living in Colorado, nothing on the actual course scared me at all.
What really makes Javelina challenging is the heat and the distance between some of the aid stations, like the 6.5 miles from Jackass Junction to Coyote Camp. Although it got to "only" 80 degrees, we were totally exposed to that famous Arizona sun and by 2pm I was fairly hot. At around mile 54, I puked. I ran the next 6.5 miles not in the best of shape but in good enough shape to keep trailing Pam Reed. When we got to the mile-60 aid station, Coyote Camp, I was in bad shape and started puking again--likely from being over-heated. "Here we go again," I said to myself as I barfed in the trash can. But I quickly put away negative thoughts and instead focused on fixing the situation, starting with some broth and water. Thankfully, I was able to regroup and finish strong with no more gut issues.
My strong finish came down to sheer determination to have a good race, but also to some really good fuel. The last 40 miles were fueled by water, boiled potatoes with a heavy dose of salt, Mountain Dew, and broth. I found that if I chased the Mountain Dew with plenty of water, I was OK. I just cannot handle big doses of sugary stuff.
Simply put, I was on fire in the last 27 miles. I haven't run that well in a 100 since the 2013 Leadville 100. When I do Billy Idol-like howls coming into aid stations, as I did as Javelina Jeadquarters at mile 77, I'm pumped. And boy was I pumped. So, all in all, this was a great race for me. I got my confidence back and I know I can keep racing 100s because the mental toughness that propelled me for so long is still there.
But it wasn't all mental toughness. I trained right. I put in good volume. I ran hill repeats. I lifted weights. I came into the race having had an exceptional taper and was in good shape. I was very well-hydrated going into Javelina (proper hydration prior to a race, I have found, is a week-long process). I think all the weight training I did in the mid summer up to Javelina paid off in a huge way--even as it resulted in me "gaining" a few pounds in muscle weight. I cannot stress enough how important resistance training is as we age. I'm now a believer.
It was so awesome to share the trail with such a wonderful group of runners. Everyone seemed to have a good time, even amid very tough conditions with the heat, and the aid stations were full of happy, helpful volunteers just there to assist where they could. The entire atmosphere was one of celebration. It's clear the love, friendliness and compassion you feel in this race starts with the guys who run the show.
While I'm not one to get star-struck, I will admit that it was quite a thrill to see Karl Meltzer in action. Even as we're very different runners (obviously), I've always admired the "Wasatch Speedgoat." He has so much mojo and it's easy to see why he's an intimidating runner. He's a big guy (like me), and yet he moves fast and he just has a presence on the trail that's difficult to describe.
I also greatly enjoyed running with Pam Reed. We didn't say a word to each other during the race, as we stayed within about 100 feet of each other for maybe 30 miles, but the day before we chatted it up. Pam is not only a wonderfully friendly person but also an incredible runner. She's like a metronome in that she never stops and she keeps moving at the same pace regardless of the grade of the trail. I was in awe of her. It's easy to see how she became the first woman to win the Badwater Ultramarathon outright.
Finally, how awesome it was to chat briefly with Ann Trason. I have always considered Ann the greatest ultrarunner to ever live. Although Yiannis Kouros is no slouch, he was never the well-rounded runner that Ann was in her prime. Ann, like Scott Jurek (and Ellie Greenwood to some extent), dominated on the road and trail and at just about every distance, setting course records and world records along the way. She's a warm, humble person and I simply relished the 2-3 minutes we ran together as she was making her way into the 100K finish. She will not admit what a great runner she was in her prime. Running next to Ann was a moment I'll never, ever forget. It was like shooting hoops with Michael Jordon or throwing the football with Joe Montana.
I also have to say how cool it was to see Gordy Ainsleigh out there. As we passed each other the first time, I thanked him for founding 100-mile racing. You could say Gordy's had an impact :-).
Congrats to all my buddies who finished a great race. That includes Chuck (11th overall in the 100-mile), AJ (8th overall in the 100K) and Jon (27th overall in the 100-mile). It was a fun, rewarding day and I had nothing but a great time while in the Scottsdale area.
Now, it's time to rest a little and enjoy the ski season. Oh yeah, I also need to enter the Western States lottery now that I'm qualified for 2016!
OK, so that wasn't very brief. Sorry!