Because of the stupid Covid 19 virus, ultramarathons are far and few between. I was stoked to find out about a month before that I got in. At one point I was 580th on the waiting list. Surprisingly, I got an email that I was in if I wanted and I had to decide immediately.
I hadn’t raced since Yukon back in February. This would give me an awesome opportunity have to get a great workout and in a competitive setting in a race that I could drive to. Logistically it would be fantastic.
I selected the first wave (instead of 300 people going off at once like usual). There were six start times, further broken up into about even smaller groups of 10 to 15 people at a time.
I made the six bour drive from San Diego, taking a nap at a truck stop about halfway. Once in town, I picked up my race packet which was my race shirt, final instructions and my race bib with the electronic sensor on the back that would register my split times. I had dinner in my hotel room and retired early to get a great night sleep.
By noon, I was at the race start area setting up my reserved area including my tent and all my gear. We would do five laps of roughly 20 miles each. It would be nice having access to all my stuff each time. Logistically, I loved how things were set up. On paper, Javelina Jundred looks relatively easy. But because of the high temperatures during the day and the surprisingly chilly temperatures at night, the finishing rate is surprisingly low. A cut off time of 30 hours is pretty aggressive. Which certainly affects the finishing rate. If one doesn’t make 30 hours, they get listed as DNF in the results even if they physically finish. Those three letters are the worst letters in ultramarathons!
In case you are curious, a Javelina is an animal in the peccary family that looks like a pig but is in a separate family. They are indigenous to the area. The race organizers have fun replacing H with J whenever possible. For example, the party-like atmosphere at the start finish is called Javelina Jeadquarters.
I actually did my first hundred miler here many years ago. I finished it in around 31 hours, making every rookie mistake possible: I went out too fast. I didn’t eat and drink enough. I allowed myself to get crazy cold at night. I suffered ridiculously. Hopefully, this time I would have a completely different outcome.
Like always, I set three performance goals for all my events. A bronze medal performance would be under 28 hours, silver under 26 hours and gold under 24. Having been training hard and consistently the last six months, I definitely had the fitness to win gold. Now I just had to execute.
I tried to take an all-important nap around 4 PM in my tent before my 6 PM start. I couldn’t fall asleep because of the noise and it being too warm. For me, a 20-minute power nap reaps huge rewards. I kept tossing and turning with the sun coming through my tent and with cars driving by kicking up dust.
At the start, I was bursting with energy. The first lap was 22+ miles and seemed absolutely effortless to me. With an aid station averaging every five miles, we runners were spoiled. I didn’t have to worry about taking fluid, electrolytes or nutrition with me (but I did anyway) as they were made available to us along the way. For me to win gold, I would have to average about four hours and 45 minutes per lap. Should be a piece of cake I told myself.
Despite keeping my foot on the brakes, my first lap was four hours and eight minutes. I knew the first three laps would allow me to bank some time during the cool nighttime. I was concerned about the heat during the last two laps. So, I forced myself to slow down even more on the second lap which ended up being four hours and 30 minutes. I really got into a groove under the light of the full moon. It was so bright that I was able to run with my headlamp turned off.
I had hoped to run alone as much as possible, but it seemed as if the race organizers clumped together a lot of people at my start wave, running almost exactly my pace. There were two guys that seemed to be about 10 yards behind me the whole damn race to this point. They were really bugging me. It was obvious that they were using me to pace them. I tried to block them out as much as possible. Like always, I told myself to run my own race and not worry about anybody else. (Just like in life!)
During a system check on lap three I noticed that I was having a really solid race. No issues had surfaced. I hadn’t developed any gastrointestinal issues or any tight muscles or injuries. Like clockwork though I developed two blisters that required attention at an aid station. A young medic was eager to help. I could tell he got grossed out though when I popped them with my fingers and squeezed out a couple thin fountains of fluid. I made sure not to squirt him in the eye. He helped me tape them up and I was on my way.
So far, I had been eating, drinking and pee’ing perfectly. My race management was on point. I just had to keep it up. Lap three took me four hours and 54 minutes.
Laps four and five occurred during daytime so I swapped out my Fenix headlamp (In my opinion the best brand on the market—Full disclosure-- I’m one of their brand ambassadors) for my hat and sun glasses and put on a thin, cooling, long sleeve shirt to protect myself from the desert sun. As expected, my feet swelled a little bit, so I changed into a half-size bigger pair of shoes.
Either it never got too hot or I hydrated perfectly because despite the daytime sun, I felt fantastic. I purposefully walked more with hopes of really pushing hard on the last lap.
At one point I passed a 15-year-old girl with her pacer, doing her first 100 miler. She ended up not finishing but I was so impressed by her drive. I’m sure she’ll get that coveted finisher’s buckle someday.
Correspondingly, a well-known 78-year-old San Diego ultrarunner finished under the 30-hour limit. Just goes to show that drive and ambition determines everything!
Lap four ended up my slowest, 5:17, both because of the accumulated miles and the heat. Back at my tent site, I took a little rest break. But some friends of mine who knew of my 24-hour goal, pretty much dragged my butt out of my chair and told me to get moving. Talk about tough love! I’m glad they were rough on me in the end.
I now had around five hours and 15 minutes to break 24 hours. No prob I told myself. I ran steady to the first aid station four miles away. I loaded up on Gatorade for the six- and 1/2-mile section to the next one. I power walked the steeper uphill’s but ran a decent pace. Reaching the aid station, I told myself the race was basically over. Just a 10-mile jaunt left. The closer I got to finishing, the harder I charged. I told myself to “Empty the tank!”
I kept peeking at my watch even though I knew I would make my goal easily. My spirits were sky high. All along, I was confident I would make my goal, but one never knows in a one-hundred-mile race because so many things can go wrong.
Going through the finishing chute, I pumped my fist in the air like a silly first-time finisher. I didn’t care. I had trained very hard, set a lofty goal, executed a perfect plan and accomplished that goal. I get tremendous satisfaction out of that process.
I was stoked to accomplish my time goal. More so though, racing smart and being consistently mentally strong and living in the moment makes me happiest when it comes to these hundred milers. I will build upon this leading to my harder wintertime/cold weather races. I’ve got greater goals and higher personal expectations in the coming months. Those events will be exceedingly tougher because of numerous factors. If I can remain "patient and persistent," which is one of my mantras, I should be good.
Best of luck to all of you in your pursuits. Keep up the good fight.