I’ve been at this ultra thing for nearly a year now, but have been reluctant to say, “I’m an ultra runner.” It’s not that any of the 50K finishes so far have lacked worthiness, because all were amazing and each met “ultra” criteria, but I’ve wondered if my enamored spirit would eventually fade. Was I going to have a few bucket list races and then sit on the couch? I’ve hopped on my share of bandwagons so I knew it was possible! Nathan Sprint Tri 2011, anyone? One big swimming disaster, let me tell ya! But completing this weekend’s Javelina Jundred 100K has turned all of the self doubt off. Completely OFF.
I am an ultra runner and I’m about to do a lot more ultra running.
In 2013 my friend, Laurie, invited me to spectate at Javelina because she was pacing Paul Maisel in the 100 mile. I’d done a few short Aravaipa runs by then and ultras seemed absolutely absurd. Intrigued enough to go, I showed up to McDowell Mountain Park alone, not knowing anyone. After finding her in the sea of tents, I recall carrying hot cooca in my hands all night. You know, like that awkward beverage at a party you keep refilling so it’s not obvious you’re awkward? I may have spent a small fortune in cocoa that night.
Laurie encouraged me to be ready for pacing someone, but I ended up on the course with Paul. To make a long story short, I’m positive I was a horrible pacer! I couldn’t stop talking his ear off. How obnoxious is that after 90 miles, right?! Thankfully, Paul knew I was learning, is extremely cool and remains a friend to this day.
After a year of slowly and intentionally adding race mileage, I returned to pace a friend in the 100K, but ended up pacing a stranger in the 100mi, Jason Romero–a phenomenal blind athlete who’s since set a visually impaired record at Badwater and compete in the IPC World Marathon Championships as the only visually impaired runner for Team USA. Being his sighted pacer was a divine appointment, not for him, but for me. It was an experience that forever changed my perspective on what people are capable of accomplishing. To say I had limited myself before is an understatement. I’ve resolved to steward this healthy life for as long as God allows me to have it and train my children to take on challenges too. “It’s OK to do hard things. You’re heart and mind are being refined,” I tell them.
I followed a training plan to prepare for this 100K, but really had no clue what would happen the second half. Everyone kept asking what my goal finish time was and I was too afraid to even utter what my coach had suggested. It was a tall order for a newbie! Work tasks kept me mostly distracted that last week, but then moments of total panic would creep in about what was coming. My coach would email something or Jamil Coury, Javelina’s race director, would post something on Facebook and I’d feel like barfing. Regardless, my husband, Chris, and I packed up the kids and camping gear and headed over Friday to claim our spot at Javelina Jeadquarters. The weather had cooled off and clouds rolled in with occasional showers, so I began to feel very optimistic.
I can’t express enough thanks to Aravaipa Running and their volunteers who made such a memorable weekend possible. Every detail from registration to the finish line was spelled out perfectly and made for a super enjoyable time! If there were any snafus along the way, they weren’t perceptible by anyone, I’m sure. They’ve got to be the most top notch race company in the country! Friday night we enjoyed short films on an outdoor screen presented by the Trail Running Film Festival, so I went to bed completely inspired.
Before starting my event at 7:00am, our family made sure to watch the 100 mile start and it was memorable, for sure!! Not only because the field of runners was so large and kept going on and on, but because I had the privilege of experiencing a unique parenting moment explaining costumes to my 9 year old daughter. The lead runner wore a Borat…um…bathing suit? She said, “Mommy, I think he’s gonna win that one prize,” referring to Javelina’s traditional “Best Ass” award. We laughed many times over that for the rest of the weekend with our kids! It was so funny!
My start had no visible ass…that I saw anyway…but the atmosphere was fun, hopeful, and the most exciting of any race to date! That first loop was full of great conversation with both locals and those visiting the desert for the first time. I made a concentrated effort to keep my heart rate low and my pace slow. So confident I was doing well, I never looked at my watch for splits. When my husband’s shocked face greeted me as I floated in, I knew I’d overdone it. That first loop was quicker than intended by about 10 minutes. Oops.
The second loop, I’m proud to say, was exactly on point at 2:35, the game plan all along. It felt ok, but some nagging upper hamstring and hip tightness leftover from training had me concerned that the second half might be rough. Going in I knew discomfort was coming and decided to accept it and carry myself with as much grace as possible…or at least save the ugly for my pacer. Haha!
Temperatures rose a bit by the 3rd loop, but didn’t affect me at all. Hydration went well and an ice filled bandana around my neck & ice water-soaked cooling sleeves kept me cool. Being a native to the valley was bonus and training through a wicked hot summer made the day feel cool. Muscles continued to tighten, however, despite solid nutrition, so my pace dramatically slowed. I really hoped keeping a 9:40 pace over the duration of the event was possible for me, but realize now that kind of average will come with more experience, as well as trial and error.
Coming in lap 3, I was really looking forward to seeing my family again and hoped my friend, Amber, was there. She planned on pacing ever since I registered but went through some injuries over the summer that made her wonder if she should. After making a bit of effort to find a replacement, I decided to just go it alone. I couldn’t tell anyone, for sure, what they’d experience with me on that last loop or even when to show up. I didn’t want to enlist someone just for them to shuffle and get acquainted with my less than positive side. “Hey! I admire your running so much, but right now I totally suck. Wanna hang out for a few hours while I struggle?” Yeah, no thanks.
Amber was, in fact, there waiting to support me (because she’s a dear friend), along with my long time FCA Endurance huddle leader (also a dear friend), Debbie Foster, another friend, Matt, and my crew, which consisted of my husband and son. After getting what I needed from Chris and at the aid station, we headed out for the longest loop–over 3 hours. By then, my quads were super tight and any time I slowed to walk they did this crazy quiver. I’d sustain a run, which was more comfortable, but then mentally shut down and do the quivery walk thing again. It was a vicious cycle! A couple times before the Jackass Junction aid station, I stopped to hold Amber’s shoulder and stretch my quads. Teary eyed and very discouraged, I barely reached my shin to carry up the lower leg for a stretch. Reaching Jackass one last time was such a relief! It was like seeing a ship after being on a deserted island!! A mutual friend of ours, Miguel Moreno, a local Dirtbag Runner, saw me and said, “You’re about to finish!” and gave me this fantastic bear hug and kissed me on the cheek. I had no idea a hug could be so invigorating. Amber later hugged me again with about 6 miles left.
Running was aided by a bit of gravity those final miles and by Coyote Camp, I only had 2 more to go…albeit my least favorite miles of the entire 15.3 mile loop. The sun was going down and having anticipated a finish before sunset, it became a race to beat the dark. Neither of us had a headlamp, but we’ve run together so much, I trusted her to pick a safe line and just followed her feet. Thoughts of my late night run with Jason returned and I found it a special blessing the Lord would make me so dependent on my friend.
I couldn’t have had better crew throughout the day. This effort truly took many people to pull off. My husband followed every detail we prepared. He lovingly supported me through months of training and spent his entire weekend serving me. My son earns the Best Cheerleader award. He met me about a quarter mile from Jeadquarters after each loop, ringing his cowbell and sharing encouraging words.
“You’ve gone so far Mommy, way to go! You’re doing it Mommy, keep it up!”
And my favorite coming in from the last lap,
“You did 100K!! You did 100K!! Mommy, you did 100K!”
I raced into the finish area so fast my parents didn’t get up quick enough to snap a picture. Where the turnover came from is a mystery other than it was fueled by the crowd’s energy and perhaps the thought of getting to stop and sit down.
Shortly after finishing, Marie from USL.tv came over and asked for an interview because I was 3rd place. “Sure, but I don’t think I was 3rd. There were several women ahead of me all day, I think.” She went off to confirm and came back saying, “No, you placed 3rd.” In my exhaustion and disbelief, I think I sent her off a second time! Here is the interview that took place:
During the race our friend, Jack, took care of Lucy. He adores English Setters and is seriously Lucy’s biggest fan. They watched the ultracast until Jack arrived to pace our other friend, Jeff, in the 100 mile.
Normally all I can think about toward the end of a race is food, but not so much this time. I was excited for Freak Brothers Pizza and definitely placed my usual order…but then only ate about half. I’d gotten down my Hammer Recoverite shake and plenty of water, just couldn’t manage eating. On the late night drive home, I ate a single tortilla, drank more water and ended up going to bed without anything else. BAD IDEA! By 5am Sunday morning I finally felt ready to eat, but fainted on a short walk between our kitchen and living room. My forehead and chin struck something on the way down, perhaps our tile floor, and left a lovely lump and dark bruise. Putting on make-up for a wedding Sunday afternoon and then meetings with clients this week has been interesting to say the least! Food does wonders. Eat it, people.
In recent news, I learned November 1st, I got into the Zane Grey 50 in April of next year. Amber got in too, so my husband has agreed to be my pacer. I canNOT be more thrilled! There’s no one on the planet I trust more with my safety and training with him is going to be super fun. I’m sure there will be another few races between now and then because it’s a crime to waste beautiful AZ weather, so until then, thanks for visiting my blog and making it to the end of this post.