Yes Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.... Lines from the "Wizard of Oz" kept popping into my head while running in the very unfamiliar desert this past weekend in Arizona. Whose idea was this anyway? Oh, right, it was mine....
The idea started out innocent enough. I'd been emailing Carilyn Johnson, one of my US 24-hour teammates. We both had hardly been running since the Worlds in May, nursing various minor injuries. I mentioned we should just do a race somewhere just for fun, no pressure, no competition. While I was thinking spring, somehow the Javelina Jundred came up, probably because it just looked like so much FUN, being close to Halloween, costumed runners, “easy” trails, etc. Carilyn had run the course before, in fact she had ran it last year dropping around mile 75 due to breathing issues (yes, there is lots of dust). I managed to talk her into returning, and so there we were, at the starting line in the middle of the Arizona desert in the dark at 6 AM with temperatures climbing from the mid-60s. So much for cold desert nights.
Our plan was to stick together no matter what. We wanted to be very conservative so we aimed for a 3-hour loop time, with each loop about 15 miles. We walked the uphills and took it easy, finishing the first loop just under 3 hours. The time really flew by as we discussed everything imaginable. When there was a lull in the conversation, we started naming rock formations based on the body parts that they resembled (I'll just leave it at that). The second loop was around 3 hours.... but now came the HOTTEST part of the day. We were at noon at the end of the 2nd loop. Being from sunless Cleveland, although I had sunscreen caked all over, I still felt like my arms were going to spontaneously combust. I ended up putting on a long-sleeved shirt for the next loop, which did help somewhat. But did I say it was HOT?
We completed the 3rd loop around 4 hours and the 4th loop, even slower, around 4 1/2 hours. By then it was pitch dark (sun setting around 6 PM) except for the beautiful twinkling stars. The "rocky" parts of the course, which were very runnable in the daylight, were now looking like boulders. It was during the night hours that Carilyn gleefully pointed out the desert "wildlife," which she categorized by "those that cane kill you" - scorpions and baby rattlesnakes - and "those that can only hurt you" - tarantulas. Spotting each of those creatures was good incentive to not go off the trail too far when nature called.
As we were on our 5th loop, I slowed considerably. My quads were toast. No surprise that my lack of training, and specifically hill training, was taking its toll. Carilyn would run ahead and then have to keep waiting on me. We had been talking for about 15 hours straight but the last few hours had been quiet. Finally, Carilyn decided to put me out of my misery and recommended that we stop. She reminded me that this was supposed to be fun and the fun was wearing off. She was still fresh and could have easily finished but I was struggling. With a few miles to go on the 5th loop, we decided to drop at the start of the 6th loop, which was the JJ Headquarters (or "Jeadquarters," as they say at the race). When we crossed the lap counter and the end of loop 5, we were at 75 miles, taking 18-plus hours. It turns out that only 44% of the 100 mile runners finished the entire course. WOW!
This was definitely a fun race. Not only did I get to hang with Carilyn all day and night, but the swag was cool too, a North Face shirt, duffel bag, hat, bottle opener and (not sure why) a finisher buckle (maybe for 100k?) The Coury brothers have a first-class race and the volunteers were AMAZING. I would definitely go back but next time be much better hill and heat prepared!