Sunday, November 23, 2008

Javelina Jundred Volunteer Report

What a roller coaster ride! From the first day to our last goodbyes it was another memorable ultra event. Old friends, new friends and a great setting for a deceptively hard and wicked 100+ mile run. I had so much fun I suffered withdrawal symptoms:) You know you walk around days afterwards, remembering something, laugh and wish the good time wasn't over so quickly. Now I'd like to do the race myself next year.

It's a bit more than a 100 miles, I heard 101.1 to 101.3, but not a lot of elevation change and on very runnable trails which actually causes a lot of people to under estimate the race. As you can imagine another mile matters when you're cranky and tired. I spoke with Dave Combs who has handled the timing for the race and he told me that about 80% of the runners go out too fast, about 30-45 minutes faster than they planned. Many people either drop or stop at the 100k mark. The loop format and the fact that 100k runners are also eligible for the buckle makes it easy for many runners to drop out. The start at 6AM when temperatures are still nice and cool only adds fuel to the desire to go out too hard and fast. The race course consists of 6 x 15.34-mile loops with runners reversing direction after each loop and one final 8.7-mile loop for the finish. It's single track and fire roads, not too technical and many participants opted to use their road shoes although there is an approximately 3-mile rocky section that has given some of the runners some grief. If you hate rocks you'd love this section. If you're suffering from blisters you'd heart x2 this section. It's not what I would call a hilly trail run although those hills will hurt on the second half of the race. Despite all that the finishing rate for this years race, 72 finishers out of 147 starters! I'm with the popular theory that many people go out too fast. I don't know what else it could be.

This would be an easy race to run without crew or pacer. You come to the start / finish area so often you have frequent access to your gear. Many runners simply had their bag o' stuff waiting for them at the end of each loop. The aid stations (3) was stocked with food and beverages. Curiously though, in the middle of the night, the main aid station at the start and finish area had no chicken soup, ran out of pizza, and only had leftover fare from earlier in the day. I saw only one volunteer working at the time too. Maybe there was a missed assignment, it's the first time I've seen that in a 100. Thankfully the ESCK triathlon club who was camped on the other end of the finish area had leftover pizza for my runner.

From Phoenix Skyharbor airport the drive to our hotel was about 45 minutes, from our hotel to McDowell Mountain Park was just another 25 minutes. From the race site it was a short drive to a Safeway and fast food chains in the area. The Safeway was great for supplies, ice and food healthier than what you would get at the usual fast food chains. It also had a Starbucks. I'm a Peet's Coffee guy myself but I'll take Starbucks over most coffee served in restaurants and hotels if Peet's isn't available.

Wear gaiters! The trails are sandy and gravely. I forgot my gaiters and had my low-cut Drymax socks. I had debri inside my shoe and inside my socks the whole time I paced Tony. Miraculously I only had one small blister on one of my toes undoubtedly caused by the sand and debri. I did have to empty my shoes and socks after every loop. That was a genius move forgetting the gaiters. Sometimes I stop and think to myself, "how did you get this far?". This was one of those moments.

Drink lots of fluids and watch your salt. The warmest it got out on the course was 78 degrees fahrenheit but it felt warmer than that. It felt hotter when the sun hit you directly. Lather up on the sunscreen unless you are one of those folks who don't fear skin cancer and thinks that sunscreen messes with your pores and sweating. I highly recommend a bandana. Ice bandanas during a hot day are a Godsend. They are easy enough to make and if you don't know how there is bound to be a volunteer who can help you. Think ice burrito wrapped around your neck where it makes the most good - icing those jugulars.

Susan getting some help with her ice bandana from Lori, her crew and pacer. You can see Tony fiddling with his in the background.

The temperature dropped a lot during the night, coldest in the hours right before sunrise. I have no specific reading but it felt like it dropped to the low 50s. I run in the evening fog of San Francisco all the time and it felt like that. Tony and I only had our long sleeves and we got quite cold on loop 6, approximately between the hours of 2-6AM. Curiously there were pockets of warm air that moved through the course and we stopped on more than one occasion to catch these warm drafts.

Halloween costumes are encouraged in this race.

At one point during the night I brought over some folks to meet "Wonder Woman", they ooh'd and ahh'd and a couple of the ladies squeeze his padded boobs. I think he enjoyed it even though he was busy eating, drinking and getting ready for another loop. He ran the race with no crew and no pacer, just his black duffel waiting for him at a table at the end of every loop. Many runners followed this format. He would finish 21:05, best male costume, and would make his 7am flight back to San Francisco.

Totally friendly, relaxed, easy going and low-key. Because of the loop format most of the spectators, crew, pacers and volunteers were all at one location it made for a festive day and a not so lonely night. I joked with the ESCK folk that I wished I wasn't pacing so I could continue hanging out by their fire and socialize all night. Tents were allowed for the entire event and some runners camped instead of booking a room at a motel. Personally I like my hot showers in the morning but I've done the camp and race thing myself and I've enjoyed that as well.

In between Bob and Tony's loops I got meals and supplies but for the most part I was just hanging out at the race site. I was like a top spinning to and fro. If socializing was an event in ultra like swimming and biking is an event in triathlon then I would place in the races all the time. I spent my time checking in on the runners I knew, meeting new people, talking with my fellow crew members, taking pictures, crewing for Bob, Tony and anyone else who needed it.

Tony's race was great the first two loops, his pace was right on, not too fast and not too slow. He was running with fellow east coast runner's Susan and her husband Chris along with Arizona local Paulette (PJ). However, somewhere on the third loop his stomach went south. "He's not eating" was the report I got from Paulette. That's bad, nothing increases your potential for a full meltdown like not taking in calories. Needless to say I was a little worried and after waiting for a bit at the timing matt I walked into the course to wait for him. Sure enough after about a half hour or so I see him with Susan, Chris had dropped back because of the heat.

Despite his protests to rest for a bit, I managed to get him to sit down for a few minutes while I filled his water bottles with Gatorade, prepared an ice bandana and got him something to eat. He needed to get out of the heat, stop moving for awhile and tank up on calories. Both he and Susan left together and I hoped he could continue taking in his calories.

Next time I saw Tony it was already dark, the temperatures were much cooler and he had recovered from his low point hours earlier. He was feeling good. He managed to stay together with Susan and Chris would come in only a few minutes later. He was able to catch up after falling behind earlier in the day. All three were in good spirits heading into the night. Chris was running sans a pacer but Lori was there for Susan, I was there for Tony and we all left as a group. I calculated in my head the times Tony needed to complete the remaining loops in order to come under 24 hours which was his main goal. From my first mile with him I pushed. I laid the plan out and told him what he needed to do to achieve sub-24. The first couple of miles were good but he would end up having trouble breathing because of some chest pain suffered from a fall earlier. After our first loop it became clear that we wouldn't make sub-24 so we settled on plan B, finish as close to 24 as possible. I let up on the pressure and focused to keep his spirits up. I ended up running/walking in front so I could guide him through the rocky, technical sections of the trail. This worked great in the beginning but not so much in the later miles when he started to fall behind.

Tony and Bob clowning around at race packet pickup.

The next loop was his darkest. We got cold because we didn't bring our shells and he was starting to sleep walk. Coke and Mountain Dew was no longer keeping him awake and the one caffeine pill I gave him didn't do the trick. As I kept traveling in front to call out obstacles, he kept falling back further and further which made him feel isolated and sleepy. Eventually he would call me back to keep him awake with conversation. Around this time I strongly suggested for him to take a nap at the next aid station, just a 10-15 minute quick doze. A quick one to reset, restart his brain. It didn't escape our notice that a couple of runners who were napping when we got to the last aid station had come back stronger and pushed past us. However by the time we had gotten to the next aid station he naturally woke up on his own. We joked that he would start sleep walking again a mile out of the station. Deep, deep, down he found new strength and we slowly came out of that hole.

As we left for our final loop I was battling some pain in my upper right quad muscle, just under the hip flexor. Strange pain, I had never had anything like it. Tony offered to go on his own without me, I laughed at him. Gracious but unnecessary. Sure it hurt but these guys hurt more. Besides how embarrassing would that be? DNFing my pacing duties. I would never let myself live that down. I would only pull out as a pacer if I became a hindrance to my runner. The last loop felt very long, mostly because we were anticipating the end. When you anticipate it only makes things harder, every minute you are not where you want to be only makes you more anxious and angry. I told Tony we need to stop thinking and just keep moving. The way back down from the top of the hill and the last aid station was mostly a run. It was hard for Tony but he did it and because of his hard work we didn't have to run like crazy in the final miles to beat 27 hours. He came in at 26:40. When we got in I looked like the runner and he my pacer. The pain wasn't too bad when we were running but seized up again at the finish. Nothing a little ice and Ben Gay patches didn't help. I already know what caused it and if I'm right it won't bother me in the future. It has something to do with my stride. My running stride is short but my fast walking stride is long. All the fast walking strained the muscle. Just a minor strain and nothing crazy. Tony kept apologizing for the slower pace and I told him he was being foolish.

Bob came out with guns blazing. He came in much faster than anticipated on his first loop running with Leigh. Looking at his eyes I saw wild eyed excitement, you know that look that says "wow that was freakin great". I'm glad he had a great time but it was only the first 15 miles! I counseled him to slow down and had him sitting at the aid station for awhile before heading back out for loop two. Bob knows his body best and he felt he could have kept going at a faster pace than we had planned but I wanted him to stick to the plan. I played it on the conservative side because I wanted him to finish more than anything else. Besides I felt he could always go faster once the sun came down if he felt good but not before. He looked very good during the day, despite the heat. Eyes were always clear and animated, speech was always coherent and upbeat. His composure continued like this into the night despite the onset of some heinous blister problems. Tony stepping on them was no help either:)

Bob was also fortunate to have had two great pacers, Dusty and J~Mom and they kept him going all through the night.

Bob and his superstar pacers.

Our new friend from ESCK Tri was having a phenomenal race while all of this was going on. Reading her report I now have a clue of how she was really feeling but from the outside looking in she looked just fine. No more the worse for wear in a 100-mile race. You're supposed to look a little twisted, beat, and in the later miles, ready to finish. She dug deep and finished. Sorry PJ, that was me who was putting ideas into your crew's head about finishing under 24 hours. I didn't know this caused you more stress!

PJ had the best support crew I've ever seen in a race, any race. She had an aid station all to herself with lots of volunteers and wiling pacers. PJ you are one lucky, spoiled runner:)

Tony and PJ at the start, PJ is in her "Rainbow Brite" costume. Did I say that right PJ? Who is Rainbow Brite?

Jen and Josh giving PJ's feet a little tlc.

Sore upper right quad, one tiny blister on my left pinky toe. Iced the quad right afterwards and Tony gave me some Ben Gay patches, it was fine by the next day. Weird problem to have. It hasn't bothered me since and I've been running, doing lunges with the medicine ball and squats, no problem. I was using my Drymax socks and they came through for me even though I had no gaiters and had to empty my shoes and socks periodically from all the debris. Considering all the junk in my socks and shoes I was very lucky. If I end up doing this race in the future, gaiters and Drymax's trail socks, which are specifically built to keep junk out of the sock itself is a must.

What an exceedingly good time that was. Thank you Javelina and to all the runners and volunteers. Kudos ESCK Triathlon Club. Mahalo Arizona.

One last final shout out to fellow bay area runner Marissa "Scrappy" Walker for finishing her first 100-mile ultra. Way to go Marissa!


  1. Great post looks like a blast of a race, one to add to the "to do list"

  2. Anonymous8:27 PM

    Hey Rick its me JEN! I love your write up! Was such a good time. Am looking forward to whats next! HEY if you do Vermont, let us know! Josh is from there, need a crew? :)

  3. I finally read it all! :>)

    Why didn't you tell me you needed gaiters? I would have given you mine silly!!! They were ugly so maybe you didn't want them. LOL I thought that you just didn't use them.

    It was such an awesome race!! What a treat to get to hang with you and Bob in one weekend. Then to meet the rest of the community was great! Thank you for bringing my very own shwag bag!

    Looking forward to 2009 and hopefully another ultra event with the gang! :>)