#339 Javalina 100 - Race Report

Javalina 100 done! Buckle #24 earned! This was a tough one, I like the desert and one set in the Sonoran just outside of Phoenix in the winter time seemed ideal for a pasty faced English chap who doesn't like the heat much. The near cardiac I had when I looked that the long range weather forecast and saw 93F was a surprise, last Autumn at Bear it was -9C and Yellowstone -12C, luckily it wasn't quite that hot but was 72F, at 0330 and was probably in the mid 80s by 0900... this was set in McDowell Mountain Regional park 6 loops of 15 odd miles and a bonus short lap to finish. The plan was pretty simple, go out like a bat out of hell before it got too hot and see how things go... and for the first loop was just fine 2:20 or so, 8.5 miles up the hill, 6.5 down, through the "sandy section", "the bloody rocky section" and then the "nice section" each lap you switch direction so you see everyone else...

It was about quarter of a mile into the second lap where the tough bit starts, a combination of sweat and sun screen in the eyes and by the time I'd sorted that out it was, wow I feel rough, in fact, wow I feel tired and sick! A bit of background being that I flew over on Wednesday, unfortunately the flight was a good 12 hours late, so basically missed a nights sleep, hadn't slept that great since, and then kind of hit me, yawn, yawn, yawn, it's 0830 in the morning! Then the nausea started, so stopped eating for the rest of lap 2, speed slowed off and its getting real warm, the downside of seeing everyone else is that the trail is fairly narrow in places and avoiding folk isn't too bad, but I spend the rest of the race not trying to touch anything, stuff looks a bit fluffy in places but all the flora involved the phrase "bloody big spikes" (oh and saw some real scary looking snake too!).

So it's all nice, lots of cacti blue skies, mountains, huge views, everyone very friendly, just feel rotten, lap three fancied absolutely nothing and 45 miles in and not eating is not a good place to be, coke and electrolytes is all I can fuel myself on, drinking tons and sweating like a little piggy. Lap four and make a bit of a mistake of not taking my head torch and just take a little torch and don't make as much progress as I think I should, the night comes down and snail mode starts! Lap 5 I think I visited every toilet on the course and at the end Ed Ettinghausen is right behind me (he makes me look a complete amateur with his vast ultra experience) and he kindly lets me join him and his pacer and lap six we shoot the breeze meandering around, sub 24 went hours ago and time stretches out a bit, the last little lap takes a while chatting to folk, visiting more toilets, meet some real interesting ultra runners, Ed knows everyone! Finished in about 27:25 or so in the end, now in McDonalds as the appetite is firmly back again!


I've been fortunate enough to have been able to travel to the US every Autumn since I've started running and there is such a wide choice of races that even after the sixth straight Autumn trip there are still a million options! I'd been scouting around for a "big" US 100 to do and had finally settled on Rio Del Lago 100, so that was the main focus, what else to do? Well that grew in to a bit of a road trip starting with Javalina 100, or Javalina Jundred as they like to tag it. This is a looped 100 in the desert of the McDowell Mountain Park on the outskirts of NE Phoenix. These are the sorts of races I want to be doing, out in the wilds a bit, nice scenery, nice buckles and a chance for a bit of tourism too! It's over the Halloween weekend so perhaps a bit more "fun" than some 100s, the aid stations are themed and some runners do a bit (or a lot!) of fancy dress, I did note however that as the race went along the fancy dress element faded off a bit for some folk!

Well this trip did not start off well as my flight got delayed about 12 hours, luckily I was flying out on the Wednesday as had to drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix, but still I arrived at my hotel at 6am rather than 6pm, so in summary, missed a nights sleep! Long drive, jet lag and really had very little sleep before the race.

Second issue was the weather. Now I've been to Arizona a bunch of times, and despite that I somehow managed to utterly overlook the fact that it might be hot. I just figured, November, Arizona, oh that'll be about 70F, sunshine, bit of a chilly night. Nearly had a cardiac when I first saw the long range forecast of 93F on race day! Gulp! This did drift down a little bit but when I arrived at the packet pick up on Friday afternoon the car had 94F on the gauge. Gulp! Really wish I hadn't bothered to get the number/shirt early as it was optional and took almost an hour which didn't impress me, two long queues when you're tired and hot and probably 30 minutes of that was standing in the sun. Not a good first impression I must say. They had a record number of runners this year, 550 for the 100 miler and 150 for the 100k and they could really have either done with more volunteers or had longer than a 3 hour window for the packet pick up as of course everyone piled in at the same time.

But anyway got that sorted, feet taped and wondered about what shoes to wear and in the end settled on virtually brand new hokas (don't try this at home kids!) my worn in pair, which are awful close to my worn out pair have a tiny tear on one side of one shoe and reading reports about the sand and fine grit I thought that was an open invitation to get junk in my feet and with the temperatures I was thinking my Saloman GTX would keep the sand out and the sweat in. I did have them in the drop bag though just in case.

The race is six loops of 15.3 miles and a short loop 7 of just over 9 miles making it around 101 in total. You can have drop bags at the base camp and at the far end of the loop, I didn't bother with the latter so just had the one at base camp. Few nibbles, jacket and a couple of spare shirts and shorts and socks. Pretty minimal really, only real worry was getting cold at night but the forecast was in the 60s but in the desert things can be chilly so best be prepared.


I was up far too early on race morning with the jet lag and set off pretty early for the race. They shuttle you in from a car park near the entrance (make sure you have your parking permit to hand - typical American bureaucracy really, have to print out a bit of paper for a "permit" to park in bit of desert 10 miles from anywhere, and was checked twice!) I made the rookie mistake of leaving it on the back seat. So had to pull over, get out the car, go get it.... Mystery to me. Am sure there is some good reason for it but if the permit fee is included in the entry fee.... I don't know!

Next minor annoyance (do you detect a theme here?) was the queue for the shuttle bus, that took about half an hour whilst the marshalls tried in vain to move a great big queue of people about who were blocking the road. Half the problem was that nobody was allowed to drop people off, and crews and spectators were on the shuttle too, so on my minibus there were maybe 5 runners and 8 crew, with chairs and coolers and you get the idea. I have to say I felt sorry for the volunteers as they were doing their best but they needed another bus I suspect with the volume of people they had. Problem then being my "hour to sort myself" before the race ended up being 15 minutes by the time I'd walked to the base camp (you get dropped off maybe 500 yards away) and I noticed that some folk were still arriving by the time we started. Now they may have been late but suspect they were held up by the shuttle issues.

So anyway found a spot for my drop bag, went to the loo and then was off basically! Now my plan was pretty simple as was hopeful of a sub 24. Basically it was already warm, it was 72F according to the car, due to get up to mid 80s, it was dark to start off with but only for a half an hour or so, so picked up a $1 torch from Walmart to throw rather than bother with the headtorch (many runners I noticed didn't bother at all and just relied on the combined light from others) to shine they way and just get the first loop out of the way as quick as I could before the day started warming up.

I have to say I wasn't feeling great right from the get go. Had a bit of a sore throat and despite the warmth (I just had on my short sleeved "hot weather" shirt on and shorts), my nose was running and basically did all day. The other issue I quickly noticed was that although I felt I was working hard, I really didn't seem to be going that fast. I'll admit I'm probably 7 pounds heavier than I'd like to be but breathing was quite hard and again I had rather discounted the altitude but we were up about 3000' rising to maybe 3500' so really not much, but perhaps enough to slow me down 30s a mile or so.

The loop was very easy to navigate, there were no real turns, a few forks which were well marked but with so many people around you were never alone so always someone in the distance to follow, especially later as each loop you change direction and by loop 3 there is basically a continual stream of runners coming the other way. It's 2 miles to the first aid station, that's the "sandy bit" then 6.5 miles to the next one at the far end of the loop, Jackass Junction, and this is basically a long drag and fairly rocky in places, not seriously rocky, but a million trip hazards and never really steep either, but just gradual. The best bit then was from Jackass down to Rattlesnake Ranch, 5.2 miles then just 1.5 or so back to base. I did feel sorry for the Rattlesnake aid station folk as that one for some reason was plagued by wasps through the day, they did go home at night but late afternoon and it really was buzzing there! (and yes did see a snake, only one though wandering off in to a bit of scrub, didn't try to examine too closely to see if it was a rattlesnake! Oh and there are tarantulas too here, tip at night, green eyes are spiders, blue eyes are beetles!)

Took a couple of miles to spread out where I didn't feel I was running in somebodies steps and only took maybe 20 minutes before I didn't need the torch, so stuck that in my pocket, put the music on and head down, let's get on with it! It's funny how on the first loop it just about all seemed runnable, what became known as the "rock garden" seemed OK, the hills seemed modest and what was the talk about the sandy bit? Where was that as hadn't noticed it too much!

So first lap done and 2:33 in, wasn't feeling great, had only had some M&Ms and was a mile in to the second loop (going out the other way so now had to avoid runners going the other way) when I managed to get sweat in to both my eyes at once, there was a gentle zephyr of a breeze one way, but when you turned around it got real hot real quick and I had to stop for a while to sort myself out as couldn't see a thing! One place in the world not to wander without seeing where you are going is the desert, there was a fair bit of desert flora around and all of it involves spikes! Much of my day was spent making sure I gave a foot berth to anything and everything, some things look fluffy but I can assure you they're not!

I really started feeling pretty sick after this and before long incredibly I got an attack of the sleepies! Seriously was half asleep at 0900, yawning and feeling nauseous. This was not my plan at all and will confess that I had a lot of DNF thoughts over the next few miles as was rather struggling and its an awful long way to go when you're in trouble that early. (My ankle was fairly sore too, but the benefit of being a bit sick is that didn't seem so bad!) I decided to not eat anything to see if that would help with the stomach and on loops 2 and 3 I basically just had coke, a couple of crisps and electrolytes. Made the first of what I think in the end was 8 pit stops (all of the aid stations had port a loos thank fully), never known anything like it!

Lap 2 was done in 5:55, so that's OK but it was Lap 3 where things started to slow down rather more. First problem really was that when you're running against 700 people on a 5 foot wide path it's not too bad, everyone kept to the right and it would be fine if 1) there weren't spikes on everything and 2) there weren't 8.9 million trip hazards, especially thought the rock garden miles. Basically as is usually the way with trails there is an ideal line, but with runners coming the other way if that line was on their side then you were picking your way through the clag trail. Now to put this into perspective it wasn't bad, it wasn't that rocky, the trail is generally wide enough that two can pass with zero worries, its just something to think about and it slowed me down a fair bit, especially when you're hot, head down and feeling sick. Felt especially sorry for the quick guys as they must have to weave a fair bit. I suspect when the race was 200 runners it was nice to see everyone, but 700 on that trail I think too many to be heading back and forth all day.

Lap 3 was a struggle for the first half (in fact really all the loops were a struggle up, better down!) but the second half on the nicer downhill trail I made some good progress. 45 miles in 9:32, not as quick as I would have liked, but not that bad. Was struggling a bit and felt that was my best effort or close to it, was worried about fluids, was on two water bottles and drinking tons but not weeing, had been once and was far too yellow for my liking. The aid stations had ice which was good so basically just filled up the bottles with ice, topped up with water and it melted as I went around. Just a comment about the aid stations, they did seem to struggle a bit at times with volume of runners, some times you could just get in and out but others you were helping yourself and all takes time when you're still trying to press. My discipline was good early, but still taking too much time too often.

End of lap three I discover that someone's crew had set up where my drop bag was, thanks guys, wouldn't mind so much if they were actually looking after their runner but were just basically porky Americans getting in the way and somehow I suspect they weren't supposed to be there (well, I know they weren't as there were lanes marked out for the drop bags and they usefully set up right in my one!) Just another minor annoyance, you're tired, hot, sweaty and you don't want to have to maneuve raround folk to get to your bag, go find some space, maneuver back again. I could blame this for making a mental error but basically decided that I would press real hard this loop to get in as many miles as possible before dark and figured I wouldn't need the head torch, just the hand one, take some caffeine and get on with it as feeling a bit better stomach wise now.

So obviously I forgot the caffeine forgot to pick up any of my snacks and wonder now what I actually did there!

This really is the point in the 100s where you earn good times and although its hard to explain to people I actually felt better with 45 miles on my legs than I did with 15 and was set on working hard this loop. The peril of this event, and why it has like a 50% DNF rate is that they have a get out of jail card at 4 loops, (or more) in that you can drop down to the 100k and get a 100k buckle, which is very similar to the 100 mile one. So the game simply is to get out of the aid station in to the 5th loop. So Traviss, have a good 4th loop, get 61 miles under your belt before dark and sort yourself out for 39 miles in 11 hours or so in the night

Now despite feeling better and working hard, I wasn't making great progress, thankfully the wind had picked up a bit during the day so wasn't too bad heat wise but as the night came in that dropped and I felt oddly hot to go with the general never feeling quite right situation. Rolled up at Jackass and they had a cooler of beer! Ice cold beer and I'll confess I just chugged a bottle straight down, a nutella wrap and a snickers bar. The appetite had returned a bit by now! The night was coming in and must have been five miles from base camp in the clag before I just had to get the torch out. $1 Walmart throwaway torches are not bright! Rocky trail and not much light and I was crawling. Eventually rolled in to the end of Lap 4 at 13:41 and that was the end of the 24 hour concept.

Spectators blocking the route to the toilets, someone else's crew now blocking my drop bag route, but the pizza went down nicely as I trudged off on loop 5. I'll confess to a fairly major sense of humour failure for the next 5 hours that I spent on lap 5. The first problem I had was lights. 700 runners, and lots of pacers with lights coming the other way, I was just dazzled half the time! My night vision isn't great, my trail "running" at night is hopeless and there were times where I just simply couldn't see the line I was supposed to be on. So basically I just ground to a halt speedwise. I'm not even sure how I can train for this sort of thing, I need to be better at night on trails, but there were times all I could see was a featureless surface which I knew had bumps and lumps on it and the distances and shadows all seem wrong. In the day I can just see the "line" I need to be on, at night I'm just continually picking my steps, slowly.

To any Americans reading this can you do me a favour please too? Can you think of something other to say than "Good Jawb". I'm not kidding, the 400th time you've heard this in 2 hours gets a bit grating when you're tired, fed up, sore and unhappy! lol It's that bad time of an ultra I find, you know barring a disaster you're going to finish, you're in no danger of missing any cut offs. Its just grind out 35 miles kind of thing. My new plan was basically hoping Ed Ettinghausen would catch me up. Ed is a major league top chap and a joy to spend time with, makes me look an utter lightweight and was looking forward to a bit of a catch up. I'd been maybe 4 miles ahead at one stage but hoping with my snail like progress he'd catch me.

So lap 5 eventually is done and 5 seconds behind me is Ed! So go and sit down with him and his crew/pacer Brian and they kindly let me tag along for the rest of the distance. Ed is struggling a little bit and is basically going to march it out and frankly that suits me right down to the ground! It's a long night in November but lap 6 was very pleasant just shooting the breeze, mild night, lots of chat, we're not going terribly fast but hours ahead of cut offs and we're beyond caring about 25 or 26 or 27 or even 28 hour finishes! I'm still in and out of loos, we find some poor pilgrim laying down at one stage and we get him along to the aid station (and 5 minutes later he's fine) and although the back end of the loop was a struggle with tiredness we're getting it done. 24:05 by the time we sit down again and the plan is to let Ed sleep for a little while as he's terribly tired and if we hang around a bit it'll be light enough that we can lose the lights. Not to mention we have 6 hours to do 9 miles. I have a burger, chat to folk, try to sleep as well but typically now feeling fairly wide awake!

As is usually the way we all perk up in the light, we chat, we wander, we curse at the rock garden, I go to the loo, Ed knows everyone it seems and chat to more folk that we pass or who pass us. It's all rather pleasant really, nice morning, not too warm (in fact I never bothered with any night gear, just wore a short sleeved shirt the whole time), took about 2 hours longer than we'd have liked mind you and whilst it was a bit criminal walking down a lovely long downhill we were long since beyond caring by then and who cares what time you do at this stage. Not us that's for sure!

I think if you'd seen us wandering along chatting away you'd have an awful hard time equating this to the struggle of 100 mile races, how tough they are, and so on. I suspect it looked rather like a Sunday morning stroll!

27:24 in the end and all in all not that unhappy with that. I didn't have my A game, never felt great, the course was tougher than I thought it would be (they always are!) and was happy to finish, not least as having a look at the results it looks like a 50% DNF rate or so.

The final annoyance? About a 30 minute wait for a shuttle back to the car park. Again the first shuttle that came along I couldn't get on as filled up with spectators and crew. Put it this way, if I was RD I think I'd give runners some kind of priority!

Am writing this a couple of days afterwards and already the annoyances are abating, they're generally ones of scale and the event has grown and I suspect the logistics behind it haven't so much and probably just beginning to creak at the seams a bit. I think also to be fair much of the annoyances were to me alone. It might sound odd but Americans stick to the right side of paths, like driving, being English, I go left, so when you're not thinking on a trail and you're both on the Indian Line then I'd take a step left, as would the chap coming the other way before I realise I'm in the wrong and step the other way. Now that doesn't sound any big deal. Till you've done it 80 times! Had I been an hour quicker then I bet I wouldn't have been so dazzled by lights in the rock garden, and likewise would have gotten through there one more time in the light and so on.

Perhaps the most striking thing though was that there were times when I thought, I tell you what, I'm actually enjoying running here in the desert! I almost never have "oh this is nice" moments when actually running so that's a huge plus!

Things I Learnt

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