The Javelina Jundred

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Starting line of Javelina Jundred

I love the mountains, the trails, the desert, but at mile 70 of my first 100-mile race, I loved none of that. All I loved was my bed.

I had been running for about 20 hours at this point. I had taken a conservative approach to my race and weathered the 100 degree heat of the day. At mile 60 I was sure that I was going to finish this race and by mile 70, every doubt imaginable had creeped into my mind. I wondered what business I had thinking that I could finish 100 miles. I had only ever run 50! Javelina Jundred is known for its deceptively low finisher rate and I had taken this race on without enough experience nor the mental strength to get it done.

So, there I sat, at mile 70 in the Jackass Junction aide station. A medic handed me a barf bag but offered little sympathy. I leaned over the bag as they reminded me that I’d only feel better if I ate.

Eating was very possibly the last thing I wanted to do.

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Mile 70 of my first 100-miler

People came into the aid station, laid down on the cots and told the medic they were done. Others were asleep, surely no longer able to go on to finish the race. The pull to quit was hard to resist especially when someone with a car ready to head back to the start line was asking me what I wanted to do.

I had Frank, my husband, with me by this point as my pacer. He assured me I was not going to quit. I told him that I needed to lay down for 10 minutes and then I promised that I would eat. The medic watched me as I curled up on the cot, I could tell that he was sure that my race was done. I layed there thinking of the 30 miles I still had to get done and suddenly I understood every person who has ever DNF’ed at the end of an ultra. After doing 70 miles, every mile felt like an eternity. All I wanted was to sleep.

After 5 minutes, Frank nudged me awake. “Come on, let’s go”. I shoved some watermelon down, a few pieces of banana and asked the medic “Am I going to feel this nauseous the rest of the race”?

“Probably.” He responded.

“I guess I can live with that.” I said, finally standing up from the cot.

I put the headlamp back on my head, added a few layers and after over an hour of feeling bad for myself and contemplating giving up, I left Jackass Junction to finish the race.

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My middle-of-the-night outfit

Frank and I ran through the darkness of the desert, singing Backstreet Boys songs, and looking for other headlamps in the night. Few were left. I could really tell that the race field had thinned out. Many of us hadn’t continued.

Javelina Jundred is a looped course with five 20-mile loops that bring you to the four aid stations in the desert, including one that is near the cars. Each station has a theme, and they are all pretty comfortable, which is a problem for anyone contemplating a DNF (Did Not Finish). As we neared Coyote Camp, I could hear a few howls in the distance. It was surreal to be out there so late in the night.

We breezed through the aid station and made our way back to the start/finish line where my crew captain, Lindsay, was worrying that I was about to come in to DNF. I recently had the realization that at the rate I was going, I would have to deal with the heat again on Sunday morning after a nearly 100 degree day on Saturday. I entered the aid station in tears, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up.

The problem with running 100 miles is that running 80 miles is really far, but you still have 20 left. For the first time, deep into my race, I finally understood why a person would quit a 100 mile race after having already gone over 70 miles. I realized that when running 100 miles, a finish is no more guaranteed at mile 90 as it is at mile 1. Anything can happen and the further you are along in the race, the more likely something will.

In the aid station, we took off my shoes to check on my blisters. My feet looked like I had been badly burned. I had giant, pus filled blisters between every toe, on my heels, and on the pads of my feet. With my shoes off, I could no longer fit my swollen feet back into my normal size and for the last 20 miles, I had to borrow Lindsay’s shoes which were a full size larger than mine.

After tears, and a little food, I left the aid station for my final lap with my pacer Kay Kay. I didn’t know her previously to the race, so it was nice to hear her stories about running and other ultras she had crewed.

The sun came up, and once again I was subjected to the heat of Pheonix, AZ, but unlike before, I knew I didn’t have to weather it for long. I was less hesitant than on Saturday. I realized that I had already been through the worst of it. As we came into Jackass Junction one last time, I saw the same medic that tried to convince me to eat in the night. He was surprised to see me at all. No other runners had laid down on a cot and gotten back up to finish the race.

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Leaving the final aid station before the finish line.

We took off from the aid station one last time. The miles ticked by and I started getting oddly emotional. I was crying, wanting to sleep but I was also ticking by the fastest miles I had run all race. Suddenly I was seeing sub-9:00 miles (which is not slow in a 100-miler). I passed others walking to the end with tears streaming down my face and I knew that I was going to finish. Every mile was faster than the previous and as I started to see the final aid station I broke out into an all out sprint. I crossed the finish line and was handed my belt buckle. All of the effort and exhaustion was finally done.

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The finish line

Finishing a 100-mile race and a Western States qualifier has been a goal of mine for a long time. It wasn’t until recently that I had the confidence to sign up and attempt such a huge undertaking. I’m glad that I did. I learned a lot about running, myself, and ultramarathons in general, but most importantly, I learned that anyone can run an ultra. Finishing 100 miles takes no more physical strength than a marathon does, but it does take more mental strength. I’m not sure where you find the mental strength, and I have no idea where I found mine, but even in the darkest moments in my own head, I did.

Running 100 miles was wonderful, terrible, exhausting, exhilarating, and quite possibly the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

I can’t wait to do it again.

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How not to run a marathon: My Route 66 Marathon Recap

On November 20, I ran the Route 66 Marathon and to say that it was a disaster is an understatement. I made a lot of mistakes, both in my control and out of my control, that lead to a bad race. Here, I am going to tell you how NOT to run a marathon. It’ll serve as my race recap, and by the end, you’ll have a pretty good feel for what happened during my race. If you want to run a really good race, don’t do these six things.

Step 1: Run a 50K four weeks before your goal marathon

Exactly 4 weeks before Route 66, I ran my first ultramarathon. It was a pretty amazing experience, but it was not one that set me up for a good marathon in the weeks to come. Although I did bounce back rather quickly, the “fast” was zapped right out of my legs. I didn’t feel sore or injured, but I just couldn’t get myself moving at the paces I could before the race. I continued to push and gave myself only a two week taper heading into Route 66 after weeks of 45 and 50 miles per week (following the ultra). I remained positive and figured this wouldn’t hurt me too bad.

Step 2: Get super depressed that Donald Trump was elected president and just stop running

I had a lot of stressors heading into the race. There was a flood in my apartment, which booted Frank and I (and Elly and Sydney) out of our apartment for about a week. I didn’t have access to my stuff and felt generally unsettled. THEN TRUMP WAS ELECTED. I was depressed and couldn’t find the will to run. In fact, given what the world was coming to, I didn’t feel like running was all that important. So, I just stopped. I ran a total of 8 miles heading into the last two weeks before the race. This caused me to lose a lot of fitness and be in the wrong headspace for Route 66.

Step 3: Get your period the day before the race

This was totally out of my control. Unfortunately, with my period, I also get some mild intestinal distress. This time, it wasn’t so mild. I couldn’t eat too well, I was having trouble with liquids (they would go right through me, TMI, I know). I probably spent the day pretty dehydrated, but there really wasn’t much I could do. Note: I did know this was going to happen, but it usually doesn’t affect me this much.

Step 4: Run hard even though you are not really feeling it

I knew at the starting line that things were not looking bright for a PR. I thought about maybe just trying to run even splits for a 4:00 marathon. I figured that would be within my reach, and I still think it was. This would allow me to feel good and not be defeated by the distance. Instead, I ran at the pace I had decided weeks before the race and go for a sub 3:50 marathon (even though I realistically knew that was not going to happen). So, for the first 18 miles, that was the pace I ran at.

Step 5: Don’t slow down when your body is saying “this is too much”

I saw Frank at mile 14, and he jumped out on the course and ran with me for about a half mile. He gave me some water and asked how I was feeling. I thought about it for a moment and said “Tired. I am too tired for mile 14 right now”. I knew it at this point that I was headed for a massive disaster. Instead of slowing down, I thought maybe I should try to catch up to the 3:50 pace group. I figured they could help me through some rough patches. Frank told me that they were just a little ahead of me, so I pushed harder. I tried to ignore the tired and the sick feeling in my stomach and push forward. I never did catch up with them.

Step 6: Stop at EVERY port-a-potty from mile 18 to the end of the race

At mile 18, everything caught up with me. I didn’t hit the usual glucose wall, I hit the poop wall. My stomach flipped out. I stopped visualizing the end of the race, but was instead just looking forward to bathrooms. I ended up at every single port-a-potty until the end of the race. When I ran, I was keeping about an 8:45-8:50 pace, but I was spending 5 minutes at a time in the bathroom, so my 8:50/mi pace slowed to 10/mi and then 11/mi and eventually to 13/mi. I felt like crap (pun intended).

So, if you are running a marathon, don’t do what I did. I think I learned a lot during the race, but it was an overall disappointing performance. My final time (with pooping episodes) was 4:06:37, almost 10 minutes slower than Colfax. I felt pretty bad about it, and took 2 full weeks off from anything running related. Even after returning back, I was having trouble. I wasn’t feeling the usual burn or push. Then, last night, after a short 3-mile run, I came home and was talking all about PRing my half and running Colfax again this year. For the first time since the race, I was feeling like myself again, loving running, the process and all of the ups and downs. In reality, not every race can be a Colfax. Sometimes, they are a poop/bonk fest. Those races are important too.

There are no photos of the race, because I was very sad and crying, so I guess Frank didn’t feel compelled to record that. So, instead here is a photo of Sydney (my cat) sitting on her favorite window sill.

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She’s very cute.

Important Note: I did make it to the port-a-potty every time, so I did succeed in not pooping my pants in a race. Go me!

What’s your worst race? Have you ever had stomach problems on a race course?

 

Colfax Marathon Race Recap

There is a such thing as race magic, where you go out there and everything is just right. You just know from the moment the race starts that you can conquer the whole world and do exactly what you set out to do. Usually that’s because of a combination of preparation, race conditions, and timing. The Colfax Marathon had that magic, but it was largely because of the people.

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At mile high for bib pick up the day before the race

The weather was predicted to be a crisp 40 F with a bit of cloud cover and a high of 60 F… perfect marathon conditions. The race started at 6:00 am, so I woke up at 3:15 am to make sure that I got a parking spot and didn’t get lost heading to the start. I was feeling nervous and my stomach was giving me a bit of trouble. I was in and out of the bathroom constantly pretty much until the gun went off. Food was not working out, so instead I opted for water and coffee and hoped for my stomach to calm before I toed the starting line. Around 5:50, I gave Frank my extra clothes, got into my corral and put my game face on. The 4:00:00 pacer was up ahead a bit and I planned to use the first mile to catch up to him. The race began, but I mostly just stood there waiting for the few hundred people ahead of me to go. By 6:05 am I made it over the starting mat and was running my first marathon.

I took about a half mile to find the 4:00:00 pacer and decided to just hang on to him for a while. His name was Corky and he was funny, outgoing, and pretty much everything you could hope for in a pacer. I told him that I would stay with him until mile 16 and he was happy with that plan. He told us that he wanted to start off slow and get faster during some of the downhill sections of the course. We had a group of about 5 people and for the first 8 miles, we were chatting, laughing and getting to know each other. Troy was hoping for a sub-3:50 marathon and wanted to hold on to us through the half way point. Matt was hoping to shave a few minutes off his PR and Dan and I were just hoping to finish our first marathon in one piece (and hopefully with a 3 as the first number).

Mile 9 took us to a park with a lake. It was very flat and Corky started to up the pace a bit. I could definitely feel that we were going quicker, but I still felt comfortable. So far, the miles were breezing by. There were tons of people cheering us on. This was the point in the course that I realized that I was running terrible tangents and dodging too much. I was already over .1 of a mile off from the mile markers. There were a lot of slower runners around because of the relay, and I was finding myself dodging them often. In total, there were 4 races going on; a marathon relay, a half marathon, a 10-miler, and a marathon. Run Colfax staggered the start so that all of the races would end at the same time. In total, there were about 20,000 people on the course, but less than 2,000 were running the full marathon.

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We reached the half-way point of the race and another pacer, Lauren, joined us. My shoulders were starting to tighten up on me, but everything else felt great. The race went through the Colorado Institute of Design, weaving between statues and sculptures. We had taken a bit of an uphill since the lake and I was starting to feel it in my quads. Lauren reminded me that at 16 we would have a big downhill and I just had to get there. The group hadn’t changed much besides occasional people that would run with us for a few miles and then go ahead or fall behind.

At mile 16ish, we got to the top of the hill and you could see Mile High Stadium out ahead. I was ready to do some cruising, but wasn’t feeling ready to let go of the pace group. Corky reminded me of my race plan, but I told him that I wasn’t feeling mentally strong enough to do 10 miles alone. I stuck with the pace group and just churned a few miles out. By this point, I was starting to feel a little weepy. I had already eaten 3 gels and at mile 17, decided to have another. I was scared of hitting the 20 mile mark, that I would suddenly hit some wall and be unable to move, so I stayed with the pace group. Frank was on his bike and found me around one of the water stations. I quickly hugged him, told him that I was going to do this, and ran off.

We got close to Mile High Stadium, and once again, Corky reminded me of my race plan. He told me that I looked strong, and that I should take off, but to watch out for the hills at mile 23 to the end. From there, I just went. It was past mile 20 and I felt like I could take on the world. I ran into Mile High with a giant smile on my face, because I just knew that I had this, and that today was my day.

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Outside of Mile High Stadium

The climb out of Mile High was tough and I entered into Downtown Denver. This was no doubt the roughest and least scenic part of the course. It was hilly, I was tired, and there was little to no crowd support. Everyone around me was either running the 10-miler or the relay, so they all looked fresh as daisies and I certainly was feeling the miles. This is where I made a really weird mistake. I had a water bottle in my hand that I needed to ditch and I wanted to be “environmentally friendly” and not litter, so I stepped up to a curb to throw it into a garbage can. Boy, should I have just dropped it. I stepped back down and my hamstring seized up. For a moment, I thought I had torn it. I half ran/half hobbled and looked down at my watch. I still had a 5K left and I was starting to get worried that I had just wrecked my race.

This was when I had to dig deep. Everything else felt fine. I wasn’t bonking, no real issues, just this hamstring cramp. As I was starting to feel sorry for myself, one of the guys, Dan, from the 4:00:00 pacing group came up from behind me. He tapped my shoulder and asked if I wanted to crush our sub-4 goal with him. I, of course, said yes and we were off. Dan kept repeating “we only have a few miles left, we got this” and “let’s go crush Sarah Palin’s time” (I had told the pace group how Sarah Palin had run a sub-4 marathon). We were hurting, but we were still smiling. We had another gel and we kept laughing about how awful we felt, but how good everyone else (all those freaking 10-mile runners) looked. My hamstring calmed down and I was feeling pretty good again.

In the last mile, we could see the finish line and all of the people. The crowd kept telling us we were almost there… although by this point, a mile felt like a freaking marathon. As much as it was hurting, Dan and I were smiling and thrilled. As we were heading into the finishing chute, I thanked him for catching me and pulling me along. He had found me as I was going into a dark place and he made everything better. As we crossed the finish line, we both threw up our arms and had big smiles on our faces. The final time was 3:57:19. We crushed that 4:00:00 goal. Dan and I hugged, congratulated each other and went to meet up with our families. As soon as I got out of the finish chute, I saw Frank and gave him a huge hug. I was happy to be done, but honestly, I was most happy to have had such a great time doing it. Maybe I am crazy, but running that marathon was a thrilling experience, and I seriously can’t wait to run another one.

I worked so hard to get to that finish line. Between injuring myself before Chicago and training for this race, this journey has been a long one. As I was running through mile high, all I could think about was how thankful I was for being able to do this and for finally not being injured. I ran a solid and smart race, definitely a negative split and my two fastest miles were in the last 6. I did not bonk, I never found my wall, and I had a ton of fun. I am so glad that I got to run with Corky, Dan, Matt, Lauren, and Troy. They really made the day perfect.

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Exhausted, cold, but a marathon finisher!

After the race, Frank and I chilled out for a bit and waited for my leg cramps to subside. Our friend, Mary, joined us at the finish line and helped me message out my hamstrings (she’s a message therapist). After a little food, Frank and I loaded up in the car, and drove home to Kansas. I gotta say, driving 7 hours after running a marathon is not advised.

I am still over the moon about this race, and to be completely honest, I can’t wait to run another marathon. Everything about Sunday was perfect and I couldn’t have asked for a better race.

Thanks, everyone, for your support! I loved receiving the texts messages from my friends after the race and knowing that all of you were tracking me and cared about my race really meant a lot.

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I’m a marathon finisher, and I have the medal to prove it!