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The Javelina Jundred was started by a Phoenix-based ultrarunner named Geri Kilgariff in 2003. The idea for Javelina allegedly started out as a joke, but ended up being quite popular, with 180 people registering the first year. Javelina is a loop course, the first loop 22.3 miles in length, and loops 2-5 19.45 miles. My first 100 miler (Fire Fest 100) was similar; a loop course in the desert. Loop courses are nice for crew, who can sit at the start/finish line, and nice for pacers, who can also simply pick up a runner at start/finish. From a runner's perspective, loop courses are nice mentally, because you know exactly what lays in store. On the other hand, you know exactly what lays in store, and the format might make it easier to drop.
This year, there were 513 finishers, 269 who did not finish, and 4 unofficial finishers (those who took slightly longer than the 30 hour cutoff, but still finished the race). Most ultras are limited to a few hundred runners by permits, so Javelina felt huge. The start line was loud, crowded, and full of energy. For the first few miles, I was caught in a conga line because I started in the back half of the pack I did that purposely, because I didn't want to be tempted into starting too fast. Because there were three different distances and a large field of racers on a loop course, I was never truly alone. I could see people the entire race, or I was being passed by people, or I was running past someone. Every time I passed a runner, we exchanged encouragement and my spirits were lifted.
Javelina is also a massive Halloween party, with people dressed in costume, music and dancing, an on-site tattoo artist, and generally good vibes. Part of its immense popularity is the atmosphere, and I was blown away by not only the overall positivity, but by how everyone I interacted with seemed genuinely joyful to be there.
But getting down to race day. I signed up for Javelina because so many people I know and love have done the raced, and loved the race. The only negative thing I've ever heard about Javelina came from a race director with a race on the same weekend, who was annoyed that people were flocking to Arizona instead of doing his race. "Javelina is easy," he scoffed, and I thought "no 100 miler is ever that easy." In terms of what's easy, though, I'd say everything is always relative. I spend a lot of my time climbing and running in the mountains, so the flatter course both appealed to me, and didn't. I knew I could probably run pretty fast, but I didn't spend much time training for a flat, fat course. Nevertheless, I found the course to be entirely runnable (until it wasn't), somewhat rocky, and enjoyable precisely because it was so fast. The miles ticked by quickly, even as the day warmed up. By noon, temperatures were in the mid-80's, which is not very hot if you're used to Arizona heat, and extremely hot if you're not.
I made sure to start the race hydrated and drank a liter of water in between each aid station on the first loop. After the first loop when it started warming up, I drank a liter and a half between aid stations, supplementing water with electrolytes and GU Roctane. I also wore an ice bandana around my neck and wore my trusty Anetik sun shirt. Despite all this, the heat made me nauseous and I spent the better part of the day drinking Roctane or Gatorade, taking tiny sips of Spring Energy gels, and eating small portions of mashed potatoes. Each time I ate, I felt nauseas for awhile until my stomach settled, and then I'd feel fine until I inevitably had to take in more nutrition. Before my fifth loop, Mike handed me a Tums tablet which helped (sort of?), or maybe I just stopped caring by then.
The course gently climbs for the first 10 or so miles, but it isn't steep at any point, making it fairly runnable. The first half is also rockier than the second half, with patches of loose sand. It reminded me of running through Joshua Tree; nothing but cacti, rocks, heat, and unforgiving sun.
The first loop went by in a blur because I was bouncy and fresh, and because the temperatures hadn't climbed yet. On loop two, I slowed slightly, tied an ice bandana around my neck, and took two salt tabs. The third loop was the worst in terms of how I felt; the heat was wearing on me, and although I'm not used to running in blazing temperatures, I was able to maintain my hydration. By the end of the third loop, nausea had set in hard, and it wouldn't go away the rest of the day. My original plan was to have Mike pace my fourth loop because I figured that would be the most difficult mentally. When I got to the start/finish, my friend Gunnar was waiting to pace me, and Mike had agreed to pace my final lap.
Loop four was amazing and terrible at once. I was grateful for Gunnar's company as the sun went down and the Jackass night runners whizzed by. We maintained a steady pace, and he forced me to keep eating. In the middle of our loop, my nose started bleeding due to the dry desert air, and it would bleed for nearly 30 minutes. I had a bandana tied around my wrist and I used that to soak up the blood. By the time I reached an aid station, my bandana was red and my face was covered in dried blood. A medic at the aid station wiped my face and joke, "I though you were in costume!"
By the time I picked up Mike for lap five, I was both excited and sleepy. It was past my normal bedtime, but I knew by then that I would finish fast. Mike chatted sparingly, and I maintained a steady pace, grateful that he was able to be by my side. After we passed the final aid station only four miles from the finish, we caught my friend Andrea, who was nearly done with her fourth loop. As we passed, she cheered, "drop Mike!" and I chortled, then coughed, then ran toward the finish, where four people were cheering (it was 3 in the morning after all), and where a very kind man handed me a buckle.
Best things: amazing volunteers, amazing atmosphere, and a fun way to interact with a ton of people during a race. The start/finish is energizing to run through every loop and a great way for crew to be part of the festivities. The course itself is gentle in terms of climbing and footing.
Things I'd do differently: The first thing I'd do differently is heat train. I didn't do any sauna training or even run in the heat that much. My days are busy, so I normally run before (and sometimes after) work. Here in Laguna, the mornings are often overcast and chilly. I know enough to take salt and stay hydrated on hot days, but my body wasn't accustomed to the heat which is likely why I became nauseous. The second thing I'd do differently is take the first lap a bit slower. As is often the case, I was ready to race and may have started a touch too quickly. It's easy to go out blazing on the Javelina course, but you'll thank yourself if you can reign it in a bit.