It’s nearly 5pm. Having started this run consisting of 5 laps (of approximately 20 miles each in McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Phoenix, Arizona) almost 11 hours ago, I’ve spent much of it under the hot, hot, hot, OH SO VERY HOT desert sun. And it’s really zapped all my energy – I’m in my third lap, but reduced to a walk and feeling as though this race is slipping away from me. I pull out my phone and text hubby.
“I am (enjoying this experience)”.
“But I’m walking now”.
Then, in quick succession, “Heat really messed my tummy up”.
And finally “Still smiling though”.
I send through a selfie of myself with a forced smile on my face.
Hubby texts me back, “No problem. Nothing but positive thoughts allowed today ok. No matter what.”
Boom. Thank you hubby for this reminder – exactly what I needed. Indeed I’d said it dozens of times aloud going into this race. My goal was to remain positive throughout this race no matter what happens. And of course to finish in under 30 hours so as to qualify to register for Western States 100.
I know in this moment, despite feeling so exhausted from the heat, that both of these goals are 100% attainable. So I immediately snap out of my moment of panic (from which a mini pity party was likely to have ensued) and smile to myself.
I text my pacer, who’s waiting for me back at JQ (Javelina headquarters – ie the start/finish of each of the 5 laps this race consists of).
“Kinda walking a lot now. So a bit behind schedule.”
Right away he texts back, “No worries” and then “I’ll be ready to head out with you on lap 4 (if you want)”.
And I say yes please. I figure I’ll mostly be walking it in, so although he’s not ever run farther than 26.2 miles in one go, he should be just fine to mostly walk 40 miles with me and I’ll gladly take the support.
With that, I continue walking. Hubby has just texted me telling me how great I’m doing. So I text him a picture of my watch – I’m now at 81.72 km into this thing. Just past halfway! And only 10 more miles to JQ… Plus the sun should be going down soon… Things are good. I look around me – the beautiful scenery. The desert is so beautiful in a way completely unlike the Pacific Northwest forest trails. I’m so lucky to be here.
No really, I’m so lucky to be here. I think back to where I was only 9 months ago, at the end of January. I was laid up in bed, on crutches with a broken foot (non-displaced fracture of the 5th metatarsal, bordering the line that distinguishes a tuberosity avulsion fracture from a Jones fracture – the latter of which isn’t known to heal well). I was tired and angry and exhausted and bitter and sad and crushed and defeated. I was full of hopelessness and anguish.
In short I was quite a mess both physically and psychologically. I wasted more than a month feeling very sorry for myself and abusing my body with less than stellar food and drink, and worse, abusing it with terrible thoughts. I was withdrawn and ashamed, and felt completely powerless to do anything about it.
You might be thinking, that reaction sounds a bit over the top for a broken foot, no? And indeed you’d be right. It took me nearly 2 months to come to terms with everything but I realized that ultimately the strength of my body had to be taken away in order for me to understand how important strength of mind is. Working on building strength of the mind is something I’ve never really given much thought to – either you have it or you don’t… Right? Or it’s something you just choose in the moment? Regardless, clearly it was lacking, as nicely demonstrated the minute life got tough and handed me a broken foot.
Ultimately I resolved to work both on building back the strength of my body, but also very importantly and for the first time ever, specifically focusing on building the strength of my mind. I took on a whole new level of appreciation for where my present body and mind were at and what they were currently able to do. Which resulted in a lot of loving thoughts (self love is something I’ve historically always struggled with), reaching for only healing, healthy food/drink and establishing many new self care practices.
In an astonishing only 3 more months time, I was back to running again. Not just little running. At the end of June I ran the 50 km Tenderfoot Boogie ultra with a friend who did that distance only out of pure love and support for me. My foot held up with amazing resilience. A month later, end of July, I ran the Jack & Jill Marathon faster than I’d run it last year. Buoyed by the incredible runs I’d been having I jumped into the next 3 months of training for Javelina with a series of very long runs, once every 2 weeks or so.
So over the last 3 months I ran training runs that took up full days including a 58 km run, a 71 km run, a 100 km run, The Golden Ultra (three day back to back 5k climb, followed by a 60 km run, followed by a 23 km run), a 72 km run and the 50km Baker Lake race (which I ran 35 minutes faster than last year). With my newfound strength of both mind and body, it literally felt like anything was possible.
I knew that all this had prepared me to run a strong race at Javelina. I really needed to finish Javelina because the entire reason I’d chosen this race was to qualify for Western States once again this year (my original qualifier race had been sidelined thanks to broken foot). But after all these strong training runs, I wondered if I dare hope for more than ‘just’ a finish?
Exactly one week before Javelina I received a text from a friend, Ev (hubby and I have been friends with Ev and his wife LA for years now), and it read, “Hey let’s see if we can make it work to come down and sherpa for you!”. Ev is an Ironman triathlete, and I guess in that world you ‘sherpa’ whereas in the ultra world you ‘crew’ and ‘pace’. Any which way, I sent along the details. And four days later he confirmed he was definitely going to be there for me. Wow, I now had a crew / pacer!!
Not only that, but one of my clients had put me in touch with a friend of hers who was going to Javelina, and amazingly she offered me and my pacer to share her crew tent with her and her friends (4 runners plus a few pacers and crew). This was a big deal, as Ev and I had no access to an overhead canopy, lights, tent, chairs and table that pretty much every crew there appeared to have! I’d gone from thinking I’d be doing this all completely solo, to feeling completely supported.
This really brings us back around to race day – Saturday, October 27. Ev had picked me up at 4am and driven us to Javelina headquarters (JQ), the start line. He’d picked me up from the airport yesterday too. And driven me over to race pack pick up. And JQ to scope things out. Already, more than I ever could have asked for.
Anyway, I’d been up since 3am eating my 2 cinnamon ginger oat bars with coffee and now I’m sipping on grapefruit juice. But really, I’d hardly slept at all as I was so darn excited for this race to start I could literally feel the adrenaline coursing through my body all night. Crazy.
We are hanging out at our shared crewing tent, chatting and me hitting up the port a potty just one last time, a million times over. It’s a total party atmosphere, lights and music booming with over 600 runners milling around plus crew members. Ev’s popped on a pair of fox ears which makes me laugh. There’s a ton of Halloween costumes here! I’ve never felt so much energy at a start line than here. Before I know it, it’s go time. I line up in the sub 24-hour start (I was torn over this, but finally chose to jump into the first wave). Ten minutes later the rest of the runners would be sent off.
And then off we go, a stream of headlamps making their way out into the desert. There’s a bit of walking then running as there’s so many runners and we all bunch up to begin with. I pass a few runners but really try to hold back, as I’m terrified of going out too fast. It’s getting light very quickly – the sun is rising behind me. I want to stop and look at what I’m sure is a gorgeous sunrise, but that would mean being passed by dozens of runners, so I don’t. After only a few miles of winding rolling dirt trail I pull off my headlamp and wrap it around my hand.
There isn’t much chatter around me, everyone is focused on the task at hand. Maybe taking in the enormity of what is to come. Although here and there I do see friends chatting away appearing to be running this thing together. Or maybe they’ve already become fast friends. I pass a few more runners. I’m running very easy paced and the temperature right now is lovely. But I can feel the first rays of sun on the back of my neck and know this lovely temperature won’t last long…
Before I know it I roll into the first aid station, Coyote Camp. I’m 4 miles in… 96 to go! Ha. I’ve drank nothing and don’t want my first gel. I sit and stuff my headlamp into my pack, pulling out my sunglasses instead. Well, nothing else to do here, so I continue on. It gets rocky now and slightly up so I walk. Then run. Then more walking. I’m in a train of runners and really liking the steady pace they are keeping. I stay in this train.
But all good things come to an end and I find myself pulling ahead with a few others that decided to pull ahead. Eventually I’m mostly on my own, just behind a guy wearing orange shorts. I don’t want to pass him, but I’m close enough he can sense I’m behind him. So we say hi and start chatting. This is his first 100 miler – he’s known for a decade he wanted to do a 100 miler and finally this is it. Wow! He used to be a professional cyclist over in Europe and when that phase was over he took up running. A little break for school and then back to running. He’s from New Mexico, so the heat we are beginning to feel build on us is something he’s used to. I feel like he’ll do well (later I look him up and he indeed he does have a good race, finishing sub 24!). But right now he’s off to ‘the little boys room’ (somewhere behind a cactus?) and so I continue on solo.
A few minutes later I’m admiring the views around me, and manage to take one small step off the trail. Bad move. I walked right into a cactus that leaves a good 6 pointy spines in my thigh. I stop and pull each one out. A surprising amount of blood springs from each entry point. Geez. Lol. I get them all out, tossing them aside, and get back to running. This is the longest section between aid stations (6.5 miles), and we were warned to bring enough water. It does feel longer for sure, partially due to the distance but mostly because there is a good amount ‘climbing’ in this stretch. And by climbing I don’t really mean climbing as in anything sustained. It’s more rolling. So more a bunch of short climbs. I actually like this course a lot so far, so no complaints here!
Eventually I roll into the second aid station, Jackass Junction – and here I refill one of my water bottles, and take a gel. I also can feel the heat of the sun, now fully beating down on us, so I take a cue from others around me and put ice in my homemade ‘icerchief’. I don’t think I made mine properly however, because the ice bounces around and clacks loudly as I run. I’m running behind two guys and liking the pace, but feel really bad my ice is making so much noise so I pass them. After about half an hour the ice has melted enough that it’s not bouncing around so noisily anymore. Honestly, I’m just so thankful I decided to wear this buff around my neck for ice. Turns out this ice will be my lifesaver. I don’t know how anyone without an icerchief survives this sun, which has yet to get much, much hotter.
I love this section between Jackass Junction and Rattlesnake Ranch, it feels so runable. So I happily run. Coming into Rattlesnake I grab some more water, and another gel. But mostly ice, I fill my buff with lots more ice. I move half of it so it sits on the back of my neck while the rest sits on my collar bone. And head out again. This first loop will be the longest – the path from here to headquarters is different from the one we’ll follow later, on loops 3 and 5. My ice clacks loudly as I run, following a guy in a blue shirt. Finally I apologize for my loud ice. He laughs and says I’m smart to have it, don’t worry for a minute. In fact he was not prepared for the heat last year and it did him in. He’s here for his redemption race.
He points to his icerchief (tucked away in his pack) and we get to discussing how this year will be different from last year when he pretty much hit the wall at 50 miles and walked the remainder. He has an absolutely amazing story about how he overcome 17 years of drug addiction and running literally saved him. He’s eyeing the same 200 miler I am for his 50th next year, just as I want to use it to celebrate my 40th. We run and chat until the heat from the sun makes it difficult to carry on conversation as we climb. He points out how the heat makes you feel tired so early into this race and I have to agree, I’m far more tired than I’d normally be after only 3 hours or so.
All of a sudden here we are back at JQ – I can hear the music and then see the action. I’ve run 22.3 miles so far. I’m so happy, as I’ve run the first loop in 4 hours, which was exactly what I’d guessed I’d do it in. I run over to the main aid station and fill my reservoir and 2 bottles with water, then run another few hundred metres to our shared crew tent, and there’s Ev, waiting for me to hand him my pack. I think he’s wearing bunny ears now. It makes me laugh. I hand my pack to him and keep running, completing the ‘horseshoe’ track to the timing mat at the official start/finish line, cross the mat then circle around it.
I run back to my crew tent. Ev has added Skratch to all my water bottles. He’s switched out my empty gel wrappers for new gels. He asks me if I want my visor. I say no because I’m vain and don’t like how it looks on me. He says I really should take it, so I do. I shove it on my head. He sprays me with sunscreen and then tells me to GO! So I run off, stopping at the main aid station to grab ice for my buff as I leave JQ, and there I am, out for round 2 (of 5).
Javelina Jundred is 5 loops run ‘washing machine style’, which means lap one is clockwise, lap two is counter clockwise, lap three is clockwise… You get the drift. So I’m headed back out the way I came, however on a new trail since lap one had that longer bit tacked on. I’m walking right now because I’d just shoved a gel down my throat and it really isn’t sitting well. I go to take a drink and the Skratch is not what I want. I really just want water. I walk, willing myself not to throw up. Finally I feel settled enough to start running. I run along, walking whenever I hit an incline in this rolling section.
It all of a sudden hits me. It’s REALLY hot!!! I’m insanely glad I’m wearing my visor and my sunglasses. Basically anything to shield me from the sun, I’m grateful for. It’s about 11am, and the heat of the day isn’t even full force yet. I shuffle along – it’s starting to feel like I’m shuffling much more than running now – and somehow come upon Rattlesnake Ranch again, 26 miles into this thing! Refilling my buff with ice is glorious, and I also shove as much ice as I can down the pocket that is right next to my back in my hydration pack. This is the best thing ever. It also cools the Skratch exercise hydration mix in my reservoir, making it kind of palatable again.
I walk out of this aid station, once again having a tough time digesting the gel I’d consumed there. Turns out that’ll be the end of gels for the day save for one more much later (of the 15 I brought with me, I only consumed 5). I’d had some coke too, and the bubbles are not sitting well either. Gah. I message my run group with pictures and thumbs up. My stomach isn’t great, and it’s hot, but honestly I’m truly loving this race. The course, the scenery – I love it.
I start running – this is my favourite stretch after all, and I’m on my way to Jackass Junction again. I pull up beside a runner wearing sandals. I make some comment to the effect of WOW how do you do it?!! He describes how after reading Born to Run, he made the switch, and how much he loves them. How it’s amazing how we can build so much strength in the feet. Strength that can never be built when we ‘protect’ them too much with over supportive shoes. I agree whole heartedly, but to date going minimal (Nike frees or zero drop) is as far as I’ve gone. Today I’m wearing zero drop Topo’s. Brand new shoes I’ve never worn before. New model too. I like to break rules I guess, ha.
He eventually motions me on saying he must pull back to lower his heart rate and I’m on my own again. The sun beats down and I’m focused on just making it to the next aid station. My ice has mostly melted away, and as I push my buff up to my cheek to try to cool myself, there’s hardly any ice left. It’s crazy how fast it melts out here. Finally I come upon Jackass Junction again, 31.2 miles in. I look at the food offered after filling my water and ice. But nothing appeals. Oh, maybe some watermelon. I have a piece. And some gingerale. And continue on.
It gets hotter. My stomach is in knots and I feel bloated and nauseous. I’m now in the longest stretch between aid stations, and the part with rocks. I’m walking a bunch. Shuffling. And then walking again. I try running again, but trip and fall, skidding along on my knee. I jump up, brushing the stones off my knee. Gah. Stay upright Sarah, please. I cautiously shuffle forward. It’s about 1pm and the sun is out in full force.
I resolve to take it super easy and carefully continue forward. This 6.4 mile section takes me a solid 1.5 hours but eventually I make it into Coyote Camp. As I come though, again, no food appeals to me, so I carry on after filling up with water and ice.
Now I’m revved up because I know I’m close to JQ – less than an hour and lap 2 will be done! So I shuffle and walk, as this portion is pretty rolling. I’m so excited when I reach the point where a guy is ringing a cowbell. I’m so ready for this lap to be done! All of a sudden I hear my name! And there is a guy, just headed out for his 3rd lap as I’m finishing my 2nd, who is also from Vancouver, and we’d been trying to meet up beforehand, but failed… Ha, well, at least we saw each other on course!
Finally there is the commotion of JQ… And I run in, filling my bottles with water and dropping them with Ev before I run over to cross the start/finish mat. Wait, is he wearing a jesters hat now? Lol. When I come back around to my crew tent, Ev tries to give me my ginger but I don’t want it so I push it away. He’s left one of my bottles with just pure water per my last minute request. He sprays me with more sunscreen and sends me off. Ahhhh, okay, here comes lap 3. This past loop had taken me 4.5 hours – a bit longer than the first, but to be expected. And now here I go, back out the way I just came.
My stomach is upside down. I know from past experience that heat doesn’t do kind things to my stomach in ultras, and today is no exception. I admit right now I’m just strongly leaning on the fact I’m fat-adapted, because I’m sure not getting many calories into me. I am however, doing an okay job of staying hydrated. I know how important this is no matter what, so I’m on it.
I walk. The heat is taking its toll in more ways than one. So I shuffle, walk, shuffle, walk. After passing through Coyote Camp (45.7 miles), I’m reduced to just walking. As I walk, a girl pulls up beside me. She’s really nice and asking me how I’m doing. I’m honest, saying I’m not able to eat and really feeling nauseous. She hands me a packet of applesauce, saying to try this. I do. It tastes fantastic and seems to go down well. Later it makes me feel nauseous too but right now it’s delightful. She says something about baby food working well also. A bit of de-ja-vu hits me as I recall Rio del Lago last year where I felt so UN-knowledgeable in the area of nutrition and digestion, despite obviously being relatively knowledgeable. Ultras are quite the beast. I can only laugh to myself at the irony of it all. And continue forward. My applesauce angel takes off.
Despite all, I’m okay. I’m still happy to be out here. I still wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m good. I love this. I truly love these experiences. I signed up for this discomfort and here it is, I got it. But even when you want it all, it doesn’t mean you won’t hit lows. And after another hour, I hit one. Negative thoughts flood my mind.
This is where I think to myself that I must concede my secret goal of sub 24-hours – it is not going to happen today. This is where I pull my phone out and let hubby know I’ve been walking so very much. And this is where I let Ev know that because I’m reduced to just walking I will be coming in to JQ much later than my anticipated time of 7pm.
I now realize how negative thoughts are far, far more toxic than I used to believe. Last year… The year before last year… All the years before that… My negative thoughts were not only justified but an expected part of my life. And in all my ultras (and before that my marathons, my half marathons…) – I’ve justified negativity with relative ease. I’ve lived out my entire life justifying emotions of sadness, anger, helplessness, fear and despair. Succumbing to them all. But I really don’t want to live that way anymore. However, this doesn’t mean “I choose not to” and thus it is so. No, it’s literally a daily practice. And yet still after 7 months of working on building strength of the mind, I’m constantly pulled to succumb to negative ways of thinking.
For example, after I ran Baker Lake 50k so successfully (exactly 3 weeks before Javelina), I immediately wondered when things would now go downhill. I’d been having such a great go that surely things must go south soon? I’m not sure why all these doubts crept in, but they did. I was freaking myself out. And then I got sick with a bad head cold. Thus I missed my last long run.
Then, only 5 days before I was scheduled to fly out to Arizona for this Javelina Jundred 100 miler, I walked out the door on a gorgeous sunny Sunday for a run, in the most sour of moods. About 10km in I felt pain in the back of my left ankle. Within a kilometre it felt kind of like Achilles tendinitis, which I’ve suffered from in the past (years ago). A few more km and it moved up into my calf, feeling like a calf strain. Another km in and it was a really bad calf strain, so I had to stop to massage my calf. That didn’t help at all, and within another km I was in tears, hobbling along with both my ankle and calf screaming at me. As I limp ran along I knew I couldn’t make it back home in this state and had to stop.
I don’t know if the plethora of negative emotions I’d allowed to seep in the few weeks prior can can cause physical pain like this. I don’t know where that came from. I do know that I was so scared of how much pain it was causing me that I actually called for hubby to come pick me up.
I also knew as soon as I got home that things had to change, so I took action. I immediately implemented my usual anti-inflammatory protocol from a nutritional perspective. I took extra precaution and didn’t run for the next few days at all. I spent a lot of time meditating and journaling. And I landed on a beautiful affirmation which became intertwined in my thoughts so much so over the next few days, that I found myself thinking it often throughout Javelina. It became me and my experience.
“I move forward with confidence and joy, knowing all is well in my future.”
I found it in a book written by Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life – according to her, it is suggested for use when suffering from lower leg issues. More and more I’m understanding how our thoughts can determine our actions and even our physical state. But it’s only been since my broken foot that I have finally been willing and open to receiving wisdom and guidance on how to reclaim control over my response to happenings in my life. How to see obstacles as opportunities… How to handle life with joy and ease… How to free myself from destructive fears and doubts… And how to use thoughts (positive affirmations and visualization) to set myself up for success.
So here I am, 50 miles into my 100 miler and negative emotions are threatening to take over my race. I could so easily succumb to the heat, my nauseous tummy, the fact I’ve hardly consumed any calories all day, and the extreme fatigue in my body. But I refuse. Over and over again, the words of moving forward with confidence and joy take over my thoughts and create a new loop. I may not finish sub 24-hours, but I will finish joyfully, and THAT will be amazing. It’s hard to really fully explain my change of heart, but I know with certainty everything is going to be okay.
And the sun is going down. Oh thank god the sun is setting. I pop my sunglasses up on my visor as I don’t need them anymore. And walk along. Happily walking. I am playing leapfrog with a few guys right now. Again and again, we go back and forth, back and forth. I use them as motivation to continue moving forwards and run when I see them run. I hear the guy ahead of me ask someone coming back towards us how much farther to Jackass Junction. They reply, “Two miles!” and inwardly I think oh dear. But then I think that’s okay, you’ll make it, just keep moving forwards.
And I do. And eventually there it is. I made it to Jackass! And the sun has nearly fully set. I don’t need to fill up my ice. I sit down and an absolutely lovely volunteer comes over to ask what I need. I tell her I don’t know, I’m really nauseous. She comes back with salted potato for me, and mercifully it goes down really well. She’s so wonderful, talking to me the entire time, encouraging me. When I’ve finished my potato, I get up and move on out.
I decide to try running again, and amazingly it works. I pull my headlamp out now as the sun has gone down and it’s getting dark really fast. I’m running well. I begin passing some other runners. I actually feel good, even with my still somewhat queasy tummy! The cooler air is amazing. It’s dark now, and the coyotes begin howling. It is the coolest sound ever and sends chills down my spine. I love this so much.
In what feels like not too much time later, I come upon Rattlesnake Ranch (64.8 miles). They have more potato, baked up like hash browns, which I’m ALL OVER. And they have chunks of avocado, which my stomach loves – at least in the moment. I drink a little cup of gingerale too. And I have some plain chicken broth. Oh this is amazing. And I’m off again.
I run. This section feel SO SHORT. I feel fantastic. I love it so much. I walk a bit until the food settles, and then mostly I run. My headlamp leads the way and I am amazed at how I’m able to run. I lose myself in the run and time passes faster. Before I know it I can see the lights of JQ… Then I can hear the music. I’m so revved up! I run into headquarters and straight to our shared crew tent. Ev is not there. I’m not surprised. I’d told him I’d be FAR behind schedule – and here I am a mere 20 minutes behind schedule. The gal there says he’s gone to watch the first place male finish. I change my sports bra and tank top quickly and get rid of my reservoir altogether. In its place I stuff a long sleeve into my pack (which I never end up needing).
I run over to the start/finish timing mat, and as I’m coming around I see Ev… He is shocked to see me and says he’ll meet me back at our crew tent. I run there, and tell him I’m good. I’m running, and I feel good. I plan on running much more than I’d thought when I’d texted him earlier, so I’ll go this loop alone, and stick to the original plan. He agrees, and we part ways. Later I learn from hubby (Ev was texting him updates all day) that Ev was quite relieved I didn’t ask him to run 40 miles with me hahaha! Instead he napped for a few hours.
Meanwhile, I take off, running my way back to Rattlesnake Ranch aid station (64.8 miles). They give me broth (unfortunately it was too strong / salty – had to toss it), and I eat more potatoes and avocado. I think this might be my favourite aid station. I drink some gingerale. It makes me need to burp, but I can’t. Air is trapped in me but at least my nausea is somewhat diminished right now. And off I go.
All of a sudden I realize I didn’t change my headlamp batteries when I went through JQ. Not only that, I didn’t bring my extra batteries I was going to change again at Jackass. Oh dear. I immediately click my headlamp to its lowest setting. I know my batteries will last me this loop, but I won’t get the bright setting. Oh well! Low setting it is. And I keep running. Run / walking really – by this point I’m quite tired and sore. My legs are like WOW TIRED! But as I roll into Jackass Junction, it’s not terrible. And hey how fun, there’s a full-out party going on here! But I don’t stop – with 70 miles in my legs I simply stumble on by the dance floor, smiling at it all.
At this point I allow myself to walk more. I’ve reached the part where it’s quite rolling, and there are lots of rocks. So I take my time. My third loop had taken me 5 hours. Even though I’ve been feeling so positive and good this fourth loop, it will end up taking me 5 hours as well. The fatigue has set in. As I’m walking, I come upon my applesauce angel from hours ago. She’s struggling, and so we run together. She is actually a VERY accomplished ultra runner, having come in 5th place in the 100 miler championship race last year and having outright won a few 100 milers. In total, she’s run twenty four 100 milers! Unfortunately her training for Javelina hadn’t been great, so thus she’s struggling right now.
We walk and run together, getting each other through the tough patches. Finally we come to Coyote Camp (76.5 miles) and I run to the port a potty, as I’ve done at nearly every aid station to preempt any digestive distress disasters. Happy to say there were no mad dashes out in the middle of the desert, something I was terrified of – and first time in a 100-miler not having to deal with ‘digestive distress emergencies’! I’ve also been grabbing TP at each port a potty because for the latter half of this race my nose will just not stop running. Incredibly annoying lol. Maybe leftover from my cold? Or just the fine dust in the air irritating my nose? But it was what it was and so I just tried my best to deal with it along the way.
We set back out – I’d grabbed an orange slice, but no other food appealed to me so just got back out there as quickly as possible. My stomach is meh again. We walk and shuffle, walk and shuffle. It’s slow going right now and even though we know we’re getting close to JQ, it’s tough going. Conversation becomes more sporadic. We find out we’re in the same age group. We both agree how we’ve decided not to have kids because we like our lives the way they are. A type of selfishness if you will. We like getting to jet off and run 100 milers wherever we want, whenever we want. It’s far more complex of course than just that, for both of us I’m sure. But in this moment, we are simplifying everything.
Finally we see the lights and hear the music. I tell her I’ll look for her as I leave JQ if she wants to run with me and Ev… And I run to my shared crew tent. Ev is there waiting. I ask him to change my headlamp batteries while I run over to the start/finish and over the timing mat, and back to Ev. We take off, together. This is my last lap. My last lap! And I have a pacer now. My first time having a pacer. Life is good. I really love this race.
Before we left, we’d stopped at the main aid station. Knowing I had to eat, only the watermelon had looked appealing so Ev had brought me a million slices of watermelon. Basically kept handing them to me until I had to say, please no more! So we are walking right now, as my tummy tries to settle all that watermelon. I’m just glad I was able to get a few calories into me. Finally I say I think we can shuffle, and so we shuffle, then walk, then shuffle. I’ve basically told him let’s walk any inclines or rocky parts, and run the flats and declines.
We chat as we move along, a steady enough pace that I’m happy with. I’m tired for sure, but nothing like past 100 milers where by this point I just want to go to sleep. In fact it’s the fourth lap I was eyeing up those 2 benches on the 20 mile loop more so than this final lap. In fact, I don’t even consider stopping to sit on those benches this last loop!
It doesn’t take us too long before we come upon Coyote Camp (84.5 miles). Ohhh, one last time here. While I might not be looking to sit on the benches on course, I’m most definitely crash landing on chairs at aid stations! Ev brings me more watermelon. And then off we go again.
This is the section that’s rocky – the longest section. We walk a bunch to begin with. My nausea eventually calms a bit. And so we finally start shuffling, Ev running ahead of me, calling out the logs and big stones for me to watch for. It gives me something to focus on, and helps me to stay on track, stay in the game. We are still chatting but less so as I become more fatigued. Still, we are moving well I think. He keeps me moving far more than I think I would have on my own. All of a sudden we come upon the girl I’d been running with in the 4th loop! She’s now running with some guys it looks like… Ev and I pass her.
The ball of my right foot is weird. Earlier in the day I’d felt the water from my ice in my icerchief melting down, soaking my shirt (which was lovely at the time) and then for whatever reason collecting in my right shoe. After a while I felt like it was rubbing a lot more than it should. And now it definitely feels like I’ve got a large blister on the ball of my foot. I stamp on it, trying to get rid of it – like, pop it you know (gross as that sounds). There’s literally nothing more I can do about it though, so I do my best to ignore it. Later I’ll find the largest, deepest most painful blister I’ve ever experienced.
Finally we come upon Jackass Junction (91 miles) and I zero in on the closest chair. It feels really good to sit. Ev brings me more watermelon and changes the batteries in my headlamp. I think I see him eating M&Ms, and I really want some, except I really don’t right now. I turn away more watermelon, and off we go. And oh, I know this section – very runable. So let’s run! I ask Ev to run in front of me so I can just follow his footsteps.
We run. And run. And run some more. I pass runners. I pass more runners. I pass even more runners. We pass SO. MANY. RUNNERS. I pass the girl I’d been running with again (she’d flown through Jackass Junction whereas I’d taken my time). We pass two guys who are incredulous at how well I’m running at this point, 93 miles into the race. They do their best to keep up with me and Ev… But cannot.
I keep running. I tell Ev to please slow a bit – I don’t want to but I’m just so worried I’ll blow up. I really don’t want everyone I’m passing to pass me back!! So we pull back a touch, but keep running. And running. We pass more runners. We pass another female runner! I won’t lie – passing all these runners (many of whom are walking) is definitely motivating me to keep going at this pace. I tell Ev that I don’t want to stop at the next aid station, just a quick drink of gingerale and keep going.
My blister foot screams at me, but I shove it away and move forward with confidence. I focus on what I can control, and that’s whether or not I’m running. So I run. We fly through Rattlesnake Ranch (96.2 miles) and continue passing other runners. I feel the pace pick up. I know what Ev is doing. He’s pushing me to the very edge of what I can do. I say nothing and try my very best to keep up.
With joy. With confidence and joy I push with everything I have left in me. My heart rate skyrockets and stays that way for the remainder of race. I push and for the first time let out a little squeak. Exhaustion envelopes me and I’m scared of toppling over. But instead I keep running, pushing with every drop of energy remaining.
Since Ev is leading the way, two runners (probably a runner and his pacer) give him kudos as he runs by. This has been a common occurrence – kudos being given as we run by, to Ev mostly as he’s in front of me. No ones fault of course, it’s so dark you can’t tell who’s a pacer and who’s an actual racer. But as I pull up and pass them I can’t help myself. I say, “Hey he’s my pacer, I’M THE ONE who’s run nearly 100 miles so far!!!”. So they give me kudos (lol).
I pass another female. Ev pushes the pace more. Ohhhhh. Ouch. I move forward with confidence and joy, knowing all is well with my future. With confidence. With joy. So much joy. And so much gratitude. I pass more runners. I pass another female runner. No joke, in the last 10 miles, I’ve passed probably about 50 runners.
And we are so close. Yet still the finish line just isn’t appearing. I keep pushing. I’m giving SO MUCH right now. My feet are screaming. I think they’re having little temper tantrums, particularly my blister foot. Ev is pushing the pace. But I don’t see or hear the finish line. I can’t believe how long 3.8 miles can feel. This is ridiculous! I just ran this a few laps ago and it felt so short. I tell Ev he’s an amazing pacer. I mean it with all my heart, I don’t know how I came to be so lucky as to have this kind of support.
Finally, there it is. I can see it. I can hear it. Amazingly we’ve run this loop in 4.5 hours, a half hour faster than either of my previous two loops took me. As we enter JQ, Ev splits off and I run the final few hundred metres around the horseshoe of crew tents, making my way one final time to that start/finish line timing mat. As I do, I gasp for air as tears of joy escape me. I run as fast as I can and the salty tears start to blind me, stinging my eyes. And then I cross the finish line, hands over head. I’m ecstatic. A buckle gets handed to me.
And get this – it’s a sub 24 hour buckle. I just ran 100 miles in 23 hours and 3 minutes.
I’ve just attempted to describe my Javelina Jundred experience to you. But I don’t think I’ve truly done it justice. There is honestly no good way to truly paint an adequate picture what one goes through over the course of 100 miles, the depth and enormity of it all. However, I’ll say this:
- It continues to amaze me what I’m capable of. And not just me. There were so many around me realizing their potential too. We are all capable of far more than we think possible. Learning to tap into our potential is key to living to a fulfilling life. That doesn’t necessarily mean running 100 milers (although clearly it does for me), but it does mean finding ways for YOU personally to fully access YOUR potential.
- Building strength of the mind is just as important as building strength of the body. No – scratch that. Building strength of the mind is more important. Training (physically) will only get you so far – those with flexible, strong minds will be the ones who experience long-term success and will do so with relative ease. My meditation and journaling practices will absolutely continue moving forward. Without a doubt, regular focus on building strength of mind contributed to my success in Javelina. Obviously I had a physically strong build up, but I also attribute those successful long training runs to my growing strength of mind…
- I’ll continue to run as a fat-adapted athlete. Ultimately I hope to build a stronger digestive system, but until then I’m extremely grateful there’s an alternative option. Despite not being able to take in many calories over the course of this race from very early on, I was confident in my ability to run through to the end anyway. That was invaluable and definitely a key piece of keeping me strong, both physically (being okay despite not eating) and mentally (knowing I’d be okay despite not eating).
- It’s okay to ask for support, and to accept support. I used to never want to put anyone ‘out’ by asking them to support me, either by crewing or pacing me. Therefore I’ll always go out of my way to do it alone, so as to not inconvenience anyone else. I failed to think that others might actually WANT to help – and furthermore might actually get something out of it for themselves personally. After crewing me all day and then pacing me on my final lap, I learned Ev decided that he’d like to run a 100 miler himself one day. How exciting is that?!! But even if they have zero interest in ever running a 100 miler, there are reasons to let others in to provide support – and moving forward I’m willing.
I honestly loved every minute of my Javelina experience. And I wouldn’t change a thing. It was everything I’d hoped it would be… And so very much more. I love running and I got to run for 23 hours. It was amazing. Painfully amazing for probably the last half, but amazing nonetheless. I accomplished everything I set out to accomplish – and hold so much joy and gratitude in my heart for those who helped me get here.
As I move forward and plan my next races, there is so much to build on and so much more to improve. All of which I welcome as I continue to grow and tap into the oceans of potential within me that have yet to be discovered.
Onward and forward to the next adventure!
2018 Javelina Jundred Stats:
Number of runners who started – 563
Number of runners who finished – 368
DNF (did not finish) rate – 35%
Number of runners who finished sub 24 hours – 141
My personal stats (Sarah Cuff, bib #185): 98th overall, 20th female, 11th AG (this was my 3rd 100 miler, and a PR by 3.5 hours)
Temperature high on October 27th – 31°C / 88°F
Temperature low on October 27th/28th (while I ran through the night) – 14°C / 57°F
Elevation – 7900 feet / 2400 metres
Course – 5 loops, washing machine style
Wildlife sightings (for me personally) – zero, thank goodness (however in the Javelina facebook group I came across pictures and tales of a good number of runners seeing rattlesnakes, tarantulas and scorpions)