The Pony Express Trail brought me to Phoenix for the Javalina Jundred. Perhaps I should explain.
Three weeks ago I ran the Pony Express Trail 100 with the goal of breaking 15 hours. I missed the mark running a 15:06. At my age, when you know your performance decreases by about 2% a year after age 35, or put another way, each week of your life you will be half a minute slower running a hundred miles (assuming a 24 hour finishing time) time is of the essence.
The day after failing to break 15 at the Pony Express Trail 100 I signed up for the JJ 100. By my crude math I figured my advancing age would only handicap me by a minute or so, giving me a decent shot to go sub 15. However, I failed to read the fine print on the website, the Javalina Jundred is 101.4 miles long. Yikes! I would have to overcome age – and an extra mile and half!
I know I can run a sub 15 if I can get everything right. In an effort to get it right I asked Matt Hart to both crew and pace me. Matt would be my secret weapon that would overcome that extra distance and those extra years.
The Javalina Jundred is an interesting race in that it is comprised of 6 - 15.4 mile washing machine loops with a final 9-mile loop at the end. It is known as being a fast course. Yet, it has its challenges; heat, exposure to the sun, some long slow climbs, and for some, boredom. In many ways, a perfect race for me.
I joined the lead group of Hal Koerner and Liza Howard. While I immediately knew the pace was too fast for me, I enjoyed the company and being out front. Hal and I would finish the first 15.4-mile loop in 1:50. I could tell that Hal was running strong and feeling motivated. Something told me this was going to be his day and that I better let him go before I paid too big of a price for trying to hang with him. As he pulled away, I let him know that I had attached a cosmic rubber band to him that I hoped would slingshot me to a sub 15.
I struggled through loop number 2. The adrenaline from the start had worn off. My legs felt heavy from going out fast. And, I knew I had a long day ahead of me in the washing machine. At about mile 23 Evan Holyfield passed me and I watched him slowly pull away. He looked strong. I was dragging. I was not motivated enough to try and do anything about it. Yet, that was the right decision. I was running at a 14:20 pace and to try and go any faster would have been risky.
Things turned around during loops number 3 and 4. Maybe it was the tunes I picked up at the turnaround. Maybe it was the knowledge that I was on a good pace (6:50 50 mile split). It could have been the Mountain Dew that was going down so well. And, passing Liza Howard at the turnarounds with her encouraging words and beautiful smile certainly helped. I was getting into the zone…
I find it interesting that I can seldom predict what is going to sit well nutrition-wise for any one race. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, I completely surprise myself. The Javalina Jundred was no exception. I started out with some Perpetum in my bottles and sucking down a gel every 30 minutes with plans to snack my way through the race on bars, gels and dried mangos, my usual favorites. Then, I mistakenly grabbed a cup of Mt. Dew at an aid station thinking it was an electrolyte drink. It tasted damn good! So good in fact, that I helped myself to second! For the rest of the race I drank mostly Mt. Dew, converting over to Coke after about mile 70. I probably only ate about 10 gels. The only other food I consumed was some dried ginger at Jackass Junction (the best dried ginger I have ever eaten – where did it come from?) and some gummy worms. My stomach felt good the entire race.
During the 5th loop I started to drag and began to fall off my pace. I just tried to keep moving knowing I had a good cushion of time in the bank. I kept repeating to myself, “no slower than 9, no slower than 9.” I was looking forward to loop number 6 where Matt Hart would be pacing me and could push me.
Matt and I headed out on loop 6 with exactly 4 hours to cover 24 miles for a sub 15. We were both bullish on me achieving my goal. While we made good time up to Jackass Junction, my pace dropped considerably once it turned dark. I was having trouble seeing. For some reason my lamp seemed dim. I was sure I had put new batteries in it. Yet I wondered to myself, “Had I?”. The oncoming lamps of runners going the other direction were compromising my night vision. I was tripping on rocks and stumbling. I knew it was only a matter of time before I fell. Wham! Down I went. It hurt. I immediately lost confidence and started to run tentatively, not opening up on the descents like I needed to do. Plus, I was starting to feel tired and I could tell I was running out of gas. I had a hard time maintaining the turnover I needed to keep my pace. I slowly watched all the minutes I had put in the time bank lapse away. At some point I knew, sub 15 was not going to happen.
I finished in 15:20. Well off my goal, but I still felt I had run a good race. Other than going out too fast and loosing confidence to run more aggressively in the dark, I had made no mistakes. Congrats to Hal and Liza who both crushed the course records, and Evan who ran 20 minutes under the old course record. Bravo!
Top finishers include:
Hal Koerner – 13:47
Evan Honeyfield – 14:01
Jay Aldous – 15:20
Mark Matyazic – 16:34
Jay Smithberger – 17:01
Elizabeth “Liza” Howard – 15:47
Brenda Corona – 19:54
Linda Pulver – 20:25
Rhonda Sundermeirer - 21:16
Jess Mullen - 21:57
Thanks to Matt Hart for trekking down to Phoenix to crew and pace me. I appreciated both his help and his company! Thanks to Jamil and Nick Coury for organizing a great event.
Post Mortem – the running shoes were retired to the garage last night. The skate skis are waxed and ready for some gliding later in the week when my ass feels a little less tired. Sub 15 – well – that will have to wait for next year for when I’m older and biologically about 10 minutes slower…. But, it will happen!