Halloween in the Desert--Javelina 100-Miler

Mieko and Donn pre-race

Halloween is a busy time for a lot of us, but not many do as much running around as four of our Trail Runner members. Patricia, Donn, Mieko and Art went to Arizona to celebrate the holiday at the Javelina 100-miler. Patricia was very focused and had trained very hard to improve on her finish of last year. Donn was a beacon of persistence, and not to be denied. And Mieko—just over a bout with the flu, but not about to stay home, made the trip with a smile and a Halloween costume (Greek Goddess). And what can you say about Art? If you could only have one friend in the world, he would be a very good choice. Art went as a pacer—a person who runs 25 or more miles to encourage, guide and drag racers toward the finish line. These endeavors are so extreme and taxing that it is not uncommon for racers to hallucinate and visualize things like giant squid, 4-foot owls, and non-existent buildings on the course.
Well, Patricia completed the 100 miles in 28:32 hours and received the award for most improved. Donn beat the clock to the finish line in 29:52. Mieko, suffering a hip injury, turned in at 100k (62 miles), but she has already vowed to return next year to have another fun run. Art guided Mieko to her finish, then paced Donn to his finish. Art logged a mere 40 miles as a pacer. Here is that story as told by Donn:

I entered the Javelina Jundred this year as a substitute race for the Angeles Crest 100, which had been canceled due to the Station Fire. I crewed and paced Summer Wesson in last year’s Javelina, and I loved it. The race was like a big 30 hour Halloween party. I was looking forward to making the trip this year to Fountain Hills, AZ.

I arrived in Phoenix around noon the day before the race. My plan was to meet my friend Mieko (who was arriving in the early afternoon), check in at Javelina Headquarters, and then have dinner somewhere.

We arrived at Javelina HQ around 4:00 pm and said hello to the many SoCal runners who were also doing the race. Then we checked in and picked up our race goodies.

I had a bad headache and I wasn’t hungry, so Mieko and I just picked up groceries at the supermarket and headed back to our respective hotel rooms. By now I wasn’t feeling well at all and went straight to bed. I got up around midnight and had some soup and bread. Then I went back to bed.

When the alarm rang at 3:30 am, I was fortunately feeling better. I put on my race clothes plus a Halloween costume of tie dyed hippie wear (t-shirt, bandana and Dirty Girl gaiters). I had both of my drop bags packed with spare clothes and dozens of gels. I had toyed around with the idea of running with two handheld bottles, but in the end I went with the old standby of my Ultimate Direction hydration pack plus a handheld bottle for sport drink. Mieko picked me up around an hour later. She was wearing a Greek goddess costume and looked great.

We got to Javelina HQ with plenty of time to find a place for our drop bags, use the bathroom and chat with the other runners.

At 6:00 am the race clock counted down to zero and 250 runners set off into the darkness.

The Javelina course is a 15.4 mile loop with aid stations about every 5 miles. We had to do 6 loops washing machine style (reverse direction with each loop). The nice thing about reversing directions is that you get to see the course from a different angle and you get to see runners coming in the opposite direction. The 7th loop is a short 9 miler to bring the total distance to 101.4 miles. There is virtually no shade on the course and the terrain is sandy jeep roads and trails with one rocky section. The runners have to complete the 7 loops in under 30 hours (12:00 noon on Sunday) to be recognized as official finishers.

Javelina has a Halloween costume contest. To be eligible for an award, a runner must wear their costume for the entire 100 miles. There were some pretty good costumes out there: an angel, a devil, a cow, a cereal killer, a cave girl, batman, G.I. Joe, a bumblebee, just to name a few.

I had been warned by my friends not to go too fast for the first few loops. Well, I broke that rule on the very first loop. I met up with Linda Dewees shortly after hitting the first aid station at Coyote Camp. Linda was also dressed in tie dyed hippie clothes. We looked like twins! We ran together and chatted for about 5 miles, and then Linda said that we were going a bit too fast. Oops. My bad. I have no sense of pace in a race (any kind of race). We hooked up again about a mile from JJ HQ, and finished the first loop in 3:05. Too fast for me! Mieko came in shortly after that.

On the second loop I ran for a few miles with Jakob Herrmann, who I met at the 2008 Bulldog 50K. My legs still felt pretty good and I wanted to finish this loop in 4 hours to maintain an average of 3-1/2 hours per loop. That didn’t seem so bad. I arrived at JJ HQ at the 6:42 mark. The good news was that I was under 7 hours for the first 50K. That was also the bad news. My legs were already getting fatigued.

When I started loop 3, it was 1:00 pm and the sun was getting hot. I decided to ditch the cotton tie-dyed t shirt and run with a tech shirt. I really slowed on the 5 mile stretch back to Coyote Camp. It was rocky and slightly uphill. By the time I arrived at the aid station, I was tired. There was a film crew there and they talked with me briefly. I left the aid station and plodded along, wondering how I was going to do 65 more miles when I was already dead tired. I ran for a few miles with Beiyi Zheng, who was looking for her first 100 mile finish. I got back to HQ (mile 46.4) at 4:52 pm.

At Javelina, you are permitted to have a pacer after 4 loops or 3 loops if the sun will go down during the fourth loop. So I could have started loop 4 with a pacer except that I didn’t have one. No big deal. I’d be finishing the loop around 9:00 pm, so that’s not too bad. I pulled out a long sleeve t shirt from my drop bag and tied it around my waist. The temperature was cooling and that was a welcome relief from the heat. I started running better.

When I reached the Coyote Camp aid station at mile 56.4, I saw a familiar face—Mieko’s pacer Art. Art said that Mieko was lying on a cot. I went to check on her and she said that she had injured her hip and would have to drop at some point. She wanted me to take Art since I didn’t have a pacer. I said no, I wasn’t going to let her run alone in the dark. I told her I would take Art after I finished loop 5 (mile 77.4). I wished them good luck and then took off.

Loop 5 went okay, but I was starting to get sleepy. I took a caffeine pill and that helped for a couple of hours. Although it was the middle of the night, it still wasn’t that cold. I was fine in a long sleeve shirt and shorts.

When I got back to HQ (mile 77.4) at 2:42 am, Art was waiting to pace me. He said that Mieko dropped at the 100K mark. After I got refueled, we started out on loop 6, the last full loop. It was good to run with someone. Art stayed ahead of me and I chased after him. In order to conserve energy I was walking anything that resembled an uphill. I started to get sleepy, so I took another caffeine pill. It seemed like it worked for only an hour and then I got sleepy again. It started to get cold, so I put on a light windbreaker. By the time we got to mile 87, my legs were shot. We mostly walked back to HQ (mile 92.8), arriving at 8:22 am.

I had about 3-1/2 hours to do the short 9 mile loop on shot legs. I knew it would be close. I couldn’t find Art right away at HQ, so I took off without him. I tried to jog the downhills, but I didn’t get very far before I had to walk again. The sun had been up for a couple of hours, so I was no longer sleepy, but now it was heating up. Even walking seemed hard. It was taking forever to get to the final aid station at mile 98. I was starting to feel the race slipping away. I had battled this far and now I was going to miss the final cutoff. I had resigned myself to defeat and just kept walking.

I started to feel weird, like I was drifting in and out of sleep. I would be seeing black and then I would see flashes of the course. I lost track of where I was and what time it was. None of it seemed to matter.

At some point I vaguely remember stumbling into the final aid station at Coyote Camp. I saw a flash of Art’s face and figured that he had met me somewhere along the way. I heard a volunteer ask me how I was doing. I was still drifting in and out of this weird sleep state. I mumbled that I was not doing well and probably wouldn’t make it. He assured me that it was only about 3.4 miles to the finish and there was enough time. I didn’t believe him.

The last section of the course includes a shortcut back to HQ on the Tonto Tank Trail. I don’t remember anything about what the trail looks like. All I remember is that at some point we met Brian Krogmann and another runner on the trail. Brian asked me how I was feeling and if I was drinking and eating. I did have water and food in my pack, but in my zombie like state, I really didn’t know if I was drinking and eating. I mumbled something that probably didn’t make any sense. So, he said “Try some of this.” It was coconut water. I had a sip and it tasted a bit weird, but it was probably a good idea to drink something.

We continued on. Everything just looked black, like I was asleep. I snapped awake when Art announced that we had one mile to the finish! I mumbled something and promptly went back into my fog. After awhile I heard people clapping. We were at the final road crossing. Linda Dewees was there and she congratulated me and gave me a hug. All I could muster was another mumble. At the time I wasn’t even sure why she was congratulating me. I figured we had missed the cutoff a long time ago.

When we finally arrived at the edge of HQ, I suddenly woke up. Yes, this ordeal was going to be over! We passed through the parking area and then made the final turn to the finish. I looked up and the clock read 29:51. I couldn’t believe it. People were clapping and Mieko was there with her camera.

I finished the 2009 Javelina Jundred in 29:52, the last official finisher before the 30 hour cutoff. Of the 250 runners who started the race, only 124 finished. A race official handed me my finishers belt buckle and the Dead Last trophy. What a race!

Huge thanks goes to Art for getting me to the finish line. I would not have made it if he hadn’t been with me. Also, big thanks to Mieko for driving me to and from the race and encouraging me during the race. I also can’t say enough about the great job that race director Jamil Coury and his team of volunteers did. This was a great party!

A Focused and determined Patricia

Mieko and Donn in Happier Times