Tuesday, November 03, 2009
As you can see from my monthly posting, my weekly training mileage peaked at forty-five miles per week in September. Toward the end of that month I tripped while running up Fall River Road. In addition to a sore shoulder and bloody hands, I also injured a knee when it slammed down on the asphalt. As a result, the only training in October was a 14.5 mile loop with Slacker Control (Ron Wright) down at the White Ranch Open space. The knee started aching again mid-run, so what with the Javelina Jundred coming up on Halloween, I decided to not stress the joint with any more training before running JJ.
On Friday, October 30th, I flew down to Phoenix along with a couple of running friends (Scott Olmer and Dale Perry). We found a nice restaurant for lunch, checked into our Fountain Hills hotel, and then went on out to the race check-in at McDowell Mountain Park. As usual at these events, we enjoyed schmoozing with friends and acquaintances from previous races and making new friends. Rather than stick around for the pre-race meeting (having heard it all during the previous six years) we headed back into town to our favorite pizza joint to carbo-load. Then it was off to Safeway to pick up a cooler, some beer for the post race victory celebration, and some breakfast snacks for the next morning. We lugged all this back to the Holiday Inn and spent some time getting our clothing and gear organized for an early start the next morning. Many thanks to Scott for providing the hotel room and for arranging for a car rental!
My training in August and September had been supplemented with quite a bit of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. By the time I took my spill on the road, I was feeling about as fast and strong as I've ever been. The big question mark was the knee. Would it hold up, or would it start to ache, get worse as the miles piled up, and leave me limping in to to the finish?
We were up early, had a quick breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and were parked at Javelina Jeadquarters by five a.m. Huge turnout this year, with 250 runners (many in costume) toeing the starting line. Add to that family, friends, crew, pacers, and race personal, and a record number of people camping at the start/finish area...well it was exciting, ordered chaos in the pre-dawn darkness. The weather and forecast were great. Low to mid-eighties for a high, which sure beat the usual nineties we have experienced here in the past. A lack of any cloud cover would make it impossible to hide from the sun during the race, but would allow that full moon to shine brightly down on us during the night.
At six o'clock sharp, all 250 of us took off in a clockwise direction for the first 15.4 mile loop through the Arizona desert. Dale and I were mid-pack and a little concerned about getting stuck in a conga-line of walkers. No problem though. In spite of the crowded trail we were able to use our flashlights to find opportunities to sprint around slower groups until we found some open trail to settle down at our own comfortable pace. You have to be careful about passing people out there in the desert, especially in the dark...a little miscalculation and you could end up with a face (or body) full of needle sharp cactus spines!
I had hoped to do the first loop in about 3:30. Thanks to the cooler temps and my knee staying strong, I managed to stay with Dale for a time of 2:50. Fantastic! Experience has taught me that my lap times would get progressively slower as the fatigue and the desert sun took their toll. The plan was to go out fairly quickly and put some miles in the bank during the first two loops. We did this well (about 3:20 on the counter-clockwise loop number two) and then moved on to the next task; surviving the heat of the day on loop three. Slowing down, keeping hydrated, eating, avoiding blisters, we were waiting for the sun to set. Four hours and five minutes on loop three. An intermitant light breeze helped take some of the sting out of the 80 degree temps. Best of all, the only time my knee ached at all was after sitting down to shake sand and pebbles out of my shoes. I had to do this a few times, also changing socks and using the opportunity to apply some lube to my toes. My muscles would be tight and the knees would ache as I would hobble up off the chair and out onto the trail. Withing a hundred yards, however, the aching and tightness would disappear.... another magical transformation from crippled old man to fully functioning trail runner!
Once that sun goes down, this race gets a lot easier. Psychologically, it's a real boost to know you've survived that third loop, the sun and the heat. While running the third lap, the words of a Johnny Cash song kept popping into my head, "A burning hot sun, a cry for water, blackwings circle the sky. Somebody's crawling, somebody's calling...you're lost on the desert to die!". Now comes the time for elation; cool running under a full moon with coyotes howling all around. Loops four and five were spent running with and playing leap frog with Dale. Times of 4:12 and 4:19 respectively were pleasing. A little slower even than the dreaded loop three, but that was to be expected due to fatigue. I love running in the cooler temps under a full moon. The stars are bright and in the distance you get an occasional glimpse of the brightly illuminated 500-600 foot column of water down in the town of Fountain Hills.
When I arrived back at the start/finish area at the end of loop five Paul Grimm offered to help me out during the turn-around (the man went and got me a fantastically delicious cheeseburger and some hot potato soup) and volunteered to pace me on loop six. He had planned on pacing his fiance, Carla. Since she had opted out at 100K, he was now willing to join me on the next loop. Dale hadn't come in yet, so I took him up on his generous offer. I rested a bit, cleaned and bandaged a couple of blisters, changed socks, ate/drank while Paul got his running gear and changed into some different clothing. Dale came in before Paul and I headed out, so we let him know what we were doing and wished him well.
Well, we hadn't gotten very far up the trail when a newly energized Dale came blasting past us; a man on a mission! Paul and I continued on a more leisurely pace and ended up with some great conversation and a five hour loop; ending back up at the Javelina Jeadquarters at about quarter of six in the morning.
Now the only thing left was loop seven, a nine mile partial lap. I was tired, but felt great knowing that there was plenty of time to finish. There was a crowd of friends hanging around and I was in not hurry, so I took a looonnnnngggg social break and just enjoyed the moment. I'm not sure, not having checked my watch when Paul and I left for loop seven, but I think I hung around there gabbing for close to forty minutes! Talking, resting, eating and drinking...enjoying myself too much to head back out. But by the time we did leave, I was a new man. I felt rested and relatively strong. Instead of the usual end-of-the-race slog or death march, I managed to keep up a good mix of hiking and jogging over the last nine miles to end up with a personal best at Javelina of 26:43:08.
Congratulations to Scott on his sub-24 effort! Kudos to Dale for beating me to the finish line. Way to go Karen and Carla! Nattu, you're a tough guy, hanging in there for 77 miles while dealing with stomach problems. Also, I want to thank Paul for jumping in to act as both crew and pacer for me...you kept me moving well and provided hours of pleasant company over the last couple of loops.
That leaves Dale, myself, and the amazing Dan Brenden all with six 100 mile finishes at the Javelina. Will I be back? Probably. But I'm certainly not making any decisions until the blisters have healed, the swelling departed from my feet, and my &*$! big toenail falls off and starts to grow back!