Monday, November 12, 2018

Javelina adventure

The closest forest preserve to my home with dirt, grass and limestone trails is McDowell in Naperville. It is around 3 miles from home and has a couple good loops plus links to other trail systems. Being close to home I try and run it often as I can.

One of my favourite ultras is the Javelina Jundred held at McDowell near Fountain Hills in Arizona. It is around 1700 miles from home but I have been to the race 5 times to crew and sometimes pace my friend Steve Ochoa. Unlike like McDowell in Naperville this is a desert trail with miles off wide and narrow desert trails that range from smooth to sandy to rocky. Instead of trees there are cacti. And to my knowledge there is not river through it.

The wildlife is different. One has deer, coyote, egrets, herons, red tailed hawks, frogs, rabbits, turtles, squirrels and non venomous snakes. The other apparently has rattlesnakes, horses, cows, javelinas,  tarantulas, ravens, tortoises and wild hares. First was Naperville and I see all those. In Arizona I have only seen a hare!!

This was my fifth trip to Javelina. Over the years I have seen it grow from a small race to a big party. The race had to move a few miles to a new staging area three years ago changing the loop used. When I was there first time it was five 15 miles plus a small 9 miler at the end. Now it is five 20 mile loops, actually a 22 mile loop then four 19.5 loops. The new loop actually uses the same trails as the old loop but adds some newer trails in the mix.

Steve has three 100 mile finishes and a 100km finish. Last year he had to DNF after a hot race so was back to avenge that finish by doing the 100k again. Joining the run was Matt from LA. In 2008 and 2009 Steve, Matt and I crewed for Kelvin Marshal at Badwater 135 in Death Valley. Although I have seen Steve over the years this was first time since 2009 I had seen Matt although we had chatted via email over that time. It was almost like having the Badwater crew back again less Steve Hanes.

Steve, I and Matt (one lop to go for the lads)

I flew in from Chicago on Thursday and Steve picked me up at the airport. He had an Ironman Arizona captain's meeting to attend that evening so being the event manager I am I was excited to attend. Was an interesting meeting hearing what they would all be doing at the race in mid November. The car drive from Steve's house to Javelina HQ takes us along the Ironman bike course. Sat in front of us at the meeting was another guy named Steve who was also doing Javelina. We actually ran into him at JJ on set up day.  

At Steve's house his wife Toni had made us an awesome meal, curried veggies over white rice. Unlike last year we would spend two nights at the preserve, around 3 miles from race HQ in Steve's new RV. I got a tour of the home on wheels. Perfect for ultra races.

Bright and early on the Friday we got up early. Loaded a few last things into an already packed SUV to drive to Fountain Hills to meet up with my friend Mike who was a recent transplant to the area. Over the years I have worked many races with Mike from 5ks to marathons. He was also a runner but had never been to an ultra. He was very keen to help out including with set up at race HQ. Like last year we got a great spot for the canopy right by the parade track and then put up a tent right behind it. With Mike's help we was done very quickly. Thanks Mike. 

We hung around HQ for a little while chatting to other ultra runners until Matt and his wife Francine got in from LA then took the long drive to the race packet pick up. It was packed with runners, crew and friends but both runners got their stuff quickly giving us time to explore the vendors and sales. Time for a late breakfast. Mike had some errands to do but would be back the next day to watch the race for a few hours.

A trip to the grocery store for supplies then time to pack up my bag for the next two days and we all headed to the preserve. RV, SUV and rental car. The RV grounds had some great views of Four Peaks mountains that over looked the race trails. There was cacti everywhere. After dinner we sat around chatting about race then tales about Steve's old home in Clifton AZ. As the sun went down coyotes started to sing and then the stars came out. Having taken an astronomy class for a degree last year the skies now fascinate me. I laid back on a camp bench as Mars came into view, other stars started to shine and parts of the Milky Way came into view. The Moon then rose over Four Peaks before popping up high. I also caught a meteor screaming through the sky. What a sight.

Four Peaks as the sun set (behind camera)

After a surprising great nights sleep Toni drove us the 3 miles to race HQ. The 100 miler had already started and we saw them on the first trail section that paralleled the road. We lugged some bags and a cooler to the canopy where Matt and Francine were already waiting for us. Not long till the 100k start so we all headed up to the start ready for race time. Announcer and RD Jubilee was in fine form using the top of her van as an announcing stage.

Count down began and 275 runners headed around the parade track before turning onto the red trail single track. I'd see them in 4 to 5 hours.

Francine and I went back to the canopy to chat for a while and of course post photos to Facebook then she left for her nearby hotel while I got ready to hit the trails. Last year I did an out n back on the same trail but this time after heading out on the same trail I went through the Pemberton trailhead to where JJ used to be staged then took the red trail back in which is the first 2 miles of the race. This new to me section was really scenic and a great section to be on. The last 2/3 of a mile was more rugged and cut along a hill side. That last part I did last year in the dark when I ran out to meet Steve. Although I saw no animals on my 4.5 mile trek I did see a lot of birds and plenty of people either running, hiking and a few bikers. Definitely a great adventure playground. I could get used to these trails.          

Back at race HQ I hung out at the canopy, went for a coffee at the Gypsy Cafe and looked over the different vendors. It was amazing watching all the runners heading up the parade track to the start/finish and then head back out. At some point my Chicago friend Jeni came through. I ran/hiked with her back to her camp area where her parents were waiting. It was good to see them all again. Jeni's mother would be pacing her for a night loop. Once Jeni was ready I walked with her to the race aid station so she could refuel; water and food. Then Jeni started to feel woozy and dizzy. I got her to sit in the shade and ran to get her mother. We stayed with her for a little while, got her to drink a bottle of water. That really helped and she was ready to head out for loop two. I sadly did not see her again during the race but happy to report Jeni finished her second JJ and second 100 mile this year and in a PR. So proud of her. 

Not long after Mike came to the race site. Gave him a tour of race HQ which he was amazed at. So different than a 5k set up. Toni came down from the RV camp and Francine returned so we could all wait for Steve and Matt. Matt was first back followed by Steve. Both made sure they refueled fully and took a little rest time before heading back out.

Then it was beer time for Mike and I. Local Huss Brewing creates a special Javelina IPA each year for the race. It is not cheap at $5 a can but tasted really good. That brewery is one of Mike's local favourites. Mike stayed for a little longer before heading home. I think he enjoyed his first ultra. As he lives near by he hikes the trails in the area a lot and also does trail work with a local group.

Time for me to just rest and catch a nap or two. Francine was following Matt on his Garmin tracker so knew where he was and when to return. Before heading back she texted me "need anything from BK" "Vanilla shake and if they have it a veggie burger" Well both hit the spot, thanks Francine. 

Matt came in moving very well after 40+ miles, did the turn around and came to the canopy. He was dropping. His feet were killing him and he had blisters. Hmmmm, no you are not. Got him to sit and got some fluids in but he didn't want food. Some cooling was helping and then checking his feet he had one small side blister but they looked fine.  Toni, who is a nurse, popped the blister and patched it up. Deep down we all knew if Matt and Steve went out together on the last loop both would finish. Steve despite the normal ultra wear and tear was having a good smart and steady race. When he arrived he had a crowd of friends awaiting him. Like Matt we got him fueled up, feet cared for and ready for the next night loop and yes they headed out together leaving the friends to canopy party. Then I was on my own again to rest and nap and cheer runners on.

Stepping back a bit, just after sunset Patrick Reagan of Hoka won the 100 mile race for the second year. This time he ran much of the race alone winning by over 2 hours. Photo is after 3 loops I recall.

Matt and Steve's last loop was their slowest but given the heat of the day, the distance gone so far and Matt who had only ever done 50k plus was hurting after two loops this was to be expected. Francine and I were both following Matt via Garmin and therefore now Steve so we was ready when they hit the parade loop 61.75 miles done one .25 mile parade track to go. We joined them heading to the finish but cut out to try and catch photos of the glorious finish. Both finished in fine style and received their finishers buckles.  Congratulations Steve and Matt. Many photos ensured including climbing up on the finisher's podium.

Now it was time to head out for some sleep. Matt and Francine headed to their hotel while Toni, Steve and I headed back to the RV. In the morning after a great breakfast and coffee we went back to race HQ to pack up the canopy and tent catching the last few finishers get to their goals. So inspiring. Our camp was broken down in record time; guess we are pros at this after so many years.

All that was left was the drive back to Steve's house, unpack the RV and SUV, showers, food and a good cat nap.

Steve and Toni's cat Kuda

Just like last year and all the other years I had a great time at Javelina. I have watched this race grow to one of the largest USA ultras both in runner numbers and crew helping their runners. While it has a party atmosphere it is also laid back in parts and a great get together of ultra runner and fans. Some might think it would be boring to hang out at HQ but there are plenty of things to do if you make plans. I spent time with a trail run/hike of my own, walked around people watching and chatting to folks, cheered on the other runners, checked out the vendors and partook in some of the food and beverage vendors. HOKA even have a fun area set up. There was time to nap and listen to music plus Facebooking to prove I was there :-) Then of course looking after the runners. Ever year I hate leaving the race and also leaving Arizona. I really miss the desert, warmth and mountains. 

Big thanks to Steve and Toni for hosting me. Congrats to Steve and Matt for their 100k finishes. And also to my Chicago friend Jeni who PR'd the 100 miler 3 months after her last 100 mile race. It was great meeting Francine. Thanks to Mike for helping Friday and crewing on Saturday with me.        

I will be back.

Photos by Ian (me), Francine, Mike and Jeni's family. Javelina logo "owned by the race".

Websites of interest  race site Jeni's site