Javelina 100 Mile: 2017
This year's Javelina 100 was a bit unique to me as an ultra marathon athlete. Not because it was a new event to me, or on unfamiliar terrain, but because it was my first goal race back post-injury. Injuries seem to be an inevitable reality for endurance athletes at some point, but I had managed to avoid any significant setbacks of this nature since 2009. Of course I had experienced minor setbacks in my training blocks over the years, but I had been fortunate not to sustain an injury which essentially took me back to square one. In late April of this year, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture on my right sacral ala and a partially torn hip labral. This was quite a surprise, as I had never experienced a stress fracture or broken a bone before this time. With that said, I came back recharged and well-trained following my injury. Going into Javelina I had what I would consider one of my best 10-12 week training blocks leading into a race. I felt fit and confident and had a real hunger to race.
This year's race was different from last year in that it brought a more competitive field in comparison with previous years. As a second year participant in the Ultra Trail World Tour, the heat of the event was turned up a bit. This was great news to me, as my recent 100 mile races on the track hadn't provided as much head-to-head competition as I would have preferred at that distance. With Pat Reagan and Brendan Davies targeting Javelina, I knew defending my win and course record from last year would be no small task.
My race plan changed slightly as Saturday got closer and the forecast, like last year, was looking to be near record highs. Being a desert course this means complete sun exposure all day. In this scenario, I prefer to attack the early stages a bit differently. Since I knew the pre-sunrise start would provide some of the coolest temperatures of the day, my plan was to get out a bit faster than what I would consider sustainable in order to bank a bit of time before the sun became a limiting factor. I also thought that if the race got out quick it would favor me in the results since I live in California and have ample opportunity to train in the dry heat.
The first lap went according to plan. We had a nice group heading through mile 22.5 (first lap is a bit longer than the subsequent four laps to round the course off at 100 miles) at sub-seven minute per mile pace. Last year, I had come through a shade above seven minute mile pace. This didn't worry me, because my assumption was that I was more fit and rested than the previous year. Our split up the gradual climb to Jackass Junction (mile 10.5) was nearly identical to my split from last year. Then we made up time from my split last year on the decent back down to headquarters. This is one of my favorite segments on any course I've ever raced, and perhaps I overreached a tad. My pace down this section flirted with six minute per mile pace on a few occasions, which at the time felt like a great flow.
The second lap I definitely started to feel a bit less comfortable than last year when we reversed directions and headed up to Jackass Junction. It was early, so I wasn't overly concerned and as the heat picked up I credited it with getting in a a rhythm with the new temps. I was reassured after leaving Jackass Junction for the second time with a fresh dowsing of cold water and an ice bandanna. Following the descent down from Jackass Junction Pat, Brendan, and I cruised out of Coyote Camp (4 miles from headquarters) together. I was feeling really good here, so assumed the front into the headquarters in about five hours cumulative time.
Last year one of my biggest mistakes of the day was heading out of Coyote Camp up to Jackass Junction on the third loop. It's a gradual assent of about 6.5 miles, and I did not bring enough water to adequately hydrate and stay cool. I was extremely mindful not to allow this to happen again, so made sure to load up with plenty of liquids before making my way up to just past the halfway point. Pat and Brendan pulled a way from me a bit during the early stages of this lap. I managed to catch up and pass Brendan before reaching Jackass Junction, but Pat had built a couple minutes on both of us at this point.
I was excited to get back on my favorite stretch from Jackass Junction down to Rattlesnake Ranch (5.5 miles). The reality didn't quite match my excitement as I began to remember the mental toll of the midway point of 100 miles. It is that point in the race when you are just far enough to start to feel it, but nowhere near crossing the finish line.
I managed to move well enough to stay ahead of Brendan and keep Pat within range (approximately 8 minutes) as I rolled into headquarter for the third time. I was incredibly relieved to pick up my first pacer, Cody Reed. As the temps reached there high point for the day, Cody kept things fresh with conversation and executing quick aid station transitions. Spirits were high, but legs were moving a bit slower than necessary to put the heat on Pat, who was executing a phenomenal race.
Pat and I have become great friends over the past couple years, and I have a hard time identifying a smarter racer. He has the speed to be seriously dangerous, but in his ultra marathon exploits to date he has managed to execute some impressive negative splits in the waning miles of 100 kilometer races; most notably his 3rd overall finish at the 2016 World 100 km Championships.
As Cody and I made our way over Jackass Junction and back down to Rattlesnake Ranch, Pat began to gradually build on his lead. By the time we made it to headquarters he had about 18 minutes on me. I picked up my second pacer, Chase Coffey, and we set our sights on making the final loop.
My mindset going into the final loop with an 18 minute deficit was that the race was still ahead of me, but that I may need a bit of help. The 100 mile distance in the heat can be a tricky game when it comes to staying cool and managing a workable fueling strategy, so I tried to keep consistent encase Pat had any hiccups along his final loop.
Much like the fourth loop, I was again reminded of the mental aspect of running all day. I was able to keep moving, but definitely was laboring a bit with the idea of pressing to the finish. I tried to keep positive by reminding myself that it was my final trip up to Jackass Junction, and that the final nine mile stretch to the finish from their was a gradual downhill in the relatively cooler night time temps.
As the final lap played out, Pat continued to press and extend his lead. I moved okay, but not with the necessary urgency to match my final loop of last years race. When all was said and done, I crossed the line in 13 hours and 52 minutes 53 seconds to finish second to Pat, who blazed a 13:01:14 for a new course record.
After a 100 mile race, I like to take a few days to reflect on my strategy, performance, and what I can learn from it all. Javelina offered plenty to consider going forward. The two biggest things I identified that I need to work on are pacing and stimulus. Although I was confident an aggressive first lap would play to my favor before the race, I now identify this as a mistake post-race. The climbing temps definitely put the brakes on to some degree regardless, but I believe I may have exasperated it by getting out a bit too fast. I also identify lack of enough long stimulus as a potential mistake. The 100 mile distance is a long way, and doing a 50 miler 4-6 weeks before may have eased the mental burden a tad. Its hard to say for sure if any of this would have improved things, but that is the beauty of the sport!
On a positive note, many things went well. My aid station transitions were more on point than last year. I had a better idea of what I would need and was able to get right to it. This is a contrast to my race last year, when on a few occasions I caught myself wandering around a bit trying to decide what to eat and how to address the heat. Another positive was my fueling. I didn't have any stomach issues or major nutritional highs and lows, which can be difficult to manage when racing in high temps.
A big thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, Beth and Nate, for coming out to crew me this year, and also Cody and Chase for coming out to the desert to keep me company and keeping me moving from 100km to the finish!
Also, a big thanks to Aravaipa Running, and RD Jamil Curry for putting on yet another incredibly well organized and eventful race. Its hard to find a better organization at putting together a weekend of fun for so many participants.
- Suunto Ambit 3
- Potato with salt