“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
I think one of the best things about ultra running is reflecting back on the races. Granted, living in the moment is the ideal way to live your life, yet, there is such joy reminiscing about the journey of that one day you tackled.
My Javalina Jundred trek started in the wee hours of October 25, 2017, amid a torrential rain storm in VT. We dropped our boys off the night before our flight at my parents house (Thank you Mom and Dad, they had a total blast hanging with you guys!!!) knowing we’d be leaving super early to catch our six am flight out of Boston. Our flights were great, no problems with connections. We landed in Phoenix around 11am, AZ time (3 hour difference for this East Coast girl). Shuttling over to the rental car, I took in the different landscape, nothing like the green back home, but yet so intriguing. Giant Saguaro Cactus lined the roads and desert as we drove up 17 towards Flagstaff. Our friend CJ, who is also the Founder of Run Far told us you’ll see over six different eco systems on the way to Flag and he wasn’t kidding! He even told us that the Giant Saguaro can take 100 years to grow an arm…..Whoa! We’re not in Vermont anymore!
Immediately after checking in, I turned towards my hubs and said…. “We gotta go hiking!!” We were running on fumes, but the crisp sun shined air got us moving. We can’t sit still. Never have, never will.
I have to laugh at this photo, because we got out of the car and sprinted up the trail and BOOM…..seconds later we felt utterly and completely drunk, and we we don’t drink! Our heads were spinning and my hubby was especially feeling woozy. Then it hit us, this must be some sort of altitude dizziness. We drove up this crazy road to get to this trail and were now around 8-9k in elevation. In Vermont, our highest Mountain, Mt. Mansfield sits at 4,395 above sea level. Our bodies had never felt any kind of altitude. We slowed and took an easy stroll through what I liked to call, the “Candy Land” trail, and regained our bodies back.
The night finished off with meeting our friends at Run Far. We had a lovely dinner and chatted about life, races, Run Far, and the upcoming JJ100!! It was wonderful putting the voices to the faces I’ve been working with these past five months. So blessed to have these people in our lives.
With awesome hiking tips from CJ and Mallory, we opted not to visit the Grand Canyon (we’re saving that for a grand adventure with our boys) and decided to head for Sedona! Wow, Sedona blew us away! We celebrated our 26th year anniversary together (yup, high school sweethearts) hiking, eating, playing, laughing, shopping, and more eating. It was a phenomenal day. I felt like the luckiest girl alive. Give me some hiking shoes, a good trail, my man and some food, I’m set for life.
The beauty and quietness was quite amazing. We just sat and took it all in………I will never forget our time in Sedona.
Friday we were up early! We couldn’t wait to help man the Run Far booth at Javelina. I would be meeting more Run Far peeps, it was like Christmas in October! Let me tell you, it’s WAY hotter in McDowell Mtn Regional Park than Sedona or Flagstaff. When we stepped out of the car to get to the booth, I felt like I was walking on the sun’s surface. And we were told this is cooler than last year! Yikes!
It was awesome meeting and chatting with fellow runners and telling them the Run Far message. At Run Far we raise awareness about veteran Suicide and PTSD, while raising money for the children of our fallen veterans who have lost their battle at home due to suicide. All proceeds from sales/donations goes 100% to the Sergeant Sean Northcutt Scholarship Fund. We are out running and going beyond our goals to let these children know there are so many people rooting for them and to always know, “Never Give Up”
We got a quick pre-race photo by the photo extraordinaire, Howie Stern and then headed back to our hotel for some rest and relaxation before the big day.
Our race day started at 7 am. Walking to the start I was very calm, which is funny, because I am typically an anxious person. I work on it daily, as it heightened after my horse accident. I however am not competitive when it comes to running. For me, it’s a chance to see the world around me at a slow pace. I consider myself a snail when it’s comes to running, much different than my equine endurance life, I LOVED the competitiveness in that sport, but with running I just love the pure joy it gives me.
We stared out winding through an alley of crew tents and cheering, slowly turning into a single track in the desert. I kept wanting to pinch myself, to enjoy everything my eyes and senses were experiencing. I was running along side my hubs and great friend, Missy. The terrain is totally different from VT. Way flatter, Way hotter, and no humidity. And oh yeah, Cacti. Some people at the start were wearing jackets as Guy and I were already hot, oh dear. First loop brings you to the first aid station, Coyote Camp (4.0 miles in) This came relatively fast as we were gently cruising down the trails. We got our ice bandanas out and filled up our arm sleeves with ice (This is a MUST DO…..it will save your race. Ice on you, not in YOU) filled up our bottles with tailwind and off we went. I was consuming about 17 oz of Tailwind every 45 minutes.
It would be 6.5 miles until our next stop, Jackass Junction. There is a rocky section, so you have to be careful of your footing, mindful not to twist an ankle. I was excited to see this aid station. I’ve heard so many stories about this one, it’s like legends passed down from one runner to another. The volunteers greeted us with cheer and were so helpful filling up ice bandanas and water bottles. I nibbled on a few potatoes before snapping a few pictures. Thanks John Christley for capturing some great shots of us. The sun was starting to get a little stronger in the sky, but we were locked and loaded with ICE. Thank you Aravaipa Running for having so much ICE. This northerner thanks you!
Our sights were now on Rattlesnake Ranch, 5.2 miles out. I felt really good leaving JA, I always feel on a high as I leave an aid station. So much adrenaline. On this section of the loop we were starting to see the front runners of the 100 coming at us. I have to say, this was such a high for me. Seeing some of the elite racers, so focused, yet so kind. We’d yell, “Great job” and in return they give the same. We were mindful to get to the side, as they were really RACING….it’s quite impressive to witness. The first loop is the longest, it adds about 2 miles or so before you get back to Javelina Jeadquarters. The sun was becoming relentless, but we marched on, we couldn’t wait to check off our first loop!
Coming into Javelina Jedquarters was a hoot. You wind through camp and literally cross through the finish line and loop around and head back to your aid station tent. Our Run Far family was there helping out with whatever we needed. I actually changed out of my cute stars skirt and into my more comfy, fashionable Inknburn shorts before heading back out. I also grabbed a ginormous sandwich, I was eating!!!!!
Loop two would be reversed of what we just did, minus the 2 extra miles. So our first aid station would be Rattlesnake Ranch approximately 3.7 miles into loop 2. After filling up with yet more ice, you can only imagine how fast that stuff melts in a desert, we trudged on for 5.2 miles to Jackass again. This is where my wheels were starting to fall off. I felt like something was off. I had been drinking my tailwind and determined that I may have added a double dose to both bottles by accident. I knew I needed to drink, but the overly concentrated tailwind was messing with me and the unforgiving sun was really starting to make me feel junky. During races, I normally dry heave. It’s just what happens to me. So I felt the anxiousness creeping up. When this happens, I honestly don’t want to have anyone near me. I pulled back from Guy and Missy and stayed in my bubble. I worked on my breathing and mantras. I thought long and hard about what I overcame at the VT100 a few short months ago (I began dry heaving at mile 7 there, but ultimately finished). Guy could tell I was struggling a bit and chatted with Missy, telling her she should go on, that we were going to walk for a few miles into Jackass. I felt bad not saying goodbye, but I was so thankful for the miles I got in with her. I craved shade, a seat to sit down on, but I knew I had to keep trekking towards the aid station where there would be shade, ice, and a much needed bathroom. I have to thank my hubby again for his sweet friendship, he could easily lap me, but for some odd reason, he loves being out there with me. I truly love running with him. He gives me so much strength and support, he’s been my coach this whole year and I’m forever grateful for his love and guidance on and off the trails.
Coming into Jackass, I was feeling crummy, I had just come off a DNF at the VT50, so I really, really wanted this finish. It’s was humbling knowing that I was only 50k into my 100k, essentially half way, feeling like crap. I immediately went and grabbed ice and sponges to cool off. I longed for the chair, please let me sit in the shade. I sipped on gingerale and politely asked the nurse if she could check my pulse. My heart was racing a bit, but she said you’re fine, just sit and cool off. Had a nice chat with a gentleman who was doing pretty much the same thing as me. He told me broth would be served soon, which surprisingly sounded yummy given it was a cool 92 degrees out (I was told last year hit over 100….Holy Hell) Guy was looking for me, as last he knew I was in the bathroom. I forgot to tell him that I was going to sit and chat with the nice comforting nurse, so he began knocking on the porta-pottie “Krista?!?!?!??!” My bad.
Of course I spotted Jim Walmsley from my chair and so wanted to say hi and course take a selfie with him. I’ve love following his running career, he has so much guts to just go for i, I admire that. I whispered to Guy and said, wouldn’t it be awesome to get a pic of us with Walmsley? Guy said, “I already talked to him and asked him when is he coming to run VT????” He needs to come East. So he walked over and asked if we could snap a shot, that it would really cheer his wife up. I have to say, this kid is so nice, soft spoken and genuine. Thanks for cheering this old gal up!
The desert was amazing at night, you could hear the coyotes yipping in the distance, yet at times I felt like they were right behind me! We saw our first Tarantula……she was indeed docile like our friends told us she would be.