Javelina Jundred 100 Mile, Fountain Hills, AZ

Elevation Gain: about 5000'; High Point: 2480'

Nov 15-16, 2008 - Javelina was to be my third sequential hundred mile race, each six weeks apart, without training and just a smattering of maintenance running. Could I do it? The venue was right - the beautiful desert northeast of Phoenix outside of Fountain Hills at McDowell Mountain Park. The temperature was summer-like, but otherwise mild. My outlook was good and injuries were in check. I was aiming for a good close to the season.

Annie and I winged into Phoenix for a week's vacation to enjoy the canyonlands after doing this event. After arriving late Wednesday and driving up to Flagstaff, we played tourist on Thursday, enjoying the vistas and spirit of the Grand Canyon. Before heading back to Phoenix on Friday for packet pickup and the race Saturday we received news that Ann's son Jim had passed away Thursday while we were at the Grand Canyon. It took the wind out of our sails as we spent the day coming to grips with the sudden news; we went to the airport to make arrangements for return flights to end our holiday. Since Ann couldn't fly until 6 a.m. Saturday morning we sought retreat in a hotel close to the airport and tried to rest. The night was hard and sleepless when we arose at 3:30 a.m. to go to Sky Harbor for Ann to catch the first flight back to D.C. My arrangements were a day later back to Pittsburgh where I would pick up our car in airport parking and meet Ann later for the funeral.

Parting at the airport our separate ways, I headed directly to the start of the race to make a run at this hundred; since I was here I would see what I could do, despite the circumstances. Ann and I had driven out to the start the evening before to pick up my race packet, so I was ready when I arrived by 5 a.m. Despite the emotional trauma and lack of sleep I felt I was ready to go.

As runners milled around in readiness in the dark, I decided to run with just a small flashlight until there was enough daylight. The moon was full and still high in the night sky, so I felt I could navigate o.k.

The hundred or so desert rats headed off into the Sonoran Desert from McDowell Mountain Park at 6 a.m. The field separated into a line of bobbing headlamps and gyrating shadows across one wash after another, gradually heading uphill at variable paces. I fell in behond a pretty young lady with long hair that danced from side to side as she moved up the trail. Using the extra light to my own benefit, her unwitting assistance help me tremendously in the first hour of darkness. Saguaro cacti sillouettes stood like silent sentinels against the not-too-distant horizon of low mountains. Prickly cholla would grab at me from time to time, but for the most part the trail was wide enough to be forgiving of these assaults. We wound uphill without much strain at

McDowell Park

a gradual rate. As we progressed, the sun began to come out of hiding behind us, increasing visibility with every step. Diurnal transitions in the desert are titillating to the senses. Any dampness at all accents the odor of desert plants; any breeze is full of subtle fragrance. Magical! I was charmed by the exotic nature of this event from the start and couldn't help running more like a tourist than a competitor.

Javelina elevtion

I moved ahead of my pretty companion after a half hour and thanked her for her unknowing graciousness. Keeping to my own pace I found others traveling at the same tempo and continued to move across arroyos and up and down draws as the day was birthed upon us. Javelina is run mostly on the Pemberton Trail, a 15-mile loop each way from Jeadquarters and back on itself three times, with a dog leg at the end on the Tonto Tank Trail. Two aid stations kept the distance between aid to no more than five miles.

Javelina Map\

I was running well through the first aid station, Coyote Camp, and cruised into Jackass Junction at ten miles with nothing more than a sore left heel from running in some deep sand down in the draws. An intestinal emergency hit me soon after Jackass and I had to seek cover behind a creosote bush and relieve myself while I watched the field continue without me. After squatting I couldn't find my previous tempo, even after looking for it for a few miles. I made the turn at Jeadquarters after two-and-a-half hours and 15 miles and began to retrace my steps back the way I came, gradually uphill. The photo below represents the terrain in the Park.


I increasingly felt lousy and out of sorts as my demons began screaming in my head. I wanted to continue; I told myself that I was doing this one for Jim and would not quit. Afterall, it was not a hard course and I was way ahead of schedule. As I continued things didn't improve. I saw some horses running and asked at Coyoto Camp if they were mustangs. I was told that if I wanted to tell people I saw wild ponies that was o.k., but the truth was they had gotten out of the corral at a local ranch - quite domestic. After covering more than 25 miles I was relegated to walk where I should have easily been running. As temps rose quickly to eighty degrees and more, I became uncomfortable because of my general malaise. Despite friendliness and encouragement from runners I had gotten to know in the first 15 miles as they passed me going for their second thirty-mile lap, I made up my mind to stop when I reached Jeadquarters after thirty miles.

In analyzing my situation I concluded that the trauma of Jim's death and not sleeping the night before to console Ann had left me exhausted and unprepared for the challenge at hand. It made sense. My head and heart just weren't in it this day, so I told RD Jamil Coury of my decision to withdraw after completing 30 miles by noon, with regret, and I explained why. He and his staff were very understanding, even making a special effort to retrieve my drop bag. I grabbed a bite to eat but didn't stick around. My heart had been ripped open and I needed to be alone to grieve in my own way. I headed back to the hotel and remained there until I flew home later.

A DNF under the circumstances didn't bother me so much. I had more important things to think about. In retrospect, I ran 30 miles in six hours, a lot of that just barely moving at that. Otherwise I was running well. On a normal day the time would have been closer to 5 hours. I had hopes of completing 100 miles in less than 24 hours and believe I could have done it otherwise. That day will have to wait for now.


in the Sonoran Desert at Javelina

Saguaro Cacti
Saguaros at McDowell Park