Sunday, November 10, 2013

Javelina Jundred 2013 - Crew and Pacer Race Report

When one of your best friends is running her first 100 mile race and asks you to crew and pace, you just ask when and where you need to be! Lesley had chosen Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Trail Run on October 26, 2013 in the Phoenix, Arizona area on the Pemberton Trail for her first.

Our fellow bestie Elaine would also be crewing. Elaine and I flew out midday Friday to meet Lesley there. We went out to the trail to see the race site set-up and pick out our tent. 
Big race site in the desert
They had a really neat set-up where you could rent a tent and cots for yourself and/or your crew, and they would set it all up for you. Perfect for out-of-towners.

All the green tents were rented ones. We picked a great spot out of the main drag
but within 50 feet of the indoor restroom and showers. Score!

In the downtime of Loop 1 on race day, Elaine decorated the tent. It made it so easy to find in the sea of tents!
The race loops are "washer" style where you reverse your loop each time you come back into the start/finish line base camp. When you're tired, and your crew is tired, it's not confusing AT ALL (NOT!).

The course is 6 full 15.3-mile loops and a partial 7th loop.
They had some great reminders and decorations at the start of each race loop.

And of course we took a picture at the start/finish!

Race eve dinner was Italian - yummy pizza and a glass of wine (or two) to settle the nerves. 

Then an early bedtime back at our rooms at the host hotel.

Race Morning - A Brush with Running Celeb
In the car by 4:45 AM - yawn. We went to the race site where I dropped off Lesley, Elaine, and all the gear in our car. I would then have to go back to the parking area a few miles away and take a shuttle to get back to the start.

Walking to the shuttle, I walked right by Hal Koerner who seemed to be trying to figure out how to use the shuttle to get all his gear to the start. I was amazed to see such a front runner heading to the start so close to the gun going off.

I sighed in relief when I grabbed what looked like it must be the last seat in the shuttle van. I sat in the middle of the back bench seat and then I saw a head through the side door survey the scene and duck back out. "JB!" I yelled. He stuck his head back in. "We can fit you in on this back seat. You're skinny!"

Someone else recognized his name and asked if he was JB Benna. He was totally humble about it. The crew dad next to me was confused about the guy's celebrity status, so I told him that JB had made this well-known movie about ultrarunning called "Unbreakable". I'd met JB briefly at Western States 100 this year. We chatted for the couple minute drive to the race site.

Everyone hopped off the shuttle van, and I went to hurry the 0.3 mile walk in the dark to the race site to find Lesley. I was struggling to powerwalk as fast as tall JB. Dude was carrying 3 full gear bags so after asking nicely and being rebuffed, I basically said "Come on, we're going the same way" and helped him carry one of the bags.

Near the start line I handed him back the bag and said I needed to find my runner and wished him luck. We'd see him again out on the course about midnight. (He did finish the race.)

I rush off to get to Lesley and in the dark and chaos of expansive "Tent City", I tripped on the corner of a tent stake and went down hard in the sand... In front of the main portapotty area... With 50 runners waiting in the lines. UGH. 30 people lurch with a "Are you okay?!?" Yeah, just my pride hurt. They all had to be saying "Good thing she's not pacing or crewing for me!" HA!

And They're Off!
Back with about 10 minutes to the start. I grabbed a quick picture with Lesley. Note we're in jackets - funny because it would get VERY HOT later in the day. I told Lesley I had taken one for the team, and we wouldn't have any more falls today. :-)

The start line had lots of excited energy coming from all the 100 milers.

They trotted through the start arch and we knew we had several hours before we would see Lesley again. Then I looked down and noticed my knee was bleeding. Oops. I went over to medical to snag a bandaid but the medical people were sitting there looking bored and Elaine was worried with all the dirt in it that it might get infected over the day. Medical guys were nice and cleaned me up and I slapped a bandaid on my stupid skinned knee.

Team Headlamp

Here was our official crew pic after we had climbed up a hill to look down on "Tent City" aka the race site. 

Elaine, Me, Adam

Adam went off to the higher hill, but Elaine and I first had him take a picture of us with our team shirts. I love this shirt - designed by Iris who does all my race logos for The Active Joe. It's a great tech shirt that's subtle (it says "Blinding the Competition" since Lesley's trail nickname is Headlamp), so I'll wear it again for sure!

Then a park ranger yelled at Elaine and me. It's a trails-only park, and we were wandering off trail up on this hill. He pointed out the hill and was nice about it. Oops! During this, I noticed later my off-trail travel resulted in a few one inch cactus spines embedded in my shin. Classy.

The view at the top of the hill was awesome. It was also one of the few places I could get any cell service.

We came back in time to see the frontrunners come in for their first loop.

Hal Koerner who would end up winning the race!
A little while later, we laid out our crew set-up. I had learned some techniques at Western States. You spread out a beach towel with all the things they may need. Then they can easily shop and you can go down the towel asking them "Do you need glide?", "Need more energy gels?!", etc. 

Lesley came in and like clockwork we handled all her needs.

Fill water, take pictures, restock her, get the rocks out of her shoes - Elaine and I worked together as a team to get it done!
Lesley grabs Oreos before heading out on Loop 2

What did we do between loops? Strategize and make mental lists of what Lesley would need at the next loop, mellow at the tent, head to the car for an air-conditioned nap with the seats down in the back of the rental SUV, recharge phones, take a picture with the cactus!
Elaine + Cactus. She's set - neck pillow and water bottle!
30 Miles In! 
Lesley came in at the end of loop 2 still in good spirits. Some people were starting to look pretty wilted as temperatures climbed quickly. 

Crew pitstop with Elaine handling needs and restocking and me lubing up feet and changing her socks. A good friend will lube nasty dirty smelly ultrarunner feet!

This next loop would be in the 90s through the afternoon.
There's a great Lesley smile.
 She shoved food in her gullet before heading back out for Loop 3

"No One Touch Me!"

Lesley had been out on Loop 3 longer than we'd expected. She was still within the limits to keep making cutoffs, but any extra time she'd banked the first two loops was disappearing. She came in right before 7:30 pm, crossed the timing mat, I stepped out from the crowd to get her attention and gesture her over to our crew set-up, and she looks bothered.

Then she yelled "NO ONE TOUCH ME!" 15 people in her vicinity shrunk back a foot like she had slapped them all. She repeated again and again, "I don't want anyone to touch me."

She sat in the chair. I said, "Lesley, what's wrong?"
"I just want to sit here," she said.
I gave it 10 seconds. I knelt by the chair.
"I need you to tell me what's wrong," I said quietly.
She was flustered. Her digestive system had betrayed her out on that last 15.3-mile loop and she'd had to make several potty stops along with not being able to take in food or drink, through the hot afternoon temperatures.

Elaine and I pushed on her hard. "You have to go back out there, Lesley." "No, I don't wanna." Elaine said, "Lesley, Brian would want you to go back out there." That started to turn her around. Our good friend Brian had been signed up for this 100 miler and had passed away a little less than 2 weeks before. We had spread his ashes just the Wednesday before the race.
Lesley had talked to the race director and she carried Brian's bib in the pocket of 
her water bottle handheld the whole race. He was with us in some form or fashion.
We got some sips of water and convinced her to drink a little soup broth, got her out of the chair, and with Elaine pushing and me pulling, figuratively not literally, we marched her out to the course.

So This is What Ultrarunner Sleepwalking Looks Like
The company seemed to raise her spirits. We moved along at a decent walk for the first 1.5 miles while I babbled away about the day's news. I'd been tracking all our friends at Cactus Rose 100M and 50M back home in Texas and told her all about everyone's exploits.

She complained about her tummy cramping, and I kept having her drink sips of water.

We got to the aid station (stupid spacing - an aid station 1.5 miles from the start of that every-other loop), and she sat in a chair. I admit I didn't refill our water, but neither of us had drunk much and I was way more focused on food. I had her take two endurolytes (trying to settle her nausea) and got her some soup. I tasted the soup to make sure it wasn't too hot and handed it off telling her if she would take 3 sips, I would leave her alone and we could go, because she didn't want anything. She made a potty stop next and we were out of there.

5 miles to the next aid station. Such a LONG 5 miles. With about 3/4 of a mile, Lesley went sharply downhill. I was leading her trying to keep some purpose to the walk, and glancing over my shoulder slightly to make sure she was behind me. She wouldn't talk. I kept talking just to try to give her something to focus on. I knew lack of fueling can be a big cause of sleepwalking and hallucinating on course, and I knew I was fighting to overcome 15 hot miles of dehydration and poor fueling and try to get us back on pace to make cutoffs.

The 5 miles became these things:
  • Hand feeding Lesley Mike N Ike candies (her fave candy on the trail which I had taken from her handheld) and the occasional Endurolyte salt tablet. This was literally a "Time for a Mike N Ike. Open up, Lesley." "UH UH." "Yes, now." I would then shove candy into her slightly open month.
  • Flashing my headlamp in her eyes to wake her up.
  • Telling her to keep moving and not to slow down when headlamps would come towards us
  • Several times she did sit down on the side of the trail to take a nap. I would say, "I'll count to 10 in my head. Then it's time to go." And on the dot, I would tell her it was time, hook an arm under her armpit and have to wrench her up from the ground.
  • One of the times she complained about a shoe and plopped down for me to take the shoe off and find the rock. When we got out, she bellyached like her wrist was broken. I thought it was a rock in her palm. No, it was a little cactus spine. So here I was picking out a splinter in the dark of the desert with my headlamp while my runner howled.
  • Reasoning with a Manipulative Child. Me: "We're out here; you can't drop now." Lesley: "Yes, I can. They have ATVs at the next aid station." Me: "Yeah, well, it's night so they can't get you out in the dark." Lesley: "..." Talk about an addled brain on her because she dropped the argument. ATVs do have headlights, but hey, it worked!
Yes, she was basically a trail toddler. 100%. And she knows she was, although the details in her mind are less fresh and less scary. I was freaking out. "I shouldn't have let her go back out." "I just wanted her to at least get a 100K buckle if not the 100M." "She's going to hate me after this." "She'll never be my friend again." "What if I can't get her moving this time?!"

Luckily, it was all starting to work. All the drink reminders and drying out her mouth with the Mike N Ike's meant that 3 miles out from the aid station she pitched a fit that she was out of water in both handhelds. I proceeded to pour all my remaining water into her handheld and told her to keep drinking. Post-race I had a little dehydration and know it was this 75 minutes in the dry desert without water when I gave her mine. Still worth it.

The sugar from the Mike N Ike's at least helped enough to get us to the Jackass Aid Station. We were at mile 51.

Back From the Dead
I had been promising her she could sit when we got to the aid station. But I was still refusing to let her take a nap. We had agreed she could have one 10 minute nap during the 100 miles, but it was too early, and I was still trying to figure out if we could make up time to stay within cutoffs and get her the distance.

She sat on the edge of a cot. I yelled repeatedly that she was NOT to lay down. She put her head down on her hands while I went off to refill all our water bottles. I came back with coke and soup and had her drink them. A guy was asleep on a cot next to her with just his feet poking out of a sleeping bag.

"He gets to sleep," she said.
I said, "No, Lesley, he's dead. They just can't get his body out of here until dawn." That got a smile.

3 cookies, a potato piece, more soup, 2 more cups of coke, and a bean burrito where, like a toddler, she dipped her finger in the excessive bean goop and flicked it into the sand several feet away from her. And it's like the light started to go back on in her brain.

Finally. I had gotten her drinking again. And now I'd refueled the machine. It was time to move.

She was back from the dead, and we left the aid station and jogged the flats and downs, averaging a 17-18 minute pace. A mile later she wanted to do our traditional "Single Digits Left in the Race" dance, but I refused. She was ready to give in for a 100K (62 mile) buckle when she finished Loop 4, but we weren't here for that buckle. So I didn't dance.

I did the math and redid the math and redid it. And I accepted the reality. She'd lost so much time sleepwalking and in the previous Loop 3, when she and I are not fast runners to start with, she just could not make the cutoffs. Hard cutoffs wouldn't happen until around mile 77, but the writing was on the wall. So I told her, "Ok, 100K it is."

Everything hurt on her but she kept moving. She had a good attitude now.

Creatures of the Night
Lesley had seen a small rattlesnake just off the trail early in the loop that gave her a scream, while I had totally missed it.

But about a mile after our conversation of acceptance of finishing 100K, all of a sudden something scurried into the shadows of my light. Something furry that darted, changed paths unexpectedly, and brushed my shoe as it crossed between the tight formation of me then Lesley to the other side of the path. Some sort of field mouse! And Lesley and I screamed bloody murder. It FREAKED. US. OUT. 

A quarter mile later I yelled a "Stop" with a rattlesnake several feet ahead spread across the trail. We quietly stood there, no doubt looking bored, as he slithered across the trail. Once his tail had just left the trail we skirted the outside edge to pass him. We warned the approaching runners coming towards us, on another loop coming back in this "washer" style course, to watch out in case he was hanging on the edge of the trail or changed his mind to recross.

Funny how cool we were with that rattlesnake versus the reaction to the harmless mouse! 

Last Aid Station
We got to the last aid station, and funny enough I didn't remember to check her soup. She chastised me quickly for scalding her after she took that first super hot sip. Darn it all!

So I had to rush the cup back to get a couple ice cubes. It may look bizarre when the pacer is acting like a taste tester, but the temperature's important! I need it to warm her up, without scalding her, and without being too hot that she sits and coddles it when I need her to get moving. Delicate balance!

The Darkness Will Eat You
The last couple miles the desert trail opens up to rolling dunes of white in the headlamp. Since I hadn't been on the trail before and was leading, I was straining to seek out each ribbon marker. My lamp was dimming a bit for my level of night blindness, so I took one of Lesley's knucklelights for leading us. But generally the last couple miles I was holding in a slow anxiety attack building. I have some claustrophobia and the darkness was feeling smothering like it was pressing in on us. I remember thinking the darkness was going to eat us. My brain had been on overdrive for almost 6 hours through the evening. I was ready to end that loop.

In The End, You Can't Fight The Clock
Lesley and I came into the start/finish, and Lesley turned in her chip and declared her DNF. We'd been moving at a 17-18 minute pace those last 8.5 miles, which was great. But she would have had to negative split the next loop to make the cutoff time. Sometimes you have to face reality. She wouldn't get anything more than the 100K buckle if she got pulled at mile 77. The day was over.

I'd been running with her since 7:30 pm. It was now 1:30 am. That's discombobulating!

By the time, she had a rest in a chair, then we got everything packed up, drove in one car to get to the other car in the shuttle parking, and then drove to the hotel, it was 4 am. YAWN. Man it felt good to sleep, but I couldn't sleep long. Then I went and found a HUGE diner-style breakfast nearby. Later that day, Elaine and I flew back home to Dallas.

I'm proud of Lesley for the fight she gave out on that course, happy to have crewed her with Elaine, thankful to have been out there for Loop 4 with her and able to give the help I could, and incredibly amazed at her 100K-buckle-earning 62 miles that day! Way to go, Lesley!


  1. It may sound strange, but I really want to crew/pace for an ultra run. I did a 2-hour shift crewing for a friend during a 24-hour race this past spring, but I didn't feel like I did much. 18 hours in, and he was completely lucid. I've told him that if he does the race next spring, I'm on board for pacing.

  2. Wow, what an experience! You are a terrific friend. Sounds like a crazy amazing scary fun terrible wonderful day! :)