We flew out to Phoenix pretty early Friday morning (and got WAY too close to missing our flight… I’m never abandoning my tried-and-true strategy of arriving at the airport 2+ hours early EVER AGAIN!). After getting into Phoenix, we took an uber to the start/finish area. My boyfriend Gunnar and I had rented a tent to stay in that night, so we wanted to get that all situated, and we also wanted to get a good crew spot for my family. They weren’t getting in until later in the day, so we just hung out at camp until they landed, picked up the rental car, and drove over. We set up the crew tent and headed over to packet pickup. After grabbing my bib, backpack, and race shirt, we hit up Target for some last-minute supplies and had a quick dinner before splitting up to get some sleep. Sleeping at the start/finish area was really great for my typical pre-race nerves. I didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic or getting there late for any other reason. I just had to walk out of my tent! Gunnar and I woke up at around 4 am (race start was 6 am) and I had some coffee and a Clif bar before getting dressed and prepping my bottles for the first loop. I gave my crew some really basic directions on what to have ready when I came through camp: one bottle of tailwind, one bottle of water, and a long sleeve shirt & headlamp ready for me at the start of lap 3.
As far as gear goes, I used a ton of stuff (and a lot of it came in CLUTCH). I wore my Hoka One One EVO Mafate’s and Halloween-themed Injinji socks for the entire 100 miles with no issues. I did realize post-race that I had a few blisters on my left foot, but I didn’t even feel them during the race. I also had a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters, which worked amazingly. The Javelina course is pretty sandy and pebble-y, so gaiters are super helpful for keeping all that crap out of your shoes to help prevent blisters. As far as clothes go, I wore my trusty rabbit Dirt Pounder shorts, my Ultrarunning Magazine Underarmor shirt, the Senita Hideaway sports bra, a rabbit long sleeve shirt, and an old Brooks lightweight shell. For the hot part of the day, I relied heavily on my ice bandana (made by/in support of the USA 24 Hour Team!) and my Zensah arm sleeves to keep me cool. I wore my Salomon Adv Skin 8L vest the entire race and drank probably about 2,000+ calories of Colorado Cola Tailwind (omg… LIFESAVER! I am obsessed with this flavor!). Besides the Tailwind and a few packets of applesauce I grabbed from my crew, I relied a lot on the aid stations for my nutrition needs (gels, LOTS of watermelon, gummy worms, hot chocolate… you name it!).
Loop 1: Mile 0 – 22.3
There are two start waves for Javelina, due to the large number of starters in the 100 mile (700+ runners!). Those who anticipate finishing in under 24 hours start at 6:00 am, and everyone else starts at 6:10 am. I was hesitant at the initial thought of starting in the 6:00 am wave, but after my tune-up 50 miler, I knew that sub-24 would be a possibility for me. I didn’t want to psych myself out by just assuming I’d run sub-24, but I knew I had to give myself the chance to achieve it and not count it out from the start. So, on race day, I lined up in the 6:00 am wave. Because we started at 6 am (about ~45 minutes before sunrise), we had to start with headlamps. Those first few miles running through the desert, following a winding column of bright dots of light ahead of me, was completely magical. I hadn’t studied the course map terribly well and wasn’t exactly sure how far it was until the first aid station. All I really knew for sure was that Jackass Junction was the second aid station at around the midway point of the loops, and it was pretty much all uphill to Jackass and then pretty much all downhill back to the start/finish area at Jeadquarters.
After a little less than 4 miles, we arrived at the first aid station (Coyote Camp). Those miles had passed super quickly, as I had been distracted by playing a little game I had made for myself: “see how many people you can get to pass you”. I knew I didn’t want to get too caught up in trying to keep up with all the other runners around me, especially this early in the race. I forced myself to mix in some walking every so often, even though I didn’t feel like I needed it. The “hills” at Javelina are super gradual and very runnable, so it was really hard to hold back when I felt like I could easily just run up every single hill without even trying. After turning down a mimosa at the first aid station, I jogged off towards Jackass. This section of the course turned out to be the longest distance between aid stations, about 6.5 miles. It was also the most “technical” part of the course. It’s nowhere near as technical as the trails back East or up in the mountains in Colorado, but compared to the buffed out dirt and sandy washes of the rest of the Javelina course, it was pretty rocky. I spent this section chatting with some veteran Javelina runners. One guy told me how lucky we were going to be with the weather this year (predicted highs in the 80s as compared to last year’s high 90s!). Apparently, the heat got so bad last year that over 100 runners dropped after loop 1. Before I knew it, we were suddenly at Jackass Junction. Again, I turned down the offer of some alcohol (Fireball shots this time), refilled one of my soft flasks with some Roctance, and headed off towards the next aid station (Rattlesnake Ranch).
While I had been pretty good about mixing in walk breaks on the uphill sections of the course heading to Jackass, it got a little harder on the downhill parts. I just really love downhill running. And it felt so easy. I did try to be vigilant though! Every 10 minutes or so I would think to myself, “hmmm, it’s been a while since I walked. I should probably walk a bit right now”. I told myself that I would rather finish a little slower than my “potential” if it meant saving myself from a ~30 miles death march due to dead legs from pushing too early. After winding my way down past the saguaro’s and through the sandy washes, I arrived at the last aid station on this loop: Rattlesnake Ranch. I stopped long enough to top off my water flask and grab some gummy worms and then went on my merry way. For this first loop, we took a different trail back to the start/finish area than we would on all the other loops (the first loop is 22.3 miles and the other 4 loops at 19.4 miles, to equal exactly 100 miles). There was a volunteer at the fork in the trail making sure that everyone took the correct trail for their first and second loops, which was super helpful (and as a bonus, he was hilarious… wearing a suit jacket + funky boxers, dancing to the music coming out of his boombox while chugging beers).
In retrospect, I wish I had taken a few moments at Rattlesnake Ranch to grab some ice and stick it in my hat/sports bra for this last section. The sun had come up in full force and it was beginning to heat up already. While I didn’t totally dig myself into a hole in this heat, my heart rate was definitely a bit high and my perceived exertion was higher than I would have liked.
Eventually, I reached Jeadquarters and saw my crew waiting for me. I jogged through the turnaround point while chatting with Gunnar and then headed to our crew tent. At the tent, I grabbed new soft flasks (one Tailwind, one water, and one small flask of water specifically to spray on myself periodically), ate an applesauce packet, and grabbed a Spring Energy gel. I also picked up my ice bandana and tied it around my neck. I knew my Zensah arm sleeves were waiting for me in my drop bag at Jackass, and I figured I’d be fine with just the ice bandana until I got there. I still felt pretty fresh (as I should be, for mile 22 of 100 miles!).
Loop 2: Mile 22.3 – 41.7
Javelina is run washing-machine style, so for this loop, we went backward (the first loop went Coyote Camp –> Jackass –> Rattlesnake Ranch and this loop went Rattlesnake Ranch –> Jackass –> Coyote Camp). Because we had taken a different trail back to Jeadquarters on the first loop (to make it a 22.3 mile loop instead of a 19.4 mile loop), this section of trail from Jeadquarters to Rattlesnake Ranch was brand new to me! I knew this loop would probably be the hardest of the day in terms of heat (taking place from about 10 am to 2 pm). Even though my ice bandana was still pretty full by the time I got to Rattlesnake Ranch, I refilled it just to be safe. I also took full advantage of the ice water buckets at the aid station, taking a giant sponge and dousing myself all over with super cold water. While I hadn’t had many chances to test out my heat strategies in training, I knew the conventional wisdom was to get wet and stay wet. I also stuffed a few ice cubes in my sports bra and in my hat for good measure. I’d rather go a little over the top than end up on the side of the trail with heat stroke! I topped off my bottles, grabbed a few slices of watermelon, and hit the trail.
After leaving Rattlesnake Ranch, I made my way back to Jackass Junction. I spent almost the entirety of this 5.5 mile section flip-flopping with two older guys who were running together. It was the same pattern repeated throughout my entire race: I’d pass on the downhills and flats, then get passed in return on the uphills. Eventually, the three of us reached the timing mat just before the entrance to Jackass. I immediately went straight to my drop bag and grabbed my arm sleeves before heading over to the ice station. I stuffed ice everywhere I could think of: in my sleeves, in my sports bra, in my bandana, in my hat, and in every single pocket of my shorts (yes, all seven pockets!). After getting all iced up and turning down an offer of Fireball from an enthusiastic volunteer, I grabbed some more watermelon, gummy worms, and Roctane from the aid station and started making my way towards Coyote Camp. I was excited for the next ~10 miles of sweet sweet downhill running. I knew I would need to be smart and avoid my initial instinct to just run everything. It felt so easy, how could that be bad? As I meandered my way down the trail, I spotted Pat Reagan in the distance as he motored his way through his third loop (and towards his eventual win). One of the cool things about Javelina is that because the course is run washing-machine style, you get to see every runner multiple times, even the super fast elites. I cheered Pat as he went by, and kept my eyes open for more of the elites (especially Kaci!). After only two or three, I realized my sleeves were already almost dry and ice-less. While it wasn’t as hot as usual this year, the sun was still very powerful and I reminded myself to not get cocky and overexert myself during the middle of the day. I saw a few more elites run by, including Kaci (who was in 4th place overall!), and then before I knew it I was at Coyote Camp.
I went through my now-typical routine of heading straight for the ice bucket, dousing myself in cold water, and stuffing myself full of ice in every crevice possible. One of the aid station workers caught sight of my face as I squeezed out a sponge of ice water on my head, and started cracking up. She asked me to do it again and make the same exact face so she could take a picture. I guess I looked pretty happy to cool off! The run back to Jeadquarters was quick and passed in the blink of an eye. I really appreciated that the segments from the last aid on each loop to the start/finish area were short, as it made it easier mentally to know you had less than 4 miles before your loop was over. As I neared Jeadquarters, I was rejoicing a bit in my head. It was already almost 2 pm… the hottest part of the day was already almost over and it had been nowhere as bad as I anticipated! Turns out, when you make an effort to actually take it easy in the heat AND you prioritize cooling methods, you can make it through a lot easier. I caught sight of Gunnar, my mom, and my sister as I passed through the entrance to Jeadquarters. I jogged with Gunnar to the turnaround point and then headed to the crew tent. I followed the same procedure as last time: eat applesauce, fill the bandana/sleeves/hat with ice, and grab a fresh soft flask of Tailwind and water. I also decided to take a long sleeve top and headlamp with me on this loop. I wasn’t sure if I’d finish my next loop before the sun went down, and I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. I double-wrapped the headlamp and shirt in two large plastic bags so that they wouldn’t get soaked when I dumped water on myself at the aid stations and jogged off to start my next loop.
Loop 3: Mile 41.7 – 61.1
On my way back to Coyote Camp, I enjoyed seeing how different the course looked compared to how it had looked on my first pre-dawn loop in this direction. I was in a really great mood, bolstered by some newfound confidence now that I had made it through the hottest part of the day and hadn’t fallen apart like I had feared. As I worked my way to Coyote Camp and then towards Jackass Junction, I decided to use this loop to try to encourage other runners finishing up their own second loops. I just could not get a giant goofy grin off my face! So I tried to make eye contact and smile at every single runner coming towards me and yell out something encouraging. I was having so much fun with this that before I knew it, I was already halfway through the loop and arriving at Jackass Junction.
Upon reaching Jackass, I decided it was probably time to stop loading up on ice and dousing myself in water. The sun would be setting soon, and if I was still damp by the time the sun went down, I knew I could possibly get dangerously chilly and have trouble getting warm and dry. I browsed the aid station food selection again, grabbing some more trusty gummy worms. As I was doing that, one of the volunteers looked over at me and said, “Clare?”. She then explained that she recognized me from Instagram, and asked how my race was going. I was not expecting anything like that to happen, and was totally caught off guard at first! After it processed in my ultra-brain, I laughed and told her that my race was going unexpectedly well so far, but things could still change!
As I ran towards Rattlesnake Ranch and then on towards Jeadquarters, I did something that may have been a wee bit stupid. I semi-completely abandoned my “walk early, walk often” strategy. I was feeling super good after going through the 50 mile mark at around 10:30 elapsed, and I was having a hard time remembering to take walk breaks on the downhills. It just felt so good to run and I didn’t like stopping and getting out of my groove. Also, after I left Rattlesnake Ranch for the last ~4 miles before getting back to Jeadquarters, I noticed the sun was almost completely gone. I really didn’t want to stop and take the time to dig around in my pack and get the headlamp out of the plastic bags it was trapped in. So, instead, I just ran faster and decided I was going to try and get back to Jeadquarters before it was too dark to see. Which is how I found myself running sub-9 minute/mile pace at mile 58 of a 100-mile race. Hi, my name is Clare, and I’m a dumbass. In retrospect, I should have just run at a more reasonable pace and gotten away with using my phone flashlight until I got to Jeadquarters and gotten help from my crew on getting the headlamp out and ready. At the time, however, my ultra-brain was not functioning well enough to think of that option. Fortunately, I was able to make it to Jeadquarters without tripping on anything in the dark (thanks to everyone else’s headlamps lighting the way!) and reunited with my crew.
Loop 4: Mile 61.1 – 80.5
As I hit the turnaround point and met up with my crew, I realized that I had set a pretty decent 100k PR! The 100k is just the first 3 loops of the 100 mile, so it’s pretty easy to figure out your 100k split. I’ve never technically run an “official” 100k race, but I have hit the 100k distance during a timed race (the 24 Hours of Palmer Lake Death Race back in April). I hit the 100k mark at around 15:20 during Palmer Lake, and at Javelina I went through 12:21, which meant I set about a 3 hour PR for the 100k! When I realized this, I was both super excited and also a little worried. On one hand, setting a big PR like that in the middle of a longer race is super exciting! It means I could definitely set a faster 100k PR if I trained specifically for and raced one. On the other hand, setting a PR like that during a much longer race can be dangerous if it means you went out too hard in the first part of the race. I chose to hope that I hadn’t gone out too hard (with the exception of my stupid fast 4-mile section from Rattlesnake to Jeadquarters), and that my 100k PR was just very, very soft.
At the crew tent, I got my headlamp and long sleeve out, put them on, and grabbed my watch charger, phone charger, external battery, and some snacks (a Picky Bar and a baggie of gluten free pretzels). As I left the well-lit confines of Jeadquarters and entered the dark trails on my way back to Rattlesnake Ranch, I was excited to see Pat Reagan and his pacer heading towards Jeadquarters on his way to win the race. It was so wild to know that he was finishing his fifth lap as I was starting my fourth! After reaching Rattlesnake, I decided to turn on my headphones, throw on some podcasts, and grab some more food. I got a bowl of very salty chicken broth and tried to eat a potato. Unfortunately, my mouth was so dry that I could barely chew and swallow the potato (I had to take multiple gulps of water to wash it down). I think I had inhaled so much dust out on the course that my mouth was just irreparably dried out. As I made my way up the 5.5 mile gradual climb to Jackass, I started to fall into a bit of a grumpy mindset. It was dark, I was fairly alone, and I was frustrated by my inability to chew and swallow dry foods. I knew that I had to keep eating, but it was going to be a struggle to find things I could eat easily. I had grabbed the Picky Bar and pretzels from my crew tent, but I knew it would be tough to choke either of those down. I reminded myself that there was a very good chance that my poor mindset and grumpiness was caused by lack of calories, and committed myself to eating that damn Picky Bar over the next few miles. As I alternated between slow jogs and hiking, I took small bites, chewed as much as I could manage before my mouth got so dry I felt like I was choking, and then tried to swallow it down with big gulps of water. I was still feeling pretty grumpy, but by the time I reached Jackass I was feeling a teeny bit peppier. Knowing that the next ~10 miles was mostly downhill also helped my mood!
When I arrived at Jackass, the party was in full swing. The Jackass Night Trail racers had arrived and were having a real good time on the dance floor! I maneuvered my way through them to get to the food tables, and stared blankly at the offerings for a solid minute until another racer came up to me and asked me if I was alright. I snapped out of my reverie, grabbed a handful of gummy worms (turns out, they’re pretty easy to eat with a super dry mouth!), refilled my bottles, and left the aid station. I spent almost the entire 6.5 miles from Jackass to Coyote Camp flip-flopping with two different sets of runner/pacer: one guy dressed up as a disco guy with a go-go girl pacer, and another guy and pacer who were carrying a BOOMBOX that was blasting music. My legs were still feeling decent for the first few miles out of Jackass, so I kept trying to get out of earshot of this dude and put a permanent gap between us. However, once I hit about ~75 miles, they started to really catch me again. This time, I just decided to slow up and let them get far enough ahead of me that I couldn’t hear them. I had begun to get grumpy again, this time because my phone charger wasn’t working. The cord that I had grabbed was an aftermarket cord, and it had apparently decided it didn’t want to work for my phone anymore. I was grumpy because I had been looking forward to being able to listen to some upbeat music and hopefully get back in the groove, but my phone was at about 10% and wasn’t charging. Finally, I could see the lights of Coyote Camp in the distance.
After reaching Coyote Camp, I again refilled my bottles and inspected the food offerings. Nothing looked especially appealing, so I just grabbed some more trusty gummy worms and jogged off towards Jeadquarters. As I ran, I was shocked to see that I was still consistently coming up behind and passing people who were likely finishing up their second loops while I was almost done my fourth. It was so wild to me that I was still doing so “well” this late in the race. I knew that I still had 20+ miles to go, with plenty of time for shit to hit the fan, but I had truly expected something to go terribly wrong by this point. My right hamstring had begun to get a bit tight and my knees were aching, but overall I felt so much better than I had expected. My feet didn’t feel blistered, I hadn’t felt any chafing, I hadn’t felt any of the extreme tiredness/sleepiness that I had felt during Palmer Lake, and my stomach had been rock solid all race. As I neared the bright lights and loud music of Jeadquarters, I began to focus on finishing one more loop.
Loop 5: Mile 80.5 – 100
After rounding the turnaround and heading to the crew tent, I took some extra time to make sure I had everything I would need for this loop. At the encouragement of my crew, I sat down and rubbed some CBD on my hamstring/calves and did a bit of rolling to see if I could loosen some things up and make running a bit easier. I also loaded up on way more nutrition than I had been for previous loops. I kept the bag of pretzels, hoping that I’d fix the dry mouth eventually and be able to eat them. I also grabbed my “secret weapon” when it comes to calorie consumption: two Spring Energy Speednut gels. These gels are 250 calories EACH, which is fantastic when you aren’t in the mood to eat a ton. While the flavor isn’t my favorite, I was grateful for such a quick way to get a bunch of calories in without having to put too much solid food in my stomach. My mom tried to convince me to take Gunnar with me as a pacer, but I was unyielding. I wanted to have this experience all to myself. Not that it’s “easier” with a pacer, but I felt like I would have a huge mental boost for future races if I managed to make it through all 100 miles all alone. I also knew that in my past experience, running is something that I really enjoy doing by myself and I tend to get annoyed when I run with someone else for longer than a few hours. I figured it would be a better idea to go alone and be forced to rely on myself than to risk making my bad mood even worse by being with someone (even someone I love dearly!) nonstop for the next ~5+ hours.
Motivating myself to get out of the chair and trade the bright lights and peppy atmosphere of Jeadquarters for my last dark and lonely loop was so hard. I kept reminding myself that Coyote Camp was literally less than 4 miles away, and even if I walked the entire way, I’d be there in an hour at the latest. I wasn’t running anywhere near as much as I had on the loop before, and I think this was partially due to taking a longer break at the crew tent and sitting down in the chair. “An object in motion stays in motion” seems like it was very true for me. If I stopped moving for too long, things started to get stiff and running suddenly became a lot harder. The longer I was continuously moving, the better I felt and the faster I moved (by “faster”, I mean sub-15 minute mile pace compared to 18 min mile pace. not really “running” per se, but faster). With less than a mile left until Coyote Camp, my headlamp started to flash a warning that it was almost out of battery. Luckily I had stashed a small backup headlamp in my pack just in case the Petzl died before I made it to my second headlamp that was stashed in my drop bag at Jackass. Eventually, I made around the last corner and up the hill to Coyote Camp. I grabbed some hot chocolate, thanked the volunteers one last time, and slowly walked up the trail towards Jackass.
Deep down, I knew this stretch would be one of the most difficult. It was the last uphill section, and it was also the longest stretch between aid stations. 6.5 miles doesn’t seem like much when you’re running, but it’s a hell of a lot longer when you’re just hiking at 16 minute/mile pace. While the course at Javelina never actually gets that technical, this section of the course was the rockiest. Because of how tight my hamstring had gotten, I couldn’t lift my feet very far off the ground while doing my little run-shuffle. This meant that I was pretty much reduced to a walk for the rocky parts of this trail, because I couldn’t pick my feet up enough while doing my shuffle-run to get over the rocks. As I looked in the distance, hoping to finally see the lights of the aid station come into view, all I could see was what looked like an endless line of headlamps stretching off for miles. I felt like I’d never get there. Luckily, at this point I had traded phone charger cables at the crew tent and had been able to charge my phone up enough to start listening to my music. While it didn’t totally cure my bad mood and despair, I was able to drown out some of my more negative thoughts with the help of Lizzo and my “race jams” playlist. I was trying not to get too upset at how slowly I was moving and kept reminding myself that once I made it to Jackass, it was all downhill to the finish. I knew there was a possibility that my legs would be too shot to take advantage of the downhill, but I didn’t let myself dwell on it. We’d deal with that if it happened.
After what seemed like years (but was really only 1.5 hours), I finally got to Jackass. After grabbing another handful of gummy worms, I painfully shuffled over to my drop bag, switched headlamps, and threw my drop bag over to the “drop bag return” area. After shuffling ~100m out of the aid station, I turned back. I hadn’t gotten too cold on loop 4, but now it was getting windy and I was moving a lot slower (and generating less body heat). As much as it hurt me to turn around and go back, I walked over to my drop bag and grabbed my windbreaker, throwing it on over my vest. I told myself it was better to waste a little bit of time and energy going back for the jacket than to get too cold and end up lying down and shivering on the side of the trail.
As I meandered my way downhill towards Rattlesnake Ranch, I began to get really frustrated with myself and with the race. It was only 5.5 miles to the next aid station, and those 5.5 miles had always flown by on previous loops. This time, those 5.5 miles seemed like they’d never end. My legs were officially in full rebellion and I couldn’t run as much as I would have liked. As a bonus, I REALLY needed to use a bathroom (and let’s just say, squatting by a cactus was not a viable option). For the first time all day, I really started to get passed by multiple people instead of being the one doing the passing. I tried to just tune it out and ignore them without letting it affect my already semi-terrible mental state, and eventually, after what felt like literally hours, I started seeing the lights of Rattlesnake Ranch in the distance. The light was further away than it appeared in the pitch black of the night, and after what seemed like an endless mile snaking around on the trail, seemingly not getting any closer to those distant lights, I finally popped out and crossed the street to get to the porta-potty.
After taking care of some personal business at the porta-potty, I hobbled into the aid station proper. In my befuddled sleep-deprived state, all I could think was that I probably needed to take in some calories. I rummaged around in a box of Gu’s, grabbed a lemonade Gu that honestly did not sound even remotely tasty, and slowly walked out of the aid station. 4 more miles until the finish line. You run more than 4 miles every damn morning. At this point, I was straight walking, no running at all. While I had almost completely given up on running, I figured out I could actually still walk fairly fast (15-16 minute miles, not anywhere near as fast as some people, but pretty decent for me personally). So I devoted myself to walking as fast as possible and breaking into a very painful jog for ~30 seconds whenever possible. Every few minutes, I’d look behind me to see if I could spot any headlamps moving in my direction. I knew I didn’t stand a chance at staying ahead of anyone who was still able to run, but I wanted to put up a decent effort. Over the next few slow and agonizing miles, a few more people caught up and passed me, including one guy who was also walking (just much faster with his super long legs). We chatted for a moment as he pulled up alongside me, and he was shocked to learn it was my first 100 miler, telling me that I “absolutely crushed it”. Now, he had no way of knowing this, but that was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I was right smack dab in the middle of the “fuck all of this, I hate everything, when is this fresh hell going to be over” mindset. I’m pretty sure I may have even yelled that all out loud at several points. Eventually, I saw a woman on the side of the trail who was whistling loudly as I inched closer and closer. When I got close enough to talk to her, she whooped loudly and told me I was almost done. I painfully asked how much further it was and she told me that the last junction to the trail to the finish was right ahead.
This instantly perked me up. I had been checking my watch mileage religiously, and I had been convinced that I still had two more miles until I would reach that junction. It was the last little landmark I was aching to reach, because the moment I rounded that junction and turned onto the last trail, the finish line would finally be in sight. As I made my way around that absolute angel of a woman, I caught sight of the junction ahead. Instantly, my mood changed. Suddenly, I wasn’t suffering endlessly in the dark anymore. I broke into a painful shuffle-run and started to try to push. As I passed under the big blow-up Hoka arch, I saw my family and Gunnar cheering for me on the sidelines. As I made my way through Tent City and towards the finish line at the turnaround point, I tried to run as fast as I possibly could. When the finish line finally came into sight around a corner, I broke into a blistering 10:30 min/mile pace to cross the finish line and officially become a 100 mile finisher, with a finishing time of 22:32 (about 1.5 hours faster than even my wildest “unthinkable” goal).
After crossing the finish line, I immediately bent over and almost fell on my face. After catching my breath, the RD Jubilee came over and handed me my sub-24 buckle. As she handed me my buckle, my mom yelled out “It’s her first hundred!”. Jubilee asked me if it was really my first hundred, and I nodded yes. She gave me a big hug and told me how proud she was of me, and I cried for the first time all day. I had spent almost two loops getting pissed and actively trying to cry, but I hadn’t been able to shed a single tear until this moment. After taking some moments at the finish line to hug my family and see a couple of other runners finish, I started to hobble over to our crew tent. My family had been super prepared and had already packed everything up except for my slides, some sweats, a pre-mixed bottle of Tailwind Recover, and a chair. I collapsed into the chair, started taking my shoes, socks, and gaiters off, and yanking my sweatpants on. We sat there and talked for a bit, and then decided it was time to head to the hotel and try to get some sleep. My sister helped me slowly shuffle over to the edge of Tent City, and my parents went to pull the car around. After an uncomfortable 30-minute car ride, we got to the hotel and got up to our room.
I’ll spare you all the details of my immediate post-race recovery, but I will make one recommendation: if your legs are sore and aching (which, let’s be real, they probably will be), take a hot bath, preferably with some epsom salts. I soaked in the hotel bathtub for about 15 minutes before taking a quick shower, and my legs felt so much better afterward. Usually, they ache constantly for ~24 hours post-ultra and I have a hard time sleeping because of it. This time, because I was able to take that hot relaxing bath so quickly post-race, I think my muscles were able to relax a bit more and not get so tight and painful. After napping for a while, we got up and went to In-N-Out. I was dead set on getting a burger, fries, and a milkshake ever since I realized that there was an In-N-Out nearby. Throughout the day on Sunday, I tried to keep moving around and not let myself spend too much time sitting or lying down (although I definitely did do a lot of that!). I realized that the more I moved around, the less stiff and the easier it was to walk without looking like I had just had a double hip replacement. Active recovery is definitely important, and way better for mobility than just lying around for hours on end!
Overall, I am still absolutely stunned by how well my race went. I knew sub-24 hours was a possibility but I really thought it would be much more of a struggle. I’m definitely not saying it was easy or a walk in the park, but I just didn’t suffer as long or as much as I expected. I definitely feel like I could improve a lot and go a bit faster, especially when it comes to the night portion. Once my legs are a bit tougher and have more experience at distances over ~50 miles (considering I’ve only passed the 50 mile mark about 3 times in my life so far), I think I could get a lot closer to sub-20 hours. I’m really proud of how well I handled the conditions at this race. In the past, I’ve let myself get so caught up in worrying about all the possible things that could go wrong and end up getting stuck in a terrible mindset from mile 1 because of it. This time, I just focused on being in the moment and not devoting any mental energy to worrying about what could go wrong. Instead, I focused on being confident in my ability to handle any possible roadblocks and dealing with problems as they arose. I think the single biggest factor in how successful my race went was my mental state. With the exception of the last loop, I spent almost the entire race in a really positive state of mind. I was focused on soaking it all in and making the most of the entire experience, which is a drastic change from how I used to be during races: fearful, anxious, and in a state of constant dread just waiting for something to go wrong.
Staying positive isn’t the only reason I had a good race, however. I also got pretty damn lucky. The weather this year was incredible (highs only reached the mid-80s, I believe). I anticipated having way more trouble in the heat than I did, which was very unexpected (so much so that, in my “planned” splits, I had anticipated ~15 min/mile pace for the midday loops). I had absolutely zero stomach issues for the entire 22.5 hours (which has never happened for me before!). I had zero foot problems and never even stopped to change my shoes and socks. While my legs did fall apart a bit by the last ~10-15 miles, I was over the moon about how well they held up. I imagined that I’d be reduced to a complete shuffle walk by mile 70, if not earlier. At my last “long” ultra, Palmer Lake back in April, I was reduced to a slow 20+ min/mile walk by about the 50-mile mark. So the mere fact that I caught myself running uphill at mile 70 just blew my mind. I definitely feel like I have a lot more I can give for the 100-mile distance, and I’m kind of chomping at the bit to do another one. I do realize that next time, I may not get quite as lucky and might have to do a bit more problem solving, which could lead to a slower or more disappointing finish time. I don’t want to take this finish for granted or just assume it’ll be easy for me to re-create the magic.