Javalina Jundred countdown continues...
We are down to less than a week before the Javalina Jundred starts. This year there are almost 400 runners are taking their costumes out to the Pemberton trail looking for their first, second or who knows how many finishers. Last year I spent the entire race out there volunteering, crewing, and pacing and it was one of my favorite ultrarunning experiences I had last year. I loved being out there at the aid station helping people, cheering people on, meeting new people. The energy at JJ is different than other ultras, less serious but still with that driven attitude as runners are still put to task trying to run 100 miles. But when you have people dressed as Spiderman, Jester, and Naked Woman it's hard to take it all too seriously. Charlie Nickell did a great write up in Runner's World after last years race.
This year I will be at Jackass Junction Aid Station again for the first 8 hours of the race then marking the course for the night time and finally pacing one of Arizona's hopefuls, Michael Carson, in his first bid for a 100 mile finish. I've met so many more people in the ultra community that are running or volunteering at this race it's almost like a giant family reunion. From the Tucson Trail Runners Dallas Stevens, Michael Duer and Renee Stevens to the WMRC runners like Jay, Deron, Grandpa Jim among so many others. I can't wait to see Michael Miller out there shirtless (that sounds weird...) on his last lap, yet again cheering other runners on despite how he may be feeling. Javalina is a very unique ultra, the costumes, the trail, the RD's Jamil & Nick Coury, it's just something you can't find anywhere else. So while it is a "loop course" that may turn off some of the mountain runners, it's not easy, it's not flat and it IS beautiful. Fountain Hills has some of the best desert views in the area, it's a great place to see the Arizona desert and sets the bar extremely high for any ultra with it's organization, design and how much damn fun it is. I'm excited and I'm not even racing it!
If any Dragon's show up I know who to call. We're Facebook friends.
If you are interested Jay Danek asked me to put together who I thought would be the Top 5 Winners for both the Men's field and Women's field.
Picking ultra winner's is tough as it's not like you have Baseball Reference or some large data bank to reference. Running is filled with dark horses, people that have been training their ass's off and you've never heard of them. It's part of the beauty of it so if someone was left off the list, please don't get offended, it's just for fun and hopefully sparks some conversation.
Here's the link: http://www.mcdowellmountainman.com/
Elizabeth Howard gets my humor. Let's hope there are no dragons. I don't think the Coury's liability insurance for the race covers dragon attacks. http://www.lizahoward.com/2011/11/dragons/
I have a point to this. But first, Google "Cyborg" and take a look at the f'd up world out there (look at the images). Holy shitballs. What the hell is that??? Whoa. I just have to take a step back for a minute...
The point is I have since decided after Cascade Crest to run the Mogollon Monster 100 course in December, self supported, in winter. It's a challenge that I'm looking forward to in both to see the course as I'm expecting others to see it but also for the sake of running an extremely tough course and moving forward with this project once and for all. With the pace the National Forest staff works I expect the permits to be approved sometime around 2019. Just kidding, hopefully this month but it's quite a process and not one steeped in examples of a lot of efficiency. I'm pretty sure I'm bottom of the pile for them. Luckily I'm extremely persistent and it WILL happen. Until then I'm training hard to survive that contest in self will with no buckle, no fans, no "grand finale" to the run. I know already it's going to be one of the toughest challenges yet. I'm ready for it.
In between then I've signed on to pace my friend Michael Carson at the JJ100. Mike's wicked fast, like 7:30 50 mile time at Leona Divide. It's a little out of my realm but I know I can keep up with him for 15-30 miles (when he's been running for 60 miles...) My fear has been not being able to keep up with him so I'm been actively trying to hammer out some fast runs on the trails and last night I put in such a great run I was left sprinting down the mountain, at dark, full speed wondering if somehow my Mom lied to me and she conceived me with a night on the town with Chuck Norris (sorry Dad...). There's no other way to really explain how I was running so fast without being the lifeblood of a Legend like Norris, up every hill full speed as if there was no incline at all with no fatigue and did so for over 2 hours. I felt incredible, like my feet were barely touching the ground, smooth, fast, even steps up and down and in every which way. For those two brief hours I felt like a Cyborg. A machine. One of those "fast guys." Whether or not I could maintain it for a full 50K i'm not sure but I'm not sure I'm ready to say I couldn't have last night. It was one of those runs that wipes out the last ten disappointing runs and instills that sense of confidence for all the future ones. I dare Michael to try and drop me out there. I'm so excited to help him push harder on the course, help him through some rough spots, help him stay on target and just encourage him along the way. The multiple facets of running never seem to be confined to just running down the road. The more I run, the more I engage in the ultra community I realize that the physical aspects of running are really just a small part of it all. The mental aspect takes hold of so much more, and the person to person interaction holds a lot more meaning than expected, so much that in the end I find myself forgetting about physical pain and only thinking about the personal relationships I made out on the trail.
Running is something I am very passionate about but helping someone reach their goal is something that cannot be compared with anything. Last year pacing my friend Matt, closing out the last full lap, watching Matt dig so deep, push so hard with so much passion and then finish, inside his goal, was really incredible. You can't help but respect that drive, that passion and to be surrounded by it with SO many like minded people all concentrated in a 15 mile loop, is an incredible experience I wish more people would expose themselves to. I'm excited to be a small part in Michael's experience and everyone else on the trail. If you are running JJ100 let me know and I'll be sure to cheer you on! Either way, I'll be the guy cheering you on even if I don't know you...
..Most likely hopped up on Mountain Dew. A LOT of it.
Tom Thumb 50K
That pretty much sums up my experience as a runner. Crash & Burn. Otherwise known as the "bonk." I've mastered the bonk. I could run a clinic on bonking. I've bonked on purpose. I've bonked trying to avoid it. I'm just plain good at crashing & burning.
No better example than the Run Toms Thumb 50k in the McDowell Mountains of Scottsdale. Being an area I do a fair amount of my running and training I thought it would be interesting to be in an "race atmosphere" on trails I knew so well.
"Race Atmosphere" quickly turned into five people. Not five people plus me. Five people.
So off we went up the Pemberton Trail, jogging along the bearded runner John who was jumping into his first ultra.. He picked an ultra with 5,200 feet of climbing for his first one. I like this guy immediately.
Unfortunately I would barely see him again as I passed him as we hit the turnoff for Dixie Mine Trail and he would stay behind me until the finish, as would everyone else. It was a lonely 28 miles after this.
I made it all the way up Bell Pass, down Bell Pass, up Tom's Thumb and down East End feeling pretty solid and well on pace to break Paul Bonnett's course record of 5:34. I was feeling great and at mile 19 I had 124 minutes to finish the last 12 miles, just one climb back up East End from 128th street, the downhill to Prospector Trail and then the long slog back to Pemberton, albeit a mostly downhill one.
Enter the Darkness...
Climbing I can do. I can do it exhausted. I can do it fresh. Doesn't matter, I'll keep going up. The downhill of East End however was a brutal, motivation crushing downhill where not only did my perverbail "wheels fall off" but they then went bouncing down the cliff, and burst into flames. I was toast. Done. Exhausted. Just like that I was staring at an incline to Prospector like it was the last hundred yards to Camp Four on Everest.
Prospecting for Pemberton
The heat was on. 85+ degrees, 24 miles and over four hours in my head was baking. I was completely exposed and I couldn't cool down. I doused my head, arms and legs in the ice water refill at the 19 mile aid station. Thank Jesus Melissa suggested ice in my bladder or they'd have been helicoptering me out. How would that be for irony, getting evacuated out in Phoenix when it was not 114 but 85. I'd never step foot on a trail again out of sheer shame.
With the course record still in tact I hammered some water, cooled off and headed down Prospector, trying my best to push the pace, open up the legs and hope for the best. It worked for about 30 seconds where I felt amazing, ran the hills, powered the downs and was picking up the pace considerably. I was probably doing 7 minute miles but had I been wearing a Garmin I'm sure it was really more like 9 or 10's but it's more about the mental thought than the actual pace. It didn't last long though and before long I was walking the hills, walking the flats and cursing the downhills. I'd worn myself out, burned my legs, ran myself out of this race. I was done.
I reached the water station with 6.7 miles remaining and realized I had to run the last 7 ish miles at 8 minute miles to break Paul's course record. I gave up. Who care's about this stupid record. My mind wandered between disgust, disdain, and feelings of utter failure. I felt like I was Anton and Roes had just passed me at Western States. I was in the lead all day and now when it mattered most I lost it.
Pushing on to the last 3.7 miles of Pemberton I did the mentally taxing pacing method of running 3 minutes, walking a few, running to that bush, walking to that cactus. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And through the course hope that 3 minutes turns into 6 which turns into a solid 15 minutes of running. It was getting hot and I was only interested in finishing. So I did, finally in a solid finish running the last 1.5 miles and the last part from the road crossing to the finish. I could see the tents up ahead, imagined the fan fare, the cheering, the cold drinks, food, and sprinted through the last few rolling hills, into the Pemberton parking lot, along the chalk lined "finisher's chute" and crossed the finish line in 5:55.
Nobody even so much as looked in my direction. People went about their business at the tents not related to our race, kept talking, kept milling about. Weren't they curious why the heck this salt covered, sweaty mess of a guy was sprinting for no apparent reason? Apparently not.
I made it back before everyone else did, considerably so, by over an hour. There were not any other "fast" runners though like the Michael Millers, Jay Danek's, Michael Carson's that would torch that course and the course record but I'm still claiming it as my first ultra win. I ran harder and longer than I have in any other ultra with more climbing and overall elevation gain. I simply got beat up with all the hills, probably should have walked a few more of them and done more to keep the heat from getting to me so much.
It was a fun event though, great course, and hopefully next year being later in the season it attracts more runners than it did this time. It deserves to be more than a 5 person race. Race Director Donovan Sarka does a great job putting it on, puts a lot of effort and it should be a staple race on everyone's race calendar. www.runtomthumb.com
Hopefully next year. By then I should have my doctorate in Bonking.
Weavers Needle and the Superstition Wilderness
The Superstition Wilderness is an incredible place. It's as wild and as rugged as anything you will ever find. Anywhere. The trails closest to the city are worn a few miles from each parking lot and then quickly become over grown, faint, rocky, and at times, flat out dangerous. You can't see the prickly pear under the creosote bush or cedar branches, the cholla drives deep into your thighs as you try to sneak past the agave daggers and full grown men yell out whimpering cries as they try to pull out each spike driven into their flesh. It's heaven. In that insane kind of way like, "Look how deep this gash is!!"
Yet despite this, despite enduring this over and over again, these brutal stretches of beatdown that the Superstitions provide free of cost, I keep coming back. I started in the Superstitions when I first moved here hiking the Siphon Draw trail straight up the mountain to the Flatiron, the imposing spire of rock that juts out of the mountain range, overlooking all of the glory that is Apache Junction. It's a steep, rugged and imposing hike, short enough yet so much upper body needed it's not for the wary. It was my introduction into Arizona hiking that quickly led to one after another adventures that took me farther into the area. At one point I would literally drive out on the Apache Trail which borders the northern side of the Wilderness area and pull off along a slot canyon area and park. Then I'd hop the guardrail and either alone or with my brother, we'd work our way up a river bed, side canyon or random cattle trail in the search of who knows what. We'd find crazy rock formations, tiny slot canyons, rattlesnakes, random backpacker gear, and a lot of times, some incredible watering holes hidden deep in the impenetrable forest that is catclaw hell.
So when I began to form a mindset that I could cover more ground if I just ran some of the trail instead of walking I started to see more, experience more and learn a lot more. That led me to the interior of the Superstitions where I quickly found there to be an vast, expansive network of over 180 miles of linked trails. You can literally get lost out there, just up and disappear. Frontier men & women worked hard to eek out a living out there, some old houses still leaving their mark on the interior of the park, the upper elevations but generally, it's desolate, and incredibly beautiful. It's the kind of place you can't help but think to yourself, "You know...I wonder what's on the other side of this valley" and then work your way back up the steep incline to see one more time, just what is beyond that last ridge. Breaching the saddle and laying eyes on an entirely new valley, new canyons, new rivers that seem to stretch on forever is something a lot of people don't understand having never really seen something like that. Or maybe they just don't care. Maybe some people don't ever wonder what's beyond that mountain range, what's around that last bend that you should have turned around at. I do.
So many people have taken off to search for old gold mines in the Superstitions, old miners have died trying for that last big score, treasure seekers still to this day are dying out in the desert looking for the famed, Lost Dutchman. They never find it, hell, it could have been found 100 years ago and we wouldn't know. Yet there is something about the Superstitions that has that affect on people. The Search & Rescue team we came across in March in our 50 mile adventure out there was looking for three young guys from out of state that went missing the previous fall. They found one guy, dead, at the base of a palo verde tree on the top of Black Mesa. Not but 3 miles from a main parking lot and less than 1/4 mile from the Black Mesa trail. There are still a half dozen bodies that were never recovered out there, hikers, gold seekers, tourists. It's a tough place, it will beat you up but with every trip I come out I feel that much stronger. Short or long those Supes are a beat down but with that beatdown comes some of the most incredible trails (used loosely), and some of the most scenic miles in the entire state. I've said it before, and I'll repeat it here, it's the most beautiful place in Arizona outside of the Grand Canyon. And it's less than an hour from Phoenix.
With all the trips I've had in the Superstitions I've had my share of challenges, many more trips without issue but some that bear repeating.
I once took a girl on our 2nd date up the Siphon Draw trail who then blew out her knee on the way down. It was a long walk back to the car. Why would I take someone to Siphon Draw on a date? Dumb. Go do the hike and you'll understand. http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=686
I went for a run out there in September with one water bottle (dumb) and on the way back it was so hot I was rolling a pebble around in my mouth to keep my mouth salivating. It was 109 degrees. No water the last 4+ miles which you can't run because you'll die it's so hard, rocky and bloody. I finished and my core temperature was close to 200 degrees. I say "200" because it's the only way to explain how my contacts felt like they had melted to my eyes.
I hiked a slot canyon near Reavis Ranch with my three dogs years ago, it's an unnamed canyon, very difficult to access and long story short my lab fell from a rock about 5 feet, couldnt' walk so I carried him (96 lbs) in my arms over the boulders upstream to the exit. This took two hours to cover 200 meters and it started to get hot (It was naturally August...). So when I was supposed to be back in my Jeep on my way home I now had less than a mile to go but all vertical, off trail and with a lame dog. I had to leave my lab Monty in a sandy cave while I searched upstream for any source of water. Found a green pool of water that my dog jumped into immediately. Suddenly the water started to move and I quickly realized it was full of snakes, dozens of snakes and all over my dog Watson. Watson jumped out quickly and shook off on as I started to panic that I'd just killed one dog due to heat stroke and a second due to multiple snake bites. Watson ended up being ok, but I had to leave my three dogs in the cave, crawl out of the canyon with no water in 113 degree heat where I literally prayed to Jesus while leaning AGAINST a Saguaro for the only 3" slice of shade before making the last push of 200 feet to get to my Jeep. I then had to drive 22 miles of winding road to the first gas station that would let me call someone and my brother came out with his wife to help me. I drove back, went down expecting to see my lab Monty dead and while he was close he was still alive. My brother arrived and we carried them out, taking over an hour to complete a half mile. Monty would go on to have a weeks worth of emergency care. He was given a 3% chance of survival and to proceed with medical attention the hospital needed 50% deposit on what was at least $5000. He survived, and he's alive and well today although I'll probably never be free of the guilt of that day. It was a valuable life lesson but almost at the cost of my best friend.
Oh, and Paul almost died in this years 50 mile adventure out on the JT trail. Forgot about that one.
So it's no surprise that in less than two miles of running the Lost Dutchman trail this Saturday that my friend Jay Danek, in the midst of a 580+ day, 4 mile a day, running streak falls twice on the rocks. The second a bad one cutting us his knee and bruising him up more ways than one. Being the tough guy Jay is he made it through the day but barely as the trail is so rough it made it even harder on him with his hip not allowing him to lift his legs as he would normally. Hopefully his streak lives on a little longer but it seems the Superstitions almost claimed another victim. Our mutual friend Michael Carson, a Superstition veteran, made it out unscathed minus his choice in shorts. Which were barely long enough to cover a penis slip. Yes, that was a penis reference. You're welcome.
Check out Jay's account of the run on his website. It's easy to find the one about the Superstitions. Just look for "I hate Jeremy Dougherty-Death Run" Yes, I'm famous. www.mcdowellmountainman.com
I think for this years Superstition Wilderness 50K I might need a waiver.
That might be the first waiver required race for a fat ass run ever...
I swear it's really beautiful out there. January 7th. You'll regret not going. Maybe.