Boston and a Belt Buckle. That’s been the dream for a long time. I ran Boston in April, just 4 weeks after dnfing my last 100 miler. That race, Antelope Island Buffalo Run was my 3rd 100. I had two buckles from the previous years and allowed that to become a rational thought in the cold of the night, that I really didn’t need to keep plugging along after 75 miles since Boston was only 4 weeks out and I was still hoping for a PR there.
I’ve regretted dropping at AI every since. I’d never quit a race before. I’ve had dnfs when I missed cut offs, but that felt differently. Quitting without a really good reason sort of haunted me for the last several months and I’d hoped to get another shot to right that wrong. Along came Javelina! A race several of my friends had done in the past, through cacti in the dessert of Arizona around Halloween (so runners tend to show up in costumes). I knew a few pals were planning on going again this year and when I looked up the dates and realized the race would happen on my birthday, I knew it was the perfect redemption race – and my chance to finally get “Boston and a Buckle” for 2014!!
My only two other 100 finishes were 28:24:24 in 2013 and 30:11:35 in 2012 and since many who race both Antelope and this one tend to run within an hour of their times on both courses, I figured I was looking at around 27 – 29 hrs depending on the day I had. I also knew this race was deceptive. Many think of Javelina as an ‘easy’ 100 since there aren’t a lot of mountains to climb — but the cut off is only 30 hours and you’re usually dealing with extreme heat, several rocky section that beat up your feet and sand in your shoes (and the temptation to drop out after each 15.4 mile lap when you run through the start/finish again.) The finish rate for last year’s rate was only 41% and my friend who ran Boston and has ran a 3:30 marathon came in last place last year, with only a minute and a half to spare on the 30 hour cut off, so I was a bit fearful of the cut offs if I had a bad day.
I have to say that this race has a really playful, fun atmosphere! There were around 550 100 milers signed up and about 150 100kers and many of them camped out the night before the race, which provided a lot of opportunities to get to know the other racers and let the excitement build before race morning. My five kids and husband enjoyed this aspect and really loved that they wouldn’t have to be cooped up in a car driving around in the mountains to crew for this one. They were happy to be able to hang out close to the tent during the entire race, cheering on runners and helping me every 3 1/2 – 5 hours when I’d come through from a loop.
When we all tucked in for the night, it was so peaceful. The temperatures were perfect for camping and I slept well in the fresh, night air. I did have some butterflies but was really eager to begin running in the morning since I felt like it was going to be a wonderful race.
I had studied the lap splits of some of my pals from previous years and used it to get an idea of what times I should expect for each of the (6) 15.4 mile loops (with about 600 of gain per lap) and the final 9.7 mile partial lap. I knew the first lap was always the fastest since it’s early in the day, on fresh tapered legs and the excitement of 500+ other runners running too. I also noticed that those that went too hard on the first 3 laps tended to crash and burn if they weren’t really trained for the stronger pace, so I had a plan to stay conservative the first 2 laps as the day heated up, then speed up in the final stages if all went well.
I loved starting the race with so many friends. I had 9 other Boise pals doing the 100 and 2 friends in the 100k that started one hour later, plus a few other great pals I’d met at other ultras on the course. And, since the loops go washing machine style – first one direction and then the other, I knew there would be a lot of opportunity to see my friends and get and receive encouragement, which was awesome!
I stayed with several of my friends for the first couple of miles, but after doing some mental math, realized I was going faster than I knew I could keep up, so I let them pull ahead and I settled in at a pace I thought was more likely to pay off for me later in the race when I’d need strong legs and energy. I just enjoyed the dawning of the day and since I’d left my headlamp behind (and it was dark at 6 am when we started) this helped me not go too fast. There was plenty of light from the headlamps around me, so I wasn’t worried about tripping or falling. I did lap 1 in about 3:22. My goal was under 3:30, so I felt really happy with that.
My legs weren’t feeling as chipper as I’d hoped, despite the conservative pace. I kept eating and drinking and taking my S caps regularly and hoped I’d feel looser and lighter later on. As I came into the start/finish, my 5 kids and husband were cheering and my children were all offering their hands for high-fives! I loved it!!! I stop and gave each of them a hug and my husband a kiss. He had bottles of Tailwind ready to switch out for my empty ones, which was awesome and made my trip in and out quick. I told them to expect me in about 4 hours on loop 2 as the day warmed up and the pace relaxed further to keep a steady use of energy.
As the day got brighter, it was fun to see all of the fun costumes people were wearing. I saw a man with a fake pregnant belly, a skeleton, a man riding a fake horse (who I heard won), a policeman, a caveman, a princess, Inspector Gadget, Day of the Dead costumes, A single Amigo (my pal, Cory Reece!) and probably the most shocking – a guy with the entire back of his running shorts ripped out so his buns were enjoying a nice breeze. Javelina actually is a very unique race with many silly awards and one of those awards is given each year for ‘best ass.’ This guy was doing his best to win and I heard he did – though I made it a point to pass him quickly, so I’d stop blushing!
I did loop 2 in about 4:10 and started feeling warmed up and really good. I was still dressed up in my Candyland costume and decided to keep wearing it another lap. My pals and Wayne helped me get some food and filled my bottles and then I headed out again. I probably spent 10 min in the aid station this time, making sure to get sunscreen since the sun was beating down.
Loop 3 was probably my best! Suddenly my stride started to lengthen, I felt a surge of energy and I felt like I could fly! I started passing a lot of people and running more of the uphills and rocky sections as though I was dancing with the rocks! It was FUN! I had a few miles around 10:30 in here, which was amazing and a real confidence boost! I knew I couldn’t keep that up forever, but I enjoyed the wave while I rode it! I had a smile as big as Texas as I listened to my IPod and played air guitar and drums and kept going! Lap three took 3:43 and was my easiest.
When I hit the aid station, my pals and Wayne went straight to work helping me get ready for nightfall since the sun sets at 6 pm. At first I thought I might head back into camp to change out of my costume and into running gear, but my friends, Ryan A. and Alex talked me into changing ‘ultra style’ out in the open, while they held up towels. Wayne stood there holding a towel and looking worried that I might end up sharing more of myself with the world than I was expecting. I did have one funny moment where I had dropped off the dress and shorts and looked up to see several people in the camp behind us giggling. Oops! I think some of the towels weren’t covering all of my lower bits, so I blushed and tried to change faster! I was trying to be so fast I ended up putting on my shorts backwards!!!! I fixed that, Wayne got me some food and Ryan offered to run by calves and shoulders which felt amazing after packing a hydration pack for hours and getting 46+ miles on the legs! He also rubbed an ice cold beer up and down my arms to bring my body temperature down and that worked like a charm too. I felt truly ready to conquer the world after that 5 star treatment! I headed out, knowing this would hopefully be my last loop solo, since my Daily Mile friend Tab had kindly offered to come and pace me for laps 5 and 6 in the night. Though she and I have been DM friends for years and I’ve bought some cute skirts from her, we’d never met in person, so I was looking forward to finally meeting her.
I ran well for a few miles, then decided I’d better hold back a bit since I didn’t want to show up for my pacer with nothing left to give. I also stopped drinking or eating as much as the heat of the day eased and I decided it would give my stomach a chance to process all the food and drink I’d taken in over the nearly 12 hours I’d already been on the course! In retrospect, that wasn’t my best decision as a bonk would be waiting for me later, but at the time, it seemed wise, since I’d had no nausea or other problems and was feeling great.
It was on this loop that I saw my first tarantula and a couple small rattlesnakes. I also started to hear the coyotes howling, which is a familiar sound from running on the trails at home and made me feel at home.
As I pulled in after finishing loop 4 in 4:51, I was so excited to look up and see Tab smiling and ready to go! Yay!!! My pacer! I hugged her, we grabbed what we needed and took about 20 min in the aid station before heading out into the night together. There was a lot of chatting as we got to know one another and I was so grateful to have her along for the next few hours (and 31 miles!)
She proved to be a really thoughtful pacer, as just at midnight, she yelled out, “Happy Birthday” to me, which I thought was pretty sweet! 😀 That’s right. I turned 42 on the sandy, desert trails of Javelina Jundred this year! What a way to celebrate, too!
Not long after midnight, I started to really struggle with fatigue. This happens in every 100 for me, where my body starts wondering when it can lay down and get some sleep, but I must will it to keep moving through the dark hours at a steady pace. Since I hadn’t been eating as much, I also started to struggle with bonkiness. I got slower, less talkative and a bit down mentally. I’d been running for 18 hours and I was starting to have a few doubts. Because I’ve struggled with dnfs on occasion, sometimes I get caught up in my fear of cut offs and though I was far ahead of cutoffs at the moment, my mind was on the finish line cut off of 30 hours. My Garmin had died, so I had no idea how many miles I’d done or what my pace was and I started to worry and obsess about weather I was going fast enough. Tab tried to reassure me, but I was probably a pain to work with since I was feeling worried.
Somewhere around 70 miles on the course, coming into the boisterous sounds of Jackass Junction, the biggest aid station at roughly the half-point of the course, when I started to fade even more. Tab could see I needed to do something to rectify the situation so she headed to the aid station table to get me some coffee and Ramen noodles to increase my stamina and calorie intake. She was so helpful and I appreciated it a ton! I sat in a chair, hanging my head in my hands, wondering if I had it in me to keep going fast enough for 32 more miles! It sounded like an eternity! My feet were beat up from the rocky sections of the course and my stomach was growling out loud. Just about then I spotted my close friend, Ryan again. He’d been pacing his wife, Michelle in the 100k. She’d had some really bad back pain from some compressed discs and some blisters that covered nearly the e entire pads of her feet and had to drop. I felt terrible to hear that since Michelle is a good friend and I’ve enjoyed pacing her in other ultras and had hoped this would be a good race for her.
Ryan could see I was in a low spot and he was firm with me that I needed to drink all of the coffee, get some food in me and get right back out on the course. That little push helped and before we knew it, Tab and I were off into the night again. It was during this loop, we spotted a scorpion! I’d never seen one before and Tab‘s scream was pretty impressive! She told me she’d been bit by one once and that had me really watching my feet for more, but thankfully we never saw another.
I think we came in from the 5th loop at around 3 am or so. It was my slowest lap of the day at 5:19. My emotions were getting the better of me and when I saw my husband, I started to cry and told him I was worried if I kept moving so slow, I would miss the cut off by a few minutes at the end. I had planned and hoped to have my 13 year old son pace me the final 9.7 mile loop if all went well, but I realized at this point, that would be a bad idea. I started imagining pushing the cut offs and wondered what would happen if, say Jr rolled an ankle or wasn’t able to keep the pace I needed to finish and I felt panicky about it and asked Wayne if he’d please talk to Jr about maybe not pacing that section after all and to tell him I was so sorry I wasn’t running fast enough for a cushion. I also started thinking about how Tab was so nice to help me for 31 miles but wasn’t going to be able to go beyond that and I started to wonder if I’d struggle on my own the final lap, when I would possibly need pushing more than ever. That got me down. Since I knew Ryan and Michelle were waiting for a ride at Jackass Junction, I wondered if maybe Ryan might be able to join me for the final stretch, if Michelle didn’t mind. I mentioned it to Wayne and he said he’d talk to them when they got in.
My husband did a wonderful job of reassuring me during that low point. He hugged me (which was what I needed) and looked me in the eye and said he’d figure something out for me for the final loop and told me everything would be ok.
I felt that aid station with renewed hope and it was exciting realizing Tab and I were doing the final full loop! Woo hoo! I was getting tired and walking more than I’d have liked, though. I tried to stay positive and kept moving, eating and drinking and wishing I had my Garmin for the feedback on how I was doing pace-wise.
One of the things on my mind this lap was the sunrise. I longed for it. I know in other hundreds, that if I’m having a low point in the night, the sunrise often brings renewed hope and energy and I was yearning for those. We ran in silence for many of these miles as Tab would encourage me from time to time to keep it up, which helped! I was pushing myself as hard as I thought I could go. Tab took some really neat pictures of me as the sun was rising and I marched on in the desert. I had no idea she did that and the pictures came out really beautiful and are wonderful mementos of that part of my race.
Once we hit the halfway point at Jackass Junction on the final stretch, I started to come back to life, realizing the worst was almost over. I still wasn’t sure of the time and was running scared, though. I was hoping Ryan might be able to join me and that I’d get some hugs from my kids before the final half loop. The other thing that makes this final stretch special, is those who make it past loop 6 are given one of those little glow necklaces kids like to wear at Halloween. It symbolizes to all who pass you that you’re on the final stretch and I’d been sentimental each time I saw others pass wearing them. I started to wonder what color I’d get!
With about 3 miles to go to the aid station, I spotted my pal Cory up ahead, waving and smiling and sporting a pink glow necklace! I squealed and jumped up and down when I saw that!!! He was equally happy to see me and we hugged when we crossed paths. Then he looked me in the eye and said, “I am soooo proud of you, Christie!” My eyes watered up as I ran off, since I was so touched by his words and the sentiment. He had been there with me at Antelope Island in March when I chose to drop and it meant so much for him to see me plugging on still!
About a mile later, we came around a bend, and I saw my running buddy, April! I was so happy to see her! Javelina was her first 100 and she was rocking it! Then, immediately, I realized she wasn’t alone. Ryan was running behind her as pacer. My heart sank and I quickly tried to push my sadness away. Tab knew I’d been hoping to have some company on the final stretch and I think she realized I was caught off guard. April and I are close friends and she saw my face and realized what I must have been hoping. She asked how I was doing and I told her, “Not great.” She quickly asked if I’d like Ryan to come with me but I didn’t want to do that. I could tell she was smiling and having fun with his company and I didn’t want to take that from her, so I told her I’d be fine and I ran on. I realized I’d need to reprocess my thinking and get prepared for a solo final stretch. Emotionally, I hit a low and started thinking about it being my birthday and felt kind of sad that I didn’t have anyone to join me for the final stretch, which I’d hoped would be a celebration and high point.
Just moments later, I heard what sounded like a herd of elephants chasing me down, then the sound of, “Hey! Slow down! You need to save some glycogen for the final miles!” It was Ryan! I felt embarrassed, happy, excited and confused all at once. He started chatting me up and being silly and within a couple minutes he had me laughing and running strong again. Honestly, a huge mental shift happened once he was there. It was as though the burden of the cut-offs was lifted from my shoulders and I had my secret weapon by my side. I’ve ran with Ryan more than any other running pal and he’s seen me discouraged after missing cutoffs in the past – and at my high points – like the day I qualified for Boston. He knows me well and knows how to bring out the best in me and my running. I’ve considered him like a coach in many ways since he’s more accomplished and faster than I am and has ran way more hundreds. His presence really calmed me down and my mind shifted into race mode instantly! The race was on and suddenly I felt really sure I could make the finish in time – or die trying!
I was feeling worried about hurting my son’s feelings, so Ryan came up with a brilliant plan! He called ahead to get Jr and Wayne ready to join us for a short stretch so they could see where the final bit of trail intersected with the main path, so they could come back in a couple hours to meet us and then Jr could still run me into the finish, as originally planned — just doing a mile or so instead of nearly 10. That made me so happy since I’d still get everything I’d wanted and hoped for! A birthday finish AND some time with my son!
We ran into the aid station and Ryan ran off to get me what I’d need for the final stretch. I thanked Tab for being awesome to help me for 31 miles and then we headed out for the final half lap! I had no idea of the time and don’t remember asking, so I was still of the mindset that every minute was important. Wayne (who was wearing my neon pink tutu, which was pretty funny and made me smile) and Jr joined us for a bit so we could point out the trail head to them to meet us later. It was nice being with them as we walked out and chatted. It made my heart happy.
Once we showed them the trail, they headed back to the start to wait for the call to come back and we started running harder. It wasn’t long before I looked up the hill and saw a sight that really surprised me! My pals, John and Drew were dressed like Chippendale dancers and were not far ahead! Ryan teased that this was my chance! It could be like the movie ‘Unbreakable’ where everyone thinks Anton is going to win the race and they’re craning their necks to see him come around the finish, when lo and behond — Geoff Roes comes around the corner and beats him! He said I’d be Geoff and all our friends would be surprised! haha!
We caught up to the boys and I could tell they were hurting. They looked tired and John was walking in such a way it was obvious he’d missed putting on enough Bodyglide earlier! Ryan teased him a little about it and they all started to chat and look happy. John commented, “That’s so nice of you, Ryan to come gather in the last of the Boise Trail Runner gang!” I didn’t have the heart to just take off at my own pace when it seemed the boys needed some company, so I just settled in for a bit and enjoyed the conversation and time with my friends.
We all stayed together for awhile too. They were feeling mostly like walking and I was finding it hard to do that since it seemed to feel better to run, so I’d walk for a while, then pull ahead to run a bit, hear them try to keep up, then hear them start to walk again and I’d slow back down, feeling badly to leave my friends behind.
Finally, we hit the turn off I’d walked past 6 other times — the SPECIAL half loop turn off! ‘3.7 miles to the finish’ a sign boasts!!!! I wanted to jump for joy!!!!!! It was finally here – the home stretch!!! Not long after turning off, there’s an aid station – the final one, with just one, cute, little older lady, a small table with water and a big bottle of Tequila!!! Ryan had already paced in our friend Lynette for the final loop, so he’d made the lady’s day when he said he’d take some of her drink. She said she’d had it there all day and no one was a taker yet. Of course, Ryan was happy to oblige! So, as he approached, we knew he’d be enjoying a little refreshment again this loop! He pulled out his phone and asked if I’d take a picture while he drank some and then the older woman said she’d take if I wanted in the shot too. I was happy she said that, since the final photo is now one of my favorites from the day and pretty darn funny!!!! There Drew, John and I are smiling and laughing while Ryan chugs from the bottle!!! It was pretty funny and I couldn’t believe Ryan didn’t even choke when he stopped!
Not long after, I just couldn’t hold it in anymore! I wanted to run so bad! I was smelling the barn and ready to blow it out for the finish! So, I decided I’d just take off and let Ryan stay with the boys if he wanted to. I didn’t say anything. I just started running faster. Then I heard Ryan say from behind asking, “You got legs, Christie?” and I said, “Oh yeah!!” He caught up beside me and pointed at two people in front of me and said, “Then how about you start by mowing those two down?” He hadn’t even finished the sentence before I was charging forward, amazed at how my legs were feeling and the strength and power I felt in them all of a sudden! I passed them easily and then we did it a few more times, since most of the people in the final stretch were walking instead of running. I couldn’t believe it. I was running in spots I would normally walk – even the rocky sections and uphills! I just felt amazing!
When we got closer to the spot we’d arranged to meet Wayne and Jr, my 13 year old son, I started to really fly! My birthday dream was coming true! I was going to run into the finish with my son!!! When we spotted his fluffy, blond afro bouncing in the wind as he ran towards us, I was so excited!
I ran towards Jr and then hugged him so tight! He was smiling from ear to ear and so was I! Then we took off! He started doing crazy jumps with spins leaping from side to side on the sandy ground and just cracking me up! Every time I run with him, he reminds me how great life can be when you act like a child and just have fun and that’s what he was doing now!!!! He was showing off and being silly and that just made my heart overflow with love for him and pride and joy!
As we neared the finish, my heart started pounding and I started pumping the arms and legs harder and so did my son! It was so much fun racing him into the finish!
I crossed the finish line in 28:11 – a PR by 13 minutes and then the announcer led the crowd in singing me happy birthday! I stood there holding my beautiful, new buckle and just soaked it all in!!! It was one of the best days of my life!!!! I couldn’t believe the click wasn’t saying 29:59:59 since that’s what I’d feared the whole time! I had no idea I was that much ahead of the final cut off! Whew!
I hugged my son, my husband and Ryan and told them how much they all had helped me and then I grabbed Tab and thanked her so much for helping me get through the rough patch in the night!!! They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a village to help an ultra runner go 100 miles! My heart is full and I am so grateful to those in my ‘village’ – the race directors for putting on a top-notch event, the aid station workers, who were peppy and full of energy and smiles all night and all day long, my amazing family for putting up with my nutty training and sleep schedule, my husband who let me spend more than my fair share of the budget on race entries, Aquaphor and new shoes, my running partners who keep me motivated and loving each and every training mile throughout the year and fill my heart with more friendship and love than I ever imagined and my pacers and friends who were there to help me along the way. I am grateful to all of you!
I will definitely do this race again. Next year it falls on Halloween, which sounds pretty fun. Maybe by then, I can run fast enough not to worry about cut offs so much so Jr can join me for the full 10 mile loop! 🙂 I’d really like that!
Here’s Cory’s Ultra Marathon Dance Party video that I was lucky enough to get to boogy for a couple times! 😀
Here’s recorded live footage of my finish and the amazing people there singing me Happy Birthday, which was totally awesome as well. I’m right around 1:22.