First of all, loop races are not really appealing to me but because of the huge Jalloween Party at Javelina it has been one of my bucket list races for a while now. I’m also a huge fan of all the Aravaipa Running races. Earlier in the year when my friend Janice Anderson told me she was running the Javelina Jundred race and how it had been so easy to do as a solo runner with no crew, I figured I’d put my name on the long waitlist and hopefully get to join her for the big party in the Arizona desert.
Within a couple of months I was on the start list and friends of mine from Ten Junk Miles, Matt and Jenn Hoadley who had expressed an interest in going to the race were on board to come crew and pace me.
Now you have to know that Matt Hoadley knows everybody. And I mean EVERYBODY. I thought I knew lots of people but compared to him I don’t. Matt would be fine with me telling you that he’s a recovered alcoholic. He has an amazing story that he shares openly and has and continues to have a huge positive impact with his story. So, Matt not only has a huge list of friends he couldn’t wait to see at Javelina, he and Jenn are also well connected and experienced with the Javelina race.
The morning before the race Matt got up early and went with his friends to set up a canopy tent in one of the best locations (which I couldn’t even begin to know where the best place would be). Matt arrived back at the hotel telling Jenn and me how elite runner Devon Yanko was also sharing this canopy with us, along with her crew Corrine Malcolm. The ultimate men’s race winner Arlen Glick was in the canopy right next to us. Turns out Matt is as big an elite fan and follower as I am, so I was soon jealous that I was running the race and not hanging out at the main aid station (AS).
If you don’t know anything about Javelina besides that it’s a big party, it is a 20-mile loop course around the trails of McDowell Mountain National Park that you complete 5 times. There’s a 100-mile distance, 100K and starting in the evening a 1 loop 20-mile race called Jackass 31K. This is the real party race event! The other thing you should know is that the 10-mile AS that you get to 5 times is another huge party. Jackass Junction is quite famous and possibly the most well known AS in all of the ultra running community and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. If you like a good party, great food and awesome music in the middle of your race then this is for you. But, you have to be careful not to get too comfortable at this AS.
The morning of the race, Janice and I both lined up in the sub 24-hr corral just behind the elite runners as race director Jubilee Paige builds the excitement and counts down the start. Sub 24 is not my normal pace but I was definitely hopeful going into the race. However, I did tell Matt and Jenn both that anything can go wrong and ultimately, I wanted to have fun and finish. I don’t want to spend my race stressing over a time or pace, I’ll run by feel and see how it goes.
By now you might also know this race is held in the Arizona desert over Halloween weekend. So, it is very HOT!!!!! Managing the heat is the biggest reason runners don’t finish this race and nearly half won’t. With a 6:00 am start time before the sun comes up, I quickly fall into to a comfortable pace to get some miles in before the sun and heat come out to play.
For the first 15 miles of that initial loop, I was doing really well. I had a comfortable pace and no real issues but that very quickly came to an end. On the first loop of the course, you take a different route from the 3rd AS back into the main crewing AS called Javelina Jeadquarters. This is not only the main AS but where crews are also taken care of with food vendors and even a mini store to buy ice for themselves or their runners.
It was in this section heading back to Javelina Jeadquarters in that first loop that the day started to really heat up in the sun. My stomach was already starting to feel rough which I’m not unfamiliar with. Then during that section my Piriformis issue that I dealt with a few years back also started to act up on those climbs. Right away I knew this might turn into a rough day ahead.
I came into my crew just a little ahead of my schedule. Once you get into the AS you do a little out and back to the finish line timing mat and back out. You do this short out and back all through what they call “tent city” and are cheered on by tons of people, many even lining the way to give you high fives. With Matt’s connections, our canopy was basically the very first one you came to as you entered the AS. Our plan was for me to drop my pack as I came in, (Matt and Jenn would restock it while I did the out and back) and they would hand me one of my cold drinks to drink while I ran the gauntlet. It was a great system that worked perfectly each loop.
Because Matt and Jenn had not crewed or run with me before I’m not sure what they thought after that first loop. I knew I felt pretty rough and can only imagine how I looked. After my gauntlet run, I came back to the canopy and mostly I think talking about the heat. They grabbed my ice bandana from my crew bag and got it filled with ice and put around my neck. Jenn had a cooling towel she laid across legs as I drank some ginger ale and when I left told me to take the cooling towel and that as long as it was wet it would stay cold. Life safer! Race safer and game changer!
My plan on the second loop was to slow myself down and get my overheating and stomach situation under control. Time to put my fast hiking skills to work. Every AS had buckets of cold ice water with sponges to put over your head and on your body and ice to put in your packs. The volunteers would soak the cooling towel and sponge cold water on my arms at each AS and for the next 8-10 hours that was my lifeline to keeping cool.
By the end of that second loop I had started to rebound well. I had just one more loop before Jenn would join and pace me. While my stomach never completely settled, it was at least under control. My nutrition plan was all liquids during the heat of the day and see how I felt at night to eat some food. My Piriformis had thankfully quickly settled down after that first loop and the climbs were shorter and gentler on it. At Jackass Junction on that third loop I was greeted by local Atlanta runners Cassy and Jared. It’s always a lift in the spirit to see friends you know on the course. I had mostly run the race alone even though it’s a big race. Unless you run someone else’s pace, you do not stay around anyone for too long. I ended the third loop feeling much better and was excited to hit the next loop with a pacer.
I picked up Jenn and it was so nice to talk to someone. She told me all about what was happening in the elite races and how many people had already dropped from the race. It made that loop seem to go by quickly. But before I could finish it up, my stomach that was still feeling rough had me puking at the final AS of the loop. Nothing sounded good to eat afterward, but the slightly cooler night weather helped.
Jenn and I got back to Javelina Jeadquarters, and I went to do my gauntlet run with a recovery drink Matt handed off to me. Almost every time, I would loop back around after the timing mat and would exchange words with RD Jubilee who greeted ever runner, every loop. One time she even poured ice water on my sleeves! This time I got my “final lap” glow in the dark wristband and headed back out with Matt. Because it was a rough day with the heat and my stomach, we never talked about my pace or my finishing time. I had early on thrown out any idea of a sub 24. This just did not seem like a course that me of all runners had a chance at that and I was totally ok with it. I did my best to keep up a good pace and run when I could but if you’ve ever tried to run when your stomach is upset, it is not really easy. When Matt and I got to Jackass Junction the final time, I was really wanting something sweet like Skittles to get a sugar buzz and finish the race. Honey Albrecht who I met at Mogollon the month prior went over to Matt and asked if I was Trena. Finally, I knew someone that Matt didn’t! Honey came over and said hello and it was so nice so see another familiar friendly face with encouraging words.
When Matt and I got back in off the final lap I dropped my pack the last time and ran to the finish and was never so proud of a 24:16 finish and just finishing the race at all! Not long after I finished another guy, Fred Johnson who I had met and run with a little at Mogollon also finished (we shared a few Javelina miles on my second loop). I told race director Jubilee that Fred and I had both finished Mogollon last month. She told me that she knew we had. Jubilee is my girl crush! What a fantastic lady and race director!
Joly Javelina what an amazing race! I’m not sure I could have just dropped a crew bag of stuff and completed this race solo. It turned out to be so much more mentally challenging than I could have anticipated. Matt and Jenn were the best! Did I mention that they also helped to crew my friend Janice during her race? They might be available for a fee, but I set the bar pretty high with this desert party fun!!!