fur-ther   adverb   1. at or to a greater distance.  2. at or to a more advanced point.  3. the psychedelic bus populated by the Merry Pranksters and immortalized in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

On October 28th at 5:44am, I could go no further.  For almost 24 hours I’d been running up, down and around Arizona’s McDowell Mountain Park.  After 101.4 miles(nearly half a million steps), I could finally stop.

Someone handed me a belt buckle and gave me a place to sit.  I knew I should eat, drink and stretch, but all I wanted to do was curl up in my tent and sleep.  At that point I felt no joy, just relief to have finally finished.

It’s been over a week since I returned from Arizona and it’s taken awhile to process the whole experience.  I’ve been asked lots of questions since I gotten back and I’ve finally wrapped my head around some of the answers.  Here are my thoughts.

Why would anyone want to run 100 miles?

Good question, one I often asked myself at Javelina.  I signed up for this race because I was looking for a new challenge and one hundred miles in one day had a nice symmetry to it.  It sounds like a long way to run and it is a long way, but with proper training and the right mindset, it’s a distance that anyone can complete in a single day.

Did you run the whole time?

Some 100 mile races are more runnable than others. The Javelina 100 takes place on a relatively smooth trail with lots of rolling hills, but nothing too long or steep.  I ran about 95% of the course, only walking the rocky sections at night.  A few of the top competitors ran the whole race, while others walked quite a bit.  To be honest, I wish I would have walked more to give my running muscles a break.  Towards the end I was passed by a walker and realized:  A)  Walking can be more efficient than running.  B)  Damn, I’m running slow.

What did you eat?

It’s important to have a consistent fueling and hydration plan.  I tried to take in 100 calories every 20-30 minutes, mostly by eating energy gels/bars and munching on fruit at the aid stations.  I alternating water and Gatoraid in my handheld water bottle and took salt tabs every 2 hours to keep my electrolytes in balance.  When I got burned out on the energy gels/bars, I starting eating a piece of pizza every few hours.  It was a well-needed injection of carbs, protein, fat and calories.  You can probably imagine how good it tasted.

Was it hot?

This was the 10th annual Javelina 100 and this year was the one of the hottest ever.  The temperatures got into the low 90’s and even though it was a dry heat, out in the desert there is no shade to protect you from the sun.  At times I felt like the vultures were circling overhead as we struggled through the afternoon heat.  Of the 400 starters only 160 finished before the 30 hour cutoff, a finishing rate of just 40%.

What did you think about?

Through I didn’t really make a conscience effort to do so, my mind for most of the day was almost completely empty.  I didn’t think about my time or the distance or the heat or the pain.  I was somehow able turn off the random thoughts in my head and focus only on eating, drinking and moving forward.  Towards the end, the mix of dehydration, hunger, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation created a real psychedelic experience.  The shadows caused by my headlamp and the full moon made the saguaro cactus look like other runners.  It was pretty trippy.

One of the coolest things for me was to see all the different kinds of runners at Javelina, various shapes and sizes, ages and races.  Most of the participants were in their 30’s and 40’s, yet surprisingly there was more in their 50’s than in their 20’s.  There was even a handful of runners in their 60’s and one 70 year old guy from San Diego.

How did you train?

If you want to run a marathon, there are dozens of books that will tell you exactly what you need to do to get to the finish line.  In comparison, there’s very little information available about training for an ultra.  The only book I could find is called Relentless Forward Progress (a good mantra, by the way) by Bryon Powell, who started the popular irunfar.com website.  In the last few months I bumped up my mileage to about 60 miles a week, ran 50k and 50 mile tune-up races, and did a couple of all-day runs in the Columbia Gorge and around Mt. Hood to get used to being on my feet for extended periods of time.  It’s also important to make sure that all of your equipment and fueling/hydration systems are dialed in.  Something as simple as a blister or a cramp can jeopardize the whole race.

What would you do differently?

Many of the runners had support crews and pacers to help out during the race.  Yoshimi was in Japan visiting her family, so she wasn’t able to come with me to Arizona, so my support team was made up of just my amigo, Lobo.

Just a couple of lone wolves, me and Lobo.  During the race I was fine on my own, but it would have been great to have someone help afterwards with packing up camp, driving to Phoenix, dealing with all the motel, restaurant, rental car and airline stuff.

Would you do it again?

The pain is still pretty fresh, so it’s a bit too soon to say for sure, but yeah, I probably would at some point.  Javelina takes place in a beautiful desert setting and its 15.4 mile loop course made things logistically easy for a 100 mile virgin.  If I do run another 100 miler, I’d like to do a race on a more aesthetically pleasing point-to-point course in a dramatic mountain setting like the Rockies or the Alps.

To see the sun rise, then set and then rise again, all while running through the Sonoran desert was a unique experience I’ll never forget.  It was amazing to be part of a community of runners who set lofty goals and put in the time and effort to realize those dreams.  In the last few days the soreness in my muscles has finally subsided and the relief I felt initially has since faded.  Now all that remains is a lingering glow of joy.

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