Running on the Sun: Javelina Jundred 100 Mile

The Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Experience
Brandon Yonke
IG @brandon_yonke_running
Cover Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

(Are you racing this? Check out the tips/thoughts at the bottom of the page)

Now that I am back to “civilization”, have slept, and am air conditioned, I am probably obliged to tell the story of the Javelina Jundred experience. Truth be told, I took not a single picture of my own this weekend once the race had started. I’ve started to track down and receive some from third parties that were on the course, but I think the story can be told even better through other mediums; the laughs, emotions, and support that perpetuated the race. And so it begins…

-Pre Race Shenanigans-

Kaitlyn, Jeremy, Anna, Kim, and I all flew out of Denver to Phoenix on Thursday morning, same flight, by design. Sara joined on Friday, having flown in just in time to make it to the race expo with the rest of us. Kim, Jeremy, and I were all running the race; the others were playing the part of world’s best pace/crew squad.

After the race expo that evening, we all went to spectate the Javelina Jundred beer mile. In this event, the participants drink a beer, run a quarter mile, and repeat the set until a mile is achieved. Anna, in classic fashion, won the women’s side of the race, then went on to run seven more miles with Kaitlyn and Sara.

In the meantime, Jeremy, Kim, and I went back to Kim’s hotel room and abused the ice machine across the hall, filling the bathtub with two separate ice machine’s-worth of ice. This was my idea, since I was feeling the heat of the 100-degree Arizona sun, and my legs were getting pre-race nerves. Jeremy and I took turns sharing the misery of probably the coldest ice bath ever, while laughing at each other as we screamed as our legs turned fire-red from the frigid water. Oh, but it felt so good after the fact.

Per normal, I sniffed out the local Little Caesars, and Kaitlyn and I thought it an appropriate carboloading dinner.

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Pre-race photo, courtesy of Melissa Ruse @ SweetM Images

-Race Day-

I woke on my own due to pre-race nerves at about 2am, and failed to fall asleep again before the alarm went off at 3am. I spent my time strategizing how I might react to different situations of the race, noting that the weather report was claiming a possible record high around 3pm. I felt mentally prepared for the race, having done multiple heat training sessions in the past few weeks. This entailed going for long runs in the mid day heat with wind proof tights, and multiple winter jackets on in order to mimic the desert heat while training in Denver. I had also done dozens and dozens of loops on a 1.9 mile loop across from my place in the past month to get my mind ready for the redundancy of a loop course. I felt pretty good about the upcoming day- not a hard task while laying in bed with a gentle breeze coming though the window.

Kaitlyn and I left the house around 4am and drove out to McDowell Mountain Park to get the day moving. Before long, I was standing at the start line with some 600 other runners. A clock hung above us all, with 05:59:30 on it, rapidly counting the seconds upward. “Ladies and gentlemen, lets give these runners a count down to start the race! Nine, eight, seven…” I looked up at the clock, and smiled. Here I was, doing what I love so much to do. I felt the energy of the crown pump through my veins. “Three. Two. Go!”

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6:00:01am! We are off!

Hundreds of headlamps illuminated the dark as the sky began to turn faintly pink over the mountain range far ahead of us. I went out pretty hard the first half mile, ensuring not to be bottlenecked where the parking lot became single track. I looked back to see the line of lights in follow. It was an inspiring sight.

I settled in to a 8:00/mi pace, feeling comfortable on the course before the sun unleashed its fury. I reached the first aid station, Coyote Camp, and grabbed my first of many rounds of PBJ sandwiches for the day. The trail started a very gradual uphill at this point; one of those uphills you don’t realize exists until you get annoyed that your pace has steadily dropped against your perceived effort.

I arrived to Jackass Junction another six miles later. This aid station is especially unique, in that it is very much in the middle of nowhere in the desert, and has its own dance party raging through the whole day. Everybody volunteering was in Halloween costumes as well. This is the halfway point of the race. From here, it is all downhill, with about 1,500ft of loss back to the finish/lap point.

I took off for the next aid station, winding down a two track road. After about ten minutes, I realized that I hadn’t seen any course markings in quite some time. Usually there is always a marker visible on the course in the form of a piece of ribbon tied to a rock or tree. I stopped and looked around, not seeing one in any direction. At that moment, about four or five trucks appeared from around the corner. I ran up to them, seeing the Aravaipa Running logo slapped on the side of the door. “Is this the course?!” I asked. “Nope. You’ve got to head back to Jackass and hang a sharp left at the fork.”

The fork!? I had totally missed it. I was pretty annoyed with myself, and gunned my way back the mile or so I had gone off track. I saw where I had missed the course; to the untrained eye, the desert itself doesn’t look a whole lot different than single track running through it.

Once back on the course, I spent half an hour or so convincing myself that losing twenty minutes or so was not going to have an effect on the next 90 miles ahead of me, and to calm my pace down.

Back at Jeadquarters, I tossed my bottles to Kaitlyn and went to check in for the lap. I changed out my loose shirt to a compression shirt since it held ice much better. I tucked in the shirt, and dumped ice down it, which kept my stomach and back nice and chilled. Similarly, I put on my Ultimate Direction SJ pack, with every pocket filled to the max with ice. Ice in the hat and sleeves as well… everywhere.

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Refueling back at Jeadquarters.

I was off for lap two. The temperature was nearing 80 at this point- tolerable, but not about to get any cooler. Each lap is just a reversal of the previous, so I began the gentle, runnable climb back to Jackass Junction. I not far into this lap, near mile 24, I was getting really sore, feeling sleepy, and getting demotivated. I made every excuse possible to walk everything, not realizing I was actually just bonking really hard. In my first lap, I had drank just water and ate only PBJs, not taking in any salt. Once I realized this, I opened up my pack to find my bag of salt pills, and downed three or four of them, as well as an energy shot.

I checked into lap three, and again loaded up on ice before heading out. I was expecting for this to be the most mentally demanding lap of the day, with the heat to reach its peak. By the time I reached Coyote Camp just 4 miles later, I had downed 40oz of water, depleting my bottles, and had melted all of the ice in my pack. I was amazed, and admittedly a bit frightened that there was still an hour before the sun peaked. I filled one of my bottles at the aid station and downed all of it, refilling it once again. I had multiple salt covered potatoes, and ate watermelon like nobody’s business. I refilled everything with ice again, and went with only water and ice in the bottles.

About halfway through the six mile stretch to Jackass Junction, I saw Jeremy for the first time that day. He was looking strong as I spotted him rounding the corner and descending toward be. “Ayyyyyye!! What’s going on man!? How do you feel?” I asked. His reply was straightforward and agreeable. “It’s hot.” The only response I could think to say in that rocky, barren landscape, completely absent of shade, was “Welcome to Hell.” I gave him hug and a quick congrats before we parted ways, wishing each other the best.

As I trudged up the rocky hill, I finally started to feel the heat. I looked down at my watch to see it reading 98 degrees, which, assuming accuracy, had broken the day’s all time high by four degrees. I doused my hat and sleeves with ice water from my bottles, which were half empty just a mile from the last aid station. It felt like I had my face against a space heater. The heat was so dry and intense. I could feel it as I would breathe, and began to keep ice in my mouth to try to cool down the air before it entered my lungs. Whether it was a beneficial, I don’t know, but if it wasn’t, it had a strong placebo effect.

I made it back to Jackass Junction  and took down as much salted watermelon as I could. Again, ice on/in everything, and I took advantage of the bucket of ice water/sponges to thoroughly soak myself again. I definitely felt a benefit from having ice sitting around my waist/tucked in shirt on this lap. I melted through that in about 15 minutes, and started taking ice from my pack to stuff down my shirt. The light gloves were a notable benefit as well; I kept them soaked and chilly by just patting them against my shirt, which was of course soaked from the ice. I was very happy that the ice strategy was working so well.

Back at Jeadquarters, I swapped out my Altra Lone Peaks for a fresh dry pair, and put on another pair of socks. I took off my desert hat and gloves for this lap, thankful that the sun was quickly setting and yielding some relief form the treacherous heat. I loosened my sleeves and wore them around my wrists, but still kept them soaked.

I felt amazing going into this fourth lap. I personally disliked the counterclockwise laps, preferring the opposite. I took advantage of my surge of energy and good mood to push a bit harder up the gradual 10 miles up to Jackass Junction. I had picked up my phone for this lap, and got some music going to add to the good vibes. I was singing out loud along to Metallica’s Enter Sandman as I ran and passed people coming from the opposite direction. “We’re off to never-never laaa—“ I took a huge breath of dusty air and choked so hard that I nearly threw up. I’m sure the whole situation looked ridiculous to the other runners. I took a drink of water to wash down the dust, laughed at myself, and went back to my momentary stint as a rockstar.

I made it to Jackass much quicker than expected on this lap. I grabbed some Huma Gels from my drop bag, which seemed to be working excellently the past couple of hours… of course, had typical ice water and salt as well.

I got out of there really fast, and was feeling amazing. I ran into Myke Hermsmeyer, who was working his photographic magic shortly after the aid station. I had last seen him at my (only, thankfully) low point of the day during lap two. In my euphoric runners high, I yelled out “Myke!! It’s rally time!! Woo!” and thrashed through the desert, looking absolutely ridiculous in the process.

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Late in the day, beneath the 98 degree sun, wearing the desert hat, sleeves, gloves, and loaded down with ice in the pack. Courtesy of Myke Hermsmeyer.

Gosh, I felt so good. I knew there was 50k left in the race, the sun was almost down, and it was almost headlamp time. I’m a strong night runner, so I couldn’t wait to get fully in my element. “I’m Gonna Do My Thing” by The Royal Deluxe came on (check out this video. It’s the background music. you’ll understand the vibe.) and sent a surge of adrenaline through me. I let out a resounding “Yeeaaaauuhhhh!!!” as I disappeared into the dark.

I hit Coyote Camp in what felt like minutes. I shouted at Siri (iPhone) to text Kaitlyn that I’m coming in hot and will see her in a few miles. She was going to be pacing me for the final lap. My only request for her was another energy shot and some more Huma Gels. She assured me they were ready to go.

I came around the base of a shallow mountain and could see Jeadquarters straight ahead. I entered the crew area, which was packed full of hundreds of people crewing, pacing, partying, and spectating at this point. I spotted Kaitlyn and threw my bag and bottles to her to prep while I checked in a the lap point. I stopped real quick to chug some Pedialyte, just to be sure of my electrolyte levels before heading into this final lap. (Bleh. My tastebuds were tired of anything that was sweet.) Kaitlyn put my bottles onto my hands as I tried to stuff an entire PBJ in my mouth, and, spitting it all over, mumbled/yelled “lehhffs guuhh!” (“Let’s go”, with a mouth full of food).

We were out. I was stoked to be heading in the clockwise direction, my preferred of the two. With 80 miles down, I was still feeling good mentally and physically. We tried to keep the pace around 10 minute miles heading up the gradual hill for the first half of the lap. I power hiked the hills to save my legs for the last half.

We got back to coyote camp again in what felt like minutes. I came in totally focused on running, and had no idea what I wanted. Ice sounded great, so I grabbed some from the cooler with my hands. Apparently this is frowned upon, and I got a quick tongue lashing for it. Whatever. My mind was 85 miles worth of exhausted and ice is at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy. It’s not that I wanted it. I needed it, and at that time, I knew nothing else.

I crunched on the ice, grabbed my bottles from Kaitlyn, and we headed out. Even though it was completely dark, it was still very warm. I continued to douse myself with water as we navigated the rolling uphill grade. About halfway between aid stations, I ran out of water. I got pretty moody at that point. Even though I could snag some sips from Kaitlyn’s bottles, it wasn’t a fun headspace to be in. That, and my tastebuds were not happy about the sports drink that she had in her bottles. It more or less felt like it was burning my mouth due to the constant intake of sugary carbs and grains throughout the day.

Jackass Junction sits in a little bowl in the hills, so it isn’t visible until you are right on top of it. This is a blessing an a curse, depending on what time point of the race you are at. At the time, I just wanted water. I scanned the horizon constantly, but knew I wasn’t going to see anything. Then, I heard it. The low humming of speakers cranking out some bass-heavy music. That was, without a doubt, Jackass Junction after dark. “Kaitlyn, ‘ya hear that?! Let’s go!”

We picked up the pace, and just around the corner found ourselves at the aid station. It was in full party mode there, with dancing, music, strobe lights, loud cheering, and a crop-top/bathing suit costume theme going amongst the majority of the volunteers. I swapped out to fresh socks, feeling slightly bad for Kaitlyn having to touch my current pair. God knows what was lurking in those things. I left them in my drop bag (which i wound up forgetting, sorry Jamil (race director), especially if you do another mystery drop bag challenge)

I yelled out a thank you to all the volunteers and partiers as we left, with bittersweet feelings that I wouldn’t be returning again (this year).

And we ran. Did we ever run. “Kaitlyn, five point seven miles to Rattlesnake, three point seven more to JQ. Let’s finish this!” I could feel some gnarly blisters on my feet, and definitely one wrapping between my toes. I immediately decided I didn’t care. Awolnation’s “Run” came on the playlist, which was perfectly fitting. Kaitlyn’s voice could be heard over the music, announcing to other runners that we were passing. There was so much support that came from these runners, cheering us on the whole way down the gradual descent to JQ. If you are reading this, you were awesome, and your cheers did not go unnoticed. What a huge mental boost!

I could see the glow of the day’s very last aid station about a mile ahead. Before I knew it, we crossed the road. I grabbed some salt, and almost forgot to pick my bottles up in my excitement. I’m glad I turned around, because I also would have missed Jeremy, who was also fueling back up at the aid station. He looked good, and I was so glad to see him still on his feet. We wished each other the best, and I headed out.

I shattered the night silence with a long, loud “WOOO!” as we passed the sign that read “Jeadquarters- 3.7 Miles”. I dropped the hammer. I was able to kick the pace down to 7:50, completely ignorant of what my burning legs, swollen feet, and ballooning blisters tried to tell me. I turned my headlamp up to what I call “bear melting mode”, which pitches over 900 lumens across about 200 yards (This nickname came to life back in 2015’s Cloudsplitter 100, when I needed mental reassurance that I had some kind of defense while running through one of the eastern US’s most bear-dense areas) shameless plug to Fenix Headlamps).

The cheers continued from each runner we passed by, and we spotted Kim about two miles from into her lap. Again, I was so glad to see that our whole crew was still in the race. My body had the adrenaline shivers, as I realized that I had ONE.9 miles left. At this same moment, from behind the silhouette of the mountain to my right, I could see glowing dust rising into the sky, with a few light towers jutting into the sky. Jeadquarters.

I took a couple more mouthfuls of water and sprayed a bit on myself, then emptied the rest to the dust beneath me. Kaitlyn let me take the lead, and being the boss that she is, followed right behind as I opened the throttle. We went down and out of a couple of washes. This landmark was a point I had memorized throughout the race that I was just around the corner from Jeadquarters. I slowed my pace drastically here, and as kaitlyn passed me, I shouted “Hey! Hold up. Come back here.” I gave her a big hug and thanked her for all the support. Beneath the clear, star scattered sky, we looked up at the light tower that marked where the trail met the Headquarters parking lot. “Go get it.”

I rounded the corner into the light, and could see all the tents and crowds ahead. They cheered. I cheered back. I crossed through the gate. I looked at my watch. I felt like I was at a dead sprint, riding a cloud of adrenaline. Sure enough, at a 6:00 pace, my body decided it had enough left for one last go. As I passed through the tent area, I crossed through dozens of slivers of light coming from between tents, each one revealing the finish line on the other side of the oval-shaped finish chute getting closer and closer.

And there it was. My throat hurt as bad as my legs from the incessant from the cheer I’d been letting out since practically three miles ago. I could hardly believe I was staring down the finish line just feet above me. At 6AM, I was standing here, looking up at the clock, smiling. Here I was again, at 11:17pm, doing the same, but running at a pace I had no clue how I could possibly be doing.

With both fists in the air, I crossed that line. I can’t even begin to count all the emotions I felt. Joy. Happiness. Relief. Pain. Gratefulness. It was incredible. It came and went like a blur. I could hardly believe the clock reading 17h:17mm, let alone the 4th place finish. I was presented with the belt buckle by one of the volunteers. I told her “before I take this, I want you to know that I am sweaty and gross, but you are amazing and deserve a hug” she laughed and I hugged her with a “thank you for all that you volunteers have done” before taking the buckle. I followed with the same for Kaitlyn, who had kicked my ass for the past three hours or so, just as she had promised she would.

I looked at my watch, which read 99.9 miles. I went out for a lap around the finish aid station just to fit 100 miles into one file. When I returned to the timing tent, Kaitlyn had the brilliant idea that I should take a seat and get some rest. After a moment of consideration, I agreed.

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World’s best pacer and I at the finish.
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100 Miles, DONE.
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BUCKLE.

I laid down (read: happily collapsed) on a sleeping bag at our crew station. Sara got me a couple of pieces of pizza (thank you Freak Brothers Pizza for catering the event!) which tasted amazing. Kaitlyn pulled my shoes and socks off (eww) and we purged my blisters (fun, and eww). I was still really warm, so I covered up in a few bags of ice while Kaitlyn took a roller stick to my legs. She made me force down the rest of the bottle of Pedialyte just to be safe.

We stole Kim’s hotel door key, which was just a five minute drive away. The quarter mile walk to the car took 45 minutes- Kaitlyn timed it. At the hotel I took a shower which kindly revealed every place I chafed. I promptly went to bed after. I got almost no sleep because I was just as hungry as I was sore. We decided to “wake up” at about 3:30 to go to the grocery store, which was of course closed, as well as every fast food joint in town. We took a nap in the grocery store lot until they opened at 5.

We wound up getting some food there, and six burritos from McDonalds before heading back to watch for Jeremy and Kim’s finish. I watched the fiery sunrise over the mountains again, and fell asleep for a couple of hours in my sleeping bag on the dirt.

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A Javelina Jundred Sunrise.

We spotted Jeremy coming through the desert just before 9am (I think). He had tears of happiness on his face as he ran toward the finish line of his first 100 mile race. I was so proud of him for fighting through the heat and the miles, not to mention the night. I could tell he was too.

Kim followed just 20 minutes behind, and again, we gathered the whole crew to cheer her in. She finished her third 100 mile in an incredible effort, and again, I was amazed at the job well done.

All in all, this was easily one of the best races I have done, and organized at a level near perfection. There was constant support from spectators, volunteers, and other runners on the course. The festive, positive atmosphere made it easy(er) to get in and our of aid stations quickly, which, of course, were stocked full of all kinds of food. I look forward to doing this race again in the future. My congrats go out to all the finishers and volunteers who persevered through the heat and the miles, and achieved the incredible.

I extend a thanks to Kaitlyn, Sara, Anna for putting up with us runners over the weekend. Also to Altra Running and Ultimate Direction for the support, as well as all the friends, family, and onlookers that sent encouragement and good vibes over the weekend. Thanks to Andrew @ Lifelong Endurance for all your input and top-notch coaching skills going into this race, and for keeping me motivated to get out and suffer well.

——

Doing this race? Some extra thoughts:

Make sure you train for lots of loops. Being able to accept that yes, you have to do that again is a good skill to have for these long loops. Get out of the crew area.

Train with wet feet. Yes, it’s a desert, but you’ll probably want to be melting ice all over & all day.

I started training with winter attire on a few times per week about four weeks out. I do feel that this had a benefit when dealing with the heat.

I tried to purposely annoy/surprise myself while training, and never accept comfort. Some tactics I used:

-Almost home? Too bad. Turn around for another mile.
-Dry feet? Jump in the stream.
-On the couch? Go do a mile, just because.
-Even worse: 11pm? Go do a workout.
-Putting sand in my socks.
-If you plan to be out at night, it is critical to do some long runs starting at your normal bed time.
-Try to figure out what you might want at each lap/aid station before the race starts. I wrote a plan of this down and studied it a bit before the race, and it helped to minimize wasted time. Of course your mind will change, but i think it mitigated this.
-You can do it.

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