Sunday, 27 October 2013

Exploring The Limits Of The Body

I started the Javelina Jundred 100-miler yesterday, but didn't finish. Normally that would feel like abject failure but this year I feel I've been getting a better idea of when I can push and when to cut my losses.

After the Grand Slam through the summer, I was able to push myself harder than I'd previously thought possible, largely thanks to having Nick Clark to race against. To me ultrarunning is about finding out more about myself and not getting constrained by what I think should be possible. My instinct told me that four 100-milers in a 10-week period would lead to gradual deterioration of my body (and mind), yet some aspects of my fitness actually improved. At the end of each race I was completely spent, but more so after the final 100, the hardest and slowest course at Wasatch.

Since I seemed to still be in one piece after the summer I made a late season decision to run Javelina since it's a faster course and the organizers, the Coury brothers, put on such excellent events. Each of the Slam races was either three or four weeks apart so I thought a seven week gap might be ok. If I didn't try I know I'd wonder for the future whether the summer had made me reach a new level of fitness or worn me out.

So I started at Javelina and felt surprisingly good on lap one of 6.5. It was so much fun running and chatting around sunrise to Hal Koerner, Joe Grant and my Scott team-mate, Jeremy Humphries. Even better when we went through the first loop in course record pace, all feeling good. Things stayed together for most of the second loop too and we all hit the end of loop two within a minute of each other, in 3:54 for 30.6 miles.

By that point I was starting to feel a little tired, but wasn't worried as 30 miles is a long way and the pace was good. However, in the next few miles my legs felt dead with nothing left in the tank. I tried hiking to kick-start things but after a couple of miles of switching between walking and running I found I could barely run. I kept walking for the rest of that loop but even 50ft of running felt like too much, so I opted to just walk in to the end of the loop, worried that pushing more might dig me into a deep hole for the next few months.

Although it was hot, there was a light breeze that meant it felt fine as long as I kept dousing myself in water. The walk back was genuinely pleasant as the desert looked beautiful plus the number of runners in Halloween costumes certainly adds to the experience - it's amazing they do that in the desert heat.

I wasn't feeling down about things not working out since 2013 has been a great year for me. Instead I was glad I took a chance to try one more ultra this year and that I picked an event as fun as Javelina. If I never fail, success seems hollow as it means I'm staying within my comfort zone.

The initial lead back broke up over laps three and four, leaving Hal in front and he won in 14:56 with Catlow Shipcek second and Joe in third. Jeremy got progressively more injured throughout and had to drop at mile 70 with a suspected broken foot, so hopefully it won't turn out to be that bad. Nice work by all the runners and this is a race I'd highly recommend and will return to.

Full results here when available.


  1. I ran the GS as a mortal this year and was at JJ this year (working). What I've found interesting is that I seemed to feel best in the final race. But now my body and mind seem to be saying no more long distances for a while. Is it mental, physical or both? If there were 5 races in the series and it was still a battle, what might your body have allowed you to do? Anyhow, enjoyed seeing your accomplishment firsthand this summer - recover well.

  2. I had a great time running with you, Ian. I had pretty low expectations coming in, having run 100 just a month before and feeling less than great. Just dabbling into your world a bit. Gotta say, I don't like it. 2 months between hundos = good. I don't know how you did it all summer. Amazing!
    The foot will be fine. I'll take a nice long rest and start thinking of 2014. Hope to see you on the trails again soon.