Jelping at the Jundred

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Every winter we award scholarships to runners to tackle the race of their choosing. We support them financially, training, and with encouragement and energy. In return they wear our shirt, and write us a post race recap.  Join us as we trace Dylan Jenning’s report.

Jundo SPF by Dylan Jennings

Spoiler Alert: I injured myself training for this hundred mile race and I did not toe the line. I ended up volunteering at the race and I made a memorable vacation out of it.  

I would like to give a huge shout out to TrailsRoc, its founders and its board members past, present and future and to the trail runner, the reader. The sponsorship program which I have taken advantage of is a core feature of TrailsRoc. When I speak of TrailsRoc to people unfamiliar, the sponsorship program is one of the first things I describe. It pretty much sums up the group’s philosophy to work together and give back.  

0 SPF is also a core feature of TrailRroc, the flagship race and one of my favorites. I consider the Crescent Trail to be home field. My time spent in the desert would require something a bit stronger. 100 SPF sounds about right for a 100 miler. The Javelina Jundred (which happens to be a four point UTMB qualifier as well as a Western States Endurance Run qualifier) is a grueling 20-ish mile loop, run five times. When you finish a loop, you run the next loop in the opposite direction. They call this washer machine style. The Javelina Jundred takes place mostly on the Pemberton trail in McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Fountain Hills, AZ. Think dusty desert trails and tall saguaro. The We Ko Pa resort and casino hosted package pickup as well as the out of town guests. We Ko Pa translates to four peaks or something along those lines. There is a beautiful ridge with four peaks right next door. It is located just a quick drive from the Javelina Jedquarters, which includes the start/finish line, a tent city, aid station, medical tent, DJ, food vendors and crowds. The group rate with the race at the hosting hotel can save a traveler a lot of money. In this case, I saved over 65% of the regular price of a room. An expensive room out of my price range was about the price of a regular room I would have normally stayed in. I would definitely urge a traveling trail runner to contact the race director to see if a hotel is offering race discounts, or check the race website.  Regrettably, the casino did not have a sic bo table nor did it have a craps table. Worse, the roulette wheel was automated (but still kind of fun).

I would like to encourage everyone that reads this to submit an application for sponsorship.  I heard a rumor once and I am not sure if it is true. I know it is just a rumor but I want to believe it is true. You should too! I heard that the TrailsRoc board has a very difficult time denying a sponsorship application. They have such a hard time denying an application that they have not yet done so. I don’t know if that is true or not, but the reader should go to trailsroc.org and find the link where one can submit an application. This is quite an opportunity. How do you say free money?

Knock Knock. Who’s there? Opportunity. She is presenting herself to you.

I would also like to thank the runner. The everyday person that likes to run trails is a core feature of TrailsRoc. We hit each other up on whatever social media, plan some runs, preview runs, pay race fees, enjoy fat asses, donate money and buy merchandise. We volunteer at races, supplying aid and support.  Most ultrarunners would not be able to finish nor stay alive for long without it. The aid stations look like a kid was set free in a convenience store with a jundred dollar bill. I like how tough these races are and that means a lot of training. I like how tough these training runs are. I meet a lot of people that I otherwise would not meet. 

My time spent in the desert went like this. I invited my folks along and we went to the Grand Canyon! We hiked some trails and saw some sights and ate lots of food and saw more sights. My father and I hiked the Bright Angel trail for a few miles. We hiked at Bell Rock. We also climbed Camel Back Mountain near Phoenix. I hiked the first few miles of the race once the 100k started. I hiked some other trails whose names escape me. We had a blast! Eventually race day arrived. My parents also volunteered. They did packet pickup as well as a shift at Javelina Jedquarters. I did a shift on the overnight since I am up all night anyway. It is nice to see the sunrise and I had the opportunity to see it two days in a row. I also helped my parents during their shift while taking frequent breaks. I spoke with an older man during one of these breaks.  He is a grizzled veteran ultrarunner. He had been injured many times.  He fell off a bike and shattered a hip. A car jumped the curb and landed on his back. Doctors told him he would not walk again. He liked to respond, “see you at the finish line”. He described more gnarly injuries but those two stuck out. My plantar fasciitis seemed like a stubbed toe in comparison.  

The Javelina Jundred kicked off before sunrise. I was shaking an antique cow bell. It was loud and annoying. The runners were impressive! This race is a Halloween celebration and racers are encouraged to dress up. There is a best costume award. There is also a best ass award. You have to show the RD your butt if you want to win. I would like to be on that judging panel and unfortunately I did not witness that show. Besides costumes, runners were decked out in a wide variety of gear. I was most curious to see the hats. There were trucker caps, buffs, visors, straw hats, white sun hats with flaps that covered the neck. Some runners carried very little, others had loads of accessories.  

The Javelina 100k started an hour later (the 100k is also a four point UTMB qualifier). This is when I saw the legendary runner featured in the book Born To Run. The mystical running tribe, the Tarahumara, can run all day and not tire while nourishing themselves on what seems to be starvation diet. This is the tribe that Caballo Blanco disappeared in the copper canyons of Mexico trying to find. And he did find them. He spent plenty of time running with them.   He organized a race with the best ultrarunners in the world against the best runner this tribe had produced. And Scott Jurek, legendary winner of seven consecutive Western States was bested by this man! I saw that runner and his friends and family. They were posing for pics with star struck fans and doing the usual pre-race nervous chit chat baloney. It was rad! They were also selling stuff, I bought a hand stitched leather wallet from them for 20 bucks later in the day. I’ll show it to you if you ask me.  

Volunteering consisted mainly of filling five gallon jugs of water and bringing them to the aid station for hours. It was about a jundred meters away. I realized after making a few trips that a cart was available. It was hot! Runners need a lot of water. A LOT! I heard a rumor that five runners needed to be airlifted out of the desert. I saw helicopters circling above constantly so I don’t doubt it. I had fun pouring drinks for confused runners. It was fun watching runners go by as I was filling jugs. The water hose was located right near the trail so I got to watch runners. I could tell they liked to see me filling jugs. The overnight shift was more relaxed. There was only one trip to the water hose. The other volunteers were awesome! I made a point to go around and talk to each volunteer one on one for a few minutes. Two of them looked like they were going to hook up after the shift. The DJ came over and asked for requests. I asked him to play anything by the Gorillaz. He said no. Another volunteer was like, c’mon play the Gorillaz!

The absolute worst thing about this trip was the fact that I was injured. I had trained hard and my body was in prime shape, excluding the sharp pain with every step from my left foot. I was ok to walk five miles before it started getting bad. I took advantage of that and squeezed in some nice five mile hikes. I figured I might as well. I came all the way to Arizona. My body was itching to hit the trail hardcore. Patience, I would tell myself. Just spend the winter hibernating, drinking beer, roasting coffee beans and eating cheese. Heal up and see what happens come spring time. (I shaved 23 minutes off my trail marathon time come spring time.)

Let us consider healing. Running is hard and it hurts. It feels great, it’s fun and it makes me happy. But it hurts the body, rips and tears flesh and doesn’t make one stronger. It actually weakens the body. If Hans and Franz saw me post ultra, they would most likely call me a weak girlie man. That flesh needs to heal. It heals and becomes stronger as a result. That is why I like to sleep in, eat all the good food and just be lazy. That wear and tear on the body can be described as abuse. There are other bad things that can happen to the body that can also be described as abuse. A key aspect of abuse is the victim. Victims display specific behavior patterns. There is an inability to make eye contact, guilt and depression. There is a loss of confidence and sense of self-worth. Depressed people have a hard time getting out of bed. Feeling pain makes people depressed. The body doesn’t know the difference between being beaten up by a large assailant or beating the ground all day. The abuse of an ultramarathon has a similar effect on the body and its mental state as being the victim of an assault A very nasty assault. I learned in martial arts that the hardest thing to hit an opponent with is the ground. Have you heard of PUD? It stands for post ultramarathon depression. A friend of mine told me about it and it is the reason she quit running ultras. 

The ground hits the runner’s body at about three times body weight per step. Target cadence is 180 steps per minute, but let us be realistic. I only take 150 steps per minute during a long run. How long a run? The cutoff for Javelina is 30 hours. 150 steps per minute times 60 minutes per hour times 30 hours yields 270,000 steps. That is a lot of impacts on the body. Imagine being a bully’s punching bag for 270,000 straight punches and each punch has about three times the force of your body weight. OUCH! 

A key reason I applied for this sponsorship was to find the limits of my body. I figured there is no better way to do that than to run 100 miles. I do not have a death wish, but I would like to know my limits. There is so much that seems limitless about the human body that I sometimes wonder just where they lie. Go walk the tightrope and find out. I imagine running great distances as walking the tightrope. There are just a few places where balance must be maintained and anything is possible. A little bit of food, salt, sugar, easy breathing, water, happy thoughts, and pretty much nothing can stop you. There is also the will, one must want to do it or one won’t do it. And do not forget to train and to rest.

People should prioritize the happy thoughts part of it. It doesn’t matter if you are stuck in traffic, talking with your boss or any old stupid idiot, or if you are at mile 37. Just keep to the happy thoughts and you’ll make it. 

I found some of the limits of my body. I also found out how long I need to recover and I can keep pushing the distance after I have recovered. I found that my favorite trail distance is the half marathon. I can run hard and not tire for about 15 miles before I am toast. I found the marathon distance is fun but it tears the crap out of my body. I can go 37.5 miles in one day, that is the most I have measured. It was in less than 12 hours but I was totally shot. My body was good for the drive home and a shower and not much else for a day. I have pushed myself for an entire day. I can sleep before and after, eat well and push hard for about 24 hours. These are some of my limits.  

I like to go places in my imagination while my body is in pure agony. I pretend Wolverine and Lobo are doing shots with me at the bar. The bikini ladies squeal and bounce as I run by. I pretend a house is being built and I create it as I explore it. One time the Karate Kid and I took on a plane full of terrorists (my mind did this while my body attempted Twisted Branch). I think it is just a function of the brain, to create a model of the surrounding environment in real time. That requires a vast playing field for things that do not happen, false models, simulations, or the imagination. I find it funny that the brain would work so hard to create an accurate as necessary model of the world and willingly put itself in a life and death situation, only to escape all this by creating a false model of the world which is much more pleasant. I guess it doesn’t matter how or why the dopamine is released, as long as it gets released. 

I did not attempt the Javelina Jundred. Right now I know my body is not ready to do it. Maybe it will be in the future. I don’t know. We’ll see. Aravaipa Running puts on a wide variety of races year round, not just the Javelina Jundred. The Javelina Jangover looks like a lot of fun. It’s a night race in September and has options for 25k, 50k, and 75k. I am more comfortable with a jangover than I am with a jundred. There is a whole series of night runs in the desert. That is so cool!  

Once again I would like to thank TrailsRoc and the trail runner. Thank you so much. Now go submit an application for the sponsorship program if you haven’t already. Hop to it.