Javelina Jundred: Grow, Endure, and Evolve; one mile at a time.

It seems I'm more haunted attempting to verbalized my experience than the experience itself. There's a place when pushing beyond your perceived and actual physical and mental limitations which is indescribable.

I fight with a timeline recap versus the experience of it all that has me on an emotional fence days later, where my once zen like demeanor has been broken down into a barely held together emotional ball of hot wax. 

I'm inspired by the spiritual awakening and self discovery that is a part of all endurance activities for me. I'm touched emotionally by the bond that is created between souls without an exchange of words over the course of hours, while suffering enormously. I'm encouraged by the gratitude and care of total strangers of my wellbeing in the form of volunteers and pacers. 

All these things and so much more is what transpired with the Javelina Jundred. My journey to 100K.

First off, many thanks to the volunteers that tended to our every need and were patient as saints.  Making sure that we were safe, well hydrated, and fed.  In some cases just there to bring a smile to weary souls.  Kisses and Hugs!

Secondly, big shout out to Aravaipa Running and the small staff that brings all of this together and the running community in Arizona throughout the year.  I found them during a time of need and they introduced me to a sport that has brought so much life to my soul.  Kisses and Hugs!

Lastly, to the runners and pacers.  Man, y'all next level and regardless of the words exchanges or lack of words exchanged, y'all some bada- shut yo' mouth! I'm only talking about Ultra Runners!  Seriously, the pacers that ran through the night giving encouragement to other runners.  Props. 

Now on to the story you're waiting for.

The expo on Friday was held near the park at We-Ko-Pa Resort.   compared to mega large events the wait to get my bib and peruse the venue was a short 5 minutes. The expo air was filled with electricity and the excitement of participants, supporters, and volunteers. 

A quick grab of the bib, bag, and shirt, I found myself unprepared but nervously holding my number in front of the camera for testament. Gear on tap for purchase. I secure a cap knowing that I can wear without many actually knowing what it symbolizes or means. 

A different type of openly secret organization, where dues are paid in secret, meetings are held randomly, and allegiance is through masochist tendencies. I feel at home.  

Quick meeting with fellow Ink N Burn ambassador Henry Ward, Haley, and Race Coordinator Jamil and we're out!

Went to bed early, but didn't get a lot of sleep. Up by 2am to get the body up and to make sure the intestinal tract is clear (it's reality folks and I did not have to #2 for the run: WIN). All my bags and gear was packed the night or days before. Moms and I hit the road by 5:15am and we're off. 

Arrival / parking was painless. Small 1/4 mile walk to camp / start to get mom set up. Find space at drop bag location and set up. 

You can prepare all you like for an endurance run and there will always be a curve ball you can not prepare for that will hit you in the face with the force of a professional baseball pitcher throwing the fast ball. 

Nature would be the curve ball of the day. Record setting temperatures on deck. Morning start was comfortable in the high 60's, but the sun would soon destroy the coolness and bring about the meaning of "Valley of the Sun" as temperatures would later crest into the mid and upper 90's. 

By 2pm the damage had been done. Countless folks had been touched by heat. Dizzy spells. Laying under the rare shade location as the course is totally exposed. Helicopter called in to assist with a dire emergency on the back stretch. Seven of us would bond near the end of the first 22 mile loop to safely escort a fellow runner out, that had succumbed to the unrelenting heat. 

I knew the heat had taxed my body as I switched gear for loop 2.  My spirits were still high, so push forward we did. Theme for the moment was maintain hydration and slow down even more as the temperature continued to radiate from the mountain floor, while you baked from above. 

The sun began to drop behind the mountains as I entered unknown territory of distance beyond 50k (31.1 miles). I was elated to be at this mid-way point and cautiously frighten of the unknown. Quick self assessment and I wondered if the sun had taken too much. I also realized I had no lighting and it would get dark soon. I set focus on three guys in the distance I've been trekking all day and made them my reference and point to catch. Turned on the reserves and within a few miles passed them as we approached the last aid station 4 miles from the end of the loop. 

I form another quiet bond with a runner from England as we make our way back to camp in he darkness, using my cell phone as a flashlight. My soul set like the sun an hour earlier. I had entered my own place of mental and emotional darkness and torment. But as I come in to complete loop 2, Aaron calls out with a warm embracing smile. Then Rachel. Then Connie. And others. A flicker within is still there. 

This photo below shows the despair all on my face. LOL. Y'all I can't begin to tell you what was going on in my mind.

Connie is who I focus on now. There is talking but I don't remember the topics. I remember telling her if we hold a 16-17 minute overall pace we're good and then nothing.  I remember her talking. I remember telling myself stay with her. I remember thinking damned she's walking fast but don't let her go. She's my mental life line now. 

We catch Major Williams and Connie is now pacing / dragging two desperate broken souls through the cool dark desolate desert. 

At the first aid station 4 miles out, I have soup broth for the first time and I am transported to a five star restaurant.  Three cups down and we're back out into the darkness (literally, mentally, emotionally, and figuratively). Connie and the Major don't know it but I'm barely hanging on. Every rock looks like the perfect place to give up and lay. Everything within is screaming for me to stop!  Please stop!  Enough!  Mercy!  Break down and cry!  NOW!

Discussions begin as to why we're doing this?  What's the purpose of trail running?  Mark, a runner we pick up with a busted light, shares his inspirational story of why he endures the pain of ultras. I have to answer this question, not for the group but for me, and the verbal answer gives me strength to command those cells to contract once again to propel me forward one additional step through the pain radiating behind my quads, numb calves, and tenderized feet. I begin to remember the fear of being so close to death.  The pain of those first jogs down the block.  The eyes of the kids in the hospital that I'm raising monies for. I remember this is what gives me life despite the pain. 

These realizations all fall into place as we descend upon JackAss Junction, the literal party in the desert aid station. We rest here. Inventory is taken. We're spent. Connie offers cold Coke Cola.  My brain electrifies upon its consumption. I need more!  Four more cups and a two minute cot break and again we're out into the darkness, except this time I'm loaded with caffeine. 

Connie pushes us hard, as we're only 8.9 miles from the buckle. For a spell I'm a little incoherent. I hear words but struggle to but sentences together in my head. Then the caffeine sets in and I take the lead. Fast!  I want more Coke!  So I'm off to the next aid station like a heroine addict with the next fix in sight. 

It's here that I'm once again transformed and embraced by the darkness. I damned near run into cacti several times mesmerized by the beauty in the darkened non-moon (new moon) night sky away from the city lights. Its indescribable. 

Here I am on the darkest of nights, in the desert, somewhere over 55 miles on my feet, after the darkest of moments emotionally ever...  running under heaven and feeling the most alive I have felt in a while. 

The troubles of the world, my life, work all fade into the distance as I feel at one with myself. My angels. My demons. My reality. My existence. 

The final aid station appears and I'm greeted with a bottle of Coke Cola and ice for my consumption. I fill one of my flasks with ice and Coke for the final 3.7 miles. 

Connie and the Major appear shortly after my arrival and before I realized it they were off.  I chase them down within a mile. The lights of the end become visible in the distant. The decision is made, we started this lap together we finish this lap together. 

The three of us join hands 1/4 mile out as we enter the camp.  I hear tears flowing. Emotions are high. We have survived. I put the phone in record mode. I don't want this moment to end but I want this journey to be over. The finish appears. An uncontrollable smile emerges. I drop to my knees and kiss the finish. Yes, kiss the finish. Damned straight I did. 

It is done. I remember hugs and elation settling over me washing away the pain. One could argue this is nothing more than adrenaline, but the euphoria was real. The feeling of the metal beneath my finger tips as we posed with our buckles still has a coolness to the tips. 

Too exhausted to cry. Yet I was overcome with emotion. This is such a remarkable journey. I would sit in the shower an hour later unable to put into proper words what transpired. 

What effectively was an adventure that began back at the first of the year when I registered on opening day amid horrific personal turmoil, to June 6th the official 3 mile start to my training for the following five months, the people who would join me on my journey, to the etched in my memory crossing of the line, to finally my recovery week and the emotional ball that swells within as I think of it all. 

One of the phrases I keep close speaks of unfettered American citizenship. 

Well, the generosity of others, the courage of runners that endured the scorching heat; finishing or not (just having the courage to begin), the kindness of strangers, and the strength of the human spirit brings light to what truly is unfettered humanity one can find at Javelina Jundred - the "hottest" party in the desert. 

My journey isn't over.  The buckle doesn't represent an end.  Far from it.  The medals and trinkets from running are merely life's mile markers as I continue to grow comfortable within this skin, endure the pains of life, and evolve hopefully into a better human being; one mile at a time. 

- Follow my continued run365 journey to raise monies for Make A Wish AZ at my instagram @egsleeve365

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