A first 100 miles: a runner and her crew
It’s a formidable distance, but she did it. She ran her first hundred. Jen Duncan has been ramping up her training for months now. She’s meticulous about her running: keeping logs, knowing the day-by-day training she’ll do well in advance, sticking to her plans, preparing the right food and hydration intake, getting out for night runs at a certain distance, and practicing running exhausted. She’s a planner. But there’s really nothing that can fully prepare you for race day when you’re going for a hundred.
She took her sister, Michelle, with her to crew her 5 trail loops at the famous Javelina Jundred in Fountain Hills, AZ. When you compare notes between the two sisters, they describe the experience as that of a team. Michelle talks about the preparation and planning she did, including frequent conversations with Jen about what to expect in the race, what hours would present different challenges, and how to keep Jen focused and strong. Michelle says “[h]er days/hours were carefully planned from what she will eat, what to have handy (bandages, salt tabs and many more ‘just in case items’) and how she will keep herself cool and steady through the race.”
Michelle saw off her runner at the start, learned to use the tracking system to keep a pulse on Jen and when she was coming into Javelina Headquarters, and utilized the aid station volunteers to help her in the fast minutes that go by when she had to juggle getting a coke, soup, filling Jen’s hydration vest bladder, opening Jen’s drop bag and getting out the right clothes, and tracking Jen’s time. She texted 100 mile endurance junkies back home in Ohio to ask for tips during the race depending on how Jen was responding. She was invested in the race just as much if not more than her sister.
“Jen was strong throughout the entire 100, both mentally and physically.” Michelle’s description of the race conditions sounds like the weather was out to test the JJ runners as much as possible: “A cool morning led to a hot afternoon back to a cool night and a quick warm up upon sunrise. Jen was smart the entire time to keep her pack filled with ice, a hat to shade the sun, ice in her sleeves (really anywhere ice would fit) and clothes for post sunset.”
Jen, being the hyper planner that she is, knew what she was in for. She predicted it. Even her post-race report reflects that she was anticipating the inevitable: “Then Loop 4…. I was waiting for severe fatigue to hit. It hit me like a bulldozer followed by a steamroller that had a flamethrower attached to the back. It was dark, I was getting cold. I’ve never slept/ran/cried at the same time. I needed a nap. Bad. Pretty Negative Nancy.” It was a rough loop. She got in from that loop with one more loop to go, told her sister it was a waste of time and was ready to pack it up. It wasn’t fun anymore. Michelle got her calories, helped her warm up with new layers and then with no sleep and all out altruism, she said: “make it fun.” Michelle says: “she did just that. She turned on the afterburners and got that buckle!”
Hearing the news that Jen finished, her coach and other local hundred mile runners reflected on their first hundred. “Your first 100 finish is like your first marathon finish. You will never forget it no matter how much time passes,” Connie Gardner said while thinking back to Mohican 100 and her first Columbus Marathon.
Asked whether he remembered his first hundred, Mike Dowdell said: “Ugh. Yes. It’s been a while” as he thought back to Mohican 100 in 2013. When asked what tackling the 100 miler has done for him, Mike says that “psychologically, running and hiking and crawling your way through a hundred is very powerful and carries over into other aspects of your life…with the overarching thought of ‘at least it’s not a hundred,’ I think I can get through a lot of tough situations better than I ever could.” He noted, “the deep sense of connection you feel with other people who are intentionally suffering - unnecessarily at that - for so long is incredible.”
Now that Jen has the buckle, we expect her to say “at least it’s not a hundred” at every track practice. Congratulations, Jen and Michelle.
In other Wicked Runner news, Adrienna Frazer went sub 2:00 in the EVL Halloween Half Marathon in Ellicottville, NY, which entitled her to a wonderful spread of prosecco, beer and bourbon.
In what may be the last Run With Scissors event in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ann Wehener and Emily Collins took on a muddy trail double marathon on Saturday. Ann called it a race to finish, which she did with no problem. And Emily spent lots of energy over the course of 52 miles trying to find one positive thing going on in life, but managed a second place overall finish at a local, epic event. She didn’t have to look far to find the positive. It was clearly at Sydney’s poop emoji aid station at Oak Hill.