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First, take a 100-mile race, which attracts its own unique type of runner. Second, position that race into Arizona’s desert, which offers another idiosyncratic layer of landscape. And third, place the event on Halloween weekend. What do you get? You get the Javelina Jundred, one of the quirkiest and most sneakily challenging hundred-mile races in the country.
This year, Aravaipa Running will be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Javelina Jundred with a slew of events, starting this Wednesday and crescendoing with the 100 mile, 100K, and 31K races starting at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., and 8 a.m. MT, respectively, on Saturday, October 29. Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s race.
The Javelina Jundred takes place on the ancestral homelands of the Hohokam. The course is a loop course, five laps of 20 miles of singletrack in Fountain Hills, Arizona, with a total of 7,900 feet of vertical gain (1,580 feet per loop). The location is less than one hour’s drive northeast from downtown Phoenix. Most of the trail is part of the region’s popular Pemberton Trail, a looped course, within the McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
The race is a 2023 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run qualifier and Golden Ticket Race, meaning that the top two finishing men and women will receive automatic entry into next year’s Western States. Starting Wednesday, the week leading up to the race is full of events, including group shakeout runs, brewery meetups, Javelina Jallucinations, the “biggest ultra party of the year,” the Jackass Night Trail Run, movie screenings, and more.
According to the website, the Javelina Jundred has self-identified as an R-rated event, which means that it’s not entirely “kid-friendly.” Expect music with explicit lyrics, risqué costumes, and their very own “bare-ass” award. There will be Misfit awards, too, including best costume, “first virgin” (fastest time of a first-time Javelina finisher), best crew camp decorations, and others.
Cooling, Community, and Calories
“There’s just something about the ambience at Javelina,” says Patrick Reagan, the race’s course record holder (13:01) from Savannah, Georgia. The three-time winner (2017-2019) is returning this year to join a stacked elite field. Reagan currently holds two of the three fastest course finishes, the other being Arlen Glick, who also will be racing Saturday.
For Reagan, he returns each year to Javelina because of the event’s atmosphere, as well as its unique course, full of tricky footing, technicality, heat, and exposure.
“It’s a race that tends to grind runners down more than they expect because they only look at the profile,” says Reagan. “Ultrarunners are used to evaluating the technicality of a course based on its profile. If we looked at Javelina from that perspective alone, it would be like a one or two, in terms of difficulty. But I think it’s more like a five, because there are so many variables that could absolutely unhinge you at this race.”
Reagan is excited to continue his ongoing relationship with both the course and with other runners. “Being a washing machine course [five loops], you get to see a lot of people that you wouldn’t on other point-to-point courses, like Western States.”
So how does the course record holder recommend you approach the Javelina Jundred?
“The most important thing is the topical cooling aspect, which relates to perceived exertion and number of calories per hour. Those are my top three pieces of advice.” He recommends maximal coverage, clothing that will keep skin cool and wet, and that holds ice cubes as you run.
Other than the eight aid stations and their tents, there is hardly any canopy cover on course. “The best you can do is hide in the shade of a saguaro cactus,” he says. “You’ll be bone dry in two to three miles in the heat of the day.” Debris management is another key piece of advice for having a successful race at Javelina, says Reagan. “I know a lot of people don’t like gaiters, but people who’ve run the race multiple times swear by it.”
The Most Competitive Field in the Race’s History
This year’s race is slated to be one the most competitive Javelinas ever. On the women’s side, for example, three former champions Kaci Lickteig, Nicole Bitter, and Devon Yanko will be competing against each other.
In 2015, Yanko set the women’s course record in a blistering 14:52, which she held until last year, when Camille Herron finished in 14:03. Yanko’s resume runs deep, however, and it’ll be exciting to see how she competes in a talented field of runners, despite recent health complications.
“I’m very fit right now,” says Yanko. “I also was just diagnosed with Lupus and have suffered a flare all summer.” This has set her on a series of medications to battle this chronic disease.
Another runner to look out for is Annie Hughes, from Leadville, Colorado. Javelina will be her last big race of the year, after a string of successful ultras. Ever since winning the Leadville 100 last August, Hughes has won every single race she’s finished, including the Moab 240, the Cocodona 250, the High Lonesome 100, and the Run Rabbit Run 100.
Hughes excels in high mountain environments, while also performing well in long, exposed efforts in desert environments. Her mentor, crew chief, and friend Olga King is anxious to see how she does. King agrees that, though Javelina may not be Hughes’s ideal course, she’s always more than ready to dig deep to discover her potential.
“The best you can do is hide in the shade of a saguaro cactus.”
“Annie’s events are mountains,” said King. “She’s had a very long, very successful season, with her last race being only six weeks ago [Run Rabbit Run 100].” King is hopeful this fitness will “get her on the podium.” Based on the pattern of how her year’s gone, that prediction seems right on brand.
On the elite men’s field, Craft athlete, coach, and race director Jacob Puzey is ready to perform this weekend at Javelina. Puzey ran this 100-miler last year, his first, and placed sixth overall in 15:35.
“I ran cautiously and spent a lot of time at each aid station to ensure I was cooling adequately,” said Puzey. “At each aid station, I filled the pockets of my vest with nothing but ice so that it would cool my body throughout the day.”
For Puzey, running in Arizona feels like a familiar region for him. “Javelina had long been on my bucket list because the looped nature of the course works well with my mind and body. And I’ve lived in the desert for most of my life, so running Javelina feels like running home.”
Though the course can appear, at first glance, a little bit monotonous, “the team at Aravaipa makes it anything but boring. Each loop is a little bit different because of the light of the day and the costumes,” says Puzey.
Who To Look Out For
Here are some runners to look out for this weekend:
- Patrick Reagan
- Dakota Jones
- Matt Daniels
- Arlen Glick
- Jacob Puzey
- Keith Laverty
- Annie Hughes
- Devon Yanko
- Kaci Leipkeig
- Annie-Marie Madden
- Nicole Bitter
- Brittany Peterson