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Over the weekend, my sister-in-law Peggy competed in the Javelina Jundred Ultra Marathon. In this crazy event, participants ran laps around a 15.33 mile course in McDowell Mountain Park near Fountain Hills. To reach 100 miles, they needed 6 full laps and one partial.

Lots of people try and do the event in 24 hours or less, but the cutoff is 30 hours. If you finish in 30 hours, you are an official finisher and get a belt buckle or some other prize.

Well over 150 people registered but by my last count (around 6 am on Sunday) at least 70 had dropped out early. As Peggy ran throughout the morning and afternoon on Saturday, I could monitor her progress via the web. Being scheduled to pace her on the last lap, I wanted to be rested and fresh in order to be of most use to her during the final push.

Her first laps went well and she was in fine form. Lap 4 was her first paced lap and brother-in-law Paul stepped in to assist. Lap 5 seemed to be the most difficult taking her almost 7 hours to complete. Peggy or sister-in-law Jenny will have to provide input on that segment as I only heard about it second hand. The last full lap was paced by Mary.

When I arrived (around 7:00 am), Peggy and Mary were over halfway through the last full lap. Jenny was resting and awoke around 8 to get ready for Peggy’s return. While we were waiting at the main aid station, we readied the supplies requested by Peggy: some chicken broth, a coke, water, protein drink, some chips, oreos, etc…

Around 9:00 we were starting to get worried. Participants who were not headed out on the last lap by 10 am would not be allowed to continue. At about 9:20, we looked up to see Peggy and Mary approaching the timing area. Peggy headed full steam (as much as possible) to the aid station, quickly restocked, and she was on her way. Jenny and Mary decided to go along to pace as well, so the three of us set out.

The desert is beautiful this time of year (November) and today was no exception. As we headed up the only hill on the 8+ mile segment, the surrounding views of the McDowell mountains and 4-peaks provided a source of inspiration (for us pacers, anyway…) Not sure if anything could have inspired Peggy at that point other than a direct transport to the finish line. She was tired and her body was hurting beyond belief. I was amazed to see her still chugging along and putting one foot in front of the other. Time was of the essence as she had only 2 hours and 40 minutes to complete the race. So, we pushed her as much as we could. One of us walked behind her (and pushed when necessary) and the other two walked in front. Her goal was to get to the last aid station as quickly as possible leaving extra time to complete the last segment (about 3 miles).

One step at a time she motored along. By that point in the race she had covered over 90 miles and was feeling every bump and every incline or decline in the trail. It took us about an hour and 50 minutes to get to the aid station (which, we were convinced, had been removed as it never seemed to get any closer). Thinking we were home free and only 3 miles to go, the aid worker reported that we had 53 minutes to cover 3.7 miles. Yowza! Given that it had just taken Peggy almost 2 hours to cover 4+ miles, we were all thinking she wouldn’t make it.

Peggy, however, had other ideas. Before we knew it she had downed a drink and a snack and took off RUNNING down the trail. Mary and I looked at each other and took off after her leaving Jenny to fill water bottles and catch up. We literally had to run Peggy down on the trail and still had a hard time catching her. She seemed to have saved a little cache of energy for the last push and was using it to full advantage. We finally caught her and pushed ahead (seeing as how WE were supposed to be pacing HER. Or, as Mary kept reminding me, it was supposed to be MY pacing shift).

We ran with Peggy for probably 3 miles and headed into the last mile section with about 20 minutes to go. Mary and I pushed out in front to lead the way and Jenny, who had caught up, helped push Peggy from behind. The whole last mile we were yelling and encouraging her and commenting on how close she was. When we saw the road crossing leading into the last segment of trail, I knew we were close. As we rounded the corner into the campground, I could see the time clock with plenty of time. Peggy crossed the line at 29 hours, 53 minutes, and some seconds to the hoots and hollers of the small crowd that was gathered.

WHAT an accomplishment for her. There are many people who do not understand the draw and obsession of competing in an endurance event. I have never done 100 miles, but I have done almost 50 and I can imagine a tiny bit of what she was feeling. I know that I was feeling great joy for her having finished and for the opportunity to help push her along for the last little bit. Getting her through the last 10 miles (well, the last 40, really) was a team effort and the pacing work paid off in spades. She did it! Wow.

Congratulations, Peggy! I will pace you anytime (although she did say to try and discourage her from future long distance events). You can pay me back for Ironman Tempe 2010!

WAY TO GO PEGGY! YOU ARE A JAVELINA JUNDRED 2008 FINISHER!!!! WAHOOO!!!!!!

Photo Credits: Will LaFollette

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