It is, at times, difficult for me to believe this but for those of you keeping track Jorge Pacheco and I have history. I mean, real history. Of course, most of that history is in his favor. With the exception of races in which Jorge has dropped (or taken a long nap!) I have never finished ahead of him in a 100 Miler. And, most painfully of all, I now have three Bridesmaid’s Finishes to accompany his three victories. A quick scan of the archives tells a painful story.
2004 Angles Crest, Jorge first, AJW second.
2006 Rocky Raccoon, Jorge First, AJW second.
2007 Javelina Jundred, Jorge first, AJW second.
You get the picture.
Nonetheless, the 2007 Javelina Jundred was a great race. Sure it was hot, painfully hot for a Rocky Mountain transplant like myself but who cares? It was a great way to spend a long day in the desert and what could be better than heat in the desert? It’s just the way it is. I wouldn’t want it to be any different.
Jorge started out hard along with Eric Clifton who always starts out hard. I was content to hang with friends Craig Thornley, Rob Evans, and Wendell Doman and see how things started to shake out. Jorge and Eric finished the first lap in record time and I was thinking this could work out OK. The second lap went by fast as well but as Eric started to fade and Jorge kept pushing. By the time we crossed paths at the third lap turnaround he had 28 minutes on me.
Yikes, this was going to be a race!
Shelly, my wife and crew, told me at that point that if I wanted to win I quite simply couldn’t give up any more time. I was feeling pretty good but with the heat coming on I didn’t feel like I had much more to give. I pushed up the long grinding ascent over the first five miles of the fourth lap and then began to push harder on the rollers between Miles 50 and 55. Here, I began to have hope. All the people coming the other way had beta for me and it all suggested that the gap was closing. I pushed harder. As I got to the wash at the bottom of the biggest hill of the race I saw Jorge in the distance. I think the gap was 5 minutes there. Maybe I could get him? But should I try to cover the gap now? Oh, these were haunting questions indeed. Questions that my aching legs didn’t want to answer.
I got to the turnaround and was met by my son Logan in a Grim Reaper costume. I don’t know if he understood the significance of the occasion but I did. His outfit symbolically represented just what I needed to know -- "Damnit, I should quite this sport." But, I couldn’t. Jorge had only five minutes on me. Crap, if this was going to be a race now was the time to make a move (like I even know what that means!).
Of course, this is ultrarunning so if I was going to make a move first I had to puke. The combination of 95 degree temperatures, lukewarm chicken broth, and Coke brought it all home (so to speak!) Fortunately, my friend and comrade in arms Chris Thornley was there to tell me it would pass. And, my kids, well they basically said, “Everybody pukes, what are you waiting for?” So, I set out in pursuit of Jorge.
I saw him on the horizon about an hour later. He was moving along well but not too fast. We were about a mile from the 65-mile aid station. I said to myself (sort of), I guess this is it? We’ll see what happens. It was, indeed, a collision course. I got to the aid station and he was still there drinking water and filling his bandana with ice. I tried to stay cool by filling my bottles and getting out of there. Man, I was hurting! And yes, he was right there behind me. I knew the drill. It was time for a marking exercise. If there were fire hydrants around we would both be peeing.
We ran the next 10 miles stride for stride. That, in and of itself, is amazing! For those of you who know the nature of 100-mile races that does not happen very often. But, here we were at mile 65 of a late season 100 – friends, rivals, competitors – what else could we do but run? I can’t remember which parts I led and which parts he led but I knew I was on the rivet and I could tell he was not. I didn’t want to admit it but I could just tell. Plus, I knew Jorge. Yes, the guy has crashed and burned in these things before but not often after night falls. I knew this would be tough, if not impossible, to beat. So, I switched into learning mode.
We arrived at Mile 75 together and someone took a picture (whoever took it, I want it!) I knew Jorge had the upper hand with rested legs and greater footspeed but I still had hope. For those of you who don’t think these races have drama you should have been there then. You could feel it, taste it, even.
After that, Jorge took off. He opened a lead on me I could not combat. Sure, I still had a glint of hope but I could tell this was his day and he deserved to win. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was simply happy to share the trail with this humble, smart, and compassionate champion on this day. In many ways, Jorge’s character is summed up in his post-race greeting to me, “I’m sorry.” Man, what a man!
To Rodger, Jimmy, Dave and the rest of the Javelina Crew thank you for an amazing day.
Now, I am off to rest. See you in Squaw!