Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Iron Horse 100 Mile endurance Race

February 19Th, 2011 This day may have changed my running life forever. I have pushed my body to levels that I never knew I could, I have challenged my mind and heart in ways that I never knew I could but let me slow down and tell you what happened.

I have to go back to October,2010 I had tried running my 1st 100 mile race ever at the Javelina 100 in Arizona. I made it to mile 77 and therefore got the 100K buckle but I was devastated because I was unable to finish my first 100 miler. I was injured and the following weeks after the 100 miler I kept running and making my injury a little worse. I finally got to the point in November that I ran very little and December also I ran very little with all the partying I was doing and also my back was giving me a hard time.

Here comes January, 2011. I was basically 6 weeks away from Iron Horse 100 and I knew that it was time to put 4 strong weeks of training. I went back to my Chiropractor 3 times a week and within a week I was already feeling great. Dr. Greg Cherne is awesome and he has kept my lower back moving during my first year of ultrarunning. I ran close to 200 miles in January, now keep in mind that during December and January I ran many times on snow and trails with snow... Thanks to my beautiful and strong friend Michele Hartwig, who for a long time has told me how the trails would make me stronger... and strong they made me for sure... I love you Michele!!!

My awesome coach Todd Braje put a great schedule together for me to follow in January. This dude was so cool and allowed me to wait until January when I told him I felt healthy and I was ready to train hard. I was also lucky to be a part of the Chicago Ultrarunners because we had a 6 hour run towards the end of January. That was my longest run, I covered a little over 27 miles but it was really tough because of all the snow on the ground during that run. But we have heard so many times, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and stronger it made me... two weeks prior to Iron Horse Todd told me, concentrate on resting and feeling good. He told me to stay hydrated because Florida was going to be a shock to my system and guess what? it was... The dude knows his stuff...

Finally the week to travel was upon us. My awesome and best friend Anastasia and I were traveling Thursday morning. We left early, we didn't want any surprises with delays or anyhting like that. In Florida at the hotel we were going to meet our great friends Michele Hartwig and Dorn Peddy. Anastasia and I went to the trail Thursday afternoon to check it out and we walked a couple of miles on it. We did the same Friday but this time we ran 2 miles and walked back 2 miles. We bought anything and everything we would need for the race, we also got all our clothes ready.

To my surprise I slept well both Thursday and Friday night. I woke up early at 5:30 am on Saturday, I got dress and went downstairs to drink coffee and I think I ate a banana. The race started at 7 am. I remember the night before I was really nervous about the 100 miler but Saturday morning, I was at peace with myself and I felt confident about what I was about to do... Sorry to make this so long both I am still so excited about completing my 1st 100.

OK we started the race at 7 am on February 19Th. My plan was to run the entire first 25 miles at a 12 minute per mile pace. I was actually doing great and I was able to keep the pace until mile 22. Remember that I wrote earlier that my coach told me that the change in temperature was going to be a shock on my body. Well what to heck... It was!!! All of a sudden, I started feeling like I wanted to vomit and my stomach felt bloated. I started walking and running but I totally felt uncomfortable. When I reached mile 25, I saw my pacer Caleb and he asked me how I was doing.

I said I am fine but I feel like vomiting but I kept going. I went out again for the next 25 miles and after a couple of miles I saw my friend Michele, I told her my problem and she immediately told me what to do. She said when you get back to the aid station, take salt tablets. Take 2 or 3 because your body is not processing the water. Also once I got back and took the tablets, Caleb said, hey Juan what about take off some clothes dude??? Hello, why didn't I think of that??? So I took off my beautiful Moeben arm sleeves, the headband and picked up my second water bottle. I walked much of the next 4 to 5 miles. At some points, I would try to run but I was still not feeling great so I would walk again. I remember clearly around mile 31, I started running and just like that my legs got going and I was moving quick again. I started running and feeling great while doing it. I was able to catch up again to my best friend Anastasia. We got separated around mile 14, she started walking but then on mile 25, she passed me as I started walking and probably around mile 35 I passed her again. I wish we could have stayed together but we knew that we had to run each our own race. It is amazing how you can feel great at one point and then miserable a few miles later and then good again... The body just keeps giving you back. I finished 50 miles running strong. First 25 miles I ran in 5:10 and the next 25 miles in 6:20.

I started walking the next 25 miles, I was feeling tired at this point and I wasn't happy because I still had 50 miles to go... Wow, now thinking back... shit that's a lot of miles. :0) Well I walked a lot in these next 25 miles. I would say that I walked 50% of the time and I ran the other 50% but my running was also starting to be very slow. During this time my legs were starting to get very heavy and my shoulder muscles were in pain. I was also running in the dark now, so I had my headlight on... One thing I will never forget was the 3 trestles we had to walk on and we had to walk on them 24 times. Here is a picture of the longest one which was I think 350 yards long. We were told there was a swamp under with crocodiles:

All I remember was the race director say was, If you fall and you are in water, you better get out of it fast... Unless if you fall in rocks I hope you don't break something... First 50 miles walking on them no problem, last 50 miles walking on them with tired legs... well it was a little scary. On my way back I had learned that my awesome bff Anastasia had dropped to the 100k, her feet had given her problems all day long. She is such a strong runner and I was just happy to hear that she was ok. Here she is at the end of her 100K:

It helped me a lot to see Anastasia on my way back around mile 71 at the aid station. She made me a drink of Heed and Mountain Dew, it was yummy and full of caffeine... It also got me happy to see her and therefore gave me a push of energy... I got to mile 75 and my awesome pacer Caleb Wilson was there waiting for me and ready to go to run the last 25 miles with me. This 25 miles took me 7:30 to complete so after 75 miles and 19 hours, I had to run the last 25 miles in under 7 hours to ensure I will make it under the 26 hour time limit.

I clearly remember Caleb asking me how much time do we have and I said 7 hours and he said no problem. He asked me if I was ready to make it happen and of course I said YES... and he said, no problem we are going to have to work and run so there we went. We ran much of the first 5 miles, I called my sister Elizabeth and I said I am at mile 80. I won't call you again until I am done because I am against time. Saying that helped me focus again and it allowed me to run faster. I may have taken a couple of walking breaks but they were short most of the time. We got to the last aid station and that was mile 88, as we passed the aid station Caleb asked how much time do we have and I think at that point we had like 2:10 to complete 12 miles and I will never forget his words. He said " at the turn around (which was 2 miles away) we are going to TURN and BURN." and I remember getting like a shock of energy that allowed me to pick up my speed instantly. I started running probably 12 minute pace again and as we turn around, I picked up my pace even more. I told him I wouldn't stop at aid stations anymore. He grabbed all my GU's from my drop back and I said, I will give you my bottle to put heed and just catch up to me... Sure enough with 10 miles to go, I was flying back, I flew by the aid station. I was in a mission... My wife, my daughters, My sisters, my ultra friends, Michele and Anastasia, I could hear them all talking to me... I was talking to myself out loud. I was saying, DON'T STOP, DON"T STOP and I was talking to God saying, GIVE ME THE STRENGTH, GIVE ME THE STRENGTH... Everything I had learned over the pass 11 months since I started running ultras, everyone I had met and my passion, belief and heart were all working with me. I ran and I ran and I ran... I had passed a few people in the last 30 miles but I wasn't racing against any of them, I was racing against me. I was doing it for Pediatric Cancer, I was doing it for all those kids that are not as lucky as my daughters and are sick... I knew at mile 98 that I had plenty of time to finish under the 26 hour limit, I had given my all. The last mile I couldn't run anymore, out of the fog came out the awesome Juli Aistars who I had passed a little earlier. She could have gone bye me and finish a little ahead of me but instead, she walked with me... She was so happy for me and I was so happy to finish with her. We had about 200 meters to go and I can see the finish, I can hear my BFF yelling BFF, you did it, BFF you did it... as I am writing this I am crying again, remembering what it felt like... I instantly started crying and I heard Juli telling me, come on Juan let's finish running so I ran with Juli. We both passed the finish line and Anastasia was there to greet me. We were both crying like babies. Just like when I waited for her as she finished Javelina 100 and I dropped to 100k. Our Roles had reversed this time.

I had completed my 1st 100 mile race in 25 hours 39 minutes and 9 seconds. I ran the last 25 miles in 6:39:09 Wow, I actually had negative splits compare to the 25 miles before. I learned a lot about my body, I learned a lot about my mind but mostly I learned a lot about my heart... I never gave up, I knew I would do it from the start. I was so determined to complete the race and nothing or nobody would stop me. To all my running friends, you too can write your own story. You too can do anything regardless of the distance. All it takes it's the determination, the drive, the dream, the goals, the support from your family and friends but mostly all it takes is YOU. You too can be a machine and you can be a better machine, just do what your heart tells you to do and follow your dreams... Until, the next race... God Bless you and your families!!!

I love you Dulce, Monica, Karla Juarez... Special thanks to my BFF Anastasia. Thank you Michele, Todd and Dr Greg Cherne. Thank you Elizabeth, Claudia and Ofelia my 3 beautiful sisters... Special thank you to my Bro in Law Joel, who was considering driving Friday night from IL to meet me at the finish line Sunday morning in FL... I am glad the crazy man didn't do it... and Thank you to anyone and everyone who prayed or wished me good in my 100 mile journey... I love life and I love you...

Juan "the machine" Juarez


  1. This is an awesome story. It shows that endurance and preserverance always makes you strong. Great job Juan !!

  2. Thanks Caleb... Once again, you really played a big role on my accomplishment. Thanks!!!