I was fortunate enough to make it out to the HURT 100 course a few days early to get settled in and do a course preview. When I was out on the course I had to keep on stopping because I would be laughing too much. “How the hell am I supposed to run 100miles on this?” I am sure I said this out loud a few times. I could just hope that the rains held off and didn’t cover the course in the infamous mud I had heard so much about.
The H.U.R.T. 100 allows people to go on an adventure over some absolutely ridiculous trails. This year was the 10th racing of the H.U.R.T. 100 (Hawaii Ultra Running Team). Every time I would tell someone in the running community I was training for H.U.R.T. they would shake their head and wish me luck as though I was going off to my own grave. When asking H.U.R.T. veterans what their training advice would be; I would be told to go out to the steepest hills I can find and instead of running on the trails, run through the bush. If there is rain and mud then even better (I think this advice was pretty accurate in retrospect). Needless to say I was a little anxious for this race. Never having been to Hawaii and only being able to go by photos, videos, and peoples thoughts on the terrain, I had only a vague idea of what to expect.
A few days before the race start, I was able to preview the course with two speedsters: Devon Crosby-Helms and Gary Robbins. Doing this preview really made a huge difference because it allowed me to understand the terrain and how to navigate it a little better. I also realized that the course was totally dry except for one river crossing (which you cross ten times). I could only hope that the rains held off and didn’t cover the course in mud. This course is challenging enough as it is, I can’t begin to imagine it covered in mud. There are huge sections where you are running over nothing but roots; making those sections slick with water would be awful.
Race morning came along quickly and after checking in, and nervously milling around in the dark with my Bay Area running friends.
The course is set up on a 20mile track that does essentially a Y shape with two out and backs and one small loop at the bottom. There are three aid stations runners go to on each loop. To get to these aid stations runners must navigate the very technical trails, and lots of climbing and dropping (just shy of 25,000ft).
On the first loop I told myself to take things out slow and easy and stayed somewhere in the back of the top ten. I was feeling good and wasn’t pushing my pace too hard but staying relaxed with comfortable breathing even on the big climbs. Around ten miles in I was in the lead group running with Gary Robbins, Brett Rivers, Tracy Garneau, and Darcy Africa. We were all chatting and having a good time enjoying some of the early morning views of Honolulu.
We all came into Jackass Ginger (mile 13) pretty much together. I was fortunate to have my sister and Devon Crosby-Helms as a crew. They were there waiting for me with a fresh Gel-Bot. I dropped my flashlight, and empty Gel-Bot and turned right around ready for the return back to the start/finish 7.3 miles away. It was at this point when the lead pack started to spread out a little. Gary Robbins and I started to run together. We both were amazed at how well we were feeling and talked a little about our running plans and past races. Around mile 22 I pulled off the trail to hydrate the local vegetation, it was at this point that Gary took control of the race. I wasn’t too concerned with him opening up a little on me this early in the race, figuring I had all day and some of the night to bring him back in. I just had to make sure that he stayed within a striking distance.
One of my favorite parts of a loop course is that there is nowhere to hide from your competition. Also being able to see all the other runners and offer support and encouragement. Going into Paradise Park aid station (mile 27) I was 3minutes behind Gary. At this point the gap between Gary and I just continued to grow from 3minutes, to 20minutes, to 40minutes, until I didn’t see him on the out and backs anymore. It wasn’t so much that I was going slowly, but that Gary was going phenomenally fast. It was really spectacular to see him dropping down the technical rock sections like they were nothing.
For me however it was these rocky descents that were destroying my race. I was still feeling clear and happy mentally, physically my legs were tired but I was still able to run the flats (all maybe 1mile total of them per loop!) and my climbing was still going really well. My legs were just shot on going down hills. I had to slowly lower myself down the really technical sections and was able to do a lame careful shuffle down the switchbacks into the aid stations.
At mile 60 I was able to pick-up my pacer Devon to help keep me motivated and focused for the night running ahead of me. She helped keep me pushing when I really would have been happy with just hiking the course. For the first 20miles Devon and I ran mostly in silence, just running and hiking the trails. With her reminding me to continue taking my salt and calories. At this point I still had a small sense of hope in closing the gap that had formed between Gary and I (about 40min now). After a painfully slow section going down into Paradise Park followed by another slow section down to Jackass Ginger I knew my chances of closing where done for.
Going into the Nature Center at mile 80 my sister told me Gary was flying through the course going after the course record. I assured her that I wasn’t trying to catch him anymore, that I was happy where I was and having primarily a good time out there. On our way back up Hogsback out of the Nature Center I saw fellow Bay Area runner and good buddy Ken Michael making his way onto another loop.
Ken has always been supportive and has helped get me going a few times when I wasn’t feeling it in prior races. Ken was totally positive and told me which way he thought was the best to get up and over the roots.
Ken’s support helped me to get me ready for my final loop. It was on this lap that my body was given a sudden jump-start. I began being much more talkative and I was all but sprinting (mind you “sprinting” is a VERY relative term here) up the climbs. The descents still weren’t going all that great but they were better than the prior lap. I was having a good time out there on this lap, and was glad to know I was going to be finishing the race with an awesome final time. When leaving Jackass Ginger for the final time (mile 93) Devon said she thought I could finish the final stretch in 2hours. This helped me to kick up my pace again and aim for that goal. I did my last section in 1:58. Giving me a final time of 22:30 (I was told this is the fourth fastest time on the course, pretty cool). And there may or may not have been singing of musicals, making out and holding hands on the top of Nuuanu Trail but none of this has been confirmed.
Ultimately I had a great time out on the trails. The aid stations were extremely supportive, and offered some Hawaiian cuisine along with the standard fair. Although I didn’t take any Spam Musabi, I was glad to know it was there if it was what I was craving. There is a great sense of community and friendship that I was able to experience while running the trails, including hugs from a lone supporter sitting in the dark at the major intersection of the course during the night. Thanks to the race directors, the H.U.R.T., volunteers, friends and family of the runners, my sister Kristin and pacer Devon, Tartine, Hydrapak, LaSportiva, VESPA, and to all the runners for being out there and being so supportive. This is one t-shirt that I worked hard for and plan on wearing for a while.
Things used for the race:
La Sportiva Wildcats: treated me great, only had one very small blister that I didn't even know was there until after the race. Gave me good traction and cushion on the trail.
VESPA CV-25: Took one every 3hours, helped me stay focused.
Gel-Bot: Used one for every lap, two during the day when the temps were high. Allowed me to not have to worry about opening gels, or deal with garbage.
Lamps: Fenix L2D Hand-held. Petzl MYO RXP.
Other race reports on H.U.R.T. 2010