Thursday, January 26, 2012

HURT 100 - 2012

There is no mistaking that the HURT crew picked this name for a reason 20 years ago. I just wonder how long it took them to come up with it after running on these trails, then probably rolling around in agony. I think the HURT 100 is about as close as it gets to being Barkleys, while still being held on a bona fide trail. This was my first go at this race in paradise, and I managed to pop out a 28:49 for the full 100 miles. It was a beautiful place to run, race staff were over the top awesome, and the course was wonderfully difficult. This was hands down the most difficult of the 100-milers I’ve done, taking 2 hours longer than my previous slowest time.

Amy and had arrived a couple of days ahead of time to do some touristy stuff and let our time at Pearl Harbor get away from us and we arrived at the pre-race briefing just in time for everybody to be getting up and leaving. Kind of a downer, since I was looking forward to talking with a some people and doing that typical pre-race bonding. We did pick up Jordan, my pacer and fellow Minnesotan. Jordan is a U of MN student and I think, if possible, was more excited about this race than I was. The guy is a bona fide energizer bunny in a six foot frame. We headed back over to our condo in Kailua, Honolulu was way too busy, and spent the rest of the afternoon prepping gear and going out to dinner for some pupu and pasta. I’d done a pretty good job of not being nervous most of the week, but I couldn’t hide from it any longer, I was getting jittery. Even though we went to bed at 8:30 so we could get up at 4:00 (race starts at 6AM), I had a really lousy nights sleep.

Lap 1 (4:11) – I’m Sexy and I Know It


Going through the morning routine of a small breakfast and taping my big toes has become routine by now and I just went through my motions with Jordan and Amy looking on. I was pretty quiet since my nervous energy was sky high. This was to be my sixth 100, but the excitement of race morning hasn’t waned. Soon enough we were doing the 20 minute drive to the start an quiet highways, getting busy only just at the Makiki Nature Center. There were many people parking and walking up the hill. Amy drove me to the top and let me out, then headed back down the hill to park. I tooled around and met up with Carl and Bill, the other Minnesotans and met a few others. Time flew by and we all lined up on the foot bridge starting line. We all held hands in silence for a minute, listening to the water in the river and the sounds of the jungle waking up. Soon, with a short countdown, a conch shell was blown and we started off.

Up a short hill and a couple hairpin turns and we were on the the most technical climb, Hogsback. This was a solid 800 feet of uphill to start the race, before even a lick of downhill. Hal Koerner flew by me here, I’d only see him one more time since he DNF’d on the first loop. That’s right, I beat Hal at a race. I climbed hard and in due course was at the top of Hogsback and doing a few short downs followed by bigger climbs, all with horrendous footing. Before long I hit the legendary banyan roots section, which we’d have to do twice each loop. It was a better part of a mile with some of the worst footing for level ground that you could possibly imagine. Mostly roots sticking up about 6 inches or so from the dirt and never more than a foot of space between them. It was either run them and suck it up or walk and pick your way through slowly. I chose the former, and pretty much ran them every loop.

After the roots began a long downhill towards the Paradise Aid-station, winding down through some beautiful bamboo forest and decent footing gradually approaching a river and a magnificient waterfall. This would grow to be my least favorite section since it was so long and every step down was a step back up this same trail, a couple mile long out and back. Hitting the bottom of the decent was a long relatively flat trail, but with lots of big wet rocks and not much else to step on. This went on for a solid mile or so, eventually popping out on some paved road for a short section to the aid station. By now I’d seen the dozen or so people ahead of me going back up the trail, something that would be repeated throughout the day. The ‘Pirates of Paradise’ aid station was awesome, they had a big pirate theme going on, and as you got close, all day and night, there were people cheering you in and out…loudly. As I came in, I saw Jordan take off then soon hear that new pop tune ‘Sexy and I Know It’ kick out of the sound system. Awesome, he knew I was fond of that tune and it would juice me up. People I didn’t know were shouting for me to dance. I strutted my stuff as Amy and Jordan loaded my pack, then launched back up the trail.

Climbing back up through the bamboo then halfway through the banyan roots I slightly overshot the turn to Nuuanu Aid Station, but only by 50 yards (I caught a guy later who was a good half mile past the turn). This was a sweet long steady climb and about the only smooth trail on the entire route. Near the top was an great view of Honolulu, which during the sunset and following sunrise would prove to be awesome. This climb, too was followed by a steep decent along cliff edges, sometimes running six inches from the edge, gradually leveling out along another small stream. The forest at the bottom was thin and airy and really nice to run through, and would be a joy all night, with some good footing. At the end of the this out and back was a river crossing, with a rope strung across it and enough good rocks that I never got my feet wet. Again, there were a lot of cheers everytime someone came in or left Nuuanu and the care was top notch. All the aid stations were well staffed with a lot of people that knew their ultrarunning.

Out back and up the long climb to the beautiful Honolulu view and a cruiser downhill back to the lovable banyan vines. Then a climb back up to some cliff tops, this is where I caught a guy who overshot his turn, he was pretty thankful that I let him know (he later got his 100k buckle). There was a short section of some crazy clifftop running and then some long downhilling nearly all the way to the Nature Center. One loop done, it was fun, but it was clear it was going to be a long day.

Lap 2 (5:08) – The Heat is On

I started to get my comeuppance on this loop. It was hot, and took nearly an hour longer than my last loop, a trend that would continue with each additional loop. It sounds worse than it is, since almost everyone, including the winner, Jason, slowed down tons over the course of the day. I kept my aid stops short, but longer than normal for me. Partly the time to fill the pack is slower than my usual use of bottles, and partly because I was just making sure I was OK before heading out. I wasn’t racing so much as going for the finish. This loop was more of the same up-up-down-down. Only hotter. It wasn’t brutal hot, but enough to take the starch out of a guy. Pretty much every aid I was complaining to Amy how slow I was going,but she and Jordan kept pushing me fueled and hydrated and out on the trail. It was frustrating, but I was still having a lot of fun running in such a beautiful place.

My legs were feeling the distance, which is normal around the 30 mile mark, only mine felt like they had half again that many miles on them. That made me anxious, but happily they just kept holding out. Amy kept offering me an ice bandana, but while it was hot, it wasn’t oppressive, like at Western, or even some of the heat I felt at the last Sawtooth. Besides, from about 10 minutes after the start, I was soaked to the bone for the entire race. I figured more water on me wasn’t going to help, plus it’d be more weight to take up the hill. This was the only loop I ran in complete light, all the others had at least some night or all night. That’s the treat of running a winter race, even in Hawaii, and especially under a jungle canopy where it gets dark fast. That same canopy, though helped a lot during the heat of the day. There were very few sections of the trail where the sun hit you, in fact I think this whole race could probably be done without sunscreen.

Lap 3 (5:49) – Feeling the Love

Not a lot to say about this loop. On a course like this loop three is probably the second hardest ‘mental’ loop. You’re tired, you have 40 miles on you, and you know every section of trail and that you have to do them all three more times. I didn’t have much problem heading out onto this loop, but it was grind. Still hot, and I knew I had a lot of night running to come. Up Hogsback again, then the roots, ohhh those roots, then down into Paradise and the pirates. The crew had my headlamps out for me so I saddled up, and headed back out. The field was getting thin and very spread out. Plenty of folks had dropped and the rest of us were all over 20 miles of trail. I’d only see a few people each way on the out and backs and it was always the same folks. More and more I’d see Ben and Jaime and I’d put on more than a few miles with both these guys.

I think it was dark by the time I got to Nuuanu, and while night running slows you down, at least you can run in a bubble and don’t have to see much of the treacherous terrain around you…like the cliff edges. As night descended, though, it cooled off and all that humidity in the air started condensing on the trail, making rocks slick, and in some places a goodly amount of mud. I was pretty low in Nuuanu, about 53 miles into it, and told Amy I wasn’t sure I could do two more. Good crew that she is, she was ‘Yeah sure, OK, whatever. Get back out there.’ So out I went with the carrot that I would be picking up Jordan for the final two loops. My spirits picked up again on the way back to the nature center and he was ready to go when I got there.

Lap 4 (6:30) – Running on Fumes

We headed out and back up Hogsback. Jordan was super pumped to be out there, and that was great for me, since I hit a wall and walked most of this section to Paradise. My quads were beat, it was late, and dark out. Somewhere along here we hooked up with Ben (who ended up putting about 45 minutes on me in one and a half laps) and had a good time with the three of us talking. Running in a pack helps take everyone's mind off the pain and fatigue. Jordan was only running with one water bottle so he was a bit spanked when we got to Paradise and had to pound a bunch. It had taken us 2:24 to go 7 miles and I had drained about 50 ounces of water to his 24. Fortunately we had extra bottles for him to start running with two.

Ben left us at Nuuanu and we headed out after him up the trail. He was looking good and strong, he just didn’t have much of a headlamp and that was all that was slowing him down. Jordan and I had great lights, but I didn’t have much legs left. But climb we did, since that’s all there was to do, back to the banyan roots and up and down the hill to Nuuanu. By this time we had hooked up with Jaime and ran almost an entire loop with him. It was his 6th time here and he knew all the staff and many of the runners. We had a great time running with him, and we were pretty much in the same place as far as how we were feeling.

It was super slippery heading down into Nuuanu because of all the condensation and we had to pick our way down and eventually across the rocks to the aid. After all to brief a time, we headed back across the river and up the long climb and decent to the Nature Center. One lap to go, and I felt like I had a 100 on me already.

Lap 5 (7:11) – Get ‘er Done

Jordan and I got out of Nature Center as quickly as possible, since we’d seen Jason heading into Nuuanu as we were heading out, and I wanted to avoid getting lapped. We probably left a little soon, since I had an abysmal section to Paradise, it was so slow and I felt like I couldn’t run anything, certainly not with any speed. It’s been a long time since I’ve had hammered quads, but now I had to live with a lack of hill training. And the end was far too close to even consider quitting. I had about 14 hours to do 20 miles, an easy walk in. When I got to Paradise, though, I shed my pack, sat down and shed a couple tears. Chalk that up to extreme fatigue and absolutely no emotional control. The aid station guys pushed a couple of glasses of pop on me and some potato soup and Amy got me on my feet.

Once Jordan and I were moving again I started to feel better. His youthful enthusiasm and the sugar boost got me over the hump. Leaving the aid station I was using a bamboo pole that Jordan had scavenged for me, but Catya Corbet was dropping and she gave me her trekking poles to use. That helped a lot and I was able to push myself up the hills more and even run a bit with them. The sun also camp up on our way out of Paradise and towards Nuuanu and that really gave us a boost. On our climb above Nuuanu we were sheathed in clouds except over Honolulu, where we could see the glow of the rising sun on the taller buildings. Beautiful.

Now I was getting jazzed since I could smell the finish, 7.5 miles from Nuuanu, but that was it. Across the river, up the long hill, down the sweet single-track and the last bit of roots. Sweet, one more climb and it would be over. After the roots was a long climb up to the cliff edge and through a gate. Very soon the bulk of climbing was done and all that was left was a couple miles of downhill. I wish I had the legs for it, but I gave it my all, my excitement rising with every corner. Second place woman, Hanna, blew by my in this section, and there was no way I could keep up, my quads were way too far gone. So Jordan and I kept going as best we could, until the last turn through a gentle, but tricky downhill to the finish. I remembered this section well, and I was whooping and hollering as I went down it. Jaime caught up to us here, near the end, but didn’t pass and held on a minute or two back.

Crossing the start/finish bridge into the nature center I was hollering and I could feel that finish line shiver all over as I did a quick little switchback and headed straight for the finish sign “We Wouldn’t Want It To Be Easy”, kissing it for my finish.

Finisher shirts and buckles where handed out right there as soon as we were done. Plus lots of hugs. Ben came up to congratulate me with a hug and we were both there for Jamey when he finished just a minute later.

I can’t describe how it felt to finish HURT, probably about as excited as I was since my first 100-mile finish. The race was a total class act, with really knowledgeable committed people putting it on, and doing all they can to keep you going and take care of you. They had a patrol out on the trail for the entire event, some of them logging over 40 miles. During the last lap, there were motivational signs all over the place. I will definitely be back for this one, if I make the lotto again. The after party on Monday was great, with all the finishers being recognized and a lot of roasting. That was followed by a week on the beach for Amy and I.

Make no muss about it, this is one hard race. Sawtooth used to be my standard for hard, but HURT is aptly named and a clear new standard. This is a brutal race, and it’s hard to imagine something more difficult. For you folks that like it technical, this is one to throw yourself against.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Heading to get HURT

In just three short days I'll be heading to Hawaii to run the HURT 100. Overall I've been feeling pretty good and running strong. I just got a slight cold the other day and that's not doing anything for my stress level. Hopefully it tapers off quickly, but until then, lots of water and sleep and hope for the best. I'll run no matter what condition I'm in. I think the hardest part will be no caffeine nor beer for the next week.

One day of rumble in the jungle, and a week on the beaches. Can't really be beat.