Race Date: January 17-18, 2015
Well this is way past due, but since this was such a momentous accomplishment for me, I thought I better write this up. Better late than never.
I had tried to get into the 2014 Hawaii Ultra Running Team (HURT) 100 Trail Run, not really knowing much about it at the time, other than it was to be in Hawaii in January. I figured it would be a good way to get some vacation time in paradise while Washington DC was freezing.
I didn’t get picked in the lottery that year, and after reading more about the race, I was somewhat relieved that I wasn’t selected.
However, the next year, I decided to try for the lottery again, not seriously feeling that I would get selected. On the evening of the lottery selection, I had my iPad at the dinner table and was checking the progress of the lottery when I saw my name printed on the screen. I thought, hmm, okay are those names of people that applied? Is there a glitch? After rubbing my eyes and double-checking, I turned to my wife and with no expression, said “I got selected for HURT”. I was in a bit of shock, and wasn’t sure if I should celebrate or plan the funeral.
So I knew that I had to be in the best condition in my life to complete the HURT 100. I set about putting together a training plan interspersed with other races to lead up to HURT in January 2015. All was going well until one evening in August during a night run on Maryland Heights that I rolled my ankle pretty badly and heard something pop. Within seconds, the ankle swelled up and I had to hobble down the mountain.
Long story short, I missed the following two races I had intended to run – the Maryland HEAT 50k and the Call of the Wilds Mountain Marathon. I did go up to Pennsylvania to crew for the Eastern States 100 though. It took a while for the ankle to heal, but I went to physical therapy at BodySense PT in Boonsboro, MD to hasten my healing and was able to run the Pinecreek Challenge 100k a month after the sprain.
The following month, I was scheduled to do the Oil Creek 100 Miler. In fact, when I got selected for HURT 100, I thought to myself, “All of a sudden, the Oil Creek 100 has become a training run”!
My ankle was still not 100% at this point, and I think compensating for its weakness caused strain on my IT band and it flared up causing so much pain that I slowed considerably on the 3rd 50k loop at Oil Creek. With the course sweepers nipping at my heels at 3am in the morning, I dropped at 70 miles.
Nevertheless, I kept up my training and after Oil Creek I focused on doing nothing much else than hill repeats up to the Stone Fort on Maryland Heights. This is a steep 1200 foot climb up and back down over a 4 mile loop. I did more and more repeats of this over several sessions until I did 8 repeats there, 5 weeks before the race. The following week, I did similar repeats with Alex Papadopoulos at Buck Hollow in Shenandoah National Park. Then the week after that my final long training run was running the VHTRC Boyer’s Furnace 40 Mile Fat Ass. So I had some pretty good final training runs, and did not injure my ankle and further, and my IT band problems disappeared.
I was fortunate to have my good friend Gilbert Gray offering to pace me at HURT 100. The rules allow a pacer to join the runner after 60 miles, or at 5pm on Saturday. With my pace, 5pm on Saturday would be about 40 miles for me. Gil said he was willing and able to run with me for 60 miles (despite the fact that 2 weeks later he was to run the Arctic Ultra 160K in Sweden)!
We arrived in Hawaii the Sunday before race weekend, to settle in and have some vacation time on Oahu. We attended the Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Fast forward to race day!
There are 3 aid stations for each loop at HURT. Each loop is 20 miles, and you do 5 loops. My plan was to use Tailwind for nutrition and supplement with Humagel chia energy gels. I kept a 10 oz. flask of Tailwind syrup holding 1,000 calories in each of the 3 aid stations. I would use up 2 oz. of syrup at each stop and fill up the rest of the water bottle with water to dilute the syrup for each leg. This, plus any goodies I decided to sample at the aid stations was the plan for nutrition. And the aid station fare was fabulous, I might add. Not to mention the fact that the aid station volunteers are the best I’ve experienced in any race.
The race began at 6am Hawaiian time, in the dark. Immediately there is a conga line up the first climb up “Hogsback”. The ground was dry this year, and with all the runners ahead of me, lots of dust was kicked up and entering my lungs. I was living that expression “eat my dust”.
But the running was easy and slow and I thoroughly enjoyed the trail between the 3 aid stations. There were different traits along the way. There is the rooty climb up hogsback, grass lined single track, bamboo forests, the root infested Pauoa Flats, stream crossings, a few road sections, and the groomed trail for tourists to Paradise Park and the Manoa Falls. And of course the beautiful Nuuanu Ridge.
There was a lot of energy on the first two loops and volunteers at various points and intersections of the trail, guiding the way and taking photos. The first two loops went by in no time, and back at the Nature Center, I was eager to pick up my pacer and good friend, Gil.
Gil and I headed out for the 3rd loop (mile 40-60) and I enjoyed pointing out to him different features of the trail, and warning him about steep drop offs and places to be careful as the darkness set in.
My training paid off well, as I didn’t experience any points in the race that I felt like quitting. I thoroughly enjoyed the trail, with the exception of the metal stair risers that they had on some steep climbs. The soil had eroded from the step areas so the metal risers were potential tripping traps, not to mention the fact that some steps were 2 feet high. I would grunt each time I had to climb up each step. Nutrition went well too. No stomach issues experienced. The weather was perfect and there was no rain. So the muddy experience was not to be had this year.
My only scare happened on the second day, on the 5th and final loop. I decided to lighten my load as much as possible and dumped a bunch of stuff. At the Nature Center I dropped my trekking poles that I had used on the 4th loop.
I also dropped off my headlamp, extra batteries, jacket, and everything else I could dump. Unfortunately, I also felt I could do away with my cap, and left that. Later in the day, at the Nuuanu ridge, the sun was beating down and I was beginning to feel queazy. I took a peanut butter ginger chew, doused myself with cold water, and slowed down a little to make it to Nuuanu where I then fashioned a hat out of a wet towel and my wife’s visor.
After cooling off at Nuuanu and fueling up for the last leg back to the Nature Center, Gil dragged me out of the AS. You can see in the photo above that Gil is all business, wanting to get me back out on the trail and making sure to avoid any cutoffs. On this final leg, I had some renewed energy and ran several sections quite briskly, passing several runners decisively. I was happy to be able to run to the finish line, looking and feeling good. I got a high-five from Gary Robbins in the final stretch to the finish line, trying to keep my emotions in check. All my family was waiting at the finish line and it was just one of the happiest moments in my life.
Other Tidbits of Interest
- I am so appreciative of the advice and training assistance provided by 8-time HURT 100 finisher Alex Papadopoulos
- I was happy to meet Candice Burt in person at the pre-race briefing. Her 10 minute core workout for ultra runners was something I used to strengthen my core for this race.
- I was happy to see Yoshiko Jo at the prerace briefing and appreciative of her offer to pace me if needed. I also saw her volunteering at the Paradise Park AS and she was very helpful along with the other volunteers
- Glad to meet “Croc Man’ Efraim Manzano at the prerace briefing after having seen him succeed in this race in a previous year from his youtube video.
- Met/startled Steve Clemons in the middle of the night on the trail heading into Nuuanu AS. Steve’s youtube video inspired me so much.
I normally put together a video to remind myself of the events I run. We had a particularly fun time in Hawaii for HURT 100, and especially since it was a successful outcome. Here is the video capturing my HURT 100 experience.
I have more photos from HURT 100 on Flicker, here.