I am going to attempt to recall and articulate my “vision-quest-of-a-race” down in Hawaii this past January 18-19, 2014. There is so much time in 100-milers to think about life, to reflect, and to celebrate what we love. There are also times where you think about rational choices and decisions you are making. You know…that little voice in the back of your head? Although sometimes thinking too much- being too “cerebral”, can actually be your worst enemy in ultra running. In these endurance events you have to turn off the rational mind. Often times you have to lie to yourself, constantly talk positively to yourself, visualize, and break the race down into smaller, more digestible chunks. You have to also remind yourself how good it feels to cross the finish line of a 100-miler, and how hollow you feel when you quit. For me there are times after such a mental and physical undertaking like HURT that the experience becomes somewhat of a “blur” or “dream-like”. This time was no different and sitting here now after the completion of my 8th 100-miler I ask, “did that really happen!?” The answer is HELL YEAH! and the story goes like this:
(I’ll start you off with a funny and very creative video (above) by Rob Lahoe that gives you a little glimpse into this beast-of-a-race called HURT 100)
I took some “down-time” in October and early November 2013, but put in some good HURT-specific training through the holiday season. Well…as specific as I could get here in Portland, Oregon! I felt confident and excited to race in Hawaii and to have a family vacation with my wife and daughter for the week following the event. I also knew that last year’s winner and course record holder Gary Robbins would be returning, along w/ a handful of other solid runners. Before the run I checked out Gary’s Lap times for his record breaking year , and made a mental note of what they were. After being on the course I am now completely humbled and amazed by his tenacity and skill. I also have lots of respect to anyone who finishes this physical and mental challenge. HURT is the same 20-mile section run 5 times through extremely dense, hot, humid, jungles filled with many rocks and roots and was ranked by Outside Magazine as one of the top 9 most difficult.
My Plan: Keep it simple
Lap 1: Start relaxed, run and talk w/ friends, meet new ones, learn the 20-mile section that I’ll be running/hiking all day and night! I purposely started w/ a lousy headlamp so I wouldn’t get going too fast (it worked!…for a while at least!). Time Goal for Lap 1: between 3hours 30 mins & 3hours 40 mins. (Gary ran 3:27 two years ago)
Lap 2: Put my ipod on and start getting into “race mode”. Time Goal for Lap 2: Just under 4 hours
Lap 3: Continue listening to music, Stay steady and consistent. Time Goal for Lap 3: Just over 4 hours
Lap 4: Pick up my pacer (Rod Bien), tackle the dark trails w/ Hawaii native and mountain ultra vet/friend, who has a special connection w/ HURT 100 (more on that in a bit). Goal Time for Lap 4: Right around 5 hours
Lap 5: Drop off Rod and finish it off strong doing a solo 5th lap….”smelling the barn!”
One of the things I’ve learned about 100-milers is that the only thing you can expect is… the unexpected! (in fact Rod and I had a pretty unexpected experience together in 2011 –read about it HERE)
What actually happened at the 2014 HURT 100?
Lap 1: I started pretty relaxed, moderately hiking the climb up HogsBack with Gary, Jason, Dennis with Igor out in front a bit. We had a good time chatting as the sun finally broke through the thick jungle canopy an hour into the race. I was getting a feel for the course and it sure was humid as I noticed a lot of sweat early on. Also, as expected we encountered some uber-technical trails! You can see all the pictures you want online but until you try running on that course it’s inexplicable. About 12 miles into the race we caught up to Igor. Gary and I left Nuaanu aid station together in 2nd and 3rd place with Dennis leading about a minute ahead. A few miles later I noticed that the pace was a little quick for me and I backed off. Goodbye Gary! It was amazing to see him pick his way through the rocks and roots and bomb the downhills. I was glad that I didn’t get sucked in to attempting to go with him. I’ve done enough of these races to know that I need to run MY race. Maybe a mile or two later while zipping around a corner I completely fell off the trail and was stopped abruptly by a sawed off tree stump. This rattled me pretty good and left me scraped up and bleeding on both of my upper thighs. It took me a minute to re-group and assess the situation, but I realized I was okay and continued onward toward the Nature Center, which was “home base”. I was looking forward to seeing family and friends and getting “fixed up” a little. Lap 1 was 3 hours 31 minutes. Maybe a touch fast but definitely where I wanted to be. I made a quick transition after giving my daughter Farah, and wife Erica a kiss and hug. They were a great crew to have and had everything I needed displayed out on a blanket. I was in 3rd place just a few minutes back of Gary and Dennis.
Navigating one of the many root sections as the day starts to heat up. Photo by: Angel King
Lap 2: I threw on some tunes on my ipod and felt pretty strong during this lap. I continued to just plug away and at times would just chuckle out loud at the absurdities of the course. I probably fell a couple more times during this loop but I did end up passing Dennis so I was now in 2nd place. However, I was quite aware that with every mile Gary was pulling away despite my strong pace. At this moment I realized: This is Gary’s course. I was okay with that and I thought about what Rod told me before the race about just letting Gary go. I came through Lap 2 in 4 hours 5 minutes. A little slower than planned but I felt very content of where I was based on my quick Lap 1 and the rising temperature. Friends from Portland who happened to be down in Hawaii at the same time came out to root me on (no pun intended!), and it was great to see them and my family again. It was very hot by now and Bruce poured ice water all over me, while Erica massaged my legs, and then she put ice down my pants! (I didn’t ask her to do this!) – Thanks for coming out Susan, Bruce, Vicki, Pauline, and Wayne! It meant a lot to me.
One of the rocky sections of the course. Photo by: Angel King
Lap 3: In hindsight this is where my race came apart quite a bit. As I was hiking up HogsBack at mile 42 or so I started feeling this bloating feeling in my stomach. I think I ate too much food, or a wrong combination, at the aid station and the heat and humidity (approx. 80 degrees w/ 80% humidity) was taking it’s toll on me. I was noticing other peoples’ vomit off the side of the trail, and the carnage was already starting to be apparent. I couldn’t even listen to music anymore. I needed all of my focus and concentration directed at getting rid of the stomach issues. At times, like many other long races, I was bemused at how and why we do this to ourselves. That’s the sport of ultra running, I guess! Just over the crest of the climb Jason Hynd caught me and gingerly pulled away after chatting for a few minutes. At times I would put some good sections in and see him off in the distance, but then I would have to pull back because of the stomach. Then I stumbled and dropped my water bottle off of a cliff. There was no way I could get it. Luckily I had another one. Very frustrating. Then I got passed by Timo who was running a fantastic race and slowly reeling me in for quite a while. Somehow I was still able to relatively hold it together, and I got past the stomach issues, to maintain 4rd place as I came in for Lap 3 with a much slower time of 4hours 45 minutes.
There were also some nice running sections in beautiful Hawaii! Photo by: Angel King
Lap 4: I was excited to see my fellow Oregonian buddy Rod, and relieved to have some company for the now night section. He asked me how I was doing and I replied, “pretty banged up, but okay”. Rod and I had a pretty cool first meeting down in San Diego back in 2011 (read about it HERE). Rod grew up in Hawaii and his father was a Navy Seal and contributed greatly to the HURT race and community. Unfortunately Rod’s father passed away much before his time, I believe he was in his 50′s, and is buried on the course just behind “Bien’s Bench”, which sits at a beautiful grassy overlook. Earlier in the day I would squirt a little water on the bench in honor of him as I passed. At mile 70 I teared up a little as Rod and I approached the bench because his friends had hiked in tents and Christmas lights, music, and shots of RedBull up there for the runners and pacers. They were so cool, and got us all pumped up! We didn’t hang out too long as I wanted to keep moving but the caffeine and sugar helped greatly. During this lap I also knocked my knee on a large boulder very hard. Ouch! I yelled loudly into the deep jungle and cursed in disgust! I stopped bent over in pain. I wanted to quit completely. This race was so damn hard! I thought about it seriously for a minute….I thought it ALL the way through. Then I quickly shut the door on that idea and didn’t entertain it again (for a while, anyway!). Lap 4 was very slow for me as well, and I remember before the race people telling me that it’s all about Lap 4. Some of the significant slowing is to be expected at this time with the night running and fatigue setting in, but I noticed I was being reeled in by other runners as well. At one point I dropped back to 6th place. How is this happening? Rod kept me calm and reminded me to loosen up, keep moving forward. “Still a lot of race left”, he said. As we descended into the Nature Center and the end of Lap 4 I discussed w/ Rod that I might not even break 24 hours now! We quickly did the math and I figured I would have to run the final Lap in the same amount of time as I ran Lap 4. I doubted myself (which is not like me) but Rod believed in me. He got me all stocked up, I emptied the annoying pebbles in my shoe, and headed out into the dark jungle by myself…on a mission.
Lap 5: I was in 6th place and the temperature was much cooler. I power-hiked efficiently and quickly up HogsBack. When I got to the top there was a volunteer standing there and I said, “that’s the last time I climb that motherf%$#er ! ” He laughed and agreed how that was nicely put! A little mini victory behind me. However, at this point I also noticed my shin was very inflamed and painful. At this junction I had one last fleeting thought of dropping out. I said to myself, “I could hike down in 30 minutes and be done due to injury” (it really did hurt a lot…Again no pun intended!) I quickly slammed the door shut on that idea and changed my foot strike a little and powered through. It was so encouraging to see all of the other runners on the course, and the volunteers were angels. Some of us runners shared some words in passing, some a smile, a ‘good job’, or a high five, others nothing, but we all knew that we were out there tackling one of the most difficult 1oo’s on the planet. Some asked, “are you on your final lap!?” A part of me felt guilty for saying yes, but the other part of me was damn excited and I started “smelling the barn”. I started running really well down to Paradise Aid Station and I passed Brandon and moved into 5th place. Then just before the aid station I thought I was seeing a hallucination or mirage or something. Jason Hynd was walking w/ a cane, alongside two people. The closer I got the more I realized it was true! I felt so horribly bad for him as he was having such an amazing race on his home course before injuring his calf muscle. Good luck healing up and nice running w/ you, Jason! You’ll get back there and get it! I got in and out of the aid station after some more lentil masala cakes, and quinoa bites (the aid stations were gourmet!!!) I was now in 4th place. It was now a race against the clock and I also wondered if there were any other runners ahead of me that I could catch, and maybe I could sneak into the podium position. Every little uphill that I started hiking I asked myself, “can I run this? even if it’s a slow jog?” I continued on this way through the wee hours of the morning, and actually felt pretty good climbing despite the aggravated shin. I started looking for every section of trail where I could shave off some time. Eventually I realized that I was going to complete my goal as long as nothing drastic happened. Of course, I fell a couple more times on the wet rocks, mud, and roots, but I was able to muster up a boost to finish this thing off, sub 24 hours!
I was elated to arrive at the finish 4th overall with a time of 23 hours 36 minutes! I kissed the sign, rang the bell, gave Gary a big hug, and sat my ass in a chair, proud to be a HURT 100 finisher. My wife and daughter arrived shortly after to fold me into the car and put me into a shower and bed. I spent most of Sunday in bed, but started feeling better after a descent night’s sleep. We hit the banquet Monday evening and reminisced with friends and fellow jungle warriors! It was now time for vacation, and I can’t think of a better place to recover from a tough 100-miler!
Finally finished! Welcomed by great guy/friend, and HURT Champ Gary Robbins. Photo: Angel King
The HURT community is like no other that I’ve seen thus far. I can see why people keep going back. I have a huge amount of gratitude for all the effort put into this event, and for the race directors and volunteers maintaining the spirit of this race. Those of you who have finished or attempted HURT 100 know what I’m talking about. Thank you so much, John/PJ Salmonson, Jeff Huff, Stan Jensen, Cindy Goh, all of the aid station volunteers, photographers, and folks at UltraSportsLive.tv. Thank you to everyone associated with the race including all runners and crews. I really can’t thank you all enough! I’ve done a lot of races and I can recognize when there’s something special going on…and it’s going on at HURT!
Many thanks to my wife Erica and daughter Farah. 100-milers are a total team effort and I couldn’t do it without your support. Again thanks to Rod for pacing me and helping me believe in the sub 24, and for my business partner Willie for covering me while I was in Hawaii.
Last but definitely not least BIG THANKS TO MY SPONSORS who help me to travel, stay healthy, & provide excellent gear so I can train & race so well!
Full Results HERE
Shoes: Inov-8 TrailRoc 245 – I loved these shoes for the race. I’m not sure there is a perfect shoe for this event but these worked really well for me.
Hydration: Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest – very light, breathable, snug- very easily accessible pockets
Socks: Drymax Mini Crew – My favorite!
Pre-race healthy fats: Udo’s Oil 7 Sources
Headlamp: Super bright! Petzl NAO – lit up the jungle!