Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 HURT 100

HURT is unique.  Unique in toughness, location, course, and the incredible volunteers.  This is truly a race that will never be forgotten.

I'd originally planned to run HURT in 2013.  I developed some Achilles problems in the fall of 2012 and wasn't able to go as planned.  This race had been on my radar and my wish list ever since.  I'd heard so much about the race - basically that its toughness is only bettered by the quality of the volunteers.  I truly couldn't wait to be there and contribute to the aloha spirit around the course.  And who couldn't be excited about a trip to Hawaii in January?  :)  As a last-minute stroke of luck, my friend (and occasional training partner - when I can keep up), Nick, was coming as well.  He got off the wait list with 3 weeks to spare.

Hawaii is beautiful and wonderfully relaxed.  Through a generous and kind friend (thanks Greg!), I was able to find an amazing place to stay on the North Shore during my stay.  Connie, Alex and Joe are the kindest most incredible hosts I've ever met and the way they opened their house to us was a true gift.  You all are the best!  Their house is across the street from the beach and afforded some amazing views and some incredible beach time.  Sleeping with the sounds of the ocean so close was truly amazing.

Two days before the race, Connie took us on a hike to the tip of the island.  As local folklore goes, this is the place where your soul comes after death to "walk off the rocks" and on to the next life.  The views were spectacular and we even saw some albatross nests!  The hike was followed up by shave ice - my first foray into this amazing Hawaiian treat!

Friday the mood in the house seemed to change a bit - we all knew the task at hand and it was rapidly approaching.  We enjoyed seeing fellow runners and volunteers at the pre-race briefing and tried to relax.  The course was right behind the shelter house, but Nick and I chose to ignore it and went into race morning with absolutely no idea what was in store for us.

Race morning started early and upon arrival to the course the enormity of the task ahead finally hit me.  I knew this course was technical and that's not my forte when it comes to trail running.  I knew this course would challenge me in ways I couldn't even anticipate.  I found myself overcome with emotion and some fear as racers gathered before the start.  I tried to calm my nerves and hoped when we started that I'd finally calm down.

The HURT course is a 20 mile loop made up of 3 sections.  Those 3 sections are basically lollipops with out and back portions within them.  This can be good and it can be bad.  On one hand, you know where you are in relation to others - you get that camaraderie and encouragement when you pass other runners - but on the other hand, you know exactly how far you have to go and out and back sections can be very taxing after many repetitions.  Each 20 mile loop has 2 aid stations and a 3rd aid station at the start/finish of each lap.  The 20 mile loop is repeated 5 times to comprise the HURT 100.

The first lap I planned to - and did actually manage to - take it easy.  It was quite hot and humid for my taste and I was literally drenched with sweat very soon after the start.  I tried to get my bearings along the course and "learn" the route and try to stay within myself knowing I had 4 more left to complete.  At the end of the first lap I came up to another PNW runner, Eric, who had run this course several times before.  He gave me some good advice - basically advising me to go super slow.  (he went on to have a fantastic race and a stellar finish time - congrats Eric!)

I started the 2nd lap in good spirits, not feeling like I'd overdone it on the first lap at all.  However, about 12 miles into this lap I stopped to pee and was scared to find I was peeing blood.  I immediately backed off, upped the fluids and hoped this would resolve.  I've never had this happen in a race before and it shook my confidence and brought on my fears.  Knowing you have almost 70 miles left to cover in a race where you aren't sure if serious problems lurk is a tough position to be in.  I love this sport but I'm not willing to risk my life or my long-term health for a finish.  I hoped and asked for support from friends and continued on at a slower pace.  Several racers helped me as well - both with advice and even some with water they could spare (thanks Sean!).

I'm happy to say that by the next time I peed I was all clear.  I think I had just done such a bad job hydrating on the first lap that it caught up with me quickly in the heat.  I was relieved but still spent a considerable amount of time worrying about this during the rest of the race - and ensuring I was drinking as much as I could stand for the whole race.

This race became very challenging for me over the laps.  I was mentally fatigued from the difficult terrain and the heat didn't seem to work for me.  My laps were slow and I was pretty grouchy at times - but I knew I would keep going unless they pulled me off the course.  I just simply wanted it too badly.  I didn't want to quit and I am proud that I didn't.  I had a local pacer, Nate, who joined me on my "hike" - and her company was much appreciated.  She did a great job distracting my mind at times and trying to keep my spirits up.

The race organizers and the volunteers at this race are truly spectacular.  I've never in any ultra seen anything like it.  At times I wondered if they were so wonderful because they knew the course was so challenging for us.  But then you realize that this is just how they are.  They love to help us as much as we love to hurt ourselves.  (no pun intended)

Will I do this race again?  I doubt it.  Will I go back to pace or to volunteer? In a heartbeat.  I could only hope to be that lucky.  Aloha to all who made this a race and a finish I will never forget.

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