Saturday, January 26, 2008

HURT Race Report

My training and taper went fairly well. The only downside - I came down with the stomach-flu early in the week and developed a rasping cough two days before the race. In an effort to rid myself of the cough and congestion, I took Robitussin, on Thursday and Friday. This helped me sleep and cleared my chest, but I was still a little bit under the weather for the start.

After the Hawaiian blessings and last words from the race director, 90 runners crossed the bridge at 6 am running off up Hogsback, a steep, rooted climb which we would become quite familiar with throughout the race. With my headlight beaming forward, I followed the runner in front of me, but consciously didn’t try to pass anyone. I could see the antsy runners squirt by when an opening occurred. I wasn’t going to chase anyone this morning. As we turned left at the top and trotted down some nice single-track, I found myself behind Kathy D’Onofrio and Charlotte Vasarhelyi. I was in my groove and we moved easily at a good pace. Even though Kathy tends to run the uphills, which is quite a feat at HURT, I just walked behind her and Charlotte as they did most of the talking. I felt relaxed and began eating and drinking. All systems seemed fine. Turning down from Manoa Falls, I saw Paul Hopwood, the eventual winner, and Rob Bien, both looking strong. At the first aid station I ditched my headlight in my drop bag, grabbed some potatoes while the volunteers filled my water bottles, and scooted back out onto the trail. On the way back up the trail, the runners get a great view of the Manoa Falls, a 150 foot waterfall. It was covered in light morning sun. The temperature was fairly mild and the trail was in fairly good shape.

Every time you leave an aid station in the HURT 100 you have to climb back up the long trail you ran down. With 15 long climbs, it’s good to keep an easy, steady pace. As I started the second long climb, I kept behind Kathy and Charlotte and bided my time. As we completed our climb and skirted through the bamboo forest, we would have to turn right after part of Pauoa Flats (which is flat, but intertwined with myriad roots creating a dizzying maze). I missed this turn twice in the race and ended up at the top of the hill, only to have to retrace my steps back down the hill and, worse, back across the dreaded Pauoa Flats.

At the top of the ridge, a very narrow grass-lined knife-edge with views of Honolulu, we came across a bench in honor of Rod Bien’s dad. That was nice to see. After another steep descent, we eventually reached the Jackass Ginger aid station in Nu’uanu. I saw Beverly and asked her how Ben, who was running in Kuwait, was doing. She said he finished 100 miles in 18:54. I was impressed and quite happy for him and his soldiers.

I crossed back over the river holding the rope, and headed back up the long climb out of Nu’uanu. On this section you get back to Pauoa Flats and turn right again, and head back up a high ridge, working your way down through some muddy, lush single-track before eventually arriving at the Start/Finish at the Nature Center. Trailing faithfully Kathy, Charlotte, and by now Ed Bugarin, I was surprised to have arrived at 4:47 into the race. I was going too fast, even though it felt quite easy and comfortable.

For the second lap I determined to go significantly slower, so I took my time talking with Sarah, eating some food, and restocking my bars, Fig Newtons, etc. Suzanna Bon was also leaving about this time, so we walked out together and headed up Hogsback. It was decidedly warmer this time around. Everything went very well on this loop until I missed the turn at Pauoa Flats. This meant I had to cross this crazy section twice more than I should have. On top of that, it rained lightly at the end of the first lap, and midway through the second lap, so the mud was getting slushier, and the runners were turning it all up to add insult to injury. Still I hadn’t fallen, but this was soon to change. At the river crossing, I decided to just walk through the water since my feet were already soaked. It helped in getting the layers of mud off my ankles and legs. Then on the short rise up to the aid station I slipped and fell on my ass right in front of the camera-lady, Heather. “Don’t worry, I didn’t get that.” “Sure, right.”

As I returned back to the Start/Finish I felt fine with my stomach handling food well, as well as processing water successfully. The second lap had taken 6:02 but included an additional mile or two from missing the turn. I was quite ok with the time. I decided I wanted a similar pace for the third lap as the night would be falling in a couple of hours.

I like running at night, so I enjoyed the slow tropical sunset. And then it started to rain. Not just the light, warm rain of earlier in the day, but a torrential rain, with sheets and sheets of water just dumping from the sky. It hit me about the time I came to a bridge before the Paradise Park aid station. It’s the only section of the course with a paved road, about 200 meters. Even with two high-powered ultra-bright LED flashlights I had to stop and stand still because the light simply reflected off all the raindrops. I couldn’t see 10 feet in front of me for about three minutes. It was a complete white-out in the rain. It was so amazing I just stood there laughing to myself. I knew the aid station was within 100 yards. I just couldn't safely move forward. When the rain slowed just a bit, I ran gingerly into the aid station to the huzzahs and clamoring of all the hearty volunteers. “That was amazing,” everyone was gasping. I filled up my hydration pack and headed back out leaving three runners in the aid station deciding when to leave. I was already soaked to the bone, so what was more rain.

When I returned up the trail to Manoa Falls, the trail turns left, and climbing up some steep boulders ascends sharply. At this point, the water coming down the trail created a rather beautiful waterfall all its own. And then I realized that I had to run up this fall and creek to get back up the mountain. The trail was becoming a slippery, sloppy mess and it became very treacherous with the sudden steep drop-offs. I was determined to make it through this third loop, because I knew it was the fourth loop that was the most difficult. So I plugged on, slipping and falling numerous times. I didn’t even bother anymore to wipe my hands off on my shorts, since they were so muddy anyways.

At this point seeing other runners was a bit of a hoot, since everyone looked like a thoroughly drenched dog which had been dragged through the mud. The trail itself had deteriorated so much from the first loop that each section had to be approached with more caution. Although wet and muddy, I pushed on and returned back to the Nature Center by just after 11 pm. It had taken me 7:28 to complete the third loop and I was in 10th place. The whole field had been slowing down. The heavy rain and deteriorating trail were taking their toll on everyone.

Having completed the third loop, the plan was to change my shoes and socks, reapply Desitin to my feet, and eat some soup and drink a Frappacino. With diligent speed, Sarah had all the gear in place, and we swapped out and changed “my tires” like a true pit team. I was off on my fourth lap before 11:30 pm.

I felt quite well on the first leg and passed Charlotte and Mark Swanson, both of whom had gotten out of the aid station faster than I did, but were moving slower. Eventually I would also pass Jamie Donaldson, who was running as first woman for much of the race. Knowing that Suzanna Bon had been running second, since I saw her happy smile each time she was hiking up a climb as I was trotting down, I knew she now had the lead. Picking my way through the thrashed trail, I came upon Suzanna and her pacer, Kelly Ridgway, coming back up the trail. She was looking strong and I congratulated her for having a widening lead.

On the way out of the bamboo forest on the second leg, I again missed the right turn at Pauoa Flats and went all the way to the top of the ridge, and had to retrace my steps. I was distracted near the turn by a woman runner who was bemoaning that she was running alone and had no one to talk to, felt stuck in the maze of roots, and was just tired of the whole adventure. I wanted to help her, as I knew how she felt, but she was going a different way. It’s just one of the odd things you see at 2 am in the forest. Anyways, the wind was really blowing in the early morning. The bamboo trees were clacking amazingly loudly so you could hear the forest well before you approached it. When I reached the grassy knife-edge ridge with the Bien bench, the wind was blowing so hard all my clothing was whipping around frantically. I was beginning to get cold. I kept eating and drinking on the descent, but by the time I got to the long flat section near the river, I knew I was getting early hypothermia and had to get warm at the aid station.

Beverly was there and gave me some hot soup and a few blankets. I laid down on a cot and even though I also drank hot cocoa and cup after cup of hot water, I couldn’t keep the chill off of me. I also borrowed an extra jacket, but I just couldn’t get my body to generate heat. After over an hour of trying whatever I could think of my legs were getting stiff, and I knew I couldn’t get back out onto the ridge without putting myself in trouble. The trail was just a chaotic mess. I was a bit frustrated and tired. I decided I couldn’t reasonably go on. The HURT trail won.

I had come into the aid station in eighth place, and my time for the 100k marking put me in second behind Rod Bien. DNFing wasn’t how I wanted this run to end, but it seemed like the best decision. Initially, I didn’t care to come back and attempt the 100 miler again. Though after sleeping on it, I decided I would.


Sarah said...

Thanks for the great report, Jeffery, and congrats on your accomplishment. I hope that you are proud of what you did there, even though it didn't go according to plan. That is a tough, tough course in the best of conditions - and yours were SO far from the best!!

Glad that you were wise and that you and Sarah are home safely. See you soon - and congratulations again!!

Sarah (PCTR)

Mark Swanson said...

Excellent report, Jeffrey!

kelly said...

Your report was excellent and it helped me relive the trail again. Thanks! I am sorry for your DNF too, you were running so well. Next year will be different for you. I just might have to enter as I think I might have the HURT bug! Hope to see you out on the trails this year.

Arsivoli said...

And great pictures too! I love the picture of the waterfall.

Paul Sibley said...

Great job Jeff. This was my 5th HURT and the hardest conditions. The tropics take a toll on the body heat. Even a seasoned runner, Steve, who lives here went down with the chills. I did continue after saying hi to you at PP, and I paid the price: rhabdo. I tweaked my gut and never recovered. So, a DNF at 80 was my reward. Next year! -Paul

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I've completed Massanutten and Angeles Crest, and was trying to decide between Hardrock and Hurt for my next great adventure. After reading your report, I think Hardrock sounds easier. Great post, congratulations, you put the big hurt on the Hurt, next year the whole enchilada...