As I sit here a week after HURT I think I find myself in a pretty good place. Sure, it didn't go as planned (more on that later), but I proved something to myself, and I find a renewed excitement for the sport, and more love than ever for the wonderful people involved!
Physically it's a mixed bag. I got away with very little muscle soreness, which is surprising considering how far I ran, the elevation change, brutal terrain, and the pace that I was holding. But I do have a calf injury, and I've never experienced such damage to my toes (even when I lost nine toenails at San Diego 100.
I talked a little about my training in a previous post, and I'm pretty sure I needed another month to really hit the sweet spot, but as I flew back to Oahu after a short trip to socal I felt a kind of confidence building. A confidence that allowed me to feel excited for the race, mixed with healthy nerves. After all, this is home, and it doesn't 'hurt' to have home field advantage.
These things creep up on you like Christmas.. ready or not! Before you know it you're on a small concrete bridge leading into the jungle at 5:59am with 130 other excited runners. I moved through the crowd until I was near the front, and in a flash we were off! Pretty hard to stay nervous when the pace is an easy hike up Hogsback. I've run these trails a lot, and frequently find it difficult to hit splits that would result in a good race time, even on ten mile runs. I've been hoping that my GPS was simply reading the distances short due to switchbacks and poor reception in the forest (meaning my splits were actually better, and I was going faster than I thought). I knew that if it was easy to keep up with Gary Robbins, even for a few miles, that I would stand a good chance at a good race. Immediately that seemed to be the case. We had a blast for those first few miles. One runner off the front (don't worry about that little guy), and a group of five or six of us not far back. The first major descent saw Gary speed ahead, and I ended up in fifth by the Paradise aid station (an awesome pirate themed party at the Manoa Falls trailhead!). Right there it was obvious that the leader was hurting, and he quickly fell back (and out) putting me in fourth. A very nice guy named Timo (from Germany, but currently residing in Japan) caught me, and we finished the loop in 3:41 basically tied for fourth.
We set out into the increasing heat for the second loop, determined to slow a bit and maintain a steady, but conservative pace. This was a pretty uneventful loop, and I finished it in 4:10, having passed a runner and moving up to third place (still with Timo close behind), and right on pace. If anything I found that I needed a bit more than 30oz of water I was carrying, and probably should have been forcing a few more calories because the sport drink they were serving seemed very diluted.
The third loop got interesting. I simply tuned out the repetitive nature of the course, and zoned out. Soon someone told me that the leader was only minutes ahead. I knew that Gary was well up on me, so I assumed that they meant Yassine, and that was second place. I put no thought into it, but by mile 45 I had caught and passed Yassine and was in second. That played games with me. In a perfect world that would happen way later in the race, and I wouldn't have to worry about defending the spot. Whatever. No change of plans. Plug ahead. Drink, run, hike, eat, repeat! Loop three done in the daylight in 4:30, for a total time of 12:20ish.
Loop four. Night settled on the forest quickly. Roots that I easily vaulted became obstacles that slowed me to a walk as I clambered over and around. Everything took on a slippery and dangerous sheen of moisture. It seemed I was crawling around the loop, and Gary's increasing lead showed that I was indeed moving slowly, but the gap to those behind me remained the same or increased (except for Timo who stayed close, and Alex who seemed to be closing a bit about 30 minutes back). Loop four done in 5:15. New batteries in the light.. what a difference!
Off we go for loop five. Timo close behind. He mentions moving up Hogsback more quickly, but I can't, and he doesn't get by me. Ah, good ole' Hogsback! This section of trail pretty well sums up Oahu trail running, although it's harder than most. Take a nice Pacific Northwest single track trail snaking up a seven hundred foot climb. Now take out the switch backs and send it straight up on a 20%+ grade. Make it fifty feet wide, but with no good route up. Take away the buffed out pine needle track and replace it with literally millions of root steps up to three feet high. By the fifth time up this nasty beast my heart was hammering in my chest just to maintain a walking pace. Forget 'power hiking'!
I start to feel better. I'm smelling the barn a bit. Time is melting together, and five hours out here really doesn't seem that bad at all! I pick up the pace on the easier climbs, gapping Timo until I can no longer see his light. 22:30 looks like a possibility if these woods will let me pass! I'm running scared though. Alex isn't far back, and Timo is right there. The truth is, fourth would be a bit of a let down after all this. I power up to the top of Manoa Cliff trail, and then it popped. I stepped off a root with full ankle flexion (as opposed to extension), and the pressure of full power in that position caused a sharp pain in my upper calf. Even though I've never felt a cramp like that, I attempted to stretch it out, but soon realized I was dealing with a serious strain of the muscle. Running was out of the question, as was any kind of powerful hike. The only thing I could do was hobble forward without stressing that muscle at all. Unable to believe what had happened to me, I continued down the trail towards Paradise instead of turning back to the start/finish. But the truth became clear: my race was O-V-E-R! I gathered a small bamboo stick to take the strain, and wobbled on. There is something to be said for overcoming adversity to finish, but I don't want to do that if it means damaging myself, and perhaps losing an entire season to injury.
The nice folks at Paradise helped me. They wrapped my leg, gave me good physical therapy advice, fed me soup, gave me blankets, and would have dried my tears if I'd been so inclined. I called my wife, and a couple of hours later I was headed home.
This race proved to me that what I did at Peacock 100k was no aberration. There is always self doubt. Training is never perfect, and I'm not the fastest runner out there, but I can run with some of the best mountain runners out there and give a good accounting of myself. All that said, 87 miles and 22000' climbed, but not getting to finish is a pretty hard pill to swallow.
What I did right: Nutrition and hydration was probably a B+. I needed a bit more than the 30oz I was carrying during the day, but I made up for it at the aid stations by chugging. 15oz containers of coconut water at Nu'uanu aid station was a great move. 100 calories, some electrolytes, and hydration allowing me to catch up. Two gel's an hour worked for a long time, and when I got sick of it I switched to baby food pouches that held equivalent calories and taste way better! Not much real food at the aid other than watermelon slices.
Pacing: Not bad, say a B. The first loop looks fast, but it felt controlled, and allowed me to rack up some miles before it got hot. The second and third loops were in the range, but the fourth loop was too slow. I need to practice running on that terrain at night in order to maximize my pace when I'm exhausted. For what it's worth, I definitely felt like I was on track to run a faster last loop.
What I did wrong: Body Glide! I didn't use enough, and I didn't use any product on my feet. I chaffed everywhere. Even the gel's in my pockets wore my thighs raw!
Shoes/Socks: Hoka Rapanui's are a bit narrow for me. I foolishly combined them with Injinji toe socks that make my feet even wider. I am paying the price!
Where to now? I'm pumped to get back out there. My calf is recovering nicely, although running is still out. If I'm able to get in, I'm going to redo 2013 by running Cascade Crest 100 in late August, Peacock 100k in October, and HURT100 in 2015. That means my season starts later than most, so the next couple of months will be pretty chill. I'm going to get back in the weight room. I'm going windsurfing. I'm going hiking! There's more things to do in Hawaii than there is time in our lives! I'll pick up some easy running when I can, and when I get going more seriously in a couple of months I'm going to train for some speed. I might even try for a marathon PR. Then a couple of big months of mountain running prior to CCC. June and July will be pretty hard, but I can't wait!
As always, thanks to my wonderful wife for caring so much! Thanks to all my family for standing by me through thick and thin. And thanks to the HURT Ohana. Trail running is full of caring and humble individuals. HURT seems to bring this to another level, and the truth is that makes one of the toughest mountain races so much easier!