I want to tell you about my HURT experience, but before we get to the story of the race, I need you to have an idea of what HURT is. Hawaiian Ultra Running Team 100 Mile Trail Run (HURT) is known to be one of the most daunting 100-mile races in the world, and most likely holds the spot for the most technical 100-mile race in the world. It is held in the middle of January on the island of Oahu. This means that most participants running HURT have been battling winter conditions for months while training, all to race in a tropical location. The temperature on race day is around 82 degrees F and humid. The course consists of five, 20-mile loops, each loop containing a couple out-and-backs. The loops add to the difficulty of HURT mentally. Look at it this way: you can be, off the course and on the beach sipping a Mai Tia, with waves washing over your feet in less than 30 minutes (from any aid!). All it will cost you, is an Uber and your pride (that’s what the Mai Tai is for). Trust me, that sounds appealing when you are 60 miles in and still have another 40 miles to go, mostly in the dark.
Each loop has three aid stations: Paradise Park (7.2 miles from the start), Nu’uanu (12.5 miles from the start), and the Nature Center (every 20 miles) (start/finish line). Every time you leave an aid station you are climbing roughly 1500 feet up, and every time you come into an aid station you have just descended the equivalent amount of vertical feet. To Summarize, each runner climbs the mountain 15 times during the race, then runs down the mountain 15 times. Accumulating 24,500 feet of ascent and descent during the race. It gets better. The trails are riddled with roots that intertwine with each other, some layered so thick they hit you at the knees. The roots that aren’t layered upon each other are so massive they still hit you at the knees. To make matters worse, there are also rocks that collect moisture, causing the course to be dangerously slick during the night. Slippery rocks, a series of roots acting as constant tripwire, a few rock walls chest high that you must hoist yourself up onto, and steps scattered with no logical reasoning to their height or distance between each stair, riddle the course. What about the sections without roots, rocks, and random heights of stairs, you ask? Oh, you mean inside the aid stations? Moving on.
Have you been creating a picture in your head of HURT? Are you in Hawaii with me, the warm humid air resting on your skin, as you leave your crew to walk to the starting line? Thank you for joining me, let’s start the race.
Holding on to Avery’s forearm our heads bowed in prayer, one final moment to send our wishes and prayers out in to the void above us. HURT is about to start. The running field is crammed on a little bridge anticipating the epic journey we are about to undertake. The prayer ends, we release the grip we have on the runners to our left and right, and raise our heads. Each of us embracing the butterflies that have been filling our stomachs for months, with dreams they carry us through the Hawaiian jungle for 100 miles.
The first lap is uneventful, besides a brief mention of a missile threat, which I wrote off as a problem I couldn’t solve, so I shrug it off, and continued to focus on my pace. I met Gia Madole while on the first lap, and we shared a handful of miles together. Closing in on the last three miles to the final aid station of lap one, Candace Burt, and two other women joined us. Five women. Candace voiced with enthusiasm what we all were thinking, “Let’s track down some men! Not because we need them, but to pass them!” It was a tidal wave of badass-ness rolling down the trail. Chests puffed, all of us nasty women. It was too much power for an island to handle in such a concentrated space. That is why fate stepped in and, sent me down to taste the gravel below my feet, hard and fast. All the elegant lionesses behind me piled up like a train that had been derailed, cars zig zagging back and forth across the tracks. Laughing hysterically to deflect their concern, I carried my graceful self into the Nature Center (mile 20), Candice behind me exclaiming with delight, “Five women! This should go down in HURT history.”
Our posse was dismantled when each of us set out on our own to start lap two. Only two miles in a wave of nausea hit me. I barely made it to the side of the trail, before I uncontrollably emptied my stomach, projectile vomiting a trail marker, I could see during each additional lap. During loop three the sun started to go down, so I grabbed my headlamp at Paradise Park (mile 47.2) and continued into the night. Shortly after leaving the aid station I passed by Bree Wee and her pacer on the side of the trail, I moved into 4th place. Half a mile from the Nu’uanu aid station (mile 52.5), I passed by Sam Drove, positioning me in 3rd place. I scrambled to the top of the climb out of the aid and came across Avery. He was just starting his descent to Nu’uanu on his fourth loop. This was the first time we had crossed paths on the course where we both had a few seconds to steal a few kisses to refuel our spirits. Unfortunately, for me it was also the first time it became a real possibility in my mind that he was going to pass me if both held our current paces. I was ecstatic he was kicking so much ass, I wasn’t so ecstatic to be the one getting my ass kicked.
Lap four, I kept my pace manageable, using great effort to stay calm and levelheaded. Leaving Nu’uanu aid station (mile 72.5) I ran by Avery heading into the aid. If I could help it, he wasn’t about to pass me. Charging up the mountain, I tried to create as much distance between us as I could. Recklessly using everything I had in the tank. A half mile after I had crested the ridge line, I noticed a headlamp moving towards me in the dark. “Damn you Avery Collins!!!” I screamed into the dark canopy of trees above me. Avery passed by me with a quick kiss on his way to the finish while I hit a wall. Step-by-step I continued to make forward progress, at a pace that probably left my crew wondering if I was still alive out in the blackness of the jungle. 80 miles complete.
Giather was waiting to pace me for loop five, the last twenty miles. There was a two-hour gap between myself and 4th place. Continuing the final loop, I proceeded to move slowly through the night, counting the minutes until the sun would rise and fill my body with a dose of caffeine that even the most potent espresso shot couldn’t best. The gap I had on fourth place had been cut by 50 minutes, by the time I reached Paradise Park (mile 87.2). Gaither and I left our headlamps at the aid and set three goals: 1: Push so hard that when 4th and 5th place encountered us on an out-and-back, they would be demoralized by how far ahead of them we were. 2: Look fresh. Make sure that we looked like we were running a 5k, so nobody would dare to develop any ideas of trying to catch us. Lastly, 3: Finish in under 30 hours. We accomplished all three, finishing in 29:45:04.
Am I happy with my race? I have mixed emotions. It was a race that was aggressively difficult, and I am proud to have finished. I dreamed of first place, I always dream of first place. I should have run it smarter and paced myself more efficiently. I’m still learning how to race. Every time I do compete, I learn an exponential amount of how I can improve. One day it is all going to come together and I will gather more information with every race I do until that day comes. Can you feel it getting closer and closer? I can.
Thank you to my sponsors Altra, Vertical Runner, Cranked Nutrition, Michael David Winery, and OS1st!
Another huge thank you to my Crew Chief Reece Stanley and pacer Gaither Smith, Steve Acciarito for being a HUGE help every time I came in to the Nature Center, Avery's parents Megan and Bob Schneider for helping crew when their runner wasn't in need of them, and of course Avery for all the love and support in the world. It takes a team.