By Janette Maas
“The two things in life that really penetrate the human soul are beauty and pain.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky
If you are looking for a turn by turn, root by root, race report, there are plenty online with lots of pictures. This will not be that kind of report, mostly because no matter how many course descriptions you read, nothing will prepare you for the actuality.
The saga started several years ago at my first 100 mile race. I found myself yo-yo-ing for about 50 miles with a gentleman who introduced himself as Fred and who was wearing a Hawaiian Ultra Running Team shirt. Naturally our conversation included stories about the HURT 100 and this race intrigued me, not that I ever thought I would run it, it sounded like something only a crazy person would do.
Fast forward to February of last year. The Destin 50 was conducting a raffle to raise funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and a lot of race directors, including GUTS Rds and the HURT Rds donated free race entries as prizes. When I saw that HURT was one of the prizes, I bought a whole bunch of tickets. You know the saying, “be careful what you wish for?” Yeah, that is so true, because I won an entry to HURT.
Another fast forward to a week ago. I found myself at packet pickup mingling with serious badasses. John the RD conducted a short briefing which included telling us how much we would HURT tomorrow, that there would be a few roots and a few climbs, the course markings, that there were 300 volunteers out there to support 125 runners, and much more that I am forgetting. He also introduced us to the “Originals”, the evil geniuses who formed the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team and who came up with this thing called HURT. After the briefing we were given the opportunity to activate our special super power rubber bracelets which were included with our bib numbers.
Race morning found me calm but terrified. I knew it would be tough, but I didn’t know how tough. The opening ceremonies made me feel like a was about to embark on an incredible special journey. A gal sang the national anthem and a guy sang the Hawaiian state song. We then lined up on the bridge and with the blowing of the conch shell, we were off to do battle with HURT.
Most of you know me as a very slow runner. Well HURT was no exception. I started at the back and stayed at the back. The first hour is run in the dark, so the first climb, Hog’s Back, didn’t seem that bad. Sure there were lots of roots and it was steep, but it was over before the sun came up and we were soon in the vortex of roots know as Pauoa Flats. The way the course is set up, you have to navigate through this section not once, not twice, but three times every loop. Yes, these are the infamous roots you have seen in pictures.
The first loop was the most difficult thing I had ever done. Starting out on my second loop I figured that it couldn’t get any worse now that I “knew” the course. Boy was I wrong. HURT smacked me down, chewed me up and spit me out. It got dark during my second loop and when it gets dark, moisture comes up from the ground. I know that the course is famous for its roots, but it also has a lot of rocks. Rocks that have a coating of clay over them. Clay that gets extremely slippery when wet. Oh, did I mention that some of the trail is along cliff faces? So you don’t want to fall and tumble down a couple of hundred feet. I slowed way down the second loop finished it around 3 AM.
I knew at this point that there was no way I would be able to finish the third loop before the cutoff and I wouldn’t be able to complete the 67 mile fun run. It took all I had to get myself out of that chair and back out on the course for that third loop. The second loop had been so much harder than the first loop and I couldn’t imagine how difficult the third loop was going to be. But you know what? An hour or two into that third loop HURT and I came to a mutual respect for each other. (Bacon and eggs at the Paradise Aid Station didn’t hurt either) I found myself getting choked up when I let myself think about what I was doing and where I was doing it. There was a lot of carnage out there the afternoon of the second day, but there were also spontaneous high fives and hugs out on the trail among the survivors.
Before I go any further, I have to rave about the volunteers and aid stations. They were the best by far of any I have ever experienced. Every time I came in I was treated like a combination celebrity/rockstar/racecar. About four volunteers would swarm me as I arrived, one filled my water bottles, one gave me my drop bag, one got me food from the 4 star buffet, and one made sure I was feeling all right. This treatment continued throughout the race whether it was 3PM, 3 AM, or 3PM the second day. Besides the aid station workers, they also had a safety patrol out on the trails throughout the race, making sure the course markings stayed up, that no runners were in trouble, and providing brief conversations for us pacerless runners. Also, the “Originals” were out there on the course providing inspiration to all.
If you ever do get to run this race, make sure you attend the awards dinner on Monday night. It is a lot of fun with the standard awards but mostly the Rds making fun of just about everyone. I got to go up front as one of the small group of runners who got passed on our first loop by the winner, Gary Robbins. Then the RD had Gary come up and apologize to us for passing us. Just a whole lot of fun hanging with people who suffered the same as you did.
Will I do this again? If I was 5-10 years younger, yes, but I have other challenges to attempt. But I encourage any of you masochists out there to give it a shot. It will change you.