Thursday, August 19, 2010

H.U.R.T. 22 Miler Trail Series Race

August 14th, 2010. Oahu, Hawaii.

I know, I know...I'm supposed to be on hiatus from racing until Chicago. BUT, when opportunity comes a knocking, I'm ripe and ready to go. Bryan and I were in Hawaii celebrating our 5 year anniversary, and by the end of the trip we were both itching to get in some good training. We had an amazing time combing the beaches, snorkeling, hiking, eating great food (maybe a little drinking...), but knew we needed at least one good workout before we headed back home. Bryan called around to a local MMA gym and found a training class on Saturday morning, which meant I needed to find a running group to get in a good long run.

On Friday I called around to a few running stores which yielded no results, but when I called the Kailua Running Company a very helpful employee pointed me towards the H.U.R.T. 22 mile trail race taking place the following day. I was ecstatic, completely hyped up about the chance to not only get in a little race, but a TRAIL race. In spite of my recent sun burn, we spent Friday afternoon swimming and relaxing on Kailua. I drank almost no water, and completely dehydrated myself in the sun. Can you blame me though?


We had a great dinner with our gracious hosts after the beach, and I carbo-loaded on some yummy tropical cocktails. I started getting my stuff ready at 10pm, and was done at 10:02pm when I realized I didn't have anything to "get ready". Nice.

Saturday morning Bryan and I rushed out of the house to find our way to the starting area. Since we didn't know the area at all, we gave ourselves plenty of time. We pulled up to the registration area, and this is why I'm starting to love trail show up, give someone money, and you're ready to go. 
I gave my $10 and filled out the "registration form", which consisted of writing my name, age, and gender on a slip of paper. I find out that this race gives age-based handicap to the runners, and the registrar informs me that I'm going to be the very last female to start the race. They follow the guidelines the famous Dipsea race in San Francisco uses, which means there is no clock and the winner is the first person who crosses the line. Usually this kind of race favors older women and really old men. As I begin to process the reality that I'll be starting over 30 minutes behind the first woman, I'm being drawn on by a woman with a marker who has the job of perma-marking our bib numbers on our leg. We looked like triathletes with all of the marked numbers on our legs. 

I seriously had to pee by this point, and since I had a solid hour before it was my turn to start, Bryan and I headed out to find a restroom. There was a McDonald's a few miles down the road, mission accomplished, back to the starting point. 

The view was just spectacular on the Pali lookout, it gave me high hopes for the rest of the race. the clouds were dark and it felt like it was going to rain, but thankfully it never did. 


The organizers called everyone over for a pre-race brief, which consisted of "drink water, watch your step, and the first person to cross the finish line wins". They gave the oldest man and woman a stuffed pink pig that had to be carried on the course (since they would be the first to start). When someone passed the pig, they would take it with them. The person with the pig would always be in 1st place. 
They didn't mention anything about the trail, so I asked if it was marked. Everyone turned and looked at me in astonishment as if I were an idiot or an alien. I explained that I was only here visiting and I'm not familiar with the trail. I was told the trail was not marked, but they spewed out a few directions  (turn right at the 1st fork, etc..). Yeah, on earth am I going to remember that? They did say that there are a few trails marked in blue, and not to follow the blue. 

As we all stood around, the first group of women started off. They had the runners walk up this little hill, and then they had to run back down to begin the official course. It was kind of quirky but everyone seemed to enjoy it. I watched as another group of women were released, and saw a formidable middle-aged woman with rock hard abs, serious legs, and braided pig tails to top it off. I think to myself, there's no way I'm catching her. Her legs were long and lean and had a mad kick down the hill. 

 A few of the guys talked to me while we were waiting, they were curious about this out-of-towner who just showed up for a race. Everyone was really nice and very helpful trying to give me pointers. One of the guys who was running was one of the HURT 100 organizers, so we chatted about that for a bit. They just had the lottery for the 100 the weekend before, and he seemed very proud about the diversity of runners who were registered. He asked if I did 100 milers, and I just laughed and said I've never even done a 50 miler. While we're chatting, the guy responsible for getting everyone started in their age-appropriate groups looks at me and says "hey! You should've gone by now!" I was a little annoyed at this because he never called my group (I was "R", the last letter he called was "L"). He apologized and sent me on my way. Instead of the big "hurrah" everyone starts off with, I'm a flurry of arms and legs as I try to at least catch up with group L (they started about 2 minutes before me). 

The first 1.5 miles is completely down hill. The first mile is on asphalt, so I could really fly. 
I saw a blond ponytail ahead of me and made it my mission to catch her. She didn't look like a strong runner, but boy was I wrong. My stupid sub 7 descent allowed me to catch her, but when she heard me coming she picked it up a notch. Soon we were passing the other women and skirting our way around the narrow trail. As we made our way in to the woods, I immediately realized how complicated the trail was going to be. I wasn't worried about steep hills, but we were essentially on the side of a mountain making our way down the side. The trail was very narrow with a steep cliff to the side. I find myself falling back from the blond, and I'm amazed as her feet skip over the roots and rocks as if she's been doing it all her life. Crap. I'm out of this race. 

I'm starting to feel like crap after 2 miles. I slow wayyy down, and take my time passing people. I realize I'm definitely dehydrated from all of the beaching (and drinking), and shouldn't press my luck on the trail. I dedicate the first half of the run to careful stepping and just taking in the know, the scenic view of my feet hopping over roots and rocks. The trail is completely shaded by the overgrowth, as Bryan said later "It's all LOSTy up in there". 

I force myself to drink a lot from my camelbak, I knew it was going to be my best friend for the day. I'm so glad I threw it in my suitcase last minute...If only I had packed my trail shoes I'd be all set. 

Around mile 5 I start to feel normal again, and pick up the pace a little. I'm still passing people, though I've caught just about everyone (save blond ponytail and pigtails). I don't know how far ahead they are, and I don't care. I'm too busy stumbling and catching myself before falling off the side of the mountain. The deeper in the woods we go, the more slippery the rocks become. The ground is so slick with wet leaves and brush, I have a very hard time finding traction in my road shoes. 

I'm watching my footing very carefully as the rocks covered with that green algae looking stuff is as slippery as a bar of soap. The downhill is almost worse than the uphill because I'm afraid of wiping out. At one point, I'm concentrating on the ground so intently that I fail to notice a giant tree branch hanging over the path. Whack! I run right in to it. My poor head is throbbing, I feel a lump instantly forming on the side of my head. I let out a yelp and I'm sad that no one's around to sympathize. Maybe it's better this way...they would probably just laugh. I'm now paranoid about the tree branches, so I try running with my hand over my head. It doesn't take long to realize that this was a silly idea. Not long after the tree branch incident I take a fall and land dangerously close to the drop-off. Had a tree not been there, I probably would've fallen over. There were so many shrubs around the side of the path you couldn't even see the ledge, but you know it's there. 

I see an older guy up ahead and I catch up to him on an uphill climb. He's walking, I'm not. I decided the race was too short to walk the climbs, unless they were really steep. I try to tell him about hitting my head on the tree, but he doesn't seem to care. So much for making friends on the trail. On 2nd thought...maybe it was insulting to try to talk to someone while you're passing them on the uphill? Hmm.

After this guy, I don't see anyone for a couple more miles. No other incidents, but I just know that I'm going to bite it at any time. As I'm nearing the halfway point, the first male catches up to me. He was seriously flying on the trail. The first place male was still ahead of him, but he'd track him down in no time. The last mile before the aid station was a steep downhill on a safe, dirt road. I'm happy for the break from the slick rocks and roots. 

I see pig tails coming towards me, which means she'd already made it to the halfway point. I was very surprised to see her walking uphill, she looked like a strong enough runner to book it the whole way back. Hmmm. I yell "go piggy!" since she's in 1st and has the pig, though she didn't really pay any attention to me. The 2nd place female isn't far behind her, and she's actually running so I cheer her on. She seems unconcerned with 1st place, though I'm pretty sure she'll catch her. I then see blond ponytail who is also walking uphill. She cheers me on and seems like a genuinely nice girl. 

I hear faint cheering in the distance and realize I'm very close to the turnaround. There is also a relay option at this race, so the people at the turnaround are waiting for their partner to make it in so they can run the 2nd leg. When I made it to the aid station (which consisted of water, gatorade, soda, and chips) there was a very awkward moment when they all realized they had no idea who I am. At this moment I realized how very small the trail community really is. I drink some gatorade and take off, dreading the long uphill climb. 

I now understand why the other gals were walking...that was a tough climb. I ran most of it, but knew that it probably wasn't smart. Since this was a training race, I figured it was a good time to be exhausted. I caught blond ponytail halfway up the hill. We exchanged a few friendly words, but I kept running. Some really fast relay guys flew up the hill and passed me, but I could care less. They were on fresh legs!

I'm starting to encounter a lot of other runners heading towards the turn around, and everyone was really nice. Most people were running in pairs or in groups, and I was a little jealous of the company. I'm lost in my thoughts when I make my first wrong-turn. A guy follows me down the wrong trail, and after a few minutes we decide this can't possibly be right (there was a steep spot with a rope you had to climb up), so we turned around and found the actual path. I felt bad that the other guy got turned around because of me, but there were no flipping markers!!! Ah!!

I don't fret about making up time, this is hardly a do-or-die race. Blond ponytail had passed me while I was on my little detour. When I caught back up to her I explained that I went off trail. She said "Hey, it's secret training!". I think I could be friends with this chick. 

Soon I'm on my own again, and thing are complicated as the runners who are still heading to the turnaround have to get by me on the skinny trail. Everyone was very courteous and we all did well stepping to the side of the trail without falling off the mountain. I was thankful when the sweeper passed, which meant there weren't any more runners heading in my direction. 

One of many great views

And now begins Amy's epic tripping adventure. I fell at least 10 times in the last 8 miles of the race. It wasn't pretty, and I got really banged up. I know most people trip when they're tired, but I really didn't feel tired at all. I was taking it slow and was breathing easy. I always have problems in my road shoes when I'm on the trails, so I think it was a combination of not picking up my feet enough and having clumsy shoes (ok...maybe clumsy feet too). I had one really bad fall on my hip, which landed on a big rock. I gave myself a dead leg by falling on the rock, so I couldn't use my leg for what felt like an eternity (was probably only a minute or so). By now I was insanely frustrated. I had tears in my eyes and my body was starting to hurt everywhere from the scratches and bruises. Not long after recovering from the last blow, I had another rough fall. 
I was so pissed I took a picture of the root I tripped over (yeah, I's huge- how'd I miss it?)

I was so angry at everything...myself, my feet, my shoes, the race director...the list goes on. I just wanted to be done with the race. It wasn't fun anymore. I started walking over spots that looked like a death trap for my feet, and managed to not fall while walking. 
Camelbak & I, friends for life

I ran out of water finally, but since the shade was nice and cool I wasn't worried about thirst. I still had 3 miles to go, but it wasn't daunting. I was thrilled to see a guy standing with gallon jugs of water under a tree with less than 2 miles to the finish. I was even more thrilled when he spoke with a deep Australian accent. G'day mate! Looking great! You must be Amy...Wes told me to say hello!...Somehow my friend Wes who was picking me up from the race managed to tell this guy to cheer me on, which made me smile. He held the jug up while I drank, and cheered me on as I headed off towards the finish. Only I made a slight detour before I made it out of the clearing...I really hope they mark the trail next time (not that I'll be there anyways). 
Oh, how green it is!

Remember that first 1.5 miles that was downhill? Boooo....time to run up it! At least it was asphalt, I've never been so happy to be on pavement in my life. I was passed by a couple of guys in this last stretch, though all but 1 were relay runners. I start to walk, it was getting way to steep to be a comfortable climb. Plus, I was out of the shade and the sun was starting to feel hot. I did a run/walk combo until I saw pigtails up ahead. No way! I thought, screw this...and started running. We had a good .5+ to go (uphill), but I figured I could take her. Sure enough I passed her as she was walking, and I just kept going. I expected her to fight me for it but she just kept walking. Not wanting to risk her catching up to me, I forced my legs to run the rest of the way up. I came in to the clearing and was so excited to be done. I felt like I could've run a few more miles, but I had no desire to take any more falls. 

The finish line was even less spectacular than the start, so much that I didn't even know where to finish. I started to veer right and they shouted "left!", so I ran left. Then someone said "STOP RUNNING!". Oh. I'm done. 

Wes came over and was super excited for my 2nd place finish. She had all of my post-race stuff with her, which was a huge help. The race director came over to congratulate me and gave me a pair of Nathan arm-warmers. Sweet! I actually need a pair for the fall. 
As I inspect my injuries I decide I'm not too bad, though I expect to be sore for a while. A few people sat and chatted with me for a bit, which was awesome. There was a ton of food spread out on some tables, but I wasn't ready to eat. Wes and I sat on the grass and soaked in the experience while enjoying a beautiful Aloha day. 

Post race: Holy crap I'm sore! I've never felt this beat up after a least, none that I can remember. I'll be spending a lot of time Endurasoak-ing.