HURT-ing my way through the HURT 100…

What the hell is a hot spot???

January 14th sure did sneak up on us! After nearly two weeks off around the holidays, Alejandra and I were off on another “vacation” less than two weeks after returning to work. With travel being a frequent part of my work schedule, I completely forgot that Alejandra is a bit less comfortable when it comes to flying.

After tearing the metal off our seat armrests and imbibing enough Jesus Juice to make Dean Martin jealous, we successfully touched down in Oahu on Wednesday evening. We headed directly for the hotel in our spiffy new white, Toyota Camry, a popular rental car choice for the island, and crashed as soon as we hit the bed.

We spent Thursday exploring the island, traveling counterclockwise around the coast, stopping at beaches and eating lunch at an awesome food truck stand in the North Shore. The poke tuna bowls were great, as were the Cajun beans/rice and fried pickles. We also made our way over to Pipeline beach and checked out a surfing competition.

Not many better ways to spend a Thursday
Not many better ways to spend a Thursday

After leaving North Shore, we headed over to Pearl Harbor. The self-guided tour was incredibly educational, and although a somber site, we felt proud and honored to walk the grounds where thousands lost their lives protecting those shores.

Friday afternoon was race check-in, and we spent the morning going for a run, enjoying a relaxing Thai lunch, and spending some time exploring the Honolulu Botanical Gardens. These 15 acres, set in downtown Honolulu, were packed with hundreds of various trees, plants, herbs and flowers. They even had pineapples growing out of pots!

Pineapple in a Pot!
Pineapple in a Pot!
Big Ass Tree!
Big Ass Tree!

 

We made our way over to race check-in and met up Tyler Tomasello, Luis Escobar and Mauricio Puerto, fellow dirtbags all getting ready to test our mettle against the course. I still cannot possibly fathom how or why Luis has 11 HURT finishes under his belt. We also met up with Nick Kopp, an amazing runner out of Tacoma that would definitely bring the HURT to Hawaii.

After receiving our swag bags and listening to the race instructions, we were off to the beach to enjoy a couple hours of relaxing before our 6:00am start. Unfortunately, the weather was overcast and nasty, obviously foreshadowing the day to come.

Race morning came quickly, and as we jumped into our new, white Toyota Camry at 4:45am, it felt awkward that the hotel would’ve cleaned out our car from the night before. Anyways, we prepared to drive off and were immediately chased down by the hotel staff. Apparently new, white Toyota Camry’s are a popular Hawaiian rental choice, and the pilots that were picking up their car behind us weren’t too happy that we were driving off with their luggage. We picked up our car and headed over to the Nature Center.

In keeping with the no frills nature of the event, the start of the HURT 100 was uneventful. Stan gathered the 120+ starters around the shitters for some last minute race instructions. A couple corny jokes were made, and a conch is blown signifying the start of a long day, night and for most… another day.

The HURT course consists of three legs, formed in the shape of a drunken “T,” with each of the three aid stations located at the bottom of significant climbs. The start/finish of the “T” is the Nature Center, located only 3 miles away from downtown Waikiki.

The 7ish mile leg 1 takes runners up a nasty, root infested climb, up and down, through the TREE ROOT CROSSROADS FROM HELL, up and down, passing beautiful Manoa Falls, before dropping into the Paradise Park aid station.

The aid station is somewhere over those hills...
The aid station is somewhere over those hills…

The Paradise Park aid station is insane! With a full on pirate ship entrance, this site is decked out in One-Eyed Willy Party Mode! Music is blasting, everyone is fitted in their favorite shwashbuckling garb, and the variety of food choices is unreal… vegan sushi, really? The energy gushing out of this aid station is contagious, and it takes a ton of effort to not stay and partake in the party.

Leg 2 takes runners on the shortest of the three legs (5ish miles), up and out of Paradise Park, and past the seemingly never ending TREE ROOT CROSSROADS FROM HELL!!! After a short climb, runners descend into the Nuuanu aid station, where they’re welcomed with a slippery creek crossing before being able to pick up their supplies.

THE TREE ROOT CROSSROADS FROM HELL!!!
THE TREE ROOT CROSSROADS FROM HELL!!!

The Nuuanu aid station is a bit more reserved than their counterparts at Paradise Park, forcing their runners to walk the plank. The volunteers here are great, helping to refill bottles, stuff food down your throat, and in my case, clean and patch up an evil, heel hot spot.

Was it morning, or evening?
Was it morning or evening?

Leaving Nuuanu, Leg 3 takes runners up and back through the TREE ROOT CROSSROADS FROM HELL!!! After another moderate climb, runners are offered the only olive branch on this course; a semi- “runnable” downhill stretch of a few miles that bring them back into the Nature Center (approximately 7.5 miles).

I chose to enter the HURT lottery because I wanted a race that would be humbling. What would it be like to tackle a course where you couldn’t train for the majority of its variables… Wet, rooty, muddy, rooty, slippery, rooty, humid, rooty, tons of climbing, rooty conditions?

HURT offered all the humility one could ask for and more!

After 28.5 hours, a heel hot spot that nearly knocked me out of the race, save for the most incredible medic at the Nuuanu aid station, I was fortunate enough to finish the HURT 100. Over two weeks later, I’m still laughing at the ridiculousness of this course. Be prepared to climb, be prepared to slip and slide, be prepared to question yourself for entering, and definitely be prepared to HURT!

Things I learned:

  • Alejandra is more incredible than I already thought! She stayed awake throughout the night to meet me at the Nature Center for each deteriorating loop! Pretty sure I wasn’t speaking much English after loop 3, but she was awesome nonetheless, filling up my pack and repeating words of encouragement.
  • Take care of your feet! Hot spots are awful, especially when they’re on you heel.
  • Practice switching out headlight batteries before the race… it’s really, really dark in the jungle!
  • Losing GPS reception and using your watch to solely track nutrition and hydration is not always bad… especially when slogging around for 28+ hours
  • Fighting my brain to stay within the moment was incredibly helpful for dealing with the miles, overall fatigue and treacherous terrain
  • A Red Bull provided by the most incredible volunteer, manning the TREE ROOT CROSSROADS FROM HELL at 3:00am, might just save your life.
  • High humidity, constantly sweating out salt and not constantly applying body glide can and will likely lead to an extreme case of chafing.
  • Be prepared to lose a few toenails. Not only are roots slippery as hell, they seem to have a magnetic attraction to my toebox
One week later...
One week later…
  • Changing shoes may seem like a great idea at mile 60, but a softer, less tacky shoe makes you think twice when lying on your ass two miles, five miles, 10 miles, and throughout the remainder of the race.
  • HURT volunteers are the best! Always helpful, always upbeat, and always encouraging
  • There are far more enjoyable ways to spend a vacation in Hawaii, but likely not as memorable
Thanks for the memories!
Thanks for the memories!
Advertisements

Fast Packing Gone Awry!!!

12/28-12/29

Does the temperature rating on a sleeping bag really matter that much???

IMG_0352
Pine Ridge Trail.

 

Three days fast packing the trails of the Central Coast, carrying all my own gear in December… NO PROBLEM!

I’m an ultrarunner. I’ve finished a 100 mile race. How bad can a few days in the Los Padres National Forest really be??? Well, I found out…

For the second year in a row, I’ve successfully been able to peel away from work for nearly two full weeks around the holiday season. With Xmas travels to the bay area and Arbuckle taking up several days, I was fortunately able to calendar Mon-Wed for my first fast packing adventure with Carly in Big Sur.

Sunday was spent at Mountain Air Sports, wondering through the aisles buying too much gear that looked great, but likely wasn’t needed… a blow up LED lantern for only $15 dollars, I’ll take one! I literally spent hours combing the shelves trying to pick out the perfect fire starter, water purifier and liquid carrying bag (liquid carrying bag?), and about 5 minutes deciding on a sleeping bag… weather rated, does that really matter in the Central Coast? After feeling confident in my countless purchases, I began packing up my Ultimate Direction 20 liter fast pack (better to look the part than be the part right) with all my new gear, enough food to survive the winter and my brand new 50 degree sleeping bag.

We spent the remainder of the evening planning a conservative route (Day one 11 miles, day two 25ish miles, and day three 11 miles) and making sure to let Alejandra know exactly where we planned to be each night.

Monday morning came, and after a quick workout and last minute gear check, Carly and I headed out for beautiful Big Sur. Now, if you haven’t driven up Highway 1 past Cambria, Hearst Castle and Ragged Point taking in the beautiful Pacific coastline, you’re truly missing out. Windy roads, belching sea lions and a crisp, salty winter morning… there aren’t many better ways to spend a December Monday!

Road closures and delays happen frequently on Highway 1. Aside from the countless rock slide cleanups, Cal Trans must be tapped into some underground slush fund for the never ending road improvement program occurring on this 30 mile stretch. The extra-large coffee and 1.5 hours of S turns started kicking in as we stopped for the first of two road closures this morning. Just my luck that there were no bushes or trees around to block the view, as I was forced to water the rocks, in all my glory, being passed by car-after-car. FYI… make sure to pee quickly, or the train of vehicles waiting behind you will not be too happy watching you finish up while being stuck behind your weak bladder as the cars ahead drive off.

After two road closures and 2.5hrs of driving, we made it to the Pine Ridge Trailhead. I was surprised to see a metal gate with a “No Parking” sign affixed, blocking the parking lot at the Sykes trailhead. We pulled in anyway, thankfully the lot was actually open, parked, and began prepping for our adventure. Note that most state parks in CA require a daily camping fee, paid in full based on the number of days you plan on staying. Assuming that a lack of payment envelopes at the entrance meant the trail gods were offering a freebie, we got ready to hit the trail. Shouldn’t have assumed…

Before heading out, two young “hikers” came in dragging ass. I asked them about their experience and the trail conditions, and they said it was brutal. Not surprising considering the cigarette that one of the kids fired up after lying supine for about five minutes. We were ready to take off.

Start of our adventure!
  Start of our adventure!
IMG_0358
View from the beginning of the Pine Ridge Trail.

 

Carly and I hit the trail around 12:30pm, passing by a sign at the entrance reading, “Trail washed out 2 miles ahead.” Worst case scenario, we’ll check it out and head back to another trailhead if it’s as bad as the sign reads. The Pine Ridge trail is a beautiful, mostly non-technical single track that runs east from Big Sur into the Los Padres National Forest. Carly and I ran the majority of the 10-11 miles, stopping intermittingly to snap some photos, readjust the pack and knock down the 80lbs of food we brought.

IMG_0330
The washed out trail…
Big Sur 2
Several miles into the Pine Ridge Trail.

 

We had the trail to ourselves for the first couple of hours, until we came up on a hiker approximately 2 miles from our campsite. Descending after a climb, Carly and I were moving at a descent clip. I assumed the hiker had noticed us as he seemed to turn his head (forgot about that beautiful view over our left shoulder), so I didn’t say anything until we came right up on him. Shouldn’t have assumed…

He let out a shriek after we startled him, and I nearly had to grab the guys pack, as I was nervous he would slip off the single track. Fortunately, he remained upright and we both had a quick laugh, chatting briefly about our plans for the next few days.

We pulled into the Sykes campsite around 3:30pm, taking our time to find a good resting place for the night. After stripping down and taking a quick soak in the hot springs, mmmmm…. Sulfur, we headed back to the campsite to set up, start a fire and prep for a comfy night under the stars.

This is the part of the recap that should be uneventful, culminating in a restful night of sleep, waking up feeling refreshed and ready to attack the trails. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those nights…

Big Sur 3
Carly thinking, “why the hell did you take me out here?”

 

Starting a fire

Ask Alejandra about my fire starting prowess, and she’ll tell you about the 13 newspapers it took to light her fireplace on one of our first dates. As much as I’d like to blame the damp kindling and logs, I couldn’t have started a fire that night with a blowtorch and gallon of kerosene! Carly and I were destined to a dark night under the stars. Not thinking much of our lack of external heat and with nothing else to do but twiddle thumbs, we decided to call it an early night.

Choosing the right sleeping bag

Winter nights in the Central Coast are fairly hospitable. We’ll encounter nights at freezing temps, but these are few and far between. Most winter nights are crisp, but not unbearable.

Our first and only night in Big Sur was COLD… really freaking cold!

I’m not one to frequently pitch products, but the hot chili’s top/bottoms and northface thermoball jacket saved my tail. I was bundled up like the little kid in the Christmas Story, shivering throughout the night, with nothing between the ground and me but a 50 degree sleeping bag. With temperatures in the 20’s, we were in for a long night…

Recently joining the Dirtbag Runners Ambassador’s Team, I’ve been thinking of ways to integrate dirtbag running into my first blogpost. There was some definite dirtbaggery involved spending 12 hours huddled up with my dog, that’s spent the entire afternoon trouncing in mud and sulfur springs, both wrapped in a silk thin “sleeping bag” to keep us from freezing to death. I highly overestimated my backpacking skills, and it culminated in my first DNF!

The decision in the morning wasn’t too difficult after not sleeping a wink, and feeling amazing “sleeping” on wet, hard, uneven ground. We packed up camp early, and made our way back to the trailhead. The return trip was uneventful, and we made decent time back to the vehicle. On our arrival, the California State Parks had left me a surprise, a $72 ticket for not paying camp fees. Shouldn’t have assumed…

We made it home a day early, alive and healthy, and went directly to Mountain Air to discuss sleeping bag options.

 

What I learned…

A 50 degree sleeping bag, while great for Phoenix summer sleepovers, will not keep you toasty in 20-30 degree nights

Sleeping pads are functional and protect you from wet, cold nights… or so I’ve been told

Less is more… the blow up LED lantern, magnesium fire starter I couldn’t use, towel and the extra 43 pounds of food could have probably been left in the car

Pay your daily camping fee and find a ranger if there are no envelopes. You will get fined!

Don’t be afraid to DNF/cut short a fast packing trip, especially if you are as underprepared as I was.