in the world of ultramarathons there are a couple races that are feared... even a newbie like myself knows that the hardrock 100 and the hurt 100 are considered two of the toughest 100 milers. with krissy heading to oahu to race in this years hurt 100 miler i could not resist the temptation to give their 100k (62 miles) race a try.
saturday morning at 4:45am karl meltzer, krissy moehl and i packed up the car and headed to the nature center. 98 of the 100 registered racers lined up with us on the bridge. i felt kind of weird up front with karl, krissy, matt estes and some of the other guys with team jerseys on. a hawaiian song, a blow of the conch and we were off into the darkness of the first lap on trails i had never stepped foot on before.
100 mile race had 24,935 feet of elevation gain
100k (62 miles) race had 15,000 feet of gain
the hurt loop is a notorious 20 miles with 5,000 feet of elevation gain. i had heard so much about how hard the course was before the race i wasn't sure what to expect. "unrunnable", "worst sections of rooted trails i've ever seen", "mud that will suck your shoes off", "root sections where you will not touch the ground", "nowhere to stride out", "impossible to get into a groove on these trails". the direct quote from the hurt info packet was good too - "You will be running on very uneven, rocky rooty, and muddy type of trail where footing is at best adequate. Be careful when traversing wet rocks and roots. Some trails run along cliff sections with serious drop offs... There are very few sections where you can run with consistent stride for more than a few hundred yards at a time." the 100 mile racers run the loop 5 times, the 100k racers 3 times and then a 2 mile short loop. the course is a big loop with out and back spurs in three locations. this was great for seeing who was ahead and behind you and gauging if they were making time or not.
my strategy: my first 50k ultra race was in october. this was my first 100k, so i really had no idea what i was capable of... however this info is a bit misleading if you know me. anyway - so i planned on running around 4:30 laps and was going to try and do that basically from the start, knowing the first lap would be fast. i thought if i could stay up front with the leaders of the 100 mile race i would win the 100k.
as we started out karl and another guy named golden (i think) took off the front. i felt good and started running conservatively at first, my comfortable uphill pace, running where i could, hiking where i couldn't. two weeks of non activity (tapering) had me ready to jump out of my shorts i wanted to run so fast, but on this course that would be a very bad idea. running up hogsback to begin i found myself behind david goggins (eventual 5th in 100 miler 27:49). i followed him for a bit but knew he was running the 100 miler and i was antsy to get moving fast. so i passed him and headed up into the darkness. with no one to follow i had to stop a lot and look around to figure out which way to go. the course was well marked but i just didn't know my way around. after 45 min of this i figured i'd simply wait for the next group and tag along with them. the next group of two guys included jamie gifford, a fellow washington ultrarunner (he's won cascade crest 100 miler). we chatted and i followed, but as it got light out i was moving a bit faster and they fell behind, no doubt running smart races for the 100 miler.
i was running in 3rd overall the first lap and ran a 3:50. this was too fast to maintain but i don't feel like it took too much out of me. on the first out and back of loop two i saw karl, and then... nothing. "where is second place?" i asked volunteers at the paradise aid station. "You are second place" was the response. i thought "whoa, am i making a huge mistake here or what?" apparently the second place guy had already blown up trying to stay with karl. matt estes wasn't far behind and passed me on the very next climb out of paradise - he seriously seemed to be floating over the trail, just flying. i maintained 3rd place overall and even with a fritos and mountain dew gut bomb (what the hell was i thinking!?) on the second lap running it in 4:15.
with karl and matt estes in front of me, and being on record pace i figured i just had to run smart and i could break the course record and win the 100k. i didn't run very smart on the third lap. when i left it was bright and sunny out, didn't cross my mind that it would be dark in 3 hours... so i didn't take a light with me. on the loop i was able to increase my lead over the 4th place racer. however on my way back from nu'uanu it started to get dark. in the dense jungle of hawaii it was dark on the trail before it was actually dark outside! running these trails without a light in the dark is just plain stupid, but i wasn't about to let it ruin my race. i ran with a bit of reckless abandon on my way down to the nature center and was lucky not to injure myself. this lap however was much slower at 4:43.. and it wasn't just the light, the 5,000 feet of gain per lap was catching up to me. but that was ok, i was still on record pace, and i just had the 2 mile loop to run and i was done! karl had been passed on that lap by matt estes, so i asked how he was doing.
me: "how is karl doing? is he gaining or losing time on estes?
volunteer: "karl dropped, but don't worry he ended at 60 miles. he left. he didn't even do the last 2 miles to get the 100k."
me: "what? really?"
volunteer: "i can tell you that he did not go out on the trail ahead of you"
i felt bad for karl, and would have liked to watch him try and catch matt estes but it wasn't to be. so i headed out for one last climb up hogsback and just 2 miles until i was finished... all the while thinking i had the win and the course record. after running over the bridge on my way up i had to return to get my light..almost did it again! i finished the race with a time of 13:28. john the race director says to me "great job matt. you broke the course record. but, so did karl and he finished an hour before you." karl had gone out for the two mile loop after all, and actually beat me by 1:09. as i said in the previous post if i must lose i'm ok with losing to a runner like karl. since the race and my typing this report it was announced that he won the usatf and ultrarunner magazine's ultrarunner of the year for 2006. congrats karl!!
after washing off (and getting my first ultra buckle) i turned instantly into crew mode. for the next 14 hrs i drove between the three aid stations to help krissy with her attempt at winning the hurt 100 miler. she did it in 26:15, a new female course record and an amazing effort to watch. she ran incredibly consistent splits of 4:30, 5:00, 5:30, 5:45, 5:40. she posted a blog on it here.
i have to thank the hawaii ultra running team (hurt) for their great race. special thanks to john and pj for their kindness and hospitality... you guys are amazing!
*shoes - montrail continental divide (not a single blister and never change shoes or socks)
*socks- teko ecopoly recycled polyester
*food - hammer heed, bars (who is that sexy model on their website?), perpetuem, gel
*electrolytes - nuun (lemon lime)