Sunday, January 21, 2018

HURT 2018: They clicked on all the right things!

The 2018 edition of HURT will be one of those races that runners talk about for years.

After missing last year, Mrs Notthat and I joined All Day Ken and his wildly better half Karen in a VRBO on Round Top Drive that had a ridiculous view.

Also staying with us were Erica, running her first HURT (she had paced a loop several years earlier, so she had an idea of what she was getting into), Veronica (her pacer who had never seen the course before), and photographer extraordinaire Howie.

The pre-race briefing was as fun as it usually is. The only real news was that a boardwalk of sorts had been installed over a famously root-infested section of the course, but that runners were to ignore that boardwalk and run on the roots as normal. (I don't have a picture of that boardwalk, but in the ones I've seen, it looks reasonably solid, if narrow, but mostly it looks completely out of place. I'm not a tree pathologist, but I doubt walking/running on the roots is hurting the trees much, and that boardwalk really messes with the iconic look of that bit of trail.)

"It's like a [redacted] superhighway up there!"
One thing everyone agreed on was that the trails were mostly dry and the temperature was going to be favorable - nobody was going to be wearing a puffy jacket while running, but with temperatures projected into the low 80s, that would pass as "favorable."

A quick note, in case you know nothing about the course. It's five 20 mile loops. Each loop has three legs with an aid station at the end of each. Each leg forces you to climb Mt Tantalus. Over and over and over again.

It's not a complicated course, but there are a few bits that have caused runners to go the wrong way. Up on top, Cindy is an angel that hangs out and points runners the right way during the night. The left side of the figure eight can be a problem because you have runners on the same bit of trail going the same direction that have to make the correct turn for the particular leg they're running (white is heading out while orange is heading back). This sounds simple, but it's really easy on lap three in the dark to just follow a runner that it turns out is going the wrong direction for you.

One good thing about the course is that it gives you lots of chances to see the other runners.

A race morning not soon to be forgotten

Look at this picture. All Day is ready to go (minus his shoes since those were kept by the door). Or is he?

He turned out to have completely forgotten his bib. There was a bit of stress while trying to work out how to get it in time for the race start, but, well, everyone knows All Day and he is one of the few that could probably get by without a bib. In any case, Karen and I brought his bib back to the start after the race started, and it was ferried up to the first aid station. Paradise Park. Pirate-infested Paradise Park. They had a tiny bit of fun with the bib.

Pirates with bib booty. Picture probably by another pirate.
In the end, that all turned out fine, and would hopefully be the only weirdness of the day.

The next weirdness of the day

After making a second trip to the start area, this time with The Bib, we headed back to the house to rest up a bit. Crew is not allowed at the first aid station, so we wouldn't see All Day until after about 13 miles. I was volunteering at Nu'uanu aid station for the 1:30 AM to 6 AM shift, so, when we got back, I went to bed.

Then, a little after 8 AM, our bit of the world turned nuts.

There were four of us in the house - Karen, Veronica, Mrs Notthat, and myself. The alert left no doubt that we were doomed. I had a really hard time believing it, although I also had no reason to doubt it. I got on the computer to try to get more info, but couldn't find anything. We turned on the TV to local channels and CNN and saw nothing, except the local channels occasionally showing a banner at the bottom repeating the alert. We could hear police cars in Waikiki making announcements, but couldn't hear what they were saying.

The more I couldn't find any real news, the more I started to doubt it. Then I saw a post that said some agency in Hawaii had confirmed the alert was a mistake. And finally, 38 minutes after the first alert, a second one appeared that confirmed it was a mistake.

Picture from unknown. Apparently there were abandoned cars that caused traffic issues for a bit.
For the runners, this issue was a real mixed bag. Runners that hadn't made it out of the first aid station were stopped and told to shelter. Runners that had made it past that aid station either knew nothing about the issue or, if they had a phone and had also gotten the alert, were struggling with what to do. There were many "last phone calls" made. This was a mentally and emotionally devastating turn of events for many runners.

Once the all clear was given, the runners were allowed to keep going, and it was decided to add 30 minutes to the race's cutoffs. (Note: I will be disappointed if there isn't a new rule added to the 2019 Book of HURT based on this situation.)

And the race kept going

The rest of the race went mostly to plan. I spent some time at the Nu'uanu aid station just to watch the runners as they got their laps done.

Eventual winner Avery Collins was WAY out front and on his third lap while most were still on their second lap.
The perpetually smiling and overall second place Guillaume Calmettes on his third lap, heading out of the Nu'uanu aid station and bravely passing between the tiki gods.
Erica on her second lap, coming in to Nu'unau. (That stream crossing was a bit trickier than it looks, especially as you got more miles on your legs.)
I worked my shift at the Nu'uanu aid station (Freddy is the best!).

Ken showed up a bit before my shift started. The aid station had lights strung up all the way to the stream crossing!
Nu'uanu party central. 
Sidenote: I've worked night shifts twice at the Nature Center aid station (the start/finish) and now at Nu'uanu. Nature Center is near housing, so it is relatively quiet, especially at night. Nu'uanu is out in the middle of nowhere, so it is not even vaguely quiet. It is much more like a party. A loud, well lit, well fed party. If you are thinking of volunteering, keep all that in mind. (Nu'uanu also has very spotty cell service.)

Once I left Nu'uanu a bit after 6 AM and regained cell service, my phone blew up with text messages. First was a set about Erica and her pacer Veronica possibly being off course (they weren't). Next was a set that they were going to stop at the end of the third lap - those 60 miles had been tough and, after doing a bit of math, there was no way they were going to make the first cutoff (mile 80) to start the last lap.

(Note: To officially qualify for the unofficial "Fun Run," you need to finish three laps and then the first leg of the fourth lap. That's really hard to do if your car is sitting a few feet from where you currently are. Which is the point, I'm guessing.)

I went back to the house to try to get a nap, but the FOMO was too strong, so Mrs Notthat and I headed up to Paradise Park to watch the final runners on their last lap. I walked out a bit to get a few shots.

Mike was struggling mightily to try to get this finish. A few of his muscles were betraying him though. Still, he made it out  and headed to Nu'uanu. 
Alicja finished up her Fun Run, and was happy with that. (I had seen her in the middle of the night and was not convinced she would make it this far - she recovered nicely!)
Look really hard and you can see All Day and his pacer Malory.

At the end of All Day's fourth lap, he knew he was pushing the cutoffs, and knew he would need someone to push him. Christy had paced him from Nu'uanu to the Nature Center, but she did not know the course and was struggling to keep up with a motivated Ken. In a moment that is pure HURT, Malory just happened to be standing there and offered to pace him around that last lap. They did not know each other at all (Malory, it turned out, had finished the race the previous year in a bit over 34 hours - she was a perfect person to pace him!). Even better, part way through the first leg, she mentioned to Ken that her mantra was "All Day" - she had no idea that she was pacing Mr All Day himself!

From Paradise Park we headed back to Nu'uanu.

Kelly was looking amazingly strong considering she had gone 93 miles of this course. She would end up getting her first HURT finish! 
Mike made it to Nu'uanu, but had to make the call to stop there. So close to his first finish, but his issues were getting  worse, and the wise thing to do was to live to race another day. This was a bit heartbreaking.
Malory leading Ken out of the stream. They were SO focussed and moving like a team that had worked together for years.
We headed back to the Nature Center and a finish that was sure to be tense and exciting. There were still two runners representing the Bay Area, Ken and Kelly, plus a number of others pushing to make that final cutoff. The 30 minute extension helped a bit, but there is no way to know whether it was enough to really make up for time lost due to the previous day's oddness.

The finish line did not disappoint. Kelly finished in well under 36 hours, and now we were waiting for Ken. Nothing like a little bonus drama.

Then, with less than nine minutes to go, this happened.

He did it. His third finish was in the books. Wow!

Wrapping up

In the end, the near perfect conditions led to a record breaking 60% completion rate (78 of 128 starters). Five runners finished in the last 30 minutes. 18 runners finished the Fun Run, with Mike getting an Ultra Fun Run with his 93 miles.

Monday night's awards banquet was a blast as usual, with the unveiling of this year's unique "trophies."

The top three women and men got these really nice boxes that contained bits of the three aid stations and a place to hold a tea cup. (Note the missile that was added at the last minute.)
This year, both winners were from Colorado (Avery Collins and Darcy Piceu), and interestingly, three of the top four women were from Colorado.

This is a bamboo-inspired tea set. Each branch had three cups (one for each box), and when they were removed, it was an actual functioning tea pot! So clever and cool!
The "100-mile virgin" awards. The HURT 100 course is very tough, even for veteran runners. But every year, astonishingly there are several runners that manage to finish this as their first 100 mile race. These are given to the fastest man and woman to do that.
Yes, that's Mrs Notthat shoving a dollar bill in that guy's shorts. What happens at the HURT banquet should stay at the HURT banquet, but I couldn't resist this.
The above picture is hard to describe. First, there is a lot of competition to get on the safety patrol team. Second, the safety patrol team apparently surprised many runners by doing some wildly out of place "twerking" at one point. So there was a contest to see who would get to join the safety patrol team next year, and it was based on which candidate twerked the best (and got the most dollar bills in their shorts).

And that's about it. The HURT weekend is an amazing experience, whether you are running, pacing, crewing, volunteering, or spectating. It doesn't hurt that it's on Oahu. These trails are stunning - it's hard to picture just how challenging they are without trying to run them. Just getting one 20 mile lap done is quite an achievement.

A huge thanks to the team of race directors, all the volunteers, and the members of HURT (Hawaiian Ultra Running Team) for working so hard to make this such a memorable event.

That's it - move along…

PS: Here are links to some other pictures I uploaded:

First Day
Nu'uanu Night Shift
Second Day
Hiking the Makiki Loop on Monday


ken michal said...

So awesome to share this adventure and spend the week together in paradise, Allen!! Already can't wait for next year!

All Day!

mary ann said...

This is a great report!