Saturday, January 23, 2016

Happy HURT 100 Race Report - 13th Place

The 2016 edition of the Hawaii Ultra Running Team 100 Mile Endurance run was held January 16-17. As my first 100 mile race, I was a bit fearful of the unknown beyond 62 miles and 14 hours. I didn't know how the body or the mind would hold up as I continued beyond the "knowns" of the 100km distance. I'll take you through my race by going over the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thankfully, there was mostly happy goodness for the entire 100 miles.

The Good

-Training. Combining a solid strength regime with a moderate amount of mileage and ample hills was key to a successful HURT. Just getting this 41-year old body to the starting line healthy can be a challenge when you are pushing yourself hard in training. The twice weekly DumBell Fitness workouts helped give me the resilience to train hard without injury. Additionally, being able to train on the HURT course definitely helped!

-Positive Mindset. I get serious joy out of running on trails and being around others who share my passion. It is hard to explain, but I had this feeling of inner peace during the entire race. I tried to keep a smile on my face as much as possible, especially at times when I was feeling whipped. I tried to focus on the tasks at hand and not get ahead of myself by thinking overwhelming thoughts about how many miles were left. My focus was always near-term and involved thoughts along the lines of not tripping and falling, getting to the top of a climb, staying hydrated and fueled, or making it to the next aid station to efficiently and quickly take care of whatever needs I had at that point in the race. I went into this race knowing that I had one of the best training cycles of my life and felt incredibly prepared for this challenge. I wasn't going to let negative thoughts get in the way of race day success. I did have some very fleeting self-doubt early in the race, but it did not last long (see "The Bad" section below).

-Race Plan. My basic race plan was to not go out too hard and to run as even as possible. The primary goal was to just finish the race and get my first 100 mile belt buckle. Even though I was able to run the course during training, I never ran more than 25 miles on the course during any given training session. So gauging what kind of finish time was in the realm of the possible for me was hard to do. I wrote down pacing plans for finish times between 27 and 30 hours. I know from experience that if you get too fixated on a set finish time for a race course and distance you've never run, it can get you into trouble. I mostly tried, and I think succeeded, in running by level of effort or "feel."

-Race Execution.  I really tried to take it easy early in the race and just gauge my efforts based on my breathing. I wanted to run the first two loops (40 miles) somewhere in the range of 10 to 10.5 hours. I didn't run the first 2 loops very even (4:41 and 5:24), but I hit the faster end of my target in 10:05. I knew that loops 3, 4, and 5 would be progressively slower due to darkness and fatigue. I ended up slowing down as expected with loop 3 (60 mi), 4 (80 mi), and 5 (100 mi) splits of 6:06, 6:37, and 6:17. My finish time was 29 hours and 5 minutes. I was very happy to break 30 hours on the HURT course! Here is a breakdown of my aid station-to-aid station splits:

Although, the above post-race analysis and splits are interesting and will be useful to gauge future efforts at HURT 100, I really tried not to focus on split times throughout the bulk of the race. It wasn't until mile 87, after leaving Paradise Park (Manoa) for the 5th time, that I actually started thinking about what finish time I was on track to hit. After 87 miles the math part of my brain wasn't working too well, so I asked my pacer, Sam Reed, if he thought sub-30 hours was possible. I think he said something like "it's going to be close, so we better keep moving." I asked him again at mile 93 and he pretty much said the same thing. However, the math section of my brain had re-activated itself and I realized I had 3 hours to cover the final 7 miles. I smiled and said to Sam, "I got this!" At the top of Nuuanu at Bien's Bench I told Sam I would lead the rest of the way to the finish. I ended up covering the last 7 miles of the course in just over 2 hours.

-Crew/Pacers.  I could not have asked for better crew and pacers. Tom Steidler and Sam Reed both volunteered at the Manoa Pirates of Paradise Aid Station from 0500 to 1200 and then both crewed and paced me until I finished the race. Their positive attitudes, advice, expert assistance, and company during the night loops made the race a truly enjoyable experience.

Sam Reed (l) pacing me into Manoa (Pirates of Paradise) on loop 5. (Photo Credit: Kalani Pascual).

-Ohana. The HURT Ohana (or "family") is a unique, close knit group of runners and volunteers. After being part of this family for the past 3 years, I have come to feel at home when on the trails. I knew at least 5 people at each aid station and it was like coming home to an all-you-can-eat family style buffet each time! In addition to the local friends that greeted me at the aid stations and on the trail throughout the race, I made a ton of new friends through both the participants and volunteers.

-Mental Focus. I never once felt sleepy or overly fatigued throughout the race. I think this was mainly because I was able to stay on top of nutrition throughout the whole race. Also, having my pacers on the night loops was a huge help.

This is what mental focus looks like after 67 miles. I think the crazy eyes helped ward off any nighttime demons! (Photo credit: Jen McVeay)

-No falls! I think the drier course was definitely a significant factor in staying upright during the race. During two of my training runs when the course was muddy and wet, I took 3 really good falls, so falling was something I really wanted to avoid. I think the mental focus mentioned above was critical in keeping my mind from wandering too far from the tasks at hand and when the mind wanders too much sometimes the roots and rocks will jump up and get you!

-Nutrition and Hydration. I ingested a wide variety of foods and drinks during the race. My principal on-trail nutrition consisted of Tailwind Nutrition carb/electrolyte drink, Honey Stinger Chews, Cliff Bloks, Cliff Shot gels, and Gin-Gin Spicy Apple candies. Hydration was accomplished by carrying one bottle of Tailwind and one bottle of water between aid stations. In the aid stations I ate (not all at once) watermelon, bananas, oranges, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice balls, spam musubi balls, minestrone soup broth, potato soup, miso soup, and drank coke, ginger ale, and water. In addition to the above, I also drank #ITSTHENERVE anti-cramping solution. I am a beta tester for #ITSTHENERVE and it is not commercially available yet, but it definitely works for me. I dealt with mild nausea on my last two 100km races (Quicksilver and Peacock) and I was very happy that I had no issues at HURT. I think I've finally dialed in what works for me.

-Weather. I heard many people talking about how hot and humid it was during the day, but I felt it was some of the best running weather we have had in weeks. I can see how someone coming from the mainland could think that it was hot and humid, but my "local" perspective had me commenting about how nice the weather was all day and night long (hopefully, my mainland friends didn't think I was rubbing it in!).

-Work/Family/Running Balance. I think I managed this balance well. Although, I know I was obsessed with training for this race, I feel I was able to meet all my non-running obligations without my family or my work having to sacrifice too much time.

-Results. Not only did I successfully finish this major "goal race," but I felt like I placed really well in what was one of the deepest men's field in the history of the HURT 100. It was also super inspiring to see fellow Masters runners, Jeff Browning (age 44) and Denise Bourassa (age 46), notch wins on such a tough course. Gary Robbins' second place finish at age 39 shows that he isn't letting off the accelerator either as he creeps up on the Masters category.  It definitely gives an aspiring Masters runners encouragement that we can continue to achieve success in the sport. As the the 13th runner overall and 3rd place Masters runner it gives me some hope that I still have room for growth as an ultra runner, especially at the "young" age of 41!

4:48am on Sunday, 80 miles down, 20 to go. Also, proof that my wife can wake up early! (Photo credit: Alice Pope)

-Finding the best version of me. I'm a firm believer that we create the best version of ourselves by setting big goals, putting in hard work, suffering a little (or a ton), and giving our best in pursuit of those goals, whether we achieve them or not. Doing hard things is an adventure in self-discovery. Everyone learns something, good or bad, about themselves when they put themselves out there at an endurance challenge. I definitely discovered the best version of me out there on the HURT trails.

I guess I can close my eyes now since there are no roots between me and the finish sign! (Photo credit: Augusto Decastro)

The Bad

-Going out too fast. I wanted my first two loops to be between 5 hours and 5 hours 15 minutes each. When I came through the Nature Center after the first loop in 4:41 I knew that I was way faster than intended. I decided that I would take my time in the aid station, rest a little, and put on a new pair of socks, which I had originally only planned to do if the course was wet. In hindsight, I probably should have just left the socks alone and kept moving. I'm not sure if the fast pace in the beginning made much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but at the time it kind of got to me mentally.

-Beware the chair. As I sat down to remove my shoes and socks after the first loop I started to get cramps in my upper legs. This was probably my lowest point mentally in the race, but it didn't last long. It was really the only time I remember a negative thought popping into my head. That thought of "you screwed up, you went out too fast and you are already cramping after only 20 miles! Way to blow all your training by not pacing properly!" Fortunately, I was prepared for cramps should they happen. I drank 30ml of #ITSTHENERVE cramp juice 30 minutes prior to the race but the effect had apparently worn off after 20 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing/descending. I drank another 30ml bottle of the stuff and the cramps went away almost immediately. After leaving the Nature center I swore I would never sit down again until the finish line. I continued to sip on the cramp juice sporadically throughout the day and night as a preventative measure and the leg cramps never came back.

-Shoe Change. I ended up wearing my Brooks Cascadia 10s for the first 2 loops and then my Brooks Pure Grit 4s for the final 3 loops. The Cascadias aren't my lightest or most comfortable trail shoes, but they offer great all-around foot protection and have worked well for me in all trail conditions. I was thinking if I had to change out shoes because they got wet, that I would want to change from the Cascadias to the Pure Grits, which are the more comfortable and lighter of the two shoes. However knowing that it was a dry course, I should have just worn the Pure Grits from the beginning and not changed them or the socks unless I was having feet problems. This would have saved me some time at the Nature Center on the first two loops. Overall, I was happy with the performance of both pairs of shoes, but in the future I will try to keep things simpler with regards to shoe and sock changes.

-Illumination.  For the most part I was very happy with the Black Diamond Icon headlamp. After about 8 hrs of headlamp use, I noticed the light starting to dim significantly as I was coming down the most technical section of the course into the Nuuanu aid station on the 4th loop.  At Nuuanu, I pulled out my back-up headlamp (Black Diamond Storm) and used that on the way back to the Nature Center at the end of loop 4. At the Nature Center, I had Tom change out the batteries in the Icon and I was good-to-go until the sun came up, which was around the time we got into Manoa on the 5th loop. In the future I'll only count on the BD Icon working for about 7.5 hours at 75% power and either switch out lamps or change batteries at that point.

The Ugly

-Chafing. I had some minor undercarriage chafing that cropped up around mile 47. I had been using Boudreaux's Butt Paste for chafe protection below the waistline, but it appears that there was a seam in my 2XU compression shorts that just wasn't agreeing with the situation down there. I was considering changing my shorts at the Nature Center before heading out on the 4th loop, but I remembered that I was carrying some small packets of Chamois Butt'r in my pack. I pulled the packet out and took care of the chafe right away. I kept reapplying the Chamois Butt'r off and on throughout the rest of the race and was able to keep the chafing at bay.

Thank Yous

My success at this race was definitely a team effort. I am extremely grateful to be surrounded by a patient and supportive family, great training partners, and world class group of race directors and volunteers. Special thanks go out to the following:

-Training partners/Pacers/Crew: Jeff Snyder, Michael Garrison / Hawaii Running Lab, Pauline Garrison (my extra crew support at 20 miles!), Tom Steidler (Pacer #1/crew), and Sam Reed (Pacer #2/crew).

Team Pope Crew and Pacers! Sam Red (l), me, Tom Steidler (r). (Photo credit: Augusto Decastro)

Hawaii Running Lab Team celebrating  Jeff Snyder's first 100 mile finish! From left to right: me, Jeff Snyder, Michael Garrison - founder of Hawaii Running Lab, Jeff's pacer Eric Jazak. (Photo credit: Augusto Decastro)

-DumBell Fitness. Special thanks to my trainer Jennifer Lalani and DBF owner Christina Bell Landry! Without your twice weekly boot camp sessions I'm not sure I would have had the confidence to train and race like I did. I'm truly grateful for the camaraderie and especially the added benefit of on-site babysitting at your classes - it was key to eliminating any excuses for skipping class!

-Race Directors: John and PJ, Jeff Huff, and Stan Jensen. You guys know how to put on a great party! (The race was pretty great too!)

-Aid station captains and volunteers - a truly dedicated group of friends! You set the bar really high! I now have a standard by which to measure all future 100 mile aid stations!

-Travis Macy. If you haven't read The Ultra Mindset, do it now! His book reinforced many principles that I have integrated into my life over the years. It was great getting to meet you in person! Thank you Travis for sharing your book with the world and thank you for the kind words of encouragement before, during, and after the race.

-Ethan Newberry (@TheGingerRunner). I had the pleasure of finally meeting the awesome Ethan and his even awesome-er wife Kim (@MileLong_Legs) at the HURT 100. Ethan has done so much to make the sport of ultra running accessible to the "common" guy or gal through his Ginger Runner Live videocasts and through his amazing "short" movies. He was kind enough to chat with me for a bit and offer words of encouragement as I was hiking out of Paradise Park at mile 67. Thank you Ethan and Kim for hanging out with the HURT Ohana! And in case nobody told you, you are now part of the HURT Ohana!

-My neighbor, Tom Keefer, who gave Jeff Snyder and me a ride to the start at 0400 on Saturday. This was a last minute change in our transportation plan that Tom gladly accepted. We owe you big time!

-My Dad. My biggest fan. Thank you for reviewing my race plan and applying your years of ultra running experience to help me tweak my plan.

-My wife Alice and our children. These three wonderful humans are my "why." They are why I get up in the morning to go to work. They are why I do hard things. Thank you for your patience while I trained and raced and found the best version of me. I hope that our kids see that if you set big goals and are willing to put in a little hard work, that anything in life is possible. It was so uplifting to see my kids at miles 27, 40, and the finish line. I was especially surprised (dare I say shocked?) to see my non-morning person wife at the end of loop 4 at 4:48am as I rolled into the Nature Center!

Kissing the sign after 100 miles! (Photo credit: Augusto Decastro)
"We wouldn't want it to be easy!" Finish line photo with my "why." (Photo credit: Augusto Decastro)

HURT by the Numbers

100 miles
25,000 feet of climbing and 25,000 feet of descending
29 hours and 5 minutes (Strava link)
13th place overall
3rd Masters runner (40 and over)
1st Active Duty Military
53 finishers out of 125 starters (42% finish rate)


Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 10 (40 miles); Brooks Pure Grit 4 (60 miles)
Socks:  Injinji Trail Weight 2.0 (3 pairs)
Pack:  Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 with 2-20oz bottles (100 miles)
Shorts:  2XU Compression shorts
Shirt: UnderArmour sleeveless shirt (40 miles); Peacock 100km technical shirt (60 miles)
Calf Sleeves:  2XU Compression sleeves
Hat: DumBell Fitness brimmed hat
Buff:  The Ginger Runner Train Race Beer Buff - used this on my wrist to hold my GPS charger in place and as a sweatband.
Black Diamond Icon Headlamp (primary light)
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp (secondary light)
Boudreaux's Butt Paste (used on feet and undercarriage)
Chamois Butt'r (used on undercarriage)
Body Glide stick (used all over)


  1. Great work Joe....
    I bit farther then the 800 or 1600 in high school. Hope you're well. I see your mom and sisters around Auburn usually at the coffee shop.
    Congrats old buddy

  2. Thanks Aaron! The slower pace suits me well in my advanced age! I should be coming through Auburn in early June to visit family, so we should go get a trail run in while I'm there!

  3. Great report. That's a crazy attrition rate! Glad to see your smart training plan equate to a successful performance.

  4. Great race recap Joe! Huge congrats on your 1st 100!! I am certain our paths will cross again. Happy running, d

  5. Way to go, Joe! I really enjoyed this report, especially "Finding the best version of me." Your comments there remind me of Brene Brown's Daring Greatly, an excellent read. Good job and keep in touch. Travis

    1. Travis, thank you for the kind words! I will definitely to check out Daring Greatly. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. When you were running your first 100, I was by your side in spirit. I prayed for you each time I got up to check on your progress. As the end, I asked the angels to make your load lighter and lift you up so you could finish this race. I'm so proud of you. Love - Mommy

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