Honolulu skyline from atop the ridge, by Andy Kumeda
Everything really has been relatively easy, compared to my first race this year, the Hawaii Ultra Running Team (H.U.R.T.) 100 Mile the middle weekend in January. Since I was out there running (in more ways than one) a real long time, this report is sort of long, so if you are short on time, skip to the bottom and watch Billy Yang's video of me finishing (good stuff) and get on with your day. If you want to take a few extra minutes to get grossed out, also read the beginning of loop 2. If you've ever come close to making or not making a race cutoff, make sure you read loop 5.
not sure what I think about the penguins at the resort
We arrived at our resort in Waikiki on Friday afternoon, but our room wasn't ready. I wasn't exactly sure when the pre-race meeting was, so used the wi-fi in the hotel lobby to read the race website, contemplating on napping on one of the chairs if I had time, since I felt pretty awful and tired. Unfortunately, I had less time than I'd thought. I arrived before 4 pm to find the meeting already in progress. There were so many people there, I couldn't even spot friends I knew were there when I looked out at the crowd.
I hadn't seen Mike Sweeney for a while and didn't even recognized him at first. He ran a sub-17 hour Rio del Lago the first year I did it in 2005, my first 100 mile race.
Catra Corbett, Andy Kumeda, Mike Sweeney
After the meeting ended, I hung out a little, before having to use the toilet. I figured I should check out the toilet at the Nature Center, since I would be going through it four times (every 20 miles) during the race. A simple door with a latch, a single toilet and a sink (gross) without soap. Little did I know, it would be the pinnacle of toilet luxury during the race. I took a photo of my work there, since I felt some people might suspect I was concocting my gastrointestinal complaints to excuse a mediocre performance. (Fortunately for you I've decided against showing it here.)
The drop bags were not going to be collected until race morning, so I still had some time that night to hastily prepare mine. For the start/finish Nature Center "bag" I ended up having three bag filled with stuff including a black duffel for clothes to wear after I was done.
Back at the resort, my family and I went to a noodle shop in the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where we were staying. I didn't order anything, but told my wife I'd eat what the kids didn't finish, which amounted to the non-noodle stuff in the ramen bowl they shared. There was also an uneaten teriyaki chicken bowl, but I had no appetite for it.
my 3-year-old ate more than I, a bad sign
Summary of my caloric intake since my appetite tanked and my diarrhea started, late Wednesday night:
- Thursday: 20 ounces of Nuun; half a banana; 3-4 spoonfuls of Fage Greek yogurt; a leftover potsticker.
- Friday: the remaining 3-4 spoonfuls of Fage yogurt; this small supposed omelet that Hawaiian Airlines gave during the flight-- I really didn't want to eat it, but I felt I had to eat something; 2 orange juices; what I ate at the ramen place
- Saturday 3:30 a.m. (wasn't planning on waking up that early, but I had been getting up 2-3 times a night due to the runs): a Zone Perfect chocolate peanut butter bar, 210 calories
I hadn't thought to ask if sports drink was going to be provided at the start, and I didn't stash any gels or lyte caps in my shorts. Ken Michel gave me a few shortly after we started (thanks!) So it was just two handhelds filled with water and 4 lyte caps for the first stretch. Would not have been a big deal, except I was running such a large calorie deficit.
Race morning-- luckily my kids and niece were still on Pacific Time two hours ahead, so we didn't have trouble to wake them up. Maybe it was my niece that originally suggested that I run the race with a diaper, the big joke of the morning. My own boys were already enjoying calling me "Uncle Mark" instead of "Daddy." This started occasionally morphing into "Uncle Diarrhea Head."
The race was started with the blowing of a conch shell. Can't remember who this is.
For those unfamiliar with this course, the 100 mile race consists of five repeats of a 20 mile course, shaped as (I am not sure who first noticed this, whoever did can claim credit) the female reproductive system, including external genitalia, vagina, uterus and two fallopian tubes. The start and finish (Nature Center) is where reproduction and birth starts and finishes, the vulva. There is a crossing over halfway from the start-finish to the summit where the cervix would be. The two remote aid stations are the ovaries. For a map see page two of this link.
The pain of my race though, was not gynecological, but purely gastrointestinal.
Near the summit between the 1st (Paradise Park) and 2nd (Jackass Ginger) aid stations, I started feeling extremely low on energy, as if I was about to hit the wall. Nothing that I haven't encountered before in an ultra, BUT NEVER AT MILE 10 (!) I had anticipated finishing this race would be difficult. But I had to start eating or I would never even finish my first loop.
Local Hawaiian Hannah Roberts gave me half of some energy bar, allowing me to make it to the 2nd aid station without crashing. In return I gave her extra mojo energy that helped her become the first Hawaiian to win the women's race.
not sure who took these photos to credit. winners Hannah Roberts and Jason Loutitt
Running into and out of Nuuanu (Jackass Ginger) aid station (mile 12.5 of each 20 mile loop) the first time, I was a bit whiny, the food intake leading to my first pit stops and stomach distress.
the fun and challenging (for a run anyways) Nuuanu stream crossing
(It wasn't the energy bar in particular, but any food.) As people passed me ascending the hill out of Jackass Ginger, I felt the need to explain my medically caused slowness. One woman told me she had just recovered from a bronchitis she had for several weeks. As she easily and briskly passed me. "Bronchitis Schmitus" I quipped, wishing I had had a bronchitis, heck even a pneumonia, as long as I could shit normally. I admit to a lapse of grumpiness, but I would be punished enough for it...
At the Nature Center I dumped my bottles and put on my Ultimate Direction Wasp pack, to join several other runners in the race using the same. I normally only use this for long training runs where I have to long distances without access to potable water, never in a race. But I now figured I needed the Wasp's pockets to hold food (the weight of just two gels was making my shorts sag-- I didn't want to cinch them too tight, since it is always a pain to untie the drawstring, and I had to drop my shorts often and on very short notice.) And with more food I needed more liquids-- my bottles ran out early on the last leg of the first loop, and it was growing warmer.
With my Wasp, my nutrition improved. We passed many more hikers out on the trail, especially near Paradise aid station to and from the waterfall. Since nothing particularly noteworthy happened on this lap, and I gotta get this out sooner or later, this would be a good place to discuss my diarrhea.
Thin liquid, the consistency of miso soup (which they had at two aid stations, yum!) Since it was so thin, my butt didn't get very inflamed, and I felt the need to stick lube around my ass only twice during the race. (I'm sure you were wondering.)
As I learned during loop 1, the output varied directly with the amount I ate.
It also varied proportionately with how fast I was running, maybe due to all the shaking, so the frequency per both time and distance was greater on the descents than the ascents.
I'm guessing I had at least 40, maybe over 50 episodes over the 100 miles, with at least an hour spent moving to a suitable spot, doing the deed, cleaning up my mess, or having to start real slow due to mild cramping from the act.
Parts of the trail were hazardous, particularly the single track on the ridges. Early I once tried to crap on the side of the trail, but almost fell back off the edge, which appeared deceptively less treacherous because of the greenery on the side. Close call. It would be so embarrassing to have them find your dead body with your pants down.
This also made burying paper problematic--often there was no place to bury it. Often I'd have to chuck it over the side, or use a stick to knock it off a leaf. I probably should be disqualified for violating some rule, but honestly, there were often no other options. More frequently, I'd use leaves to wipe, since it wasn't actually that messy.
I'm wonder if I could get banned from this race for admitting all this.
mile 40, Saturday, 5:54 p.m. Hawaiian Time (11 hours 54 minutes into race). with Shawna, an awesome volunteer who helped me this time through the start/finish aid station. In return for her kindness, I did not crap on her.
I had left a headlamp in each of the three aid stations and a new handheld at the Nature Center. I made a huge tactical mistake of thinking that since I was taking my only handheld now, I should leave the headlamp until it got really dark later. This was stupid and costly in at least 3 ways.
First, it grew dark quickly, due to the dense vegetation, so I turned on my handheld within 20 minutes of my ascent.
Second, since the hand light is meant to focus a beam down, I kept it mostly down and missed a sharp turn up to the right off of Makiki Valley Trail and went right under blue ribbons marking the wrong way. I reached the paved road and started running up it, but something didn't feel right, and I then remembered there was supposed to be a guard rail you had to get around on the left before you headed right. I pulled out my map and figured out what I did, so headed back down. It didn't seem like a major loss at the time (my estimate looking at my Garmin map was about 0.6-0.7 mile and 13 minutes), but I guess it was.
Third, on the descent when you are moving faster, the absence of my headlamp really slowed me significantly. The reason I bought the thing was per the advices of Brian Wyatt at last year's Headlands Hundred, when I was complaining about the glare of my headlamp in the fog. (Thanks again, Brian!) Once I put on my headlamp at Paradise, the combo worked great and I could use often use the lower or lowest setting of both lights.
Nonetheless, the dark still slows everyone down, and maybe it slowed me down more so. Aside from the diarrhea and nausea, I now also felt, fatigue, malaise, and sleepiness. All-nighter runs probable aren't too healthy for you. Possible stupidly I avoided taking too much caffeine because I was scared of the diuretic and slight pro-motility effect it had on me. I didn't want to add to my dehydration and gastrointestinal woes.
The only good thing about my nocturnal deceleration was that my bowels ran less frequently, perhaps from being able to digest and absorb fluids better. The moon was almost full, tropical birds and insects made the jungle a magic place. I hadn't turned on my iPod all day and wasn't inclined to do so then. I only pulled it out at Nuuanu, mile 52.5-ish, mostly to help myself stay awake.
Volunteer Cindy Goh set up her little station at the muddy 3-way intersection at the summit on Pauoa Flats. The first year she gave aid, but the RDs told here she could't to protect the integrity of the race. I hit her up for a wipe and a lyte tab once, and it was an encouragement to see her out there three times a loop.
At Nuuanu, I asked a volunteer to fill my bladder with water and pour in this half packet of whey-based protein powder from my drop bag. But I also left with half a ham sandwich and half a PB and J. After finishing those, I was pretty thirsty, but the protein powder was clabbering up my mouth and making me belch. I'm guessing it was probably way past its expiration date too.
mile 60, Sunday, 2:46 a.m. Hawaiian Time (20 hours, 46 minutes into the race)
Having learned from mistakes the previous loop, I was looking to run loop 4 more cleanly (well, I guess I never got clean down there) and welcome the sunrise, which invariably makes you feel more alert and accelerates you pace.
At Paradise I heard the mention of cutoff the first time. Not having anticipated being this far back, cutoff times were never on my radar in the weeks and days leading to the race.
I had to leave the Nature Center to start loop 5 at 11 a.m. Whoa! How was I going to do that? I had just spent over 8 1/2 hours to finish loop 3 and now I had to rally to finish slightly less than 2/3 of this loop in 4:45? Well, I was feeling more awake and fairly more comfortable. Let's do it! I thought, and started my way back up.
I ran all the level and gently upslopes for the first time since maybe the first loop. I also started having to crap again, frequently, but luckily the process never took so much out of me that I felt weak or dizzy for more than a few minutes. Was it Circadian related, due to my resisting adrenaline, or had my body learned to adapt, the way it had learned to survive these 100 mile runs?
I came into Nuuanu about 8 a.m. I told the volunteers I was in a hurry and wanted to be out in 5 minutes. I unloaded my lights, donned a cap, got my food. After all the long drawn out aid station stops through the stops, this felt like a car racing pit stop.
Apparently station captain and race director Jeff (above) thought I was nuts and incoherent so included my 5-minute deadline in his roasting at the post-race banquet. My kids and niece though this gadget he gave me was pretty cool.
my kids occasional enjoy fighting over this gadget, which apparently works
At some point during this loop a female runner from Hawaii tipped me off about the constipating effect of guava juice. Is this true? Unfortunately, I could never get any.
My left lower back started feeling tight, so I worked on my posture, and held back a bit. It was too early to go full throttle anyway.
I continued my furious running and crapping, passing even more people. During this time I figured out that the lack of sleep had seriously deteriorated my math skills. For some reason I thought that an 11 a.m. Cutoff at the Nature Center gave me 6 hours to do the last 20 mile lap, which seemed insanely fast so I had told myself at Paradise that I should get there at 10:30. Partly due to this erroneous mild panic, I only took 2:05 to finish that stretch. When I arrived at the Nature Center I already figured out my glaring error of 2 hours, and now realized I had slightly less than 8 hours to finish my last loop. Since I had run the last two legs to get here at a sub-6 hour loop pace, I figured I was better than okay. Cake! I had finishing this race in the bag.
It wasn't my intention to be so slow and inefficient at the nature Center before my fifth and final loop, but that's what happened. I would later attribute this partly to the fact that many of the people hanging out at the aid station were not volunteers or runners still in the race, but dropped runners (by this time there were many) and their family, friends are crew. Perhaps from my lack of sleep or my expectation from being so proactively serviced the last three times through, I handed a volunteer my Wasp pack and told her I was going to go to my drop bag. On the way there, I went on a goosehunt for antacids, finally locating them at the medical tent.
A well intentioned volunteer had at some point placed my green race bag containing my extra charging Garmin Forerunner 305 into my black duffle bag, which resulted in my not being able to find my green bag. I suspect s/he did this because the small sticker with my name and number on it (this was the race goodie bag) had come off it I wasted a few minutes and those of a volunteer, looking around the whole sprawling aid station, until she thoughtfully suggested I look in the black bag. The other unfortunate effect of the bag being stashed was that my Garmin Forerunner became dislodged from it's docking cradle connected to my portable charger, before the GPS was fully charged. No huge loss, especially as the satellite reception was always so poor that I lacked a true recording of my exciting last 60-90 minutes of my race even if my batteries had not run out so early. Anyways, so I minorly freaked out, presumed they'd lost it, and ended up asking a volunteer to help me find my bag. I got roasted for this one at the banquet Monday night, receiving a GPS locator so I can located my GPS.
I also got this real device to attach to my keys. If you lose your keys, you can clap or scream and it starts beeping. It really works. Except that it's always beeping in the closet whenever there is a loud noise. And so the batteries will probably die right before I actually lose my keys.
My kids love it.
My wife hates it.
mile 80, 10:14 a.m. Hawaiian Time (28 hours, 14 minutes into the race)
The first thing I realized leaving the aid station was that I left a pulled pork sandwich by my drop bag. I was really looking forward to eating it, but it was too late to go back for it. The regret and craving increased with each step, turning into pure torture.
by Andy Kumeda
On the initial root-filled ascent I explained my pulled pork woes to a runner I was passing. Her pace offered me alternative greasy food, and I thankfully took a couple tater tots and a couple similarly sized pizza wrap things. The pizza things were slightly spicy, so started having heartburn again, but I decided the reflux was worth getting the chocolate Gu taste out of my mouth. Normally, I don't mind that flavor, but when you are craving and should have been eating pulled pork, it's unbearable.
my forbidden food porn
After hammering the last two laps, I found my energy level and pace had decreased a bit. No problem-- I had 7 1/2 hours to complete this last lap, all in in daylight. Last lap = bringing it home!
At the top of the ridge I felt the urge to shit, with a little more than average stomach cramping. It took a little longer than normal (the stuff came out as quickly as always, but it felt like I could push more out). I then stood up-- and immediately felt it-- a severe tightening all over all my legs, that radiated through my lower back (including the hot spot on the lower left). I tried to start running again, but the stiffness and pain increased-- no matter how I tried, I could not run.
Could. Not. Run.
Avoiding panic, I told myself to keep moving. Much of the next mile was the relatively flat, but very technical section. I never could run it fast even before this cramping crisis, but here I was walking it.
photo on ridge by Robert Smith, doubtful if taken at that moment, but hopefully conveys stiffness and pain
Or make that "I was trying to walk it." Even what most people would call a casual walking pace became impossible, especially on any downward steps. I soon figured I needed a stick to help support me. Problem was, my legs were now too tight to crouch, and my lower back that had been bothering me was too tight to bend over.
Using my arms to support me, I reached down for bamboo sticks, to find twice they were actually still rooted to the ground. I also broke about three flimsier sticks, almost tumbling over when they snapped, and coming very near to ending the race from acute sever spasming of a particular leg or back muscle. I felt lucky each time amidst my misfortune. Eventually I managed to pick up two that worked. Though I was not sure they would help me enough to make the next cutoff.
a photo of me much later by Andy Kumeda, still with the sticks. Note that I didn't start smiling and running immediately
I didn't suspect hyponatremia. I was taking enough salt and fluids. Still, every third runner who passed me, asked if I wanted lytes, which I declined, since I had a stash. I swallowed one anyways, then felt the slight salty taste in my mouth when I've had enough salt.
I was suspecting potassium was the problem (I did learn in medical school that diarrhea can deplete you potassium), and took a couple of gels from my Wasp pockets, but soon my water ran out. Meanwhile, the pain and stiffness in my legs was only worsening. I looked at my watch. My 35 minute buffer on the cutoff was dwindling. If something didn't change soon, I would miss the 1:30 p.m. cutoff and my race would end early. In the back of my mind, I was hoping that simply with time, if I didn't push it too much, my legs would recover and I could run again. But it wasn't happening.
I got desperate, realizing my survival in this race was critically endangered. I begged and mooched. First some water from a hiker. Then this guy gave me several ibuprofen (more than the maximum recommended single dose, but luckily as a physician I knew what I was doing):
Eric Allosada, by Evelyn Cabrodilla
The pacer of a female runner heading back the other way to Jackass Ginger let me drink off the rest of her bottle of fairly concentrated fruity drink. That was so nice and generous of you, mystery pacer, thanks!
Another runner Wily Woo and his pacer Jeff Rockenbrandt then caught up with me, and if I remember correctly, gave me more water and acetaminophen.
photo by Robert Smith
Eventually I was running again, and able to catch up with and keep up with Wily and Jeff. Thanks everyone who saved me on that long descent! We three got in at 1:18 pm, 12 minutes before the cutoff for leaving the station.
cartoon I found via google images on dearnurses.blogspot.com
More convinced about my potassium theory, I chugged two cups of fruit nectar at the aid station, took more analgesics (no liver damage can possibly result from 1300 mg of acetaminophen in 30 minutes), but got out of there by 1:21 or 1:22.
I forgot to ask if anyone had any extra pair of hiking poles. Maybe it's just as well-- they deserved my loyalty after helping save my race.
this finger blister was a small price to pay
I had to crap on the initial ascent, but was scared to crouch again, so ended up doing it standing, a first for me that I'd never rehearsed. I ended up peeing all over my shorts. Awesome!
earlier ascent photo by Robert Smith
I took nothing for granted, knowing this was going to be close, and that a 7 hour loop pace, in my condition, was no easy feat. I started to feel sleepy again, and took caffeine from sodas and gels without much effect. I came into the last aid station even closer to the cutoff than the last (arrival 3:20 for 3:30 cutoff). I passed one woman who had cramped up worse than me, who obviously wasn't going to make it. I felt bad for her, though I figured at least her bowels were better off than mine.
Although I wasn't floridly hallucinating, the shapes of the shaded forest often resemble people or objects. I was seeing other runners and photographers with their SLR cameras aimed at me constantly. Even though I was aware they weren't real, I kept seeing them. It was quite trippy. Meanwhile, I was aware that in my drowsy, exhausted and mildly cramped state, I was a set-up for a trip or fall. For this reason, I concentrated on not running beyond myself.
I had been offered my light before I left Nuuanu, but didn't take it. I later realized that if I weren't going to make 6 pm cutoff for the race, I would need a light just to make it back safely. So, making the finish cutoff was tied with avoiding stumbling on the HURT trails in the dark.
Luckily, no major mishaps during the last stretch.
It started raining about 30 minutes from the end.
I saw Wily and Jeff up ahead, very close from the end. I was gaining on them, and considered making a move on them, but relinquished this for two reasons. First, they had stopped on the trail to help me, so I thought it would be in bad taste to get hypercompetitive. Second, I was feeling pretty tight and thought that even a mild increase in my pace even this close to the finish could trigger more severe spasming and was way too risky. They took it up a notch anyways, putting a minute on me by the finish.
actually an earlier bridge, but I already used Andy's final bridge photo
Cheers as I crossed the bridge into the finish area (see the photo above). Still a large crowd (12 of the 32 100-mile finishers came in during the 36th and final hour.) Rounding the corner, I was perplexed as exactly where the finish line was, but heard someone tell me to kiss the sign. You'd think I would be able to manage this simple task, including the very non-technical boardwalk leading up to it, but after 36 hours of running, walking and chewing gum would have been a challenge. This is classic. You have to have the sound turned up for the full comic effect:
link to video, courtesy Billy Yang
after getting up and about to molest the sign, photo by Stan Jensen
32nd and dead-last official finisher, 35:54:21
probable dead-last blogger to finish his race report, 18 weeks, 5 days and 21 hours
32nd and dead-last official finisher, 35:54:21
probable dead-last blogger to finish his race report, 18 weeks, 5 days and 21 hours
My kids and niece learned the phrase "face plant." They realized "Uncle Diarrhea Head" not nearly as elegant or funny as "Uncle HURT 100" and "Uncle HURT 100 Face Plant," and so that was my nickname for the rest of the vacation. Good times for the kids!
This tops my list of "I can't believe I made it" race finishes. I couldn't believe it. I still kind of don't. I collectively owe a lot to so many people, many of whom whose names I can't remember, to finish officially under the cutoff. The RDs, volunteers, other racers, and even random hikers on the trail. I love you all.
I actually wasn't the last to finish the 100 miles that weekend. Just the last to officially finish. I passed Alex Garcia, with I chatted briefly a few times during the race, ascending Nuuanu. In addition to his new but apparently defective Camelbak bladder bursting early in the race, his already bad knee continued to worsen, so that he couldn't no longer run downhill, among other disabilities. He ended up finishing the dark, about 90 minutes past the cutoff. The sweeps suggested to him that he could take the straighter way back to the finish, but he told them no, he was having a great run, and he was going to run the whole course. I thought it was cool that the RDs singled him out as the epitome of what ultrarunning is all about.
Which made me think: just a 6 more minutes, and I would have been just as unofficial. No buckle, no 100 mile results, just my 67 mile split as a 100 km result. But, in terms of the effort I put in and what I went through, almost the same. It's weird, arbitrary and a little harsh, but that's how it works. This time I lucked out. In the context of being really UNlucky, but I still lucked out.....
and got the same buckle as the winner
Okay, I've just spent 10 minutes trying to get this rotated correctly, I give up. Sometimes it's okay to give up.
Thanks also Catra (Corbett) and Andy (Kumeda) for the ride back to our condo, where I found myself locked out since my wife was out and figured she'd drive the race finish and see if I was there. (I had texted her several times, to no avail.) But I still thank my wife for letting me finally do this race.
The banquet was fun, had great food, and I only had to use the toilet three times. A destination race, comparable to a destination wedding (more post-race hullabaloo than normal, and quite fun).
I figured the rest of my races this year should seem like cake in comparison.