Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Post HURT DNF Race Report

The start of the race  Photo by: Rob Lahoe
The HURT 100 had been on my radar for the last 3 years. I had actually signed up for the lottery twice before but pulled my name both times because the timing wasn't right. Needless to say I was excited to be on the entrants list.

Training went ok- I had no injuries! However, I was having a hard time motivating myself to get in the miles with the combination of crappy weather and the lack of daylight hours. Weekends were no problem, I was committed for the long haul, however, I was hardly getting out for more than an hour on a daily basis mid week.

While my friend Josh, who was coached by Gary Robbins, was spending his weekend days looping all over the north shore, I decided to take a different approach and just run whatever I felt like. I figured I'd deal with the 'loops' on race day and didn't feel the need to torture myself in training. Looking back, I can see why Gary had him do this! I knew the course had 3 sections to each loop but I didn't quite understand exactly how repetitive it was going to be!

The climb up from the Nature Center
I had a pretty long taper- 3 weeks, which isn't something I normally do but due to work commitments it was kind of the way it worked out. Plus, I know people who do 3 week tapers so I figured it wasn't all that bad!

Once Peter and I got to Hawaii, I was stoked to get running. We went out on the course for a 40 min run and I was super giddy for all the technical running I was about to embark on. If anyone knows me, they know how much I love technical running, especially when it's downhill. Within minutes I was drenched in sweat- something I am not used to. The humidity in Hawaii is an interesting thing. I am not even sure sauna training can really prepare you for it. We spent the next part of the day driving to each aid station so Peter knew where he was going.

The air BnB place we rented was only a 4 mile drive to the start which was very convenient. Thanks Kerry Ward for hooking us up with that!

Race morning came and at 6:00am we were off. Josh, Alicia, and I all started off together, however Josh was gone within seconds. Alicia and I spent the first few miles catching up, which was great. We were slowly making our way up the first climb without too much effort. Slowly, we began to pass people as it became a bit more run-able. Then out of thin air Denise Bourassa appeared out of a bush. She had gotten off course but she was back on track and moving well and I figured it would be a good idea to keep up with her. Probably mistake number one as I was now running up a hill I wouldn't be on any other lap. At the same time, the pace felt fine and I rolled with it. We crested the climb and hit the road and Alicia, Denise and I exchanged a few words here before entering the trail again.

As the trail started to descend I went ahead of Denise and danced down the trail with a smile on my face. I was having so much fun on this descent and passed quite a few a people. Just before the Paradise aid station, I caught up to and passed Amy Sproston who was leading the women's race. I really had no intention of being this far up the pack this early on in the race but I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard, so I just went with it.

I left the aid station before Amy but she had caught up to me and passed me very quickly. Because it is a 'race', I found myself getting caught up in it a bit too early. I could tell I was working hard power hiking up the hills but I knew I couldn't keep up to Amy and she was usually out of sight within minutes. Because of this I was really surprised to see her again on the descent into the Nu'uanu aid station. I passed her again and we joked about this becoming a trend. I left a bit before her but again she caught up to me very quickly and I didn't see her again until the next aid station at the Nature Center.

I had already began to feel a niggle in my right hip flexor, which began to bother me on descents. I was also feeling really tired, like eyes heavy tired, a feeling I don't normally get until night time. I literally felt like I could take a nap! Of course, that was not an option and I was in the midst of a really tight race.

So, one thing I didn't realize about this course is that when you go down a hill to an aid station, you turn around and climb right back up that same hill. In fact, you do this for all 3 aid stations. What I thought was going to be a 'loop' course, looked more like 3 out and backs. But this also made it fun because you frequently got to see racers and encourage each other. You also could keep track of how far ahead or behind you were from other runners.

Amy and I departed on our second lap together. We chatted a bit going up the next hill, which was the steepest of them all. Again, before long she was way ahead of me. At this time I was also running near Jamil Coury (who puts on the Desert Solstice 24 hr/100 mile race) but he quickly joined Amy up ahead. Surprisingly, I caught up to and passed Amy again on the descent into the Paradise Aid station. For some reason, catching her always surprised me because of how fast she zoomed away from me uphill. Although it was the hottest part of the day, I told Peter not to fill up my bladder all the way. I did this so I wouldn't have to carry extra weight since it was only 5.5 miles to the next station. Somehow though, on the way to the Nu'uanu station, I started to run low on water. I immediately kicked myself for being such an idiot because now I was in conservation mode and didn't eat as much because I didn't want to run out of water trying to digest it. I also rolled my ankle really bad on the ridge before the descent and decided that downhill play time was over and had to be more cautious if I wanted to get through this run. This was the first descent that I didn't pass Amy on.

I'll admit, the fun factor was starting to wear off fast! I am sure it was a combo of being mad at myself for making a stupid decision and the ankle roll. I felt emotionless and spent the majority of my time on the way to the aid station thinking about what lay ahead of me and how many more times I had to go up and down these damn hills. My clothes were completely drenched in sweat.  I came into the paradise aid station while Amy was still there. I knew I was slowing down. I had hit a low point. But, there was a lot of encouragement coming from the volunteers at the aid station as well as from my friends and loved one. I left the aid station for my 3rd lap and began the steep slog up the next climb.

On the descent down to the Paradise aid station, I started to feel some twinges which signaled to me that I was low on electrolytes. I am typically not a heavy sweater and rarely experience cramping issues. I had been putting Elete in my bladder at every aid station and took this as a sign that maybe I was working a bit too hard considering the heat. Amy was already a few minutes out of the aid station when I saw her and this was the biggest lead she had on me all day. I asked for some salt pills at the aid station but they didn't have any. Luckily, a wonderful volunteer donated her own supply to me. I took a couple there and put about 8 in a baggy to go.

Roughly 10 minutes out of the aid station both my quads cramped which temporarily prevented me from walking. I stopped and stretched and took a couple more salt pills. From my experience, this combo usually alleviates cramping. Which it did, for about 5 more steps until the same thing happened again. I took 2 more salt pills, stretched, and even sat down on a rock and massaged out my Vastus Medialis, which was where the cramping was taking place. Again, I got up, made it about another minute until BAM it happens again!!! Holy shit! Seriously! Is this really happening!??? At this point I was starting to get really concerned and began doubting whether or not I was going to be able to make it up the freakin' hill. I literally COULDN'T WALK. I only had a couple of salt pills left and I was slowly starting to drain my water supply. I sat and contemplated what to do, hoping that more rest and massage would help. After a while I got up and tried to walk and the cramping attacked again. In a moment of weakness I decided to turn around and walk back towards the Paradise A.S. Luckily, I was actually able to walk downhill so I turned around and started walking back uphill, only to cramp up again. At this point, I was really bummed. People were chronically passing me in all directions and I pretty much let every negative emotion enter my head.

Then a couple of trail angels came walking up to me. Turns out they were part of Denise Bourassa's crew. If anything they just got me to relax and allowed me to think about something else. I was able to tell them about all my woes and they got me laughing. Eventually I got up, walked a bit more and was able to continue walking. However, I was running really low on water at this point and hadn't been eating. I wasn't  able to take in to much because I didn't have much water to spare. Amy was pretty much already at the top of the next climb when I began to descend to the Nu'uanu A.S. It was dark now and I took a wrong turn towards the bottom of the hill. When I went to correct myself I actually started walking the wrong direction back up the hill away from the Nu'uanu A.S. I didn't notice until Kerrie Bruxvoort passed me going down the hill (she had been behind me). It took me a few moments to put it all together but I turned around and followed her to the aid station. Just before I got to the river crossing I slipped and fell between a few rocks and my left calf cramped. It was so painful and I was on the ground moaning in agony. Needless to say, when I got to the aid station, I grabbed a chair, grabbed Peter, went to a corner out of sight and just balled.

Peter, is one stand up hell of a guy. Prior to the race I said to him, "whatever you do, do not let me drop out". He treated me with so much love and compassion and literally did everything he could to get me out of that aid station.  I decided I needed to lay down on a cot and get some rest, a place I was content to stay for the rest of the race! But he got me to eat some food, a change of clothes, and loaded my pack up with water. He was never going to pace me but I told him I needed him to come with me to the next aid station and he obliged. He went to the car and got some clothes to 'run' in and we left the tent. But, on the way down towards the creek crossing I had a melt down. I just didn't want to continue. My legs were stiff and it just felt over. I was in such a negative space and I couldn't get out of it. Again, somehow he convinced me to keep going and we actually climbed all the way to the top of the hill where there was a beautiful view of the city. It was so beautiful that I didn't want to leave and begged Peter just to sit on this beautiful bench with me. In fact, I convinced myself that just sitting there staring at the view was more important than finishing the race.

I couldn't fathom the next 45 miles. How was I going to go another 45 miles with how I felt? How? It was unimaginable. In reality, I had like 22 hours to do so and it was more than achievable. I pleaded and begged Peter to let me stop. This is the interesting part of having your boyfriend as your crew. I don't know if it is just me but I find I get way more emotional around him than I do a friend (if I am feeling negative). I don't think I would let anyone else see me the way I let him see me. Anyone else have experiences like that with their partner in long races when your in a funk?

In the end, we took a few steps in the right direction but then my quads cramped again and I said I was done. Peter finally stopped pleading with me to continue and we turned around and walked back down the hill to the aid station.

I was so happy to be done. But, the sadness I felt the following two days was much worse. I never anticipated the horrible feeling of defeat. I felt very similar to this when I DNF's Western States in 2013. It was hot, I went out a bit fast, got caught up in the competition and suffered a debilitating cramp in my stomach that had me walking for 12 miles until I dropped at mile 50. Literally, this exact scenario happened. I wish I had taken the time to reflect on that experience prior to this race.

I have come around and can sit here and write about it without getting emotional. I have so much respect for everyone who finished, especially those who suffered through things and still had the will to keep going. You are all amazingly inspiring. I was not prepared for the mental challenge of this course and when I come back, I will be prepared!!

Thank you so much to the HURT team. You guys are a riot and it's really refreshing to be a part of a race atmosphere like that. It's crazy that they had the highest finisher rate ever at 49%!!!! Now I know why.

Thanks to La Sportiva for your continued support.

Happy Trails


Unknown said...

You're my hero.

Candice said...

Great report Nicola! It was nice chatting with you afterward as well. I wanted to say that I have also had that issue with boyfriends as crew and I like doing 100s with friends (not b-friends) as crew/pacers or no crew/pacers at all. That way I have to toughen up and stop feeling sorry for myself. I don't think I'd have a boyfriend pace me again... but you never know. Nice work out there, be gentle with yourself, it's only a crazy race and you are so strong and amazing! Hope to see you in 2016 in paradise :)

Anonymous said...

Nicola... you are amazing, thanks for sharing your story. You should be proud that you pushed to your limits, that takes guts my friend. And as for the boyfriend thing, I enjoy having a boyfriend pacer, it works well for me because Julien is pretty fast, so I know I have to keep some energy in the tank to give him a good run come evening... haha! That's actually one thing that turned it around for me in the race early on, was that he said he was excited to run with me later, and that made me want to run so bad. Haha!

Nicola... It was fun to share a few miles at the start, and let's do a random trail adventure soon!