Sunday, April 8, 2012

Vi's Top of Tantalus HURT Trail Run Report

Fact- I really like trail running.
Fact- I am really not very good at it yet.

Saturday morning I joined (read: was told by Diesel and the Grey to show up to) the Hawaii Ultra Running Team's (HURT) second race of their season, Vi's Top of Tantalus 7 Miler. Technically, this was a race, but you would never know it from looking at the runners that morning.
Ultra runners are special. These are people who run marathons through trails back to back (to back to back) for fun. So while they have "races", what the really have are fun runs. Everyone shows up, pays their $10 entry fee, gets marked with a sharpie, and that's about it. No one really cares if you run or walk, as long as you finish. Take 50 minutes? Wow, that's awesome. Take two and half hours? Great job!
Listen, at this point I've been in lots of starting corrals. I know what a start feels like and I know what the morning of a race feels like. It does not feel like a picnic where everyone there happens to be athletic. But this race did. Seriously, runners rolled in to Pu'u Ulaka'a State Park at around 7am for a start time of 8:00, and everyone just mingled and hung out. There was laughing and joking. There was not nervous jittering and stretching and "Oh, look at that guy, he looks fast, he's my rabbit." Just a nice day out.
This atmosphere is awesome. The $10 paid for food, which there was plenty of, and sharpies. Timing we'll get to later.
Anyway, we started at one end of the park where the race director gave a short speech about Vi, to whom this race was dedicated. I don't really know too much about her and don't want to get anything wrong out of respect to the team, so that's really all I'm going to say about it. But after the dedication the group was loose and having fun. Being a trail race we were told to follow the orange markers, then the white ones. "If you're following blue, you're way off course." Naturally, I assumed I'd be off on a blue trail in no time.
The start was like the rest of the race: Keep It Simple, Stupid. As in, "Ok, we're going to go in 3, 2, 1, Go." And we went. After a very short run through the park we hit a bottleneck that led down the hillside and into the trail. At the bottleneck I caught up to Diesel and the Grey, but didn't figure on staying long with them. I know when we run together I keep up because they let me, not because I'm as fast as they are. So I figured I'd hang for a while, then do my own thing.
"For a while" was about a mile, then bu-bye guys. The problem isn't so much that they are a ton faster than me, though that is part of it. The problem is that I'm not part mountain goat yet, I don't have the experience and therefor the footwork to feel comfortable running over parts of the trail. Uphill is actually easier to run, aside from the whole running uphill thing. Downhill is easy to run, aside from the steps and rocks and roots thing. And flat is easy to run except for see downhill. What I'm trying to say here is, I did a lot of walking.
I walked uphill most of the climbs after mile two, and there was a lot of climbing. Check out the elevation profile.

I went in to this without any ego, so my slowness doesn't really bother me. Along with walking uphill, there were many parts of the trail that, to me, seemed very technical. That is to say, lots of root root rockrockrock water root rock. I am not running over that. Simpler parts I can, but complicated stuff? Not for Dirtbag. If I twist and ankle during a fun run I'll be (more) pissed (than normal) for the next four weeks. So I'm picking my way around. And again, nobody cared. I spent the whole race hearing, "On your left," which meant that someone behind me was making their move to pass and on such a narrow trail they needed to let me know so I didn't accidentally knock them into the bamboo. I followed one girl for a mile and a half or so, then I passed her, or maybe she got away, I can't remember. Then I ran near another dude for a while until we got to the top of a climb and we on our way back down. "You a good descender?" he asked me. "Uh, no, I don't think so. You go ahead." And with a, "Coolthanks," he was off.
I brought along one of my handheld water bottles with a baggie of Gummy Bears for energy and wore my Garmin, but that was all I had. There was but one aid station and it was very late in the race. Everyone came prepared with water in bottle or camelback form. I never checked my Garmin except for distance. I never looked at my speed. I didn't care and I knew it was slow.
The hardest part of the run for me was between mile three and four. Right dead in the middle. I think it might have gotten a little technical in there, plus there is a good chunk of up there, and it's the farthest part from the start or end. Mentally, that's always been a weird place for me.
Around mile six I slipped and fell on a metal bridge. There were a few of those along the trail, easing stream or gap crossings, and most of them are just wooded boards with metal grating along the top for traction, I guess. What really happens is they get mud in the grates, which makes them slick. I hopped off a rock onto the bridge and my feet went right out from under me and I went down, BAM, right onto my left hip and elbow. There was a guy right behind me who grabbed me and picked me right up and made sure I was ok, which was very cool. He even called back to me as he ran around the next bend to be sure. And I was fine, just needed to walk it off. After I got home and got a good look at the hip I saw that the soreness I'm still feeling is earned. Working on a nice bruise. And I never bruise. Elbow is sore still too.
The impact zone
Super Awesome Wife came along too, though she didn't really do the race with the rest of us. Diesel brought along his dog and let Super Awesome Wife walk her on the trail. So she set off in the opposite direction of the rest of us and when Diesel got to her she handed off the dog and started back. I caught up with her about half a mile from the end, right after she'd taken a spill of her own, and walked to the final climb with her. I ran up the hill and finished a minute or so in front of her. Have I mentioned I love finishing races with my wife? It is so cool.
Way to go, baby!
Bonked knees
 My final time was 1:51, which isn't great but like I've been saying, I don't care. I had a good time. The way the race directors recorded the finishing times without chips was very simple- they hung out in lawn chairs at the finish and the wife would call the numbers on our leg to her husband, who would type them into his iPad with the time. Simple. Diesel says they are the original Hawaii ultrarunners, the founders of HURT.
So for $10 I got a nice day out and plenty of food at the finish. Can't argue with that. I guess there is another coming up in May, and eight-miler. Might do it. Diesel says I am. Who am I to argue?


  1. Sounds much more my speed than any of that other business....though I like hiking, soo...guess its kinda the same?
    Sounds like a good day out. Nice break from TRAINTRAINTRAIN!!!!

    1. It was a lot of hiking for me. Trails are great stuff. So much slower than road running, but so much easier on your joints. And there is the whole No Cars Are Trying To Kill You thing.

  2. Glad you had a good time Dirtbag! Watch out, cuz trail running can be addictive! It's a whole different kind of sufferfest than triathlon, and the shared pain is why the competitive aspects of "races" is so low key. Food for thought: Saturday's race was on the easiest section of the HURT 100!

  3. Ah, that sounds like fun!!! I wanna do it next year. Please remind me when it comes up so I can fall down with you. So are you pysch'd to do the HURT 100 now?!?!?!

  4. There will be no HURT 100ing for the Dirtbag. You kidding me? 30+ hours on the trail? No thanks.