The H.U.R.T. (Hawaiian Ultra Running Team) Trail 100 was created with the notion that it would be great to have mainland runners explore the trails that members of H.U.R.T. had been running for many years. The race would also serve as a means for the runners of Hawaii to give back to the ultrarunning community, and as an opportunity to showcase real “aloha.” Since miles of ocean surround Oahu and trails are sparse, this run would have to be contested on the incredibly difficult Honolulu Mauka Trail System located near the heart of Honolulu.
In a sense, the H.U.R.T. Trail is similar to all other 100-milers, in that all contestants need to run, walk, drag, or crawl over 100 miles to their final resting point—the finish line. When members of H.U.R.T started comparing the H.U.R.T. Trail 100 with other prominent 100 milers, they were astounded by what they found:
- An elevation gain of 24,000 feet, slightly more than Angeles Crest.
- An elevation loss of 24,000 feet, slightly more than Western States.
- Miles of big rocks, similar to Wasatch.
- Miles of tree roots, similar to Massanutten.
- A five-loop configuration with out-and-back spurs, similar to Rocky Racoon.
- 99.5% single-track trail, similar to Hardrock.
- Twelve hours of daylight, less than in many other races.
- A 36-hour time limit, like many of the other “tough” 100s.
- Heat and humidity similar to many East Coast events.
In a nutshell, the course would be “doable,” especially given the ultrarunner’s mentality that “difficult is good.” The members of H.U.R.T quickly coined the Hawaiian phrase “A’ole Makou E Ho’ohikiwale Kela,” which loosely translated means “We wouldn’t want it to be easy.”
Given the difficulty of the event, the option of a 100-km finish would be made available for those not making the 100-mile cut-off times. This would be the first act of Aloha for the runners. To extend the Aloha even further it was decided to round finishing times down to the lowest minute. Where else in the running world can you get up to 59 seconds for free? Though difficult in nature, a helping of aloha would nurture runners to the finish. With that, the race was on.
Heading into H.U.R.T. III, it appeared on paper that a couple of runners might take aim at a 24-hour finish. Last year’s winner Ian Torrence commented after his spectacular finishing time of 25:18 that 24 hours might be possible if weather conditions were optimal. More likely than a 24-hour finish was the probability that less than 25 percent of the 58 entered runners would make it to the 100-mile finish.
At the pre-race meeting, race director Greg Cuadra implored the contestants to run like warriors of Hawaiians past, and to treat the mountain with respect and dignity. In doing so, the Hawaiian Gods would look down on these great warriors and grant safe passage. The runners were primed for their journeys.
As race morning broke, the runners were greeted by cool weather and extremely dry and well-groomed trails. Prior to the start as Kumu, Bill “Papakolea” Burgess blessed the Aina and the participants; several runners wrapped rocks in Ti leaves for luck. The deep sound of a conch shell echoed in the morning darkness and the intrepid warriors were off.
The beauty of endurance events lies in the stories within the event. To that end H.U.R.T. is no different. One of the unique awards created this year was the Jim Benike “above and beyond” award. This award, to be presented annually, is given to the runner who excels in some magical way. This award is named after Jim, who during the 2001 event plunged nearly 35 vertical feet over the cliff as he wound his way down from Manoa Falls. Thankfully, his pacer was aware that Jim had toppled off the cliff and had safely landed in the stream below. The saving grace of the fall was that Jim’s gaiter inexplicably snagged a tree branch on the way down, somewhat lessening his fall. The gaiter remained snagged on the limb until a brave member of H.U.R.T. rappelled down the side of the cliff to retrieve the lifesaving device. This year’s recipients of the award this year were Hans-Deiter Weisshaar and Clem Aleka-Gorai, who almost sacrificed their own races in order to provide help to a runner in serious trouble.
All ultrarunners know that getting to the starting line healthy is a pre-requisite for a successful run. One of this year’s favorites, Peter Bakwin ended up breaking a clavicle a few weeks prior to the event. He nonetheless started the race and was running very well throughout the day and evening before selecting the 100-km option. Most notable is the fact that Peter was able to take a whopping 14 minutes off of Brandon Sybrowsky’s course record; he finished in a time of 13:36. Just imagine what he could do with two good clavicles!
There are also those who train really well only to get hurt out on the trail. Paul Pomeroy fell (literally) into that category. Another of the pre-race favorites for the men’s title, Paul took a nasty fall as he approached the Paradise Park aid station, surprisingly on a short section of smooth asphalt road! Incredibly, Paul went onto finish the 100 miles in 31:51.
Another injury befell 2001 winner Luis Escobar. It appears that Luis somehow twisted his ankle out on the course, and thus had to call it quits after four loops. Although most runners were sad to hear of his malady, many were secretly happy that he wouldn’t be out there on the trails practicing his psychological warfare. Luis, ever the competitive one, has become known at H.U.R.T. for his quips such as “catch me if you can”, “you want it, come and get it”, and “let’s get it on.” His ankle injury would not allow him to complete his third H.U.R.T., but he will surely return to take on this course again next year.
Monica Scholz and Catra Corbett-McNeely became the only runners to complete all three H.U.R.T. 100-mile runs. Both have had their share of trials and tribulations at this event but have the ever-present mental wherewithal necessary to complete the event. This year the dynamic duo would battle Stephanie Ehret for the women’s title.
One of the most difficult parts of a race that has an option of crediting a runner with a finish at a shorter distance is the fact that each runner doesn’t know which other runners will end up running the entire distance. For the elite, front-of-the pack runners it becomes a real dilemma. The question becomes, “Should I attack and stay with the other runner, or hang back and do my own thing?”
In the women’s race Stephanie took the pace out hard, while Monica and Catra held back. It worked out well for all involved. Monica reclaimed the women’s course record, which Stephanie had taken away last year. The women’s record now stands at 30:53, eight minutes faster than Stephanie’s mark of last year. Stephanie went on to break Cheryl Loomis’ 100-km record in a time of 15:17. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of these ladies.
On the men’s side, Mike Sweeney was determined to return this year and win the event. He had a very good run going in 2002 until the last loop. Reminiscent of Moses parting the Red Sea, Mike was seen at the previous year’s event crossing Nuuanu Stream with bamboo poles in each hand, trying to muster the strength to continue on. Continue on he did, in an all-time slowest 20-mile loop record time of more than 12 hours. After the event he took the bamboo poles home and hung them above the mantle to remind him of business left undone. He vowed to return to H.U.R.T and not make the same mistakes that caused so much misery. He can now remove the poles from the mantle. Turning in very respectable times and giving chase to Mike were Alex Swenson of Illinois and Jamie Gifford of Washington. Now that they are experienced on the Mauka Trail System, one can only suspect that they too will be looking to dethrone Mike next year.
Others returning and vowing redemption at H.U.R.T were Hans-Dieter Weisshaar, Frederick Davis, and Bob Murphy, all three-time starters at the event, but without a single 100-mile finish to their credit. They came in knowing that although the course was difficult, they would get through with their mental toughness. Each had tears in their eyes as they walked off the trail that day and touched the green gate signifying the end of their journeys. For Bob, H.U.R.T. turned out to be the run that got the proverbial “monkey off his back,” as he recorded his first 100-mile finish. Equally impressive on this very difficult course were Jeff Heasley of Colorado and James Masterson of Hawaii, who both completed their first 100-milers. Rumor has it they were discussing Hardrock after the race. Ben Cavazos of Hawaii was the first Hawaii resident to finish. He improved his 100-mile time by nearly 90 minutes. Of the 58 starters, 13 finished the 100-mile, while 31 finished 100-km. Three of four course records were established, but the 24-hour mark remains on the far horizon. Records were broken despite evening rains, daytime humidity, and heavy smoke from a nearby trail fire.
The H.U.R.T. Trail 100 wouldn’t be the run that it is today without the outpouring of aloha. H.U.R.T. is “100 miles of aloha.” A special Mahalo to our 125 volunteers, DLNR and Na Ala Hele (especially Aaron Lowe), our photographers (especially Tesh Teshima), and of course our magnificent runners. Races of this magnitude cannot be successful without help from local merchants as well. H.U.R.T would like to thank Patagonia, Montrail, Runner’s Route, Hammer Gel, E-Caps, Xpress Trucking, Xpress Distribution, Ultima, and XS Energy Drinks. We would also like to thank Mae Martinez for the beautiful handmade Hawaiian bags, and Stan Jensen for his continued support by once again keeping the H.U.R.T. Trail 100 updated on his website. Next year’s event is scheduled for January 17; you won’t want to miss it. As Miles Welze states: Airfare and lodging in Hawaii: $556; race entry: $125; rental car: $246; batteries, Gel, GU2O, Clif Bars, shoes, etc: $110; post-race dinner: $30; receipt of a very special H.U.R.T. T-shirt via mail two weeks later: priceless. - Contributed by Vernon Char, Greg Cuadra, Mike Garcia, Jeff Huff and John Salmonson.