Running the HURT 100 – A Trail Like No Other

Race Recap

The H.U.R.T. Trail 100 Mile.  Whew, where to begin.

In early August, 2009 I headed out to a Tiki Bar in Oakland with my buddies Nathan Yanko and Rick Gaston.  We were meeting up with the usual odd collection of local ultra runners (all of us odd) to celebrate finishes of summer 100’s and the Headlands Hundred the weekend prior.  Several of us at the bar were hoping to find out if our applications were accepted for the HURT 100, checking daily to see if the accepted runners list had been posted.   Mark Gilligan finally showed up after a drink or two, and in typical Mark fashion instantly brought the energy.  “I have good news and I have bad news” Mark yelled to everyone as he walked in, “the good news is that we got into HURT!”  We all yelled back excitedly and then Mark followed with the bad news.  “The bad news is that we actually have to run HURT!”

Coming into the Jackass Ginger aid station. Photo courtesy of Peter Daspit

Fast forward to January 16, 2010.  It is shortly before 6 a.m. in Hawaii.  We are in Manoa Valley, ready to head up into the mountains that are ominously dark above us.  Some fast runners are at the front; Gary Robbins, Nathan Yanko, Dan Barger, Tracy Garneau, Darcy Africa, Bob Africa, as well as others that I did not recognize.  Up at the front Mark Gilligan continued to entertain us with jokes while several of us wished one another best of luck.  Finally at 6am the race kicked off and a line of headlamps began to illuminate their way up and out of the Nature Center in Manoa, with about 107 starters hopeful of their chances on the day.

The HURT course consists of five laps of a 20 mile loop, each with just under 5,000′ of ascent and equal descent.  Each segment is marked with unique colored flags; white for the first 7.3 miles to the first aid station at Paradise Park.  Green for 5.4 mile segment from Paradise Park to Jackass Ginger (aka Nuuanu), and Orange for the 7.3 mile return from Jackass Ginger back to the Nature Center at Manoa.  A few of us shot out from the start, trying not to get stuck behind a line of runners heading up the technical and rooty section out of Manoa.  Somehow (not to my liking) I was in the lead when we made it to the top of the first climb and began a short runnable decent.   About 10 minutes in we came to a tree that had fallen across the trail.  I paused to step over it, missed my footing on the narrow singletrack, and basically fell my way over the tree.  I was holding a small headlamp in my hand at the time and in the middle of the fall it hit the tree, opened up, and 1-2 batteries fell out.

The HURT 100 Course Map

I stepped aside trying to get the headlamp working while Dan Barger and Gary Robbins passed.  I realized I was without light on unbelievably technical trail and instantly hopped back in line behind Dan and Gary and just in front of Tracy Garneau.  I ran for a few minutes in the dark, with a little bit of borrowed light from the headlamps of the runners around me.  I was pissed at myself for making such a dumb mistake so early into such a tough race, as battery-powered light is needed to see for roughly the first hour (not much light makes it through the thick canopy until the sun is well into the sky).

I struck up a conversation with Tracy and shortly into it I mentioned how mad I was at myself for making such a dumb mistake losing my light 10 minutes into the race.  “Oh no” Tracy replied in a worried tone,  “I have an extra headlamp in the top of my pack, grab it and use it.”  We paused for second while Tracy pulled out her spare headlamp and handed it to me.  As we began running again I thanked her for her unbelievable kindness, told her to use anything she needed out of  any of my well-stocked drop bags (including batteries!), and said that she was going to have really good race karma on the day as she was saving my race during the first hour.  We continued running together for a couple miles and besides experiencing her kindness first-hand I also learned how cool she is as a runner and person (no surprise).  After a couple miles Darcy Africa came blazing by and I wished Tracy luck as she took off to match Darcy.

Around this time Gary Robbins was still right in front of me and we quickly began chatting about the race and trail running in our local areas (Vancouver, CAN for Gary and San Francisco, CA for me).  We had one another cracking up, gave some yells to past HURT winner Mike Sweeney as we ran by as Mike was playing guitar on the trail, and descended into the Paradise Park aid station in around 1:22.  I gave Tracy back her headlamp as she, Darcy, and Dan headed out about a minute in front of us.


Nathan caught up to us around this time and Gary, Nathan, and I headed out of the aid station together, laughing and cracking jokes on one another.  At one point I was the second in the line of the three of us and remarked that I was “glad I could be the center of this oreo cookie of shit-talk.”  Apparently all of the trash-talk had Gary and Nathan feeling good about themselves as they ended up running really well    In all honesty though Nathan and I have a lot of fun just about every mile we run, and Gary seems to run the same way, so being there with those two guys for a couple miles was some of the most fun I have had running.


On the climb out of Paradise Park it was fun passing runners who were heading down.  When we passed Larissa I gave her a “hey beautiful!” yell and she jokingly responded asking why the three of us were “getting chicked by two girls already.”  I’m pretty sure she was pulling for the women    My “hey beautiful” comment also gave Gary and Nathan a little more material as rumors quickly began to fly that Larissa was grabbing asses (not mine) as she went by.  Larissa is still not denying the rumors.  Thanks guys.

Coming into Jackass Ginger aid station. Photo courtesy of Peter Daspit

We caught up to Tracy, Darcy, and Dan as we got back to Paua Flats, a very rooted section.  It was here that I decided to dial back the pace from the front runners.  I began having flashbacks of my run at the Wheres Waldo 100k last year when I went out beyond my pace, thrashed my legs, and bonked hard.  Now at HURT, I was only about 10 miles in and already I was seeing how technical and difficult the next 90 miles would be.  Furthermore, at the first aid station Gary mentioned that we were about 10 minutes ahead of Geoff Roes’ pace when he set the course record in 20:28.  I remarked that I wasn’t sure what was more concerning to me… that we were that far ahead of Roes’ CR pace, or that I was keeping pace with someone who took the time to print out and keep track of Roes’ splits in the first place!  All of this in my head had me feeling like if I kept it up it would be a personal recipe for disaster, and my goal was still simply to finish HURT with a stretch goal of sub-25 hours since the course was in “good shape”.

The decent into and climb back out of Jackass Ginger was tough but my favorite section of the course on the day.  I headed out of Jackass behind Paul Hopwood (winner in ’08) and Bob Africa and ran with Bob for a bit while we headed back towards Manoa.  It was fun running with Bob who is a super nice guy, chatting and hearing about his and Darcy’s racing over the last couple years.

I caught up to Darcy about a mile from Manoa and we continued to trade places throughout the second loop with Darcy gaining on the descents and me on the climbs.  I made a quick stop after the first loop to refuel, and then started back on the rooty climb out of Manoa.  At the top of the climb I caught and re-passed Paul, and then continued my way on to Paradise Park.  The section from Manoa to Paradise Park (the first 7.3 miles of each loop) was the toughest for me all race and I felt slow on this section each loop.

Larissa heading down to Paradise Park. Photo courtesy of Peter Daspit

Gary, Nathan, and Tracy were spread out by a couple minutes each but all were heading up as I was descending down.  I gave big yells for each as they all were looking like they were going to have great runs.  I was back in 5th, with Dan Barger about a minute ahead and Darcy right behind me.   We stayed that way most of the second loop.

After two loops (40 miles) I took a few minutes to get in some solid food, mix up an Amazing Grass and coconut water for extra hydration and nutrients, and reloaded the Gel-Bot and Soft-flask with gel.  I also grabbed a headlamp as I figured I would need it towards the end of the 3rd loop.   A big thanks to Jeffrey Rogers for his help during my time at the aid station.

I hit my mental lows during the first segment of the 3rd loop.  It was hot, everything hurt, and for some reason I felt like I had more things going wrong than right.  I also kept clipping my toes on the roots (which are relentless) and my feet were absolutely killing me.  However, I came across some familiar faces right when I needed it.  Mark Gilligan and some other runners were coming back on Paua flats to complete their second loop while I was headed out on my third, and just like at the Tahoe Rim 100 and other times, Mark’s energy and motivation recharged me.

Devon (pacer, front) and Nathan heading into Jackass Ginger. Photo courtesy of Peter Daspit

It was still hard as hell of course, but mentally I picked it back up for the rest of the third loop.  I gave Gary a laughably big yell while he was heading up from Paradise Park, partly to pass along some of the energy but also because he was absolutely killing it AND was looking like he was still in great condition and running comfortably.  Nathan followed a few minutes back, as did Tracy, and I gave big yells for both as well.  Coming out of Jackass Ginger I caught back up with Dan Barger and we ran together chatting for a couple miles which was fun and helped pass the time.  It was really great running with someone who has completed so many races and has had such an amazing trail running career (and is still crushing it).

After mile 60 I took my longest break, probably about 8-10 minutes, so that I could get my heels taped up (for some reason I developed blisters on them which is not common for me), change socks and shoes, refuel and reload the Gel-Bot, and grab an additional light as it was now completely dark.


I was slow on the 4th lap.  It was my first in the dark, and even though I spend a lot of time running trail via headlamp due to long work hours, I was not completely prepared for even how much more complex and technical the HURT trails would be in the dark. About ¾ through the 4th lap I caught up with Larissa who was finishing up her 3rd lap.  We hiked a climb for a bit and she vented some frustration over a bad ankle sprain back at mile 30.  She got it taped up at 40 and against the recommendation of the PT there she headed back out    Even though she was moving slower than she liked she had a new focus of finishing at least the 100k (67 miles at HURT).  After a few minutes we reached a runnable section so I gave her a kiss, told her she was doing great and how proud I was, and continued on to finish up the loop.

Heading into Jackass Ginger either at mile 73 or 93. Photo courtesy of Peter Daspit

I again reloaded at mile 80, put in fresh batteries into my headlamp, and headed back out for the last 20 miles of HURT.  A big thank you to Stan Jensen at miles 20, 60, and especially 80 for his help and motivation.  As I was leaving mile 80 I heard that Gary Robbins was leaving Jackass Ginger (~mile 93) and would have a geat shot at the new course record.  I was partly motivated but mostly in awe at hearing that.  Gary was freakin flyin!

I felt slow again on the Manoa-to-Paradise Park section (miles 80-87).  I quickly refilled my Gel-Bot with water and gel one last time and then took off, trying to get some distance in before I came across whoever happened to be closest behind me.  To my surprise (and dismay at the time) Paul Hopwood came cruising down in what I estimated at being about 10 minutes behind me.  Paul looked good but I was stunned as the last time I saw him I thought I had 30+ minutes on him.

I was pissed at myself and instantly went into total “being chased” mode.  I tapped something I didn’t know I had and just started running and running hard.  I was running scared but made quick work (in my mind) of miles 87-93, hoping to put some distance back on Paul, or at least still keep a small cushion in case it came down to a quad-hammering decent back to the finish.  I spent pretty much no time at Jackass Ginger (mile 93) and quickly headed back out for the last section of the race back to the finish at Manoa.  As I headed up I finally caught site of Paul and estimated that I had put at least 20-25 minutes between us again.  I had a little relief but still kept running hard in case something unforeseen would occur.

Kiss the sign and you are done.

I could not help but run with absolute joy for the last couple miles.  Holy shit I thought to myself, I hurt like hell, stink, and am covered in dirt and salt, but am running half naked through the jungle forests of Hawaii while having a blast and am about to finish the HURT 100, probably as the 3rd place male behind my buddies Gary and Nathan!  I was stoked.  Once I drew near to the aid station and saw the lights I let out some yells.  Larissa, Nathan, Devon, Kristen, Gary, and other friends old and new were all at the finish.  I kissed the HURT 100 sign “Aole makou e ho’ohikiwale kela / We wouldn’t want it to be easy.”

Completed.  Pau. Done.  The HURT 100 was officially in the books for me at 24 hours 40 minutes.  I somehow managed 3rd male and 4th place overall behind 3 amazing runners and somehow ahead of more great runners, adventurers, friends.

A tremendous thank you to all of the HURT 100 volunteers.  The aid and assistance at all of the aid stations was top notch, especially for a runner without a crew.  To John, Jeff, PJ, and all of the Hawaii Ultra Running Team, a huge thank you for an amazing and extremely challenging race.  Jeff, thanks for the fruit by the foot at the awards banquet, I will try not to “come up short” next time!  Also thank you to all of the runners who toed the line on Saturday, whether you finished or not,  as all of you were so kind and motivating throughout the race.


To Gary (20:12) and Tracy (24:06), a HUGE congratulations on both of you setting new course records.  Canada/BC absolutely kicked ass, way to go.  Nathan (22:30), you rocked it buddy, I am not surprised, but wow!  Larissa, your motivation inspired me even further, 2nd female in the 100k on a busted ankle, “that’s LP.” 

Yes.  HURT hurt, but it was a great adventure with great people.

Mahalo, -Brett

The HURT website can be found HERE

Full results can be found HERE

Great photos of the race by Peter Daspit are HERE

My various HURT and Hawaii photos are HERE

I somehow made it into a HURT Slideshow on that can be found HERE

Ready Gary Robbins recap of setting the new CR HERE

Devon Crosby-Helms adventure of pacing Nathan Yanko for the last 40 miles can be found HERE

Kristen, Nathan, and Devon – Team Yanko pre-race
Pre-race with el equipo De León
Tracy Garneau (Female CR) heading across the stream to Jackass Ginger aid station. Photo courtesy of Peter Daspit
Larissa and runners heading into Jackass Ginger aid station. Photo courtesy of Peter Daspit
me, Nathan (2nd), and Gary (1st) post race once I crossed the finish.
Celebrating at the banquet with “Mr. Inspiration” and friend Ken Michal
At the awards banquet – the top 3 men and women
Celebrating with super-volunteer Cindy Goh

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