Thursday, January 22, 2009

Painless view of HURT 100

Date: Jan. 17
Mileage: 77.6
January mileage: 507.1
Temperature upon departure: 75

Geoff told me that, even though I attended the race meeting with him Friday night, it wasn't very likely that I'd find the race start on my own Saturday morning. "I'll be fine," I answered. He left at 5 a.m. with the car for the start of the HURT 100, a 100-mile ultramarathon that climbs 25,000 vertical feet over the five loops of a rooty, muddy, narrow 20-mile course. It was Geoff's "training race" for the Iditarod Trail Invitational. I don't claim to be nearly that ambitious about my training, so I set out to spectate the race and do some urban road biking.

I left the hotel room at 8:21 a.m., hoping to cheer Geoff on at the end of his first loop. Unfortunately, he hotel had stranded us on the 43rd floor, one floor down from the top. The first elevator arrived vacuum-packed with people. The second came 10 minutes later under similar conditions. The third had a little more room, but not enough for me and my bike. By 8:43 a.m., I began contemplating the walk down 43 flights of stairs with a bike on my shoulder. At 8:48 a.m., I decided I would have to change out of my bike shoes into some more walkable tennis shoes. At 8:49 a.m., I had my back turned to the elevator, prepared to spend all day riding clunky clipless pedals with tennis shoes after hoofing down 43 flights of stairs just to avoid the endless wait. That's the minute that an elevator with enough room for me arrived.

I rolled out onto the streets of Waikiki and, as predicted, became instantly flustered. Traffic around Honolulu is intense and I don't think I've ever encountered a less bike-friendly city. It's strange - Weather in Honolulu is 80 degrees and mostly sunny year round. You'd think that kind of environment would nourish a strong cycling community, but I encountered few bike paths and even fewer cyclists out and about in an entire day of riding. I wove through rush-hour traffic and made my way toward the hills, but somehow ended up at a race checkpoint. They pointed me in the right direction of the race start, about six miles away. I arrived at 9:45 a.m. just in time to miss Geoff's first loop through.

I spent some time talking to Pam and Anne, two ultra-runners from Anchorage who came to Hawaii to support their fellow Alaskan runners and enjoy the sun. Anne competed last year in the Iditarod Trail Invitational, dropping out just south of the Nikolai checkpoint after she sustained frostbite on her eyes and face. So we had a lot to talk about - perspectives from last year's race, this year's training. Anne's training schedule baffles me. It must amount to 40 hours per week. She was leading the foot race before she was injured last year, and with her mental tenacity, may just give Geoff a run for his money this year. :-)

Geoff was running a strong, consistent race, and it was easy to gauge when he would be coming into checkpoints. After missing him the first time around, I met him most every time at the race start and the seven-mile checkpoint. I took advantage of the two and three-hour gaps between to ride the hills on the outskirts of Honolulu. It was focused riding with hard climbing in mind, and I ended the day with 77 miles and 7,300 vertical feet of climbing, according to my GPS. Still, because I spread the riding out over most of the day, and spent so much time chatting with ultrarunners and cheering on Geoff, it really felt like I didn't ride at all.

Not counting our brief leapfrogging in the 2007 Susitna 100, this is the first time I ever watched Geoff race a 100-miler. It was amazing, really. He seemed to just coast through it. He was driven and focused, definitely, but I was not seeing the hurt I had expected to see. In an effort to try to help him as much as I could, I cut through sketchy neighborhoods and rode in the dark just to see him through most of the checkpoints. But he had little use for my or anyone else's help. He drinks checkpoint water and eats checkpoint food, but he is otherwise very self-supported in his racing strategy. This style often catches race officials and other runners off guard. For me, the fun wasn't in helping Geoff but in meeting other faces in the ultrarunning world. I tend to get caught up in an ultracycling bubble, and forget that there's a whole other world of amazing people who are even crazier.

Geoff won the race in a course-record-settling 20 hours, 28 minutes. Anne, Pam and I were all there for the 2:28 a.m. finish, cheering into the night as Anne waved her "Go Alaska Runners" sign. Three Alaska runners started the race. Blisters forced Dave Johnston to exit the course at mile 40. Evan "yes, ladies, he's single" Hone of Eagle River, on the right, finished 10th in 28 hours. The Hawaiian race officials were genuinely impressed by the strong showing by runners from the land of ice and cold. Geoff didn't let them in on his secret - that he trains not on the tundra but in Juneau, Alaska, probably one of the few regions of America where summer trails are more tree-shrouded, muddier and root-choked than Hawaii.

I learned a few things about biking while I was in Hawaii:

1. I have somehow become a really strong climber. Finally on a bike that weighed less than 25 pounds with tires that had less rolling resistance than a flat-bottomed boat, I found I could shoot up 10, 12, even 14-percent grades like they were nothing.
2. I am a terrible road biker. On the skinny tires and low handlebars, I felt so jittery and cautious inching around switchbacks that it often took my nearly as long to descend a road as it did to climb it.
3. I have been told Honolulu traffic is worse than many metro areas, but I don't understand the appeal in urban road biking. Don't understand it at all. All that stop and go, constantly fighting back the stress and strain while streams of hot steel roar past. I'd take grizzly bears and ice over that any day.
4. I was blocked out of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific because I was on a bicycle. I was told there was no "running, jogging or bicycling" allowed in the area. When I explained to the security guard that I was simply a tourist on a bike, and expressed my viewpoint that I was no different than the lines of cars streaming in, he looked at me like I was an alien from Alaska.
5. Now that I've seen the Big Island, I can't wait to go back there on a bike tour. Look at that road up Mauna Loa. Doesn't that look amazingly fun?

17 comments:

  1. Hey Jill nice pictures of Hawaii. I lived out there for two years back in 1994-96. I don't think I would move back, but have been out to visit and Hawaii is always beautiful.

    Can't beat the weather, although the cold winters are a nice lifestyle, too.

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  2. I couldn't agree more strongly about urban cycling. The traffic scares me and the ambiance is unpleasant. Where I live, I have to worry about lions and hidden icy patches on the trails but I far prefer that to the city!

    Glad Geoff's race was such a success!

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  3. Great race recap, thanks! Congrautlations Geoff!

    Nice to have a breath of tropical air on your blog Jill. Killer pics and commentary on your HI travels.

    SURE BET: 2009 will be a year of huge accomplishments for Jill Homer and Geoff Roes.

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  4. Anonymous10:48 AM

    Congratulations to Geoff. I can not imagine 100 miles...on foot...at one time.

    As for urban cycling, it's true, open roads and serene landscapes are pleasant, and if you don't have to start and stop, dodge cars, walkers and mopeds, you can concentrate more on the ride and your thoughts. But, to say that urban cycling is "unpleasant" isn't fair. I can enjoy my twice-daily ride through the city as much as my long evening/weekend rides outside of the city. You just have to be conditioned for it just as Jill has to be conditioned to ride through deep snow 11 months per year.

    I've been hit twice by cars, and I realize they are not my friends. But, I've learned to ride w/ them through the years, and I don't let them make me loathe my rides. You can find enjoyment in coasting beneath mile-high buildings, moving with and riding at the speed of the city, picking your lines just as you would on a technical trail, banking turns as if you were racing a crit, and just accepting it for what it is.

    I'd rather be on my bike in the city than in my car. I'd rather ride beneath mountains towering over me, but when I ride through the city, I enjoy it just as much. Just wanted to share a different side of city riding.

    Peace.

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  5. Anonymous11:33 AM

    It seems like someone is killed on a bike by traffic every year here in Flagstaff. I'll stick to mountain biking.

    The road up Mauna Kea is fun, but the road up Mauna Loa is only maintained to the research station. Heck, riding the Saddle Road is great fun and exercise.

    There's a snowboarding contingent on Mauna Kea when there's enough snow. Short rides, but amazing views!

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  6. "Somehow" you became good at hill climbing. I fart in your general direction. Pushing balloon tires and heavy steel all over the backcountry for hours upon hours had nothing to do with it, of course. I'm suprized that little Allez didn't suffer it's own fatigue under the onslaught of your unfettered gams. Better make sure the shop checks the thing's welds. Without a coat and such, you look like you might make a pretty good road racer.

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  7. The sun looks great on you and your Fat Cyclist jersey, Jill! And I love the photos of Geoff. Evan 'yes ladies he's single' is a hoot - congrats to him too.

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  8. Wow, big congrats to Geoff for the win! That's so impressive and inspiring!

    Sounds like you had a pretty great day too...once you escaped the nasty traffic.

    Love the FC jersey!

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  9. Ride Saddle Road the next time you get to the Big Island. Just watch out for Hummvee's (the military style) and other armed personnel carriers. It's the road they tell you at the car rental station that you can't go on because no one will come get you if you break down. Perfect for road riding. Of course you'll be dodging Triathletes on the highway to Kona the whole way, but I'd say its worth it.

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  10. Great recap. You have some amazing pictures. I also noticed that there was not many cyclists on the streets. The parks were filled with runners but I did not see many bikes or bike lanes for that matter.

    I was good to meet you and hopefully we will run into each otherin the future. I have also recently thought about the Susitna 100 but cannot afford the enty fee.

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  11. Anonymous4:38 PM

    Wow, Geoff won! Congrats. It's amazing what the human body is capable of. Maybe I should stop eating these chips.....

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  12. I had no idea Geoff was as tough as you!

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  13. Congratulations for Jess on his win! That's amazing! And thanks for sharing your photo's Jill. They're beautiful.

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  15. "It seems like someone is killed on a bike by traffic every year here in Flagstaff. I'll stick to mountain biking."

    I'll be there's even more people killed in Flagstaff every year in cars. Are you going to stop driving?

    As a previous commenter said, riding out in the mountains sure beats riding in the city, but riding in the city still beats driving in the city. Being on the bike is always better than being in the car, IMO.

    -R

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  16. You're very adventurous. Non-stop cycling coupled with hiking, uuupppsss, this is not a joke. This stands for stamina and perseverance to achieve the longed feat. Again, you're very energetic.

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  17. Jill, it's great to read your and Geoff's perspectives on the same event. I have been a trail racer and wanna be ultra runner for the last several years but have also remained a biking enthusiast. Now laid up with my 4th knee surgery, ultra biking events may be in my future instead of ultra running. reading about your and Geoff's training and races is great encouragement. keep it up!

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