The Long Run Interviews continue this week, and with just over one month to go until the HURT 100mile ultra trail race on Oahu, LRY is excited to share insights from this year’s leading lady, Hannah Roberts. Finishing in true trail-star style, Hannah ran out of the jungle and into the finishing area of the event after 25 hours and 41 minutes on the course (see a list of all finishers HERE). Hannah is a dedicated environmental activist, and when not preparing for ultra running trail races, can be found rolling along on her bike or blades, or maybe at a yoga studio. LRY was pretty stoked she had time to chat!
Interview with Hannah Roberts
LRY: Preparing for a 100mile trail race is a big undertaking. What made you decide to tackle the distance in the first place, and how did you begin training for your first HURT100?
HR: When I learned about ultra running and heard that people ran 100 milers, it immediately sparked questions and an interest in me if I could actually do it. I started with a marathon which physically did not go well and was pretty convinced that even a 50k would be out of the realm of possible for me. I healed from that but still kept that intense curiosity and eventual love of endurance running. I tried a 50 miler and that was such a positive experience and I had such a strong finish that I knew my next big step would be to run a 100 miler.
By the time I ran HURT for the first time, it was my third hundred miler. I felt like winning a lottery start for the race was the gift of a once in a lifetime opportunity so I trained so specifically and lived, breathed, ran, biked, dreamed, obssessed HURT. My apartment at the time looked north towards the HURT course so literally every night I went to sleep I slept facing the course and when I woke up it was the one of the first things I saw. It was absolutely a labor of love.
I rode my bike a lot during the week, lifted, did yoga and trained for the heat. On weekend long runs, I put in a lot of miles on the HURT loop but also hit up Peacock Flats and anything and everything else on island in order to keep the HURT trail fresh and exciting instead of tedius, boring, or let any ounce of resentment or mental resistance build up.
I was up there a lot to get comfortable with the course and pick the quickest and safest lines through some of the gnarlier sections but through every other workout, run, bike ride; HURT was always in the back of my mind. I was respectfully terrified of the race and trained really hard so that I could guarantee a finish under the cut off. I was scared enough to be really really dedicated and ultimately stoked for the opportunity.
LRY: What were the highs & lows of your first 100m race?
HR: There were plenty of both over the 32 hours I was on course. The lows were very physical and I went through some of the most intense physical pain I’ve ever experienced. My knees hurt so badly on the downhills I litereally imagined my patella tendons snapping and my kneecaps rocketing off my legs. At one point I was with my younger brother and we hiked up a section that wasn’t too grueling at all but I was breathing hard like I was sprinting and could only take staggering little steps. I crashed and laid down in this fluffy, soft bed of moss for a little while until I scraped it together. I had my doubts, and I know my brother did, but eventually I rallied and could make better progress.
High points included seeing the sunrise after the first night (Grindstone starts at 6 pm and you run through the night at first), getting to hang out with ultra legend Dave Snipes for about 20 hours, and the finish line of my first 100 was of course the high of a lifetime.
Grindstone gave me such a great introduction into 100 milers and I still love that hard earned belt buckle. It represents the extreme of physical pain and always has remained the benchmark for “does this hurt bad enough to quit?” It reminds me of the people who helped me through it and it was also a huge boost of assurance that I could be a 100 miler. I was hooked on the sport, especially once I got off crutches.
LRY: Can you remember the first thing that went through your mind when you finished?
HR: The finish lines for me are always a little anti-climactic because by about mile 90ish I’m convinced I’ll make it and I know it’s just a matter of time so the celebration and relief and emotion is usually earlier on the trail. I definitely cried around mile 95 with happiness. I’m usually just really excited to sit down. For that first HURT though, I was in complete disbelief and shock that I won the women’s race and came in under 30 hours. I knew I had better enjoy it because I didn’t see that happening again.
LRY: The HURT100 on Oahu is in January, but it is still warm & humid in Hawaii. Do you have any advice for people visiting Hawaii especially for the event?
HR: Respect the heat during the day. It is important to stay aware of fluid intake and your exertion levels in the heat. If you’re not used to it, the heat can be a beast of burden. If you are used to it, or think you’re used to it, it can still sneak up on you and zap your energy and make the run a little harder than it has to be.
I say run conservatively during the heat of the day and try to just make it to sundown when you get a break from the temperatures and can run a little less oppressed.
LRY: The HURT100 is infamous for its rocks & roots – how did you cope with these tricky obstacles, and what are your recommendations for staying on your feet during those sections?!
HR: Trail running differs from road running because you have to pay attention the whole time. I am always searching for a safe and quick line through the gnarly parts and any time I think I’ll run and enjoy a view is when I trip up and fall. It’s a self correcting problem–I learn to stay focused on the trail and leave the gawking for a training run.
LRY: What are your favourite things to eat & drink during a 100m trail race?
HR: Typically I do ok eating the provided plant base aid station fare. I’m especially stoked to see fruit, PB and J, and Coke. I used to feel like a million bucks with a muscle milk on course but I read up on the stuff and I can’t quite look past the heavy metals and shady labeling so I am on the hunt for a new nutritional silver bullet.
LRY: In a nutshell – how does the HURT100 compare with other 100m events?
HR: HURT is its own unique little animal. The five loops make it repetitive and a little daunting if you think too big and freak out that one loop was hard enough, how the hell is three or four or five even possible. I don’t think it’s the most difficult race I’ve done, but I always think every other race I do is the hardest thing. Peacock Flats 100k scares me more than HURT. The truth is though that there is no easy 100. If you’re doing it right, they’re all hard and on any given day the conditions at any race may make its miles some of the most treacherous you can find.
If I think about it, you’re probably least likely to need sunglasses at HURT than any other race. There is tons and tons of tree cover and a very short bout of sunlight you’re dealing with. I wear a pair that always sit up on my head and rarely, if ever, drop down to cover my eyes. It’s almost a superstitious ritual at this point and surely not for UV protection.
LRY: If there was one word or phrase you could say to someone running their first ever 100 miler, what would it be?
HR: I am so happy for you.
LRY: Ok now for a few fun questions!!
LRY: Bananas or Pineapple? HR: Bananas.
LRY: Mountains or oceans? HR: Mountains!!!
LRY: Juices or smoothies? HR: … juices.
LRY: Roads, trails or track? HR: Trails and bring the hills.
LRY: Compression gear or no-compression? HR: Compression is rad. So are trucker hats.
LRY: Thank you Hannah – great advice for all ultra runners and especially the HURT newbies out there!
Follow Hannah’s ultra running career and read more about Hannah’s other pursuits on her excellent blog: Run Sea Legs Run.