How does someone dream of running
100 miles non-stop?!
I love running, but I cannot imagine myself going this distance. The mental and physical challenge seems unbearable. So when Wookie Kim came with a huge smile at our Run Club just a few days after he finished the tough H.U.R.T 100 race this past month, I needed to know how he managed to train and finish such a perverse challenge.
In sum, his determination and focus on his priorities helped him to achieve his goal. And just few months before his race, he also organized a dreamy proposal at the top of Maunakea for his now fiancé, Gillian Schefer, who also comes to our Run Club.
Having Gillian supporting him during the whole 100- mile journey was one of his best kept secrets (I think!).
As cheesy as it sounds, love really fuels our body and soul to do incredible things!
Why did you decide to run 100 miles in a brutal trail course?
I decided to run the HURT 100 for several reasons.
First, I like to challenge myself by pushing my physical and mental limits as far as possible. HURT 100 provided the perfect vehicle to test both limits, as it has nearly 25,000 vertical feet of elevation gain, and presents some of the most extreme trail conditions (e.g., slippery roots, slippery rocks, slippery mud, stream crossings, heat, and humidity). It is no surprise, then, that the race is considered one of the top 9 toughest ultramarathons in the world. Given these challenging elements, how could I not sign up?
Second, the course was “right there.” Just over one year ago, I was living in Washington, DC. Even though I knew about the HURT 100, it felt so far away–like a dream. Now, the Hawaii Nature Center–where the start/finish is located–is less than 3 miles from my apartment, and I am able to run on parts of the course several times a week.
It seemed silly for me–a relatively new but incredibly passionate trail-ultrarunner–to not run the race when I live so close to where it all goes down.
Third, during the past year that I’ve lived here, the HURT ohana (just like Lanikai Juice Run Club!) has played such an important role in helping me transition from over two decades of living in the frigid Northeast. I’ve learned so much from so many runners, volunteers, and other friends, and I believed it was just as important to participate in the race in some way. It just so happened that I chose the most challenging way to participate–by racing it!
How do you train for a 100 miles race?
In short, I ran–a lot!
My heaviest training week involved 100 miles and 15,000 vertical feet. I had other weeks where I was running 70-80 miles and doing around 20,000 vertical feet. But the majority of my training weeks were 50-60 miles with about 10,000 vertical feet. Before I began training for the HURT, I normally ran about 35-50 miles per week and almost no elevation gain, so this was a huge increase for me.
Lanikai Juice Run Club Thursday runs were also essential to my training. I don’t use a coach, and I create my own training plan and workouts because I enjoy the challenge of figuring things out and executing on my own. However, I know how valuable speed training can be, and I also know that doing workouts with people motivates me to work even harder, so the Thursday speed workouts with the Run Club were a key part of my training.
People always ask me how I am able to manage such heavy volume while also working a busy job as a lawyer. It comes down to ruthless prioritization. Even my heaviest training week involved only about 20 hours of running.
That seems like a lot of time, but it’s easy to forget that most people spend that amount of time (or even more) watching TV or scrolling through Instagram each week.
So spending 20 hours a week traversing some of the most beautiful trails, with some of the most beautiful backdrops imaginable, doesn’t strike me as particularly hard to do!
In the end, I consider myself an athlete 24 hours a day. I focus just as much on eating and sleeping well, and making my easy days easy. I also make time to socialize and do non-running things. I know that having a well-rounded and balanced lifestyle best ensures that I have the longevity to succeed as a runner.
How long it took you to finish the race?
I finished the race in 28 hours, 55 minutes, and 18 seconds. That put me in 18th overall out of over 130 starters. Just about half of the starters dropped from the race. My dream goal was to break 30 hours, so finishing sub-29 was way beyond even my wildest expectations. I couldn’t be happier with how the race went.
What do you eat during the race?
Believe it or not, I “ate” almost nothing. Instead, I drank 24 sachets of Maurten 320, which is a revolutionary new Swedish drink mix. The Maurten alone amounted to almost 8,000 calories, 2 kilograms of sugar, and 12,000 mg of sodium. I also had 3 Maurten 100 gels. I absolutely love Maurten! On top of that, because of my very high sweat and electrolyte loss rates, I took about 80 Salt Stick pills and 50 Salt Stick Plus pills, for another 35,000 mg of electrolytes. The Salt Stick Plus pills also gave me about 1,500 mg of caffeine, which helped me stay focused during the later portions of the race. I supplemented this “core” part of my nutrition with about 8 bottles of Propel, 8 bottles of plain water, and 10 cupfuls of Coke that my crew gave me in the aid stations. The only solid food I had was one snack-size bag of salted potatoes.
All told, I consumed over 8,000 calories, 50,000 mg of electrolytes, 2,000 g of sugar, and 1,500 mg of caffeine, as well as 700 ounces of water. And not a single stomach issue at all!
What kept you going when things get challenging during the race?
There are a lot of things that kept me going. Everything starts with my simple desire to excel and succeed. That’s gotten me far in life, and it got me to the finish line during this race.
I was also motivated by my lovely fiancée, Gillian Schefer (who also comes to Run Club), and looked forward to seeing her at each aid station for a reenergizing kiss (yes, she stayed up and followed me around the course for the entire 29 hours!).
And then I had an amazing duo of pacers, who cracked the whip when I was slowing down unnecessarily, and provided plenty of things to talk about to pass the time. Finally, the selfless HURT ohana–including other runners, pacers, and volunteers–motivated me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Unlike my last 100-miler–when I seriously thought about quitting at several points in the race–I felt incredibly strong, positive, and focused the entire HURT!
You just got engaged! I heard it was a very special proposal! Can you share?
Yes! On December 30, 2018.
I proposed to Gillian at sunset near the summit of Haleakala at 10,023 feet above sea level!
I hired an amazing engagement photography company called “Engaged on Maui” to lurk in the background and capture the moment. They actually provided me a very detailed video walkthrough and a photo with a stick figure diagram of exactly what positions Gillian and I needed to be in for the perfect proposal shot. I think the photos tell a better story of what that moment was like. We’re currently planning our wedding and are thinking of having it on Maui because of how special the moment was.