By Jim Sullivan
---- — There is endurance, then there are 100-mile races. Newburyport’s Maddy Hribar runs 100 mile races.
“It’s a little insane,” admitted Hribar. “(But) my first 100, I won, outright.”
Hribar, 29, is referring to Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Challenge, which she won last year with a time of 18 hours and 16 minutes.
“My first 100 went surprisingly well,” she said. “I messed up my foot around mile 40. So I was trying to run on an injured foot. But I knew that I was in the lead and there was definitely no way that I was backing down, even if we had to cut my foot off or whatever. You’ve got to be kind of stubborn. You can’t just sit down and call it a day.”
For the uninitiated, a 100-mile race is just that, 100 miles, nonstop. Food and water are taken in while running. There are no breaks (other than running into the woods for a moment to relieve oneself) and no sleep.
“You’re delirious by the time you’re finished, everything hurts,” said Hribar, who will be running the Leadville Trail 100 Run in Colorado Aug. 17-18.
“It’s not just your legs. You’re trying to carry your food on your vest or something like that, taking water. After 100 miles, everything starts to break down. You’ve got to watch your feet for blisters. Your knees are killing you. It’s just painful.”
A member of the Port Racing running club, the New Balance employee recently took the top women’s honors at the Spring Fever 5K in Newburyport in May and The Nat Bibaud 5K in June. Hribar was also the top Newburyport women’s runner at the Boston Marathon this year with a time of 3:01:00.
But for her, a marathon is a walk in the park.
“My dad was a marathoner,” said Hribar. “He thinks that my long distances are sort of crazy. I really like the marathon distance, but I did my first ultra a couple of years ago when I first moved up here and I really liked it. It’s a totally different thing. It’s a different set of people and a different mentality as far as the race goes.”
Set in the Colorado Rockies, Leadville’s 50-mile, out and back course starts around 9,000 feet. At mile 40, the elevation is 13,000 feet, with a 2-mile, 23 percent grade climb over Hope’s Pass.
“It’s a huge elevation change in the matter of 5 to 10 miles,” said Hribar. “(But) I’m very nervous about the altitude, I’ve never run at altitude before. But I’ve been sleeping in an altitude tent for over a month now. I know that I can run the distance, but it has a very low-finishing rate. The dropout is pretty high. So there is that to think about.
“It’s definitely one of the more difficult races out there, even for the 100-mile ones. They give you a cut-off time of 30 hours. I’d like to get under 25, but I’ll be happy just to finish it.
“This is going to sound stupid, but they give you a big belt buckle if you finish in under 25 hours. So that is kind of the goal right now.”
Hribar will not be alone in this venture. She will be traveling with a four-person crew including her mother and three pacers who will run with her for the last 50 miles.
“They make sure I’m not falling asleep on the trail or getting lost,” Hribar said of her pacers. “They’re sort of like a mom at that point.”
Persistence and dedication may not be strong enough words to describe what Hribar puts into her passion.
“It takes a lot of time as far as training is involved,” she said. “And even though I’m not getting paid to do it, it’s really tough. I work 40 hours a week and then I put in another 100 miles a week to get ready for something like this. It’s another good 12 to 15 hours a week.”
Runners are weighed before the race and can be removed from the course if they lose 7 percent of their body mass. Hribar hopes she will not be one of those.
“Hopefully I’m not too torn up after the race.”