From the foothills of the Olympic Mountains to the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Big Hurt intertwines the diversity of the North Olympic Peninsula into one event.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, Big Hurt—a four-leg test of endurance—will be in full swing. Both individuals in the Iron division and Relay teams gather from far and wide to explore Port Angeles and its incredible surroundings via bike, kayak and foot.
Participants begin on mountain bikes and ride 16.5 miles on logging roads, single-track trails and pavement before reaching Hollywood Beach in downtown Port Angeles. From the beach participants kayak 3 miles, embark on a 30-mile road bike journey and endure a 10-kilometer run along the scenic Olympic Discovery Trail.
The event returns for a second year after an 11-year hiatus was snapped in 2015.
“It’s a tough event,” Mitch McDougall said. “But it’s really community-minded.”
McDougall, a lifelong local of the Olympic Peninsula, has done competitive sports for 23 years and has participated in nearly all the Big Hurt events, which originated in 1997. McDougall started his lasting relationship with extreme sports when he was 16 years old on a mountain bike. This passion for mountain biking later led to road biking and freshwater kayaking.
“Too many big jumps and waterfalls” eventually took their toll on McDougall, requiring back surgery to address a severe injury, he said. Since his surgery three and a half years ago, McDougall has been on a long road to recovery, but is thrilled to be conditioning to participate in this year’s Big Hurt. Not only is he signed-up, but he is doing the Iron division and therefore plans to complete all four legs as an individual.
Recently McDougall ran 3.5 miles, a large accomplishment at this point, he said. Although running used to be the stage of Big Hurt that he could make up for lost time, McDougall has had to alter his strategy because his left foot doesn’t maneuver quite like it did prior to his injury. Instead, McDougall hopes to recover some time during the cycling portion.
Big Hurt was an iconic local event when I first moved to Port Angeles in 2002, but before I got a chance to participate, the event ended. Over the years many local athletes have described how great it was, and they mentioned to me that they would like to see it return.
When it comes to being able to participate in an event like Big Hurt again, McDougall admits “the emotional part is more than the physical at this point.”
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I have a different outlook on being able to do something like this (Big Hurt) now … I think I’m probably going to enjoy it more.”
Beyond representing a major milestone is his own healing, McDougall notes the happiness it brings him to see Big Hurt return to the area, as it builds local businesses and community relationships.
“There’s an interesting camaraderie among people when they share in an event like this,” he said.
Gay Hunter, another devoted participant of Big Hurt, echoes McDougall, and also is looking forward to once again participating in the event as an individual.
“Big Hurt showcases this area and involves all the things I love to do,” she said.
Older and perhaps less competitive than she once was, Hunter plans to “make a day of it,” she said. “It’s an accomplishment no matter what your time is.”
Despite the challenges Big Hurt poses, Hunter is encouraging of anyone wanting to get involved.
“It’s a very supportive and friendly atmosphere,” she said.
Following the event and award ceremony, participants and the general public are invited to enjoy live music, a beer garden hosted by Red Lion Hotel and food concessions at the “Hub” of the event, located at West End Park at the intersection of Oak Street and Railroad Avenue.
Although this year marks the second annual Big Hurt, it’s building from the original event that ran from 1997-2004. The race quickly grew in that time from 65 to nearly 600 participants and was widely embraced by the communities of the Olympic Peninsula, as well as visitors.
“Big Hurt was an iconic local event when I first moved to Port Angeles in 2002, but before I got a chance to participate, the event ended,” said Lorrie Mittmann, Big Hurt co-organizer. “Over the years many local athletes have described how great it was and they mentioned to me that they would like to see it return; thus, when I got the opportunity to work with Tim and Scott, I was energized because I knew we could do it and the community would support us.”
Coupled with ample community support, Mittmann, Tim Tucker, and Scott Tucker are the primary forces behind the successful return of Big Hurt. This year’s title sponsor is Mittelstaedt Chiropractic and Massage.
“I would like to see the Big Hurt grow, but continue to have the local spirit that it has always had,” Tim Tucker said. “The race highlights everything that is great about Port Angeles – it’s a community event through and through.”
A portion of the proceeds from this year’s Big Hurt will be donated to Peninsula Trails Coalition – the nonprofit organization devoted to the construction, maintenance and promotion of the Olympic Discovery and Olympic Adventure trails.
Learn more about Big Hurt and sign up at bighurtpa.com.
Registration closes Friday, Sept. 23. Each participant who registers before Sept. 1 receives a Big Hurt T-shirt.