Sunday, 23 December 2012

Trail Running in Maui (or - how I learned to stop worrying and love my offseason)

coming up the Halemaluu trail on the Haleakala crater hike

After the North Face 50 mile race, Coach John Hill assigned me 5 weeks of active rest. Active rest pretty much means: no Garmin, no pace, and no set workouts. No new injuries, no stressful running, and no new bad decisions. It means a physical rest and a mental rest to recover from my dubious run choices in 2012, and to to rest up for my even more questionable run plans for 2013. I am supposed to do all the things that I put off or didn't have time to do when I was running and training a lot. So far, my success at offseason has been mixed.

week 1 - drinking
It turns out, when I'm not running, I have a decent amount of time on my hands. I could have devoted this time to catching up on reading. I could have cleaned out my closet, or re-organized my apartment, or devoted myself to my work. Instead, I decided to focus on two semi-neglected things: my socializing, and my drinking. Instead of Thursday night intervals, in the dark, on the Stanley Park roads, me and some other running girlfriends dressed up (even wore heels) and went out for drinks. I got to catch up with my non-running-friends (both of them!) over...yes...more drinks. So this is what normal people do? I think normal people have better alcohol tolerance than me.

week 2 - trying new things
I don't like trying new activities, and I really don't like change. I do road running AND trail running - this gives me more than enough variety (in both workouts and injuries). However, I am (relatively) easily talked into things.Learning to do yoga was enough of a learning curve that I can confidently say that I am not ready to try a new thing, ever. But - I do have a one year unlimited yoga pass to yyoga. And yyoga does offer a spin class. My triathlete / runner friend has been trying to get me to attend this class with him for about a month. Before the race, I had valid reasons (excuses) to not go: I needed to run for several hours on trails in the rain, I needed to recover from runs in rain, I needed taper...after the race, my excuses wore thin:

Exasperated friend ("EF"): spin class?
Me: Can't face spin - uterus isn't prepared.
EF: Oh come on, it's a new excuse each week. Or a last minute bail.
Me: I'd rather run. Or stick a sharp object into my eye.
EF: Spin bikes don't hurt.
Me: I am not not physically or emotionally ready. My freak uterus can't do it.
EF: Not buying it.

Obviously, I made it to the 6:15am spin class. I wore two pairs of underwear, and my mom's hand-me-down bike shorts. I met my friend, who had already claimed bikes. The class was dimly lit, with a candle in the centre. My friend was wearing a visor, a heart rate monitor, and started his Garmin as soon as the instructor walked into the room. So for the longest 45min ever, I was on a stationary bike to dance music, trying desperately to figure out when to stand up, when to sit down, and when I could discreetly recover (cheat / take a break). By the end, my body was tired, but my joints weren't trashed. I might even be back....

week 3 - the weather sucks
On the third Saturday of my offseason, I ran with Lucy, in snow, up to the Cleveland Dam. Despite the great company, the run was cold and bleak. It was time for a change.

On the Sunday, I decided to combine my offseason drinking with my attempts to sort of try new things - by heading to Maui with Donovan. This was supposed to be a relaxing vacation. The plan was to eat tropical things (papayas, pineapples, avocados) while lounging on the beach, being relaxed, not being freezing cold all the time, looking at pretty fish and admiring the tropical-ness.

This was a good plan, but it failed to address the following things: I am type-A as fuck. I can lounge for all of 30 minutes before getting antsy. I burn really easily. I like to drink wine along with consumption of tropical food items....and Maui has some pretty awesome trails.

Initially, I was a bit more keen to run trails than Donovan was. I am used to running trails: walking uphills, negotiating (falling) downhill,  wearing a pack, and judging runs based more of elevation gain / trail condition than distance. Donovan does triathlons. As far as I am concerned, this means that he is used to structured workouts, running at a pace faster than 7min/km uphill, using a heart rate monitor, not getting lost, not fearing for his life going downhills. After our Grand Canyon rim-to-rim adventure (and nighttime snowy BCMC trail adventure) he has also become somewhat skeptical of my trail plans and route descriptions (pretty much: "It's XYZ distance and ABC'll be fine. Totally fine."). I had picked out some routes I wanted to run...and he had questioned if I wanted to kill him (not really). Five days,  80.7kms and almost 3600m of elevation later, things were a bit different.

I get very excited at the prospect of doing runs of new trails. Add to this my natural tendency to get up early, and my love of coffee in the mornings...and you have the equivalent in terms of energy (and potentially obnoxiousness) of a three year old who has eaten a family-sized bag of candy and then been given a drum set. To try to make things a bit more even, I was delegated all week to carrying the running backpack, with a 2L water bag, snacks, and extra gear. Donovan carried a small handheld.

Day 1 - Poli Poli forest
Distance: 20k
Run time: 2:30 (note that run times include all breaks, especially lots of photo breaks)
elevation: less than 700m?
trail condition: easy - well marked, rolling, not very technical.
lunch break: don't mind if I do!

the mist in the forest made it look more like something out of "the Hobbit" and less like a tropical destination

These trails were on the backside of Haleakala. We could see the ridge from where we were staying in Wailea. It was tempting to try to just run up the mountain to intercept the park. My navigation issues and the heat prevented us from doing this. Instead, we had a really fun jeep ride along windy dirt roads on the side of the mountain to the park entrance and the trail head. For a place that felt like it was out in the middle of nowhere, the trails were surprisingly well-marked. We went out and back along the Boundary trail.

Day 2 - Haleakala crater (Sliding Sands trail)
In 2008, post-UFE, me and the awesome Mel Best went to Maui. We hiked this trail. Although the weather wasn't ideal, I remembered the trail being a stand-out on the hike. Donovan wasn't initially convinced. Something about the point to point aspect gave him flashback to the Grand Canyon? After an hour or so on Garmin connect, and another hour checking out other trail descriptions on the internet, he was committed, if not necessarily as enthusiastic as me.

wake up time: 3:30am
arrival time at summit: 5:50am
parking spaces remaining at summit before 6am: very very few
clothes worn while watching a fabulous but fucking cold sunrise: all of them, plus a beach towel.
distance: 19k
elevation: 500-ishm
time: 2:40
photo breaks: so so many
trail difficulty: medium - runnable, well marked, the volcanic sand makes it slow in places, and the winds for the 1st 1km down are a bit nutty.

So excited for sunrise! and so cold.

hell yes!

The trail is point-to-point. We parked at the Halemaluu trailhead, at approx. 8000ft (the top is 10,000 ft). We were lucky enough to see another couple parked in the trailhead lot, and snag a ride with them back to the top of Haleakala to start the run. The road up to the summit has a dedicated hiker pick-up area, and it is very easy to park at the end of the run, then get a ride up to the top of the volcano to start the run. The trails are easy and very well marked. The views, the stillness in the crater, watching the sun light the far edges of the crater - all amazing.

Also amazing was the last uphill section, where I was feeling tired. I was powerhiking (okay, walking) the uphills...and Donovan was running them with suspicious ease. By the end, I was running - and hanging onto his heels to keep going, while wheezing heavily.

Day 3 - Wailea - Makena run
distance: 12km
elevation: it's road run.
ability to run without my trail backpack / safety blanket: I felt so much lighter!
heat: it is fucking hot running on concrete at noon.

Ending any run with a parking lot full change into a bikini, then swimming amongst brightly coloured fish is a pretty damn nice change from a freezing ice bath in Burrard inlet.

Day 4 - Lahaina - Pali trail (bait and switch)
My inspiration for wanting to do this run was from my girlfriend Chessa. She was in Maui a couple weeks before me. I saw pictures of this on her facebook page. She looked happy, while her husband Matt looked hot and tired. The online trail descriptions of this bordered on the ridiculous: one way (5 miles!) would take 3 hours, you would need "legs of steel" to get up, you would run out of water, the trail was rocky, etc etc. Initially, Donovan was not thrilled with these descriptions, and didn't seem interested in a steep, exposed trail that promised potential dehydration and certain sweaty climbs.

We set out with the intention of doing the Waihee ridge trail in west Maui...until we saw the huge rain clouds. The Lahaina-Pali trail, in contrast, was mostly clear. I should have clued in with all the windmills that this run would be....breezier...than most. Although the wind did make forward momentum difficult, it kept us from getting too hot as we ran the steep uphill.

Distance: 16km
Elevation: 1000m
Windy up top? Hell yes.
Pace on some downhills: 8min/kms (it's a bit rocky)
time: 2:30 or so? including chat breaks with other hikers

This run also signalled a bit of a mental switch for Donovan. We met a couple hiking on the trail, who discussed doing the Kaupo Gap route. This route goes from the Hana highway up to the top of Haleakala, and back down. According to the internet, the route is 56-60k round trip, 10,000 ft climbing. Most people only go one way. A normal person's reaction: this is a stupid, likely dangerous idea - let's go to the beach. Our reaction: this would be really cool to do. I guess I need to come back next year (with a headlamp, good travel insurance, bug spray, water treatment drops, and my ridiculously huge running pack).

sweaty running pics. no beach pics available (I am too white)

Day 5 - Waihee Ridge and Makawao Forest
West Maui finally got some sun, and my navigation skills worked enough to find the Waihee ridge trailhead.

Distance: 8k
Elevation: 500m
Time: 1hr
cheesy running pics taken at my request: many

The trail was awesome, and had the most hikers we'd seen out of any of the trails. After the mini-run, we stopped by Paia for some and beer / ginger ale and a quart of ice cream split two ways. Feeling full (and somewhat guilty), we went over to the Hana side of Haleakala to run in Makawao forest. This was the easiest run of the trip. By this point, I was a bit tired. The run didn't have big views of blow-your-socks off scenery. Instead, there was the late afternoon light through the trees, the scent of eucalyptus, and the faint trail winding its way through leaves.

Distance: 11k
Elevation: 300m?
Time: 1hr
wipeout on the least technical surface you can imagine, going uphill: 1. Ugh.

It was a great way to finish the run portion of the trip. Sunset found us pulled over on the side of the road, top down, drinking wine out of red plastic cups (me still in muddy compression calf sleeves), watching the sunset.

Things I actually heard:
"My legs feel pretty good."
"It would be fun to run the Kneeknacker."
"It would be fun to do the North Face 50."
"It would be fun to do the Miwok 100."
"We could totally do 60k on trails up and down the volcano."
"I should get a bigger running backpack."

Then this morning, I woke up in the dark to rain against my window, and knew I was back in Vancouver. Brooke and I did about 18k on concrete under low clouds, using girl talk to help us on the uphills and through the headwinds.

I want to go back to Maui, and run the damn 60k trail.

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