With July fast approaching a blog post and update on all things longrunergy is greatly needed! A recap of June’s Sea to Summit on Oahu is also overdue, which is where I’ll start!
June 14th, 2015 – Sea to Summit, Oahu, Hawaii.
Change is inevitable. And sometimes it’s appropriate to celebrate change by doing something out of the ordinary because we need to remember that time in years to come. But celebrating change by hiking to the highest point on Oahu? Not so inevitable, or was it…
When Malia & Steve Clemons, good friends from the Hawaii running community (and podcast #5 interviewees, listen HERE) announced a departure to Colorado of course everyone on Oahu was sad to hear the news, but also very happy and excited for the family and their adventures ahead. In the lead up to their move, Steve had completed an ultra run from his bucket list of Sea to Summit on Maui – an amazing feat that basically consisted of running for 40miles, solo/ self-supported, straight up to the 10, 000ft summit of Haleakala. After hearing about Steve’s plans for Maui and seeing images from the day on Instagram, I was very inspired and wondered if Steve would also like to attempt a Sea to Summit (S2S) on Oahu. However I have to add that the thought did arise in a moment of madness, induced by the removal of a pesky wisdom tooth! But the idea seemed logical to me and thankfully enough people agreed to make it a feasible plan. A small group was gathered and we chose Sunday June 14th for go-day.
It was a calm and humid morning when we reached the designated starting point for our Oahu S2S of Pokai Beach in Waianae – where we dipped our feet in the sea, made sure our running-packs were fully loaded with water (and/ or nuun), and then set off towards the mountains. It’s quite an ominous feeling, looking up at a mountain range when you’re standing at sea level – knowing that the difference between you and the top is a pretty big physical push requiring some serious will power – but we were all excited and the mood was definitely jovial – possibly verging on the thought: ‘What on earth are we doing, this is hilarious/ crazy – but ok, here we are – let’s go!’
At roughly 4,000 ft Ka’ala sits within the Waianae Range on Oahu, which stretches across the western half of the island. Ka’ala is not really a ‘peak’ in the traditional sense. Instead, due it’s volcanic origin and the erosional processes acting upon it, the summit is flat! The topography is partly responsible for a bog that now sits along the horizontal ‘peak’, which has all sorts of wild and wonderful native plants. There is also a radio tower, which can be seen from miles around on a clear day.
The route we had chosen to summit Ka’ala was going to follow the well beaten trail to the top of the Waianae Range. But to reach the trail head from the sea we needed to run up Waianae Valley Road from the beach park – a distance of roughly 4miles. An alternative trail we had considered was to link the western most point of the island (Ka’ena) with the summit but after talking to a few people about that option we quickly realised it wasn’t going to be practical due to it’s remoteness and the probable impassability of some sections.
Once we reached the back of Waianae Valley, after passing a few encouraging signs on the roadside e.g. ‘Almost There’ (posted just for us we assumed…) and dodging a few overly friendly dogs – we found the trail head and the beginning of the concrete access road (to a water station) that forms the first part of the climb.
The next few miles took us to the water tank, where we met a couple out on a morning hike, and then we continued into the beginnings of the Waianae Kai Forest Reserve. Passing through low elevation tracts of guava, we slowly began to climb, but our run/ speed hike quickly became a speed hike/ heave hike. We also crossed paths with two adventurous young visitors to the island, guys who had hired a Jeep and driven out from their hotel to explore the trails.
Within the next mile or so the real climbing began, and assisted by either telephone wire, dog leashes, rope or just roots – we started to gain some serious elevation. The ground was fairly dry overall – which gave us pretty good traction underfoot. We began to notice more native trees such as Ohi’a Lehua – with it’s delicate red flowers.
Pausing a couple of times for water, and to take in the views – we reflected at one point on the gradient and exposure of the trail. With two HURT100 finishers in our group, Steve and Sean, and many, many miles on the group’s resume as a whole (Malia and Shawna have both logged ultras and marathons), I had no doubt of our capabilities, if everything worked out well. But – we had respect for the mountain and remembering that hiking in Hawaii can be risky, we assumed nothing. Steadily we kept on climbing, covering 2,500ft in the last mile before the summit.
We reached the top of Ka’ala and found ourselves on a boardwalk crossing the summit’s bog ‘garden’. With everything in the bog only growing to about head height, you feel completely enclosed, and it’s quite a surreal experience as moss shrouds the shrubbery and lichen tickle your ears. At the far side of the bog the board walk and plants end, and the north facing side of Ka’ala is exposed – which is where the radio tower is located. We walked around the fence line of the tower – and Malia spied the distant landmark of Diamond Head in Honolulu. The weather was perfect – and the views breathtaking. Grabbing every possible photo opportunity we wandered around the top of the mountain, riffs from ‘Take Me Home’ by Iz, and sung by Steve & Malia drifting in the air. We even managed to find the Ka’ala geodetic marker – planted on the peak in 1965. The final evidence we needed that our summit had been reached.
Hiking, or sliding, swinging and scrambling our way back down the mountain was very entertaining. What is it about descending from elevation that makes people so giddy? Navigating the rocky sections carefully, we eventually reached the trail head in high spirits, where a car loaded with cold drinks and salty snacks awaited us – thanks to our rendezvous manager, aka Jesse. We said cheers to Ka’ala, to good friends and to the experience of completing a Sea to Summit on Oahu. It was a bittersweet final trek with Steve & Malia but we’ll do another one in Colorado I’m sure!
If you’re interested doing the same Sea to Summit route on Oahu, and would like to see the .gpx file from my Garmin, just send me a message via the contact page and I’ll send it over. It’s an awesome day in the mountains – one I highly recommend. In terms of hydration and nutrition – I carried 100oz of nuun – but didn’t drink it all. I also just carried a few simple snacks – Mana Bars, a protein version of the Mana Bar and some electrolyte Jelly Beans. In total we were out for about 5 hours – and due to the speed we were moving I don’t think we drank as much as if we’d been running.
An additional aspect of the Sea to Summit on Oahu was to ‘Climb for Nepal’ in conjunction with a fundraising effort organised by Do More Than Sport. I wrote a short blog post for the non-profit, which you can read here, and took part in the Strava challenge to climb as many feet as possible in the month of June in aid of Nepal.
A new personnel summit (pun intended!) is to train for the Chicago marathon and attempt to break three hours. I’ve realised a few changes need to be made to my training, and thanks to support and coaching from Jon Lyau, the biggest difference will be running more miles. I usually stick to around 50-60 miles per week due to time and other commitments but to really crack this marathon business more endurance is needed – and small tweaks to a week can always be made. The aim is to reach and sustain 70-80 miles per week, maybe more, watch this space.
In between now and October 11th there are a few awesome local races that I’m going to sign up for, including the Ka’ena Point Firecracker this coming weekend, July 4th – a favourite trail race on Oahu organised by the HURT crew. I’ll also be posting a couple of free yoga videos to link up with the articles you may have seen in the free Hawaii Sport Magazine – and also check out a post I wrote for the go-to ultra and trail running website iRunFar.com – here.
Julia from Running On Om and I also just hosted an Instagram challenge, which we named the Summer Of ROO. We plan to host another challenge in the autumn – to celebrate the turning of the seasons and hope you’ll mark in it your calendars to take part – around September 23rd.
Before I sign off I’d like to leave you with two great articles that I read recently:
1. A new book from the author of Born To Run is hitting shelves soon – read more about Christopher McDougall’s latest work on Cooler Magazine.
2. An interesting read about how much, and what type of exercise we should be doing via the NYT: “The sweet spot for exercise benefits, however, came among those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, working out moderately, mostly by walking, for 450 minutes per week, or a little more than an hour per day.”
And with that I’ll say bye.