Summits

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!’

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Starting at the beach – toes in the sea. Left to right: Sean, Shawna, Steve, Malia and myself. PC: Steve Clemons

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.

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Ohia flowers against the Waianae backdrop

 

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Climbing up a rocky section. PC Steve Clemons

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.

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We made it! 4000ft later at the top of Kaala. North Shore in the background

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.

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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.

Happy Trails!

Susie

Interview #10 Nate Stanis

“You never know what’s around the corner.” Nate Stanis

Nate Stanis, a Hawai’i based ultra runner, vegan and botanist, is about to set out on an incredible fundraising journey, running 2,180 miles along the Appalachian Trail. As Nate runs she will be raising awareness of the Nature Conservancy, specifically to help fund the LEAF program that provides internships in conservation work for young people. Nate kindly took time out of preparing for her epic summer to talk about how she was inspired to undertake the upcoming challenge and how running first became part of her life.

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Nate out on the trails

You’re about to embark on a 55 day ultra run along the Appalachian Trail but tell us more about how you started running in the first place?

I have been a runner ever since I was a small child with bundles of energy; racing with kids in the school yard. However throughout high school and college I was more of a team sports gal. I started running longer distances in 2009 when I discovered a love for triathlon and the routines of distance training~ in 2010 I ran my first marathon (after only competing a half marathon before that… skipped the 5km and 10km races), and from there on I just kept wanting to run longer distances. I suppose I started running longer, and especially on trails eventually because I love being outside, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life (phones, technology, cars, pollution… the go, go, go mentality), and instead immersed myself in nature and my body. The trails are somewhat of a spiritual place for me.

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Mid trail race – Nate looking focused!

Where does the inspiration for your current endeavour come from?

The inspiration for the trip first came when I read “Hiking the Triple Crown” by Karen Berger; I found the book in a youth Hostel in 2001 and was immediately inspired. I was somewhat directionless at the time, but when I read that book I had a powerful feeling that long-distance adventures were a large part of I wanted to do with my life. I love being outdoors, and using my body. In 2005, I hiked 1,500 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) after getting my BA. Once I began running, it was easy to put together my love of trails and my love of running and I made the decision that I would return to distance ventures after completing my MS in Botany.

How do you feel being a plant-based endurance athlete has helped you prepare for the Appalachian Trail?

I have found that as soon as I increased my intake of fresh veggies and fruits, and made the choice to go vegan, I had an abundance of energy. I love to eat, and my system responds well to consistently fuelling with natural foods. The year I went vegan I ran my first ultra event~ 240 miles around the Big Island of Hawai’i; before that my recovery was slower. I think a plant-based lifestyle also primes me for staying true to my values as an advocate for sustainable and gentle land practices, bringing me closer to the earth.

How will you manage your nutrition along the route, and what types of food will you eat to balance the miles you cover?

I plan to primarily focus on fruits and nuts during the days, and cap off the evenings with hearty warm meals. I have found when fast-packing and competing in other endurance events that I do best with simple, natural fuels; I eat home-made date and nut bars, or tried and true trail mixes~ both high in calories and simple carbs. I also really enjoy fresh fruit while I’m running, especially watermelon and grapes. In the evenings, after working so hard, I’ll be eating a lot of beans, tortillas, sweet potatoes and leafy greens such as kale and broccoli, always with a good healthy fat such as avocado, olive or coconut water. And chocolate of course is a favourite for the trail or a night-cap.

Hydration will also be a major factor, what are your go-to ‘staying hydrated’ remedies?

I love coconut water, and snacking on watermelon, which I’ll be able to get at road crossings with my crew, but while I’m running I take nuun or EmergenC. I also tend to focus on water and save the electrolytes for when I really need them (snacking on salty foods rather than doing sugary energy drinks). I drink about a litre of water per 8 miles on training runs, so that’s a guide for me.

You mention ballet and spinning on your blog as forms of cross-training to compliment your preparation for 55 days on the trails. What else has been essential to your training?

I think a large part of my preparation for the trail besides the actual physical training, is mental. I do a lot of visualisation; of my strong and healthy body, of moving with ease on the trail, of overcoming fatigue and aches. I often think through every “worst case scenario” and think about how I will respond when obstacles come up or it’s the end of a 50 mile day and I feel totally spent. I think graduate school has helped somewhat with the mental determination side of things; as hard and uncomfortable as things can get, you just keep moving forward and the rewards will come.

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Staying flexible – Nate doing trail yoga!

How do you balance passions and interests?

I feel like I am lucky because I am so passionate and interested in my work in botany and my life on trails. I love learning, I love being outdoors, and I am passionate about conservation of our wild-lands~ I think even when I have very little time for anything besides studies or running, I can feel balanced and satisfied because I am engaged and passionate about what I am doing. That said, I think going on this trip is a form of balancing for me. After all the time in the past two years of sitting at a computer, and am really looking forward to waking up in the wilderness each day and being purely physical!

Who are your biggest mentors?

I have a few; my mom is my biggest inspiration and mentor, she always followed her dreams no matter how long it took to get her there both in her career and her personal life. She is determined and kind and empathic, and has a worldview of fighting for justice and equality. Running-wise, Scott Jurek inspired me to become a vegan athlete with his book “Eat and Run” and now he’s running the Appalachian Trail (AT) the same summer I will be. He is a total hero; humble and honest and a kick butt runner. Third is definitely Jennifer Pharr Davis, who has the current record for speed on the AT; I read her book, “Becoming Odyssa” last year and am in awe of her physical abilities, spiritually minded kindness and outreach on trail preservation.

1 great thing about living and running in Hawaii?

 Only 1?! I’d say the weather and the mountains tie for epic living/ running.

Can you share 3 suggestions or pieces of advice for people hitting the trails or taking part in their first ultra run this year?

Yes! I can try but of course everyone has a different body!

  • Listen to your body~ I have always taken recovery and signals from my body very seriously. I train according to my personal limits and I tend to not train in groups; only because it’s easier for me to tune in to my personal bio-rhythms. Not that we all need that, I just think it’s important to sometimes leave the GPS at home, tune in to your body, and allow for rest and recovery.
  • Eat and drink!~ Similar to listening to your body, I think it’s easy for runners and competitive folks to key into what everyone else is doing instead of eating and drinking to your personal needs. There is also a lot of body image stigma that comes with being a runner. As someone who has struggled a lot with self-esteem and disordered eating, I have found that nourishing is essential! In an ultra especially, where you are going slower and longer, and need to actively recover while on the trail and begin to take in calories before you think you need it.
  • Have fun and smile~ I’ve see a lot of grimaces on the faces of runners, especially in the later halves of ultra-races. I definitely suggest finding a pacer or a buddy that can help lighten the mood. Laughing, smiling and having light conversation helps not only your entire mood and performance, but will allow you to form friendships and bonds with fellow runners~ one of the BEST parts of ultra-running for me.

What is the biggest life lesson running has taught you, so far?!

“You never know what’s around the corner.” In the past, I tended to give up on things when they got really tough. In 2005 when I hiked the PCT, I was on the phone with a friend and told her I wanted to quit. She gave me the advice that I would never know what’s around the next corner of the trail if I stopped now. So, I kept going, and was rewarded with an abundance of beauty and wildlife for the remainder of the trip. I visited places and met people who I would never have met if I didn’t keep going. Now, as a runner, I just think to myself, I wonder what’s around the next bend? What will happen if I just take a few more steps? I think that running teaches us about the rewards of determination and hard work, and to always be engaged with “what’s next”.

A few fun questions:

Mangoes or papayas? TOUGH! Papayas as long as there’s a pinch of salt.

Coconut or avocado? Avocado hands down.

Smoothies or juices? Smoothies for sure.

Malasadas or musubi? I’ve only ever had tofu musubi, which was dry… so I will guiltily admit malasadas.

Mauka or makai? That’s tough too! I love the sunny beaches, but my heart is mauka.

Compression gear or ice baths? Ice baths, but ouch! My favourite is the ocean or a cold pond!

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On the trail – Nate training in Hawaii

Thanks Nate! Wishing you the best of luck on the AT this summer!

As Nate runs, she will not only be fundraising but also collecting botanical specimens for the Herbariums at the University of Hawaii Manoa and the Appalachian State University. The specimens will be pressed and then digitized for educational purposes.

To read more about the project and Nate’s fundraising efforts see The Epic AT Run and to make a donation to the Nature Conservancy visit the funding platform CrowdRise. If you’d like to sponsor Nate herself, and support her ultra effort by maybe buying Nate a smoothie or a tank of gas/ coffee for the support van (and it’s drivers!) please donate at Nate’s personal page on GoFundMe.

Nate will start running on June 16th! To live vicariously and follow Nate’s progress online look out for updates via twitter @natecupcake and also check out Instagram for updates too @nstanisYou can also keep an eye on Nate’s blog in the future: Running on Plants.

Happy Trails!

Podcast #15 Lauren Ho

Podcast #15 Lauren Ho

Welcome to a new episode of the podcast featuring Lauren Ho, one of Oahu’s top athletes. An elite obstacle course racer (OCR), runner and a soccer player, Lauren is also a qualified Cross Fit coach and leads a weekly work out group in Kailua: F.I.T. Happy Hour. As a member of a professional racing team , Lauren has competed in and won a number of OCR and trail running events across Hawaii and the continental US including: the Atlas Race Temecula (1st team); the inaugural Ultimate Hawaii Trail Run (1st); and the XTerra Trail Running World Champs (7th).

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Lauren mid-obstacle. PD Kien Lam @whereandwander

Lauren is currently gearing up for the year ahead and has a very strong work ethic, on and off the course. One example of this (that made me exhausted just thinking about it) was an Instagram challenge to do 235 burpees (in 12:45mins). Yes, you really did read that. And Lauren completed it. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Lauren over a coffee and it was interesting to hear about Lauren’s background in running, her perspectives on training and life, and also why she loves living in Kailua.

Listen to episode #15 of the podcast here:

Or find the podcast and past episodes on iTunes HERE.

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Balance is only one skill needed for obstacle racing!

To keep up with Lauren check out her motivating Instagram feed HERE, or read a few of Lauren’s race reports on her blog: Herro Miss Rara.  And if you’re interested in the 235 burpee challenge, see more here: Burpees. As mentioned in the podcast Lauren has a great smoothie recipe up on her blog, which is made using ATH Organics protein powder and Wai Koko Coconut Water. And if you’re intrigued about Beet Elite that Lauren discusses read more about the product and it’s benefits via their website HERE.

Thanks for tuning in to this episode!

Happy Trails!

Running & Racing

Wow, I’ve been slacking on blog posts and race reports. :( And so I’m going to make this a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ write up of two recent races, one being the Eugene marathon, and the other being the Hapalua Half marathon. But don’t worry, my aim is to keep it fairly short and sweet whilst looking at how meditation helped in my marathon preparation and what’s coming up next on longrunergy.

The Hapalua

First up is a summary of the Hapalua Half Marathon, which took place on April 12th. It was an honour to take part in the Hapalua because of The Chase, which is unique to the event. As part of Team Hawaii, I lined up with a group of local runners – ahead of a small, but very fast group of elite runners (3 Kenyans, 1 Japanese) and the main pack. The design of the race gives Team Hawaii a head start, or a handicap, and the elite runners have to try to catch the locals – or in other words, chase us down. This year I had a fairly good handicap and fancied my chances of not being caught by the Kenyans but unfortunately in the three weeks prior to the race I had a minor case of whip-lash, came down with flu and had a wisdom tooth infection. Yuck, yes. But it could have been worse. Amazingly on the day I pulled through and finished 9th overall, 1:24:43, but it took everything I had, and of course the Kenyan and Japanese elite runners caught me (who was I trying to kid)! The effort left me feeling more like I’d run a marathon than 13.1 miles and for some reason my calves took most of the hammering. To recover I took lots of BioAstin, swam, tried to go surfing once, did lots of yoga and foam rolled every day whilst replenishing with multiple glasses of nuun! The Hapalua was overall a brilliant event, one that is growing in participation numbers year by year – and being able to run with some of the best local and international runners made for a memorable day.

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And they’re off! Hapalua start – my start wave included 4 other athletes based in Hawaii

Eugene-Bound

After the Hapalua, the main goal was just to get to the starting line of the Eugene Marathon on May 10th feeling somewhat normal. The prior goal of breaking the ever elusive 3hr barrier looked slim, however I kept a small sunbeam shining, just in case. But everything had been different in the lead up to this marathon and it was constantly on the back of my mind. The usual three-week taper had been sliced, workouts had not been great and I’d only run one 20 miler.

One aspect that had been very different in the lead up to Eugene was my morning meditation practice – using the Head Space app on my phone. After listening to a Rich Roll podcast interview with an English guy named Andi Puddicombe, who is the founder of a meditation programme called Head Space, I decided to give meditation a serious try (and I highly recommend listening to the podcast interview, link HERE). I have meditated before, following the wonderful book, ‘Running With a Mind of Meditation’ but the difference with Head Space is that the exercises are guided. The app has a free, 10 day trial you can download – and I have to say it really worked. Maybe it was the familiar English accent, or just the simplicity of the exercises but it really helped to give me perspective on things I couldn’t control in the weeks before Eugene – and what I would be able to control on the day.

Eugene Marathon weekend arrived and I was lucky to connect with my friend and fellow Oiselle team-mate Julia (from Running On Om), and also her friend Steph who graciously accommodated us. There was a Oiselle pre-race shake out run on Saturday morning that started from a new Eugene running store (RunHub), which was a great chance to re-connect with familiar faces from Bird Camp and also meet a few new team mates. We ran along the dreamy ‘Pre’s Trail’ in Eugene and checked out sections of the marathon route.

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Oiselle group outside Run Hub PC: Paulette Ference

Race morning came around quickly – and I lined up with friends from Hawaii (a group of us from Oahu all travelled out to take part in the marathon: Eric, Gil, Henrik, Leah & Shawna), and Julia  – who had kindly offered to pace me over the first 10-13 miles of the course. After discussing various options and marathon strategies with my coach Jon, we had decided that I shouldn’t set off too conservatively, since my Hapalua time indicated some level of fitness. I was grateful for his confidence, since it boosted mine! The aim was to try for 6:50 mins/mile – see how it felt and adjust accordingly. I chose a race mantra: ‘Relax & Breathe’, R&B – based on what I practiced during the meditation exercises and I also decided not to wear my Garmin watch so that I could comfortably run ‘as I felt’ rather than be consumed by each mile’s split time. The gun went off – and with Julia’s guidance we were soon hitting the right pace and my body and mind settled in to a rhythm. I decided to hold on for as long as I could, saying my mantra quietly to myself whenever tension crept in or my mind wandered off. The course was fun, lined with cheery spectators and at times followed a bike path shrouded by trees. The route was green, there was no wind, and the temperature was just about perfect for running. Julia had ducked off the course close to mile 10, and left me her regular stopwatch to track my overall time. At mile 20 I remember reading something close to 2hrs 15 mins – which gave me 45 mins to run 6 miles – if I was to break the 3hr limit. I took a deep breath and pulled myself together knowing that the last 6 miles of a marathon are basically what it’s all about. And that’s exactly when my calves started to feel tight. To keep the story short I’ll just say that the final stretch was a battle of mind vs. calves and the mantra became everything. Teetering on the edge of cramping, I found myself at the gates of Hayward Field, and verging on tears of sheer relief, crossed the finish line on the infamous track – 3:03:08. A Oiselle team-mate magically appeared out of somewhere and gave me the best hug ever – thanks Laurel! I then found the rest of the Hawaii gang, Julia and a number of Team Oiselle who had also run.

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Oiselle Birds working together!

 

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Hayward Field and the marathon finish line

Soon enough, after t-shirts, photos and medals, we found the perfect sunny beer garden from where to share our marathon stories. Everyone from the Hawaii group finished – there were three PR’s, some slight disappointments but overall plain and simple gratitude for the whole Eugene experience. Marathons, amongst many other things, bring people closer together – and as cheesy as that sounds, it’s true!

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Post marathon celebratory drinks in the sun!

Special Podcast

Over the marathon weekend Julia and I recorded a unique episode of Ask the Yogi Runners, which you can listen to from HERE. Grabbing the opportunity to do an ‘in-person’ podcast, we recorded a pre and post-event discussion of yoga and marathon running. Julia ran the Boston marathon this year as a guide for a partially sighted runner, and we wanted to explore the application of ‘yoga-tools’ to the marathon distance. If, after listening, you have any questions or comments related to yoga and running, please feel free to drop us an email: asktheyogirunners@gmail.com

Thanks for sticking with this ‘short but sweet‘ blog post! I hope you were intrigued to read more about Andi Puddicombe and check out Head Space! Next up on longrunergy are two interviews, one with a Hawaii athlete that I’ve waiting to post for a while and another with an ultra runner on an ultra challenge. It is also one year since the final stage of Retracing Routledge was underway on Rapa Nui – what a difference a year makes. Keep an eye on Instagram and the Facebook page for updates about the project.

Happy Trails!

Susie

ps. Had the wisdom tooth out this week!