Sunday, May 26, 2013

I get "HI" with a little help from my friends

A friend recommended that 
I check in with the folks at 
who were super nice, and helpful.
We're now well into the Year of the Water Snake, and I wrote here previously on the subject of setting myself up with expectations for a year that would involve water, travel, and new experiences, and an environment for new career opportunities and friendships to thrive. So far, the universe has not disappointed. A week ago, I returned from an 8-day relaxation-fest on The Big Island of Hawaii with my husband and some favorite friends: hours upon hours of swimming and basking in the warm sun with books on the beach, as well as adventures on (and in) old volcanoes, snorkeling with giant manta rays, and cultivating a newfound love of the mai tai. It was a perfect mix of time alone to rest, time together with people I enjoy, and of course - time knocking out some monster training runs. How amazing, to be at the peak of marathon training while in Kona, the home of Ironman. But Hawaii is a hot, humid, and hilly place, so finding routes to do the 15- and 20-mile training runs that I was scheduled to do during our eight days on the island was no small feat. I learned early on in my first long run just how well-adapted I am to the cool, flat, desert conditions of San Diego. Running in Hawaii was as beautiful as any place I can imagine, and man did it teach me to dig deep. But more than anything, it reinforced for me the social benefits of running. 

Planning last Friday's 20-mile training run along the western edge of the island took a lot of work. Before I left, I had put out the call to a couple of groups on Facebook, and got some route suggestions. On the great advice of a local runner friend, I stopped into Kona's coolest little running shop, and got the staff's helpful feedback. And thanks to a lot of effort on the part of my enthusiastic traveling companions, we pulled it all together. This was a training run I definitely couldn't have executed by myself, and as much as I enjoyed the solitude of those several hours, I felt very deeply even in the hottest, most difficult of miles that I wasn't alone out there.

My crew and I headed out around 6:15 am, thinking that if I was running by 7:00, I'd beat the heat of the day. (We were, in fact, wrong about that. By 7:30, it was blazing.) They drove me to a spot that we'd mapped out and driven in advance, in order to identify good places to stash water bottles.

They dropped me off on the side of the highway, and I spent a few minutes getting myself psyched up (and peeing in that lava field) before pushing off.

The night before, I had frozen all of my water bottles, but by the time I arrived at my first one, stashed about six miles from the start (near the Kona airport) it was already thawed. Have I mentioned that The Big Island is hot?

The early miles of the run were mostly amazing, beautiful desolation.

It was hours before I saw another runner; not until I was in the village of Kona. I passed a few cyclists, but mostly this was my only company out there.

At my second water-bottle stop (about 10 miles in), I was feeling it. I had to sit in the shade of that palm tree for a few minutes and cool down, for fear of serious heat-related problems. I sent a text message to Marc to check in, and he replied noting that I still seemed to have some humor and lucidity, so this was encouraging.

The third water bottle stop turned out to be brilliant. We'd stashed it in a bush in front of the Kona Brewing Company, and as it happened, there was a sprinkler going in the landscaping at the time that I arrived. I put my stuff down, climbed up on a rock, and sat there letting the sprinkler drench me. I got lots of laughs from people driving by, and can only imagine how wrecked I must have looked by then. Looking back on this, I find it odd that any place on Hawaii needs sprinklers. Maybe I hallucinated this whole scene? At any rate, I was soaking wet, and actually cold by the time I took off. Whatever really happened out there, it did the trick, and got me back on the road.

A few miles later, I was at the official start of Ironman, a gorgeous spot in the village of Kona. Beautiful timing for some late-mile inspiration! A few waves crashed on that sea wall as I passed by, for some encouragement and a little cool-down.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love that the city of Kona is attentive to the safety of its roadside athletes. But pardon me: I DON'T SEE ANY JOGGERS OUT HERE. This is running.

The final miles were a long stretch of Ali'i Drive, which is just one beautiful little beach after another. My pace throughout this 20-miler was decent overall, and I mostly felt pretty good, but it required a lot of breaks to bring my constantly-climbing core temperature back down. Around mile 18, I needed one final short break, and had no trouble finding a nice spot to take it. I texted Marc one final time, who reminded me that I was "so close!" That final bit of encouragement helped me peel myself off that rock, grateful for all of the support that had made this gorgeous, challenging, and memorable run possible.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
-John Donne


  1. That's amazing to run where the Kona Ironman route takes place. And kudos to your team. I love it.

    1. I know, they're THE BEST! It was a lot of fun. Easy to say, now that it's a distant memory ... ;-)