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Tantalus Loop

July 26, 2012

I hit the trails today and checked out the extensive trail system mauka (mountain) of Honolulu.

I am so glad I did because this is a great grouping of trails close to my work and really easy to get to. You just need to take Makiki Street, stay to the right where it splits, and take curvy Round Top Drive to Ualakaa State Park.

I started off on the Ualakaa trail at the State Park, where there are bathrooms and a scenic overlook of the city. There is Honolulu in all of its developed and crowded glory. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining because there is beautiful forest a mere 10 minutes drive from that madness.

I turned left onto the Makiki Valley Trail.

Makiki Valley trail linked up with the Nahuina trail, which was STEEP, I had to hike at least half of it! Then Nahuina trail ends at Tantalus Drive and you have to cross the road to pick up the Kaluwahine trail.

It was so nice up on these trails! I started the run at 1:00 p.m. which is a blazing hot time of the day, but it was so comfortable in the mountains because a) you are at a much higher elevation and b) it is totally shaded on all of the trails. The trees were nice enough to provide me with some shade, but their extensive root systems kept trying to trip me and twist my ankle.

Luckily I have somehow developed superhuman ankle strength and anytime my foot rolled, my ankle corrected itself immediately. I am not sure how this is possible seeing how I broke my foot 3 times as a kid by rolling my ankle in sports. I was able to continue on my happy forest ramble and linked up to the Manoa Cliffs trail.

From there it was a pretty steady downhill back to Ualakaa State Park, through bamboo and past beautiful heliconias.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lovely run and I am glad I explored this area because I plan to run here a lot more often. If you run this loop, bring water. I went through 1.5 liters of water before I was finished and felt thirsty at the end.  There are bathrooms and water at Ualakaa State Park. It took me almost 2 hours to do the 7 mile loop today, I guess trail running is a hell of a lot slower than road running. Nonetheless I enjoyed myself, challenged myself, and took in some great views.

Waterborne Adventure

July 23, 2012
tags:

Warning, I am going to talk about something besides running.
This past weekend Tim and I went on a grand kayaking adventure out to the Mokulua Islands, which are situated off the coast of the east side of Oahu. There is a small beach on the island to the left and they both are bird sanctuaries.

We launched our kayak from the Kailua boat launch and began at the paddle. It was an ideal day for being out on the water, very light winds, minimal waves, and crystal clear waters. The water is pretty shallow in all of Kailua bay, which makes for nice paddling, swimming, and snorkeling. Tim hopped out for a swim.

And I gazed at the scenery. These shots are looking back on the island of Oahu from the kayak.

North towards Kaneohe.

South towards Makapuu.

Self portrait.

The island we were headed towards, with the beach as the landing spot.

It was about a 40 minute paddle out to the Moks and we landed on the sandy beach, set up the umbrella and kicked back for a few hours. I wish I could say that we had the island secluded to ourselves, but it is a pretty popular destination. People were landing all day by kayak, stand up paddle board, motor boat, sail boat, and self propulsion (i.e.; swimming). Most everyone seemed to be doing a little day drinking on the island, I guess there is something about the novelty of drinking a beer on a tiny rock in the middle of the ocean.

It was a good day to be alive, and a great day to live in Hawaii!

 

H.U.R.T.s so good!

July 8, 2012

Today was the day that I finally made it out to run with the Hawaii Ultra Running Team (H.U.R.T.). I have been eying their website for some time, looking at their training runs and trail races that they put on monthly. My schedule and/or ambition has not matched up with the dates of the races until today, when I joined them for the Kaena Point Firecracker trail race (best decision ever!).

Before I get to the race, let’s discuss how interesting the 5 o’clock hour is. The race started at 7 a.m. on the North Shore, which is pretty much the farthest place away on the island, so we left the house at 5 a.m. Things got really weird, really fast. While driving out of our small neighborhood I saw what I thought was a shirtless man walking down. Then we got closer and I realized he was a fully naked man walking down the rode, in hiking boots, bare butt glistening in the moonlight. It was one of the strangest things I have ever seen. Then while driving down the highway we saw a girl clad in going out gear, getting a field sobriety test. Woah girl, 5:30 a.m. and you are heading home from the club, drunk and driving? Check your priorities.

Anyway, the race started at Kaena Point State park, the northwest tip of Oahu, and was run on a trail next to the shore for the entirety. You just had to show up a little early to register and pay a measly $10, and you were good to go. There was a good crowd of 50-75 people out for the race. The race got started at 7, with the blow of a conch shell, and we were off.

We are the little ants down there. Although Tim did not run the race, he hiked up the cliff face just to take pictures of me… just kidding, he was looking for plants and happened to get some great photos of us running.

The first 2.5 miles were on this trail/dirt road with nice rolling hills. Then we came to Kaena point, the corner of Oahu that connects the West side with the North Shore and is also a bird sanctuary. Then we rounded the corner and ran down the West side. Words cannot explain, but that view rounding the bend was INCREDIBLY beautiful, all mountains and ocean and gorgeous. I had a smile plastered to my face the whole time like this…

Seriously it was one of those days that I felt so lucky and greatful to be alive, to be running, and to be in Hawaii. We ran to Yokohama Bay on the west side, where there was a turnaround at mile 5. They had ice cold water, gatorade, and grapes, which were all delicious. I just set out to run my own race and keep it comfortable but challenging, but as I approached the turnaround I didn’t notice that many women heading back and I knew they were giving prizes for the first 10 men and the first 10 women finishers. I am a sucker for prizes, so I made sure to keep my pace as speedy as possible, which was around 8:20 min/mile, and seemed appropriately fast for a trail race.

I headed back around the point and around mile 7.5 the course veered toward the ocean and we didn’t run back on the same dirt path that we ran out on. This was both a brilliant and painful course choice because we headed closer to the ocean to run on the beach. Beach equals sand, which is hard on tired legs nearing the end of the race, but it also made things interesting and challenging.

I just kept pushing and smiling through the effort. It really helped to take quick, small steps through the sand so my feet didn’t sink too far. Oddly enough, the last 2 miles through the sand was where I passed a good amount of people. See those three ladies in front of me? Yeah, they ate my dust.

I finished the race in about 1 hour and 31 minutes and felt great through the end. I ended up being the 9th place woman, and was rewarded for my efforts with a commemorative glass and some natural energy chews. There was a nice potluck at the end of the race with lots of watermelon, grapes, oranges, cherries, and baked goods, most notable being the pumpkin mochi bars.

I had a blast running with H.U.R.T., they put on a fantastic race, and I cannot wait to run with them in the future!

Mexican Quinoa Salad

July 5, 2012

I was going to start this post with something like….

Summertime is ripe with barbecues, and this recipe is certain to be a crowd pleaser at your next potluck.

But then I realized that it is always barbecue season in Hawaii, so I would be misrepresenting my life if I made it seem like anything was different in the months of June-August. Year-round we have barbecues and outdoor potlucks, aren’t we lucky?

Now that the cat is out of the bag, back to the recipe. Whenever I get invited over to a barbecue, or organize a potluck at our house (which was the case last Friday), a quinoa salad is my go-to dish. It is infinitely changeable and can be created based on whatever food theme you are going for. Not to mention, it is super healthy with lots of colors, protein, and healthy fats. This quinoa salad had a Mexican theme, based on some key ingredients that I already had; beans, avocado, peppers, and tomato. It was a huge hit at the get-together and I will be revisiting this specific rendition of quinoa on the regular. So here it is….

  • Mexican Quinoa Salad

Ingredients for Salad:

- 2 cups cooked quinoa (bring 3 cups of water to boil with a dash of salt and cook quinoa until done and all water is soaked up

- 1 large bell pepper, diced

- 1/4 cup red onion, diced

- 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

- 1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

- 1 can of corn, drained

- 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro

Ingredients for Dressing:

- 1 teaspoon each of cumin, pepper flakes, and chili powder

- 1/2 tablespoon of agave or honey

- 2 tablespoons of Braggs Amino Acids

- 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice

Directions:

1) Mix salad ingredients in a large bowl

2) Mix dressing ingredients in a small, separate bowl

3) Throw dressing on top of salad and mix well

4) Chop one avocado into cubes and spread on top of the salad (if you mix the avo into the salad base it will get all mushy and weird, so it is better to top with avocado)

Enjoy!

And So It Begins

July 1, 2012

Or resumes, or continues, depends on how you look at it.

Training, that is.

Today was my first long run of marathon training for the Maui Marathon on September 16th. I adapted an intermediate training plan from Hal Higdon and started the plan on the 5th week, giving me 12 weeks of solid marathon training. I had been training continuously since February for 3 different half marathons, so coming in at week 5 was no problem and I was right on course for today’s run of 14 miles.

I won’t bore you with a play by play or mile splits, but my average pace was 8:54 and I covered the 14 miles in 1 hour and 5 minutes. It was a glorious run and I felt great throughout it. I ran the first 7.5 miles in an out and back from my house and to the east. I stopped back at home for some water, a clementine, and a bathroom break. This is the first time I have ever stopped at home during a run, in my last house I usually ran really big loops around town and it was not convenient at all to stop at home, and I really enjoyed it. I was able to refuel and rehydrate without carrying the bulk of those goods with me on my run. It also broke up the run nicely, as I felt like I was starting a totally new run after setting out again. I was kind of afraid that coming home would make me want to stay there, but I was more than happy to get back out the door for the second half, where I made a loop to the west of my house and back.

Looking back on the fact that I have been continuously training for pretty much a year now (when I started to train for my first half marathon ever) makes me feel a little like a crazy person. You can’t help it when people give you that look when you tell them that you have to go to bed early on Saturday so you can get up at 5 a.m. and run 15+ miles. But something inside me keeps wanting to sign up for races. The two weeks before I began this marathon training cycle I wasn’t “training”, I was still running, but just for running’s sake. It was a nice mental break, but I really do love training for a race. There is something meaningful and motivating about working towards a goal, having a reason to get out there and run, an end that your hard work goes towards. Of course the journey is just as important, if not more than the destination, but without that destination in sight, you may never make your journey. Running makes me happy, training makes me driven, it doesn’t get much better than that. Run on, run happy.

North Shore Half Marathon

June 28, 2012

I ran the North Shore Half Marathon on June 10th, 2012. No, it wasn’t on the North Shore of Oahu, the famed surfing spot, but on the shore of Lake Michigan, north of Chicago. I was going to be back in Illinois, visiting my family, and noticed this race would coincide with my visit, so I thought it would be a fun traveling activity.

Spoiler alert! It ended up being my worst race yet.

Two weeks prior to the North Shore half marathon I raced the Hibiscus half marathon. This race was the culmination of a good training cycle with weekly speed workouts and tempo runs which resulted in a good time (1:46) that felt pretty comfortable. After the race ended I felt like I could have given it more, so I set my sights on the North Shore half marathon to beat 1:45.

In the week leading up to the race I began getting e-mails from the group that organized the race that warned of extreme weather on the day of the race. Temperatures were expected to be in the 80’s with high humidity when the race started at 7:30 a.m., and naturally temps and humidity would continue to rise as the minutes ticked by. They suggested the runners to drop their expectations, this day would not be the day for a PR.

I totally discounted these warnings, thinking, “No problem, I train in Hawaii where I always run in the 80’s and there is always a good amount of humidity. If anything, I will have a leg up on all of these poor Midwestern folk that are just coming out of winter.”

While I read these warning e-mails I was in lovely Boulder, Colorado, running in altitude, hiking, and drinking craft beers like it was my job. Carbo loading anyone?

I flew from Boulder to Chicago on Saturday, the day before the race, and it was 90 degrees. Stepping outside of the airport I started to lament the past week’s lack of sleep and excess of beer, but I was still optimistic. I hydrated, ate good foods, and went to bed early with building dread.

I got up Sunday at 5:30, the time that all of my races start in Hawaii (to beat the heat), at some toast with p.b. and banana, drank some coffee, and hit the road. When the race started at 7:30 it was in the 80’s with 77% humidity, definitely not ideal conditions.

I was in the second corral with lots of fit looking folks, but counted it as a positive so that I could get a faster start than the Hibiscus Half Marathon. The gun went off and everyone took off so fast I didn’t even have the time to think about what I was doing, I just went along with them. My first mile was 8:00 min/mi, waaaaay too fast. I immediately felt my body panicking as it tried to figure out what the hell I was doing. Everyone around me was chugging along at an 8:00 minute pace, so I just kept up with them, although it did not feel at all comfortable doing so. Around mile 5 I realized I would not be able to keep this up for the whole race.

The first part of the race was along shady streets that ran parallel with Lake Michigan. I couldn’t feel much of the lake’s famed breezes at all, just the blazing heat of the day. I began willing myself to the next water station, and began walking through them. My whole body was drenched, my legs ached, and my will power was taking a nosedive. My paces increased to 8:30 min/mi, and I basically threw out the idea of going below 1:45 (which I should have done before the race even started). We came out of the lovely shaded roads into the cruel blazing sunlight. It was now around 9:00 a.m. and it was HOT. My pace increased again to 9:00 min/mi+. I relished each cup of water, gatorade, and sponge I could get. All of the runners around me were in agony, and the general feeling was that we wanted the race to be over with. One guy informed me that in the year prior, the temperature on race day was 10 degrees cooler. That would have been nice.

The mantra that got me to the end of the race was, “Just keep going, you don’t have to run fast, but just keep moving.” That and all of the crowd support, which was excellent. There were so many people out cheering, waving cowbells, and spraying water. There were even people set up on their front yards with huge fans spraying water out. The crowd really helped to motivate me to keep going. And then their were the people collapsed in front of ambulances…. yeah that wasn’t too motivating.

I ended up finishing the race in 1:55. I was actually surprised that I came in under 2 hours with my serendipitous walks through the water stations. I guess a little walking during a race won’t murder your time.

I saw my friend, Pam, who I played soccer with for many years as a kid and adolescent. She ran track at Loyola University and was actually an elite runner in this race (so cool!). Her day wasn’t the greatest either, she took a nasty spill down a steep hill, and ended up coming in 6th or 7th out of the ladies, which is still really impressive.

So this was my slowest race yet, but I learned some valuable lessons:

  • Don’t go out too fast, you should not run your first mile at your goal race pace. If you do, your body will panic and not like you. You need to ease into your goal pace and trick your body into liking it.
  • You don’t have to run at the same speed as the people around you, run your own race.
  • Heed weather warnings, even if you think you are an all-star from Hawaii, Illinois can be hotter and more humid than Hawaii is.
  • Enjoy beer in strict moderation the week before a race, or don’t try to get a PR after enjoying extra brews leading into it.
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night the week before a race.
  • And most important, have fun! Not every race will or should be a PR!

Run, Hike, Drink Beer- Repeat

June 10, 2012

I just had the most incredible trip to Boulder, Colorado to visit my lovely friend Lydia! I spent 4 wonderful days running, hiking, and drinking local craft beer. Lets start with my favorite part first….

Running

Boulder, situated in the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains, has an incredible running and biking scene. It seems like virtually everyone rides or runs on a daily basis. There are running trails through the city along paths and lots more a stone’s throw outside of the town on nice, wide, gravel trails at the base of the mountains. It was a little tough doing my first run at the mile-high elevation, but I definitely eased into it and enjoyed them more each day of the trip. The scenery didn’t hurt either, I got to stare at the flat-iron mountains, watch ground hogs scurry around, and admire the wildflowers. I loved how accesible the trails were and it seemed like there were a lot of them. I am excited to go back and explore more of the Boulder running routes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking

I also did a lot of hiking while in Boulder. After a run and some breakfast, Lydia and I would set out to explore. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park one day and drove along the famous trail ridge road, the highest paved road in the country? world? Whatever, it was over two miles above sea level in the Rocky Mountains and offered amazing views and some scary, hair-raising twists and turns. We did some hiking up there and marveled at the majestic peaks. We also saw a lot of marmots, brown rodent animals. In addition to Rocky Mountain, we did some wonderful hiking right in the Boulder area. We explored some trails in Eldorado Canyon and summited Mount Sanitas. I was so excited about how close and plentiful the hiking trails were. They offered some beautiful scenery and glimpses of wildlife.

Beer Drinking

Then after a long day of running and hiking, we retired to a local brew pub (of which there are many). We visited Mountain Sun, Avery, Upslope, and Oskar Blue. Each place had a unique, inventive, and plentiful list of craft brews that tantalized my tastebuds. Beers of note were a Beligian Pale Ale from Upslope and XXX IPA from Mountain Sun. In addition to the delicious beers, I really enjoyed the culture of the brew pubs. It seemed like many Boulderites really appreciated good beer. It was almost a fine dining appreciation, with people savoring their brews and appreciating beer on a whole ‘nother level. As Lydia said, “Good beer is nourishing to the soul.” I wholly agree :)

I had such a wonderful time in Boulder, I’d like to consider moving there some day. The running and beer culture were enough to make me want to call Boulder home.

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