Sunday, November 12, 2006

07/29/06 Volcano Trail Marathon

The Ankle Eating Volcano Trail Marathon

I'm in the process of moving, so I haven't had time to write much. Or run much. But as I often do, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Kilauea Wilderness Runs were held on Saturday, 7/29. They have a 5 miler, a 10 miler, and a full marathon. I picked the marathon. Now... I have run 75% of the trails used by the marathon, but I have never run the race itself. I thought I knew what to expect, but that other 25% was far harder than I imagined.

Kilauea, if you don't know, is the most active of the Big Island's volcanoes. They built a national park around it (and part of Mauna Loa) way back when... and the volcano frequently erupts - destroying parts of the park and adding new features to it. It has been erupting pretty much constantly since the early 80s.

The race itself goes around various cool sections of the park, but nowhere near the active stuff. Which is good, given that volcanic fumes can kill you dead. And this race is hard enough.

My goal was to run 4:30. That's actually a damn good time for this course... rated one of the 5 hardest marathons in the world. I'll tell you right here that I didn't make it. But it was an interesting race, for sure.

In a nutshell, the first 13 miles are run across lava and sand. This is perhaps the most technical trail I have ever run in my life. Lots of scrambling. Lots of what I now call "snotcleaner" trail... the kind where you jump up/down and land so abruptly that it cleans out your sinuses.

I saw the first guy do a faceplant around M3. He got back up. I saw the second guy wipeout a few miles later. He didn't get back up at first. He tried to protect himself w/ his hands and broke all his fingers in his left hand. It was nasty. I stayed with him for a few minutes until he regained his wits, and then pointed him back to the last aid station (it was closer).

It's worth pointing out that for the first 8 miles, I was in serious haul ass mode. I was in the pack right behind the leaders... a position that I never ever occupy... and I was running on the edge of being out of control. This was a huge rush, but it was also a mistake. I didn't faceplant, but I did turn my ankle, and how, at M8. M8 was also where I found out why I was so close to the leaders. It wasn't because I've become superfast. They were running slower than normal to save themselves for M8-13, the most brutal part of the course. And that's right where I hurt myself. Ankle deep sand. Rocks. Boulders. Climbs. Whoops.

I kept going, albeit at a much slower pace. Apparently I looked bad too, because several people who passed me (and lots did) asked me if I was ok. Then the race changed dramatically at M13. We exited the lava and started a long climb up a paved road. 300 ft (from 3100 to 3400) over 4 miles. Certainly not steep, but long. Then a gradual downhill from M17 to M19. Hurting.

And here's where I caught costumed lady. See, at the beginning, we all saw this rather buff woman wearing a white costume with gold headgear. She carried a sword. I knew she wasn't Wonder Woman, and she didn't really look like Isis. People said she was Pele (the Hawai'ian goddess, not the Brazilian soccer guy), but that didn't make sense. Pele no have sword. And she was FAST. She was up with the leaders and left me behind. I caught her at M19, though, because she was walking.

As I passed her, she spanked me on the ass with her sword. Can't say that's ever happened to me before.

At M19, we pulled off the paved road and onto a mowed grass road. Yes, a grass road. Very soft. And the climb started anew. 700 feet over an unending 4 miles. So more than twice as steep as the previous climb. I will admit that I walked quite a bit of this. I might have walked some even if my ankle was ok, but it wasn't, and I did. Walk. Hurting.

At M23, we suddenly popped out at a very touristy part of the park... the Thurston Lava Tube. It was packed with tourists, and some actually knew that there was a race happening. The only spectators except for the end. Are you ok? Yes. I'm fine. I just want a nap.

Then we were back on the single track for the remainder of the race. Rolling. Now instead of lava rocks and snotcleaner trail, we had to worry about roots. We're in a rain forest. This is the prettiest part... and the only piece where we're protected from the sun. And the wind.

Yeah, I didn't mention that. The race was hot, humid, and windy with no shade up until the later miles. The volcano can actually be quite chilly... but it wasn't on race day.

Around M24, costumed lady caught me again. She was absolutely flying. I was not.

And there it was... the finish line. At least I thought it was the finish line. Lots of people hollering. When I got there, I realized that they were hollering "only 200 yards to the finish line! Go around the corner!"

And... ok, this time for sure... there it was... the finish line. Really.


OUCH. I arrived in the middle of the awards ceremony - which they stopped briefly to announce my finish . Much of the food was gone. I wasn't anywhere near last (57th out of 122), and frankly, I'm soooo happy that I finished at all. Last would have been a-ok. But that's 40 minutes off my goal and boo for that (and a 4:30 would have gotten me 23rd).

I talked to costumed lady afterwards. Turns out she was She-Ra, and that she's a fairly accomplished local runner from another island. She only intended to run half of the race as a training run, which is why I caught her walking in the middle.

This race is not as hard as Leadville. It is quite a bit harder than Bataan. It is more scenic than both of them. Not sure if I'll do it again. On one hand, I'd really like to make that goal time. On the other hand, I saw a guy break his hand (ok, fingers) and I really torqued my ankle. Hmmm. Maybe the 10 miler next time.

But She-Ra spanked me with her sword.

Incidentally, because of my hurt ankle, I took a week off of running. I raced in Juneau at the end of that week (on 8/5)... really stiff from no running. My ankle held up ok, though that race had just horrid awful weather. Blah. 3:54, which is fine given the rain/wind and the lack of running - but I really wanted to beat 3:40 at Juneau. Fooey.

And then I had to deal with rats... and so I didn't run much the next week.

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