A Grand Summer of Running: Kauai

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Life has been interesting of late. A dog named Charlie joined our family. We got married. My back healed quickly after surgery. And I was lucky enough to run in some superb places. This is a chronoligcal series of impressions from the trails I explored in the summer of 2015. One installment every Friday, for a while.

Finally, I set foot on Maui. The name Hawaii has always excited me. As a boy I would stare endlessly at photos from Maui’s windy east coast, printed on the glossy pages of windsurfing magazines. Now we are here. K and I will sail and hike, eat and drink, relax and be quiet.

And I will run!

From Maui we go on to Kauai and K points out that one of the world’s most gorgeous and “dangerous” hiking — i.e. running — trails is right there. The Kalalau trail weaves its way over the rocks, through the jungle forests, over the mountains, across wild rivers, and back again. One way it’s 11 miles. I think about it. For about 4 seconds. Yes, I think: let’s run that, all 22 miles. Fun!

We get up this Saturday in August before 5 a.m. We eat, hurry out the hotel door, drive in the dark, and get to the trailhead as the first light reports for duty. We can hear the ocean is to our right, but we ignore it. Slowly we start up the quiet trail. Not a soul to be seen.

IMG_0158We climb and sweat, marveling at the thick, lush vegetation and the stunning views. Sorry to grab that cliche, but if anything is stunning, it’s this mountainous jungle trail.

K and I kiss each other good bye at mile 3. I take off, a hand-held bottle in each hand.

I feel like I’m flying over the rocks, through the mud, stopping to drink and take in the eye-popping beauty. After a while the quiet is broken now and then by campers rising, laughing, eating. They say they admire my guts, running this trail. In their eyes I can see what they really think: this dude is nuts.

At the far end of the trail I stop at the beach. A power bar is my second breakfast. The wild ocean washes away the layers of sweat. A kind father of two hands me half a liter of his filtered water to drink, after a worried look at my handhelds. I drink it gratefully, get into the waterfall to cool off some more, and worry just ever so slightly about my tired legs.

Just 11 more miles, the way I came.

IMG_0185The views are so different but equally mind-blowing. It’s lighter and busier now. The sun is beating down on my running hat. I catch a few rain drops. Boats on the water below pass me, the passengers waving. A concern about my fast-depleting water supply keeps popping up in my brain. I don’t know what to do except run on, chat with kind strangers, sip conservatively, and run more. There’s a bottle I hid under a brush at mile 4/18. Finding it feels like excavating a treasure. But a mile later I truly am out of any and all liquid.

The struggle to the end is real in this heat. Running becomes jogging, which turns into fast hiking. Light-headed and depleted I find K in the final yards. She did 14 miles herself, my powerful new wife.

I am proud of her, and slightly worried about me. How did I not bring enough fluids? Why do I keep underestimating rough terrain and circumstances, maybe over-estimating my own abilities?

After gallons of water, a cold coke and a solid hamburger I realize that a little crazy is simply part of me-the-runner now. Without it, I wouldn’t have considered running the magnificent Kalalau Trail. But I did, and I will never forget this grand summer adventure on our honeymoon.

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