Adventures in Maui

At first glance, a non-surfing trip to Maui doesn’t seem like it would offer a ton of adventure. You’re surrounded by the newlywed and nearly dead, the island appears to be totally tourism-based, and many people go there to stagnate on the beach.

But then, there’s Haleakala. The massive ~10,000 ft volcano dominates the island, and to my delight, it ensures there’s plenty of adventure for land enthusiasts. These are my top favourite adventures thanks to this amazing volcano…

 

Exploring waterfalls fed by Haleakala

I thought we had mighty waterfalls in Squamish, but the waterfalls in the southeast and eastern side of Maui were insane. With water flowing 10,000 feet from the top of Haleakala, there are tons of waterfall adventures. One day, we hiked along the Pipiwai Trail at the base of Haleakala, which was beautiful. Taking the questionable advice of another hiker to venture off-trail, we scrambled up a waterfall’s lower pools, and a few minutes later we found ourselves staring up at a private, 300-ft waterfall in the middle of nowhere. (Note this can be super dangerous, due to rocks falling from the waterfall, and sudden flash floods.)

Waterfall-hiking.

 

This was super dangerous, in retrospect. I get some adrenaline just looking at this pic of Julien so close to it!

We got super close to the waterfall base for about 30 seconds before beelining back to safety, fearful of watermelon-sized rocks falling from the falls or from the canyon surrounding us. Still, those 30 seconds were incredible. Looking at Strava’s global heatmap off the island’s south/east Hana Road, you can tell there are tons of crazy hikes like this that only a few people do, swim-hiking up waterfall pools. I stayed up late one night reading tons of crazy stories, as these type of hikes often result in rescues, injuries and deaths because flash floods are so sudden, with the water flow from Haleakala at 10,000 ft. suddenly changing. Definitely a lot more adventure than I expected!

 

Driving the back road to Hana

The Road to Hana is already infamously windy, blind, and rollercoastery. Most people take the northern route from Pa’ia Town, then return the same way they came. If you look though, you can take this interesting back road, on the south side of Haleakala through Kaupo. On the maps they give you at rental car companies, there’s a big asterisk on that section of the road with font in red which says “Do not come between these points. Driving on unauthorized roads violates rental car contracts.” This of course only made us more curious. If they’re telling tourists not to go there, doesn’t that mean it will be way less busy, and more fun? We did some research, checked that there were no landslides or other highway warnings, and decided to go for it.

The road was beautiful, taking us pretty high on the side of Haleakala from Kula, and then back down to sea level near Kaupo, where the road precariously curved around cliffs right next to the ocean. As promised, many corners were totally blind, and in between those, uncut grasses and hills caused stretches of total blindness. We honked the horn sometimes, but thankfully it wasn’t busy, and generally the other drivers were being cautious and chill. It was so fun, like being on a rollercoaster ride. At one point, there was a pullout in the middle of a giant U-shaped curve in the road, which happened to be a black sand beach with a waterfall in the middle. It felt like total paradise. Since this section of the road is often un-advised in many blogs online, it was way less busy than the main road to Hana. Not for everyone, but if you’re up for an adventurous drive, it was tons of fun.

This is what the back road to Hana looks like.

Venturing into the Haleakala crater

Best of all adventures was the Haleakala crater. I got Julien to drop me off at the Halemauu Trailhead which is near 8,000 ft., and then he continued to meet me at the crater summit, which is just over 10,000 ft. From the Halemauu Trailhead, I ran along and then joined the Sliding Sands trail to the top, which made for a super-fun 11-mile trail run. Haleakala is a National Park, plus it’s on every Maui “must do on your trip” list, so I figured it would be busy. Boy was I surprised and delighted! I experienced miles of total wilderness!

Starting at the Halemauu Trailhead, the trail took me down a 400 meter cliff-lined descent down a winding rocky technical trail, which was super slick from the fog and winter rains. It was super fun and intense, and I really had to be cautious because of the combo of slick mud and cliffside. Was not expecting challenging terrain! It felt a bit like running down into the Grand Canyon from the South Rim, it was that special.

The trail descended from that little mountain in the foreground.

From there, the trail traversed a grassy arid area near this beautifully remote-feeling Hōlua Cabin. After the first 3k, I didn’t see a soul! The trail eventually led me deeper and deeper into the crater, with giant sand mountains rising in the misty fog in gray, black and red. Being totally alone in there with the atmosphere of the dark, foggy rain, it felt extremely wild and desolate. It sort of felt like the sand-mountains could suddenly slide and bury me, or that the fog could intensify and cause a whiteout-type situation. It made me feel so small and vulnerable, which was exactly the experience I was craving. I felt excited, like I wanted to run to safety. The run ended in a punishing mostly-runnable climb of about 950 meters at altitude, topping out at the summit close to 10,000 ft. That was tough! I would definitely do that run again, it’s one of my favourites I’ve ever done.

Total wilderness inside the crater.

Next trip, I definitely want to do the same route again, and I also want to try the longer adventure from sea level, up the Kaupo Trail and into the crater. (To get there, it means we get to drive part of the back road to Hana again!)

 

These adventures surprised me, showing me that there’s a ton of true wilderness to be found and explored in Maui. I can’t wait until the next trip!

 

Rock Bottom and Back: my Hurt 100 Mile Run

I am finally attempting to revisit my “vacation in Hawaii” … the HURT100 mile trail race. Thinking about HURT makes me hungry, so I am eating peanut butter from a knife, and all the frozen perogies from my boyfriend’s house.

Why? ? ?

Last year, I paced a friend for 40 miles / 64 kilometers at the HURT100, and I was instantly sold. There was delicious food the whole way, amazing trails, and a vibrant, loving community of runners behind the event. The terrain is a technical trail runner’s dream, full of slippery rocks and routes and cliffs. I LOVE that type of terrain, and I was captivated. I ran with a ukulele my mom loaned me, eating amazing homemade food and singing and strumming to help my runner along, while playing in the roots. I desperately wanted to try running the course without the ukulele. A few months later, I entered the lottery without a second thought.

Oh – Before we really delve in… for those who are blessed to not know too much about the event, Josh does a great job of explaining why it’s particularly fun in his blog here.

HURT was going to be my 2nd 100-miler, and at the time of signing up, I hadn’t even done my first one yet. I was pleasantly oblivious, just going about my registration and thinking about the roots and rocks. And as all these lotteries seem to go, I got in, because I really, really wanted to.

This Will be Fun!

Two months before HURT, I started to worry. I had just run the World 100k in Qatar and felt pretty badly burnt out, but I also felt unprepared for what I would encounter at HURT. The 100k was on the road, so I hadn’t run on technical trails in months, and I stopped any kind of hill running. This seemed quite opposite to HURT, and I worried that I wouldn’t be ready in time. But I had already booked my flights to Hawaii, and I had even enrolled my boyfriend, my dad, and my stepmom to come along too! I decided that I would forget about the anal training and approach HURT as a pure fun run, just there enjoying the awesome people, the fun trails, and the delicious aid station food.

Julien Swing

Galivanting around Waikiki on a day before the race.

 

Boy, was I in for a special surprise!

Realization: Laps are Not Fun!

Fast forward to Hawaii and it’s lap two of five in the race. I was really well-behaved in the first lap, going out pretty casually and letting a few women ahead of me without thinking about it. But now on lap two, the warm, humid Hawaiian weather came out to destroy us, or maybe just me. Quite quickly I became nauseous, and the idea of completing 70 more miles, going round and round, seeing the same trees over and over, seemed like a horrible trap. After Qatar, there was no way I was going to do another death-like, hot, nauseous, multi-looped course, that soon! I wanted to escape, and I found lots of supportive reasons inside my head… My purpose was to have fun. What am I doing out here if I’m not having fun? (No answer found.) DNF-ing has a bad reputation, I think it’s fine. Everyone will totally support and agree with me. Plus, everyone will love to get out of here and go to the beach, get Mai Tais. It’s okay, ultras aren’t my thing.

I decided I would quit.

Downward Spiral

I still had one more aid station before the Nature Centre, but I decided I couldn’t make it the 10 miles back to the Nature Centre, I would just DNF at the next station. Plus, this way, I could easily quit without friends and family around! I would walk all the way there, slightly grinning in satisfaction.

About a kilometer from the aid station, I started being more honest with the runners around me, sharing proudly that I was about to quit. Then there was this great guy named Greg who walked beside me for a bit. I don’t know what he said, but he turned my spirits fully around, and I was convinced I could go at least one more station, to the Nature Centre.

I had seven miles to the Nature Centre, and it was plenty enough time to sink right back down to Quit status. My nausea was coming and going, but I had already resigned, I wasn’t ready for all this suffering. Lots of other friends running were on my case, trying to help me stay in the race with positive messages, even random energy drink packets… (Thanks Ace!) To my delight and just in time, I started to feel light knee pain! I knew that no one would argue with potential injury.

Finally, I walked it in to the Nature Centre with a grin in my face, to tell everyone I was DONE! I had completed 40 miles of HURT! 40% Done. I’ll take it! I was stoked to pull the plug and hear everyone’s excitement to go to the beach.

Walking in with the plan to quit HURT, glee!

Walking in with the plan to quit HURT, I have a big grin going on!

You look way too fresh! Is what they said instead.

Matt Barry came over and diagnosed me: Knee pain? Where? Oh, that’s just the IT band, you can stretch it out, it’s not a bad injury as long as you stretch it out. Here, take a seat, put your feet up, and eat this.

Julien took Matt’s instructions and started to kill my IT band back to life. Meanwhile, my dad fed me sandwiches, and a wonderful volunteer made me feel like I was actually golden, with a few words. You know, I’ve never been through here in this time, you’re doing awesome, you have tons of time, you could even take an 8-hour nap and finish. Take your time and see how you feel in a bit!

Linda Barton-Robbins even brought me a beautiful bird, which she was feeding from her hand. It was magical!

As my friends and boyfriend and family and all the volunteers came to help me, everything turned around. I went from angry and out of place on the course, to stoked, motivated, full of life and love. I was really excited to get back out there and get to work, and see what I could do with what I had left. Nothing like a thirty minute break!

HURT can be fun

HURT Takes a Village

The next three laps are still surreal to me. I ran them with fairly even splits, even through the night, and my last lap was my fastest. The whole time, I felt this sense of love, from all the amazing HURT supporters. With that feeling powering me, I slowly caught about 20-30 people until my deadline, the finish line, at 100 miles. I got to run one fun lap with Julien, and together we went on this fun running hunt from 30th place overall, to 12th overall (2nd female). It literally took a village to come back and find enjoyment at HURT. It was over 28 hours in the end, and I’d say a good 22 of those were really fun, thanks to all the people who kept my spirits high.

Because I didn't quit, I got to stand beside these champs and we all won amazing, hand-made ukulele's with wood derived harmlessly from the HURT course!

Because I didn’t quit, I got to stand beside these champs, the top three men and women. We all won these amazing, hand-made ukulele’s with wood derived harmlessly from the HURT course! Come play in our new ukulele band!

Try to Avoid Sleeping on the Ground After 100 Miles

Back at the campsite a few hours later, I made a pretty bad mistake and almost suffered from heat exhaustion. Napping in the hot tent, in retrospect, was not a good idea. Thankfully, I was carried into the cold shower at the campsite and any remaining mental health was salvaged.

Also, just FYI. If you plan to buy a “camping setup” from Walmart Hawaii, I would not recommend their 1-inch mattress cover as the “bed”. You might as well not buy anything and just sleep right on the ground, I think it would feel the same. Maybe also consider not camping, what an idea! Remember, you will be acting a lot like a hospital patient, and you may be better off in confinement, in a small hotel room. I always learn tons of new things after 100’s!

Batter Up?

If you plan to run HURT, soak up all the love from those people around you, it will get you through! Those awesome trails are only fun for so long, (10 miles) and after that, you better have another reason!

You can check out all the results from my HURT buddies this year here. 🙂
And also, great reports by my North Van pals Josh and Nicola, and by amazing Oregonian Amy!

The more typical Hawaii!

The more typical Hawaii!