Tag Archives: Maui

Sunrise Atop a Volcano

Despite what you may be expecting, this story starts with a sunset.

After a full day of Tiger basketball, surfing lessons, and lounging on a secluded beach, Jax and I paused for a sunset. Our toes buried in the warm sand, we prepared to watch nature’s drama unfold. We gazed peacefully on as the sun slipped away, daylight fading into night. The scene was fantastic – the bright fiery sphere sliding across the sky, rays bouncing off the clouds to create brilliant orange and yellow hues. Silhouettes of other islands in the distance dotted the horizon. We watched intently, silently, not wanting to miss a moment of the display.

That next morning at 3am, as if to complete the cycle, we journeyed to the other side of the island to meet the rising sun atop Haleakala Volcano. It is surprisingly cold at the top of the mountain, so we bundled up with jackets, gloves, and beach towels. We wound up the mountain, curving our way through the night. As we climbed the 10,023 feet in elevation, it was almost impossible to see anything but what was directly in front of our headlights. Sheer darkness. Our drive down after day break revealed that the winding road we were following takes you within inches of thousand foot drop offs without so much as a guard rail for protection. So that’s comforting.

We arrived at the top about 40 minutes before the sun was to rise and perched on a rock at the edge of the mountain to wait. It was cold, and we entertained ourselves with the stars. I was closer to the Big Dipper than I have ever been in my life, and that’s a pretty neat place to be.

As 6:03am neared, the sky began to lighten, called predawn. We were sitting on the edge of the volcano’s mouth, and the cloud cover inside transformed with color. It moved from an eerie dark haze to a milky ocean to a pillow of pastels. The sun began peering over the horizon sliver by sliver, and it was brilliant. It was bold and mesmerizing, and you couldn’t help but fix your eyes on it, to both stare and look away at the same time.

I had never really thought about it before, and we hadn’t planned on it happening this way, but witnessing the sun set one evening and rise the very next morning really has a feeling of rarity and completeness to it.

You should try it sometime.

 

Psalms 113:3 From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised.

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Running up a Mountain in Maui

Let me tell you about this ridiculous 16-mile race I ran in Maui last week.

And when I say ridiculous, I’m talking no bathrooms, no cheering spectators, no water stations, and no water. Totally unsupported. No water?! Now that’s just mean.

Jax and I wake up at 4:30am on Thanksgiving morning, I scurry into my race gear and down a quick breakfast of peanut butter and toast, and we are out the door within 30 minutes. We drive the hour trek it takes to get to the race site, and then we spend the next 45 minutes circling two-lane roads crisscrossing the mountain in search of this mysterious locale. As 7:00am nears, it is becoming less and less likely that I will be running a Turkey Trot this year; I have pretty much accepted that I’m not going to arrive on time, and then, just in the nick of time, we stumble across Rice Park.

As we are standing at the starting line, which is really more of a starting area than a line per say, the race director describes the course as such: You’ll take a sharp right out of here onto Kula Highway. After roughly 8 miles, you’ll see five trees and turn right onto Haleakala Highway, where you will proceed to run 7 miles straight up a mountain. One hill. No relief. Just up. At the crest, you will enjoy a 2-mile downhill stretch, and you will want nothing more than for this race to be over. Follow Haleakala until it intersects with Kula, then loop around back to the park. Oh, and the course isn’t marked, so I hope you remembered that. Ready, set, GO. And just like that, before I have a chance to get out of my jacket, we’re off.

And I am terrified. Nobody said anything about a 7 mile uphill climb when I signed up for this thing! Perhaps I should have considered the terrain before committing to a race that includes a volcano in its topography.

My first 8 miles are excellent. Jax comes by and relieves me of my jacket, and I am running strong. I use the rolling hills to my advantage, lengthening my stride on the downhills and using the momentum to plow up the other side. I enjoy the beauty around me, and I thrive off the encouraging honks and yells from the passing cars. I smile and wave my way down the highway and thank God for the opportunity, the health, and the ability to be running a race in Hawaii. As directed, I turn at the five trees, and what looms before me nearly knocks me off my feet.

They weren’t kidding about that hill. I don’t stand a chance. I push my body forward but soon have to stop and walk. I am thirsty. As if on cue, my knight in shining armor drives up in his bright red jeep with water bottles in tow. I drink deeply, and I am beyond thankful. I didn’t realize this at the time, but Jax actually bought water for all the runners, and in between stopping to offer support to me, he drove around the mountain hydrating anyone in need. He was the MVP of the day, and there is absolutely no way we could have finished that race without him.

So, I’m intermittently running/walking up this hill, and it is brutal. It is so steep, I sometimes feel that I’m running in place. I run until my legs and lungs burn, then I walk for some relief. Even the walking is difficult. I can’t see anybody ahead of me or behind me as we spread out under the weight of this challenge. It is just me and this mountain, my heavy breathing, and the spectacular view. I climb 1,500 feet in elevation over these 7 miles, and it is a test of my emotional and physical endurance in a way I don’t think I have previously encountered, not even during the marathon. Jax drives by frequently to check on me, quench my thirst, encourage me, walk with me for stretches, and assure me I’m still on the right path and that I don’t have too much further to go.

Somehow, miraculously, I reach the top of this monster and notice the road begins curving in the other direction, and I fly down the remaining two miles. My feet hurt with every pound to the asphalt, but I can’t stop. If I do, I don’t think I’ll have the strength to resume; I’ll probably just lay on the side of the road and wait for somebody to come find me. So I run and run and run with all my might, and I’m greeted at the finish line with a bouquet of flowers from my honey. I’m done and it’s over, and I can hardly fathom what just happened.

We peel the top of our jeep and drive off into the afternoon sun with a perfect rainbow marking our path, and it is the most picturesque thing you’ve ever seen.

Here’s the funniest part of it all: the winner of the race was determined not by who crossed the finish line first, but by who guessed their time most accurately. Prior to the run, we were each asked to predict how long our run would take. I was planning on saying 2.5 hours, because that’s typically about how long it takes me to run 16 miles. The guy in front of me, however, guessed his time to be 3 hours, and that caused me to reconsider my initial plan. It would be silly of me to think that I can run the race faster than this athletic-looking fellow, so I offer 3 hours for my time as well.

Turns out I ran the race in 2:59:58, two seconds off of my prediction, which makes me the winner of the whole thing. How hysterical is that?!? So yeah, you’re looking at the reining champion of the Valley Isle Road Runners’ Turkey Trot.

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A Pictorial Vacation Timeline

Dear readers, I haven’t forgotten you! I know I’ve been MIA, and you might feel as though I’ve abandoned you, but that’s not the case at all. I’ve been traipsing around Maui for the past several days, and there was just no time for blogging. I couldn’t bear the thought of parking in front of a laptop when there was a whole island just waiting to be explored. If I wasn’t looking up information immediately pertinent to my vacation, it was going to have to wait. You understand, right? And now that I’m back, I get to unload all the fun details of my visit, and we can pick up right where we left off.

It will take a while for me to organize and recount the many adventures of the trip, so let me start by sharing a rough timeline comprising some of the highlights. This pictorial illustration is by no means inclusive, it’s just a starting point. I’ll expound on the different events as my schedule allows, but for now here’s a broad overview of my time in paradise:

 

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