Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 Hilo to Volcano 50K


The week started with one last 10 hour shift on Monday, and then vacation could begin! Monday's shift didn't exactly fly by, but we were busy enough. I had had it with the cold and snow and work. I SO needed the break. It was -18 when I got to work that morning, and I just needed 2 weeks free of the stress of work. Yeah, yeah. I know I sit around a lot, but never knowing when a call is coming in or what it's for is actually kind of stressful, especially overnight. I needed a good break from that. I needed warmth and sun! The head cold I had contracted the week before was nagging at me so I thought 8 days in paradise would bring me some health. Little did I know it was almost the opposite. Haha! But anyway, just before 5pm, a call came in that the other crew who was out of 5 (like I was) was up for, but they refused to go (sending the other crew), and my partner flipped his lid. Yep, it was time for me to exit the building for two weeks. Haha. The relief of getting out of there and my excitement to exit the frozen tundra were huge!

I went home and hopped on the treadmill for 4 miles in 28:24. I could have done more, but I wanted to finish packing and have time to veg before we left at 12:45am. John and I both stayed awake until it was time to drive down to Peabody, Ma to catch the 3:15am Logan Express bus. This would be the beginning of over 30 hours of no real sleep. That combined with a head cold and flying destroyed me. I don't know when I've ever felt more exhausted in my life. We flew to JFK from Boston and then boarded Hawaiian Air for an 11.5 hour flight to Honolulu, followed by another flight to Hilo on the Big Island where my parents live. One of the times I dozed off was during takeoff from Honolulu. The long flight was LONG. Like really long. Too long. Uncomfortably long. And little did I know that there was nothing free to watch. I ended up paying $8 for John to watch the last Transformers movie. While he slept, I leaned half on him to watch the movie, too. The only way not to pay twice was to watch his. Haha. I'll admit it. The flight was brutal, but when I got to step out in the warm sun in Honolulu, it seemed worth it. Unfortunately, the slight head cold had turned into a massive head cold, and my voice was nearly gone. I knew flying with a head cold wouldn't be good, but I didn't expect how bad it would end up being. So bad, that I'm still trying to fully kick it over 2 weeks later.

Boston's traffic

He actually got quite a bit of sleep on the way over there.

Chicago. Totally frozen. Looked post-apocalyptic from the air. It was crazy.

I was so sick and super exhausted by this point.

The sun in Honolulu! Yay!

It was great to see my parents when we arrived, but I felt bad being so out of it. I ate something then showered and went to sleep.

I won't go into crazy details of the trip. We did a lot of sightseeing, ate good food, and I found some decent beers. I ran every day, but basically the same place except for two days. I had no idea that there weren't going to be any trails to run on there. The National Park has some, but those are super crowded hiking trails and over 30 miles away from my parents' house. I was disappointed at first, until I realized how awesome the road was right off my parents' neighborhood. I would end up running here for all but two of my runs. The road had very few houses; it was just mostly dirt road and forest with the random chicken, dog or coconut. Haha

Waking up the first morning to perfect 70 degree weather was awesome. I had coffee on my parents' deck and then went for a run down this road I just mentioned called Government Beach Rd. I didn't feel good at all, though. I was still very sleep deprived and run down from the head cold. I could still barely speak. (Unfortunately, John caught the head cold, as well, so we were both a little off.) I wanted to get miles in so I ran out and back for 10.2 miles. Very beautiful, but the humidity was a bit of a shock. Haha. 1:17:41. Very rolling. 445ft of elevation gain. I was pretty beat when I got back to their house and lied on the deck in the sun for a bit.

Views from my run

Now I understand "Death by Coconut". This fell into the road in between me passing by here on my run.

More views from my run
The rest of the day would be checking out Hilo and having lunch at Pineapples. John loved this restaurant so much since he got a flank steak and rice. His favorite. One of the least expensive things on the menu. I had a Pineapple Burger. Haha. While John was in Costa Rica, he took advantage of the all-inclusive resort and got into pina colada's, so that became his Hawaii drink as well.

John and I were super exhausted, but we still had a full day. John took a swim in Hilo Bay and found himself swimming with sea turtles. That was super cool! We checked out Rainbow Falls and the GIANT Banyan tree there. Omg. That was so much fun climbing up inside of it. My parents were outside worried; I felt like a rebellious little kid climbing a tree. Hahaha.

My favorite beer that I had there.

My parents

John with pina colada #1

Goofball. Walking through Hilo.

Sea turtle!

Rainbow Falls

Small John. Big Banyan tree.

By the end of the day, my voice was gone again, and I was super tired. I was starting to question my ability to do the race I had signed up for, the Hilo to Volcano 50K. It was only 3 days away, and I could barely breathe. I had signed up for it the previous Thursday and then felt the head cold come on Friday morning. Haha. I felt so worn out that I didn't know if I would be able to finish this race. This 50K would be a first for me since I've never done an ultra on pavement. Granted it's only 5 miles more than a marathon, but here's another first. How about an ultra on pavement that's ALL uphill? Yeah, that was my upcoming race. I decided to just play it by ear and decide after my run on Friday.

Thursday morning was the only run (other than the race) that I would do off Government Beach Rd. My parents wanted to show us the Kalapana Lava Flow so I decided to run down to the flow while they walked it. Signs said the flow wasn't open until the afternoon, but I guess that was just a suggestion. Haha. A local guy charging for parking actually let us park for free. This run was out on an open road surrounded by dried lava. The way out was an intense tailwind and mostly downhill. I ran it fast! Haha. It was about 3.5 miles out to the flow with the last half mile slow-going on the rough lava following a rope marking off the "trail". When I got to the lava was flowing. Boo. Kind of bummed, but it was still neat. I texted my mom to let them know that the flow had stopped so they could turn around. Once back on the road, I started uphill into the insane headwind. My mile pace was almost a full minute slower on the way back. Crazy. I caught up with my parents and John at mile 7.1 and stopped to walk the rest of the way with my mom, while John and my dad walked behind. Felt very worn out again. The race was getting dicey. 7.1 miles in 56:30. Barely under an 8 min pace.

View from my run

Where the lava flow had been. The freshly dried lava was pretty neat, still.

My dad with John during the walk
From there we drove over to the black sand beach where Hawaiians had set up all sorts of shrines and paintings and placed coconuts all over the place that were now growing. Pretty neat spot.

Doing a goofy dance

The last 2 stops of the day would be the Lava Tree State Park and the Ahalanui Hot Pond. The lava trees are what they say they are. Trees that were covered in lava, but are still standing. It was wicked cool. The hot pond was a pool filled by the ocean and warmed by volcanic energy. I LOVE warm water, and this also seemed to clear up my head cold. I didn't want to get out! It was amazingly soothing. No exaggeration; I felt 75% better after I got out of there.

I woke up Friday morning feeling a little better but still pretty congested. This morning's run would decide whether I would DNS or not. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I felt good. 8.2 miles in 1:01:33. A tad fast than Wednesday's run. The race was a go. Eeek. Now, I got to be nervous all day. Haha.

Tree tunnel on my run.
The rest of the day would be spent exploring Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park which was super cool. We saw Kilauea, a still active volcano with a HUGE crater. We walked through steam vents and in a lava tube. Definitely a place to visit if you're on the Big Island.

John and I were pretty beat and nervous by the end of the day. My sleep pattern was still way off. I was congested and just tired. Not the relaxing vacation I envisioned, but don't get me wrong. It was still very relaxing in so many ways since it was mostly stress-free. Plus, I didn't have to drive for over a week!! That was SO nice. My parents have changed up their habits a bit, so my excitement over my mom's cooking and having coffee already made in the morning didn't happen. Haha. My mom did cook once, though, and it was good. My dad went from drinking good brewed coffee to Folgers instant coffee. Say what? That was baffling. So I made my own good coffee in the morning. Haha. They still treated us to everything and paid for our trip out there, so I'm not complaining. Just funny that 2 out of the 3 simple things I was looking forward to didn't really happen. We did actually eat out a lot, though, so I never had to make my own dinners. Haha.

By that night, I was definitely nervous about the next day's race. I had to be at the race by 5:30am for the start in the dark at 6am. The race provides no support at all, so you have to rely on family/friends to do it for you. There was no way I was going to attempt to explain how to do that to my parents because it would have stressed my dad out big time. So I went self-supported the whole way. I assumed that would be a thing, but it turned out I was the only one, and I even received quite a bit of acknowledgement of it as I pass crews and relay teams along the course. Most people had someone every 2 miles handing them whatever they needed. I have to admit that by mile 20, I would have given anything to get that heavy pack off my neck. Haha. So it took me awhile to get my stuff together since I needed reflective stuff and lights for the dark road portion...basically the first 6 miles. Plus, I forgot my water bladder and would need to carry two bottles of water inside my pack instead. That was a pain in the ass the next day. I'll admit it, but it was what it was. Once I had everything ready, I attempted sleep. I didn't get much because I was really nervous. It's been a long time since I've been nervous the night before a race. Like a really long time. This one had me scared. I honestly expected to DNF. Between the head cold that had come back full force and still lack of sleep, I had no idea how I was going to run 31 miles all uphill.


I was basically already half awake but didn't get up until my alarm went off at 4am. Made coffee and ate a pretzel bagel that I had actually brought from home. I was dressed and in the car before 5am. My dad drove me to the Coconut Island parking lot in Hilo. This race was very low frills and had no start line. Bib pickup was the day before so all we had this morning was a quick check in with the RD at the back of his car. 3 minutes before 6am, he gathered us all around completely in the dark for the pre-race speech then basically just said, "Go!" at 6am on the dot. Haha.

Um. That headlamp looks ridiculous.
A group of men went off ahead and one woman ahead of me. My only goal today was to finish the race and not to even attempt to race it, so I started off at an easy pace. The grade was fairly easy as it rose out of Hilo on Rt 11 for the first 7.5 miles. I stayed pretty even here hanging right around 8 min pace. I knew I would slow once it got steeper, but I was happy with my pace through here. I wasn't pushing it at all. At that time, it felt like my forever pace. I ended up passing the woman ahead of me in mile 2 after she slowed way down to run with someone else. I'll be honest that I didn't like passing her, but she slowed down so significantly that I didn't even make any effort to pass her.

The air was very much on the cool side in the low 60s for the first 8 miles. The sun started to come up. Since I wasn't taking this seriously as a race, I had my phone handy for photo ops and selfies. Haha. The road wasn't super busy, but it still had some decent traffic, and we had to run with traffic. Fortunately, most of the race had a super wide shoulder, and I never felt like I was going to be hit by a car. I snapped this photo around mile 5 or 6 and, funny enough, no cars were in it.

Like I mentioned before, the course suddenly got steeper around mile 7.5. I even messaged someone that, "Shit just got steeper." Haha. And not only that, but the pouring rain started and it basically never stopped; around mile 16 or so, it was only a drizzle, but then it was back to the pouring rain from there. I have to say it was awesome. Kept the weather cool. The sun would have roasted me. Perfect running weather, honestly. At this same time at mile 8ish, the same woman passed me back along with the guy she had slowed down to run with. I thought they would be long gone quickly, but she never really got that far ahead of me. The entire rest of the way, she would be a speck, then all of a sudden I'd only be 30 seconds back. I never did actually catch her, though, and by the end she would end up beating me by 6.5 minutes. I honestly didn't care since I wasn't in it to win it, and she was the only person visible to me for the last 10 miles, other than the relay runners who passed us by. So she actually helped pull me along.

Photo from early on around mile 7
Surprisingly, I felt pretty good. Obviously, I was slowing down. I'm sure some awesome runners could run this even-paced, but, for me, that just wasn't happening. I hit the halfway mark, and as the rain turned to drizzle, I was able to pull out my phone again to update someone on my progress and take some selfies. There were many attempts at these because running and selfies don't really go well together. Haha.

The phone went away again for the rest of the race around mile 21 when the drizzle turned back to pouring rain. I was still feeling good here and noticed I had caught up to the first woman within a minute. I ran this close to her for about 3 miles...and then I hit mile 24. Omg. I was done. The grade suddenly got much steeper, and all I could do was shuffle along. I passed the guy the first woman had been running with, so he was obviously hurting, too. Miles 24 thru 27 were a gain of over 900ft which was a significant amount since the entire race was just over 3800ft of gain. Very painful to hit this steepness so late in the race, but I kept on. I knew there was not going to be a DNF today. No way. No how.

I had no idea where the course went, but all of a sudden it took a right turn toward volcano around mile 26.5. Little did I know, the finish line was at mile 27... but I had to pass it by!! Omg. What a mind fuck. Haha. Especially when I had no idea there was an out-and-back. 4 miles of it!! Major torture. Fortunately the out-and-back was more rolling than just uphill. It looks like the course is all downhill to the finish, but it actually wasn't. I was still able to pick up the pace a bit for the last 3 miles a bit before it did have a nice (but short) downhill to the finish. Omg. I was done. 31.2 miles in 4:56:08. 9:30 avg pace. Not what a normal road ultra would have been, and my trail 50k is even much faster. haha. The unrelentless uphill was just insanely challenging! And uphill is not my strength. But I was psyched. 2nd female and I fucking finished! I probably blew out a gallon of snot from the head cold, too. Sorry TMI. Haha. The relief to be done. Ah.

Finished and handing in my bib tag
It was freezing and windy up there so I got cold instantly. My hands had already frozen in the last 4 miles from being soaking wet. Temps were in the mid-50s which isn't bad unless you're soaked and it's windy. Haha.

Full Results. You might notice Billy Barnett in there as the race winner. His claim to fame was one of the runners featured in the book Born to Run. He ran the course record today. Unbelievable that he ran that course that fast in 3:46:54. Pretty amazing.

Course profile

Strava robbed me of my .1 as always.
My stomach was immediately not happy after the race. This often happens after really long runs. The only thing I wanted was a bottle of water and then beer. Haha. I had to change out of my wet clothes right away so I went to the bathroom and got a shock when I saw I had the absolute worse chafing from shorts that I've ever had in my life. My right hip was even bleeding from it. The rain and the compression part of my shorts did not mesh at all. It was all around my upper thighs and where the waist band had been. The funny thing is that I only felt it in one place the entire race. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. And, yes, to answer your question, the shower later hurt like a MOFO! Haha.

Once I was changed, we took a trip over to the big lodge in the National Park to get John a Hawaiian shirt. I had already opened my huge porter and proceeded to drink it in the back seat. I was drunk by the time we got back to my parents' house. haha. But the good thing was that I was hungry so the pizza sobered me right up.

After the pizza, the rest of the day was a wash. I was beat to shit. We all needed a down day so it was good just to veg. I was on the couch for hours. Haha.

So, my thoughts on the race. Would I do it again? Probably not. It just wasn't interesting enough for me to want to do it again. Would I recommend? Absolutely. It's a definite challenge. Self-supported or not? Definitely not. I was carrying a good 3-4 lbs on my back the whole way. I almost threw it in a ditch to come back for it later; it was that cumbersome. All that aside, I was still super happy with my race. To go from being sleep deprived, sick and expecting a DNF to finishing 2nd female, I call that success. Not a single regret (aside from the pack haha). My award is incoming since they're engraving it. It's just a water bottle, but having it engraved is cool. I'll post a pic when I get it.

Sunday was a definite zero day, and we all took a drive over to the other side of the island with plans to hit the beach. This side of the island is SO different. It was almost desert-like at first and then just very grassy. Temps around 80. Lots of sun. I liked this! The water was a bit too cold for me, though, but John and my dad went in to snorkel. That was short lived when my dad put his finger on a sea urchin. He lucked out that it only got him in a small area at the finger tip, but it still injected its ink into his finger. That was the end of swimming, but we were content just soaking up the sun for awhile.

I do NOT think I look good in a bathing suit right now with my winter flab, so I was very hesitant to post this in my photos on FB, but I just loved John and me in it so I I will post it here. Even though it makes me want to starve myself for 2 weeks. You can see the chafing on my stomach and hip. And that's only half of it.

We had a nice lunch outdoors nearby then made our way to Mauna Kea. We had planned to make it to the top, but upon reaching the visitors center at 9000ft, we learned that John shouldn't continue up to 14,000ft. In fact, none of us should, and my dad definitely shouldn't drive it. To go from sea level to 14,000ft would have probably made us all sick. So we didn't continue on. The key is take a van from 9000ft to the top with someone who knows the rough road and who is acclimated. I was bummed not to make it up there, but continuing on was not an option. So we had back down and back to Pahoa where my parents live.

View from 9000ft on Mauna Kea
That ended our week there! Pretty full and busy week! We still had two full days there, but that's for the next blog post. Haha. I'm so lost on blog songs right now. I don't even think anybody else listens to them, but I know that at some point, I'll look back at them and find it interesting what songs I picked and why, so I'll come up with something. Hmmm......

Ok. I picked one. I'm going with one of my old favorite Lana Del Rey songs.

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