You Just Climbed Koko Crater Not Koko Head (which is way easier)

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Koko Crater tramway.

Koko Crater tramway.

About the title: When I checked in on Facebook, this was an option. And, as I’m always correcting people about how they climbed Koko Crater and not Koko Crater Head or Koko Head Crater or Koko Head, I jumped on that location immediately. It took me a while to get up there. Here’s my tale.

Under the blazing sun at 1 p.m. yesterday, I had the curiously strange idea to go up Koko Crater, which is practically in my backyard. It’s a big draw for (insane or fit or insanely fit) residents and tourists alike. It’s also a draw for those who want to go on a little hike. How hard can it be, they must ask themselves. I don’t know why anyone would do this hike more than once. We used to go up quite often, before it became a tourist destination, and we even took our daughters up there a few times. We’d watch the sunset, take in the view, and take lots of pictures.

For mere mortals, it’s not a piece of cake. The tramway is treacherous, there is nothing to hold onto except maybe the rail if you bend over and grab it, the trestle, which always seems to have a hive of bees or wasps in activity, is terrifying (so I took the cheater path on the side), and there is no water anywhere. If you aren’t discouraged by my message of doom yet, take a 2-liter bottle for the way up and maybe another for the way down.

Yes, my awesome Brooks Pure Cadence running shoes. Yes, this is typically the condition of the tramway all the way up.

Yes, my awesome Brooks Pure Cadence running shoes. Yes, this is typically the condition of the tramway the whole way.

There are 1,060 steps up to the top, and then you have to climb up rock that has been smoothed with erosion and thousands of footsteps. Years ago, an encouraging soul painted markers on the rail marking progress. At 200 steps. At 400 steps. At 500 steps At 800 steps. At 1,000 steps it also says only 60 more to go!

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Everyone stops to rest, even the invincibles.

This being my off season, I haven’t been training for triathlons much recently. But how bad was it? Bad. Before I got to the 200th step I was having second thoughts. I knew I didn’t have to do it. I packed a little bit of water, but not nearly enough, and it was so hot. And it wasn’t until I got to the 400th step did I remember about the dreaded trestle. Although it seems to have been reinforced some, I do not have the constitution to go across, whether it’s climbing or descending. Fortunately, there is a well-worn path on its east side that takes some rock climbing and weaving in and out of the thorned haole koa thickets. To me, it was a better alternative.

A toddler is on dad's back, mom is right behind them, and their little big man raced ahead. It couldn't have been easy.

A toddler is on dad’s back, mom is right behind them, and their little big man raced ahead. It couldn’t have been easy.

I had to stop several times on the way up, and I wasn’t the only one. When people were coming down, it gave those of us on the way up a reason to step to the side and pause. I met several families on their way down, little kids fearlessly hopping about, dads and moms with babies on their backs (none too happy, either), a young couple in their 20s, of which the woman whimpered with every step down.

And then I met Julian and Evan. Carrying their bikes. On their way down. Julian was wearing a bicycle kit, was walking in his socks, and his bicycle shoes were stuck on his handlebars. Evan carried his big Giant bike on his shoulders. When I first caught a glimpse of them, I could see their bikes sparkling high above me at the top of the tramway, Julian’s front wheel spinning like a ferris wheel in the distance.

Julian and Evan walking down with their bikes after riding up to the peak on the tramway. This is who I mean by young invincibles.

Julian and Evan walking down with their bikes after riding up to the peak on the tramway. This is who I mean by young invincibles.

“Did youz guyz ride up from inside the crater?”

“Nope. We rode right up this trail.”

“Holy cow! Really? Are you in training?”

Julian told me he did the Honolulu Tinman, but he wasn’t doing this for training. If you could see that trail, you would be astonished at anyone getting a bike up there. If you have a rock hopper or a BMX or a trail bicycle, maybe, but these guys looked like they were on regular road bikes with regular tires.

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The payoff.

Between 400 steps, the trestle, and 800 steps, I had to give myself the self pep talk. I compared the heat to Ka Wela, the recent Boca Hawaii endurance triathlon I completed a few months ago. I told myself if I can do Kona 70.3 Honu Ironman twice (and next year makes thrice), I can climb Koko Crater one more time in my life. I said to myself that I was not a quitter. I don’t quit. I might be slow, but I achieve my goal.

Finally, at the top, breathless, heart pounding, I leaned on the World War 2 pillbox to take a break, take out my phone and shoot stuff, like scenery.

A week or a weekend doesn’t go by that we don’t hear the sirens wailing and the fire department’s helicopter flying to Koko Crater to make a rescue. Having done it one final last time, it doesn’t surprise me. It would be so easy to fall and twist an ankle or break a bone. For me, it was dizzyingly high and at one point on the way down, I didn’t measure the step as far down as it was and I nearly tumbled. And, although it feels like it takes forever to get to the top, it also feels like forever to get back down. I am so done with it.

Somethings I don’t get:

  • Why do people hike with boom boxes or radios and make the rest of us listen to their music? Why not listen to the wind rushing through the brush, or the bullets ricocheting off the targets at the shooting range below?
  • Why do women wear cute little shoes for this climb?
  • Why do people go to the top and have a cigarette?
  • Why do people even go up there?

Great mysteries.

 

 

Finding my Zen Zone while Running


My journey to be a decent triathlete is no one else’s. Sometimes I think a fast runner or a fast triathlete never gives it any thought to how difficult it can be for regular people, for mere mortals, to get past the pain and self consciousness of competition. I know that they have personal lives, jobs, families, heartaches and problems, but the shell of their perfect bodies disguises so well whatever pain they hide inside.

Last night I ran with the Boca Hawaii group and as usual I ended up alone for most of the run. I could see my teammates in the distance. Then the dots of their heads blended into the crowds along the beach in Waikiki at sunset. I just kept my head in my run, thought about my form, and counted on blending back in with the others as we approached the shop at the designated time.

Running isn’t easy for me. I have a favorite T-shirt of a rhino on a treadmill inspired by a unicorn on a poster beside her. Not that I would ever want to be a unicorn. I just think the shirt is funny and it points out how silly it is for us to dream to be something that doesn’t even exist.

So far, my bike and swim are improving immensely. I’m excited at the prospect of beating last year’s time of 08:12 for the Honu 70.3 Ironman. My run hasn’t been quite there yet, but I am making strides in that area, too.

Before we took off for our run from Kakaako, the coaches gave us all a pep talk and Raul explained the route. While some runners asked about going as far as Kapiolani Park, I knew that would never be a problem for me. My turn around would not occur as far as theirs. At the half-way point, I turned back toward the shop. I ran down Kalakaua Avenue toward the Convention Center, and turned to run down the dark tree-lined mall that is now home to many homeless people. I was a little worried. I figured my teammates might find my body if something were to happen to me. I picked up my pace, I kept my focus, I ran over the herringboned bricks in the dark toward busy Ala Moana Boulevard, the heavy vehicular traffic, the pedestrians, the stoplights and the street lamps.

I pushed through. I felt pretty good, but I worried that I’d get all smug and cocky and then fall on my face the darker it got. By the time I got back to the shop, there was still time to keep running, so I ran around the area for another few minutes. I was the third runner back and way before the others. I should have run a little longer. I realized that my run back was faster than my run out. The stats on my Garmin indicated I kept a faster pace than I have ever had before. I wasn’t in pain. My heart and lungs were OK! That’s so encouraging. I woke up and my legs were a little stiff this morning, but we were able to take a short bike ride.

Tonight I roasted salmon and made linguine for The Benderettes. I ate half of what I put on my plate. Something is happening. A switch, a feeling, a drive.

What 2013 has taught me


I knew a year ago, back in December, my birthday month and the month of holiday cheer, that those I found so very uninspiring were plotting to end my corporate-within-the-cube-writing career. It was OK as I had already left in my mind at least more than 1,735 times. In April of 2013 the footprint was on my ass and it was the first time I left an employer without feeling sad. It was more a wave of relief. I had been dismantling my personality from the cube over the months until it looked like a sterile, cold and gray space without personality, exactly what it was supposed to be.

I am grateful that finally I was free to be me. 

I applied for at least three jobs a week — sometimes three jobs a day — until my unemployment ran out in November. I completed the substitute teaching course for the DOE in October. I started my seasonal position at Costco Hawaii Kai in November, too, so I have been able to step off the ice floe. 

I am supposed to be grateful for the more than 80 jobs I applied for and didn’t get, but it’s hard. I got a few interviews and I am sure those humiliating experiences have made me a better person. Radio silence gives you a lot to think about. It was hard not to think about rejection, it was hard to see the silver lining. I know I’m a survivor and I’ve got the most amazing support person at my side. He gets the most gratitude of all. 

What good was there from 2013? I got to spend a lot of time with my husband and we really enjoyed it. There are new gardens in the yard. While things like tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant don’t do so well, our kale, Swiss chard, chili peppers and herbs are bountiful. We have a beautiful area in the backyard where I can write or where we can sit even when it’s raining, with our Kitty Girl. The avocados drop before me, a compost bin settles without stinking, and there’s always gas in the grill. 

In 2013 I trained for triathlons and did alright. I went to the Big Island and participated in my first half Ironman in Kona. I rode my bike, ran and swam several times a week. I did the Honolulu Tinman, the Na Wahine Festival’s swim and spin, the North Shore Swim Series and the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. I love doing all those things. This year I was able to participate without the mental and emotional cave in I had the year before just as the swims were starting. I’m pleased that I can remain calm during those first crazy minutes of an ocean swim with hundreds of arms and legs flailing at me and around me. 

In 2013 I found an editor who gave me a shot at writing for his magazine and I have been writing for him steadily since the summer. I hope to continue. 

During 2013 I applied at Costco four times and finally got a call for this seasonal job that is quite demanding. As a shopper I always thought how fun it must be to work there. Yes, it is fun, but it’s the hardest job I ever had. There’s a chance that I may get picked up as a permanent part-time worker after January 7 when the gig is up, and I’m hopeful that I do. How can that happen? Go. Spend. Your. Money. Thank you!

I am optimistic about 2014. I’d like to weave a work life of substitute teaching, freelancing and customer service at Costco. Once 2014 kicks in and I’m no longer working 48 hours a week at the big box, I’ll start focusing on my triathlon training again, focusing on the May 31, 2014, Kona Half Ironman with a few other triathlons to help me gauge my progress.

I am grateful for my husband and my daughters for their confidence and love. I can’t imagine having a better family. 

One of my strong suits has always been empathy. For that reason I often wondered why I had to have this year of humility to reflect on other intangible qualities generated by my heart and soul. I’m still not sure why, but I am confident that I will put it all to good use. 

Please keep me in your thoughts so that my 2014 is much better. Mahalo. 

 

Riding with a seasoned triathlete and Kona IM finisher.


I had the opportunity to ride with Lori McCarney yesterday. Here are our stats and the map of our cycling voyage.

A few weeks ago the words “Lori McCarney, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN,” were recited as she crossed the finish line in Kona. So, yeah, you could say she’s one of the superhero moms in my world. Thanks to a lot of hard work to QUALIFY  – because lottery entries had not yet begun — Lori was in Ironman Kona in 2009, but fell short of her goal when the clock ran out and the finish line was in sight. Heartbreaking. This video really wrenches your gut.

Lori and I in our TryFitness kits.

Lori and I in our TryFitness kits at Makapu’u Lookout. What a beautiful day and ride!

When I first met Lori about two years ago, I couldn’t tell what she was about. But as I go to know her, I became a believer in her positive spirit and personal drive. Lori doesn’t keep secrets and willingly shares training tips. Yesterday we discovered that we were riding with the same tires, Continental Grand Prix 4000s. Her Cervelo is such a little Maserati. I have bike envy, that’s for sure.

Sometimes Lori and I share age groups, sometimes we don’t. But that never matters to her. Lori gets it. Her training and goals are different from mine and everyone elses, but she believes there are plenty of wins to go around when she shares ideas and tips that help people like me cross their finish lines.

For yesterday’s ride I promised clear roads along the Ka Iwi Coast because of the road construction. Wrong! Construction makes progress and the one-lane closures weren’t there, so neither were our opportunities to ride without vehicles along this narrow and precarious curvy stretch of road with minimal shoulders. But we did it. Plan B was to go back along Heartbreak Hill and to ride through the Hawaii Kai farm lands out to Hawaii Kai Drive to avoid the road construction on Lunalilo Home Road. Success! It was a smart choice.

Mahalo, Lori! Great ride. Let’s do it again!

The Perfect Ride


Today’s ride, stats, route: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/393279373.

I have always wanted to do this ride. But the roads in Waimanalo weren’t ever up to standard. Plus, I always worried about wild dogs and lawless humans who would attempt to take down a hot chick on a bike (me). When we did the Honolulu Century Ride last month, we discovered freshly paved roads in Waimanalo — the ones we always train on. Mahalo Mayor Caldwell. Can I suggest another little street?

As my husband and I were riding in the Century, I thought how training in this direction instead of toward Diamond Head just might work. Today I decided to give it a try. My first climb was up Hanauma Bay. The timing of the traffic for me going through the swirly curves around the Ka Iwi Coast was perfect. The last truck behind me turned into the Koko Head District Park shooting range and the road was all mine until I passed Sandy Beach.

I headed toward Makapuu, took a little break, a lousy picture, sucked on a PowerGel and decided to throw caution to the barely there Kona winds and head toward Waimanalo. I spotted the Hokulea resting offshore at Waimanalo Beach Park. So that was cool.

The Hokulea at rest off Waimanalo Beach Park. Kid2 and her class will visit it at Koko Marina this Friday.

The Hokulea at rest off Waimanalo Beach Park. Kid2 and her class will visit it at Koko Marina this Friday.

No dogs, plenty of free-range chickens. An old Hawaiian dude waved to me from his garage. Other cyclists had the same idea as I was never 100 percent alone. The skies were gray, the air was still and the birds deep in the valley cathedral sang quite heavenly. A very nice contemplative ride. The Perfect Ride.

Reflecting on a Century


Stickers for 50-, 75- and 100 miles.

Stickers for 50-, 75- and 100 miles.

About a week before the Honolulu Century bicycle Ride, which was last Sunday, September 29, I went to the offices of the Hawaii Bicycling League to renew our family membership and to sign up for the event. My husband works for The Star-Advertiser, a sponsor of the ride, and so he was already signed up. I also volunteer with HBL as a driver educator to help spread the word of how being gracious and kind as drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians will make this world a happier place, so it seemed logical for me to participate. And since my husband and I do a lot of things together, especially bike rides, I decided he’d be lonely without me! I’m the life of the party!

In years past, we would ride like heck to get to the 50-mile point at Swanzy Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore, spend about a half hour there resting and refueling, and then ride like heck back. But this time we decided to chuck the competitive attitude and just enjoy riding with each other. I compete in several triathlons, swims and runs through the year, so I get enough of that crazy, surging, anxiety-inducing, near-heart-attack moments on a regular basis. Enough already!

For the 2013 century, most areas were pretty relaxed. In fact, most of the roads were fairly clear of debris. A big SHOUT OUT to the Department of Transportation for RESURFACING the back roads of Waimanalo! Whoa! What a great place to ride now! (Hey, what about my street in Hawaii Kai?!?) No punctures and no problems with our bikes, the weather was cooperatively sunny, breezy (maybe a little too breezy at times), and there was a tiny bit of dampness at the start through Kahala and some of East Oahu.

I am always grateful to finish a bike ride without having fallen or gotten a puncture.

It was super cool when people in vehicles stopped at lights with us would roll down their windows to ask about what we were doing, how far we were going, or how pretty my bike was (twice!). It’s fun to share with them about the ride, and it’s kind of funny when they are ASTONISHED that we’ve gone more than 90 miles! I also fielded inquiries about my Scattante bike, which blew my mind. One guy said he was thinking about ordering one to be shipped from California. I have to admit I love the Red Firecracker in all her butt-busting red aluminum glory.

When I get to the 75-mile point in a century ride, my toes and the balls of my feet throb and tingle. Because I have aero bars on my road bike (not gonna pretend I have a fancy tri bike!), I get to rest my arms on the bars and flex and spread my fingers. It’s nice because I used to have a hard time with my elbows freezing up. We got off our bikes at Oceanic Institute for a few minutes before tackling Makapuu, the back of Heartbreak Hill, and our final approach to Kapiolani Park.

Washington Middle School gets kudos for the best idea ever at a Century ride! Shave ice!

Washington Middle School gets kudos for the best idea ever at a Century ride! Shave ice!

Mahalo to Washington Middle School for the amazing shave ice stand they put up at Kailua Middle School. I hope Washington got something tangible for their time and service. I had three, and I cannot tell the world how many John had but he had MORE. LOL. The KEY Project had a rest stop in Heeia. I helped myself to their steamed breadfruit, kalo and guava slices. I often have PowerGels during my races, and I used a few that day, but nothing beats some wonderfully fresh Hawaiian carbs to supplement the synthetic energy. Mahalo, KEY PROJECT!

HBL’s sag wagon was very busy during the ride, and we were glad not to have to need their services. The hills and the distances are real and for some riders can be difficult. There are 20-, 25-, 50-, 75- and 100-mile distances, so there are options to customize your ride. A lot of people seem to have taken a little bit more than they should have and ended up sitting on the side of the road, at bus stops, or walking their bikes up the hills. I am happy to report I didn’t have to walk my bike up a hill. Grateful for years of training.

Maybe I’ll sign up next year to be a Friendship Leader and ride around Hawaii Kai to be sure everyone is having a good time. I’ve decided to save my energy for the triathlons and other events that are closer to my heart.

Sandy Beach.

Sandy Beach.

In fact, today I ran at Sandy Beach. I’m adding training runs on the sand to improve my water exits and to keep fit. I absolutely love being right at the ocean for my workouts. It is so beautiful. It centers me.

 

 

My Second Tinman: It Gets Better


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After I finish an event, I’m mostly all smiles. You can’t tell my feet hurt, can you?

Before I got hooked on triathlons, I used to think how crazy triathletes must be — but I always admired them. I wanted to swim, bike, and run, too! Embarrassment about my weight kept me from trying. I also thought I was too old and getting back into shape would be hopeless. But that nagging “Why NOT?” kept popping up. Since my first try in 2012 at the Boca Hawaii Lanikai Triathlon, I’ve done a handful of triathlons, including a half Ironman (70.3) last month. Triathlons remind me of small-kid time. Swim, bike, run, repeat. Now I’m starting to repeat events and there’s no telling when I’ll stop.

Yesterday I completed my second Hawaii Tinman Triathlon. Here it is: Finishing the 2013 Hawaii Tinman Triathlon. Impressive, huh? LOL! I came in about five minutes faster than last year. I also came in a little higher up the age-group food chain at 6th place out of 17. I’m so used to being in the bottom third, so that was a very pleasant surprise!

The weather was perfect, but a bit junk for a 25-mile bike ride through East Oahu. I managed a pretty good swim of the 750-meters in under 18 minutes. The first transition, T1, was like the longest barefoot run ever! Once on my bike, I could gain composure as that is my favorite event in a triathlon. Before I reached the top of Diamond Head Road, I saw somebody fixing a tire. There were a few more competitors along the bike route having to do the same. Blustery and rainy weather dislodges all kinds of crap from the road that can puncture a tire in an instant. And it is no fun to change a tire in the pouring rain. I’ve been extremely lucky in this instance. I got back to the staging area for T2 with a bike ride that was about five minutes faster than last year’s. I popped off my helmet, changed my sunglasses, put on socks and shoes, grabbed a gel and a swig of my Infinit Lavagal sport drink, and headed for the hills. My average running pace was 13-minute miles for the 10k. Yes, that’s slow for everyone else, but not bad for me. I had to do a little bit of walking, but I finished hard and fast. I hope that next year I’ll finish in under three hours. My 2012 time was 03:10:17. My 2013 time was 03:05:15.

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Exiting the swim in front of a guy who took off in the wave before me. Booyah!

How did I get here?

Kristin “KC” Carlberg helped me find my comfort zone with her company, TryFitness, which is dedicated to helping women of all shapes and sizes achieve their personal fitness goals. If you think this might be you or someone you know, follow the link and begin an incredible journey. Orientations include women from all walks of life, in all shapes and sizes, aged 20-something to senior retirees. The one thing in common is that we all want a push, we all want accountability. Without it I wouldn’t ride my bicycle up Sierra Heights Drive or Pineapple Hill, I wouldn’t take on open-ocean swims, and I would never jog more than a trot. Squeeze my body into a spandex trisuit? Two years ago that would have been a whole lotta nope.

Now it’s yes. Yesterday I sent a message to Oahu’s premier sporting event organizer Chris Gardner and told him a weekend without hearing his voice on a bullhorn is boring. It’s true. I’m addicted to participating in all of these active events that help me realize personal goals. I’m rarely on the podium, but my personal victories are immeasurable. And I am so very fortunate that my husband gets up a few minutes before me each time to brew espresso shots and then join me as we drive at the pre-butt-crack-of-dawn to the starting line, camera in tow.

My abs are not ripped, I drink wine, and I can’t stand doing planks. I’m unemployed, STILL, and I believe training and participating in these events helps me feel a sense of accomplishment and gives me confidence as I inquire about jobs. In fact, yesterday as I was doing the Tinman run, I thought to myself how I really want to translate these personal achievements into plusses as I approach my personal intersection of joy: Happy family, satisfying job, physical fitness, and emotional balance. It gets better with each step I take. It gets better. I just need a personal conversion table.