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

Featured


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!

wpid-wp-1414451440644.jpeg

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.

wpid-wp-1414451429332.jpeg

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.

 

 

Share the Road with Us!

Featured


Big shoulders on the Big Island made doing the Ironman 70.3 a relaxing ride. Headed north to Hawi from the Mauna Lani turnaround, 50 miles to go.

Big shoulders on the Big Island made doing the Ironman 70.3 a relaxing ride. Wish we had bigger shoulders on Oahu’s roads! 

Yesterday during our Boca Hawaii Summer Triathlon Training workout three of my teammates were in accidents with motor vehicles while we were riding our bicycles. No one was fatally injured, all are on the mend, and to the best of my knowledge, each was a victim of hit-and-run rudeness. It is illegal and morally wrong to leave the scene of an accident or to not assist people who are hurt.

In 2012 Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the Vulnerable Users Law, designed to protect bicyclists, pedestrians and people who work on crews such as those who groom road landscaping, etc. It isn’t a snare net to capture and punish drivers. It’s to make drivers aware that they have to look out for everyone who isn’t in a steel capsule hurtling down the highway.

I live in East Oahu, and that’s where these accidents involving my teammates occurred yesterday. This part of the Island is chock full of Type-A captains of industry and their high-maintenance Rogue- or Cayenne- or Lexus SUV-driving wives in their yoga pants, phones illegally at their ears, kids set to ignore in the backseat. One woman in her Mercedes coupe got very close and then told me to get out of the way because she was in a hurry to get to her tennis match at Koko Head District Park. I was completely unaware of her importance.

The point is, people out here need a refresher course on sharing the road with bicyclists. We get the lane. We get the whole ENTIRE lane. Do we take the entire lane? Not unless the shoulder is junk. Most of us ride on the shoulder and we’re OK with that. Sometimes I see riders doubled up to shoot the breeze while we are out there on Kalanianaole Highway and I am not OK with that. I have a little mirror clipped to my sunglasses so I can see what’s coming up from behind me, so I can see that a city bus is about to pull up to the bus stop, or a car or delivery truck wants to turn right. The mirror is very helpful to me, but not everyone uses them or needs to.

East Oahu gets its share of tourist drivers, and I suspect it was a tourist who caused my two women teammates to crash by Hanauma Bay yesterday. I do not know how this person is enjoying their Hawaii vacation. One woman has a dislocated shoulder and the other one has a broken collar bone. Needless to say their bicycles are totalled.

Those of us who ride road bikes and triathlon bicycles have a healthy respect for the road and for the vehicles with which we share it. Most of us obey the laws to the letter. Some of us will roll through a red light if there is nothing going on. Most of us will help each other out if we’re on the side of the road changing out a punctured tube.

I make a point of making eye contact with drivers while riding. I always say thank you with a big smile and an Island-style shakka wave to convey my gratitude to those of you who are getting a chance to pass me because finally I have a shoulder to ride on. Believe me, if it were up to me all of our roads would have broad, clean shoulders for those of us who ride bike or who like to run along the highways.

I have a theory: Bicyclists make excellent drivers because we have the perspective of being both the vulnerable and the infallible user. We ride in the heat, the rain and the wind. These elements add to the challenge of navigating along the shoulder and sometimes in the path of traffic. We know we’re not as fast as you in your big truck or little sports car or your tourist bus or your delivery truck or mom mobile. But do you know that as a driver on Oahu’s roads, you must protect the rest of us who are considered by law vulnerable users? Awareness. We just ask that you have AWARENESS.

 

My Second Tinman: It Gets Better


20130729-123013.jpg

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.

20130729-123240.jpg

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.

The Honolulu Marathon Game Plan

Gallery


By now, about 11 months after my husband signed me up for the Honolulu Marathon, I thought I’d be fit, skinny, and ready to run. Isn’t it interesting how your body has other ideas? You may be in your 20s, … Continue reading

Is this Your Big, Beautiful Cat?

Gallery

This gallery contains 6 photos.


A few weeks ago, I busted a handsome, big, bushy-tailed cat eating our cats’ food in the garage where we have an enclosed food hutch. It’s designed to keep out birds and dumb feral cats. It’s for our own cats. … Continue reading

Honu Envy. Ironman 70.3 in Kona. Yesterday.

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.


This morning I woke and confessed to John my Honu envy. My Try Fitness teammates, and some of the women whom I admire in Hawaii’s triathlon community, participated in yesterday’s half Ironman event in Kona. To me they all look like … Continue reading