I suppose I should preface this post by acknowledging the obvious fact that there are easier ways to experience paradise than spending 38 hours with 12 teammates, running a 200 mile relay race through heat, humidity, wind, rain, lava rock, and hills. I’m sure most people would rather spend that time lounging on the sand and sipping sweet drinks from a coconut. Well, that’s not how ninjas take on the big island. Not initially, anyway.
Two weeks ago, my fella and I traveled to the big island with eleven other ninjas to run the inaugural Hawaii Ragnar. Hawaii!!! I had never been to Hawaii so as soon as this race was announced, I knew this was the way I wanted to see paradise: from the pavement! This race had everything: sandy beaches, palm trees, and let us not forget the humidity! Oh the humidity. I should have trained in a sauna. Let me rephrase that, I should have trained…period. Ragnar Hawaii was one of the most difficult courses I’ve ever encountered. So much so I feel my feelings can best be presented in a list entitled “Reasons Why Ragnar Hawaii Kicked My Ass.”
Please note: this list does not include any obvious reasons like lack of training or preparation or bug repellent. I really should have done more research.
Reasons Why Ragnar Hawaii Kicked My Ass
#1 – Time Zones
Did you know that Hawaii is 3 hours behind California? I didn’t until I got there. At first I thought, awesome, it’s like I’ve gone back in time, I get three extra hours today. Sure, it helped when I had to get up at 2:30 am to be at a start line by 5:30 am. It felt just like any other day, but by 6:00 pm, I wanted to sleep. This doesn’t fare well when you have thirty more hours of running ahead of you. In past Ragnars, Van 2 (my van) usually starts by mid afternoon. I didn’t start running until almost 5:00 pm! This meant night gear for my very first leg of the race as it starts getting dark around 6:00 pm. That’s technically 9:00 pm California time aka Cam’s bedtime. So yeah, this threw me off my game a bit. I was fighting sleepiness the whole race. Luckily, my van threw a dance party every time we stopped to support our runners, who frequently sported unicorn heads and rainbow legwarmers. This rave-like atmosphere put a little pep in my step, but time zones, you really know how to mess with a girl’s head.
#2 – Weather
So I mentioned humidity earlier, but that’s pretty expected. I also expected the 80-90 degree temperatures during the day. I planned for this, brought my sunscreen and my tank tops. I did not expected the temperatures to drop and the winds to howl. Apparently the big island has two sides, the wet side of the island and the hot side of the island. Well, this course took us from Hilo to Kona so we got to experience ALL of it. Biting winds, warm rain, muggy heat…I almost didn’t even bring a jacket. I had no idea this one island could be so diverse. Hilo was a lush jungle with tall shady trees and green vines everywhere. Kona was a lava field, black rock all the way to the ocean. I really should have done more research.
#3 – Hills
Yeah, so about that research I should have done, specifically volcanoes and how to run near them. It shouldn’t have been a surprise really, they put the course maps out months in advance, but still seeing those inclines on paper and then experiencing them in real life when you’re jet lagged and melting is a whole other beast. I was lucky, my legs were relatively flat. However it seems like every other runner had the worse hills ever! Especially runner 5, who had to run uphill for 11.8 miles. This run was so difficult, it warranted an extra medal, the Big Kahuna, just for this one leg of the race!
#4 – It’s Effing Hawaii
We ran through so much beautiful scenery, it was hard to stay focused on the end game. Hawaii is such a laid-back, relaxing atmosphere and I wanted to savor every minute of my surroundings, both during and after my runs. I was awestruck by the geology of the place, how tufts of grass grew out of the hardened lava rock and how cliffs seem to just thrust up out of the sea. I had to stop and take pictures of the sun rising over the fields of lava rock, while in the distance the ocean gleamed to life. Even in the darkness of night, the island held a peaceful murmur that was hard not to be captivated by. This is the reason I run Ragnar, so I get to experience this part, the part that’s far from the vacation. The part I’d never see if I had just come to Hawaii with a bunch of friends.
#5 – I had to leave
The biggest regret of this whole experience is that I left right after the race. I wish I would have set aside more time to explore this island. The rest of the ninjas stayed and took in all the splendors Hawaii had to offer and I watched from Facebook in envy, wishing that I too had a sweet drink in a coconut. My advice, take the time to make this one a real runcation. Bring a jacket and bug spray. Get there a day early and leave many days later. And do some research. Who knew they had snow in Hawaii?