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An Island Big

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:06pm

The latest I can leave is 7:30, right?

Right now I’m sitting on the lanai, watching the waves crash into the lava rock and asking Chris how late I can possibly leave for a run this morning before I submit myself to melting, sweating and cussing up and down Ali’I Drive.

The answer is 7:30 am. That’s a bit later than usual but today we have mostly cloud cover.

Yesterday we did not. It was oodles of hotness in Kona. I woke up early for a run. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my darling husband stole my Fuel Belt. I was not too happy. Because he was running for 90 minutes and I was not about to set out without any fluids.

When he returned I grunted, grumbled, grabbed my Fuel Belt and ran. It was hot. Like running in the ass crack of Kona, I tell you. I took 3 breaks in the shade before convincing myself I could continue. You would think at some point I would acclimate. I’ve ran 5 times now in Kona and nothing. NO change in effort or heart rate. I conclude: the heart is just not meant to work in heat like this and protests by giving you hot flashes and sweats.

The rest of the day was exciting. We finally escaped the town. You know you’re almost ready to go home when Kona starts feeling small. After renting a car, we drove to the other side of the island.

Hawaii has 11 of the 13 climate zones in the world. I'm pretty sure the only thing it’s missing is tundra and something else. Polar arctic? Does a shave ice stand count? As you drive from Kona toward Hilo you see lush forests, thick clouds. You go up to 3000 feet, back down – all set against the massive volcano of Mauna Loa that rises itself to over 11,000 feet.

Our first stop was Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Fourteen years ago I traveled to the Big Island and spent some time hiking around the park – across the lava to the flow as it spewed into the ocean, across the crater. This time we settled on viewing some steam vents and walking some short trails. Devastation Trail was short but captured the essence of the park – giant mounds of lava rock surrounded by fern forests and set against a silence so loud you could almost hear it.

Driving out toward Hilo, the trees change, the foliage grows bigger. This is a place of rain. There are giant groves of Eucalyptus trees like you see in northern California. Chris tells me that palm trees like giant fans are Madagascar Palms. Usually I’m the one that rattles off the names of the trees so when I ask how he knew this, his reply:

I read that book on Hawaii in the bathroom. Today was I was on the flora page.

Nothing like learning on the crapper.

After the park we headed on toward Waipaio Valley. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen only second to the Na Pali Coast in Kauai. The drive to Honukaa is incredible as you twist in and out of gulches that form off the ocean with deep valleys, waterfalls and cliffs. I told Chris that I have never seen so many shades of green. About 10 miles out from Waipaio the rain begins. And once we arrive at the valley itself it is engulfed in a thick fog and pouring rain. You could barely see in front of you let alone across the valley to the magnificent cliffs.

I was sad. Even hiking into the valley and descending the 25 percent grade hill that I wanted to show Chris was not an option in this weather. We hoped it might pass but the rain stayed. So, we headed back toward Kona via the Mamalahoa Highway. The highway cuts across the island and into a landscape that reminds me of the rolling plans of Montana. The grasses sticking out of the lava mounds gives the illusion of grasslands in big sky country. The clouds were in layers of gray and the sun was out over the ocean which was many miles away. It was beautifully hilly, desolate and all I could think about was how amazing it would be to ride my bike on this road. It was the first time in several weeks that I actually missed biking.

Here we are today. I finally did go for the run around 7:30 am. In the past week I have ran over 30 miles on Ali'i Drive. I know the shoulder - both sides - of the road intimately now. I know that you go slower downhill into the wind than uphill with the wind at your back. I know that the right side of the road is so tilted that the left side is better - and more shaded. Today I ran 10 x 1:30 at a descendingly hard pace with the last 4 all out. When you just run you can do crazy things like "all out". My heart rate got pretty high but it actually fell down to zone 1 between intervals which tells me one thing:

I think I'm acclimating.

Today is our last day on Kona. We are both ready to go home – which I believe is the sign of a good vacation. It fills you up just enough that you feel like you can live off these feelings and memories for some time before returning to a new destination to fill up again. I love the ocean, the sun, the trees but I have the sense that I am missing something even more beautiful at home – fall. My favorite time of the year. I’m hoping there are a few leaves left that have waited for me.

Alas when I return home I will be turning around the next day and heading out to Colorado Springs for some coach training at the Olympic Training Center. I'm going from complete freedom to sitting through lectures from 8 - 5 eacy day. Flashback to a desk job.

I just got the heebeejeebees.

The cure: float in the ocean time. And coffee. And palm tree breezes.

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