Fear of the unknown, my first DNF, finding the edge. Part 1.

I normally write about a run after a run. I Sometimes shoot video and give sort of a running commentary of how things are going. This run won’t be any different but march 11th 2017 is that big of a deal that I feel a look inside my head is due before the little fun run. It’s  Friday March 10th 2017.

I’m sitting an an airplane somewhere over the cold blue Pacific Ocean headed to Maui Hawaii. We vacation a lot in Hawaii. It’s where my wife and I got engaged. It holds a special place in our heart . One day If Jennifer doesn’t get tired of me, maybe we will buy a home there and spend our last days with our toes in the sand watching the sunset drinking red wine, Moscow mules OR White Warriors!

vegas wedding DNF

It was here about 10 years ago we got engaged at the summit of Haleakala at sunrise! A spectacular morning where afterwards we rode some rather rickety and untrustworthy bikes down the meandering road some 20 odd miles. So steep we literally only pedaled for about 100 yards.  It was a cold morning. Somewhere around freezing so at 10000 ft it’s far colder than down at sea level. The company who organizes these little sunrise bike trips give you jackets and gloves to take the bike ride down. Jennifer was sad she had to wear gloves as it stopped her from admiring the shiny new rock on her finger.

Jen & Jason Engagement DNF

It was steep! Regular rubber brakes as found on normal road bikes wouldn’t cut it. These bikes were fitted wth disc brakes. You’re literally on the brakes permanently. If you’re not you will soon be headed into the bushes, worse yet you could be off the side of the mountain.

jason, jen and her dad gene DNF

What does any of this have to do with a fun run you might ask? Well, on one of my subsequent  trips to Hawaii since then I somehow got it into my head I wanted to run up it! A kind of homage to the day I ” restarted” my journey on earth. It also gives you, the reader, a good idea on how steep the climb is. I’ve come a long way since that day I stepped off the plane unsure of what my future held for me. I rocked up in America in January 2005. I had essentially a suit case and a few hundred bucks. I managed to hook up with some other expats through a cricket team I joined. The colonials! Aptly named for all the ex British colonies we came from. India, Pakistan, Australia, South Africa and a few others.

Life was tough back in South Africa for a 20 year old white male with zero qualifications. The only way to get work was either in a restaurant or working for family.. When I got tired of working for family I became a waiter. What Americans know as servers. I managed to get a job at Planet Hollywood when it opened and that sparked my interest in travel. Not only travel but travel to America.

10 years later here I was! In the land of the free.

Haleakala Sunrise

haleakala-maui-3d-map

So Haleakala! I heard about a run called Race To The Sun which was first run Back in 1977 . That was also the same year I was born . The race To The Sun was a simple one. Run from the beach to the top of the mountain. Two major issues with that. It was 36 miles and during the run you climb 10000 feet. Whilst I’m not attempting to run the same route ( maybe one day )  I will be attempting to run the last 20 miles of it.

I’ve found on recent trips here I like running up hills. On the last trip we had a 3 mile run basically outside our hotel. I would run up into the hills of the coffee farms and then down again. It had over 1000 ft of gain just in the 3 miles. Where I now call home in North Texas we can run for hours and hours and not climb 1000 ft. Normally a long run ends with 456 ft or something ridiculous like that. I also wondered onto a few trails. One was called Lahaina Pali trail. It was mostly power hiking slow 16 minute miles but the burn you feel in your legs is indescribable. On another hike through the jungle I hiked 5 miles straight up a mountain through a rain forest. Soaking wet and ankle deep in mud I climbed 3000ft and couldn’t of been in a happier headspace..

Both these EPIC runs took place on the smaller West Maui Mountains. Pictured on the left side of the image below. The much smaller side of what I’m about to attempt.

Maui Profile

So running uphill scares me but also excites me. My biggest problem in recent times has been a few niggling injuries. From ITB to calf, to hip flexor to Popliteus to patella tendinitis. Oh let’s not forget the random pain in my foot which kept me out for a month..

The madness started at the end of 2015 when I decided to run 1000 miles in 2016. It was madness because while I completed an Ironman triathlon in 2011, I hadn’t run much since then. In 2013, 14 & 15 combined I ran a total of about 700 miles. I have the strata data to prove it!

Anyway, 2016 went far better than many of my close friends thought it probably would. Most thought I was a little batty. Jennifer thought I was crazy but I set some goals which would help me attain my goal and stay focused. I ended the year having done 1001 miles and about 7 or 8 half marathons, a marathon and a 22 miler.  To date the longest I’ve ever run was 26.2 miles.

Ive run that distance twice now.

The first was at the end of that ironman and the other at Rough Creek Trail Marathon. A race I actually walked due to a calf issue but did it anyway just for the experience. It was a hot day and a brutal course. I walked it in 7 hours & 16 minutes. In the 95 degree heat and 2911 ft of gain and that was enough to win my age group!! 😂 essentially everyone who ran DNF’d.

I’m over any crazy injuries or niggles right now so I’ve never felt better for any event or race. I’m 40 and fit and they would say. 2017 hasn’t been great injury wise. After the weird foot injury put me out for the entire December both calves packed up in January which put me out for another month.. That messed up my plans to run 40 miles for my 40th birthday in February.. All this allowed me to keep fit on an indoor spin bike or my MTN bike. That mixed wth regular weight sessions seems to have sorted the legs out. That all being said there really isn’t a hill in north Texas that takes u more than 2 minutes to get up. And if it does it’s barely more than about 3% incline.

All this leads me back to where I am right now, on an airplane getting my mind ready for tomorrow. It’s the only thing standing between me and the top of Haleakala. That of course and my legs behaving themselves and not getting to angry with me. The run tomorrow to break it down for you will start before sunrise. On everyone’s first morning in Hawaii ( which is 5 hours behind Dallas you wake up around 3am and toss and turn till the closest Starbucks opens. Then u can start getting ready to enjoy paradise. I plan to get up early, munch down a few hundred calories , jump in the car and head out to Haleakala.

I plan to hopefully be dropped off at the base of the mountain. There is a small coffee / gift shop called Proteas where the 20 mile road to the summit starts which is about 4000ft above see level. As it will still be dark I have plenty of flashing lights so if there are any cars on the road they should be able to see me. ( Jen is a little nervous about that.) I’ve got a running hydration vest that can hold 40 oz of water. In that water I will have NUUN electrolyte tablets which also contain the sodium etc I will need to replace. I will also be carrying everything else I will need. Essentially this will be a solo unsupported run. I’ve got 12 gu’s packed ( worst case I will be running for 6 hours ) If its longer than that I will be walking and probably bail. I’m hoping for best case scenario and that would be 5 hours. About Half way up the mountain is the park entrance gates. At the entrance there are some rest rooms and water. So I’m hopeful my water lasts me to there at which point I can refill them. By 10 miles the sun should be up or at least rising. Luckily for every 1000 ft I go up the temperature drops 3 degrees. Average temps in Hawaii are around 80-90 degrees every day.

So with an early morning start with temps in the high 60’s after sunrise I could be running in the 50’s which is perfect running weather right? The good part about that is I won’t be sweating to much and needing extra gallons of water. I remember at rough creek I went through more than 4 gallons of water out on the course and only peed later that night at about 8pm.

I figure I should be ok for the first few hours. I have enough food and water to carry me through. It’s the pain that will get me. Everything starts hurting after a while. I plan on just finding a rhythm , not running to fast and just chugging along with my Diesel engine. I’ve done some interesting training runs recently. I ran an hour straight on my treadmill at 6% incline. I managed that without any issues.  In fact every now and then would stick it to 8% to feel the burn. It burned pretty quickly and stuck it back to 6%. A couple weeks ago at North Shore lake grapevine I chugged along at a steady pace for 4 hours and did 20 miles. I’ve also been recently eating less carbs and more fat & protein. Becoming less dependent on sugar and teaching the body to search for fat for fuel. I have some hanging around my belly.

Last weekend in my taper I woke up, ate a small 190 calorie almond butter sachet and headed out the door for a 2 hour slow HR based run with no fuel or electrolytes. I kept my HR at 140 and had to slow myself down every now and then to keep my HR in check. It worked amazingly well and never felt like I needed to slow down or take on any food. Since then I’ve learned your body has around 2 hours of stored glucose to carry you through that initial period. It’s after that when things get interesting. At this point in my run I should already be half way up the mountain. ( hopefully ) but I will be chomping Gu’s down every 30 minutes just to be sure I’m not short of fuel and energy. Im also expecting to drink 20 oz an hour. So those restrooms better be at 10 miles and they better be open. Other wise I will be begging for water from cars passing by.

I’m running because I love it. I like Having the challenge of managing my body and all it’s quirky niggles. I’m running because I can. I’m running because you only live once and don’t want to have any regrets. There’s a few great quotes I like. First one is ” you don’t regret things you do, only the things you don’t”. I don’t want to have any of those regrets.

We live in suburbia and whilst it’s an amazing life I want more for myself and especially my girls. Growing up in our amazing little city is incredible. But I’m scared for my girls that that is what they will grow up thinking the world is like. One of my dreams is that they have a love for the outdoors like I do.

Another great quote I like a lot is ” Death Before DNF” ( did not finish ) . It’s a strange little term thrown around nonchalantly by us who call ourselves “endurance” athletes. I used to use it a lot to try and motivate people to keep going when times get tough. No, obviously none of us would choose death over a silly little triathlon or running race but I’ve even seen bumper stickers displaying  it recently.

I caught myself thinking about ” death before DNF ” one day and after watching a whole host of documentaries on ultra running and ironman triathlons etc it dawned on me that “death before DNF ” was quite disrespectful to all those people who had DNF’d. In many cases those people were pushing themselves beyond what their bodies could handle. Or worse yet they had something happen to them out on a trail or road which left them in hospital or whatever. In fact I was disrespecting them by declaring I would never DNF. I came to the conclusion the only reason I didn’t have a DNF under my belt was because I wasn’t trying hard enough. DNF’s should be cherished and applauded. Not scorned and ridiculed. They should be worn proudly like a badge or a 100 mile belt buckle.

Wow I’m rambling on here.. Why didn’t u stop me?

Anyway my point is this, you will never DNF until you try something that gets you out of your comfort zone. You won’t DNF till u try something that scares you, that pushes you to the limit. Until you get to the edge you won’t know where the edge is. And then you will truly know what you’re made of..

Here are my thoughts from back in February about my fun run.

So to end part 1 of Racing To The Sun, I’m about to try something that scares me, something that will push me to the limits. Something that will maybe be my first ever DNF. But hey, at least I will know where the edge is.

20 miles, straight uphill.

To Part 2..

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