Hi Friends !
Last Saturday was a big day in the life of a 67 year old, cancer-surviving, diabetic. It had been 4 months since my last chemo treatment (mid-November 2008) and I was feeling stronger. I had a little over 2 months to train for Run to the Sun when I made the decision to give it a shot and see how my poor ol' body would react to some vigorous training. Everything went well, but the jury was deadlocked for a verdict. So...what the hay...let's give it a try.
Being a part of HURT (Hawaiian Ultra Running Team) really makes local racing events fun, because of the comraderie. At the check-in just before the race start, you see lots of your regular running buddies and you see others that you rarely see. It's a hoot ! Everybody is so upbeat and the air is full of excitement. Just experiencing this alone, is worth the price of admission. It gives even a "back-of-the-pack" runner like me a chance to visit with all my buddies, regardless of their speed. My cancer-surviving buddy Paul Sibley and I shared alohas at the start line, as well as speed-demon Paul Hopwood (who was not running this year) who shouted encouragement along the way, as a volunteer. It was also great to see Ed Bugarin and Keith Moon, both in great spirits, at the start line. My good running buddy and friend Judy Carluccio along with husband Rob brought a smile to my face as they had come down from Spokane to run the race. There were too, too many friends there to mention them all.
HURT Guru Big John Salmonson did a splended job of readying all the runners at the start and it wasn't more than two minutes down the road that we were all greeted with 2-3 minutes of a heavy downpour, which should have given us an indication of what was in store. As the group settled into their individual paces, I spied Dr. Bill Osheroff just ahead and decided to see how long I could maintain his pace, as I knew I'd do well for as long as I could stay with him. Putting some music on my MP3 player gave me some needed energy, however, wearing the headphones made it impossible to converse with other runners. My good friend Mike Muench seemed a little peeved with me when I said I couldn't talk, which is exactly how I would have felt, had the shoe been on the other foot. As he went ahead, I considered trying to catch him but new there was no way. I apologized later.
The first 13 miles or so went fine. Dr. Bill had disappeared out-of-sight somewhere around mile 8. The long, steep climb up Pulehu Iki started kicking my okole much too soon and I was beginning to swear that someone had made the road longer and steeper. It seemed to never end. In the past, this hill had always been my favorite, as I could actually pass a few runners here. As I was finally getting close to the top, there was my wonderful friend and regular running buddy Cheryl Loomis coming down the hill to meet me and to tell me to turn around and see a fantastic rainbow. Cheryl was doing a relay and hadn't started her leg of the relay yet. As I topped the hill, there was my wonderful wife Heather, camera-on-tripod, and with her beautiful smile, ready to crew me for the next 21 miles up the mountain.
It wasn't long before I saw Dan Eldridge in front of me, moving rather slow for him. As it turned out, Dan was having stomach problems, but like the trooper he is, continued putting one foot in front of the other. Dan eventially got feeling better and finished strong, about 17 minutes in front of me. Very impressive ! Several of my friends who finished well in front of me shouted encouragement as they rode back down the mountain in cars. One in particular, Julie Takishima, was exciting for me to see as this was her first Run to the Sun, and she had been such an important part of the training group, not to mention a good friend as well. She had a great race !
Being an aid station volunteer myself, from time-to-time, and also as a runner, I know when I see good aid station volunteers. Quite frankly, this years Run to the Sun aid station volunteers were the best I've ever seen. Sorry guys...it's true. In spite of the extreme weather, these folks were on top of their game and they really gave you needed energy as you passed through. They were great ! About 3 miles from the finish, there was my dear friend and pacer-supreme Vernon Char, dressed like a snow-bunny on the slopes at Whistler, ready to take me those last tough miles to the finish. As it turned out, the finish line had been brought down the mountain, due to ice and high winds on the summit. Those last 3 miles with Vernon, even in the high winds and cold, were the most fun and satisfying for me. Having PJ put the lei on me and getting a big, warm hug from Big John made the race complete. Seeing Heather shed a tear of pride was priceless. I really felt sorry for John and PJ having to endure hours of extreme weather at the finish line, just so we could enjoy our races. They are the best !
Later that day, back in Kahului, I was a mess. Every part of my body ached and a nice shower and a nap were in order. That evening, I was starved, but still not moving very well. Actually, I looked pitiful. Heather and I shared a good laugh as we discussed what people would be thinking as we walked into a restaurant, with me hobbling along, bent over, like a man of 90 years or more. "Hey, look at that nice young lady. She must have gone to the retirement home and picked-up Grandpaw and took him out to dinner". Just goes to show you that you can't judge a book by it's cover. Aloha ! Don