Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The lost art of picnicking

A splendid and joyous occasion was our picnic on the slopes of Mauna Loa. It was a clear day, providing sweeping views of the crater and volcanic plume in National Park as well as an amazing view of the summit. The setting sun painted the landscape an enchanting yellow which was cause for celebration. We not only had a picnic but a tea party as well!

The essentials:
-A proper picnic basket
-A beautiful location
-Good company
-Tea kettle
-favorite foods...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Feeling the Mana

Mana is the Hawaiian/Polynesian concept of the “life force” that resides in people, animals and inanimate objects. Mana road is a unique, special, and unspoiled area of the island. It winds 45 miles through mist shrouded cattle pastures and wildlife preserves along the upper slopes of Mauna Kea from saddle road to the outskirts of Waimea town. Ranging in elevation from about 2,000-7,500ft. I had done some running from the Mauna Kea access road side so I knew how majestically sweeping the views are up there. I planed on starting from Waimea and biking 25 or so miles up the road and pitching my tent. The following day I wanted to get a long run in before biking back to my car.
My trip started Sunday morning where I headed to the Volcano farmers market to pick up some baked goods and fresh strawberries to take along. Heading down the highway from my cabin in Volcano the chilly morning air started giving way to the warm tropical air as I approached Hilo. Once in Hilo I made the turn up the Hamakua Coast about 50 miles to get to Waimea. What a lush drive, views of the deep blue pacific on my right and waterfalls and every imaginable shade of green to my left. Coming up to Waimea I took the turnoff for Mana road and drove a few miles back until the pavement gave way to the cinder road. I was greeted with just what I wanted to see, open land covered in fog with a light mist falling. I let out a WOOOO!! As the sense of freedom started to overtake me.

It had been almost 2 years since I had been on a mountain bike so I was stoked to be going for a long ride. My pack was unusually heavy, weighing in at just under 1,000lbs! Due largely to throwing in a copy of Don Quixote, which I had recently started and was unwilling to leave without. I also brought along Pablo Neruda’s 20 love poems, I usually have it on me at all times. A heavy pack is the price to pay for being a nerd. Along with the reading material the contents of my pack consisted of: Tent, rain jacket, running shorts, peanut better, honey, crackers, pumpkin bread, and a bag of stale pitas. My only concern was finding water. I brought along my filter but did not know if there was going to be a source. I figured it was cattle country so the cows have to drink something. I strapped on my pack saddled my bike and down the road I went into the fog, into another world.

I listened to the sweet songs of silence and drank in the beauty and vastness of the expanding hillsides. After drinking it in for a while I decided to fully dive in, head first. I became fully immersed in the surrounding environment, my senses tuned in to the rhythms around. I imagined myself as a molecule of water dancing through the air floating to the ground. I slowly seep through the porous volcanic soil until meeting the outer reached of the Koa tree root system. I’m slowly drawn in to the main roots and up into the trunk, up up to the highest reach and outer branches. I wondered, is the joy I’m feeling similar to the sensation of photosynthesis for the Koa?

Verses from Rilke come to mind:

“I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it…
I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?”

I am the soil I ride over, I am the grass I gaze at, the feather on the fallen tree, I am everything as I pedal down the road further into the mist. After about three hours of riding I was beginning to feel discouraged due to the lack of water supply. I started with only a liter, expecting to find some. I had not been drinking much and was beginning to feel a little loopy from riding hard. Just when I was entertaining thoughts of turning back I came across an old farmhouse with a water catchment. I took out my pump and filed all three of my bottles, this should easily be enough to hold me over until tomorrow. I was rejuvenated from taking down a few bottles of water and eating some crackers. Recharged from the break I headed back out into the mist cranking it into the big gear. I felt like a 19th century steam locomotive as I powered up the steep ascents, WHOOO WHOOO take off your coats we’re going for a ride!!! A few hours later I was beginning to look for a place to set up my tent. It was getting late in he afternoon and I saw just the spot. A small clearing in a grove of trees with half a dozen turkeys hanging out near! Its funny how camping spots usually pick you instead of vice versa.

I tamped down the knee high grass and set up. I climbed in feeling wiped out from the nearly five hours of riding. I immediately dozed off, awaking right at twilight. I tore into my pumpkin bread and made a PB and honey pita. I started to read some Neruda, feeling very satisfied. I poked my head out of he tent noticing the clouds lifting and a few stars emerged. I began reciting the lines I was reading to the turkeys and stars.

“I fling my sad nets to that sea that beats on your marine eyes.
The birds of night peck at the first stars
That flash like my soul when I love you!!!!”

I grabbed my headlamp and threw on my running shorts. I waned to get in a little starlight run; I went out and back for only an hour total. The clouds rolling in covering most of the stars, I again felt as if I were a part of my surroundings completely dissolved. Back in my tent I slowly drifted off feeling as if I were sleeping atop a cloud. I woke to the brisk pre-dawn air stepped outside and admired my dew drenched surroundings. I filled my hand held water bottle, jumped into my running shorts and climbed back up to the road. I was hoping for at least a three hour run but I was open to other possibilities. I felt prepared, bringing water and even a gel. Usually I don’t like to carry anything with me on runs but since I was 25 miles in any direction away from any help I thought it wise to carry that stuff. The sun was poking through as my stiff legs took their first short strides. I turned a bend in the road and was greeted with a rainbow arching over the road, Unbelievable!

I was feeling the Mana travel through my veins, electric love
flowing like a thousand raging rivers flooding my entire being.

Frolicking down the road I took a detour to Douglass Pit. A grassy trail led through lush vegetation and giant trees to a monument for the Scottish botanist David Douglass (Douglass Fir) who was killed near the spot in the mid 1800’s. What a magnificent spot, lush with Ohia and Koa trees. What are those? Giant Akala berries!!!!! Akala berries are the native raspberries and before my eyes was a field of them. I picked a few before heading back to the road and continuing my run.

My heart and legs were feeling light as I galloped down the road. I was feeling amazing as I reached Mauna Kea access road?

That means I just covered a least 18 miles, making it a 36+ mile roundtrip run. It was an effortless run; I wanted to keep it that way so I confronted the enemy. The espresso hammer gel in my water bottle, I took down trying not to gag. The way back was just as effortless; I can run forever in a place this majestical. When I made it back to my tent I checked my watch, I had been running for 4:45, smokes!! 36+ miles covered before lunch, what a day. I laid in the grass beside my tent and again dozed off.

I woke up feeling not that well, super stiff. I was not looking forward to biking back but I did not have enough food to stay another night. I scarfed down the remaining crackers and PB and slowly packed up my tent. The rain was beginning to fall fairly hard as I threw my pack back on my back.

As I started peddling four horses ran out of the mist and crossed the road in front of me. Again unbelievable! It doesn’t get any better than rainbows, wild berries, and prancing stallions running through the mist.

The bike ride that had taken me nearly five hours the previous day took only about 2.5 seconds. It was all down hill. I did not really notice the gradual uphill the day before. Before I knew it I was back at my car, what an epic trip.
Mana Road is a special place that engages the imagination and inspires the physical. I fee like I have a better understanding of the concept of Mana. It is not some supernatural force that only mystic healers can comprehend and experience, it is a tangible feeling that anyone can experience. All you have to do is open your senses and allow yourself to be consumed. I think feeling Mana is recognizing the hidden processes that are taking place at all times. From the psychology of the turkey I just disturbed to the pondering about what the inside of a mountain is composed of. Opening all of the senses and feel the phenomena of life move around us, within us, and through us. Share a drink of light with the tree and be drunk with it all, letting the electric love of Mana flow through your being.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stumbling at the Kona Marathon

By mile three I was gasping for air and knew I had sufficiently screwed myself over. Regardless I was happy to be running wild and enjoying the warm and fragrant early morning air. I was in the middle of working a week shift at the wilderness therapy program I work for. I was lucky and thankful to be granted the day off to run. This type of work shift has prevented me from being in great shape. My exercise while I am out there for the week consists of manic jump roping and moving loads of soil to build new beds to plant a variety of vegetables and flowers. My off weeks however are out of control consisting of ecstatic rain forest runs, backpacking trips, wild dancing, and lots of surfing. The night before I left work and drove to Kona where I managed a few hours of sleep in my roach infested car. I had no expectations going in, actually I expected to have FUN. My only goal was to do 5 jumping heel clicks.
When I found myself out of breath early on I took refuge in the majesty of the coastline. There was an amazing view of the ocean and the various surf breaks along Ali'i Drive. I imagined myself paddling out in the placid surf and before I knew it I was at mile 8 and feeling descent. rounding he turn to the highway I caught a glimpse of the sun rising over Mauna Kea and flipped out, hooting and wolf calling as loud as I could. Around this time I was joined by Aaron who would eventually be the second finisher. We ran beside each other and leap frogged for quite a while. The highway stretch of the run was awfully boring and very hot. I was pumped to finally reach the turnaround point and start heading back towards the finish. I love cheering for other runners that are still heading out, its inspiring for me to see everyone and pumps me up to run harder. A few times I lost control yelling and thought I was going to have to stop and catch my breath. It was a cake walk up until I reached the 17 mile marker . I was finally dropped by Aaron for good and reduced to a slow trot. The heat was creeping up and I knew I was depleted. I would get a burst of energy at each aid station as I gulped ice cold water. I got a good laugh as I poured what I thought was water over my head, but it turned out to be Coke. At that point I didn't care about anything but not running anymore. My legs were trembling from the heat, reminding me of the smoldering days running the boardwalk back in Virginia Beach on my breaks from life guarding. I got a huge boost around mile 20. In the middle of the road was a huge turkey feather! I stopped to grab it and fastened it under my bandanna. One day on a run along the slopes of Mauna Loa I followed a trail of feathers for miles, so finding one in the middle of a highway became a source of energy for me. Feather in my hair I began the stumble the final 6 miles towards the finish. By that point I was done and what I was doing could barley be called running. I am thankful for the bike pacer, he offered words of encouragement and provided me with a moving object to follow. left to my own devices I might have walked it in. I finally reach the one mile to go sigh and my vision is becoming slightly blurry due to the heat. There was a waterfall fountain set up which I pause under to let it flow over my body. I start gulping it and I nearly fell over and took the fountain down with me. I gave myself a quick get it together talk before I took off for the finish, having a killer song by Japandroids in my head helped me bring it in. "You can keep tomorrow, after tonight we're not gonna need it" reverberated in my head providing just the kick I needed. Relief and rejoice the finish is in site and I managed to finish third overall in 2:58. I don't care about the time, I accomplished my goal, doing well over 20 jumping heel clicks!!