The Good Shepard

A Hurt Loop training report by mnmuench…

Paul provided his report, which is an accurate but most modest account of the events of the Friday night run. This run was Paul’s. He did one hell of job looking after everyone and ensuring that the water drops were cafe stops.  I just want to add a bit of a story as it was a lot of fun out there…..

We got started a bit late as two groups of runners sat around waiting for each other.  Paul, Larry and I at the top of Triangle Park, and Bill, Rob and Greg at the bottom.  After we had straighted that out we all headed for the Nature Center Trail Head.

The trip up Hog’s Back was the typical warm up session and there was a lot of good conversation and chatter.  It was still light, it was a beautiful evening, and we all let that settle in.  At the top the typical thing happened,  After leading the group up with Bill, I got about 20 paces and realized the pace was radically fast for me at this point in a run.  I  moved off the trail, damn near tripping Bill and sending him off toward the bottom of Moleka Valley but just managed to get dirty and land on my ass.   I let the group go ahead.  I caught them on Twisters, came close to catching them on the Long Easies up, and then they were gone again down toward Center Trail.  Chasing was just not in me.  We had a long way to go, a lot of hard trail, and my muscles, let alone tendons, were as cold as a frozen pork shoulder.  My pace slowed, I muttered to myself a lot, and thought about just bailing and heading down Center trail. It was a typical long race start for me when my tight body has wisdom on its side, and there is still a thin veneer of sanity resisting the madness of the long run.    

But the Good Shepard was waiting for me, ready to herd me back into the flock.  Paul was looking down at me from up  Mango’s when I came around the Bend and over the stream.  With Paul standing up there, Three Ways became a one way, and that was the way Paul was going. I muttered something about not chasing that group until I was warmed up and he readily agreed with me.

"We will probably get out a Paradise and find its a walk fest if they continue at this pace." he replied.   We walked at an increasing clip up to the Nahuina trailhead and then Paul told me a tale about how he had run with Barbie a while back, how he had come back to find her and how they had caught up with the rest of the runners in no time at all.

"Yeah, good for her," I thought to myself. I wasn’t biting.  But when he began jogging, saying something about how we would just stretch out a bit, or some sort of thing that would have been drivel from anybody else’s mouth, I could not resist and followed along pushing tight muscles and dragging along a relucant will.   

In a few minutes we were making a very good clip and I was wondering what I had done to him that he had to exact such a nasty revenge.  He just dragged me up that hill.  We talked occasionally about the HURT and the theory of pace.   We talked about he recent medical issues, and how he felt about it, and has been dealing with it.  But mostly he just willed me up that hill.  I didn’t particularly appreciate it at the time,  but there just was no way I could say "No!" to him. We made that final turn and headed down that long straight before the trail hits the road with the group jogging just infront of us.  We joined them on the road and the clock read well under 50 minutes.  I knew right there that it was going to be a fast loop, night or day.

Paul took up Drag and we headed down Kalawahine at a good clip.  When things were sorted out Bill was running with Larry out in front.  I was running between Rob and Greg and  Paul was still on Drag.  When we got to the Ewa Manoa Cliffs trail I let Rob go ahead to catch Larry and Bill and waited for Greg so that he would not miss the trail.  It was dusk and getting dark but still runnable without a light.  Greg and I hustled up the Manoa trail,  the others up ahead.  Paul blew by us and headed out to catch the leaders.   We all met at the Map Case.  My watch was still reading in the single digits of the second hour. 

The same pattern developed on the trip down to Leon’s Pie Stand.  We went to lights almost immediately and this time Paul led the way followed by Larry and Rob.  I followed some distance back and thought Greg was right behind.  When we got to the Pie Station I turned to find it was Bill  And Bill was surprised it was me.   Greg was not where we thought he was. Immediately Paul disappeared and a few minutes later appeared with Greg at the Stand.

Heading down into Manoa I reluctantly took the lead, but once given it held it pretty much of the way to the Falls trail.   It was a rugged down, and neither Greg nor Rob knew quite where they were.  We talked about doing the Ahuilama section at night during HURT, and the best advice I could think of saying was "Don’t think about it too much, don’t let it get to you.  If you let it get to you they you will start falling on your ass."   I tried to point out a few rough areas, and places where the trail would confuse them when they came back up;  but by then both of them were a bit disoriented and had now idea of what was outside of the cone of light in front of them .  It was a quick down.  We reached the Manoa Trail in 1:40 or so and slowed to get everyone back together.  Gordon flew past us in the last few 100 yards, giving me grief for doing the section in just under 2:00 Hours, and Larry was pulled along with him.   From my point of view, anything around 2:00 is quite good, and at night very good.   Gordon had started late and done it in 1:45 or less. 

Bill had a nice stash at Paradise, and Paul had a pack full of goodies. It was better than most aid station tables.  We watered, ate our fill, and when the group was together we moved back up the trail.  I could feel Gordon at my heels, and in a shorter jaunt would have given him a good push to the top, but I could feel that up at five minute hill cackling, egging me on, waiting to suck me dry. That was not going to happen, so I motioned Gordon by and he and Larry immediately put space between themselves and the rest of us.  I fought to follow up the Manoa Trail,  but Gordon continued to pull away doing that irritating, seemingly slow constant jog of his that is madeningly hard to match.  I really admire Gordon and his improvement over the years, but that doesn’t make him any less a pain in the ass when he floats along those trails in front. 

At the beginning of Ahuilama I sent Rob ahead to catch Gordon and Larry, "Just follow those two" I said in response to his question "Where am I? Where do I go?"  I said knowing the heavy assignment I had given him for the endless up of Ahuilama.   I waited for Greg, not wanting him to miss the cutoff and get lost at the base of the waterfall.  He made the turn, and followed, and down below us I could see the lights of Bill and Paul who were guarding our the rear.   I played light games at every one of those stream crossings, making sure Greg did not head up into one of those blind valley trails, and pushed when I could.     With all the small delays to ensure our newbies were ok, we set a fast time to the top of Ahuilama.  The new boys were dragging a bit, and disoriented, and wondering about the wisdom of their decision to bumble through the forest in the middle of the night,  but they were still strong and wouldn’t give up.   No whiners here, and an impressive performance.

I want to add that there have been some major improvements to the Ahuilama trail.  It seems that the era of ‘Yellow Brick Road” building has given way to some serious trail work.  Very impressive work indeed.  The three nastiest areas of the trail have been worked on and improved considerably. The nasty, rutted,  muddy channel around that minor ridge is gone, replaced by a three foot wide, well packed trail.  The rooty, muddy. uneven steppy section that was by far, and perhaps still is, the most technical short section of the trail, has been cleared 10 yard down slope, and channels dug where possible.  It will now have a chance to dry out and be considerably easier to get through.   Major channels have been dug just before the switchbacks and this will get water off the trail and improve sections below these channels considerably.  Up top, the ‘step-up and-around’ tree that blocked the trail a couple of switchbacks above the slide and Elbows is gone, though elbows is still there.  Aron has done a great job, along Ahuilama and a half dozen or so other places along the circuit that were hard or dangerous.   It is not easy, but it is much safer for the less qualified, or the minimally technically proficient hiker or runner.      

I waited for Greg at the Pie Stand, and we made our way through the bamboo at a recovery pace. I believe Greg wondered how anyone could possibly do the route for five laps. "This is fast," I assured him, "We would be about 30 minutes slower if we were doing a 100."  Greg didn’t respond, but I believe he was thinking that allowing an additional  half hour was irrelevant to his original question.   As we bumbled on around the large muddy puddles that had formed in the hollows I tried to assure him that though it took some training it was all ‘doable’.  I don’t know if he caught the sarcasm in my voice, or if he just thought I was completely mad.

Coming out of the Bamboo we found Rob waiting for us.  Gordon’s unrelenting pace just too much for him.  Greg was having a hard time with a knee and the rooty web of the flats was likely the last thing he wanted to negoiate.  He fell behind Rob and I and we held up at the turn onto Nu’uanu for a few moments to let him catch up.  Then I led as we headed toward the Grassy knowel and Baen’s bench.   I commented to Rob that it was a great night section and one where we would get some spectacular views of the city.  It did not disappoint.   Somewhere along that first up section, where you can look out over Pauoa valley to see Honolulu glittering  over the crest of the Punchbowl  we were hit by a whirlwind.  Paul came up on us out of know where, asked how we were doing, checked if everything was ok, where Gordon and Larry were, and then disappeared. .  Paul was off to check on the lead pair and then to get things ready for our arrival at Jackass.   I commented to Rob, that I wished I could run that well in the daylight let alone with one headlamp through the dark of night.

We got to the Grassy Knowel and waited for Greg who had fallen back a bit.   I was happy to see two sets of light show around the corner and float down toward us.  Bill was running with Greg; everybody was covered.   As Rob and I began our decent I noted to him that the first section was called Five Minute Hill, and that was for five minutes for the up, not the down.  Rob grunted, unimpressed.  We got through the slippery downs without trouble and made the turn off the ridge at the bottom of The Hill.    When we got to the Blue Rope I cautioned Rob about the difficult section ahead, and he grunted again.  Given the darkness and his unfamiliarity with the trail I got the feeling that he was wondering what could be more difficult than what we had just come down.  A few minutes later I noticed he was occasionally shining his light to the left.   "Best just shine the light on the trail I said, it makes it a lot easier coming down this section, you don’t want to see what off the left anyway." I added.

"Oh? What’s to the left," he asked?"

"Not a damn thing," I said laughing madly!  "Better not to dwell on it. Just watch where you step and keep moving!" I added picking up the pace.  Rob was quiet for a while. 

"I don’t have the slightest idea where we are," he finally muttered. 

"Upper Nu’uanu trail, top section, coming down into Nu’uanu.  Pali highway is out there.  Town is down to our left.  We will find our stash at Jack Ass Ginger at the bottom by the stream.  We water and then come back out the way we came in.  We are making fantastic time.  Just stay with me.  This is a particularly bad section right here." I said skipping down the slippery rope rock.   

We pushed through the nasty upper sections, stopped a moment at that kink where you can lookout and see the Pali Highway.  "That’s the Pali highway, up there is the lookout, down to our left is town, we are headed down there."  I added quickly attempting to give some meaning to the vast sea of darkness that spread out beyond the orange lights of the Pali Highway.  We pushed on hard.

"This is called the Enchanted Forest," I said as we came into the first of the Norfolk Pines.  "Not sure why, but it is most appropriate."

"I’ll take your word for it. said Rob, "Can’t see a whole lot."

"Oh, everything will change here," I said.  "Head! The path will become easier." I yelled just as we went down that nasty section where I often slip or bang my head on that over-hanging limb.   "And the ground will become softer. Tough section!" I screamed as we negotiated a bunch of ugly boulders and rocks strewn across the path, "and the sound of the wind changes," I noted as the the low roar of the tires on the highway reverberated across the valley and through the trees.  "Nice place."

"Humm" Rob agreed enthusiastically as he stumbled over a rock, and hustled to keep up.   

We made our way down through the forest, and then into the bottom section of the Judd Trail.  "It gets a bit nasty down here, watch your step," I warned as we hit the first muddy rutty rill and rooty up.

"Ohhh?"  commented Rob obviously enjoying the changing scenery.  "What’s next, something more nasty?" he asked.

"Well just one place, but it goes real fast. Really.  Just don’t think about it when we hit it.  That’s best,"  I said thinking of all the times I have been spooked down here in the bottoms by hauntings that got me running too fast.  I picked up the pace, wanting to move quickly through the bottom and up the rooty quagmire.

"Yeahhh…..ok…." said Rob brightly while running along behind. 

We hit level ground and knowing how these new guys like to run I dug in and pushed hard, jogging where we could and hard striding the rest.  Near the rocks that mark the stream side trail we ran into Gordon who was heading back alone.  "Got tired of waiting for you Mike.  Got to get home.  Halawa tomorrow," he added referring to the morning jaunt up to the lookout above H3.   

"Have a good one!"  I said knowing that I’d not see Gordon again, even if there was that slight chance I could power the up Nu’uanu at his expense.   "He’s almost close enough to catch." I mused to myself.

"What?" said Rob, questioning my doubting mind.   

We made our way along the stream and into the bamboo darkness to the stash box where we found Paul and Larry sitting in the ragged clearing in the bamboo.  A banquet of goodies sat in the light cast by Paul’s headlamp which he had fastened to one of the bamboo stalks.  It was very impressive.  Paul had hustled in energy bars, water, gator aide, Frito’s, Red bull, and I couldn’t tell you what else.  He sat there smiling urging us to eat and drink our fill.  In between questions about how we were doing and the where-abouts of Bill and Greg he helped me fill my water bladder, and offered an energy bar.  We chatted, fueled, and drank.  I grabbed a red bull and chomped on the energy bar knowing the tendency of the Nu’uanu trail to grow, to rise high out of the earth in the dark of night, as if it were a black panther stretching itself before the hunt.  I’d been consumed by that predator on too many occasions not to prepare  for the flight; for there was no question of who would be the prey and who the hunter.  Somewhere up there the Panther was waiting, ready to pounce on the slightest weakness, crouched low and listening for the ragged breath of a weak hill climber.

I stood there, not wanting to sit down and get comfortable.  The sweat of the trail was cooling me, and though I couldn’t see them I knew that we were likely being swarmed by a cloud of mosquitoes.  Looking at my watch I confirmed what my body was telling me;  we had made very good time, and were set to do an easy six hours if we kept pace.   Bill and Greg came in, we all greeted each other, the clearing got a bit crowded.  It was all very nice, Paul was a gracious host, but I wanted that sub-six night run more than the camaraderie, more than any more food. And there was Gordon out there, still on the hill, and that made seeing him a possibility. Stuffing the last chip from a bag of Doritos into my mouth I shouldered my Pack and looked at Rob.  "Ready!" I said dodging his reluctance.   "We’ll take it slow", I lied.   Rob lumbered to his feet.  He didn’t want to go,  but the old man was going.  We said our good-byes and moved back up the trail. 

Rob said something about going with me part of the way.  I ignored him and increased the pace.   I promised him that it was not as bad as it might seem.  It was worse, but I didn’t tell him that.   We pushed through the nasty bottom land, and finally made it to the Forest.  "Gets better now I lied as we took the turn onto Nu’uanu trail and hit that first grind that whips you with the dreaded understanding that easy downs equal grinding miserable ups.  We struggled through the endless switch backs, where I’d push on each of the little downs or straights, and just hump the hard. 

"This is all really runnable trail!" I yelled back when we made it out of the Pines and started that first upper section     "Jeff Huff says so," I added fixing the blame for the next twenty minutes of agony squarely on the Huffer.  Our progress was good, but I had to play Rob a bit not letting him fall to far behind.   Paul’s concern for the new guys had been infective.  I felt a bit responsible. I didn’t resent that, it was nice showing somebody the trail,  but I wanted that sub-six.  We pushed hard.  "Its good to just push through these nasty sections, there is a lot of fairly level ground up ahead, we can rest along them," I lied.  "Huffer says you can run em, but we will just recover, I lied again.  Hoping that Rob would build up permanent resentment for this guy "Huffer", who was causing him such pain.  Welcome to the club! I thought to myself, as I watched a knock-kneed shadowy form do an ungainly dance along the trail ahead of me.  "Its runnable Mike!" it jeered at me.   I pushed harder, taking my revenge out on the guy behind me. 

"So its all pretty clear where we go now," said Rob looking for a way out of dogging me up the cliff.

"Kind of."  I said thinking of the half dozen places where pig trails led from of the main trail at a switchback and then off the ledge of oblivion.   "Just stick with me.  We are making really good time.  We get to the top and we are home free," I said, avoiding his question and then promising some relief.  I was lying, but I knew Rob was getting a bit desperate he’d grab hold of any promise of it getting better even if he wished I’d just fall off the damn trail.  I knew he just didn’t know what he could really do. We push hard to the bottom of Five Minute Hill. 

"OK.  I said in my best cheerleader style.  "Just stick with me.  This is not as bad as it will feel.  Gut the ups, they are short! Five Minute Hill!  We get to the top and we are home free!" I said loudly….. "You wish….."  I whispered sarcastically to myself.  We pushed up the hill hard.  Rob keeping pace, falling behind a bit but steady in his pursuit.  "You alright? I called back once.  ‘I"m coming." I heard in return, the tone of the voice telling me he had underestimated what a lying, conniving, miserable son of a bitch I actually was.  But he was strong, covering that dark unfamiliar ground with a good solid pace.  I hit the top of the hill in just over four and Rob cranked upto the knowel in five to find me sitting on Baen’s bench sucking down water and smiling at him.  I knew Rob was a gentleman, he wouldn’t hit me while I was sitting down.  I let him catch his breath and promised him the next cherry.   

"Ok, we are making great time.  Really fantistic time.  You don’t realize it but its good time and something to be proud of.  I said telling him the absolute truth.  "We have this little jog from Paoua to the Map Case and then a hundred yards up Manoa Cliffs and it is all down hill.   Just one up and it’s all downhill." I added telling a truth that was a bit stretched. "An easy jog, and a quick walk up Thompson’s cut-off and we are there." I concluded telling no truth at all. 

"Yeah….sure," said Rob looking at me sideways, his hands still on his knees.

I got up and started moving down the trail before he could lift his arms to no good purpose.  We trucked hard along the back of Pauoa, under the fallen tree, and onto the Flats.  We took the turn at the Flat’s trial and moved toward Thompson’s dancing along the backs of the roots like they were venemous snakes. "Where are we anyway?" Rob asked as we crossed the log road and we hit the first rise. 

"On the Pauoa Flat’s trail, just below the Kalawahine cut-off which is just up here on our right I said shining my light at the sign as we climbed past it. Go down that trail and you will come to the bottom of Manoa Cliffs trail.  The place we took a right an up through the guava.   We are going back up what we came down just as it was getting dark.  Thompson’s Cuttoff is what it’s called.  I don’t quite know why.  John would know.  Maybe this guy Thompson fell on his ass up here, or drank too many beers and got lost.  Hurt used to be a bit more routy in its younger days.  They named trails and places to celebrate some strange events.  But we get to the top of Thompson’s and thats the Map Case, or used to be.  We head up the Manoa Cliffs trail and its not far until we hit the top of the trail.  After that its pretty much down hill."   

"I still don’t know where we are." said Rob.

"Thats Makai where we are going.  Honolulu off to the right.  Manoa off to the left.  We came from that way and we are going that way. I said motioning it all with my light."   Realizing his disorientation, I stopped orienting and ran hard up the trail knowing he’d not want to lose me to be left out here stumnbling through the locationless blackness.  We made the map case and the time still looked good. 

Rob stood there looking around.  "Man, I finally kind of know where I am.  I had no idea.  It will be interesting to do these trails in the light and see where it is we went," he concluded.         

Well good. You’ve run this trail and its familiar.  We can make some time. 

Well… I um….Yeah we came this way I think, but it was……well….." 

"Great!" I said ignoring him.  "Ok, its home free once we reach the top of this hill.  Last up!….Except for a few bumps," I added as I strode hard up the trail.  "Let’s do it" I yelled at the lights fading behind me.  we didn’t run the Manoa Cliffs but I hunkered down and dropped my center of gravity as low as I could get it and did some mean ass truckin.   I took advantage of every straight and favorite foot fall.   We hit the steps in good time.   "A dozen steps, its not bad," I promised! "Stay with me," I pleaded as I saw Rob begin to flag.  "Almost there!" I promised.  "We can rest on the down into Moleka," I added.   We pushed through the guava, hit the steps and moved fast down toward the road and the Moleka trailhead.  "This part is easy!" I shouted as we hit the stairs at the bamboo grove.  "OK, this is not a big up,  just push through it, lots of easy down to recover on right up ahead." I called over my shoulder as we hit the base of the Trash Dumps switchback.  Push hard, run, push hard, run all the way to the bench at the top of Hog’s Back, my watch flippin through the minutes at a faster pace than I could coax Rob along.

"OK! We ran this just a few hours ago!" I said to Rob as we headed down the Stair Cases. "You clowns ran this," I thought to myself, "I walked the entire cross-over first time through!  And look who’s draggin now!" I cackled to myself.   I took the down hard.  "This is what I call Twisters, I said as we pushed over the little up. "Call it that cause I turned my anckle on it a few times and so have a lot of other people."  I pushed hard to the top and down Shorts with Rob right there behind me.  Those damn thorn ridden legumes are growing over the trail again and I stopped to hold it back for Rob only to have the damn think twist away from me and grab him by the leg.   It  took us a few minutes to untangle him from  the seeminly thousand thorns on that four inch lenght of branch. 

"Next up is not really an up!  Its all really runable, it is easy!"  Push hard it is over fast!  I took off up Easy’s trying to catch the fleeing minutes.  5:30 had flown, 5:40 was just out of reach.  5:45 lay there like a golden egg. I got to the top and waited for Rob. 

"Are you at the top?" Rob asked. 

"Yeah!" I replied talking to the bouncing lights down hill as Rob made his way up to where I waited.  "Well that’s it, it is all down hill from here!" I added.  Even through the cloudy cone of light thrown out by my headlamp I could see Rob’s disgusted look.   "No, for sure, it’s all down hill from here! Really! Top of the loop! Down Center and it’s home," I added stepping back a bit. You’d have thought I said ‘Niagra Falls’ or something.  I took it as a hint and ran hard for Center. 

We made Center Trail and 5:45 had left the building.  I needed 5:50. I wanted it.  There were no more cut-offs, my guide duties were pretty much over, I let go and went for the stream crossing at the trailhead at a good fast clip using all the tricks of the trail I could summon.   I made the Pines at the Korean Sign at 5:48, and flew toward the foot bridge making it to the road just as 5:50 was blinking onto my watch.  I turned around and headed back out after Rob, and found him coming down out of the Taro Loi.  I coaxed him into a bit of a hussel and we hit the bridge at 5:53.   Mission accomplished; one newbie well broken in. 

Rob showed a lot of guts out there and I look forward to kicking his ass on a day loop when he can not claim he doesn’t know where he is.  However I am well aware that if he sticks with the trail training he is going to be pacing well ahead of me in the coming months. 

This was Paul’s run. He really looked after everyone and even when I was running with Rob I knew that everyone else was covered.  There was not worry about who was where because Paul had that under control.   At the end we could just go home; again because  I knew Paul was taking the responsiblity for ensuring everyone got out ok. That took a lot of time and effort.  Thanks Paul for making this a great HURT memory run!!    ….©mnmuench