The Eastside Shuffle

….Here M. Minch recounts the running adventure so named above, having taken place last Saturday and in the company of noted Ultra runners Ernest Tay and Fish.  (Note: a few explitives remain in this highly edited version of reality.  Somethings just can not be said any other way.) 


After the Run with a View race we were talking about ‘next week’ and Fish tells me that he and Ernest are doing the Eastside. “It’s a nice run,” he says. “Not too long, just fourteen miles, and a few good hills. You’ll like it,” he says flashing me a smile. Well I’m not bad at hills, and I figured that fourteen road miles was well within in my bracket so I tell Fish “You can count me in!”


Now I wasn’t drunk, nor had I been smoking da paka, so one has to wonder why I would listen to Fish tell me about this run and not massage the incoming information a bit before committing to ‘count me in’ status. But you know how it goes. Fish says something and smiles and tells you how much fun it is going to be, and Ernest looks you straight in the eye. It’s like the word of the running god coming down. How can you doubt it? You just know it’s got to be the way they are saying it is going to happen. It is, but they are doing the saying and the running god is just sitting back there with a smirk on his face, I think. Unfortunately the off- kilter grin is aimed at you and not the guys describing the fun event.


Midweek, Cheryl posted a triple trek preview, and I found myself hoping that Fish and Ernest had decided on that instead. I was almost positive they would. But on Friday afternoon I got a call from Fish and he was confirming that I would be joining him and Ernest on Saturday morning. “Ohh, well yeah, fourteen miles right?” I said doing some quick calculations, and figuring I could do a fourteen with Fish and Ernest and then go and do a little with the Nature Center gang. I mentioned that to Fish and he hemmed a bit over the phone and said something like “Mike, I don’t know, you may just want to go home after the fourteen, pretty hot out there sometimes.” I’m tough, I told him it shouldn’t be any problem. I asked him when we would meet and he says 4:45 A.M. I think I laughed then, and said something like, “Well hell Fish, might as well go out earlier, wouldn’t have to go to sleep then, hey.”


“You want to go earlier Mike? Sure, we can go earlier,” he said.


“No I’m just kidding.” I replied


“You want to go earlier? We can you know.”


“No Fish. I was just making a little joke on how early we are starting, and that any earlier there is no need to go to bed.”


“Well if you don’t want to go to bed, we can go earlier,” he said rubbing it in, and making me feel like a real slacker.


“I’ll see you at 4:45.”


“I’ll call you at 4:00, just in case you do go to bed.”


“Thanks. You do that. I replied.”


The phone rang about 4:00 AM and it was Fish letting me know they were on the road and heading toward Hawaii Kai. I made it to the Hawaii Kai Elementary just a bit late, and the guys were waiting, they called me, in fact, to guide me the last few hundred yards. I filled up my water, and didn’t worry about much else since we were only going fourteen miles. Fish asked me if I was ready. “Ready for what?” I replied. They both chuckled in reply and before I knew it they were striding out in front of me. I shuffled along trying to catch up with them, reluctantly trying to convince tight muscles and tendons to loosen up a bit.


The running  god was just getting up.


We headed back down Kalanianeole, and when we made the turn at Hawaii Kai Drive  Fish asked me if I was ready. “Ready for what?” I replied. They both chuckled in reply and before I knew it were already jogging out in front of me. I shuffled along trying to catch up with them, reluctantly trying to convince tight muscles and tendons to loosen.


The running god chuckled and poured himself a large cup of coffee.


At the Seven-Eleven we took a left and headed up toward Haha’ione School, then took a left at Haha’ione street. We regrouped briefly at the bottom of the hill to catch our breath, the road curved ominously up toward the cliffs. Fish asked me if I was ready. “Ready for What?” I replied. They both chuckled in reply and before I knew it were already running out in front of me. I shuffled along trying to catch up with them, muscles and tendons complaining about early abuse.


The running god shook his head, grinned and scarfed a glazed donut.


Ernest did the hill in one long run without a break. Fish held back a bit for a while so he could harass me by telling me how ‘good’ I was doing. Hills are my forte but I was quickly eclipsed when Ernest just started running and then by Fish as he tired of calling back  encouraging phrases. I pushed and faded. The hill was getting steeper and I was walking hard and breathing in gasps. The air was thick and gray and it reminded me of Pomona on a very hot LA summer’s day. One of those reddish brown valley sky days when they tell old folks to stay inside and not take out the garbage.


The vog had been sitting up against the Hawaii Kai cliffs for a few days and most of the oxygen had already been sucked out of it. I was convinced that what breathable air that remained along the road had been claimed by Ernest and Fish on their way up. On the way back down they grabbed the last few molecules from in front of my face as they both flew down the hill, while  telling me what a good job I was doing. I sucked, and puffed to the top wondering what I had done with my training, and the supposed base I had been building. I did my best to run down the hill after them, but it was little more than a fast walk and with occasional short awkward jogs. I made the bottom of the hill and the guys were waiting. They had me on the hook and didn’t want me to get lost. We took a picture somewhere up there on Hahaione and started toward…..well I had no idea where we were going. After explaining the route in a kind of sketchy way Fish asked me if I was ready. “Ready for what?” I replied. They both chuckled without reply and before I knew it were already jogging out in front of me. I shuffled along trying to catch up with them and I reluctantly pushed a bit attempting to convince my knees that this was a good thing that I was doing.


The running god shook his head and dipped his donut in his coffee.


They were waiting for me at the bottom of Mariners Ridge Drive. I was beginning to feel a bit self conscious about slowing them down so much, but neither Fish nor Ernest seemed to be bothered by it, and they laughed when I growled at them in response to their good hearted interest in how I was doing. There seemed to be a lot of things I was not doing, but I couldn’t think of a damn thing I was doing, except perhaps destroying my knees. Fish explained that because the road was so short and not very steep we would jog to the top. It seemed to make sense, despite the fact that I distinctly remembered taking a bit of time to get up what my evidently faulty memory had logged as a pretty long and steep hill when we did it during Don’s Badwater training runs. Fish asked me if I was ready. “Ready for what?” I replied. They both chuckled without reply and before I knew it they were already jogging out in front of me. I shuffled along trying to catch up with them, reluctantly pushing a bit and trying to convince my legs that it was only an easy jog to the top.


I believe the running god had gotten up to make some more coffee.


So up the hill we jogged. The guys got farther and farther ahead of me and I found myself gasping and panting and feeling like I hadn’t trained in a few years. Ernest had dropped back a bit and was giving me an occasional ‘Come on Mike!” while Fish sprinted toward the top. Striding hard and pushing at every opportunity I just couldn’t seem to reel them in. It wasn’t until we ran past some dogs up near the top and Fish stopped to talk to the dogs and pet the owner, that I caught up with him. We jogged together toward the top. Fish giving me encouragement and telling me how good I was doing, touched the sign, and headed back down. I was not looking at my watch, I didn’t care much about time. I figured it was only fourteen miles and I just had to gut it out. I jogged down the hill my knees asking me who the hell I thought I was. The guys were waiting for me at the bottom. We had a photo op at the Mariners Ridge Sign, ate a bit and sucked fluids. I asked if either of them had any Ibuprofen, and Fish produced a hospital grade horse pill, which was just what I needed. Before I could get it completely down, Fish asked me if I was ready. “Ready for what?” I replied. They both chuckled without reply and before I knew it they were already jogging out in front of me. I shuffled along trying to catch up with them, reluctantly pushing a bit, jogging when I could,  and listening to a growing chorus of muscles and tendons complain about mistreatment.


The running god threw a bit of a donut at me and hooted.


We jogged at a good clip past to post office, left and over the bridge, down to Lunalilo Home Road, and up toward Heartbreaks. Somewhere along the road we stopped to talk to a couple Fish knew who were out training. Fish seemed to know about half the people on the road, and we would trade cheers, but this lady was worth stopping for. After a few minutes of chatter and Fish’s failed attempt to convince them to join us, we moved on. I felt like the Tin Man, the sweat having rusted my joints tight, and it took three hundred yards to begin to loosen up. I let out a low moan and Ernest commented that he was feeling the same way. The stop had been a pleasant diversion but we paid dearly for it. We watered up at the park half way up Heartbreaks and did a fast walk up the final half of the hill toward Kamekame ridge. At the turn Fish asked me if I was ready. “Ready for what?” I replied. They both chuckled without reply and before I knew it they were already jogging out in front of me. I shuffled along trying to catch up with them, reluctantly pushing a bit and hoping the Ibu would kick in a bit harder.


The running god held his nose and howled.


Kamekame belonged to Fish. He just ran it to the top. I stuck fairly close to Ernest until we hit the concrete section of road, beyond the gate. One minute I was just behind Ernest and the next he was gone. I felt like I had stepped in a time hole. He was fifty yards ahead of me, and then I looked up a second later and he gone. I finally saw him way up the road, hundreds of yards beyond me and still can not figure out what happened. I pushed but my body was sending a lot of electronic noise about overworked systems and overload warnings were clanging in all my joints. Fortunately my brain was too numbed and shocked to decipher it all and I just kept pushing on. At some point I could see Fish standing way up on the top of the ridge like an Olympic god, and then a while later I saw Ernest join him. For a moment I thought I saw three people up there.  Perhaps it was the running god taking advantage of the view.  Me? I felt like I was pushing a giant boulder up that endless hill, and every once in a while it would get loose from me, and when I looked up it seemed like I was starting all over at the bottom again. But the gods of the Koolau were up there and I could hear them calling to me and telling me what a great job I was doing—except for the running god who was laughing and taunting me.  I stayed with it on the promise that when I got to the top I would throttle one or the other of them. I made it up there just in time for the photo op, and then we talked about what was next. It seems we were heading back down and making for the Seven Eleven. It sounded do-able.


“Its just around the corner” said Fish.


I looked out and could see, well imagine, since it was too hazy to see anything,  the whole of Hawaii Kai. “OK, I said that’s cool,” I said pointing off toward where we had come from, estimating where the Seven Eleven would be.


“ Mike,” Fish said laughing. “Man that’s funny!”


“I looked at him and he was pointing off into the murky smoke of  Waimanalo. It was so bleak in that direction that you couldn’t even see the Mokulua islands through the Vog.


“Seven-Eleven,” I said still kind of pointing toward Hawaii Kai, and not wanting to admit to anything to the north.


“Yeah Seven-eleven,” confirmed Fish, pointing toward the gray clouded landscape of Waimanalo.


“Hahaha!” I laughed. “The closest Seven Eleven that way is down by Waimanalo Beach park.”

“Yeah, that’s right Mike. That’s where we are going,” said Fish sounding as if it were the most exciting destination we had come up with to date. We all laughed, but for entirely different reasons.


The running god choked on his beer, and foam came out of his nose. 


I looked at Fish and realized that he is crazier than most people know; and that is pretty nuts. As far as Ernest? Well it was Ernest’s training run, what the hell could he say but “Let’s go!” So that’s what we did, and once again I trailed them down the mountain. We  race walked a good portion of the way down and once again as good a race walker as I am I just fell behind and they were waiting for me at the bottom, and right away we did a fast pace down into Kalama Valley. At the turn toward the beach Fish asked me if I was ready. I looked behind me for whoever he was talking to. They both chuckled in reply and before I knew it they were already jogging out in front of me. I jogged along trying to catch up with them, my knees still in shock from coming down Kamekame.


According to Fish and Ernest that whole section from Kalama Shopping Center down to the beach and then up and around on Kalanianeole to the Makapu’u saddle and lookout is runable. I have to agree. When Don and I start from the Center it is no great problem after a bit of a warm up. But having done the Commando Challenge of Hawaii Kai, I had to differ with them, or at least my knees had to raise some objections. I caught them at the Golf Course, I know they slowed to wait for me, and then kept pace until I crossed to the makai side of the road as I do not like that mauka portion near the big turn and the up at Makapu’u. Then it happened again, I stepped in another time hole. I took my eyes off of them as I crossed the road, and  they were already making the turn. Time stumbled on me and five minutes seemed to have disappeared. We hit the hill and I was pushing hard with the best stride I could muster, as they jogged easily up the hill, stealing all the good air. They pushed on up and over and stopped for me at the Makapu’u Beach overlook. I got around the top and past the overhangs and knew I was tired of chasing, and quite frankly figured it was over. My knees were really upset and my hips had just about decided to join the protest. I flagged down Ernest and told him to just go on. Fish came back and asked me what was wrong.


“Nothing is wrong. I just can’t jog any more, and it is going to take me a few miles to work up a decent walking pace again. My knees are finished and my hips are tight. Look you guys go on and I will catch up with you. There is no sense in always waiting for me, you have training to do.” I think Ernest was happy to hear that, or at least his knees were because they were not feeling to good either.


“But Mike you got to make the turn around with us!” protested Fish.


“I don’t got to do anything.” I replied.


“But the turn around Mike, we can get some good food, and regroup,” consoled Fish.


“You can Amp up,” assured Ernest.


I realized I wasn’t going to slip away from them and nodded my head. “I can walk, Fish, but my jogging is finished. I figure I’m good for a lot longer but not jogging.” I probably said the same thing a half a dozen different ways. And like I said, Ernest was in a similar boat, and his knees probably hurt more than mine, as I tend to whine a lot sooner than he does. Fish asked me if I was ready. “Ready for what?” I replied. They both chuckled without reply and before I knew it they were already striding off in front of me. I shuffled along trying to catch up with them, my knees still in shock, my hips tight, a few hot spots on my feet turning into burning coals, but at least I was not trying to run or jog.


The running god had decided to catch one of the NBA games on the tube.


We headed off and did one of those ‘into the vortex’ type of walks that section from Makapu’u to Waimanalo is so famous for. What seemed like two days later we were spit out of  the black hole down near the park having walked what seemed like forty-six hours to get there. The Seven-Eleven was cooled to an artic chill out of respect for the plight of any polar bears who might be vacationing on the beach at Waimanalo and need ready refuge from the heat. I hadn’t brought any money, or electrolytes, or goo, or much of anything on this fourteen mile jaunt, so Ernest and Fish treated me to an opulent meal. I drank a large amp, a chicken salad sandwich, ate a few brownies, and some other fine stuff. The Amp went down cool and tingly in my throat. The food hardly hit my gut before the processing plant was in full swing and the carbs were being converted into sugars and shipped to all the distressed regions of my body.

I got to the turn-around wondering how I was ever going to get back, but by the time we were done eating I was reluctantly ready to start. Finally Fish asked me if I was ready. I chuckled with them and without reply we were walking at a fast clip back into the grayness toward Makapu’u, the traffic along the hot road just a bit less daunting than it had been on the way out just a few minutes before.


The running god may have decided to join us for a while, because it was suddenly a very beautiful day.


“Forty-five minutes,” said Fish.


“It took me forty-five minutes to eat that sandwich,” I asked?


“No to get here he laughed. Forty-five from the Makapu’u beach overlook.”


“More like four and half hours,” said Ernest


“45 hours if you ask me,” I whined.


“I’ll make it forty-five damn days if you don’t knock it off,” said the running god referring to my sniveling.


It seemed to take us a lot less than forty-five on the way back. And before I knew it we were headed up the curve at Makapu’u. I bent down to pull up a sock, and when I looked up the guys were gone again. I chased the three of them into Ka’aiwi and up the Makapu’u light road. They were walking hard and I can usually catch people who are walking, but I was losing ground against them. I run that road regularly with Don, but it felt a bit longer, hotter, and meaner than it ever had before. The goddess Makapu’u, who is a many eyed she demon, and  whose visage was once evident along the face of the cliffs, looked askance at me on this particular day. But I had not chanted a blessing for her pleasure either, so I got what I deserved. I finally caught Fish who had dropped back to talk to another dog and pet the owner. The dog got tired and I pulled ahead. Ernest was at the top with the running god enjoying the view by the time I rounded the curve and looked up to the lookout on the point. It took me a while and then Fish came up with the dog and the cute owner. We had a bit of a photo op, found some water for the dog, and headed back down.


It was Fish’s plan to go along the coast road to Hanauma. I don’t generally like that route, but it offers a water stop at Sandy’s and it is amazingly beautiful. The edge of the road seemed a bit wider since the last time I tried to do that way, and since Fish used to cast from the rocks he knows the names of all the small coves and rock formations out that way, which made the run along that section much more interesting. Before leaving I had to ask Fish if he planned to go directly to Koko Crater park from the Hanauma bus stop. After some kidding about going down to Koko Marina and then winding back up to the park he admitted that we would go directly to the crater. It was needless to be concerned about this  irrelevant mileage, but I would not realize this for a while.


The running god led the way along the coast and I followed. I had on Don’s ‘Badwater yellow’ shirt and was swinging a white rag like a windmill to ward off the bad karma of the car bumper spirits. It seemed to work, though there were a couple of times when the Neanderthals behind the wheel of passing cars took offense at our presence and tried to reverse the obvious tide of human evolution. It put the running god in a poor mood.


I was trailing them to the top of the saddle above Haunama bay and damned if they didn’t  head down the road toward Koko Marina. I got to the top and was about ready to scream and Ernest turned around with Fish, both had big smiles.


The running god had kept running and just rolled his eyes when he realized we were taking the short cut.

When we hit the bottom of the crater there was no kidding about jogging to the top. We stared up the long succession of cross ties which remain from the old tram line that once ascended Koko Crater. I chugged some honey that I had been saving and began the climb. I led for about one hundred paces and then the running god, still pissed from nearly being sideswiped by the morons on the road, slapped me in the kidney in frustration. I was immediately bent over and gasping. He and the guys went by me and I stumbled on. The climb quickly became a vision of where I am going when I die. It was hot, very hot, and it was dry, and the sun was bright and glary. The vog had blown out a bit, but it felt like there was little oxygen in the air. I was gasping and wheezing and fighting for breath on each step. It is an evil place, that lower section, and it only gets bleaker the higher one goes. The gunnery range was active and it sounded like a small battle was going on just over the hill. Every once in a while some clown would discharge a hand held cannon or let loose a mortar round and it would thud and reverberate between the hills. I heard no ricochets or mis-aimed rounds, though someone unfamiliar with that special spine tingling sound might think it was the case given the racket and echoes. For a while I felt like I was a grunt on some forlorn flanking action of a the battle that raged just over the crest. But such pleasant fantasies fled me as the bitter reality of the climb settled in. I made the first bump and realized there were two more. I could feel myself  getting desperate. I pushed on, my gaze set on the ground and refusing to look up the endless incline, taking fifteen steps at a time between pauses to gasp for air and rest my hand on the rail for support. Then I was taking ten steps, then five, and then fewer as my rhythm disintegrated, and my lungs shrank into to the size of  tiny Mahalo Airlines safety balloons. The only thing keeping me from crashing was the terrible embarrassment I would feel from not making it and the inevitable ridicule from the running god.


A few people went by on their way down. One woman concerned over my intense gasping stopped to ask me if I was alright. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fine. Thanks,” I said disgusted, and feeling like telling the woman to mind her own damn business. “I’m an ultra-runner! I’ll god damn well die out here before I fucking stop!” I felt like screaming. Unfortunately I needed that energy because it seemed that I was well on my way to doing just that!  I bowed my head and looked at the next step and took it, then looked at the next one and took that. The energy tank was empty, the fuel pump was vacuuming out. My heart rate was seeing highs it had not seen since I was eighteen. Each step was incredible agony if I let myself think about it.


The running god kept harassing me from the top and telling me it only got harder the higher I climbed. 


So I just cut time recognition down to less than each step and the agony was reduced a bit. I had no past, and no future, and just the instantaneous present. Just the next weathered old cross tie and the dull feelings in my legs as I pumped up to the next weathered old cross tie, the gasping sound from my lungs, the lightheadedness; just sounds and feelings and no judgments. Except of course the sound of my whining from the speaker I can never turn completely down. Finally the top came into view and the last two hundred steps become nothing more than a transient agony I knew I could smile at—and if you believe that I will sell you some great houses in Pahrump! 


I stumbled along the path that begins where the tramway ends and found the guys at the top. The running god had brought along cold drinks and pupu’s, which they had finished by the time I got there, and they might as well have been laying in the sun and drinking beers for all the strain they showed. I sat down in a shady spot unable to talk and waited to die.


The running god giggled and encouraged me to do just that.


It took me a good ten minutes to recover. Finally I could move and we had a photo op where we pointed in every damn direction of the compass at mountains we had climbed, and places we had run, and then we headed gingerly back down.


Down is hard on the body, but there were plenty of people climbing up to taunt and laugh at as we headed down so it made the pounding less painful. Nothing like seeing someone else in agony to lift one’s own spirits. At least that is what the running god kept saying. We reached the bottom and headed back out to Kalanianeole. As Ernest said, if a bus would have come along at that very moment we would have taken it down the hill.

We paused for a photo op at the bus stop to commemorate that feeling, then walked the last section and got back to the cars in just about ten hours time. Not bad for fourteen miles don’t you think?

Ernest asked me if I was thirsty but I was too numb to know. He handed me this great drink, Ecstasy or some such energy drink he had pulled from a cooler in the back of his car. It was all slushy with ice and tasted like the nectar of the gods.


The running god smiled at us all.  He shook Ernest’s had and wished him the best at Western States, he traded smiles with Fish and thanked him for the run, he slapped me on the back and something like ‘Great job…for a Putz!’ 


I told him to fuck off, and he left us laughing.


I thanked Ernest and Fish for saving my ass out there. We joked a bit about the run and the strange time warps that existed out there, and my plan to meet the gang doing trek loops. I told Ernest that if he could do twenty-eight out here he didn’t have to worry about the Western States. He looked at me like I was crazy for suggesting such a thing in front of Fish. We made plans to meet again in two weeks. I went home fighting to stay awake, showered, and fell into bed with only a brief thought of the Makiki crowd, and the realization that they were likely all long gone anyway.


Why don’t you come on out in two weeks? It is just fourteen miles, and we are going to put in a nice aid stop out Sandy’s way, and Fish is thinking of a few surprises to add a bit of excitement to the loop. It should be lots of fun. Maybe the running god will join us again, you never know.   Aloha!