Thursday, January 24, 2013

Trail Running Adventure on Oahu

What better way to explore the Hawaiian Island of Oahu than by running on many of its trails and beaches?
Running on one of the numerous steep sections of the Kealia Trail on the North Shore
My trip to the warm sunny island of Oahu began with a week on the North Shore and ended with a week in the bustling beach town of Honolulu to run one of th toughest 100 milers in the country, the H.U.R.T. 100 mile Endurance Run.  H.U.R.T. is an apt name for the race, as it is tough and painful even in terms of trail running races: almost 25,000 feet of climbing on one of the most technical courses in the United States.  The course boasts slippery rocks, mud, and long stretches of roots that make a lattice work of the trail and almost guarantee that you will eventually fall.

 A week on the North Shore just outside of the town of La'ie was the perfect location to relax before my big race.  I ran a few times on the beach out of Malaekahana State park (a great 4 mile run).  The North Shore is home to the famous surfing culture of Hawaii and most famously the town of Haleiwa, where you can find the best surfers in the world enjoying the big waves.  The waves on the North Shore are exciting!  I made sure to find time between trail running to play in the surf.  Since I am a bit better on the trail than in the water, I mostly body surfed.  If you time the waves just right, the wave will carry you right into the shore.
"Tapering" for my race by lounging on the beach
Many of my favorite trail runs are on the North Shore.  Right outside of the small town of La'ie is the La'ie Trail.  The La'ie trail is 6 miles out (12 total) if you run to the summit, or 3.5 miles to the waterfall (7 miles total).  I ran to the waterfall, the last 1/2 mile of which was a slip and slide-rock climbing verticle adventure.  Like so many trails on Oahu, the La'ie trail is narrow, slippery and often covered in rocks, but more importantly magnificently scenic with ridge views of the ocean and the tropical hillsides.  Flowers and the scent of flowers are everywhere, as are the wild Strawberry guava trees.  If you know your fruit, you can eat quite a bit of your way up and down the trails.

Views of the ocean on the first climb of the Kealia trail
Found a passion fruit on the Kealia Trail!

The best fruit was the passion fruit I found just north of Haleiwa on the Kealia Trail.  This is my favorite place to run on the North Shore because it is a pretty dry trail and there is lots of climbing!  The first 1.5 miles climbs 1,500 feet with a view of the ocean almost the entire climb. 
Enjoying the view on the La'ie Trail

Perhaps the most spectacular views on the island are from the Olomana Trail.  The Olomana trail is right outside of Kailua, on the Winward side of the island.  The "run" is really more of a scramble, as you use ropes and hand/foot holds scale many of the rocky parts of the trail after about 1 mile of running.  I only went as far as the first peak (2 miles out), but there are 3 peaks you can climb, all as crazy steep and narrow and shockingly beautiful as the next.  As the trail summits each peak, it becomes more narrow with rocky cliffs on both sides.  Not a good trail for the vertically challenged!
A little bouldering on the Olomana Trail

View from the first peak of the Olomana Trail. You can see the other two peaks in the background of the picture. Pictured: James Varner.

Also taken on the first peak of the Olomana Trail
Narrow ridge running on Olomana Trail!
Honolulu was the last city I explored on my trip.  The Ko'olau Mountain Range, between Honolulu (South Oahu) and Kailua (Winward side), boasts most of the trails near Honolulu.  The H.U.R.T. 100 course runs on the Ko'olau Range, just North of the city. During the day, I enjoyed views of the city, ocean, and forest as the course climbed along the ridges.  The race course was almost entirely uphill or downhill.  There was virtually no flat trail running.  I loved the bamboo forests and the music that came from the wind blowing the shoots into each other.  On a climb, reaching the bamboo meant you were almost at the top of the climb.  This translated to sweet relief from the intensity of climbing in a humid, warm climate. 
Running on the course, the week before the HURT100. Bamboo Forest.
There are many cliffs on the HURT 100 course.

The Salomon Speedcrosss 3 were great on the slippery, muddy, rooty course.
There are always beautiful flowers to admire on the trails.
H.U.R.T. 100 RACE
In the first 3 miles of the race, I sprained my ankle.  Visions of finishing the race began to vanish as the pain seared up my leg and made me roll on the ground in pain.  Yet.... I could not even comprehend quitting so early in the race, so I continued.  I turned that same ankle 2 more times on the second loop (the course is made up of five 20 mile "loops"), each time falling over and rolling on the ground in agony!  The first sprain had stretched the tendons/ligaments and the ankle was completely unstable. Thanks to a great taping job at Maikiki Aid Station by a talented volunteer and ibuprofen, I was able to finish the race and stay in the competition, finishing 3rd place woman and 15th overall in 28hrs and 35 mins.  My time was good enough for the 8th fastest woman's time ever on the course.  Very few runners even get under 30 hours and the finishing rate is has yet to be more than 44%!  What a beautiful and tough course!
Me and my pacer/crew James Varner before the start of the HURT100
One of the many climbs on the HURT 100 course
Some of the technical root section, pictured, during my last loop of HURT.
Another view of the roots on the HURT 100 course. Picture by Rob Lahoe.
Climbing up a particularly steep section on the HURT 100 course.
Finished the race!! Sitting finally!

The sign is the finish line and all runners must kiss to complete their run.
Me with my 3rd place award (special handmade tea set!) and my pacer/crew extraordinaire James Varner
Me receiving my award for 3rd, next to Hannah Roberts (1st).
Here is my sprained ankle.  Resting on the beach.

For more information on Trail Running on Oahu, get the book: Hikers Guide to Oahu by Stuart M. Ball, Jr.

Also check out my blog posts documenting many of my runs on the island of Oahu:

Best Damn Strawberry Guava Trail in La'ie
Climbing Exponentially on the Kealia Trail
Two Lollipops on the Hau'ula Trail
Part of Peacock
Backwards and Out of Order: HURT 100 Course Preview 
Kamanaiki Ridge Run over Honolulu
Finished the HURT 100

And some more pictures from my trail running adventures on Oahu:
View from the Hau'ula Loop Trail on the North Shore

James running on the Kealia Trail, North Shore

Me running on the Kealia Trail
Me running on the Kamanaiki Trail above Honolulu

Being silly on the Kamanaiki Trail above Honolulu

View from the Kamanaiki Trail above Honolulu
Eating bananas before the HURT 100.


  1. I am very happy to see the banana picture made famous!

  2. Check out the Pimco Sporting Events and their Trail Running Races many foreign runners have started to notice find out at

  3. I just found your blog. I am an avid trail runner to here in N. Illinois USA. We are lucky to have the beautiful Rock Cut State Park to run. Many trails, hills, rocks, creeks and more to run over, thru and around! Thank you!

  4. Very impressive Candice! I don't know what else to say..... but I am in awe of what you did with that ankle. Super motivating! 97 miles on a twisted ankle?! Keep on keepin on!

    oh, and I love the pics.


  5. Great adventures in paradise! You should consider running the Xterra races in HI, especially the world trail running championship half marathon at Kualoa ranch on the north shore of Oahu in December. Happy running!


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