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2008 Run to the Sun

Here's how I trained for the 2008 Run to the Sun. It was my first ultra marathon--36.4 miles starting at sea level and going to the top of Haleakala Crater, elevation 10,023 feet. I won!

See below for my journal entry on this race.

Note: The decimal places are seconds, not hundredths of minutes. It was too hard to figure out how to do seconds in Excel (of course, what do you expect from Microsoft products?). So, for example, if you see 20.50, that means 20 minutes and 50 seconds, and not 20 minutes and 30 seconds.

23-Jun 12 114.06 Laie Falls Summit, 25:00 (rest), 36:37 (rest), 63 (rest) 85 (rest)
25-Jun 3 18.47
27-Jun Golf 54
28-Jun 3.1 19.26
29-Jun Golf 52 New record!
30-Jun 7 65.42 Malaekahana Falls Turnoff 23.12 (rest), 36.13 (rest)
2-Jul 3 18.25
2-Jul Golf 52
3-Jul 4 25.32
4-Jul 10 132 Malaekahana Falls Summit
5-Jul 3.1 19.59
6-Jul Handball
7-Jul 7 94.47 Malaekahana Falls
9-Jul 4 25.11
10-Jul 6 39.19
12-Jul 6 37.54 Utah
13-Jul 4 27.34 Utah
14-Jul 9 61.37 Utah
16-Jul Handball
17-Jul 5 31.54
18-Jul 3.1 20.09
19-Jul 6.1 39.17
20-Jul 3 18.32
21-Jul 10 66.37
23-Jul 4 25.3
23-Jul Handball
24-Jul 6.25 42.52
25-Jul 4 26.2
26-Jul 6.2 40.14
27-Jul 4 27.5
27-Jul Golf 58
28-Jul 12 81.31
30-Jul 5 31.36
31-Jul 7 45.46
1-Aug 5 32.08
2-Aug 7 45.15
3-Aug 5 32.41
4-Aug 14 96.42
6-Aug 5 33.57
6-Aug Handball
7-Aug 7 46.26
8-Aug 5 32.25
9-Aug 7 45.53
9-Aug Handball
10-Aug 5 32.1
11-Aug 16 112.17
13-Aug 5 32.19
13-Aug Handball
14-Aug 8.15 55.11
15-Aug 5 34.28
16-Aug Golf 122
17-Aug 5 34.14
18-Aug 18 121.06
20-Aug 6 39.18
20-Aug Handball
21-Aug 9 59.48
22-Aug 6.2 42.29
23-Aug 9 58.56
24-Aug 6.2 39.58
25-Aug 20 135.28
27-Aug 7.5 52.11
29-Aug 4.5 30.07 Alaska
30-Aug 8 53.4 Alaska
3-Sep 5 32.55
4-Sep 8.15 52.56
5-Sep 5 32.52
6-Sep 8.15 56.31
6-Sep Handball
7-Sep 5 32.54
7-Sep Golf 53.00
8-Sep 20 142.57
10-Sep 6.21 43.40
11-Sep 9 59.36
12-Sep 6.2 42.38
13-Sep 9 60.46
14-Sep 6.2 50.32 Scrambling Hills trail
15-Sep 15 108.07 Pupukea
17-Sep 7 47.18 Watch stopped at 5.89m for awhile
18-Sep 10 67.05
19-Sep 7 44.14
20-Sep 10 66.47
21-Sep 7.15 46.46
22-Sep 21 147.53
24-Sep 8.15 54.15
24-Sep Handball
25-Sep 11 75.59
26-Sep 8.15 56.18
27-Sep 11.06 75.00
28-Sep 8.15 56.58
29-Sep 14.7 105.16 Pupukea
1-Oct 5 34.52 Pupukea
2-Oct 8.15 62.46 Pupukea
3-Oct 5 34.20 Pupukea
4-Oct 6.36 60.01 Pupukea
5-Oct 5.2 37.18 Pupukea
6-Oct 9.5 63.03
8-Oct 7.2 46.04
9-Oct 7.66 64.55 Laie Falls 23:35 (rest), 34:57 (rest)
10-Oct 7.16 48.01
11-Oct 6.2 39.53
11-Oct Golf 108.00 Pali Course
12-Oct 7.2 49.40
13-Oct 16 109.58 Pupukea
15-Oct 7.05 53.34
15-Oct Golf 48.00
16-Oct 10 64.46
17-Oct 7.15 45.51
18-Oct 10 66.44
19-Oct 7.15 48.36
20-Oct 12 114.36 Summit 23.46, 35.32, 63 (rest)
22-Oct 7
24-Oct 8 54.26 Seattle
25-Oct 6.2 42.08 Seattle
26-Oct 10 65.36 Seattle
29-Oct 7.1
30-Oct 10 65.36
31-Oct 7.15 46.56
1-Nov 10.2 71.34
2-Nov 7.05 47.45
3-Nov 14.35 100.41
5-Nov 7.15 48.50
7-Nov 7 45.30
8-Nov 10 68.34
9-Nov 7.15 46.24
10-Nov 18.2 124.21 Pupukea
12-Nov 8.05 52.45
13-Nov 11.1 74.01
14-Nov 8.15 55.02
15-Nov 11 72.09
15-Nov Handball
16-Nov 8 54.38
19-Nov 9 58.41
21-Nov 9 61.43
22-Nov 12 134.13 Summit 24.25, 36.25, 64 (rest)
24-Nov 20 139.05
26-Nov 9 61.10
27-Nov 13.1 90.30
28-Nov 9 61.28
29-Nov 13.1 92.29
30-Nov 9 62.10
1-Dec 23.2 163.46
3-Dec 9 61.34
4-Dec 13.1 89.24
6-Dec 13.1 93.34
7-Dec 9 61.17
8-Dec 20 135.56
10-Dec 9 60.38
11-Dec 13.1 87.05
12-Dec 9.6 65.27
13-Dec 13.1 89.02
14-Dec 9 59.39
15-Dec 27 190.00
17-Dec 9 60.38
18-Dec 13.1 89.17
24-Dec 9 60.24
25-Dec 10 69.14
26-Dec 9 59.21
26-Dec Golf 63.00
27-Dec 22.5 155.34
31-Dec 9 61.39
1-Jan 13.1 91.10
2-Jan 9 59.49
3-Jan 13.1 89.53
4-Jan 9 66.57
5-Jan 30 215.40
7-Jan 9 60.59
8-Jan 11 73.39
9-Jan 9 57.48
10-Jan 11 131.45 Summit, 24.35, 36.50 (rest), 70
11-Jan 9 61.18
12-Jan 18 125.36
12-Jan 3 18.36
15-Jan 13.1 86.57
16-Jan 9 59.28
17-Jan 13.1 88.44
18-Jan 9 59.28
19-Jan 29 202.20
21-Jan 10 64.09
22-Jan 5 32.23
22-Jan 10 64.30
23-Jan 10 67.30
24-Jan 15 103.30
25-Jan 10 68.50
25-Jan Golf 49.00 Best ball (by myself)
26-Jan 32 223.32
28-Jan 9 60.04
29-Jan 13.1 89.45
30-Jan 9 60.41
31-Jan 10 67.45
2-Feb 40 285.00
4-Feb 9 61.00
5-Feb 13.1 90.45
6-Feb 9 59.59
7-Feb 13.1 91.37
9-Feb 20.3 139.01
11-Feb 15.76 108.36
13-Feb 9.5 60.00 Utah treadmill
14-Feb 5 30.07 Utah treadmill
18-Feb 8.15 46.27 Great Aloha Run
19-Feb 9.1 61.12
20-Feb 8 53.45
21-Feb 10 67.47
22-Feb 9 63.28
23-Feb 26.2 184.58
25-Feb 9 59.33
26-Feb 10 71.28
28-Feb 10.02 66.45
29-Feb 7.5 52.25
1-Mar 36 272.00
3-Mar 8 55.12
4-Mar 10 68.13
5-Mar 15 107.10
6-Mar 10 68.30
7-Mar 8 53.07
8-Mar 20 133.17
10-Mar 9 57.40
11-Mar 5 31.20
12-Mar 4.5 29.45
15-Mar 36.4 328.38 Run to the Sun


Several of you have asked about more details of my race. Here's more than you probably ever wanted to know:

Last March, after finishing another Great Aloha Run (8 mile race I've done several times), I was thinking about something new and different to do. I had heard about a race on Maui that started at sea level and went up a huge mountain, so I poked around on the Web a bit and found the Run to the Sun. Here's how the Web site describes the race:

A 36-mile ultra marathon starting at sea level and climbing to the 10,023 ft. summit of Haleakala, legendary "Home of the Sun." This challenging course is not for the novice marathoner. Entrants must be 18 years or older and rigorously prepared to meet the challenge of the strict 10-hour time limit.

Well, I thought, I might just be crazy enough to do that! I kicked around the idea for a while, and then finally got up the nerve to tell my wife, Nan, about it. She just rolled her eyes. But I kept thinking about how cool it would be to try.

I had run 2 marathons: the St. George Utah marathon, in 1994 (finished in 3:21) and the Kona Hawaii marathon, in 1999 (finished in 3:58; I was sick for that one). I was feeling in better shape in 2007 than either of those years, so I sketched out a really rough training schedule and read up on how people train for ultras.

The deciding factor, though, was the birthday present I bought for myself in June 2007--the Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch. With such a cool new toy, I knew I had to put it to good use. So I'd run up to the summit of Laie Falls, or on the Malaekahana Trail, or just around the North Shore, just to see the changes in elevation, heart rate, pace, and all kinds of cool stuff.

I officially started training for the Run to the Sun on my birthday, June 23, when I ran the Laie Falls summit trail all the way to the top. The elevation at the top was about 2,200 feet, and I thought, "All right! Only 7,800 feet to go!"

My big original plan was to start off a bit slow and eventually get up to about 70 mile weeks, running a couple of training marathons just for endurance. I gradually increased my long Saturday runs by 2 miles a week. By July 21, I went 10 miles and August 25, 20 miles.

I was feeling pretty good, and keeping to roughly a 7-minute mile pace on my long runs. I was really enjoying the good shape I was in, and concentrated a lot on nutrition and weight control. I weighed about 143 pounds when I started, and had a wild, picked-out-of-the-air goal of getting to 130 for the run. I figured the less I had on me, the less I had to carry up the hill. I also swore off chocolate until Halloween, just for fun.

As my mileage increased, I started paying more attention to hydration during my runs. Before, I never really ran with water or anything, but once I passed 15 miles I realized that if I did stop and get a drink at a beach park or something, I felt better and did better. I also experimented with some Clif Shot gels, and that seemed to help, too.

The week of Sept. 17 I was at 62 miles, and that Saturday I ran from Kaneohe to Laie--21 miles. I started late, didn't eat properly, and by the end of that long run I could tell I was running on empty. I got home all shaky and spent, and Nan once again looked at me like I was an idiot. I realized that I needed to prepare a bit better for these long runs, and so our family pretty much had a big spaghetti dinner (or other kind of carbo-loading meal) every Friday night thereafter.

By September, I started focusing on hills. I wanted to run as many as possible, of course, to get ready. Besides running up in the mountains, there's a nice 2 1/2 mile hill that rises about 1,000 feet 12 miles from my house. So I'd periodically run to Pupukea and have my wife pick me up.

October was a light month because I was traveling and had my parents visiting.

By November, I realized that my initial training thoughts were too conservative. I did a 20-mile run and felt great. So I decided to increase both my miles during the week and my long Saturday runs. On December 15 I ran 27 miles, and my marathon time was 3:10. It was another nice hill--from my house to Wahiawa--that started about mile 19 and went up about 1,500 feet in 3 or 4 miles. I went 30 miles Jan. 5, and kept feeling good.

Here's what I wrote a friend on Feb. 4:

I went 32 last Sat (Jan. 26), so wanted to go 36 Feb. 2, mostly for psychological reasons (the race in March is 36). I started when it was still dark, but was feeling good. I had 3 Clif Shot gel packs with me and a $5 bill, to stop at the grocery store somewhere and get something to eat.

The plan was to run to a town 17.5 miles away and back (Haleiwa), and then do a mile right close to home. The day was overcast, and a bit cool (70 or so--cool for me!) and even rainy now and then, so it was a good day for running. I usually stop for a quick drink at miles 9 and 13 where there are beach restrooms and water fountains.

At about mile 15, I thought o myself, "What the heck? Let's make it a round number and go 40!" That meant I had to run all the way through the town I was headed for, and then find another 2 miles on the way back.

All went pretty well until I turned around and headed for home. That's when I realized that the wind had kicked up a bit, and so I had a nice headwind (gusts up to 25 mph!) all the way back.

So I had a gel pack at mile 9, 19, and 33. At about 26 miles I stopped at the grocery store and got a Propel drink (Gatorade is too sweet for me while I'm running, so I took a gamble on that vitamin-water thing) and an Odwalla super food bar. I was a bit worried because usually I don't eat while I'm running, but those 2 things were just perfect for me! (I've since ordered a whole box of Odwalla bars from Amazon.)

At mile 33 I said to myself, "This is the farthest I've ever run!" and I was still 6 miles from my house, so I was feeling good. At mile 38 there was a chain in the path I usually just jump over, but surprisingly I found that I could barely move my legs high enough to kind of stumble over it!

When I got home, I high-fived the kids (they had no idea why I was so happy) and told my wife, who just rolled her eyes and said I was crazy.

So it took 4:45 for the 40 miles. I'm pretty sure I would've stayed real close to my 7-min pace if it hadn't been for the wind on the way back--there were times when it was gusting so hard I just had to laugh and yell, "Bring it on!"

The rest of the day was a bit sore, and tiring, and Sunday I was a bit stiffer than usual, but I got the kinks out with a 9-mile run this morning.

By February I was getting a bit tired of waking up at 4 am to go running. I hurt in several places--a twinge in my hip, a twinge in my shin, an Achilles tendon flaring up now and then, aching feet, chafing nipples--and was just tired overall. I was also very careful with my weight. I was at about 135, and a typical day's eating went like this:

-Glass of orange juice when I woke up
-If the run was over 13 miles that day, I'd take a gel pack with me
-A banana and a big bowl of cereal for breakfast
-For lunch, typically either a yogurt or a serving of fruit (orange, apple, grapefruit), a can of V-8 Juice, and either a bagel or an Odwalla bar.
-Pretty much a regular dinner. One serving of main dish, and all the fruits and vegetables I wanted.

I'd also treat myself on Fridays to a vegetarian burger and French fries for lunch, and a carbo-loading dinner previously mentioned. I really tried to limit sweets. Basically I'd have a Pay Day candy bar every Saturday after my run.

In mid-February, I had the Great Aloha Run, which was an 8.15-mile race. Just for completeness, you can read what I wrote about that race.

After the Great Aloha Run, I had 3 weeks left to the big race. I wanted to put in at least one more big week of around 90 miles, but that week was hard; I didn't have any reserves. So I cheated that week and just went 26.2 miles for the big Saturday run--70 miles total for the week. I did another 36-mile run March 1, and then tapered until race day.

Another wrinkle was I had to travel to Las Vegas for work the week of the race. I did treadmill work March 10, 11, and 12, then flew back to Hawaii Thursday night and flew over to Maui Friday morning. I did my last weigh-in Friday morning before we left, and weighed 130 pounds. Woohoo!

We went to the packet pickup by IHOP and had a pre-race briefing. It was nice to meet some of the organizers and some of the runners. It was definitely a different crowd than a typical race--lots of older runners, and not too many young ones. We got the run down on when the start was, where to go, as well as all the rules. Since the race goes through a National Park, there are quite a few regulations to follow. I looked at the map of the course, and they suggested we maybe drive the first few miles to know which turns to follow (which we did--it was fine).

For lunch Friday I had a Jr. Whopper and fries at Burger King, and then ate dinner at Auntie Pasto's restaurant at the shopping center by our hotel--a nice big plate of spaghetti, some yummy bread with olive oil and basil, and a fresh salad. I treated myself to a Pay Day candy bar for dessert. Then it was time to get to bed.

Race morning I woke up at 2:45 and had a bagel and some orange juice. I then spent an hour getting everything ready and trying to be quiet since Nan was still asleep. I was out the door at 3:55 and over to the starting line by 4, where I downed my pre-race Gatorade, dropped off my bundle for Aid Station 12 (at Mile 26) and then stood in line for the Porta-Potty. It was a little chilly (probably 67 degrees or so) for me, but there wasn't much wind. It felt like it was going to be a good day.

There were 150 of us starting out; the race was sold out. It was a low-key start ("Ready? Go!"), and we were off! I watched a couple of guys sprint on out, and the rest of us settled in. We followed a main road for a bit, but once we turned off into the sugar cane fields, it was very dark. My strategy quickly evolved into following someone who had a head lamp, so I could see what was going on.

We passed a cane fire at about mile 3 or so. They burn the cane fields when it's harvest time, and it was pretty cool to see the flames and smoke towering into the air and hear the popping of the sugar cane. The smoke wasn't too bad, and it offered a bit of light for a while.

I had no idea what my pace should be. For training, anything between 6:30 and 7 minute miles were regular, but I knew with the climb and with the altitude there would be a lot of unknowns. I had told Nan to plan to be at Aid Station 12 (Mile 26) at about 3 or 3 1/2 hours, and that would probably give her plenty of time before I got there. We passed Aid Station #1 (2.5 miles) at around 17:30, and I thought, "Wow, that's slow." So I stepped it up a bit. I caught up with a guy I thought I recognized, and it turns out it was Christian Friis, the Hawaii Pacific University Cross Country coach. We ran in the Fairbanks Alaska Community run, where he smoked me by 35 seconds or so. Also, he had done great in the Aloha Run, finishing in the Top 10. So I figured I'd run with him as far as I could before he pulled ahead.

The first 12 miles were pretty smooth, with some rolling hills. I could definitely tell we were climbing, but nothing horribly bad. Every now and then I'd get in front of Christian just so he wouldn't think I was always drafting him, and to keep the pace a bit strong.

Mile 14 to Mile 15 goes up almost 1,500 feet or something like that, and the map said to walk that part, but I followed Christian and we kept on going. There was about 1/2 mile of downhill, and I figured I'd let gravity do a lot of work, so I got ahead by about 100 yards or so.

We weren't passing anyone else at this point, so I figured there was a bit of a gap between the crazy ultra-runners and us. At Aid Station 6, Christian stopped to get into his cold-weather gear, and I figured I'd press on ahead. I was enjoying myself. The scenery was absolutely amazing. When it was dark, the sky was clear and we could see tons of stars. As the sun came up, there was a gorgeous sunrise, and the day seemed perfect for running. There wasn't much wind. It was great to watch the expressions on the faces of people driving down the mountain--"What kind of crazy person would run up this?!"

The people at the aid stations were great. I had taken 4 gel packs with me for the first 26 miles, for aid stations 3, 5, 7, and 10, and I hydrated at each aid station too. I had read that proper hydration was really important for combatting altitude, so I wanted to make sure I was OK. I was surprised at a couple of the aid stations, because they looked like no one had used them. I thought the guys in front must have had their own supplies.

Nan passed me about 1 mile before Aid Station 12. By this time, I was pretty cold. I had kept on my reflective vest this whole time, but otherwise had my shorts and tank top, and my arms and hands were pretty frigid. I'd wrap my hands inside my shirt now and then to warm them up. I was happy that Nan would be there at the aid station to help me get into my running tights and long-sleeve shirt, pin my number back on, and just get things ready for me. I wanted to get in and out as quickly as I could. And I also had to go to the bathroom.

As I approached the Aid Station, everyone started clapping and cheering my name. I thought that was pretty cool. Then Nan told me I was in first place, and I couldn't believe it. I took off my number and had her pin it on my long-sleeve shirt while I went to the bathroom. Then I got dressed, ate most of my Odwalla Super Food bar, got my Propel drink open and started drinking it, and headed off. I left the aid station at 3:44. Nan said she'd meet me in a couple of aid stations with another gel.

I was now above 7,000 feet. 10 more miles and 3,000 feet to go. On top of that, I was now thinking about trying to stay in the lead. It was the great unknown. I decided to just focus on one mile at a time, keeping my pace up as much as possible, and not worrying about anything else. Each aid station was great--the people cheered me on, and my wife was there to encourage me, too. She was able to drive on ahead and park at most aid stations, since there weren't really any other support vehicles up there yet.

At Mile 30, I saw someone coming up behind me, and got a bit bummed. He seemed to be catching up pretty quick, but by that time it felt "like I was driving with the parking brake on" as one friend described running at high altitudes. I assumed it was Christian.

At Mile 31, though, I met Mike Irwin, who was getting ready to run the anchor leg for his team. It was then I realized that the guy coming up on me was a team runner, and not an individual, so I felt a bit safer. Mike passed me pretty easily, since he had fresh legs, but I kept him in sight most of the way.

The last 5 miles were really hard. I felt my legs and feet were on the verge of cramping with almost every step. Luckily, the aid stations were much closer together, so I could rehydrate and stop for just a second or two. I'd chew a few grapes, but couldn't really swallow them because I didn't want to stop breathing for a step, so I'd just spit it out. Finally, I could see the summit, and knew the end was pretty close.

The last half-mile was pretty steep. You can't see the finish line for a bit, but go up a long curve. A girl on a bike rode along with me for the last few hundred yards, telling me how close the finish was, which was nice. Once I saw the finish line I poured it on as much as I could (my wife later asked, "You were trying to run fast at the end?") and crossed the line at 5:28:38. The volunteers were great at the finish line, making sure I was OK, offering me some snacks and drinks, and celebrating with me and Nan. I had a good chat with Mike, who teased me that I never gave him a chance to stop and walk because I kept getting closer.

I talked with the people at the top, who asked me, "Who are you and where did you come from?" Since none of the HURT people had heard of me, they were surprised. Someone asked me what part I walked, and I answered that one of my goals was to run the whole thing. "Are you crazy? Everyone walks some time!" they answered. It was a great time.

We got ready to leave, since we weren't supposed to spend much time on the top for traffic control. A couple more team runners came in, and Christian crossed just as we were getting ready to go. He's an excellent runner.

Sitting in the car for over an hour after running that far was painful. I also realized I should've gone to the bathroom before we left the summit. But we got back to the hotel, showered and changed, and then went over to the post-race picnic for some excellent food and a nice massage.

What a great race!

I ran 5 miles the following Monday, just to work out some of the kinks, and then took the rest of the week off. Now I'll go back at it, training for the Deseret News marathon this July in Utah.

Stay safe, and happy running!



Here's the breakdown of my miles, per month:
July-135 miles
August-197 miles
September-226 miles
October-199 miles
November-230 miles
December-250 miles
January-350 miles
February-242 miles

I ran a total of 2016 miles, and at 105 calories per mile (that's an average) that equals 211,680 calories total.

Some photos:

Some news articles:

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This page was last manipulated Friday, May 30, 2008 12:56