On Monday, February 4th in middle of his honeymoon, rabbitELITEtrail runner Kanoa King set a new fastest known time (FKT) on the Sea to Sky Haleakalā route in 4:16:46, besting the previous top time by just under 14 minutes.
It’s the third day of our honeymoon and it has rained the first two days, which never happens on Maui. I lay out my gear for the FKT attempt tomorrow as I watch the Patriots slowly win the Super Bowl with my wife Liz. As we talk about logistics and waking up at 4:15a to get to the start I can feel her thinking; "I am waking up hours before the sun rises and giving up half of a day of sunshine for this crazy feat." However, Liz didn’t complain once when we woke up and packed up the Jeep or when I asked her to drive the second hour through hairpin turns on the south east roads of Maui to Kaupo in the dark - what an amazing wife I have!
The morning was beautiful with the sunrise and whales spouting off in the distance. I took off from the beach just feet from the crashing surf. I thought I’d save some time and energy and slip around the edge of the chain which was hanging across the road, only to be met with silver barbed wire that blended right into the plants around it. After pulling away from the sting in my hand and leg to untangle my favorite rabbit champ singlet from the fencing I hopped over the chain and made my way up the road. The next mile and a half was comparable to logging roads up to the ranch that kindly allows access for the Kaupo Trail that leads you to Haleakalā National Park. I made my way into private property through ranch lands where the trail signs warn of guard dogs, angry cattle, and flash flooding. I struggled to stay on trail with endless paths overgrowth amidst the tropical climate. I knew route finding would be tough going into this so I just kept pushing uphill towards the Kaupo gap through brush, forests, and cow pies.
I came to the boundary of ranch lands and as I made it through the gait the surroundings entirely changed from grazing pasture to rainforest. Thankfully there was a distinct trail through the lush, thigh high grass. The dew was so heavy in the grass that the only way to describe running through this was like running up a stream with the drenched lower half and the resistance from the tall grasses. This lasted for two miles or so until the trees got smaller and the ground drier. As I moved up the slopes of the volcano it was humid but still cool in the shade of the eastern slopes. The trail started to level out to an easy 10% grade as I made my way to the first trail intersection at the Palikū cabin.
Feeling strong with my current split and the easier running terrain I pushed harder here, listening to an eclectic mix of music. The terrain felt like home (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), lots of rocks mixed with sand. My HOKA Evo Jawz ripped through the sand as I made my way through the crater and past the second cabin, Kapalaoa, where hikers were meditating and practicing yoga at 7,000 feet, a mere 3,000 feet below the summit of Haleakalā.
The last six miles where the hardest for many reasons. Living at sea level, I could feel my lungs burning as I got closer to the top. The sandy trail was much like a beach; hot and cooking in the sun with loose footing. Except this mountain 'beach' was at a consistent 20-30% grade, at an elevation of 8,000 feet, and had me gasping for air. Switchback after switchback continue until I saw the the sparkle off the observation tower at the summit and heard Liz cheering from just two switchbacks above. I channeled my months of training on a treadmill in 90+ degrees on a pool deck at 20% incline and kept grinding uphill.
I hit the pavement for the last quarter mile to the summit and luckily I had a biker who was just ahead of me. I pushed to catch him and we quipped about how we were both crazy to be where we were. We both push for the summit and finished together. As I reached the summit I let out a Hawaiian war cry and stopped the watch at 4:16:46 for the new FKT.
Big thanks to my coach Ryan Ghelfi from Trails and Tarmac for a great training block that set me up for success, and of course my incredible wife Liz King for all the unconditional support (and awesome pictures)!