Runner: Rachel Mason
Name of “Event”: FKT: Across Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Date(s) of event: 06/16/2023
Time to complete: 09h49m
Location: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/9279427019
Gear – What did you bring?
Took my 30L Ultimate Direction Fastpacker (nice pack, horrible color, worse name), just because I wanted to carry poles and a lot of water. I carried a windshirt, very basic first aid kit, headlamp – and poles and a lot of water. I decided to wear full-length leggings and a sun hoodie; I decided that not getting all scratched up in long grass was more important than maybe being a bit cooler. I wore La Sportiva Bushidos (or Akash? can’t remember what they are), which are pretty substantial shoes that feel safe on bare rock.
Fuel – What did you consume and/or not consume?
OK so I haven’t exactly got this down to a fine art. I like those nut butter Clif bars but they’re $11.99 for 5 here so I bought fig bars instead (raspberry flavor, actually). I complemented them with a big bag of chips and a side of these big crunchy cookies from a local bakery. This was topped off with a bag of crystallized ginger aka magic beans and paired with some delectable Nuun tabs. Mmmm.
Logistics – What kind of planning was involved for both prep and implementation?
This whole thing came about because I was looking at maps of the national park while plotting some backcountry explorations, and I realized you could in theory string together a load of trails into an uninterrupted crossing of the park, and it would be about 50k. I had broken my foot last year during one of said backcountry explorations, and I decided that this route would be my first big trail run after coming back. To make it a bit more fun I submitted it as an FKT route a couple weeks before my target date, and it got accepted!
For training, Coach Des had me first build up road mileage, then transition to trails for a few weeks. This felt like a good approach. I made sure to put in some time on the actual trails along the route, to get used to the terrain (an awful lot of lava rock) and get a feel for being out in a very remote, hot, and windswept environment.
On the day, my partner dropped me off shortly before sunrise at the Footprints trailhead, and picked me up at the Pu’u Loa trailhead in the afternoon. Along the way I filtered water at two backcountry cabins/shelters; I must have drunk a good 6 liters in total.
Where to find the info on this:
What went “right” or at least how you expected it to go?
I mean, I finished it? And in the last few miles I did this thing that was slightly faster and more tiring than walking; let’s be generous and call it running. There were some really nice points along the route as well. Setting off below the vast bulk of Mauna Loa starting to turn pink in the sunrise; a small but delightful forest about 18 miles in (basically the only shade that whole day); looking down on the beach at Halape and planning to come back with a hammock and some mai tais; the amazing variety of lava colors and textures in the last 8 miles – that kind of thing.
What went “wrong” or completely unexpected that you had to deal with?
OMG MY FEET. The trail was very overgrown around the 10-mile mark and my feet got soaked and started to rub. I did stop a few miles later to dry them in the sun and brush off the sand (actually volcanic ash), but that wasn’t enough. Soon I had blisters on both heels and the balls of my feet were rubbing as well. Also, the trails are so rocky that every step was some fresh discomfort from stepping on yet another hard, pointy lump. One of the blisters popped a mile or so before the end and that wasn’t pleasant at all.
One other thing is that when I stopped to use the outhouse at the Pepeiao cabin there was a little nest in there with three dead baby birds in it. That was sad and depressing and for some reason made me feel lonely. I put on a running podcast after that, which helped. (Actually it was the one where Coach Des talks about Cocodona, which was great except that bit about feet was a bit much).
Lessons learned for either the next trip or another’s first trip?
Mainly, deal with your feet and take some fresh socks.
So there was this long stretch in the middle where I just walked the whole thing, because it was uphill and the ‘trail’ was just a load of rocks hidden under grass. And at that point I didn’t feel like an ultrarunner at all, just a person doing a very long hike. And I was like “this is going to take 10 hours, that’s 3 mph, how is that a respectable pace, what is the point of this?”. But having had time to digest the whole thing, I’m now just happy to be a middle-aged woman who can push through 31 miles of pretty gnarly trails and still be in one piece at the end. Well, apart from the feet. The feet have opinions about this whole thing…
Some Gorgeous Pictures!