Gunstock Half Marathon

Summary: Set along the low hills of the North Shore, the Gunstock Ranch hosted its first half marathon and 5K run this weekend. The trail had runners circling and then crossing the working ranch, as well as through lush jungle and a well-flowing river.  It was a well laid out course, and for a first time effort, the event went off without any major hitches.  I had found out about it through the HURT blog, and with that, there were a lot of endurance runners that showed for this inaugural event; if I had to guess, I’d say that there were about 200 runners this year.

The Good:  It was a good, good trail run.  I loved the route.  I loved the most that they got the cattle off the course, but that’s just me and my bull issues.  I didn’t even mind the still-fresh cow pies along the way — it added a little somethin-somethin to it all.  And did I mention the creek?  I loved the creek — but then again, I am a Labrador.  Others, I am sure, will lodge their protest over the wide creek and delicate rocks they they chose to carefully try to cross; me, I loved seeing the creek coming, and plowing right through it.

The Bad:  While there were water points along the way, more would have helped.  I hate saying that — they have three on this course, two of which you pass twice (and did not run out).  That should be enough – but one more, especially in the second half of the run, would be a big boost.  Also, for an event called a trail run, there sure was a lot of time spent on pavement.  I understand — it can be hard to line up a 13.1 mile (or 13.7+ miles, in this case) route that is all trail, but I hope they work to find an even better route for next year that will be all trail or ranch road (which was fine, too).

The Ugly:  Only one thing: their mileage was off.  That half marathon we ran was a bit more than a half marathon.  Well organized event, for their first time putting it on; well run, all the moreso for the same reasons; and a lot of fun to run.

Type of route:  A little bit of everything.  A trail road, an off-road run, a paved road run.
Good to run in the rain? Yes.  That would be an awesome run.

Length:  13.7+ miles.  The course this year was a wee bit long.

Options for the route: They did have a 5k version.

Elevation change on the run: From around 50 feet up to around 300 feet, doing that several times, too.
Water used:  3 liters.

Where to start: Gunstock Ranch
Where to park: Same
Point your carís GPS towards:  56 Kamehameha Hwy, Laie, Hawaii  96762

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? Yes, at the water points (3 points along the route, five chances to get water).  Water, and fancy water.
Toilets? A couple of points along the way.  Nice and clean, too; well stocked.
Medical care? Did not see any.  Saw people with cell phones.
Ranger / park folks? Nope.  Private land, for the most part.
Picnic areas? Nope, unless you went across the Kam Highway.
A place to change afterwards? Nope.  Deck change, in the parking lot.

Rewards in the area:  Malaekahana State Recreation Area is on the other side of the Kam Highway from the ranch; it’s a great place to go and chill, or have a picnic, or take a dip in the deep blue sea.  We chose to stop off at Shark’s Cove, in hopes of finding more jellyfish and / or reason to buy more Maui Brewing Company beer.  No jellyfish, so we settled for some HD video of the shore break pounding some really big boulders.

You’d run this route when… you’re getting ready for the Honolulu Marathon in December.  When you want to run some otherwise off-limits areas.  When your buddy has just come back into the Army and you want to help him push himself in getting back into fighting shape.

My rating:  7

Music:  Something loud, and something booming.  This is the place to fire up some old school AC/DC, or some old Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here. Photos: here

Running the Ridges of Hau`ula

Summary:  Up the windward side, just south of the Polynesian Cultural Center and the mo’o of Lāʻie, is the town of Hau`ula.  It’s home to two great ridges with state trails, and they’re both well worth the drive.  The Papali Trail on the Ma`akua Ridge features great trail running, lots of ascent and descent, and great places to see the sun rise, while the  Hau`ula Loop Trail skirts across from the Kipapau Valley and have some great ironwood forest.  There’s lots of shade, and cool temperatures prevail in large part to the gentle breezes.

The Good:  The trails are empty;  Hau`ula is definitely off the beaten path, and few venture out that far up the windward coast just to go hiking.  The trails are both in good shape right now; the Na Ala Hele volunteer crew has been out on the Papali Trail recently and touched up some spots.  At less than 3 miles, each loop is a pretty decent length and when strung together, they make a nice ~7 mile run.  The elevation change makes these loops a challenge, but not some insane punishment session; the loop trailheads are at about 100 feet of elevation, and each loop crosses two ridges and peak somewhere around 750 feet of elevation.  Access to the state beach, just down the road from the access road, is an incredible plus; not only is it stunningly beautiful itself, it has clean bathrooms, good parking, nice outdoor showers (that were cool but not cold), and conveniently just down from a 7-11.

The Bad:  This is trail running, so, no, it’s not smooth.  I busted up an ankle pretty good on a rock on the Hau`ula Loop Trail, not long after I’d caught a toe on a loop of tree root that almost sent me over the edge and down into the ravine.  For a trail run, these are good, good trails — they’re just not the bike path on the North Shore.

The Ugly:  Nothing.  It’s a great running area, with great support nearby and awesome places to go to watch the sun come up.  Nothing ugly about it.

Type of route:  Trail.  Oh, and hills.
Good to run in the rain? Yes.  Though the trails are cut into the side slope, they’re pretty wide — wide enough to make me comfortable enough to say go run them in the rain — just take someone with you.

Length: I did both loops and went up the gulch, to where the road is blocked.  All told, that and back out to the beach was 7 miles.

Options for the route: You could hop the fence and run the old & CLOSED gulch trail, but don’t do it.  They closed that trail in 1999, due to the flash flood danger, and it’s not been maintained since.  Cough cough.

Elevation change on the run: Beach to about 750 feet.  Twice
Water used: 2 liters.

Where to start: Hau‘ula Beach Park.  From there, it’s up Hau`ula Homestead Road and straight into the access road (just keep going straight, when Hau`ula Homestead Road bends left)
Where to park: Same
Point your car’s GPS towards:  Hau‘ula Beach Park, Hauula, HI 96717

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? At Hau‘ula Beach Park.
Toilets? At Hau‘ula Beach Park.
Medical care? No.
Ranger / park folks? No.
Picnic areas? Yes — at Hau‘ula Beach Park and up on Papali Trail.
A place to change afterwards? At Hau‘ula Beach Park.

Rewards in the area:  I’d recommend you pack some breakfast, and take your reward at sunrise.

You’d run this route when….  you want some strength training.  When you have enough time to drive out there.  When you want to run longer, but need a way to cut it shorter just in case.

My rating:  8.  It’d score higher with me if there were options for going longer.

Music: I told my iPod that I thought Keali`i Reichel would be most appropriate to play.  It said no, and gave me a lot of Green Day.  I still think Keali`i Reichel would have been better.

Weather / Trail warnings (generic) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here and here and here. Flickr: here and here. More photos: here and hereState Park Info: here and here

Old Pali Highway

Summary: The Pali Lookout rests on the only easily traversable point along the Koʻolau Range between Honolulu and the Windward side of the island, which gave it an important role in the history and development of the island.  What started as a chancy journey became a jeopardous path, and eventually a flat-out scary road.  As Oahu grew, the road became Highway 61, which still closely followed the original route down the windward side of the Koʻolau Range.  With the last major upgrades to the highway, around 1960, the old, original route was abandoned in favor of a tunnels and a new and faster descent, leaving the Old Pali Highway intact and as a great and underutilized place to run.

The Good:   Running the Old Pali Highway can be broken down into three parts.  The upper section leads from the lookout, down to where the route crosses under (yes, under) the new Highway 61.  Though it isn’t very wide, the road surface is still in very good shape.  And the mass amounts of foliage that crowd the road do just that — crowd it, but don’t block it.  Once you pass under Highway 61, there’s the Old Pali Highway, and what I think of as the new-Old Pali Highway — the easily discernible difference is in the road surface and material (and thus the road condition — the older road has held up much better).  Either way, the lower half is mostly covered with a nice canopy, providing shade for much of the run.  And it certainly is pretty — running the old road is definitely a trip through history, and a wonderful chance to away from people (I’ve only ever encountered people on the upper portion) and through some very pretty foliage.  Lastly, the grade is good; for as steep as the Koʻolau Range is, running up this won’t kill you.

The Bad:  The new-Old Pali Highway section is in meh condition.  I think that is in part due to more modern (and less durable) construction, but also in part to the large sections that are covered in moss.  I’d not want to run that part in a heavy rain; it probably gets a bit slick.

The UglyThey’ve started to charge $3 to park at the Pali Lookout.  For a place with no restrooms and no water, that seems a bit much.

Type of route: Mostly old road.  There’s one stretch, under the new Pali Highway, that is dirt.
Good to run in the rain? Fantastic to run in the rain.

Length: ~5 miles

Options for the route:  Three or more.  One is to run the new Old Pali Highway; it’s a short leg that adds just a little bit to the overall run.  Another choice, after running down the new Old Pali Highway, is to keep going on Auloa Road and rejoin Pali Highway; from there, continue on to Kailua Beach State Park before turning around (this will make it closer to a 12 mile run).  The third option is to start at Ala Moana Mall and run up to the Pali Lookout, before running the old road.  Round trip, that’s be about 15 (I think).

Elevation change on the run:  I dunno (I’ve been running it without my GPS lately).
Water used: Usually around 60 ounces.

Where to start: Pali Lookout
Where to park: Pali Lookout
Point your car’s GPS towards:  Pali Lookout

My Google Earth file: (none yet)
My Garmin file: (none yet)

Facilities
Water? Nope.
Toilets? Nope.
Medical care? Nope.
Ranger / park folks? Nope.  Early morning, though, you’ll often find HPD in the parking lot, feeding the chickens.  Really — not making that up.
Picnic areas? Nope.
A place to change afterwards? Nope.

Rewards in the area: Nope.

You’d run this route when….you’ve had enough miles for the week, but not enough hills.  When your ankle is on the mend from too much trail running, but you don’t want to be stuck on sidewals.

My rating:  7

Music:   Guns N Roses.   And loud.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here and here and here. Flickr: here and here State Park Info: here