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Harald

Fantastic summary, Mike - mahalo!

MIkeminch

I posted this to the Ultralist....

The 36.2 mile Run to the Sun began at 4:30 AM this last Saturday, March 14th 2009, at the House of Pancakes sign at Maui Mall in Kahulu’i Maui, Hawaii. Conditions were beautiful and occasionally runners waiting at the start caught a view of the finish line at 10000 feet high atop the distant Haleakela volcano. John Salmonson, the god-father of Hawaii Ultra Running, started the race and soon after racers received a considerable Hawaiian blessing—a heavy downpour of rain and gusting of wind.

In less than an hour the southwestern winds moderated, the skies became scattered clouds and the near full moon cast a silvery glow across the cane fields and lowlands of the Maui saddle. It seemed an enchanting day to be running across the island that many call pair-o-dice. But the spirits of the land seemed unsettled, and even those in the lead could feel the turbulence that hung low in the air to the southwest.

If you have run the RTS before, or visited Maui you may be familiar with how the showers brought in by the northeastern trades sweep along the northeastern slopes of the volcano, finally being held up by a northwestern ridge of cinder cones and high flows. It usually allows runners to skirt the edges of the squalls and seek protection against the less exposed western face of the mountain higher up the slopes. With a reversal of this weather pattern the lower levels were more protected, but the higher one climbed the colder and more exposed to winds runners became. Above the 4000 foot level conditions quickly deteriorated as fogs, mists, and gusts brushed hard across the mountain. The temperature dropped quickly from the seventies, down through the sixties and fifties.

Rains dampened the runners and winds sucked up body heat. The switchbacks through the pasture land from 4500 to 7000 feet, were intermittently reminiscent of those golden moments of past races, but all to often runners were held up on hairpin turns by high gusting winds heavy with sharp biting rains. Those with heavier gear in drop bags at the Park visitor center were smart if they put on all they had brought along, because above 7000 feet the mists grew thick, the winds howled, and rain pelted hard and stinging on exposed skin surfaces. As the lead runners broached 8000 feet the winds gusted near 50, temperatures dropped below 30 and freezing rain iced the roads and coated the landscape.

Discussions between Park Rangers, race coordinators, and emergency personal led to the moving of the finish to a secondary location at 9200 feet and approx 33 miles, which was below the most difficult of conditions. All the emergency alternative preparations began to pay off and though disappointed, cold and near hypothermic runners were sheltered in the back of a truck to warm up before being shuttled to their rides, or back down the mountain. Cold, wet, shivering, and very tired runners were warmed with hot soup, or hot chocolate, layered in blankets, and watched over by cautious and concerned volunteers. What could have been a very difficult situation for all was extremely well handled by a very prepared and dedicated coordination of volunteers, Park staff, and Maui Emergency Personnel.

Most runners felt a certain wistful regret at not having made it to the top this year. But there were very few complaints from those warming up in the trucks and vans; and a trip to the top where the ice hung heavy in storm force winds was enough to cure all but the few who combine ultra-running with abject stupidity, of their irrational desire to continue beyond the official stopping point. As one local runner explained, there are ample methods of killing yourself in the islands. You can always come back tomorrow Brah, freeze your ass off, get lost, and die and there won’t be anybody to stop you. It was a gentle reminder that almost every island in the group has recorded a score or so of runners and hikers who have disregarded local cautions and simple common sense and gone out and become forever lost.

Scot

I'm very appreciative of all the volunteers who had to also endure the adverse weather conditions. Everyone was so supportive and helpful every where along the course. This made my first ultra-marathon a "priceless" experience!

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