Saturday Training 5-28-11: Mango Madness Practice Loop

Reflections on the Past Weeks

I believe we have seen something remarkable during the last two weeks. Others unfamiliar with the circumstances might just have expected it as matter or course, or feel entitled to critique events with no knowledge of the facts or without making any relevant contribution to aid in ending this tragic situation. But it is something we of this community understand. It is a deep, primal, gut wrenching feeling, a knowledge that a careless mistake, or just a misplaced foot fall, can put us at great risk too. We begin each venture with this knowledge at our side and forget it travels with us at our own peril. It is what makes us different. 

What I think is the most remarkable fact of this entire tragedy is that the victim was basically little known to the trail community. He had run a trail series race, had done a few practice hikes and then had gone out that morning to Peacocks. Whatever his past, he was a Hawaii trail newbie in the most basic of ways. 

I was not there, but I have been there before and I have gone with newbies, I know what the old crowd says to them. I'm sure that the phrase 'Just stick with us and you will be OK.' in some form or another was uttered. I'm sure there was conversation before the start concerning trail conditions, and how long they would be out and how far they would go. I'm sure water, electrolytes and nutrition were discussed. You stand down at the parking lot and look up and you have to know this is going to be a steep and at times possibly dangerous hike. At the same time, some people take their kids up the Kealia trail. It is a paradoxical experience. We go farther than most, and do it faster, but the rules are the same as with most places in Hawaii, staying on the trail is of paramount importance and personal responsibility is the key component of any hike. 

What exactly happened out there is anyone’s guess. But given the outcome it was likely the result of a long series of unfortunately poor decisions. Please understand, I have been in such a situation, I have found myself clinging to the edge of sheer cliff, my guts doing that uneasy tightening as I directly contemplated my own death. It was almost forty years ago but I occasionally wake up at night holding on to that single root while sweating and hoping for a toe hold to become apparent. 'Never go down something you have not been up!' was a hard learned lesson. Having made those bad decisions, having been over the edge, I know what it can be like. I was just incredibly lucky I did not die; and if I had, my body would likely still be out there at the bottom of that narrow deep lost valley on the island of Upolu, Samoa. 

Most trail people have had those kinds of experiences, or similar, and it is one of the factors that united us all as we came out to the air field parking lot to join in the search. We could understand; the mistakes, the fear, the ultimate tragedy. So it was that trail runners, trail hikers, dog search teams, fire and rescue crews, hunters, a small group of the lost hikers friends, and others who know and love our 'aina came together to search for a man very few people among us knew. 

Ultra runners were the first people to go searching, and then we searched along side the Official Search and Rescue crews. When the Fire Department called off their search after three days we could have stopped. Despite all the hopes and prayers, the outcome was pretty much certain. Three days and nights out on Peacocks is a very long time. No water, no food, no extra clothing, no means of communication; all these factors led to one conclusion. We could have packed up and left when the official search ended and we would not have been criticized by any responsible group or individual. 

But we didn't do that. We had made this man 'one of our own' and many of us put our hearts and souls into finding him. Ultra runners organized search teams and covered search areas, we communicated with search and rescue, and coordinated other groups who joined the effort. We talked with friends and family and pieced together the story. We communicated with the press as we became aware of the situation. Ultra runners held the search effort together with a simple belief that we would not leave anyone up on the 'hill'. 

There is a lot of cross-over among trail people so Trail and Mountain hikers, pig hunters, dog search teams, were quickly brought into the search effort. These small groups were the only ones really qualified to conduct a search up there. It was dangerous for everyone involved, even though they had a good idea of those dangers. From the first days of the search people were coming down the Kealia to the parking lot shaking their heads and quietly relating scary stories of sudden steep cliffs, loose rocky slopes, mud slick steeps, and a lot of close calls. Combine this with hot humid weather that sucks up fluids and electrolytes and you get quick fatigue, easy situations to get lost, and many opportunities to suffer injury. Just all around nasty stuff. It was the main reason less experienced searchers were discouraged. It put the burden of the search on a very small group of very dedicated people. 

But whether an ultra trail runner, an extreme hiker, a pig hunter, or search and rescue, a common understanding of the trails is hardship and quiet suffering. This small ohana just settled in, knew that it wasn't going to be easy and went about the search task with incredible dedication. The fact that the hiker's body was found after seven days is quite amazing. There are lots of others who have been lost in the mountains of these islands who were never found, and not for a lack of searching. The final result was far from a given. 

Unless having actually been there and able to see how few people were qualified to search, unless having made the long hike up the the Kealia and looked back down, unless having walked the roads and trails of what is called Peacocks, one can have no real understanding of the immensity and danger of the search. Nor is it possible to get one's mind around the fatigue and emotion that such a small group subjected themselves to over the course of the week.  He was one of us, and that was sufficient to face great hardship, risk one's life, miss work, and be away from family. What I find most surprising is that we did not suffer another injury during the search. It speaks a great deal to the strong coordination and levelheadedness that prevailed. 

Even in Hawaii, this was the outpouring of Aloha of  truly abundant proportions. And I think it speaks a great deal about the courage and fortitude of all those who love and use the mountain 'aina. We can all be quietly proud of how we came through the tremendous challenges of this tragic event.  

Yet, now, rather than congratulate ourselves I believe we must all re-examine our own attitudes and practices and ask ourselves if that moment comes when we ourselves may need help, are we prepared, have we been responsible enough to ourselves and to our friends to limit the impact of our own sudden need. It's easy enough now-a-days to be locatable in most places, to be in ready contact with others, to pack sufficient supplies on our own backs to allow for unexpected events and to be trail smart enough to make ourselves readily locatable. It is however hard to accept that we are more vulnerable than our own concept of ourselves allows. At the same time we often can not do everything that can be done, and there are limits to what one humps into the bush. There is no doubt however that we could all be acting in a manner that better ensures our safety and, more importantly, limits the impact of our own  potential mistakes on the lives of our friends. Personal Responsibility: perhaps we must each arrive at a new understanding of this concept, in light of recent events. It deserves a great deal of contemplation. 

With much aloha, Mikem        



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Rogerio Perez

This entry and related commentary from readers made me reflect on how fortunate we are to belong to a community not limited to membership in an organized group but the overall body of people who love, respect and enjoy the islands. All of us at one time in our lives, have been "newbies" to this or that activity ... but with caring, patient and knowledgeable mentors we have advanced beyond the "newbie" stage and embraced the next stage ... becoming "mentors" to those who like us share our love for the outdoors. As pointed out here, "Personal Responsibility" and self-examination are important not just for our safety but for those who we share the trails with. I'm grateful to know that the HURT Ohana is full of Aloha for it's members and those seeking to learn from them ... sharing IS caring.

Jeff Huff


WOW! That was simply incredible! I can't begin to tell you how much money I have spent to purchase books for my IPAD to read about matters with such significance and impact that your piece had. I am truly moved by this post. While I may not always agree with your every post, you have hit a home run here in my books with this post. As a fringe player with the HURT group, I am honored to say that it is a group that I am proud to be associated with. As John says"it's all about the family", and I for one am happy to know that through the most difficult of circumstance you folks, the folks of HURT will always have my back. And recall there are no dues for HURT, either you belong or don't, however even if you don't belong we will be always be there.

Great job.



Your reflections are very well expressed....and a good pause for all of us to think about. As I followed the day-to-day search from here on the Big Island, I was so proud to tell people over here "the other side of the story" about the HURT group, and how HURT trail running "really" works, unlike how it was being portrayed in the media. It was so heart-warming to see all of you not leave Are, altho' a newbie, up on the hill, and to bring him home even though everyone clearly knew the outcome was not going to be good. I thank all of you for your efforts, and am proud to be a part of the HURT family. Aloha,


i am not a member of the HURT ohana but i was lucky enough to go on the Run With a View training run and the Run With a View race and meet lots of HURT runners: Fish, Sue, Angela, Robert, and others, and of course Are. I had to go to the mainland the day before Are disappeared, and so I'm just now coming back to and starting to understand the nightmare you were all living for a week. I know that following the search from 1000s of miles away is nothing compared to living it 14 hours a day for 7 days straight, and i can only guess at the incredibly strain that must have been on all of you. i thank you and honor your efforts.

As a lot of people have expressed, Are was such a vibrant person that it's difficult to believe he's gone. One thing i told Are was that when i got back from the mainland I'd do the Puu pia to Waahila trail with him. i thought it would be a useful trail for him to know because he was at the university.
Please don't feel obligated, but if anyone would like to do it with me I'd love the company. I'm hoping to do the run in the early morning either this week or next week.
my email address is
huge aloha to the HURT ohana, Sara


I think Mike most eloquently stated the history of the past couple of weeks, along with our "family" coming together and perhaps the need to rethink trail safety.

When we started HURT 30 years ago, we envisioned a group of nice trail runners loosely coupled together with few specific parameters. We tried hard to keep out those who really wouldn't fit by not selling HURT shirts and other devious methods.

30 years later we have a wonderful, caring family with a lot of very humble leaders.

We couldn't be prouder.............thank you!


well written, well said, well done Mikey. you covered so many important points and a wide range of things to think about. i think we all learned a lot this past week. Are has certainly touched many lives and this event for some, has been a big wake up call. thanks, i really enjoyed reading it.


Thank you Mike,,,we had to bring Are home to his family, and we did it the best way we could.


Since my wife doesn't read this, I'm safe in talking. I have and always place myself in a tested situation. Running solo at night on the trails during flash floods, hiking across a desert with minimal gear, ice climbing, and more. However, I do these things with the same intense safety planning as the actual challenge undertaken. Even my simple night runs include full survival gear, communication on where I'm going and returning, never change my route, carry phone, and so much more weight. I just grew up this way hunting along at the age of 7 in the woods all day/night, camping alone in the frost at 10 tracking a mountain lion all weekend and just reading natures signs of danger from snakes to tornadoes. Adventure has and will always be part of me with risks managed to my ability - and I do turn around. I do stop with signs of heat stroke, deadly weather and such. But, it doesn't always work out as I have rescued many people and friends from accidents around the world. This event reminds me of the hazards and will hopefully keep me smart enough to make the correct decisions - I hope!

Bob Mc.

A nice viewpoint or reflection as Mike calls it of the last week or so. I agree with what is said here, however I don't think I could or am ready to put it down so succinctly. I have read the comments by outsiders in regards to this tragedy and it is very clear some just don't get it. As Mike says, many of us have been there before--there is a fine line we walk or in our case run at times. I wouldn't want it any other way. It is all about personal responsibility and the decisions we make. This was a very hard way for all of us to be reminded of this. Are's love for life and his infectious smile will remind me that living on the edge is what keeps us alive. I know something about this edge and I am not just talking in a physical sense. Thank you Mike for writing this. Thank you Are and thank you to all those involved this past week.

Matt Stevens

Mike: Thank you for your outstanding reflection on this past week and a half in the HURT community. I thoroughly agree with your comment that we all inevitably have had close calls where our own judgement was not perfect, and thus our hearts when out for Are. When I was in my young 20's and trying to get ready for my first HURT 100, I turned my ankle pretty hard @10:30 PM up near Pauoa Flats when I was running WAY too fast for being out there at night and alone. I had a very, very long, slow and painful walk back to Jackass and I learned a ton that night about responsibility. As a married man with two small children now, I very consciously make different decisions now.

It seems paradoxical to me that we cherish the meaning that comes with taking on this responsibility (your Big Island traverse esp. demonstrates this, in my opinion), and yet we are united and tied together as a true ohana when the chips are down. I am humbled to think that my HURT brothers and sisters would put in the risk, time, emotions and energy into helping me if the chips were down, just as we (others much more so than myself) collectively did this past week.
I wrote this to Cheryl already, but amidst the uncertainty and grief, I realized how very blessed I am to call HURT my family.

aloha, Matt

The comments to this entry are closed.