... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Monday, April 17, 2017

Unicorn Run

I headed into my long workouts for the week motivated and ready to go. For my long run I was planning on doing a route that has been in the back of my mind for a long time, a pie in the sky that I fondly call my "Unicorn Run." Background information: Two years ago, when Sean and I were just beginning our Honu training, we were running on a particularly hot day at Puako. Sean was a little ways ahead of me, and I had just struggled my way to the turnaround point at the end of the road when a tan, incredibly triathlon-fit-looking man appeared as if from nowhere, like a unicorn. He hadn't been in front of me or behind me, and then suddenly there he was. He stopped and asked me if I knew if he could get back to the highway from there, and how far it would be to run back to the Fairmont. I gave him my best estimate, all the while marveling at the crazy idea that someone could actually run that far, much less via some mysterious route between Puako and the hotel that it seemed must include running on the beach. He nodded quickly, yelled "thank you!" over his shoulder, and took off again. He was so fast that he was out of sight within seconds. 
Ever since then I have wanted to figure out how he got from the Fairmont to Puako, and I imagined the day when I might be strong enough to run from there to the highway and back around to the hotel. My very own Unicorn Run. 

Fast forward to Thursday night. It turns out that the run is only 9.5 miles, making it perfect for this week's long run, and I was excited despite having several between-the-toes blisters from breaking in pointe shoes. I woke up at 3AM with throbbing pain in my left foot only to discover that one of the blisters was infected and extremely swollen and red. I did emergency surgery and went back to bed. It was still sore in the morning, but I put in my most Unicorn-esque tri suit (brightly colored and patterned) and took off to Mauna Lani. I used New Skin to cover the blister as best I could, slathered my toes in Neosporin, and laced up my shoes. 

I was relieved to feel that the discomfort was mild. It was extremely hot and muggy, but I settled in and got a nice steady pace going. I've been trying to up my intensity just a bit so I kept my heart rate at about 78-80%, which felt good and sustainable. It was a MAF test day so after the first 2 miles I carefully timed my mile splits for three miles, then went easy for three minutes, then timed another 2.5 miles. Despite the highway portion being extremely hilly, I kept good, consistent mile times throughout. The highway part was interesting. Even having biked that section many times, the were a lot of things I had never noticed. The rock walls surrounding the highway in one stretch are quite beautiful, dramatically cut with a variation of colors and layers making interesting looking patterns. The goats were prolific, and I could hear them calling to each other a lot of the way. It was a long stretch but when I reached the crest of the last hill and turned down the hill toward Puako I felt triumphant: Unicorn Run Part 1, completed! 

After the biggest part of the downhill, I felt a little odd. I had the very strange mental sensation that I was abnormally tall. It felt like my head was farther away from the ground than usual, and no matter how I ran or what I focused on, I couldn't shake the feeling. It was bizarre. I had brought a water bottle with me as well as salt tablets and Clif Shot Blocks. I took all of the above at mile 5 before the second part of my MAF test, which basically covered the whole Puako section. Still feeling good, the "I'm a giant" feeling gradually dissipated and I ran all the way to the end of the road, where the unicorn man had appeared, and again felt triumph as I touched the red signs that mark the edge of the culdesac. Unicorn Run Part 2!

I ran back to the Puako beach entrance and entered Part 3 of my run, the beautiful beach trail that I discovered several weeks ago. The ocean breeze cooled me down a bit and I fought the urge to jump in the water. It was gorgeous -- all black and white rocks and blue water and yellow tang swimming around. I had to walk a couple of times to avoid breaking an ankle on the rocks, so my pace slowed down a little, but overall I still felt great as I exited the beach and crossed the Fairmont property, where my MAF test concluded and I downed another salt capsule, another 3 Shot Blocks, and water. 

Part 4 was the run back to the Mauna Lani shopping center, and I had to keep convincing myself to slow down, cool down. It flew by and before I knew it I was back to my car. My training schedule said to compare the split times from the first timed MAF segment to the second (more similar times indicating less fatigue and thus better fitness) and I was pleased that mine were almost exactly the same, within a few seconds per mile until the last quarter mile where I hit the loose beach rocks and had to slow down to avoid a turned ankle. Pretty incredible compared to how my 9-10 mile runs used to feel: starting strong and fighting to keep from walking by mile 6. 

Unicorn Run, completed!  

*I wish that I could say that this was the end of my day, feeling strong and triumphant and awesome, but such is not always the case in triathlon training, unfortunately. My excellent run took enough out of me that within 20 minutes of getting on the bike for my post-run "cool down" (HA!) 
I bonked so hard that my brain and body stopped working resulting in an embarrassing tipping over incident and 10 minutes of me standing on the side of the Queen K waiting for my nutrition to kick in before I felt comfortable continuing. Not the most graceful unicorn, I guess... more on all this in an upcoming post. 

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