Mud, sweat and sand

OMAO — “Gnarly as all hell!”

That’s how Hanapepe resident Chris Ka‘iakapu, covered in mud, sweat and sand, described Sunday’s inaugural CrossFit Poipu Ultimate Hawaiian Trail Run Competition.

Having never competed in a distance race before, Ka‘ia-kapu took third overall in the 5k, tallying a time of 33 minutes 47 seconds.

Nearly 300 people participated in the event, which featured 5k and 10k individual races and a 5k team race. They ran through brush, climbed ropes up steep hillsides and hiked with sandbags draped across their shoulders over mountain terrain at Kahili Mountain.

Although not immediately sure of his victory after crossing the finish line, Los Angeles resident Ian Walters took gold in the 10k, beating out professional CrossFit superstars like Daniel Bailey and Michelle Kinney.

“Amazing,” Walters said of the event. “I love it. Best 10k I’ve ever run. And I’m a runner, this is all I do.”

Walters, who finished with a time of 47:24, said he has every intention of returning next year.

“It’s a beautiful place,” he said of the course that featured uphill hikes so steep, ropes were tied to trees to help runners pull themselves against gravity. “Every year for sure. Make a habit of it.”

The winner of the 5k was Brittani Lum, of Oahu, who finished in 31:59 and said the course featured rugged inclines and beautiful scenery.

Besides the steep climbs, many competitors — Lum included — felt the biggest challenge came at the end, when they had to grab a sandbag — 35 pounds for women, 45 for men — from a large pile and haul it the final half mile, which included, not surprisingly, another large uphill.

“It really tests your mental stability, especially at the end,” Lum said. “It’s fun though.”

In the team event, runners had to rotate carrying the sandbag the length of the course.

Before getting underway, CrossFit Poipu owner Aaron Hoff said the race provided a chance for people to go head-to-head against elite athletes, and that his hope was that they would “give these guys a run for their money.”

One man who did just that was Kalaheo resident Fletcher Parker, who finished seventh overall with a time of 50:10, beating pro Dan Bailey by 5.1 seconds. The avid surfer said he was excited about his performance and that unlike marathons, the event was all about being in nature and getting dirty.

“You’re not running on a street,” he said. “You’re feeling the dirt, you’re feeling the trees, you’re grabbing trees … This is the way it should be.”

CrossFit is a growing endurance sport that tests athletes in a wide range of movements, from Olympic lifting to gymnastics. While Sunday’s trail run was uniquely survival-style outdoor running, all out sprinting is the motto of CrossFit, which prides itself on being something everybody can do.

Parker added that he quit drinking nine months ago and that the race was his first test and personal reward for his sobriety.

“I just went up against some of the best CrossFitters in the world and smoked them. Not to be cocky but, hey, if you put your mind to it you can do anything you want,” he said.

Proceeds from the event will be used to pay for children gym memberships at CrossFit Poipu.

“Every dollar that you guys put in to enter this race is going to a kid,” Hoff told the athletes before they lined up at the starting line and watched a Polynesian haka, performed by a group of men chanting and wearing authentic Maori attire. “We personally funded everything to put this event, so every one of you guys running is sponsoring a kid. So run with (fervor).”

Hoff teared up when it came time to thank those who helped make the event a reality. He said one of his friends always told him, “It’s easy to hate, but it’s hard to create.”

“And I’m creating today with the support of all you guys here,” he said, drawing applause.

Overall, Hoff called the first-ever trail run a huge success. No one got injured. And the camaraderie between participants, those who had already finished encouraging those who hadn’t, was inspiring, he said.

Sponsors included the Knudsen Trust, Garden Island Motorcycle Club, Crossfit and Progenex. A post-race luau was held Sunday evening at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in Koloa.

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