OMAO — Not often does an organizer of a race warn people not to do it.
Bertram Almeida did exactly that Saturday morning before the Ultimate Hawaiian Trail Run, but for good reason.
The 10K course, with such steep, treacherous climbs that they required a rope to get up and down them, wasn’t for anyone “kind of” in shape. It wasn’t for someone looking for your usual weekend fun run. It could be, he said, a bit dangerous out there because recent rains turned the course into a muddy, slippery mess.
He was serious enough to urge the crowd to listen to him, and to help each other out there, too.
“So if you’re not ready for this, don’t do it,” he said to the estimated 700 runners waiting for the start. “Do the 5K instead.”
A few minutes later, even with the warning, several hundred took on that 10K that took them up the rugged, steep Kahili Mountain range. After that, several hundred more, individuals and teams, started the less demanding, but still challenging, 5K.
All went out whooping and hollering and with a sense of adventure. All came back dirty, worn, but definitely with proud smile and a sense of, “Hey, I did it.”
The finishers had navigated through thick mud, around corners, sometimes over rocks, and rappelled down mountainsides in pristine, private lands of the Knudsen Trust. Near the finish, they had to carry sandbags, climb over walls, run up and down more manmade hills and finally, charge through a mud pit.
Gary Johnson of Kekaha raised his arms in triumph as he finished.
How was it?
“Crazy,” he said. “It’s the worst 5K you will ever do. It was that bad. But you know what? I finished. That’s all that counts.”
The toughest part, Johnson said, was keeping his balance.
“The hills, they’re so muddy up there — if you can make it through the mountain, you got it made,” he said.
The Cuthbertson family, Mike and Janine of Poipu, and daughters Aria and Tahlia, survived the 5K, entering the mud pit together and leaving it with huge grins.
It was their first family trail run.
“We loved it,” Mike said. “This was fantastic. Better than advertised. We heard so much about it from friends. We had to do it this year, but we wanted to do it together.”
Aria’s favorite part was skiing down the slick hills.
“Sometimes on my feet, sometimes my butt,” she said, smiling.
Janine noted they were careful. There were times there was no way to run, but it was often more about taking baby steps, and grabbing tree branches or the person next to you to stay upright.
“That course is hard without the rain and the mud,” Mike said.
The race, in its third year, was the brainchild of Aaron Hoff, founder of CrossFit Poipu, who partnered with sponsors and The Garden Island Motorcycle Club to make it happen.
All the profits go to support CrossFit Poipu’s kids program that is free for all keiki on Kauai. Hoff said he wants to do his best to give kids a positive activity that preaches personal accountability and a healthy lifestyle.
He beamed with delight when he asked how many kids were doing the run, and many hands shot into the air.
“It’s great to see everyone here, especially all the kids,” Hoff said. “We’re glad you could be here.”
Hoff also loved hearing about people helping each other to the finish line.
Mike Michael scaled the final, steep, short hill that required a running start. He then turned around, reached out and offered his hand to Marian Victor.
Jordan Chabinsky of the Boston area and Phil Imbusch of Germany came to Kauai for the Ultimate Hawaiian Trial Run. Both completed the 10K and loved it.
“It was more like a hike but there were some cool running parts,” Chabinsky said.
He didn’t consider switching to the 5K.
“You sign up knowing what you’re going into. When it gets treacherous, you slow down,” he said.
What he and Imbushc enjoyed most, along with the spectacular views from above, was how people helped each other on the trail.
When one person faltered, another reached out to steady them. When one fell, another helped them up. When one was weary, another urged them on.
“You help each other out. When you see somebody struggling, you lend a hand,” Imbusch said. “That’s what it about. That’s what you do.”
Nic Clark of Kalaheo was among the first finishers. He estimated he fell about a dozen times.
“It was really heard,” he said. “Really, really hard.”
The long, downhill stretch through a narrow chute with limited footing and not much to grab, he said, was even scary at times.
“I was thinking somebody would come down with something broken,” he said.
There were no reports of serious injuries, but plenty of scrapes and bumps.
Paul Jackson with Assault AirBikes, a race sponsor, said the company was delighted to be part of such a community event that drew top CrossFit competitors as well as families. He came from San Diego to do the 10K, but changed to the 5K after hearing Almeida’s prerace warning.
“It was muddy, it was difficult,” he said, “but it was a great experience.”