FKT: Malia Crouse - West Maui Loop (HI) - 2021-02-27

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9h 21m 47s
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Hawaii, and Maui specifically, have very few FKT routes.  When 2020 turned into the year with cancelled races and travel plans, I started to think about new challenges for myself and ideally others. I rode the well-known West Maui Loop for the first time last year and it planted a seed- what would it take to cover it by foot and establish a new road FKT option for the island?  I decided to pick a date in early 2021 to hopefully find out.    

On paper, weather on Saturday, Feb. 27th looked far from ideal- strong winds and flash flood warning, but I would pick that over sunny, still and therefore hot, which it can often be.  A wicked tailwind and full moon were a welcomed start to the day.  Staying in the moment, surrounded with a pack of friends, headlights beaming, I tried not to think about how strong the winds would be on the backside later in the day.  I was very fortunate to have amazing crew and running support through out to lighten my load, carrying only a handheld and minimal food, keep me moving and spirits high.  

The early miles through Olowalu and Lahaina cruised by as we were greeted with the colors changing over the water as the sun was rising.  The first 20 miles are relatively flat and calm, protected from the wind by the West Maui Mountains.  I did my best not to go out too fast, stay comfortable and keep up with my nutrition and hydration.  And salt, lots of salt.  As I rounded the island and ran through Ka'anapali and into Napili, the wind picked up and the roads were wet from rain overnight.  Hitting the top of the climb into Kapalua, I mentally told myself that was the end of stage 1 and onto the next.  I picked up my buddy J who would join me for the next two sections all the way into Waiehu.  Kapalua to Kahakuloa was filled with rolling hills, amazing views, albeit stormy skies.  Clarification, rolling hills until you reach what's fondly referred to as "the wall" coming in at a 12.9% grade.  Thankfully it's fairly short though another steep climb follows it.  It's a good time to walk, stretch the legs, apply more sunscreen and refuel on the go.  

For future runners, there are no shoulders on the back side of the island, Kapalua to Waihee, gas stations or any stores.  Kahakuloa town has a couple of small pop up food trucks with delicious banana bread and cold drinks, but depending on the time of day, weather and holidays, it may not be open so plan accordingly.  Exiting Kahakuloa is what I saw and the end of stage 2 and into 3.  It's a slow start with a couple of short steeper (13-19%) pitches and gradual climbs (3-5%) over about 2 miles.  We were lucky to be just behind or ahead of the rain which the winds and overcast skies kept us cool.  Be cautious of narrow roads with steep edges, no shoulders and increasing car traffic as you make your way towards Mendez Ranch and popular hiking spot, Waihee Ridge.  From there it's all downhill for about 5 miles, dropping over 800ft in elevation.  During these miles I had to trust that my quads would hold up after all the uphill, to take the beating after 40+ miles to make it to Waiehu.  

From Waiehu I was on my final leg, the home stretch.  I thanked J, picked up S and a few other friendly faces as I started my countdown to single digits.  Making my last final climbs into Wailulku on roads I run often, I tired to stay steady and not get ahead of myself.  The clouds burned off and it started to get warm, but at that point I was down to 10k to go and the tailwind I had at the beginning of the day kicked back in.  The final 5 miles were heavily wind-aided and felt like I had a little extra kick, though I imagine that was also fueled by Mountain Dew and excitement to be running towards the finish.  Please be aware that there can be fairly heavy traffic in the last 2 miles as you cross 2 major intersections- not a time to zone out!  

My original goal time was 10 hours and I'm beyond happy to have beat it.  I credit all of that to my outstanding crew and friends for keeping me moving throughout the day.  This is my longest run to date, just shy of a 100k, and I hope posting this as an official FKT encourages others to create a new challenge in their own backyard, go a little longer than they thought they could, and try something that gets your heart racing and makes you excited to get up in the morning.