Iolani Invitational - 09/21/02

"It was Amazing!" Those were the first words out of Gunn coach Ernie Lee's mouth when I asked him how the meet went. He then gave the following rundown of the team's 4 days out in Hawaii. They left Thursday morning and arrive at their hotel in downtown Wakiki (a block from the beach) in time to get an afternoon run in down the boulevard. Just imagine... 7 guys, 7 gals, and a coach all running down the mainstrip... all looking like they're having a fantastic time. Forget about the fact that it's 90 degrees out with matching humidity - they're in HAWAII! On Friday morning their run took them to the top of Diamond head and then some serious pre-meet sun bathing. A trek out to Waiameya (sp?) took up the afternoon and then a pasta feed with about 10 other teams completed the day. Saturdays race was on the NE side of the Island. When you looked out to the ocean view you could see Mulokai - take a look the other direction and you saw a lush rain forest. The most fantastic view you could ever see - but if you're at an XC race, who's looking... This meet was a full day affair with College and Middle School races along with the HS division. Race times were at 2:00 and 2:30 - and the 90 degree heat and humidty were there this day as well. The girls race saw Graham cruise the first mile and then take the lead shortly there after. She won handily. Her winning time was 19:48 for this hilly 5k (long?) course. The Gunn girls finished 8th as a team. Had newly transfer Tori Tyler been along, they might have finished as high as 3rd. Montgomery won the team title. The boys race had a bed going to the victor... let me explain. Two Gunn runners had a bet, whoever beat the other would get the bed, the loser the floor. In true fashion, it became a sit and kick race for these two. Gunn Boys finished 6th out of 19 teams. The next day they went to Hanama Bay where Graham was heard to exclaim, "I saw a sea turtle!" And then off to the airport to catch the redeye for back home. When asked if he'd do it again Ernie said, "the kids would, but I'm for making it a now-and-then event." He said they were a great group to travel with for they all got along great... not something that everyone can say when you're trying to squeeze 7 days of activity into 4 days of actual time but the Gunn XC team seemed to make it happen. And now a note from Coach Lee to Doug Speck, et al... Folks, Traveling to Hawaii to participate in the Iolani Invitational was a fantastic experience. I would like to thank Greg Char and the folks at Iolani for not only putting on the meet, but for being extremely helpful and more importantly constantly available for any questions or problems. We had absolutely no problems during the entire trip (well, except for the garbage truck blocking our van from getting out of the parking lot two days in a row, but that just became a team joke). Here's a summary of our experience: we arrived in Hawaii on Thursday afternoon and made it to our hotel by around 3PM. We planned to run at 5:30, so the kids had some time to check out the beach and Waikiki. They approved. For our run, we ran through Waikiki towards Kapiolani Park. Although it was hot and humid, the views of the surf and the fact that we were in Hawaii made the run seem easy. The park is very large with a path along its border filled with joggers. Most of the kids did 1 loop (for about a 4 mile total run from the hotel) while a few opted for a second loop. That evening, we ate dinner outside at Duke's with the beach about 10 feet from our tables. Not bad. Friday morning, we went to Diamond Head for an "easy" run. Getting to the top involved many stairs and a few very dark tunnels, so there wasn't much running involved, but the view at the top was spectacular. Waikiki and downtown Honolulu on one side, and beautiful beach and ocean on the other. We lingered at the top for about half an hour before heading back down. We did strides on the grass field by the parking lot, and for some reason everyone had large smiles on their faces while they were running. Friday afternoon we headed to the north shore to check out the surf town of Haileiwa and the famous North shore surf beaches. The only disappointment of the trip was that the waves were pretty tame, but the beach at Waiemea was amazing. I hadn't originally planned on going to the beach the day before the meet (that's supposed to be detrimental to running, right?), but it was just too good to pass up. We ended up spending the entire afternoon swimming, snorkeling, and general frolicking on the beach. We had a late lunch in Haileiwa and of course got some shaved ice. Due to the length of time we spent on the north shore, we were late to the pasta feed at Iolani High School. To the disappointment of my team, we were too late for me to participate in the coaches hula dance. Back in Waikiki, there was some Aloha festival going on. Even though it probably would have been best for us to just go back to the hotel and sleep, we cruised around the festival listening to dozens of Hawaiian bands. We were in Hawaii, after all. Since our races weren't until the afternoon, Saturday morning gave the kids an opportunity to do some homework (no joke, I was amazed at the amount of textbooks they brought. One kid's bag was nicknamed the "neutron star" because of how heavy it was). The drive to the course was, of course, phenomenal. The Kualoa Ranch itself is right across the road from the beach and at the base of some towering, lush mountains. However beautiful the pictures of the location looks, believe me, in real life it was better. As we walked the course, it's difficulty impressed us. The first hill was quite significant. Also given the heat and the humidity, my only instructions to the team was, "Don't go out too fast." They were all too happy to comply. The races themselves are probably best described elsewhere. Since it is so early in the season, we basically approached this meet as a good effort. I told the kids that I didn't care about times or places, just that they run hard and have fun. After the race, the kids spent some time gathering coconuts and pretending to be Tom Hanks in Castaway. Saturday night was their last night in Waikiki. We got some Aloha Pies and ate them on the beach while some kids got in some night swimming. We got back to the hotel reasonably early since we were planning on getting up early to go snorkeling. Sunday morning we were out of the hotel by 7 AM to go to Hanuama Bay, site of some of the world's best snorkeling. Even though the place gets crowded, it was well worth it. Junior Andrew Lipkin took four rolls of underwater pictures, one within about the first 15 minutes of getting there. We were there until 2 PM snorkeling, swimming, tanning (or, more precisely, sunburning), taking pictures, wrestling in the water, and having a great time. After lunch, we headed back to Waikiki for the last hurrah. Some of the kids went back to the beach to boogie board, some went shopping for gifts and souveniers, and some of them actually stayed in the hotel to do some homework. We had a final team dinner at Auntie Pasta's and got to the airport at 8PM for our red-eye flight back to San Francisco. Not surprisingly, the kids were asleep within minutes of boarding the plane. As a coach, everything went shockingly smoothly. It was great to have the folks from Iolani available. More importantly, the Gunn kids were great. They really get along well together and look out for each other. Given the amount of hard work, dedication, and commitment to the team that they have displayed, I was more than happy to reward them with this trip. It is a large and stressful undertaking, however. We're still sorting out the finances (for us, the kids paid half and then all their expenses in Hawaii, and we fundraised the rest). One unfortunate thing was that since everything had to be arranged so early (we had to have rosters finalized before we even started school), we were unable to bring along any freshmen or new students. I would love to go back (and not surprisingly, so would the kids). I have no reservations recommending the trip to any other team. For me, all of the stress and the time were well worth it, but I also realize that we were very fortunate to have everything go so smoothly. If anyone has any specific questions, I would gladly answer them. -ernie lee. Henry M. Gunn Cross Country.