The title is from Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat:
A book of verses underneath the bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread-- and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness--
Oh, wilderness were paradise enow!
I'm excited, as I am every year for the past 4 (with a gap in 2003), about my upcoming trip to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui. They have a saying in Hawaiian about Maui, "Maui No Ka Oi". It means "Maui Is The Best". How true.
I made my first trip to that beautiful island in my first year as coach of Team Asha, in 2002, to run the Maui marathon. I had a hard time with the heat and intense humidity that year and ran a miserable 3:59:26. I was miserable not because of my time but what I went through just to finish in under 4 hours. At the end I almost felt like I had been put through a wringer.
Team Asha opted not to go to Maui in 2003. We went up to Victoria, BC (Canada) the following year and I ran my marathon PR there. The Perfect Race I called it.
We went back to sunny and magical Maui in 2004. This time I had made sure that the Team had been made to train under a hot sun (I made them run their 20/22 mile runs on a trail without any shade, starting at 8 am). I ran 10 minutes faster in 2004 (3:49) and felt great all through the race. I even stopped for 3-4 minutes to visit a port-a-potty along the course!
2005 was a strange race for me. I had run the Wine Country Half in Napa earlier that year (my Half PR of 1:37 was run in the same race in 2004) in July and had suffered exercise-induced asthma in the latter stages of the race. I did not recognize it as such then. In the Maui marathon, I started slower than usual. I remember passing the 7 mile marker in about 63 minutes, just before the 4 mile rolling section of the course. This section proved to be my undoing. The mounting heat along with the asthma meant the end for me. I walked all the uphills starting around mile 10 and my race went south form there. I finally crossed the finish in 4:32, one of my worst races ever!
Back to Paradise now. One of the most beautiful sights in Maui is Haleakala, from the vista point along the highway from the airport in West Maui. This is probaly one of the largest shield volcanoes in the world. It is approximately half the height of the tallest and largest shield volcano in the world, the majestic Kilimanjaro that towers over the Serengeti in Tanzania. In my 3 trips to Maui I have never been to the top to view the legendary sunset. Haleakala means "The House Of The Rising Sun". What an apt name for the mountain.
Maui is one of the youngest of the 132 islands that make up the Hawaiian chain of islands. This chain is the result of the continental plate, the Pacific Plate, that the islands are on moving across a "hot spot" in the earth's mantle. This "hot spot" or plume of magma created the islands as the Pacific Plate moved northwest. The Hawaiian islands are mountains in an undersea mountain range called the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain. These islands were formerly known as the Sandwich Islands.
The plume is currently centered just east of the Big Island (Hawai'i). Kilauea has been active since 1983 because of the "hot spot". The youngest of the Hawaiian islands is currently under the surface of the ocean, 18 miles southeast of the Big Island. Under 3200 feet of water, Lo'ihi will probably break the surface of the ocean in a few tens of thousands of years and either become a new island in its own right or join up with Kileuea as part of the Big island.
The Earth is an amazing place is it not? A place born out of one of the most violent events in Nature is Paradise now!