Holo Holo - Hawaiian Airlines - Matty Leong - 5

Set the race clock! Our second annual Holoholo Challenge kicks off this Friday with new Maui-inspired courses for participants to conquer no matter where they are. To help warm up for a month of fitness and community, Hawaiian Airlines Vice President of Marketing and E-Commerce Rob Sorensen is sharing the lessons he's learned from years of competitive running and cycling.

Participants can now opt to bike, swim, run/walk or relay this year's Holoholo Challenge virtual courses.


Editor's note: Haven't signed up yet? There's still time! Registration for this year's Holoholo Challenge is open until Oct. 6, and participants can choose between five virtual courses: a 244-mile bike ride, equivalent to biking up Haleakalā’s hillsides and around Maui; a 50-mile run/walk, the distance from Upcountry Maui to Kāʻanapali on West Maui; a 26-mile swim mimicking a Maui-to-Molokaʻi-to-Lānaʻi race; and a 170-mile run/walk/relay (up to four people), the approximate circumference of the island. During sign-up, participants can also opt to donate to Special Olympics Hawaiʻi or The Maui Farm, a local nonprofit providing farm-based, family-centered programs that teach essential life skills for self-sufficient living. Click here to secure your spot.

Preparing for a longer virtual challenge

Sorensen pictured while competing in the Ironman Triathlon in Cozumel, Mexico, in 2012 (left) and the New York City Triathlon in 2014 (right).


Virtual challenges are a great motivation to restart, maintain or increase your fitness level. Having completed a few virtual races on my own during the pandemic, here are some key things I've learned along the way:

  • Plan out your distances. Divide the total miles of the challenge by the allowed number of weeks to better understand what is required. To complete this year's Upcountry-to-West Maui course (50 miles), you’ll need to log 12.5 miles per week and 42.5 miles per week for the Valley Isle Holoholo course or relay (170 miles). I also recommend planning out your week with various run/walk/bike/swim lengths each day, as your body needs time to recover from more intense days. 
  • Set time for evening walks, warming up and stretching. Evening walks are helpful with recovery and can also help you accumulate the miles needed for a longer challenge. While the mileage per walk is low, walks can add up over time and help make up for lower-mileage recovery weeks or days when you can’t get in your regular run. Be sure to include time for warming up before exercising and stretching afterward to avoid injury.

Finding the right gear

Make sure you have the right equipment for the course you've chosen. For runners and walkers, a good pair of shoes is key!


Having put in a fair number of running miles, I admit that I am picky about my gear. Running is hard, and I am constantly seeking equipment to make it easier on both my body and mind. Here are the essentials to getting started:

  • Have the right gear for your body. If you're biking, make sure you have a good bike that fits your back and knees. A bike shop can help adjust your bike to a proper fit. If you're running or walking, shoes make all the difference in avoiding injuries, from blisters to broader impact-related maladies. A good running store and some trial and error will help you achieve a proper fit. I also change shoes based on what run I'm doing. For swimmers, investing in a pair of good goggles is always a good idea.
  • Good workout clothes are worth the investment. After years of running in heavy nylon basketball shorts, I have discovered how much a pair of lightweight, breathable shorts can make running more enjoyable—especially with Hawaiʻi’s humidity. Whether you're swimming, running, walking or biking, a few pieces of high-quality workout apparel is worth every penny and goes a long way. 
  • Don’t get rubbed the wrong way. In sports, friction is not your friend. If you have spots on your body that chafe, don’t just accept it; fix it. I find a little Aquaphor helps, even when sweating, where I can feel my clothes or fitness watch starting to rub against my skin.

Prioritizing safety along the way

Safe places to swim in the ocean are marked with swim buoys and have lifeguards. If you are not sure if a place is safe for swimming, don’t swim there.


Safety should be top of mind while embarking on any of the Holoholo Challenge courses. 

  • Know the risks and inform others where you're going. Minimize the risks by understanding the environment you'll be in, and always tell someone where you're planning to holoholo (to go out) and when you'll be back. Also, always be mindful of the weather, temperature and water conditions if you're swimming. I’ve also made it a practice to ask a lifeguard about the area before I swim in any unfamiliar waters. They can inform you where reefs are, about the currents, and specific conditions, such as tides, jellyfish and water quality. They are there to help! 
  • Take your phone. If you run into any trouble, you will want to be able to phone a friend. Wear clothes that have pockets (most cycling jerseys have back pockets that can easily fit a phone) or store your phone in a pouch. I’ve switched to wearing a smartwatch that has a built-in phone and is water-resistant so I can swim with it.
  • Watch your hydration. On your longer stretches of exercise, you will want to plan for how to stay hydrated. Run laps around a measured loop and stash a water bottle nearby so you can stop and hydrate periodically. If it is hot outside, purchase some electrolyte powder to add to your water. If it's a long biking or running day, I recommend carrying water.
  • Go with friends and be visible. If you're cycling outside, I strongly recommend going with a friend. With a friend, you are more likely to be seen by cars and they have to be more careful going around you both. Wearing bright clothing helps. If you bike or run when still dark outside, please light yourself up like a Christmas tree! When swimming, I wear a bright swim cap so kayaks, lifeguards and canoes can see me.

Staying motivated throughout the challenge

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Track your open-water swims with a smartwatch or count your laps in a pool so you can measure your progress on the Holoholo Challenge website.


Signing up for a challenge is exciting, but staying motivated to finish is critical. 

  • Update your mileage frequently. Keep motivated by entering your mileage into the online platform after every run, walk, swim or bike ride. It is exciting to see the mileage adding up, and since the Holoholo Challenge is themed around Maui this year, you can track where you would be if you were doing the course on the island.
  • Join your friends. All challenges are more exciting when participating with others (even if doing so remotely). Create or join a team with friends or co-workers. You can also earn up to 40,000 bonus HawaiianMiles when referring others to join the Holoholo Challenge! 
  • Post about your progress. You can share milestones, progress and motivation on your own social media channels and the race platform. When you're ready to share, use #HoloholoChallenge on Instagram or join our Facebook Group.

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Follow these tips and you'll be on your way toward earning the Holoholo Challenge Maui finisher medal in no time. Good luck; we’ll see you at the [virtual] finish line!


Editor's note: This post is a summarized version of Sorensen's Holoholo Challenge stories published on www.HawaiianAirlines.com/Hawaii-Stories.