790.1 miles raced; 350 yards swam and 9 miles biked in 2010
Race: Maui Marathon, 5k and Front Street Mile
Place: Ka'anapali, HI
Miles from home: 2930 miles
Weather: 70-80s; Bright sunshine; high humidity
The Maui Marathon most assuredly did not go my way. Even for Maui, the weather was unusually humid. Humidity does not sit well with me. Actually, I suck in humidity. I wish I could possibly put it less bluntly but it's the truth. All runners will experience a slowdown in their running in humid conditions but I have to say there are few people out there who are as pathetic as I am when the humidity gets high and temperatures go up. But, I am getting a little ahead of myself.
When I arrived in Maui to take part in the events for the weekend I was introduced to the concept of the Warrior Challenge. Runners could run a 5k on Saturday morning, then take part in the Front Street Mile Saturday night, before choosing between the marathon or the half-marathon on Sunday morning. I had no intention to do anything other than the marathon this weekend but soon found myself with a Warrior Challenge Bib number by Friday afternoon. I am very impressionable.
5K: 18:52 - 10th Place overall
5:51, 6:14, 6:14,: 33
The 5k started at 8 AM which may have been a little late in the day to start the race as the temperature was already quite warm. However, as the race started almost directly outside of my hotel, it was nice to not have to wake up until about 7:20 AM. The star of this race was none of the elites, none of the back of the packers but rather a 9-year old name Kekoa Hunt. The 5k course had three separate out and backs with a extraordinarily mean hill right after mile one. After the first out and back, about 1/2 mile in, I noticed the tow-headed Kekoa, wearing Vibram five finger shoes no less, just a few seconds behind me. I do not often judge a book by its cover but I figured he had the over-exuberance of youth and would soon fall back when reality hit. After climbing the tough hill and doing the second out and back, I was shocked to see Kekoa had closed the gap on me. Now, I was obviously not running my fastest 5k here but this was just impressive on his part nonetheless.
After going down the hill and hitting the third out and back, Kekoa had fallen a little off the pace but no one else had caught him either. When I crossed the line I turned around and waited hoping he was closer than he ended up being as I wanted him to run sub-19. However, his 19:05 for 11th place OVERALL was simply fantastic.
Run Forrest Run Front Street Mile:
5:35 - 10th Place overall
The Front Street Mile had a sponsor of the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant and ran down the exceedingly narrow Front Street in Laihana, just a few short miles from where the 5k had been. I mention the sponsor simply because the name at first irked me (there are few references I abhor more as a runner than "Run Forrest Run") but it made sense with this sponsor. Even more so, the race had a Forrest Gump lookalike, replete with a box of chocolates, a suitcase and that god-awful haircut. Besides being a little more paunchy than Tom Hanks in the signature role, he was spitting image of the title character. While the Front Street mile had previously been almost exclusively a kid's event, its inclusion in the Warrior Challenge led to hundreds of more runners swelling the ranks of those taking part. This also created the necessity of having wave stats which drug the event on a little bit but allowed each group to enjoy their moment in the sun (literally and figuratively.)
As I mingled with runners, many who had already done the 5k and were also becoming wary of the warm temperatures we were experiencing, I realized I had not done an organized mile race in three years. If I didn't think I was in half-marathon shape, I knew there was no way I was in shape to try and run a fast mile. Fortunately, there was no pressure to even come close to winning the race as on-hand were some blazing fast invited runners, including one with a 3:53 mile personal best. Wow.
After wave after wave of children flew off at the sound of the gun, followed by the masters and then finally my open field, the crowd cheered wildly. A little sparse by the time our open field was running (many parents took their children and left after they finished their race - slightly disappointing but understandable) it was still unbelievably cozy given the small width of Front Street with its shops lining the street. When the gun fired for my wave, I was soon left in the dust of the elites and simply tried to keep them in sight. As expected, however, it was nearly impossible for me to convince my body it was OK for it to hurt this bad, as it would only do so for a mile. I have conditioned by body to know when red-lining is occurring and it will simply not let me push harder. This is great for a marathon- but not so great for a mile. As we made a quick right and then two lefts to head back home, we circumvented an old Banyan tree in the center of Laihana's front street. For those who are unaware, Banyan trees create a small forest, all emanating from one tree in the center. With vines hanging down from its various branches, the tree looks almost stage and the symmetry fake. I found myself staring at the tree even as I tried to turn the wheels on to get home.
Finally, I was heading home and crossed the finish in 5:35. I would have, for my ego, liked something in the 5:20s but given the tough 5k in the morning and the marathon looming later, I was pleased. Little Kekoa Hunt also ran the mile. What did this 9 year old run? From my watch, a 5:53. Just astounding. I can only hope that he runs because he wants to, doesn't burn out, and continues on this awesome trajectory he is already on.
After two days of an expo and two races on Saturday, I was not looking forward to the 2 AM wake-up call to take the 3 AM bus out to the start of the race. Fortunately I got a slight reprieve when newly-acquired friends, Rich and Barbara mentioned they would be happy to drive me out to the start of the race. By avoiding the bus, I was able to sleep in an extra hour and half to the Amish-like wake up time of 3:30. I could tell, however, that I was already feeling the effects of the day. No matter how many times I do it, I never get over how tiring sitting or standing for 8 hours at an expo, interacting with hundreds of people can be. But I figured a nice 3:15-3:20 time would be easy enough to run.
At the start, I saw Jon, a fellow I had met at the Boston Marathon in 2008 who had been an online running forum friend previously. We had re-connected at the expo on Saturday after my speech and did so again here in the darkness of Maui. After fire dancers light up the black stillness of the morning and drummers beat our way from the parking lot holding area to the start line, led by flag-baring volunteers, there was a parade-like feel to our march. Jon asked what my goal was for the race and decided he would run with me for a bit until he decided to speed up if he felt well. Jon holds a 2:45 marathon PR and I knew he could smoke it if he wanted to. However, he was just as cautious as I was at the start as we could tell it was going to be a hot, and more importantly, humid run. When the race started promptly at 5:30 AM with the beat of drums replacing a starter's pistol, we were off.
First 9 miles:
We knew the race would be split into three separate parts with the first mostly flat 9 miles comprising the first section. I think even though we were trying to keep it in check, our own exuberance to get the race done took us out a smidgen faster than we had hoped. Routinely the advice I give to newbies is to hold themselves back for the first few miles, settle into a pace and then save it for the end. I wasn't exactly ignoring the advice I give here but I was definitely trying to get some miles in before the real warmth set in. While Hawaii is already 6 hours behind EST, it is as if it should be one more hour. The sun rises early and sets even earlier here meaning that by 6 AM the sky was already bright and one hour after the start, the sun was already creeping over the mountains to light our way. On more than one occasion, I told Jon to go about his own race as I wanted to back off the pace but Jon happily fell back into my slightly slower gait, possibly thinking that he too was already overheating.
By mile four I had already taken off my singlet and wrung out the sweat which had completely drenched me. I was also carrying a washcloth to wipe away the moisture from my skin, in hopes of keeping my skin as dry as possible in order to help the cooling process. Soon, every two miles or less I was taking the singlet off again to do the same wringing process. Each time Jon would exclaim something to the effect of how that was a lot of sweat. I knew I could be in danger later so I continued to drink fully and thoroughly at each aid station.
To mile 13:
More than just the halfway point, the 13 mile was supposed to mark the end of our uphill climbs for the day. For approximately four miles we ran up a serious of winding roads with the gorgeous ocean on our left and sheer cliff walls on our right. Wire netting held back the rock debris on the side of these walls and it was obvious that man had cut a swath through here for the road we were running on. Both Jon and I thought we knew the number of hills we had to climb but as we both ended up being wrong and wrong again and each curve presented yet another hill, we began to jokingly say: "OK, just one more hill!" Finally, cresting the top-most hill, a place I had pulled over to a few days prior to show my happiness with being in Hawaii, we knew we were done with the climbing.
Passing through a tunnel which signified, for us, the beginning of the easy part of the course, we were feeling pretty good. That said, I told Jon to go ahead as I had to walk through an aid station. I knew I needed all the liquid I could get, especially with the sun now beginning to bake me, all the runners and the hot black asphalt.
To the end (almost prophetically)
Jon pulled ahead somewhere around mile 14 and I had, for the first time, a mile that went over 8 minutes. Mostly because of the elongated walk break I took to get the water in me, I wasn't too worried. In fact, even though a runner would pass me here and there, I was passing runners who had been ahead of me, so I felt I was doing just fine. Jon had built a nice 100 yard lead in front of me but we sat that far apart for quite some time. I wish, in hindsight, we had run together as I think it would have helped both of us.
A few miles later I saw Jon slow to a walk. He began running again before I caught him but soon, around mile 17 or so, I caught up to him. He was sweating profusely too and I offered a little advice on how to hydrate before moving on myself. I wasn't feeling great but a 7:45 minute mile leading to mile 18 had me figuring a 3:20 was firmly in grasp.
However, before mile 19 I felt the gurgling in my stomach I had been dreading. I had experienced this before and knew I was in trouble. My body simply cannot process the amount of liquid it needs to keep up with my sweat-loss when I am running a marathon in this heat and humidity. Instead, the liquid pools in my stomach, not being absorbed and finally deciding it doesn't like to be in me anymore. Finally, it had to come out.
The problem with vomiting is that it makes me feel so good afterward that I try to get back into a fast-paced groove again. Unfortunately, this feeling is a false prophet and I soon find myself in dire straits again. I know I have to take in liquid or there will be major trouble but I know my body won't keep it in. And to add insult to injury, what I had thought would be a nice flat and even run along the beach for 13 miles or so continued to be a surprising series of small inclines. Deceptively small but without a doubt existing, these inclines made it very easy to want to walk. Around mile 20, Jon caught me and began what would be a 10k walk, jog, and vomit-fest. I implored Jon to go ahead without me as he was obviously in better shape than I was but he continued to tell me he might make it 100 yards in front of me before he too would have to stop and walk. So we told stories, laughed at how this race had thoroughly beaten us and joked about "Hey, I think that might be the last hill!" until we began to actually believe (or at least hope) our jokes were true.
To go into detail about the last 6 miles would be repetitive and unnecessary. Suffice it to say that we both had a tough time and try as we might could not get any real semblance of a pattern of running down. Runners passed us quite frequently, and we begrudged none of them for doing so, only that they were handling the weather better than we were. As some friends would later try to, in their own misguided attempts to soothe my pain would say: "See? Running slow is a tough thing!" I would remind them that there is a huge difference between planning on running a certain pace and being forced to later adapt that pace as a means of survival.
As we saw the finish ahead and began to run side by side, Jon and I clasped hands and crossed at the same time. I could tell at one point it appeared he was going to defer to me to allow me to finish in front of him but I would have none of that at all. Without Jon, I may have very well stopped in Laihana, right where I had done the Front street mile, and jumped into the Pacific calling it a day. He was as integral to me finishing as was my own training and desire. In fact, I couldn't be happier that in the official results, they have Jon finishing one second ahead of me. Thanks for your help Jon! I crossed the line in 3:52:38, for an average of 8:52 minute miles. I would like to point out the 52 in my 5k time earlier to go along with the 52s here and say I planned none of them. 52 just pops up everywhere!
It is difficult to look back at an event where you fail so miserably with a keen eye toward evaluating what was done right. Actually, I take that back. When you have to spend more time hoping for aid stations and looking for water and praying you don’t swerve into traffic from nausea related haziness, perhaps I was n the perfect state to do such an evaluation. I heard some people complain that the Gatorade on the course was not mixed properly. I did not find that to be the case. Others felt that there should have bee more options of food at the aid stations and at the finish line. While I appreciate these options when they are there, I rarely think that a marathon needs food along the course.
All I know is that the aid stations were plentiful and, most importantly, the liquid was very cold. Nothing would be more of a false oasis then getting to a much needed water stop just to get luke-warm water to try and quench your thirst. Ice too was readily available if you wanted. Moreover, when I finished and was lying on the ground, on more than one occasion, medical staff who were undoubtedly having their hands full, came over to make sure I was OK. If I could have bent my legs to get into the wheel chair, I would have taken them up on their offer of an IV bag.
While the course was open to traffic (there is only one major road on the island, for goodness sake) cones were placed all along the entire of the road we were running and in many places and an entire lane was blocked off for runners. The community was very much behind the race as was evidenced in the local papers, restaurants and just about anyone you spoke to. In a place that is used to constant tourists, it is nice to know that they can still care enough to know about high particular events are going on that are bringing these tourists in.
I have already began making my plans for a return trip next year and in discussions with the race committee we have some even grander plans involved. Stay tuned for announcements in that area and stat making your own plans to go to Maui for its 41st running of its marathon in 2011!