Monday, February 10, 2014

The Maui Report Part III - The Run

Part Three – The Run

Or

How to Run a Sub-4 hour Marathon? (Clue: don't stop and take pictures at every water point)

Or

Whale Watching and Marathoning?  At the Same Time?  Sure!

Or

Trust Me About the Sunscreen

Or

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a



A year ago, Char told me that she was ready and wanted to train up to run her first full marathon.  I was excited and really wanted it to be a special one for her, so I told her to pick out the run she really wanted and we’d make a vacation out of it. 

The Maui Oceanfront Marathon (MOM) was her response.

Maui?  Sure, why not.

We started training a few months out.  Since Char had been running half marathons almost non stop for the past two years, her mileage increase was pretty simple.  With the increasingly unpredictable and demanding nature of my work hours, I had a lot of trouble following suit.  Every week, Char was running two or three times the miles I was able to put in.

Not a good sign.

But we both hit a decent 20-mile training run about two weeks ahead of the marathon and decided we were ready.

We spent the first week in Maui relaxing, training, sight-seeing, and basically having a good time.  Having the pending marathon constantly weighing on our minds kept us from misbehaving too badly.  We kept the alcohol to a minimum, stayed hydrated, used plenty of sunscreen, and slept plenty.  It helped us to enjoy our time on the island even more, as we were healthy enough to really experience everything available to us.

5 days before the marathon we rode out bikes down to the town of Kihei along the marathon route to a small café about three miles into the run route.  It was 25 miles down and back and allowed us to experience all the nuances usually missed in a route recon.

As Ernest Hemingway once said, "It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them."
A mostly flat course at sea level, but with over 800 ft of total climbing.

We parked our car in Lahaina, near the finish line, at 3:30 am, the morning of the race and waited for the bus to Wailea.  When the yellow school bus arrived, we realized there wasn’t enough room for everyone on it.  Though there was a second bus coming, I grabbed Char and squeezed onto the first bus to make sure we didn’t cut it too close to the gun time.

In the parking lot for the Shops of Wailea, we found the line for the latrines and realized how lucky we were.  Even though we had to wait almost 15 minutes just to pee, the folks on the second bus didn’t have enough time to do even that and had to jog to the start line just to not miss the gun.

Classic marathon experience, waiting in line for the porta potties.
The first 5 miles was in almost total blackness.  There were intermittent street lights, but mostly it was just the moon reflecting off the black water crashing along the shore.  When they said the run would parallel the coast for the entire 26.2 miles, they weren’t exaggerating.

I kept what felt like an easy pace behind a small group at first, trying to conserve energy.  I didn’t realize later that I was running about a minute per mile faster than what I wanted to start with.  We were breezing along in the dark at about 8:30-8:45 per mile.

At mile 3 something happened that still scares me.  I was following along behind a small group so I could watch their foot steps and not accidentally find an ankle snapping pothole or bump in the road.  I saw a dark line in the smooth asphalt but couldn’t tell the left side of the dark line was lower than the right.  My left foot hit the line, rolled sharply to the left and there was a SNAP POP sound.  I thought immediately to myself that I’d broken or sprained my ankle and that this run was over for me.

Right away I tried to self assess just how bad it was going to be.  I kept running, and didn’t feel any increase in pain or discomfort in the ankle at all.  There was a little tightness about a mile later, and I thought it felt a little swollen, but nothing that would scare me into stopping yet.  So, I decided to keep running until something happened that made me reconsider.

After the first 6 miles, the sun started to rise, and I began looking for an empty latrine.  I usually have to pee after the first 5 miles, but it wasn’t until the first real climb up the rocky coast of West Maui at mile 12 that I finally found one that didn’t already have someone waiting impatiently outside.

The sun rising over Haleakala Volcano from mile 12.  10,000 feet above sea level, it's intimidating even on the other side of the island.
At mile 13, I checked my watch to see that I was exactly 2 hours into the race.  The hope that I could break 4 hours on this marathon was still there.

Had to take the selfie to prove I was actually running and not just driving along taking pictures.
I still felt strong climbing along the coast, and the whale sign was picking up in frequency, so there was plenty of motivation to keep going.  It wasn’t until after the tunnel that I started to notice the signs of fatigue in my legs.  At mile 18 things turned further south for me, and by mile 20 I was regretting a lot of decisions in my life, foremost, that I was running a marathon.  The sun was blazing by now, and any break from it provided by the rows of monkey pod trees lining the highway was a welcome respite.  By mile 22 I was cursing Char’s decision to drag me out here and the whales were no longer entertaining.  With only 2 miles to go, I was walking more than I was running.

The 1 mile to go sign also signals the turn off the highway, with is rushing traffic and noisy engines, into the quiet seaside neighborhood of Old Lahaina.  I promised myself that I would run this final mile completely with no walk breaks.  The 4 hour mark had long since passed me by and I was just trying to finish with some small amount of dignity attached to my bib.

There aren’t too many feelings quite like crossing the finish line at a marathon.  You might barely notice the announcer shouting your name, or the photographer trying to capture your moment of agonized glory for posterity.  But, you never forget the screaming of the crowd of volunteers and runners, or the finisher’s medal being hung around your neck. 

I could barely walk when I found some passersby to take a photo of me behind the finish line.  Somehow, I had no trouble smiling for the camera, though.


I cooled down and stretched as best as I could.  I could only sip a little water and take a handful of snacks before I felt like throwing up.  But I could barely handle waiting for Char to finish. 

She had told me that she expected to run the whole thing in about 5:30.  So, just before the 5 hour mark, I hobbled down to our car and grabbed our post race bags with water, snacks and shirts to change into.  Nothing helps you recover after a long distance endurance event like having a clean shirt to change into.  When I got back to the finish line, I texted Charla to ask her to let me know when she was a mile out.

Proof that Char was nearing the finish line.
Sure enough, at 5:26 Char was crossing the finish line with a fist pump and quick shout to the announcer to correct his pronunciation of her name.  Of course, after running 26.2 miles through tropical heat and humidity, she'd still have enough energy to correct someone's English.

Announcer called her Charles, and it didn't end well for him.
Charla's first ever marathon, done!
 I had told Char that she’d probably cry after her first marathon.  Turns out, I had it backwards.  I was the one in tears when she finished and hobbled into my waiting arms.

Akiro: Why do you cry?
Subotai: (S)He is Conan Charla.  (S)He will not cry, so I cry for him her.
I may be a softie, but I saw humpback whales crashing into the ocean while I was running a marathon in a beautiful tropical paradise.  What did you do for MLK day?

MOM done, it was time to celebrate so we headed back to the local burger joint to replace the more than 7,000 calories we lost together that morning.

Longboard lager and the marathon banner in the background.  The finisher medals had an octopus on them, very unique.
But the grand finale was the sunset dinner cruise sponsored by the Pride of Maui.  We spent the evening watching whales breaching, spouting, and lob tailing so close to the boat that one tried to climb in.  He must have smelled what was cooking in the kitchen.

Sunset dinner cruise with whale watching, open bar, live music, and, you guessed it, dinner and a sunset.