Honolulu Marathon: Race Report (sorta long)

O.K., here’s the more extensive report on yesterday’s marathon.

0145 Alarm clock went off.  I’m a little paranoid about oversleeping and missing a big event so I actually had 4 alarms set on 3 different clocks to go off within about a 15 minute period.  The first alarm woke me and I rolled out of bed.

Grabbing my phone I noticed that I’d received half a dozen text messages during the night from friends as far away as Ohio wishing me a good race.  I’d get half a dozen more before start time.  Thanks guys, you rock!

Setting my stuff out ahead of time paid off as I was easily able to get dressed and gather my stuff.  At the last minute I decide to wear both knee sleeves.  I was going to wear my right one and put the left one in my special needs bag for mile 17 but I figured that I wouldn’t regret having it but I might regret NOT having it so I decide to wear it.  I’m glad I did.  I grabbed a pre-made bottle of Spiz out of the fridge and headed for the door.

0215 I’m on the road.  Put the iPod in its holder and picked a song to start the morning with.  The Verve, Bittersweet Symphony seemed like just the ticket and I rolled out into the cool pre-dawn Hawaiian morning. (he waxed, poetically).  Traffic was easy and there was only the slightest bit of rain. 

0220 The Verve had set a nice focused mood it was time to switch to my running music and there are only four guys I trust with that task: Sammy, Eddie, Michael and Alex.  (Van Halen).  "Why Can’t This Be Love" (dunno what’s up with the neck brace in that video) the live cut from the Right Here, Right Now album.  By the time I arrived at the park, 4 or 5 songs later, I was pretty pumped.

0300 Found a decent parking space near Kapi’olani Park (no small feat on Marathon morning) and met up with Brian, Jason, George and Beth.  Fortunate timing (for whom I’m not sure) as Brian still needed some help unloading supplies for the tent — so for the next 15 minutes or so we hauled ice and soda from the trucks to the tent.  That actually proved to be a good thing because now I knew exactly where the tent was…no more wandering around the finish festival like a lost tribe looking for it after the Marathon. 🙂

0330 Unloading done we’ve met up with a couple dozen other members of the group to organize rides to McKinley High where we’ll meet to stretch and gather with the rest of the group.  I hop in the back of Bill’s truck with Sarah, Kelly, Michelle and a couple of others.  Kelly is nervous about the race but I’m sure she’s going to do just fine.

0415 Time to stretch, we’re probably about 70 strong and…the rain starts.  The first brief rain shower gives us a taste of what’s to come.  Focused on the race our stretching session is over before I realize it and we’re gathering up in our sub-groups.  Owen has brought his co-worker Naomi who is going to run with us today.  It’s her first marathon and we welcome her warmly.

0440 A few folks seek out some bushes (no handy bathrooms there) and then we head out for the walk to the start line (maybe 3/4 of a mile away). 

Last year we used the bathroom at Borders right next to the start line and it was open and mostly empty.  This year that secret is out…there was a long line for both men’s and women’s rooms.  Christine and I play a hunch and find great bathrooms that ARE open, clean, well-lit and not a soul in sight.  No, I will not tell you where they are because I’m hoping they’re that way next year too! 🙂  Shhhhh.

We come out of the bathrooms to find that we’re in the midst of a serious downpour.  Lots of runners have abandoned the start area in favor of taking shelter in nearby store doorways and we join them, chatting briefly with a couple of fellow runners before deciding that the rain had subsided enough to venture out and try to find the rest of our group.  We find them seeking cover in front of PF Changs and lead the whole bunch over to the start line.  It’s 5 minutes from the race start.

We have to hop the barricades to get onto the course this year; in the past we always found a gap we could get thru, but we do so and wait, pressed shoulder to shoulder with 29,000 other runners in the predawn darkness.

0500 Seemingly without warning the gun goes off and the crowd starts to surge forward.  We’re wearing those new RFID chips this year and I’m a little curious to see how they’re going to work (compared to the old ChampionChip system we’re used to).  One notable difference is that instead of the wide flat mats to run across these have "speed bumps" that we have to cross.  I don’t know if anybody tripped over them but it certainly seemed possible.

Our group is hanging together loosely and our spirits are high as the fireworks soar overhead and we move easily out onto the course.  One thing BC has emphasized to us repeatedly from the very beginning of the training is pacing and I have to say that we did a great job of it this year.  We aimed to keep it nice and easy over the first 5 miles and that’s exactly what we did; running comfortably, holding ourselves back, enjoying the spectacle and slowly building up speed.

At mile 2 the rain came.  And boy did it come – a torrential downpour that reminded us of the Val Nolasco Half Marathon but fortunately only lasted for a few minutes.  The damage was done, though, the already wet streets were now wetter and we were soaked – most significantly our shoes were soaked.

We wind our way through downtown, enjoying the lights and the crowd, back out past the park ("Hi Darren’s Parents!") and into Waikiki.  A bunch of our group has decided to stop at the Police Station bathroom.  I have to confess I have reservations about that idea — every year it seems like a huge time sink – in past years our group has lost as much as 10 minutes or more between the line and the actual usage.  Maybe that’s not a lot worse than waiting for the porta-potties, but I can’t help but think we should figure out a better strategy next year.  Christine, Naomi and I press on while the rest stop for the bathroom.

Out of Waikiki we pass Kapi’olani Park, catching a glimpse of the finish line as we pass  That will be a welcome sight in a while.  Down Monsarrat and Paki then up and over Diamond Head.  The volunteers are offering high fives and encouragements to all the runners as we pass and the sun is just starting to climb out of the sea on the horizon – a beautiful sight!  (So is the 8 mile marker which we pass along the way)  I’m a little surprised that we haven’t seen the elite runners coming back yet, we usually spot them during our climb up Diamond Head.  A glace at my watch tells half the story – we’re a little faster this year than in years past.

The rain was the other half of the story – Ambesse Tolossa from Ethiopia won again but was four minutes slower than last year.  We finally spotted Tolossa and frequent winner Jimmy Muindi (who finished second this year) as we turned past Triangle Park and headed into Kahala. 

Out through Kahala, past the Aloha Gas Station and onto Kalanianiole Highway it was finally daylight, but the sun was still hidden behind the clouds.  We saw friends on and along the course periodically and kept cruising along.  Finally Naomi dropped off, deciding to walk for a bit and Christine and I carried on. Around mile 14 my energy started to fade, perhaps due to the humidity, and my calves tightened up.  Christine’s back was hurting her but we pressed on.

Into Hawaii Kai it became obvious that we were going to have to take it a little easy and we started to walk a little.  I was looking forward to the Aleve in my special needs bag (just past mile 17) and hoping that some clean dry socks would buoy me.  We passed Brian at his usual picture taking spot, and rounded the corner back onto Kalanianiole Highway…sure enough there was Mo.  "Swordfish!" we called out with enthusiasm.  On went clean socks, grabbed the bag of pretzels, took two Alleve and right about then got another nice surprise – some of the rest of our group caught up with us!  Johanna, Sarah, Kathy, Karen and Alvis’ group arrived.

New socks in place and Aleve hopefully dissolving quickly into my system we set out again for the final 9 miles.  Still didn’t have great energy and Christine was still battling some back pain so we would run for a mile or so, then walk for a few minutes, then run for another mile, then walk a few minutes. 

On Kahala Ave we found Alan who was having a tough go of it himself – dealing with his perennial knee issues.  He gladly joined up with us and accompanied us up the hill.  We set out a strategy that we would walk up the back side of Diamond Head, then start running for the downslope.  At the base we’d walk briefly to gather ourselves then run from the fountain the last kilometer or so to the finish.

We walked briskly up the hill, chatting a bit with a couple of fellow marathoners, then cresting the top set off on a good pace.  The downhill helped and stretching out our stride we were making a very good pace down the hill.  At the bottom, according to plan, we walked for a few minutes to gather ourselves, then rounded the corner by the fountain.  Still 20 or 30 yards short of the fountain I suddenly heard Christine say behind me "I think I can go now!  Let’s go now!"  True to her nickname Oxbunny is strong like ox! (and cute like bunny!)  So we set off, running easily down Kalakaua towards the finish line which was now in sight!

We picked up speed along the way and finished strong, Christine just a couple of feet ahead of Alan and I who high-fived each other as we entered the chutes.  A great feeling!  Despite the struggles it was still Alan’s PR and the fastest time I had turned in at Honolulu (though I was much faster at San Diego in June).  We enjoyed the cool misters, then turned into the finish area in search of t-shirts, food and our test. 

The rain had made the finish area a muddy mess and we often had to detour around huge mud puddles.  As usual the Marathon folks put the t-shirt tent about as far from the finish line as they can.  That is really one of my biggest complaints about the otherwise well-run Honolulu Marathon.  I’ve just run 26.2 miles, why am I having to walk another half mile or so past assorted club tents and Nike merchandise booths to get my finisher’s t-shirt?!

T-shirt finally secured I make my way to our club tent and arrive to find a lot of our group already there, relaxing and chatting about the race.  I get some food, put my name on the waiting list for a post-race massage and spend the next little while sharing marathon stories with the others.

Aftermath

I feel good.  Only slightly sore, I’m even trotting up and down the stairs without much difficulty.  Doesn’t look like I’ll lose any toenails (marathon runners, you know.  Others, forget I said anything).  Tonight the group will gather for our group photo and to share Marathon stories after which a bunch of us will head off someplace to find good pizza and party a little. 🙂

Random Thoughts

  • The special needs stop in Hawaii Kai proved its value again.  The clean dry socks were a godsend on this wet humid day, and I’m sure the Aleve helped too.  The pretzels were also surprisingly delicious at that point.
  • I had a surprising amount of minor foot pain on this run considering I was running in nearly new shoes.  Maybe I didn’t have enough miles on them first – I only ran in them about 3 times before Marathon.  Of course they are the exact same brand/model I always run in so my feet shouldn’t have required too much getting used to them.
  • My hamstrings are usually my problem on marathons and I didn’t have as much problem with them this race.  Maybe the extra stretching I’ve been doing helped.  My calves were the main problem this time.  I was feeling some pain in my right knee in the first 50 yards which caused me considerable consternation but by the end of the first mile it felt o.k. and I never had any significant knee issues for the rest of the race.
  • Christine was great company and I was grateful for her presence.  She was good at making chit-chat when my mind was elsewhere (and not always in good places) which made the time pass more quickly.  It’s funny because I’m usually the chatty one out there.
  • I’ll take a few days off from running but I’m planning to be at the gym tomorrow.  The next month or so I’ll probably be doubling my gym workouts to try and increase my lean muscle mass.

Next Race

Great Aloha Run is the next thing on the calendar but I’m sure I’ll have a 5K and or a 10K or two before that.  Next big race is the L.A. Marathon on March 2nd.

-B-

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