O.K., Great Aloha Run 2008 is now in the books. Let’s tell the tale…
To start with I never blogged the GAR (Great Aloha Run) Health and Fitness Expo that I helped out with on Saturday. GAR has one of the biggest and most extensive Expos of any race I’ve done – AND for the most part it’s on-topic. While Honolulu Marathon has a disappointing half-conference center of booths about half of which are selling local crafts or tours to the Japanese, the GAR Health and Fitness Expo is bursting at the doors with largely (though not quite exclusively) on-topic booths. Most of the major running shoe companies are there, the fitness stores are there, there are running clubs, nutritional supplements, pilates equipment, lots of shirts and socks and caps, chiropractors…basically everything you can think of relating to health and fitness.
Oddly Missing: There were almost no other races represented there. Most of the expos there are booths from other marathons and events there to recruit. At this one the only other race I saw was that a running club had some fliers for the Maui Marathon in September, but those were just off to the side of their table.
BC Endurance Training est dans la maison: Brian had his usual booth at the Expo to help recruit new folks to the training. This year we had a booth on the corner which did mean high traffic – but somehow it felt like that traffic mostly passed us by without stopping enough. I was there on Saturday with Jill, Brett, Pat, Beth, Sandy, Brian (of course), Candace, Billie, Cathy and a cast of thousands! Our job was to get people to sign up on the clipboards for a chance to win a free training with Brian. Though it seemed to go slowly Brian said that by the end of the weekend he got over 400 folks to sign up – definitely a success!
- The snack bar at the Blaisdell had a surprisingly good vegetarian penne with marinara sauce. Though Patricia gave me flack for choosing a non-meat meal it looked, and was, quite good.
- Chelsea Clinton came walking thru the expo while we were there. Yes, really. She’s taller than I thought she’d be. Almost as tall as the phalanx of cops and security guys surrounding her.
- Amy…remember what I said. And thanks for the delicious hot chocolate.
- CG: I’m going to get you a copy of "He’s Just Not That Into You." Honestly, you’re way too good a woman to be stuck in such a dubious relationship. There are a LOT of guys who would be thrilled to make you happy if you gave them a chance.
- Some guy in a black shirt kept walking back and forth past our booth for the better part of a couple of hours. I guess he could have just been fascinated with the booths on our aisle…but Joe and I suspected he was mostly fascinated with Beth. Can’t really blame him for that. 🙂
Went to bed at a reasonable hour last night and got up a few minutes before the alarm fired at 0400. I had laid out my gear the night before so it was easy to get it together and get dressed. Decided to bring my Garmin 305 watch even though I was pretty sure the GPS wouldn’t work very well under the viaduct (and nearly 3 miles of this run is under the viaduct).
Grabbed an Enviga and hit the road. Music selection for the ride to the stadium was Maroon 5 and I predict there will be a song lyrics blog entry from that fairly imminently.
Once I got to the stadium, I parked fairly easily, made my way to the shuttle buses and who should I encounter in line….Vern and Alan! We chatted on the bus on the way over to town, then Vern and I went over to the Pacific Club to wait for Brian and the rest of the team while Alan made his way down to the start.
In fits and starts over the next 40 minutes the team trickled in. Shawne, Jill, Tai, Joe, Alvis…the whole gang, probably about 35 of us in all. We circled up for stretching, then took an easy jog down to the starting area to await the gun.
Funny Introductions: Brian went around the circle introducing guests and welcoming back team members who had been away for trips or illnesses or such. When he got to Jill he introduced her as "Ben’s friend Jill is back from a hiatus." That drew a lot of chuckles from the crowd. (Jill IS my friend, but she’s also my ex-wife)
One of the persistent problems the Great Aloha Run has is that although folks are seeded by predicted finishing time and given colored bibs to indicate their seeds…there is no respect or enforcement of the seeding. That means that folks with strollers and folks who ARE strollers tend to line themselves up right behind the starting line.
Now I have no problem at all with folks walking this race. There are 20,000 participants and honestly I wish there were 100,000. But the folks who are just out for a nice stroll and a t-shirt should line themselves up towards the back….not at the front. And they are SUPPOSED TO. The race materials specifically say that the folks with pink and green bibs are supposed to line up BEHIND the yellow bibbed folks. But every year those of us who are wearing yellow bibs (indicating we are runners aiming for a fast time) find ourselves spending the first couple of miles picking our way around walkers and strollers which is very aggravating, to be honest. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to slow down, wait for an opening, then try to dart between two walkers (often wearing huge backpacks, floppy hats and flip-flops) who are pink tagged folks who lined up right behind the start line for some reason. One pair of teenaged girls were slowly walking side-by-side and sharing the earphones of an MP3 player.
It’s exacerbated by the fact that so many of them choose to walk 4 and 5 abreast making it very difficult to get around them without having to push your way through them. O.K., enough venting….
Plan Your Race and Race Your Plan
As always I had a specific race plan for today. I was going to try and run 11s for the first two miles to get warm and loose and then 9:30s the rest of the way. My previous PR (set last time I raced this) was 1:24:58 and though I would have been happy just to beat that, in my heart I thought I might have a sub-1:20 in me. 5 minutes doesn’t sound like that much…but in an 8.15 mile race that means taking more than 30-seconds per mile off.
So, the big cannon goes off and I’m pleased to have Jill (yes, that Jill) alongside me for the start. She’s always fun company. We’re off and running…well, o.k., not quite yet. The crowd is elbow to elbow and for the first 12 minutes we’re walking in a thick herd towards the start line. One thing they did this year which may have been an intentional bit of traffic management was that they had us queue up on one side of the road (about 4 lanes wide) but after we crossed the start line they opened up both sides of Nimitz Highway to the runners. The effect was that as soon as you crossed the start line it opened up quite quickly. By throttling the participants before the start line they allowed for a faster take-off after the start.
Aside from the aforementioned issues with dealing with too many walkers this worked pretty well I thought.
I did bring my MP3 player along and in keeping with my habit I let Sammy Haggar and the rest of the boys rock "Right Here, Right Now" LIVE for me during the run. Great music to run to and it really helped. Before L.A. I need to add some more tunes and reorganize a bit, though. I only have about half a dozen songs on there right now I guess and by the third time through it starts to get a little repetitious.
A glance at my Garmin about half a mile in found that in fact we were doing 10:30s – a little ahead of pace but that’s o.k. In fact in retrospect it was probably good – that faster pace helped us separate a little quicker from the walkers/strollers so that by mile 3 or so we were basically running with other runners. I’ll keep that in mind for next year.
Into the viaduct we were coming up on mile 3 and I still hadn’t seen a mile marker – luckily I know the course and my Garmin confirmed that in fact we were passing mile 3 even though there wasn’t any other indication of that.
The day was warm and humid, despite the shade of the viaduct, so I did opt to grab a quick cup of water from the first aid station. I sipped from it as I ran and dumped the rest over my shoulders and pressed on. Around this time I lost track of Jill – didn’t know if she was ahead of me or behind, though I guessed behind because I felt fairly fast at that point.
I hooked up with Pat coming out of the aid station and he and I ran together for the next couple of miles. As I suspected the Garmin struggled under the viaduct, sometimes telling me we were running 13:30s when I knew we were in the low 9s and sometimes telling me we were in the low 8s…which we might have been on occasion but probably weren’t. At least the stopwatch part was still working and that’s all I really needed. After Mile 4 the mile markers were clearly posted and I could work from those. I knew by mile 5 I was 2.5 minutes ahead of pace.
At the second aid station I grabbed another cup of water – I knew we’d be emerging from the viaduct momentarily and that it might get hot. Since I was ahead of pace I knew I could spare the few seconds to grab the cup and the slight slow-down to sip as I ran. (I ran right past the third and final aid station a couple miles later since I knew I was only 10 minutes or so from the finish at that point)
Miles 6 and 7 are a little hilly and I was sort of frustrated climbing them. It’s not a tough hill, but I could almost taste the glory of a new PR and having to dial back on the hills was agonizing. I wanted to GO…not pace. But pace I did. "Right effort!" I repeated to myself in my head as I cruised up the hills with shortened strides but even energy. I could sense the seconds ticking away but consoled myself with the knowledge that I was ahead and feeling strong.
Cresting the hill in mile 7 I could see the stadium and knew I had about 3/4 of a mile to go. With no more uphills in my way I started to press. Into the stadium parking lot and around the stadium – a little faster with each passing tenth.
At one point I came up behind a female soldier who was struggling and had stopped to walk. "Just 200 more meters" I said to her with a reassuring hand to her shoulder "let’s go get it." She smiled at me, obviously tired, and started to run again. Slowly and a little painfully, but running.
I left her behind and continued to press. Got to my marker (it’s an overhang where the parking attendants stand) which is my cue to kick. So I did, turning into the tunnel and down into the stadium I was running as fast as I could, and passing people with ease. Out onto the field and hit the finish line…
How did I do? See for yourself.
So much for that old PR. 🙂 I uploaded the data from my Garmin to my computer. The race went almost EXACTLY according to plan and my last mile I ran an 8:02. In fact with the exception of dealing with the hills in the last mile or two I got faster almost every mile. Exactly according to plan.
Most importantly I felt great during the race. Strong the whole way. I could easily have done a few more miles at that pace. Really gave me some encouragement for L.A. Marathon (now just 13 days away).
Wrap-Up and Acknowledgements
So I’m very pleased with how the race went. Somehow it doesn’t feel entirely complete, but overall I’m very satisfied and moving forward.
- Thanks to BC as always. I’ve said it many times – the fact that he can get this old linebacker to run and do endurance races is a miracle and a tribute to his coaching abilities.
- Thanks to Jill, the world’s best ex-wife, for offering me her Garmin when mine said (at mile 2) that it had low batteries and threatened to die before the end of the race. You rock!
- Patricia did her best Miss Cleo impression this morning – she predicted within a minute my finishing time before the race even started! Still waiting for tomorrow’s Lotto numbers, P.
- A hearty "You go girl!" to Beth, Cindy and Tai, all of whom beat their goals today. Especially to Beth who took second in her age division!
- Add an "Attaboy" to Pat who beat his goal today too.
- Mahalo to Sarah, who unfortunately was sick and couldn’t run today, for providing logistical assistance and being a great support. It’s always heartwarming to see you, dear, and I hope you’re feeling better soon!
- Nice to see you, Cappi, hope you had a great race out there!
- Big mahalo to Mark who wasn’t running today but who was alongside the course ringing a cowbell around mile 5.5. Thanks for your endless support! Where was Kendra?
- I wish Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru order takers would get off the script for a minute. It’s frustrating to try and place your order only to have them keep interrupting you. And then they get your order wrong because they didn’t hear you say "No sauce" (twice) because they were too busy asking what kind of fries.
- It was wonderful to see my old running buddy Ellen Humphrey still out there doing it. AND…still winning her age division at the age of 81. She’s a real inspiration. Don’t be fooled into thinking that she’s hobbling along on a walker – she’s 81 and she’s a RUNNER. She ran a 1:39 today; won her age division by over 20 minutes!
- Nice to meet Lazar’s husband and kids at the finish area.
- Thanks to all of the friends who sent pre- and post-race text messages and e-mails of encouragement and congratulations. As always, you guys rock! I just hope I made you proud.
- Post-Race Music: Sting.
O.K., so that’s enough of that. On to L.A…. 🙂