Friday, January 27, 2012

Race Recap: Maui Oceanfront (Impromptu) Marathon

Let's cut to the chase here: I haven't been feeling like blogging much lately.

I don't know what it is -- lack of motivation to write, not much to write about, not feeling like my training or my racing is going anywhere grand at the moment, all of the above... and, to be brutally honest, after returning from 5 nights & 6 days in sleepy-ass, lazy town (aka Lahaina, Maui), I'm feeling unmotivated & don't even want to write about A MARATHON I RAN THERE.

But, for you loyal little loves out there, I will.

Sooooooo, a really really really really really long time ago, Courtney & I stumbled onto a great non-stop flight special to Maui. I haven't been on a "real" vacation in quite some time, I have never been to Hawai'i, and I have never traveled with a close friend. This vacation was already shaping out to be a great one, but of course when you have two runners traveling together, one thought entered our minds:

If we were going on vacation, duh, we wanted to come home with some bling.

The Maui Oceanfront Marathon, Half Marathon, 15k, and 5k fell within our flight's dates, which may or may not have been planned. After buying our flights and booking our hotel, Courtney and I found ourselves registering for the half marathon.

Banner outside our hotel

Once we got to Maui, though, a maniacal thought entered my head: We should just run the full marathon. Sure, we hadn't trained. Sure, we didn't bring the necessary stuff runners need to run a marathon. Sure, it was hot and humid and non-ideal conditions for a distance race.

Just as quickly as the thought entered my head, it disappeared. I want to race the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon again, the race that holds my current half PR, in two weeks. Running a marathon I hadn't prepared for could ruin any true shot I have for that.

Then, I waffled some more. And then some more. After a 28-mile bike ride down Haleakala, I realized I had seen a good chunk of Maui in a very unusually fashion and I liked it. The ever-thoughtful Courtney gave me a list of pros and cons for running either race as we were being shuttled back to our hotel from the bike tour. I made up my mind: I agreed to the run the full. At the expo, we paid a few bucks to upgrade and our decision became real. In just a few hours, I'd be running my sixth marathon & Courtney would be running her fourth.

The bustling expo where they accepted full-bodied red wine in exchange for an upgraded race.

The Maui Oceanfront Half is a 6.5-mile out & back that started and ended at our hotel. While this would have been an ideal option for sleeping in, walking to the start, going for a quick run, collecting our bling, and leaving, it suddenly wasn't seeming as impressive. Sure, most people don't run half marathons on vacations... but who in their right mind would run a full marathon on their vacation?

I had to do it.

Waking up at 3:30am, catching a bus for the 45-minute drive from Lahaina to Wailea, and running all the way back to our hotel seemed to fit the bill of seeing the island in another unusual way.

And I am so, so, so glad we did it.

Once our bus dropped us off in Wailea on Sunday morning, we were greeted by a traditional Hawaiian ceremony. Conch shells were played, chants were spoken, and we all held on to one another in a morning prayer-type ritual.

Pre-race marathon chants

The only way Courtney and I were going to survive this race was to take our sweet time. We had no desire to run fast, but we both agreed to get as many miles as we could under our belt before the sun rose. After the sun was up, we knew it would be a death march.

During this race, the mile markers count DOWN, which is AWESOME!! (Imagine how mentally draining it is to see the number 20 when you're hitting the wall. Then imagine how different it is to see the number 6. It's an entirely different mental game -- one I really enjoyed, especially in these conditions.)

At the 10k mark, still before sunrise.

Around mile 11, the sun peaked over the Maui Mountains. While our battle against the sun was about to begin, this was a perfect way to witness a Maui sunrise.

Maui mountain sunrise

After running on N. Kihei Rd and fighting some of the harshest winds I've been in, we hit an endless panoramic view of the ocean and began climbing a number of steady hills. There was very little shade, and these miles became hard. One redeeming factor: GETTING TO SEE HUMPBACK WHALES JUMPING IN THE OCEAN!!! Who gets to do that during a race?!?

Honoapi'ilani Highway -- endless beauty

I wanted to make it to mile 16 before stopping to walk, which we pretty much did. This section of the race reminded me a bit of Big Sur and I felt really happy despite the heat. We took our time through the water stops, reapplied sunscreen, stopped to stretch our legs and snap some photos, and enjoyed all of our surroundings.

Honoapi'ilani Highway

The final portion of the race was run with tiny beach towns and the ocean on one side of us, and the mountains on the other.

Papalaua Wayside State Park. Perfection.

Taking a dance break at Mile 20. Why the hell not. We still had hours to go before the race cut-off time. ;)

Usually seeing Mile 1 is kind of a bummer... but not when it's saying you only have 1 mile left!

(Courtney was asleep at this point.)


Post-race fresh fruit hand-fanned by locals. Mmm mmm.

Settling in for a great post-race massage under the downtown Banyan tree.

Finished with #6 and ready to begin the rest of vacation!
Even though this race is coming in at a close second for my personal worst marathon in terms of finishing time, it's truly vying for a spot as one of my favorites. We never would have experienced any of the beautiful sites, smells, and scenes had we run the half. And getting to do this while on vacation with a great friend is truly unforgettable for me.

Most people ask "How did you do?" when you finish a marathon; and for the first time in a long time, the numbers on the clock had truly no meaning to either of us -- the only time that mattered was that we were having a good one.

And I'm 100% sure we accomplished that.

Aloha & mahalo, Maui Oceanfront Marathon!

The bling we traveled so far for!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Race Recap: Crystal Spring 11-Miler TRAIL RACE!!

Yesssss, folks: You read that correctly. I did a trail race!

Late last week, Aron asked me if I was interested in running a 22-mile trail race over the weekend. I laughed and turned her down. Then, Courtney asked me if I was interested in running that same trail race, but the 11-miler. I said I'd get back to her, but that I was leaning toward no. Then Naomi asked me to join, as she had signed up for the 5-miler. I said I'd think about it. And then I found out seasoned trailrunner Kabri was going to be running the 11-miler as well and it finally sunk in that this was an opportunity I shouldn't pass up. I do love running with friends!

After juggling around a few weekend plans, I bit the bullet and registered for my first legit trail race... with no terrain preparation and hardly any recent long runs under my belt.

The mountain we were ill-prepared to climb.

On Friday afternoon I met up with RoadBunner and Karin for a 13-mile run, my longest run since CIM. First smart move of the weekend.

On Saturday morning, I met up with Courtney, Naomi, Kabri, and Aron for the hardest 10.6-miler of my life, my second longest run since CIM. Second smart move.

Aron getting ready to take off on her 22-miler.

Me & Naomi, freezing our butts off while waiting for her start.

(Basically pro) trail runner Kabri, Naomi, & me.

As I've been waiting for Courtney to send me pictures from the weekend (my phone has been having issues & I got almost nothing from the weekend), she posted her race report and wrote essentially everything I wanted to write about this race, but much, much funnier than I would ever be able to do.

So, I am going to be uber lazy & say: Read Courtney's race report here.

For my not-so-entertaining take, read on.

Courtney and I agreed to run this race together, and we met up with a bunch of other maniacs preparing to run up a mountain. The atmosphere was so different compared to every race I've ever done. There was no starting gun, no one shoving and pushing their way to the front, and no one being rude.

Instead, everyone calmly jogged away when prompted, and the entire crowd joked and laughed at how we were all basically in last place from the very start. And they were okay with that. I liked it.

Not your standard starting line.

The first mile was nearly entirely downhill but bottle-necked, the second mile was gradually uphill, and by mile 3 I was ready to throw in the towel. The switchback climbing was ENDLESS. Courtney and I started walking to conserve energy the moment we felt tired, and even walking was hardly counting as recovery. The hill was so steep and unforgiving, and this was a serious power-hike.

Once Courtney reminded me that we were basically climbing five 40-story buildings in the span of 3 miles, I kind of wanted to lose it. Of course I couldn't let her know that. I tried to stay motivated by thinking about the checkpoint at mile 6 where we could take a break, and then it'd pretty much be a downhill fly from that point. (Yeah, right.)

Photo of the never-ending switchbacks courtesy of Dorna, whom we randomly met at the aid station!

Best aid station ever! Coke, potato chips, M&Ms, Oreos, PB&Js... I could get used to this! By mile 6 we felt famished and took serious advantage of the smorgasbord in front of us. And we also clocked a 19-mile mile thanks to that feast.

Still climbing among the Redwoods.


Slowest 10.22 miler ever! I guess the course was rolotaped-certified to be 10.6 miles and my Garmin doesn't account for some of the distance gained during elevation, so this would put our pace at 12:37.
Slowest race ever.

Kabri (4th AG!), Court, & me after that grueling event.
Overall, trail running is still not quite my cup of tea, but this race was eye-opening. I realized very quickly where I am physically weak. My arches throbbed on the uphill, my left Achilles ached on the downhill, my ankles and knees felt wobbly the entire time, and my quads turned to jelly 3/4th of the way through. None of these pains I would normally feel on the road, and I hope to do more trail running in the future to naturally strengthen these areas.

I truly loved the scenery during this race. Running on the road doesn't usually give runners such humbling and awe-inspiring views, and that was a definite treat. I enjoyed being out in the woods, muddying up my shoes, slowing down my pace, and being out of the City and in nature.

But most of all, I loved the laid-back feel of this race and how encouraging and supportive the racers and the support crew were. I mean, any race director who calls a 10.6-mile race an 11-miler is automatically cool in my book! I can see myself signing up for more trail races in the future simply because it was nice to get away from the pace-driven competition I so frequently see in the road-running world.

And I have a newfound respect for all you trail runners. You're a bunch of GD bad asses.


Official time: 10.6 miles/2:13:29/12:37 avg pace

Garmin time: 10.22 miles/2:13:29/13:03 avg pace
1: 12:19
2: 12:15
3: 12:02
4: 16:18
5: 14:38
6: 18:46
7: 12:28
8: 10:31
9: 12:56
10: 9:28
.22/.6: 8:19 avg pace

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Race Recap: NYE Dash (Almost) 5k

Yesterday morning I met up with some friends to run the NYE Dash, a 5k supporting Project Open Hand. The race was limited to 200 people and was pretty... well, small.

Wave 1, runners who anticipated 8-minute miles or faster, lined up on the street (which was not closed to traffic, by the way). At the sound of someone screaming "Go!", we took off.

The first mile was downhill on JFK, so I started off in a hard sprint, thinking I could bank some time and go for a new 5k based on that mile alone. At one point I was in front of speed demon Katie and even said something like "I'm in the front!" while pumping my fists and turning around to look for her. She jokingly told me to shut up -- that I was running a 5k & shouldn't be able to talk.

Before I knew it, the frontrunners were turning around to run back up JFK via a very wet and uphill field. This mile seemed awkward -- I didn't remember reading that we'd be running through a field, but I guess that's what I get for not studying a course map. The grass was super slippery and I felt like my legs weren't even moving. At one point I looked down and saw 8:40 as my lap pace, and knew that this wasn't good if I wanted a PR.

We finished up the race with a lap around Stow Lake. I glanced at my watch on the downhill of Stow Lake Blvd. to recheck my pace and noticed my watch said I was at 2.75 miles. "Only a little more than a quarter mile to go" I noted to myself and tried to pick it up again. I turned the last corner and saw the finish line right in front of me... much too early.

Proof you can heel-strike in Newtons!

I stopped my Garmin at 2.87 miles and quickly chalked this up to being a short course because it was a low budget/charity race. Turns out that the frontrunner had taken the turnaround too soon and missed a small out-and-back that would have given us the full mileage.

I hold no hard feelings -- 5ks suck and there were libations for runners afterward. The sooner I got back, the sooner I could start drinking.

Courtney, Renee, Katie, Kabri, Cate, Alisyn & me post-almost-5k and pre-mimosas & beers.

2.87-Mile Splits:
Mile 1: 6:42!!
Mile 2: 7:50
Mile .87: 6:03 (6:55 pace!)

4th female...

Soooo, I get an automatic 2.87-mile distance PR and a 4th place finish for this short race. I am sure this would have been a 5k PR had we done the full distance (I am guessing I would have finished somewhere around 21:30ish), but what are you going to do? It'll just give me something to shoot for this coming year. :)

Happy New Year!

Katie (2nd female!) & me