Sunday, January 23, 2011

Maui Oceanfront Marathon Race Report

This race was amazing! The marathon was a point to point course from the town of Wailea to the town of Lahaina. I've never done a point to point course before and I really liked it. I felt like I was "getting somewhere" the entire time:) Because it is point to point, however, one must take a bus to the start. Since the race started at 5:45 am (to avoid the heat), this meant we were up at 3am to get me to the bus stop at 4am. Totally worth it though!

There were only a few hundred folks doing the race, which was nice. In general, the race had a very personal feel about it. For example, packet (and by 'packet' I mean shirt and number- no extraneous stuff here, which was fine w/ me!) pick-up was at the race organizer's condo. There was no chip timing. There weren't a ton of spectators but there certainly were enough and they were so enthusiastic! Being cheered on by the few spectators felt very personal. #1 because we all had our first names printed on our bibs and everyone used them and #2 because when someone cheered for you they were literally...well..cheering for just you! While the roaring 3 deep crowds that line Chicago's city streets are impressive, there's something really touching about a lone person, standing on the side of the road, clapping just for you. I thanked each and every one of them. The chap who stood out most in my mind was an older (70ish) native Hawaiian gentleman who was with his dog. He didn't seem like he was a runner himself and he was wearing traditional Hawaiian clothing. He just stood there clapping and smiling.

The water stations, which were plentiful and had plenty of cold water, sports drink and fun snacks like oranges, pretzels, twizzlers as well as Cliff shot-blocks, also served as cheering stations. Those folks were pumped. So enthusiastic! I really looked forward to each and every aid station because they made me smile.

Something they did that I really enjoyed was counting the miles down backwards. So, after 1.2 miles, the sign said 25 miles, meaning 25 miles to go. One might think that would be daunting to stare at 23 miles left, 18 miles left, etc, but the first few miles just FLEW by so and by the time I even thought, "geez, marathons are a long way" I was already past 20 miles to go and I've done many, many 20 mile training runs so that didn't seem so far. I also reminded myself that one of those 20 milers was on a treadmill and that there was no way this run would be as mind-numbing as that!

My only complaint would be that I didn't really like the graphics on the shirt. But it's a nice white dri-fit and they had women's sizes, which is good. That's really my only complaint- and that's minor- otherwise this race was executed perfectly!

One last thing- because the ocean-side road is a major thoroughfare it was not closed down. So, the course was on a shoulder of a road. This did not bother me at all. The shoulder was plenty wide, there were not that many runners or cars, and that is the only way to have the course be ocean-side.

So, on to my experience of the race, my 8th marathon and my 4th state. Sorry if this is verbose. I had a great race and have lots of reflections on why it went so well. Pre-race I met up with another DailyMiler, Alisyn, and her friend, Lisa. That was really fun and made the time pass quickly. It was her first marathon and I really hope she enjoyed it!

Miles 1-10 just flew by. I picked a nice, comfortable pace, enjoyed the darkness, enjoyed the ocean noises, enjoyed the nice cool temperature. I did NOT look at my Garmin. NOT ONCE. As you may recall from my Race Goals post, my goal was to enjoy this race. To have fun. To NOT worry about time. So I worked on that by not looking at the Garmin. I just now uploaded my stats though so NOW I can look at them. Yippee!
Mile 1: 9:00:43
Mile 2: 9:02:85
Mile 3: 9:21:43
Mile 4: 9:29:44
Mile 5: 9:19:11
Mile 6: 9:35:85
Mile 7: 9:20:55
Mile 8: 9:28:83
Mile 9: 9:30:32
Mile 10: 9:18:57

Now I see why they flew by! I was a speed demon! (For me, in a marathon, this is fast.) I felt so, so, comfortable. Not short of breath, legs felt fresh, really felt marvelous. I think I did a few things well in training and during the race that helped aid my performance. One, I wore a Nathan hydration pack. This saved me from slowing at water stations for the first 20 miles. Therefore, I saved on time and I didn't lose momentum. I ate my goos early and often. I went through 2 full packs plus an extra shot-block plus a sliver of orange. Lastly, I tapered well, so felt really fresh.

Those miles were really glorious. Running in the dark was a really fun experience. There was enough ambient light that I didn't need a flashlight (I had my iphone w/ flashlight app in my bag just in case), but the darkness really allowed me to focus on other senses, on the smells and sounds of running along the ocean before sunrise. So, so wonderful. I had a feeling this was going to be a good race in those first few miles. There were a few early hills, but in general, this part of the course was relatively flat.

Mile 11 sucked! All of the sudden, I went from a transcendent running experience, to "oh my god why is this so hard?" during Mile 11. It took me a few minutes to realize what happened. Initially, I was really sad thinking my mojo was gone. But then I realized, we had turned into the wind and boy was it fierce! According to the gusts were up to 20 mph. Yeah, that's what it felt like. So mile 11 was a slow going, super windy, mildly uphill battle. But since I was just trying to have fun, I simply slowed down and looked forward to turning the corner to get the wind out of my face!!
Mile 11: 10:28:61

Mile 12 was a welcome respite after mile 11. Downhill, wind at my back, so I took a quick picture then booked it, taking full advantage of the downhill. This was the last mile before "the hills" so I enjoyed the ease of running downhill. At this point, I did look at my Garmin to see how I was doing. And I knew I had potential to go sub-4:30 but I decided to wait until mile 20 to re-assess before making any decisions. Again, focus on fun and enjoyment, NOT time.
Mile 12: 8:45:30

Miles 13-17 were the best miles I've ever experienced in a race. Ever. The views were simply stunning. I was having trouble getting my camera to work (and ended up wasting probably 2 minutes fiddling with it) so I don't have many pictures. I was sad about this for a bit, but then I realized I do these races for the experience and the memories of the experience not for the documentation of the experience, so I put my camera away and just took it all in. These miles were very, very hilly. We climbed, and came back down, and climbed again. But if you don't go up, you can't have views of the ocean and the Maui coast and THE WHALES!! from the road, so the hills did not bother me one bit. The sun was peaking over the hills by this point but was at our backs so provided for excellent views without being too hot. And I saw whales! At least 5! I was grinning from ear to ear this entire time. I felt so, so lucky to be able to experience this. Lucky to be able to run, lucky to have the means to run in places like Maui, lucky to have a husband who allows me to spend a day of our precious vacation racing. My physical comfort during my emotional enjoyment made me proud and thankful. Here I was running the middle miles of a pretty tough marathon course and I felt GREAT! My training was paying off and allowing me to not just rock this race (in my slow turtle marathoner world) but to ENJOY it at the same time. So, so happy.
Mile 13: 9:11:66
Mile 14: 9:54:72
Mile 15: 10:15:29
Mile 16: 9:50:90
Mile 17: 9:01:62

Then, it got tough. I realized today that the last 6-10 miles of a marathon may never be "comfortable". Even with my goal being "fun" for this race, and my running at what felt like a slow, easy pace, the last few miles kicked my butt. At this point, I did look at my Garmin and did some calculations. At this point, I realized- unless the running gods intervened- 4:15 wasn't possible. This was fine. 4:15 was not even on my radar for today. But, just a bit over 4:15 certainly was so I made my goal sub 4:30. I wanted to keep pushing myself but I also was getting sore, tired, and HOT. The sun was finally up high and I was warming up quickly. Also, the awful wind had returned! The last 9 miles had a terrible headwind. Not quite as bad as mile 11, but close. There certainly was a dark corner of my brain that thought about phoning it in and doing some walking but I realized I would feel awful about that and it wouldn't contribute to my goal of a fun race. How fun is feeling like you gave up? Not very. Especially with how well the first two-thirds of the race went! So I commenced with the mental games: "make it to the next water stop", "lose the shirt tied around your waist to make yourself lighter", "you can have a 2 minute walk break in 2 miles". And the positive thoughts: "you are supposed to be suffering, this is a race dammit", "you've got guts, you can do this", "you've suffered more than this before, push it!". For the most part, they worked and I turned up my music and plodded along. But I slowed down quite a bit, and took a couple time-limited walk breaks.
Mile 18: 10:37:69
Mile 19: 10:17:57
Mile 20: 11:33:04
Mile 21: 10:16:76
Mile 22: 9:43:94 (where did I pull that out of??)
Mile 23: 11:52:52

I was proud of myself for how little walking I was doing. And that I wasn't getting passed at all! For the last 3 miles, I worked hard on picking people off. I think only 1 person passed me in the last 3 miles and NONE in the last mile which was a long, long uphill. One woman tried to pass me on that last uphill but when she reached me I started a conversation with her instead and we chatted for 0.5 miles.....during the last mile.....of a marathon...and then I said good luck and whizzed past her. Who am I? And what happened to slow, non-competitive Val?
Mile 24: 11:15:34
Mile 25: 10:08:24
Mile 26: 10:32:64

Another thing I liked about this smaller race w/o chip timing, is it motivated me to try to pass people in the last few miles and definitely in the last 0.2. I did NOT want someone (especially someone in my age group) to pass me in the final push so I actually looked behind me a few times to see if I needed to sprint harder. Not sure if I could have sprinted any harder, but boy I would have tried!
Last 0.2: I forgot to turn off my Garmin so not real sure how I did here.

Thanks to a great picture Adam took, we can guess my rough time. That's me below, just a few feet from the finish line. Maybe 4:21:10? Just a guess. My previous PR was Chicago in 2009 (4:35:42) so I got at least a 13 minute PR. Woo-hoo! AND sub-4:30. All with my race goal of 'having fun'. Did I have fun in the last 6 miles. Not at all. But I wouldn't have had any more fun by going slower and I'm so proud of my time that I think that's totally fine:)
Final pace (assuming 4:21:10 as finish time): 9:58. Sub 10 minute miles, baby! Woo-hoo!!

Thanks to my family, friends, and bloggy and DailyMile well-wishers! I definitely thought of all of you during this race. And thanks again to my amazing husband who is now (I think) in full support of my 50 in 50 goal (and who rocked his own half-marathon today here in Maui, I should add) :)

Edited to add: Got my official time!!! 4:20:58 for 9:57 pace. I was 97th out of 281 overall. Division results are not compiled yet. Time to go celebrate w/ dinner at Lahaina Grill!!


  1. Congratulations!!! What a great report...enjoy the rest of your vacation :)

  2. You kicked butt!!! Way to go!!

  3. Sounds tough, looks gorgeous, and congrats on a great race and new PR!!!

  4. I am impressed that you have your recap up already! I have a few notes jotted down but have yet to sit down and write it all out! Awesome recap but perhaps I am being bias because I was there and could relate to everything mentioned, including that maddening wind tunnel. What an awesome time you came in at too! Congrats again - I am so happy for you! Again, it was so much fun meeting up with you before the race and sharing the whole Maui experience. You rock Val!

  5. Super fun and you ran a great time! Congrats!

  6. Congrats girl! That is awesome and what a fun and unique race. A HUGE difference from Chi-town for sure!