Cherry Poppin’ Maui Marathon Madness recap

As my friend Shannon, who was running the half of the Maui Oceanfront Marathon, and Maggie who was there for moral support as well as a tropical vacation, dropped me off at the starting line I sat there frozen. I couldn’t move. A thousand thoughts were swarming through my mind. Out loud I mentioned that maybe I should have signed up for the early start marathon which is for those expecting to finish in six hours. Both assured me that the idea was absurd. Tears started to well up and I was like a scared child leaving a parent for the first day of school. What snapped me out of my state of shock was the realization that I never was that child who clung onto the parent never wanting to leave their comfortable grasp. I always was the one who leaped before I looked just to see where I would land. So with that, I took a deep breath, reached for the car door and wished Shannon good luck on the half which was starting in Lahaina where I would be hopefully finishing my race, and jumped out of the car to begin the journey of running my first marathon.

 I had been stressing a tad about whether or not I was to wear a FuelBelt for the race. I had trained with Gatorade, but the course was using Ultima which I had not trained with. I don’t like running with anything on me usually. I tend to futz with things while I run and it irritates me. I decided against the FuelBelt and would just swallow down the product they offered if the need arose. I have a sensitive stomach, but was willing to deal with the consequences which in the end proved to be none. I did end up using my Spibelt where I had decided to clip a Gu bottle to it.

It was five a.m. I had been up since three. I did get a good night’s sleep surprisingly, but it was still early regardless of what time zone I was in. What attracted me to the Maui Oceanfront Marathon was the destination of course, but also that it was a less populated race. Having a slight fear of large crowds, the 345 participants in the marathon were certainly refreshing. One of my goals for 2011 is to run in larger races to get use to the masses, but that will be left for another blog. It was still dark out, but I managed to find a Dailymile Friend Val from Chicago right away. She was so sweet and it was awesome to actually meet in person. I also found Lisa, another Dailymile friend from Canada who I had connected with during bib pick-up. Lisa and I were both marathon virgins and being that our pacing was quite similar we planned to run the course together. The time passed as we all chatted and took pictures. It was such a great experience to actually meet and connect with people that you interact with electronically. Before we knew it we were taking our places at the starting line and away we went. The temperature when the race began was a lovely 65 degrees before sunrise.  

Shannon, Lisa and I at breakfast after bib pickup at the 808 Cafe.

At the starting line with the Dailymilers Val & Lisa.
Within the first mile I was futzing with the placement of the Gu bottle. It finally just fell off, and I never looked back. I had planned for such and had extra Gu stored away in my Spibelt which I never ate. I really do need to improve on my food intake while running. With the excitement of it all, I also forgot to eat my banana before the race. I tried to tuck it into the Spibelt strap, but it kept sliding around. For six miles of the race, I held onto that banana like Linus grasped his blanket from the Charlie Brown comic strips. When I finally managed to eat some of it which by then turned into a brown pile of mush, I felt I was lost without my yellow brown spotted companion. Luckily I still had Lisa by my side. I couldn’t ask for a better running buddy really. Not only was Lisa a great pacer which helped me for this is an area I need to improve, but also, just a well-rounded awesome person with whom I am happy to have crossed paths. We ended up running together up until that horrid 20-mile mark, where she had to keep running for she was having some IT issues that caused pain if she slowed, and I stopped to pour a bucket of water on my head. We ended up finishing a minute apart.

The majority of the course was in fact oceanfront. Starting in Wailea and ending in Lahaina. Gorgeous views and the occasional spout in the distance from a humpback whale was a very lovely treat indeed. What made this course unique however was that we were running on main roads up against oncoming traffic. At times this was a bit scary especially during a couple of the hill climbs. A bus would speed around the corner in all its glory heading right towards me and there I would be running on the narrow part of the pavement  in what some would refer to as the bike lane. At certain areas there were police assisting in directing traffic. It would have been nice to have the roads closed off, but then with only one route getting around the island it would be nearly impossible. The cool thing about running against traffic though, was that most passengers were very supportive cheering and waving us on as they passed.

There were a lot of dead toads on the road to Lahaina. Who knew that not only was it humpback whale season in Maui but smashed toad season as well? Lisa and I would count on occasion how many dead toads we would see. For some reason she always managed to spot them before me. I however did manage to see a guy drop 20 dollars. I ran back to retrieve it and was able to catch up with him and return the lost wages. He was shocked that I didn’t just keep the money but how could I? It’s one thing to pocket money found just laying on the ground; quite another when you actually see it dropped. It also made the course more entertaining when I was able to pass him at mile 18 and tease him about it.

The first 15 miles of the race, I felt good running consistently at a 9:33 pace (thanks to Lisa and her marvelous pacing skills). I did stop quite a few times at water stops. Next time (yes there will be another marathon in my future), I will heed Val’s recommendation and use a Nathan hydration pack. Read her Maui Marathon recap here.

Miles 15 - 20 were rough as I slowed my pace to a 10:00. I felt comfortable on the hill climbs which I had been fearing. I tackled them like a pro up until the very last steep one which I will admit winded me ever so slightly.  The last three miles of the race were the hardest I have ever encountered. In my head I pictured myself running at full force to the finish line. However, I was physically drained. I pushed myself to keep going, but really I wanted to be done. The 24 mile water station was giving out wet towels and with the weather being 90 degrees by that point, a sharp contrast to the conditions at the start of the race. I practically made love to that piece of cloth. At one point earlier on I had forgotten to start up my Garmin so I was off about a mile or so. You can only imagine my surprise when a volunteer shouted that I had less than a mile to go. With that it took everything I had and burst into a sprint. Shannon who had already finished the half came to join me for a quick encouraging jaunt before the finish line. She asked me how I felt and I spoke louder than usual when I exclaimed, “I feel like shit!” With the finish line in sight Shannon ran to the side to root me on. I was at my 5k pace and crossed the finish, but for some reason still unbeknownst to me, I kept running. One of the volunteers collecting the bib numbers shouted “Great strong finish! You’re done! Whoa. Stop!” I had turned into Forrest Gump and kept on running literally. As I look back on it, I have to laugh at the comical expression on his face. I will admit that I was a bit disappointed with my time of 4:38.38. That is an hour over what my long term goal of finishing was. Hopefully someday, I will beat the clock!

The finish line held a water spray mist that was quite lovely. I couldn’t relax my body nor could I sit still. I felt pain that I had never felt before. I got a ten-minute massage and felt a lot better after. My only battle wound was a huge blood blister on the side of my toe. I have had blisters before, but never quite the mountain that had managed to form. A surfer dude I met shortly after the race described it as an “alien life form” on my toe. Note to all men - this is not a good pick-up line! Despite that, I danced the night away that very evening and the next couple of days I was just slightly sore.

Lisa and I reunited at the finish line

Finish line photo with Shannon
Overall, I had a great first marathon experience. I learned a lot that I hope to apply to the next marathon I run. Funny, when I was actually running the race I swore to myself I would never run another marathon again! But here I am thinking of which one I will do next. It’s true what they say. “You have to forget your last marathon before you can run your next.” And while the Maui Oceanfront Marathon is still quite fresh in my head, my body has forgotten the pain it endured and I am ready to hit the pavement stronger than ever before.

View from the backdoor of the condo I was staying at in Kihei.

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