Race: Kauai Half Marathon
Place: Poipu, HI (Island of Kauai)
Date: September 2, 2018
“That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life it.”
I went back. I went back to an island and a race that both made me find myself and broke me…but this time I was only going half the distance. Because I’m smart. HA!
The trip itself is a whole different story all together, and something I may or may not blog about. I did keep a travel journal the best that I could…but life just happens. Let’s begin this story, then, with the expo.
As you know, my roommate (Cathy) and I have been to Kauai twice before. Once with me in a boot with our friend, Jenn. Needless to say, I didn’t race that year. Then a year later with our friends Indy & Tawn. That was the year I did the full marathon. First marathon after recovering from the hip labrum and stress fracture. It didn’t go as I had imagined…but, those hard races are what make us better. It was the last marathon I ran until January 2018, when I did the Dopey Challenge. My hip problems kept coming back and setbacks led to some cautious comebacks (of my own doing).
This time…no longer being guided by a coach and really just playing around with an old training schedule…I was going in with a plan. And this time, we were traveling with some of our favorite people, Melissa and Paul Nolan!
This is an image from our first day at our resort. I went for a short shake-out from travel run after a day of travel and getting groceries and coffee and ice cream and just checking out a bit of the island with our friends. They headed to the beach…I went for an easy run and met them on the beach. Because…the beach is life. The next morning…was expo day.
But first…coffee and breakfast. We picked up coffee at our go-to coffee spot on Kauai – Ha Coffee Bar! And breakfast, we went to Living Foods Market and got breakfast. For me, the coffee was the Kauai Sunshine and the crepe was the Gluten Free Roasted Vegetable Crepe.
After we were powered up with coffee and food…it was off to the Wilcox Health Sports and Fitness Expo at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. This hotel is GORGEOUS. Seriously. And I love visiting the expo and checking out the resort in the process. For the most part, it’s a small and basic expo. But…I. BOUGHT. SO. MUCH. Maybe it’s because when I ran the marathon, all I bought was the big triathlon backpack (which they no longer have and that made me SO sad because I wanted another one since mine is getting old and I use it for ALL travel). Maybe it’s because it was the 10th Anniversary. But most of my spending money went out the window at the race expo. That’s…pretty typical of me. HA!
I picked up my race bib and t-shirt (this time, I was listed) then went to scope out the merchandise and the little side booths in the small little room where the expo is held. There is a lot going on in there, and it can seem really crowded and chaotic at times (especially in the official merchandise area), but it is worth spend the time checking out. I ended up buying a half-zip, a towel, a magnet, a hoodie, a t-shirt…..maybe a few other small things that I don’t remember…but yeah…budget blown. Melissa and Paul had met Bart Yasso before heading into the expo, and she snagged his last new book. I went to say hi to Bart, as I’ve seen him and talked with him at numerous race expos, and he introduced me to the male marathon winner (who was also running the half this year…and would win it), Tyler. Tyler also ran Chicago…small world. After a chat, I went to see how the Nolan’s were doing with their shopping and found them as overwhelmed with the merchandise as I was. But…we eventually wrapped things up and got ready to head out for the rest of the day.
Sightseeing was the plan and we hit up the Spouting Horn, Glass Beach, The Westernmost Bookstore in the United States (Talk Story Bookstore) in Hanapepe, where we also got to enjoy rainbows and a street fair, walked across the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, and then hit up Verde (one of my favorite spots) for tacos for dinner!
We went to bed knowing we’d have to be up early enough if we were going to take part in Bart Yasso’s shake-out run that morning. We were running a little late when we got there, but they had to check on the path (as there had been flooding because…hurricanes). It was a path of treachery. Lots of holes and puddles and ditches, but it was straight out and back, about a 5K. I took it easy because…I wanted to see what I could do on the course the next day. I was complimented, however, on my stride. And that has NEVER happened. I was one of the first few people back to the starting point.
Melissa and Paul came in next, and then we cheered Cathy in. Yes…even Cathy got in on the action during the morning shakeout. At the shakeout I got to talk to a lot of people, and everyone was SO nice. I chatted races with a guy named Seth (we’re now friends on Strava). I FINALLY got to meet the Marathon Goddess, Julie Weiss, who I have followed on social media for ages, like back when she was doing her 52 marathons in 52 weeks. She is just as inspiring and sweet in person as she is on her social media. I can say that for certain. After a few group pictures, we went back to shower/change and then head out for the day to do more exploring. And we just ended up winging it. Breakfast for Cathy and I was a cookie that we split at Ha Coffee House. My coffee was (my favorite for life) the Bee Sting. And then…we went on an impromptu hike.
If you know me…you know I’m not a fan of being outdoors. Which is weird, because I am a long distance runner. But the rest of my party were set on doing it, even though the trail was REALLY muddy and…quite not fun to navigate at times. I won’t lie…I was nervous about slipping and falling. I was nervous about twisting an ankle…or breaking a bone. The endgame…a waterfall. We meant to reach the bottom of it…but instead, we took the path less traveled and got to the top. And for all the bitching and complaining I did about the hike (I mean…it was the day before the race)…it was AMAZING reaching that waterfall we set out to see. And being on the top of it was so much better than the bottom. This particular waterfall was used in the filming of Jurassic Park. Hence…why it was on our radar. The hike back felt less dangerous and slippery. Melissa did slip up at one point, but she caught herself. And we emerged, with VERY muddy shoes and a few bug bites. But I burst out going, “I’m FREE!” That being said, I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. Even if I’m a princess who doesn’t really enjoy hikes in the woods.
I was cooking that night for our pre-race dinner. I don’t like to chance things if I don’t have to. So, I cooked up the purple sweet potatoes we bought at Costco, topping them with caramelized onions, avocado, and a drizzle of Sriracha Mayo. It was amazing. I’ve never had much luck with sweet potatoes pre-race, but figured this race wasn’t about time, it was about executing my strategy…so I went with it. And I know some people swear by sweet potatoes for fuel…but they just don’t work on me. But…everyone really enjoyed the dinner…and that was what counted. Time to sleep. For the following day…we raced.
Morning definitely came too soon. I got up early to do my stretches, eat something, take my vitamins, slather on a good layer of sunscreen, get my hair put up and my part spritzed with sunscreen, and get dressed. Cathy wanted to be out the door early…as the race starts at 6 am. Like…before the sun can get too high in the sky. We were a little late on the time, but we all got out the door with pre-workout, fuel, pre-race eats, and all our water bottles. We piled into the car, and Cathy drove part of the course before the road closed to get a good spot to park for the start of the race. We headed toward the little area where the runners would gather to use the bathrooms, stretch, warm-up, eat some fruit, hydrate. Melissa needed to use the bathroom (because…she was coming up on 5 months pregnant here…which she hadn’t really mentioned to the world yet…but it’s out now, so I can write about it)…and the lines were long. She had a pregnancy meltdown, but went to see if she could find a place to use the bathroom. She had talked about not doing the race…but I wasn’t about to let her come this far and at least not give it a shot. Apparently, a Starbucks let her in to use the bathroom. So that was awesome. The runners had already been marched down to the start line, and that was drawing close. I left Cathy and Paul to wait for Melissa to head that way and get a good starting spot. Not up front, but close enough to feel good about my pace when the race spaced out a bit.
The blessing was sung by the natives and the National Anthem was being sung when I spotted Melissa’s top knot of her hair. I waived them in and they ducked in to stand next to me in the corral. We were sent off to conch shells being blown (my favorite start line, hands down!). And just before I took off, the three of us took a selfie. It’s on their phone and we haven’t put up our shared Google Drive yet…so I can’t show it to you. Then Melissa gave me a hug and told me to run fast. I told them to have a good race and headed off, waving to Cathy holding her “Run The Fences Are Down” sign with the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park on it. She made the official video. I’ll link it here.
And so…it was time to put my plan into action. I know that the first seven miles of this race are a steady uphill. So, my plan was to settle in for those, and push just hard enough to keep it comfortable and challenging. I admit, my first mile was faster than I would have liked, but I was in the crowd and seeking space. But I eased back on the accelerator as I entered into the second mile. And as the climb (it’s gradual until Mile 5) continued, I eased back a bit more. I ran with a local who was doing the full, in bare feet. He looked over and asked if I was doing the half or full. I told him the half. He said I had a good pace. I told him I was impressed he was doing the race in bare feet. He replied with a native, “Mahalo.”
At Mile 4…I spotted the rainbow. YES! Another rainbow during my Kauai race. I even said, “Look! A rainbow!” to those running near me. But they ignored me and just kept plugging away. I passed some runners who were already struggling in the humidity/heat, but I knew…this is where you kept it simple and easy. Don’t race here. Race at the end.
At Mile 5, you start the climb into the Tunnel of Trees. Mile 6 is about halfway through. This is my favorite part of the race, because it is absolutely STUNNING. The views are incredible. You’re shaded by the trees. And it’s just…amazing. It’s amazing. I fueled at the halfway mark with my Honey Stinger gel, and drank down some water, which I had been doing consistently, because I know how humid and hot this race is, so I figured I’d start that hydration train rolling early. As I passed Mile 7…I knew it was time to hit the gas.
This is probably the only time you will see negative splits on any of my races. I usually go out too fast and then sort of dye at the end (fly and die). But this time, I conserved my speed for the final back half…which was more of a gradual downhill toward the beach where the finish line was. I ticked off the miles, running strong and picking up the pace where I could. The heat was starting to get to me around Mile 10, just before we stopped sharing the course with the marathoners. They would turn to the right and take on those mountains (been there, done that). I turned left and knew I could push it still, even though now the runners would be out in full sun to the finish. It’s fine. knew I could do this.
We ran down neighborhood streets, where the locals were out to cheer us on. There was a guy with a big, white Santa beard, and someone behind me said, “HEY SANTA!” It made me laugh, not going to lie. Miles 11 and 12 felt hard because they were sunny, but I knew when I passed Living Foods Market, I knew I was close. I took the opportunity to see what I had left in the tank, and managed to pull out the energy to pick it up and cross the finish line strong. I felt amazing. And, at that time, that was my perfect race pace for my upcoming marathon for the goal I was hoping to hit (although, with the sudden break in my training plan due to parting ways with my coach and striking out on my own, I wasn’t holding my breath). I got my medal hung around my neck and Ron Wiley from Kong Radio announced my name as I crossed. There was no “Brady Bunch” attached to it this time around. HA!
I was quite happy with my time, given how challenging this course was. I slipped into a sun shirt after snapping a few photos with my medal and went to check out if there was anything I could necessarily eat at that point. There was fruit…and coffee. So that happened. Cathy set a towel down on the ground and we sat down to wait for the rest of our party. There really isn’t a way to live track them, so we just had to guesstimate their placement. They checked in at one point, so we had an idea of their finish time.
We did eventually move to the finish line, where we got to see the first female finisher for the marathon come in. No tape. But her name was announced. And she looked fantastic for having taken on that course. Cathy wandered off to go to the turn before you have the straightaway to the finish line, and would text me when they were coming in. When the text came, I readied my camera…and Paul and Melissa crossed the finish line…with a friend they made along the way. It was her first half marathon and her friends had left her…so they brought her along on their run. They looked like they were having a blast. And, as I told her at the finish, that was the first time I had seen Melissa happy at the end of a race.
We had some photo moments at the finish line, and I even sent Melissa back to inquire about getting a medal for the baby. They weren’t sure they’d have enough, so I ended up contacting the race via e-mail and we were able to go in and pick one up the day after. They ended up having extras. So…YAY!! I was so proud of her, because she had been doubting herself all evening and morning leading into the race, but I knew if she started, she would finish. And, she has a built-in cheerleader and running partner with Paul there, so she wouldn’t be alone. All I told her was that she had to make that halfway point and she could walk it in if she had to at that point. She did great. And she didn’t have to walk it in.
We showed them to our little spot in the shade where they could take off their shoes, relax, and get some refreshments. The volunteers remembered Melissa as “the pregnant lady” from the expo, which was super amazing!! They helped gather up some of the snacks and we all went back to have a sit and just take in some of the finishers still coming in. We rested and relaxed and talked and took pictures, but the race was winding down and we had to still make the walk to wherever Cathy parked the car. She knew. We didn’t. We had been running when she transported herself to that finish line from the start. So, we gathered everything up…and started walking…but not before taking some photos near the finish line.
So, my official results of the Kauai Half Marathon are that I finished in 1:46:27. That’s amazing to me! For real! Is it my fasted half marathon time this year? Nope. Sadly, I think that belongs to Dopey. HA!! How does this happen to me? I race before a race before a race, and still pull off a fast time. But this is a tough, tough course, and to say I did it in less than half the time it took me to struggle through the full…total win! I was 63/1561 finishers overall! That’s top 100!! I was the 15/992 women to cross the finish line. And I was 5/143 people in the my age division! I seem to be clinging to this 5th place benchmark these days. I am not satisfied with it. LOL!
Oh…and we ran into Bart Yasso again too. He asked me how I did, and I told him I was the 15th female overall. And he was totally happy for me and so genuine, as he always is. This is one of many reasons why I refer to him as my “Running BFF.” From there, we went back to the resort to shower and change…and we headed out to the Kauai Coffee Plantation that day…and it was the perfect ending to a race day. That and the pho we ate later that night at a random establishment we found in a strip mall. But I might save that for another post.