Marathons: Paul #53, Leah #43, State #36 : Maui Oceanfront Marathon 2015
18th January 2015, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Finish Time (Paul) = 3:28:26
Finish Time (Leah) = 3:32:36
Leah: 1st Place Age Group (4th Place Female)
With all the hype in America about Hawaii I was actually expecting it to be a bit overrated. How wrong I was, it’s a genuine tropical paradise.
We arrived the day before the expo and managed to catch the last of the sun with a gin, cucumber and lime cocktail while overlooking the infinity pool and the sunset.
The next morning we laid out in the sun, did some reading and cooled off in the infinity pool before changing into running gear and running the 3 miles over to the marathon expo. The expo was set up in someone’s condo which was a bit small and cramped but it worked. We signed in at some tables in the parking area and were told our numbers, then went upstairs to the condo to collect our bibs and buy our shuttle tickets. We ran back to the hotel, passing Sherri and Larry coming the other way, a couple we had met and sat in front of on the flight over to Maui. They were staying somewhere completely different, so what were the chances?!
We spent the remainder of the day relaxing at the pool and in the evening we went to a Hawaiian Lua. We were given leis upon arrival (real flowers of course) and a band played music while everyone was arriving. After that they unveiled the whole pig which had been cooking in a pit using a traditional Hawaiian method.
Soon after the cooked pig was removed from the pit, the food (including the Hawaiian pork) was served up at the buffet along with drinks followed by desserts. The food was great and the desserts even more so. During the meal there were some traditional Hawaiian dancers on stage. Once the food was finished the show started and told of the origins of Maui and Hawaii through various dances, culminating with a firedance.
We relaxed some more the day before the marathon, it was a time in the year where the humpback whales were migrating and from both our hotel room balcony and from the pool looking over the sea we could frequently see whales swimming in the ocean, flapping their side fins, smashing their huge tails through the air down onto the sea’s surface.
If you looked long enough you would see a “full breach” where the whale would throw its whole body up and out of the sea, crashing back down. It was an amazing sight and definitely a experience neither of us had seen before.
In the evening we found a restaurant called Pita Paradise that served up a few tasty-sounding pasta dishes so we went there for our pre-marathon helping of carbs. The food was incredible. The restaurant was run by a family and the owner would go out and catch fresh fish every day which would then be that day’s special dish. We knew we wanted to go back to try some other dishes if they could make pasta taste as good as they did.
We got an early night for a 3:30am wakeup before the 5:30am marathon start. After getting ready and heading over to the start line it was still pitch black as the sun wouldn’t rise for another hour and a half. We had been warned of this and had brought a flashlight as instructed. A lot of runners had headlamps which we had considered but didn’t want to run the majority of the marathon wearing one when it wasn’t needed. We had bought a cheap handheld flashlight which we planned to share and then just give away to someone at an aid station once the sun came up.
After some announcements at the start, mainly regarding people completing their 50th state (there were 13 of them there), we lined up at the start line. The photographer was standing facing us all, taking pictures of the runners lined up. The race director counted down and started the race and everyone blew Hawaiian horn instruments. We all charged off and suddenly the photograph’s face changed as he realised he wasn’t going to be able to get out of the way in time. It was like in cartoons when a stampede heads towards a small a creature. He tried to make himself as thin as possible as we all raced by.
One thing we absolutely wanted to make sure of was that we got a sub 4 hour marathon. People can struggle with that due to the heat and humidity in Hawaii and if we ever did manage to do all 50 States in under 4 (including cleaning up ones where we had previously not met the time goal), we definitely didn’t want to have to repeat Hawaii. I mean we would LOVE to go back but financially it’s a hard one to repeat. It was already hot at 5:30am but we knew it would be hotter when the sun came up, plus in the second half there were some hills so we were determined to do a fast first half, banking some time, knowing the second half would be slower. It is always best to run a consistent race across both halves or ideally run a negative split (second half faster than the first), but we didn’t want to leave anything to chance and not knowing how the heat and hills would affect the second half we went off at a quick pace.
It was very dark in places and luckily we had listened to the advice of bringing a torch. A runner overtook us who didn’t have one and ran up in front. We got to an especially dark area and she tripped and slid along the road on her knees. It looked painful. Another runner just ahead of us checked to see if she was okay which she said she was, but commented that she couldn’t see anything. The race director had sent out plenty of e-mails with the flashlight / headlamp guideline in them though.
We had our handheld water bottles which we were definitely grateful for. Although the aid stations were frequent it was good to be able to carry our own water, sipping whenever we needed it, especially given how much fluid we were losing through sweat. At around 10 miles into the run the sun came up and we handed our torch to an unsuspecting but grateful aid station volunteer at the “Maui Crush” aid station (they each had different names). We hit half way in around 1:48. I knew from my previous PR/PB that I ran a 1:45 and 1:45:40 to make my time of 3:30:40, so it was slower than the time I would need for a new record but potentially within the time for Leah to beat her 3:36.
I was feeling strong, still mentally charged with determination for the sub 4. I pointed out to Leah that she could get a new PR today. We carried on together until mile 17, running along the seafront the whole way, seeing whales jumping out of the water and hearing the waves crash against the rocks. At mile 17 I started doing some calculations, I think I could actually do this… I could set a new record for myself too… but I would need to run every one of the next 9 miles at a sub 8 minute mile pace. None of my miles had been sub 8 minutes up to that point. I had to try.
I kicked up the pace and we slowly broke away from each other, although Leah still continued to push hard too. I was hitting all my miles at sub 8; mile 17 was 7:58, 18 was 7:59, 19 was 7:47 and 20 was 7:56. At each mile marker I recalculated and I kept coming to the same conclusion: I was due to be bang on my PR time of 3:30. I had to keep edging away more seconds in each mile otherwise I would miss it. I pushed out 7:48 for mile 21 and still it wasn’t enough. I pushed harder and ran a 7:38 for mile 22. By this point though I was starting to tire.
The heat was really kicking in and my head felt hot from where I had sunburnt my scalp the day before. My body started alternating between hot and a shivering cold feeling which isn’t a good sign. This means that you’re suffering from heat exhaustion which can be serious. I felt that I might have pushed too early, but then I needed to if I wanted to be in with a chance for a PR. I finished mile 23 in 7:45 and mile 24 in 7:49. I pushed on, still not knowing if I would make it in time. “It’s only 2 miles” I told myself but they seemed to go by so slowly. I had to stop at an aid station to actually drink some water properly and refill my bottle as I was completely out. Mile 25 was the first one since 16 where I didn’t run sub 8, but still clocked an 8:04. I clenched my teeth and gave the last mile everything I had left to give. The early start marathoners, the walkers and people who needed additional time than the course limit allowed had started an hour earlier than the main crowd, also the half-marathoners had started half-way along the course. By this point I had caught them up and the last mile was very congested. We had to run on the shoulder of roads that were not closed to traffic, so in order to overtake them I’d have to leap out into on-coming traffic and leap back in before the cars whizzed by. The finishing stretch was also very busy.
I ran a 7:17 for the final mile and as the finish line came into sight I realised for the first time that I was actually going to make it! I flew through in 3:28:26, completing the second half in 1 hour 40 minutes resulting in a negative split of 8 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. The 41 seconds in my previous PR of 3:30:40 that I had held for the last 18 months had always annoyed me, and I hadn’t expected to challenge it at any point while we were still running so many back-to-back to complete the 50 states. But finally, I had finally run a sub 3:30 marathon!
A volunteer put the medal around my neck, each year they change the animal displayed on the medal and this year’s was fittingly a humpback whale jumping out of the ocean. Someone took my picture and then I saw the mister showers they had set up. I went and just stood there underneath, letting the cool water soak me all the way through.
I then went back to the finish line keeping an eye on the clock and hoping to see Leah coming in before her 3:36 record. I didn’t have to wait long. As the clock turned to 3:32 I saw her heading down towards the finishing line and she flew through in 3:32:36. A new PR for her too, also her first Boston Marathon Qualifying time and it turned out, a winning time for her age group!
I had come in 22nd place of 303 finishers, 5th in my age group and Leah was 26th overall, 1st in her age group and the 4th overall female finisher. To top it all off by completing the marathon we achieved 23 marathons in 23 states within 12 months, earning us the 8* Platinum rank in the Marathon Maniacs, only 1 below the top rank of 10* (there’s no 9 funnily enough).
We went through to the post-race area where we got some food (who can argue with fresh Hawaiian pineapple?!) and a great view of the ocean. There was a guy playing some relaxing Hawaiian music and the whole area felt peaceful and laid back, much like it always does there. We did some stretching and then a writer from Runnersworld magazine came over to interview us. As it was a point-to-point course we’d booked (and paid for) places on the shuttle to take us back to the hotel and it left at 10:15am. The awards ceremony was supposed to start at 10:45am, but realising this wasn’t going to work the race director changed it to 10am. It took a while to get started and just as it did we spotted Sherri and Larry. We waved and they came over to see how we did. It turned out Sherri had her phone on her and she offered to take some pictures of Leah when she got up on the podium. This was excellent – I didn’t have my phone or camera with me and thought it was such a shame that I wouldn’t be able to get any pictures of Leah receiving her award. Eventually it got to Leah’s age group awards and she stood up in first place on the podium.
It’s lucky she wasn’t in any of the later age groups as we had about 2 minutes to find and get on the shuttle bus! We said our goodbyes to Sherri and Larry, exited the finish area and saw the shuttle bus up ahead. We heard the engines start and had to run a few hundred meters to get to it in time, definitely not what the legs wanted or were expecting. We got there just in time and they re-opened the doors. Once we sat down other people who were in the later age groups and were waiting for their awards also came running down the street to catch the bus. Not the best part of organisation in terms of award ceremony time vs bus leaving time. After a few more last-minute runners made it to the bus, it set off. I hope no-one missed it who had paid for a ticket.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing around the pool and walking along the beach. Post-marathon doesn’t get much better. We finished off the holiday meeting up with Larry and Sherri for dinner and swapped experiences of the race and of Hawaii.
We had an amazing time in Hawaii and it’s an experience we will never forget, along with our fastest marathon to date. The marathon itself is definitely up there with some of the best, the location and venue for it are without a doubt the best ever.
Elevation Graph from my running watch:
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