Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Race Report: JTB Maui Half Marathon

The view as we fly into Maui!

The airport greeting all of the runners!
The trip from the east coast to Hawaii is a long trip.  It is a LONG ASS trip.  Like... 10 hours of flying time long.  It takes about 5 hours to get all the way across the country to Seattle (in my case), and then another 4-5 hours from Seattle to Maui.  Because my schedule worked out that I had to work a full day Wednesday, and ideally, I wanted to get onto the island when the sun was out, I decided to do the first leg across the mainland on Wednesday night after work, and then have a layover in Seattle before doing the second leg the first thing in the morning on Thursday, arriving in Maui (after a quick stopover in Sacramento).  Thankfully, I was able to use airline mileage to pay for the trip!  I arrived to  heat and humidity seeping into the air at Kahului Airport in northern Maui just after noon, after a beautiful flyover that had us circle around and see the breathtaking views of both the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala from high above.

Welcome to Maui!
On the beach on my first day
(Photo by Donna Dullys)
Donna greeted me at the airport in a cute black convertible VW Beetle, which we later named "Kekoa" (meaning warrior in Hawaiian), having spent the last five days on the island, taking in the beauty and majesty of Hawaii on her vacation.  We decided to spend the day on this side of the island, as the trip back to Ka'anapali where our hotel was would be 45 minutes in both directions, and Hollie would be flying in later that night.  We went to island mainstay "Da Kitchen" for lunch (and lunch I did... I ate the biggest thing they had on their menu!) and posed for the requisite photo on the islands seemingly only "welcome" sign just outside of the airport, in front of a Krispy Kreme donut shop.  We then drove up to the northwestern part of the island to check out the view from the Waihe'e Ridge Trail, and even do a little hike (which ended up being very little - steep inclines, flip-flops, and slippery paths made for a 0.8 mile hike, but with absolutely breathtaking views), before stopping at nearby Waiehu Beach and at the aptly named "Jaws Beach" (no sharks, but a few humongous sea turtles!) for a little zen-out and relaxation.  Before long, the sun headed over the horizon, and Hollie was arriving from her very long trip also coming from the east coast. We retrieved Hollie, and with the top down, we drove under the night sky to west Maui, and to Ka'anapali, for some dinner, pool time, and a much needed rest to adjust to the six hour time difference.
First meal on the island... starving my face off!


Parrots aplenty on the Road to Hana!
Friday morning, we woke up bright and early, and headed on a bit of an adventure, taking the road we took the night before, but now in broad daylight, appreciating the trip as we knew we would be running on part of this road (and the marathoners were going to traverse most of the length of it).  We headed past the airport to the little town of Pa'ia, picked up some lunch for the road, and took the iconic "Road to Hana" toward east Maui, a famous 50 mile trip along absolutely beautiful natural landscapes - but also 620 curves and switchbacks on sometimes single-lane bridges and roads.  We stopped multiple times on the trip to Hana, for pictures with parrots (!!!), beautiful waterfalls, hikes into bamboo forests, refreshments at the halfway point, the occasional downpour (both in and out of our car... haha) and stops for views, but also for the ridiculous carsickness I ended up getting for most of the drive.  Donna was a consummate driver, but I, without having taken dramamine before the drive, suffered from a loss of equilibrium during the harrowing drive.  My heavy breathing just trying to keep my head on straight and my stomach from lurching resembled a Lamaze session.  As soon as we arrived in Hana, and we finally found a place that carried dramamine, I was able to get my head back to normal, and resume enjoyment of the trip.  We went a little further than Hana and checked out Hamoa Beach, and then we had to hightail it back to West Maui in order to make it to the Westin for bib pickup at the expo.  Managing to cover the Hana to Pa'ia trip in 2.5 hours, we got back to the Westin and then met up with other friends for dinner that night at Leilani's, one of the restaurants overlooking Ka'anapali Beach at Whalers' Village, before retiring for the night to get ourselves ready for the following morning's races!

Hollie looking amazing, but I'm the most nauseous.
(Photo by Donna Dullys)

Racing to the finish of the 10k!
(Photo by Chris Norch)
Bright and early on Saturday, we woke to get ourselves to Whalers' Village and start the morning off with the Slappy Cakes 10K, the first race of the weekend.  With the race beginning at 6:30, we had 1.5 hours to complete it before having to be ready to start the Maui Tacos 5K at 8:00am.  I started strongly, with a 9:10 first mile, taking us north on Ka'anapali Parkway, past the Sheraton, and around the roundabout.  We headed southward on the parkway then made a left turn onto Kekaa Drive, an unrelenting 45' uphill climb over just under 1/3 of a mile.  We headed past the Eldorado Resorts to a turnaround point with a water station (and a dead frog on the side of the road) before heading back onto Kekaa Drive and turning left onto the Honoapiilani Highway.  We would run down the highway for 2.3 miles before turning onto the beachside path through Wahikuli Park and Hanakao'o Beach Park.  We then took Nohea Kai Drive, around the Hyatt's eastern edge, passing the aforementioned Hyatt, Marriott's Maui Ocean Club, the under renovation Ka'anapali Alii, before returning to Ka'anapali Parkway, passing the Westin and straight through to the finish line where we had started in front Whalers' Village.  I finished in 56:22 - a 9:04/mi pace!

Having far too much fun on the drive
Soon, we had to get ready to go again, for the 5k.  Already soaked from sweat, I trudged back to the start line, and basically repeated most of the course, except for the 2.3 mile run down the highway - we instead turned right onto Ka'anapali Parkway right back to the finish line.  However, I still managed a 27:32 - an 8:51/mi pace for the 3.1 miles.  Completely soaked, though.  After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the hotel (with a stop at Ka'anapali Beach, of course) to change, and then were out again to head to Lahaina for lunch at the Lahaina Fish Company, before the scheduled 3:00pm Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Front Street Mile.

The sun setting over the mountains
The Front Street Mile was... A MESS.  For one, the course on Front Street was essentially an out-and-back, with the turn around coming around the block that holds Lahaina's iconic Banyan Tree.  As Front Street is not a big street to begin with, there were wall to wall people.  They started with the elites, running crazy fast 4 minute miles, and then one by one, had the KIDS line up by two year age groups: first girls, then boys.  And to make matters worse, there was no announcements on a loudspeaker.  People just had to guess or be at the right place at the right time.  It took FOREVER.  It wasn't until 4:30 when I finally got out on the course - the sun was at full force.  I took off like a bat out of hell and successfully kept to a sub-7 minute mile pace for the first 0.2 miles.  And then the wheels slid off because of the excessive heat and humidity. I slowed down over the next 0.8 miles, and clocked in a 7:56 mile.  Not bad, but not great either.  In any case, we headed back to the hotel to chill for awhile before going out for dinner at the Westin, getting together with some friends to toast to the fun time we were having in the islands.  We headed off pretty early since the Sunday morning race was to start at 5am... before the sun was going to rise.

The sun finally came out...
We woke at around 4am, with an hour to go before the race would start in the pitch black dark.  At 5, all of the half marathoners assembled in front of the Whalers' Village, and we were off, down Ka'anapali Parkway, headed to the Honoapiilani Highway.  Thankfully, there were some lights to light our way down the parkway, but as soon as we turned right onto the highway, it was pitch black again, lit only by cars' headlights coming down the highway.  You could hear some people fall on the course, and likely get trampled by other runners, so some smart folks took their phones out and lit the way.  Running in the dark would continue over the next hour, and as we kept on going south on the highway before making a right turn onto Front Street in Lahaina at roughly the 2 mile mark.  The sun was still not peeking over the mountains, but there was enough to be able to see somewhat in front of you, and with the clouds surrounding the mountains, it was surreal and quite pretty.  It started to rain a little, which was quite a godsend, because despite the early start, the humidity was already beginning to soak our clothing down to the skin, not even an hour into the race.

Taiko drums along the route
We continued along the rolling hills of Front Street for the next 2.75 miles, running down the more rural stretches with modest beachside homes, then down the "downtown" strip which we had run the day before during the Front Street Mile, before continuing down a residential area again.  Just before the 5 mile mark, we emerged back onto the Honoapiilani Highway, at some points being a stone's throw away from the beach.  A taiko drum troupe was even positioned at a point in this area, as runners stopped for hydration.  At Mile 6.5, we made the turnaround in the parking lot of Launiupoko Beach Park, and then went back the way we had come on the highway, pretty much all the way back to Ka'anapali.


Looking back on runners going down Lahaina's
Front Street during the half marathon

Team Fireball in Hawaii!
At Mile 8, just before going back onto Front Street, I ran into a new friend, Sheri from Texas.  We helped pace each other over the course of the next five miles, right to the finish, as we headed back on the road we came in on, and then the highway.  We stopped as needed, to shake out potential cramps that were starting to creep in (that humidity really started to get to us!), and stopped for quick photo ops with the amazing views, and with the little shot bottle of Fireball I carried with me :)  As we neared the turn back onto Ka'anapali Parkway toward the Whalers' Village, I decided to take off, but not with Sheri too far behind -- we had paced each other to at least finish under 2:30, which we were both happy with.

Bling collected!
I continued on to the finish and managed to cross the finish line in 2:27:38.  I was spent, and immediately went for the water that was given to all finishers, made my way to the Westin tents to get in line for a quick massage to rub out my tweaked out right hip flexor (which was quite welcome!), and then met up with my other friends as they continued to finish the race one by one.  We stuck around for awhile to watch another friend, Chris, complete his 50th state in halfs and fulls (after trudging through the Maui FULL!) and then headed back to the hotel to pack up our stuff and then get ourselves to some lunch in Lahaina (go to Lahaina Coolers, a great little mom-and-pop joint, just off of Front Street!!) and then to the beach to watch Hollie take her surf lesson.  We spent the rest of the day headed back toward Paia to get dinner and then the ladies were off to the airport for their flights back home.  I left the following afternoon after staying at a hostel in Paia, and went straight to the office from the airport on Tuesday morning.  Such is the life!  But my 39th state was checked off, and I made it to Hawaii :)

All of the weekend bling haul!

Victory Headstand!

Going to miss these views...

Mahalo to Maui for an incredible experience!

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