Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 Kauai Marathon Race Report: Beautiful But Brutal

So after the San Francisco Marathon, I decided within a couple days, "Golly, that wasn't as bad as I thought. I want to run Kauai Marathon." It actually kinda fell into my lap. Since the Kauai Marathon was started 3 years ago, I had expressed interest in running it if I ever ran marathons. The real beauty of the course was in the marathon, although the half is gorgeous too. I'd seen reviews from Runner's World, video from the race producers, and seen someone post a picture of the very pretty finisher medal. So all of a sudden, when my first marathon wasn't the disaster I knew your first marathon has the potential of being, I knew Kauai was back on the table. Now I was a marathoner, now that race was an option.
I actually thought it was the same weekend as Heels and Hills and Him Half, so I would have been unavailable. But when I looked it up, it was 5 weeks after San Francisco - September 4. My husband and I went, "WHAT?!?" Well, I would normally have done a 20 miler then as part of my Chicago Marathon prep.  So sure it's crazy, but WHY NOT? And I'd be traveling alone, Steve would stay home with the kids and it would just be a quick fly-in, run, fly-out trip.

So I did it, 6 days after my first marathon, I signed up for my 2nd marathon, only 4 weeks later. In the week of the race, I rewatched the videos about the race, and words they used stuck with me, "Beautiful But Brutal" and "The 3H's: Hot, Humid, and Hilly". Oh my gosh, what had I gotten myself into? I chose it because I'd heard it was beautiful, it was amazing scenery, and from miles away, at mile 16, you can see the ocean from way up high.

I knew it would be hard, but I had no time goals. My plan was to just enjoy the view and the experience. That's why I was running that marathon: FOR THE EXPERIENCE. I know, running purists, who race all-out just once or twice a year for a speedy time, I've just violated the convenants of your religion. Deal with it.

Flight was delayed in Los Angeles on the way there, so after a whole day of traveling - a 3 hour flight, 7 hour layover, and 6 hour flight, I arrived in Lihue, Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, at 2 am Saturday morning. 28 hours before the start of the race.

I spent Saturday going to a store to stock up on tons of water and a bagel, poking around sightseeing just a tiny bit, going to the expo (where I was able to meet Joanna and Jessica, friends of my sister who were running the half marathon), and then attending the expert panel discussion.

I'm rarely starstruck, but the panel discussion was fun, with Bart Yasso, Rich Hanna, Dean Karnazes, JT Service (1st year's winner), and Mike Wardian (2nd year's winner).

Then some rest and a dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant before an 8:30 pm bedtime.

Race day up at 4:30, 2 hours to race start. I'm too slow to get ready (the start line is really truly a 45 second walk from my condo front door!), and I miss seeing Joanna, Jessica, and getting to meet Twitter friend Eva (@EvaTEsq), although she gives me a detailed outfit description and her location to find her. My fault, I'm running late. At the start 10 minutes til. They have Hawaiian fellows with torches and blowing the conch shells as we start.

New friends from the plane ride to Hawaii, Addy and Lisa, take my pic before we get started just before sunrise, 6:30 am local time.

We're off! Now remember, this race was all about an amazing experience. So I live-tweeted the whole race just like I did at San Francisco. Yes, I tweet at walk breaks and any time inbetween that I feel like it, while taking and tweeting a ton of pictures while I'm at it. I have to say that live-tweeting a marathon makes me feel brave. I'm committing to sharing my thoughts through a harrowing mileage to most people, and I'm sure there are people out there waiting to watch if you'll combust. It's raw through the late miles, you get all the emotion (can't hide it at that point), and everyone will see exactly how those last miles treated you, especially when you tweet mile split times also like I do. I always find it funny people who act all strong, say they ran the whole way and had a smart race, and if you look up their splits, you see the complete implosion that was their performance between the difference in pace up to mile 20 versus their finishing pace. So enjoy the tweets and some of the 60 pictures I took through the race.

@libbyruns: 1 mile in! 13:00 #kauaimarathon

@libbyruns: Mile 2 #kauaimarathon 13:03

Um, yes, by the way, it's really humid. The WHOLE marathon. Ick.

@libbyruns: Mile 3 #kauaimarathon 12:30

@libbyruns: Found @evatesq ! #kauaimarathon at mile 3.5

Yes, Eva runs by me, and I actually recognize her from her stellar detailed description of her outfit that she tweeted. I call her name, ready to look like an idiot, and she turns around. What were the chances? She looked strong and left me another 4-5 miles later to finish several minutes ahead of me at the end of the race.

@libbyruns: Mile 4.6 - mile 4 split was 13:06. #kauaimarathon

@libbyruns: Mile 5: 12:47. At mile 5.8 after 160ft climb over .6mi. Ugh.
@libbyruns: Mile 6: 14:26. Lotsa pics and previously mentioned ugly hill. Tunnel of trees

@libbyruns: Mile 7: 12:38, mile 8: 12:00. Ab muscle's doing ok. #kauaimarathon
I had an ab muscle tear 4 days before this race. Luckily didn't present any problems during the race.

@libbyruns: Mile 9: 11:53 #kauaimarathon

@libbyruns: Mile 10: offered to take 3 girls' pic in front of mile 9 marker and GU walk break, offset by pretty downhill 12:57 #kauaimarathon

@libbyruns: Mile 10.8 #kauaimarathon decision time! ;-)

@libbyruns: Mile 11: 12:26 #kauaimarathon on this mile: Drummers!

@libbyruns: Mile 12 split 12:56. At 12.7. Now it's hot AND humid w/ no shade. #kauaimarathon but still beautiful. Going up 140ft in this mile.
Still smiling!
Caroline, the TNT girl from Montreal who I have been leapfrogging with
the last handful of miles, and I stop to take each other's pictures. :-)
@libbyruns: 1st half #kauaimarathon split: 2:49, only 3 min slower than #SFMarathon but much hillier, hotter, and more humid!
At mile 14, a guy asks if I want to be sprayed by the hose, I say yes, and he sprays it full blast in my face. Um, thanks, dude. The girl with him even gets on to him. I spend the next half mile trying to see out my wet sunglasses.
 @libbyruns: Mile 15 split: 13:57. All uphill. @deankarnazes passed me on back portion at my mile 13.9.
@libbyruns: Mile 16 #kauaimarathon sucks! 300ft uphill, blazing sun. Grrrrrr
Well, that's a raw emotion.

@libbyruns: Mile 16 #kauaimarathon 16:50 and I don't freaking care. Worst hill of my life and still going
Reading back, my tweets make me sound angrier than I thought I was. To me it was more a surprise around every turn. For a planner like me, I was thinking, "How did I miss this on the elevation map?!?"

@libbyruns: The payoff - ocean view at mile 16.6 #kauaimarathon:

@libbyruns: Mile 17 #kauaimarathon : 15:31. Uphill, orange slice, water, retie shoes (wld like to avoid lost toenails!), pep talk. 700ft drop to finish

@libbyruns: Mile 18 #kauaimarathon : 15:39.

@libbyruns: Me at mile 18.4:
A kind volunteer offered to take this picture for me with the backdrop of the ocean.
@libbyruns: Omg the uphills nvr end. How r we supposed to finish on the beach? Roll down this mountain?!? Mile 19: 16:50. #kauaimarathon
This tweet makes me laugh so hard. We really did have about 500 feet left to drop, and it SO never felt like we did. Every downhill had an uphill.

@libbyruns: Mile 20 split: 11:53. yeah, baby! 10k left! Bring it! #kauaimarathon
@libbyruns: Mile 21: 12:04 #kauaimarathon
This was the "I'm still alive" surge, plus a little more downhill, but still some uphills. Also, and this is important, some SHADE for Miles 20 and 21 before it went out from miles 22 on!

Interestingly enough, Mile 20 was my fastest mile, and Mile 21 was my third fastest mile, of the whole race.

@libbyruns: Where did this uphill come from?!? My legs r trashed! #kauaimarathon mile 21.4
Hard to see here but when this short downhill ends, there's another uphill, sigh.
@libbyruns: Mile 22: 15:26. Darn uphills. & this sun feels hotter than TX sun. :-)

@libbyruns: Mile 23: 14:43. At the airport 10 miles away, it's 84* feels like 87. No shade, few clouds. Think I might slow down, relax. #kauaimarathon

@libbyruns: Ambulance just passed, trolling for heat victims. I have Chicago Marathon in 5 wks, this is stupid. I'm gonna enjoy view, walk it in.

This was a tough decision. As you can see in miles 20 and 21, I still had some in me. And the fact I could function decently post-race confirms that. But I was a woman traveling alone, with a 7 hour flight home the next day that would land at 5 am Tuesday to then take care of my kids all day. And another marathon 5 weeks off. It's easy to feel pressured and feel obligated as a runner to go all-out, it's our Type A nature, but I think I made the smarter decision. And screw you to the one runner who made me feel terribly weak and a quitter for choosing this.

@libbyruns: Now I hear ambulance sirens. If this was Chicago, they'd call the race off. Can't believe I CHOSE this, LOL. Mile 24: 16:24. #kauaimarathon

@libbyruns: Luv! RT @ReneighRuns: @libbyruns YOU'RE IN HAWAII! Enjoy. Breathe. Smile. Run a fast marathon some other day :)

@libbyruns: Just passed a sign "If u were running #SFMarathon u'd be done by now!" #hallucinating LOL. Screeching ambulance just passed me!

@libbyruns: The best ice water in the world at mile 24.4!

And then the last half mile, you are literally up against the beach with houses on your left and ocean on your right.

I have a decently strong last mile or so. See?
Last 0.62 of Mile 26: 11:45 pace

Last 0.2 miles: 12:27 pace
I come in and cross the finish arch as the announcer says my name. Here's a pic of the arch I took the day before, before they moved it into the roadway.

I was happy with my time, because that wasn't that important anyway. 6:03:59. I finished 314 out of 344. Which when I saw that surprised me - I knew it felt quiet and empty out there once we split from the half marathon but I had no idea how small the marathon was. I went from a race of 6000 marathoners at San Francisco to a few hundred. What a difference!

Final splits all together, especially since my tweets left out some miles:
Mile 1: 13:00
Mile 2: 13:04
Mile 3: 12:30
Mile 4: 13:07
Mile 5: 12:47
Mile 6: 14:26
Mile 7: 12:39
Mile 8: 12:09
Mile 9: 11:54
Mile 10: 12:57
Mile 11: 12:26
Mile 12: 12:57
Mile 13: 14:45 Mile 14: 12:36
Mile 15: 14:01
Mile 16: 16:50
Mile 17: 15:32
Mile 18: 15:39
Mile 19: 16:50
Mile 20:  11:54 - Awesomesauce!
Mile 21: 12:05 - Awesomesauce!
Mile 22: 15:26
Mile 23: 14:44
Mile 24: 16:25
Mile 25: 18:01 - Are we done yet?
First 0.38 of Mile 26: 15:46
Last 0.62 of Mile 26: 11:45  -- YAY!
Last 0.2 miles: 12:27

What's Next?
Chicago Marathon in 5 weeks, on October 9. Not sure if I have a time goal so don't ask. I mean, for gosh sakes people, it's my 3rd marathon out of 3 ever marathons in less than 90 days. Please don't ask things that make me feel like I need to put pressure on myself to perform, LOL. :-)


  1. ooh reading this makes me want to run! Love your race recap! Good luck in chicago! :)

  2. Yes, Monika! That's exactly the goal! I want everyone to put it on their Marathon Bucket List. It completely lived up to my expectations for it.

  3. Outstanding!! I lived it through ur tweets that day and loved reading about it now!! Way to go!

  4. And thank you, Elaine, for reposting it all live to my Facebook account so my mom could see the updates. :-)

  5. Beeeeautiful! You're awesome. Chicago will be fun!