Honolulu Crampathon 2013

It was like 2011 deja vu all over again, only this time without the cute bunny rabbit or Bill (though he did run past me in a fluffy santa hat), and with more smiles and a happier ending. I swore off the Honolulu Marathon in 2011 (that worked well) after hobbling back from Hawaii Kai with debilitating calf cramps that led to an achy achilles and no running for almost 6 weeks. This year the goal was simple: run for a PR (<3:41) or blow up trying (check!), but at all costs, NO INJURIES!! It is one thing to miss a goal, and another thing entirely to miss a goal then limp away with an injury that takes you away from something you love, for weeks or months on end. So this year, when the twinges started in my calves at mile 8, I took a deep breath, let the thoughts of a PR go, and told myself to run smart and get to the finish line safely.

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The start was brilliant as always, fireworks and friends and fun fast cool dark easy miles. I love the downtown Christmas lights, the excitement of the beginning of a marathon, and the possibility of a great day to come. The first 8 miles felt effortless, smooth, and I was so optimistic. When the twinges started I acknowledged them but stayed positive. I needed to stay on pace until at least mile 14, since Miki was waiting (and had to get to Kailua to swim), and I told her I’d see her between 6:55-7am. Showed up at 6:57, said hi, and tried not to cramp for the picture. While these calf cramps are definitely a physical phenomenon, they are also totally triggered by exciting things happening in my brain, like seeing friends. At the half marathon a few weeks ago I saw Brenda at the fountain on the home stretch, got so happy (yay!), and immediately both calves cramped and stopped me in my tracks. And on Sunday, even the thought that Miki was approaching (or I was approaching Miki) made my calves start twitching. If I really focused and tried not to get overly excited by the very thought of seeing friends (realistically, nearly impossible for me), I could get through the brief 2.5-second visit cramp-free.

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Reached Hawaii Kai still full of hope, especially after seeing Big Lou (a self-proclaimed oxymoron) cheering on his bike at the beginning of the loop. Interestingly I did not cramp seeing Lou, even though his appearance was obviously incredibly exciting. Good thing too, since he took a video, of what would become my last good mile (dramatic foreshadowing). After Annamarie’s house and my awesome sign (thank you!!), Jules and Barb saved the day as they so often do with a couple emergency salt tabs which Barb RAN to me after I requested them and then proceeded to run on by (who does that?) Thanks you two! My e21 stash was disintegrating from all the water and sweat, so I was oh so thankful!

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I reached mile 17-ish near the Oahu Club and knew if there was any hope of getting to the finish line in one piece I needed to put my head down and focus. This was sad since one of my favorite parts of running is being engaged with the race going on around me. Watching the race and seeing friends gives me energy (and apparently, cramps). But focus I did! I slowed to a pace that allowed me to run without cramping, and when I did cramp, I stopped, stretched, and walked it out. Two years ago I tried to run through the cramps, making things worse and eventually leading to incredible pain from repeatedly landing on a wickedly contorted foot (when my calves cramp my feet take on a life of their own and go in crazy directions!), and no running. Arrived at the pink boca bikini brigade at mile 22, hugged them and begged them to let me stay and hang out (denied!), then moved slowly on to the gas station and apologized to Doom for being late. From there it was run/cramp/walk/jog/repeat my way towards the finish. Doom kept me laughing (because really, what else could I do at this point?) and in high spirits, and I shared the ridiculous agony of Diamond Head with Tammy until she took off down the hill. Arrived at the last aid station (mile-almost-26), asked the gatorade kids if I could get a ride to the finish line (denied again!!), then crossed the line in 4:12, relieved to be done, pain-free, and excited to find my friends and hear about their days.

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What is remarkable to me is just how much harder this course is for me on a normal day, than your average marathon, on a bad day. Last year I ran Boston in a record heatwave 15+ minutes faster, and CIM in freezing torrential pineapple express downpours, 20+ minutes faster. Boston and CIM have tons more hills, and both 2012 races presented arguably epic conditions. I ran both races much faster, with less fitness, and with way less thoughtful training than Sunday. Therefore my only possible conclusions are that the HM difficulty is all in my head (probably), it’s my brain that’s cramping (possibly), or the Honolulu Marathon hates me (obviously).

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The irony is that my marathon PR is still on this course. Despite our troubles, I don’t hate it, and I’m not giving up on it. I believe this is a relationship that can absolutely be turned around. All I need to do is stop cramping :)

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Fortunately, Stefan taught me to take joy in the success of my friends. Watching Cheryl and Jade evolve into happy, healthy, confident runners over the past year and then exceed their expectations on the day made Sunday exceptional. Seeing Jane complete the marathon, immediately jump in the ocean and swim to the windsock, then show up full of energy the very next morning for a sunrise swim workout in her 70th year is inspiring. And special shout outs absolutely must be made to Franzy for running an amazing PRBQOMG 3:20, to Lectie for a 3:16 (!!) PR good enough for 20th female overall, to Deb for a beautifully paced 7-minute PR, to Tanya for the most consistently fast marathon finish time I’ve ever seen, and to Rachel for making the best of a hard day by pacing a friend to a PR and the Kamaaina win. Thank you friends, thank you coach, and I love you Honolulu Marathon!! See you next time :)

Dreaming in pink: Kona 2013

It’s hard to write this race report because doing so acknowledges the end, and it’s sad to let go. What made Kona spectacular was my group of 14 pink friends, the opportunity to train and learn from Rachel, and the spirit of Kona itself. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and our thoughts are worth more. I’ll do my best to share both.

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Oahu club tough, one row above new champ Rinny!

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UPR 2013 forever. Mahalo Guaranteed Rate and Keawe Adventures. Still dreaming in pink.

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I began my day at the King Kam beach, swam around the pier as a warm-up and lined up far left of the buoys. Starting far left meant I swam longer, but had a perfect clean start, never got touched, and felt smooth and relaxed the whole way. Exited the water happily in 1:19 to cheers from Ryan, Lectie, Pomai, and Angela. Laughed with the change tent volunteers about my toe socks (I know, I know), skin-tight cooler shirt, gobs of sunscreen and multiple homemade musubis. If you were looking for a fast transition, these were not ideal choices (each 7+ minutes), but to me it was worth the extra time to start each part of the race as calm and comfortable as possible. And am happy to report no sunburn, blisters, or chafing!

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And then, we had the fastest ride to Hawi ever! All tailwind, no crosswinds. Near the gas station in Kawaihae James came FLYING by me, screaming LIVE LIKE DUDA! I cried, out of pride for James, and overcome with emotion over the race. Here we were, really doing it, and I was so grateful. Hit the halfway point faster than I expected in 2:45, still feeling comfortable and relaxed. Stopped in special needs to re-apply sunscreen and grab more nutrition. Light winds made for a voggy and hot day on the bike, so I was doing everything I could to stay cool and protected. Grabbed at least 2 waters every aid station, one in the cage, one squirted all over head and body. I chose not to wear an aerohelmet to stay as cool as possible, and was happy with that decision.

The descent from Hawi was fast and fun. Around Kawaihae I got a wicked headache, the kind that hurts when you touch your forehead. I was very hydrated, so maybe the heat, or vog, or effort, or everything. I concentrated on staying relaxed and cool, and tried to get back to the pier as quickly as possible using the least amount of effort. It’s a tricky tradeoff! I had done this entire ride in training 5 weeks before, and remembered how I felt after pushing pretty hard all the way home. I erred on the conservative side, staying within my comfort zone and breathing easy. In hindsight I probably could have pushed a bit harder here, but made the call to play it safe. In hindsight I’m also pretty sure that I thought I had a lot more time in the bank than I actually did :) That stretch from Waikoloa home is eerily quiet, amazingly hot, and mentally very challenging. Unfortunately, I think I lost focus for a good stretch between miles 90-100-ish. I stopped looking at my watch or the mile markers, put my head down, and focused on my breath and staying calm. Snapped out of it when I heard screams and cheers from my Waimea girls OD and Nohealani, then Jules right as I arrived back to town. My bike time was a bit slower than I hoped (6:27), but I stayed positive and was optimistic about having a great run. In T2, more sunscreen, new toe socks (!!), new shorts, shoes, and visor and I was excited to run.

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The first 8-ish miles of the run I was absolutely positive I could run 9min pace ALL DAY LONG! Legs and lungs felt great, I left my headache on my bike in T2, and the energy from the turquoise bocas, try fitness gals and other oahu friends on Kuakini and Alii was electric! I felt smooth and strong as I passed Hines (YES!), all the way to the turn-around at St. Peter’s. Michelle and Roberto rode by cheering, Sam screamed at me from a pick-up truck, and everything in the world was awesome.

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Awesome would not last :) After the turn-around my stomach grumbled. No panic, this happened once at IMCdA, in and out of the beach park potty and I should be good to go. I was in, I was out, I was not good to go. I stayed positive, kept up the fueling and hydration plan as best I could, and focused on getting to my bocas on Palani. Made the right turn up, saw the happiest sea of blue friends ever, smiled and ran (jogged) up the hill. I remember Ryan saying “that’s the way,” and Felipe saying “think good thoughts,” and I knew it was about to get real :) The next several miles were some of the hardest of the day. My stomach was angry and forced me to stop a lot, and twice I almost didn’t make it between porta potties. Cold sweats are an overwhelmingly bad feeling when you are hot, trying to move forward, and concerned about having a terribly embarrassing accident right there on the highway. Somewhere around mile 13 Aaron found me on his bike, and asked if I was eating and drinking. I remember whispering a quiet “yes.” But the truth was it had been a while. I was afraid to take anything in, as it was going right through me. Michelle came back by on her bike and I must have looked as bad as I felt. She yelled in a very commanding and all-caps tone “THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU SMILE BECAUSE YOU ARE DOING THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS.” She was right, and I needed to get it together. I had tried a lot of things along the way, but not everything. I stopped eating meat when I was an 18 year old environmental studies student working at a health food store in New Orleans. And at mile 14 of the Kona Ironman, I threw idealism to the wind and slammed my first cup of chicken broth in almost 20 years. It was warm, salty, and quite possibly the best decision I made all day. Within 10 minutes my stomach settled and I got my first “burst” (these things are relative) of energy since the happy bocas on Palani.

From there, it was a few more stops, and broth at the next several aid stations. Stopping was difficult. I was uncomfortable, the porta potties at this point were the stuff nightmares are made of, and it was hard to get a good rhythm going from a stand-still. Running into the energy lab, the sun was setting and the scene was surreal. I felt remarkably serene, probably delirium, but possibly relief because my stomach had finally settled. Looking back, I wish I could have found more focus in the energy lab. When it’s dark and things hurt, you’ve really got to want it. I think with more focus and a stronger commitment to a time goal I could have gotten in and out of this place faster, both literally and in my head. Conservative was the play of the day. No regrets, just acknowledgement of decisions made in the moment, and lessons learned. I don’t think I could truly understand this feeling without experiencing it. Now I know. And next time, I will dig deeper.

I did eventually emerge from the energy lab :) At this point it was pitch black dark except for the fluorescent bobbing glow-sticks running by. A volunteer handed me a glow-stick, I accidentally dropped it, and there was simply no way I was bending all that way over to get it. And just when I was really starting to lose hope and despite my darkness, they found me. Raul, Felipe, Aaron, and Lectie were suddenly surrounding me, encouraging, loving, supporting. I was so happy to see them, jogging a little too easy and asking about Mariane’s day, Amy’s day, asking how they felt, and reminding them to go for Eddie right behind me. Raul suddenly seemed super annoyed. “You know what Kim? If you can talk like this, you can run faster.” I shut up and picked up the pace. And when I tried to walk through the aid stations to enjoy my newfound love of all things chicken, Raul in his most authoritative voice directed me to run, not walk through. “Do you know it’s not even 7pm yet? Do you even know where you are or how far you have to go? Keep track of your pace, do not lose focus.” It was exactly the tough love I needed. Aaron promised one more light, one more hill. There were actually two lights, and two and a half hills, but it didn’t matter because I was within a couple miles of the best finish line in the world, so finally bid them goodbye, took a moment to acknowledge the privilege of racing here, Duda, my Grandma, my 14 pink friends, and my own efforts to get here, and started running as fast as I could down Palani, Kuakini, Hualalai, and finally, Alii Drive.

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I remember my heart beating loudly as I ran through the finish chute. I remember thinking how grateful I was to Raul and my friends who found me after the energy lab for getting me moving. I wanted to come closer to 12 hours, but had promised my Mom, Deborah, Joy G, and others I knew would be watching that I would be done by 7:30pm. I saw the clock in the late 12:20’s, smiled and wondered if it was even possible to get through this race alone.

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With Team Bugajohnson almost immediately after finishing. At this point, Eddie’s not sure what he thinks of standing that close to me.

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Sunday was spent recovering at 69’s with Nohea and my giant cookie medal (thank you Bonnie!). I wish I could say I shellacked that beautiful cookie and will keep it forever, or that I shared it, but I can’t.

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My pink friends were wildly successful. Lori settled a longtime score by finishing super strong; Kathryn, Mariane, Amy, and many others had breakthrough races; James finished 3rd in his division in the universe; and we were all done and hugging by 10pm that night. Monday we swam together, said goodbye, and gave thanks for the gift that was Kona. I do hope to one day return to this race, with more experience, and more mental strength. Until then I will be cherishing these memories, and dreaming in pink.

Running healthy

Sunday was race 1 of the fall marathon readiness series: 15k up, over, and around diamond head. While it was not my fastest time on this course, it was a great day for lessons in pacing (don’t go out too fast: when will I learn?), and an appreciation of running healthy. After a couple years of struggling with running injuries and setbacks, and lots of advice from friends at JACO rehab, I realized 3 things: my form needed (serious) work, I needed to strengthen core and glutes, and I needed to take better care of my body in between training and racing. Through a year or more of trial and error, this led to a consistent routine of twice-a-week strength training, periodic check-up running analysis sessions with Marissa at JACO, and monthly-ish visits to my massage hero Fernando and chiropractic wizard Dr. Zen.

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The routine began with Marissa at JACO. When I first came in for PT for a running injury a couple of years ago, I was a running disaster. Through treadmill video analysis, Marissa was able to help identify the elements of my running form that were breaking down, causing inefficiency and eventual injury. The analysis slows you waaay down on video (scary!) and pinpoints exactly where things begin to fall apart. Therapists at JACO then show you how to isolate and strengthen these areas. The beauty is the analysis really never ends, as Marissa will continue to harass remind you about your form any time she sees you training, racing, or even running in a picture. The love at JACO is eternal, and I highly recommend them for both PT and running analysis.

The strength routine is simple and straightforward. Twice a week Brenda, Deborah and Kim come sweating and laughing post-run into 45 minutes of lunges, squats, light hand weights and lots of reps, always wrapping up with 10-15 minutes of core. It’s not super intense, and it’s no cross fit, but it’s just enough to keep the kinetic chain firing, well-connected, and happy. And who doesn’t love a great massage? Fernando is an extremely talented, hard-working, and affordable (ask for Kim’s price!) massage therapist with a natural ability to move the tension and accumulated muscle fatigue right out of your body. He takes incredibly good care of me, and now a whole crew of my friends. If you have not tried him yet, you should! Finally, I am fortunate that UH’s insurance covers chiropractic care with Dr. Zen, who not only provides excellent therapy and adjustments, but closely follows my training and gives me ideas regarding form, posture, and other small changes to consider (things to do while driving and at your desk!), based on what he observes during the adjustment. When my hips start sinking towards the end of a run or my neck starts hurting at the end of a long ride, I go back to his suggestions, remind myself to engage, and am often able to save myself from pain later.  It sounds like a lot of maintenance, and it is. It is also a lot of exercise, and 100% worth it.

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At the end of the day, the 15k was a grand success: Saturday’s torrential downpours stopped and the rainbows came out, Jade and Cheryl ran their 2nd race ever in faster times than they could have imagined, and I officially declared myself worst-volunteer-ever for the good folks at REAP, for totally ditching my sign-in sheet duties in favor of post-race socializing. If you have not checked out REAP’s recovery tent magic, be sure to stop by after the 20k for some recovery pump love! And in the moments captured above**, near the fountain on the home stretch, I was being seriously harassed by my friends Brandy and Brenda (because they love me and want to see me succeed, I think). Lesson: when you start too fast, you cannot kick at the end, or speak (but you can still smile). Smiling because although I knew it would not be a PR, attention to strength, form, recovery, and help from my smart coach would get me to the finish line healthy and ready for more running (and swimming, and cycling). And with Kona less than 8 weeks away, that’s exactly what I needed.

**yes that’s a water bottle in my back, and yes I can reach it and return it during the race: long arms!

Swimmingly

This weekend wrapped up the 25th annual North Shore Swim Series, a fantastic series of 4 increasingly longer ocean races hosted by the one and only Chris Gardner, race director extraordinaire. I have participated in this series for the last 4-ish years, and every summer it gets more awesome. More swimmers, fun sponsors, sweet prizes (for people that win), coffee, ice cream, rainbows, chocolate (!), dolphins, and a happy laid-back summertime vibe unmatched anywhere in Hawaii.

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Like many triathletes, swimming is my Challenge (capitalization intentional). What I may lack in talent, I attempt to make up for in (extreme) consistency. I have been swimming with the Oahu Club Masters program every MWF at 6am for almost 4 years. Unless I am out of the country or otherwise incapacitated, I’m in the pool 3 days a week before sunrise. At the very least, I would round out the podium with Miki and Anna Marie for best attendance record.

In the beginning, I followed along with the workouts as best I could, but my mind wandered and I struggled with the sets, the intervals, and all the swim lingo like DPS and LCM and SCY and high elbows and breathing patterns and body position, kick-outs and IM and pace 50’s, etc. Every workout I would do what I could, but eventually would check out and swim back and forth until everybody stopped. I didn’t know my intervals, or what a best average was, but I loved the Flanagan brothers and the rest of the OC morning crew. Everybody talked about a “feel for the water,” and that if I did it enough, eventually I would feel it too. So I kept swimming, mostly to see my friends and catch up with Jane in the dark parking lot 15 minutes before anyone showed up, but hopeful that eventually, something would click.

At some point along the way in the last 18 months or so, I started paying attention. I learned my 100 LCM intervals, I paid attention to coach’s instructions, asked for clarification when I didn’t understand, and stopped sneaking my fins on every time coach looked the other way. I watched my friends. Miki’s rhythm and timing, Lectie’s height in the water, and her deliberate and frequent sighting, Linda’s high elbows and entry, and how she pulls the bubble-less water beneath her (and Lou’s claw hand, just because it’s funny and seems to help). At some point I stopped using swimming as an exercise in recovery (and a social hour), mentally prepared to try harder in the pool, and most importantly, brought awareness to my swimming.

I’m still not a fast swimmer. I may never place in my age group at swim races, and I will almost certainly never be able to swim with my fast fish-for-friends. But the awareness I’ve brought to my swimming has made it worlds more enjoyable and rewarding, both in training and in racing. Listening to a Flanagan spell out the main set used to instill either an immediate sense of dread, or go in one ear and out the other. Now, I listen closely, think about how to approach the set, and execute as best I can. I watch the clock, think about timing and technique, and write down the entire thing and how it went after the workout.

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This intention and focus served me well this summer on the north shore. During the Summer Sprint (race 1), I realized it was the first time I felt in control of my ocean swimming, rather than the swim controlling me. It felt like a breakthrough. In the Waimea Swim (swim 2), I was able to draft a faster swimmer the entire way around the bay, and worked incredibly hard to do so. This gave me tons of confidence. Swim 3 I was able to swim stroke-for-stroke with (okay, immediately behind) my swimming idol Linda Kaiser, the entire way from Chuns to Waimea. This was inspiring, and something I absolutely believed was not possible. And Saturday, I saw the most beautiful sight on the way from Ehukai to Waimea: a large pack including my fast friends Franzy and Michelle A, approaching the rocky halfway point at the same time as me. I was able to jump in and swim right along with them, all the way up the sand at Waimea. This made for an incredibly happy ending.

Thanks to my many swimming friends who encourage me along the way. Special thanks to Miki for the creative bonus 1000’s I somehow got tricked into and now look forward to, to Michelle who first convinced me that watching a clock makes swimming fun, to Linda and Lectie for total swim inspiration, to Jim & Jane for making me start in the first place, to Franzy for pushing me that much harder, and to Rachel for helping me find my best swim. Til roughwater, happy swimming.

Boston Meltathon 2012

The 2012 Boston Marathon is on the books! I think these 27 mile splits speak of my adventure better than I can. I’ll jump in and narrate the miles as I remember them.

Start time: 10:20am, temperature: ~79 degrees, bright, and sunny! Not even a whisper of a cloud in that dry hot New England sky, oh my.
Mile 1: 7:57
Mile 2: 7:58
Mile 3: 8:18
I feel amazing! I don’t even feel the heat!
Mile 4: 8:05
Mile 5: 8:18
Omg can’t believe I’m running the Boston Marathon! These crowds are incredible and I could run in this heat forever! Look how precious this little town is!
Mile 6: 8:16
Mile 7: 8:06
Why are there no leaves on the trees? Oh, right, it’s supposed to be winter. Guess that means no shade. Kinda getting hot.
Mile 8: 8:34
Mile 9: 8:41
I still feel really good, but mile 10 is coming maybe I should run my planned 9 minute pace now? Loving the crowds! Wonder if they’ll have ice soon?
Mile 10: 8:54
Mile 11: 8:52
Okay it’s hot, but at least it’s a dry heat. Yay ice!!!
Mile 12: 8:58
Mile 13: 8:53
Ha! Kiss me I’m gluten free. Kiss me I’m a math major. Wellesley scream tunnel indeed. Okay halfway and ahead of schedule. I love this race! Temp: 85+ and rising. 3 GU’s and 6 salt tabs down.
Mile 14: 9:04
Mile 15: 9:05
Well it’s hot in Hawaii too, but we start our marathons at 5am. Duh. Yay ice!!!
Mile 16: 9:06
Yes! Successfully past mile 16, my breaking point last December. Dry heat is weird, as soon as I dump water on myself it dries. Am I even sweating? And can we lose the flashing *HIGH HEAT WARNING* *SLOW YOUR PACE* *SPEED KILLS* highway signs?
Mile 17: 9:11
Dry heat, aka, sticking-your-freaking-head-in-an-oven-heat. Not better than humidity, just a different type of bad. HOW do people do IM Kona?!
Mile 18: 9:21
S.O.S please send ICE. How do people do IM period? Need to remember to thank whoever told me the ice-down-your-pants trick. I think I even got one goosebump, brr.
Mile 19: 9:23
Garmin is beeping WAY ahead of each mile marker, as I bounce back and forth across the street between firemen with hoses, Bostonians with buckets of ice, and children with popsicles (I might be scaring them).
Mile 20: 9:53
Yikes! People are dropping like flies. Oh god I think that’s heartbreak.
Mile 21: 10:11
Yep.
Mile 22: 9:08
Is this as fast as I can run downhill?
Mile 23: 9:57
Yep.
Mile 24: 10:01
Running on flats is hard when your quads are putty. I remember someone saying to watch the Boston downhills early. Ooopsie. Think I can still break 4 hours if I “hurry.” This is going to hurt.
Mile 25: 9:45
I really want to run faster but my feet are stuck to the ground. Must be all the melted popsicles. Shove GU #6 and salt tab #10 down your throat and prepare to do work.
Mile 26: 9:44
Home stretch. The crowds are going WILD!!! It’s so noisy, so exciting, so overwhelming, and sooo painful. Just. Keep. Moving!
The last 0.2: 8:45.
Cross the finish line in an official 3:59:19, throw a shaka or two, and break into tears. Done! I’m way tougher than I thought :)

Amy didn't get this photo on her phone since the finisher taking it hit the ground and started puking immediately after he snapped our picture. We didn't take it personally. The med tents were a madhouse!

Unofficially (but actually) 26.7 miles on the garmin in 3:59:22, 8:59 average pace. Totally worth the extra half mile of bouncing back and forth across the street for anything frozen I could hold in my hands & put into my mouth.

Had three goals coming into this race: 1) enjoy & be honored you are running the most famous marathon in the world; 2) at all costs, do NOT get injured like my last marathon; and 3) break 4 hours if you are successfully meeting 1 and 2 above. Missions accomplished! Thank you Boston for putting on a world class event, thank you Delo, Marissa, and Zen for helping me through & beyond my December injury, thanks to Hoka OneOne for the amazing shoes that protected my battered body and carried me through the river of Gatorade & plastic cups, and most of all thanks to my amazing network of friends, training partners, & family who support & love me daily. Special shout out to my Boston training bud Joy Galloway who made this adventure especially unforgettable, raised over $1,500 for CCFA to find solutions and eventually a cure for Crohn’s Disease, & who by the way KILLED that course in 3:38!

Happiest finish line ever!

7 weeks til Honu & 10 weeks til Ironman. And I have Boston to thank for bringing back my confidence. Let’s do this!

Marathon Readiness and Other Ironies

If you read my last post, you know I had a string of super good Marathon Readiness Races throughout the fall and was ready to KILL the Honolulu Marathon yesterday! The marathon indeed was killed, but not by me. Just a few of the champions from yesterday’s battle:

These four smashed it. Average time ~3:30. Studs!

Lectie PR-ed this course by over 10 minutes and BQ-ed! More stars.

Nope, I have a completely different kind of story! And now is not the time to skip a race report. I do not want to forget yesterday, and for heaven’s sake I certainly don’t want to repeat it. Cliff notes version: goal was 3:35, negative split, and a strong finish. Result was 4:27, amazingly (!) positive split, and a 10-mile walk to the finish line. Ooops.

The ironies:

1. Ask any of my friends, I hate tapering. I love training, and racing is simply the icing on the cake for me. However, I felt really strong and ready for the marathon this year so figured I would give this week-long serious taper thing a go. I was more tapered for yesterday than any other previous race in the last 2 years. Without even a smidgen of a doubt.

2. I had a detailed racing plan, with what I believed to be completely realistic paces, spread out to achieve a negative split. I’ve never thought through a race so much and have never pre-committed to a plan like I did yesterday.

3. I had been diligently working on my race nutrition after experiencing a bout of calf cramps in a few races prior. Brought more carbs into my diet (as I successfully did for the recent half-marathon) and made sure to have enough salt in my system. I was ridiculously careful about this, starting last Thursday.

4. I slept a TON every night the entire week prior, including 6+ hours the night before.

5. I was positive, confident, and READY! (except, not)

Blow by blow: The first half was spot on. My amazing friend and training partner Bill Turner offered to run the marathon with me this year (since he KILLED IT at the Xterra half the weekend before and wasn’t going for another SUB-3 marathon PR!!!), and we had discussed the pacing plan and stuck to it almost to the second through the half. I was super focused and feeling calm and confident when we hit the half around 1:49. Right on schedule. Soon after started feeling my calves getting a little “numb.” Oh boy, not now, too early, stop already, pretty please? When this starts happening, I know from experience, I have to slow down or my calves will bring me to a screeching and seriously painful grinding halt. So slowed the pace a bit, hoping they would go away. By this time Joy had jumped in and joined us and was cheery and supportive as ever. Around mile 16 on Hawaii Kai Dr, saw a big sign in Anna Marie’s yard exclaiming “GO KIM AND THE REST OF THE OAHU CLUB SWIMMERS” and just about lost it. About mile 16 my calves got the best of me and I was forced to stop and stretch. What to do? Ten miles to go and I had lost control of my foot placement on the ground. If not for Bill and Joy at that point things could have gotten very ugly. They kept things light and positive, encouraged me to jog along as best I could, so that’s what we did. Bill suggested I try and make it around Hawaii Kai loop and reassess from there. And so we jogged along. Made it to mile 18-ish when my achilles starting making noise. Super tender and every step was hot and painful. Two thoughts kept circulating in my mind: (1) if you blow your achilles you are doomed for IMCdA (2) omg IMCdA? Like with a marathon at the end? I’m so screwed.

Bill’s advice was to walk it in to the finish line and try and enjoy the day. Great cool overcast weather, festive crowds, lots of friends out and we still got a great 16 mile tempo run in. All so very true, but as many of you know, so very hard to swallow. But when forced to make the call, I was not willing to blow anything for another race down Kalanianaole, so walk I did. I would be absolutely full of it if I told you this was an easy decision, or if I have even let it go since then. I did my best to stay positive. We stopped and stretched a lot, talked to friends, shouted encouragement at runners, and tried to reassure our friends who passed with a look of horror that we were walking :) Oh, and Bill reached down to pet a cute little bunny rabbit sitting alone on the side of Kalanianaole, quietly spectating the marathon. I kid you not.

So what the heck happened out there? Who knows. Do we ever really figure it out? Probably not, but not like I haven’t been lost in these thoughts for the last 24+ hours! I have lots of mini-theories but a likely one is that I was running ever-so slightly outside my fitness level those first 15-ish miles (oh and I should mention it was breezy a.k.a. gusting 20+ mph), started to lose my form which led to weird compensation and foot placement issues (I remember thinking to myself coming up Kalanianaole “I wish this road would flatten out, I feel like I’m running at a 45 degree angle”) that would eventually stress out my already pathetically weak calf muscles and therefore involve and irritate my achilles. Or maybe not enough race-pace specific workouts. Maybe too many long runs (or not enough). Or too much taper (or not enough). Maybe too many carbs/salt (or not enough). Maybe someone poisoned my gatorade. Or maybe it just plain wasn’t my day.

Here’s what I do know. I don’t regret my decision to walk the race in to the finish line. I am relatively uninjured (had my foot checked out today and aside from a little plantar fasciitis I’m just fine…though walking on my tiptoes). I don’t know what may have happened had I pushed on through the achilles pain. I am grateful to Bill for being there to keep me going and help me remain positive (every freaking step). I am incredibly proud of each and every one of my friends who completed that race. Trust me, you get a whole new perspective on people who achieve their goal/ PR in a race you struggle through. I am grateful for this perspective, and for my friends and community who lovingly support me even when I suck. As with every race, there were lessons. One Tanya told me a couple days before the race…no matter if you run a 3:35 or a 3:45 marathon on Sunday, you are still the same person the next day. She didn’t mention a 4:27 but I’m hoping it still applies. The biggest personal lesson? Never, ever, take a good race for granted. I think in my own totally clueless and naive way I got too used to PR-ing every race, and assumed I had this one in the bag. While I felt my training and preparation was more than adequate and plan extremely realistic, we are still talking about a marathon. I’ve got a ton of work to do, particularly with respect to strength imbalances especially calves/ glutes/ hips/ core/oh yeah upper body too (at least I have strong quads??), and while I think I could fake it through the 30k distance, there is no fooling the marathon. To say nothing of IM.

A Retrospective on Readiness

Yesterday was the 5th and final race in the Honolulu Marathon Readiness Series. Generally I’m a slacker at race reporting. But I realized I have the opportunity to kill 5 birds with one stone, so here goes. Plus, since this is the second time I have run the entire series, I can compare to last year and end up with data from 10 races, all in one little post. So almost like 10 birds? Brilliant.*

Race 1: Tamanaha 15k. I had strep throat, it was a struggle, and there were no pictures. Don’t even ask about the next day’s North Shore Challenge (ok I’ll give you a picture of that). This first race back in August is always hard. Had not done any serious running since Honu. But managed a wee PR, even with a blazing throat. Lesson: Mind over matter. Time: 1:12 (7:45 pace). PR: 1 minute. 
Nschallenge

Quite possibly better running form exiting a whip-lashing wild 2.4 mile ocean swim with strep than in any of these road races? Gotta work on that.

Race 2: Runner’s HI 20k. This race started fast and fun, and ended slow and painfully. Made a mental note to never start running a race with Lectie again (she killed it, 2nd OA ELITE, a trend that would continue). But duh, I had no business running a 7:15 pace that first loop. Positive split to the max, and serious suffering to the finish line. Lesson: You really do die if you go out too fast. Time: 1:35 (7:40 pace). PR: 2 minutes. 
Eliteness
Are you seeing stars? Those are my elite friends.
20k
With Priscilla and Gretchen, who I played musical podium places with most of the series. Thanks for the push, gals.
Race 3: Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher 25k. I loved most of this race. Starts wicked early in the dark (love that) and we had just practiced most of the course the weekend before, so I felt confident. Despite missing the start horn, I had a super smooth first 14 miles. At mile 15 of this 15-point-something mile race, a series of cramps in both calves brought me to  screeching halt, twice. Like, lean against a lamppost, stretch and try not to cry, cramping. Times two. One with the happiest little green store in sight (Kalapawai, a whopping 200 meters from the finish line), and another right there in front of the store, with the finish line in sight. Lost a couple minutes. That was my very first experince with cramping in a race, but it would not be my last! Read on! Lesson: I think I need more carbs. Time: 2:05 (8:04 pace). This year was 5 minutes slower but 1 mile longer than last, but I can’t run a 5 minute mile so it must be a PR, right? Totally counting it. Anyway last year’s average pace was 8:08, so there.
25kpractice
25k practice run. Lectie’s flying, Doom’s throwing shakas, Sunny’s cracking jokes, and Kim is marching. Same story, different day.
25kwithdoom

Sweet! Finally snuck into a mid-race picture with Doom (he was 15 minutes late for the start).

Race 4: PF Chang 30k. Was especially excited about this race, as two weeks prior I had my parathyroid surgery, which meant 1) I finally was back to acceptable blood calcium levels and felt HEAPS better, mentally and physically, and 2) surgery requires recovery time (i.e., I couldn’t move my neck), so I had way more rest than normal. And, this was a great course, and a longer distance, so I wasn’t all panicky about starting off at a blazing pace (like I would be in the next race, keep reading!) Despite slight cramping again towards the end, which slowed me down a bit, I felt the very best I had in a running race all year. Biggest difference was the ability to kick it up a notch when I was really tired. Had forgotten what it felt like to engage that extra gear. It feels freaking good! Lesson: Everything’s better in 3’s. Time: 2:28, PR: 10 min.
30k

Stoked about one less parathyroid, and 10 less minutes.

Race 5: Val Nolasco Half Marathon. This was my best race last year. It came as a surprise, I can remember running back down Kalanianaole after the turnaround and feeling fresh and full of energy. One of my only races with a huge negative split. Therefore, I was particularly nervous about yesterday, because I wasn’t sure I could beat last year’s time (1:41). Decided to try and even split the race, starting around a 7:35-7:40 pace and holding it there. It almost worked. Went out a little faster, came home a little slower. Felt a cramp sneaking in towards the end, so started a little chant (to my calf, and Nalani) begging for it to go away. It worked! Lesson(s): Even splitting might work, the sandwich and musubi probably worked, and singing definitely works. Time: 1:40, PR: 1 min. 
Posthalfkaimana
Kaimana smiles post-race.
Alohakeefe

Aloha Keefe!

Overall, feeling good about the marathon in 3 weeks. Would love to PR, which means something less than 3:41. Honestly would be very pleased with 3:40, and naturally would love to get closer to 3:35. I do not feel like I have trained for anything lower. With a little more focus I may have been able to approach 3:30, but not this year. I was deliberately trying not to put too much pressure on myself for Honolulu, as there is still much training and pressure to be had soon enough. Running Boston during the peak of Honu and IMCdA training will be an adventure in itself! For now, grateful to be feeling strong, healthy, and motivated to run a PR marathon, of any margin. 20 more days :)
* No offense to Franzy. He’s an ornithologist.