since i was just coming back from racing cim the previous sunday (and it was a long standing promise i made) i agreed to pace my sister for the honolulu marathon, our home town race.  she was originally shooting for a 3:35 BQ time, but because of a series of injuries, she adjusted her goal to shoot for a PR, which would be anything under 4-hours.

unfortunately, two days prior to the marathon she found out that she had 2 stress fractures in her right foot.  she refused to hang them up at that point and decided she will try to race the marathon anyway. so, she kept her foot elevated above her head as much as she could for the next 2 days, popped some advil, and held her breath!

will & yuki at the expo

i hadn’t run one bit since cim, so i went out with shoko for a couple recovery miles on saturday.  perfect sunny, cool morning in manoa valley and my legs felt fine.  still a little tightness in my calves, but i knew i would hold up fine for the marathon, as i wouldn’t be going out at too aggressive of a pace.

i woke up at 230am the morning of the race and ate my typically pre-race meal: clif bar, apple juice, cup of coffee, and a bagel with honey.  i didn’t carbo-load for this race, simply because i was sick of carbs and really couldn’t find the time to eat consistently because my work was very busy the week leading into this race.

the original plan was i would drive over to my sister’s, pick her up, then we would drive down to kapiolani park (the finish area), park the car and hop on the bus, which would take us to the start line (ala moana beach park area). unfortunately my sister is notorious for being late wherever she goes (uh oh), and this morning was no different.  so her boyfriend had to drive us down to the start line in order to get there on time.

this is my 3rd time running honolulu and every year this race surprises me on how many crazy japanese people come in to run it.  i actually started getting a bit annoyed this time because it didn’t feel like a serious race but more like a disneyland spectacle that a bunch of untrained, unatheletic people came in to experience. it almost felt like the race was being tarnished to a certain extent by people who didn’t respect it.  loud speakers and megaphones were being used by travel agent-like tour operators to communicate where groups were meeting, and herds of japanese tourist more concerned about taking pictures with each other than stretching, using the restroom, etc. – came plowing in.

in the sea of chaos i’m in line for the porter potties (not well organized at all, fyi – always have to wait 15 minutes or so to use) and i started chatting with a couple mainland runners coming in from minnesota and california.  first time honolulu marathoners, i give them tips on the course, we comment on the ridiculous start, and we talk about how this marathon seriously needs to implement corral starts.  because it doesn’t, anyone running for time forces their way up as close to the start as possible so that they don’t have to zig zag people for the first couple of miles.  i wish them the best of luck then reconnect with my sister, who looks relaxed and is stretching.

i remind her of our race strategy – conservative first half (simply because of her injury) – i will pace her right on goal pace (9:07), we’ll speed up a touch before we get to the first diamond head uphill climb, then slow down on our way up it.  if/when we get to the half way mark, at that point we’ll assess where we are, how she’s feeling, and quickly decide on how we want to run 13.1 through 20.

mayor carlisle gets up on a ridiculous looking trapeze, says a few things, the national anthem starts to blare, then what is probably the nicest part about this marathon, a great burst of fireworks erupts and the race is underway.  massive congestion at the start, but the fireworks are so beautiful it keeps you entertained as you file in like sardines to cross the chip mat at the beginning.

quick note on the weather: overcast, low 70s at the beginning, which is IDEAL for honolulu.  the winds (which we’ll talk about a little later) are high tough – at/around 20 to 30 mph.  but the typical low 80s start is nowhere to be seen, there’s almost a cool (cold?) feeling to the air, which is very much welcomed by my sister and i.

i have a hand held water bottle i’m holding for my sister in one hand and her gels (3 GU espresso) in a flask in the other hand.  she’s wearing a lulu lemon tank top and compression tights, and i’m shirtless, wearing my running shorts.

mile 1 – 3:

9:11

9:00

9:04

like me my sister has always had difficulty going out nice and slowly, so she commented on how comfortable and slow the first couple of miles felt.  also helped that is was crazy busy with runners everywhere for the first 2 miles or so.  she was relaxed, breathing easy, and focused.  she started to sweat already, so i made it a point to give her water at least every 15 mins (for any heavy sweaters out there i would suggest carrying water during this marathon – at minimum for the first half since the water stations are chaos as well…and drinking every 10 mins or so).  we’re very quiet, not talking too much, just checking in here and there as we continue to push through ala moana blvd, and loop back from through downtown.

yuki and i early in the marathon

mile 4 – 6:

9:02

9:09

8:58

first gu gel consumed at/around the beginning of mile 4, and yuki continues to drink water from me every 15 mins or so.  still dark outside (given the 5am start, sunrise around 7am in the winter here) and this stretch we go through the kakaako area, back past ala moana beach park, and starting cutting right down kalakaua avenue in waikiki.  kind of neat to run through the main beach side avenue in waikiki, and this is definitely where the most spectator support is felt.

kalakaua avenue stretch running through waikiki under the moon light

a nice german female runners lines up next to me and asks me what my sister and i are shooting for. i tell her sub-4 and she compliments me on the steady pace that i’m keeping. i could tell that my sister was annoyed with the chit chatting, so i politely thank her and i separate us a bit by picking up the pace a little.

yuki is staying focused, still very quiet because she’s concentrating, and pushing along nicely.  i do notice that she’s really starting to sweat at this point, which is of course concerning because this means her body is overheating (already…at mile 4), so hydration and fuel is key now, and must consistently be consumed in order to fight the inevitable bonk and “wall” that awaits.

mile 7 – 9:

8:45

9:47

9:39

mile 7 precedes the uphill climb of diamond head, so we speed up a touch as we exit waikiki, cut through kapiolani park and start our uphill climb at mile 8.  i can see/tell my sister is struggling at this point (first time in the race), her body appears to be heavy and i notice that her foot fall is looking a little off and unnatural.  the pace, therefore, drops more than what i would’ve liked for mile 8 and 9.  mile 9 has another (albeit smaller) uphill after you fork left from triangle park and yuki is doing her best to keep pace with me at this point.  heavy sweats continues and her foot fall becomes a little louder at this point. 2nd gu gel swig happens in this stretch.

mile 10 – 12:

9:51

9:35

9:12

our pace has dropped at this point, yuki is definitely struggling more to maintain a 9:30-ish pace, so i’m trying to keep her nice and relaxed, mentioning a few words of encouragement quietly as we push on.  this stretch is on kilaeau avenue in kahala and we’re making our way out to kalanianaole highway (mile 11) – where a long, relatively flat stretch for 11 miles or so persists.  slow rollers, which we tackle very conservatively and the mile 11 and 12 sequence gives me a touch of hope that yuki might be getting back into her groove and may be feeling a little better.  the pace picks up, almost pack to goal pace for mile 12, during which we’re well on our way down the highway, heading out toward aina haina (first), then hawaii kai.

13.1:

9:53

yuki’s asking for water now every 5 mins or so, which i not a good sign.  she’s sweating very heavy, foot fall is getting louder, and i can tell she’s struggling.  i hijacked this salon pas cold spray from one of the volunteers at around mile 12 and i sprayed my sister around her shoulders, which she mentioned was getting tight.  then, rather suddenly, right after the mile 13 mark and literally right around the 13.1 half way mark, my sister turns to me and says, “yo, i got to stop for a second, my foot hurts too much, i don’t think i can keep running.”  so we veer off to the side of the highway and at that point my sister is hobbling over.  she’s obviously upset and dissapointed that she can’t continue on, but i tell her that i’m so proud of her effort and that she is so smart for calling it quits before injuring herself permanently.  i commend her on her strength and will – shows some real courage to get out there for a half marathon distance with 2 stress fractures in her foot. and i tell her to remember this feeling, because she will get brutal revenge on it after she heals and starts training for her next marathon.

i sympathize for her, because she’s had an injury-stricken year of running, and this marathon was suppose to be her one race that she was going to run injury-free.  it just wasn’t the case this year, and i told her that she will have plenty of opportunity to test this course again.  a raw deal, and a tough pill to swallow, but we find some humor in the small things we experience every year running honolulu (crazy japanese man who was yelling in jap-lish, “c’mon, fight, fight, fight” and demanding high fives from sleepy eyed volunteers around diamond head).  i keep the conversation light as we walk to the closest water station, where emergency tents are also set up and we wait to catch a ride back to the finish line.

there’s another runner sitting there when we arrive and i kindly ask him if he’s ok and he says his it band gave out around mile 12.  the wind at this point is going crazy – really felt it for the first time all morning, but at that point i realize this is definitely going to hurt other runner’s chances of pr-ing/bq-ing.  a bunch of my good running friends – including the small running group i trained with for cim/honolulu, team sunny doom – is out there and i think about them and hope they’re weathering the wind as best they can.  a new friend of mine, keaka hirose, comes running by as my sister and i reach the medical tent and i scream words of encouragement to him and i offer the salon pas spray to him so that he can cool himself off if needed.  he declines, drops a smile and a shaka at me, an he goes flying by – looking strong and confident (he ended up running another low 3-hr race).

i could tell my sister is dissapointed, and rightfully so, but she gave it her all and i remind her that she has no regrets and that’s the way it should be.

i then think about how lucky i have been thus far (knocking on woods as i write this) staying injury free and really having the break through running year i wanted (and needed).  i just hope that 2012 will be that break through running year for my sister.  and for myself, i hope to continue to gain on the improvements i made.

overall, it was a tough day of racing for the basso’s.  i walked away with a less than average feeling for this race – particularly after cim, where the conditions, organization, etc were far superior than my home town race.  but honolulu will always be my home town race where i started my pursuit of marathoning, so i will am significantly more forgiving here than in other situations.  it was one hell of a running year for me, tons of miles logged, many training runs all around the island of oahu, maui, big island, california, oregon, new york, and japan.  i’m blessed to have my health, the support of my family and friends, and the love for running.

here is my garmin read: http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/134508821

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