Hapalua Half Marathon Recap – 13.1 Miles again?
Yesterday, I had the pleasure (and now pain) of taking part in the Inaugural Hapalua Half Marathon. This event was amazing and I greatly appreciated all the work done by the organizers and volunteers in making this happen.
For my performance, I had very low expectations that morning. When I woke up at 4am that morning, I was just glad to be on my way to do it as the weather had cleared up after a whole week of stormy ugliness and I had only recently recovered from an unexpected medical setback just a week earlier. What really motivated me to get out of bed and do the half marathon was the fact that this was the inaugural year for this event and I didn’t want to miss the chance of doing this route. For me, road races are worth the price of admission because you get to run on the road, and to be able to run through Waikiki and on Ala Moana Blvd, which I had never done before in previous road races, was an ultimate treat.
The race started at 6:00am at the Duke Kahanamoku Statue on Kalakaua Avenue. I was lucky to have Hunny drive me to Waikiki so that I didn’t have to stress over parking (though they did offer a shuttle service from Kapiolani Community College about a mile away.) It was exciting to see all of Kalakaua shut down for this event (though I felt bad for the hotel occupants nearby. All this commotion going on and the sun wasn’t even up!) It was also exciting to see the turnout of people as well. You see people who are very seasoned runners, and among them, you also see people who are just there to have fun and participate. It’s a great mix to have at this kind of event.
After the 12 Elite Women had their 18 minute head start and the 12 Elite Men Runners had their 9 minute head start, the rest of us (including 2 Honolulu Marathon champions from Kenya) set off from the start line. I set the timer on my watch as I crossed the start line and then started my Nike+. A song started to play from my playlist, and while it’s always random, the song turned out to be very befitting. It was “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty, and with the percussion beating through me and the energy around me, I was propelled to go.
“I felt so good, like anything was possible…” as the song goes. I was running with the pack for the first 2 miles or so, definitely tuning my pace to several people at different times in the crowd. With all this energy in me and around me and having gone beyond my low expectations of showing up, I now wanted to go for a PR…
This was my second half marathon; my first was just last May when I completed the Hibiscus Half Marathon in 2 hours 51 minutes. I remember being motivated by the mere idea of just finishing it within the allotted time. Having reached that milestone, I felt that I had to take this opportunity to reach another one.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Right before I hit mile three, my stomach started to hurt. Though I had clearance from my doctor days before, I myself should have known this was going to happen. Now, barely a fourth of the way into the race, I wondered if I could even finish as this sharp pain lingered in my tummy.
Walk it off… Shake it off, I told myself. I took solace in the fact that the pain didn’t have me keeling to my knees and that I could continue to walk, but I was so disappointed to feel my pace slip further and further away. I kept walking and walking and I realized if I have the endurance to walk, I can gather the endurance to jog. An amazing thing happened then; the pain started to go away as I jogged more and more.
Soon enough, the pain in my stomach was completely gone, perhaps suppressed entirely by my will but now no longer an issue as I proceeded through the race. I was able to go through miles 4 and 5 by jogging with the occasional walk to catch my breath. I appreciated the frequency of hydration stations, and was grateful that I didn’t need a bathroom break which didn’t present itself until mile 4 or so.
By mile 7 as we were headed back to Waikiki thru Ala Moana, the initial pack I was in was long gone, and while I can blame part of that on my stomachache that last for a good mile, it came down to downright fatigue; I couldn’t keep up with them and that was expected. However, I was still on pace to reach a PR time even as I kept walking more and more throughout my “run.”
When I approached Kapiolani Park from Waikiki, I saw the finish line and then I looked at Diamond Head that loomed above it. Knowing that I had to go around it with another 4 miles to go, it made the view of the finish line seem like a big tease, but then of course, I am always one to peek in the back of a book, or read the ending to a movie before watching it; visualizing the end should make the journey easier, right?
But then came Monsarrat Ave, something I enjoy jogging on a regular basis. The reason that I enjoy jogging this is because I’m usually going down it and today, I had to climb up it. Driving on Monsarrat toward Kahala doesn’t feel like any kind of climb, but when you’re on foot and going against the wind, it indeed felt like a climb. More and more of my pace was lost, and the finish line felt further away. (I even managed a live update via Twitter with nothing else to do but walk up against the wind.)
Knowing that we were going up Monsarrat, I anticipated going down Diamond Head Road heading back to Kapiolani Park, tailwind and all, but by then, fatigue was REALLY starting to set in. I had fits of jogging, but I couldn’t sustain for long. Fatigue had indeed set in, but looking back, that was far better than the uncertainty that the stomachache had given me.
Any jogging I did do beyond Monsarrat at around mile 9 or 10 was to motivate me to just get to the finish line faster. For most of the race, I had strived to shave more than a few minutes off of my last Half Marathon time, but at this point, I was hoping to at least match it within a few minutes. As I approached mile marker 12, I looked at my watch to find that there was no way I was going to reach a PR time. And though that was disappointing, I delighted in the fact that I was going to reach that finish line and under 3 hours.
That last stretch is always the longest… going from tip of Kapiolani Park to the finish line. I’d experienced it two times before with two other road races I had done, so I expected not to see the finish line right away. It was still frustrating, though. Despite the fatigue I was battling, I pushed my legs to run in that direction, just to catch sight of that finish line.
As with various places throughout the route, there were people on the sidelines cheering us on near the finish line. That’s another thing I love about road races: complete strangers cheering you on with a look of awe for your accomplishment. If someone offers to give a high five, I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame with my own hi-five, sweaty hand and all. Among those cheering us on near the finish line, there was Hunny, with camera in hand and a smile on his face. I was happy to see him!
I stomped my foot onto that finishing mat and was immediately rewarded with a medal. My watch said I finished it in 2h 54m, which was about 3 minutes longer than my Hibiscus Half Marathon finish. A little piece of me was disappointed, sure, but I had to remind myself that this was my SECOND half marathon and that I did it. To be under 3 hours was respectable enough…right?
Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that “official” finish time was the clock time and not the chip time. So while my watch said I did it in 2h 54m, my finisher time is 2h 55m 41s, meaning the minute+ it took for me to get to the start line was part of that finish time. It’s my hope that they’ll retract that. I take some solace in the fact that I screen shotted the preliminary results…
Knowing that I could have done better is going to be what fuels me to do this again next year and with better preparation. For as long as my two legs (and other body parts) will let me, I hope to do this every year. This first Hapalua Half Marathon was very well organized with police support, water stations, and the amenities that awaited us at the park (there was shave ice and malasadas in addition to the banana that I partook in.) I have a few criticisms such as not staggering us by pace, not having bathrooms until after 4 miles (which thankfully didn’t impact me), and not listing our chip time instead of gun time. For a first time event, they did a GREAT job. I can definitely see this as the start of a great tradition in Hawaii.
My legs are hurting, but I am loving it. My next race is another half marathon in May… I hope I’ll be ready!
(Update: The finisher’s time was indeed amended to reflect chip time – 2h54m29s. It’s just a little over a minute, but it makes a BIG difference to me! – 03/13/2012)