Thursday, January 19, 2017

Race Report: Aloha Series, Day 1

Today was day one of the Aloha Series.  Our venue was the Smith Family Gardens, where we attended a luau yesterday.  Our luau began with a tour, where we were driven around the gardens and ponds.  After the tour, I asked Clint where we would be running.  He said “everything you just did, plus a bit extra.”

Here’s a map of the paths around the gardens.  Our course started by running around the gardens in a clockwise direction, starting at the Luau House, where we ate dinner yesterday.  Then we did a short out-and-back over grass to turn around.  That’s the “extra,” and it’s the only part that wasn’t paved.  Then we ran the loop counter-clockwise until we were back at the Luau House.

That entire double loop was one lap.  For a marathon, we needed to run it 16 times.

The race started at 4:30, so I had to get up early.  I set my alarm for 2:30, but I was already awake when it went off.  Last night’s luau went later than I expected, so I only got four hours sleep.  That’s not bad for the night before a race, but I didn’t get any sleep the previous night.  That was coming back to haunt me today.

My goal, ideally, was to break four hours, so I could complete my second circuit of 50sub4.  I knew that would be a tall order.  Besides the lack of sleep, I also had to contend with the weather.

When I woke up, it was 73 degrees.  I knew the temperature might still drop a degree or two, but then it would begin rising again.  I expected it to be in the 70s for the whole race, in spite of the early start time.

When I left the hotel, my windshield kept fogging up.  I had to keep running my wipers to clear the windshield.  Clearly, high humidity was also going to be a big factor.  I generally hold up well in hot weather if it’s not too humid.  I struggle with high humidity.

Part of the course was illuminated by torches and lamps.  The rest of the course, however, was pretty dark.  I wore a headlamp, so I could find my way in the dark.

There were at least five or six runners who went out at a fast enough pace to break four hours.  I ran behind the lead pack, going just fast enough to keep them in sight.  There were numerous turns, which made it difficult to gauge how fast I was going.  I had to wait until I finished my first lap.

To finish in four hours, I needed to average 15 minutes per lap.  My first lap was 14:28.  That was faster than I needed to run, and it felt like it.  I eased up just a bit, and two more runners went by me.  Then I ran just fast enough to keep one of them in sight.

During that second lap, I got the sense that this pace was unsustainable.  It already felt slightly tiring.  I wasn’t sure if it was the humidity or the lack of sleep that made me feel sluggish.  By the end of that lap, I was feeling sweaty.  It might have been lack of sleep that made me feel tired early, but it was the humidity that would destroy me if I tried to run that pace for the whole race.

My second lap was 15 minutes, but I knew I needed to slow down.  As I began my third lap, I eased up noticeably.  I abandoned my goal of breaking four hours.  It wasn’t realistic, and pursuing it any longer would break me.

In my third lap, I slowed down by a minute and a half.  After that, I stopped paying attention to my lap times.  My pace was no longer important.  Now I just wanted to finish the race comfortably, so I wouldn’t destroy myself for the next three days.  The runners in front of me quickly moved out of sight.  I was running by myself now, so I had to pay close attention to the turns.

Although I was no longer checking my splits, I felt like I was still slowing down with each lap.  I was running at a pace that could best be described as “relaxed.”  I was trying to find a pace that felt completely comfortable.  I never found it.  I suspect that was because of the humidity.  I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable with the humidity unless I started taking regular walking breaks.  I considered doing that in the second half, but I wanted to stick to running for at least the first half of the race.

I expected two-way traffic on narrow winding paths to feel congested.  I expected running in the dark to make it worse.  That turned out to be no big deal.  The course never felt too crowded.  Running in the dark felt awkward in other ways.

There was a small hill at one end of the loop.  You couldn’t really see it coming.  I usually felt the change in grade without any warning.  Twice, I almost stumbled.  I also found the turns to be a bit disorienting.  I could see them, but not until I was almost there.  At times, the turns made me feel slightly dizzy.

During my eighth lap, I could see the sky beginning to lighten.  By the end of that lap, I could see the path better.  That lap would mark the halfway point.  I considered switching to run/walk for the second half.

One of the runners was celebrating a birthday, so there was a sheet cake at the aid station.  When I finished that lap, I celebrated with a slice of cake.  I lingered at the aid station long enough to eat the cake, so I could wash it down with Gatorade.  When I started my next lap, my legs felt slightly stiff.  That dissuaded me from taking any walking breaks in that lap.  I wanted to keep running so my legs wouldn’t get too stiff.

During my ninth lap, it occurred to me that I no longer needed my headlamp.  I turned it off, but I had to wear it for the rest of the lap.  It’s not a big deal, but I’ve always found headlamps to be a bit uncomfortable.

After that lap, I forgot again.  I decided to keep running for another lap.  I was anxious to finish that lap, so I could take off the headlamp.  After that lap, I finally remembered.

Everything looked different in the daylight.  I could finally see that one small hill before I got there.  Turns no longer felt disorienting.  Some parts of the path looked different than I imagined them when I was running in the dark.  Earlier in the race, my foot sometimes hit a slippery spot.  Now I could see the puddle there.

I could see the other runners more clearly too.  Before I could recognize a few runners from their clothes, but I couldn’t see their faces.  Now I could recognize more of the other runners. “Oh, that runner I keep seeing with the blue shirt.  That’s Juli.”

I also got to see my surroundings now.  With each lap, we got another tour of the gardens.

I never did switch to run/walk.  After taking off my headlamp, I only had six laps to go.  That’s less than 10 miles.  That seemed like a manageable distance to run.  I wasn’t going fast, but I kept running.  It wasn't comfortable, but I wanted to get it done.

I eventually finished in 4:45:54.  Like other Mainly Marathon series, this one has finisher medals that link together to form a chain.  Here’s how it looks so far.

I often stay at hotels where I can get a free breakfast.  Unfortunately, I rarely get to eat breakfast on race days.  I usually have to leave the hotel before breakfast starts.  Today, I got back to the hotel just after 9:30.  Breakfast goes until 10:30, so I still had time to eat breakfast.  I even had time to get cleaned up first.  This may be the first time I’ve had breakfast after finishing a marathon.

When you’re running marathons on consecutive days, post-race recovery is important.  One of the most important things to do is to replace carbohydrates quickly.  Check.  I had my carbs in the form of French toast with coconut syrup.  It also helps to take an ice bath as soon as possible.  I skipped the ice bath so I could make it to breakfast on time.  I don’t regret that choice today, but I might regret it tomorrow.

The next three days won’t be easy.  The temperature and humidity will be about the same every day.  If I want to get more sleep, I need to get to bed really early.  I’m not sure if I can go to sleep before the sun goes down.  Finally, I’m going to have stiff legs from here on out.  For the next three days, I’m going to get a lot of practice running on tired legs.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  4:45:54
Average Pace:  10:54
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  324

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