Friday, January 15, 2010

Honolulu Marathon

Coming off of CIM I was nursing a very sore left hamstring. I tried some stretching exercises and guess what? My right hamstring got a little sore, too! I wasn't sure if I should ice it, heat it, or stretch it. I did a little of all three just in case. After my failed run after CIM I was very, very worried I might end up walking the entire 26.2 miles.

My parents picked me up on the airport the Friday before the race and after a quick (and delicious) Hawaiian lunch, we were off to the expo. You don't need me to remind you all how I LOVE race expos! But the Honolulu Marathon expo was something entirely different. I felt like I had walked into the Twilight Zone.

In case you weren't aware of it, Hawaii is the mecca for Japanese tourists. For some reason, the Honolulu Marathon has also become a huge event for people from Japan, too. I read somewhere that 60% of the 25,000+ runners are from Japan. If you ask me, that number is really skewed because a lot of local runners sign up but end up not running. I'm willing to bet that of the people who actually ran the race, 80% were Japanese runners.

When I first got to the expo I picked up my chip and number (didn't need to show my passport to "prove" I was from Hawaii and deserved the cheaper rate) and a nice volunteer directed me to the next area. But she spoke to me in Japanese. Say what? I hope that wasn't an important message because I totally didn't understand anything but the word, "please."

Asian fit?! What the heck is Asian Fit?! Oh, let me tell you... It means size L = XS. Seriously, I normally wear Nike XS and that Asian Fit stuff XS looked like it would fit a (very skinny) 10 year old.

And the vendors at the expo? There were scarcely any running-related booths. There were people selling Hawaiian quilts. And Hawaii t-shirts. And strange Japanese herbal drinks. But not much cool running gear to gawk over. Super expo FAIL. Plus everyone was speaking to me in Japanese so I can't even tell you what stuff they were hawking. The one great thing about the expo was this:

Zippy's is a local chain of diner-style restaurants. They are fairly famous for their chili. They were giving out samples of Zippy's chili at the expo! Totally random, in my opinion, but since Zippy's is on my list of places to eat when I get home, I killed two birds with one stone. Oh, and for the first time in my life, someone described to me what Zippy's chili was in Japanese (at least I assume she was telling me what chili was). Because I guess I am clearly a Japanese National.

Because Hawaii has abysmal marathon weather, they start their race at 5:00 AM. Let us all do some math together... Usually I like to get to a marathon about an hour before the start. So that takes us to 4:00 AM. I had a choice to either have my poor parents drive me in (a half an hour drive) or to catch a bus from the finish to the start (sleep at my friend's house by the finish with the last bus leaving at 4:00 am). So that takes me back to about 3:30 AM. I chose to spare my parents my dire fate so my good friend from way back when let me crash at her place. So what time did I set my alarm for? 2:30 AM. 2:30 AM. Enough said.

Here comes another quirk of the Honolulu Marathon. You have to drop off your sweat bag before race day. And the location you drop off your bag isn't even the expo! You have to get yourself to the finish area to check any items you want to have held for you at the finish. To me, the point of a sweat bag is to be able to bring things to the start and be able to pick them up at the finish. So this meant anything I had on me at the start I had to be willing to either chuck or carry the whole race.

Since I wasn't sure how long I would take to complete the race I carried more stuff on me than any other marathon. I used a small belt-bottle (versus my larger handheld). Since I wasn't running for time, I didn't mind stopping to refill it along the way (in CIM I stopped at only one water stop the entire race). In my belt I carried my cell phone so that I could tell my parents if I was walking or running. I wasn't sure if they should expect me in at 5 hours or 9 hours. Problematic. I also carried lip balm and extra sunscreen (more on this later!!) since I figured if I was going to bake on the highway for 9 hours I'd need a reapplication.

My friend lives only a short walk to the Honolulu Zoo so I got there in good time. I grimly noted that the dark o'clock temperature was still far warmer than any daytime high I'd been experiencing as of late in California. I waited in line at the zoo for a shuttle bus. Luxury tour busses were pulling up to drive us to the start. When my bus pulled up it was a dinky yellow school bus. Shuttle bus FAIL.

The bus ejected us in Ala Moana Park and I went to search out a portapotty. As I stood in line, I taped this:

Can't understand a word he's saying? Yeah, I couldn't either.

At this point I could write a whole separate post on Japanese Running Clothes Fashion. But I won't. I'll just say five words: Spandex tights under running shorts. Seriously? For a marathon in HAWAII?

A guy walked by our portapotty line and said (thankfully in English), "There's a restroom about two minutes away and believe me, it is worth the walk. No wait!" Don't need to tell me twice! About three of us left the lines (I guess we were the only ones who understood him) and I made my way to a park restroom. For the awesome love of flushing toilets!

After that I went over to join the crowd of people to line up for the race. I seeded myself rather optimistically in the "5-6 hour" area. That's right. 5-6 HOUR area. I didn't get a shot of it, but I later snapped a shot of the "2-3 Hour" corral sign:

It probably isn't obvious to a non-runner, but there is a HUGE difference between a 2 or 3 hour marathon pace. So long story short, the Honolulu Marathon SUCKS at getting people to line up in any fashion that encourages a chance of getting off at a good pace. I was actually running at 5-6 hour pace and I was passing people the first 11 miles of the race. I knew this would happen but I didn't want to push further up in case I ended up walking and adding to the clog.

Someone sang the National Anthem (I almost passed out in shock when the Japanese Anthem wasn't played immediately after) and then the fireworks went off. I will give the Honolulu Marathon this: They have the best pre-race firework show I've ever seen. It was like a REAL fireworks show. Plus since I was way back in the no-man's land of 5-6 hours I didn't even start moving through the whole show so I got to enjoy it. Here's a snippet (it went on for a couple more minutes, I think):

And then we were off! I started running and my left hamstring started talking to me. And it didn't shut up for the next 26.2 miles + 11 days. Every single step of the race it hurt. But the good news was if I kept it slow and my stride short it was do-able. I was really paranoid the first few miles about whether it would flare up to the point of stop-running!, but it didn't.

Since the marathon starts at 5 AM it is pitch black for almost the first 2 hours of the race. I snapped these two photos of the Christmas Lights in downtown Honolulu:

I had initially planned to take some walking breaks, but I decided that I should make the most of the dark and cooler hours and just keep running. I felt frustrated because I felt really good and knew I could easily be running much faster, but my darn hamstring would have none of it.

I did so much weaving around people moving slower than me the first 6 miles of the race. When we ascended Diamond Head the road narrowed a lot and there was a major bottleneck. Things were going so slow I just started walking. Poor corral system, I shake my fist at you!

Yeah, there were TONS of people. It has been a long time since I ran a marathon this large.

Here comes the sun!

I am here to officially report that the Honolulu Marathon course sucks. You run through downtown Honolulu and Waikiki when it is pitch black. By the time the sun comes up you're doing a 10 mile out-and-back down a highway. I HATE out-and-backs. Bleh. I'm not sure if it is because I am local, but I was not inspired by the scenery at all. I had to force myself to snap some shots to share with you.

I called my parents when I reached 13 miles and told them I was running slow, but I was running!

I stopped at every single aid station and drank a lot of water. The cups were big and well-filled and I drank one at every station. I drank about 22 oz of liquid at CIM and I'm willing to bet I easily drank 5 or 6 times that at Honolulu. They also added ice to the cups in the latter part of the course. At first I saw this as a nightmare of runners slipping and falling, but it worked out really well for me.

This is all I saw the whole race... Runners going one way, runners coming back the other way. Did I mention I HATE out-and-backs?

The good news about Honolulu is this: Once my leg started hurting from the moment I crossed the start line, it hurt, but it didn't get any worse. There were a few moments I started to flare up more and I'd walk it out a bit, but other than that it stayed at a constant level of pain. The other good news is that once it got hot, it didn't really seem to get any hotter. As my water intake shows, I was definitely hot, but I didn't feel as horribly oppressed as I thought I would.

Heading back towards Diamond Head

There was a man running around my pace who was wearing Japanese geta. He ran the race in wooden slippers! No socks! I passed him at about mile 4 and we leap-frogged a little bit through the race. I saw him at mile 20ish and his whole left foot was covered in blood. I was going to get a picture of it for all of you, but I felt kind of bad about exploiting him like that. I have to give him credit -- he seemed to be in a super good mood despite the fact he looked like he was going to need a blood transfusion when it was all over.

Another plus of the Honolulu Marathon: The crowd support is pretty good. The majority of cheerers are from Japan and I have no idea what they were yelling. But, they were very enthusiastic and looked like they were having fun! The San Francisco Marathon has lousy crowd support and everyone says, "Well, the race starts at 6 am. What do you expect?!" Well, I'm here to tell you that Honolulu starts at 5 am and the crowds were awesome. Shame on you, San Francisco.

Overall, I felt pretty good during the race. I was going pretty slow so didn't feel too pushed. But as usual, around mile 22 I was ready for the thing to be over already. I was doing some math in my head and for a bit I thought maybe I could squeak in under 5 hours. But then that started to slip away and I figured I wasn't going to kill myself to try to break 5 hours just to cross at 5:01. So I let myself walk a little more here and there.

I saw the ocean at mile 25 coming back over Diamond Head and thought maybe I should pull over and ask someone to take my picture. But at mile 25 you can smell the finish and no way was I going to stop moving. So here is what I managed to snap while on the run:

Honolulu is cruel in that you can see the finish way off in the distance and have to run your arse all the way to it. I started doing math when I saw the finish and realized I could squeak under 5:10. So I picked up the pace a bit. There was a man running by me who was crying out rather loudly. At first I thought he was in so much pain he couldn't help it. Then for a bit I thought maybe he was so overcome with emotion at finishing a marathon. In the end I think it was a little of both. But he was SO vocal I felt kind of bad for him.

I miraculously caught sight of my mom in the final stretch and gave her a wave and a smile. I squeaked under the finish in 5:09:58 :)

I have a lot of gripes about the Honolulu Marathon finish area, but won't go into detail here. I collected my shell lei, world's fugliest race shirt, and race medal/keychain and then headed off to pick up one of these after lunch:

Baldwin's Ling Hui Shaved Ice :) Yum!

Most people don't agree with me, but I think this thing is hideous.

So in the end, I have to give the Honolulu Marathon a thumbs-down. I have never said this about any marathon I've run, but I never want to run this race ever again (not saying I wouldn't run it if the timing was right, but I wouldn't shed a tear if I never got to run it again). I feel that a race like CIM is run by runners, for runners. Honolulu feels like some sort of tourist stunt put on by the state. This was by far the most quizzically and questionably organized marathon I've ever come across.

As far as doing back to back marathons, I thought that was a lot of fun! If it weren't for my hamstring being toast after CIM I think I would have felt really good at Honolulu. I was far less sore after Honolulu than CIM which surprised me a bit.

p.s. I am a little sad I never got to see how this worked out, but they actually labeled the portapotties for women vs. men. I am really curious whether this kept the women's stalls cleaner.


audgepodge said...

Awesome and hilarious race report! I had heard it was a Japanese heavy race.

And maybe I have bad taste but I think that shirt is cute and fun!

Rabbits' Guy said...

My goodness, never have I heard of a person enjoying a marathon so much!!!! Boy - pretty good time for a sore hammy and hot and all.

Now you are pretty well trained up for the next one!!

bunnygirl said...

Thanks for the terrific race report! It doesn't sound like a race I'd make a special trip to run, that's for sure. It sounds like you made the best of it, though, and that's what's important.

L.A. Daze said...

LOL the Asian fit! I am always dealing with that issue when I fly back home...and they look at me like i'm a giant.

I don't like the color of the shirt, but the graphics are okay.

Kristen said...

You had me busting up - great race report.

I would love an excuse to go to Hawaii but it doesn't sound like this marathon will be that excuse.

Hope the hamstring is feeling better!

Nicole said...

I love the key chain, shell lei and tshirt! SO CUTE! It looks beautiful there but kinda sounds strangly put together! :)Great job doin 2 in 2 weeks u crazy girl!

Mica said...

Haha, your race report made me giggle, especially the idea of the Honolulu marathon being overtaken by Japanese nationals.

I'm sorry that the race was sub-par though. At least some of the scenery looks nice?

Asian fit. Ugh. Killing my body confidence one mis-labeled size at a time.

Alisa said...

Asian fit...geez, I'd probably be a XXXXXXL.

I agree with Audrey, maybe I have bad taste too but I think the shirt is cute =). The puka shell (or fake pukas) necklace is cute.

I remember in October running up Diamond Head road and into Diamond Head park, it was hard and I wasn't battling crowds. You know me I love the heat but even I had had enough of the humidity. I think a marathon in Hawaii would be fun someday but I certainly wouldn't run it for time. I still can't believe they have the IM world championships there-meanies.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Now we gonna hear about Disney?

You do such great race reports ... look at all the money we are saving not having to go!

Runner Leana said...

Hmm, well I can't say I'm inspired to run Honolulu now! I wouldn't be able to buy any clothes at the expo!

Oh well, congrats on the back to back races. Sorry to hear about the hammy! Hope it healed up in time for the Goof!

Southbaygirl said...

Is aw 2 people with those yellow shirts last weekend-I have to admit, not the nicest looking shirt!!!

And sun and heat-UGH, hell no! You are an amazing person for running CIM, then Honolulu then flying to Florida to run Goofy! You are a running maniac!!!

I'm amazed that it is primarily a Japanese race-I mean, it doesn't really surprise me but kinda does!!

And I commend you for writing a very truthful race report!!

Marlene said...

Congratulations on ANOTHER marathon! You're a trooper for pushing through when you were essentially in pain the entire time. I hope your hamstring is doing okay!

By the way - that one ocean shot is gorgeous! You have been on-thje-run photo skills than I do. ;)

X-Country2 said...

Bummer it's not a good race. Hawaii has so much potential.

EndorphinBuzz said...

Sounds like a crappy race. Props to you for making the best of it and warning us about it!

cliff said...

you really should learn the language of the locals and take a japanese for beginners class or something like that!

i guess i won't be doing the honolulu marathon. thanks for ruining it for me! *just kidding*

cliff said...

so... wait a minute... is that it for the finish medal? the little rinky dink keychain is the medal? if it is, that's the cheapest marathon finish medal i've ever seen!

ShirleyPerly said...

I had heard that JAL is a major sponsor for the Honolulu Marathon hence that is why there are so many folks from Japan running it. Regardless, I saw a number of Japanese nationals also running the Kona Marathon races back in June (the tights under shorts being a giveaway). Perhaps they do it to avoid sun?

Thanks for all the photos and a great race report as always. Congrats on another marathon done!

rUntoNamAste said...

Wait, what? When did this happen? You probably mentioned this when I was on a bloggie hiatus. First of all congrats on completing yet another marathon. What is this, number 250 for you? ;) And seriously, WTF is up with 'Asian Fit'? Perhaps Nike should consider a 'Nubian Fit' since I can't get my derriere in any of their running shorts! Great race report. Looking forward to reading about marathon #251 :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the honest race report and sorry you didn't have the best experience. Maybe it's because I've never been to Hawaii and Japanese culture fascinates me, but I still think I'd like to do this race someday. But that's the great thing about running... there's something out there for everyone. I hope your next race is a lot more enjoyable!

NukeIT said...

Why is it that you assume the men are the ones making the mess in the porta-pots????

Anonymous said...

2010 was the same...walkers all over the course apparently clueless about the theoretical start plan...
Huge lines at the park for porta potties. Lines and then when you finally get to the front you find that people were just walking right up and going in without waiting in said lines! Not their fault, completely unclear where the lines started and finished. As usual, especially insane lines for the "womens" potties. Stupid. Some "official" local dude would not let us cross the footbridge at the park to other, closer porta potties, "one way bridge!" WTH????
I would disagree about the course. I think because you are "local" you forget how beautiful Hawaii is :) Yeah, running down the stupid highway is not ideal but most highways are a heck of a lot uglier than ours! Many of us would rather run in heat than snow but, I agree, the spandex under the shorts or skirt (with a long sleeved top, no less!) is CRAZY. The only thing crazier is that lots and lots of people were dragging very small children on this run. It is 26 miles people, what are you thinking forcing a 6 year old to go that far????!!!!! I am in public health and a big believer in exercise for children but I do NOT believe a child of single digit age should be expected to jog along cement for 6-8 hours!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, I dropped lots of cash at the Expo. The shirt this year was a great Teal color with orange lettering. Not a big orange fan but it stands out well on the great teal color. I am not "Asian" but as a petite female I LOVE clothes targeting "Asians"... had to trade my small finishers shirt for a x-small yesterday :)

Anonymous said...

"did so much weaving around people moving slower than me the first 6 miles of the race. When we ascended Diamond Head the road narrowed a lot and there was a major bottleneck. "

That is the way I remember it too!