The Kaua'i Marathon Sept 1, 2013

Kev's horrifying phone alarm starts wailing at 3:15, I am up about 1 min before it goes off.  We leave the apartment at 5:10 to walk to the start, it is pitch black.  After 2 streetlights we literally cannot see, I feel certain I will trip over a chicken at any moment.  At the end of the road there are sprinklers on causing us to detour into traffic.  We pass Poipu roundabout and a multitude of cars parking before arriving at the start village.  There are flame torches all around and runners everywhere.  We spot 3 wearing chicken hats.  There is a huge breakfast spread out but I can't eat.  A quick bathroom visit and we are heading to the start line.  Oh hell.

With a crescent moon above, we are asked to take a deep breath and a traditional Hawaiian blessing is given.  This is followed by the US anthem.  Maybe I will stop crying after the race gets underway.  The wheelchair athlete starts first then we are moving.  There are fire torches on both sides and conch shells are blown all along the route.  It is incredible, I feel like I've gone back in time.

It is gradually lightening up but there are clouds ahead of us over the sun.  Everyone moves up the route, we are passing trees, cactus and fields.  There are 3 horses in a field to our left, gorgeous.  I stop to take a photo.  We pass miniature hula dancers and banners with flags of all the countries running.  First water station here.  The volunteers are hugely enthusiastic.

It is all uphill, mostly gradual with some steeper sections. I don't have much energy and have not been enjoying the first few kms at all.  We join the tree tunnel road and the rain starts.  There are guys off to the side in a truck cheering and awesome people come out to squeeze cold sponges on us.  There are dead frogs on the road underfoot and chickens scratching on the grassy verges.

At the top of an incline there is another water station with a group of hula dancers.  Now the rain really starts. We enter the tree tunnel in a torrential sideways downpour at 6 miles (10k).  Quite magnificent. Something is chafing my back, it stings when the water hits it.  We leave the road and join traffic heading uphill in the rain to Oma'o.  I spot 3 other marathoners near me in the sea of red half bibs.

Everyone is walking the soggy uphills right now.  Entering Oma'o is wonderful, we pass houses and everyone is outside watching the crazy people. I see the flower shop lady I met yesterday and we wave.  Next are a group of girls blowing bubbles into the road.  It strikes me that this is kind of an amazing thing to be part of.  The sun comes out as we start downhill, dazzling on the wet road.

We descend through a jungle with traditional drummers at the bottom. I stop to get vaseline on my back from the angels at the next aid station.  I am feeling much better now.

The half/full split is ahead - it's the famous chicken signs!  I am not tempted to take the half route at all, finally I am feeling better and have some energy.  I ask if I am last, I had a very slow start.  They say they wouldn't tell me even if I was.  Smart.

As soon as we branch off I pass Mike on his way to the finish.  I yell at him, he recognizes me and says hello. What a lift. Now it is uphill again and the rain starts again.  A group of windswept people are trying to hold the aid tent down.  I talk to a girl in an NMA shirt (I followed Matt's Marathon Roadmap to get here) then we leapfrog for a while.  I lose her at a water station.  There is fresh fruit, the watermelon is glorious. I catch up with a girl in bright pink then we pass Dean.  I yell I will see him at the end.   He looks entirely fresh as he sprints uphill and I have an uncharitable thought.

So many people are outside their houses watching us. We pass a blonde shirtless guy holding a baby, he could have stepped right out of a calendar.  We come around a bend and a photographer is sitting at the top of a hill, thanks for that. I settle into a rhythm of power hiking uphills and running the rest.  I stop at every station for water.  We pass open stretches of rolling fields with gorgeous green misty hills behind.  A rainbow appears over a field on our left, it looks like a movie.  Of course I take a picture.

We bend left then go downhill (!) A lady is playing a ukulele and singing.  So beautiful.  There is a very welcome water station, then the 'proper' uphill begins, we are now passing a lot of runners coming back.  The road is overgrown and vines hang above us.  There are leaves underfoot.  Green tropical perfection.

Now we are on a steady steep climb.  I finally pass Kev, he lets me know there are more hills ahead, too much information dear.  The road is twisty and I wonder when we'll get to the lollipop part.  As we reach the golf course we turn right onto the one way loop (lollipop). I start slowly catching people and picking them off.  This has never happened in a race before.  It is downhill slightly, awesome, as we turn onto tiny Pu'u road.

Someone has left their lawn sprinkler on for us, hurrah!  A station on our right has fresh orange slices (heaven) then we turn left and the verges come right in.  Bushes, bamboo and thick undergrowth.  Blue sparkly ocean is visible below and we can see over the whole island.  We have climbed a mountain.  I catch a girl in a fabulous shade of purple and we trade places for the next stretch.  There are some slight up and downs, this section feels like a trail race.

We arrive at a station with brownies, donut bites and all manner of wonderful things.  The brownie is exactly what I need and I walk so I can enjoy every last bit (except the crumbs I spill down my front).  We are coming to the end of this road and there is another singing ukulele lady, beautiful.  Then we turn left uphill on a bigger road past houses again.  I leave fab purple girl behind on the downhill.  A wonderful guy asks if I want to be sprayed with a hose.  YES I DO.

Every aid station has ice now, I take some to put down the back and front of my top.  It makes my chafed back sting as it melts but it's worth it.  We are descending back down the green mountain, there is the 20 mile sign!  I express my delight to everyone on the course.  I feel great.  Immediately we hit another uphill.

The air smells clean, like spice and lemons.  There are flowers in the trees all around us.  I look down at my Garmin which I have mostly been ignoring and realize I might be able to come in under 6 hours with 8k left. For the life of me I cannot do the math so I just try to keep my pace up.  I have an Advil.  I am still picking people off one by one.

The view opens up and the sun is shining.  I can see the hills that were mist covered on the way out surrounded by trees that would look at home on an African plain.  No dinosaurs?  Here is the photographer again, this time on the downhill.  It is very hot now.

Every time the pace picks up we hit another uphill.  People have been saying it's the last one since the golf course!  Cars are passing us on the left and everyone is yelling out their windows and clapping.  We reach the half split and turn right past the Spouting Horn sign, it's the home stretch!  All out sun now, no clouds.  At no point in the race have I hit a wall.

Here is another last uphill and there is a photographer at the top (of course).  I let the people in front pass then I run to the top of the hill.  There is 4k left and I am distracted by a superb high school band, what was my pace supposed to be again?  More angels at the water station give me 2 handfuls of ice from a jug and someone hands me a cold washcloth.  Slightly further up I am handed a bag of ice.  When you're this hot and tired it's just about the best thing in the world.

Roundabout ahead! Nearly home!

I spot Kev, he comes over to run the last part in with me.  He has finished his first marathon in 4:48:52.  A police car is dealing with traffic (thank you) and I run up onto Ho'onani Road. My watch shows 5:50 with 1k to go, I will make it in under 6 hours.  There are mango trees above us and there is the ocean right ahead.  I see the 26 mile marker and start to sprint for the end, it is the last .2!  Kev disappears to meet me by the finisher pics.

What happens when I'm not around

There is the finish arch!  There are cheerleaders right at the end, what a welcome.  I cross the line and feel great.  It takes me a couple of seconds to realize I can stop running, halt the Garmin and kill Free Bird on the I-Pod.  I am handed a medal, it is the first time I've seen it and it is beautiful.

I take a cup of water from the table and let the fact I have just run a marathon sink in.

Final time: 5:56:31.


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