Review of Honolulu Marathon (part 2 of 2)

The clouds/rain left and then the sun had it's revenge

The clouds/rain left and then the sun had it's revenge

We hit the half way point and I checked my time. Right on schedule. That’s the good part. My foot was getting hotter and hotter, that was the bad part. I saw the Kenyon’s pass by when I was going up the volcano, now as this was the two way street portion, I was able to see the regular (but fast) people go past. As my feet were slowly burning, I kind of wished I was one of them so I could be almost done. But no use in crying, I must push forward.

Finally around mile 14, the Blister of Death on my left foot was too much to handle. I pulled up, sat on the curb and pulled my shoe off. I felt the blister through my sock and realized it was pretty huge. I decided to leave it as a surprise, and since I was half way done, just keep moving forward. I was hobbling a bit, but kept trekking on, about 80% of my pace. The other runner in my group went to the washroom and caught up by now and we started marching on.

Mile 14 was very very painful, but around mile 15 it felt great. It must have just been a hot spot and went away. Hooray. I now felt fantastic, my legs had a bit of a break while I was going slow and my foot felt fine. We went back to our standard pace for about ¾ of a mile and I felt I must have met this dreaded “wall” everyone talks about and kicked its butt. There was no stopping me now.

Except for the blister. At the mile 15 or 16 water stop I slowed down and grabbed a sponge and a cup of water. I slowed down enough that my blister caught up to me. I was instantly hobbled and could not even walk. I peeled off and finally had to check it out. OH MY GOSH WAS IT DISGUESTING. Now it was on both feet and looked mega gross. It was like something out of a medical book “Fellow doctors, if you ever see this, chop off the foot and do the dude a favor” would be the caption underneath.

Running immediately became a thing of the past. Jogging, speed walking, heck even the casual stroll was gone. Now it was full on hobble. Each and every step was hobbling from one blister to another. Sure I may be a Sally, but this was excruciating. However, I trained from 6 months, and had a 90 yr old woman behind me who I had to beat. So I kept movng.

To keep my spirits down and in the gutter, everyone who I passed in the first 16 miles was now passing me up. And I hobbled. A dude with one leg crutched past me, and I hobbled. Someone dressed in a cow suit jogged by, and I hobbled (but with a smile for the first time, because… come on, it’s a cow). The sun was fully up, the Ethiopians were done for hours and were now half way back to Africa, and I was going at about 26min/mile pace. Slow was bad, but the pain was getting worse.

Miles 16-20 might have been the worst hour and 45 minutes ever. I was able to have a few thoughts that didn’t involve foot pain and I realized I brought enough food for 7 hrs. I planned on being done in 6, but I bought an extra hour’s worth to be safe. Oops. The first half I paced it, now I was pacing a 9hr finish. Some nice local was cutting and passing out oranges. I didn’t care at that point, so I took 5 of them. Citrus was going to be my fuel. I kept 1 last gel for the final volcano ascent, but other than that it was just me running on orange fuel.

If it wasn't for dying on my feet, it was a pretty nice view

If it wasn't for dying on my feet, it was a pretty nice view

Right around mile 21 or so I think I started hallucinating or something. I was still hobbling each step, but a calm came over me. Maybe it was the lack of fuel, maybe the pain caused my brain to turn off, maybe it was just me being at peace with my inevitable death, but I felt OK. I think it was just knowing that with only 5 miles left, no matter how much it hurt, I knew I would finish. Last volcano push and for the first time in 3 hrs, I was feeling OK in my head. And since I was alright, I was able to observe something other than the half step in front of me. I noticed the hardened salt on my face (gross) and the absolute silence. Early in the race people were cheering and talking amongst themselves and having a happy time. This was a death march and people were moving like silent zombies. There were still a lot of other “runners” around me, but you could hear the slightest sound. It was pretty crazy.

My joy ended around mile 23 when my brain turned back on and the pain returned. Every time I saw an ambulance, I could swear it was calling to me with its soft comfy stretcher and wheels that go faster than 2 miles an hour. It had a tractor beam locked on and I was being pulled towards the Death Star. At my bottom, something funny came into my head. Robby (my high school wrestling coach) and Lockwood (my football coach) started yelling at me. I don’t know where it came from, but there they were. And like the coach-fearing lemming I was in high school, I did exactly what they said. I kept moving forward. Then I used my recently activated brain to think about more when I used to get yelled at by Lockwood and Robby. And it kept driving me. I was now moving at an unbelievably fast pace of 21 min/miles. Look out Honolulu, here I come.

Miles 23-26 were all the same (except some going down, which was nice) then it happened, I saw the finish line. I could see it but as I was hobbling towards it, it kept getting further and further away. People around me started running. I was blown away. If they had that much energy, why finish your marathon in just shy of 9 hrs. Plus, no one cheering you on thinks you were really running the whole time, you aren’t fooling anyone. IT’S 9 HOURS. But people were doing it. I was still limping away, and I heard some grunting. I didn’t think I was audibly crying out, but maybe I lost control of my voice. And I heard it a second time. I looked to my left and there was a woman going the same pace as I and she was struggling just as much. I started talking to her about the people running and how the finish line kept moving. She then responded in Japanese (which I don’t speak). We pushed each other on to finish and never stopped talking for the 6-8 minutes to the finish line. Neither one of us spoke each other’s language, but we didn’t shut up.

Speaking of shutting up. So when I’m about 100 meters away, the dude on the microphone is announcing everyone who is about to finish and such. He says something like “Dave from Chicago, sporting a holiday green shirt, is finishing up, let’s hear it for Dave.” Awww, that made me feel warm and fuzzy. Then as people are running past and I’m still limping. About 45 seconds later, I still haven’t crossed the finish line. No one is around (except my new Japanese best friend) and he says “Dave from Chicago, come on, get across the finish line already.” WHAT?!? I just ran 16 miles and hobbled on 2 huge blisters another 10 miles, I’m in crazy pain, I’m obviously limping from foot to foot as I’m moving and this guy is busting my balls.

My new BFF and I right after we crawled across the finish line together.

My new BFF and I right after we crawled across the finish line together.

Finished. Ah it felt nice.

They gave me my shell necklace and such. I took a picture with my new BFF and just wanted to sit down. But there were no seats. And the field that all of the tents and booths were in, was a mud pit because of the monsoons. I was finally done, and I had to walk another half mile to get to the T-shirt tent (damned if I’m not getting my free shirt, I earned the heck out of it). So I hobbled some more. Sat in the mud for a few minutes (I didn’t’ care at that point), finally got my T-shirt and then something beautiful happened. I saw a bunch of empty cardboard boxes outside of the tent. It was empty boxes from the T-shirts. I used the strength of a 1000 gods to tear those boxes open and made a bed of cardboard. It looked fantastic and felt even better. I pulled my iPhone out of the armband and called up Krissy to tell her I was alive. It was about a 20 min call, followed by another 10 min of me laying there. A good dozen times people came over to see if I was alive, and I was. It was finally over.

Except I had a mile walk back to the hotel. I was walking along Wiakiki beach, so there were benches everywhere. So I walked about a block or two, then sat on a bench for 20 minutes. Went another block or two, then another 20 min sit. I did this the whole way, about another hour and a half to get back, but I had benches and no 90 year old woman on my tail (who sadly didn’t finish, I’m glad she feared me and bowed out, but it was too bad her race ended that way). I finally got back to the hotel, took a quick shower and slept. I slept from mid-day until late dinner time. Called room service. They showed up and it took me 2 minutes to get from my bed to the door. I then slept till the next morning.

I woke up the next morning and was finally able to attend to my blisters. I’ll be kind and not post pictures, but they were huge and found places to spread to that I didn’t even know existed on my feet. But a few years as an Athletic Trainer in college helped me know what to do, and some hotel room surgery did the trick. I could walk again.

I flew back the next day and was walking fine in about 3 days. I reached my goal of completing a marathon, so I was done. Or so I thought. I now realize I can’t go out like a punk, and I have to run another marathon so I can have a respectable finish. Completing the marathon is nice, but now I have to complete one on my terms. Who knows what this could turn into, but I’m happy I’m running again.


Review of Honolulu Marathon (part 1 of 2)

Me, hanging out at the expo with some inflatable thing that looks like Toad.

Me, hanging out at the expo with some inflatable thing that looks like Toad.

OK, so after the marathon I needed a little bit of time to recover before writing.  Then I forgot.  So here is my marathon story, 5 months later and in Readers Digest form. 

So here is my pre-marathon plan.  Hit the Expo and register.  Get some rest on Saturday check out the city a little bit.  Sunday, get up at 3, meet everyone at 3:30 and be ready for 5am start.  For the race I plan on doing the first 10 miles slow, maybe 15-30 seconds/mile slower than my standard pace.  Mile 11-20, pick up the pace a bit, bring it up to my planned race-pace.  Mile 21-finish, close strong at whatever pace I feel comfortable with.  I have a mile+ walk back to the hotel after the race, so I can’t just fall apart at the end.

 Monsoon, Rain Storm, Flood, Swimming, they are all great words you can use to describe the morning of the marathon.  The temperatures were nice, but it was very wet.  The entire AIDS Marathon group met at the hotel lobby and walked the 1.5 miles to the starting area.  There were a couple of puddles that were as wide as the entire road.  Most people were wearing rain ponchos like lame-o’s, but since I was a tough guy, I just wore my shorts and shirt (and some shoes, socks, and running belt).  Despite the fact that mother nature filled up a bucket and dumped it on Honolulu, the spirits were pretty high as I guess they always are at the start of a marathon. 

 When we finally got to the starting line (or about 2 blocks behind it as I was) people chatted and took pictures galore.  I posed for a few, but I think most people’s camera’s couldn’t handle this much sexiness at 5 am.  Time flew by and the next thing I knew, Barack’s sister was saying some things in a microphone (I only heard Charlie Brown’s teacher talking) then she fired the starting gun and a whole big fireworks display began.  It was a pretty good show, about 5-10 minutes in all.  It took about that long for me to hit the starting line.

Here are the fireworks at the starting line

Here are the fireworks at the starting line

The buzz was very surprising and once it broke up in a few blocks, people were running at a pretty good clip.  It was faster than my pace, but hard to fight the crowd to slow down.  I think the first 1.5 miles were about 45seconds/mile fast.  Luckily I would have more than enough time to bring that back.  It was still pretty early, but the city got pretty excited about the race and there were a ton of people out cheering.  If it was me, I’d be sleeping in and annoyed by the loud fireworks at 6am, but the Honolulu people seemed to dig what was going on.  During this time our pace group was at about 8 or 9 people.  A few dropped off when we saw a gas station with a bathroom at mile 3.  Around this time we were able to see the ocean and got back on the main road.  The rain was on and off the whole run so far, but we had our first good break and the sun came out for a second. 

Next came the hill ascent.  And by hill, I mean volcano.  Running up a volcano was definitely tough on my legs (our group dropped to 3), but we trained for it and I was feeling OK.  Then a weird sensation came over me… I’m running up a volcano.  Now I’m not a volcano-ologist, but from what I remember in school, at the top of a volcano is lava.  I’m not afraid of spiders, or heights or enclosed spaces, but I’m pretty sure I’m afraid of lava.  Nothing like an irrational panic came over me, but at that moment in time I realized the lunacy in what I was doing (sidenote: I did not encounter any lava, nor melt from exposure to lava as I feared). 

Volcano from far away, it doesn\'t look too bad from here

Volcano from far away, it doesn\'t look too bad from here

If I remember correctly mile 9 was the top of the volcano (or as high as we went).  I took a sweet picture that should be on the previous post that I was sending to Krissy as I was running.  I distinctly remember saying to Brody (a woman in my pace group) that I felt if we could handle that incline as well as we did, the next 17 miles should be doable.  The opening 6-7 miles, plus the uphill volcano miles should be the tough part.  NOPE.

Running downhill (down-volcano) was surprisingly easy on my legs.  My knees didn’t love it, but the pain seemed pretty standard.  We made it down to flat ground, put some distance in, then made the turn for the main highway that the marathon took over for the next 13 ish miles.  At this point we would run about 5ish miles on one side of the highway, do a little 2 mile loop, then run another 5 on the other side of the highway.  Then it was back up and down the volcano and at the bottom was the finish line.

 We were down to 2 in the group and I was still feeling surprising well.  I definitely felt like we were running slow and I was excited about the middle of the race.  Around this time, mile 11 or 12ish that I started feeling something funny.  My feet, especially my left foot felt kind of hot.  Now the rain stopped and the sun came out and was blazing, but my foot seemed hotter than it should be.  One thing I definitely learned in running is sometimes you get little pains that hit your feet, shins, legs, etc, stick around for a while, then iron themselves out and you feel fine.  Surely this must be one of those situations…. Except it wasn’t, it was a huge blister-in-training.