Archive for December, 2007

Honolulu Marathon 2007

December 11, 2007

I ran (mostly) my first full marathon on December 9, 2007 in Honolulu. This was written later that day and the following morning, and then polished a bit before being published.

I woke up at 2:45 to catch a shuttle to the start. Shortly after arriving near the starting line, the sky opened up and rain poured down, so I took shelter under a tree with a bunch of others (including a U.S. serviceman from Okinawa). The night before, someone had suggested bringing bags to keep my shoes dry, which worked well.

I made my way to the staging area, discarding the bags in the last available trash can. D’oh! The sky opened up a second time, and all I could do was stand so my body blocked most of it, so my shoes were only wet and not soaked. Note that wet shoes are to be avoided since they make blisters more likely.

Fireworks kicked off the race at 5, though it was after 5:17 before I crossed the starting line. And it was raining again, hard enough that I was wondering how many would drop out. After about a couple miles, though, it stopped, not to restart for another 17.

The early miles were easy, partly because with so many people, you couldn’t run too fast. Even the climb around Diamond Head was pretty mellow. I was a bit behind my expected pace, but I hoped that if I stayed strong I might make it up as the crowd thinned out. But I didn’t and it never really did (thin out, that is). With 27,829 registered and 20,692 finishers, this is a huge race.

I ran mostly based on heart rate. By this point it had climbed to around 160 from maybe 15 beats lower in the first few miles. I had run my 2 half marathons averaging in the 160s, so I was not too concerned, though at the same time I also knew I didn’t have much upside potential to my level of effort. So I started realizing that my time was going to be longer than the expected 5 hours (and much longer than the hoped 4:30), but that speeding up would only make things worse.

And I was getting slower still as I “hit the wall” around 17 miles or so. The “wall” is caused by your body running out of glycogen, leaving only fat to burn, and burning fat just doesn’t generate energy as fast as burning glycogen, so you slow down. I think better runners both store more glycogen and also burn fat more efficiently.

I saw my friends (Moe, Jim, Jeanne, and Ty) somewhere around mile 18. That plus the cooling (but not torrential) rain that came shortly afterward gave me a mild boost. But after I crossed 20 miles I began entertaining thoughts of walking. My right knee, which had bothered me a bit over the previous 1 1/2 weeks, started hurting, though I think now maybe my body was looking for a way to make me stop. My thoughts were too, concluding that if I took it a little easier I would be more likely to try a marathon again in the future.

I pushed to keep running to 22 miles, my previous longest run, and then switched to mostly walking. My friends appeared again, and that got me running again for a bit. But if I tried to keep that up I figured I might not make it, and at best would only be a few minutes faster. So I mostly walked, but ran some when I felt a little stronger.

To be honest, I really wanted to have something left for the final straightaway to the finish. And when I did see the finish arch, I started running. In fact I was mostly passing people at that point until I started getting twinges of cramping in one thigh. But even so I kept running that segment, and ended feeling surprisingly good at the finish line.

Eventually, after navigating the muddy park to collect my finisher’s shirt and medal, I found Connie and her friend Ann (who ran it in 1982). I followed the advice I got from several people, to get my legs into cold water, by wading into the ocean. Later I sat in a cold tub for a while too. Not having done this before, I can’t say for sure that it made a difference, but I was walking more normally than most other finishers we saw later that day.

So how do I feel now, a day later? I’m surprised to be mostly okay and only a little disappointed with such a slow time (5:25:58). Pushing harder just wasn’t going to help and more likely would have hurt. This was the result that was meant to be on this particular day. And I don’t really feel all that beat up by the experience. I think with some training targeted at my reaction to “the wall” (probably just more 20+ mile runs), I’ll at least be able to run the whole thing, after which I can work to improve my speed. Picking a marathon in a cooler climate won’t hurt either.

And finally, I would like to give sincere thanks to everyone who supported and encouraged me during the training and other preparation for this event.