I took a bit of a hiatus from race reports at the end of 2017. I got so caught up in working out and fitness that, in truth, in probably got a little unhealthy. By the time I finished those marathons, I had a crazy amount of work and I was just trying to get my life back together. By the time I had a moment to breathe, I was so removed from the races that it felt difficult to write at all.
So, an update. Last December, I ran two marathons within six days of each other, at 3:54 and, wonderfully, 3:49:30 for a small PR. The Hawai‘i Bird Conservation Marathon is a tiny race that’s net downhill, and I felt blessed I could PR 6 days after a warm Honolulu race.
Now, so I don’t repeat the mistakes I made, let’s talk about 2018.
I came into this race with a lot of cautious optimism. I’d had a good few weeks of training, and was feeling really strong as a runner.
This year, I opted to not run the Hawai‘i Bird Marathon. It was a tough choice, and I had been planning on running it all the way up until this past November. Then, I got invited to an awesome weekend in Sonoma, CA, that felt sort of once-in-a-lifetime. It was a tough choice, but in the end I think it was the right one. One of my goals for 2018 was to stop doing things out of obligation, so when the time came, I decided to do what made me happy instead of just what I had “agreed” to do.
In the end, though, I made the right choice. It meant that I was able to really focus on this race as a benchmark for how my training was going so far. That also meant a new race strategy. I’ve always been an very conservative runner. It’s a mixture of things– fear of bonking or hitting the wall, residual fear from my injury a few years back, and my general worry-wart attitude always mean I tend to pull back so I don’t die before the finish line.
This year, however, I decided to be more strategic about my racing and go out faster then I had in a while. My eventual goal pace for Revel Kūlia is under an 8-minute-mile (which seems absurd to me right now), but I’ve been able to steadily hold ~8:30 in my distance training runs. I decided to go out trying to hold that 8:30 pace for the entire race, just to see what would happen.
I also was a lot more strategic in all aspects of my tapering, particularly with mileage and nutrition. My coach only gave me about a week of tapering before the race, so I kept my mileage up until then (~30-40 a week. I did 30 the two weeks before the race, and then 21 the week before). I also slowly started to increase my carb/starch intake (for me, more rice!) and try and sleep more.
Finally, though, I just tried to mellow out and enjoy myself the week before the race. Honolulu is nice because it truly feels like a hometown race for me. I train most of the course throughout the year. I was able to get good sleep the night before, and woke up with time to have some coffee, a bit of bread with peanut butter, water, and a shower before running down to the start. I knew that I needed to trust the work I put in, and then let go and let God do the rest.
Race Report (Garmin Info)
This race went quite well, all things considered (splits at the bottom of this section).
I’ve really appreciated that the Honolulu has added start corrals this year. Because Honolulu is such a huge race (4th largest in the nation!), we draw a lot of folks who are doing the race at all kinds of speeds. I am a full supporter in running whatever kind of race you want– fast, slow, walking, whatever– but think it’s important to be mindful of what other runners want as well. Walking and stopping midway when folks are really trying to find a pace early is frustrating– one year, it was so jam-packed I had to walk parts of the race up Diamond Head, which totally killed rhythm stride.
That’s much less of an issue now with the start corrals. I found a good stride early, and knew I’d want to stay sub-9 while I warmed up. As soon as I saw the fireworks, I got really emotional during the race. I know that there had been so many folks who had helped me get to this place, and I was so grateful for them. I wept as I ran, letting it all out and knowing that there was a big journey ahead.
Honolulu’s start is always so fun. We run through town, up through Chinatown (with a bitty hill to get us prepped), past the local bars supporting us and ringing bells and cheering. Then you turn and pass the Honolulu City Lights, which is festive and fun, and a great reminder to not get overly serious while running.
Then we headed past the mall, through Waikiki, and eventually up Diamond Head. Right before, you see people finishing the Start to Park 10k, which is exciting but also a little envy-inducing! It’d be nice to be done before the sun! Still, I knew that I had something to prove and 20 miles to go– nothing more than a long, training run, right?
Going up Diamond Head, we’re always met with awesome course helpers– it’s a group of local high schoolers who high-five and cheer us on in a way that makes me feel so, so grateful to live out here. Nothing like a high-five and a “Chee-hoo!” to make you smile, even up Diamond Head’s elevation.
Once we got past Diamond Head, I knew I needed to lock in, find a pace and stay there. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a ton of specifics about miles 13-21. Some remembrances and thoughts:
→ Once I’m warm and ready, hills that typically feel yucky (like mile 9 and 10 near KCC) sort of speed by.
→ Folks. I. Got. SO. HUNGRY this race!! I definitely needed to eat a little more before the race. By mile 13 I felt like I was starving! Props to the folks who hand out mild food (pretzels, chocolate chips(!), oranges) along the race for those of us in need.
→ Mile 14-16 was some truly annoying head-wind. We all felt it. Props to the guy who, already on the return, yelled, “Don’t worry, it gets better!” The smile that put on my face was hugely necessary, especially since I kept thinking that you never really make up that time. Thanks, sir!
→ Speaking of which, finding things to get out of my head is so helpful, particularly looking for folks I know. I saw a former student, who cheered “Ms. Torres yay!!” just when I needed it and made me tear up (she emailed me after and full-on made me cry. Like, I am tearing up right now). I saw a colleague and fellow runner who had offered to stash stuff for me if I needed it. I saw friends also running. And the spectators and kokua crew folks are always so fun and positive. I had my amazing friends who messaged me before, during, and after to motivate me. It’s such a hugely positive part of racing here that really helps me stay in a mentally good place. I am very grateful for them.
→ Oh my goodness, it’s so helpful to run with a Garmin now. I went watch-less/Apple Watch for quite a bit of time, but having the Forerunner 235 to let me know my current pace and heart rate was a GAME CHANGER to running smart and keeping it up.
→ I was really particular with my during-race nutrition, taking Gu gels with caffeine every 45 minutes without fail. This was also a really helpful change for me. I used to only use gels “if I needed it” (since I train like it’s the zombie apocalypse), but I realize now that actually leaves me susceptible to getting tired because I’m not fueled.
I was able to keep a pretty steady clip during these miles, and felt good knowing that my HR and general physical feeling at 8:30 was so steady. Around mile 20, though, I started getting a little over it.
I always struggle with this feeling at some point in a race where I’m like, “Why am I doing this and can I be done?!” (I appreciate my fellow runner-yogi Kali for letting me know I’m not alone!). The mental game is really one of the things I am consistently working on. I knew I had to dig deep and get it together to finish the race strong.
Fortunately, I knew my boyfriend was at mile 24, waiting to cheer me on, and as cheesy as it is to admit, it was hugely helpful at the end. Just a few more miles till Boyfriend, I thought, knowing that seeing him would be a good morale boost at the end.
As I finally got through the flat, hot oven of Kahala Avenue (where were the ice-spray folks? I miss them), I pushed up that hill at mile 23, I knew that I was so close. I got some water and saw another Punahou colleague, which made me smile. Then, my guy was sitting there on the corner at the bottom of the mountain, taking photos and making kissy faces at me.
I couldn’t help but smile and laugh. He cheered me on while I passed him, and I knew I had one last push to get home.
I kept a good pace up Diamond Head (8:46 average), and once I crested I kept telling myself, Now is the time. You have to earn it. Lean in and get home fast.
So I took my downhill training from Revel (nose to toes, shorter strides with fast turn over), and booked it with a smile on my race.
The last mile was just a huge, exciting push for me. I wanted to see how fast I could do that last chunk to get home. I raced folks, got the crowd to cheer, and pushed as hard as I could to do my last mile at 7:50! I was so physically tired, but
The announcer called my name, and I had to smile , I crossed the finish line and was back home. I hit my watch and saw my time, and doubled over in tears. 3:45:27. A four minute PR may not sound like a lot, but to do that at this pace in a warm, windy, hilly race felt exciting.
As I think back on this race, I’m struck that it’s a clear reminder that I have to trust the work, even when it doesn’t feel like it’s working. It’s a long, slow process, and I don’t always see the results in real-time, but I can’t just skate by and think I’ll get the same results. I have to put in the mileage if I want to get to the goals I want.
I also needed this reminder to dream big again. A few years ago, I told myself that I wouldn’t push to do anything except sub-4, since I felt to do anything more than that would take a level of training and dedication I didn’t have.
Then I just, well, did it. I made the choice to invest in myself and my goals, and running did what it has always done for me: reminded me that the only limit that exists are the ones I put on myself. If I want something, I have to want it and actually push for it. I have to get out of my own way and trust myself to go out and get what I want.
That also meant having a new relationship with my body image and food. I’ve finally stopped measuring and weighing myself every day, and instead been focusing on how I feel and how my training is going instead of what’s aesthetically going on in the mirror. It took awhile (and I’m not perfect and still do it on occasion, nor do I think it’s problematic for everyone), but because I’ve been keeping my eye on my training and performance instead of running to look a certain way, it’s changed my mindset with what I eat/drink (“how will this make me feel tomorrow?”) and my body (“it’s okay if I don’t run today because it’s not about getting fat, but about letting my muscles recover). It also helps to be with a partner who is very loving and supportive and who I trust completely, but that’s another post for another time.
So, what’s next?
In March I’m running Revel Kūlia, a mostly-downhill race on Big Island that I’m tentatively trying to BQ (sub 3:30). I want it, and I always want to be healthy and enjoy life without getting to obsessive with a time goal.
Either way, it was an exciting year of running. I can’t wait to see what’s to come.