Friday, February 11, 2011

Maui Vacation and Half Marathon recap

A few days weeks ago we returned from our eight day trip to Maui. This was my first long visit to Maui. We spent a long day in the airport last year due to a flight delay, and I spent a couple days at the Hyatt Regency with college friends about 25 years ago, but all my other Hawaii trips have been to Oahu (in college) and Kona. Rod spent a lot of time on Maui with his family and working during summers in college, but he hadn't been there for 25 years either.

For me, this was a half marathon trip plus vacation. For Rod, it was a trip back to his past. I would say "his youth," but that makes us sound so old!

We stayed at the Outrigger Aina Nalu in Lahaina. It's a condominium hotel (the units are individually owned but you rent them like hotel rooms), located just a couple of blocks off Front Street in Lahaina. It's not on the beach, obviously, but it's just a short walk to a nice beach, and the hotel has two really great pool areas. We had a one-bedroom unit with a kitchen, which was great. The only downside I found (other than not having a view of the ocean), was that our first-floor unit faced the parking lot, which meant that we didn't really open the blinds, and the rooms were always artificially lit (thus somewhat dim). We did open the blinds on the last day, and it really wasn't that bad having the parking lot out there, so if I stayed again I would probably keep the blinds open more. Or, perhaps, try to get a unit that faced the pool! (I suspect that we got a better rate with the type of room we chose.)

We had decided to stay in Lahaina because the half marathon started and ended there, but also it seemed more interesting than one of the big resorts. We could get around town by walking (although we did go on car trips to the rest of the island on many days), and we're not really big resort people. Well, Rod isn't, anyway. I might be able to be a resort person (depending on the resort and the amenities), but I'm not too into the expensive rates at the nicer resorts.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon, picked up our car (upgraded to a Lincoln Town Car, which thrilled Rod) and headed for Lahaina. By the time we got checked in and settled into our room, it was around 5 p.m. and we were starving. We'd had a ham sandwich on the flight for lunch and nothing else since then.

We decided to go eat at Aloha Mixed Plate, a casual restaurant that specializes in local food, which had been recommended by Mary from my office. We knew it was at the north end of Lahaina, but since we just arrived (and Rod's memory of the geography was not as good as he thought it was after 25 years), we didn't realize quite how far away it was. We decided to take the scenic route by walking there via Front Street.

And off we went. I had changed my clothes when we arrived and was now wearing sandals instead of my running shoes, which I'd worn on the plane. I would have been better off keeping the running shoes on!

After walking a three quarters of a mile or so up Front Street, we left the most commercial "downtown" area and began walking along a more residential part of the road. For a while we didn't even have a sidewalk and we were just walking on the dirt shoulder. Since we didn't know how far we were going, this seemed a little weird (although I would end up running along it many times in days to come). We did encounter other walkers periodically. After about a mile, we passed the "Jesus Coming Soon" church, crossed a bridge of some sort, and I fortunately spotted the Aloha Mixed Plate sign in the not-too-far distance. We also got a sidewalk back there.

We crossed the street and got seated in Aloha Mixed Plate. As I mentioned, we were ravenous. We both ordered the Ali'i Plate, which was the biggest combination on the menu. Here's the menu description: Includes a traditional Lau Lau--Pork with Hawaiian Salt wrapped in Taro Leaves then Ti leaves then cooked in an underground oven called an imu; Kalua Pua'a (pork) & Cabbage, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Poi, Macaroni Salad, Rice and Haupia for dessert. (Haupia is a coconut pudding.) Rod ate everything but I took soon of the Lau Lau and Kalua Pork to go. I am so glad I ordered this big plate though, otherwise I might never have tried Lau Lau which I now love!

On Monday I did my first morning run in Hawaii (of this trip). With the two hour time difference getting up at 6 a.m. should be easy (equivalent to 8 at home), but I was lazy and by the time I actually did get up and ready to go out it was 8 a.m. It was also dark at 6:00, and I was so unfamiliar with the area that I was leery of heading out in the dark. Over the week, as I grew familiar with the area and patterns of darkness, I learned that it was light at 7 a.m., and light enough at 6:45. However, I still needed to get up at 6-6:15 in order to get myself in order to go out...sunscreen application alone took several minutes!

I ran in Hawaii a total of six times. Monday the 17th (6.7 miles), Tuesday (8.52 miles), Thursday (6.02 miles), Friday (8.25 miles), Sunday (the half marathon, 13.17 miles), and Monday the 24th (6.06 miles). Basically I ran the same route each time, north on Front Street to the north end of Lahaina, onto the highway for a bit, then onto the trail that follows the highway north toward Kaanapali. On Tuesday I ran onto the grounds of the Hyatt Regency and around there for a bit before tracing my way back. On the day we left, I ran south through Lahaina to the highway, then north to the highway on the other end, and back...the total distance of that was probably around five miles, but I did some doubling back to end up with my 6.06 miles. Almost every morning I ended up at Starbucks (about a third of a mile from the hotel) where I got myself an iced Americano and occasionally did some shopping at the Foodland grocery store as well.

Views from Haleakala

The trip to Molokai

Lahaina Harbor
The back side of the Pioneer Inn.

Rod on the boat.

Cracking macadamia nuts at Purdy's Macadamia Nut Farm.

Statue of Father Damien at one of his churches.

Sightseeing-wise, I think we managed a fair balance of driving and going around the island, with beach, pool, and relaxation time. We drove up to the summit of Haleakala (Monday), took a boat with van tour to Molokai (Wednesday), and drove the road to Hana (Thursday), where we had lunch at the Hotel Hana (apparently the restaurant is called Ka'uiki, which I didn't know until I looked at the website just now).

During lunch we had the entertaining/irritating experience of listening to the occupants of the neighboring table chatting with their neighboring table.... We learned that the gentleman was a Scotsman who now lives in Bermuda, but can afford to take lengthy vacations in Hawaii. His dining companion/possible girlfriend lives on Maui where she has a B&B. Although neither of them looked underfed, they chose to share the fish sandwich for their lunch (for goodness sake, who splits a fish sandwich). They did, however, indulge in a mai tai (her), and glass of wine (him). He was loudly surprised (and expressed this to the waitress) at the bar bill where he learned that the mai tai cost $15 and the glass of wine was $24! (Apparently they must have ordered the drinks without looking at a menu?)

Later, before we left, I was amused to hear the occupant of another nearby table apparently explaining that he was vegan... (and I quote) "no eggs, meat, or dairy." So the waitress asked (and I am not joking about this): "Do you eat chicken?"

Rod and I were quite easy compared to the others. We both ordered the Maui beef cheese burger, and only caused a little confusion by requesting tartar sauce for our fries. And we both ate it all.

Beach with big waves (don't remember the name).

On the way back, before our return to Lahaina, we stopped to visit and view the Iao Needle, near Wailuku. In fact, the Needle is 3.1 miles from Wailuku, and "back in the day" Rod ran a 10K to and from the Needle! We drove there. And then walked the lookout trail to view the scenery.

On Friday we did a little tour of some spots south of Lahaina. We took a walk on Makena Beach, drove through Wailea, and had lunch at Stella Blues Cafe in Kihei (a Jerry Garcia themed restaurant...Rod had the Jerry Burger).

Saturday was all Lahaina day (and the day before the half marathon!). Packet pick-up began at 10 a.m. at the Pioneer Inn, so I walked over there a little before 10. There was already a short line, so I was lucky to be early. Part of the reason the line grew long was that everyone seemed to be taking a while to get their numbers and try on the shirts.

When I got to the front I asked for a ladies' large shirt. They had switched from all unisex shirts to having ladies' sizes, and I usually get a large because I don't want it to be too close fitting or too short-sleeved. I am one of the few women who actually prefer the unisex shirts, I think. I popped the shirt on over my clothes and it seemed fine. Later I wondered if I should have tried a medium, because it is pretty big. For while I was sort of unhappy about the shirt, but I've worn it to the Y a few times and it's fine. I also spent $10 on a hat, which I am really happy with. It's white with blue lettering and a honu (turtle) logo. The blue stitching matched my designated shirt for the race perfectly, so I wore it in the half marathon. I actually like the hat a lot more than the shirt.

A few minutes after ten Rod met me and we walked around the art show which was under the Banyan Tree. Then we headed over to the beach which was actually near or part of Kamehameha Iki Park (the start and finish of the half marathon). We liked the slightly more south part of the beach which is in front of Lahaina Shores Resort and a new shopping center that is the home of two restaurants we visited, I'O and Pacific'O (we ate lunch at Pacific'O on Saturday and Monday, and dinner at I'O on Sunday).

After sunbathing and swimming for a while (I religiously applied 30 sunscreen the first half of the week, and 15 thereafter, and I never burned--or tanned much), we ate lunch at Pacific'O then walked back to the hotel. Later that afternoon we relocated to the hotel pool, where I had my bathroom adventure. We intended this to be a quiet, relaxing day, and it was. For dinner we picked up take-out pasta from Penne Pasta Cafe, conveniently located only about a block from the hotel. The menu had lots of yummy sounding options, but I went with the same thing I had ordered earlier in the week, whole wheat spaghetti with roasted eggplant and tomatoes. This time I added in some leftover filet mignon that I had from Friday night's dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House. (I know it's a chain--albeit a fancy one--but we had a $25 coupon and with that our dinner was just very, very expensive, rather than very, very, very expensive! They cook a great steak. And we had an Oysters Rockefeller appetizer that was delish!)

We ate a lot of good food over the week, including a home-cooked meal on Tuesday night. We might have had more dinners in the hotel, but the options for eating out were so tempting. On Tuesday Rod cooked some fish we bought at the store, with sauteed mango and onion on the side, plus steamed blue sweet potato and a watercress salad. The fish was colloquially called butter fish. The pieces were quite small, which disappointed me at first, but when I looked up the fish I was grateful for that. It was so delicious (literally tasted buttery) but I learned that it could cause some possible negative side effects! It turns out the proper name is escolar or sometimes walu. It is a very high oil fish and the type of oil is not easily digested. In fact, it sometimes causes gastrointestinal problems, especially if too much is consumed. The recommended portion is less than six ounces. Ours were 3-4 ounces, so that's good. Rod broiled it, which drained off some of the oils, which also may be helpful. As it turned out, neither of us had any problems at all, but just to be safe, I decided not to try it again prior to the race.

And that brings me to Sunday morning. Race day. The race started at 6:45, so I figured we should leave the hotel at 6:15-6:20 in order to get over there around 6:30. I bagged the idea of doing a warm-up because that never seems to work when I am traveling with Rod. I told him that he didn't need to get up and come to the start but he said he would.

I got up at 5:00 so that I could eat some breakfast a couple of hours beforehand. I had pre-made a PB&J sandwich using bread that I had bought at the Molokai Kanemitsu Bakery. I had never heard of Molokai bread before, but our guide on Molokai stopped there in case anyone wanted to buy the famous bread. I hopped out and ran in because I knew I would want some bread for carb-loading. (I ended up having bread and butter with my pasta both times as well.) I kind of expected the bread to be sweet like the Hawaiian bread you can buy in the grocery store, but it was just a fairly typical (in my opinion) nice white bread. Good, though.

I was able to linger over my breakfast for a while before going through my dressing routine. Sunscreen, clothes, fuel belt with nuun (I didn't want to carry a water bottle but wanted to be well hydrated), Garmin, iPod, money in case I need a taxi (or something). Then we headed out in the darkness toward Kamehameha Iki Park.

The race director told us to seed ourselves from the fastest to walkers, so I situated myself in the middle of the pack. I knew I wasn't going to be as fast as I have been in the past, but I didn't want to sell myself short by going too far back either. There were no chips for timing, but the crowd wasn't so big that it would make much of a difference.

In fact, I crossed the start line only eleven seconds after the start. My goal for this race was to run strong and enjoy myself. I definitely wanted to feel better than I did during and after the Nookachamps Half Marathon the week before! I am pretty certain in retrospect that I was not well-fueled for that one. This time I know I had eaten well in the days before the race! And as for carb loading...can you say "rice with (almost) every meal"?

My casual goal was to try to stay close to 9:30 miles. I was fairly close to that. In mile 1 we ran south along Front Street and up to the highway. That was a little slow due to the lag at the beginning and a little bit of crowding...9:46. When we got onto the highway (where the whole race was run, except the very beginning and end), I was pleasantly surprised that the wide shoulder allowed us to run quite easily without crowding or interfering with traffic. I wasn't even bothered by the cars racing by on the highway.

The course was mostly flat, in my opinion. I think there were portions of the road that inclined up or downhill, but it was gradual enough that I felt good even on the "ups." In fact, there was a long portion where I felt we were running downhill, but on the return, it did not seem to be fact, it felt downhill as well. It's one of those running optical illusions! (The full marathon route had some long hills, though!)

Although I was carrying nuun, I did take water or sports drink at many of the water stations (though not the first one). I expect that slowed me a little but I was really leery of dehydration. Even though the heat didn't really bother me, I was sweating like a fountain, especially in the second half when it did warm up a little. I also used the sports drink as fuel. I was carrying a couple of Gu packets but didn't use them. It didn't appeal to me and I didn't feel like I needed extra fuel. Apparently the days of carb-loading were serving me well!

The first half (of the half marathon) went well, pretty much on track with my goals. 9:46, 9:31, 9:23, 9:31, 9:20, 9:31. By the time I got to mile 5, maybe even sooner, we were encountering the fast runners on their way back. This narrowed our running path a little bit but not badly.

I blew a little time at the halfway point turnaround by fumbling at the water station and just not making a quick turn. I think that explains why mile 7 was a little slower, 9:40. (Still feeling good, though!)

While I had kept a fairly neutral expression on my face during the first half, I intentionally smiled throughout the return trip. I wanted to look cheerful for the oncoming runners and, really, I was happy! Every once in a while I shouted encouragements, mostly to women. "Nice job, ladies!" "Good work!" "Keep it up!" Etc. We also had our names on our bibs, so I got some random cheers from kind bystanders. I thought that there was a photographer on the course (in fact, I think there was a sign to that effect, unless I'm confusing it with another race), and I did smile for someone with a camera. But the only official race pics were from the finish line.

At some point in this second half I was passed by one of the superfast marathon runners (the marathon started an hour before the half). I know this because he put his hand on my back and pushed me out of his way. I felt a combination of bad and irritated by this. I was certainly not blocking traffic; I was running solo and the guy nearest to me was just behind me. Obviously there were also other runners going the opposite direction and running space was a bit limited. Hopefully the guy was just letting me know he was passing and not implying that I was in his way or something!

There was a little bit of incline on the return trip, and I intentionally took mile 10 easy with the idea of pouring it on in the final 5K. Miles 8-10 - 9:36, 9:40, 9:45. Usually what happens in that circumstance is that I plan to kick up the pace in the last three miles, but end up waiting till the last two instead.

But then I encountered an unexpected situation which put a crimp in my plans. The 5K version of this race started at mile 10 of the half marathon (going north to Lahaina) and it happened to start just before I got there. That meant that I ran right into the back of the pack up 5K-ers. Almost literally. I had to maneuver around the walkers, then past the slower runners. What was really a little more difficult was when I got to the 9:45 to 10-minute pace runners. They are harder to pass because it is so easy just to fall into that pace! In fact, I did mile 11-12 at 9:45 and 9:52 (I should have been under 9:30, easily).

I did pick it up a little in mile 13 (9:37). This is where we were heading back into Lahaina for the final stretch. I passed by a woman who was walking up the slight hill toward Lahaina and shouted something encouraging. I felt a little foolish when she blasted past me shortly afterward. But then I passed her walking again...apparently her burst of energy was short-lived.

My final .17 was at 9:05 pace and I crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face (as the pictures show). It wasn't one of my faster races, but it wasn't one of my slowest either. I felt good the whole way through, and it gave me encouragement about getting my speed back as we approach spring.

My official finish time was 2:06:32. Very acceptable, even if not everything I could hope for (in an ideal universe). What seemed crazy to me was that I was 13th (of 45) in my age group! (40-49). I wouldn't have expected to even be in the top half with that time. Only nine women in my age group finished under two hours. The woman who finished about 20 seconds behind me was from Oak Harbor, WA (home of the Whidbey Island Marathon and Half). Her name is Laney Rathbun...maybe she'll see this in a Google search of her name. :) I also scoured the race results a bit to see if I could spot the name of a guy in a Canada shirt who was near me at that time. He had been ahead and behind me at various spots, and I was curious to see if I had passed me in the end (I didn't recall that) or finished behind me. But there were way too many Canadians running to figure it out.

Rod found me a few minutes after I finished. I was walking around breathing hard (and still smiling). I was also sweating like a horse and my nose was just pouring fluid (snot). I kept wiping my nose with my arm (gross, but my whole body was dripping anyway), until Rod gave me his handkerchief. After the second time I deposited a liter of liquid into it, he declined to take it back.
We didn't hang around the finish area too long. I assume there was some post race food, but I didn't see it. We walked back to the hotel and I fixed a light post-race breakfast to hold us until we went to lunch. I sliced and toasted the remaining Molokai bread, and I had mine with Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. (Rod doesn't like that, for some crazy reason, and he had honey.) I also finished off the fruit salad I had made the night before with a papaya and apple bananas. I'd been eating a banana with breakfast every day, and I think the potassium from the bananas and papaya helped fend off cramping. It was delicious fruit salad, anyway. I made a dressing of sorts with passion fruit (gleaned, literally, during our trip to Molokai) mixed with some honey.

After I showered and dressed we drove partway up and around the north end of the island before going to lunch. This may have been my favorite drive of the trip. The scenery was amazing but the road was easier (and less trafficked) than the road to Hana. There were also better spots to pull over for pictures (which can't be discounted when you are a tourist!). We could have gone a lot further than we did, but there was this little matter of lunch, so we turned around when we found a good spot.

Lunch was back at Aloha Mixed Plate! I had been waiting all this time to indulge in my own Loco Moco plate (Rod had it the visit before). Loco moco is two scoops of rice (white, of course), topped with two thick ground beef patties, two fried eggs, and brown gravy. Okay, you don't need to have two of everything, but that's how they do it at Aloha Mixed Plate. Plus a scoop of macaroni salad. I'll admit, I ate everything but half of one of the beef patties!
For our final afternoon in Maui we went back to the pool to lounge and swim. (I didn't go into the bathroom this time.) For dinner we walked over to I'O for a lovely farm grown meal. I had "O’o Farm Beets - Roasted heirloom beets in our farm pesto with feta cheese, macadamia nuts, and raisins"; and "Road to Hana - Grilled fresh catch with seasonal fruit, greens & rice with a passion fruit dressing and a basil yogurt accent." The fish was ono, which is usually my favorite, but it didn't taste quite as good to me this time as usual. (I am thinking that maybe January is not as good a time of year for ono as May was.) I also had a rather decadent caramel chocolate dessert. The food was lovely and the ambience was sublime!

On Monday morning I squeezed in my final run in Lahaina. I also stopped and ordered a couple of pineapples to be sent to my office. This was kind of silly because it cost a lot, but Ann had requested it so I did it. I noticed in QFC at home that you can buy pineapples for just a few dollars each. Oh well.

We made good use of our final morning by walking around to some of the historic sites on the Lahaina Trail. We'd been past a lot of them already, of course, but we went into the Baldwin Home museum, and also into the grounds of the (old) Lahaina Prison (which we'd walked past many times on our path to and from the hotel). Then, after loading the car and checking out, we walked back to Pacific'O for a final beachside lunch (we'd gotten a discount coupon after our dinner at I'O).

That was pretty much the end of our Maui trip. The airport wait wasn't unbearably long (unlike our interminable Maui layover last year which got us our travel vouchers for this trip), and the flight went as well as a long-haul flight can be expected to. I did watch the in-flight movie, Life as We Know It, and it passed the time. We got into Seattle around 11:30 p.m., and I finally got home around 1 a.m.

Luckily both Rod and I had Tuesday off work to recover! After all, you need to rest up after your vacation!

In conclusion (if you've lasted this far), here are my final thoughts about the Maui Oceanfront Half (and Marathon).

Would I run this one again? Yes, definitely, if I had the opportunity. But since it is very much a destination race and requires a major trip, I don't know the likelihood of taking a vacation in Maui at this time of year again. (Not that a vacation in Maui is a big sacrifice!) It's not a race that you can just drop into at the last minute. Probably. (Actually you could, if you had a last-minute opportunity to go to Maui for a weekend. They do have day of race registration and I don't think it sells out.)

Would I do the full marathon instead of the half next time? Well, probably not. Frankly, the only reason I can see to do the full in this case is to say you did it. And because all the race gear says "marathon" not "half." But honestly, the half marathon has it all over the full in this case. Consider....

  • The half marathon is an out and back from Lahaina. The full is point to point, Wailea to Lahaina, so requires transportation or shuttle either in the beginning or end (and I have no idea whether there's somewhere to stay near the beginning so that you can walk to the start).

  • The half marathon is pretty much flat, with some gradual inclines and declines. The full has some long hills.

  • The half is also shaded by trees in many sections, while the full has long, open stretches in the hot, hot sun.

  • The half marathon starts at 6:45, which is not too horribly early but is early enough to finish before the heat of the day. The full starts an hour earlier (5:45 is early), but would still take at least an additional hour to finish, maybe longer if it didn't go well, and by then it gets hot!

  • And (as always), you can walk away from the half marathon feeling good (pretty good) and not be crippled for the rest of your trip!


Matt Holton said...

Looks like you guys had a good time on Maui, and lots of "ono" food.

Brielle Franklin said...

Loved the pictures! I have not seen many pictures of that side of Hawaii before. Normally it's all beach pictures. Sounds like you guys had a ton of fun! My husband and I have been looking into Maui vacation rentals, I think I may take your route and try and find one in the mountains, not by the beach. I am sure it's a whole different experience!