Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 Lavaman Triathlon!

There's no rest for the weary - at least if you're Jason. After his second-place finish in the Hilo Marathon last weekend, he only had one week to recover before he ran the run leg of a relay team for the Lavaman Triathlon.
The Lavaman Triathlon is held in March every year in Waikoloa and is the start of triathlon season here on the Big Island. Over 1000 participants tackle a 1.5K (.9 mile) swim in Anaeho'omalu Bay, 40K (24.8 mile) bike ride on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway, and finally a 10K (6.2 mile) run over lava fields and around the Waikoloa resort grounds. The field included several pro triathletes, including 2009 Lavaman Winners Chris McCormack and Kona's own Bree Wee, but it was also made up of many Team in Training groups and a large contingent from Alaska.

Jason's relay team, Chain Reaction, was composed of some of those Alaska athletes. David Valdes, a former Kona resident now living in Alaska, convinced Jamie Stull (owner of the Alaska bike shop Chain Reaction) to travel down to Kona for the race. David did the swim, Jamie the bike and Jason the run. They were up against some stiff competition in the Bike Works team composed of high school superstar swimmer Nick Garrett, Bike Works owner Grant Miller, and local runner and coach Eric Neilsen.

Jason and David before the race

One of the relay teams also included tennis superstar Martina Navratilova. She completed the bike portion for Team Navratrilavas. Before the race, I got a quick picture of her from afar. See if you can pick her out - she's in the black shirt and white cap right in the middle of the photo.

Ok, so it's not my best photo ever, but it really is her. Unfortunately, that was all I saw of her all day.

The swim started in several wave starts. The first group to start was the pros and the relay teams, followed a few minutes later by the men 15-39, men 40+, women 15-39, and women 40+.
Swimmers get ready for the start.

And they're off! Pro/relay start at Lavaman.

First out of the water was pro John Flanagan with a swim time of 17:16 (incredible!).

Jason had heard a little bit about his relay teammates before the race, but had never seen either of them in action. So we really had no good idea of when I'd see David leave the water. I was taken a little by surprise when the next group of swimmers out of the water were Nick Garrett, followed closely by Chris McCormack, with David right on his heels! Luckily I recovered quickly and snapped a couple of action shots. That group came out of the water right around 18 minutes - also blazing fast!

Nick Garrett

Chris McCormack and David Valdes

David Valdes

I stuck around the swim transition a little longer and got some pictures of more local athletes before heading over to the bike area to check on Team Chain Reaction.

Bree Wee

Luis De la Torre

Jason was getting warmed up so he'd be ready to go whenever Jamie showed up. Meanwhile, I chatted with Ray Whitford of the Big Island Honda Crew (Mark Curry - swim, Keola Wimbish - bike, and Ray - run) and watched tons of people make their way in from the swim and out on to the bike course. After a little while, they announced that Chris McCormack was in the lead and making his way back to the transition area. If you look closely at the picture below, you can pick out the lead motorcycle and Chris behind it.

A couple more pros started coming in, followed by Luis De La Torre, with Jamie right on his heels. Another fantastic leg for Chain Reaction, with a bike time of 1:02.

Jaime Stull

Swapping chips for the relay

After Jason got the chip from Jamie, he was off on the run. I waited a little bit longer to check on the progress of the Bike Works relay, which came into the transition about 4 minutes after Chain Reaction. Once I saw that, I headed to the finish line to catch the pro finish.

As you can see, the run ended with a beautiful, but brutal, stretch along the beach. Although from what I hear, the rest of the run over lava isn't much easier. Chris McCormack managed to hold on to his lead and was the 2010 Lavaman champion. He was followed thirty seconds later by Tyler Butterfield. Here are some photos of the top finishers:

Chris McCormack

Tyler Butterfield

Timothy Marr

John Flanagan

Luis De La Torre

Pretty soon, I started expecting Jason. He was planning around 36 minutes for his run. When it got to 37 minutes, I started wondering where he was. About that time, he finally appeared and finished his run with a time of 38:18.

I left my post at the finish line to find Jason and hear what happend. Once I found him, the first thing I heard was "I ran off the course." Apparently, he came to an unmarked fork in the lava and made a wrong turn. After he ran down that path for about a minute it ended, so he ran back and took the other turn, costing him a couple of minutes. Luckily it didn't cost the team, since Jamie had built up such a great lead on the bike. Congrats to Chain Reaction!

Congrats to all of the participants and thanks to all of the volunteers! It was a first-class event and another great way to spend a Sunday. Here are some more finish pictures of some of our customers and friends. (Sorry if we missed you, I had to scoot to get back and open up the store!)

Rani Tanimoto

Korey Pulluiam of Big Island Honda - his first Lavaman!

John Simmerman

Ray Whitford - Big Island Honda Relay

Bobbi Reif-Acheson

Lesley Cens-McDowell

Jon Kunitake

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hilo Marathon Recap Part II - Expo and Race!


Saturday morning of race weekend started off calmly enough. After a brief run for Jason and Erica, we drove the back half of the marathon course and grabbed some breakfast at Ken's House of Pancakes. We filled up on pancakes because we figured we might not get a chance to eat lunch. It's a good thing we did, because about the only thing I managed to eat between breakfast and dinner was some pretzels around 5 p.m.

The doors to the expo opened up for set-up at 11 a.m. and the expo was supposed to begin at noon. Unfortunately, the hotel front desk started telling people the expo started at 11, so people started coming through pretty early. We only had a little over an hour to set everything up and it was quite an undertaking. Jason took care of the computer and cash register, I tried to set up shoes, Jason's dad brought loads and loads in from the van, while his sister and mom set up the apparel and everything else that we brought.

Even with all the help, we still didn't have everything set up by noon. And little did we know that everyone would decide to come to the expo between noon and one and our booth was right next to the door where everyone stopped first.

So the first hour of the expo is a complete blur in my mind. We were still throwing things on the table for people to buy; the credit card processing wasn't working, so Jason's dad and I started taking cash and trying to keep track of what people bought; Erica tried to help people with shoes. It was completely chaotic. But thankfully everyone was very patient with us - people are always in such an understanding mood in Hawaii! :)

After the first hour, things slowed down a little bit and we had some time to catch our breath, but we were still busy all throughout the day. People seemed to really like the "Run Big" and Big Island Running Company shirts and hats.

Others needed to stock up on their nutritional products or get a FuelBelt for the race. We started packing up a little before six and were able to have the van completely packed by 6:55. By then we were all exhausted (and stinky) and ready to put our feet up for awhile before grabbing another pre-race pasta dinner.

Overall, the expo was a great experience. We learned a lot and hopefully will be a little more efficient if we get the chance to do it again next year.


Race morning started nice and early. Since the course started outside of town, we had to leave around 5:15 a.m. to drive to the start. Jason's parents dropped us off and snapped some pictures of the starting area, before beginning their ride around the course.

As you can see, the race started in the dark, so those glimmers of light in the last photo are all the reflective gear on the runners! The sun started coming up shortly after the start, so we didn't have to run too long in the dark. And after all our worries about the weather, the morning was perfect for running! A little overcast, cool and no rain early in the day, although there were some showers about two hours into the race.

As I mentioned yesterday, the first 8 miles were beautiful and hilly. Since I was running just a *tad* bit slower than Jason, I didn't get to see much of his race, so anything I can include here I heard from others. Apparently eventual marathon winner Billy Barnett got off to a really fast start during those hilly miles. Jason tried to stay controlled on the hills and save up some energy for the flat portions through Hilo, so he didn't see Billy for a long time. But he did run a good portion of the race with third-place finisher Andrew Taylor.

Cemetery around mile 8

I was quite a bit further back running my own race and trying to enjoy the scenery, which is a lot harder than it sounds. At one point I noticed that the guy in front of me had turned his head towards the ocean and I had to remind myself to look around then, too. As far as my time, I realized that the first portion of the course would be very inconsistent as far as times went. And it was true - my splits in those miles ranged from 7:20 to 9:00. But once we got out of the major hilly sections, I was able to hold onto a pretty consistent pace. I think this was where all my training really paid off. This was the first time I've run a half marathon where my times didn't completely die towards the end.

The course crosses past the finish line around mile 11 and then heads out on Banyan Drive for a loop before heading back to the finish again. The picture above was taken on my first pass through the finish area. I'm glad I knew about the last loop because it would take quite a toll on you if you weren't expecting it! Even knowing about it, the last half mile stretched on forever. As I was heading into the finish, I knew that I was a bit slower than I was hoping for, but also still in a good PR range, so I wasn't paying too much attention to my actual time. However, as I got closer, I saw that the clock was rapidly approaching 1:46 and a sprint just might get me under it. Unfortunately I made that decision about 2 seconds too late and ended up finishing at 1:46:01 - a little frustrating, but still a PR by almost two minutes. In the end I was very happy with my performance.

Then it was time to wait for Jason to come through the finish. Jason's parents were there at the finish line when I crossed, but then Jason's dad and Erica headed back out on the course to watch the end of his race. Unfortunately they took off before I could really talk to them, so I had no good idea of how his race was shaking out. At one point, Billy was about 4 minutes up on Jason, but eventually began slowing down. Jason stayed strong through about mile 20, including holding off a surge by Andrew Taylor, but said the pounding on his legs from the early hills began to take its toll. His last few miles were also a little slower than the early miles, but he was still gaining on Billy.

I camped out about 1/2 mile from the finish, not knowing who was going to be first one coming through. Some of the half marathoners were still finishing, so I had to keep my eyes peeled for someone passing those runners. Eventually I saw Billy coming over the hill by the Suisan bridge. Jason followed a little way behind him. I hurried back to the finish line and saw Billy cross in 2:50:20. Jason had made up some time and came in at 2:51:29, still looking pretty good:

Jason and Billy talking to Randee Joseph

Jason and Erica post-race

After Jason got some fluids and finished an interview with the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, it was time for the half marathon awards ceremony. I finished second in my age group and got to go up on the podium!

After the half marathon awards, we all got showers and headed to Ken's House of Pancakes (again) before the marathon awards. After a delicious breakfast, we headed back to the finish area to watch some of the later finishers come in. We got some great pictures of Jason's mom with Team B*tch (or the men in pink skirts) and of Marie Kuramoto finishing with her grandchildren.

In the women's race, Reka Batai of Hungary finished in first place in a time of 2:53:13, breaking the old course record. Yoko Yamazawa of Japan finished second with a time of 3:18:01 and Akemi Ueda of Honolulu was third in 3:23:06.

And for the men, Billy Barnett was first in 2:50:20, Jason second at 2:51:29 and Andrew Taylor of Honolulu was third in 2:52:49. Full results from all races are available here.

All in all, it was a fantastic race. The crowd support and volunteers were amazing. All of the activities ran smoothly and everyone had a great time. Mahalo again to Wayne Joseph, the Braswells, and all the volunteers who made this such a wonderful race!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hilo Marathon Recap Part I - Jason Finishes Second!

Well, it's been three days and we're finally getting recovered from the adventure that was the Big Island International Marathon weekend! Congratulations and many mahalos to race director Wayne Joseph for a wonderful weekend. As you may have seen, the highlight of the weekend was definitely Jason finishing second in the marathon with a time of 2:51:29. Even more amazing was that the weekend didn't lead to optimal pre-race conditions for him (which usually consists of spending the day before a marathon firmly planted on a couch with his feet up, watching movies). Instead, this time around we spent Saturday working the marathon expo. But I'm getting ahead of myself - here's the Friday recap, Saturday's and Sunday's will hopefully follow tomorrow.

The adventure began last Friday when we started packing up the store to take inventory over to the expo. We were extremely lucky to have Jason's parents and sister in town to help with the logistics, because there was no way any of that would have happened without them. We also wouldn't have any pictures of the weekend without Jason's mom, who did a great job as our official photographer. Many, many mahalos to Wendell, Debbie and Erica who might have gotten a little more than they bargained for on their Hawaiian "vacation"!

Initially we had grand plans of taking all of our shoes over to Hilo. But we soon realized that they wouldn't all fit in the cargo van we rented. So we had to make some hard decisions and left lots of shoes behind (if there was something you were looking for at the expo and it wasn't there, chances are it was left behind in Kona and you'll have to stop by our store!). Even leaving those behind, Jason still had to drive over to Hilo (over Saddle Road!) with shoes loaded to the top of the cargo area, in the passenger seat and between the front seats. We also packed up tons of nutritional products, FuelBelts, apparel and Big Island Running Company logo shirts. There was no spare space in any of the three vehicles we drove over to Hilo.

Once we made it to Hilo on Friday afternoon, we made a quick stop at the Big Island Road Runner's Friendship 5K before taking a drive to preview the first half of the marathon course. If you are unfamiliar with the course, it starts about 10 miles north of town and works its way into and around Hilo. Those first 8 miles are some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen on a run, since the course follows a scenic route into Hilo. Of course along with the beauty of waterfalls and coastal cliffs comes some major downhill and uphill portions. And a high potential for rain showers. Rain came down pretty hard while we were driving the course on Friday, so we were all getting nervous about the race conditions on Sunday morning. Chances of slogging through puddles with weighted down shoes seemed likely considering that this was the view that awaited us:

But there wasn't too much time to dwell on race conditions because we had to get back to the hotel for the Carbo-load dinner. It was a great dinner at the Hilo Hawaiian with lots of old and new friends. It's amazing how diverse the crowd was for a small marathon. We met a first-time marathoner and saw a participant who was completing his 50th state marathon. Many of the participants were from the mainland (North Carolina, Texas and Illinois were some of the states) or from outside the US! Those visitors and the locals got to enjoy Hawaiian-style entertainment with hula dancers and a raffle with lots of great prizes (including Big Island Running Company gift certificates :)). I was the luckiest one in our group and won a t-shirt and a plant. I'm hoping I won't kill this plant, but I think Jason is a little skeptical considering that would be a first for me. Here are some pictures of the dinner:

Lovely hula dancers.

More hula outfits!

Race Director Wayne Joseph with Cowman, Marie Kuramoto and DJ Blinn.

Wendell Braswell and DJ Blinn

Me and my prizes.

After dinner it was off to bed to rest up for our first attempt at an expo booth!