Monday, February 28, 2011

Running Big in the Big Easy

[Editor's Note: This post was authored by Whitney, a friend of Big Island Running Company who ran New Orleans' Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon on February 13, 2011.]

When you plan on a road trip to New Orleans, LA, Bourbon Street, hurricane drinks, and beads typically come to mind. While all of these are some of my favorite past times in the Crescent City, I traveled to NOLA for a different activity, the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon. This was my second Rock ‘n Roll series race and I had chosen this one for several reasons, the main being the flat and fast course I knew the city streets would provide.

Since this was only my second big race and I was looking to improve my previous time, I had Erica make out a schedule that would better prepare me for Big Easy running. I more or less stuck to the weekly routines and the oh-so-fun early weekend long runs, thanks to Erica’s “coaching”. With only a couple minor speed bump injuries, race weekend came and I felt prepared. I road tripped down with a group of girls that so graciously agreed to be my cheering section. I’ve realized that having someone there to cheer you on and pump you up is vital for me in a race so thanks to them, they made the weekend loads more fun!

Since the race wasn’t until Sunday, we had all day Saturday to roam the French Quarter and take in the city’s sights. I took a run around Audubon Park in the Garden District with my friend Nicki, and fellow Rock ‘n Roll runner. Since NOLA is famous for its amazing food, we gorged ourselves on a good ol’ fashioned po’ boy. This picture may not seem appetizing for some, but it definitely hit the spot! Fried green tomatoes—yum yum!

The temperature the morning of the race started off in the low 40’s so getting to the start wasn’t so fun. After wishing Nicki good luck on her first half and departing to find my corral, I made some friends in the oh-so-dreaded restroom line. This couple was running the full so we briefly chatted about the race and they advised me to watch out for any potholes in streets--I’ll pass on a sprained ankle thanks! The husband was so kind to give me one of his pace time cards he had laminated for his group that was set for an 8:35/mile which is what I was striving for. I was super pumped about the time card since I didn’t have Erica with me and her trusty GPS watch (I really need to invest in one!).

7:00 AM came and we were off! I was lucky enough to be in the front of my corral, which helped me to come fast off the start feeling like I was already a winner. J The course started in the lower Warehouse/Garden District and took us on a beautiful tour of Victorian Mansions, overgrown live oak trees, and street-car lined roads. We wound our way through the area until about mile 8. The full marathon runners split off from the half around mile 5 and continued Uptown toward the Audubon Park. As for my cheering section, we had originally planned for the girls to be at mile 3 then hop up two blocks for mile 7. Well, as New Orleans streets are impossible to navigate quickly and thanks to several road closures, the girls finally managed to squeeze into a spot after mile 4. These girls rock because they woke up extra early to have a poster party to show their support! I knew I needed to be looking for neon signs and finally saw them as they stared into the sun searching for me. Only until I was about 10 feet away did they see me but they definitely showed some love.

I was feeling pretty good about my pace and was actually ahead of my time card through the first half. I saw the girls again after mile marker 7—

-then the course began to wind back to the French Quarter. Thankfully it does not take you straight down Bourbon Street, because I’m not sure if I could stomach the previous night’s lingering aromas. Once we passed the French Market it was time to turn up Esplanade and finish the last 3 miles into the City Park. This was the only part of the course I did not love because of the gravel they had put on the road to fill in some of the holes and cracks which made footing tricky at the end. Since around mile 2.5 I had been keeping pace with another girl and at the end it paid off to have someone push you a little extra towards the end. I crossed the finish line at 1:50:56, ten minutes faster than my first half marathon! I was pretty proud to increase my time by several minutes and felt that for the next race I would know where to push a little harder along the course.

My cheering section appeared at the finish and captured some photos of me shuffling through the food and drink lines. Group photos ensued and I must say we may make “Run Big” look pretty good.

NOLA was a great race and I think if I ever get the courage to do a full, this will be the place. You couldn’t beat the weather and the course was awesome. My only complaint to the Rock ‘n Roll series coordinators: PLEASE schedule the next race for Saturday morning instead of Sunday, as my sobriety on Bourbon Street does not appreciate such taunting.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Terrific Turtle Trudge, Dragon Dash and Golden Fox Gallop 2011

In the midst of all the free triathlons this month, yesterday was a run-only Peaman event in Kona - the Terrific Turtle Trudge, Dragon Dash and Golden Fox 1-mile Gallop. There were two interesting twists to this race - first, the race was measured in inches, with the Terrific Turtle Trudge being 332,640 inches, the Dragon Dash at 126,720 inches and the Golden Fox Gallop at 63,360 inches. Second, the results were grouped not by age category, but by weight.
Eddie O and Jon Kunitake pre-race.
Uncle Jon saved the day by volunteering to skip his run and instead take cups to the aid station at the turnaround.

Since this was only a run event, both Jason and I were able to participate, which meant we weren't able to take any pictures of our own. However, Eddie O was filming the race for his Living In Paradise segment "Get Game," which will air every night in the month of March on Channel 27 at 8 p.m. He was assisted by his daughter Katrina, while daughter Skye and wife Rose ran the 1-mile distance. Mahalo to Eddie O and Katrina for letting me share their excellent race photos here!

Eddie O and Katrina - the photographers!

Me, Jason, Skye and Rose pre-run.

Skye had a great run and finished second in the 1-mile race in 7:18, behind only Ziggy Bartholomy's time of 6:04. Skye is getting ready for track season at Waiakea High School and her form is really looking great! Riley Wilson came in third for the Golden Fox Gallop in 7:20; Elijah Reed was 4th in 7:48; and Malachi Lehmann was 5th in 8:14.

Skye Ombac

Matt Ward finished first in the Dragon Dash in 11:30, followed by Miles Cannon in 11:43 and Tim Robinson in 12:39. The first female finisher in the Dragon Dash was Katherine DuBose in 16:30, followed by Lori Montgomery in 16:34 and Raine Kolman in 16:50.

In the Terrific Turtle Trudge, Jason hung on for the win in 29:50, followed by Jon Jokiel (31:55) and Geoff Whitener (32:13). As a brief sidenote, Geoff is a senior at Kealakehe High School and is putting on his own free swim/run event on Sunday, March 13 at 8:00 at the pier. It will be a 1/3 mile swim and 2 mile run, and we encourage everyone to come participate in this new event!

Jason with his game face on?

Geoff Whitener

On the ladies' side of the Terrific Turtle Trudge, Rani Tanimoto started out conservatively, but then turned on the jets in the back half of the race to come in first in 34:24. Rani was also the recipient of the Perpetual Pea this month. Marketa Myatt was second in 35:12, and Anita Leao was third in 36:54. Unfortunately for me, I started out a little too close to Rani and ended up dying in the second half. I hung on for fourth place for the ladies, though, in 38:33 - a 45-second improvement over the same race last year. Not quite as fast as I was hoping, but at least it's still a Peaman PR.

Full results from all the races are here. (I think the official results must have gotten off track at some point, since they show me finishing in 37:12. As much as I'd love to claim that time, I know I didn't do that, since I timed it with my own watch and definitely finished in the 38:33 time. So some of the results above may be a little off as well.)

And here are some more pictures from the event:

Susan Nixon

Patti and her dog

Happy walkers

A balance beam-walking dog

Rose finishing the 1-mile distance

Time-keeper extraordinaire Laura Dierenfield

Congrats as always to all participants and mahalo to all of the volunteers! Up next weekend is a Team Mango Sprint Triathlon with a 1/3 mile swim, 14 mile bike, and 2 mile run on Sunday, February 27. The race starts at 8:00 at the pier.

Also next Sunday, on the other side of the island is the Waikaumalo 7-mile challenge on the beautiful Hamakua Coast. Hosted by the Big Island Road Runners, this event is a perfect training race for those doing the Hilo Marathon or Half Marathon in March. The course will be tough, with plenty of hills, but the views will be amazing. The race starts at 7:30 a.m. at Waikaumalo Park.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Mercedes Half Marathon

Tired of the year-round perfect weather in Kona--sarcasm comes across on the internet, right?--Jason and Tennessee Ray decided that they should travel to the mainland and compete in the 2011 Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama. Race day morning was about 32 degrees, leading to the runners from Hawaii looking like this at the start:

Okay, that photo is actually from our warmup. We reluctantly shed too many of those warm clothes and were ready for the start. My picture from right before the start shows exactly how I felt about the temperature:

After a brief speech by Birmingham's mayor in which he proudly proclaimed that runners were present from all 50 states--I was inclined to believe this since Ray and I were representing one of the states that would seem to be among the most illusive, but my post-race research revealed that there were no citizens from Rhode Island, among others--the gun sounded, and we were off.
The course for the Mercedes Half Marathon is what I would describe as a "fair" course. (The full marathon course is essentially two laps of the half course, so most of my comments would pertain equally to that race.) It's definitely not in the "flat and fast category" but the climbing that you do is rewarded with equal descents. When combined with the cool weather, I figure that it was a pretty decent day for fast times. Ray confirmed that theory, but more on that later.

The first four miles or so of the course were either flat or very gently rolling as you wind through downtown Birmingham. From mile 4 to 6, you head through UAB (my alma mater), which has a bit of climbing to it. At about 10k, you start on a moderate but steady climb that continues until mile 8 or so. For those familiar with Birmingham, this climb takes you through Five Points and on to Highland Avenue. This is definitely the most challenging part of the course. From there, it's mostly descents and flats with just a few gentle inclines to keep the legs fresh. I found some of the straights in the last few miles to be a little windy, but in general, the weather was excellent for racing.

My race went pretty well. I went out too conservatively (which wasn't helped by inaccurate split markers that led me to believe temporarily that I had gone out way too fast), but that left me feeling strong for the back half of the race. I was able to attack the late miles of the race--a nice and all too rare feeling--and came in at 1:16:18, which was good for 19th place overall and first in the old man age group. Not a bad run, but I wish that I had pushed it a little more in the early miles.

Ray was not far behind. I jogged back out to the course just in time to give Ray some encouragement as he began his Bolt-like sprint to the finish. Ray broke the tap in 1:29:40, a massive PR for him, which put him 79th overall (out of 3200+) and 9th in the really old man age group.

After being dragged on an unmercifully long cool down, we headed to brunch where Ray and I celebrated our runs by consuming mass quantities of whatever food happened to come in front of our faces. A big bowl of grits was a nice change of pace from my Kona post race favorite, loco moco.

It was a really fun day and we both had good runs. I wish I could have lopped the kind of time off my PR that Ray did! I do have to say "good job" to the Mercedes Half Marathon. The whole race was put on really well, with logistics and aid stations being perfect. My only criticism of the race would be that many of the mile splits were hopelessly inaccurate--a minor problem, but still seems easily avoidable when just about everyone has a GPS watch these days. Still, I give this race a solid A rating--and where else can you get a giant finishers medal that looks like you just ripped it of a $100k+ car?

The two members of our fan club*; we're desperately seeking more:
Some crazy locals keeping it fun in the full:

*Only kidding here. Ray and I were both lucky enough to have several other people out cheering for us.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

IronMango Monster and Mini-Monster Triathlons

As I write this, several people are out finishing up their races in the inaugural IronMango Monster and Mini-Monster Triathlons. The Monster Triathlon is a full 140.6 distance race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run), while the Mini-Monster is a 70.3 distance race (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run). Team Mango offered these races as a free alternative for people who couldn't participate in the Ironman series events on the island or who wanted some additional training for the upcoming distances.

Interest in the events have been great, with the Mini-Monster being the most popular. Many people also participated in relays for the Mini-Monster event. Only a couple of hearty souls decided to brave the full Monster distance, including a relay or two.

Everyone seems to be out to have a good time, but there were some fast times on the course, too. The relay team of Mark Curry (swim), Penn Henderson (bike) and Rani Tanimoto (run) were the first finishers with an overall time of 4:09:45. Thomas Vonach was the first men's finisher with a time of 4:14:40, followed closely by his girlfriend Yvonne van Vlerken, women's champion, in 4:15:15.

Congratulations to all of the participants and finishers! Here are some photos that I took in the brief time I was able to be there.

Hopefully next year Jason will be in town and one of us will be able to do a relay!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 2011 Newsletter Now Available!

Many of you have already received our February 2011 newsletter via email, but for those who haven't, it is now available here. As always, Melissa has done a great job summarizing what's been going on here on the island as well as new stuff going on in the store. Send her an email, if you'd like to be added to the mailing list.