So settle back, grab a cup of coffee, and take a big deep breathe while I try to get these racing thoughts from my mind to you in a somewhat coherent fashion.
Let's start with we arrived Friday night and went to the expo to get my race bib and hunt down those towels that has all the participant names in them (if you registered early enough). As soon as I saw my bib I was ready to break down in tears. My eyes did well up and I quickly got the attention of those handing the bib to me and I got the privilege to tell the whole story of what "Erica Runs4 Toby" meant. They were very stoked to hear the story. I wiped my eyes and headed off to the race merchandise and found the coveted towels and got one for myself and my buddy. Shh...don't tell him. His is in the mail and he hasn't received it yet. It is a surprise.
We headed off to play in the pools before dinner as this was one of the late nights I promised darling daughter. I woke up early Saturday and went on the group run led by Bart Yasso and meant a couple of awesome ultrarunners from California - Susan and nice guy (can't recall his name). Next stop, the keiki run which was the best organized keiki run I have ever seen with boys and girls being separated in races, races split in age groups 2-4, 5-7, and 8-12 and the best chicken ever racing with the kids. Each group of kiddo's had a special leader who briefed them on the course and took good care of them until they returned to their parents with their medal. Yes, every kid got a medal and I love that. We treated darling daughter to a homemade pop afterwards...thank goodness dear hubby had cash on him or I would have been running to the room to get some.
After this fun darling daughter and I hit the pools again and took a mid-day break to go to the expo to hear a talk on how running makes us smarter. That was an awesome talk! I really enjoyed it and I think we swam some more before dinner and an early bedtime. Darling daughter was less than stoked about that but quickly zonked out. Thank goodness! I woke up more than you would want to count so it was pretty easy to hear my muted alarm go off. Oops...I forgot to turn up my phone volume so thank you God for letting me hear that subtle chirp.
I made myself a cup of coffee and ate a belvita pack while getting everything in order for race day. We all caught the shuttle to the start where I hung out, drank a bit more water, and waited for race time to approach. Fortunately the wait wasn't too bad but a bit later after we all started to move to the start line darling daughter got a bit emotional, which got me a bit emotional, and I cried as she bawled and tried to sing the National Anthem to her to cheer her up. It didn't help much. I promised her I would be back and thought, "Please God, let me get back to her safe and sound." and before I knew it, we were off and running.
I started off nice and slow with a focus on keeping my pace easy in anticipation of the dreaded back half of the marathon course. This was not the time to start out with 9'00" miles. I had been warned multiple times about that at the group run and already knew that going into the race. My goal, nice and easy 10'00" miles right now. I wasn't running for a time goal or my dream to break a 4 hour marathon. I was running to glorify God, I was running for Toby, I was running for darling daughter, and I was running to raise Down syndrome awareness (which I was doing as I continued to tell Toby's story).
I had my iPod shuffle on my CamelBak pocket, four Huma gels in the back pocket, and two Stix of SOS Rehydrate in my vest's bladder. I also had some salt tablets just in case. I didn't have my earbuds in but knew the music was there if I needed it and anticipated turning it on at mile 10.8 when the marathoners veer off to the right and the half marathoners turn left towards the finish. I figured that is when I would need the added boost as the course participants would drop quickly from close to 2,000 (if I remember right) to a mere 314 crazy runners. Yep, darling daughter realized I was going to be running with 313 crazy new friends.
Between the aid station's cheers and birds along the course I was running happy and free. The tree tunnel was beyond amazing once again and soon we approached the village I remember from 2011. I remembered the lady who touched my heart being there in her chair with an oxygen tank. I rounded a corner and recognized her spot and as I approached it I saw a sign. It was a nursing home! And this year the drive was lined with a bunch of ladies in wheelchairs, some with oxygen, and their aides standing behind them. I wanted to stop and thank that lady in 2011. This year I crossed the road and ran up to those lovely ladies, stopped, and told them that they were the reason I came back to run. That I remembered them from 2011. I thanked them and ran on and once again my heart swelled, my eyes teared, and I worked to control my breathing as I was on the verge of crying like a baby as I remembered them, my Dad, and why I run. The next thing I knew I heard someone call, "Erica!". I turned to see a guy running up alongside me and guess what? It was the guy from the group run. He said he heard what I said and thanked me for doing that. I told him my story and talked about my Dad a bit and then told him, run on. He is training for his next 100 miler and I was certain he had more running speed in him then I did. I was still being a bit cautious for that second dreaded part of the course.
Mile 10.8 snuck up on me quicker than I would believe and the volunteers had to remind me to go to the right. I took a gel just before mile 10. This was my first gel. I was sipping SOS Rehydrate at every aid station or every couple of miles. My normal sipping schedule.
As I turned right and headed up yet another incline I kept the tunes off. I decided I was doing okay. There were native drummers here and there, cheers, birds, nice smells, good views. I was running happy even if that happy running was a bit slow on some of the climbs. I didn't let my mind focus too much on pace.
It was somewhere between here and mile 17 that I thought about how tough some of the inclines were. (P.S. I took a second gel at mile 16.) There were getting tougher just as the word on the street promised. The thought crossed my mind, Jesus died on the cross and endured so much worse than I was right now in this moment. I could run this. This was nothing. At mile 17 I tuned into my music mainly because the course was so spread out I was essentially running solo. Aid stations were spread out even if it was just a mile those miles could seem long as you climb a mountain. I was blessed to tune into "Above All" by Micheal W. Smith. It was just want I needed. I listened to it and a bit of the next song before pulling my earbuds out again. That was enough music for now. I got this.
I eventually made it to the back loop and started integrating walking more. The course was deserted in my mind. The aid stations less vibrant and energetic but yet the course was dotted with locals out on their driveways cheering you along. Right when you thought you were all alone someone or something reminded you that you weren't even if it was the course staff on a ATV driving by checking on the runners along the course. He was good at cheering runners along but I was very happy to be done playing leap frog with him. I think his station was driving up and down that back stretch to ensure we were indeed all okay.
Around mile 20 I took my third and final gel. I wasn't fueling based on distance or time per se but on how my body felt. I knew that third gel would be my final because I could tell my body would begin to refuse them. I took some plain water at a couple of aid stations mainly to have a cold drink in me, and on me, as it was getting hot. Around mile 21 I realized my fingers were swelling and I wondered if I put too much plain water in me. I stopped to grab a salt tablet and swore, no more drinking water. Stick to the SOS Rehydrate even it it was warm. I was feeling a bit down and out at this moment. I was a bit discouraged as I was walking more than I wanted but mainly because the climbs kept coming like a vengeance and I felt my "power" walking was faster than my "running" up them. I can't say if this was the best plan but I can say, I always started running again when I wanted to and my legs weren't failing me. And it was just after I took my salt tablet that I bumped into a friend from Maui. We greeted each other eagerly and cheered each other on, did some leap frog, and I finished slightly before him.
At this point I want to share another story. I can't remember what mile it was at but at one point I began to feel doubtful. I am not sure if it was at mile 6 when my hip hurt for a bit and I reminded myself to have faith in God or at another point when I reminded myself to run for God. Marathons can be like that for me. I can run a range of emotions and thoughts but once I hit the finish line, they all become a web of the journey. But regardless, in my moment of doubt I thought of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water. He was doing great until he became fearful and I can just hear Jesus saying, Silly Peter, why are you doubting me? Have faith. I let go of my fears and had faith. I knew God had something special in mind for me today but in all reality, I wasn't sure what it was beyond growing closer to him. Growing in my own trust.
As mile 26.2 approached I pushed myself to run as much as I could and returned to running up the climbs here and there. I took walk breaks for mental strength and continued to run strong. Along one break another runner came along me walking and told me last year he made the fatal mistake to run up this hill. Walkers passed him and continued on and he learned, walking can be better and it wasn't breaking the rules. I agreed and said bye to him shortly after and ran on. It was here that I finally let pace factor in. I looked at my pace, my time, and decided....I wanted to make my secret dream to finish the Kauai Marathon in under 5 hours. I was going to make a course PR today. Perhaps not a distance PR but a course PR and I did. At mile 25 I accepted a cold wet towel, wrung it out, and put it on the back of my neck. I was hot and needed to chill out. (P.S. Stuffing ice cubes under your hat and above your ponytail band help a lot.)
That finish line approached, I ran my best to the end, and smiled with eyes welling up as I ran past dear hubby and darling daughter. Dear hubby asked me to stop for a photo and I felt bad that I had to reply, "I can't" because I couldn't. I couldn't stop on a dime. I had to run on and slowly weaved to a stop. A lady turned the aid wheelchair to me and asked me if I was okay. Yes, I was. Part of the weaving was my emotional rollercoaster as I wanted to break down and cry tears of joy but struggled to hold them back as not to scare darling daughter as she and dear hubby came to me.
I found out later that my official time was 4:45:46 and that I placed 2nd in my division. The competition was not a HUGE course but I am still beyond grateful that God blessed me with placing in my division. Having faith in Him paid off! This was the race He has been preparing me for. This was the lesson he wanted me to learn. And I continued to tell Toby's story post race to those who asked about the "I Run4 Toby" tank that I put on as soon as I took my CamelBak vest off.
And some fun race stuff - elevation profile, my splits, and my time:
Daily Gratitude: I am thankful for the Kauai Marathon staff and volunteers, especially Chelsea who went above and beyond helping me.
Daily Bible Verse: Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:28-32