Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Make It By Midnight Marathon - 7/25/09

Finisher's medal, tiara, and pumpkin

I loved the concept of this race, although it was totally wasted on me, lol. The race was limited to a total of 25 runners for the marathon and half-marathon. Runners started at whatever time they wanted as long as they finished by midnight. The final cut-off would be 1:00 a.m. Runners who finished by midnight would be given a tiara, and those that finished after midnight would be given a pumpkin. These goodies were in addition to the finisher's medal. The course was a 4.37 mile loop, starting at the race director's house, which was in a gated community. Six loops on the rolling hills through the neighborhood made up a marathon. The entry fee was $5, plus a donation of food or fluids to the aid station, which was situated in the race director's driveway.

My plan was to start at 5:30 p.m. I'm not the most punctual person, so at 5:50 p.m. I arrived at the race director's home in Macon, GA. I hurriedly got myself together and checked in before starting at exactly 6:00 p.m. with Andrew (the race director), another runner, and my running buddy, Andy (FL).

Andy and I followed Andrew and the other runner up a hill and at some point while we were talking, we lost sight of them. The course was marked well with bright yellow signs at each turn. However, since Andy and I were chatting, we missed a sign. We were cruising down a long hill and then we saw two signs facing away from us, a bad indication that we were off-course already.

We pulled out the course map, found out where we were, and started back-tracking up the hill. We heard Andrew and the other runner coming from a side street and called out to them. Andrew told us that we had indeed missed a turn and pointed us in the right direction. According to Andy's GPS, we had run a 0.5 mile bonus, which really isn't a big deal for ultrarunners, lol.

Now that we were back on course, Andy picked up the pace. It doesn't take long for the steam to run out of my engine, so I watched as Andy steadily pulled away from me. It would be a long night.

The neighborhood was nice. People were out watering their lawns or taking a walk, and kids were riding their bikes or otherwise playing. No one seemed to pay us any special attention, which is what we wanted. We did not have race numbers and that helped. But we did have hand-held water bottles or waist packs, which to me should have drawn some attention, especially running by the guarded entrance to the community. The race went along smoothly and without interruption, however.

The hills were not steep, but they were frequent. The traffic was heavy starting out, but it died down as it got later in the evening. It was hot at the start, but as the sun went down, it became a pleasant night for a run.

At the end of the first loop, I checked in with the race director's wife, refilled my bottle, grabbed a gel, and continued on. I could barely see Andy ahead of me, and Andrew and the other runner were out of sight and well on their way.

Navigationally, the 2nd loop went better, as I paid special attention to where Andy and I had missed the turn. I should add, as a credit to Andrew, that it was clearly marked.

I was trying to maintain an hour per loop, but that didn't happen. I was closer to an hour and 20 minutes per loop. As frustrating as that was, I was not going to let my turtle pace ruin a good night of running and walking. Back at the aid station, I checked in again, grabbed some pretzels, refilled my bottle, and headed out.

On the 3rd loop I ran a little with David (CA), who was also running his 3rd loop. Being faster, he had taken a later start. He remembered running with me a few years ago at the Pacific Crest Marathon in Oregon. He has a good memory. I barely even remember running that marathon, not to mention who I ran with, lol. All of these races tend to merge together mentally after a while, and it's not a reflection on the race or the other runners. After his brief rest, David continued on at a great pace.

During the 3rd loop, it was getting dark. When I saw David with his blinking red light attached to his back, I realized that I had forgotten to pick up my flashlight and reflective gear. It would be dark before I finished this loop. There were glow sticks on the course markers, but without a flashlight, I couldn't see much else. There weren't many street lights, and there weren't any sidewalks. I just hoped that the cars coming through the neighborhood could see me and didn't hit me.

I finished up my 3rd loop, realizing that I wouldn't make it by midnight and that I wouldn't get a tiara. I grabbed a little Debbie oatmeal cream pie and headed to my car to get a flashlight and my reflective vest. One of the volunteers also gave me 2 reflective tubes, one pink and one green, to put around my neck and wrist. Someone would have to be drunk and blind to miss me at this point, lol.

Loop #4 found neighbors sitting out on the porch enjoying the evening. The number of cars passing through had decreased, and the familiar night sounds had begun. I'm not sure if the sounds came from birds, crickets, or frogs, but it was never quiet. It was nice to hear sounds other than my own breathing and the patter of my big feet.

Starting the 5th loop, I took in some Mountain Dew. I had been drinking a lot of Gatorade, but I was sweating profusely. Between the hot flashes and the humidity, I was dripping wet the entire night. And now I was getting very tired. But surprisingly, I was still enjoying the night. I was walking and running and slowly making progress. This was the loop that Andy finally caught up to me and lapped me, but I had been expecting it. He had a very good chance of finishing his 6th loop by midnight.

I was ambulating along when I saw a female runner coming towards me. I knew before she reached me that she had made a wrong turn. I assumed that she was a half-marathoner who had started after dark and did not have the benefit of seeing the course during the day. According to her GPS (was I the only one not carrying one of these things, lol?), she had already covered 6 miles, but I told her that we were only a little over the half-way point in the loop. I pointed her in the right direction, told her about the next couple of turns, and she went about her way.

Towards the end of each loop and after what seems like a long time spent on one particular road, we did a little out-n-back section. Well, again I see the same female runner coming back towards me long before I hit the out-n-back section. The poor girl had to be frustrated, because she had again gone off-course. I straightened her out once again, and she took off, saying that she was not coming out for another loop. With all of the wrong turns she'd made, she was close to a half-marathon and would just finish the remaining distance closer to the race director's house using her GPS. Yes . . . I guess that works just as well, lol.

I started my 6th loop after midnight, and as slow as I was going, I wouldn't finish by 1:00 a.m. either. None of the volunteers attempted to pull me from the race. This was such a laid back race that I really didn't expect Andrew to be strict with the cut-off. However, I still felt guilty delaying the conclusion of the race. I tried to finish the last loop as fast as I could, but it was 1:30 a.m. when I finally made it back to the race director's house.

My last loop was not without incident. A neighbor who was out watering her lawn (at midnight) asked if we were having a walkathon. I laughed and told her it was something like that. I also told her that I was the last one out, so we were just about done. Hopefully, Andrew didn't get into trouble holding the race within the gated community. To be on the safe side and so that he'd be prepared, I told him about the conversation with his neighbor when I finished.

A little later down the road, I saw a possum. They are not the cutest looking animals to me. I shined my flashlight on it, and it looked it me like "And? That's all you got!" He did not budge, and I'm not sure how territorial they are, so I carefully walked around it. When I passed, he went on about his business. I received a totally different response from several cats that I unintentionally scared during the night. They scampered away like I had enough energy to chase them. Hah! The dogs were not any better. Once one dog started to bark, it was like a chain reaction. Every dog in the neighborhood seemed to be barking at some point as I travelled through the streets.

I finally made it back to the finish. Those remaining congratulated me. Andrew placed a tiara on my head and put a finisher's medal around my neck. I commented that I thought I wouldn't receive a tiara since I went past midnight. "Everybody gets a tiara," he told me. "And here's your pumpkin." It was a fuzzy orange pen with a fuzzy little pumpkin on top. How cute!

There were 10 finishers for the marathon and 5 finishers for the half-marathon, making it the smallest race I have ever participated in. I was the last runner out on the course, but time-wise my 7:30 finish positioned me in 9th place for the marathon. I remembered when I could finish trail 50K's in less time, but I wasn't going to let that time bother me. I enjoyed traversing through Andrew's neighborhood, and I appreciated the official finish. Next time, I'll make sure that I start early enough so that I will not turn into a pumpkin at midnight, lol.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Landsford Canal 50K - 7/18/09

Team Slug t-shirt, beautiful finisher's plaque, and the fake snake

Thanks for keeping the finish line open for me!

Crossing the finish line last means that I get to take home the fake snake! If I had known that before the race, I would have run faster, lol! The fake snake now lays on my coffee table waiting for me to do something with it. My biggest fear when running the trails is encountering a real snake. Snakes and mice . . . I hate them! It makes no logical sense, however. For the most part, I'm bigger than they are, but what scares me is that I can't run fast enough to get away from them, lol. Have you seen these boogers move, lol? Anyway . . . I have to decide what to do with it. One morning, half asleep, I'm liable to come downstairs, forgetting that it's there, and give myself a coronary, lol.

I've learned over the past few years that running multiple loops can be fun. I have to say that the LC50K is one of the best looped course that I have run. The loop is 4.25 miles, with 3 miles on the roads through the Landsford Canal State Park in Catawba, SC, followed by 1.25 miles on the Canal Trail. The Canal Trail was wonderful - relatively flat and wide with very few roots and rocks. The river flows along the entire trail. While running the trail, if you couldn't see the river, you could definitely hear it. There's nothing more soothing than the sound of flowing water. Because the road section became warmer and the hills seemed to grow longer and steeper as the day wore on, it was great motivation to run the road section as quickly as possible so that you could get to the trail section with it's canopy of trees for shade.

We did a 1.25 mile out-n-back along the road and then we ran the 4.25 mile loop 7 times to get in our 31 miles. Mark (NC) was volunteering today, and as we completed the out-n-back, he directed us back out onto the road to start our multiple loops. I had run with him for a little while at the Umstead 100 Mile earlier this year and had seen him a few weeks ago at the Moonlight Boogie 50 Miler. We had also run one of Claude's (the race director) other races, the Big Butt 50K, a few times together over the years. Mark did a great job of volunteering, joking with me, and at the same time, making sure that all the runners had everything they needed.

In that short out-n-back section, I quickly lost sight of my running buddies - Lynn (TN), Andy (FL), Annie (GA), and Andrew (AL). Doug (NC), the race director of the Moonlight Boogie 50 Miler, spoke briefly as he cruised by me. I found out an amazing fact about Doug after running the Boogie. Last year, he successfully ran across the United States! How cool is that!

Before I completed the first loop, the leader lapped me, lol. He was running fast and happy and was encouraging every loop as he passed. He also lapped me on my 2nd and 3rd loops. The only reason he didn't lap me on my 4th loop was because he had finished and won the race, lol. He finished the entire 50K before I had even finished half of the race. Good grief!

At the end of the first loop is when I first saw the fake snake. As I refilled my bottle at the aid station in the start/finish area, I asked Mark if he had placed the fake snake on the trail. He told me that it wasn't a fake snake. I told him that if it wasn't fake, then it was dead, because it wasn't moving, lol.

Over half of the field lapped me at some point during my 2nd loop, but I was okay with that. I was feeling good and enjoying the day. I had finished the first loop in 1 hour, so I was determined to complete the remaining loops in about the same time.

Bill (NC) joined me for a walk break during my 2nd loop. He had been at the Rattlesnake 50K the week before and the Moonlight Boogie 50 Miler in June. He's very fast. He talked with me about the interesting history of the Landsford Canal and told me a few stories about the Rattlesnake 50K. After his rest, he again took off. Well . . . the company was nice while it lasted, lol.

By the end of my 2nd loop, the fake snake had changed location on the trail, lol. Maybe Mark was right, and I was wrong about it being fake or dead. Every time I finished a loop, the fake snake would be in a different location on the Canal Trail.

By the 3rd loop, the remainder of the field lapped me, lol. I was still feeling good, running and walking, and finishing loops in about an hour. Claude had an 11-hour cut-off for the race. That's my kind of race. Even as slow as I am, I can finish an essentially road 50K in less than 11 hours, lol.

Christian (GA) passed by next. I had been following his blog for a while, so I took this opportunity to tell him that I was enjoying it. My new running buddy, Jason (SC), also came along about this time. Jason also has a great blog. We walked and ran along as if we had known each other for years. I wished that I could have kept up with him longer because he was such good company. But he's also a good runner, and once we hit the Canal Trail, he was off like a rocket.

At the start of my 4th loop, I saw Charlie (TN). He was there to pace Lynn on her last 2 loops. I was beginning to wish I had a pacer, lol. Runners were rapidly finishing, and the number of runners lapping me was starting to die down. Still I continued on, trying to cover the now hot-as-Hades road section as quickly as possible, so that I could get back to the Canal Trail. Did I mention that I was loving that Canal Trail?

By the 5th loop, I was starting to have a mental meltdown. I was alternating between eating goldfish crackers and ginger snaps, and I was now also downing a cup of coke each loop in addition to the Gatorade and water. Two more loops . . . nothing to it but to do it, lol. Run, walk, repeat.

During the Canal Trail section, Andy (NC) lapped me but slowed down to chat a while. Yes . . . just what the doctor ordered, another running buddy to pull me out of the spiraling pit of negative emotions that I was encountering on this 5th loop. Andy and Charlie had both run the Grandfather Mountain Marathon the weekend before the LC50K. I've only run that race once, the one time that it didn't conflict with the Rattlesnake 50K. That's my biggest problem - too many wonderful races and too few weekends to run them all. For some reason, Andy thought he had seen me at Grandfather's the previous weekend, but I told him that the last time he'd seen me was at the Moonlight Boogie 50 Miler in June. The light went on for him, and we both laughed. It's nice to know that I'm not the only runner who loses track of what races they run from weekend to weekend.

Andy (NC) took off again as we were nearing the end of the Canal Trail. Mark was walking the trail towards me. Apparently, the fake snake was now missing, and he was out looking for it! Seriously, however, he warned me that he had seen a not-too-happy real snake at the end of the trail section. Now I was ready to be done, lol. Luckily, over the next two loops, I never saw the real snake, but I was freaked out enough not to dilly-dally on the Canal Trail.

And just like that, starting my 6th loop, I was feeling better. I could see the proverbial light that would be at the end of my 7th loop, lol. Climbing the first hill of the loop, I came upon Annie. It's rare that I catch up to anybody in races these days, so I knew something must be wrong. Annie was having tummy troubles, probably from the heat. We were talking and moving fairly well, when she suddenly said she had to sit down. Annie's an experienced runner, so I knew she would be okay, but I felt guilty for leaving her. As I continued on, I kept looking back, but I never saw her. I just knew she would finish. She just needed a little break, I said to myself.

Loop #7 . . . Woo Hoo! I grabbed some more coke, and I was on my way. Run, walk, repeat. There weren't any runners lapping me now. The parking lot was becoming sparse. Jason, who had finished in a blazing time of 6:13:40, yelled out "bell lap" as I passed by. Yes, indeed!

The hot and hilly road section was lonely, but I wouldn't allow myself to contemplate that now. It was time to put this baby to bed. Run, walk, repeat.

I crossed the finish line in 7:49:49! Claude promptly presented me with one of his beautiful hand-made finisher's plaque, a Team Slug t-shirt, and the fake snake, of course. As Claude, his wife, and Mark were busily packing up the aid station, I inquired about Annie. I found out that she had dropped, taking a marathon finish for the day. My heart went out to her. No runner ever wants to hear of another runner having a bad day. Annie's tough, and I'm sure her next race will be great.

Charlie was relaxing under a tree, playing a soft melody on his guitar, and Lynn had accomplished her sub-7 hour goal for the day in a fine time of 6:43:01. She was chilling with Charlie and sipping on her signature beverage, lol. She deserves it!

Andy (FL) was also still hanging around, after finishing a few minutes behind Lynn in 6:48:18. He asked what race I would be going to the upcoming weekend, since he had not found a race to run as of yet. I told him about the Make It By Midnight Marathon in Macon, GA, so hopefully, he'll get to participate.

The LC50K was a wonderful experience. If Claude decides to put on this race again, I would love to come back. I'll have to "win" a female fake snake to keep "Jake the Snake" company, however. Yes, I've named the darn thing. He moved along that trail just as well as the famous NFL quarterback moved around the football field, lol.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rattlesnake 50K - 7/11/09

Tiger, Dennis (Race Director), and Graham at the finish

Danny and Dennis at the finish

The Rattlesnake 50K in Charleston, WV is one of my favorites. It kicks my butt every year, but this is the type of punishment that I thrive on, so I continue to go back. It's 10 climbs in one big loop on some of the most beautiful trails I've ever run. Last year, I finished in 9:56:14, just under the 10-hour cut-off. My best finish was in 2007, when I ran 8:01:26, after three straight years of running between 9:01 and 9:16.

It's always nice to run a familiar course. I had been looking forward to it all week. Even though this was my sixth year, I still get excited about coming back to this race. It's hard to explain. Maybe it's because this race was my 2nd 50K in 2004 when I finally decided to start running ultras. Maybe it's because I am miraculously able to finish what I consider a hard course, under the cut-off. Whatever the reason, this race holds a special place in my heart.

My running buddies were there: Rosemary (KY), Danny (KY), Diane (TN), Rob (TN), Susan (TN), Graham (AL), and Larry (TX). Although I was unable to keep up with them, it was nice to talk with them before and after the race.

Because I haven't been running well, I did not know how the day would proceed. I know the year of my fastest finish, I was probably in the best shape of my life. And because of the difficulty of the course, I knew that I needed a lot more training under my feet than I have been doing lately. I felt that I was in worse shape this year than last year, and last year was definitely a struggle.

The first climb was slow and steady. There's not much road to spread out the field before we hit the trail. But it doesn't take long before there are gaps between the single file up the trail. When I noticed that I wasn't following as close to Danny as I would have liked, I pulled off to the side of the trail to allow others to go ahead. I couldn't breathe very well, and it would be a long day. The first climb was not the time to push my limits. Diane came cruising by, softly saying "come on." I continued to hug my tree (a familiar position for me all day, lol), and through deep breaths, I simply responded "coming."

After the final group had passed me, I continued to climb. I thought I was in last place but later learned that a couple was behind me. We would go back and forth for the next few hours before they dropped from the race.

The reoccurring theme of this race is that you climb, you descend, and then there's an aid station. So at the bottom of the climb was the first aid station. One of the volunteers that works this race every year and who had recognized me at the check-in before the start was at this aid station. Every year he calls me "pretty lady" and asks how do I continue to smile along this course. "Delirium" is always my answer, lol.

At this point, I was good on fluids, so he pointed me in the right direction for the next climb. These trails are full of rocks and roots, so even if I could run up the steep climbs, it wouldn't be very fast. I continue to power walk the hills, stopping along the way to hug a tree and to catch my breath every now and then.

It was overcast and humid most of the day. At certain times during the day, I wished for rain, but I've been on this course in the rain, and it's not a pretty sight. The streams fill up fast, the rocks become slick, and the down hills become just as hard as the up hills to navigate. It was probably better to just deal with the humidity.

At the end of this climb, we hit a paved road that goes up to Aid Station #2. Again, my favorite volunteer was there. He was all over the place today, helping out wherever he could. Here I refilled my bottle with Gatorade and grabbed a gel. Climb #3 is one of the more difficult ones, so I prepared myself before heading up.

Up, up, up . . . switchback . . . up, up, up . . . switchback. Hug a tree and catch my breath. Up, up, up . . . . If the trail wasn't so beautiful, I'd be hating life right about now, lol.

And the mushrooms! Every shape, size, and color you could imagine. Not knowing which ones were poisonous, I admired them from afar during my bonding moments with the trees. But all I wanted to do was to reach out and touch them. They hardly resembled the mushrooms that I loved to eat, lol.

Finally, I reach the top of the mountain (for lack of a better term), running along the double track ridge before heading down, down, down on another single track trail to Aid Station #3. This aid station was in the parking lot of the start/finish area. One of the volunteers asked if I had seen any animals. No, I told him, and I haven't seen any rattlesnakes either, lol. He told me that they were out there and that he'd caught one by the swimming pool a few years ago. As I was leaving the aid station, I glanced over at the swimming pool. Nope, there were no rattlesnakes there today, lol.

Time to climb again and then descend via switchback to the next aid station. Aid Station #4 leads to the shooting range area. It amazes me every year that none of the runners get shot. It's loud and scary coming through this area, but as long as the shooters stay in their area and we stay on the trail, I guess no one is in danger. But you have to wonder why there are shell casings on the gravel road leading from the aid station.

The couple behind me had finally caught up. The guy asked if there were any restroom facilities nearby. The volunteer told him that there were plenty of bushes and trees around. Ah . . . they must be newbies to this race, lol.

The climb up the gravel road is long and relentless. Nothing to it but to get through it. Again we reach the ridge for some relatively flat running before heading back down to Aid Station #5. The aid stations are fully stocked and so evenly spaced that it would be almost impossible to run out of water or to get hungry on this course. This aid station is the half way point where drop bags are waiting for the runners. I don't use a drop bag for 50K's, so I grab food, fill my bottle, and go.

I have finally caught up with the couple. The lady appears to be having trouble on the next climb. She rests at a tree as I pass by slowly, and the guy patiently waits until she's ready to go on. I ask if everything is okay. She responds that they are fine. That would be the last time that I see them. At some point along the way, unbeknownst to me, they drop from the race.

Who's at Aid Station #6 but my favorite volunteer! He must have a magic carpet to get to all of these aid stations. I picked up cheese cubes, a gel, and refill my bottle. Following the familiar pattern of this course, it's time for another climb.

At some point I get these grand illusions of finishing in 9 hours. But, of course, I'm not factoring in how long it takes for me to climb. The down hills aren't any faster. My knees are starting to hurt a little, and my legs are very shaky as I run the down hills. After a while, not only am I walking the up hills, but I'm also walking the down hills. But it's so pretty out here! The slower I go, the more I get to enjoy the scenery, lol. Aren't rationalizations wonderful?

I have arrived at the camp grounds for some pavement running. I am approaching my favorite aid station. There are real toilet facilities here, and I always stop for a break. This year is no exception. I then move on to Aid Station #7. I see an ambulance parked near, and the volunteer tells me that someone is down near the top of the next climb. "Don't go up there if you don't feel good. It's a hard climb," the volunteer tells me.

Well, of course, I felt good. I had been having a great day so far. And yes, I knew it was a hard climb, but this one has a lot of switchbacks, which helps greatly. I tell him that I've been here before, and that I'm capable of continuing. He tells me to be careful and to watch for others going up and down the trail to help out the downed runner.

As I start the climb up, others are indeed coming down. They did not have numbers, so I guess they were campers who had made the climb up to help out. For a moment, I wondered if the runner down was any of my running buddies. I hoped not. I also hoped that whoever it was, however, was not in too much trouble. Up, up, up . . . .

I finally see 2 runners, one's standing and one is sitting. I do not know either one of them. I also see Dennis, the race director, sitting and talking with the downed runner, while 2 EMTs are attending to him. I do not know the downed runner, but nevertheless, I am still worried about him. I stop, wondering if there is anything that I can do. Isn't it rude to continue on when someone is down? But what could I do that the other 5 persons there couldn't do? The downed runner says something that I didn't hear, and Dennis laughs. This is a good sign that he's going to be okay, I thought. I say as much to Dennis as I carefully pass by everyone on the narrow trail. I later find out that the runner would indeed be okay. What a relief!

Down, down, down and Aid Station #8 is next. At this point, I know that I won't make 9 hours, but I'm thinking 9.5 hours is doable. I start the climb up and encounter the section with the boulders. Here's where I get to use my limited upper body strength, lol, climbing up and over boulders bigger than me. It's fun in a weird sort of way and makes me feel like an exploring kid.

After the boulders, it's time to go down, down, down to the last aid station. I see a runner coming towards me. This course is a big loop, with no out-n-back sections, so there should never be a runner coming towards you. I recognize Graham, hammering up the big climb. He tells me that he missed Aid Stations #5 and #8, and he now has to make up the distance by running the course backwards for a few miles. Oh, my! He passes me, telling me that he'll catch up in a little while.

As I'm leaving Aid Station #9, three miles from the finish, Graham has indeed caught up to me. He's an excellent down hill runner. He tells me that we have 56 minutes to do the last 3 miles before the 10 hour cut-off. So on the previous section, I've lost a half hour. Ugh! And thus begins my panic climb up the next hill!

I climb and continue to look back to make sure that Graham is following me. Once on top and as we start our descent, Graham is flying again. It's all I can do to keep up with him. He's going to make it under 10 hours, and I'm coming through that finish line right behind him. We are now on the trail along the creek, flat and runnable. Graham has picked up speed, but I'm staying right with him. I am running all out, getting tired, sweating profusely, and breathing audibly. I look at my watch. We're going to make it. Graham's going to get us to the finish in under 10 hours.

We finally pop out of the woods onto the open meadow to the finish line. My head is down, and my legs, still shaky from trying to run the down hills all day, are churning as fast as they can, just a little further. Rob and Susan are cheering us in. I am so happy to see that finish line that I wave frantically to them. There are very few cars left in the parking lot, but Dennis is right there to congratulate us both and to give us our finishers' award. I finish 8 seconds behind Graham with a time of 9:57:14, exactly one minute slower than last year, but still good enough for my sixth finish of the Rattlesnake 50K.

Tiger trumps rattlesnake, lol. Rest, Tiger, rest!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kona Marathon - 6/28/09

Momma found a boyfriend in Kona, HI.

Isn't she beautiful?

She did it! She faced one of her greatest fears head on, and she accomplished the goal set before her. I am so proud of her!

My momma, who has never been on a plane, flew to Kona, HI with me. She was nervous, but she persevered. She worked her seek-n-find puzzle book and watched the movies on the longer legs of the trip to get through it. I offered her my window seat on a couple of the legs of the trip but she declined, tentatively watching from the middle seat of our row and admiring the scenery below us.

We had a long day on Friday, changing planes twice with long lay-overs in Dallas, TX and Los Angeles, CA. Saturday morning in Hawaii, we had a good breakfast in an open restaurant called Tante's, enjoyed the cool breeze, and watched the waves coming in off of the Pacific Ocean. We proceeded to do some sight-seeing and shopping. Later, after dinner in another open restaurant, we attended a concert featuring the native Hawaiian, John Cruz. The admission was 2 cans of food for the Hawaiian food bank. My momma thoroughly enjoyed John Cruz and purchased one of his CDs.

Sunday morning, I ran the Kona Marathon. Even though I was many miles from home, I still ran into several of my running buddies: Walt and Kendel (GA), Eugene (CT), Evelyn (IL), Art and Robin (FL), and Les (HI). I acquired 2 new running buddies during the race: first-timer, Steve (CA), and fellow Marathon Maniac, Bob (HI).

The race was uneventful. It was an out-n-back course along Kona's main street, Alii Drive. The course then turned onto the highway and followed up with a short section along the coast behind a small industrial park. It was hot, but a slight breeze was felt from the ocean. There were plenty of wonderful volunteers, plenty of restroom facilities, gel, water, and coke (the alternative to Ultima for me). There was also a long, much appreciated cut-off of 9 hours. The finisher's shirt, medal, and leis were a nice touch to my pedestrian 6:07:05 completion of a good day at my office of choice.

After the race, I hurried back to the hotel to shower, and momma and I checked out of the hotel. My times are so slow now that I don't encourage anyone to attend my races. My momma had wisely decided to rest in the hotel room until I finished. We then had lunch and did some more sight-seeing until we caught the red-eye flight back to the main land.

I think my momma had a good trip. I hope she did. I want this trip to lead to many others for her. There's a whole world outside of TN, and I want her to explore some of it.

Mahalo and Aloha.