Back in 2009 I ran the Kona Marathon and it was one of the best experiences of my life. At the time, I thought that I had severely under-trained, as I only spent about 10 weeks actually training for the race.
Looking back, I actually trained pretty hard. And when I started the process I was already in amazing shape and racing a lot. I showed up in Kona and told myself to break 5 hours and ended up clocking a time of 3:59:58 – winning the 20-29 age bracket and finishing as the 7th female overall…without any pain and a crazy sprint at the end.
On April 9th I ran the United Airlines Guam Marathon. This experience was nothing like Kona, except that I only gave myself a short period of time to “train.” But honestly, I barely trained. I made a training plan and did not stick to it. at all. I raced a half marathon at the start of my “training” and it went well, well enough to provide me with a false sense of security in my preparedness. F. All I really did to prep for this one was that I ran a bit more than usual and started to eat a bit healthier while attempting to drink a lot less. I threw in a few long runs in the heat, maxing out at a brutal 16 miles. That, my friends, is not considered “proper training.”
But let’s take a break from discussing my failures and talk about gear!
Shoes. I had been running in Brooks Pure Flow 5 for several months. My sweet Brooks disappointed me yet again by discontinuing the Pure Connect line, which I had been running in (and loving) since 2012. So, I had resort to their mediocre-at-best cousin, the Pure Flow. [eye roll].
The Pure Flows look great and are wonderful for lifting and short runs, but they seriously failed me on my long runs. They didn’t have enough support, and the bottoms of my feet felt like they were on FIRE after about an hour on the road. This issue threw a mega wrench in my training. I did a touch (not ton) of research and ordered Brooks Ravenna 7’s online. I paid for expedited shipping and forgot about that whole “living in Guam” thing where there is no such thing as express anything.
While I waited for my Ravenna’s I suffered through a 16 mile run in the Pure Flows and experienced major anxiety before strapping them on for their final 8 mile run. The pain was just too bad.
Are these built for comfort or built for speed?!
I finally got my Ravenna 7’s and they felt like boats. Not speed boats. Big, bulky boats. Fortunately I adapted quickly and they proved to be amazing marathon shoes. I felt no pain throughout the entire race and I managed to keep all of my toe nails!
Clothes. I wore all black and that was a mistake. I bought a new running tank and didn’t test it out pre race – it was expensive ($50!) and felt awesome so i didn’t think I’d have any issues. But once it got soaked, it felt like I was running in a piece of plastic. I wore leggings because I couldn’t find any/don’t love any of the shorts I have and wanted to prevent possible chafing. I have always made it a point to race or compete in matching clothes and rarely just throw gym clothes on to workout- I am a believer in the idea of “look good/perform better” idea.
I did one light run and yoga every other day at the Hilton. I had a work training that week – my first defense oriented trial advocacy training. It was a great experience but there were some long days, followed by wine with colleagues. I wasn’t eating as well as I wanted to but I did manage to drown myself in water and electrolytes.
The marathon expo was over at the Pacific Islands Club. It was really well done. They had packet pickups stations designated for Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Korea – if that gives you an idea of how many foreigners came in to run the race. They had great merchandise for sale, food, vendors, and performers. I was impressed with how organized it was and all that they had to offer.
I stayed at the Hilton the night before the race – the race started and finished at Ypao Beach Park which is right next to the Hilton, and I didn’t want to have to deal with driving over at 2am – as race time was set for 3am.
Ok, that was my excuse. Real life: I LOVE HOTELS and this was a great excuse to stay in one. Seriously.
My hotel room was really nice, and because I’m an Hilton Honors member I got free wifi and a late checkout the next day, which I desperately needed. (tip – always sign up for the rewards program, it pays off!).
So after I checked in I walked over to the expo to see what was going on, and then ate dinner by the pool. I organized all of my race stuff and my drop bag, painted my nails GOLD to match my tank, stretched out on the king sized bed, and tried to get to sleep early.
I woke up around 2am and finalized my playlist (its called 42k on spotify) listened to music and ate some GU Stroopwafels. Before I knew it, it was 2:45 and I had to sprint to the start line to drop my bag and get on the course. I literally walked onto the course as it was going, and spent the first 400m attaching my bib to my shirt and getting my gels in and headphones in place. yikes.The energy at the start was awesome, and carried through far into the race.
We ran straight along Marine drive (its like a highway here) down the port authority, here we turned off and did a loooong loop. When we came back out, took a right and ran down to the naval base. By then, we were almost half way done and runners were getting spaced out. My only complaint was that it was really dark and the only lights were at the aid stations. It made the few miles of that section mentally challenging. By the time we turned around to head back, we were past the halfway point and had 11ish miles to go. I still felt great at this point.
Throughout the race it literally felt like we were racing (not chasing) the sun. In hindsight, I wish I had gone out faster at the start, so that I had less time of running in the sun. I underestimated how hot it would be once it finally came up! Somewhere around dawn it rained and I was already soaked with sweat, and cold. When the sun came up it felt like we were running in a steam room, yet I still felt cold. There were a few points on the course where they were spraying us with water, and sprinklers that were nearly unavoidable (i literally ran around one of them, going completely off course into some grass to avoid it). I was already soaked, dehydrated, hot but cold, and did not want any more water on me.
The aid stations were well organized and plentiful. I started to get sick of the red gatorade and reallllly loved the station that had coconut water. I was hoping I would find it again on the course but I came up short. Other stuff that was available – gummy bears, dried mango (i don’t recommend this when running), tomatoes, water, coconut candy, mini snickers, and gels.
So the sun came up and I ran through the steam room that was Marine Corps drive. I remember seeing mile 20 and thinking, damn, how do I still feel so good? Given my limited training, I really thought I would have crashed by then. Some parts were starting to ache – my hip flexors were the first to bother me. But really, I felt fine. I was having a great time, jumping in people’s photos, taking selfies, and high fiving volunteers. I listened to a mix of rap and county – the rap gets me pumped up, and the country songs are all songs that I love to sing along (out loud) to and I sort of get lost in them. Great distractions.
It was around mile 23 when I hit the wall. I kept thinking that once I got that far, adrenaline would push me through to the end with no problem. When I ran kona, I barely remember the last couple miles, I was just so excited to get to the end, and I sprinted through to the end. That did not happen this time. The last couple miles of this one felt longer than the first 23. Seriously. It got really hot. I was severely dehydrated, traffic was building up on the other side of the road, and I was hating life. When I would slow down at aid stations and change up my pace, I would get disoriented. I tried to open up my stride and reset my body and nothing was working properly.
The final stretch of the race involved running down K-Mart hill and then through Tumon, with a turn into the beach park. Running down the hill was a bit terrifying, as I felt like my legs were going to lock up me at any second.
But I made it through. I didn’t sprint through the finish like I thought I would, but I made it. Once I came through the finish, instead of going straight to pick up my medal, I went over to the right and just sat down. I was super disoriented and felt horrible. I looked around and saw no one I knew, and I just started crying. Why was I crying? Well, part of me was disappointed in my 5 hour time, part of me was emotional after the serious struggle through those last few miles, and I think the other part of me just felt super alone. So I sat there and I cried…and then I noticed this woman, like, staring at me, hard. So I pulled myself together. In true Kristin fashion I took a selfie and texted my Dad. Then I hobbled around and picked up my medal and asked Japanese and Korean runners to take pictures of me.
The finisher’s party was really cool, although I was a bit too beat up to enjoy it. I felt weird the whole day. I tried to fall asleep, but was awoken by a Canadian helicopter cruising through Tumon. I was tired but couldn’t sleep, hungry but too tired to eat, and just couldn’t deal. A few hours later I sort of came back to life. I thought I would be in a lot of pain in the following days but my body actually felt fine. Weird, huh?