Thursday, May 23, 2024

Maui Marathon 2024


MAUI MARATHON 2024…. Well, a half.

On a risky whim last year, I signed up for the Maui Marathon- which had been a lifelong bucket list goal.  This race hugs the coastline of Maui and one of my biggest joys is crossing a finish line, physically beyond spent, and walking directly into the ocean.  Along with some hip/back issues, I know that my marathoning may be a little limited, so I need to prioritize which races I really want to do, and… of course…. Maui.

This was before the devastating Lahaina wildfires of August 2023.  The race organizers contacted those who had registered and a few weeks after the wildfires said that the race would still be held, but would be rerouted and may not be a boston qualifier because it may be a little long or a little short.  Then, about 8 weeks before the race, we were notified there would be no more marathon distance.  The half marathon was still on, so we were now doing that distance, and the entire race location was changed- we no longer were going really anywhere near the coastline.  I was SO upset, and really worried because I was taking this huge trip and now it wasn’t even for my bucket list!  (so… I Need to do it again??!!)  Needless to say, I simmered down about the disappointment and with all of my planning of hikes and all the things to do in Maui, I thought this is fine- I am still so VERY VERY LUCKY!

I flew into Maui and the magic began from the skies.  I looked down to lush carpets of beautiful shades of green, just wrapping the mountains in softness. I have no idea how people can either not look out their windows with glee or just act normal, because I immediately go into kid in a candy store mode.  I don’t care to even try to hide this level of pure joy emanating from my eyeballs and face. Hawaii is spiritual, and the gift was already beginning from the sky. My cheeks had no idea what they were in store for because my smile was plastered for a week, my heart was leaping.

I have my “travel routine” set when I travel to my heartfelt tropical destinations:  I have usually swimsuit and shorts under my travel clothes so I can just take my pants off immediately and have shorts on /tank top in the car.  So I did this before I looked for my rental car in the parking lot.  I like how companies are doing this where you land, call in to get license plate and location and look for your rental car and key is in lockbox on back.  GENIUS.  Except when you go up and down the aisles and seemingly cannot find your car!!!  I finally found it, except now it is getting a bit dark and I’m trying to fiddle with the lock on the back and my old eyes can barely make out the numbers on the combination lock. It is also my first experience on this trip of kind of not wanting my back to be exposed- not knowing who may be coming up behind me, I’m slightly on alert as I begin this travel experience on my own so I’m kind of side eyeing the world as I try to get the lock. I finally got it, head to Walmart right next to airport because I need bananas and wine.  When I park in Walmart, I really don’t want to look like complete fruitcake going in with the calf sleeves/compression sleeves on calves that I wore for the flight so I quick lean over to take them off and I realize my feet have near EXPLODED! HUGE MISTAKE- but my foot/ankle looks like a SAUSAGE OR SMALL PLATYPUS. It has swollen and apparently all the blood has pooled UNDER the level of calf sleeves.  I’m amazed but also on a mission to kind of get in/ get out and get as much of the drive to my vrbo done before it is fully dark. *note to self and anyone else- maybe I should have worn the full compression SOCKS?  But in the future I probably wont’ be doing this- I thought I was really doing a good thing, but I don’t think it was wise! I’m nervous getting to VRBO because it is fully dark.  The parking area doesn’t look too clear cut about where to go and park- the office that I was supposed to go to to register my car is closed….. so I find my vrbo (what seemed like finally) and now try to finagle this lock box. Which… I’m already nervous because as a family, we have had 2 vrbo experiences: BOTH which have taken us probably about 10 minutes to “get” It is like an escape room scenario trying to figure out these lock boxes to get the key.  And here I am again in the dark, old eyes, squinting but also backing up to try to see where I am supposed to be pushing and once I do, what sort of “finger gymnastics” to do on these boxes to get the thingamajig to open.  Can vrbo owners please help in finding one that is just easy.  I mean, the code should be the magic, not the ability to figure out a puzzle at the end of entering the code.  I digress.  Once I was in…. VACATION TRULY BEGAN…

**if you only want to read about race, scroll below to the bolded “RACE MORNING”.

My first full day in Maui, I got up before sunrise and headed out to get a feel for my location.  I always like to do this on first day—So I Had my run shoes ready, swimsuit under my run clothes and headed out to find how to get to the “beach walk” that goes the length of Kaanapali beach.  It is a sidewalk/pathway that goes along the ocean and meanders in some of the resorts.  It is so nice that they have this.  It was a misty morning, as most of the mornings in Kaanapali are.  As much as I might vote for a perfectly clear and sunny morning, there is something to be said about mist and clouds halfway covering the mountains in Hawaii.  It is mystical, magical and spiritual.  The air there is soft, hugs you. Literally, my heart is in heaven on earth. Aloha is in my bloodstream and I am all by myself just unable to even wipe a smile off my face.  It feels so good, natural and pure.  I did this run, scoped out some of the beach spots, resorts, where the path went, then came back and hopped in the car to begin exploring.  I wanted to explore on the first day close to the area that I was staying so I headed up to Kapalua.  I parked and did the Kapalua Coast trail which was GORGEOUS.  

Really just a walk, rather than “hike”- the paths were easy to follow and the views down were amazing to see the waters, the colors, the warm air breeze.  This was my first reminder that I am in this place with silent wooshing breezes, the whisper of the earth welcoming you to enjoy this grandeur. I was already so aware of the gift I was giving myself to take this trip, to have no doubts that I am living my life in a way of NOT WAITING to live.  I am making my dreams come true, following exactly the path that I know is mine to take.  I was already experiencing the “settling” into a more serene pace of mind, an equilibrium inside of myself.  I then walked to Fleming Beach and discovered another trail that I hiked on: the Mahana Ridge Trail (that leads to Arboretum Trail Head).  It was a nice addition, out and back.  Then I went to Fleming Beach for a bit.  After that, I drove to Nakalele Blowhole and did a little hike to that- about 30 minutes each way.  I wasn’t like gung ho on NEEDING to see this, but I was close and I’m honestly glad I did- as much because of doing the walk/seeing the blowhole and area, but also for the drive there- the winding roads, the countryside. 

There were tons of bikers on the side which…. I’m not sure exactly what to think about.  Half of me thinks holy HELL NO WAY, and half of me is DYING to do that someday.  It was really hard with the mountains and the curves to navigate around them (and as a cyclist I HATE having cars behind me that I know are trying to pass, just makes me feel so “in the way.”) but the drive was really beautiful.  I stopped at Slaughterhouse Beach on my way back, parked and walked down.  There were a ton of people there and it was the coolest walk through trees to get to this beach and I realized then that this was really a pure snorkeling beach- all rocks. 

So I decided to not stay, but I would LOVE to spend some time there! I was thankful honestly to even stop and WALK through the paths to GET THERE!  SO MAUI!  Then I went to what was to become one of my favorite spots of the trip:  Napili Bay.  Oh this beach was gorgeous, loved the vibe, it was actually small- not very DEEP- like the center part really only has minimal space from the water up to the ROCKS where the resort is—and the waves can wash up, but it is WORTH IT. It’s vibes are awesome, it is a pure turquoise gem. I had of course mapped out the “happy hour deals” and it was time for my first happy hour at the Sea House. Oh my gosh.  

Again, the memories of this place just uplift my heart- sipping on a mai tai looking directly through a huge window out to the turquoise bliss of Napili Bay.  I’m scared the angels are gonna swoop me away and harps start playing.  It was exhilarating to be sitting there at the same time as pure peace.  I noticed here already how I felt kinda very comfortable going in and getting a drink on my own.  Sometimes I feel like a lonely stooge on previous travels- needing to eat by myself, or get a drink, like people are thinking what is wrong with me, why do you have no one with you.  Never once did I feel that this time.  Either the places I went, or maybe I’m just at a place where I’m more comfortable with myself… or at a place (geographically) where I’m so wrapped up in the extraordinary present moment awareness that I have no space left for self doubting.  I sat there as long as I wanted and made myself at home.  I finished out the day watching the sunset at Kaanapali Beach by Whalers Village. 

The next day, I again woke up before sunrise and headed out: this time I drove up north to do the Waihe’e Ridge Trail.  I figured that I wouldn’t be able to really see the sun RISE from the hike since I knew I didn’t want to start in the dark, but it still might be nice to see it in the morning as it was rising.  Well, I hadn’t yet learned that this side of Maui is really covered in clouds over these mountains most mornings (which leads to the clouds on the other side where I was staying/ misty mornings).  So I began the hike and it was beautiful, but then began misting and the clouds got lower, then it was all white and I had zero views, then it started POURING!  Strangely enough I was still having the time of my life! 

However, I turned around- it was getting really muddy and slippery and was too much risk for no reward of views and I realized I wanted to try to come back on a day with more clear skies.  So, I headed to Kihei, a place in southern maui that I think I have been to possibly, but honestly do not really remember- so maybe I never have been there?  I’ve heard so much about it, so knew I needed to explore.  It was WONDERFUL and perfectly sunny and clear blue skies here- so many roads of beaches here, very commercial, but each beach has like an associated green/grassy park to it.  This was so nice to see families having picnics here, people sitting on blankets playing guitar.  People napping, reading books.  So many of the beaches here, I saw sea turtles.  AS the day went along, it started getting really windy (apparently this is common- tradewinds pick up), and it was so funny to see these waves and they were just tumbling the turtles up and down in the waves even real close to the beach. I spent really the entire day here exploring beaches and a few shops in Kihei.  I went to Kam 1,2,3 beaches, had another happy hour and headed back for another sunset on Kaanapali Beach.  This time I went to black rock where they light these tiki poles and then a cliff diver jumps off the cliffs to signal sunset coming. 

The next day was packet pick up for race and they were offering a yoga class at the packet pickup site that I had registered for from 8-9. So, I woke up, and before the yoga class stopped at Maalea Bay to do a sunrise run on the beach there.  I had read that it was great for running and this was ON POINT!  It was a 2 mile long flat/packed sand beach and PERFECT sunrise views (which I honestly wasn’t completely expecting because I didn’t think it was at the right place to really be a great viewing area for sunrise, but it WAS one of my best sunrise mornings on the island!  

I walked up a bit to kill time before I headed to the yoga class and packet pickup.  The yoga class was really nice- always good to take someone else’s class and to just be a participant, especially next to a mountain, under the palm trees, etc. I wanted today to be a little less on my feet because of the race the next day.  That did not happen.  I explored, swam in the ocean, but then it got so windy that the sand was whipping up and just attacking my skin, so I packed up and thought hmmmm… what else to do the afternoon before a race- let’s do a hike in the heat!  I began the Lahaina – Pali trail  This hike is 5 miles each direction, but what I did was just the 2.5 miles to the top and back down.  I planned to do the other half later in my trip. 

This was one of my favorite hikes of the trip.  10/10 I recommend it.  It was so fun, great views, you go up to the windmills, you have this huge view for nearly the entire side of Maui. I was a bit worried about my calves that I may actually wake up SORE, but I didn’t the next day, so that was good.  But honestly, I knew it was worth it no matter what, I was here not just for the race but for every moment. I had a happy hour drink at Barefoot Bar in Kaanapali and then headed back to my vrbo – I had brought tuna packets and noodles and I just wanted to eat something easy/protein and carbs/ pack for the next day and not be out too late.  I still went to sunset but did it right at my vrbo which incredibly was ON the beach.  I cannot believe I was able to find a vrbo right in this location for the price I did.


I had to leave my VRBO at 3AM because…. I am a bit type A… and I had a 45 min drive to get to the bus that would take us to the race start- and bus service began at 4.  (of course I’m going to be on the first bus).  Race morning didn’t start awesome because of a little fiasco with my KEY to my vrbo- so I pulled out- realized I wasn’t 100% sure where I had put my key (because I have a hair scrunchie that zips the key in all day- but I realized I forgot to put it in there, so I was wondering where I Put it or if I dropped it!)  I turned around, in a slight panic, searched the parking spot, didn’t see and said, Sharon, trust yourself.  You know it is here somewhere.  Go to race.  *long story, I practiced being calm as I drove and giving myself credit for knowing that it was in one of my bags, and once I got to site, I found it.

We got on the bus that would take us to race start- it was maybe a 20 -25 min drive.  Always interesting.  You are sitting with strangers and sometimes you have people you chat with (even at 4am), and…. This time… was just a bit awkward- I got some chatting in, but could tell the person did not want to be speaking so did not say anything further.  The race site was lit as it was pitch black. All I could think was, I’m in MAUI and canNOT stop smiling, even though it is middle of the night.  It was also honestly chilly so I had had a throw away with me that I kept on my arms and shoulders, I was so glad to have been prepared and comfortable. I was just overwhelmed by gratitude.  That was all. The race was exciting, I couldn’t wait, but it was just FULL gratitude for making this choice to BE LIVING A DREAM!

Before the race, there was a tribute to the Lahaina fire victims and how important it was to come together in community.  It was beautiful, touching, and reminded me of the big picture- that we are all here on this earth as ONE.

The half marathon I had previously done this year in February was a disaster since I think I was still really struggling with recovering from my first (and hopefully ONLY EVER) bought with covid.  So I was actually very nervous and conservative for this race.  I thought- if there ever was a race to sandbag and take my time doing- it is THIS ONE- ENJOY every single step of the way, right?! So I started, with a smile, and took first 2 miles with full ease.

The things I Remember were

*gratitude for honestly even having my feet on the GROUND in Maui- I mean honestly- we were just running on a highway, it was far from the dream of running next to the ocean.  But the AIR was Maui, the ALOHA vibe was in my heart and bones and every cell.  There was nothing in me except gratitude. Maybe I was on drugs, but I think it was the HIGH of being in my element.

*After a few miles, I progressed slightly, but still was a bit tentative for how I normally approach races. I was calm, happy, measured and felt strong.

*The road started being downhill and my paces were quickening, but I knew it was still “smart” and I wasn’t just letting things rip.  I trusted myself.

*We were coming to mile 7/8 and I felt like uh oh I might have to use a bathroom, so I stopped at a port a pot- but there was someone in it. So I thought OK- gonna make it to the next one (not knowing for sure if there was one soon)—I think my body had thought it was going to get to …. Use the port o pot… so all of a sudden in ¼ mile it was an EMERGENCY.  I’m thinking there HAS to be one at the turn around, but I don’t KNOW!  Long story short- there was and THANK GOODNESS! More gratitude!

*After the turnaround, we were on a flat for maybe ½ mile and then took a right- coming back and I knew there was a hill starting.  Turned and OMGGGG not just a hill but the WIND!! I couldn’t even HEAR- it was in my ears, it was CRAZY.  I was almost at a standstill!  So I LAUGHED! My body was leaning like 30 degrees it felt like? And I was like FIGHTING AIR! I still was SO HAPPY.

*I was also super SLOW – holy heavens! I was barely moving.  I wanted to stop and walk because there was SO MUCH EFFORT for SO LITTLE PROGRESS!

*and here is where I Had my lesson:  I realized- STOP THIS THOUGHT PATTERN SHARON:  you WERE going to be doing a marathon.  You WERE going to be doing something that YOU KNEW would bring you to the BRINK of what you had available.  So you are NOT GOING TO STOP during this half.  There is NO WAY IT IS NECESSARY.  This is a RACE.  This is what you sign up for. Work it.  RELENTLESSLY.

The feeling at this point in the race was a clear reminder of where I’ve been at my running in the past few years- very CAREFUL.  Rightly so, with my hip/hamstring injuries.  I have needed to be so careful that I haven’t been able to push much.  However, I think I have shifted to the mindset of even forgetting HOW to dig deep – even a fraction of what I used to- and stay in a challenge.  

The last 4 uphill miles seemed so LONG- they weren’t ticking by like the first 9 because of the hill and wind!  But this is the ESSENCE- this is why I love doing races- to empty everything I have, to practice digging deep.  You prepare as best as you can for the race, and EVEN THEN- you just never know what the day will bring for you to handle. I promised myself that I wouldn’t make any “deals” through the finish line- no walking for 30 seconds only… because I didn’t need it- I needed to be honest with myself and finish what I came to do, what I was prepared to do.

A few people passed me and I was so impressed and gave some (quick) words of encouragement, which, as always even boosts ME further.  I tried to hook my energy to theirs and fake smoothness in my form, run with my arms, and just continue to fuel, take step by step through these miles.  And I smiled.  We ran by a Hawaiian drum group and it was MAGICAL- the thundering BEAT being amplified in my body, the mountains in the background.  I knew how lucky I was to be present in this space.

The race finish was at Maui Tropical Plantation- It was a beautiful place that I wouldn’t have ever stopped at had the race not been there, but I’m so so glad that I had the chance to be there. I got coffee, sat by a palm tree for a bit, people watched (also changed into swim suit and dry clothes). It was everything fulfilling and now I’m left with even more motivation to someday go back and do the full marathon, that is actually along the coast and finish at the beach.

My race splits (only for myself looking back for data)were:

8:11, 8:05, 8:12, 8:00, 7:38, 7:45, 7:42, 7:30, 8:50 (bathroom stop), 9:51 (uphill wind began), 10:31, 9:58, 9:31.

I left, made my way to Kihei Bread Company for a soft pretzel to take to some beach stops that day.

****The rest of this blog post writing is about my trip (not race related) so if you aren’t interested in that I wanted to let you know.

The rest of the day after the race I went to beaches in Kihei and south.  After stopping at the Bread Company, (it was so easy to park on the main street in Kihei- I don’t know if I was just lucking out- but I was so thankful- and you just are literally parking next to the ocean!): I went to Kamaole 1, then headed south to some other beaches in Wailea and Makena. I first went to ULUA which I hadn’t been able somehow to find the entrance to the day before. Then I headed to WAILEA BEACH and POLO BEACH. (both still in wailea). These were great- it was a beautiful and calm morning on the water… UNTIL then it wasn’t!  The wind picked up when I was at Polo Beach and the sand was just ripping into me, so I wasn’t going to stay too much longer, but a kiteboarder came and that was SO fun and interesting to watch.  I felt like I’m not sure how you learn that because there seems to be not much room for error- like the wind sails you way out on this board, but what if you cannot get it to turn around to take you back in.  I’m sure this is part of the learning, but it was fantastic and impressive to watch.  I then took a break from the beaches to go hike at La Perouse Bay.  This is at the very south end of Maui, with lava and it was not like any of the other hikes (it was really a walk) in Maui.  It was so interesting how many different climates and terrain Maui is comprised of. I was considering going to Big Beach in Makena.  There is a Sunday night Sunset drum circle that I found out about and I would have loved to go to that. But I drove to the parking lot and there was a state park entry fee, it looked tired, and I was so far south and had a big drive and I was kind of worried about crashing since it had been a long day with a before 3am wake up, so I drove back to where I was staying in Kaanapali.

The next day (Monday), I promised myself that I would NOT RUN OR HIKE! HA!  I had loved being so active, but I knew I Was really pushing things and needed to be still. I walked the 1.5 miles to get to the entrance to the beach with all my stuff for most of the day, did sunrise yoga on Kaanapali Beach, and really just explored- kept walking and stopping at various spots that looked beautiful!  I snorkeled, read and relaxed, stared, jumped in waves. Heavenly to have full opportunity to go exactly where and when as I pleased!  I always on days like this pack my food for the day:  I had tuna packets with a wrap to plop it on, an apple for each day, a bar, dried fruit/nuts… And then:  I always planned happy hour at a place that had a special that I had researched- so today I went back to Napili Bay (drove) (by Kapalua- north of Kaanapali) to “The Sea House”- it was so beautiful and relaxing to sit and look exactly at the turquoise water with a mai tai! It was such a luxurious treat!

I went back to watch the sunset at the beach that was right behind my vrbo.  It wasn’t a fancy beach with great sand, but it was perfect.  There were so many community people there, I met a few people who over the course of the days there I got to see each night I went to sunset there.  It was nice to see a bit of the locals vibe, kids playing in the trees, playgrounds, a local guy who came to play guitar and sing every night and I always thanked him.  Full aloha spirit and vibes.

Tuesday I started to get nervous because I had to leave Wednesday.

I rented a surfboard, however it was basically a dead end.  The beach I went to was so rough, there wasn’t anyone there, and after a few wipeouts, I just didn’t want to risk it and it wasn’t the same as surfing in Kauai, where the waves were kind of gentle and there were like 50 people out there trying to learn.  I returned it and went for the other half of the hike I had taken the day before the race- the Lahaina Pali trail.  This time I was doing it from the Lahaina side.  I started, then realized I hadn’t turned onto the correct trail so backtracked.  Essentially, the hike got so treacherous (or I was possibly on the wrong trail?) that I ended up thinking, I’m not doing this !  and I turned around and then proceeded to basically have to very precariously get off the ridge I had found myself on.  It was dry/gravely and dangerous.  I still have no idea if that was the trail?  It couldn’t have been because there were ordinary looking people doing it, and this was just too dangerous. But on the way back I was watching 100% focus to see if I had missed something and I never found it.  Hmmmm…*so this seems to have been the day of “misses” since surf/hike didn’t work, but I still loved it.

My final day, I went for my last run on Kaanapali beach.  I went to black rock, swam in the ocean for about 20 minutes, then ran back.  I had everything ready to check out and was so sad to leave my little vrbo/home for a week.  I headed to Kihei to go to Sugar Beach Bake shop.  OMG I had a malasada to die for. Plus I bought a blueberry muffin to bring to the airport later.  I walked on one of the beaches I enjoyed right there by the bake shop and then headed to REDO the Waihe’e Ridge Trail. I purposefully wasn’t going bright early in the morning because I learned over the course of the week that this area of maui is often in clouds/rain and leaves no view. I was so lucky this time to have a view on the way up! The way down, the clouds rolled in, but it was GLORIOUS!  I finished by going to this food truck I had heard about on the way down the mountain.  It was the BEST MEAL I had all week.  It was perfection- the best Mahi mixed with such a beautiful background.

I then had a little time to kill before going to the airport so I went to a last beach near the airport- I went to Baldwin Park Beach since it was listed as having showers/facilities and I knew I wanted to shower before getting on the airplane.  It was so windy, I just walked on the beach, did some yoga- there were only a handful of people I saw on the beach, but it was really nice to have one last chance to stare at the glorious gift of Maui.

I don’t want to talk much about going to airport because I was grumpy and was intentionally trying to just follow the timeline of getting there on time without thinking.  I didn’t want to leave.  Not a single part of me. I am so insanely happy, relaxed and myself in Hawaii, I feel home.  I know myself well enough to know when I’m in a place for me.  I knew it in one instant when I stepped my first footstep on grounds at UVA in Charlottesville, and I have the same feeling in Hawaii.  I know what I know, my heart knows.  Mahalo, Maui!  Ahui hou! (until we meet again).