Monday, September 3, 2012

Po'ipu, HI -- On the Garden Island of Kauai

Kauai Half Marathon Race Report -- Sept. 2, 2012

5:55 a.m.  It's dark.  We're in the race corral.

"Hey Steve," I heard a surprised, vaguely familiar woman's voice say,
as Laura and I were winding our way towards the front of the pack of
about 1,500 runners.  I spun around and -- holy crap -- there's Gigi
McGuire, an attorney friend of mine who I hadn't seen in 15 years.

It's pitch black outside, we're in a huge crowd, I'm 5'7, 140 with a
cap pulled down over my eyes, tugging Laura along behind me and she
spots us going away from her?  The Air Force missed out on a fighter
pilot.

But what a way to start a race.

So many questions.  "Hey, what are you doing here?"  "How did you spot
us."  "How long are you...

"BANG!"

"Gotta go,"  I said.  "Catch you at the finish."

Fifteen years.  Nice friend I am.

And I'm a brutal husband too.  I had already started ignoring Laura
when the conversation with Gigi began.  And when I heard the gun, I
took off without even a "good luck, honey."

Fortunately, Laura was able to crush the race without our traditional
pre-race good-luck kiss.

And she didn't even hold a grudge.  No wonder I love this woman.

After winding through the crowd to the front, I immediately wished I
was back in the pack.  Out in the open, there was a nasty headwind and
it was raining.

Turning left, however, solved that problem.  Now was just raining into
my right ear, but we were running with a helping wind.  So that's
better I think.

Of course, the next 7 miles were uphill.  And humid.  And the sun was
starting to rise.

Then, just about at the "tunnel of trees" (you should definitely check
this out if you're ever on Kauai) my new friend and last year's
fastest local female, Mary Castelanelli started gaining on me.  I
could hear her talking to another runner, just a few yards behind me
as we hit the steepest part of the climb.

"Hey Steve," I heard for the second time in the last 30 minutes.

"Hey Mary!"  She was coming for me.

I ran with her for a couple miles and then watched her drop the hammer.

And as I slowed, another half-dozen or so people chased me down and a very tan
65 year-old dude wearing band-aids scattered all over his legs and
arms (I figure it was mole-removal day last week -- which says
something about his diligent training plan) decided to run right on my
heels like it was no big deal.

I really need to do less 5 hour bike rides and get to work on this
running thing, I thought.

On the bright side, the view over the last quarter mile was
spectacular as the ocean pounded against the shoreline just yards to
our right.

Crossing the line in 1:34 and change, I turned and shook hands with my 
65 year-old stalker (who immediately informed me that I had paced him 
to a 53 minute course age group course record -- meaning, technically, I'm the 65 year-old course record holder) and headed out to watch friends finish.

After watching Laura nearly set a PR and cheering Jorge as he took
second place overall in the Marathon, Laura, Jorge and I met back up
with Gigi and her boyfriend Jared for a chat about life, our races and 
our plans for touring the island without fear of being interrupted by 
a starting gun.

"Yeah, it's so good to see you again.  We're thinking about heading to
the north shore and running the Na Pali coast, maybe doing an open
water swim.  How about you guys?" I asked.

Gigi started to say "we're going to do an open water swim at Anini Beach..."

Suddenly, my name boomed from across the street, "Stephen Kukta from
Vallejo, in a time of ....!"

"Honey, I think you're second in your age group, you need to get to the
podium!"  Laura interrupted, as I was already dropping my arm load of
wet shoes and tri-stuff, bailing on Gigi in mid-sentence for the
second time in 2 hours.

No wonder Gigi hadn't wanted to hang out all those years.  I'm a
crappy friend.

But being on the podium was a nice surprise.  Of course, in my
surprise, I hadn't put on my sponsor's shirt, shoes or hat, so I was
the only guy on the podium mostly naked.

Sorry, Ritch.  I was wearing Every Man Jack tri-shorts, if that helps.

As I'm proudly shaking hands with the announcer and the other guys on
the podium, accepting my cool hand-painted tile trophy, I hear Jorge
shout above the cheering of the crowd, "that guy is ripped!"

To which the announcer responds, without missing a beat, "Ladies and
Gentlemen, please meet Stephen's Husband!"

Perfect.

Actually, it was a pretty perfect day.