Saturday, March 23, 2019

Hawaii 2019: Maui Part Two

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Monday was designated "chill day".  Our group of eight started the day with a mile walk to have breakfast at Kihei Caffe.   The line was out the door and all the seating is outdoors on the main drag of town.   Fortunately the long line moved quickly at the cash-only restaurant.  The food arrived by the time we found seating that worked for our larger group.   The dishes were varied - Holly got a kalua pork loco moco (which lasted another 2 breakfasts) and Dave got the macadamia nut/banana french toast.  On the way back Dave stopped for shaved ice while everyone else got to pet a cute dog.  

Our afternoon was spent south of Wailea on Big Beach in Makena State Park.  This was a perfect place to spend the afternoon.  The beach was both long and wide, allowing visitors to spread out.  The water was a little rough at times, but still very clear.   This is where we saw our first sea turtle swim by.  There's a small outcropping separating Big Beach from Small Beach so we took a walk to see the other side.  To our surprise it was clothing optional.   Put the cameras away kids.

That evening we broke off from the rest of the group to visit with friends that live on the island.  Mike took us to a secret area along the Kihei shoreline where sea turtles frequent.   No turtles tonight, just some kids playing on the rocks.  Right after a lovely sunset his wife Nora got off work and we walked over to the Kamaole Bar at the Maui Coast Hotel for a lively cocktail hour with a live musician.   For dinner we headed into Wailea (via Uber) to a newer restaurant from a local chef called Lineage.  Dishes were served family style and there's a "dim sum" cart that comes by with other smaller samplings.    Within the same shopping complex is The Pint and Cork, a gastropub with a nice beer and bourbon selection.  We made it back to Kihei via a crazy Uber driver.   For once we used our better judgment and decided not to follow our younger friends to The Moose for one more.

With one more full day left in Maui we had to decided not to do the Road to Hana - a 100 mile round trip to the town of Hana and back filled with beautiful views.   None of us were up for it.  We chose to tour the Iao Valley State Park, a place considered sacred by the original Hawaiians. 

After about an hour we left the state park, drove through the cute town of Pa'ia, and stopped at Ho’okipa Beach where the turtles hang out.  We could see about 24 turtles on the beach lounging while others were making their way in from the sea and out to the sea.   We were amazed at how close some of the surfers were going to the grounded turtles despite the signs.    Lunch was near the airport at a locals favorite: Da Kitchen.

On the way back to Kihei we enjoyed Happy Hour at the Mill House on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation.  We became obsessed with the Mill House when our friend Mike was working there and we'd see the pictures of the wonderful views that were quintessential "Maui".  

Before going to dinner at South Shore Tiki Lounge (finally got our excellent pizza) we spent one more night on the beach and lucked into a great sunset with multiple whales breaching in the distance.

Maui was a surprising destination and we only scratched the surface.  We were amazed at how friendly everyone was and it wasn't as commercial as we expected.  We are definitely looking forward to returning to Maui again sometime.

Here's some video from Maui, primarily Haleakala, whales, and turtles:


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Hawaii 2019: Maui Part One

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Hawaii is a 9 hour direct flight from Chicago.   A flight to London is shorter.   This is one of the reasons we never visited Hawaii.  In half the time we can get to Jamaica or The Bahamas.   We've also convinced ourselves over the years that Hawaii would be too commercial and we wouldn't enjoy it.  We had two-and-a-half weeks during this trip to explore three islands so we had a good chance to decide if Hawaii was going to be a repeat destination.

We were sharing the Maui portion of the trip with three other couples.   Holly was running the Maui Oceanfront Marathon for her 50th State Marathon.  Stan was joining her in the race while the rest of us were here for the fun. Since Lee and Laura arrived from San Diego they were the advanced team greeting us Illinois travelers with leis at baggage claim.  

For the next 6 days/nights we'd split up between two rental cars to explore Maui. The actual renting of the car brought no joy to the experience.  A crabby shuttle driver splitting us up between two buses caused Dave to text “I hate Hawaii”.   The long line and slow progress at the counter added fuel to the fire.  Just stop being friendly and chatty and process us! 

We stayed in Kihei, near Wailea and south of Lahania.   This gave us quick access to the start line of the marathon.  Our accommodations were in condos at Kihei Kai Nani Complex.  Each couple secured a condo via VRBO.  We were not excited to use VRBO since we like the security of having an actual hotel reservation in-hand vs. relying on an owner who can yank your reservation for any reason.   But the price was right and our condo was very nice.   We walked across the street to the beach and dining/bar options were close-by (dinner was next door at the Zagat-rated Coconuts Fish Cafe.   If we were to go back to Maui we would prefer to spend half the time in Wailea and the other portion of time in/near Lahaina.

We decided we would try to catch sunrise on 
Haleakala the first morning.  This meant getting up before 3am so we could make the long drive and secure parking.  Since we were still jet-lagged waking up was not too much of an issue.   What was an issue was the 30-something degree weather at the top of the mountain.  Freezing for a half-hour was worth it for the spectacular sunrise over the ocean (or crater as we were told by Lee).  On the way back we had breakfast at an unlikely place - the Pukalani Country Club.  Several of us tried Loco Moco - a local dish of rice, hamburger, gravy, and fried egg.

The rest of the day was spent provisioning at the grocery store, attending the race expo at the condo across the street (where the race director lived), and sitting on the beach with our "coffee" travel mugs (alcohol not allowed on the beaches in Hawaii).  For dinner we wanted to have pizza at the South Shore Tiki Lounge, but Friday @ Happy Hour with live music meant the place was packed.   We settled for the Irish pub next door (Dog and Duck) and received some hit-or-miss meals.   At least we made it back the South Shore after dinner for some Mai Tais.  Since the evening was still a little early we checked out Moose McGillicuddy’s next to our complex. They had a half-way decent draft beer selection with the charm of a Chili's.

The next morning we traveled north to Lahaina.  The town reminded us of a mini Key West without all the bars.   Front Street had nice shops and restaurants to browse and the tour pier was situated to give visitors a nice view to historic buildings, mountains, and islands in the distance.  We took a zodiac tour with
Ultimate Whale Watch.  This was a great find by Jan, allowing us to be on a small nimble boat vs. one of the bigger ferries.  Before we left the harbor we saw a male, female, and baby whale.  We were lucky to have some close-up views and Dave got a few seconds on video of the male whale underwater.  At one point the crew stopped the boat to drop an underwater microphone so we could hear the whale songs.  Finding whales in Maui at this time of year was pretty easy.  Unfortunately we didn't get any breaching action.   The 2 hour tour was a bargain at $40/pp compared to other excursions we have been on.

Dave doctored this picture.  He wanted one with the tail showing and mountains in the background to match a similar photo he took in Alaska.
Lunch was on the rooftop at Fleetwood's on Front Street.  Next time we go to Maui we are rope-dropping (Disney term for getting there for opening) this place and planting ourselves at the bar for a nice lunch.   The elevated seats looked over the ocean, distant mountains, town, and gave a perfect view of the singer on stage.   We all enjoyed our meals and the atmosphere.  Of course some of us saved room for shaved ice or ice cream from Local Boys / Lappert’s.  Since the next day was race day we left town early in order to relax back by the condo before an Italian dinner at Fabiani’s in Wailea.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

State Number 50: Maui Oceanfront Marathon January 2019 Race Report and Video

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Race report time!  We have two videos in this post:  a regular race video and an extended Director’s Cut version.  Decide if you have an extra 5 minutes before selecting which one to watch.  After the videos you can find Dave’s Race Chasing comments. Mahalo!

This was the big one, my last state.  The weeks leading up this race were very hard for me.  I was very nervous.  Like my blood pressure was high and I constantly felt like I was going to puke nervous.  I was so worried that I would get sick, injure something, our flight would be delayed, etc.    This lasted until the night before the race where the nerves were replaced by excitement.  

The race started at 5 am to help beat some of the heat.   We left the condo at 4am to make sure we were there in time to see the start line festivities.   We still got there towards the end of announcements so missed the 50 state roll call, but we were there in time for the traditional Hawaiian blessing.   This was a great show by locals who sang traditional songs and danced to them.   What a great way to start the day.   

Since I was finishing my 50 states, I was allowed to start at the very front of the race.  That was a first for me as a back of the packer.  It was very exciting and yes I was crying.   Stan was running with me and he started just a few people behind me. Pam and Dave were taking care of getting a ton of pictures and videos of me in the front row.  The start was signaled with the blowing of a conch shell of course!

We started well before sunrise so we needed to run with headlamps.  It was dark!  This is the first time I ran with one, but thankfully it did not bother me.   The beginning of the race was beautiful.  We ran by the ocean as the full moon was shining on the water and eventually we saw it set behind the mountain.  This is one of my most favorite memories of the race.   

The first 10 miles went fairly quickly as it was dark and we were both feeling good.   The sun was now coming up so we handed off our headlamps to Dave and Pam.  Mile 10 proved challenging and we couldn’t figure out why.  We finally remembered that the race director called this the Green Mile, a mile uphill.  It was barely perceptible but once we got to the top and made the turn we could tell that we had indeed been going uphill for the last mile.  We had some downhill portions here and then the real fun began.   We had some large hills/mountains to get up and over.  We ran into the rest of cheer section here.   Laura, Jan Mike and Lee were all decked out in their cheer costumes and brought us some needed laughs.   We made it through the hills and then it started getting warm, really warm.   

It was around mile 18 that I started getting worried.  I was feeling nauseous.   I don’t generally do well running in the heat and it certainly hasn’t been hot in Illinois to be used to it.   We slowed our pace dramatically because I really didn’t want to puke or heaven forbid not finish.   Stan was great and never complained at how slow we got.   I would run a bit and then feel pukey again.   We did have some fun towards the end and made a game of trying to pass a few people.     

Our support section was great with cool towels, drinks and salty snacks.   They were lifesavers!  Also the water stops on course were all well stocked.  They all had special treats.  The winners were the ones with watermelon and Otter Pops!

We finally made it in to Lahania and I started to get emotional.  It was finally almost over.   I knew I wanted to run across the finish line with an American flag, because I wanted to celebrate getting to run in every one of the states in our great country.  I am so very lucky!   It was great to have everyone cheering me on at the finish and it’s a moment I will never forget.   All the training miles, all the traveling and it was all worth it for that finish.   I got an extra medal for finishing my 50 states at this race and then went and jumped in the ocean.  Boy did that feel amazing!   

I can’t say enough good things about the Maui Oceanfront Marathon.  It was extremely well organized with great communication from the race director.  They made us 50 state finishers feel really special.  The course truly is along the oceanfront the entire way.   I really want to come back again and be better prepared for the heat and not have the pressure of the 50 state finish on my shoulders.  

I can’t thank my wonderful friends who joined me for this celebration enough.   Stan, Pam, Lee, Laura, Mike and Jan, Thank you.

And of course thank you to Dave.   None of this would have ever been possible without your constant support.  You made my dream come true.  I love you!


Regular Length

Director's Cut

Dave's Comments

We thought leaving the room at 4am would be plenty of time to get to the start line for all the pre-race ceremony.   It was only about 2.5 miles away.   By the time we arrived festivities were in full-swing and we missed Holly's name being called as a 50-Stater.   Bummer.    We did catch the entire cultural show complete with conch blowing, singing, dancing, and stories.  It was still dark at the start and Maui really did not invest in too many street lights on this side of the island.   Pam and I decided to see Holly and Stan at mile 5 since the rest of our crew would meet them around Mile 3 at our hotel (rented a condo in Kihei).   We couldn't see a thing at mile 5.    Luckily at mile 7 we were closer to the water and got to see the moon over the water.   At mile 9 the light was starting to come out.   We parked near the Kealia Pond, which is a bird sanctuary.  This allowed us to have some entertainment in between runners.

The course was pretty straightforward - follow the road along the ocean until you get to Lahania and deal with trying to find a parking spot.   Following the course wasn't a challenge.  Leaving some of the pretty beaches along the way was hard.   There were several pull-offs with no crowds and great views of the mountains and other islands in the distance.   While heading into town Pam got to see a baby whale breach several times while I was busy concentrating on making a left turn.

These were the shirts we designed for us to wear that day:

Snack options were pretty weak.   Most businesses were closed in Kihei at the early hours and mile 12-13 was the last civilization until mile 20-21 where there was a small convenient store and fruit stand.   I got a banana/strawberry smoothie from the truck and waved to our runners as they went by.  They had a nice setup at the finish with the 50-Stater cake and medals off to one side, a singer performing, a  row of misting sprays, and easy access to jump into the ocean.   Unfortunately no food or beer for us to buy.

After the race we headed to Kihei, cleaned up, and then had lunch at Maui Brewing.  They got this place right - great food, nice long beer list, pretty seating area with a view of the mountains, and nice merchandise.   After lunch we headed to the condo and let the cars sleep for the evening.   We crossed the street to the beach for sunset and "coffee" in our travel mugs because you can't have alcohol on the beach. 

It was so great to see Holly complete this goal and I am so fortunate that she actually had a goal like this.   Most of my goals relate to spending a night in a unique hotel.  To actually want to run 1,310 miles in total across our country is pretty amazing - and that's not counting all the other races and training she has done.   Amazing.   I've now been to every state, found some great restaurants and breweries along the way, toured some of our National Parks, and discovered I love Fargo North Dakota.    I'm proud of her, I love her,  and look forward to whatever comes our way next!