It’s the day after the Kauai Marathon and I’m sitting at Urgent Care waiting to see a doctor, my first visit to a doctor in many years. I’m not sure what’s wrong. All I know is I started feeling sick late Sunday night, like I was overheating and had the flu. I used ice packs and fans to try and cool down, but it didn’t help. My wife, worried I was suffering a belated heatstroke from the marathon, insisted she take me to a doctor.
Reluctantly, I agreed.
But it led me to wonder, how in the world did I get here?
Sunday morning, before 6 a.m., the race is ready to start. I’m going the full 26.2 miles, along with a few hundred others. Most, about 1,400 or so, are taking on the half marathon. It’s still cool and everyone, it seems, is happy. I run around giving high fives, fist bumps or hugs to friends waiting to run. There’s Smilie Punzal and his brother Joel. There’s my racquetball champion friend, Philip Eliana. There’s Tyler McCandless, three-time winner of the full Kauai Marathon. Ron Wiley gives me a shout out and Dickie Chang gives me a hug. A minute later, with the blowing of the conch shells, we are off.
It’s easy. Just cruising along. A few miles in, I see a boy running with a shirt that says something about running in Antarctica, so I pull alongside to chat. As we talk, I recognize this kid. It’s Quinn Gardiner-Hall, 10. “Hey, you’re from New Zealand, aren’t you?” I say. “Our reporter, Alden, interviewed you. We published your story this week.” Quinn is raising awareness of health in his home country. We exchanged more words. “Keep up your great work,” I say as I move away.
Soon, I come upon Brooke Sugahara. She says her legs aren’t feeling right, so she’s worried, this early, they are giving her trouble. She’s a veteran runner, so I’m sure she’ll do well. About then, I catch up to Renato De Souza, another great runner. He says he hasn’t done much training, so this is probably going to be a long day. Still, he looks good early.
As we turn onto the Tree Tunnel road, my friend Dawson Okinaka passes me. “We got this. Let’s go,” he says happily.
My pace slows up the Tree Tunnel. I have vowed to run relaxed and take what comes. I end up next to a woman for a few miles and finally say, “How is your day going?”
Some folks don’t care for chatting in the midst of a race, so I say nothing else.
My favorite part of the race. The gradual downhill through Omao. It’s wonderful for the aloha spirit. People sitting in front of their homes and cheer, clap or smile. I offer a chipper “Good morning” to darn near every one of them, and darn near everyone of them responds.
“Thanks for being out here,” I added.
I come upon table where a small boy and it looks like his mom have set our cups of water. “Can I have one?”
“Yes,” she says.
“Thank you,” I shout over my shoulder.
Feeling great, still, nine miles in, so might as well share the joy.
We reach the point where the half marathoners go left and the full marathoners continue the climb up Koloa Road, the beginning of about 10 miles of hills around Kalaheo.
Still, the support from residents, the volunteers, the dancers, the musicians, energizes us and this race continues to feel easy. I chat with fellow runners willing to talk, and say good morning and thanks to folks who came out to root us on.
It was about 17 miles when my calves started to cramp. Knots. Seizing up. I suck down another gel pack and greedily gulp Powerade. It helps. I’m holding on. A runner pulls up and we chat. “What’s your goal?” he asks. “Three forty,” I answer.
“You’re the newspaper guy,” he says excitedly.
It’s Nik Daubert. His mother, Mary, works for the county and is a runner, too. We exchanged emails before the race and he connected me with his friend, Christopher Chang, who has gone the full distance for every Kauai Marathon, and we published a story about him that morning. We talk about how our day is going and stick together for a stretch. “The steepest hill is coming up,” Nik says.
Just after that hill, my calves seize up again and he moves away.
“Good job,” I say.
I’m rapidly losing energy until later, I run into volunteers Ron Lemay, Ron Margolis and other Kapaa Rotarians handing out water and Powerade. Their enthusiasm gives me hope.
About 22 miles, on a long downhill, my stride is reduced to baby steps. One mile, my legs work. The next, they don’t. I hear footsteps. Brooke Sugahara passes without a word.
“How you doing Brooke?” I ask.
I didn’t catch her answer.
Soon, more footsteps.
“Bill Buley, what’s happening here?” says a voice.
I know that voice. It’s my buddy Jimmy McDougall, who looks strong as he charges by and pats me on the shoulder.
“McDougall!” I shout. “Nice work.”
“Keep going,” he says.
Minutes later, he disappears over a rise and I don’t see him until the finish line.
About 24 miles, I stumble because both legs lock up after another downhill and I mutter to myself. “C’mon legs. Don’t quit now.”
I shuffle and mumble.
By miles 25, a miracle. My legs are good. I can run. I charge and pass half marathoners. I sprint the final few hundred yards.
I cross the finish in 3:48:32. Not what I hoped, but not a disaster. Twenty minutes faster than last year, but five minutes off my PR on this course.
Ron Wiley gives me a shout out, my wife gives me a hug and kiss. I meet up with Jeff Sacchini, founder of the Kauai Marathon, and we chat. It’s been a good day. This is a well-organized marathon. My wife tries to get me to drink water, but I decline. I eat little. •••
Later, I interview the winners and other runners for the story for TGI. We hang around the awards ceremony. For the second year, I win my age division and get a big plate that is on display in my office. My wife and I begin the long walk to our car. I meet Steve Cooper, who dribbled a basketball for all 26.2 miles. He just finished and I ask him how it went.
“The dribbling was a lot easier than the running,” he said, smiling.
As we walk, we cheer for marathoners still coming in. By now, the heat is suffocating so they need support. “Great job. Keep it up. You got this!” I yell. Most wave and smile.
I return to work, file my story and my wife’s pictures (she’s a good photographer) and finally get home by about 6 p.m. or so. I’m feeling OK.
By the next morning, not so much. The doctor at Urgent Care says I’m likely just dehydrated and picked up a stomach flu. He sends me to Wilcox hospital to give a blood sample for testing, just to be sure. He calls later. All looks good. I should be back to normal in a day or two. If not, return to a doctor.
Wednesday, I’m fine and Thursday I run again.
My wife thinks I’m pushing myself too hard in the Kauai Marathon and I should take it easier. But I can’t. Not now. I’m committed to the full. I have to defend my age group title three more times. Than, I’ll have swept it. I bet no one has done that. And I’m convinced I can run faster. Just need to train smarter.
Yes, bring on Kauai Marathon 2017. And just in case, we’ll have the doctor’s phone number ready.
Bill Buley is editor of The Garden Island.