Oh Hawaii, you are so near and so dear to my heart. There is a reason this is state #49. Nearly impossible to get to (with cost and time). As many of you know, Michael lived in Hawaii for five years. After his stint at Chrysler post-high school, he decided he wanted more than factory life. At 24 years old, he had a house, car and made more $$ per hour than most of his friends–on the factory floor. That was not the life he wanted, so he handed my dad the keys to his house (and then to my sister), sold his jeep and bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii (Honolulu). He lived and worked in Honolulu for almost five years, and while there, I visited religiously, once a year for 10 to 14 days. I knew coming back would be a walk down memory lane, but when I walked off the plane on Thursday, I broke out into tears. They were good tears of remembering the multiple times my bro would roll up in whatever shit-box he was driving at the time–to pick me up and take me to work with him, at Pipeline Cafe (where he was a sound engineer). I’d roll off the plane and roll right into the sound booth with Michael, Crash and Coo. It made me happy to think of that so instantly with Babe and Reilly with me. I was waving ‘hang loose’ in no time to all the locals on my pilgrimage back.
Back to the race. Hawaii being my 49th state, we wanted to come, but we didn’t want Reilly miss a week of school. The ONLY marathon in line with ‘school timing’ was Kona Marathon. I read the reviews, and I knew what I was in for… a really undesirable course. The Kona Marathon was held at the Waikoloa Village about 40 miles north of Kona. Waikola Village is three resorts bundled up into one with every chain restaurant imaginable surrounded by an outdoor shopping strip. We are not resort people, so knowing all of that, we opted for the Courtyard at King Kamehameha Beach. We landed in Kona at 2 p.m., picked up our rental car, then headed to the Courtyard. It was dark and gloomy. We were hoping it was just the rain clouds passing through…not so much. We went to the beach on our first day, and by the time Reilly was done building his first sandcastles, my headache was so bad, I couldn’t lift my head. We went back to the room and I decided I needed 1.5 liters of water and 3 Motrin. I thought my headache would be gone in no time. Nope. I laid down, and we all fell asleep by 5 p.m. (shocker, 11 p.m. ET)., and when I woke up at 3 a.m., I could barely move my head still. This time I opted for 2 Tylenol and another liter of water. I then woke up at 5 a.m. and decided maybe I needed caffeine. I headed down to the coffee shop in the hotel and the barista (who was a total Punatic), proceeded to tell me that my headache was from the sulfuric acid from the clouds due to the Kilauea eruption, and he had had a headache for a month. Great. This is not how we were doing Hawaii. I went back up into the room where Reilly and Babe were still sleeping, and in a matter of minutes, I had us rebooked into a hotel 45 miles north and checked out of our current hotel room. Bam and bam. Executive decision made. Everyone was FINE with it (especially since Babe had same headache and he doesn’t get headaches).
Back to the race. We move to Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and oh my, this place dreamy. We pulled in and they gave us some fruity concoction and leis. It was 9 a.m. I went to the front desk and even without asking, Emmy told us that they upgraded us to a suite, “is a mountain view okay, Ms. McNish?” Me: “yeah, dude, I was suffocating an hour ago from VOG, a suite looking at a mountain is dreamy.” Now we were in vacation mode. We admired the Mauna Kea hotel and started reading about the history–no wonder we liked this place so much, Laurance Rockefeller built the Mauna Kea. Laurance Rockefeller also built the Woodstock Inn & Resort, where we got married. It was meant to be.
Back to the race. I was mentally prepared for the suck of this course. Every review I read leading up to signing up for the race, buying plane tickets and reserving a hotel, all said this was the worst course in Hawaii (it’s held on a highway and hot as lava 🌋). It was 90+ degrees every day leading up to the race, we were surrounded by lava rock and there was one road from Kona to Waikola–where else was the race going to be? I picked up my bib at the Hilton in Waikola Village (total tourist chaos), and as we were approaching the resort, I saw random porta-pottys along the highway (YIKES). Ugh. I knew it. I knew it was going to be a grit-your-teeth kind of day to just check it off and get it done. When you see a lonely toilet on a busy highway, you know your course is going to suck. Babe looks at me in the car with a pause, “oh.. look… I guess this is the course.. there are the porta-potties.” Awesome. My alarm went off on Sunday morning (Babe’s birthday), and I headed to the start. It was 81 degrees 5:30 a.m. with super-strong headwinds. I had no idea it was going to be that windy. It was good and bad. Good because it blew all the VOG out of the area, bad because it was “Boston-like” winds where I had to run sideways. Is what it is. The gun went off and we ran around the resort onto the big highway (Highway 19). I ran the same loop in Waikola village FOUR times. I ran steadily up up until about mile 15–where the heat became unbearable and I was panting (with an elevated heart rate). I then moved into a run, walk, run until about mile 19, then I was done for. I ended up walking about the last 7 miles. It was 90+ degrees and not only could I not breath, the 30 MPH winds got the best of me. We did about 12ish miles in headwind with 18-wheelers and speeding cars, whizzing on by. The cars didn’t care that there were runners on the road. We were in their way. Surprisingly enough, when you know it is going to suck, you suck it up and just get it done. It went by so fast because I was just focused getting it done and dreaming of bubbly water and chocolate milk (I was so freaking thirsty). There was also a tiny bit of guilt that it was Babe’s birthday and the longer I took, the longer they had to wait for me. The entire race, I was just thinking, “me and my lava.” There are 12 ecosystems on the island of Hawaii (“the big island”), and where the race was held, we were surrounded by miles and miles of lava rock. It was so hot. Babe researched the explosion from that rock, and it was from the early 1800s. AMAZING, that it looked like it was a few years old and it was really hundreds of years old?! In all of my Hawaii travels, I have never seen that much lava rock.
I finished the race. I walked into Subway in the chaos tourist resort and asked for a soda water (I wanted tiny bubbles, but there was no San Pellegrino to be found). I busted out of the shopping mall/resort and headed back to our tiny slice of heaven. The race started so early I was back by noon. We spent the rest of the day doing whatever Babe wanted for his birthday (which was just relax, thank God).We really enjoyed our Hawaii adventure. We found clear skies, great local restaurants, we relaxed, we went to a coffee farm and took a tour, we visited a few state parks with amazing views and beaches, and we even went to a black sand beach. It went by fast, but we are not beach people. We felt like we were melting every single day. We spent just the right amount of time there.
State #49 is done! ✅