Latest reviews by Christopher McManus

(2016)
"Holy Hill"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was the first time that I ran this race, it's one of those hidden gem races that I never knew about. I'm so glad that I did run it because it was a great race and post-race morning. This race is hosted by the Valley Isle Road Runners, a local running group that hosts a bunch of fun races throughout the year. They have a free group run every Wednesday night just to bring people together who love running. Last year they had about 75 runners in their race and this year they had 175, so a nice jump up.

Expo: I couldn't make it to the expo due to my work schedule, but I heard it was just a packet pick-up. More on their swag later.

Parking: the race started at the municipal parking lot in Wailuku, which on a Saturday morning was completely empty. There was a ton of parking, even more than they needed.

Course: This race is a 3 mile climb up to Iao Valley about with a 900 foot elevation increase, and then decrease as you head back down. There were two intersections, crossing Vineyard St to Main, and Main to Iao Valley Rd; both intersections has traffic cops. The weather ended up being pretty wet, which made me nervous with the elevations change but I didn't notice any slippage. The scenery was beautiful coming down the hill as the height we were at gave us a good vantage point of the East Maui Mountains.

Aid Stations: there were two aid stations with water and Gatorade. One at mile 2 that your would hit twice (on the way up and down), which they even ran the table across the road so it would be on the correct side when we passed it again. The other one was at the top of the road in the valley, even a set of pot-a-potties there too.

Post Race: they had a TON of refreshments for us once we finished. Strawberries, watermelon, cookies, krispy kream donuts, chips, Starbucks coffee, and lots of water. Then they used our bib tags for a ton of raffle drawings: over 15 restaurant gift certificates, tubes of joint supplement (one of the race sponsors), with the grand prize being a treatment of choice at the spa at Andaz Wailea.

All in all a well organized, fun, and challenging race! If your in the neighborhood this time of year then don't miss this race!

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(2016)
"Maui's best kept secret race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I will start out by saying that this is by far the most difficult but rewarding course on Maui. The race is very popular and caps racers at about 200, so it is very small. Proceeds are donated to an organization that is restoring the Hawaiian Congregational Church in Kahakuloa. For any runner looking for a challenge and to run for a cause I highly recommend this race to you. The race offers a solo half marathon, 2 person relay team, and a 4 person relay team. So there is distance levels for any runner.

Expo: I wasn't able to make it to the expo due to my job. However because the race is so small it is more like a packet pick-up than expo. It was conveniently located at Sports Authority (one of the last ones around) so you could grab any last minute fuel or gear at the same time.

T-shirt: The shirt was not a tech shirt losing a star for that, but the design and color were very unique this year. The shirt is a dark teal with graphic of Maui and the Hawaiian Congregational Church on it, the same symbol as the medal.

Aid Stations: There were seven of them on the course each with water and Gatorade. They were spaced out based on distance, but some of them just felt like they were in the right spot. Meaning that some were right before a big hill to keep you hydrated on your way up, and others were at the top of the hill as a reward for your efforts.

Course Scenery: The race starts at DT Fleming Beach Park and merges to Route 30. From there we follow the road up north all the way to Kahakuloa, very straight forward course. Once you cross onto route 30 the Plantation Golf Course is on the right, the #1 ranked golf course on Hawaii, and the ocean on your left - the ocean is almost always within view during the entire race. After the first of many hills you come up on Makuleia Bay on the left, commonly referred to as Slaughterhouse Beach, a small hidden beach. Then you come to the southern tip of Honolua Bay - a Marine Sanctuary that's a prized snorkel destination - heading down hill you come to a single car bridge inside a canopy of trees then once you get to the top of the north side you get to see the full view of the bay that is stunning. The next stop is Honokohau Bay which has the steepest hills of the course, both down and up. Once you get to the top for the next few miles it is a lot of twisty hills that aren't so so steep but consistent. The next amazing spectacle is Poelua Bay (see my picture). The next few miles are blessed with either views up the mountain or down to the ocean, so even if you start bogging at the hill at this point you cannot help but enjoy yourself. Then around mile 12 the road get kinda tricky, it narrows down to a single lane road with the rock wall on one side and the no guardrail cliff on the other. Cars need to be very careful at this point because there are only certain points where there is enough space to pass, which might mean backing up the hill to a safe spot. As a runner at this point you are zigzagging between cars where there is space to do so. Some cars do get a little to uncomfortably close to you but as you're on the home stretch you just keep trucking on forward.Coming to the crest of the last hill you can see the finish line at the bottom right by the church making your goal in sight for the final downhill.

Elevation Difficulty: As described it is all hills where the down hills are almost more taxing than the uphills. My app tracked an 1150 foot elevation climb between all the hills.

Parking: DT Fleming Beach Park has tons of free parking, more than enough. The race also provided shuttles back to the start from Kahakuloa. Most people car pool on the way back, especially the relay racers because they have a car at the finish.

Race Management: This race is very organized, Rudy is an amazing Race Director. He is very responsive via email and willing to answer any questions. He really thinks of everything, so when you run a Runner's Paradise race you know it is well managed.

My final comments are that you should definitely run this race at least once. The scenery alone should be enough to convince anyone. Yes the road can be driven, but by actually running it you get a better sense of the area and can really appreciate everything. Don't worry about the hills, walk if you have to but don't miss this race!

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(2016)
"No Ka Oi (Is the Best) Half on Maui"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This is one of the most consistently organized races on Maui! Race Director Rudy clearly knows what he is doing. This was the 7th annual Valley to the Sea event and was just as good as last year.

Expo: It was more of a packet pickup than an expo. It was held at our Sports Authority so we did get discount coupons to use in the store for the day which was a bonus. We were able to get stocked on our energy gels much cheaper than we expected. Slightly disappointed in the t-shirt, it was cotton verse a tech shirt but it's gray with the logo. Was hoping for a brighter color like last year's light blue.

Race Morning: Management was pretty awesome in the sense that they provided a shuttle to the start line from the finish. So we were able to park along the street at the finish and have our car once we were done and not have to take a shuttle back to the start. You did have to RSVP for a shuttle seat but it was via email and very easy to do. More impressive was that the shuttle were charter buses not school buses, which made for a more comfortable ride.

Race Start: Once we arrived at start line in Iao Valley, Rudy got on the bus to give us some last minute info. Where the port-a-potties were, where bag drop was with a free Gu too, where the start line was, and the best news ever that the final .25 miles through the sand had been canceled and was all on pavement. There were only 5 port-a-potties for 300 runners but there was enough time for everyone to us them. We all lined up and synchronized our start with the Marathon start back in Kihei.

Race Course: Contrary to what it may appear, Iao Valley is actually pretty high up elevation wise. That's good for us as the first 2 miles were all down hill. Wet roads from the morning sprinkle made running downhill a little scary but all was good. After an uphill climb it was another mile of downhill until we hit Route 30 in Wailuku, this part had by far the best views of the race due to the elevation. The next mile or so was relatively flat as we approached Waikapu. Then we were in for a long gradual uphill for about 2.5 miles, which plateaued at Kahili Golf Course. Miles 7 and 8 were back to a gradual downhill until we hit North Kihei Road. At North Kihei Road we crossed the street with the help of a traffic cop and now ran with traffic until the finish. Mile 9 was an even steeper downhill grade which eventually plateaued for the remainder of the race. Miles 10, 11, and 12 were very scenic as we were running right by the ocean. The final mile was a little more car traffic heavy but there were cones to give up a bigger shoulder. The final leg we had to run across a small water bridge and then make a sharp right turn into the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary parking lot where the finish was.

Course Support: Aid stations were every 2 miles stocked with water and Gatorade. There was one port-a-potty between miles 8 and 9 at the turn to North Kihei Road. At every intersection there was at least one, sometimes more at bigger intersections, traffic cops who made sure we had the right of way.

Finish and After Party: Once down the chute we got our medal and had a part of our race bib collected. There were two tables with pretzels, bananas, oranges, water and Gatorade to replenish with. The award ceremony started very promptly even though there were still runners on the course. Age divisions were in 10 year increments, 3rd place getting a Tiki Statue of the Victor (a traditional figure meant to bless the owner with victory in all things), 2nd place getting a hand carved wooden frog which was hollow to be used as a Traditional Drum, 1st place got a whale tail shaped plaque, each with hand painted designs.

I would definitely recommend this race to everyone who love running. The scenery was incredible, the cloudless morning let us see the top of Mount Haleakala, and light breeze kept us cool. I would forewarn that this race is hill heavy, ups and downs, so make sure you train for the downhill the most.

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(2016)
"An Embarrassing Victory"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

At the start of the new year, recently completing my second marathon in December, I was slowing building my distance back up to get ready for a half marathon in March. This is one of my favorite races because it helps me get some mileage under my belt, and has a pretty similar course to the half I will be doing.

The expo wasn't anything special as it is a small race. It was easy enough to get my bib and shirt for my friend and I. The shirt was a great improvement from last year's rust orange, it featured a whales tail on the sleeve and bottom on a mustard yellow cotton shirt.The other swag included a water bottle that said "Save the Whales." Again it was a small race so I didn't have any expectations about the expo and swag, which I was stoked for the shirt and bottle. The one thing that did cause some hesitation was the weather at the expo (night before the race). Maui was currently getting southward winds which bring vog (volcano smog) with if from the big island. Not something us Maui runners enjoy breathing in in general let alone on race day.

However on race morning we were blessed with northward winds that blew the vog away and made for great running weather! Our race started at 7:00 with the half marathoners at 6:30, and 5K runners at 7:15 at Maui Ocean Center at Ma'alea Harbor. The first mile took us north up Route 30 which was a minor upward incline. A Little after mile one we took a right down North Kihei Road which is downhill for just under a mile, a great spot to really shave off some time. Leading up to mile 3 was relatively flat terrain, but here's where things got interesting, for me at least. We were approaching an aid station near the end of mile 3, however against my better judgement I didn't bother to stop. The latest signage said Half Marathon Mile 4, and on I went. Then reality sunk in as I realized that I couldn't see any runner a head of me, or behind me, and my watch said that I was more than halfway through the race. I totally missed the turnaround. I turned around without hesitation and began my sprint back to the race. Back at the aid station I got tons of laughs from the volunteers, but I didn't really care. I realized that if I actually stopped and got water I would have realized that this was my turn around. Frustrated with myself I continued my sprint back along the flat road and back to the hill. I planned it out nicely that when I was just getting to the bottom of the hill on my way down I popped a energy chew so that by the time I got back it would kick in. Per my good planning I got the boost I needed and continued to re-pass all the runner I had previously passed already. Once at the top when we hit mile 5 it was all a downgrade hill to the finish. At this point there were a lot of 5K runners on their trip back as well, which meant lots of zig zagging through people. But I I rounded the corner by the Ocean Center parking lot I sprinted into the finish passing another few runners.

Even with my embarrassing mistake I still managed to place 11th overall and a PR too boot! If there was a lesson to be learned it's to never skip and aid station, even though I already knew that.

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(2016)
"A confusing race."
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I don't like being so negative about a race, since they are such a positive thing however I want to tell you like it was. I've ran this race for the past two years because my restaurant, Hula Grill Kaanapali, has been a big support of this race. The race benefits Keiki (child) cancer research. Their logo is three hand prints, one blue, red, and green to symbolize keiki who are battling cancer, who have been lost to cancer, and who have beat cancer. So the who purpose of the race really hits my heart.

The expo was help right outside my restaurant on our lawn, so getting there was very easy for me, for others they could have parked in the Whaler's Village parking garage and received validation, so that's a bonus. Getting my bib and swag bag was painless and swift. i was a little disappointed in the shirt because it was the same exact white shirt as last year but with this year's date. What runner can keep a shirt white? When I was walking into the restaurant one of our guests saw me with my swag bag and was excited that we got 2 free tickets to the Hyundai Golf Tournament of Champions. I didn't remember seeing them in my bag, so I dumped the contents and realized I wasn't given any tickets. I had to go back to the expo tent and actually ask for the tickets. This made me feel very cheap, I shouldn't have had to ask for swag that rightfully for us.

Race morning we were again allowed to park in the Whaler's Village parking garage, however I'm not sure if they validated this time, as I'm an employee there I don't have to pay the standard rate. My friends and I all met on the grass to stretch while the MC kept everyone entertained until race start. Once it got a little closer he told everyone to start lining up except everyone was on the wrong side of the start line, I only knew this from running the race before. He eventually got everyone on the correct side of the start line which took some doing.

Next he explained the course. We were to start running southward down Kaanapali Pkwy for about a half mile until we saw a cone to turn around, then run northward on the pkwy past the start and to the Sheraton Maui where another cone was to turn around, then we had to run through the finish line as a first marker for our race chips and down to the first cone again, once we turned around this time we turned up Kekaa Dr. hill for about half a mile then turned around and when down the hill, back to the Sheraton, turned around and went through the finish line for real this time. I've never like lap race for this reason, they can get very confusing, unlike point to point races.

Then the MC got us more confused. He wanted to make a make-shift corral for faster runners and slower runners. He said he only wanted runner to line up at the start who were planning to run an 8 min/mile pace or faster. But everyone was already lined up before he said this so most runners were not sure what to do. Then when the start gun went off some runner started, some just stood there not knowing when they should actually start, and the rest waited until he told them to go.

I was one of the ones who started runner just to get going, not thinking I was to run a sub 8 min/mile pace but I wanted to get away from the congestion. The course was very scenic as it was a beautiful Kaanapali morning. No clouds up the mountain gave us a spectacular view. There was an aid station right before the hill, which you would end of passing four times due to the laps which was nice. It only had water but I think that's all they should have had. The hill was a fun challenge but not too bad, it added some variety to relatively flat race. Upon finishing they had five of the local teen pageant girls (not sure what division or anything but they did have sashes on) giving everyone a medal once they finished. One of my friends had to go back and ask for a medal because they missed her, which made her feel awkward.

Then the award ceremony was another weird part of the race. The divisions consisted of huge age groups with a 15 year range for each division, or something like that. They were much bigger than I had ever seen, not your standard 5 or 10 year range.

Overall I think the race was a bit unorganized, at the expo and with the confusing coral at race start. Aside from race management, the run itself was great and fun. So in the end I would recommend this race to others because it wasn't expensive, it benefits a great charity, and it's fun. Maybe as I've run so many races I noticed the disorganization but I'm still going to run it again next year.

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