RACE REPORT: The Big Sur International Marathon

10325707_666934423343081_8170190502217820589_nRACE DATE: April 27, 2014

RACE ENTRY FEE: $150.00 USD

Two years ago I ran my very first full marathon, The 2012 Big Sur Marathon! Why not really dive into the 26.2 mile distance and take on one of the most challenging road marathons I thought.  Well, turns out it didn’t go so well that year, I finished, but barely, I collected my medal, but felt so awful, I didn’t even stop to get a finisher’s photo, food or water, I just wanted to get out of there in fear that I was going to pass out or throw up.  So what’s a girl to do?  Go back two years later for some sweet ass revenge! 😛

10172786_666619130041277_2520736049421490919_nEXPO: You all know I’m not a huge fan of race expo’s 🙂  This one is pretty painless since it’s not a huge race.  Ethan aka The Ginger Runner and I went on Saturday afternoon to pick up our bibs, shirts and bus tickets (mandatory transportation to the start line) and to do a quick browse of the goods.  After we did a speedy lap around the expo we were outta there and headed to check in to our hotel so we could play on the beach, go get our pre-race grub on and lay out our gear for race morning!

 

MORNING OF:  After tossing and turning in my typical pre-race sleeping fashion our alarms went off at 3am.  The night before I had laid out my racing gear, but throughout the night I had debated back and forth in my head of what I should wear, would I be too cold, too hot, was it going to rain, etc…  I made the last-minute decision to switch my outfit to something a little bit different, would I regret this last-minute choice? …Maybe.  We sleepily stumbled around our hotel room, getting our gear, hydration and nutrition packed as well as our post-race bags.  I, as per usual, had a hard time forcing myself to eat.  I’m horrible at pre-race fuelling, so I opted to pack along a PB&J for the long bus ride ahead.  One last double-check and out the door we go!

Start Line!
Start Line!

START LINE:  As I mentioned earlier, you have to take a bus ride to the start line, the buses load at various pickup points and then you take the most miserable bus ride you’ll ever take (yes I’m being dramatic, sort of).  We got on the bus at 4:15am at one of the Monterey pickup points and started the nearly hour-long trek down the coast to the start.  Once at the start line we got situated with our other friends Dave, Kristen, Colin and Joe, did last-minute gear checks and waited for our 6:45am start time as the sun slowly started to come up.   The race is pretty relaxed when it comes to start time corrals, they break it up into 3 waves, and it’s based on an honor system, so I opted to get into the 3rd corral based on my time expectations.  While standing in the corral, my nerves were out of control, I was doing everything I could to keep myself in check.  I was fighting off the flashbacks from my last time standing at this same start line, I was trying not to let my struggle from my last race there haunt me, let’s just say I was doing a lot of zen-like deep breathing.  Lucky for me, MLL cohort Michele spotted me and came over to say hi! Michele, if you’re reading this, thank you, thank you, thank YOU!  Seeing fans, and friends at any point during the race is such a great motivator!  A few minutes passed and before I know it the first and second waves have left, and we are now toeing the start line, just in time to see Dean Karnazes get to the mid-point of his double marathon of the day! Inspirational!

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 10.30.35 PMMILES 1-5:  Redwoods, Big Sur Station, Big Sur Village. From the start line to mile 5 you’re surrounded by huge redwoods lining both sides of the road, pretty damn beautiful if you ask me.  I had a unique (for me) experience as I was in the front row of the 3rd wave, I got to be in the “lead” pack for the majority of the first few miles of the race, it was pretty cool.  The first handful of miles are all downhill, enjoy this, but don’t let this fool you as there is tons of upness to come, I kept myself in check and stayed true to my plan and to my coach’s advice, and kept a nice steady pace, without letting the downhills entice me into really going for it.  I felt great as we ran through the Redwoods, I enjoyed the smell of campfires and nature and the weather was perfect, although by the time I was at mile 3 I was already feeling a little…warm. (uh oh!).  I knew from the last time I ran this race to really enjoy this stretch as it was the only wind-sheltered part of the race, and the flashbacks of 30-mile/hour headwinds haunted me, what would the weather be like when we emerged from the trees at mile 5? Would it be a rare calm day?  Would it be the typical breezy day that would give me a nice, fresh wind-blown hairstyle (hee hee) or would the wind knock me on my ass?

The endless views photo by Aaron Massey
The endless views
photo by Aaron Massey

MILES 5-10: Andrew Molera State Park to Little Sur River Bridge (aka the calm before the big-ass-hill storm)  At this point in the race the grand Redwoods disappear and the scenery opens up to wide vast views of the coastal mountains, fields of cows and pretty wildflowers and to my surprise, no wind! YAY!  The Andrew Molera state park is the start of the 21-mile race, it also happens to be one of my favorite places to camp! While running by the camp I was completely distracted, in an awesome way, by thoughts of camping there with good friends the previous summer, drinking river beer, spending lazy days eating smores and watching bobcats, all things that were very different from what I was currently doing.   At this point, I was feeling great, staying on track with my goal and keeping my form and nutrition on point.  Mile 7 is the beginning of the first real hill, it’s a slow gradual incline that takes you to just about the 9-mile marker.  I chugged along like a determined little train, taking in the amazing ocean views and the Big Sur Lighthouse.  Once you get to mile 9 you head downhill towards the Little Sur River bridge, which is also where you’ll find the amazing Taiko drummers, which is also where you’ll find the base of

Only the beginning!
Only the beginning!

dun, dun, DUUUUUN the dreaded Hurricane Point hill (aka mountain).  I find this descent extremely daunting because you get a huge panoramic view of the first part of the beast of a bitch of a hill and you can see all of the teenie, tiny ant-like runners making their way up.  I took a minute to calm myself down, took a few long, slow, deep breaths, reminded myself that I had been doing hill training, I was ready to FINALLY take on this monster!

Looking back up towards Bixby Bridge
Looking back up towards Bixby Bridge

MILES 10-15: Hurricane Point, Bixby Bridge and beyond (aka hold on to your butts!) After taking in the awesome sounds of the Taiko drummers I was pumped to conquer this hill!  I stuck to my pacing plan, reflected on my training and let the beautiful ocean views distract me.  It was a slow grind up the 2 mile hill, but damn was it worth it.  Trust me when I say this hill seems to go on and on forever, you meet false summit after false summit, but when you finally reach the top it’s such an amazing feeling.  From here, the next few miles are down hill.  As you get to the halfway mark you run over the iconic Bixby bridge and are greeted by the beautiful sounds of Michael Martinez playing a grand piano…pretty hard to beat this moment, it’s hard not to get emotional!  Miles 13-15 are a nice stretch of downhill, it’s like a nicely wrapped gift for making it up Hurricane Point!

Half way there!
Half way there!

MILES 15-22: Rocky Point to Carmel Highlands. (aka Ouch My Quads).  I was still feeling pretty good at this point, staying pretty much on pace with my “gold” goal for the race and making sure that I was hydrating and taking in nutrition to keep me fuelled properly.  My biggest downfall up until this point was the fact that I was WAY too hot!  My last-minute clothing change the morning of the race was likely the wrong choice, but I had to live with it.  My wardrobe change was a minor change from my original plan of wearing a tank w/ arm warmers vs. my last-minute choice of wearing a long sleeve shirt. I let my race-day anxieties overcome my plan.  Booo me!  Back to the race, Mile 15 you’re headed up yet another hill, at this point I was still moving along pretty good and it was all puppies and rainbows until I started heading down the backside of said hill.  My quads all of a sudden gave me a little holla as if to remind me of how hard they were working to get me up and down all of these hills.  No problem I thought, I pulled to the side and gave ’em a quick little stretch and off I went.  Miles 18 through 20 were a bit of a blur, I remember telling myself all I needed to do was to get to mile 22, which is the time cut off for the course.  Flashback to 2012, I was struggling SO hard and barely holding it together, by mile 22 I was watching the buses scoop up people from the course who hadn’t made the time cut off, and was literally running for my life at that point! Back to 2014, I was actually feeling really good, WAY ahead of where I thought I would be and still moving along pretty smoothly! I was a happy camper and as I reached mile 22 I felt ALL of the anxiety that I had been carrying that day leave my body! I had made it to my imaginary finish line, I knew that no matter what, I’d make it to the REAL finish line.

STRAWBERRIES!!! Screen shot courtesy Ethan Newberry
STRAWBERRIES!!! Screen shot courtesy Ethan Newberry

MILES 22-26.2 Highlands, Strawberries, Point Lobos and the FINISH LINE!  Sitting here typing this is extremely emotional for me, getting past the 22 mile marker was huge for me, and doing it in the time I had, and feeling as good as I was feeling was huge!  Even though I’ve run 3 full marathons before this, I had never felt as good as I did at this point, this was a turning point to remember!  I took a minute just after the 22 mile marker to pull out my phone and call Ethan who I knew would be finished his race (an awesome course PR for him).  His reaction when I told him I was already at mile 22 was priceless, he sounded shocked, yet SO proud and he was headed out my way to meet me, he’s a total keeper and I’m one lucky girl! 🙂  These last few miles are awful, I’m not gonna lie.  As bad and as daunting as Hurricane Point is, these last few “rollers” wreaked havoc on my now tired quads, calves and ankles.  Just past mile 23 you’re

MOTIVATION!
MOTIVATION!

greeted by some amazing people who are working hard to cut up the most delicious tasting strawberries that you’ll ever eat!  And it’s so nice to have some on-course fans cheering you on to get you through the final miles!  I was keeping an eye on my watch, counting as the miles went by, making each individual mile a goal and practising my “smile a mile” (I put a big ol’ goofy smile on my face at each mile marker, I’ll blog about this soon), when just beyond the mile 25 marker I got a surprise…a debilitating calf cramp! Cue profanities!  It literally came out of nowhere and was so bad that I actually clipped the front of my foot on the pavement and nearly bit the dust!  I heard a collective gasp from the few guys that were running around me at the time, and as I hopped off the road on one foot, two of the guys stopped to see if I needed help. Thank you kind strangers! I assured them it was just a

Thumbs UP! Almost there!
Thumbs UP! Almost there!

cramp and that I was ok, as I fought back tears of frustration, and on they went.  I took a few minutes on the side of the road to try to work out the cramp enough that I could have control over my leg.  I knew I was almost there, I knew I’d be seeing Ethan soon.   Pushing forward I pulled myself together and started my slow final mile.   I was soon greeted by Ethan who is my rock and my motivation, we chatted about our races, smooched and I got the much-needed encouragement and motivation from him that I needed to get my ass to the finish line.  Before I knew it I was done, my fourth 26.2 in the books!

photo 3FINISH LINE:  I crossed the finish line strong, with a GIANT smile on my face and collected my kick ass medal.  One of my favorite things about the finish line that I remembered from the previous race is all of the older gentlemen in their navy blue blazers greeting us as we finished.  I stopped and chatted with one who congratulated me and told me I looked “happy and fresh”, he was a total ladies man 😉 I headed over to get my finishers photo, which I neglected to do the first time and made my way through the food tent eagerly looking for Ethan.  Once we found each other we pulled up a curb and hydrated, took in some calories and called my parents. Nothing like hearing mom and dad say they are proud of you! 🙂

COOOOKIE MONSTER!
COOOOKIE MONSTER!

THE AFTERMATH:  Post-race we met up with the rest of our crew and then we hit the beach, taking mother nature’s ice bath with our beers in hand.  I felt reasonably good for having just finished a marathon.  I ended up with a 38 minute course PR and a 33 minute marathon PR, Ethan also finished with a 20 minute course PR.  It was a really great day!

As always I have to thank all of the amazing volunteers that helped make the race possible, we would not be able to do what we do without all of you! The volunteers were really some of the best I’ve experienced, smiling, cheering, supportive people! THANK YOU ALL!!!  And thank you Big Sur for 1236070_666976360005554_5993195622181384836_nallowing us to run through you, it’s a race I think everyone should experience.  And a HUGE thanks to my new coach who has helped me get to where I am today, thank you Newton, I’m sorry I stress you out so much! 🙂 Also big thanks to Ultimate Direction, Nuun Hydration, Newton Running and Oiselle for keeping me hydrated and comfortable during the long haul!

xoxo, MLL

 

LIKED:

  • Rad volunteers
  • Breath taking views
  • Amazing medals
  • Challenging course
  • On course entertainment

DISLIKED:

  • I really have no complaints other than the fact that this bad boy sells out so fast!!!

RACE SUPPORT: 9/10
RACE ORGANIZATION: 9/10
PRICE:  8/10
BONUS: 8/10

TOTAL:  34/40

TIME: 5:12:48
PLACE: 1125/1647 Females

BONUS: Watch the video below to get Ethan’s prospective of the race and our trip to Big Sur!

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4 thoughts on “RACE REPORT: The Big Sur International Marathon

  1. Great Review.

    I am very novice runner for marathons. As for running strategy, did you run the whole way? or did you do run/walk? if so, did you do 10:1 ?

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    1. For this race I ran pretty much the whole time, I walked it out when I was having cramping issues and for some of the last uphills. For previous races I’ve used the run/walk method, run for 1 mile, walk 1 minute. A lot of marathoners use the 10:1.

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  2. Great race report and congrats on the awesome race!

    P.S. Kudos for being able to run with your hair down, I have never been able to do that for more than a minute before wrangling it into a pony tail. 🙂 (such a girl comment I know)

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  3. great race report!! I got into the lotto for this year and with it only being my 2nd full, I am a little nervous!! I love your race report and the video that Ethan did!

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