Big Sur, I love you.
Your gorgeous views, unforgettable challenges, and blissful 26.2 miles will forever go down as one of my “happiest” races. So simply blissful, in fact, that it’s almost enough for me to forgot your relentless hill climbing. So without further ado…the Big Sur 2011 marathon race recap!
Throughout the week leading up to Big Sur, I experienced the kind of pre-race jitters I’ve never had before. Instead of pressure that I haven’t trained hard enough or I wouldn’t meet my goal time, I worried about whether or not I could even finish.
Never before have I done two marathons so close to one another (13 days to be exact) and never had I been that sick before a marathon. (I know what you’re probably thinking, “Man, that girl is always sick.” Yes, I feel like I get sick more times that I would care to count and I blame my commute…sitting in Bart for two and a half hours a day is a germ Mecca.) Thankfully, by the time the weekend came, all that was left was a runny nose and a bit of anxiousness. I didn’t obsess about the weather, the course, or fret over any of the other details that one normally would. Because the pressure of a goal time was off, it was as if my body was telling itself, “We’re going for a really long run on Sunday. Whatever happens…no biggie…you just need to finish.”
One quick road trip with Aron, Tara and Susan, and we were in Seaside, California, doing our normal pre-race duties: eating, hydrating, eating, hydrating, expo, eating and hydrating some more. We soon met up with the rest of the ladies (Alyssa, Jessica, RoadBunner, and Kristen) to let the marathon weekend commence.
As one would expect, we talked mostly about running the way a sixth grade girl would gush about a Jonas brother, and ate enough carbs for a small country. Luckily, I was in bed by 8:30, leaving ample hours of sleep for our 3:30 wake-up call.
Because part of highway one collapsed, the course changed to an out-and-back, meaning the buses dropped us off at the finish…which happened to be conveniently located next to a Safeway. I imagine this is what the world would look like if there were only 2,000 people left and the only building still standing was this Safeway. Throngs of runners camped out in every aisle trying to stay warm and wait for the race to begin. It was epic (I still can’t decide if I even like the word “epic,” but I’m going to throw it in there for shits and giggles).
Multiple port-a-potty stops later, it was time to line up. The sun had thankfully decided to appear, so off came the multiple layers and HELLO tank top and tempo shorts. Aron and I entered the corrals with our matching lime green Boston shorts, Boston 2 Big Sur bibs on front, and our Boston bibs on our backs. My first matching race outfit was a success.
As I stood there with waiting for the start gun, I gave myself another shot of reality.
I AM NOT IN THIS TO IMPRESS ANYONE.
I AM NOT IN THIS TO TRY AND WHIP OUT SOME SUPER SPEEDY TIME.
I AM HERE TO ENJOY THE SCENERY, ENJOY THE MILES, AND JUST BE.
Oh…and did I mention…I turned on my Garmin only to get the flashing “low battery” signal of death. DAMMIT! While I was totally freaking out at first, in some weird way I now look back and realize that the running gods did that for a reason as running without a pace glaring in my face would be the only way that I would be able to truly relax and run just for the fun of it.
At 6:45 a.m. we were off. I struggled for a bit wondering where my pace would steady off. Big Sur is touted as one of the most beautiful courses in the country, but also as one of the most challenging. They say you should add anywhere from 10-20 minutes to your PR time to account for the hills.
I compare Big Sur to Beantown like this: Boston has hills — lots of rolling hills with a few good climbs and some spurts of flatness. But you see, my friends, Big Sur doesn’t have rolling hills. Instead, it has 26.2 miles of climbing up and then climbing down, with barely any flatness. Allow me to put the emphasis on climb. Kapeesh?
When I saw the 3:50 pace group right in my arena, I thought that would be a good place to stick. And so I did for all 26.2 miles.
This was actually my first time ever running with a pace group. At first, the pack was pretty big with a lot of chatty Cathys. I exchanged casual conversation, but kept to myself for the most part. Oh, and here’s the kicker. I DIDN’T USE MUSIC ONCE! I don’t know what happened, but the scenery was enough to keep even the most distracted runner focused. I even put in my headphones once and couldn’t stand to keep them in. WIN!
So back to the pace group: the leader of the pace group was fan-frickin-tastic. It was almost like he was my own personal coach on the course:
“Ok, we’re approaching a big climb. Keep your strides short and slower. We’ll pick up the pace up top.”
“Keep your arms moving.”
“Remember, what goes up, must come down.”
His casual mantras were enough to keep me focused while I gazed off into the stunning scenery, and because I didn’t have any sense of time or pace, I at least knew what I was maintaining as I ran with the group. Throughout the race, I felt fantastic. My energy was strong, I fueled appropriately, I smiled at the course piano player and the old men handing out strawberries…each mile reminded me why I love running.
Aron caught me and snapped a mid-race pic. HOLLA!
As we covered more ground, the rest of the pace group fell off. Around mile 20, it was only the pace leader and I holding steady and strong. But it was around mile 21 or so that my joints really started to ache and I was ready to be done. Are my hips going to give out on the course? What if my knees buckle in?! But I suppose that’s what comes with running two marathons so closely.
We climbed up, we climbed down, and a soon it was the push to the finish. My joints were screaming, but I finished in exactly 3:50:00. Talk about a pace group!
I hobbled along to get my medal and I heard someone from the back calling my name. It was the pace group leader. To my complete and total surprise, he came up to tell me that during a race, the pace group leaders nominate someone as their hero. Apparently, because I had stuck with him from the very beginning through the end, he had chosen me as his hero and awarded me with a $100 gift card to RoadRunner Sports. I was so shocked, I cried.
I later found my way to the Boston 2 Big Sur tent where they handed out the extra medal and jacket that suckered me into this challenge in the first place. As soon as I had those bad boys, I knew I could rest easy – the challenge was complete.
I’ll save the rest of the weekend shenanigans for a later post, but I couldn’t have been happier. The race was nothing but casual bliss for all of the girls who came…Jessica and Alyssa even PR’d! It’s races like these that rekindle your love for running and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
And so I say with more emphasis than ever before…Happy Running!