BIG SUR 2019
What an event. Where do I start? Ohhhh my number 1 Bucket list race (and oh yes, I do have more!)
I am so thankful that I got into the lottery so that I could do this race this year. I loved training for it, accumulating so many miles, so many THANKFUL MILES—thankful that I could RUN AGAIN After my hip/hamstring injury. Our trip started out wonderfully- it was so beautiful there, and I was just so amazed to see the sights. My senses were on overdrive for our 4 days there. Truly amazing. Our first full day there, we did a bunch of hikes down by Big Sur area, went to the beach at Carmel by the Sea, walked up the big sand hills. Such an active day that I ended up a bit sore from the hikes the next day! I never ended up mentioning that to Ryan because I felt kind of stupid that I had maybe overdone it, but I wouldn’t have changed it in any way because WE WERE THERE! Nothing would stop me from doing our full trip! The day before the race, the hikes we did were much less elevation gain/ easier on ankles, and I told Ryan that at about 1:30 I should really take some time off of my feet, so we went to a wine tasting! It was right in the city of Monterey and was so fun and nice and relaxing and different- my mind was totally off of running for this time, and that was good!
We had dinner that night and then just went back to the hotel, I had everything lined up for the morning, food, waters, bag of clothes for afterwards, etc. I did legs up the wall for about 30 minutes while reading and then also did “cupping”. I did this for about 20-25 minutes on my quads and IT band and I have to wonder now if that really did give my legs some benefit/ boost the next day. Basically cupping is using these suction cups to work into the fascia and bring blood flow to the surface of the muscle and fascia. It felt good and my legs did feel good the following morning. (maybe it was the wine flight though?! Haha).
It was early. OMG, I had to wake up at 3:15, had to be at the bus stop in the center of Monterey at 4. It was a LONG bus ride there. The 26 miles from Carmel down to Big Sur goes so fast when you are in the middle of the day and have miraculous beauty on both sides of the road to be absorbed in. But in the pitch black, I just kept thinking… this is REEEEAAAAAALY long!
I got in line for port a pots immediately. Couldn’t really go. Ate a banana along with my coffee that I had from the hotel. It wasn’t as cold as it could have been, so I was so thankful for that! I had my shorts/shirt/arm warmers under long throwaway pants, a long sleeve shirt and another long sleeve shirt that I had planned to throw (both of them) away at the start line. (they normally donate those clothes).
It really wasn’t a super long wait and that was good. Waiting is the worst. It always is- the hardest – the waiting for workouts, for hard track intervals, ughhh get it over and BEGIN!
Anyway: it was so exciting at the race line up. I was in Wave 1- predicted under 4 hour time. I had placed myself there on registration only because all of my previous marathons have been. HOWEVER. For this marathon—oh my gosh, I had told Ryan it would be very possible that I may not be coming in until 5 hours? I had no idea what would happen and I didn’t want to be out there on the course and feel guilty. I thought it is highly possible that I will have to walk the final 4 miles? Anyway. I was in wave #1, we began at 6:45AM- perfect time to begin, with a perfect SONG at the beginning: the gun went off and “CHARIOTS OF FIRE” started playing. I loved it! It was so perfect with the location. The beginning in Big Sur was wooded, beautiful big trees, etc. I was so happy. I was smiling completely- I probably looked like a clown, but I was so happy. I knew how lucky I was- it would have been so easy for me to not be there- I just got lucky- both with the lottery and with my hip getting better.
The first 5 miles were a net downhill. It was a perfect beginning. I would rather finish the final 5 miles uphill than the first 5 miles uphill. The beginning of the run is always the hardest, so the downhill was very welcomed! It literally felt so easy. My breathing never got hard in that first 5 miles. It was awesome. I was totally relaxed, holding a very smart pace. Within 1 mile, I kind of wanted to already throw my one long sleeve shirt that I was still wearing away, BUT: California and this race particularly were so noticeably environmentally aware that I didn’t want to get “in trouble” by throwing it to the side of the road. At Mile 1, I saw some people had a few shirts in a pile and so I pulled it off and threw it. It wasn’t cold and I was already beginning to sweat.
I continued to be surprised by feeling so great and really at ease, my pace being strong, but knowing I was going downhill. The scenery was the rustic part of the race with trees, redwoods, cabins, the river on the side of the road, etc.
The 2nd 5 miles of the race I ended up considering to be my 5 mile “hill warm up”. On the course elevation map, the hills on this 5 mile section were like little blips. When they didn’t really FEEL like little blips, I got a bit worried thinking, what is the hill from mile 10-13 going to feel like? But I just reminded myself to not think about the future and to just stay present with my body, doing the next steps and having focus. I was telling myself to stay calm and I would deal with the hill when it came. The miles continued to go well, although my stomach didn’t. Within these 5 miles, I had 2 port a pot stops. Good grief. Luckily, they were efficient and I was probably out within 40-50 seconds. Boom and run!!!!
I was running near the 3:40 pace group for much of the first 10 miles. I was slightly worried because I knew this was too fast for my finishing time, but I felt “appropriate” in my intensity and I went with how I know I should be working. I felt a combination of worried, but also happy that I was still around that pace group.
Mile 10: This was the beginning of the 3 mile climb to “hurricane point”. Everyone was talking about it. All conversation quieted down as the hill began. No talking. It was steep. It’s ok, I trained hills over and over and over and up and down and up and down and 3 miles nonstop uphill on the treadmill as practice. ½ mile in. This is VERY STEEP. The TAIKO drummers were there, which I previously have LOVED in a race. The drums just rumble through your stomach and gives you this intense beat that vibrates through your being. This time, however, it didn’t feel as magnificent and I was surprised, but I had too much to concentrate on to dwell on it, so I just reminded myself to go ahead, continue. 1 mile in. I was thinking that there has GOT to be maybe 20 feet where it levels out, right? Should I walk? No. There will be a place of leveling out. I kept telling myself to continue around the next corner, and to look LEFT at the ocean! 1.5 miles, no leveling out, but a PORT a POT. OK, well great, here I go again I quick went in, got my business done and back out quickly uphill. It felt BETTER- like I had had a good “break” from the hill while in the bathroom! When I came out, I think that may have been the last time I saw the 3:40 pace group. The 2nd half of the hill was definitely less steep, but still felt 9/10 hard. It frankly SUCKED BAD. It may have been 9.5/10 bad. When I hated it, I just said, “look left” and there was the big beautiful pacific. Calm, peaceful, beautiful. It reminded myself to stay calm, step by step. That was all. Super simple. I tried to not allow it to be too big in my head. No drama. Continue on. I MADE IT. No stopping and we crested and what a GLORIOUS 1 mile downhill afterwards!
At the bottom of this hill was the famous Bixby Bridge. We had stopped to take pictures of it two days before and it is just an awesome sight. It was super neat to run over, I was looking around just literally soaking it in. So, it was kind of like I was half focused, but “allowing” myself some freedom to also be open to seeing the big picture. At the end of the bridge was the iconic grand piano playing of Michael Martinez. I had heard about this tradition and kind of judgily thought…. Grand piano playing??? Middle of a marathon??? Ummmm, no send in more drummers!! BUT. I LEARNED. It was perfection…… literally it was like the peacefulness of the ocean, air, mountains, land were being played out in music. The peacefulness was just the essence of this race. It was a pure highlight. https://www.ksbw.com/article/big-sur-marathons-mile-13-is-music-to-runners-ears/1319689
So, I had mentally divided my race into 1-5 warm up miles, 5-10 warm up hill miles, 10-13 hill, 13-14 recover with downhill. 14 miles I knew I was coming into a critical time. NEED TO FUEL. I think I had messed up some training runs by not fueling well, or early enough. I made a commitment to have a block/honey stinger at each mile. And to keep drinking my water that I was carrying. This was a rather flat portion and I was so so so so so thankful for that! Flat felt so so nice after that hill! I kept at what FELT a decent pace, and was happily surprised when the miles came and my GPS/watch beeped and I saw that my pace was in fact holding quite steady and strong!
I planned to go from mile 14-17/18 having a block each mile, drinking water and having that be a “segment” that I was focused on fueling. At mile 17, I took a run gum piece that I was carrying and told myself that I could use that for 2 mile- it has caffeine, was cinnamon and I was hoping it would help my stomach stay calm because it had since approx. mile 13! So, I enjoyed chomping on my run gum for 2 miles.
I felt great at mile 19 (great meaning…. I was continuing and not slowing down, mentally still connected and strong, not overwhelmed, not giving up, and still HAPPY! On the flip side of this, I was very aware that my legs were getting quite tired, I felt a few times that my hamstrings and hip were so fatigued and on some of the hills, I thought that it could be any step that would send my hip over the edge back to massive pain where I had once been. Luckily, that never ended up being the case.) At this point, I spit out my run gum and went back to blocks and water. I was drinking my own water, but also there were aid stations every 2.5 miles approximately, so I would also usually get a cup of water from the aid station and take a few sips from that. I was really nervous to UNDER-fuel. I knew there were 3 hills that were predicted to be quite big from 20-25 miles and I kept myself mentally prepared. They obviously weren’t as bad as the 3 mile uphill, so I knew I could manage. I just mentally told myself to take it one hill at a time. They were hard, my legs were tired, but I was committed and continued step by step. I didn’t speak nastily to myself when I had to slow down, I just kept my confidence and motivation and took it strong, tall running, focusing on form, and made it up step by step. There began to be more people lining the sides of the course. There were bands- a middle school band, a harp player, a banjo. And there was the view. It was amazing. What a beautiful earth we live on. What a privilege we have to be on this earth, see these things, use our bodies to our potential.
I felt just LUCKY at this point to be a witness to this opportunity.
Hill by hill, I was making it. Each downhill, I felt more excitement building as I knew I could do it at this point. I knew I had felt so much worse in training. It was not easy, but I was still at the point I could keep decent pace, keep form. There were some times where my hips/hamstring would scream with the hills and I thought, here is the end. One wrong step and I may pull something and it is over, so I was also being careful.
Mile 24 came and it was the strawberry station. There was a group of kids handing out strawberries. Of course I never TRAIN with strawberries, but I remember doing Boston marathon when people were handing out orange slices, they were SOOO good, so I decided to go to the side and get some. The kid I was aiming for was kind of in a daydream, and I felt a slight annoyance that he wasn’t going quick and I didn’t want to have to slow to a stand to get my strawberries. I had my hands out like I was going up for a wafer at communion and he got 2 strawberries in my palms. I took a small bite of strawberry and HEAVEN. Just the perfect sweetness. I KNEW this could get me to the end. It would have been so easy to pop the whole strawberry into my mouth and gobble it, but I knew how good it was and I wanted to save it. So I went about .2 miles further before taking another little nibble of the strawberry. I only had 2 berries and I didn’t want them to be gone too soon. I tried to save them as long as I could. Maybe ever 1.5 minutes I’d have a teeny bite. I was worried they’d start smooshing in my fingers. I was holding them delicately one in each hand. They took me really until the last mile. When they were gone, my hands were free and I knew I could make it to the end. 26 miles came and I was elated. I of course was way fatigued, legs tired and heavy, but it was a dream come true. Two tenths of a mile left and I was so so so happy, I could hear the crowds, I began looking for Ryan. I didn’t see him, I kept looking along the way, making sure also to not miss anything and do something stupid like trip on something when my legs could barely hold me. But I finally saw him and called his name (shouldn’t it have been the opposite way!!!) Anyway, I was so thrilled, I wanted to cry. I crossed the finish immediately after I saw him and I couldn’t believe that 26.2 was already done!
Finish time = 3:45:53
In the finishers area, I met up with Ryan and we walked around to keep my legs moving and beginning recovery. Ryan had brought me a diet coke, which is my favorite thing after a race. They had minestrone soup, which I think was so helpful to me- broth/some salt/ and veggies. I went for a 2nd cup, I changed into dry clothes and we didn’t really hang around there at all because I didn’t want to get cold, which kills my recovery after races. I showered at the hotel and we walked right away to the harbor area in Monterey, sat on a bench and ate something, walked back and it was then 1:00 when Highway 1 was set to reopen. So, we got into the car to drive back down to Big Sur. We sat in an Adirondack chair in the Big Sur river- put our feet in the frozen water- so maybe that was a bit helpful for recovery as well?! It was PERFECTION!
Mile splits (for my future reference, I know this is not very interesting to many)!
8:36 (first bathroom stop)
10:48 (2nd bathroom stop plus first mile of big climb)
8:57 (another big climb)
9:37 (another bathroom)
9:51 (final bathroom)
7:32 pace to end.