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Big Sur International Marathon

May 10, 2011

Let me start off by saying that the Big Sur Marathon was by far the hardest road marathon I have ever run. You would think with all the hill training and trails we do, this race wouldn’t be that big of a deal in terms of hills. Take it from me, this is not a flat, fast, easy course. Get ready to challenge and push yourself up and over each hill that runs throughout the course from Mile 1-26, with a little kicker at Mile 25.

I begrudgingly signed up for this race as part of the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge (2 marathons back to back). This was the first year that the two races were 2 weeks apart, due to Easter, rather than the normal 1 week apart. I loved the idea of the Challenge, but also knew it was the weekend right before my finals. I knew by signing up, I was digging myself into a grave come this time. School actually worked out well and I planned to have everything done before I left Big Sur so I could fully enjoy my time there. I went up with two of my friends who also participated in the B2B challenge. This year the course was a bit different due to the massive landslide on the One. We missed out on the infamous Hurricane Point and Bixby Bridge, but the course was still if not more challenging because it was an out and back, double the hills!

The shuttles left super early (i.e. 4:30AM)  Sunday morning and took us to the start where we waited around for a while before lining up. I didn’t really have much of a strategy going into the race, just to have fun and enjoy the scenic views. My legs were feeling OK from running Boston 2 weeks prior, but I didn’t want to have any time goal in mind. This was also my very last road marathon for the year! We started and I immediately took off. I wasn’t planning on running so fast, but everything just felt right and I was feeling really good. I was counting on burning out or at least slowing down when the first hill came before the first mile, but I sped up the hill like it was nothing. I had no idea what was going on as I haven’t done much speedwork. I was in front of the 3:40 group, but in back of the 3:30 group. Around Mile 5, I found myself neck in neck with the 3:30 pace group and still feeling great. My friend caught up to me and told me that I was going out way too fast (sub 8 min/miles), I told him I couldn’t help it and that I would probably eat it real bad the 2nd half of the race (and boy did I eat it). I stayed with the 3:30 group and ended up passing them too. If I could feel this good the 2nd half of the marathon, I knew I could PR and break a 3:30 time. Thoughts of PRing on this tough course swept through my mind and I couldn’t help but wonder when I was going to crash and burn.

I stayed in front of the 3:30 group until Mile 9 when they passed me on the uphill. Having a large pace group pass you is a bit disappointing. Even though it was a super fast pace group, it was still a downer seeing a group of people come up behind you and knowing you can’t stick with them. I hovered in between the 3:30 and 3:40 until Mile 11. The hills were definitely starting to take a toll on my legs. One runner commented how there weren’t any flat parts of the course. He was right, you were either going up or down the entire course. When the 3:40 group passed, I felt defeated and just threw in the towel. I gave up way too easily on this course. After the turnaround (mile 12) everything started to go downhill. I tried to salvage whatever pace I had left, but once my stomach started hurting, everything else started to  hurt too. I entertained myself by looking for my friends on the other side of the road after the turn around.

I realized I hadn’t eaten anything and it was almost to the halfway point. I’ve been abandoning the traditional GU’s and chomps lately in favor of real food like orange slices (blame all the trail running). There weren’t that many stations that had oranges which probably contributed to my lackluster performance. Mile 16-26 were the worst miles ever. At first, I couldn’t run for more than 30 seconds without my stomach cramping up and having to stop to walk. I figured since I was going so slow anyways, I might as well start taking pictures of the course. The 3:50 group passed, then the 4 hour group. By then, I just wanted to finish the damn race. I couldn’t believe I was flying on Cloud 9 first the first hour and a half and now I was feeling the worst I have ever felt in a marathon. I wasn’t “hitting the wall”, but my legs were so beat and the hills kept coming. I told myself to run what I could and walk the rest. Around Mile 18 I texted my friend who I last saw was with the 3:30 group that he should just leave without me because I was walking it in. He texted back saying he was nearing Mile 23 and was having stomach issues too. My other friend actually came up behind me after the 4 hour group passed. She was looking strong and I tried to keep up with her, but after the first hill, I immediately lost her as I had to stay back. I did stop to take pictures of the piano man! and the strawberry aid station, by far the best strawberries I have ever had. Doesn’t everything taste better after running 22 miles?

I finally made it to Mile 22 with 4 more miles to go. This was the part where the courses did a little loop at Point Lobos with another out and back. After coming out of the park, we were past Mile 24. One more huge hill at Mile 25 and it was a downhill finish. I wish I could say I was flying on the downhills, but even the down parts were hard on my quads. I pretty much hobbled, walked, jogged the last couple of miles to the finish. So glad it was over! Finish time 4:20:17. Yup, slowest marathon time ever. Collected my two blings and a B2B jacket and recovered with my friends over beer and post-race food.

This challenge was definitely a lot more tolling on my legs than I thought. The distance doesn’t bother me so much, but the fact that it was  a ‘race’ made me push myself harder than if these were just training runs. I thought to myself the 2nd half of the race how I couldn’t wait to get back on the trails and do trail races for the remainder of the year. Even though the distance is longer and it takes more time to cover the same distance, there aren’t a lot of people around you and I don’t feel as pressured to go a certain pace. I can also relax and hang out at the aid stations instead of grabbing a drink and rushing off. I stopped at an aid station around Mile 16 and stood there for a good 3 minutes stuffing my face with fresh oranges. I felt so pressured to get going because so many people were passing by. 12 marathons in the bag. Up next, Shadow of the Giants 50K in Yosemite!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 10, 2011 7:23 am

    What were you doing using my patented “race” strategy?? 🙂 I did something similar at Carlsbad where I went out with the 3:30 group thinking it was the 3:40 group and finished 4:40. lol Hopefully I’ll see you out on the trails when my legs heal up.

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