"...In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or
brilliance. They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why not."

~ Anonymous
(taken from Matt Erbele's, It Takes Time to Get Good)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Race Report: Big Sur Marathon - April 26, 2009

This post could be titled... How the California coastline found out that the Nevada desert kicked my ass and followed suit.

But, as beat up as I am, marathon no. 8 is in the books.

Finish Time: 5:22:47 (honestly, about 20-30 minutes faster than I had planned)


The worst part about this race is that the bus leaves for the start at 3:45 in the morning. I live about an hour and a half away, so I was going to drive in that morning to save money. This meant I got up at 1 am, ate breakfast, and left at 1:45 am. I wanted to be extra early because, as some of you remember, I get motion sickness and I MUST ride in the front of the bus.

Upside I met a lovely lady in her late 50's from Colorado that was out with her husband for their wedding anniversary. She was one of those true runners that has been running for as long as she could remember and has no idea how many marathons or races she has run. Her comment when I said I wouldn't have to worry about ever qualifying for Boston was, "Oh, never say never. If I can do anyone can."

I do know she has done Boston 3 times and the San Juan Solstice 50 miler (13,000 of climb, often at extreme elevations) at least 4 times in under 15 hours. So, yeah, she is a serious bad ass.

Ummm sure, lady, you are just your typical age grouper.

We hung out for the hour and a half before the race started, but oddly she wasn't starting with my pace group. Huh.

Me and Wendy at the start. She was taking it easy today and started with the 3:15 pace group. I was just a wee bit farther back.

By the way, I just peeked at her results. She is 57 and finished in 3:42:13* Correction from previously reported time on the race results page. She was still damn fast and won her age group*

Now, that I have made even you fast people ashamed of yourself, I will tell you about my race and make you feel MUCH better.

The race

The website describes this race as "both the best and worst race of your life."

Meh. I have had worse.

Actually, MUCH worse...

Recently. I might add...

As in 8 freaking days ago!

Anyhoo, back to the story...

Big Sur's reputation is mostly due to the hills on this course. Believe me, there were plenty of them. The race director reports that there are 13 hills in the first 13 miles. One of note is the Hurricane Point climb which is a 2 mile climb with an average 5% grade (increase in elevation of 500 ft. for the 2 miles. That is not super steep, but still no joke.), but there are LOTS of smaller rollers that start to wear on you as the day goes on.

Elevation profile from my Garmin data. I accidentally turned it off for about 2 miles in the beginning, but I got most of the hills.
Total climb: 3250 ft.

The real kick in the ass is the 5 climbs in the last 4 miles of the race. They do not look that impressive here, but a climb with a 100 ft gain for a 1/4 mile (7.5% grade) at mile 25 of a marathon will make you wonder why you hadn't taken up macramé as a hobby instead of running.

The Big Climb

Right before this climb I hear "Are you RBR?" and I turn to meet RoadBunner! I can't believe she was able to recognize me. (Ok, well, I was, once again, wearing the same atalanta shirt I wore at Napa, Solvang, and several long runs, so it has been shown here A LOT. Maybe it is not such a mystery.)

Her bubbly enthusiasm was EXACTLY what I needed to get up that godforsaken hill! She was running for fun and taking lots of pictures. MY kind of marathoner! We headed up the Hurricane Point climb I found out why they call her RoadBunner. As I was huffing and puffing next to her, she hippity hopped up the damn hill like she is on springs.

RoadBunner, hippity skipping along. Sorry it is so blurry. I blame it on the lack of oxygen I was getting trying to keep up with her.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised that I was able to run up most of the Hurricane Point climb, with only a few short walk breaks. I had pushed my pace a little in the first 10 miles because I was worried about the mile 22 cut off (you had to be at mile 22 by 5 hours or you would be pulled from the course) and I thought I may have to walk a lot of this climb.

To add to the difficulty of the climb we faced a consistent 15-20 mph headwind as we climbed (source: The Monterey County Herald and weather.com, lest you think I am making shit up) but, before we knew it we were at the top. The reason it was called Hurricane Point became abundantly clear as the 15-2o mph wind, turned into 25+ mph gusts. Hats were flying. Speaking of hats...

How awesome is her hat?!

I was more than a little concerned about letting this tiny, little gal out there in the wind, but she is tough.

After we reached Hurricane Point I let RoadBunner go on her way. (Really, it was a merciful move on my part. I was the most uninteresting running partner imaginable. I seriously think Ironman training is sapping the very life out of me. It has turned me into a serious bore.)

The Course

The course was just a beautiful as billed and offered both breathtaking views and entertainment by local musicians along the way.

It was a little overcast in the morning, but it burned off to a pretty gorgeous day.

A local harpist and a very patient, albeit fashionable, pooch.

It does not get much more Northern California than this.

We crossed over the famous Bixby Bridge. I love bridges and this one in particular.

Me and Bixby

Their name has "Lucy" in it. I had to take their picture! (FYI: for anyone that does not know my dog's name is Lucy. And yes, I am one of those crazy people that has no children and dresses their dog up in costume on holidays.)

Speaking of dogs... One water stop volunteer was offering water, Gatorade, or PUPPY KISSES! Just try and guess, what I chose. Her name is Baby, by the way, and she has wonderful puppy breath!

The Finish

The road was beating me up pretty good and by mile 23 I was more than ready to be done. My feet, knees, ankles, and hips were killing me, but we weren't done climbing yet. The hills now were more a pain in the ass than sense of accomplishment.

Cool sign put up by the locals who are very supportive of the race.

As I approached mile 25 I saw that we would be heading up another hill, I believe my response was, "that is just fucking wrong." To which two women around me added, "you must be fucking kidding me" and "That is IT. I am NOT climbing anymore goddamn hills."

But we did. We climbed one more goddamn hill.

AS I ran down the last 1/4 mile I saw my mom! Yay! She yelled to my dad that I was coming and he started snapping photos. This is the first race they have ever been to. It was very cool. Afterwards we went to lunch and my dad told me that he was glad he didn't listen to my expected finish time because he would have missed me. I think this was the first time I realized that I was actually that much faster than I expected today. Go me.

A Not-so-shocking Realization

While triathlon makes me feel accomplished and proud because it takes me WAY out of my comfort zone, I really love running and marathons. They make my happy. It was a tough run and I am pretty beat up today, but I had a lot of fun yesterday.

No big announcement. I am still going forward with my Ironman goals. Big goals are not supposed to be easy. Otherwise they are not big goals. It was just something that I was thinking about on my little jog along the coast. I would have NEVER thought I could ever say something like 'running and marathons make me happy'. It is kind of cool.


Formulaic said...

Another great post!

I was wondering if the coast was jealous that you cheated on it with the desert.

I am always amazed at the clarity of your runs and the fun you have on them. Even when they are miserable!

You are my inspiration!

Way to go on number 8!

IronSnoopy said...

Ok, I think you're totally insane for doing a marathon 8 days after your last suffer-fest, but I digress.

Isn't Big Sur, like, uhm, HILLY? Oh right. Yes, it is. It's right there in black and white with a graph and everything.

You killed it! 5:22 on any course is a really good time, let alone a hilly, windy, windy, hilly, course. With music. 8 days after running around the treeless, heartless desert and shit.

Yeah, I'd say you're barreling towards your Big Goal in fine fashion, and I love the photos you take on all your adventures! :)


Jo Lynn said...

Great job! That's a lot of miles on pavement. It would be tough for me. Thanks for taking pictures and showing how beautiful our coast is. It was a little soon though, considering what you did last year. Just shows what a tough bitch you really are. ;)

Southbaygirl said...

How exciting that your mom and dad came to watch you run!! That is the best!! I try to drag my dad to most of my races-he actually goes willingly and has mentioned maybe doing one with me one day-that day comes may 9th for the Revlon run for women! Sorry....lost my train of thought! I still think it's way cool that your parents were there! It's such a cool feeling!!! I'm sure they are so very proud of you!!

And you know I'm pretty darn proud of you and impressed! 8 days after HELL you went and tortured yourself again!! And you beat Big Sur! You are a coast gal!! Stick near the water-it obviously agrees with you!!

I'm very jealous that you ran Big Sur-it's such an amazing place!! But they have you running north right? That is uphill!! WTF!!

I do agree with you-running makes ne happy too! Even when o'm in pain or have hurt myself-it still is my release, my solace and MY PLACE!

And I would have taken the puppy kisses!!!


Shelley said...

Hi. Haven't talked to you in forever...do you even remember me? ;)

Great race report! You and Corey (my DH) must have been neck to neck for a lot of the race because he finished in 5:23:09!!

I did the 10.6 in 2:03. It was awesome!!!!

Diana said...

Yeah, I remember I used to make macrame things, but then again that's when I used to smoke a lot of pot too!!! How the hell I ever turned into this running person just freaks me out! Love the report-I can hardly wait to hear your report for the IM in June!

Aka Alice said...

Once again..more proof that RBR is an absolute rock start...Triathalon one weekend, marathon the next, AND an awesome race report w/i a day! check, check, and check.

You are my Wendy...makin' me feel completely inferior. GAH!

Yeah...I'll have my pitiful little 1/2 mary RR done sometime tomorrow. Whuddaboutit?

(Seriously...great report. Love the pix. You are one touch chica!)

Ordinarylife said...

wow, you did a marathon so soon after your last race. I am seriously impressed.

A marathon is on my list of to-do's for this year. I have not done one yet. For some reason they scare me (stupid I know considering what my last race was)

I love reading your reports.

Angela said...

Amazing! You rock!

Isela said...

You are amazing! I can't believe you did a marathon just after doing the last event just a week ago! You are amazing!

Aron said...

YAY I <3 your race reports!!! the best :) CONGRATS on another marathon!!! you are so awesome! That course is SO beautiful, I really want to run it one of these years!

Missy said...

Sheeeit, if running makes you happy then IM will make you a giddy bag of giggles! Yep, you get to do a happy marathon at the end of that bitch. It'll be great.

Great pictures and you're right - I can't believe the wind didn't blow that little chica away.

P.S. I'd take the dog kisses too!

StephB said...

I love the trifecta of bad words coming up the last hill. You ladies are my kind of runners.

Lisa said...

Great race report! Big Sur is on my list of races I want to run, so I am glad to hear that the views didn't disappoint. Great job on running faster than expected.

Aileen said...


1. 57 year old lady is THAT fast?!?! I am officially shamed.

2. Hilly seemed to be putting it mildly, based on that elevation chart. Major props to you.

3. I would have taken the puppy kisses too!!!!!!

Runner Susan said...

Congrats on #8! Great post! Love the pooch/harp pic.

Julianne said...

Great race report!! Man, I missed you again, didn't I. Um, btw, you passed us up. Did you try those stawberries at Strawberry Hill? Omg, so good!!

PunkRockRunner said...

Nice race report. Big Sur is a real butt kicker and my ankles are still screaming. I think we ran near each other for awhile and finished within a minute of each other.

Great Job!!

Julia v said...

Oh Hooray! I, as you know, am NO RUNNER, but now I have experienced the Big Sur Marathon through you, and you know? that might be enough! I think Napa took the road marathon out of me, and my physical therapist is happy to hear that.
I am so proud of your awesome finish time! You rock the house, continually! When are you going to take a break for pete's sake? Will you taper with half marathons, 10ks and only 50 mile bike rides?
Only after our 100 mile cycling ROCKFEST this sunday! I have my own inhaler now, and have done the Scott's Valley Loop again. Watch out Grizzly Peak!
Seacrest Out...

René said...

Thx for the report - I was certainly intrigued by the popularity of this one since it was dubbed "Best Marathon in North America". Your smiles make it look so easy, even after getting up at that ungodly hour.

Stef0115 said...

Awesome report! Of course it's awesome that you did another marathon and the course looks absolutely divine, but getting up at the ungodly hour of 1am is what put this over the top for me!

I'm not surprised by the 57 year old woman since I train with a very fit 69 year old. How many years of running go into that level of fitness! We have just begun our journey . . . . .

Very inspiring what you said at the end too about marathons make you happy. That is seriously COOL!

ShirleyPerly said...

Ha, and people thought I was crazy doing half irons and marathons 1-2 weeks apart :-)

Great race report and EXCELLENT performance on a tough course and so soon after another grueling race. Loved the photos as I used to live in the Monterey Bay area and have been along that route many times. Maybe one day I'll do so by foot like you and RB did!

Calyx Meredith said...

How is it that I live on the East Coast when it's the West Coast takes my breath away?! Those are fantastic pictures of one of my favorite places ever. Congratulations on another great race. How cool that your parents could be there!

Lindsay said...

so, it's one thing to run like a 5k every weekend. but hello! tri's and marathons and biking across the country and gee let's see what else we can squeeze in. you are insane. you have crazy stamina and endurance!

congrats on a great marathon and for once again toughing it out. extra points for having done a half-iron a few days before it. glad you enjoyed it and are still loving running.

*i will add that reading your and jt's tri-reports is for some godforsaken reason making me more and more intrigued by tri's. i really am not sure how since you both have a knack for making them sound like death though. ;)

Dave said...

Nice report! I'm a fellow CDA trainee, and found your blog from Formulaic's. Sounds like we'll cross paths twice this year, as my wife is also doing the Nike Women's Marathon. :)

Alisa said...

Wow, all of the race reports for Big Sur really make me want to run this race, even though I would probably die on the hills =).

Congrats on marathon #8!!!

RoadBunner said...

Yay! It was awesome running with you up the hill! You totally took my mind off of it. And I'm so sad I didn't catch up with you after my photo spree :( I have no idea how I eeked out in front of you because I don't remember passing you at all. I didn't drop the 5:30 pace group for good until well into the 20's so you must have been really far ahead.

You finished in an awesome time! What was all that talk about the 6 hour cut-off! We made it!!

I totally didn't see that pooch on the harpist. And I took a picture of her, too.

Donald said...

This was a great report! Your pictures are awesome, and you look cool and collected the whole way. Especially impressive for you to do it so close to your previous race as well.

Your new bus friend is right: never say never. The qual standards for Boston get quite a bit softer (a higher percentage of finishers qualify) as you get older. Keep plugging away, and see what happens.

Unknown said...

Oh.My.Gosh I cannot believe you got up at 1:45 ... and then ran a marathon. I'd be ready for a nap by the time the race started!!

And I still love that shirt.

The best part is that marathons make you happy. Definately run more marathons then!!

JenZen said...

I tend to repeat myself on my comments but You. Freakin'. ROCK!! Awesome as usual.

Maryland Girl aka Michelle said...

Way to go!!!!!!