Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Sur International Marathon

The official statistics:  5:19 finish time, 48 video clips, 141 photos, one big finish line smile.

I had an awesome Big Sur experience.  I got to the expo rather late Saturday after a work day.  Julianne was so nice and picked up my packet for me so I wouldn't have a pre-marathon oh-my-god-I'm-stuck-in-freakin'-traffic meltdown.  We then got together with some other tweeting runners for some pre-race Italian food.

I didn't get to sleep 'til about 11:30 pm, I think.  I was meeting my friend, KL, at 3:50 am.  Gah!  Michael sent me a text at 3:40 am saying, "It's time to go!"  Made me smile.  Misery loves company.  We got on a shuttle bus and winded our way all the way down to the start at Big Sur.  I've done this once before (ride the reverse of a course to the start) and it's always amazing to me how looong 26.2 miles feels on wheels.  I was engrossed in conversation with KL but I could definitely tell a hush came over the bus as we started down Hurricane Point (which we would have to run UP later).

The start area is one big, freezing memory.  I had brought a throwaway sweatshirt but nothing extra for my legs.  My toes froze.  With KL as company the time went pretty quickly.  When we were waiting for the start I had already ditched my sweatshirt and was shivering from head to toe.  I must have looked pretty pathetic because a total stranger started rubbing my shoulders to keep me warm (not in a creepy way).

I would like to dedicate this paragraph to the Most Valuable Player of this marathon, my arm warmers.  I have these puppies that I bought for my short-lived cycling career.  I had never worn them on a run.  I was so stubborn about wanting to wear my awesome Oiselle shimmel (and confident in the idea that it would warm up), that I decided I would bring the arm warmers along for the ride.  I figured I would warm up somewhere around mile 6 and could just stick them in my fuel belt for the rest of the race.  I wasn't counting on the predominantly overcast skies and 15-20 mph wind.  I kept them on the entire race.  I had only worn these for 15 mile bike rides, but they were uber comfortable for 26.2 miles of running.  

Arm warmers, I love you.

The Start

I was able to run the first 2 miles with KL before I took my first run-walk-eat-blok plan scheduled break.  I was tempted to skip it to stay with her a bit longer, but knew the breaks early on were probably the most important.

The early, freezing miles in the redwoods.

I am pretty horrible at race reports.  I can't write a blow by blow, mile by mile type of report.  I am more of a highlights type of race reporter.  One of my favorite things early on was when we passed some cows out in a field.  They were moo-ing VERY loudly.  I felt like the cows were actually looking at us like we were crazy.

Cows to the right.  I didn't get a picture that accurately summed up the scene.

I had heard that around miles 5-6 you will know if it is destined to be a windy day.  It was that sort of a day.  There was a 15-20 mph HEADWIND.  Not a fan.  But even with the wind it could have been worse.

Point Sur Lighthouse

The first half of the race was also dominated by great conversations.  I had a handful of ladies who started chatting me up which helped to pass the time.  With all of my picture taking and run-walk-eat-blok cycles, it was hard to stay with any of them for too long, though.

Right around mile 10 I saw a familiar shirt & hat.  It was RBR!!  I introduced myself and we stuck together the next 2 miles up Hurricane Point.  

That big hill right there in the center, that is Hurricane Point

The Taiko drummers at the base of Hurricane Point help to set the ominous mood!

You can see the road snaking upwards towards Hurricane Point

Many people have told me that everyone worries about Hurricane Point, but it is really the rollers at the end that get you.  I couldn't agree more.  I think because of RBR's company I hardly noticed the hill at all!  Plus the higher you got, the better the view so my camera was loving every second of it!  I was so camera happy after Hurricane Point that I lost RBR for the rest of the race.  I tried looking for her, but she had already sped away into the wind.

My hill-running buddy

Fun signs and awesome views up to Hurricane Point:

Don't have to remind me!

Listen to that wind!

At mile 13 you get to cross the Bixby Bridge and hear the lovely sound of Michael Martinez on a grand piano.  Surreal.  Definitely rank this up there on my non-existent top ten running moments mental list.

My first look at the Bixby Bridge in the distance.

Hello, Bixby!

Meant to record him playing for much longer (just figured out I stopped because someone offered to take my picture for me).

Bixby Bridge was the number one thing I was looking forward to, so the rest of the marathon represented a lot of work.  But the views were no less gorgeous the second half.

After this point, the running started to feel a little tough from miles 16-21.  The hills just kept on coming.  That course elevation profile is pretty misleading.  The hills were constant.  If you weren't running up a hill, you were running down a hill.  I hardly noticed any flat sections at all.

Another fun string of signs:

After mile 21 I started to get a second wind and got some energy back.  The race was awesome!  I don't know how anyone could run this course for time.  I kept pulling over to grab a shot or video of something.  I will admit towards the end I opted to do more videos because it got to be a bit hard to stop to take a picture and then start back up again.

We re-entered civilization around mile 21ish.  Lots of nice real estate.  Check out this guy with his pool and little beachy nook:

I took this lady up on her offer for a hug.  Notice the poncho she was wearing.  Sort of like a sweaty runner condom.

Strawberry aid station!  It was yummy.

Cute sign modification.  I love me some Christmas!

I do remember coming up to Mile 25 and seeing this:

I think I swore out loud.  Who puts a hill at mile 25?!

It may be hard to tell, but YES, it is a hill.


Spectators aren't allowed any access to the course except at the finish line.  The race put your name on your bib.  I totally forgot about this until I approached the finish since the entire race hardly anyone was cheering for me by name.  The announcer even called my name off as I was about to cross the finish line which was really nice. 

Road sign at the finish.  See the modification?

I am happy to report that this is the first marathon I've run where I had NO blisters.  My shin felt pretty good once it got warmed up, too.  I had some foot pain issues, though.  I have a strange pointer toe issue and one of the bones by my arch/heel area was giving me some pain.  Two days later my legs are feeling pretty much back to normal but I won't be running for another couple of days.

Overall, this was an awesome race.  It is hard to not enjoy a marathon that is run purely for fun.  No pressure.  No guilt.  This is definitely a challenging course.  I have (knock on wood) never gotten a cramp while running, but there were times on the uphills I could feel the twinge of one looming up in my calves and had to walk it out.

While I was doing the race I was thinking, "This is beautiful, but you'd be crazy to do it again!"  But now I would love to do it again and maybe try to see what sort of a time I can put down on this course.  I think if you train for the uphills and downhills you could actually run a decent time.  It was pointed out that the course has a net LOSS of elevation so for every uphill you're treated to a more significant downhill.

Marathon #7 in the books!


Rop said...

Congrats on a great race. Beautiful pictures. Awesome signs.

Julianne said...

What a FANTASTIC race report. I think this has got to be one of your BEST sister. It was great seeing you on Saturday!! I was happy to pick up your bib packet for you. :-)

You really did a great job running and taking all those pictures/videos! Dang girl. You sure do know how to multitask!

i looooved those strawberries at Stawberry Hill!!

I can't wait to run it next year!

So what's next??

ShirleyPerly said...

First of all, LOVE all the photos!! Seriously, I don't think I've seen so many in a race report before. How you manage to stop and take them so many times, I don't know (I don't stop when I take photos running) but it certainly made for a wonderful photo race report. Congrats on a well run race and glad you had so much fun!!

Mica said...

Great race report--I love the photos and videos! Big Sur definitely looks like an awesome (and awesomely hard) course. If you ever want someone to run-walk it with, I am there!

Marlene said...

That was a GREAT report! It sounds like such an amazing experience and you have me totally convinced that I have to do it one day. Great pics and videos!


Erin said...

I love the guy in tails playing the piano! That is so funny! But then again, I'm a classical music nerd... :)

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I love your pictures. Makes me think the expense of flying out the California just for a marathon might be worth it some day!

Alisa said...

One word: WOW!

All these Big Sur reports make me seriously want to consider it, even though I think I would die and be cursing you all by the end =-).

Which running skirt did you wear? I could see a glimpse of it in the Bixby video.

AWesome job on completing marathon #7!

Aron said...

such an AWESOME race report!!!! love all the pics and videos! great job girl and congrats on #7!!!

all these race reports makes me want to run this one so bad! its sooo beautiful!

cody@codywestheimer.com said...

Great race, great report! Love the pics. You're right - you were always climbing or descending - no flats!!! But such a gorgeous course. :)

Rachel said...

Awesome pics! I've heard about this one but you've convinced me I HAVE to do it! SO PRETTY!!!

Runner Leana said...

Congratulations on marathon #7!!!! It looks absolutely beautiful out there. Thanks for sharing all of those pictures with us!

RG said...

Holy Cow ... now if you would quit the yakking and photoing and rubbernecking and concentrate on running you would probably break 4 hours!!!

On the other hand then we would all miss the great report and pix and vids. (That is pretty interesting how much jostling up and down the vid camera does when your were running and shooting. Somehow your brain manages to keep your head way more stable!

You did all us followers proud!

Pamela said...


Stunning pictures.

Marathon Maritza said...

Congratulations on the race! What an absolutely gorgeous set of pictures...that you so much for sharing them with us! I loved the videos especially, since they are an extra treat and not-too-common!

Great report too!

X-Country2 said...

What a great race report! That looks like an amazing race. It's totally on my top 10 list of life time races.

Donald said...

Wow ... you took more pictures than me! I loved your videos, too. Congrats on having such a strong, fun run on a tough course.

Thanks for the great report.

Chocolate & Chants said...

I love your race report! What a beautiful course. I'd love to ride that on my bike.

Great pictures and videos!

Shoe Running said...

Sweaty runner condom! Ha ha ha!

Your pics are out of this world! So gorgeous :) It sounds like a good race and you rocked it even with less training than you wanted. Great job chica!


Sally Bergesen said...

I loved reading the recap...and seeing the scenery. Made me feel like I was there - but without all the work. ;) It also made me miss California, and all the quirkiness (free hugs, strawberries, funny signs). So nice job - and hope you're still relaxing this week!

Anonymous said...

Great report!! I loved the photos and videos! And congrats on running the Big Sur!!