Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Big Sur International Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #27:

Decided to go for the full marathon. Finished.

The Full Recap, Marathon #27:

Many apologies, as I didn't even put up a post saying I was doing the marathon this weekend. After some thought I decided to go for it. My ankle, while not anywhere close to 100%, has not been giving me any trouble while running. I rested as prescribed and was given the green light to run again. I've been cramming a lot of running in the last two weeks to get to a point I felt somewhat sane going after a marathon finish.

Two weeks ago I went on a slow, huffy-puffy three mile run after not running three weeks. I woke up the next day and literally felt like I had run a marathon. Over the last two weeks I did a bunch of runs while mixing in walking to try to get back in enough shape for Big Sur. I did a 13.1 mile run/walk last Friday and proclaimed myself as ready as I'd ever be.

In case you didn't know, part of Highway 1 was destroyed in a landslide earlier this year. As such, they couldn't do the normal Big Sur to Carmel point-to-point course this year. Instead, there was an out-and-back course which started and ended at the normal finish in Carmel. Because of this, some of my favorite miles in marathoning (miles 10-13 of Big Sur) were deleted from this year's event. But even then I was really excited to be out on the course and to be a part of this year's "off" course.

I have done extensive photos in previous Big Sur reports (reference 2010 and 2009) and I find that each year I run I find the need to take less and less photos. Therefore, this one won't be so photo dense nor so detail dense.

When we arrived at the start people were lining up for coffee. I don't drink coffee and was really cold (I stupidly thought a space sheet and some throwaway gloves would be enough to keep me warm). But then I realized they were serving hot chocolate! I am all about the hot chocolate!! Major props to them for thinking of us non coffee-heads.

Oh, Big Sur. I knew I liked you before, but after this it is love.

We found a spot to hunker down and pass the time. There was a stiff breeze and it was chilly. A guy walked by and told us that there was a 24 hour Safeway in the area and that there were swarms of runners all over the place. "It's hysterical. I've already facebooked it." Of course we had to check it out.

Sure enough, the Safeway was nice and warm. And there were tons of runners everywhere. Runners in the aisles. Runners lining up for the restroom. Runners sitting in lawn chairs reading magazines (I thought this was sort of sad). Runners riding the go-cart shopping carts. Runners sitting on the bagging counters. It was both something out of the twilight zone and comical at the same time. At any moment I expected an announcement kindly asking us all to leave.

The lawn chair crew

Just your normal day in the cereal aisle

We first camped out by the wine and later were in the soup/rice aisle. Safeway saved me. I would have been a frozen popsicle otherwise. Everyone please run out and give Safeway some love today.

I knew that Big Sur was going to be a long day for me. I knew that the last miles were going to be a slog of epic proportion. In short, I needed something to look forward to at the end of the race. A couple of days before the race I was at the grocery store and noticed the 50% off Easter candy. I am sucker for 50% off holiday candy. I picked up some seasonal favorites of mine -- Peeps! A running friend of mine once told me that during a marathon she had passed a spectator who was handing out Peeps. She ate a couple and had the most amazing pick-me-up of her running life. Ever since then she stocked up on Peeps throughout the year and used them towards the end of her race.

I've always wanted to try this but never had Peeps on-hand (I'm sorry, I can't stockpile them. If I have them, I have to eat them). A marathon where I thought I might post a personal worst was definitely the race to try it out.

I tweeted this:

Which linked to a photo of this:

I had no clue how I was going to tote them along, but I knew I was going to try.

Luckily I received my new iFitness belt hydration add-ons days before the race. When I run with my camera I like to carry my water in a belt so I have two hands free to take photos. I'm a little sick of my Nathan belt which I have to wear on my natural waist, and wanted to see if the iFitness which rides lower around my hips would work well. I only needed to carry one water bottle since I was planning on using the aid stations, so I tucked my little Peep friends into the second bottle holder.

I had done a little experimenting with the run/walking and had tried a 5 minute run/5 minute walk interval during an 8 mile run. I figured time was the way to go so that I would end up running a longer distance than I was walking. The only thing is that Big Sur is so freakin' hilly you can't really follow that plan to a T because you might end up running all the uphills and walking all the downhills. I had debated when I should start the walk breaks and thought maybe I'd run 2 miles before settling in. The longest consecutive run segment I had done in the two weeks prior to the race was 7 miles and there were days that even 3 miles seemed hard.

At the start I ran into my friend, KL, and we stuck together for over 6.5 miles. She had just run Boston two weeks before so was happy to start off slow. I kept thinking I should start my walk breaks at the next hill, but I was having so much fun chatting and catching up I just kept running. I probably could have kept up the running a few more miles but sadly told her to go ahead so I could get with my run/walk program. I knew I had to start walking while I still felt good for it to be of any worth.

Michael Martinez -- this year at mile 5.5ish and 20somethingish instead of 13.1
This year, "Hallelujah" on the way out and "Send in the Clowns" on the way back in.

While not as beautiful as the normal course, there were still plenty of great views on the out-and-back.

Runners going out, runners coming back.

Coming up to the turn-around. Mercifully it was located before that nasty little uphill.

From miles 6.5 to around perhaps 14 I kept with my 5:5 run/walk ratio. I stuck to a strict 5 minute walking time frame but if I was running and was on a downhill I would continue running until I reached an uphill.

Eventually I lost the will to run any of the uphills and pretty much walked most uphills and ran the downhills. This strategy pretty much breaks down to a 50% walk/run interval so I wasn't losing too much ground.

Finally heading back home

I hadn't realized that the turnaround would be in view of the Bixby Bridge. I am very sad I didn't get to run over it this year, but I am already planning on next year.

I walked up anything that looked like this.

While I sort of feel it ruins some of the magic, we got to pass both the pianist and the taiko drummers twice.

Heading back towards the taiko drummers

Another uphill winding into the distance

Love the strawberry stop!

I had planned to eat my Peeps sometime after the strawberry stop so they wouldn't ruin the strawberry experience for me. I actually sort of forgot I had them, but at mile 23.5 I remembered and took them out.

Get in mah belly!

Nom, nom.

The one difference between this out-and-back course was a little diversion through Point Lobos. I probably should have taken more photos since we hopefully won't be running through here again in future years, but this is the only photo I bothered taking since I was too busy eating Peeps:

It got a little warm, though there was a cool breeze which saved the day.

I had a hard time eating this last guy. With his offset eyes and nose he had a bit of personality.

As I wiped the Peep sugar powder off my face I got down to business with the last few miles. I was actually ahead of my best-guess prediction I had for myself. As I was power walking up the last hill at mile 25 (cruel, cruel world) I realized I could squeak under 5:30 if I just kept running. I wasn't exactly sure how much farther I had to go since there hadn't been a mile 25 mile marker and I didn't know how off Garmin was. But I figured I'd give it a shot. It was a slight fight to the end. It wasn't that it was so hard to keep running -- my legs didn't feel so horrible -- it was just hard to not walk since the last 10 miles I let myself walk whenever things had gotten a little tough.

I was pushing pretty hard the last little stretch which always feels sort of ridiculous to me when you've moseyed along the course the whole time the way I had. But it paid off when I crossed with this:

Nothing feels better than squeaking under arbitrary time goals at the last moment.

In addition to my hot chocolate Big Sur swoon, they also wooed me this year with gender-specific XS shirts. My first Big Sur year I got a unisex XXS. Not bad, but not great. Last year I got a women's small -- also not bad, but not great. But this shiny year they raised the bar and had an XS women's shirt waiting for me. I don't even remember clicking that option when I registered.

Hello, shirt I can wear! Smooches.

Both Alyssa (who smashed freakin' Big Sur with an ah-mazing sub-4 race -- I'd like to take 1% credit for this since I talked her into switching from the 21 mile distance to the 26.2, ha ha) and I bought "Hurricane Point" survivor shirts. This is supposed to be hilarious because we didn't run Hurricane Point this year with the modified course. The race had these printed up before the landslide changed the course.

I've always wanted one of these but in previous years they only went to a size small. XS this year, baby! Plus, they had the old-school artwork I miss from older Big Sur shirts. I am not a big fan of the new modern designs the last two years. It was discounted down to $18 from $28 (which was a plus, though I thought they should have been cheaper). I thought it so perfectly summed up the craziness and kookiness of the last couple of months for me and I will wear it proudly. Inside joke to all the runners (and bunny bloggers) in the know.

I'm really happy I decided to do the marathon. I am also very happy to have this monkey off my back and can get back to a regular training routine. This was an awesome Girls' Weekend in Monterey with some super awesome ladies (Jessica, Page, Alyssa, Aron, Kristen, Susan, & Tara). I had such a blast and am counting down the days 'til registration opens for Big Sur 2012. I definitely have some redemption to chase out there on Highway 1 and it sounds like tons of people are planning on doing the race next year.

I've decided all good marathon stories must end with pedicures from here on out.

Note to self: Next year, take a photo with mile marker 9


Ann (bunnygirl) said...

What does Mario think of you eating bunny peeps? I think you should stick to the chick peeps.

The Fab Furs said...

Seems like this marathon, despite the changed course, reached for the idyllic: wonderful scenery, Safeway sanctuary, hot chocolate, Peeps, great shirts, pedicures, and a wonderfully organic-looking medal. Congratulations!

dawn @ running the dawn said...

awesome job!!!!! i can't believe that you were able to run it so strong with all the injuries you've been facing. AND the shirts--awesome.

peeps while running? genius.

Hef's Mom said...

WOO! So glad you made it!

audgepodge said...

WAY TO GO GIRLIE! And I am totally NOT surprised that you went for the full 26.2 :)

Alisa said...

Still beautiful scenery.

I can't say I'm with you on the peeps---ewwwwwww!

Great that they had a shirt in your size. I was actually thinking about that for goofy. I ordered a small for me and it's not tight...you must be swimming in it.

Aron said...

I had such a wonderful time with you guys this year and I am glad you helped talk me into going back this year... seems its becoming a tradition now and our group just keeps on growing :)

Great job on completing a marathon after your injury and sticking to your plan! You are so disciplined when it comes to that stuff I had no doubt you would beat your expectations for the day.

RG said...

Wow - way to go. Yeah - I love it when I sneak in just under a goal time, especially when I am not sure of the time and am giving a good hard finish and make it!

If I remember all the advice we all gave you back when you were hemming andf hawing, I would say you followed it all!!!

I don't like shirts with all the paint on them but that is a dandy picture!

You are a runner again!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Congratulations! What a lovely place to do a marathon!

Carlee said...

Great race report! Love the peeps idea.

Michaela said...

Peeps as fuel? Genius!

Alyssa said...

LOL!! You can take much, much more than 1% of the credit!! Without you, i wouldn't even have a marathon PR right now. And all thanks to you, I have a brand new marathon obsession. :) Can't wait for next year!

Looking at your photos and videos just reinstilled how much I loved this race. I NEVER thought I would love a marathon, and now I do. I seriously cannot wait to do Big Sur again. Ahhhhhh...

I am not shocked you smashed your own expectations this year (really, you were worried about crossing in 6:30, and here you are finishing under 5:30?!). Amazing. This race was so magical, but I knew you had it in you to power through it. Awesome.


Keely said...

Nice recap, Sandra. Enjoyed running the first part of the race with you. Marathonfoto took a few good photos of us.

I may check into the ifitness belt. I don't like where my current one fits.

Congratulations on finishing another marathon.

Elizabeth said...

Found your blog looking for the Safeway photos! We were on one of the first buses and snagged the patio table and 4 chairs at 4:15 am but I was so bummed I didn't have a photo of the scene in the store. Thanks!