Another one of those lottery races, where someone said, “hey Christian, you should enter this lottery, let’s run the race together” – unlike New York, where my friend was not fortunate enough to get a bib, my co-worker suggesting Big Sur did not even bother to enter the lottery.
Leaving the desert, early Friday morning, we traversed the Mohave, toward the Pacific Ocean. Cruising along the highways, we made it into San Luis Obispo in time for lunch with my cousin. After a satisfying lunch in rainy SLO, it was time for the real start of the drive!
Taking a couple turns from lunch, we were at the very start of the Pacific Coast Highway! Driving Highway 1, aka the PCH, is always such a blast. That is one of the most scenic, twisty filled roads I have had the pleasure of navigating.
As we continued North, signs showed our proximity to Monterey. Once we hit the marathon race start, my wife was giving color commentary on each twist, turn, climb and descent up the PCH. We hit the park where her 21 mile race was to start, and the panic level during her color commentary could be heard in her voice.
Things weren’t all that bad, until we hit the ascent of Hurricane Point. That was a sharp, steep hill! However, the views were absolutely amazing.
From that high point, we continued up Hwy 1, and made our way to the finish line complex. It looked like it was going to be such a great time on Sunday. Navigating the next few miles, we checked into our hotel, received a room at the end of the hall, next to an exit facing downtown Monterey.
Once our bags were dropped in the rather large hotel room, off to packet pickup we went. Not knowing how far it was, we opted to drive. Turns out, we should have, could have walked. Following a short detour of one-way streets, and such, we found a place to park.
Due to construction Packet Pickup was not in one building. This year, bib pick up was in one oversized inflatable tent structure, with the expo being in a second. Big Sur Events’ volunteers were great, checking us in very quickly, giving us some insight into bus rides to the start, and wished us luck.
My main complaint with the expo has to do with the cramped quarters. As mentioned a short while ago, it was held in a very large tent. It was not a large enough tent to accommodate the number of vendors, runners, and spectators milling about.
Nuun had a booth set up, with sample drinks made up for everybody to try. After the first couple tries, I gave up. Not sure if they were supposed to be that watered down, or if it was just an expo mix-hap. May try it again sometime, when I can set up the strength to my taste.
We dropped off the packets, then went on a search for food. Walking down toward the water, we made it to a restaurant overlooking the Pacific, for some delicious food. Their fish & chips, and clam chowder were so great! Talk about a good start to the Monterey food tour we were beginning.
Saturday morning’s sun awoke me, and infused my legs with a very strong desire to go for a run. Lacing up, I went through downtown Monterey, onto the wharf trail, and ran along the beach, as the waves fell onto the earth.
Not going as far as I wanted, to not wear out my legs, after 4 1/3 miles, I was back at the hotel, showering, and getting dressed. We wandered around, found some food, enjoyed the ambiance of Monterey, and relaxed in our room, resting up for Sunday’s event. Our dinner was at a small, regional chain – with mind blowing Kobe beef burgers that I want more of.
Before I was ready, my crack of dawn Sunday morning alarm started sounding. Preparing myself for the day’s adventure, I kept watch on my phone, staring at the time, and snoozing alarms, to avoid missing my bus to the start.
Between running Ragnars, halves, fulls, etc I have become a little bit of a bus/van snob. When the line of busses was before me, I made a choice to hang back. Why get on a yellow school bus, when I could let people rush to the front, allowing me a leisurely step onto a comfy tour bus?
Chatting with other runners who had the same idea, while receiving confused looks from people who like to huddle in the cold at race starts, versus hanging out in Monterey, waiting for a comfortable bus.
Once we made it to the start, we were herded into the small start waiting area. The herded masses generated enough warmth to battle the chilly pre-dawn morning. Looking toward the queue for the toilets, signs were seen affixed to the doors. Getting a closer to the doors, people started laughing. Each door had its own funny sign on it. Was a great, entertaining way to get through the lines.
Making sure there was no extra water weight to be carried down the course, and that my outer layers were stripped off, then secured in the gear check bag, I joined one more slow moving avalanche of runners. Handing my possessions over to the volunteers in the back of a moving truck (a truck for moving, it was not moving when handing over my stuff, that would be a sight), I went in search of a little piece of ground to make my own until it was time to start.
It did not take long for the announcement to be made, runners, line up in the corral! During our transition to the starting corral, the announcers pointed out a runner making his way to the start line. As is his annual tradition, Dean Karnazes starts at the finish line, runs the course in reverse, then runs the race with everybody else!
Standing atop the hill, facing the start line, my legs were anxious to get moving. Seconds dragged on, until the air was filled with Northbound footfalls on Highway 1! It felt great to start moving along the course, especially with the tree lined roadway, and downhill start to the race.
Following some small rolling hills, and turns, we left the trees for the unprotected, wind assaulted course. The ocean was to our left, with wind seemingly hitting us from every direction. The Naval station situated on a peninsula greeted us, breaking up the endless cloud/ocean view.
Passing the 21 mile race start area, I was doing the math in my head, calculating my wife’s general pace average, my current pace, trying to figure out where I would be able to see her on the course. As we approached mile 10, and the climb to Hurricane Point loomed over us, I began to wonder if I passed my wife if she had to answer nature’s call.
Fighting wind, and the threat of rain I continued along the course, climbing closer to the top with each step. Taiko drummers were on the side of the course, powerful rhythmic beats helped us keep moving forward.
With but a short bit of climb left, I spotted a familiar figure on the course. It only took me 12 miles, but I caught up to her! Snapping a quick selfie with my wife, and making sure she was OK, I continued on.
Descending from the highest point on the course, I was cruising, letting gravity doing the work. Surprisingly, I was still making good time. Approaching Bixby Bridge, the sounds of a piano could be heard, faintly at first. Next to the news van, a piano player had his baby grand set up, playing the day away.
The view of, and on, Bixby Bridge was worth the pain of Hurricane Point. Definitely a landmark to check out if one is ever in Central California, on the PCH.
While the road was closed, blocking out most spectators, there were a few on the course. Some were pure spectators, others were relay runners, awaiting the arrival of their team members.
Things were becoming a bit of a blur, in regards to where I was on course, both location, and distance wise. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the views, using them to take the focus away from my growing fatigue and discomfort. Rolling hills, bends, and an emerging sun were there to tire and entertain us.
For a short while, the ocean views were blocked by more intense greenery, guiding us toward the finish line. I was still pacing fairly well until mile 17. By then, the climbing, wind, and general lack of continued training started to take their toll on me. My pace began to slow, and become more inconsistent.
At mile 19, the 4:00 pace group made it past me. I was a little saddened that I didn’t have the energy, or drive, to keep up with them. Knowing what my next month worth of racing looked like, I was not incredibly bummed that I was not pushing myself to injury, or major fatigue to catch & keep up to that group.
More surreal views, and five miles later, the 4:15 pace group was approaching me. I could hear someone loudly talking, “motivating” her group with really depressing stories. They were meant to be inspiring, however, they were really dark, and seemed to guilt the runners into feeling tired at this point in the race.
While it may not have been the way she intended, she did motivate me to keep running, to keep moving forward. I was getting annoyed & mad at her motivational technique. Channeling that frustration from my core, to my legs, I continued on at a steady pace. Keeping that group behind me, I motored on.
There were only a couple miles left, I could do this. It did not take long before I could hear the finish line announcer, and spectators cheering on the runners. That final stretch energy hit me, like it generally does, allowing me to drop my pace for the last three quarters of a mile. Given the conditions, my (lack of) training, and taking a ton of photos, a 4:14:xx was not a bad day running!
Crossing the finish line, I received my hand made, clay Big Sur International Marathon finisher’s medallion. Unfortunately, it would not last 24 hours, as I accidentally dropped it a couple inches the next morning, breaking it in two.
The finish line staff was great, at many races, when I finish first, I will run back to my wife, and help her finish. This time though, the staff would not let me go backwards on the course to do so. I felt bad not helping her wrap up her longest run/race ever, but what choice did I have?
Following the barriers, I received my Heat Sheet, picked up some snacks, chocolate milk, then sat in the sun to take in some calories. Not wanting to get too stiff, I wandered around some, before I found myself in the post-race massage line. The masseuse that worked on me was good, not too light, not too hard of a touch – just enough to keep my muscles from locking up, and hurting too bad.
It took some doing, but my race addled brain was able to navigate out to spectate the runners coming toward the finish line. Texting with my wife, I was trying to figure out here ETA. Leg issues were plaguing here, but she was continuing. The announcer started giving minutes until the course closed. Finding out later that her hands were hurting too bad to respond, she stopped reading my messages. Like one of our ultra marathon running friends, my wife managed to be an official finisher of the Big Sur 21 miler, with 30 seconds to spare!
She is just getting started in the whole blogging thing, bookmark her site, for a different take on the races she runs.