Sunday, September 30, 2012

Big Sur Trail Marathon Recap

Yesterday, I ran my 7th marathon, the Big Sur Trail Marathon in Big Sur, California and it was amazingly beautiful!

If you read my last post, I was really dreading going into this. I knew there was a lot of climbing in this race and there was a cut-off that I wasn't sure I would make given how I was feeling. I could have sworn the website said it was a 6.5 hour cut-off but it was 6 hour! Good thing I didn't know that before or I'd have really been a mess.

After the disaster that was the 50K two weeks ago and the time I took off, I was having really, really...really sluggish runs and my legs were sore and I was still tired. But finally on Thursday I had a good run and felt...I would say...95%. It was a short run (4.6 miles) and I threw in some tempo miles and they were very close to my usual tempo pace so I thought I might have a chance of making the cutoff if it wasn't hot. I had looked at the forecast for Big Sur and one of the websites had predicted 90 for Saturday. Argh. That did not bode well and was just one more worry that I had since I've been really cautious about running/riding in the heat since the 50K.

Then an awesome thing happened...Josh (@bayou) who was also running the race offered to give me a ride up there. The drive to Big Sur is about 7 hours and I wasn't looking forward to it. I was worried about making him wait for me after the race but he said it would be fine so I accepted and it turned out to be the best thing ever because having company kept me from worrying about the race and I just relaxed and had fun.

So we left just before noon on Friday to drive up to Monterey where we were staying for the race. On the way up we had lunch at Taco Bell (burrito!) and made it to Monterey about 6ish. He dropped me off at my hotel to rest and unpack and then we had dinner at a little Italian restaurant to carbo load. We both had the half spaghetti/half ravioli w/meatballs and it was good. I ordered the full order and put a pretty good dent in it but left room for dessert which turned out to be a strawberry sundae after a quick trip to Target for supplies. Yum!

I went to sleep around 11 and woke up before my alarm in the morning. I'd slept really well for the night before a race and felt pretty rested. I was ready. I was still nervous but not too bad. I ate my usual pre-race breakfast (2 mini bagel, a banana, and some orange juice) and then got dressed. Josh picked me up about 7:30 to drive down to Big Sur. It was misty and foggy and cool and Josh said the high would be 75 and I was really happy about that. The drive down was beautiful with the mist and fog.

We got to the race and were lucky to be one of the last few cars they let into the parking lot. I already had my bib (which they'd sent in the mail) but Josh had to pick his up before the race. We had a while to get ready and just hang out before it started.

What a geek, eh? ;)

The race started at 9 and the RD led us to the start on the Old Coast Road. We would be running on the old dirt road that was used prior to the current Hwy 1. The course was an out and back with a double out and back at the end. It was a fun section because it had some great downhill and we ran up to the famous Bixby Bridge twice and you could see the other runners multiple times.
So the RD sent us off and we immediately started...uphill! I have got to pick flatter races! Here's the profile for the run:
All you can do is put your head down and run. The sooner you're up it, the sooner it's over. I felt good and ran almost all of the first half except the very steepest parts which I power hiked. The RD had told us the cutoff for the marathon was the aid station at 13.1 miles and we had to reach it by 2:45 or we would be sent back without doing the double out and back section. I needed to make sure I made that cutoff!

I passed people on the uphill and ran relaxed on the downhills. They were a lot of fun. The uphills not so much but they weren't too bad. During the first downhill, we hit the redwoods near the bottom and it was cool and gorgeous in there. The early morning light was filtering thru the trees and there were all these rays streaming down and it was just...beautiful. I wish I had taken more photos but the only photo I took was this one:
After I passed the cutoff aid station, I knew I'd see the leaders and Josh. It was fun to see how fast the leaders were running. And then there was Josh and it was awesome to see a familiar face. We cheered each other on as we flew by each other.

I hit Bixby Bridge feeling good and headed back to the cutoff aid station. I was pretty sure I would make the cutoff but it would be close. I saw Josh sooner than I expected as he headed back to Bixby Bridge and I thought for sure he would catch me before I made it to the cutoff but he didn't. I got there at 2:40! 5 minutes to spare. I now had 3:20 min to run the 2nd half and was completely confident that I would do it and was hoping for the same time for the 2nd half. LOL! You just never know though. Sigh.

So I saw Josh one last time on the way back to Bixby Bridge and he was totally rocking the run. I figured he would finish around 4:15 and that gave me a little incentive to run the 2nd half well since I didn't want him to wait too long for me after he finished. In fact, I was running so fast, all he caught was a blur when he tried to take a photo of me. Well, maybe not but it's a good story, don't you think? ;)

Just before I got to Bixby Bridge the 2nd time, my stomach got a little gurgly and my legs turned noodly. It didn't affect me too much until I got back to the big climb around mile 16. Frustratingly, I had nothing in my legs. I thought it might be because I was low on carbs (I'd been drinking GuBrew all along though) so I ate a HoneyStinger waffle as I walked. It didn't get better. :( I was worried that when I hit the downhills, I wouldn't be able to run them either. I felt time slipping away from me and began to worry about finishing before the cutoff. But luckily, I was able to start running again on the flats and downhills. Woo!

From that point on, I power hiked the uphills and ran the flats and downhills. The first big hill on the way back wasn't too bad because we had tree cover and it was cool and beautiful. The second hill was mostly open and I started to get hot. It was around 2 and I could feel the sun. I decided to be cautious and backed off a little. Still, only 1 woman passed me near the end and the rest of the time I was passing people. I think being able to run the downhills well really helped. Once I hit the aid station with 2.5 miles to go, it was all downhill and I was like a horse heading to the barn. My right shin hurt, my quads were hurting, my calves were tight and I was tired but damn it, I was going to finish running!

And then I started seeing the little crowd at the end and then there was the finish and I had a huge smile because I'd done it! I finished in 5:40:44! Woo! And I'd run smart! Woo! Of course, I'd had the 50K in the back of my mind the whole time but I'd stayed on top of my hydration and salt intake and run relaxed. I don't feel like I held back until that last hill when it was hot so I am happy with my time. I think if I'd not had the 50K and the issues that happened after, I could have done better but it is what it is. It was the most climbing I've done in a marathon and the views were incredible. You can't ask for more than that on a trail run, right?

So, I was 68th out of 93 runners who finished the marathon and 5th out of 6 in my age group. It looks like 11 people didn't make the cutoff so they were given a 20 mile time which I think is cool because at least they didn't get a DNF. But I am so glad I made the cutoff!

After the finish, you had to walk down to the picnic area to get your shirt and medal. The medal:
Really? A generic medal for their races? Disappointing! And here's the shirt:
At least the shirt has an outline of the Big Sur coastline on it but But, I am not crying over it because the race itself more than made up for the lack of bling/swag.

Anyway...I met Josh down at the picnic tables and sat for a while as I ate some peanut butter pretzels and banana. It was fun to see the other runners I'd been sharing the hills with come in and we all congratulated each other. Hills are definitely a bonding experience!

Once I felt human again, I went to clean up so we could head back. Here's a pic of us after I'd changed:
By the way, Josh finished in 4:07 and was 10th overall and won his age group! He was flying! Congrats Josh!

After that pic, we headed out. I was wiped and sore and so thankful again that Josh was driving because I don't think I was in good enough shape to drive back on twisty turny Hwy 1. I would have probably stayed another night and driven home on Sunday. Plus, it was so awesome to see the views along the coastline. Just stunning. I could not have seen that much if I'd driven. This is a pic from one of our stops. It shows the wild weather we had that day with random mist/clouds/fog coming in.
We also saw sea lions basking in the afternoon sun on a few beaches, a castle (Hearst Castle), and a herd of zebra!

But we had our the first sign of civilization, we stopped for some post race celebration food at In-N-Out:
Notice how all the food is in front of me? Yeah, I was that hungry! No...I shared. ;) But I had a Double Double with fries AND a strawberry shake. It really hit the spot.

We made it back to Josh's close to 10 and then I drove home and got home around 11. It was a LONG day but I had the easy part. I even dozed a little on the way back. I hope I didn't snore! Gotta tell you that it was really nice not having to worry about logistics and driving and just going along for the ride. Huge thank you to Josh for driving. making me laugh, keeping me from getting nervous, and being a great friend. I'm so glad that I get to return the favor in 4 days. I'm going to crew him at the Yellowstone-Teton 100 miler next weekend! I am so excited about it! I've never been to Yellowstone and I think it will be awesome to see a 100 miler happening close up. He's going to rock it, I know.

So that's my recap of a fun trip to Big Sur to do a little trail running with a few hills. It was a good day and a good race for me. I am really sore today so it must have been fun, eh?

Thanks for reading!

[Thanks to Josh for sharing the pics of me and us!]


  1. Wow. Fun weekend! Glad everything turned out ok physically for you to finish with the legs & tummy. Looked beautiful from the pics!! I've never been to CA but hope to one day. I can't imagine seeing a herd zebras!! Uhhh .. That must have been really awesome!! Congratulations once again... You guys always inspire me!!

    1. The zebras were surreal. ;) Thanks!

  2. Way to fight back from the 50k, Lisa! Very inspiring! And it looks like it was a tough course.