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Big Sur International Marathon - RunMarathon

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Big Sur, California
United States
65F / 18C
Total Time = 3h 50m 21s
Overall Rank = 481/3192
Age Group = M35-39
Age Group Rank = 61/292
Pre-race routine:

Pre race routine for this race was a little unusual. I was using this marathon as well as the 125+ mile bike ride the day before (Mt. Hamilton Challenge) as training events for IM Lanzarote in 4 weeks. It was sort of an ironman brick weekend where I would run this marathon on tired legs. When I first hatched this idea, it seemed crazy, additionally so because this weekend was bookended by my first double metric century the weekend before (Tierra Bella) and another hilly century the following weekend (Grizzly Peak). It all seemed so daunting, but for me, i had to be comfortable being able to do all this to be ready for IM Lanzarote which has a very hilly (i.e. 9000'+ elevation) bike course. I was somewhat concerned about my previous injuries earlier in the year (calf tear, bruised knees) since I'm still not quite 100% healed from these. Consequently, during my training, I only trained on the flats to avoid re-injuring or aggravating my injuries. I was prepared to walk or even DNF if I had to to avoid jeopardizing my IM Lanzarote, my A race.

After the Mt. Hamilton Challenge, DW, poweredbyfear (PBF), and I went to a pizza/italian place nearby the ride finish called Vito's Famous Pizza. This restaurant had a solid 4 star rating on yelp with 50+ reviews (unlike some of the other establishments we tried before previous races/rides). It was still fairly early (5:00pm-ish or so), so there were very few people here. We went inside and ordered. We ordered a Ceasar Salad, a large Benny's Favorite pizza (spinach, garlic, jalapeno (which DW mercifully ordered for only half the pizza knowing that jalapeno does not make good race food))(pizzas here are thin crust, NY style), eggplant, and fresh tomatoes), and I also ordered a Linguini Frutti Di Mare.

We sat outside in the seating area in the front entrance of the restaurant, where the temperature was perfect in the shade. The pizza and the salad came out early on and we dug in. DW thought maybe the cheese was a little off, but PBF and I thought it was fine. Actually, I was starving and rarely eat pizza, so i thought it was pretty decent. The salad had almost no dressing on it (I actually didn't realize it was supposed to be a caesar), which was actually fine by me since i don't like much dressing anyway. While we were eating this and waiting for the linguine, they also brought by an extra free small cheese pizza. Sure! Worked for us. DW liked this pizza better, but it was too cheesy for me. My linguine eventually came out. Was okay, nothing special. White sauce, not red (I prefer red). i ordered it for the carbs anyway. The seafood was weak, which in a frutti di mare, is a key ingredient. PBF was not impressed, but I ate most of the pasta (again, I'm starving from the bike ride).

After our repast, PBF heads home and DW and I head down to Monterey. I had already driven down to Monterey the day before to pick up my race packet since I was unavailable all day on Saturday because of the ride, so we could just go straight to the hotel. We stayed at the Clarion on Munras Ave. which was just half a mile or less from downtown.

Our room was clean, small, and very musty smelling. We were only going to be here this one night (and I'd be in the room less than 8 hours), so it was good enough, although it was priced at a gouging race event rate ($160 for one night. though, we have stayed in worse for more with 2 night minimums before). we plan out the logistics for tomorrow morning and then go to sleep at about 9:00pm.

At 3:30am, our alarms go off. DW makes some of the ghastly in room coffee (okay, it's better than nothing). I eat a zone perfect bar for breakfast to restore that depleted liver glycogen of course. I suit up in my team zoot/gu tri suit, which looks a bit like a cartoon. I figured gu is one of the sponsors and I want to see how the tri suit feels running for that long, so what the heck. I put on some warm up pants and a jacket since I know it will be cool before the sun comes up. I also put on my standard day glo yellow pearl izumi cap, which makes me easy for DW to spot at the finish. I pack one vanilla gu and plan to grab an espresso one and an energy bar (i get hungry on the run) from the car later. I also pack my camera. My legs feel pretty good, so I think this whole crazy idea isn't so crazy after all.

We head out at about 4:00am. I need to take a 4:15/4:30 shuttle bus down to the start. Logistically, we're in Monterey, but the race start is more than 26 miles away in Big Sur, so everyone in Monterey has to take the shuttle down. There's only one route to get down there, Highway 1, which is also our race route, so the busses have to be back before the race start. It's a 1 hour drive down and a 1 hour drive back, so this means the last shuttle leaves Monterey just over 2 hours before the 7:00am race start. It's early and it means a lot of lag time before the race start. As we head to the busses, there are already quite a few people walking down and we soon see the busses and the long line of people. I kiss DW goodbye and she wishes me good luck and I head for the line which is already wrappped down and around the block. I'll later realize I forgot to grab another gu and energy bar.

I brought my ipod shuffle with me to fill in all the waiting time. Interestingly and controversially enough, ipods are actually allowed for the race, although i won't be using mine for the race (just the pre-race waiting). once on the bus, i try to get into a not-entirely-uncomfortable position so I can try to rest if not bag a couple zzz's.

I watch for a bit of the ride and I see the rolling twisting curves. I can see that we're by the coast, but it's a dark ocean even with the moon high in the sky. 1 hour later, our bus arrives in Big Sur and drops us off.

There are tons of people already here. Now I remember why I don't like running road races...I don't like all the crowds. I make a beeline for the port-a-potties, of which there are a good number so the wait is not that long. i then wait in "line" for coffee and snacks which is a mess because we're all a mass of people packed together with people coming off the bus and people heading to and from the bathrooms so people are just cutting in wherever. Of course, as it turns out, there were other tables set up with no lines at all. In addition to coffee, i grab a cup of gatorade, half a banana, and a quarter of a bagel and sit down and chill for awhile.

From hearing everyone talking around me, it's clear there is quite a large percentage of people who are not from California. This marathon has quite a big draw and many consider it the most beautiful marathon in the country.

Eventually, I get a bit ancy and figure I better visit the port-a-potties again. lines are longer now. Afterwards, I hang out some more. It's quite a bit warmer so I'm good to put my jacket and pants into the drop bag and drop it off. It's time now to make my way to the start. With a chip start, I don't really care how far back I start. We're asked to back up even further. No problem. A lot of folks are running over to the bushes on the side road to relieve themselves and the race announcers are warning of the poison oak.

Eventually, fellow BTer etknowles (Emerson) walks up to me.

He and I had corresponded a bit before the race and I was glad he found me (the telltale day glo pearl izumi cap does it's magic once again!) so I could meet him (and with all the people I would never have found him). We talk for awhile and talk about what pace we want to go (he's also thinking 4:00-4:30 finish), past races, tris, etc. We also are standing next to a woman who had done Oceanside with the CAF.

Soon enough, it's time to start the race!

Event warmup:

none for me.
  • 3h 50m 21s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 08m 47s  min/mile

It's packed at the start and it takes us a minute and a half to get to the starting line (thank goodness for chip times). We just trot along with the masses. The first few miles have a slight downhill, which is a nice way to ease into the race. Emerson and I are chatting as we run along which is great. Soon, the course marshalls on bike usher us all to the left lane since they want to open up the right lane to traffic. All the runners had just started to spread out and sort out and now we have to cram together again into one lane, which was obviously the race director's plan.

After a couple miles, Emerson takes the opportunity to duck behind a truck on the side of the road. He said he'd catch up, so i keep running knowing he can pick out my cap. I keep running and my legs are starting to loosen up and warm up. I skip the first aid station since it's a zoo. I keep running on and now I'm doubtful that Emerson will catch up, but know he's a solid marathoner so he'll be fine.

As I continue running, we finally get to the coast, which is always a sight. There is entertainment along the way (bands, etc.) which keeps my mind off of my body for a few moments each time. I believe it was around mile 8 or 9, near Point Sur, we started having some fairly strong headwinds. As I continue on, I approach the climb to Hurricane Point which is a couple mile long stretch with about 500' of elevation gain. You can see the road strung out ahead (the course actually dips down and to the right first and then climbs again before getting to the climb in the picture below.

I love the hills. Even though I didn't get to train on them, I love running on them. It's also a good chance for me to pass people. There is an aid station at about mile 10. They are also giving out gu's so I grab a chocolate one and consume that. There is also a port-a-pottie available so I duck in. i continue the run and continue climbing.

At one point, I see a house down below near the coast. I comment to a young guy next to me how great it must be to have a house there. I don't know if he understood what I said. He starts sprinting ahead of me and then slows down. okay. i just keep running my pace and catch up and start to pass him. he then starts sprinting ahead again and then he slows down. This happens again. I finally pass him and he doesn't sprint ahead any more and I just keep going on.

The sideways slant of the road is little uncomfortable for my knees. When my knee tracks straight, there's no problem, but all that lateral force causes me a little discomfort. Well, discomfort is always a bit a part of the game in endurance activities. I know it's not causing any damage or causing my gait to change; it's only just uncomfortable so I keep on trucking.

I think there were already walkers at this point who mostly stayed to the left, but not always.

It's very windy just past hurricane point (hmm...go figure). Now it's a downhill. It's great to have gravity assist, but I feel the additional pounding. My right calf gives me a little notice that it's there. The quads feel good. my right ankle feels a little funny and that's not something I've ever felt. knees achea little bit, but are okay.

I believe it was at the halfway point, mile 13, we cross the bridge pictured below. I'm so bummed my picture was out of focus.

it's also at this halfway point that they had a guy playing a Yamaha grand piano. I should have stopped to take a picture and in general I wish I had taken more pictures, but race fever had already struck me even though this was only a training fun run.

There is also a relay option for this event and you (almost) always know that when you hear feet coming up very rapidly on you, it's a relay runner (damn fresh legs). They all wear a big yellow bib on their back that says Relay so you know and don't feel so bad when they blow right by you ;)

As I passed each mile marker, there were volunteers who were calling out the pace, race time, and expected finish time. I was right on pace for a 4 hour finish and I had the worst of the hills behind me. it seemed like sub-4 was possible although I had no idea how my endurance would be today, but i felt quite strong still. I had stayed comfortably aerobic for the whole race so far and felt like I had plenty in the tank, but the crystal ball always fogs up when looking beyond the 20th mile.

At mile 16, there's another climb. Nothing too major. At the aid station, there is a vacant port-a-pottie so I take advantage of it. I slug down a vanilla gu. I'm also banking a bit more time towards going sub 4. Seems like I'm banking maybe 30 seconds every mile, so I'll have a decent cushion towards the end in case my pace starts to blow up.

I pass mile 18 and I'm thinking that I'm almost 2/3 the way done. As I pass mile 20, I'm thinking that I have a 10K to run which doesn't sound that bad. i don't hit the wall, but I've stayed very aerobic. The course is getting thicker and thicker with walkers and runners are much more strung out.

There's another climb at mile 21 (which is as far and the only run over 20 miles I did in training and that was 2 weeks ago) followed by a welcome downhill. Then there is another climb at mile 23 and I'm still going strong and passing people. We get a good sized downhill after that and I'm thinking that I'm home free. Of course, there's one last climb at mile 25 (thanks a lot!), but this goes well enough, but I can feel the cumulative fatigue. There are plenty of spectators on the course here near the finish (unlike most of the rest of the course which is just freeway and coast). I'm just biding my time until I'm just a couple hundred yards before my final kick. I pick it up a bit (but not all out) and finish strongly. I have my chip removed and get my finisher's medal and finally look back to the clock and see that it says 1:54 or so. Cool!
Post race
Warm down:

DW is right there on the other side of the fence near the finish. She calls out my name and I hear her and see her immediately. I walk over to her and she kisses me and congratulates me and tells me how well I did. She takes a picture. I drink some water and gatorade and stretch.

i go to the food tent, which is pretty efficient. They give you a cardboard tray and tell you just to fill it up (fruit, bagels, fruit cup, Dole pineapple juice, water. no protein though) and then you walk through and out.

I meet up with DW again. We sit awhile and can see the finishers. I look for Emerson, but don't know when he'll finish. Eventually I'm ready to go and DW head out. She parked in front of the Safeway. As we're sitting there in the parking lot traffic waiting, we see a woman with a mohawk and we both have the exact same thought - she's the woman in this season of Top Chef, Jennifer, one half of the lesbian couple (we see she has a tatoo on her arm and so when get back home, we watch the last episode of Top Chef and we get a flash of the tatoo on the arm so we're pretty sure it's her).

We decide we're going to drive up PCH for awhile and have lunch in downtown Santa Cruz. It's Earth Day in Santa Cruz and there's a small fair in a parking lot. We walk through downtown and I realize I've never actually been to the downtown of Santa Cruz. Last year we here the Tour D'Organics Century and I was here for Big Kahuna and had been to Santa Cruz several times in the past, but never downtown, just the boardwalk. In any case, downtown Santa Cruz is a great little area. We around a bit and decide where we're going to eat.

I want brunch so we finally settle on the Walnut Avenue Cafe, which is pretty busy and has an interesting menu. We came at peak brunch time so it's about a 15-20 minute wait, which goes by relatively quickly. I order the Blackened Ahi Benedict and a fruit smoothie and DW ordered the mushroom cheese burger. The smoothie came first and was decent...not too sweet/sugary which is a very good thing. Our entrees come and I begin wolfing down my benedict. Normally, I'd minimize the amount hollandaise sauce I consumed, but I figure I've earned a little splurge. the ahi is also seasoned with cajun spices which gives it a nice kick. The ahi is an interesting twist on a standard. The house potatoes were tasty and with some good crunchy fried bits in there. Bonus points for originality on the benedict, although the ingredients and preparation were overall in the very good category and not the excellent category. DW's burger was quite tasty. The sauteed mushrooms and onions were delicious. She ate a little more than half her burger only, so of course, I finished it for her. No use in letting it go to waste.


Overall, I'm very happy with my performance. My muscular endurance seems right where it needs to be for an IM and my previous injuries seem to not have affected me much. I've also gained a new appreciation for this kind of workout (i.e. bike century on one day followed by a mary the next) and have already planned to do something similar with the SF Marathon later this year as I ramp up for IM Moo.

Last updated: 2007-11-10 12:00 AM
03:50:21 | 26.2 miles | 08m 47s  min/mile
Age Group: 61/292
Overall: 481/3192
Course: This course is a point to point route starting in Big Sur and ending in Carmel running on PCH. Like much of PCH, it offers beautiful coastal views. The route has some hills, most notably the 2 mile stretch to Hurricane Point at mile 10 with a 500' elevation gain. The entire course offers a total of a bit over 1000' of elevation gain.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2008-04-29 10:01 PM

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San Francisco
Subject: Big Sur International Marathon

2008-04-29 11:50 PM
in reply to: #1371156

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Subject: RE: Big Sur International Marathon
What a HUGE weekend for you! You're hard core! I remember the guy with the grand piano from the Half Marathon, he was pretty cool!
2008-04-30 12:08 AM
in reply to: #1371156

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Berkeley, Calif.
Bronze member
Subject: RE: Big Sur International Marathon
Wow! Fantastic run (and overall awesome weekend). I love the photos, and I love your RR -- very detailed and a fascinating read. I'm looking forward to reading the IM report!
2008-04-30 12:29 AM
in reply to: #1371156

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Melon Presser
Subject: RE: Big Sur International Marathon

An awesome run for an awesome man, athlete, and nerd.

What an incredible weekend for you ... you will really kick azz at Lanzarote. Clearly you are more than prepared!

A lovely photo of you and Emerson as well.

2008-04-30 12:41 AM
in reply to: #1371302

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Santa Cruz, California
Subject: RE: Big Sur International Marathon

Fielding - 2008-04-29 10:08 PM Wow! Fantastic run (and overall awesome weekend). I love the photos, and I love your RR -- very detailed and a fascinating read. I'm looking forward to reading the IM report!

Nice RACE! was a beautiful day, too! Glad Emerson was able to hook up with you....he class A type of guy! Sounds like you both had a fabulous race! love that a grand piano was at the turn around! that is great! CONGRATS on a great race!!!

2008-04-30 8:29 AM
in reply to: #1371156

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2008-04-30 8:31 AM
in reply to: #1371156

Goodyear, AZ
Subject: RE: Big Sur International Marathon

What an awesome race report! And great pictures!!! You always seem to have so much fun at these races, while still giving it your all! That was a huge weekend of racing! Youa re so ready for Lanzarote! Only 4 weeks- wow! I cant wait to hear about that IM!!!

Well done!

2008-04-30 11:13 AM
in reply to: #1371156

Subject: RE: Big Sur International Marathon
Awesome, Donato! Love the report and the photos. Great job on harnessing it in and getting exactly what you were looking for out of this race. That takes will power... well done!!
2008-04-30 12:40 PM
in reply to: #1371156

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2008-05-01 9:46 PM
in reply to: #1371156

Mishicot, Wisconsin
Subject: RE: Big Sur International Marathon
Awesome job!  I look forward to maybe meeting you at Door County.  Good luck with the IM!!!!
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