My running coach has us write a marathon story after each race, so I figured I’d blog about it….I really don’t even know where to begin, because words just can’t do the Big Sur Marathon justice, but I’ll try my best….. Kind of like Boston, Big Sur is a bucket list marathon. The course runs along HWY 1 from Big Sur State Park to Carmel, CA. 26.2 miles of the most beautiful scenery you could image. You are running through Mountains, Redwoods, Ragged Coastline, and the beach. Did I mention running mountains? Yea, it’s a brutal course too…… Which is why I had shied away from this race, I really don’t like hills. I mean, really, REALY don’t like hills.
So last summer when the registration opened up, I thought if I can get my friends to go and make a trip out of it, I’ll do it. So out went the emails to my best friends, we always take a trip and this could be the trip. Wasn’t hard to convince them to spend a week in Monterey, CA. So, I had no excuse and I signed up and so did my best friend Rebecca. Ha, she said she knew if she didn’t, she would be ticked at herself for not doing it once race day came. Big Sur was her second marathon.
So on Friday April 26th we arrived in Monterey and hit the expo. For a smallish marathon the expo was excellent, easy to navigate, hardly any lines to get our packets. Overall great experience. We went back the next morning to hear Jeff Galloway speak about race strategies. I needed all the help I could get. I had done my hill training and YES there are hills in Memphis, but as my Mentor (old school athletic trainer) Eddie put it when I told him I was running Big Sur..”Are you ******* NUTS? They have ******* mountains out there, NOT Hills!!!” (for those of you that know Eddie, you get a laugh from that and know exactly what he said)
Jeff Galloway gave some great info and said to expect 15-20 minutes slower race time than you usual. I did my best to make myself not have a time goal to go out and just enjoy the race, and I did pretty good. I just wanted to beat my NYC time, which I did;)
Race day started at 3 am, thank goodness for the 2 hour time difference. We caught the School Bus shuttle at 4 am to take us to the start at Big Sur State Park. Thank goodness I typically don’t get car sick, going up that winding road would definitely make one sick. I heard a few did. We met a nice couple from Florida, it was her first marathon. About an hour later we arrived at the start wearing our throw away sweats. We found friends of Rebecca’s from Columbus, OH and luckily I found my running bud Daniel and we hung out until 6:15. So hear’s a teaching moment….I was careful not to drink too much fluids, so I wouldn’t have to make pit stops during the race. It’s recommended to have 6-8 ounces 2 hours before the start. A runner should be hydrating 1-2 weeks before the race, not cram it in the day before or race morning… So we had our pit stop before the race and then we lined up at 6:15, walking up a big hill. Which means the start was down hill. So misleading…
The race started right on time 6:45, right after the moment of silence for Boston. Our corral was 3rd about 6-9 minutes behind the official start. I said bye to my friends when we lined up because we don’t run the same pace, I met others waiting around me, a woman from Sacramento, who had only run 14 miles in training because she was injured and she was gonna take it slow… Thanks….Ha! who am I kidding, I know I’m slow and off we went. Taking it easy and holding myself back the first 5 miles. I went out way to fast my last marathon and suffered greatly, I wasn’t goin to make that mistake again, especially with the hills I was about to face. Hurricane Point is a 550 ft 2 MILE up hill climb at mile 10-12. That wasn’t the first hill and it sure as heck wasn’t the last. The first 5 miles were in the forest, huge trees, a winding road which opened up to the “plains” with mountains to the right, coast to the left and beautiful green pastures. I’d love to say this was flat, but it started some of the rolling hills, luckily we saw whales out in the ocean to distract us. The sun had just come up so when you looked back at where we came from, the fog was lifting and the sunlight shinning down created a halo over the forest, breath-taking really….
We past Punta Sur, a lighthouse off in the distance, and onto Hurricane Point. At the base of it was the Taiko drummer’s pounding a way, to help you pound away at the pavement. This is where I had the most fun, believe or not, the biggest hill. I talked to several runner’s on the way up Hurricane Point. A couple running on their 7th wedding anniversary, her dressed in white, him in black, her maid of honor in pink and his best man in pink and a pink skirt. Hilarious! I talked to a gentleman in his 50’s who proceeded to tell me he had been injured and only able to go as far ar 12 miles in his training, YIKES! I saw 2 girls who had run Boston, they had their Boston bids on the back of their shirts and their shirts said something like “We are Boston We will not be stopped, We are Boston Strong“or it was “We will Keep Going, We will Stay Strong, We will Run Now“. I asked them if anyone had taken a picture of them running to get their shirts. They said no and when I offered they jumped for joy. I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture myself. I ran with them most of the hill. They told me Miska was stopped at mile 25.5 and the other girl, who I forget her name, was stopped at 25. They were both Boston natives and obviously great friends. Miska found a dime and picked it up. She started talking about how her brothers made fun of her when she would pick up a penny that wasn’t heads up but that her grandmother always told her she should pick up a pennies even if they are not heads up, because “if you watch your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves“. Before I knew it, I was at the top of Hurricane Point. As I made the turn at the top, I could hear the piano a mile away just past Bixbey Bridge. What a breath-taking site. As I ran down to the bridge another runner said “Words can’t describe” and I said “Amen” because words or pictures can’t describe the beauty I saw especially coming down to Bixbey Bridge.
I crossed the Bridge and tried to take a video of the piano player, some how that didn’t work so well, it was upside down. And now 13.1 half way point, this is where it started to get tough. 12-13.1 was down hill, but 13.1 was up hill then down, then up another hill. The mile marker at 14 was a picture on Kenyans saying “We call that walking in our country” well guess what? it was… I was walking up the hill, and the 35 mile an hour head wind wasn’t helping either…….The head wind got us from mile 9-20 I think, I just remember it being brutal and forever there…..I continued to talk to those around me and I thought “Lord, just get me to mile 20, I know I’m good once I hit 20“. I pray a lot during races, especially from 17 on….I got there and I did have a sense of relief, but mile 20 begins the hills of Carmel Highlands, OH What Fun…Thank God! for the Strawberry lady at mile 23. Woo hoo!! a down hill at 23.5!! which honestly at that point the downs hurt as much as the ups, so I don’t know why I just said Woo Hoo…. The down hill winded down to Carmel Montesary Beach, where the belly dancers were shimming at mile 25, right at the bottom of a straight steep up hill. “Seriously??? mile 25 ya gotta put a steep up hill??” What goes up, must come down, thank goodness.. I can see the finish and mile 26 marker, which was a picture of a choir and all it said was “Hallelujah”…. Amen to that…. I hit the finish looking for my friends Jo and LJ, and found them right before I crossed the finish, grinning ear to ear.
I finished Big Sur!!! Jeff was right, 20 minutes over my usual time but beating my NYC time. Crossing the finish after 26.2 grueling miles, is the BEST FEELING in the World esp if the announcer calls your name “MONica BAker from MEMphis, TN”……….. I walked around got my chocolate milk and banana and returned to the finish to wait for my other friends. I got to cheer for Daniel as he came across the finish. I saw the man who said he’d only run 12 miles cross the finish line and I screamed my head off as Rebecca came across. I had a blast cheering on the runners and seeing their faces of Joy as they crossed the finish line. I saw the Boston girls too.
Seeing them reminded me, I never had any fear of something like Boston happening. I didn’t worry about my friends at the finish or my running buds. I was just caught up in the moment and I LOVED every Hard Minute of it. After the race Rebecca and I topped it off with an ice bath in the Pacific Ocean…….What a race………