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Posts tagged ‘Big Sur Half Marathon’

A course best at the Big Sur Half on Monterey Bay

First things first: If ever given the opportunity to run along the coast, any coast, you should. There’s something about salty wind blowing on my face, the smell of the water and beauty of the waves cresting on the coastline that’s soothing.

I love running in San Francisco for this reason. I love runs along the water nearly anywhere in the Bay Area.

Monterey Bay is a beautiful place to run, only rivaled by the actual Big Sur Marathon which transverses 26.2 miles from Big Sur to Carmel. In April, I ran 21 miles of the marathon as part of the Big Sur 21-miler.

It was shortly after running that I again signed up for the Big Sur Half Marathon onMontereyBay. The course runs 13.1 miles of rolling hills along the bay. Last year, it was dreary, but not cold. It was also more than I was expecting at the time.

I figured the course would be more flat.

Turns out, it’s a little more quad pounding than I thought.

In 2011, my finish time was 2:37:41.

It was warmer this year, but my training was also more on par. I did a lot better. I ran a 2:28:27.

It didn’t happen my accident. I’ve trained on inclines more this marathon season. With this run, I feel more ready for California International Marathon in less than two weeks.

My mom and I left on Saturday to head to Monterey Bay. We got to the area at about 2 p.m.and headed straight to the expo.

As always, the Big Sur expos are well organized. First bib pick up, then into the vendor area. There were more people in the expo than I expected. Breathe deeply, I thought. We waded through the people to the shirt pick up area.

The 2011 shirts are a nice shade of burgundy. This year, the shirts are a deep purple. They are decorated on both sides, the front celebrating the 10th anniversary (or presentation as the organizers call it), and an image of the Point Sur lighthouse.

We were handed our Gu-brand bags with the race guide, always filled with great stories, and a poster. My mom found a nice pair of yellow sunglasses at the expo, but I didn’t find anything of interest. So we headed out to Fisherman’s Wharf to check out some shops before checking into the hotel.

Volunteers were in the middle of setting up the finish-line area when we walked by. The barricades weren’t yet up, though. These guys were trying to figure out how to get the Velcro sign attached.

I was starting to feel more comfortable, definitely more so than the previous year. After a cheeseburger at a very noisy sports bar, we headed back to the room where I fell fast asleep rather early.

We went to sleep at about 9 p.m.I woke up at about 5:30 a.m., perfect, I thought.

The great thing about this half is that we stay pretty close to the start line. My mom dropped me off about a half a mile away from the corral area. I walked most the way, then picked it up to run.

It was overcast, but didn’t look like rain. Perfect conditions.

Then I freaked out a little bit, when I saw how many people were around. So…I did something kind of irrational. I waited in a portable toilet line and, once I got in one, hid out for literally 15 minutes while I calmed down.

I want to apologize to the other runners for that one. I know proper toilet etiquette is to get in, get your business done and get going, especially at races. But I couldn’t help it. To be fair, a portable toilet is not exactly the place you want to breathe deeply or anything like that. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.

After emerging, I walked through the crowd (tense, trying to keep an arm’s length from people, which was actually pretty easy), and headed into Corral G. It was rather spacious in the corral. I actually found a spot in the front, hoping to get out and run faster to get away from people. I guess there’s nothing like anxiety to set a course personal record.

When we started at about 7:15 a.m. I was kind of a ball of nerves. I think that’s why I did so well. Instead of concentrating on being anxious, I was trying to just keep running.

It was a pretty consistent run for the most part.

Mile 1: 10:29— I didn’t think I was pacing out that fast, but I was. We went out down Del Monte Boulevard, past a little park with paddle boats and over a bridge next to a cemetery. These are things I didn’t notice last year.

Mile 2: 11:19 — The first mile of this race seems long, especially considering you’ve already gone through downtown Monterey by the time you reach mile two. And you’ve already done the tunnel. The tunnel was hot and muggy. My glasses fogged up and I had to take off both my hat and my long-sleeve shirt.

Mile 3: 11:25— Slowing, uphills here. Gu here.

Mile 4: 11:38— We hit this mark right after the big hill in Pacific Grove. I couldn’t believe how amazing I did on it this year, walking fast up about a 20-foot section, but then going into a slow run. This was my slowest mile.

Mile 5: 11:08— Downhill and out toward Asilomar State Beach. Getting the pacing more even now.

Mile 6: 10:48— Gu. I felt I needed it to make sure my legs didn’t get tired. I wasn’t feeling fatigue quite yet, but I wanted to get ahead of it.

Mile 7: 11:24— Another bit of an uphill here. Slowed, stopped at a water station and walked longer than I wanted to so I could get myself back together.

Mile 8: 11:23— Got out to the turnaround and headed back toward the finish line.

Mile 9: 10:38— Really felt good here. The Gu was propelling me. This is when I started having real issues with my arm chafing.

Mile 10: 11:24— Arm. Chafing. Hell. But I kept on going.

Mile 11: 11:25 — I’m surprised this mile went so well being that the Gatorade cups weren’t stocked here and we had to wait for someone to fill a cup. Of course, I was there before three others and kept getting ignored by a volunteer. It happens, but I was annoyed. This is where I finally saw the Vasoline guy too. I grabbed a glob of the stuff and slathered it under both arms. Gu here too.

Mile 12: 11:20— Down back into Cannery Row, my favorite mile because it’s the John Steinbeck marked mile. It also marks the last major uphill, which isn’t that bad.

Mile 13: 11:34— Pushing at the end. Feeling good and realizing that I’m likely going to do really well in this race.

Mile .27: 2.33 — I look at my Garmin and kick it for the last bit, which ends up being longer than the .1. I’m usually about that much off on each course.

Official chip time: 2:28:27 for 13.1 miles

Garmin time: 2:28:27 for 13.27 miles

I crossed the finish line and was handed my awesome ceramic medal.

That’s a photo of it later, after my shower in the hotel room. After applying a ton of cream under my arms just so I could put on a long-sleeve shirt.

The best part? I felt amazing afterward. Running has been helping me feel better in general, but some days it takes me a lot longer than it should to get up and get going. Once I get past that hurdle, I’m usually good and, even, floating for some time after the run.

In this case, I was floating for the rest of the day.

My mom and I went back to the Wharf and had a little lunch after the hotel. We had a reservation to go whale watching on the bay later.

That was our boat. We went out for nearly three hours and saw some awesome humpback whales. What was nice is that there were hardly any other people on the boat. There were maybe 25 of us in total. So there was a lot of space to walk around.

We spent the rest of the day shopping in little stores in the area and checking out the local scene. It was quiet, mainly because it was Sunday afternoon and many people went home right after the race. We stayed the extra night to have a nice dinner and make our way home slower.

Not a lot of people, which was amazing. That little pink shop on the left is where we spent a good deal of time, checking out all the little knick knacks.

The race was awesome. I stayed hydrated. I loved the experience again. It turned out much better than I expected. I’m glad I didn’t decide that I should stay home for this one. I’m glad I gave myself a kick to get out and get going even when I didn’t feel as if I would be able to perform at my best.

But I did.

I keep saying that I have moments where I see my old self shining through. I’m trying to build on those moments. How do I get those and keep them? How do I stay “in the moment” and not think about everything else impacting my life. I’ve mentioned that I thought my personal problems weren’t about running.

It’s running, though, that’s helping me to get through more than anything else.

Reasons to run on Monterey Bay

I’ll be writing a detailed race report of my nine-minute course record experience at the Big Sur Half on Monterey Bay, but realized I have a ton of photos from the two nights I spent on the Central Coast with my mom.

First of all: It was just what I needed. It felt good getting away. (It didn’t feel good coming home, realizing I had to face reality again, but that’s for another post at another time.)

My mom and I did this trip last year too since my husband isn’t a fan of traveling for races.

We had a good time. So when I signed up for this race in May I invited her again. We had a really good time again. We walked around, we went on a whale watching tour and explored the Monterey peninsula.

It was a beautiful weekend.

The weather was rainy when we left the Central Valley on Saturday afternoon. It poured for the first 20 minutes of our ride down Interstate 5. But then the skies became clear, for the most part. When we got to Monterey Bay, it was partly cloudly with a 30-percent chance of showers on Sunday morning.

It was a perfect weekend to take in the sites and relax. I was tempted, numerous times, to cancel this trip in light of what happened a few weeks ago.

I didn’t because it was $115 to register for the race. I had a $348 hotel booked as well. And my mom was really looking forward to it. So I was.

I was affirmed by my husband who told me it would be good for me to leave. He said it would be nice to get away from everything and be somewhere else.

I’m glad I went now.

Because it was an amazing weekend.

We even walked Cannery Row, which I ran on Sunday, before we left to come back home.

There were workers painting the candy cane-colored fence around the tree, which we ran by, and prepping everything for Santa to arrive in his coastal getaway from the North Pole.

Everywhere we went, there were waves crashing up and down the coast. The weather was perfect. Conditions, overall, were just beautiful.

Perfect running weather.

I figured I’d share these images after my gross chafing post. These are much easier to look at.

On the edge of the Western World: Part II

And back to the race report: I started out strong enough in Monterey. I was averaging under 11-minute miles the first two miles. Then things literally went downhill. And uphill. And downhill.

Lots of back and forth on this run. The “flat” course turned out to have lots of rolling hills. It’s not that I didn’t train for rolling hills. I’ve been doing some hill work to prepare for the California International Marathon. But I wasn’t expecting it.

And so, my own ups and down began.

Mile 1: 10:48  — Started out strong, moving along kind of moving my way through the crowd. Felt good.

Mile 2: 10:51 — Still feeling good, think I’m finding my race pace for the day.

Mile 3:  11:20 — The first significant downhill, which marked the first significant uphill. I slowed down quite a bit. Starting to get a little warm.

Mile 4: 12 — Getting really warm. I slide down my Zensah arm warmers. Take a couple sips from my waterbottle. Suddenly feel as if I’m getting a little tired. The one significant uphill is here.

That’s a photo of me starting to head up the fairly significant hill. By midway through, I was walking. It was a sight to see, going into beautiful Pacific Grove. I passed by a movie theater where Thomas and I went on our first vacation together when we went to Morro Bay and Monterey for a week.

It was a quick uphill and slower downhill after that.

Mile 5: 11:06 — Going strong, but feeling as if I’m not going to make it through 13.1 miles. My legs feel like jello. I don’t know why, but suddenly I was more winded than I wanted to be.

Mile 6: 12:04 — Jello legs definitely slowing me down. I’m usually in a grove at this point. It’s not happening today. I feel it. But I continue to push.

Mile 7: 13:02 — My wall. And I hit it hard. I usually get into the later miles before I get winded, tired and feel as if I can’t go on. I’m barely keeping it together. I’m getting tired. I walk. I start to run. Then I walk more. I keep repeating that pattern.

Mile 8: 12:23 — Trying to pick it back up before and after the turnaround back to the finish area. I suddenly see Jamie. We stop to hug. That lifts my spirits tremendously. It was so nice to see a familiar face and hear a friendly voice. Jamie said something encouraging to me and it lifted me. I picked it up a little bit.

Mile 9: 12:09 — Still on a high from seeing Jamie, I kept pushing. I wasn’t moving as fast as I wanted to, but I was moving. One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other.

That is what a happy runner looks like. At this point, though, my feet were feeling the pain. My shoes kept moving back and forth. I wasn’t doing too well this race, especially considering my PR in San Jose in October. This was not my race.

Mile 10: 12:11 — Slow, but moving. Thinking about my mom seeing me at the finish line. This was the first time she accompanied me to a race. I was super stoked she’d be able to see me finish. I kept thinking about that.

Mile 11: 12:21 — This was one of my favorite miles, if only because we moved to the trails and we would soon be seeing Monterey again. A giant penguin jumped out near Monterey Bay Aquarium. I also knew Cannery Row would be coming up, which meant this race was almost over. I was starting to feel a little better.

Mile 12: 12:24 — Cannery Row! I loved the mile marker showing John Steinbeck.

The official photographer captured a great shot of me right before it starting raining pretty good. I almost look as if I’m not running, more so because my arms aren’t moving. I can’t remember what I was doing specifically right here. I have a feeling I was slowing down to put my visor, that I purchased at the expo from the awesome Asics booth, on because of the rain.

Mile 13: 12:04 — At this point my Garmin was covered because of the rain. I didn’t want it to get too wet, especially since it was new. I kept pushing, despite another hill.

Mile .3: 3 — Again, I suck at running the tangents. This course was supposed to measure 13.1. Oh well. My mom yelled my name right after I crossed the finish line. Then I got lost in a sea of other runs.

I was handed an awesome medal.

The sea lion on it reminded me of my dog Beau. I wanted to wear it the whole day. But after I grabbed my heat sheet and some food (the first of the day, which may explain my general fatigue), it started pouring. My mom drove us back to the hotel, which was awesome, and I quickly jumped in the shower.

It was the first half marathon I’ve run that I’ve been able to quick jump in the shower.

We sat down for about an hour and I tried to rest my feet.

Then we ventured to Monterey Bay Aquarium. My mom hadn’t been there since I was a child. The last time I went was in 2002 with Thomas.

We spent nearly five hours there AFTER I ran a half marathon. My mom said her feet hurt at the end and that she could only imagine what I felt like.

The deep sea area was one of my favorites. That’s where the seahorses where. And the larger fish. There was a lot to see. We stayed and watched the tank for awhile.

This gigantic whale sits above the main hall where the bathrooms and gift shops are. It was awesome from below, but from the top it looks as if it is staring right at you.

The birds were great too, but there were a ton of people checking them out. They had these crazy revolving doors too that made it hard to get through without hurting someone.

This was a type of leaf sea dragon. There were a lot of cool seahorses in the exhibit. That was one of the last things we saw at the aquarium. Overall it wasn’t too crowded, which was nice. It could be because it was a Sunday.

I visited the gift shop and bought a Puffin to take home with me. He’s now sitting on my television stand. The Puffins were one of the coolest exhibits. The Puffins reminded me of my ducks.

My mom and I got back to the hotel around 5 p.m. and rested until we went to dinner. We had a spectacular dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. We turned in early after watching some television. I woke up at 6 a.m. because I went to bed so early.

My mom and I ventured to breakfast where we had a great view of the golf course on the property.

And the food wasn’t bad to look at either.

We packed up and started toward home after breakfast.

I want to call the trip and the run a success for various reasons. It was the first time I ran away from home. The next time will be for the California International Marathon in less than two weeks. It went OK, but I learned I need to be prepared and get going quickly in the morning. It was also a nice weekend with my mom. We had a good time.

But the run was hard. That’s OK. I heard someone once say that the bad runs make the good ones all that much better.

That’s the truth.

I’d like to make this an annual thing, particularly the going away with my mom for the weekend part. The Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay offered a good escape from reality for a couple days too.


On the edge of the Western World: Part I

I knew nothing about the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay at the beginning of this year. That last sentence might be an understatement. I didn’t know anything about half marathons in general at the beginning of the year. I had signed up for one in June. But I wasn’t quite ready for it yet.

That was until I had a great 10-mile run. I decided, why not?

So I ran the Oakland Running Festival’s Half Marathon in March. And then I ran another and another.

I can’t remember when, but my mom mentioned something about a marathon in Big Sur. I Googled it and found the 26.2 mile version in April. That wasn’t happening anytime soon, I thought.

Then I saw a link for the half marathon option in November. I could do that, I said, and it would be a good final training run for the California International Marathon.

So I signed up. It would be my first traveling half marathon. The only one that I’ve gone away and stayed the night for. My husband wasn’t interested in traveling to see me run. So I asked my mom if maybe she’d like to go, since she mentioned it to me initially.

She said yes. I booked us two rooms at the local Hyatt, one of the race recommended hotels.

We headed out on Saturday morning from my home in Tracy. By 3 p.m. we were browsing the expo.

Packet pick up was painless. They even had an option for packet pick up the morning of, which was incredibly awesome. We checked out some booths and I grabbed my burgundy-colored Asics fitted tech long-sleeved shirt. It’s awesome. I’ve heard people say this half marathon has a not-so-pretty array of race shirts. But I love my race shirt.

I had a coupon for $5 off of $45 at the Asics booth. I picked up a visor there because there was a chance of rain. Chance is actually a kind way to say, it was definitely going to pour at some point on Sunday. I also got a nice salmon-colored half marathon shirt. Both my Asics shirt are pretty nice.

My mom liked the iFitness belts like I have. I didn’t stay long at the expo. I was “over it” pretty quick, if only because I was tired and we had just driven more than two-hours to get there.

We ate at a downtown Monterey Taco Bell before heading back to the Hyatt to check in. Check-in was a quick process (and, oh hey, thanks for the awesome room rate Big Sur Half Marathon that included breakfast and Internet as part of the price, that was awesome). We settled down for the evening and watched some television.

I headed out for a swim, but wasn’t too hot on the pool. I was encouraged by a fire pit and really wanted to go and sit around it, but was too tired. I figured it would be there on Sunday night. It wasn’t, which was a bummer, but I digress.

We checked in bed at about 10 p.m. I couldn’t sleep for a couple hours. I think it was just because it was an unfamiliar place. That’s one thing I learned about traveling to run, bedtime should be earlier than expected.

I was up and out of bed by 5:20 a.m.

It still looked like it would rain. I pulled my “rain possibly” outfit out of the bag. That included my Nike capris, a pair of lululemon speed reflective shorts and my Nike Women’s Half finisher shirt. All those meant high visibility. The shorts also meant that I wouldn’t risk having a wet butt if it did rain horribly.

My mom and I were out the door for the 7 a.m. start. What I failed to do was explain “wave times” to her, so when the clock was looking closer to three hours than my average two and a half hours, she was getting worried (more on that in the second post in this series).

She dropped me off in the dark. It was cold, but I had my Zensah compression sleeves. That marked the first time I’ve worn those in a race and they were awesome.

I hit up a portable toilet with a short line. And made my way down Del Monte Blvd. to my corral.

All the way down at the end is the start line. We had a way to go. My actual start time was around 7:20 a.m. according to my Garmin. The organizers were very specific about letting the corrals go every three minutes.

My corral wasn’t too full. There were a lot of people with bibs that had names in red. That was what race organizers used to show that someone was running their first half marathon. A nice touch.

It started getting lighter and you could see the ominous clouds coming in. But the whole view was surreal. I was standing in Monterey, near Fisherman’s Wharf, getting ready to run my seventh half marathon of the year.

Wow. I’ve come incredibly far.

But the view was beautiful. I thought of this weekend as my reward for all the miles I’ve put in. I treated myself. This race was a treat in itself.

Yeah, I had it pretty rough prior to the race on Sunday.

It was at about this point that I realized I had forgotten by Gu. I figured my mom would be enjoying a nice breakfast at the hotel. I wasn’t going to call and interrupt that. My mom deserved a relaxing weekend. I also realized I hadn’t eaten anything, even something small.

Both of those weren’t good signs for the day. But my legs felt good and I felt strong.

Too bad legs aren’t the only thing that gets me through races…