Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big Sur Half Marathon

This past Sunday Patty and I completed our last big race for the year, the Big Sur Half Marathon. It was also a PR for both of us, by more than 9 minutes!

As I might have mentioned before, this race isn't actually in Big Sur at all. Rather it is in nearby Monterey and along its own beautiful coast line. It is run by the same people who organize the somewhat famous full length marathon in April, except this run is (of course) shorter, and also much less hilly. What is the same is that it is exceptionally well organized and run along one of the nicest courses in the country.


The lead up to the race could have been better. I was off work sick for the whole week with stomach bug, the effect of which is best not described. With antibiotics I started taking on Friday I recovered just in time to make the start line.

Saturday afternoon we drove down to Monterey and spent the afternoon at the Expo including seeing Bart Yasso talk. He is the chief running officer (CRO) at Runner's World. Now that's a job. He's paid to fly around the world and attend interesting races. His talk included some great stories including being in the first every Badwater ultramarathon. I'll never think of banana bread the same way. On a sader note he talked about being at the Olympic trials and the death of Ryan Shay. His discussion of that will stay with me for some time.

In the evening we found an Italian restaurant. While you don't really have to carbo-load for a half marathon, it can't hurt. Plus, who doesn't like Italian?

We considered going for a walk somewhere but decided it might be better to stay off our feet so instead we spent the evening lying around watching bad TV. I did catch the end of Eragon and noticed to my surprise that I actually have a credit in that movie.

Race day

Our alarm went off at 4:30am and as usual we were already awake but lying in bed denying what lay ahead of us. I woke a few times during the night to the sound of rain, but by morning that seemed to have moved to the north and east. The wind, however, had not moved on.

We drove down to the start area, it still being dark, and parked in a free lot. The start line was right outside. We walked over to fisherman's wharf but couldn't really find a spot out of the cold wind. It was pretty empty over there, just a group of fisherman about to head out on a trip. Note to self: if I ever go on an organized fishing trip I need a big big cooler. We headed back and used our (secret) pottys for the last time and then returned to the start line. In our absence several thousand people had already gathered. With 5 minutes to go we slipped between the corral fence and took our place. Then we were off.

We took about 40 seconds to cross the start line and picked up to about a 9:30 pace. I'm not sure if it was the wind or just the fatigue from being sick all week, but I knew it was going to be a hard run. I was already tired by mile 2. But my HR was holding steady so we kept up a pace between 9:30 and 10:00, hoping to keep it together for a 2:10:00 finish. The run up to Pacific Grove was the only real hill and our pace slowed there, but much of the course was rolling with there always being a grade of some sort and always the wind, especially on the outward bound portion. It wasn't as easy as I'd hoped.

The course itself was completely gorgeous. Much of it ran right along the pacific coast. Waves crashing into rocks, sea lions barking at us from rocks, pelicans flying by us. Plus, with the road closed it was only the sounds of the sea and other runners. On the way back part of the course was along a bike path which presumably was an old railway grade, and took us even closer to the water and down tunnels of Cyprus trees. Even the parts in the town were nice, running around a lagoon of sorts and also down through the historic old town of Monterey. In front of the old movie theater a man dressed in a tux played the piano for us. At the end of a tunnel a Scotsman in full gear played the bagpipes. It was very cool.

I recorded the race on my watch. Here's the pace, HR and elevation on a chart. The blue spikes are us walking through aid stations. The mileage misses a little bit at the beginning.

With a couple of miles to go Patty picked up the pace and dashed off 30 yards or so in front of me. She is clearly the faster runner now and she shows a whole other side when it comes to hitting a time goal. My pace also quickened and I kept her close, but my HR was pushing up into the 190s so I was more inclined to balance my pace against imploding so close to the finish. Plus, I'm willing to give up a little time to not scare the medical staff waiting at the end.

As the finish line came into sight Patty slowed to allow me to catch her and we cross the line together in 2:09:21. It was very charitable of her, of course.

They hung a hand made medallion around our necks and then passed us an empty box. I soon found out what the box was for. It was to put all the food in. All kinds of fruit: strawberries, apples, oranges, bananas. Muffins. Cookies. Fruit cups. Bagels. And, a bottle of water. We slumped down against the side of a building and may I just say that those were the best strawberries and cookies I've ever had. I'm pretty sure of that.

The taste of fresh PR.


This was a great half marathon and everything we hopped for. A class act of event organizing which I plan to judge all future races against, completely spectacular scenery, and we came in under our goal. An awesome weekend.