Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My California Big Sur Marathon

Race Course View, so beautiful - near Carmel
     So not quite a year ago I entered the Big Sur Marathon.  I heard from people and the reviews in Runners World made this race out to be one I HAD to do.

     Well I also entered another Marathon for May, it wasn't until a few months ago that my brain caught up to my actions and I realized my April and May 26.2 Marathon's were only 1 week apart.

     So after the realization it became clear that I was going to be running my first 1 week apart Marathon's a bit sooner than planned.  I began training a bit more for it a little physically, but mostly mentally.
Coastal View near Monterey
     I knew that race #1 was going to be hilly, and in a perfect set up I guess I would plan a flat course then a hilly course.  Of course I am not normal and apparently enjoy to self inflict a lot of pain upon myself.  So when I got down to Monterey and picked up my race packet and then drove the course to Big Sur the day before the race it was ONLY then I realized what I was really getting myself into.

China Town San Francisco
     I decided to try not to let it effect me too much mentally, but I won't lie I hardly slept the night before the race and it had little to do with the fact of waking up at 2:30AM to get ready to make it to the buses to the starting line on time.  It was because all I could think about was, did I get myself into more than I can really do?

Race Course View
     Race morning, everything went as planned I woke up earlier than I would have preferred (this is coming from a girl who if I could would love to sleep into until 10AM everyday of my life, in my dream world of course:)
I decided to wait to eat my breakfast until I got on the buses and then while I waited for the 6:45AM start.  Figured I would try to hold onto the energy it would give me a bit longer if I waited a few hours to eat it.
Funny story, our bus driver took a wrong turn and was headed in the wrong direction some runner was paying attention and corrected her after a few miles...
Famous Pier 36 in San Francisco
Eventually an hour later we made it to the start, in the pitch black dark of the morning.  I stepped off the bus and took a deep breath of the cool mountain air filled with all those beautiful huge Redwood tree's surrounding us.

    I put on my gloves and ear covers and put on my garbage bag and found a nice place to sit for a few hours trying to keep warm while I waited for them to call for the race lineup.
Coastal View near Carmel on Race Course
Sun was starting to creep up a little before the gun went off, and I was feeling good and REALLY looking forward to running this race.

     Originally my plan was to conserve some of my energy, so I would have something left for the following week.  But something came over me, maybe it was the fact that this was the first race after 3 bad races earlier this year that I was horribly sick in.  But I felt great, I was remembering how wonderful it really did feel to feel good and run when you are healthy:)
I wasn't pushing it too hard, but harder than I planned.
The first 6 miles were basically in the beautiful forest area of Big Sur, lush green mountains and tree's surrounded and lined the way.
For a girl who's heart is always in the mountains this was the course for me!!!!
Coastal View from the Race Course

     Mile 7 we opened up into the coastal areas.  Big green rolling hills and farmers fields next to tall mountains and drop off coasts.
The winds started to pick up, at first it wasn't too bad it seemed to be coming at me from the side.  But you'd get hit in the side of the face with wind gusts that I swore were between 20-30 MPH at times that really hurt!

     I was doing great, I was starting to climb some good hills that even the steep ones weren't bothering me too much, but they weren't very long and just basically up steep and then down steep.  My mile times were about a minute per mile faster than I thought they would be.
We came around a corner that opened up into what I heard a runner say was Hurricane Hill.  We came down some steep downhill that you really had to watch yourself and keep your legs from getting to carried away.  Because you also had a view of what was coming as you rounded that corner.  2 miles of just climbing, climbing and climbing.

    I grabbed a Gatorade and a water to wash it down with and then I started on the big hill at mile 10-11.
Bixby Bridge
Who would have guessed that the steepest hill and longest hill on the course would have been my fasted mile time of the whole race:).
Apparently, my body was LOVING hills that day.
The first mile of climbing, I totally owned it, I was running 2 minutes per mile pace faster than normal, my lungs and legs felt great.  I got my second wind early on, on the hill things were great.
We rounded the corner for the 2nd mile hill climb, and there was one point that was a little steeper and I lost it just a little.
So Mile 11-12 hill, totally owned me.  I had a 3 minute per mile time slower than my regular pace.
Race Course, the road in the picture is HWY 1 we ran on

But it was okay, things were still feeling pretty good.  My legs were starting to get a little weaker, and I could really feel the miles starting on me.
Truthfully, I think it was getting hit in the face with the wind the whole way up the hill that really slowed me down.  That wind was brutal!!!

The 3 miles of mostly downhill after that is what did my legs in.  I ran down the hills in control, I didn't let my legs run away from me.  I tucked in and leaned into it to avoid as much damage to my quads as possible.  My experience helped quite a bit, but it was still a killer on the quads!!!
Taken while hiking in Big Sur
But I was looking better than some around me after the downhill took it's toll.

     Amazing coastal views, you could hear the waves crashing below.  The morning was still full of mist, some places so thick in mist that you couldn't see down the drop offs or very far ahead of you.  The wind gusts were mad crazy too.  In the mist it was like getting slapped in the face with ice cold power, it was cold but okay.  I only thought about grabbing my gloves again once or twice.  But never did, the mist would come and go quickly and then it would be back to perfect running temperatures.

    When we hit the Bixby Bridge, my legs were a little like Jello, but not so bad yet.  Crossing over the bridge was fun.  When we rounded the corner from up above, you could hear in the mist the faintest sound of Classical Music being played from a Baby Grand.
The closer you got to the bridge the louder it became.  Eventually I passed the guy in the Tux playing the Baby Grand.
I thought it fitting that such a beautiful serene course, the music that they gave us there, and at the different mile markers throughout was mostly classical or High School bands or Orchestra's.
Night View taken from my hotel window - Golden Gate Bridge

    Miles 13-22 were just steady up hill or downhill, I didn't find much of any flat.  But they were seriously beautiful!  I was pushing it pretty hard until mile 22, somewhere between Miles 22-23 is when my legs just had it, and boy were they in pain!
My tired legs and lungs were one thing.  My face was wind whipped and my shins were starting with some sharp stabbing pains.
The good news, we were back in the forests near Carmel and the winds gusts were gone.
Bad news, the roads were slanted a bit, likely to keep help the rain water drain.  But slanted roads means having to use your ankles and shins more than normal to support you and keep you running in a straight line.
Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco
Man, it totally hurt and there was no way to avoid it!!!

     The last 4 miles of the race were the longest for me, I hurt.  But I was so proud of myself, I was going to be finishing about 30 minutes faster than I had even planned.
We had a killer hill at mile 25, I am not even going to lie that hill totally owned me.  I was completely spent by the time I got to it.  When I got over it, well lets just say it was a happy moment!
Coastal View from Race Course
Amazing what a good race, no illness can do for you!  This race reminded me how much I really do love running these things! Eventually I made it to the finish line, and to be honest I was SO glad I had family there to pick me up!!!  Most races I go at them alone, but this one I wasn't alone.  Knowing I wasn't going to have to walk miles to my car or back to my hotel, was such a relief I can't even explain!!

This was one of the hardest races I have ever done.  (Not sure if the hardest, but it was close!)  I can't remember the numbers exactly but I ran over 3,150+ feet uphill in the race, and a bit more than 3,175 downhill.  No wonder I was in so much pain by the finish!  But regardless of the pain, I was thrilled with my finish time and how well I did on a few of the hills.  
Muir Woods

     Absolutely gorgeous course, I loved it, it was breathtaking most of the way!  The volunteers were amazing, and the race was extremely well organized.  The people who came out to either sing, play music or cheer were also great.  All of them had to tough out those crazy cold winds off the ocean and they didn't have a way to warm themselves like the runners did by running.
Great race, I can totally see why so many people rave about this one!  I can already say this one will make my top 10 favorite Marathon's in America list.
Walking Through Muir Woods

     California was my 22nd Marathon state I have finished.  By crossing the finish line, I am now on the half way point of my goal this week to run 2 Full Marathons in 1 week.
Call me crazy, insane or totally addicted to pain if you will.  I have to admit I am excited to try it.

Two days later, my lungs are exhausted I am reminded of how tired they are every time I take a deep breath.  My feet have a few minor blisters, and my body is starting to get the scabs over the area's of chaffing.
My legs are shot, they hurt.  I tried jogging on them yesterday.  Only made it a few feet before I almost fell on my face. LOL

I can make it up and down stairs only slightly easier than yesterday, but it's still an extremely painful thing to do and one I am trying to do as much as I can to hopefully recover quicker.
     Like anyone who runs a marathon, the rest of the body is exhausted and aches and my body would love nothing other than a long recovery.
But that isn't going to happen.  I am hoping most of the soreness from moving will go away by this weekend, but I already know what is coming.
My next marathon in 5 days is going to hurt, that is a likely fact.  It's all going to be a mind game, and I am prepared for it.  I am excited to see if I can pull it off.
Muir Woods - Ancient Redwoods
We shall see:)

Golden Gate Bridge, View from my Hotel Window (Great View,huh)
San Francisco Pier 36 Seals seeking some sun:)
These pictures you are seeing on this post were either taken the day before on the race course.  (No I am not a runner who stops and takes pictures while on the course, LOL)  Or they were taken the day prior when I went hiking in Big Sur, or in days prior to the race while on my trip in different parts of San Francisco and Muir Woods.  I hadn't been to this part of California before, and I reminded myself that California is a beautiful state, I need to visit it more often!!!!

Alcatraz Island "The Rock"



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