Over the last weekend I completed the Big Sur Half Marathon, my last event in the season (and no I’ve not decided what next season will look like, I need a break and some diversity in my workout life atm). If you remember this was my BIG and serious half – SJ RnR was just for fun. My goal was to run the whole thing minus the time needed to grab water at the stops. With a few minor annoyances, it was a great day. I was worried about rain, but the forecast said it would be &^%^#%^%& cold and 0% chance of precipitation, so we dragged our asses up at 3 fricking 30 in the morning to get here in time to park and check me in for the race. We had ooodles of time, but it was a bit fun hanging out in the corral socializing with folks. By the time the race started I was SO ready to be moving! My first mile was WAY too fast, I had people passing me left and right for most of the rest of the first half. It was just so good to be moving, and there was a cute little out and back at the start, so as we ran out we got to be cheering on the elites who were already most of the way done with their first mile. Cheering on the people rushing past me ALWAYS ups my energy, and in a good way – it doesn’t seem to hurt me later on when I’m going faster for that reason. I LOVE out an back courses it would appear….

Oh yeah and that 0% chance of rain sprinkled on us for the first half hour, but not enough to be bothersome. A racer nearby me at the time joked it was massive deployment of overhead misters – it really was just enough to help you stay cool and not enough to get wet.

As we got into the downtown Monterey loop, I started chatting with people around me, and eventually hooked up with one woman whose name I forgot… She pretty much ended up being my running mate off and on for the rest of the course. We hooked up somewhere in the second mile, just chatting about the course and our running experience. She was having a bit of a slow day, I was going fast but still feeling it wasn’t gonna bite me later, and so we decided to stick together for a bit. I guess we both tend to like to have someone to track a pace with. We ran together until we hit a water stop – I wasn’t ready yet for a refill and she didn’t have a bottle, and darn it, I was sticking to that “no stopping unless I need fluids” rule rather strictly. Since it was a cool day I didn’t end up needing much in the way of refills, and I ended up just slowing a bit at the mile 5 and mile 10 water stops – can’t even really call it a walk break, it lasted like 5 seconds each time…

Anyhow we ran down cannery row, then up a bit thru pacific grove. I know they need to run us thru the centers of all these cities that get shut down for the event, but really, I was just itching to get out to the coast. They just shut down the main coast road for us, and it was great out there if you could ignore the smell of seal flatulence. The only problem was the wind – somehow it was in my face both ways, I don’t know HOW that happened. I also noted that the course managed to feel like it was uphill both ways, which means that it really just had lots of gradual up and down, and the down was too gentle for me to notice but I swear I notice any little up hill… As we hit the coast before heading into Pacific Grove, we were JUST in time to see the winner below us on the paved jog path, in his final few miles of the race, and us not even an hour into it. He was ALL ALONE out there – I didn’t even see another runner before we had to turn off the coast and into town. Turns out he had more than a full minute lead on the next runner in – he was a good quarter mile out there ahead of the pack. I was suitably impressed!

The rest of the coast run was great – we were along the road, running like it was Britain, with us slower folks on the left, and the faster folks returning on the right, along the coast side. I stuck myself right along the middle line, which was largely policed (no need when there’s a timing pad at the turnaround to tell you if anyone cheats!) – nothing really to separate the 2 groups of runners but the yellow line on the road. So I was being a major dork, holding my hand out for high fives from the faster folk. The REALLY fast people totally ignored me, they are just incredibly focused and don’t seem to see anything around them. But when we started to be passing the corral B folks, there were lots of people shouting out encouragement and such across the sides of the course, and it really helped keep the energy high for those long middle course miles. We were in that 2-way stretch from about mile 6 thru 11, and those are really the miles I find hardest – you’ve been at it long enough that you really feel it, but you’re still not feeling anywhere near to the end and there’s no excitement about pushing towards the finish. Somewhere on the outward leg of this I met back up with my running partner, who was excited to meet me, and instantly recognized my voice as I was of course doing the “cheer the other side” game. We stuck it out again to the next water stop on the return leg, when again, she needed to stop and I needed to keep going.

The course was also really interestingly laid out – they used man power instead of fancy electronics, and at every mile marker there was a course volunteer shouting out the official gun time as you ran past. This was great since I’d totally forgotten my watch and had no way to track pace. I figured I was about 3 minutes short of gun time, so I knew I was holding a decently fast pace – starting at mile 3 when I tuned in I was consistently doing around 11 minute miles. I started to get really excited at mile 10 when I passed that marker with an official GUN time of a few minutes short of 2 hours. I think it was something in the range of 1:58. That meant all I had to do was maintain pace (and I was feeling tired as heck but able to do that) and I had a whole 34-35 minutes to do the last 3.1 miles and have my GUN time beat my SJ CHIP time (chip time is always shorter when you’re in the mid-back of the pack, it just takes a few minutes to cross the start line). I did my best to throw a little more energy in as I knew I was doing great, but it didn’t seem to kick in until that last mile. I also got caught by my running mate in that last mile, and she was barely keeping going. Frankly I was struggling too, and was reaching the talking and singing to myself stage… (yes, I’m a runner dork, but I need to do that to keep moving). It was really great to have someone ELSE to encourage so I felt like less of a nut job talking to myself… ๐Ÿ˜› And she really liked being told how little was left and that she could make it. I pulled away when we started to be able to see the finish – my feet just found some extra energy and I knew the faster I got there, the sooner I could stop. I was chanting “come on legs, keep moving” and just pushing as fast as I could go. I know I passed at least a dozen people, and was flat out sprinting (or what passes for a sprint when one has just run 13.1 miles) for most of that last .1 mile. I heard Peter somewhere in the background shouting my name just as I passed around the last person ahead of me and crossed the line. I then had to move to the side and bend over a bit to catch my breath – I think I scared some EMT’s for a minute there. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I’d done it! I’d run the whole way with only 2 mini-pauses to fill my water bottle, and I’d done it in excellent for me time. My GUN time was 2:33:08, right below my chip time for SJ. Peter’s phone was crapping out so we couldn’t get online to get real results til we got home.
Oh yeah, and that 0% chance of rain? Well the city wide overhead misters turned on again to cool off my last 2 miles, and then they provided a FULL FREE SHOWER to me while waiting in line for food. Isn’t that nice of the city? I used that mylar warm-up sheet they give you as a makeshift rain cloak. It was a pretty serious rain for 0%…

Poor Peter, BTW. He’s sworn off using cars to chase me along a course for races. We’d parked in the garage the event directions pointed us to, right? BIG mistake. That garage was right near the corner of the course, about 2 miles in. Peter couldn’t get the car out to follow me until ALL the walkers had cleared the 2 mile point. And some of them were only doing 10 miles and going damned slow at that. He had to wait most of an hour before he could get the car out, and by then had really no idea where to hole up and wait for me to pass him on the course. We ended up only meeting about twice – once right by the damned garage, and once when I was on the return leg along the coast, and then not again until the finish. I think he may well be sold on joining me for more races, and if not, then we’re bringing the bike so he can track the course a bit better.

Anyhow, all in all a great day – I met my goal of running the whole damned thing, even took less and shorter water breaks than I had allowed myself, and I also got in with an official time of under 2 and a half hours – my chip time was 2:29:19! It was a great close for my first season of running, and I had a lot of fun.