"It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great."
Here is my recap of the Big Sur Marathon and the 2nd part of the Boston to Big Sur Challenge:
After taking a few days off from running after Boston, I was feeling pretty good besides my foot still bothering me. I just kept icing and taking care of it, and I was able to run 4-6 miles every day pretty comfortably after that first week being cautious about not pushing too hard too fast. I was feeling hopeful that I'd be able to push the pace on this one a little more than Boston, but knew it wasn't a PR course. I had plans with my Fleet Feet racing teammate and friend, Angie, to drive down to Carmel on Saturday morning for race packet pick-up and hotel check-in. Besides horrendous traffic and a few other difficulties, it was mostly a smooth pick-up and check in to our hotel at the Carmel Inn and Suites. We got dinner across the street and set out our stuff to get ready for the 3:15 wake-up so we could catch the 3:45 shuttle to the start of the race. We tried to get to bed early, but it was difficult to sleep so early.
That 3:15 alarm came and we were up and dressed pretty quickly with coffee and breakfast in hand to walk the quarter mile to our shuttle pick-up. It's a dark, long, and winding drive up Highway 1 to the start of the race. Since you're basically being driven from the finish to the start it's hard to not think, "oh, my gosh, am I really RUNNING this far?" and "that was a REALLY big hill!" After what seemed a never-ending bus ride we arrived and walked the half mile to the start village. I loved the smell of pine trees and beautiful starry skies as we walked through the darkness greeted by volunteers. We found a grassy spot by the porta-potties and just stayed warm and listened to the other runners talk race strategy for a little over an hour. Then we decided it was time to check our gear bags, and then headed out for a one mile warm-up together, I went pee about 10 times (my nervous habit), then we said our goodbyes and good lucks and lined up for the start!
I was in wave #1, which was for those under a 3:45 finish time goal, which I was going to try and do. The horn went off and I was running comfortably through the pine trees at around an 8:00 min/mile, so I decided that was my pace. There are no crowds cheering and lining up Big Sur like in Boston, it's just you and the other runners around you, so I just tried to settle in and enjoy the scenery, but push myself a bit. Around mile 2-3 I noticed a familiar face from the tv show 'Survivor,' it was Tai! I don't really watch that show, but my son, Jack, does a little and I knew he'd get a kick out of me seeing him! I said, "you're Tai, can I get a picture with you?" and he said, "sure, while we're running?" Then we bolted to the side as the 3 mile sign was approaching and got a picture. We continued on running together and talking, I told him about Jack, and we talked about where we lived and what marathons we like. By now, the ocean had come into view on the left and it had been such a great distraction from my pace, and the miles were just going by, still close to an 8:00 min/mile pace. I can't remember, but at some point he went on ahead of me up one of the hills, but we continued to trade spots back and forth almost the entire race - he was so nice!
I don't really like to stop and take pictures when I'm running a marathon, the ocean was simply amazing, so I just ran and enjoyed the view! Blue skies and blue water for miles and miles as far as I could see! The climb up Hurricane Point came around mile 10, I felt really good up this 2 miles of massive climbs! I remember passing Tai, and he said, "I'm so out of breath and you aren't even breathing heavy!" I was trying to stay conservative on this and then get back on pace after that as I came into the halfway point (holding a 10:00 min/mile and 9:23 on that hill). I felt SO great, and kept thinking, "you can finish in under 3:40!" My half marathon split was around 1:50 and I was back doing close to an 8:15 min/ mile pace again for miles 14 -17. Mile 18 began yet another hill and my legs just didn't want to make up the time on the downhill like they had been. Then I heard someone say, "there's a whale!" As I looked out at the ocean on my left I could see just under the surface the large whale and it's small spout a few times. It was so awesome just to be able to see that, I loved it! God and His creation is truly amazing! Then the 3:45 pace group started approaching from behind and I stuck with them for about 1-2 miles, but my legs were suddenly so heavy I lost them on one of the uphills. There is something that happens mentally when a pace group passes me that I didn't think was going to pass me, it is so very hard! Mile 19 was an 8:58, and subsequent miles were getting slower with each hill and my inability to make it up on the downhills like I had been in the beginning. I still felt decent, but my legs were so tired, and my left foot was really starting to ache! I also kept thinking of Sawyer, my friend's 9 year old son that lost his battle to cancer this year - if he endured what he went through, I can certainly put up with an achy foot and legs! The course goes through neighborhoods and the road is slanted, so each step felt so hard, but I just kept on, and by this time I was around a 9:30 pace for the end miles. I kept thinking, "this marathon is almost over, this challenge is almost over, it hurts, but enjoy it!" Mile 26 was yet another slight hill that felt so big, but then the 26 sign came into view, with the ocean still on my left, and I just ran until I saw that finish line! I finished my 20th marathon in 3:52, and 19 minutes faster than Boston.
Finishing a marathon is the best feeling! My legs ache, and my foot was hurting again, but it's just so awesome! I got my medal and made my way to the B2B tent to get my additional medal and finisher jacket for completing the challenge. Seeing Dean Karnazes (the famous Ultramarathon Man) was an added bonus, so I got a picture with him too! Afterwards, I sat down, stretched for awhile in the sun, and waited for Angie to come in. It felt really weird to not have my kids there or anyone else waiting for me at the finish. I found Angie, we got some pictures, and then made our way back to the hotel, got dinner, and called it a night pretty early after being up since 3:15!
Big Sur Marathon is described as one of the most beautiful marathons, and "running on the ragged edge of the Western World," and it certainly lives up to that! It is probably the most difficult marathon course I've done so far, but I had so much fun taking on this challenge with Angie and feeling pretty good! I had many challenges going into Boston (mainly my foot), but I don't give up easily and God was certainly watching over me throughout all of this. I had to change my time goals a little bit, but I'd call this a success!
"Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will." ~ Ghandi
Update on my foot for those interested: after an X-ray, my doctor determined that my bones are all healthy and fine! I have 'Capsulitis of the foot', which is an inflammation of the ligaments and joint in the toe (my middle toe). It is characterized by sharp or aching pain on the ball of the foot or base of the toes, experienced with pressure on the toes. It is caused by too much stress on the foot joints, but can be managed and treated with proper care and foot pads.