Big Sur Half Marathon Recap

This recap is long overdue – the race was over a month ago!

Having visited the Big Sur area in April for the Big Sur International Marathon, I immediately said yes to Leti’s suggestion to head back to the area. We’d had such a great time in April that I knew it would be another fun trip. We decided to drive up again, arriving the day before the race and leaving on Monday evening. I usually prefer to arrive close to race day and pad the post-race trip time. Our April visit involved two days of work (exhibiting at the BSIM Expo), but this time I only worked ~2 hours as a volunteer in late registration. It was interesting working late registration for a race outside of my organization and getting a feel for their operation. Non-surprisingly, it was well-organized and went very well. After the expo closed, Leti and I had dinner at the hotel restaurant and went to sleep early.

With the race shuttles departing from a spot very close to our hotel, we didn’t have to leave too early for the 6:55am start. We made a new friend on the way to the shuttle pickup who was about to run his very first half marathon! The ride to the start was uneventful and very warm; the bus heater was at 110% and I was wearing 3 shirts. The shuttle dropped us off at the start line with plenty of time to take pictures, watch the sun rise, visit the porta potties, apply lubricant to key body parts, drop bags off at gear check, and locate the entrances to our starting corrals.

There were 13 starting waves, with a 30 second gap between each one. At approximately 7:01am, we were off! The start line announcer pumped me up and I was very excited to run along the coast in Carmel and Pacific Grove.

The first few miles are twisty-turny through Monterey. There were groups of residents standing outside cheering the runners on and Smokey The Bear made an appearance at mile 1.5ish. It was a brisk and beautiful morning, and I was running a really neat half marathon, but my hip was 7/10 on the pain scale. Staying mentally positive was definitely a struggle. We passed through a long-ish tunnel with a light show and music right after mile 1, and the DJ was playing Turn Down for What when I was coming through. This provided me with a boost and I had this song stuck in my head through Cannery Row (miles 2-3) and along the Recreation Trail.

The Big Sur Half Marathon is mostly flat, but there is a very steep hill around mile 4, before heading toward Pacific Grove. Thankfully, there were a fair amount of enthusiastic residents outside motivating us up that incline! We were rewarded with magnificent views of the ocean and passed by Lover’s Point right as the top runners passed us on their way to the finish line. I saw Kara Goucher leading the women runners and as always, was inspired and in awe. I’m not a big fan of out-and-back courses, but I’d run Ocean View Boulevard daily if I lived in the area. Leti and I drove along the course on Monday because we hadn’t had our fill of the views on race day.

By Point Pinos/mile 6, my hip felt better, but only slightly. The course began to feel crowded at this point as more runners were making their way back to Fisherman’s Wharf/the finish. My only “race” plan was to finish, and I definitely questioned that during the first 5 or so miles, but felt confident that I would at the halfway point. The turnaround was right after mile 8/Asilomar State Beach and though I was certainly enjoying the course and views, I was ready to finish. At mile 9, I realized that I hadn’t taken any water until this point. With the cold weather and my focus on the scenery and course, I completely forgot to hydrate. I hungrily grabbed two cups of water at the mile 9 station, but it would prove to be too late. Miles 10-12 were rough and I ended up walking for a fair amount of time. I felt like I was going to pass out about .5 miles from the finish line, but jogged it into the finish line.

I felt SO hungry for the last mile. I’d eaten a substantial dinner and a bar for breakfast, so I think it may have been thirst. I downed a bottle of water and parked myself on a curb to snack and change into dry clothing. Unfortunately, I did not see much of the post-race expo, but was impressed with the post food & fluid offerings: raspberries, mini-Luna bars, apples, bananas, chocolate milk, coconut water, cookies, and chips (I can’t remember what kind). I chatted with a very nice woman from Berkeley who will also be running the Napa Valley Marathon in March and then walked over to the shuttle loading zone. I felt better after water and food, but admittedly disappointed in myself and my running. I took a hot shower and short nap (not at the same time!) before Leti arrived at the hotel room. Despite less-than-ideal training for both of us, we were happy to have completed the race and felt lucky to be able to do so. We capped our trip off by enjoying a great meal and conversation at Lalla Grill in Monterey, shopping at Forever 21, and a watching a movie (The Intern – really good!) in our hotel room.

We stopped by the BSIM offices on the way back to Southern California and received the VIP tour! We were able to informally chat with their staff and exchange ideas, advice, and trade stories. It was great to get even more insight into their operations and event management strategies – I was, again, thoroughly impressed.

In retrospect, 1) running a half marathon at a 7/10 on the pain scale and 2) waiting to drink water until mile 9 were poor choices on my part. Though I don’t regret it now that it’s done and I was able to walk and run afterward, I do regret putting my body through that. The thing is, I’ve run and raced with injuries before and they’ve healed within a few days or weeks, so it’s almost as if I subconsciously know that it’s “okay.” The first analogy which comes to my mind is that of a spoiled child who is chastised upon wrongdoing, but only with a light verbal warning. They do it again knowing that they can probably get away with it. My body often warns me that it doesn’t like what I’m doing, but heals quickly, so I continue to run through it. I’m well aware of potential long-term damage, but have yet to seriously consider implementing more ancillary exercises into my running routine. Perhaps it’s because I’m still in “I’m young and invincible” mode, or because I’m just lucky for now, but the frequency of my injuries will continue to increase unless I invest some time into prevention.

Training was up and down for the next month-and-half due to both injuries and a dense work/event schedule. I’m very happy to report that my hip injury has healed since then, though I’m still unsure as to what it was (Self-diagnoses: tendinitis of the hip flexor as a result of jumping back into training too quickly). I hope that I can return injury-free to Monterey in 2016 for the Big Sur Half Marathon!


Executive Race Director/Doug’s cat Bentley! ❤




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