Big Sur Race Report

This year was my fourth time doing the Big Sur International Marathon. There are not many opportunities to run on Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast, so I thought it was time to come back and do this race again after not doing it for 3 years. The last time I raced here, I was pretty much doing only run training, and this year, I am more focused on triathlon, so I wasn’t quite sure how it would go. For my race goals this year, I put BSIM lower on my priority list because I wanted to keep the focus on triathlon, but still have the opportunity to see how my running was coming along. I knew going into the race, I would try to hold a solid pace, but not go out there for a PR or to kill myself chasing a time. I still have a very long season left and I need to figure out a way to maintain fitness and motivation till November.

Race Morning

The BSIM experience starts very very early in the morning. I don’t think I have ever done another race where I have to wake up at 3am and not even start the race till about 4 hour later. If anyone knows me, they know I’ve been a sleep nazi lately. I really love getting a full night’s sleep, and after having a new baby in the last 5 months, I can really appreciate what good sleep can do, and know what bad sleep can do. So I wasn’t super happy when I had to be out of bed at 3am, with not great sleep the night before.
I pretty much had everything ready to go when I got out of bed. I grabbed 2 thermoses of coffee for the trip to the race start and all my stuff and was out the door at 3:20am. Running events are really great, because there isn’t much gear to think about. I pretty much wear everything I need out the door. Just some food, coffee and a sweater and I’m good to go.

I drank my first thermos of coffee on the 30 minute drive to Carmel to get on the yellow school bus for the longer trek to the start line. I pretty much sat quietly during the full hour bus ride to the race start, sipping on coffee and listening to a podcast.IMG_2664 We got to the race start area around 5am, which meant, I was going to be sitting around for almost 2 hours till the race start. I found a spot to sit on the concrete, and pretty much sat there for the rest of the time, drinking coffee and eating my breakfast (and trying to stay warm). My goal was to eat breakfast about 2 hours before the race start. I brought two burritos I made the night before with eggs, sausage, cheese, and avocado. I also started sipping on a Skratch Hyper Hydration about 30 minutes before the race start, just for a quick pre-load of sodium.IMG_2667

The Race

It was odd that given all the waiting I did before the race, I actually barely made it to the start line before the start of the race. There were just so many people trying to make it up to Highway 1 for the start, it was pretty slow going, and I was one of the last people to get in place before the race started. The race start was pretty mellow, with a nice downhill slope. I just kept it somewhat slow and steady and just went with the flow of people.

After the first couple miles, when the race started thinning out and went from 2 lanes down to one lane of highway, I started thinking about pacing. My goal was to be at about a 7:15-7:20 pace for the whole race. A little faster on the downhills and (obviously) slower on the uphills. I actually tried not to look at my watch for pacing queues too often and just go by feel as much as possible. I wanted to look around and enjoy the scenery and not be focused too much on pacing by the number.
At about mile 5, the gradual downhill ended, we started getting out of the trees and on to more open coast. With that, the wind really started picking up. I was really starting to get hit with the headwind and could feel it just holding me back. It was like someone was just pushing at my chest, trying to keep me from running. It was somewhat frustrating at that point, but also expected for this course.

After about 6 miles, I started taking fluid from the aid stations every time I came to one (about every 2 miles). Usually just a cup of Gatorade. The weather was really cool, but I was starting to saturate my shirt with sweat, so I wanted to stay on top of my fluid replacement. The first 10 miles of the race went by very fast. I don’t even remember keeping track of miles, or pace too much.

By mile 10, the wind was getting pretty silly. I felt like I was pushing hard, but not really going anywhere. I tried my best to draft off people, but it wasn’t working too well. I couldn’t really find anyone going at the pace I wanted, so I kind of jumped from person to person to draft, but mostly was on my own.

Mile 9-10 is a nice downhill run in full view of what was ahead, the long 2 mile climb to hurricane point. That climb seems to go on forever. The wind during the last mile of the climb to hurricane point was insane. There were a few times, I almost gave up and started walking because it felt like the wind was pushing me so hard, I wasn’t going any faster than a walk. I know the race is known for its wind, but this was pretty tough. After I hit the top of hurricane point, I knew I had at least passed the hardest part of the course, which was a nice relief. I made the mile decent to Bixby Bridge and the halfway point of the race.

Mile 13-16 was fairly uneventful. I continued to try to enjoy the scenery and to spend time looking around and the amazing views. I still took Gatorade every aid station. Mile 16, was the point I started to get a bit tired. 16 miles was the longest training run I had done (the weekend before), so mentally, my brain started focusing on miles to the finish after this point in the race. From there, I had to make smaller mental goals so I could focus on hitting those and not focus on the entire distance. My first goal, was to keep pace till mile 20. Mile 20 was only 4 more miles, which is pretty easy to do and I knew, once I hit mile 20, I’d only have 6 miles, and 6 miles seems pretty short. At mile 20, I set a new goal, of making it to mile 23. I can run another 3 miles, no problem…. And then I’d only have 3 more miles to go.

By mile 22 or 23, it was still pretty cool outside, but my shirt was soaked, my shorts were soaked, and the sweat was starting to soak my socks, which is no fun. I know from experience, that once my socks are fully wet, it’s only a matter of time before the blisters start, and then I can get myself into a very unpleasant situation. I still was only doing a small cup of Gatorade at most aid stations. I didn’t feel the need for any other nutrition, so I didn’t take any food (although the strawberries at the aid station around mile 23-24 looked pretty good).

The last few miles, the course was pretty busy from all the walkers doing the other race distances. It kind of became an obstacle course. I think there were a couple times I almost ran into people. I noticed this year, that most walkers had headphones and/or were busy on their phones or taking pics with their phones. It seemed a lot of people weren’t paying attention to where they were going or who was running up behind them. I guess that’s the world we live in now, where we have to dodge people who are on their phones and not paying attention.IMG_2686

The last mile was pretty fun and I tried to speed up a bit for a strong finish. I was still feeling pretty good energy-wise, but my legs were pretty beat up. I sprinted across the line, and was happy to be able to stop and walk.

Overall, I had a great race and was pretty happy with hitting my goals. It’s kind of crazy how hard running is on my body. Those long road miles just really beat me up. I can’t believe I’ve done that distance of a run after a 112 mile bike ride. It’s really just mind blowing.

Time: 3:12:54, 7:21 min/mile, 11th Male 30-34