Disclaimer: I received an entry into Big Sur International Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Race morning began dark and early. Seriously, setting my alarm for 2:45 the night before had made me want to cry. But, truthfully, I had slept so poorly, that I was awake before my alarm went off. I got up and got ready, popped a Dramamine and we were out the door by 3:40. Thanks to my hotel snafu, my mother had to get up early too and drive me to the bus pick up. Thanks mom!
My bus ticket was pretty specific about the buses leaving by 4:15 but I was in line for almost 30 minutes and didn’t even board a bus until after 4:30. While I was waiting in line, a guy in front of me mowed down a bagel and then a cookie. I realize I am odd in that I don’t eat before races but I still questioned his choices knowing the road we were about to drive on. Once on the bus, I somehow was (un)lucky enough to snag a sit with a wheel well so my knees were in my chest the whole ride. Then I closed my eyes and tried to doze off in an effort to fight off any potential car sickness. I know how windy Highway 1 is, combine that with a school bus and I wasn’t taking any chances. Unlike the man who was chowing down in line who almost lost his cookies 30 minutes into the drive. Once we arrived, we had to walk a ways up the highway to get to the starting area. By the time I tossed my gear bag to the volunteers (literally), used the porta-potties and seeded myself in the corrals, my Garmin showed that I had walked 1.5 miles.
Being so unsure how this race would go and so nervous about the cut off, I admit I did something I never have before. I seeded myself in Wave 2- which was for runners hoping to finish under 4:45. I mentally needed those extra 5 minutes! I did put myself all the way to the back though because I felt guilty. Then listening to a few runners talk about about their average times (4:00’s) and how they were just hoping to finish after driving the course and seeing all the hills the day before didn’t help calm the nerves. But after the National Anthem- it was go time. I was running my second marathon. Little did I know the next hours would see both a PR attempt and my first almost DNF.
Miles 1-10- 10:19, 10:41, 10:17, 10:56, 11:23, 11:35, 12:00, 12:14, 12:27, 10:38
I was not watching my watch so I had no idea what my pace was. I focused on keeping it comfortable. I was enjoying the woodsy feel of running through Big Sur with all the trees along the Highway. I was very surprised by how many people were using the port-a-potties 100 yards from the start line. There were also a ton of guys peeling off into the woods to relieve themselves. No fair. As you can see by my splits, I wasn’t feeling a lot of the hills. They were there but I didn’t walk until mile 6 and that was only because I told myself to not be stupid and tire myself out as I still had 20 miles to go.
We could now see the ocean to our left which was awesome. I was taking water at each aid station as well as drinking from the 2 bottles I had in my pack. I also had to pee. Crap. But the lines were so long at all aid stations! Not only that, there were music spots set along the highway and each performer had their own port a potty too and runners were lined up at those! I didn’t want to stop yet so I just kept going. I knew the BIG hill was coming and that could make or break the race. We were climbing a hill in mile 8 and I heard a woman ask if this was the worst one- I was wondering if she had looked at the course map- but a man responded- yeah no.
Miles 11-12 15:04, 14:12 The Climb
You could see it coming for over a mile. Runners were sprinkled like confetti as they wound around and up. I was torn between trying to run it and conserving energy. As my mile splits show, I walked 98% of these miles. I had checked my overall average pace before starting the hill and it was at 11:20, these miles dropped it to 11:3something. My Garmin says we gained 600 feet, but my Garmin is also a little screwy as it says the overall elevation gain for the race was 3000. Strava does agree with these 2 miles though. I just put my head down and power walked my way to the top. The drummers almost at the top made me smile. It also rained these miles with crazy winds- why had I tossed my gloves back at mile 5??
Miles 13-16 10:10, 11:05, 13:32, 12:59
What goes up must come down but it was a shorter downhill than I would have liked and led us right into another hill. Smile, Fallon, you like hills. 13 also brought us to Bixby Bridge. The day was overcast but the bridge was still pretty and I made myself slow down and take pictures- partially to prove I didn’t freak out. 😛 A camera crew and piano player were stationed on the other side of the bridge.
15 was where the pain started. My back was hurting pretty badly but I was hoping a run/ walk strategy would loosen it up. At 16, I checked my time and thought if I could hold onto 12:00-12:15 miles, I had a solid PR in my grasp, my back just needed to cooperate. In retrospect, that was naive and I probably jinxed myself.
Miles 17-21 13:50, 13:41, 13:39, 14:19, 14:11
I damn near quit. The course was gorgeous, I wasn’t tired but my back hurt. The more my back hurt, the more I walked. The more I walked, the more my hips tightened up and my knees started to hurt. WTH?! I stopped twice and tried to stretch out my back. Each time a SAG wagon drove by, I considered flagging them down. But I kept going. Cell service was horrible out there but occasionally texts from my mom and Kate were getting though and those were so needed. I had also turned my music on in an effort to block out my doubts and thoughts.
Miles 22-26 14:50, 13:11, 14:47, 14:37, 14:15
They say if you don’t reach mile 21.2 by 11:50, you are not allowed to continue and are swept from the course. To back this up, there were 3 school buses parked at mile 21.2. I hit 21.2 at 11:15. I’d made it this far, I was damn well going to finish. My back was still hurting, my hips were squawking and now my feet hurt. Around 24, I briefly considered tossing my shoes and finishing in my socks. Couldn’t hurt any worse, right? The course was still full of hills but in a way I think I that helped me. I think a flat last 10 miles would have broken me, the constant up and down was at least letting me use different muscles. However every single picture of me is from the last half of the course when I’m struggling and walking. Thanks guys. There was a photographer who had a sign warning that they were ahead so runners could smile- or in my case, run- so I picked it up to hobble run past him only to round a small corner and see the finish line. RUN!
Give me my medal and someone take these shoes! Just kidding, I didn’t say that. I thanked the volunteer for the medal-which is awesome- and smiled (grimaced?) for pictures before getting all the food treats and meeting up with my mom.
Some say that you should expect to add a minute per mile to your marathon time at Big Sur, I was only about 30 seconds each mile. It wasn’t the race I had hoped for but it also wasn’t the race I had feared either. I also proved to myself that first one wasn’t a fluke. I can do hard things, just need to stop breaking myself along the way.
Maybe I’ll you see you again one day, Big Sur.