Big Sur Marathon Recap

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!

Finish- 5:36:52

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.

2017 City to the Sea 13.1 Recap

What do you do when need to run a long run and need the motivation to get up early? Sign up for a race!

Let’s count the things that did not go like planned-

  • Had stomach issues on Saturday but hoped they would go away by race morning.
  • It didn’t, it was even worse.  To the point where I had a complete change in wardrobe plans.  If I could have run in a dress I would have.  I needed the least amount of pressure possible.
  • Ran in a skirt I haven’t worn in 2 years, probably qualified as something new on race day.  Ditto to the Camelbak I decided to use.
  • I was late leaving the house, then spent too much time at a Chevron station using the facilities due to above mentioned GI issue.
  • Lost one of the zip ties for the timing chip.  Found it again after tearing apart car.
  • Strolled up to the start with 3 minutes to spare.
  • Ran the race on Zero calories.
  • With my back issues, I was thinking this would be slower than long run pace.  My parents were meeting me at the finish line- I told them over a 2:30 finish.

And yet-

Miles 1-4 9:38, 9:39, 9:44, 9:58


The race starts off downhill so I figured the first few miles would be my fastest but I had been thinking high 10’s.  Mile 1 clocked in and I remember thinking “what the hell legs? We can’t maintain that”.  Then mile 2 took freakin’ forever.  I’ve run this course 5 times and I couldn’t figure why the hell it was taking so long so I finally looked at my watch.  Mile 2.86.  Oh I missed the mile marker, good to know I am not crazy.   I was trying to not look at my watch but I knew my legs were still running a pace they had no business running.  My friend Bix came up behind a little after mile 3.  We chatted a bit before she pulled ahead a little after mile 4.  I had to crash soon right?

Miles 5-8 10:20, 10:44, 11:13, 9:34

Mile 5 starts a long slow climb which I like as it loosens up any leg tightness I may have.  I also took my first walk break as my back gave a tiny twinge.   Mile 6 saw lots of walking as those stupid stomach issues came rearing back.  Are you kidding me?!?!  The last aid station at mile 4 and the next one wasn’t until past mile 7.     I also was suddenly surrounded by people.  What the hell?   It was the 2:15 pace group.  Wait, I was in front of the 2:15 pace group for 6 miles?  What year is this? 2015? 😛   They pulled ahead but I kept them in my sights until the bigger hill on mile 7- more walking thanks to a cranky back.  I wasn’t worried as I knew there was a downhill coming and I love downhills.  As you can see by that mile 8 up there.

The Garmin makes it look scary😂

Miles 9-11 10:48, 12:34, 10:26

Catching up to the pace group was short lived.  I lost them on the Bob Jones Trail.  I was slowing down but what else do you expect when your longest run in 2 months has been 8 miles?  I ran on the dirt on the side of the trail hoping it would lessen some of the pavement pounding but by mile 10- the biggest hill- my back was very not happy.  I walked a lot and it shows in my mile time.   I tried to stretch it out as I walked.   Mile 11 was pretty good actually but I felt like I was crawling.


Miles 12-13.1 10:51, 11:40

Come on back, I’m so close!  2 miles to go! Run til I feel a twinge, walk it out, repeat.  Ran alongside a woman for a bit, we commiserated over pains.  She was having Plantar issues.  She pulled ahead.   Finally I hit mile 13 and all I had left was the longest .1 ever.  Seriously- I swear this .1 is longer than any other race I have other run.

Finish- 2:18:59


How, now?  Under trained, messed up back, hot mess of a morning and I finish my fastest race in 2 years?  In fact, my fastest race since City to the Sea 2015?   How does that even make sense?   I just decided to let my legs and back fight it out.  I took my head out of the equation.

Maybe I need to try that more often? 😛🙂

SLO Ultra 5 Mile Recap

I say my legs love hills but this tested that theory.

I didn’t look at the elevation chart until the Friday before the race.

Walking to the start line, I could see the half marathoners on the first climb– no one was running.

At one point during the race, I heard a woman huff out- “rolling hills, my ass”.

At the end, a woman wearing a Leadville jacket is talking to another 5 mile finisher asking how she’s feeling.  She then says she would never do these races because if you are under trained  they’ll wreck you.  Ummm, what??!

Ok, backing up.  SLO Ultra is a trail races that offers a 50 mile, marathon, half marathon and 5 mile.  I had originally planned on running the half but then conversion month and the stupid antibiotic non running episode derailed me.  I figured I would downshift to the 5 miler.    I’ve done multiple trail races, how could this be worse than the 25K? I could handle 5 miles.


Then I checked the website the Friday before and saw the elevation profile.  1500 feet and change over 5 miles, WTF?  Combine that with the abnormally busy Saturday I had ahead and I almost considered a DNS.    But I followed through.


The race was run on trails on private property out by Avila Beach but they all had staggered start times so my race didn’t start until 9:30.   I was able to still get parking on site about an hour before the start and slowly made my way the 1/2 mile or so further in.   As I said, I could see the half marathoners on the first real climb and it was not reassuring.    Hanging out near the start didn’t help.  I saw runners coming back through the start and they looked rough so I figured they were the marathoners finishing a loop (didn’t have enough gear to be 50 milers).  Nope.  Just the half marathoners finishing mile 3.     Oh crap.  Then it was time, so we all lined up.   Only to be warned the first 3 miles were Hard. Yay.

Mile 1- 16:37

We were off!  And we ran for all of .25 miles.  If that.  I take consolation that 95% of us slammed to a crawl.  There were still some speedy people out there (Pepe, Racheal I’m looking at you) but us mortals all were struggling just to power hike the damn mountain.   Like hands pushing down on knees trying to get leverage going up the hill.   We were all breathing so hard, it was a symphony of wheezing and gasping.  But the views halfway up?  Awesome.  But damn that thing was steep.


Mile 2-11:41

Does this climb ever end?!  Oh damn, I think something is in my shoe.   Oh look, downhill!  I shouldn’t run fast but, on your left!  Hey, this woodsy part is cool, let’s take a pic.  While running down a hillside.  Looks at watch- at a 9:20 pace- living dangerously.  😛  Oh- my first water crossing!  Ok, it was tiny but it still counts!  Then there was a portion of single track where some people didn’t have the best trail etiquette.  Stay on the trail!  This is why we can’t have nice things.


Mile 3-16.53

Another climb.  Not long but steep.   I made friends.    We were commiserating.  One woman asked her friend is she was doing the mountain bike races the next day, (same course) she was no longer sure.   Another asked if these hills were worse than those of the San Francisco Marathon, 3 of us shouted out Yes!  I cracked a joke that I don’t think this is what my doctor meant when he said to return to running slow and easy.   We had a downhill and I ran on to the flat and back to the start to the aid station but I was noticing a problem.  I couldn’t run the flats.  My legs were shot.  My Achilles’s were the tightest they have ever been and the flat surface felt like it stretched them out too much, kind of like they were going to tear.  So I backed it off and walked.


Mile 4- 17:02

Ok, maybe I backed off too much.   Yes, there was another big climb in this mile but I think I lost the most time on the flat section truthfully.  I chatted with a man I had been yo-yo’ing with most of the race.  My GPS had also been off since the tree covered section in mile 2 so I really had no idea how far I had left in the race.  Oops!


Mile 5- 8:40 pace

By mile 3.8ish I could see the turn around point at the aid station and I was done.  I jogged up to it, grabbed a cup of water, drank and then decided my legs had wings.   I almost ate trail in a section that was like running through a sandbox.  I hit the flat section and my legs suddenly felt ok so I kept going.    Slowed down so as not to face plant over the rickety bridge over the stream right before the finish line- almost did anyways- and ran through the finish.

1:09:43


So much slower than I would have liked but I survived!  And I was still in the top half of the pack so that’s how damn hard this freakin’ course was.   I am also having trouble walking 3 days later.  😛     Good thing about slower?  I never got misdirected like more than a few of the lead runners did.  Oops.

I will run this again, stronger and faster.  I think I can, I think I can.  Plus, that’s the only way I can get back on those trails.😊

 

 

 

 

 

To Sur….with Hills

We interrupt regularly scheduled programming  for a little announcement.  😛   My workout recap will be up on Wednesday.

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the 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!

I thought it was fitting that I drop the news about marathon #2 on the anniversary of marathon #1.

One year ago today, I crossed the finish line of my very first marathon.  Unlike some, I hadn’t planned on running a marathon, in fact when asked, I usually said “oh hell no”.   It was never a goal of mine, it just kind of happened.   All of sudden I was registering for it, training for it, hurting over it, and then running it.   And I didn’t hate it.  😛

I kind of always knew I was going to run another one but nothing ever seemed right.  Every time I looked at websites or checked dates, it all seemed too forced.  Nothing clicked for me.   Then a chance to run the Big Sur International Marathon came up.  Once again, it just seemed to happen.

Views along Highway 1

Big Sur is an amazing race that runs point to point along Highway 1 in CA with some of the most amazing views.    It offers a marathon, 21 miler, 11 miler, 12K, 5K and 3K.  You name it and there is a distance that will work for you.  It is also is extremely popular and registration for the marathon runs by lottery system, the remaining distances are first come, first served.    A few years ago, I ran the Monterey Bay Half Marathon (then named the Big Sur Half) and the loved it.  We drove Highway one home and the scenery is just amazing.

Elevation

That said, I had my hesitations before throwing my name into the hat.    I know I say I prefer races with hills but this has HILLS.  It took me 5+ hours to run San Francisco, could I do this?   But it was calling my name, so I took a chance.   When I found I was in, I was torn between jumping up and down in excitement and wondering what I gotten myself into.😛

But self doubts aside- I am so looking forward to this race.  My hotel is already booked and I have a starting day for marathon training- Christmas Day. 😂     Now I just need a training plan.    I got this.

Have you ever run Big Sur?

Training plan suggestions?

2017 SLO Half Marathon Recap

Oh boy, I don’t know where to start with this.   I’ve sat on it for a bit so I don’t sound totally cranky, so here we go!

This was my 4th time running SLO and it used to be one of my favorites.    I adored it in 2014 and 2015.  2015 is still one of my proudest races even with a face plant at mile 5 and some major GI drama.   In 2016, there were some changes to the expo, shirts and pictures that I wasn’t so fond of but I still loved the course and the way the crowd support was at certain points.  Bring in 2017 and there was a course overhaul- big time.  I would say only 2-3 miles were the same but other than the finish line they were now all at different points in the course.  They advertised the course as being faster than years past.   Thing about SLO is that it is not flat- the new half course was just shy of 600 elevation gain and the full just over 1200.    But I liked the old course- freakishly long Johnson hills and all.  Fine, I’ll reserve judgement.  The other thing I was concerned about was the start time- it was starting at 7 AM.  Every other time I’ve run it, it started at 6:30 or 6:45.   The temps were predicted to hit the 80’s on race day and 70’s by 10.  I was concerned.


The expo–  Packet pickup as always was at the Madonna Inn.  It seemed smaller this year.  Then I’ve thought that of most the expo’s I’ve been to lately.  Bib and shirt pickup was simple.  There was a shirt I wanted to buy at one booth but the price was too steep.  What was not cool was the un-mown grass with tall roots sticking out.  I tripped in a gopher hole once and on the roots 3 times.   While I was there I saw 3 other people trip on the roots.   The blame for this likely lies on the Madonna Inn not the race but you’d think they would mow the expo lawn?   By the time I left I had multiple scratches and was bleeding in 3 spots.


Race morning-   Chaos.   The original course was a point to point, in years past my mom would drop me off at the start and drive to the finish, park and watch Netflix.  Easy.   This year parking was a nightmare.   Start and finish was the Madonna Inn but getting into the Inn was next to impossible.  After waiting on the freeway for 10 minutes and moving 10 feet, my mother and I switched places- jumped out and ran around the car so she was now driving and I finished getting ready in the passenger seat.  Then I jumped out of the car- still on the freeway– and found a place to hop the fence to the race.   Only to arrive and hear they were delaying the start 10 minutes.  Ok- port a potty time.  The damn port a potty almost blew over.  It wasn’t bolted down all the way.  Grrr!!!!  Ok, head to the corrals.  Or so I thought.   Marathon runners and half marathon runners were starting at the same time.


  We all lined up near the pacers and waited.   And waited.  Then announcements started and we were told we were going to walk to the starting line. Umm, what? Weren’t we there?  So en masse, we leave the Inn and round the corner and down the street to starting arch.  It was like a block but it was odd, from behind me I heard on guy yell out “the race hasn’t even started and I’m over 2500 steps, this is whack”.   Everyone within hearing distance laughed.   Then more announcements and the National Anthem.  I will never be irritated at the National Anthem and I get that traffic was backed up ridiculously, but all I could think was that it was getting warmer and warmer while we were waiting.  We finally started just before 7:30.

This race falls into 2 distinct sections- the good and the “oh hell”- so here we go.

Miles 1-3 10:04, 10:11, 10:29

Well, hey these miles are coming faster than I thought they would be.  My calves were a little tight but that’s typical in the beginning of runs, I figured they would loosen up.  The first mile and half were through the southern part of town and not the most scenic.   I just kept trucking.  It was warm and getting warmer though so I decided to get water at the first aid except it wasn’t at mile 2 like I thought it would be.    It was 1/2 a mile later, ok, walk through the station get water and run on.  Right hand turn and we were running up Foothill.


Miles 4-6 10:55, 11:23, 10:19

Running between 2 mountains, though smallish, this was my favorite section to run.   I slowed a little going uphill but I was fine with that.  I was trying to ignore how warm it was and just keep moving.  The 2:15 pacers passed me- had no idea they were behind me- but I paid very little attention and turned on my music. I walked if I needed a moment and just kept moving.  Another aid station and more water.  I was hydrating with my Beachbody Hydrate in between stations.    We also ran a street I’d never seen before in SLO- well parts of it.  It was pretty.

Mile 7-8 10:20, 11:20 

My legs were feeling good and my breathing was under control.  We had a little downhill before we started what would be the longest climb of the course- not steep just long.  We ran over a timing mat at 7.8 miles and my average pace was 10:37.  I was on track for possibly my strongest half in over a year.  Who knew? We were running through downtown and I always think that’s kind of fun.

Then it went to hell.

Miles 9-10 12:31, 12:57

Something was not right, I was not ok.  It was warm, too warm and I wasn’t handling it well.  My legs started to cramp, my stomach started to cramp, my hands were swelling and I felt like I was going to throw up. I started walking more and more.  I was pissed and just trying to keep the pace. We rounded a corner and I saw a steep, short hill and I let some colorful words fly. 


Then the aid station at mile 9 was out of cups.   Finally in mile 10, I told myself to get my head out of my ass, this wasn’t a PR race, I was using it as training rain; there was no point in killing myself for a finishing time.  I came to a complete stop and tried to stretch out some of the cramping.    Thankfully there was another aid station at mile 10, water!  There were also kids with spray bottles and Iphone be damned, I had them spray water my way.

Miles 11-13 10:43, 11:35, 11:49

A downhill and the water helped me have a slightly faster mile 11 but the there was no going back.  I cramped the rest of the way and felt nauseated the entire time.    I was also letting my anger get to me- why did we start so late?!  Grrr, just keep moving forward.  The men’s marathon winner cruised past me around mile 11.5.    I kept getting water at every station and sprayed down by any kids with bottles.   I was thankful that the aid stations figured out it freakin’ hot and all the later ones had spray bottles and squirt guns.

Under the freeway, up a little a bump and then it was down the path to the finish line.  I got hung up behind a guy and I kind of growled.  I thought I did it quietly- I did not.  I scared him.  I’m sorry!   Somehow in my irritation and readiness to be done, I ran that last .20 ( my watch read 13.2 miles) at a 7:40 pace.   I don’t remember doing that but I was so beyond ready to be done.

Finish- 2:26:09


I was so done.  There was water at the finish line but just little cups.   I didn’t feel dehydrated just hot.  I had water at every station and my entire 25 oz’s of Beachbody while running.     I know I am not acclimated to the heat yet but I just don’t get the later start this year.  Combine that with delayed start and it was recipe for a hot mess.  From what I’ve seen on social media I was not alone in my blow up that day.  The heat and hills got to a lot of people.  I liked the hills!  Well except for the one just after mile 9, that felt like a dirty trick.   I was just grrr about the whole thing.   Still am a bit.  Ok time to move on.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?

It wasn’t all bad- I chatted with nice guy prior to the start. I chatted with a nice older man around mile 6- his friends told him the race was flat.  😬. A nice guy helped me around mile 8 when I was struggling to get my water bottle back into my pack.  All the volunteers were amazing and I love the enthusiasm of the Grizzlies.  The running community is awesome.  

Half marathon #24 done.

Do you run well in heat?

How do you deal when races go south?