Big Sur International Marathon and the final half of the Boston to Big Sur Challenge!
If you know you are not going to finish this novel of a recap…at least read the last three paragraphs.
All I have to say is WOW. This weekend, this race and this place are absolutely incredible. The second we landed, I knew I had made the right decision to come. I was a nervous wreck the week leading up to the race. Was I rested enough? Should I run? Should I just stretch? Should I do mobility? I questioned everything. Once we landed in California and made our way to Monterey, the nerves subsided and the excitement kicked in.
My mom and I arrived in San Francisco late Thursday night and made our way to Monterey the following morning. We made a pit stop in San Jose to do some Cryotherapy in an amazing facility…I tried to get my mom to do a session but apparently being enclosed in a cylinder of extreme cold doesn’t sound appealing to some people. Haha.
In Monterey, we stayed in the Casa Munras hotel and I highly suggest this place to anyone planning on doing Big Sur. It is beautiful, spacious and has the cutest patio and restaurant area. We immediately hit the pool for a little sun and relaxation before heading to the expo. The expo was only a half mile walk which is another bonus to the hotel. The expo was small and low key which is obviously drastically different than the elbow-throwing trek through the Boston Marathon expo…and helps my bank account.
On Saturday morning, I went for a morning shakeout run. I headed in the direction of the expo but really had no route mapped out. I ran past the expo and found myself on a bike path that lead to the water. The views literally stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t want to run too long but I also didn’t want to stop running. I couldn’t wait to take it all in on race day and just let the views fuel my race.
The rest of the day was relaxing and low-key. I sat by the pool for a bit and then did my foam roll/stretching business in the fitness center so I could keep busy without getting too much sun. We were then off to an early dinner, I got in a solid Normatec session and then it was bed…2:45am was going to come very quick!
Flat Mel and Real Mel were ready!
Race morning started at 2:45 am with enough time to make coffee, pack my breakfast and get out the door for the 4am bus departure. The bus was completely dark and it was hard to believe it was morning and we were about the run a marathon.
My fancy $11 Old Navy that I bought the day before was way to comfy to throw-away so I checked it instead.
I ate my bagel on the bus (2 ½ hours before race time..getting better at this fueling business with a little help from Bethany #nochiaseeds) and chatted with the girl next to be who was from Turkey! We arrived at 5am and walked through a wooded pathway to the ‘athlete’s village’ where their bagels, coffee, water and bananas. I was worried about the whole sitting outside in the semi-chilly weather for a whole hour and a half but with good conversation with those around me, the time flew by and before I knew it, I was making my way to the start. The marathon portion of the event is not very large (400-500) so there were no waves or corrals, we just went right to the start line and staggered ourselves based on approximate finishing time. Even the start line was beautiful and we weren’t even in site of the water yet!
Miles 1-6: These miles are where I get the most nervous. You don’t want to NOT feel good this early on so you are hyper-focused on everything. I was running with the 3:25 pace group but decided to slow and let them pass because I really needed to focus on running MY race. I wanted zero expectations and I didn’t want to be squeezed in a crowd of runners while I trying to take in the scenery. There were a good amount of runners wearing their Boston shirt and became a good conversation starter which made the first 3 miles pass by quickly. I was enjoying the conversation for a while but was ready to stop wasting energy and wanted to listen to my music and tune everything out.
Mile 7-9: I have to say, these are sometimes the hardest miles for me. You’ve been running for under/over an hour so your body is starting to feel it a…bit but you also still have AWHILE to go. My outer hip/IT band was giving me some mild discomfort so bits of doubt were beginning to seep in and I had to just keep warding them off.
Mile 10-12: I pulled the ultimate rookie move…or maybe it’s a veteran move…or maybe just a careless move. I did not look at the course map/elevation prior to the race. I heard rumors of some Hurricane Point hill but didn’t think much of it. Well friends, it is NO JOKE. You just keep going up. At this point the 21 milers were in the race and there were a lot of walkers and continued to be a good mix of runners and walker from this point forward. It made for a lot of dodging and going around people but it also gave me comfort. If I ended up having to do the whole ‘walk/run’ thing then at least it would look normal and I would have plenty of people to walk with.
Miles 13: DONE! The climb was over and we were making our way down…not for long though. That halfway point is such a milestone for me. I have raced many half marathons on tired legs or having raced a 10k the day before so I always tell myself that my legs don’t feel any better than that time I raced ______ half marathon. Making this mental note really helps me fight through the middle portion of the race.
Mile 14-20: This segment felt similar to Boston and was surprisingly a mentally strong point. I began to feel confident in my ability to finish and I just focused on chipping away at each mile. I wasn’t clocking amazing splits but I felt strong and had that gut feeling that no matter what happens, I’ll still be able to stick it out. Have I mentioned that the views were amazing?!?
Mile 20 – 24: I really do love mile 20. YOU ARE SO CLOSE. I said those exact words to some woman who was running next to me when we passed the mile marker. She grinned and said that it was her first marathon. How exciting! I asked if she was trying to BQ and she said that it was a dream of hers. Her qualifying time was 3:35 and we were well on track for that. I don’t know why, but I was just SO excited for her. I wanted to push her to the finish line.. even though she probably felt stronger than I did. Haha. Regardless, it strangely gave me a sense of purpose. I made it a point to stay with her and even at one point she saw me trailing back a bit and told me to stick with her. I knew right then that we had to work as a team and I wasn’t going to let her go. The few downhills in this portion were just what we needed to keep the finishing momentum strong.
Mile 25-26.2: I thought the minor incline at the end of Chicago was cruel….but this was just nasty. I may have let out some profanity and big huffs and puffs. The guy next to me just laughed in agreement..more publicly appropriate. We stayed together and fought hard up the hill and when the finish line was in sight, he turned and said, “Let’s go!”….and that is exactly what I did. I had a strong finishing kick and from that point on I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the day.
I made my way to Boston 2 Big Sur tent where we were treated like VIP with the jackets, food, beer and just great hospitality.
I didn’t want to leave and have it be officially over but I was getting a cold and the hotel pool and blue skies were calling my name. After a couple hours by the pool and a delicious lunch and ice cream trip downtown, my mom and I made our way to San Francisco to rest up for an early flight.
It’s all over now – Boston 2 Big Sur Marathon Challenge is complete. I started training for Boston 2 Big Sur in NOVEMBER. Not hardcore training, but started working with a coach, transitioned to running every day and no CrossFit. Since then, it has been an INSANE ride. Injuries led to over-cross training, exhaustion and the combination just brought me to a really low point. I was physically fighting hard..too hard..but mentally I was angry, sad and wanted so badly to give up. I HAD to change my mindset. I HAD to gain control over my training and my mental state of mind if I had any shot of making it to Boston. I HAD to stop being angry and genuinely believe there was a reason for this and the underlying reason will ultimately make me stronger.
..and it did. I clocked my slowest marathon time at Big Sur and Boston was not much faster but not a single part of me was disappointed. Finishing one race, let alone BOTH, was the greatest accomplishment. I finished both Boston and Big Sur with the BIGGEST smile on my face and so proud of myself.
9 months ago I finished San Francisco marathon in TEARS. I was so eager for a PR, started off too fast and blew up at mile 16. I still ran faster than both of these marathons but the experiences was completely different. Chicago was a better experiences but that 3:13 time inflated my ego a bit and all I could think about was chasing another PR.
Maybe I needed to be humbled. Maybe I needed to a reminder that finishing a marathon is an amazing accomplishment. An accomplishment that I could not FATHOM achieving 3 years ago. Maybe my mental game needed to be strengthened. Whatever the reason may be, this training cycle did all of those. I learned to run with my heart, ignore the doubts and just live and train in the moment. After Chicago, I tried to conform to the way others train and this cycle was a reminder that I am different than others and I need to embrace my strength and versatility.
Lastly, I need to thank my amazing Mom who did her best to keep me optimistic throughout the last 4 months. When I lost hope, she gave me that little bit that I needed to keep going. Of course, I was jealous when she was going out for long runs and I was headed to the pool but I was so proud and excited for her. I wanted to run Boston for many reasons, but to share the experiences with her was probably the top reason. She supported my decision to do Big Sur, agreed to come with me and set up the plane tickets last minute. Big Sur Marathon weekend may have been the best marathon weekend thus far. It was only 4 days but it was an amazing 4 days.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL THAT YOU DO.
I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND I CHERISH OUR RACE-CATIONS!