2013 Big Sur Half-Marathon

I have such mixed feelings about this race that its taken me over a week to write this post on it.. Being that this race was the first one I ever ran, it holds a special place in my heart. That first race five years ago was such a great experience and I so wanted this year's race day to live up to it.

Pre Race

The beauty of staying at the Portola Hotel is that it is literally two blocks away from the Start Line and mere steps from the Finish Line.

With the race starting at 7 am, I set my alarm for 5:30 am so that I could have time to eat a {gluten-free} bagel and let it digest. I lounged around for 45-min, got dressed in five minutes and headed downstairs to the lobby at about 6:30 am to check out the scene. As expected, it was packed with happy runners of all age, shapes and sizes. I took a step outside to gauge the temps. It was chilly, but not cold enough for gloves, so I went back up to my room to drop them off but decided to keep my arm sleeves on.

go_prerace
go_prerace

When I got to the Start area there were rows and rows of port-a-potties and no lines. I easily found my corral. There were people checking bibs to make sure you entered the right corral - if I recall correctly, this was something different from 2008. As we got closer to the start time, the corrals began filling and I stood there taking it all in, listening to the conversations going on around me. I deduced that names printed in red on bibs indicated it was the runners first half marathon. And there were a lot of those - about 1700 of the registered 7000 runners - in other words, its a great course for first-timers. :)

Race

The first couple corrals started 3-min apart, and corrals after that started 30-seconds apart so my corral didn't start running until about 10-min after the gun time. I make note of this because I ran without my Garmin.

At the expo I had inquired about clocks on the race course and was told there wouldn't be any. I debated if I should wear my Garmin, but decided against it. I knew I wasn't in PR condition (this was my longest run since SFM) and really wanted to enjoy the race. I didn't want to get sucked into watching time so left it behind.

But right from the start, things didn't go well.

Just a few steps after we started running a guy in front of me stepped on a gel packet and it splattered ALL OVER me. There I was, not even two minutes into the race and was covered in an apple-flavored gel.

Terrible shin splints and GI distress also showed up early too. But I fell into a pretty good rhythm and hoped that things would work itself out. But by Mile 2 I was already stopping for my first of three potty breaks. I thought after that first bathroom stop I would feel better, but I really didn't. My body felt like it was at Mile 22 instead of Mile 2. It scared me - I had never felt that fatigued that early on in a race before.

For the first time ever, my local aunt, cousin and Jasmine were cheering me on at a race. I was so excited to see them at Mile 3 that it took my mind of how lousy I felt.

The great thing about this race is that it is very spectator-friendly. So much so that all my family had to do was stand outside their hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel on Cannery Row, to watch the race. They had packed soccer-mom (i.e. folding) chairs and were bundled up holding signs and ringing cowbells, cheering for everyone. I knew exactly where they would be so I ran on the side of the street where we could see each other from "a mile" (not really) away.

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go_canneryrow

I ran up and threw them my arm-sleeves {because it was so warm by then} at them, stopped for a pic and yelled, "Things aren't going well" and then continued running.

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go_fam

Confession: it briefly crossed my mind to drop out from the race right then and there (how much more convenient could it get?) but this was one race I wasn't going to DNF. Not even if I was dying - which I would soon think that I was.

I don't know why but in my head I always thought that this race was flat. Well I wouldn't call it hilly, but I its definitely NOT flat. There are modest inclines throughout the entire course.

go_feetofftheground
go_feetofftheground

By Mile 5 my shin splints disappeared but at Mile 7 my L hamstring decided to remind me that I had pulled it two weeks earlier. That combined with my continued GI distress and heavy fatigue just wasn't fun. I ran when I could but walked most of the course. Its a good thing we ran with views like this, otherwise it would have been downright miserable.

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go_oceanside

And although I flirted with going to a dark place a few times, I ran mostly feeling so grateful to live and run in such a beautiful area of the world.

When I hit the turnaround at Mile 8 I was convinced that I was looking at a personal worst time and thought it would be around the 3-hour mark.

So you can imagine how utterly shocked I was when the 2:10 pace group passed me at Mile 10. With the amount of limping I had done I wondered how was this even possible?! I made an attempt to run with them but it was so crowded, and the pacer kept talking (a pet-peeve of mine), that I couldn't take it. I dropped back and let them go.

I continued my shuffle, and watched the 2:15 pace group pass. I felt sad because that meant I wouldn't beat my original time of 2:15, but yet I also felt good because I wasn't going to finish near 3 hours.

go_peace
go_peace

The last few miles are on the recreational path along the water. I ran on the dirt on the side of the path which helped my hammy a bit. The crowds were gathered along both sides of the course for the last mile (even impeding the course on the last half mile). Hearing people yell my name and cheer me on was a nice push to the finish, with my finishing time being 2:22:35.

Nowhere close to my PR or my course PR, but definitely not a personal worst.

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go_finish

Post-Race Thoughts

While I am disappointed in how this race turned out for me, I can't help but be grateful for all that it has given me.

If this beautiful race course had not been my first race ever, would there have been a second race?

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go_course

Despite the fact that I wasn't able to run this race the way I wanted to I appreciate the fact that it was this race introduced me to something that I now love to do. I'm proud that five years after running my first half-marathon, I finished my 21st half-marathon, with four marathons in-between.

And I was thrilled to have my family there cheering me on. It meant the world to me to see them there and I love these signs that Jas made for me.

go_goomi
go_goomi
go_goodluck
go_goodluck

I'm not sure why I waited five years to return to Big Sur, but I plan to make it a regular part of my race schedule from now on.

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go_medal