Race Report: Big Sur International Marathon

Um.  There’s no pithy way to intro this.  I’m going to recap the race first — since that what you all came to see — and then fill you in on the details of Monterrey, a shakeout run with Bart Yasso where he yelled SELFIE and my general impressions of the race, support, and expo.

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courtesy of my girl, Kathryn!

 

Race -4.5 hours

It’s an early morning when you run Big Sur.  Like Disney early.  My alarm was set for 2:45 but I was nervously up at 2:15.  Full disclosure:  the morning of the marathon I wake up in a Hunger Games-esque panic.  I’m drenched in sweat and my heart is racing.  That might be one of the reasons I love the distance so much.  I fear very few things and if I’m getting that worked up about it, it must be important.

I laid in bed and ate my packed from home honey nut cheerios and my bought from the nearby Trader Joes almond milk so it had time to digest before I had to take a cab to the nearest bus stop.  All 5,700 participants were bussed to the start line starting at 3:15 AM in order to make the 1 hour trek from Monterrey to the start line at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur.  My bus ticket was for 4:30 and I was meeting Mandy and my new bff Jonahtan at their hotel {a host hotel, we’ll talk about that later} to get one of said buses.

I was so nervous I thought I was going to pass out.  So, I wrote my training mileage for this cycle on the inside of my left wrist.  400 miles.  I ran 400 miles to get to this point and I was not going to pussy out.  I slapped on my hat and my pace band and I was off to meet my 3:30 AM scheduled cab.

photo 1

it wore off a stitch during the race

Race -3.49 hours

As I’m walking to the lobby of the hotel, I see my cab pulling away.  Distraught I call the cab company nearly in tears.  I had missed the jerk by literally one minute.  I called MB still sniffling who assured me I would get picked up in time.  He was right, per usu.

Race -2.5 hours

After tipping my cab driver $18 dollars to show my immense gratitude for making up the time in dropping me off I hit the lobby bathrooms and then waited for Mandy and Johnathan.  I was back in my bright pink sweat pants from Cherry Blossom which made me an easy target and my friends gathered me up and we headed onto the bus, me nervously chattering away with Mandy.

When we were loaded they turned off the lights and I tried to sneak another hour of sleep in.  I was derailed by everyone on the bus talking about Boston.  And not just in the “oh I was watching it during work when I should have been filling out my TPS reports” but in the “oh I ran it but missed my PR from 2 years ago on the course by 19 seconds but I tell myself that 3:24 isn’t that bad since I placed in my age group at my local {LA} half marathon earlier this cycle.

Um, am I on the right bus?

I think this topic deserves it’s own whole post so I’ll save it but let me tell you, it did not help wratchet down my ever growing sense of dread.

Race -1.5 hours

Once we were at the drop off point we hit the line for the potties and it was time for me to peel my sweats off and head to the back of the pack.  Big Sur loads its runners based on their expected finish time but there are no corrals.  They just make an annoucment “Hey!  Are you going to finish in over 5 hours?  Head to the back for wave 3!”  No numbers, no corrals lettered A-ZZZ, just get there with your people.  I hugged Mandy goodbye, and gave her my bag to check since she and Johnathan were going to start in the second wave.  I immediately found the 5:30 pacer — the latest pace group on the course and chatted with the other back of the packers and first time marathoners.  For the first time in 3 hours I started to relax.  The weather was going to be perfect — no rain that they originally were calling for and we had nice overcast skies.  I was ready.

photo 1insta-besties ❤

Race +.5 hours

Our wave started about half an hour after the race officially started to give everyone a chance to thin out.  I was surprised we had to wait that long but would soon see why.  The pace group was running 5:1 and the pace was comfortable as we hit the rolling hills and made our way out to the sea.  By the 10K point we had reach the light house and passed the cow fields {the cows happily mooing at us as we went by} and were barreling toward the fabled and toughest part of the course, Hurricane Point.

photo 2

Oh, I’ll see the top of you in a hot minute

Race +2.25 hours

As we got away from the finish line and closer to the big hill, the course went down to one lane which caused a lot of congestion for us at the back and made it hard to stay on even footing on the extreme banks of the road.  I tried to keep it together and not plow anyone over or fall as we made our way to the Point.  The pace group hit the bottom of hurricane point and started a 3:1 to get up over the hill.  Hurricane Point is a 520 foot rise over 2.75 miles. The hill was NO. JOKE but I powered up.  At the top, I was rewarded with a refreshing breeze and the most gorgeous view of the next milestone the Bixby Bridge and the grand piano player.   Our pace group stopped to take a picture but I just kept walking.  I knew if I stopped I would completely lose momentum.  Our group caught up with me way too fast and we were off again.

photo 3

coming around the bend to the famed Bixby Bridge

And then it happened.

My body, my right hip to be exactly, let out this excruciating and loud pop — kind of like when you pop your wrist or your ankle by accident.  But instead of relief, I felt instant stabbing pain.  Pain like I’ve never felt.  Even my pace leader was like um, was that you?  I heard that.  Maybe walk that out a little bit?  One of the last things I remember for this stretch was seeing her and her dark ponytail with the 5:30 sign bob away.

Race +5 hours

So for the next unbearably long 2.75 hours I half hobbled, half walked it off.  As soon as I could get service, I called MB — sobbing mind you — to let him know how bad it hurt but that I was going to keep moving.  At the time of the phone call, one of my dearest running friends, Marcela came out of NOWHERE and gave me a huge hug.  I told her what happened and she assured me it was probably just my muscles adjusting to the extreme climb and the way the roads were banked.  She assured me that I could do it — she’s seen me do it before — and that if I made it to mile 22 by noon I would be OK.  I tried to keep up with her run walk but I couldn’t and promised her I would make it to the next check point.

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oh just running 26.2 miles, taking in the sites.  see the lady hugging the edge of the road? that ish was BANKED.

As I hobbled, I kept my eyes trained on the sea that was at the bottom of the cliff I was running on.  I rubbed the now almost completely vanished 400 printed on my wrist with my right thumb, reminding myself with every step that I deserved to be there.  I had trained for this.  And I would finish.  Around 11:45 I got my second wind and some better footing and trotted for the timing mat.  I crossed mile 22 at 12:00 exactly.

Race +5.9 hours

After crossing the mat I sat down and called Mark.  I told him I made it and that I would walk the remaining 4.6 in.  He said to go the medical tent but that he believed in me and that I could do it.  I ambled to the tent and told them what was wrong.  They elevated my legs and started rubbing down my quads and my hamstrings.  They said it was all super tight but that I probably didn’t do any real damage.  Then the nice people told me I should probably get ride to the finish with the Fail Bus and take a DNF.  Um, no I politely responded.  The nurses looked at each other and the nicest one said, why don’t you call your husband or whomever is waiting for you and we’ll talk it over.  I told them he was going to tell me to walk it in, which was met with rounded eyes of disbelief but I called MB anyway.  He reiterated for them and for me that finishing was the only option.  Man, do I love that guy.  The nice nurse slipped me a few Aleve and 30 minutes later while the other nurses weren’t looking shooed me out of the tent and on my way.

I was feeling a ton better but not really interested in running.  The course had come into the Carmel hills by that point, so I was out of beautiful sea to focus on and up and over every hill pretty much ever created.  I was trying to power walk as much as possible, stopping only for the fabled Strawberry Lady at mile 23.  And then the flashing lights.  The police pulled up to me and said the greatest thing anyone has ever said to me.  Ever.

“Ma’am.  You’re the last contestant on the course.  Are you planning to finish?”

Um, no offense officer, I replied but Fuck. Yes. I am planning to finish. {sorry about the bad language, Mom!}

So then I had a police escort and two course marshals on bikes get me into the finish.  We chatted about what the race meant to me and so many other people that had traveled from all over the world to run it.  And I made them promise me I would get my medal at the end.  They turned on some tunes for me so we could jam while power walking/slow rolling.  So, I hightailed it through the last water stop with my new friends in tow to be the last place finisher at the 2014 Big Sur International Marathon.

Race +6.5 hours

When I got within 1.2 miles of the finish line I started to jog it in.  The course was opening behind me and cars from Carmel honked and clapped as I made my way down the last stretch.  As I neared the finisher’s village I could hear MB, Mandy and Johnathan cheering for me.  I was greeted by the staff dismantling the finish.  I was elated.  Bruce, with the Big Sur International Marathon Board approach me and asked me my name.  Then he handed me my medal.  The girls across the street asked me what my bib number was and recorded the time on the clock.  I dashed across the street into the arms of my dearest MB and my new friends.  As we were walking away, the course marshal stopped on his bike and congratulated me and asked to see my medal.    I seriously don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since.

photo 1

Post Race

Despite the village being dismantled, there were still tons of volunteers to get me what I needed:  bottled water, cookies, a whole pint of strawberries and a chair.  We didn’t camp for long because MB and I had massages scheduled and Mandy and Johnathan had been done for literally hours at this point, so we boarded our shuttle back to their hotel and then Mandy graciously drove us back to where we were staying.  And then of course we got a golf cart ride back to our room.

 photo 2

our own private tiny-bus shuttle. nothing but the best for the last place finisher!!

photo 3

#alltherides

To say that I was sore was the understatement of probably this century.  I have never EVER hurt like that after a race.  I haven’t had a ton of time to reflect on my training versus what I saw on the course but once I do I think I’ll see a void in strength training and hill repeats.  Usually I can fake it until I make it when I leave these key pieces out of training.  But not this time.  Oh no.   Big Sur’s ragged, hilly course doesn’t have time for fakers of any sort.

A lot of people asked if I would run this again.  My initial answer was HELL NO.  But now that there is some distance between me and the ragged edge of the Western world I think I would.  I would need to be in 100 times better shape but the course was beautiful and the support was literally bar none {more about that later this week}.

Best of all it was an amazing experience and showed me exactly what I’m made of.  I always, always finish what I start and give it 100% even when I might not have that much to give.

Oh and I love CA.

Have you ever run a bucket-list race that turned out to be super challenging?  Let’s hear it!

 

 

17 thoughts on “Race Report: Big Sur International Marathon

  1. jonathan says:

    Congrats! Haha, you forgot to mention the short bus private shuttle we had at the end. Definitely an experience I won’t forget. Take care of that medal, I hear its fragile and susceptible to snapping in half when dropped on the ground. Find me on FB, trying to put together some of the go pro footage I took.

  2. Jenereesa @ ScootaDoot says:

    I’m sitting here in tears. I am SO proud of you, Lauren. That course looks absolutely insane and the fact that you persevered and conquered all 26.2 of those miles is something that deserves all the applause. Have you taken the medal off at all? 😉

  3. Running Bear says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, good writing, I felt like I was there with you. Amazing how well MB understands you and knew you had the grit to finish the race.

    I just completed my first marathon in Pittsburgh, if you’re interested, there’s a write-up here. Possibly not as inspirational as your story but hopefully an enjoyable read.

  4. Ss says:

    Great read ! I ran it this year and was laughing at your bus comment about Boston! Same thing happened to me ! And the slope of the course killed me!! I’m lucky to have made it through myself .
    Suzanne

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