Thursday, November 15, 2007

Big Sur Half Marathon

"Oh crap," my wife's friend said, "check out the intersection!" I looked over the top of the car to see a roadblock getting blown across the intersection. We all looked at each other and quickly agreed that this race would be a tough one if this wind persisted. I was with my wife and a workmate of hers outside our car on a street in Monterey.

Me, my brother, and Lori at the Big Sur Half Marathon, 2007 Me, my brother, and Lori hanging out after the race.

We were there for the Big Sur Half Marathon. My brother, wife and I had run this together last year. I hadn't had the running mojo last year, and my wife had been working some insane hours and just couldn't get much time to devote to running and as a result hadn't really looked forward to it. We did alright, but my brother had been doing some running and was really looking forward to it, as it was his first race - and he really liked it. And right after he wanted to sign up for this year, so we did. This year the race happened to be on his birthday, so matter what it would be great to spend the day with him and run a race in a beautiful place!

This year my brother and a friend of his stayed in Monterey Saturday night, so they could hit the expo and not have to drive back and forth from Sunnyvale. Lori and I drove down Saturday afternoon to pick up our race packets, meet my bro and his friend at the expo, then had dinner with them in Monterey before heading back home. Lori and I split a pizza - our fave toppings being pepperoni, pineapple, and jalepeno! Love the spicy stuff. :-)

Sunday morning we met her friend in Scotts Valley and drove to Monterey. I could tell it was a bit windy while driving, and the skies looked a bit dark as the forecast called for a good possibility of rain Sunday morning. Our thoughts of good times were quickly being reevaluated.

The race starts at the intersection of Del Monte and Tyler Streets in downtown Monterey and ends at the Custom House plaza in downtown Monterey. While called the Big Sur Half Marathon, this run really has nothing to do with Big Sur except for it is put on by the same folks that do the Big Sur Marathon in the spring, as far as I can tell. Oh well, guess it sounds better than the " Monterey to Pacific Grove and Back Half Marathon," or the "Tour of Really Expensive Housing of the Monterey Peninsula Area Half Marathon."

The mandatory stop at a bathroom for the three of us ate up most of our pre-race time and a warm-up was pretty much "sent" down the drain, so to speak. Oh well, that's what the first mile is for, I told myself. I wished Lori and her friend luck, and hopped the gate into my "corral" start area. A couple minutes later, we were off and on our way. My strategy was to not go out too fast and just see how things were going for the first mile or so and then determine if I could pick things up to go for my ultimate goal of a sub 1:30 time. I felt pretty good starting out, and at the first mile I was at...6:50!

"Uhh ohh," I thought, "I've gone out too fast and I'm gonna die later on!" I had definately felt like I was warming up that first mile, but hadn't felt like I was struggling at all. My breathing was good, I was feeling stronger, and my legs were getting warm and loose. I settled into that pace and after a few more miles the crowd thinned out and at one of the mile markers one of the volunteers called out "1:28 finish." I knew it was still early, but still, I was pleased I was on a good pace early on. Maybe I could keep it up long enough to counter a late-race slow down. I was still feeling pretty good, though, and didn't have a problem keeping the pace.

Fortunately, the wind wasn't the issue it seemed it was going to be. It did blow a bit, and for a short distance I had to really put my head down and push a little to maintain pace. No rain, too. Overall, the weather turned out to be quite nice. The course is really nice too. Especially once it gets out on the coast in the Pacific Grove area. The Pacific Ocean in the Monterey Peninsula area is really beautiful, no matter the weather. Having the opportunity to run this area is quite a treat, and it's not an uncommon sight to see runners taking in the scenery during the race.

Soon, runners going the opposite direction let me know the turn around wasn't too far off. I always like seeing the front runners, as they are fun to watch and cheer on. Some are so focused they don't even register awareness of anything but the road. Others will acknowledge you and pump their fist or something like that. Not far after the turn, I saw my bro. He was looking good and we exchanged a high-five. A few minutes later I thought I saw his friend but I wasn't sure. Turned out it was. A little later I picked out Lori and her friend running together. I couldn't believe I saw everyone I knew there! Could it be that the stars were aligning?!?

I was still feeling pretty good at the turnaround, but was starting to feel something in the top part of my left leg - the back and front. I had felt something like this before, but not both the front and back at the same time. Within two miles I wasn't sure if my left leg was going to seize up on me or not. It felt...trippy. Not sure quite how to describe it, but it didn't slow me down, apparently. At mile 10 or 11, a volunteer called out "88 minute finish." I was still on track! I couldn't believe it!

At that point, I pretty much figured I could do it no matter what - barring a complete breakdown. Fortunately, my leg started to feel less trippy. While I didn't feel like I could kick out a fast sprint, I could maintain the pace I had been on for the entire race. Down the last couple miles I did manage to pass a couple of people, and was passed by one guy who was just smokin it. He passed me handily, and I didn't have anything but encouragement to offer in return, as there was no way I was going to match his pace at that point. I'll have to work on saving a little more for a final sprint. :-)

Running down the last mile there were quite a few spectators cheering on all the runners. I pushed it all the way to the end, and was elated to see my finish time of 1:28:24! Not only a PR, but I hit my "stretch goal" for the race - under 1:30! I came in 85th out of 3,594, and 6th in my age group (40 - 44)! WOOHOO!!! I am very happy with my race. Even better, everyone I knew at the race achieved their goals too.

I hung around the finish corral for my brother, and he came in a few minutes later. He beat his time goal, besting his time from last year by 7 - 8 minutes! Next his friend came in and he beat his time goal, too! We met a few other of my brother's friends and they all ran well. After getting some food, my brother and I went to see if we could see Lori cross the finish line. She wasn't too sure about her ultimate goal, as things had conspired against her in the previous couple weeks and she didn't run a lot, but she was sure she would set a PR nonetheless. We missed her at the finish line, but that was a good thing, it turned out. Seems she was feeling pretty good, and running really strong Sunday. She beat her ultimate goal - by 2 seconds! She wanted to run better than 2 hours, and came in at 1:59:58. She still gets a chuckle out of the two seconds. I still get a big smile that she beat her goal.

Breakfast of Champions!

We hung around for awhile, had a celebratory beer or two (can't remember the last time I had a beer before 10 am), watched the awards presentation, then headed home. It was a fun day and great to see everyone I know achieve their race goals. And spend the day with my bro on his birthday. Yes, a great day.


Topher said...

Great race report. I'd love to run the Big Sur, looks like beautiful scenery. That's coming from someone who lives in Kansas, so take it for what it's worth.

Anyway, great blog; I found it through Complete Running Network and added it to my feed. Keep blogging!


andyb said...

Hi Topher - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I have to agree with you on the scenery at the Big Sur Half. Running out on the coast in the Pacific Grove area is pretty amazing, and I am fortunate to be able to run in this area.

I have not been to Kansas, but have been all over the country and it seems that every place has its' own special beauty to it.

I checked out your blog, and love the donut theme - seems we all run for various reasons, and donuts are as good a reason as any other. :D