Thursday, April 28, 2016

Blustery Fun At The 2016 Big Sur Marathon

Just six days after the 2016 Boston Marathon, I had the great pleasure of joining 4,000 runners for the 31st running of the Big Sur Marathon near Carmel, CA. This was the second leg in the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge (B2B), one of my favorite road marathon doubles that combines two marathons on two coasts in just six days. It's also just a great excuse to head down to Big Sur and enjoy this wild and amazing stretch of California coast. Don't have to twist my arm hard for that!

(Sophie at 9, Quinn at 5)
My girls came with me on this trip, eager to revisit Carmel Beach, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Expo that inevitably fills their pockets with snacks galore. I was still nursing a sore hamstring, but hoping I would find the right gear to get through the race like I had in Boston (2:55). We took it easy through the race weekend, and before I knew it, I was at the start catching up with runners from all over the world as the sun rose through the redwoods. Once again, the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge had sold out their 400 spots, and I was amazed at how many runners go for it. It was just five years ago it was a bet among locals!

(Magda, Mary, and Julia are ready to roll)

(Neil Pearson goes old school with his sponsor logos)
I jumped into the Elite corral just as Dean Karnazes was finishing the first half of his annual Big Sur double and joining us. We also had local defending champion Adam Roach, Boston 2 Big Sur front runner Neil Pearson, first time Big Sur runners Magdelena Boulet and Tyler Stewart, ultra runner Chris Eide and his pal Sean Curry, and Oswaldo Lopez up from Jalisco, Mexico. Another 5,000 runners would be on the course running 20-, 10-, and 6-mile segments so we would have plenty of company! The weather report said wind, and lots of it, so we would certainly be making friends.

(Black arm photobomb!)
(And we're off!)
As the gun went off, I took it easy in hopes my sore hamstring wouldn't get too angry. It didn't feel much worse after Boston, but definitely wasn't better. I tucked in with a group pulling the lead Women, and by mile 3 we were pushing into a headwind that wouldn't leave us for 20 miles. Magda said she was just out to enjoy the course today, but as we all know, her casual pace is still pretty amazing so it was a solid effort to stick with her. Magda, Tyler, and Julia Stamps stayed close to some tall wind-blocking runners...knowing the usual pace of the lead Women, that headwind was slowing us about 15 seconds/mile to a 6:55 min/mile pace.

(Among the redwoods)
(Here comes that headwind!)
(Taking over Hwy 1, photo courtesy of Jay Dunn)
At mile 10, the great Hurricane Hill came into sight and the wind really started to throw us around. I lost my cap, and in turning around to get it, permanently lost my little peloton. No worries, I hung with Kyle Petty from Sacramento, who would go onto be one of the few runners to negative split the B2B Challenge. We got a rhythm from the drummers, and pounded up the hill.

(the mad drummers!)
Across the Bixby Bridge (mile 13), the wind was so crazy, everyone was just trying to stay focused. An ambulance was picking up one runner right on the bridge - wow! Michael Martinez was once again playing his grand piano in full formal tails right on the cliff. Nothing stops that guy!
(Michael Martinez back again!)
By mile 18, I began realizing the hamstring is a very important muscle when fighting headwinds! My stride shortened significantly, but it wasn't too painful, so I just cruised along. My mind drifted to my previous six Big Sur Marathons, and how my 9-year-old was just an infant the first time I was here. The waves and mountains were gloriously distracting.

(Sean Curry cruises the highlands)

(The strawberry aid station....soooo good!)
Sean Curry and his glitter shorts caught me at mile 21, and it was fun to keep him in sight as we cruised through the Carmel Highlands (mile 22-24), weaving through the many hikers and walkers. I got a handful of strawberries for the final push, and knowing I was just under a 3:10 finish time, kept my head up to finish in 3:09:45 for 30th place and 9th in the B2B Challenge. Hamstring held up once again!

(Adam Roach for the win, photo courtesy of Jay Dunn)

(Magda Boulet adds one more win to her trophy case, photo courtesy of Jay Dunn)
The beer flowed plentifully at the B2B tent, and we learned that Adam Roach (2:35) had repeated his win, a solid eight minutes slower than last year. Magda (3:01) held on to win the Women's group, while Neil Pearson won the B2B Challenge (2:39 + 2:45 = 5:25). I got second in my age group to...Sean Curry! Guess I should have stuck closer to him. (all results) There were a few PR's in the group, but most of us had to add 5-10 minutes thanks to that headwind. Still, lots of smiles to go around!


My thanks to the brave volunteers, race directors, and fellow runners on another fantastic run. My eighth Big Sur Marathon and I can't wait to come back!

- SD