Thursday, May 01, 2014

Coastal Bliss at the 2014 Big Sur Marathon

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 6,400+ runners for the 29th running of the Big Sur Marathon in Big Sur, CA. It was my fifth time at this epic race (and doing the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge), and my final race in the M40-44 age group. The weather was perfect, and ultrarunner teammate Michael Wardian showed us how it's done by shattering Masters records left and right with his overall win. I couldn't have asked for a better way to ring in the new age group!

The light rain couldn't dispel my clan from tagging along for a weekend in Carmel, CA, particularly our two dogs who were thrilled to be along. Carmel is as dog-friendly as a town can get, with its leashless beaches, dog-friendly restaurants, hotels with dog beds, and free biskees at every corner. Everyone they met had plenty of time for petting, and an occasional salty runner leg to boot. 

(The "dog menu" at The Forge restaurant includes The Quarter Hounder, and even steak!)
(Martha tries to convince me she's a lap dog at Carmel Beach) 
(7-year-old Sophie in her natural element)
(Ace, our one-eyed Pug, gets to sit at the big people table)
My legs were tired from Boston Marathon a few days previous, but given I had eased up to enjoy the epic Boston day, there was a bit more left in the tank than previous B2B's. My original goal of improving last year's combined time of 5:38 was also out the window (needed to be in the 2:40's at Boston for that, and ended up 2:55) so I decided to just go with how my body felt. For the first few days, my body felt like scarfing cheese fondue, peanut butter pie, bloody mary's, and plates full of fresh oysters. I quickly learned that "do what the body feels" is something you start at the beginning of the race, not two days before. ;-)
(Pierre from France adds his own red, white, and blue to the race)
(Danni Baird and I don our foil and garbage bag-inspired outfits)
(Dean at his halfway point - the start!)
(Chris Eide, Kenley Gaffke, and I just before the start)
(Color guard and doves)

(Team Vitargo runner Michael Wardian checks his watch while the ladies stretch and levitate)
We got a glorious break in the rainy weather, and by the time we arrived at the start, it was a balmy 45 degrees with just enough cloud cover. There were plenty of familiar faces, including Ian Sharman (2:39 at Boston), Michael Wardian (2:23!), 2x Womens champion Nuta Olaru (2:37), ultra runners Chris Eide (2:59), Danni Baird, super master Bert Keely, Kenley Gaffke, Dean Karnazes (who ran finish-to-start-to-finish at both Boston and Big Sur), Verity Breen, and dozens more. It was stunning to me how many had run Boston this year (~400) and still looked fresh! Me, not so fresh thanks to a slight cold (thanks, Quinn) and a food hangover from waaay too much wine and birthday cake. Nonetheless, at 6:45am, they sent us off!

(First mile is all downhill....just like Boston!)

(Hwy 1 is ours!)
Any thoughts of convincing my body it wasn't three pounds heavy with cake were quickly dismissed as I hit the VERY FIRST port-o-potty. Sigh...never a good sign in a marathon to stop 0.6 miles in. And 2 miles in. And 5 miles in. LESSON LEARNED. AGAIN. Or not, probably. ;-P

(Spectators at the River Inn came a long way!)

(John from Pacific Grove ran the first leg of the relay, then finished the marathon!)
(Enjoying a great overcast day)
Feeling much lighter, I cruised along with fellow ultra runner Myles Fennon (coolest ultra runner  first name ever) who was doing the Big Sur/Miwok double (yikes!) as we encouraged a first-time marathoner through the early miles. We soon joined the insanely fast Wayne Crowe, who at 58 was running his 67th marathon, and he happily paced us up the 2-mile climb known as Hurricane Hill. 

(Verity Breen is the fastest goof I know)

(Starting to warm up)

(Here comes Hurricane Hill)
(The drummers set the beat for the climb)
It was so odd to run up Hurricane Hill without a Class IV gust blowing you every which way, but this year is was eerily calm. If anything, we were sweating like crazy! But all good fun. We crossed the Bixby Bridge, hitting the half way point in 1:33:46, and my stomach finally said it was okay to go a bit harder. With that, I bid Myles farewell and headed through the rolling hills. 
(Bixby Bridge!)
(Pianist Michael Martinez never misses a Big Sur!)

(The coast belongs to the runners)
(Must be the craziest gig...don't step back too far!)
(Getting a few miles with Kenley)
(Jesus Rivera from Palmdale, CA, took even more photos than I did)
In my few moments of rhythmic solitude, I contemplated all the great times I have had in the M40-44 age group, and found this Big Sur Marathon a worthy bookend. I counted about 60 races that I could remember, including 100-milers in the mountains, Ironman's (Ironmen?), ultras, XTerra's, Turkey Trots, and so many new friends and stories...I am humbled by my passions. It wasn't that long ago I was perplexed at those grey-haired, tan and smiling runners recounting their streaks of 5, 10, 15 runs of the same race...and now I'm that guy! Yet I feel younger than ever. Adventure is the fountain of youth, I tell ya.

(Not a postcard!)
(Mile 23 is "strawberry hill")
I powered through the Carmel Highlands (Mile 20-25), which is always a tough way to finish. It's not so much the hills as the fact that we've now done 23 miles on a NASCAR-track road that has almost no flat spots, so your calves start screaming bloody murder. But there's fresh strawberries and lots of runners, walkers, and volunteers to get you to the finish.

(Youn celebrated her 70th birthday today...what an inspiration!)
(Reggae vibes mean we're almost done)
(There's the finish!)
I cruised in at 3:04:22, good enough for 26th place and 10th for the Boston 2 Big Sur (6:00:36). I laughed out loud when I saw I was 7th in my age group...Michael Wardian, now 40, had won the whole race in 2:27:45! That's a Masters CR, new B2B record, and a solid win. I couldn't have been happier to leave M40-44 behind. ;-)

(Wardian, the bearded warrior, brings it home)
Nuta Olaru (2:53) had won the Women's division for a third time, while Ian Sharman (2:41) came in 4th overall, and Bert Keely (3:03) picked up a win for M56-59. Pretty impressive, guys! Everyone was smiling, enjoying the great weather, and grooving to the music at the awesome finish line party. I grabbed a plate of strawberries and chocolate milk for the kids and headed back to the beach to soak in a few more rays.

(Martha, Quinn, Ace, Sophie and brood!)
(Hmm...maybe I am a hoarder disguised as a runner)
And with that, the door closes on M40-44 for good. But now I'm the young guy in M45-49! Young and old at the same time. Man, I love this sport.

My thanks to the 1,000+ volunteers and Race Directors of BSIM for another flawless Big Sur Marathon, and my congrats to all the runners. I will most certainly see you again!


Gear checklist:
Louis Garneau Race Tank (for inov-8 Race Team)
VitargoS2 Energy Drink (x3 scoops)
S!Caps (x1)
Custom Road Running Shoes
Dunkin' Donuts hat (from NYC Marathon)


  1. Wait - you stopped three times for biological breaks, played chopsticks on that piano, took all those pictures, and still managed to get 26th overall? All of this one week after Boston? Wow. (No pictures of the porta-potties is the only glaring thing I see that went wrong.)

    1. Ohhh,,,good call on the port-o-potty pics. It's not like I didn't have time to do that when in there. ;-)

  2. Scott, you take the best in-race photos. Love them! I want to run Big Sur really bad one of these days. Great job!

  3. Beautiful pictures. Very inspiring too! I hope to get to your level some day.

  4. Thanks Scott for your great portrayal of our race. Congrats on your 10th place in B2B as well!
    ~Julie, Marketing Director, BSIM

  5. Jesus Rivera was taking pictures when I was running with him early in the race. Good to know he was still clicking along later in the race as well.

  6. Congrats on the great finish time and 7th place for the combined Boston and Big Sur times! I ran this marathon in 2010 and it's one of my favorites.

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