Race Recap: 2014 Big Sur International Marathon

On April 27th, I ran the Big Sur International Marathon, a.k.a., marathon #4.  Usually, I’m eager to write a recap and analyze every little detail and feeling I had during the race.  This time, however, I felt fairly satisfied with how things went… which means that I’m, for once, hoping to make this relatively short and sweet. (Spoiler: it is definitely not short… whether it’s sweet is up to you to decide!)  If you’re looking for the TL;DR version, I suggest you read my dailymile recap.

Why I wanted to run this race, goals, etc.:
Last spring, I read that Big Sur is one of the most amazing and beautiful marathons in the world.  Since I live less than a 2 hour drive away from the finish line, it seemed like a no-brainer to try to register for it.  I’m glad I signed up the minute registration opened in July, because the marathon was sold out in a record 59 minutes!

Striking a dorky pose at Big Sur in 2009.

Stunning coastline, dorky pose.  My first visit to Big Sur in 2009.

My original “goal” was to simply enjoy the course, i.e., to run at a leisurely pace and take a ton of photos.  However, as race day approached, I couldn’t help but feel like I should race it, especially since I had trained (if a bit haphazardly) and was going into the race sans injury.  As for photos, I reasoned that I could take pictures of the coast any other day of the year.  Moreover, when Mike mentioned that he’d be racing with a Go Pro, that sealed the deal — I’d have access to race footage/photos AND be able to race.  Win-win!

(Update: You can live vicariously through Mike’s recap and GoPro footage of the race.  Experience the Big Sur Marathon while sitting in the comfort of your home!)

I had time goals (A: PR, sub 4:32; B: sub-4:36), but what was important to me was to follow my race strategy of starting out conservatively for the first 20 miles and then hopefully have something left in the tank for the last 6.2.  As always, I hoped to enjoy the experience and to be grateful to my body for being healthy and strong enough to run 26.2 miles.

Pre-race:
Race week and taper went well.  I ran easy 3 times at 3 miles each in the week before the race.  I fat loaded, I carb loaded, I slept as much as I could, and I hydrated.  Saturday morning, the Gypsy Runner and I drove down to Monterey, where we ate a delicious lunch at Hula’s Island Grill (highly recommended!) before hitting the race expo, where I picked up my bib, bus ticket, and shirt.  Then, we went to spend some time with our toes in the sand at Monterey State Beach, where it was sunny but crazy windy.  I desperately hoped that the wind would die down by the next morning, or the race would be brutal.

The rest of the day was very chill.  We checked into the Mariposa Inn (one of the few hotels without a 2- or 3-night minimum) and eventually headed across the street to the Whole Foods for an early dinner.  Then it was back to the hotel room where the GR watched the Sharks playoff game while I prepared for race day.  I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to bring my hydration pack, handheld bottle, or nothing at all.  After much internal and external debate, I opted to bring my water bottle with me in the morning.  That way, I could make a last-minute decision to either race with it or leave it in my drop bag.

I somehow managed to be asleep by ~9:15-9:30 p.m., with 3 alarms set for 2:55, 3:00, and 3:05 a.m. (Did I mention I was afraid of oversleeping?)  After waking up at 2:55 (good God, that was early!), I got dressed and picked up some breakfast from the hotel conference room — an English muffin with PB & J, a banana, and some water.  The GR drove me 5 minutes down the road to the shuttle pick-up, where I got in line, boarded a bus, and arrived at the start of the race with plenty of time – all without incident.  This was notable, as it was the first time I’ve experienced flawless pre-race shuttle execution, so kudos to the race organizers and to the bus driver!

The 26+ mile, hour-long ride in the yellow school bus felt a bit surreal, as we traveled in darkness for over an hour, climbing up and down the hills we would eventually have to run.  Any inkling of motion sickness from the curvy roads, something I was concerned about beforehand, was quelled by a combination of the dark surroundings, sitting in the first row, and the slow speed of the bus.

The start village was very crowded and slightly disorganized.  Lines had formed for porta potties and food/coffee, and it soon became confusing as to which line was for what.  To make matters worse, people sat down wherever there was space, since there was over 90 minutes to kill.  I sat down too close to the edge of one of these groups and had visions of being trampled on, so I moved in toward the middle of the group and eventually befriended the runners around me.

The original plan was to kill time with Mike at the start, not with random strangers.  We planned to text each other; however, neither of us realized that there was no cell phone reception.  D’oh!  I randomly spotted friend of blog-friends Otter on his way to line up for the porta potties, but only because he had informed Mike and I that he would be wearing a tan blazer acquired from Goodwill.  I then went to explore the other side of the village and realized it was much less crowded there –> Pro-tip: bear left instead of right when getting off the shuttle.  The lines for everything are shorter and there was ample space to relax.  Looking back, I wish I had spent 5-10 minutes jogging and doing a dynamic warm-up.  There was very little to no space to do that in the start village, but there probably some room along Rt. 1 at that point.  Oh well.  When they announced that Wave 3 needed to line up, I filled my handheld with water and took off my sweats.   One thing I really appreciated about Big Sur was that they had a “last-minute” bag drop area, where runners could dump their bags on the way to the corral.  Wave 3 runners had a big U-haul truck at the very end of their corral to drop their bags.  It was great; I don’t know why more races don’t do that.

I found the 4:30 pacer and lined up a little bit behind him.  Shortly thereafter, Mike found me and we chit-chatted until the corral started to get really crowded.  We wished each other good luck and he moved up to the 4:00 pace group.  Deena Kastor was the honorary race starter, which was pretty exciting.  Dean Karnazes was also in the crowd, having already run 26 miles from Carmel to Big Sur, halfway through his double marathon #2 of the week (he had done the same at the Boston Marathon 6 days earlier).  Wave 1 (elites & up to sub-3:45) started at 6:45, with Wave 2 (3:45-4:45), which was my wave, starting 5 minutes after.  Just before the Wave 2 start, the most horrible pre-race song came on… and I say this because: (1) the lyrics are awful as a pre-race anthem (“Wake me up when it’s all over”?? Really??), and (2) this was also the start song at the Marine Corps Marathon, so there’s an unhappy association in my brain.  I tried to quell any superstitious feelings that I had about the song being a jinx and focused on positive thoughts.  Same song, different race, and hopefully a very different experience at the finish!

The Race:

big sur course copy

The race started at Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park, where both lanes of Rt. 1 were closed for about 2 miles.  Almost immediately, I had to abandon the 4:30 pace group because my shoe came untied.  And I thought I had double-knotted it!  I had no choice but to spend about half a minute on the side of the road retying my shoe.  On the bright side, at least my dollar store gloves didn’t impede my dexterity.  Once I rejoined the runners, I tried not to get rattled by the unplanned break and focused on my game plan to stay relaxed.

Big Sur was definitely the most trail race-like road race that I’ve ever experienced.  The first 5 miles were very quiet as we ran along the tranquil, Redwood-line road, with only the sound of our footsteps echoing through the crowd.  The aid stations were spaced more than 2.5 miles apart for the first 10 miles, with very small pockets of spectators along the way.  As we passed Big Sur Village,  I recalled our bus driver saying that the onion rings at the Big Sur River Inn were to die for.  Mmmm, onion rings… we shall have to meet another day….

Even though it was cool (mid-40’s) and overcast at the start, I warmed-up quickly.  I could tell it was going to be a humid day, but luckily, not very windy.  I was glad that I had my handheld bottle with me, as I was already covered in sweat after 2 miles.  Throughout the first section of the race, I regularly checked-in with my effort level, especially since I was wary of running too fast during the first 4 miles with a slight downhill.  (Which, looking at my paces, I definitely did *not* go out too fast.)  My effort “test” was to breathe with my mouth closed for a few inhalations and exhalations, which should be doable if I was running easy.  I felt really good during these early miles, but I almost always do, so that wasn’t too big of a surprise.  The challenge would be later on in the race.

I hate to be a whiner, but I admit that I got a little bored of the woods after 4-5 miles — I was ready for some ocean views!  Somewhere around the first relay exchange (mile 5), we finally got our first glimpses of the ocean.  Even though I’ve been to Big Sur 3 times previously, the beauty never ceases to amaze me.  I made sure to look around and admire the scenery every few minutes.  Not having headphones on, I overheard another runner saying, “Look behind us – it’s gorgeous!”  So, I did and it was!  Behind me, the headlands were topped off with slivers of clouds.  To my left was the breathtaking coastline, and to my right, rolling green hills.  It was the very definition of picturesque, and there I was, running a marathon through it all!
Miles 1-6: 10:44, 10:34, 10:18, 10:20, 10:27, 10:12.

The next section was filled with more beautiful scenery, one very loud cow on the hillside that “cheered” us on, and gradual inclines and descents, which is my favorite type of running terrain.  One fellow runner lamented that he wished it was windier, so that he could have the full-on Hurricane Point experience.  I jokingly replied, “Speak for yourself, buddy!”  It was a relief not to be facing headwind, though I had been on the lookout for some big guys to draft behind, just in case it got blustery.

The first sizable hill was around mile 9, which served as a little warm-up for Hurricane Point at miles 11-12.  At the base of Hurricane Point was the 2nd relay exchange and a large set of porta potties.  TMI section (i.e., skip ahead if you don’t like bathroom talk): starting at mile 2 or 3, I felt like I could’ve used a pit stop, but it wasn’t an emergency.  Although I was in that quandry for a while, I also didn’t want to waste time waiting in line for a porta potty.  Looking back, I think I would’ve been more comfortable and may not have lost too much time (or perhaps I would have run faster?!) if I had made use of one the plentiful porta potties at the 2nd relay exchange.  Oh well!

Taiko drummers provided the rhythm to propel us runners up Hurricane Point.  After all of the talk of the immensity of Hurricane Point, it really boils down to one mile of 5-6% grade followed by one mile of moderate ascent.  I made slow but steady progress jogging up the hill, passing many who were walking.  I’ll confess, I felt quite smug about my hill training going up Hurricane Point.  I knew from the course preview video that there are several false peaks, where you think you’re at the top, but you still have a bit more to go.  So, I made sure not to get my hopes up at each turn, and when I finally got to the true pinnacle, it was very exciting!  I looked down to see one mile very steep descent ahead and the infamous Bixby Bridge, marking the exact halfway point of the marathon.  I had survived Hurricane Point – woohoo!

Approaching Bixby Bridge.  Photo credit: Mike.

Approaching Bixby Bridge. Photo credit: Mike.

Crossing Bixby Bridge (Photo credit: Marathon Foto -- which, by the way, I do intend on buying some of these, I just haven't decided which ones yet!)

Crossing Bixby Bridge (Photo credit: Marathon Foto — which, by the way, I do intend on buying some of these, I just haven’t decided which ones yet!)

Thumbs up for Bixby Bridge!

Thumbs up for Bixby Bridge!

Miles 7-13: 10:10, 10:21, 10:34, 10:19, 12:07, 11:16, 9:53.
13.1 split: 2:19:51

At the other side of the iconic Bixby Bridge is another truly unique feature of Big Sur — a baby grand piano played by Michael Martinez.  It was very surreal!  I didn’t stop to take any photos, but there are several good videos online.  I’ve read race recaps where the music could be heard from the top of Hurricane Point, but perhaps due to the nearly windless conditions this year, the music was very faint until I got closer to the piano.

Wait, it's not every day you see a man playing a baby grand piano by the ocean during a marathon?? (Photo credit: Mike)

Michael Martinez and his running fan base. (Photo credit: Mike)

The next 6 miles went by pretty seamlessly.  More beautiful coastal views accompanied by continuous ascents and descents.  Each aid station was full of enthusiastic volunteers cheering on the runners by name, which were printed on our bibs.  The miles were ticking by rather quickly.  I hadn’t felt that good past mile 16 in a marathon since CIM, which made me even happier.  Around mile 19-20, however, I began the first pangs of fatigue, but I was  still optimistic that my race strategy of starting off slowly would pay dividends in the last 10K.  At least I wasn’t succumbing to the emotional downward spiral that hit me at MCM.  Mentally, I still felt strong.  Yay for small victories!

At Rocky Point (I think?), around mile 15.6).

At Rocky Point (I think?), around mile 15.6).

Still cruising at Seberanos Point, ~mile 19.

Still smiling at Seberanos Point, ~mile 19.

Miles 14-20: 10:03, 10:14, 10:25, 10:02, 10:34, 10:31, 10:58.

I had prepared a special playlist to spur me on in the last 10K.  When I passed the mile 20 marker, I felt a little cocky, thinking that I didn’t “need” the playlist and that I could gut it out.  However, the sun decided to make an appearance and the sudden change in weather also warranted a pick-me-up.  Earbuds in, playlist on!

Approaching the 21 mile marker, an ambulance passed on the right side of the Rt. 1 (the left or northbound lane was closed for the runners, while the right lane was for official and emergency vehicles).  Soon after, we were diverted to the right lane for a short span.  As we passed the detour, I saw a man collapsed on the road, who I assumed was a fellow runner.  (Later, I learned that the man was a bicycle course marshal and had suffered a cardiac event.  He died later that day.)  It was an alarming and unfortunate sight to see.  It was also sort of ironic, given that one of my mantras leading into Big Sur was to race like the GR’s dad RC, who really gets into the zone during races.  By that, I mean that RC is capable of suffering A LOT during races… so much so that he collapsed at the end of a 5K last year and couldn’t recall the last mile he ran before collapsing.  (Thankfully, RC was fine.)  So, I thought that I should run like RC, but hopefully avoid emergency medical attention.

Many Big Sur race recaps and veterans say that miles 21-23 are the hardest part of the course, due to the steep rollers and cambered roads.  And guess what?  They’re right!  It wasn’t as terrible as I had imagined, but it’s a tough section after 20 miles of continuous hills.  I had my first short walk break at ~21.5.  Unlike my walk breaks at MCM and Oakland, I was able to stick with predetermined break lengths or distances and only on uphill sections.  The one exception to this rule was Strawberry Hill at mile 23, where I grabbed 4 huge, juicy strawberries and allowed myself extra time to savor them.  BEST AID STATION EVER.

This is my, "Who the heck thought it was a good idea to take photos with school buses as the backdrop?" face.

This is my, “Who the heck thought it was a good idea to take photos with school buses as the backdrop?” face.

As much as I wanted to run hard, my legs were feeling so heavy by this point and my calves had started to cramp.  Like at Oakland, they would come on whenever I turned up the intensity just a tad, which was frustrating.  However, I only cramped about 2-3 times, and they went away quickly after short 5-second walk breaks, so it definitely could’ve been worse!  Despite feeling physically worn-out, I was still very sharp mentally and upbeat emotionally.  Whereas in previous marathons, I would’ve lamented, “5K more to go?? Ugh.”, this time, I thought, “Only 5K more to go! I’m almost done!”   I credit 3 things for this positive change: (1) my race strategy of starting off conservatively, (2) keeping on top of my fueling strategy (4 Gu’s consumed during the race – a fueling PR!), and (3) my playlist.  In particular, I think Salt n Peppa’s “Push It” may have been responsible for a much faster split in mile 25, along with the net elevation loss.

This was one of the uphills towards the end that I actually ran... and maybe only because I saw the photographer there.  They should've put photographers at every hill, for all of us motivated by vanity.

This was one of the uphills towards the end that I actually ran… and maybe only because I saw the photographer there. They should put photographers at every hill, for those of us motivated by vanity.

There was a nasty hill at the beginning of mile 26, which was only nasty because it was so late in the race, to be honest.  The nice part was cresting that hill and cruising downhill all the way to the finish line.  I kept looking for a sign of the finish, which finally came into view as we made a turn in the road.  That finish arch was a sight to behold!  I picked up the pace and looked for the GR among the spectators and finally saw him with about 100 yards to go.  Miraculously, the calf cramps stayed at bay for the home stretch, kicking in just as I crossed the finish mat.  Also quite miraculously, I actually remembered to put up my arms for the finish line photos, but I must’ve done it too early because there are zero photos of me with my arms up.  Oh well.  One of these days, I’ll master the fine art of the finish photo!  I was so happy to be done.  One important lesson that I learned after MCM is that every marathon finish should be a place of gratitude and pride.  Take joy in the moment!

"Please don't cramp, please don't cramp..."

“Please don’t cramp, please don’t cramp…”

Heading for the finish! (Photo credit: Mike and Katie)

Heading for the finish! (Photo credit: Mike and Katie)

Sudden calf cramp

A sudden calf cramp wasn’t enough to keep the smile off my face.  It did feel incredibly awkward, however.

Miles 21-26.3: 10:15, 11:17, 11:26, 11:42, 10:29, 12:00, 9.40 (for last 0.3). 
2nd half split: 2:20:17 (26 second positive split)

Official Time: 4:40:06 (10:41/mile)
Standings: 117/295 AG, 661/1642 F, 1650/3334 overall

Proof! Official finisher!

Proof! Official finisher!

Race Data: Splits & Elevation v Pace

BSIM splits.  The first split includes ~30 seconds for shoe-tying!

BSIM splits. The first split includes ~30 seconds for shoe-tying!

Pace in blue, elevation in green.

Pace in blue, elevation in green.

Fuel:

  • 1 Clif Blok at miles 7,13, 19.
  • Caffeinated Gu at miles 4, 10, 16, 22.
  • Water throughout.

Post-race:
I stumbled through the finish area, picking up my ceramic finisher’s medallion, taking an official finisher’s photo, and grabbing tons of food and drinks from the food tent.  Then I reunited with the GR, who acted as my post-race sherpa — I handed him my things in a discombobulated state, trying to figure out what I wanted to do.  We met up with Katie and I decided the priorities were to hit the bathroom followed by a short post-race massage.  The massage was just okay (what do you expect from a free massage?), but at the very least it felt good just to lay down and take my shoes off.  We eventually reunited with Mike, who ran a terrific race despite almost not making it to the start line due to plantar fasciitis.  After cleaning up, the four of us celebrated with delectable sandwiches from Ike’s.

With Mike at the finish.  Victorious!

With Mike at the finish. Victorious! (Photo credit: Katie)

Summary of #ALLTHEFEELINGS:
Well, I may not have met either of my time goals, but I definitely had a much better racing experience at Big Sur than I had in at MCM and at Oakland.  I haven’t had a good long run this whole training cycle, so it felt great to still feel relatively upbeat and energetic as late as mile 21.  I honestly feel like I gave Big Sur a very good effort, and if I had been this smart about racing at Oakland, I most likely would’ve had a much better 2nd half of that race.  Big Sur ignited a feeling that I could actually RACE a marathon and not just run it… though next time around,  I’ll opt for a flatter course!  I definitely enjoyed the race and savored the finish — both worthy goals not to be overlooked.  Last but not least, thanks to those who sent me good wishes and congrats before and after the race, to Mike and Katie for their company and for sharing photos, and to the GR for being the best chauffeur, spectator, and post-race sherpa there ever was!  Cheers!

swag

 

***

About the race:

  • Organizers: Big Sur International Marathon
  • Cost & Registration: $160 (including Active.com fees).  The race is limited to 4500 participants and this year’s race sold out in 59 minutes.  In May, they’ll announce whether they plan on changing their registration methods (i.e., move to a lottery system).
  • Course: Scenic and hilly.  My Garmin registered 2000′ gain/2300′ loss.  It’s been rated by many publications as one of the most beautiful and must-run marathons in the world.
  • Parking/Transportation:  There’s plenty of parking in downtown Monterey close to the shuttle pick-up pre-race.  After the race, shuttles transport runners back to the Carmel/Monterey areas.  The GR dropped me off at 3:45 a.m. about 2 blocks from shuttle pick-up without any problems (i.e., no traffic congestion).
  • Aid stations: 14 in all.  The first 4 are spaced about 2.5 miles apart, and then less than 2 miles apart for the remainder of the course.  They were very well-organized, with volunteers on either side of the road handing out water first, then Gatorade.  At the end of every other aid station starting at mile 10, there was a bottle refill station sponsored by Camelbak.  Also starting at mile 10, they had bananas at every aid station.  Gu was offered at miles ~12 and ~18, and the flavors were announced well in advanced, which I appreciated.
  • Bathrooms:  There were 3-6 porta potties at every aid station, 10-20 at each relay exchange, and a random one here and there between aid stations.  Plenty of porta potties at the start and finish.
  • Swag:  Gorgeous, distinctive ceramic medal on a leather strap/rope.  Attractive, long-sleeve technical t-shirt.  Virtual goody bag, filled with coupons.
  • Post-race food and drinks: A wide variety of drinks and food, including water, Gatorade, chocolate milk, pineapple orange juice, Michelob Ultra, fruit, cookies, bagels, and pretzels.
  • Other notes/summary:  Lives up to its reputation as a gorgeous and well-organized race.  Highly recommended!
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About

Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in Race Recap
24 comments on “Race Recap: 2014 Big Sur International Marathon
  1. gracechua31 says:

    You and your teeny tiny races! 🙂 Big Sur sounds like a great, well-organised race and it sounds like things went according to plan (I don’t know if I’ve ever had a marathon go according to plan so that in itself is quite a feat). Those hills are killer, though. So sad to hear about the bike course marshal.
    What is the start time though? 2.55 is an insanely early wake-up call.

    • Jen says:

      Yeah, this race was *tiny* for a well-known race, though, for the record, I have run big races before — the Marine Corps Marathon was like 30,000 people?

      The 1st wave started at 6:45, but they have to allow for the school buses to go from Monterey to Big Sur, then back to Monterey, and the route is (as you might have ascertained from the recap) windy and hilly, so it takes them a LONG time. The good news is that, after this, I’m no longer fazed by early race starts.

  2. Amy says:

    Push it. Push it good! This song will be playing in my head all day now. (and yes, much more motivational than Avicci).

    I know that you didn’t meet your time goal, but I’m so happy that you had a great experience and that you feel like your race strategy paid off. It sounds like a reasonably tough course, and I think you did great with all of the hills! That’s really awful about the course marshal. I don’t know how I would have held up if I witnessed something like that.

    Annnnddddd…still jealous of your race pictures. Every time. These ones are particularly epic because of the ocean view.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Amy! You *just might* see a sign with “PUSH IT” at Santa Rosa in August. 😉

      Seeing the collapsed course marshal was so surreal, especially because it was so late in the race. I felt really bad for the runners who were nearby when he collapsed, because none of them knew how to perform CPR and they just ended up waiting there for over 4 minutes for the ambulance to arrive (according to reports). So sad.

  3. aewills says:

    Yay!!!! Congratulations on a great race! Oh, my goodness…this is the first time I’ve taken a good look at the elevation gain for Hurricane Point–that is serious business. I am totally with you that races should always station photographers at the top of the hills for motivation :). Awesome, awesome work.

  4. Cathryn says:

    There is so much to be celebrated here! Clearly your time was excellent on this course, even if it wasn’t a PR. But also you raced this SO well both physically and mentally, reading the recap sounds like a switch has been pushed and that something has clicked in your marathon running. I can’t help but think that on a more PR-friendly course, you would have PR’d!

    So very sad about the marshall. Truly awful.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Cathryn! You’re right – I think something did click with this marathon, and I hope to write more about that in another post. Even though I originally wanted to finish faster, I honestly didn’t care at the end of the day because I felt like I tried my best (plus or minus a couple of minutes). The finish time became kinda neutral and arbitrary instead of the main focus/summary of the race — which is unusual for me, and a step in the right direction, I think! I know I definitely could’ve PR’d on a faster course — hopefully that will happen soon.

  5. MILF Runner says:

    What an experience! Sounds like you did a pretty amazing pacing job and kept a great mindset the whole time 🙂 Way to go!!

  6. Dan says:

    I love reading about a race that the runner really enjoyed — experienced, lived and loved. It’s one thing to read about a fast pace and how someone grunted through the pain, but it’s something much more enjoyable (as a reader, anyway) to read about a runner finishing all smiles. Despite the hills and the intimidating distance, you made it to the finish in one piece and with only positive things to say.

    Admittedly, I checked results for this race to see how everyone did, but it took me a little longer to figure your results out because there was a Jen Lee and a Jennifer Lee, one from Oakland, the other from San Francisco. So after a little mind-searching, it all made sense. Still, if there were ever another Dan(iel) Solera running a race, and from the same metropolitan area as me, I’d suspect someone of charlatanry.

    Congratulations on running one of the most beautiful marathons in the country and making every one of your readers jealous. And glad you got to meet Otter — I’m sure you got a good first impression with his Macklemore thrift shop getup.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Dan! I’m happy that I had a positive story to tell, both for myself and for my readers! I feel like focusing on process-based instead of outcome-based goals really helped me to stay positive this time around. Slowly, but surely I’m starting to understand how to race this beast called the marathon. The beautiful scenery and almost perfect conditions didn’t hurt either! (Unlike your unchanging backdrop at Shiprock…)

      Re: the “other Jen Lee”. I saw that a couple of days before the race when I was looking up my bib number. I even tweeted that I hoped people wouldn’t get confused – sorry you didn’t get the memo. The good news is that I beat the other Jen Lee by 10 minutes! I take special pride in that since I’m 7 years older than she is. (not that you can tell by the preceding 2 sentences) 😉

  7. KrisLawrence says:

    You make this race sound so amazing that I’ve added it to my bucket list of races to run. The early wake up time scares me though 😉 Anything before 4 am is crazy. Congrats on a great race, even if you didn’t meet the time you were hoping for, with the hills and the beautifully distracting views, I think that has to be a race just to run. You did fantastic!

    I’m sorry about the course marshall. That is heart-breaking.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Kris! Yes, definitely add this to your bucket list! It would be a great trip for your whole family as well. I know, the wake-up time sounds crazy, but it really wasn’t that bad. Just put it at the beginning of your trip and you’ll have the advantage of the 3 hour time difference.

  8. Mike says:

    Great recap of a great race experience, I felt like I was right there running alongside you! 😉 And I’m glad I was. Clearly you did something very right out there, because crossing that finish line you looked amazingly happy and upbeat for someone who’d just run one of the toughest road marathons in the country. I’d say you’re getting the hang of this! This is a clear case of actual finish time meaning very little… as soon as you stop listening to your more masochistic side and opt for a less challenging course than Oakland or Big Sur, I’d expect your PR will be trampled underfoot.

    I agree that Hurricane Point is best experienced windless, since the race registration fee is the same regardless of the level of suffering. And I wish my stomach were more amenable to food intake during races – the vibrant red strawberries after mile 23 became a look-but-don’t-touch experience for me, though I feel like a gained a vicarious sugar rush just seeing them lined up as I ran by.

    Like you, I particularly appreciated the fact that despite being a truly international race, the BSIM still maintains a low-key feel very much like the trail races we typically run. Dan’s Shiprock experience sounds similar, and I’ll always seek out those types of races to complement the Chicagos, L.A.s and New Yorks whenever possible. Just another of the many awesome benefits of running.

    Congrats on a memorable weekend (other than the Sharks’ performance, ugh), and look forward to racing together again soon!

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Mike! It was great to “share” this experience with you, and I’m so glad the 4 of us were able to spend some time together after the race. You really did miss out on the strawberries… now I don’t feel so bad about grabbing so many. I probably “made up for” all those who couldn’t partake (wow, I’m so selfless!). Also, thanks again for all of the photos!

      As for a less challenging course for that marathon PR…. well, I think I heard this from you before about selecting a faster half marathon course, and I don’t doubt that you’re right again about this one! Maybe CIM in December. We’ll see!

  9. […] vs. running: As I mentioned in my Big Sur recap, I’m finally starting to understand how to race a marathon as opposed to just running one.  […]

  10. […] Bay Area buddies Jen and Tim, who enjoyed what may have been Jen’s strongest marathon to date. Whether you’re planning to run Big Sur yourself or prefer to race vicariously, I’d recommend her meticulously detailed race report. […]

  11. Helen says:

    Hi Jen, I have a question for you. Big Sur was my first race and I loved it. I did the relay with five other people and as you know there were five legs. I went to the results site and put in my bib number and have no idea how to read the results. It gives 6 splits but there are five legs. I thought there would be time given for each leg. What is a split and why 6 splits with 5 runners doing 5 legs? I’ve searched on line for an hour and was hoping you could tell me.

    The data is Split 1= 01:17:41, Split 2= 00:17.24, Split 3=00:58:36, Split 4=01:27:14, Split 5=04:14:03, and Split 6=05:02:14. Elapsed time was 05:38:36 and pace 05:38:36. I ran the first leg so I had the data collector but I ran the first ten miles and the second rely person ran the first ten miles also. The other 3 relay team members did one leg of the race (legs 3-5). They told us only the first and last relay runner had data collectors on their bib. Could you explain what the data represents? Thanks

  12. Jen says:

    Hi Helen! I’m not sure — the splits don’t look like they correspond with any distances and aren’t in regular increments. Perhaps you can write to the race director or the timing company and ask them?

  13. Dominick S. says:

    Dang, you weren’t lying about this not being short and sweet! It’s good to know that I am not the only long winded blogger out there! Sounds like you had a great race on a beautiful course…now find a FLAT marathon and get that PR. This recap has me torn on running this race…hills, early start and the fact that its a marathon…maybe pass???

    • Jen says:

      The hills are tough, but are honestly not that bad if you’re used to running trail races. The early start — well, I kinda figured that I never sleep well the night before a race, so why not? If you don’t want to run the marathon, the 21-miler runs through the most scenic parts of the course, so that’s a choice worth considering. But man, it’s a BEAUTIFUL course – you would love it!

  14. […] race experience? No question about it, the Big Sur International Marathon was my “race of the year”, not because I ran a PR (I didn’t), but because of the […]

  15. […] didn’t have any time goals, I didn’t worry about pacing as much as I usually would. At Big Sur, I managed to get to mile 21 feeling good, and then fatigue and cramps got the better of me. At […]

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