Lessons Learned From Big Sur & What’s Next

I always like to write a post about lessons I learned from a marathon for future reference, so Big Sur shall be no different!  Here’s a collection of random thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Racing 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.  I’ve also gained some insight into how non-competitive I can be — when things get tough, I often resign myself to simply finishing instead of pushing hard.  I know that there are races that I want to run for fun and those I want to try my best.  The key is, if I decide to try my best, then I should really commit to it!  I gotta be in it to win it, yo.
  • Process-based vs. outcome-based goals.  I’ve read that sports psychologists encourage athletes to set process-based goals, such as “I’ll try my hardest” or “I’m going to follow my race strategy”, rather than outcome-based goals, such as finishing in a particular time or within a certain ranking overall or among your age group.  The reasoning is that you have control over process-based goals, whereas outcome-based goals are left up to chance or circumstance, such as the weather, who else showed up, or how your breakfast digested (or not, as it were).  The reason why Big Sur was such a satisfying race to me is that I felt that my strategy was unfolding just as I had planned.  Even when it appeared to be unraveling a little, like when I took my first walk break, I still managed to stick to my plan of keeping them short.  For the first time ever at a marathon, I felt oddly neutral about the finish time.  It was just one aspect out of many things that described my race experience — no more, no less.
  • Just because it didn’t chafe once, doesn’t mean it won’t chafe another time.  I wore the same outfit for both Oakland and Big Sur.  Oakland = no chafing at all.  Big Sur = OUCH.  I blame the humidity.
  • Having a specific plan, especially with fueling, can be extremely helpful.  I’ve been pretty bad about following fueling plans in the past, but I remember staying on top of it at CIM with good results, so I thought I should try to do the same at Big Sur.  I took Clif Bloks at miles 7, 13, and 19, and Gu’s at miles 4, 10, 16, and 22.  I also planned to turn on the music at mile 20.  Having these goal posts kept my mind occupied with some thing to look forward to, especially in the latter parts of the race.  It was also a good way to feel like I had been making progress.
  • By all means necessary, do a warm-up (or whatever your pre-run/pre-race routine is).  I always do a set of dynamic stretches before every run and I like to do a short jog before every race.  Though I can’t be certain, I bet that it would’ve helped if I did my normal routine.  Perhaps I would’ve identified my shoelace issue before the race started, or settled my stomach a little bit.
  • Shoes can make a huge difference.  After Oakland, where I bruised a toenail pretty badly, I went out and bought a new pair of shoes 1/2 size bigger to avoid the the same issue at Big Sur.  While I don’t love them (Merrell Bare Access 3), they kept my feet pretty happy.  It was the first time when I’ve finished a marathon and haven’t: (A) been hobbling around with foot pain or tenderness, or (B) wanted to take my running shoes off immediately and change into another pair of shoes.  Victory!
  • You get out what you put in.  This is in reference to my training leading up to Big Sur, which was all over the place.  I didn’t follow any sort of plan, which was good (more relaxing), but also bad (I wasn’t in quite as good shape as I could have been).  It was fine for Big Sur because it wasn’t my goal/A race, but I learned that “winging it” for marathon training doesn’t quite cut it.

So, after Big Sur, what’s next?

I’ve been seriously contemplating signing up for the Novato 10-miler on May 25th, which is the 2nd out of a series of three 10-milers organized by Corrigan Sports.  You might remember that I ran the Foster City 10-miler in January and loved it.  This one looks a little tougher elevation-wise, but quite pretty for a road race.  Plus, I’ve never been to Novato before, so it might be a good chance to go exploring!  There’s also a 5K on the same day.  If you’re interested in signing up, use the code COOLRUN to save 15% off either race.  

This is what shows up when you Google Novato.  Pretty nice, huh?

This is what shows up when you Google Novato. Pretty nice, huh? {source}

What else??  I admit that the short time window between Oakland and Big Sur made me start thinking about qualifying for Marathon Maniacs.  I would only need to run a 3rd marathon within 90 days of Oakland to qualify for Bronze level.  But, I held off on doing any 3rd marathon-related research until after Big Sur, since I didn’t know how I’d feel — burned out, tired, or happy.  Luckily, I’ve been feeling pretty excited still about running, so after a bit of research and some thought, I signed up for my 3rd marathon of 2014 — the Big Basin Marathon on June 8th!  I chose this race for many reasons.  First, one of my goals this year was to run a trail marathon, so this would kill 2 birds with one stone.  Second, I convinced KP to run it too, and races are always more fun with friends!  Third, the race is a point-to-point course along the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, which starts in beautiful redwood forest and ends up at the beach.  In a word: gorgeous, which I just can’t seem to resist these days.  😉

After Big Basin, I’m taking an almost 2 week vacation, during which I’ll still run some, but definitely not as much.  At the end of July, I’m signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon (1st half), which I’m definitely running for the experience and not for a fast time.  After July, my race calendar is empty!  However, I’m contemplating the following races: Summer Breeze (either 5K or 10K), Ragnar Napa, Drag-n-Fly 10K (if Ragnar doesn’t work out), Healdsburg Half Marathon, and CIM (????).  If I do CIM, I’ll be serious about training because I want to CRUSH my PR set there 2 years ago.  On the other hand, I’m also thinking that maybe 3 marathons in a calendar year is enough?!

What do you think?  What races should I run?  Should I run CIM or take a break from marathons for a while?


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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15 comments on “Lessons Learned From Big Sur & What’s Next
  1. vttrailgirl says:

    Skyline, for sure (yay for trails)!! Novato looks beautiful, too.

  2. I like the way you have reflected on the Big Sur. I have to go back and read the full recap! Process based goals are definitely the way to go…I’ve been doing this more and I’ve found that it’s made my races much more enjoyable.

    • Jen says:

      Yeah, I’m wondering why it took me so long to get to process-based goals. I guess it’s because outcome-based goals seem more obvious, tangible, and quantifiable. Process-based goals, on the other hand, are somewhat subjective and based on personal experience/history. No point here, just rambling. 😉

  3. Amy says:

    I love reflection! All good lessons to take with you to the next one. I always have a fueling plan, and it is weird how much I look forward to those miles where I can enjoy my yucky sticky ClifShot. Just something to break up those long stretches of miles!

    I’m definitely a “one race at a time” type of person, but I think you’ve managed to build up your base enough where CIM wouldn’t be too hard on your body despite the other 3. Plus, it isn’t until December, right? I say go for it.

    • Jen says:

      I know what you mean about looking forward to yucky sticky gels. I picked up tri-berry Gu at one of the aid stations, which is the ONLY Gu flavor that I’ve tried that I don’t like. I actually looked forward to taking it because that meant that I had run 16 miles! Luckily, I had my water bottle with me to wash down the disgusting medicinal aftertaste. Yuck.

      Thanks for your input about CIM! I’ll definitely take it into consideration.

  4. Dan says:

    I’m with Amy on this one — you’ll have maintained your fitness through the fall, so that training for CIM won’t be as intense and, weather pending (which historically is a big IF for you), you’ll be able to kill it.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks for your input, Dan. Weather is always a big if at CIM – last year it was so cold that water from aid stations spilled on the ground was freezing, and people were slipping and falling!

  5. Grace says:

    These are great reflections – THIS is how you learn from every marathon. (You know you’re a scientist when…you treat your running like a study with n=1.) I could use some of this, especially the bits about process-based goals and warming up!

  6. Cathryn says:

    I also think CIM is perfectly do-able although maybe a ‘quiet’ period over the summer would be a wise investment – shorter long runs, no speed work, just enjoying running for a month or two so you don’t burn out mentally or physically. Just maintain fitness, as Dan said.

    I’m also thinking about races for Autumn due to my IronWidow-inspired summer racing break. Currently thinking trail halves in August and September, RnRSJ and Healdsburg (goal) in October, a trail half in November and then a 5k in December to try and PR there. I’ll be cashing in all my brownie points come the Autumn!! If you find any trail halves in Aug/Sept/Nov…I’m there with you.

    • Jen says:

      Shorter long runs, no speed work. I like the sound of that!

      Not sure about any trail halves in Aug/Sept that I want to do, but I was thinking about doing the Coastal Lake Chabot run (I think it’s early Nov?). Mainly because I think it would be cute to do the same races leading up to CIM that I did 2 years ago (Healdsburg and Lake Chabot). Oh, and also because I now live like 3 miles away.

  7. MILF Runner says:

    Big Basin should be awesome. Novato is very pretty. I think you’d do well to take a break from the marathon after this next. I totally agree with Cathryn.

  8. Dominick S. says:

    You know me…take a break!!!! Don’t burn yourself out.

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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