Well, well, well...

It is a day shy of one week after the 23rd running of the Big Sur International Marathon. I've mostly recovered from the race, had a nice vacation and am now back to home on the East coast ready to unload the details of this thing for which I trained for so long (hold on, I've got a lot to say).

The last week of the taper was pretty uneventful. Lower mileage, a lot of time working my IT band with a foam roller and hoping not to have any problems on race day (I didn't). We were up, out and on a plane by 7:20 on Friday, which put us on the ground in San Francisco at around 1:00 local time. We rented our minivan (baller) and decided to trek down Highway 1 to Monterey. The drive was amazing - you really can't appreciate the views without seeing them yourselves. We got checked into the hotel, had some food from a local hotspot and were off to bed. But not before Ruth Ann could surprise me with a book of encouraging words she put together for me. A big thanks to everyone who contributed to that - I drew strength from it many times on the course.

The body clocks had everyone up early on Saturday, as we tried to hang on to Eastern time for another day or so. We ran a quick 2-miler, got cleaned up and on to the race expo to pick up bibs, chip, goodies, etc. There was quite the karma controversy regarding the "Official Finisher" shirt. Mike and I both had varying levels of belief in some sort of voodoo curse if we bought the shirt before finishing. Ruth Ann saved the day by "secretly" making the purchase for us, which was the right call, because the shirts sold out. The rest of Saturday, we got a parking ticket and mosied around Monterey. Pasta for dinner in Carmel, then off to another early bedtime.

The alarm on Sunday came somewhere around the 3:15 mark. Mike and I quietly got up and dressed, had some food (plan B for me after I exploded my oatmeal in the microwave), then had super-domestique Nathan drive us to the bus pick up. After a 45 minute or so bus ride in the dark, we were unloading at the start line. Mike and I found a quiet spot to sit until closer to starting time. Here's the first really cool moment of the day - Mike and I were recognized! Brian from Carmel Highlands (who I'm pretty certain is the same Brian that won the Master's division - congrats!) talked to us for a few minutes about the race before we parted ways. Really, what are the chances that someone I haven't harassed into it is even reading this blog, let alone saw me at the start among 3,000 or so people - pretty wild.

Mike and I worked our way to the start line and back to the 4:30 anticipated finishers. The national anthem was sung and soon we were on our way. It took about 4 minutes to get to the actual line, beep the watches and we were off. The start was a bit crowded, so it was hard to immediately find a pace or rhythm. Mike was more interested in cutting through traffic than me and we were separated at mile 2. We met back up at mile 4 for our first walking break, but soon after, Mike was off to run his own race and me mine.

The first part of the course runs through forested roads and was pretty warm. Once we hit the coastline, we got our first taste of a breeze (but no fog, the weather was great), and cooled off. I'm feeling good at this point, keeping right around a 4:35 finish pace. The terrain starts to roll a bit and we run by Point Sur and shortly after, get the first glimpse of Hurricane Point. I can't help but laugh when I see it. Even from this distance, I can see people running it and they are running up for a long time. As I approach the bottom, I get some water, some video footage of the Taiko drummers, and turn to the task at hand - running uphill for 2 or so miles. I set a decent pace and keep my heart rate in check. The wind starts to blast me in the face, but I keep moving and don't stop until the water stop just over the summit. Hurricane Point is now behind me.

The two mile decent to the Bixby Bridge is pretty good recovery time, so I try to coast down and across the bridge. We're now about halfway through the race and my legs feel a little heavy but still pretty good. Now I know that the back half of the course is harder and have mentally prepped for that, but wow. We tried to train for the hills, but have nothing comparable to the climbs on Highway 1. The hills are long and steep, short and steep, and many other iterations of not flat. The road is bumpy and I'm starting to feel it. My pace has slowed a bit and I'm stopping more frequently to take on water and Gatorade (much more than in my training, but it was hot). I stopped for fresh strawberries at mile 23, ran about a quarter mile and thought about turning around for more. I'm glad I didn't pass them up.

I don't feel like I ever hit "the wall". I always knew I was going to finish. My legs started to cramp some, my feet hurt, I had to walk a little more than I would've liked, but waving the white flag never crossed my mind. "D-Minor Hill at D-Major Time" (short pop of a hill at mile 25) was brutal. I didn't even think of running up it, just that once I topped it I would run the rest of the way to the finish. As the finish line got closer and people started to gather, I was frantically looking for Ruth Ann and Nathan. There's a picture of me when I spotted them, and even at mile 26, I couldn't help but let loose a big smile. I ran over for some encouragement and a high five, then turned on to the finish, where I proceeded to stop the clock at 4:45.

I collected my medallion and immediately spotted Mike. He had finished about 5 minutes ahead of me and had struggled with a high heart rate most of the day. Nathan and Ruth Ann found us soon after for some photos, hugs and stories. As soon as were able to move, we were off to the car, back to the hotel to clean up, and on the road. We drove the course and took more pictures along the way, then were off for some R&R in San Fran. We were ultra sightseers in SF, taking in Muir Woods, Alcatraz, Napa Valley wineries, the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Cable cars, etc. And a big thanks to Ben, Brita and Matt for hanging out with us. It was good to catch up with you guys.

So, how about some Q&A....Did I catch the marathon bug? No. Do I love to run? No (but hate it a bit less than before). Am I proud to say that I've completed a marathon and done something that most people never will? Heck yes. Did the sight of stairs (and subsequently going down them) make me want to cry for a few days? YES. Did I buy one of those borderline cheesy 26.2 car magnets? Uh, yes. Will I ever run another marathon? I can't imagine doing it anytime soon, but never say never. I will say to anyone thinking about running a marathon (Ace), the Big Sur course is amazing. I can't imagine more beautiful scenery to run through, but get ready for those hills.

Thanks again everyone for checking in on the blog and for your encouragement along the way. I hope you've enjoyed my perspective on this journey. Please be sure to also enjoy the
pictures from the trip.

Signing off,

Video #1 (Arrival through mile 9 or so):

Video #2 (Hurricane Point through the Finish):