Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 Big Sur International Marathon (by Owen)

This post written by Owen, click here for Malissa's Big Sur post.

April 29, 2012 6:45 AM
Carmel, CA

Time Pace Division Division
Bib #
Owen 3:42:25 8:29 M35-39 54/270 279/1786 363/3364 752
Malissa 5:44:07 13:07 F30-34 266/282 1450/1578 3162/3364 753

Where to begin? On races like this, I wish I had an author follow me around and take notes for me so he could beautifully sum up how amazing everything was.  Since I don't have that, I'll just do the best I can.

The trip out there:
Tuesday, April 24th finally arrived.  This was the day we were travelling to California for the race we had been looking forward to more than any other: BIG SUR!  We are doing a lot of travelling for all these races, so when I plan our itinerary, I always do it the cheapest way.  For this race that meant driving 3 hours to Raleigh, NC where we can fly Southwest.  Then flying to San Francisco, then driving 3.5 hours to Fresno where we'd be staying until the day before the marathon.  It saved us a lot of money, but what a long day!

Oh, how I've missed the Rocky Mountains

The kids were really good, better than I could have expected.  Another cost saving decision was to get the smallest rental car.  Our luggage fit fine in the trunk (thanks to Malissa's wonderful packing job), but three tired kids in the back seat was not fun.

Three kids + one small car's backseat = Alicia upset

When we lived in California, we loved eating at In-N-Out.  Since moving to North Carolina we've loved Five Guys even more.  California people will swear that In-N-Out is better, so we thought it would be a good test to have some In-N-Out now that we're used to Five Guys and compare.  In-N-Out is delicious, but they don't even belong in the same class (or sentence) as Five Guys.  Five Guys is heads and shoulders above, much better. Case closed.

While in Fresno we stayed with Malissa's grandparents Tuesday-Saturday.  We had such a great visit with them.  I loved every minute of it.

Kyle sharing the chair with his Great Grandpa Whaley

Alicia and Great Grandma Whaley
 I didn't take vacation from work, but Microsoft is flexible about where I do my work.  Most of the week I worked from Starbucks, but here I am working at Malissa's friend Jessica's house

The day before:
Saturday morning Malissa and I woke up very early and did our 2 mile run at a park near Grandma Whaley's house.  Then the five of us said our goodbye's to Grandma and Grandpa Whaley and  piled in the car for the 3 hour drive to Monterey.

We drove straight to the expo, picked up our packets and a few supplies.  I forgot to take any pictures, but it was a very small convention center so the expo was in multiple rooms and VERY crowded.

Then we met up with family and drove to the beach.

Michael found supper (How many carbs are in seaweed?)

Malissa with her aunt, mom, and cousin on the beach.

Then it was time to get ready for dinner.  We had a large group of friends and family that had traveled to support us, so I made reservations at the only Italian place I could find that could seat 18 people the night before a major marathon.  It was only a few miles away and was a very small, but nice Italian restaurant.  Everyone had a great time visiting.  The food was delicious but the serving sizes were smaller than most would have liked and the prices were really, really high.  Again, I did not take any pictures (failure!).

Malissa and I said our goodbye's to everyone for the night at the restaurant, even our kids.  They were going to stay with Malissa's mom and her new husband at their hotel room for the night and meet us at the finish line.  Malissa's family and friends really came through for us and made everything so enjoyable.

Malissa and I went back to the hotel room, got some stuff ready and set our alarms for a mind numbing 2:15 am!  We went to bed around 8pm and both slept pretty well until the alarm sounded.


We got out of bed, got ready and were out of the hotel by 3:15 AM.  Our bus pass was for the 3:30 AM pick up time at a parking garage very close to our hotel.  They have to leave that early because the road to the start is the same road we run on and has no side roads to get to or from the start on.  I can't imagine the planning it takes to bus that many people to a single location on roads like that.

The bus ride was pretty uneventful.  It was pitch dark and we were way in the back of the bus so we couldn't tell where we were.  Every once in a while we got a glimpse of the drop-off cliff to our right and appreciated the bus driver going so slow.  It took a little over an hour to drive the distance I had to run back in less than 4 hours (my goal for the race).

We got to the start very early, as we were on the very first bus.  The good news to that was we got a curb to sit on while we waited.  As we were waiting it was amazing watching the thousands of runners come off the buses after us. 

It was a little colder than we both expected, so I was glad I had purchased throw-away gloves at the expo.

We waited as long as we thought we could to still have time to go the the porta-potty before they called us to the start line.  The line for the bathrooms was VERY long, as I'm sure everyone else had the same idea.  We were almost to the front of the line when they called for Malissa's wave to line up at the start.  We used the bathroom and then kissed goodbye.  She gave me her jacket, gloves, etc. and headed to the start.  I got in the line to give them my sweat bag.  I was pretty worried about it reaching me at the finish, as it had the keys to our rental car in it, but that wasn't a problem.  The line for the sweat bag drop off took almost as long as the bathroom line did, and I finally got to the start line about 5 minutes before it started.  Just enough time to snap these two pictures and we were off.

I knew the hills were brutal and the scenery amazing at this marathon so when I decided on a pace, my main goal was to try and enjoy miles 22-26.  I had never done that before.  I knew I was a better runner than when I PR'd at Myrtle Beach with a time of 3:21:58.  I figured on a flat course I could run 3:15, so I added 30 minutes to that so I could try and enjoy every mile.  I used Taz Running's pace chart to come up with these paces per mile that I had a temporary tattoo of on my arm.

Miles 1-7:
The first couple of miles I was supposed to run in the 8:20's because they were downhill.  I had told myself "no matter what, slow down to the 8:20's the first couple of miles".  I tried, but just couldn't slow down that much, I felt like I was walking when I rattled off paces of 8:10, 8:14, and 7:58 the first three miles.

These miles were beautiful forest miles.  I was enjoying them very much, but couldn't wait to see the ocean.  I can't remember exactly when the unbelievable wind started blowing directly into our faces, but I think it was around mile 7.  I've never drafted before in a race, but you bet your butt I did in this race.  I didn't feel much like a gentleman, because the closest person that was big enough to draft off of was a very tall woman I stayed right behind during these initial windy miles.  Just when I thought I better offer to get in front of her and help her, the wind died down.

Leave it to me, the only picture I took was of cows.  I got a kick out of how they were really watching us.

Miles 8-14:
Still felt really good, no major issues.  The only complaint I had about the organization of the race was the 21 milers.  A separate race to ours, but along the same course (starting 45 minutes before us at the 5 mile mark).  Most of them are walkers which meant we had to weave in and out of them the entire race. I HATED that. They had course marshals all over the place that were yelling for walkers to stay to the left, but that didn't phase some of them.  I have an idea: eliminate that race! Or at least hold it on another weekend.

The infamous Hurricane Point was at mile 12.  There is a two mile section before that which is a solid 5% grade uphill the entire two miles.  I trained my butt off for this portion doing brutal hill repeats, and boy did it pay off.  I was never miserable and was literally disappointed when that challenge was over. I had splits of 9:13 and 8:59 for these two miles, just a little faster than my pace chart had for me.

Hurricane Point lived up to it's name, however.  The wind after that was just insane. No amount of training can make running into a 25 mph wind fun (my guess, I don't know how fast it really was).  I was prepared for the hills, the wind was the biggest issue.

Bixby bridge is at mile 13 and just after it there is a guy playing a piano that you can hear for miles (when the wind dies down).  I really enjoyed this section.

Miles 15-21:

I knew that sections later in the race would have banking in the road, which really makes my ankles unhappy, but I underestimated how bad it was, and not just at the end, throughout the entire race there were sections like the picture below.  I would search high and low on the road, hoping to find a flat section, but no luck, even the shoulder was banked.  My ankles were never in pain, but definitely uncomfortable.

I still had plenty of energy and was enjoying the race very much. I was trying to just take it easy, I really wanted a strong finish.

Miles 22-26.2:
Around mile 22 is when I first started to get concerned that I wouldn't get my strong finish.  I could tell my gas tank was nearing empty.  I decided to really take each aid station slow and consume as much Gu, Gatorade, and water as I could while walking through the station.  This really helped.

Before the start I had called my mom and told her to keep close to her phone that I might call her during the race.  I tried several times, but my phone didn't have a signal.  At mile 23 I called her and got through this time.  I put the phone on speaker phone and just held it in front of me and was able to hear her and talk to her fine.  That was the major boost I needed to get to the finish line strong.

I did it, miles 23 thru 26 felt great and I actually enjoyed them.  At the finish I found my amazing cheering squad in the stands, and have never had a bigger smile on my face.  I wish everyone could experience that feeling.  It's what keeps me doing these things.

My daughter, Alicia (8), is in charge of choreographing my finish line move.  This is what she came up with.

My picture immediately after my finish.

After the race, I called my mom again and talked to her while I made my way through the food tent and got some water.  I found my family and hung out, waiting for Malissa to finish.

The time spent here was the most nerve-wracking time of my entire life.  Malissa had trained hard and I had no doubt that she could do it.  I was just worried because they kept announcing how they had to be strict with the 6 hour cutoff time.  Her goal pace was 5:30.  Did those winds slow her down?  I couldn't swallow the possibility of her working that hard only to be escorted away miles before the finish.

Having just finished, you still have the feeling knowing what she is going through.  I could hardly take it.  I broke down in tears many times.

She had sent me a Glympse invite, telling me her exact location.  I spent that two hours, getting her location on my phone, then going to Google Maps and calculating how many miles that was from my location, then doing the math to see how much time she had left, and what pace that would be.  I know better than anyone that just because you've maintained a pace for 23 miles doesn't mean you can maintain it the last 3.

My phone stopped working for some reason when she was around mile 25.  Immediately after that I saw an ambulance speed in that direction.  I could hardly take it.  This entire time her dad and I were texting back and forth. He was watching her Glympse invitation as well and was obviously as concerned as I was.

When we saw that purple shirt coming past the mile 26 sign, we erupted into the loudest cheering squad you will ever hear.

I got in trouble for hopping the fence to get back in the finisher's area, but we wanted this picture.

The buses back to the parking garage
After the race, we went to Bubba Gump's and had some delicious seafood. Then we went to bed early for another long day of travel back home.

Trip home:
We had the same plans, but in reverse to go home. Drove to San Francisco, flew to Raleigh, then drove home.  Our plane landed after midnight NC time and the kids had school the next day.  We had every intention on making them go, but after that long of a day, we figured "What's one more day of missed school?"  They couldn't have agreed more.

Kids sleeping on drive to Charlotte
My kids are amazing.  This trip had some fun for them: the beach, parks, etc, but mostly it wasn't your typical kids type vacation.  They were awesome, big time troopers, I'm so proud of them.


  1. good to know your post sounds a bit like mine (course description, winds, roads). you had an AMAZING time! congrats! glad the kids had fun too. can’t believe i never ran into yall!

  2. I sure have enjoyed reading your post! Thank you for taking time to share your marathon with us!