Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 Big Sur International Marathon (by Malissa)

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

Why run a marathon?
I've been asked this a lot over the past ten months. Most of the time it's by non runners or concerned family members. To answer this question I have to give a little background info. I started running a little over a year ago but my journey really started two years ago when I said enough is enough. I was in and out of doctors' offices. I never really got any answers from the doctors but was often told you might have MS, rheumatoid arthritis, underactive thyroid, and a few others. I was gaining quite the collection of medicine and it seemed like there was no end in sight. I was now a hundred pounds over weight and didn't even recongnize myself. Frustrated, I began searching for ways to get healthy and hoping to gain some self worth along the way.  I read the book, Body for Life for Women and decided to get rid of all the processed food in the house and start eating fresh. After losing forty pounds I felt so much bettter and was ready to get active.

I've always had a love hate relationship with running. I love the idea of running and the cute running outfit but as soon as I start running, I hate it. I've always had a deep desire to run but just didn't think it was in the cards for me. A friend of mine told me about the Couch to 5k program. I was determined to become a runner so I gave it a shot. It was tough and I cried a lot but thanks to Owen and a few of my friends I completed my first 5k and was hooked. It was shortly after that I decided I wanted to run a marathon for my 30th birthday. I wanted to prove to myself that no matter how tough things got I would finish plus I thought it would be a great finale for my "getting healthy" journey. During my training, I was often told; you're crazy, you don't have a marathon body, and reminded that it was ok to back out. These comments fueled me, made me even more determined to finish. I'm known for starting things but never following through and I was determined to prove to myself (and maybe those around me) that I could finish. I may not be built for speed but I did believe that as long as I put in the training, I could do this.

Since this was my first marathon and a difficult course I decided to take it slow and joined the 5:30 pace team but after talking with them at the expo I changed my mind. They planned to run an even 12:30 pace the whole race and  I didn't train to run the same pace downhill as up.

The start
Right off the bus: left and right, both sides lined with porta johns and people. They had coffee and food too. I wanted a cup of coffee so bad but decided against it. I didn't want to have a repeat of Myrtle Beach and be in bathroom lines all race.
This picture was taken not too long after we got off the bus (we were on the first bus). I wish I would have taken one after all the buses arrived, there wasn't much room to walk.

It was about this time that I began to think, "what have I gotten myself into?".

Owen and I stood in line one more time to use the bathroom.  We were still standing in line when they called my wave to go line up. The nerves began to really set in then. After using the bathroom I said goodbye to Owen and headed up the hill to get my place.

So here's where my nerves turn into sheer panic. I have a Garmin 405 watch and it turns itself off when it's not being used, so it's pointless to turn it on until right before the race starts. When I went to turn it on there was no beeping sounds and it would not turn on. I began to freak out! I probably pushed the buttons a hundred times and I may or may not have been the crazy girl banging her watch on the side of the road. I called Owen to see if he might know of any tricks to turn it on, secretly hoping he would offer to give me his watch...but his phone didn't have a signal and he never got my call. 

It's hard to see in this picture but I'm at the back of the line, looking down on thousands of runners. Owen has a great picture of the start line in his post.

In the next few minutes before the race I scrambled to come up with a plan.  I thought about changing my mind and running with the 5:30 pace group like I had originally planned but I was worried if I started out too slow in the beginning and something happened that caused me to slow down even more I would not make the six hour deadline. Thankfully I had my pace tattoo on and knew that I would be able to get an idea of how I was doing at each mile marker. By this time it was time for my wave to start. I said a quick prayer and turned my race over to God, hit my watch on the ground one more time, and started running.

Miles 1-9
The first three miles we ran through the beautiful redwoods in Big Sur. I was still a little shaken up about my watch so I didn't think to get any pictures. I had my first bathroom break right before mile three and thankfully it was pretty quick. When I got back on the road I picked a lady and told myself, "just stay with her".  The next few miles seemed to fly by.  I was shocked everytime I saw another mile marker.

Around mile five to seven the wind was crazy. I was running right into it and I felt like I was going nowhere. I passed another water station but they were out of cups. I remember thinking, "if this is how the rest of the race is going to be, I'm in trouble". Thankfully the wind died down for a few miles and the rest of the water stations had cups.

Mile 10-17
It was about this time that I would see Huricane Point in the distance. There was a quick downhill and then two straight miles uphill.
Huricane Point in the distance.
The drummers were awesome!

Bottom of the hill that just kept going.

My plan for this hill was to take it real slow. I trained on a hill that was about the same grade but it was only a quarter mile long so I wasn't real sure how this hill would effect me. I tried to slow it down but without a watch and the fact that the wind picked up again, it was so hard to tell how fast I was going. I had almost conquered the hill when I got a sharp pain in my left knee and my leg gave way. I couldn'd believe this was happening when I still had another thirteen miles to run. I fought back the tears and tried to start running again. My leg gave way again but I noticed when I walked I was fine. I hated the thought of walking because I knew I didn't have much leeway and I thought for sure I would be picked up by the pokey wagon. Thankfully my knee was fine on the downhills and straightaways, just a little discomfort.

Next up was the Bixby Bridge and on the other side of the bridge was a man playing a grande piano. It was so refreshing to here him play.

This would be my last picture. I just didn't have enough energy to take my camera out anymore.

Miles 18-22
These were the hardest miles for me. My left knee and right foot were killing me and mentally I had had enough! In my head, I was cursing Owen and myself for picking such a tough course for my first marathon.  I no longer cared about how beautiful the ocean was. My main focus for the next few miles was putting one foot in front of the other. I wanted to give up so bad. It didn't help that at every water stop they were talking about pulling marathoners aside and opening the roads again. Did I really run all this way to be told I coudn't finish? At one point I was in so much pain and kept seeing ambulances driving past me that I wanted to flag them down and have them take me back to the finish line. The only things that stopped me were; I was worried I would have to pay an ambulance fee, I did not want to dissapoint my friends and family that had driven so many miles to see me cross the finish line, and I wanted Owen to be proud of me.

Miles 23-26.2
It was such a great feeling when I made it to mile 23. I no longer was afraid of the pokey wagon and all I had left was a 5k! I can run a 5k in my sleep, right?! Sadly they were all out of fresh strawberries at mile 24. I was looking forward to them but had a feeling they would be all gone by the time that I made it there. I was determined to run the rest of the way but I had competely forgot about the last hill. By this time it hurt so bad to go from a walk to a run but I knew I wanted to finish running.

I was overjoyed when I saw the mile 26 sign. It said hallelujah and that is exactly the words that came to mind at that point. Hallelujah, praise God, I did it! Shortly after the sign I saw my mom's husband, Angel, with his camcorder and that brought a smile to my face and then I heard the noise I had been longing to hear since mile 18, my family cheering my name. Even though it took me 5:44:07 to finish, they were cheering at the top of their lungs like I was in first place.  I had the biggest smile when I crossed the finish line.

Owen gave me the biggest hug and told me how proud he was. It meant so much coming from him because he knows exactly what I had just endured.
I didn't have any sisters growing up. Sarah and Evelyn are two of my best friends and I happily call them my sisters. I'm so thankful I was able to share this experience with my beautiful mom too.

Sarah and me after the race.

Stan, Evelyn, Me, and Owen
So what's next?
Everyone has been asking me this question. Now that you have completed a marathon what's next? Well I have a few different goals I would like to complete in the next couple of years. I have two 5k's coming up, the first one I'm running for fun with Kyle and then the next one I would like to have a sub 30:00 time. So I have some crazy speed work in my future. I have a couple of half marathons planned for early fall that I'm hoping to have a nice PR. I have to admit that I'm looking forward to another full marathon. I've told myself that once I get my half marathon time in the 1:40-1:50 range I will run another Marathon. And you better believe it will be a flat course!


  1. congrats!! that is an insanely tough course and every marathon after that one will seem like a piece of cake :)