Big Sur #6 - Marathon #91

This was the first time that Kim and I have been on the West Coast since March 2020 when the world shut down.  The energy at the expo and shake out runs were incredible as everyone was so excited to have the Big Sur Marathon back after 2 years.  Our friend Kaitlin that had also run Boston 6 days prior was also participating in the B2B (Boston to Big Sur) challenge.  I was so excited to have her experience this magnificent scenic race/experience.  The challenging course is so hard to describe to people because the hills are insane, but the course is breathtaking with endless beauty with each turn and climb.  I recently read a post on the Big Sur Facebook page “It’s not just a marathon…. It’s an inspirational journey”

Shake out run: On our walk to the shake out run we ran into Gwen Catalone ironically, we also bumped into at the start of Boston.  I met her at the Big Sur Fleet Feet Hoka shake out run in 2019.  The race director said some words to everyone that it’s been 1092 days since the last Big Sur Marathon.  Everyone cheered with excitement as we took off for a nice 3-mile run.

Race Day:  We met Kaitlin at the parking garage in Monterey to get the bus to the start of the race.  We had to be there at 3:30 for a 3:45 departure. Luckily, we were still on East Coast time, so it wasn’t hard to get up that early.  I said to Kim, “Let’s sit in the front seat” for the ride just in case the bus driver needs directions like in Boston.  Kim and I took the first row right behind the driver, and Kaitlin sat down across from us.  Then the bus filled up.  2 women sat behind us that were more than chatty.  Kim said “OMG, are we going to have to listen to them for the whole ride”.  One of the women talked so much that we learned everything about her; her job, sister’s felony boyfriend, her career, medication, bowel movements, and to make things worse, she never stopped saying “exactly”.  The women next to her talked just as much, we learned so much about her life as well; her job, covid, being a nurse, her husband, his drinking problem, her motorcycle license, trips to Sturgis, her relatives in jail and on parole, and so much more…… Ugh.  I even stuck my fingers in my ears so I could stop listening to her.  It was not successful. At one point, Kim started to count how many times she said “exactly”.  It was up to 48 times when we arrived in Big Sur.  No one on the bus was talking and all you could hear was their conversation.  The poor bus driver too, every now and again she would hit the rumble strips in the road, and we chalked it up to her doing anything to shut them up!

The staging area was so congested with runners that it took at least 10 minutes to walk to the port-o-lets before the race started.  We were all pretty warm, with our Goodwill outfits and heat shields.  After 2 hours of waiting, it was time to walk to our corrals.  The race director made some announcements and asked the crowd “How many people are here running Boston to Big Sur”?  Then he said there were 300 B2B runners.  Kim and I weren’t officially signed up for B2B, but we were still running both. We all raised our hands and then the race director Dave McGillivray, from the Boston marathon said some words of encouragement.  He also said “I’m going to come here next year and run Big Sur with all of you for the B2B challenge! 

We finally started running.  Kim, Kaitlin, Linda and I all started together trying not to take off too fast since the first 5 miles are pretty much downhill.  I started to strip off my throw away clothes as it started to warm up rather quickly.  Linda kept saying “Wow, this is so beautiful” and I said to her, just wait until we hit the cliffs and the ocean.  Kaitlin started to pull away and wanted to stay with the 4-hour pacer.  My goal was like Colleen’s Boston, to have “level 1” fun.  I just wanted to enjoy this beautiful race, stop and take photos and take in all the beauty.  The wind started to pick up as we began the 2-mile climb to Hurricane point.  We could hear the piano music as we approached the Bixby Bridge.  He was playing Queen, “We are the Champions”.  We stopped and took photos.  It was surreal. I started to get teared up looking all around at this endless beauty.  I was just so grateful to be back at this race!

The miles seemed to go by rather quickly; when there were inclines, I’d chug up those hills and then when we would hit the steep downhills, I would try to hold back to save my quads.  There were so many runners that had their Boston bibs on their back making it easy to identify the B2B runners.  Eventually the 21 milers’ runners were with us.  There were a lot of walkers towards the end.  We got to see our favorite West Coast runner Joyce Lee on the course with her cousin.  The marathon would not be right if I didn’t get to see Joyce!

Towards the end of the course as we headed into Carmel Highlands where the road had such an extreme canter that it’s hard to find a place on the road to run where it didn’t hurt. We had a serious uphill to get to Mile 23 where they have strawberries, and then some serious downhills that seemed to hurt worse than the uphill.  I remember Kim saying “we just have one more hill, then Buddy, then the ocean.   We met Buddy Sharp the first time we ran Big Sur and made friends with him immediately.  He is always on the course right before the last hill on mile 25.  As soon as I saw him, I pulled out my phone and I screamed “Buddy”!  His eyes lit up and we gave him a hug, took a selfie and he did what he does every year, “I’ll run you to the hill”, and as soon as we got to that last hill he said, “the hill’s all yours!”. 

I chugged up that hill and knew that I would be finishing on the other side.  I could hear the finish line announcer.  I knew we were so close!  Then there it was, the finish line and the only real congested section filled with crowds cheering.  I grabbed Kim’s hand and we powered through to finish 4:02 (BQ).  Not a bad time considering our photo shoots, bathroom breaks and hugs with Buddy.  I’ll take it! 

Sitting here writing this after the marathon makes me realize how quickly time goes by; in a blink, and it’s over, just like that.  All the anticipation, nerves, months of training and then “poof” it’s over.  Thank God we never stop training. On to our next adventure, training for Berlin to London.

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