Well, the last race of the season is finally behind me. It feels so good to not have anything hanging over my head! It has been sunny and in the 70s this week — perfect for leisurely bike rides with no agenda. Ahhhhh, the off season!
But let’s talk about the final race.
The Big Sur Half Marathon is a great race that is reasonably flat and fast. The course takes you along the wharf area of Monterey, through Cannery Row, around Lover’s Point, through Pacific Grove, around Spanish Links, and back. It’s beautiful!
Greg is stressed about work and the van project and his upcoming trips and the dog and his IT band and and and… so he wasn’t really in a road trippin’ kind of mood to begin with. It was all I could do to cajole him out of the house so I could have more time with Claudia! And her son Nic could have more time with Argus! We arrived in Monterey around 4 PM on Saturday afternoon. We saw Claudia and her family on their way out of the convention center as we made our way in. After packet pickup, we took Argus to a beach to romp for awhile. No go. He just doesn’t feel good and we suspect he’s in a lot of pain. It further brought the mood down.
We stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some provisions for dinner and got ourselves settled in the Motel 6 (NOTE: it is exactly this kind of quick overnight trip that will make the van invaluable). We ate an early dinner and drove a couple of miles down the road to hang out with Claudia at the Hyatt. It’s dog friendly! Nic was thrilled that Argus was there and I was thrilled to see a boy who is not afraid of a gentle dog that stands as tall as he does. Greg had a beer and I shared two bottles of wine with Claudia, Steve, and her dad.
People make fun of me for all the drinking I do before a race. Perhaps I’ll “get serious” about my racing at some point, but it sure as hell ain’t before the last race of the season that I scarcely trained for.
We were back at the Motel 6 by 9:30 where G and I assumed our alter egos: stim machine junkies. I got our breakfast items set out and got my race gear ready to go. I’m usually not up before the sun and this race requires a 5:45 AM wake-up call. Best to have everything set out!
Despite it being an early evening and having everything laid out, Greg (yet again) underestimated the time it would take him to be ready. We needed to pick Claudia up and then find street parking near the race start. We said we’d pick her up at 6:15 AM. We left our hotel at 6:20. I was antsy enough myself. If I had been Claudia, I would have been panicking! Luckily, we got there in enough time to use the potty and get into our designated corrals with a few minutes to spare.
It felt considerably warmer this year than last. In fact, there were a couple of guys in Corral A who were shirtless. I wasn’t ready to go topless myself, but I was much more comfortable than last year.
Claudia and I ran together last year and both finished just under 1:53. Neither of us trained specifically for this event this year, but we both came into it with a decent amount of fitness from earlier training and racing. On one hand, a PR haunted us and we jokingly threw out 1:50 as a would-be goal time. On the other hand, we were both ready to be done with racing and hurting and looking forward to a nice run along the coast and the chatting that would accompany the scenery.
Can you guess which hand won?
I didn’t get into a groove until Mile 5. My body was “fine,” but my head just wasn’t there. I didn’t want to be running. I didn’t care. Claudia kept trying to say, “Look how beautiful it is!” This worked last year, but I couldn’t be bothered this year. Also at about Mile 5, my knee started bothering me. I hadn’t had trouble with my left knee all season UNTIL that silly 9K race the Sunday prior. I pushed the pain and fear away and just kept running. Thankfully it didn’t seize up on me!
As soon as we saw the leaders pass, I began looking for Greg on his return trip. We saw him at our Mile 7, his Mile 9. I looked at my Garmin and felt confident that he was on-pace for the 1:30 finish he was pushing for. At the turnaround a mile later, I felt we were on-pace for the 1:50 finish. I purposely hadn’t looked at the overall time prior to this, not wanting to know how close or far we were. Now the switch was flipped and my competitiveness kicked in. I took an AccelGel and hoped I had timed it appropriately.
We hit the marker at Mile 9 and I really wanted to be done. I wasn’t having fun. I wasn’t out to prove anything. I just keep telling myself, “This is the last race of the season. Go out on a high note.” After an eternity, we got to Mile 10. From here, the self-talk turned to, “I can run a 5K in my sleep” and willed myself to believe it. At Mile 11, we had 16 minutes to finish in the coveted 1:50. Could we run 2.1 miles at that pace? I was going to try. Believe me, I gave it my all. Just before Mile 12, I checked my Garmin and saw my heart rate was at 180. I power walked up the hill right by the Aquarium, just to bring it back down to a reasonable level.
The last mile was like an old war movie in slow motion. Claudia was pulling ahead. I begged her to go: “Leave me! Save yourself!” But she wouldn’t leave her comrade behind. Claudia pulled me in. She kept reaching her hand back for me to grab it. If I’d had any energy left to lunge forward and grab it, I would have. She was alternating between tough love and encouraging rah-rahs all the way through the finish line.
We did not finish in 1:50. But we did beat last year’s time by 40 seconds. I’ll take it!
In addition to the standard fruit and bagels, this race offers cold beer and hot minestrone at the end. My kind of race! Greg had gone to rescue Argus from the car and Claudia’s family finally found us (though they missed us coming across the finish line). Greg finished in 1:33 and was slightly disappointed, though grateful his IT band didn’t force a DNF as it had threatened to. All in all, a great finish to a great racing season!
Half Marathon (13.24 by my Garmin) – 1:52:18
48/579 in age group