It's been a crazy busy few days. I awoke early Wednesday morning in LA to catch a flight back to Houston, TX. After some great Tex Mex and Pecan Pie at the Goode Company we headed over to my cousin's place (The Wizigs) and hung out for the night. The next day we showed my film at an incredible AMC Theatre to an audience of 50 or more. It was the most exhilarating screening yet. It was on a huge screen and for the first time I actually felt like a member of the audience watching the story unfold. At mile 20 during what I call the "The Struggle Segment" I found myself asking "why in hell am I doing this?!" Then came the triumphant finish. The audience erupted in applause! I got butterflies --- it was incredible! "I can't wait for Sunday!" What a turn around in a few mere minutes. Great audience response and comments - thanks ya'll for coming out!
The next morning we (my mama made the trip with me) we awoke at 5am Houston time (3am LA time!!!) and got back into LA by 9am. I kicked back for a few hours before jumping in the car and heading North to Big Sur. I stopped in Ventura to rendezvous with my friend Richard (LA Tri) who would be carpooling with me. We set up camp at the Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins, made dinner and went off to bed by 9pm.
On Saturday we essentially toured the course by heading North into Monterey for the expo. Wow. This course is HILLY. Holy crap...how in hell...??? I'm staying true to my goal: A Zen Enjoyment of the Experience. (AZEE - I just made that up....kinda sounds like "easy" with an undefined accent...) I left the Garmin at home...this will be interesting!
5:00 AM Wakeup call. The cool part about camping for a race is that it's easy to go to bed early. Richard and I headed into our respective tents by about 9pm, I read for a bit and was probably dreaming by 10pm. Some idiot's car alarm went off at 4:30...that got me up early, but I dozed a bit before getting dressed, prepped and ready to head up the hill for the shuttle pickup. Once we arrived at the start there was already an electric vibe going. It quickly became apparent that this is a very well orchestrated event - coffee and bagels, etc. It was FREEZING, but we were all in sweats and would throw our sweats into a truck (via a labeled bag).
We lined up on the closed highway 1, shivered a bit and at 6:45 we were off! I went out easy, as planned, and as suggested by all of the veterans I talked to. Miles 1-5 were definitely a breeze and quite fun. We were in the comfort and cover of the Redwoods. Somewhere in there I passed by our campsite - and I barely thought about crawling back to bed! The crowd support was sparse, but enthusiastic. There was plenty of music along the way - such as the harpist at mile 3.
By mile 6 we were out on the open road. I was feeling great when the wind picked up tremendously. Par for the course so I hear. I'd guess it was 10-15mph sustained in our face wind. This made our first climb (a longer roller) a bit difficult. I was careful to not put too much into it and to focus on the gorgeous scenery surrounding me. Every so often I had to pinch myself and realize I was running on a closed Highway in one of the more gorgeous parts of North America. Insane.
I don't remember too much about miles 7-10...I was very absorbed in the scenary without regard for pace, technique etc. This race was definitely about chugging along for me. Of course the volunteers were shouting out times at the mile markers, so I had some idea - I was going about 11 minute pace. As I was just looking for an enjoyable run this was perfect....in the back of my mind I definitely wanted to crack 5 hours...and hoped for possibly a sub 4:45.
At mile 10 the long 2 mile climb that is Hurricane Point begins. This is what everybody talks about. It's about 500-600 feet of vertical gain over that mileage. Doesn't sound like much....but there's a decent before and after the climb...it'd be important to watch my speed on both so I didn't kill my quads and knees on the downhill.
Right at the start of the decent there was a group of Taiko Drummers. It was exhilarating! I had the camera in video mode and I was shooting them as I ran by. I was totally involved in what they were doing...so involved that I neglected to notice the cone that was directly in front of me...before I new it I took a dive. It happened so quickly I didn't really know what hit me. Several people came to my aid, but within seconds I knew I was fine --- with the exception of some VERY bloody elbows. Some how my knees made it out of the mess with some non-bleeding blood blisters. Yuck. Serves me right I suppose. I walked up to the next aide station where I got some band-aides. I wondered if this was the beginning of the end for me.
My knees were throbbing from the impact and the elbows were of course burning like hell. About 100 yards of walking later I decided this was a turning point for better or worse. I decided to go for it - to run up the main climb of the race. I didn't want an excuse to come back! I made it up in great time...I think the trail runner's club has really helped my hills. Thanks Stan and Ernie!
The wind was HOWLING at the crest. Not quite enough to knock you over...but definitely very strong. I tried to take the decent pretty easy - my knees were already a wreck. At the halfway point I headed over the famous Bixby Bridge. On the far side was the famous piano player. They haul a Yamaha Baby Grand out to the road every year! I decided to stop for the photo op. I asked if I could sit with him as he played - he nodded. He was playing a Beatles tune I knew, so I dared to play the melody in the high octave. I think this threw him and the others around him....but I played it correctly until I forgot what key he was in...opps. I think I got in a phrase or two. Why the hell not?!
I carried on and chugged up and down the many many rollers --- trying to save it for the last stretch. I would say I lasted until about mile 18 when it got pretty darn tough. I was walking minimally through the aide stations and made numerous pit stops at the porta potties as I was probably over-hydrating for such a cool (and windy) day.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking...it definitely kept me going in a big way. By mile 21 I was sniffing the finish line. I was on pace for a 4:48 finish according to the volunteers at the mile markers. At this point I decided I wanted to see how well I could do. I will say I suffered through miles 21 and 22, but there were fresh strawberries somewhere in there - just the kick I needed! At mile 23 I started to pick it up a bit more, passing a fair share of people. The scenery was gone, but the spectators made up for it. There was one last very significant hill just before the end. I chugged up knowing there was less than a mile to go. Finish line in sight I went as fast as I could without ruining the group's finish in front of me.
My time when all was said and done was 4:41:30. I'm really pleased with this - especially seeing I wasn't really "racing." I'm very curious where I'd be had I been and not made all the pit stops. What I can say is that Big Sur is an extremely demanding course. That said, not pushing myself to the max in this case made for a very rewarding experience - not in the form of a PR, but in pure enjoyment. The PR is for LA on May 25th. Before that I've got the SB Wine Country to worry about. Give Big Sur a shot - it's definitely worth the pain getting up there, riding the buses, etc! You surely won't forget your experience there.
Oh...and here's the video I took that caused the great fall! :)