Still On Pace for Big Sur
By now, it’s no secret that I will be doing the Big Sur Marathon in April of 2014. I’m already reading guidebooks and searching for ideas for fun stuff to do after the race. I have an entire EndNote notebook for trips and a rapidly growing note labeled “Big Sur and San Francisco Ideas.” While my primary focus is taking in the grandeur of Big Sur, my secondary goal is to tack a few days on the end of the trip and explore San Francisco.
However, before I can get to the main part of the trip, I have to run a marathon. I’m a half marathon fan, and it seems unnecessarily painful to jump from a half marathon to a full marathon without any intermediate steps. Actually running a marathon is a distant third priority behind sweeping ocean vistas and seeing the sights of San Francisco, but I can’t fail to complete the race. So I set up a series of 20-mile runs to get used to the longer distance. I wanted to learn pacing and figure out what I was going to think about for all of those solitary hours!
The first of my 20 milers was the CARA supported 20 mile run down the Chicago lakeshore in September of 2012. It was an awesome run for many reasons: I ran with a good friend, we had a fantastic and hilarious pace group leader, and the day was beautiful.
The second 20 miler was canceled because I got injured. I was going to do the Syttende Mai 20 mile run from Madison, WI to Stoughton, WI. Did you know that May 17th (Syttende Mai) is Norway’s Independence Day? I didn’t either! My injury was small but the delay was enough to derail the timing in building distance. That race is small, hilly and very rural, so being totally healthy is optimal. On the plus side, you can sign up on race day and the fee is amazingly small: $60!
The third 20 miler was the Fox Valley Marathon Fall Final 20, the western suburbs’ answer to the CARA supported 20 mile training run. The Fox Valley race is comprised of a full and a half marathon along the Fox River Trail, so adding a 20-mile race makes sense. Unlike the 2012 CARA lakeshore run, which provided ample entertainment, the 2013 Fall Final 20 was a solitary endeavor. I did my long training runs alone to figure out my pacing. I got so good at this that I completely missed the Saturday ET Run Club circle the week before the race and all the good wishes sent in my direction. They were appreciated, even if I did miss the direct delivery!
Race day was clear and cool – absolutely perfect race weather. I lined up with the pace group closest to my proposed pace and promptly came face to face with a woman who seemed to know me. I recognized her but I couldn’t place her, despite chatting for a few minutes before she disappeared in a shift of the crowd. Oops. Hooray for large sunglasses that shield my thoughts of, “I don’t know who you are but I’ll smile and nod and hope you think I’m happy to see you!” I still don’t know who she was. Then we were off!
The first mile was frustrating. People were packed in fairly tightly despite a large expanse of road and the pace was slower than advertised. I wiggled my way out in front of the pace group into the clear space between two groups and settled into a comfortable pace. It was slightly faster than I wanted it to be, so I tried to slow down.
Around mile seven I realized that I was holding a pace 15 seconds a mile faster than I’d trained for, but I felt great. I had fleeting thoughts of crashing around mile 16, but put them out of my head. I was moving so smoothly and evenly that a passing runner complemented me on my stride, saying I looked like an ice skater. I’ve been ice skating, and my ice skating is nowhere near as smooth and graceful as my running!
I was happy to see my husband, Drew, and my good friend Suzy C. at miles seven, ten, and 13! Many thanks go to them both for spending their morning supporting me. Seeing friendly, cheering faces definitely provides a boost and something to look forward to, and I probably ran a little faster when I knew I was going to see them!
Miles ten through 15 were interesting. The people running the 20-mile race were running alone, as the three races all have variations of the basic course and hadn’t yet reconnected. Several times I could only see a couple of people ahead of me and didn’t hear anyone behind me, so pacing was entirely up to me. By mile 15 I was still ahead of schedule but starting to hurt. I realized that my drinking strategy on my training runs in no way simulated an actual aid station at this race. My training run drink stops could best be described as leisurely. I did everything but set up a beach umbrella and sunbathe for a while, calming my parched throat with unhurried sips of icy drinks. My race aid station stops were maybe 15 seconds. Perhaps I should reconsider the sunbathing! Or maybe one can only sunbathe after one has earned IM flip-flops?
Despite hurting, I was able to pick up my pace for the last two miles and I finished strong. Happily, I cut 10 minutes off my 20-mile time from last year for a robust PR! The credit for this goes entirely to my awesome and very patient coach, Coach Joe, who designed a spot-on training plan! Thanks, Coach!! With his help and training, I am confident of a successful finish at Big Sur in seven months and I can put my mental energy into planning the rest of the trip. Suggestions on things to do in the Big Sur – Sonoma Valley region would be appreciated, as would ideas on how to coax my husband into walking all over San Francisco for “recovery”!