Tuesday, November 13, 2007

13.1 Lessons Learned at Big Sur - The Race Report

I am back....alive and kicking! Here is my first pass at a race report....hope it makes sense! Sit down....it's a long one! :P


The weekend was fast and furious just like I had expected. We had D’s championship football game at 10:30 am on Saturday morning and our flight to San Jose at 2:30.

The boys played an awesome game and won the championship that was rightfully theirs - a close game that came right down to the wire. Rick and I made it down to the field to celebrate with the team, watch them get their trophies and then literally ran out at 12:30 amidst all the post-game chaos happening on the track. I hated to leave…but duty called. We got to the airport with plenty of time, hopped on our flight and landed a couple hours later in San Jose.

Micheline and Chet had driven down from Reno earlier that morning, so they had spent the day playing tourist in Monterey. We met up at our hotel, got checked in and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. We ate at a great little seafood restaurant there (forgot the name) and had a great time doing some catching up.

After dinner we walked around the wharf in the rain. Yup, you heard it – RAIN. The forecast for the weekend had totally flipped out – they were predicting rain and 50 degree temps for Sunday morning. This obviously called for some wardrobe reconsideration, and luckily both Micheline and I had come prepared for the occasion.

We didn’t spend much time out and about, but instead went back to the hotel and hung out in the lobby for a short while. Then it was decided that a good night’s sleep was probably in all our best interests. Micheline and I reviewed the game plan for the morning and called it a night.

Back in our room, I got all my gear together. My pack with gels, band aids, body glide….the works. I got my bib pinned on my favorite running shorts, after they promised they would behave themselves in the morning. It was a close call – I had a pair of Nikes waiting in the wings for an opportunity, but they got sidelined for my old favorites :P

I think lights were out by 9:30 p.m. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz............

Race Morning

I woke up at 2 am. Nope, still not time to get up.

Then 4am (which was actually 5am my time). Okay….there was no point in going back to sleep for another 45 minutes, so I got out of bed around 4:30am. And since I was up, I decided to be weird and take a shower. I know you are asking – who the heck showers before a run? Well, I do. It wasn’t so I would be squeaky clean, but more so that I would be AWAKE.

I had a moment of concern after my shower when I realized how humid the weather really was. The minute I got dressed, my clothes stuck to me…including my shorts. This made me worried about chafing….especially if it was going to be pouring raining outside. I opted not the lube up with body glide just yet, and just see how it went.

I drank my Starbucks Iced Coffee, got my stretching done, pee’d 30 times, drank some water, slapped on my layers of clothes (jog bra, Under Armor short sleeve, Under Armor long sleeve (which I stole from my son!), waist pack, ipod, sunglasses on the top of my head, shoes and socks….. and headed downstairs to meet Mich and Chet.

The lobby was flooded with people. My dear hubby, who had never been in a race environment, was amazed at the crowd. Everyone was spread out all over the floor, stretching, eating, drinking, pacing….you could find just about a little of everything.

Mich and Chet were already down there – people watching, of course. One has to remember that both of them are regulars in the ultra running community – which is often very different than the road racing community. Micheline had already scouted out our starting corral, which was literally right outside of the hotel front lobby.

The best news of the morning was that there was NO rain. It had rained all night, but had cleared out by 6am. It was still chilly, and quite windy – but at least we weren’t going to get soaked. That was a very good turn of events.

We chatted for a while and I took some good hearted abuse from Chet for being a Nervous Nelly. :) Funny thing is – I WASN’T nervous. Not that morning at least. I had spent weeks being nervous about this thing, yet I honestly felt calm during that last half hour before the race. I did have a case of the nervous-pee syndrome, but that was about it.

Micheline popped some Nuun into her water bottle, I ate a Chocolate Gu, downed it with some water/Gatorade mix and we headed outside about 6:50 am.

The Starting Line

5000 people – need I say more?

We were corral *D* - the last corral before the walkers.

7:00 we heard the hooting and hollering from the front of the pack. Our group started moving slowing toward the starting line.

Miles 1 & 2

I felt great. We headed out at a decent pace, and clocked our first mile just a few seconds over a 12 minute pace. It was good – not too fast (chuckle, chuckle) and not too slow.

The second mile was good too – except that the PortaJohns were calling both of our names. That’s the only issue with pre-race Starbucks. :)

So at the end of mile 2, we took a bathroom stop. This was also the point where we shed the long sleeves. As I’ve mentioned many times, I am a sweating fool. By this point, I was already burning up. It felt good to lose the layer and keep on moving. We tied the long sleeve stuff around our waists, and headed out.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was also the first of many occasions where I doused myself with red Gatorade as a result of not being properly accustomed to my new water bottle. I had been using an Ultimate Direction bottle, which does not require any closing after a drink. The Amphipod, however – not so much.

Strapped to my right hand, my newest addition spewed Gatorade at me when I reached up to re-insert my headphones after the clothing change. Micheline got a good chuckle, and I headed off with a stream of red fruit punch down my shoulder and arm.

Miles 3 through 5

There isn’t much that sticks in my mind during this period of the run. I think we were about the 5 mile mark when I actually voiced to Micheline that I was feeling really good. The first couple miles were in town; this segment got us out to the coast. We chatted about the great houses along the route, many of which had spectators on the front porch, hot coffee in hand, cheering on the runners.

We had started doing some intervals after our bathroom break – R2/W30sec – and it seemed to suit us well for a while. There were MANY runners doing the interval system, and watches could be heard beeping on and off from the start.

However, I do know that it was in this segment of mileage where the foundation for some of my trouble started.

It is just a little four-letter word that is very new to me.


I remember very clearly trying to shush Lisa on our last long run when she and Pat were discussing the meaning of a “rolling course.” I guess in my brain I knew what that meant for me, I think I was just in denial.

So there isn’t a pretty way for me to say it – the hills kicked my butt.

Ahhhh, the great Equalizer, as my dear running partner with no training called it. Micheline is a good hill runner – I am not. She knew very well that this would be where my training fell short, and hers picked up. And although she has pushed and prodded me to get some hill training done in the past…and I didn’t listen…. she was kind enough to not even say “I told you so,” even after I gave her the opening to do so :P

Now that we were out on the coastline, the hills were plentiful. Not half-mile hills….but “rolling” hills. Thus came the realization of what that term really meant.

The only option for me at this point was to walk the hills, and then run down the other side – even if it meant running through planned intervals. It worked well on the first couple hills – and Micheline pointed out that we even made up our time on the downslide – but that quickly changed.

Mile 6 & 7

I can honestly say that the mile between 6 and 7 was the LONGEST MILE of my LIFE.

The sun had come out, so it had warmed up a bit. I was HOT.

The turnaround point was just past Mile 7, and the hills continued to beat me up. We did intervals when we could, but I walked most hills.

Our dear, sweet hubbies were waiting for us at the top of the hill at the turnaround point. Rick has a picture of us as we were approaching that pretty much sums up all my feelings about hill running.

This was me


This was Micheline


I’ll have the real pictures tomorrow.

We said hello to the hubbies, handed off our long sleeve stuff, got in a quick kiss and turned to head back down the hill. We were a little more than half way done.

Miles 8 though 10

These miles were like déjà vu. Same hills, only from the other side.

This is where I really remember starting to feel tired. As I would later regret, I remember saying to Micheline “I actually wish I could say something was hurting, but it doesn’t. I’m just plain tired.”

I ate another Gu somewhere along this stretch too, and was always willing to partake in Gatorade and water at the aid stations.

We trucked along…I think this is where I started singing a little “Prince” music to Micheline. You know the song – “The Pope”????? Yeah, that was the one. And the true friend that she is, she didn’t even complain :)

I continued to douse myself with Gatorade after each drink since I couldn’t remember to close the spout. By this point, I had red streaks down my right leg and into my socks as a result. My trusty partner was SUPPOSED to remind me to close it afterwards – but I guess she had other things on her mind!

Maybe she was too busy trying to tune out my whining….which although I had promised her wouldn’t happen…had commenced right before the turnaround point. Micheline is a ROCK….never complains, just stays focused on the goal and moves on. Me? I can complain with the best of them. Most of it starts when I start to get pissed at myself for some reason or another. In this case, it was because I was mad at myself for letting the hills get the best of me. I was also mad that I was so tired after only 7 miles. I was mad that 2 weeks earlier I had knocked down a great 10 ½ miles at home, yet it didn’t seem do be doing much for me here at good ol’ Big Sur.

Miles 10 though 13.1

You know just when you think it can’t get any worse?

Never, never, EVER think it. Because just when you do – IT DOES.

Just past the 10 Mile mark, I had a tremendous cramp / spasm in my left calf. The same spasm I had a month or so ago while running at Tumbleweek. Of course, this time it was the cramp X 10.

This is where the race started to fall apart for me – both mentally, and physically.

I would run when I could, and then walk when the cramp started up again. The problem was – not even walking felt good. It hurt when I ran; it hurt when I walked. There was no getting away from it.

Mentally I wanted to try to just keep running, but my body wouldn’t listen. I also knew that if I pushed through the cramp too far, I would end up on the ground in some serious pain. So when my calf screamed “WALK!!!!!”…………we walked.

And we walked A LOT from Mile 10-13.

It could try and say I had a positive attitude – but that would be a lie. The goal was just to find a way to make it to the finish.

Most readers of this race report already know me well enough to know that I am okay with my Pokey nature, and that pace times typically don’t mean much to me right now. I am usually okay with whatever I run, however fast I run it.

But in my mind, I wanted this race to be under 3 hours. It was the unwritten, mental goal I had set for myself. Anything under 3 hours would be FANTASTIC.

I had already voiced to Micheline somewhere during that final stretch that I figured we weren’t going to make it. Of course, Micheline had a much better perspective and shrugged it off. She wanted to finish – period.

We were just over 2 miles out when we passed a time checkpoint. I almost fell over when I heard the call: 2:28 and some change. And that was GUN time.

I remember looking at Micheline – “WHAT????” And then came the thought – we CAN finish this bad boy in under 3 hours. I figured it was a no-brainer that we could cover the 2ish miles in the 30 minutes. There was definitely a big glimmer of hope in my brain!

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. My body apparently didn’t share the same time goal with my brain!

We finished in 3:06:18 – with a ton of walking even in the last 2 miles. Even in the last QUARTER mile – my leg just couldn’t hang on.

I felt like a bit of a schmuck for having to walk in the last quarter mile of a half marathon, particularly when the finish line is in direct sight. I thought I could pull off the *mind over matter* technique, but it wasn’t meant to be.

It was hobble a little, shuffle a little, hobble a little, shuffle a little…..all the way to the finish.

Although she could have easily made it on her own, Micheline wouldn’t run ahead and finish with out me. Crazy, crazy woman. We stuck out those last 3 miles – just the three of us…..me, Micheline, and my twisted up calf muscle. We were quite a threesome!

Post Race

I can’t lie to you all and say that I am not disappointed.

But I am also THRILLED at the same time.

It’s all about keeping a balanced perspective. I FINISHED my very first half marathon, and that is an accomplishment that I won’t allow myself to diminish.

Are there a hundred things I wish would have gone differently? Of course. So I’ll tackle those next time.

The one thing I did come away from Big Sur with is the confidence that I know I can do much better at the RNR in January. If I can hit 3:06 at Big Sur…..I know I can knock a ton of time off once I’m back in nice, flat, non-hilly AZ!!! :)

And then soon, I will head back to Big Sur and tackle it again. I don’t know if it will be 2008 or not, but I certainly won’t let that course kick my tail twice in this lifetime!

Also in my favor, I came home feeling good physically. My muscles felt tight on Sunday evening and Monday morning, but not what I would even call sore. My shorts cooperated and did not ride or chafe in any noticeable manner. And since we are all friends here, I can honestly tell you that my only real issue after this race was limited to underwear issues. Without going into too much detail (I’ll leave the crotch conversations to Marcy), I’ll just say that strategic placement of Body Glide may have done me some good. Next time, I just might listen to Chet and his expertise on Body Glide application!

My Leg

All is well in the world of my screwed up calf muscle. It actually felt normal again within a couple hours after the race.

Chet thinks the cause was dehydration; I have no idea. It was either dehydration, or the hills, or a combo of both.

If it was dehydration, I am not sure what I could have done about it. I thought I was sufficiently hydrated before the race, and certainly know that my stomach couldn’t have held any more water or Gatorade than I force on it during the race. This will be something I have to contemplate more before RNR.

So there it is folks – the race report! Thanks for the emails, comments and phone call (I think Lisa thought I was dead, LOL!) to check up on me…..we didn’t get home until midnight last night so updating my blog wasn’t exactly on the schedule.

So I think this is where I get to jump up and down:


14:13 min average pace

Here are a few pics from the Marathon site (sorry, can’t make them bigger…but you get the idea). I will have our own pics uploaded tomorrow!

Thanks Micheline, my dear friend, for a great first race! SMOOCH! :)

Lessons Learned

1. Hills require work – be trained!

2. Amphipod water bottles are great, but will drip Gatorade down your leg if you forget to close the spout

3. Don’t count on your running partner to remind you to close your water bottle

4. Not all Port-a-Johns are evil

5. Body Glide should be applied in the most strategic of spaces

6. Never underestimate the value of good company on a long run

7. Baby washcloths make great snot / sweat rags

8. Sometimes the body just has a mind of its own

9. Your oldest running shorts will always come through for you

10. It is possible to sweat like a horse in 55 degree weather

11. Hydration is key

12. A half-marathon is a fully attainable goal

13.1 Sometimes finishing is all that matters!


Non-Runner Nancy said...

I'm jumping up and down, jumping up and down, jumping up and down. I've been dying for this report!! I swear, if I would have had your number, I would've called but I did see Lisa post on Pat's site that you had done well so at least I knew you did it. I am so excited for you and proud of you. Is that weird? Oh well. Great job finishing through the pain. I totally understand the 3 hr disappointment, but just think of the room for improvement and YOU FINISHED!! That's how I thought of mine. Next time we are gonna rock MINUTES off. :D


Wes said...

Yea, baby! Sweet, sweet, sweet! You are a half marathoner!!! LOL... about the rolling hills... I've learned not to trust anyone, even when they say it is flat!

Might I suggest some endurolyte tablets? If you sweat alot, undoubtedly that is what caused you to cramp. I know it has helped me on every run since I've started taking them, and I don't miss the soreness that cramps cause.

I agree with Nancy 100%. Setting the bar and finishing your first half mary is far more important than the actual time. You will definitely be rockin the RnR!!!

RunningCrazyAfter3 said...

I can't wait to meet you at RnR! You finished and are a half-marathoner!!!! You are so right by saying that is what matters most! You DID it!!!!! Great job :)

angie's pink fuzzy said...

yay!!! you DID it!!!!

I'm with wes - endurolyte tabs or nuun or e-caps. my guess for the cramp is a combo of the hills and electrolyte imbalance.

Michelle said...

Awesome job, and great race report!!! You have so much to be proud of - you are a half-marathoner! Yay!

Marcy said...


Dan Seifring said...

Great job Pokey, when you get to these distances it is all about finishing the race. Awesome report well worth the wait.

Jeff said...

What an AWESOME, AWESOME accomplishment!

You couldn't be more right about 13.1 -- finishing is all that matters. Save the clock watching for the next time around (spoken by a 3:08:00 first time half finisher.) You'll do better and you'll learn more.

Great report, too!

J~mom said...

YOU DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU ARE A HALF MARATHONER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO GIRL GO!!!!!!!!!!

Laura N said...

Congrats on finishing your first half!!!! It's so great to read such a positive race report, esp. in light of how challenging the course was and how your calf acted up. Your attitude about it all is awesome. I really appreciate the time you took with the details of your report. I'm taking notes for my first half next year.

And big congrats to your son, too!

Laura N said...

Congrats on finishing your first half!!!! It's so great to read such a positive race report, esp. in light of how challenging the course was and how your calf acted up. Your attitude about it all is awesome. I really appreciate the time you took with the details of your report. I'm taking notes for my first half next year.

And big congrats to your son, too!

Emil Von Runner said...

Sounds like you had an awesome race too! Congratulations on an epic finish.

Cheryl said...

Congratulations on finishing your half marathon. What a great race report! You did great!

Andria said...

Wohoo!!! You finished. You finished. Oh yeah, you finished! That's awesome. Sorry you got covered in Red Gatorade, and you had some problems with not enough Body Glide in the right places, but other than that, what a great report. Thanks for sharing. You rock!

Sarah said...

Hooray!! I'm a little behind on my blog reading, so I know this was a few weekends ago, but CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are a half marathoner!! Woohoo!!! It was great to read your recap, and I know it will be fun to read back when you conquer your next race. I'm excited to read your progress!!