Three things really excited me going into Big Sur. The obvious was the scenery as you run point-to-point on the closed Highway 1 route the whole way. The second was being able to run with Derek and Tina, my besties who convinced me to run the Monterey Bay Halfie with them 1.5 years prior that got me back into running, and this was their first time racing above halfie distance, and first time ever above 18 miles. Lastly, this was my first opportunity to go down in distance, from my previous 2 races which were marathons, and really try and push myself to hit a speed goal. My goal was a 7:30/mile pace.
The day before, after picking up our race kits in Monterey, we had lunch and hung out at the Pebble Beach clubhouse, walked the beach at Carmel-by-the-Sea, and had dinner at an amazing Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Carmel called Demetra Cafe. The food was to die for, and there was Mediterranean music and dancing making it an all-around great experience that I highly recommend if you’re ever in the area.
We picked the 21-mile distance partly because it was the perfect in-between distance for Derek and Tina, but also because it’s super hard to get into the full marathon via the lottery anyways. You still get all the iconic parts of the course, and there were 2 other big benefits that I learned once the gun went off at 6:30am..
The 21-miler started at 6:30am at mile 5 of the course, and the marathon didn’t start until 7am. That meant that the entire course in front of me was completely empty! It was surreal, I was literally running on Highway 1 in Big Sur BY MYSELF!
Well, I wasn’t completely by myself, there were 3 other runners in front of me. Yes, 3! There weren’t really any elite runners in the 21-miler. I went out at a 7:20/mile pace and that put me quickly into 4th place, where I would stay for most of the race! I ended up finishing 5th overall, which was a huge surprise to me! Hey, I’ll take it!
I did run my ass off though. I maintained under a 7:30 pace almost the whole race, despite the never ending rolling hills (over 1600 ft of climbing total) and the infamous Heartbreak Hill (800 ft). I trailed off a bit off pace in the last mile or so, but not by much. I finished with a time of 2:38:04, which is 7:31/mile pace, soooooo close to my goal. The sad thing is that if I would have run 20 seconds faster, I would have hit my goal pace, and finished in 4th overall. But whatever, I pushed as hard as I could. I could barely walk after, and pissed blood. It felt good to push so hard and get that 5th place result! This might end up being the highest result of my entire running career hahaha!
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