The Big Sur Half Marathon has topped my list of half marys since I ran it last year (read my recap of that race here). There are several reasons why this race is favored by many runners (not just myself). The course is stunningly beautiful, it has nice rolling hills rather than difficult steep hills or boring flat routes. And Big Sur is a great race organizer (there are only a few race organizations that I put in this category, the SF Marathon is another good example).
Last year when I ran the race I was smack in the middle of my running rut. I could not seem to run at my previous speed anymore. My official time at Big Sur was 2:04 and some change (granted I did have a bathroom break and the course according the GPS watches (acknowledging their flaws) seems a tad long). But I was still happy at that race as I knew without the bathroom break I would have had a slightly faster run and it was quicker than my previous half marathons.
This year was a whole difficult ballgame. I joined a running team (SC Endurance), was more consistent with my running, did more speed workouts & long runs, and Big Sur fell at the tail end of my marathon training plan. And well, let’s be honest, 2012 has been my personal year of the PR. Just to recap, in April I finally fell well below the 2 hour mark finish the US Half 2 (now Rock n Roll San Francisco) at 1:54 and then finally beat my 2-year-old PR at the Capitola Half with a finishing time of 1:45:44 (running a 1:45 half marathon was a huge goal of mine). After that I secured a new PR in the 5k and in the 6 mile distance as well as creating some new personal course records. In July, I created a new half PR at the SF Marathon (1:43:03).
After all this, I knew I could do well at Big Sur. It was my ideal course with its rolling hills. I also knew that I wanted to do well at this race to have it in my mind when I run my marathon in just under 2 weeks (wow, how did that happen??). So I decided I had two plans for this past Sunday. 1) Aim for a 7:38 pace which should get me to 1:40 finish time and a PR or 2) Run a marathon pace for this course. I decided I would go by feel to determine which goal I would pursue.
It was a long weekend. I went to the expo on Friday to pick up my gear but I was back there Saturday to volunteer for the SF Marathon booth. I got to see several other SF ambassadors, including meeting Paulette for the first time! I was tired and cranky after the long Saturday and this was not made better while waiting for dinner. But after some delicious pasta I felt better. I drove down with my father-in-law, who is also a runner and raced Big Sur as well, and saw that the rain had subsided. Woohoo! When the race started, I felt strong and decided to go for goal 1. Every mile I ran was under 8 minutes, with the fastest at 7:22 and the slowest at 7:53. My last two miles were very consistent despite fatigue, clocking in at 7:45 each. I immediately knew after the first mile that course was a bit long but it was not abnormal (I also know that the course could be perfect but GPS tracks it a bit long). According to my watch, the course was 13:31 and I ran an average 7:36 pace. At the 13.1 mark by my watch I was at 1:39:40, but I ended up finishing at 1:41:19. A PR by nearly 2 minutes!! Woohoo! And 23 minutes better than last year. 23 minutes!!!
This race went exactly how I wanted it to. I felt strong the first 9-10 miles and fatigue in my legs set in around mile 10-11. My shoes felt a little off, even though I’ve worn them in a half marathon and some long runs before. This could have been due to wearing new socks. Anyway, for the first 8 miles or so I just smiled like crazy. I knew I was feeling good and no one can overstate the beauty of the Pacific Grove & Carmel coast. After the turn around I saw Alisyn and my father-in-law. Miles 11 and 12 were tough and I knew that even if I slowed to a 8 minute pace, I would still meet my goal of a PR. But I pushed through. I saw Kevin and his mom right before the finish, gave them a big thumbs up, and sprinted to the end. What a great race!
And now… CIM!