My Shiney New PR from the Big Sur Half

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, letโ€™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.

Pre race with the FIL

Corral A

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 Iโ€™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.ย  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!

Almost to the finish!

Love the Big Sur medals

Happy Meg

And now… CIM!


19 thoughts on “My Shiney New PR from the Big Sur Half

  1. Thanks for a great race report. I also managed a personal best – official time of 1:43:40. A couple of points you might be interested in. Have you noticed that your official time is 1:41:23.700? Your GPS watch time is 1:41:19 – a 5 second difference. I had the same thing happen to me – a 5 second difference between official time and GPS time. We both fought hard for those 5 seconds. Do you have any idea what might have happened? My start time was actual recorded as 6 seconds too early (based on teh time on my GPS when I crossed the start line) which I believe is the root cause. My theory is that looks like the start clock was not properly syncronized whereas the finish clock was.

    My Gramin 305 GPS recorded 13.25. This is either because:
    1) Garmin is always reading too high – not my experience at all
    2) We didn’t run the corners optimally
    3) Course was measured without the out/back cones so it was assumed the whole road was available when cornering.

    To be sure of finish under 1hr:40min time we’ll need to average quite a bit faster than 7:38 on the watch for this event. BTW, I actually had 2 watches – one was a Gramin GPS and the other I used to mark my lap times as I crossed the mile markers. My recorded times did not tie in that well with the 4 mile and 11 mile numbers in the race results.

    • Thanks Peter and congrats on your PR!
      I also had different times/distances at the 4 and 11 mile markers. I think part of the explanation for the difference in distance is the tunnel. It seemed to me that my watch lost signal in that portion (and of course there is always the cornering issue).
      I’m not sure what the explanation is for the 5 second difference (it might that they started the clock regardless of passing the mat, as I would get it took me 3-10 seconds to actually cross it after the race started).

  2. Thanks for the reply and congrats too on such a huge, huge drop in time over last year – I thought I was doing well with 7 minutes.

    The thing about the 4 miles and 11 mile markers is that I used the actual big mile markers on the street – not my GPS, and it was still off….

    The start time should start when you cross the start line, not when you’re waiting in line ๐Ÿ™‚ Can you do me a favor and see when exactly your GPS thought you started the race? Mine was 7:06:31, but the official result has it at 7:06:25.

    p.s. as you might be able to tell I have an engineering background ๐Ÿ™‚ I can understand the
    distances recorded on the GPS not being exact, but the timing should not be off by 5 seconds.

  3. Forgot to mention that the winning runner’s start time (I assume that this was very close to when the actual gun went off) was 7:06:15. If you had a “gun time” your clock would have started from then but we were all using “chip times” which is supposed to start when you cross the start line.

  4. Good points, Peter. Yeah I don’t know what caused the discrepancy. Unfortunately I can’t figure out the second I started my watch, just that it was 7:06.

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