Monday, October 5, 2009

Big Sur Trail (aka Dirt Road) Marathon

I’m not sure how Enviro Sports can call this run a “trail marathon,” because it most assuredly is not. Had I taken a closer look at the site before signing up for the race, I would’ve realized that when I read “follows the Old Coast Road," so that's my fault, and now neither here nor there.

Usually, I’m very quick with reports and have a great time writing them, but this time ‘round is different. Except for a few of the people I met, I did not enjoy one single moment of this race, except for maybe the first 5 minutes.

It was hot. Temps were in the high 80s before noon/before I reached the 2nd aid station after a 5.88 mile climb, and eventually reached the 90s. Eighty (80%) percent or more of the race was completely exposed with little to no wind. The front/back (it was an out and back) was like being in an oven. Toward the end it was hard to even catch your breath it was so hot, and you could see the heat vapors coming off the dirt road and embankment.

I’m spoiled by the aid stations provided by PCTR and SOB. The aid stations, though superbly manned by folks who had to stand all day in that heat with no shelter, had pretzels bites with peanut butter, trail mix, and bananas. With a mouth as dry as the Sahara Desert, bananas were my saving grace. Also a saving grace was that they had enough water that I could dump it on my head and down my back at every station, which provided limited relief.

It was hot (did I mentioned that already) and there was no ice to keep anything cool. There wasn’t even any ice at the finish line for folks. About 6 or so miles from the end, during a 2.7 mile climb, I came around a corner to find Tim, an aid station worker, running down the trail with a gallon of water looking for people who needed assistance. I was doing fairly okay, but since my hand-held was empty, I filled it up. I had another bottle with Succeed Ultra. He left the jug on the ground for the two or three runners who were behind me and, thankfully, practically marched me up that hill. I power walked with him for about a mile before I couldn’t keep his pace anymore, but he said folks were coming into the station speechless with heat exhaustion, and he, who was a very fit runner, talked about how brutally hot it was.

I normally am a very good downhill runner, but by the time I got to the last 2+ miles, which was all downhill, I could barely run. I’d run as far as I could until I thought I was going to lose my balance, then I’d walk, then try running again, then walk. My main goal was to stay ahead of a young man who’d I’d played leap frog with the entire race, and to keep the older gentleman ahead of me in my sights. If I could see him, I could finish because I knew he was going to.

When I came across the finish line, I was so exhausted I could hardly talk to the gals who gave out the finishers’ medals. I just wanted to sit down in the shade and try to pull myself together. You had to cross Hwy 1 to get back down the hill to the staging area, and it seemed to take forever to walk those extra few minutes.

I sat down for a few minutes before I felt composed enough to at least walk to my car and get my chocolate milk out of the ice chest, then just sat at one of the picnic tables with my head in my hands. The medics had two runners laid out on tables, one with oxygen, both with solar blankets. I have no idea how many others needed medical attention. One of the medics found a little bit of ice to put in a baggy for the back of my neck and gave me their last bottle of ice water.

Just to back track a little - talking to the medics was probably the highlight of the entire race. Three cute dudes who were chatty, nice, and comforting. What more could an overheated (in the wrong sense), exhausted gal ask for?

I probably sat around for about an hour before I felt comfortable that I could drive the 45 minutes back to Monterey. I had planned on trying to drive back to my brother’s, 4+ hours away, but that wasn’t going to happen. Luckily, I was able to get a room at the same hotel where I’d stayed the night before.

I had gone into this race confident that I could complete it in 5 to 5.5 hours. I drank 130+ ounces of fluids and took 7 S-caps and neither was enough. Finished in 6:23. The course was hard, but only because of the hills. Probably 80% of the time you were either going up or pounding your way down. There was very little flat. Compounded with the heat - well, ‘nuf said.

Modified To Add:
After reading this over and over, I keep trying to be more positive about this race. Unfortunately, the heat took the joy out of the whole thing. I felt worse at the halfway point of this race than I have at the end of any race in a very long time. If I could count on weather cooperation, I would go back and try, try again. But with Central California (I grew up 2 hrs south of Big Sur), it can be a crap shoot weather-wise this time of year.


Dan said...

Yikes! sounds like a tough one. Glad you survived to run another day. :-)

rustyboy said...

I can take snow. Cold temps. Rain. Wind. But heat? That'll batter me down HARD. You did well to push through and finish! We've all had those "not fun" races. It's fun to commiserate!

Kate said...

Strong work and great job finishing under such harsh circumstances. I hate that kind of heat. You can't really train for it. Kudos for gutting it out! Now it's time to get back to an easy Ultra, doncha think?

fatozzig said...

The 2 marathons I've run have beaten the crap outta me. I think I'll stick with ultras.