Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Run Monterey Bay

Sam told me that the Big Sur Half Marathon might have to be an annual thing I do to give us an excuse to come back to Monterey.  I agree.

All the pretty.
We arrived the Friday prior to the race and went straight to In N' Out.  Carb loading, ya know?  Saturday, we walked around the expo and I picked up my bib and shirt.  We took a drive and learned a little secret about the Central Coast of California: it's most beautiful weather is during the fall.  Shh.

We were there in late July and while it was nice, it was definitely foggier and colder.  That Saturday was the kind of weather that makes you want to quit whatever thankless job you have and move there.

Anyway, that evening we stopped at the market for bagels, peanut butter, and juice.  I went to bed early and slept as well as I ever do before race day.

By 4 a.m. I was up and trying to figure out how to cut open my bagel with no knife.  Sam improvised with a stirring straw and our room key.  We would kick ass on Survivor.  Is that still on?

I got ready and we went down the street to the shuttle stop.  I met a nice woman named Maria and we chatted until it was time to get into our corrals.  I made one more pit stop at the porta-potties and then looked around.

"TWO MINUTES!"  The announcer said.

How do I get into my corral?  I thought.  I'd looked at the map of the starting area, but anyone that knows me knows I have the directional sense of a goldfish.  I couldn't see an entrance on my side so I raced to the end of the corrals and around to the other side.  Still no way in.  I got to my fenced off corral and asked a girl who said she didn't know.  Some helpful guy told me to jump the fence.  Because with my luck, I definitely would not fall and I most certainly would not hurt myself.

At this point, I was fully prepared to run along the outside of the fence and hop in at the last minute.  I jogged up to the front of my corral and asked a married couple how to get in.  The man told me to jump the fence.  I was debating the mechanics of that when the woman told me that the fences snap together.  "Here," she said, and unsnapped the fence.  Success!

My adrenaline was going and I was finally in my corral.  The announcer started our countdown and everyone started clapping.  My nerves evaporated.  Oh, that's right, I do this because I enjoy it!

Cannery Row, pre-race
Sam was at Cannery Row when I got there.  He took pictures and ran alongside me for a few yards.  A woman said we were cute.

For the first five miles, I felt great.  I saw the elites coming BACK when I wasn't even quite halfway.  We cheered for them and everyone around me was having a good time.

Somewhere around mile five, the sun came out.  Unfortunately, when I get hot, I wither.  I made it to the turn around, but enough time had passed that the sun was still in my face going the other way.  I ran by sheer will.

Look at the pretty ocean, don't be a baby, be grateful.  Look at all the people cheering!

I'm hot.  I'm hot.  I'm hot.

I had a blister on my left foot and a side stitch which I was able to mostly ignore.  Keep running, I thought, and you'll finish faster!  That was enough to keep me going.  After that, I didn't think of anything else except being done.  But I was supposed to enjoy the scenery, that was what everyone said.

I'll enjoy it later.  In a car.

I crossed the finish line and a little girl gave me a medal.  I couldn't remember what I'd been complaining about because it didn't matter anymore.

Sam was smiling and taking pictures at the finish line.  A photographer took our picture.  Since we were still separated by a fence, we agreed to meet on one of the piers after I went through the food tent and grabbed my things.

While I was waiting on the pier, a couple with their dog came up to me.  She asked me about the race and said that she was a marathoner.  She was funny and friendly and helped me to remember to enjoy the day. She asked me if I'd ever run that race before and I said no, but that it might become an annual destination race.

I learned a lot from this race for next time.  And there will be a next time!  One, there are uphills.  They were rolling, but I hadn't been prepared for that.  Second, bring sunglasses.  Third, enjoy it.  Monterey is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  Fourth, figure out how to enter a corral.

Last, I want to give a special thank you to all the organizers and volunteers.  This was one of the most well organized races I've ever done.  Thank you to everyone that made it happen!

Here are a few more pictures from the race:

Runners be crazy

The elites rounding the corner at Cannery Row.  The winner, Jacob Chemtai, is at the front in red.

Crossing the finish line.  Actual finish time: 2:34:21.
Me in a nutshell

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Nerves and Cookies

I sent my boyfriend, Sam, a text that read, "I'm kind of sick to my stomach."  And then I thought, I should probably write about this.

On Sunday, I'll be running the Big Sur Half Marathon with a few thousand kindly strangers.  I hope they're kindly (note: please be nice to me, I'm really nervous).  Also, it's my first destination race.

Monterey, CA.

Luckily, the destination is my home state of California.  The out and back course begins in Monterey, near the wharf, and winds its way through Cannery Row, into Pacific Grove and Asilomar Beach.  It's oceanfront nearly the entire way.

Cannery Row in Monterey, CA.

Sam asked me why I felt sick.  I told him that I was nervous about the race and also two chocolate chip cookies I ate that may have been a bit suspect.  Pre-race jitters are familiar to me and many other runners, but I also don't like flying, crowds (especially of strangers), or most members of airport security.  Sorry about that last one, but it's true.  Anxiety, thy name is Ashley.

I'm in shape for it after running a half marathon in July and then maintaining that level of fitness.  It will be a beautiful course in a beautiful city.  It is forecast to be perfect running weather.  The flight, hotel, and rental car are booked.  But I still feel a vague, jittery sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The excitement won't come, I know from some experience, until I toe that line on Sunday morning.  The nerves change to adrenaline and excitement and we're off.  The race will be the payoff.

Until then, I'll be making list after list of everything I don't want to forget because it's my process.

Also, no more cookies.