Big Sur Marathon 2004


Back in December, Kathy decided to run her first marathon. She picked Big Sur and asked if I was interested. We decided to make a long weekend of it. Friday afternoon, she arrived at our house and we all (Mary, too) drove to Carmel and on down to Big Sur.

After checking into our motel (the Fernwood ), we cleaned up and drove a couple of miles further south to Ventana Inn . We ordered cocktails as we waited for the restaurant to open. These three photos are the first of many that I took using the camera that's built in to my new Palm Zire71. It's a crummy little camera. But what it lacks in quality, it makes up in quantity - I can take pictures of anything anytime. I took it along on the marathon, too.

Mary Kathy
Dinner was great - we even finished it with two desserts split three ways and a trio of ports (2oz each - all for me). We stopped at the Post Ranch Inn and talked our way past the gatekeeper ("drinks at the bar" appears to be the pass phrase) in time to see a spectacular view of the coastal fog below. I didn't think to get a picture. My bad.

Saturday morning, we went to the Big Sur Bakery for pastries and coffee. The BSB makes fine examples of both. The photo to the right is us enjoying breakfast on the terrace at BSB. The goal for Saturday was to expend as little effort as possible. I think we succeeded...

After picking up our race packets we listening to a great panel discussion of race strategies from 6 people of varying abilities. It pretty much boiled down to:
  • it's a difficult course so start slow
  • Hurricane point is the first af several hills, so go slow.
  • Enjoy the view, go slow.
  • drink lots of water (but not too much) 
We stopped a deli in Carmel before walking down to the beach to eat lunch. Some very minor hiking at Point Lobos and a drive back down to Big Sur completed the day's excursion. We had pizzas (carbo loading, of course) at the Big Sur Bakery and crawled into bed around 9pm.

Cultural note: a Brazilian style drumming band (3 or 4 persons - none looking particularly Latin American) played in the Fernwood bar at around 9pm. They were very good and they didn't play for very long. We had a good night's rest.

picnic on the beach
waiting at the start line the gun sounds

The start line is far, far away

You may have noticed that I look rather uncomfortable in many of these photos. That's because I'm trying to hold the camera at arms length while I snap the photo. I think I got it about right in the photo above. That's Kathy and me about 10 minutes before the starting gun. 

We took a pit stop at the Fernwood (about 1.3 miles into the race) and hooked up with Mary. She wanted to get in a 5 mile run before her appointment for a facial at the Ventanna Inn Spa. 

Shortly after Mary turned back, Kathy and I split up, too. We had been holding a 12:30 mile pace (not counting the pit stop) to try to maximize Kathy's chances of finishing under the 5 1/2 hour time limit. I decided to increase my pace to attempt an under-four hour finish.

passing Fernwood
I tried to take about 3 times as many photos as are posted here. One shortcoming of the little camera in my Zire71 is that the auto exposure system takes several seconds to adjust. If I could see the LCD display in the bright morning sunlight, I would have noticed that the exposure system was still hunting, but since the LCD is pretty much hopeless in the fabulous conditions at this race, I snapped many photos that turned out to be all white.

As the sun continued to rise, the scenery changed from dim wooded glens to vast grazing land. One of the coolest shots that didn't come out was the coastal fog clinging to the cliffs to the south. This little bump of land with a lighthouse on it was the second photo. You'll just have to use your imagination for the fog thing.

mist off to the left
A little further up the highway (mile 7, I think) our first glimpse of Hurricane Point was revealed. If you look about half a runner's height above the two women, you can see a cut in the hillside. In a few minutes, we would be on that hillside climbing a steady 8% grade for about 2 miles.

There's a little more of that coastal fog thing appearing just above the runner in the white top.

approach to huricane point
The telltale twinge in my left knee near mile 8, said that this race was going to deliver some pain. Of course, I didn't realize how much pain at that point in the race so I was still calculating split times in my head to try to beat 4 hours. Silly Bob.

Sorry about the sun flare. I need to remember to shade the lens when I take shots like this. The start of Hurricane Point (mile 10) is a bridge that sits about 50' above sea level. The  Taiko drumming core was way cool here. Inspiring though they were, I followed my race plan and began walking up the hill at Hurricane Point.

In the shots below, I tried to give you an idea of what an 8% grade looks like. One cruel feature of Hurricane is that the windy road teases you: each time you think you've reached the top, it curves back into the hill for another long painful stretch. 

Tycho drummers

packing up the music...

This was taken at the top of Hurricane point. I stopped to take more photos and splash water on my knee to ease some of the inflammation.  a view
Somewhere along here, I hooked up with Moose. Moose (short for Mustafa) is a Neurosurgeon in Ventura. He and I had a fine time talking and joking to keep our minds off the pain.
As the pain in my knees increased, I began moving the load to my qudraceps. This minimized the knee activity, but would take quite a toll on my "quads". By the end of the race, they were shredded. My best approximation of walking was more like a waddle for the next few days. I  learned to appreciate the ADA required grab bars in the bathroom stall at work. I'm lobbying to install grab bars in our bathroom at home (for our "golden years").
Another kind runner took this shot. Thanks, whoever you are.

The jazz master workshop was playing standards as I walked by. 

I'm not sure where this is on the course, but somewhere along the way, I saw an ambulance drive by with lights flashing. As we ran, we heard rumors that someone had gotten into serious medical trouble on the course. We found out later that , in fact, a runner had died. The news stories say that he was in his mid forties (like yours truly) and had flown out from the east coast with a friend to run Big Sur.


This is Moose. He and I crossed the finish line together at exactly 5:30 (gun time, that is. "chip " time was more like 5:27... yeah, I know: like that matters to anyone). Moose

A Tuba and Banjo band. I was so distracted by this amusing combo, that Moose had to yell at me twice to notice the fresh strawberry s being given out across the street.
split times

Actual split times (blue) and intended negative splits (pink) to reach a sub-four hour finish.. As you can see, The experimental data has very little relation to the theoretical data. I declare the experimental data to be made up entirely of "outliers". No more need be made of this discrepancy.

heart rate

Heart rate during the race. This race was not a test of my aerobic capacity.

I waited for about an hour at our appointed rendevouz point before seeing Mary drive up. She had driven near Kathy for a couple of miles near the finish. Sure enough, Kathy came strolling up to us after having completed her first marathon in about (official time-keeping ended at 5:30) 6 hours and 37 minutes.

Obviously, this was a terrible race for me: I finished 45 minutes slower than my previous marathon.

On the bright side:

  • I got to run on "the raged edge of the western world" on a spectacularly beautiful day.
  • Mary said she had a fabulous facial etc at the Ventanna Inn.
  • After burning 3046 kcal, I get to eat whatever I want.
  • Kathy has completed her marathon and will not be bugging me to do this crazy thing again.
  • I did not, in fact, die.