Thursday, May 9, 2013


Outside the Health & Fitness Expo on
Saturday about to pick up our Bibs.


April 28, 2013

Dear Family & Friends,

First of all, thank you for your thoughts and prayers as we tackled our biggest "couples" physical challenge since climbing Half Dome in Yosemite back in June 2001. This time around it was the Big Sur International Marathon -- considered one of the best and toughest marathons in North America.

Questions abounded as we packed our things and made the drive up from San Diego. First, the kids! How would they do with a babysitter all weekend long? (They did great, of course.) Then all the typical pre-race jitters of did we pack the right clothes? The right pre- and during-race nutrition? Should we run with water packs or just use the on-course water stations? How cold was it going to be? Should we run with jackets? Long sleeves? All of the above? We committed ourselves to running together from start to finish, would we be able to run a pace that was manageable for both of us? Would we still love each other in the morning? Could our marriage of 15.8 years survive 26.2 miles? After all, this was my first time running more than 20 miles (which I only did once three weeks prior to race day). Maria, the more experienced runner, had done one other marathon back in 2011.

After a one-hour shuttle ride down our course on
Highway 1 (in the dark), we're ready for a chilly
44-degree start!
Well, a 4:30 AM shuttle ride to the start line and 26.2 miles later, all our questions were answered. And so were our prayers.

Our Big Sur Marathon was a resounding success! We stuck to our race plan of a 3:1 run-walk ratio. Doing this Galloway style of run-walk-run kept us fresh for the entire race and allowed us to really enjoy the entire experience and the incredible scenery along the way.

The marathon began in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park with a very comfortable mostly downslope run through the sheltering redwoods. After Mile 5, we burst out of the redwoods and have our first view of the spectacular, rugged central California coastline. Along with the awesome view came an equally awesome headwind with occasional gusts of over 20 miles per hour. The scene here was one of hats flying off runners' heads and jackets emerging from waist packs all around us. The wind was pretty vicious at times, so much so that I called for an early walk break or two just because I felt like I could walk faster than I could run into the wind, especially when going uphill.

First view of the course's major
challenge -- Hurricane Point.
At Mile 10, we came around a bend and were greeted by one of the more beautiful and daunting sights we'd see all day -- Hurricane Point. It's a 520-foot climb over 2 miles, the course's biggest challenge and we weren't even half way through. We stopped for pictures at this point, took more pictures with the Taiko drummers at the base of the climb, and started our uphill battle. Surprisingly it wasn't as bad as we had feared, perhaps because we had feared it so much. The top of the hill was marked by Mile 12.

A mile down the hill was the iconic halfway point of the race -- crossing the Bixby Bridge. For me, it was one of the more emotionally charged sections of the course. This was where we crossed the spectacular bridge accompanied by the music from a tuxedo-clad pianist playing a grand piano at the other side of the bridge. It was so inspiring that I may have even shed a tear, but I wouldn't know it since the wind was blowing so hard. We stopped and took our requisite photo with the piano.

Hurricane Point with the mouth of the Little Sur River
in the foreground. Another example of the stunning
postcard scenery of the Big Sur International Marathon.
The mile markers started ticking by, albeit slower with each passing one. When we got to Mile 20, it was all new territory for me, and not exactly old hat for Maria, but it was definitely more than we had ever run during training. So now it was time for one-foot-in-front-of-the-other determination. As we entered the Carmel Highlands, we started to see signs of habitation as small groups of residents came out to cheer us on. They had nothing better to do on this Sunday morning as they were completely blocked in by the Highway 1 road closure for us runners. Thank goodness for those trapped and cheering residents as the last six miles were really tough. This section had a number of twisting hills and descents that were extremely cambered (slanted). When you add the fact that the winds continued to be as strong as ever, this could easily be considered the most technically difficult part of the course. Plus, it was murder on my already-tired knees and ankles.

Just beyond Mile 23 was another iconic Big Sur Marathon moment -- the strawberries across from the Carmel Highlands General Store. Beautiful, big, and tasty strawberries were the perfect solution to a worn and tired body needing an extra umph! to finish strong. We grabbed a couple handfuls and finished them off before going even a hundred feet. Delicious! Finally, we could truly taste the finish line!

The Taiko Drummers add some
much needed inspiration as we
begin our ascent to Hurricane Point.
In short time, the course straightened out and a psychedelic hippy band was camped out by the beach below the Carmelite Monastery, which we didn't even know was there since we were so focused on getting to the finish line just a mile and a half down the road. But of course, this wouldn't be the Big Sur Marathon if there wasn't one final hill to climb -- at Mile 25. Granted, it was a short half-mile long hill, but it was unwelcome nonetheless. We agreed to walk the last part of the hill so we could power ourselves through the final three-quarters mile to the finish line. An angel disguised as a marathoner came up alongside us and said, "The finish line is just to the left of those flags up ahead." It was all we needed to buck up and fight to pass at least a few other runners on our way to glory!

Some final thoughts (you can do it!)…. During my training for the race, I had wondered if this might be my first -- and last! -- marathon. I had fully expected to not want to do this again in the moments immediately following the finish. But oddly, I felt much different. Sure, I was tired and my right knee was hurting, but I was already thinking about when and where my next marathon would be. I'm thinking once every two years would be sufficient for me, due to all the training involved. If anyone's thinking about doing a marathon and wants some pointers for how to do it and feel good doing it, please let us know how we can help. With the right run-walk ratio and some serious mind-over-matter determination, you can do it! It's amazing to think that we finished this tough course without ever running more than 30 miles per week. So it is completely possible to finish a marathon with minimal weekly mileage.
The Grand Piano at Bixby Bridge.

Some thoughts from Maria… It was so wonderful to run a marathon without any major injuries and truly enjoy every minute. My dream of running a marathon with my amazing husband has been realized and I will cherish these memories forever. I was so amazed how great I felt the entire race, even at Mile 26. I have gained so much confidence and am no longer intimidated by the full marathon. It feels so good to check one off my bucket list of dream marathons, I can't wait to run my next one!

Maria especially wants to thank the following for their critical roles in her running… Katie Johnson, In Motion Fit running coach, for being a constant and weekly inspiration. Victor Runco, chiropractor, for being a true runners' doctor who knows how to treat runners because he's been there himself. Nikki Miller, doctor of physical therapy, for helping tweak her running form to avoid injuries that had plagued her in the past. 

And super-duper extra special thanks to Jen Adkins… for staying back home in San Diego with our three kids the entire weekend and caring for them like they were her very own. It's only because of Jen that both Maria and I could train together on our increasingly longer Saturday runs during the six weeks leading up to race day. God bless Jen!

Happy Running,

Here are a couple more pictures we took along the way on our Big Sur Marathon…

Seriously, doesn't it look like one of those cheesy
green-screen tourist photos? But the scene and
colors are for real!

At the finish line with our medals. Hooray!!!