Monday, 28 April 2014

Race Weekend Again - Big Sur Marathon

Bixby Bridge, halfway along the marathon route

I'm happy to get through the past three weekends uninjured and feeling pretty good overall. First was Lake Sonoma 50, then the Boston Marathon and finally the Big Sur Marathon. As well as enjoying three spectacular and incredible races, I wanted three sets of tough runs to host fitness for the summer 100s. Even by running Lake Sonoma at a comfy pace, it was still long and tough enough to be a perfect work-out. Then two marathons at fast (for me) but not quite 100% efforts worked on the speed when tired, especially by not taking backing off on the training much between races.

It's a fairly high risk strategy but over the past few years I've gained a good idea of where my red line is for injury and over-training. Plus with the proliferation of super-fast runners moving to ultras and succeeding, it's more and more important to work on speed - just look at the top men at Lake Sonoma this year, all with very fast marathon times.

Big Sur was as beautiful as ever along the hilly California Highway 1. Usually there's a fierce headwind but this time the air was fairly calm. I felt fast on the flats and downhills but the fatigue showed on the ascents, as can be seen in my highly erratic pacing, especially in the second half of the race. However, 2:41 following the 2:39 at Boston was very positive, particularly since it involved a slight negative split.

Much as I'm happy with the past few weeks and feel fitter and stronger, it doesn't remotely compare with Mike Wardian's win at the North Pole Marathon followed by a couple of fast short races the next weekend, then Boston (2:23) and a win at Big Sur (2:27). He set the masters' record for Big Sur as well as breaking his own record for Boston to Big Sur (that's an official thing which a lot of people enter) with 4:51 combined time. I'd say that sets him up well for a string run at Comrades in South Africa in a month...however, former Comrades winner and race team manager for Nedbank, Nick Bester, tweeted to Mike:

"Congrats on your marathon-just to (sic) close to @ComradesRace to take on the big dogs of Ultrarunning in the World."

In general I'd agree, but not in Mike's case.

The race was also a great chance to bump into plenty of ultra runners, both existing and new friends (all Bay Area races are like this now), plus Bart Yasso from Runners' World and the fastest American female marathoner ever, Olympic medalist Deena Kastor. Both are extremely friendly, approachable and have a lot of time for runners from all backgrounds, even those who want cheesy photos - just look at my grin!

How to look like a giant - stand next to a female pro marathoner!

Here are some scenic shots of the Big Sur race route, showing why the race sells out so fast. Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers, especially Stephen Butler who looked after the elites and made life easy for Amy to enjoy the trip down as a spectator too.

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