Scenes From a Marathon - 2008

To everything, there is a season. To the two of us, this was the season to miss racing the Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM) in favor of other pursuits. It’s the first time since 1990 that neither of us ran this race – but that didn’t mean we completely skipped Sunday’s party, as Donald ran on a relay team and Mike ran the 5K.

Children shall lead them: Actually, the festivities started early this year, with the childrens’ races moving to Saturday for the first time ever. The Just Run 3K in Monterey welcomed almost 1,200 kids and 800 parents – which one Peninsula old-timer described as, “the greatest thing to happen in downtown Monterey since Al’s Good Eats closed”. We’re pretty sure that was meant as a compliment.

Strangest pre-race jitters: Hugo Ferlito, BSIM Chairman of the Board was answering phones on Friday when a nervous caller asked, “Will you have buses to pick me up if I don’t finish?” Hugo explained that the caller should have confidence, but of course, there would be buses to pick up runners if needed at mile 10, 15 or wherever. The caller then panicked and yelled, “10 or 15? I’m only doing the 9 mile walk!”

The acorn doesn’t fall far: Hugo, a Grizzled Vet who has finished all 23 BSIMs, had more reason to be proud on Sunday, as his son Mark ran an astounding 20-minute personal record marathon time of 2 hours and 48 minutes. Fittingly, his dad was the first to greet him at the finish line.

The burden of expectation: During Donald’s relay leg, he ran with his friend and eventual masters winner Brian Rowlett for several miles. In Brian’s first BSIM in 2006, he ran 3:18. The following year, he ran 11 minutes faster to finish in 3:07. The pattern continued this year as he cut another 11 minutes to record a personal best of 2:56. Sure it’s a great result – but next year, anything slower than a 2:45 will be a major disappointment.

The strawberry king: After completing his relay leg, Donald doubled back and forth a few times in the Carmel Highlands area, running alongside friends of various speeds to accompany them towards the finish – and each time, in both directions, he made sure to stop at the strawberry aid station. If they kept records for most strawberries consumed during a race, his Sunday effort would have been a Bob Beamon-like performance for the ages.

Duel of the ages, Part 1: 74-year-old Glynn Wood of Pebble Beach raced the 5K, and was agitated to be passed near the end by Ken Napier, age 77. The two of them have been racing each other at various distances since 1956. Forever the competitor, Glynn still gets upset by any loss, even after 52 years.

Massage champion: The septuagenarian 5K battle wasn’t the most heated competition of the day – that took place in the massage tent. 60 massage therapists donate their time to work on runners’ tired muscles, but only one gets the honor of rubbing the winner. Therapist Emil Guzman was thrilled to nab the top finisher this year, and proudly announced that he had the winner in 2004 also. OK – maybe this isn’t the most heated competition, but it’s certainly the most unexpected.

No slackers allowed: Apparently the massage folks are pretty choosy about whose legs they rub, as Donald learned when he tried to sign up. He was told that only marathon runners could receive massages, which, to a tired relay runner, comes out sounding like “we don’t serve your kind here.” (Even claiming a Herald credential didn’t help – so much for power of the press.)

Duel of the ages, Part 2: 23-year-old Carmel High grad Brooke Wells ran in the women’s Olympic Trials marathon in Boston last Saturday, but somehow found time to race the Big Sur 5K yesterday. A tired Brooke came in 2nd overall, barely beating 45-year-old Ceci St. Geme. Brooke’s motivation was simple: “I couldn’t let a woman twice my age with 6 kids beat me.” St. Geme is no ordinary housewife, though – she’s a world-class masters runner who has graced the cover of Runner’s World magazine more often than any other woman. She and Brooke are both great advertisements for women’s running.

The heroes behind the curtain: BSIM volunteers never fail to amaze us. For example, Kevin Smith of Pacific Grove is known as the “Mayor of Marathon Flats”, and is responsible for setting up the tent city at Rio Road and Hwy 1. Kevin does more work than seems humanly possible in the two weeks leading up to the marathon – and remains nearly anonymous in doing so.

So on behalf of the event participants, we want to say thanks to him, and all the other marathon board members and volunteers. All of us owe all of you a huge debt of gratitude.

If you run out of things to say, use statistics: Some final numbers to fill up our column space: 12,000 participants in the various events. 2,800 volunteers helped them. 365 Porta Potties were used. 350 gallons of coffee consumed. 85,000 cups of Gatorade dropped on highway one and then picked up by volunteers. 25 kegs of beer chugged (mostly after the race, we hope). 2400 bagels eaten. 72 gallons of soup served. 100 cases of bananas distributed.

And finally … 2 columnists who can’t wait to rejoin all the fun next year.

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Countdown to Race Day

The Big Sur Marathon is exactly seven days away – and if you’re a local runner preparing for the event, your main homework this week is very simple: don’t screw things up.

During the last several days before the race, you can’t do anything that’s going to improve your fitness level – so if the hay isn’t in the barn by now, there’s no sense working overtime trying to stock up.

On the other hand, if you taper wisely, you’ll arrive at the start line well rested and ready to roll. Tapering is a delicate balance between running, resting, and eating that allows your body to recover from all those weeks of hard training, and to stockpile your energy stores for the challenge of race day.

Different runners have different approaches to tapering, based on personal experience of what works best for them. However, there are some general guidelines that are almost universally agreed upon to help your chances of having a successful race.

Cut way back on mileage: During the last few days before the marathon, don’t do any runs of more than 3 miles. One sequence we often use during race week is to run 5 miles on Tuesday, 4 on Wednesday, 3 on Thursday, and 2 on Friday. Donald usually takes Saturday off, while Mike likes to take a short jog that day. It depends on how you feel.

Just remember, you can’t gain any fitness this week, so don’t worry about the number of miles. If you’d rather take any of these next six days completely off, that’s fine too. It’s better to be over-rested than overtrained.

Maintain the intensity: Since you are cutting back on your mileage, it’s OK to maintain a moderate intensity with these workouts. Try to run at least 2-3 miles of each workout at a speed that is close to your anticipated marathon pace, so your body stays accustomed to the effort level you will demand during the race.

Avoid the hills: Don’t run any hills during race week – it helps your legs recover more quickly. Remind yourself that you’ll get plenty of hills on race day.

Eliminate extra activities: Give yourself a break from any cross-training activities during race week. And even though you’ll have more free time, try to refrain from tackling a new landscaping or home repair project. The last thing you want on marathon day is to be sore (or worse, injured) from something you overexerted yourself on the week before.

Don’t pig out yet: Since you are running less and resting more, pay close attention to your diet now. It’s normal to gain a few pounds as your muscles stockpile the glycogen they will need during the race. But gaining too much weight will make you feel heavy and sluggish. Eat a bit less than usual, with well-balanced meals, right up until race day.

Most runners hear about carbo loading, and mistakenly think they should eat as much as possible the night before the race. Instead, your final dinner should just be a regular sized meal with a higher percentage of carbohydrates (like pasta, rice, or potatoes) than usual.

On race morning, eat a small portion of a bagel, banana, or oatmeal to top off your tank – but don’t load your stomach to the brim. 26 miles is a long way to run with a stomach cramp.

If you can keep your diet somewhat restrained during race week, feel free to reward yourself with a huge feast afterwards, complete with as much dessert as you please. You’ll have earned it by then.

Cut your toenails: We don’t need to go into detail here … but do it 5 or 6 days before the race. Trust us on this one.

Choose your weapons: Decide now what clothes you will wear on race day. Pick comfortable shoes, socks, and running clothes that you’ve already worn on a long training run. DON’T wear anything new on marathon day, unless you want to have a graphic chafing story to tell your family about afterwards.

Be a recluse: It’s fairly common for runners to get minor illnesses while tapering, so stay away from sick people. Wash your hands after touching anybody. Avoid large groups of people in confined areas. Sleep in a separate room if your spouse is sick. A little bit of paranoia can be a healthy thing, if it helps you avoid having the sniffles on race morning.

Visualize success: The mental side of marathon running is extremely important. Beginning today, picture yourself running relaxed and strong, and having a great race. Repeat this scenario each day. Be confident in your ability to succeed!

Enjoy yourself: Yes, you should take the precautions above – but don’t get so overwhelmed with worry that you forget to enjoy the experience. Think of how far you’ve come in your training, and resolve to have a great time on race day.

Good luck to everyone who is racing next Sunday. May the wind be at your back!

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