Big Sur International Marathon

Div Place Place Time Pace
122/285 997/3429 04:10:00 9:32 min/mi


I can’t start a blog about Big Sur without starting at the beginning, with registration. Getting in to BSIM is difficult at all times, often voted as the best destination marathon, many more people want to run Big Sur than are allowed to.

The 2015 registration process was split into five stages. Four traditional signups across different times of the day and days of the week, ostensibly to create some equity across regions, work schedules, and time zones, and one lottery. On the first traditional signup, Harry, Joy, and I were all at our desks, frantically hitting refresh to try and get in. Within four seconds, the seats were sold, and Harry successfully got into the race, but Joy and I didn’t. The next three were similar situations, one I tried to do remotely via phone as I was in San Francisco at a work event, one I missed due to being out with the family, and one I had a similar situation as the first. Joy successfully registered in the next three rounds, but I was left to the luck of the lottery. Fortunately for me, I was successful in getting into the race with the lottery, so all three of us who were training for the race were able to get in. Yay!


Out of my three previous marathons, I had a variety of training, from constant and consistent, to severe under-training. My undertrained races proved that by mile fifteen or twenty, I would be cramping and underperforming. Knowing this race to be one of the most difficult to complete, I knew I couldn’t scrape by, but would have to be amazingly consistent in my pre-race work. If you’ve read my blogs leading up to this, you know that I completed a lot of races leading up to this, enough to help ensure success. Yet, just racing would not be enough: I should be running 30 miles a week at minimum. And yet, I didn’t. Life, as always, as well as a lack of training partners running at lunch (kids keep me from early morning training), meant that I was very consistent in my long runs, yet barely if ever ran my weekday runs. What I learned from this training is that, enough cross-training and enough distance building means that I can complete a run by just building up my long distance training, but I can’t get any faster or better without adding in the base work during the week: hills, track work, and mileage. My training wasn’t good, but it was enough to do a consistent and full marathon instead of a half marathon plus some walking. I didn’t run the whole thing like my PR, but nor did I find myself unable to run the last few miles, either.

The Bus Ride

Over five percent of Big Sur’s budget goes to buses. That’s over $150k, for bus rentals. Why? Because how do you get over 8,000 to the start when the roads are closed, the parking lots are where you stand to prep the start, and there are no hotels nearby? You bus all of them, one way, in one shot. 185 buses taking 8,000 people from fourteen locations to eight different start zones. So at the buses, by 4am, to hit the starting venue by 5:30am and have the race course cleared for the starting gun at 6:45am.

The Beauty

This is the first race that I have ever done where runners, and not the type who go in a pack and celebrate running as a big social event (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but the real runners stopped to get out their phones and take a picture. Anyone who didn’t, either didn’t have a case that could carry their phone, was drop-a-phone-phobic, was blind, had already run it several times, or had no sense of beauty. When else do you get to actually exist, not behind windows, but out in the clear along the PCH for four beautiful hours?

The route begins at its namesake, in Big Sur State Park, and winds its way up a closed-to-traffic Highway 1, finishing in Carmel. Between the iconic Bixby Bridge, the ocean views along the whole route, and the top of Hurricane Point, there is practically no point which isn’t awesome in its beauty. And while one friend of mine said that his PR is on Big Sur, I followed the advise of the rest of my running friends and took advantage of the scenery to make this a race I truly enjoyed, not just ran. And yes, I took some selfies, too.

The Race

As you can tell by the rest of this blog, the race itself wasn’t as big of a goal as the venue; however, out of the three marathons I’ve done so far, only the first was truly successful. The second and third were plagued by undertraining and cramping, and so my goal was to do a good race, even if not my best. Running the whole course with a 9:32 pace, I’d consider successful for that goal.

The first ten miles, leading up to heartbreak hill, I kept a pretty relaxed pace of low 9s, running with both Harry and Joy for the first few, and keeping my heart rate in zone two. A quick pit stop before the big hill, and I was heading up to catch up with Harry. The whole way up the hill, my mind was on relaxed and easy running, and I averaged 10s all the way up, though my heart rate jumped up into the 170s to get to the top. I had been warned not to blow out my quads on the downhills, so I kept my same mid-9s pace on the way down.

By the next few hills, I still kept up the same mantra, relaxed on the way up, slow on the way down. Not long thereafter, I caught back up with Harry, and we were running together again. Then, we got to the the first big hill after mile 22 in the Carmel Highlands, and things changed for me. To quote the race organizers: “Just the mention of the Highlands strikes fear into the hearts of Big Sur vets. It is a series of short steep hills made all the more brutal by the sharp cant of the road which wreaks havoc on tired quads and tender ankles.” About half way up the hill, I began to feel like I might cramp up, and I know from my previous races that once I reached that point, there would be no turning back. I said “good luck” to Harry and began walking up the hill. I reached the summit, and said “screw it” to my plan of backing off on the way down. I knew, if I was going to do decently, and be walking up the hills, I’d have to make up time downwards, and if I was going to cramp, I needed to take advantage of every opportunity I could. So up the hill I went at low 9s for the first half, 15s for the second half, and I came down in the 7s and 8s. Shortly thereafter, I shocked Harry by catching back up with him. “Never thought you’d see me again, did you?” “No” was the honest reply.

Harry and I paced each other through the easier sections, and I kept up my walk/run up and down the hills, and we kept going this way till around mile 25. Then, looking at my watch, I had a realization. The last time Harry and I did a big run together was a couple years ago at Shamrock’n, and when we got near the end, he fell back and I pushed it in to the finish. Had he known that he was going to be eleven seconds off his PR, that would have been enough motivation to push it into the finish. So knowing his marathon PR, and looking at the time, I realized that if instead of pulling back as we both felt like doing, we just pushed a little harder, Harry would PR in Big Sur! My fastest mile on the race was mile 24 (assisted by a nice long downhill), and my final mile was in about eight minutes. I had enough left in me to push a bit harder than Harry into the end, so I came in front of Harry, but he got a PR! Harry finished in 4:10:06, beating his 4:10:52 PR, and I finished in 4:10 even. The end result was a race I did about spot-on to expectations, and enjoyed tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Anyone planning on doing more than a marathon to check off that tick on their bucket list should plan on doing Big Sur. There’s a reason that it sells out so fast, and is consistently featured in magazines and top race lists, it’s worth every bit of training to go run this course. And while I may not do it again, I’m extremely happy that I did it.

CIM 2008 – A Personal Worst, and then some…

Div Place Place Time Pace
376/400 4434/5198 04:53:21 11:13 min/mi

The Race

One problem with doing your second race, is that it’s either a PR or a PW, there’s no in between. Well, the first half of this race went well, 01:47:16, or about 8:10s, a conservative pace by 10-20 seconds for me. And considering my training has been lacking, and really only gone up to 13 miles, doing well for the first 13 makes sense. Last year, I began to fall behind at this same point, for this same reason. The difference, though, is that this year, I cramped up badly… very badly. Like, walking for the whole last ten miles.

So, at about mile 19, I decided to hit my lap button, just to see how bad the pacing was. By then, my average pace on the front 19 had dropped from the low 8s to 9:08. The last 7 miles? 16:37, or 3.6mph. Not even a brisk walk (4mph), but at least better than a slow stroll, and that includes having to stop and try stretching several times.

So what have I learned? Obviously, training is important, and while I can skate by on a half (and have several times), there’s no easy route for me on a marathon. Also, that when it comes down to the mental game of “This sucks, I hurt, I should quit!” I can make it past the mind battle… or at least could this time. And lastly, my friends and family still love and support me, no matter how badly I do.

California International Marathon

The Best Part

I have to start this with the most amazing part of the race. Diane, Brandon, Mason, Damon, Mom, Kristi, Vincent, Dave, Amanda, Josh, Harry, and Sarah. You were all so amazing. I can’t believe how inspiring, supportive, caring, and wonderful you all were. Diane, you and your family, seeing me so many times on the race, and planning out such an amazing amount of support, I have never felt so honored in my life.

Josh and Harry, for making such a creative way of coming out and finding me, and for your impeccable timing. Amanda, for helping me see the finish line, and helping me forget my pain for that last half mile. Kristi, for coming out even when you hadn’t planned to, and to Mom, for giving up one of your favorite church days of the year to come support me. Vincent, for supporting all of the runners with water and GU2O, and for supporting me through my gear delivery. Dave, you’ve done this every year, and your unending support is awesome, thank you for the smile and the cheer. And Sarah, for fighting the traffic to celebrate with us afterwards. Thank you all. This has been a truly awesome experience, and so much of it is thanks to you.


My half marathon paces have been ~1:45, and I knew I needed to be a bit more conservative, so at the packet pickup, I picked up the 3:45 pacer bracelet, and expected to run with that group. I figured, if I slowed down, from 3:45, I could still beat my goal of sub 4:00, but I wasn’t going to be so arrogant to think that my half pace would be my full pace.

Then comes Sunday morning, and I don’t see the 3:45 pace team sign. The only one I spot are the 3:20 and the 3:30. Well, with my half pace being the 3:30, I figure I’ll run with that team and as I drop back, I’ll get passed by the 3:45 and hold on to that pace through the race.

Well, that didn’t work so well. Race day excitement kicked in, and I paced the 3:30 folk for the entire front half, and then slowed down to my own pace for the second half. So, long story short (since I’ll get into the details next), my goal was sub 4, my stretch goal 3:45, my half pace as a full was 3:30, and I finished with 3:43 and change! Below my stretch goal, and well below my goal. I’m thrilled, excited, and utterly flabbergasted by the time. I’m on such a high right now, I can’t even explain it.

Div Place Place 13.1 Time Pace
112/220 1494/4743 01:45:14 03:43:39 8:33 min/mi

The race

It’s not surprising that the wisdom of those who’ve gone before you can be so spot on. I have had so many people tell me about marathons, and describing the wall that most runners hit somewhere between mile 18 and 22, that when I found my pace dropping from the low 8s to all over the 9s, I wasn’t shocked. However, I never realized what a struggle, both physically and mentally, those last eight miles would be.

Somewhere around mile 13, my pace dropped from 8:00 to 8:30s. Not surprising to me at all, since the majority of my training peaks out at 13 miles. In fact, I’ve only done two runs exceeding that distance, a 15 mile run in August, and the Clarksburg 20 three weeks ago. So when my joints and muscles, at 13 miles, let themselves be known, it came as no surprise. I expected some of that, and I started out with a slightly aggressive pace, knowing that it was risky, but taking the chance at making my marathon pace the same as my half marathon pace.

At mile 18, as I said, that slight penalty became tremendous. It was like trying to run through water, my breathing hadn’t changed, my heartrate stayed steady, but my muscles were no longer cooperating. Every step was an effort. By mile 23, both of my calves and both hamstrings were cramped up. I spent every amount of effort I had trying to keep my muscles relaxed, or at least to prevent them from locking up completely. I was sure I was going to have to walk, but I knew that from the second I did, I would be struggling to make it forward, so I persisted, and never once walked the entire marathon. So I made my first half in ~1:45, and the second half in ~2:00, and I’m very pleased with the results.

The course

I have to say, I loved it. The net downhill, well, who can feel 300 feet in 26 miles? However, the relative flatness, the wide streets, running through areas I grew up in, areas I socialize in, and areas I’ve lived in, made the course amazing. I hate driving that far, and to think, I ran it. The day was beautiful, slightly windy, and slightly chilled, but I’ll take that any day over hot or rainy. The fact that two lanes of every road were given solely to the runners, and that a main artery of Sacramento is shut down to support the race is fantastic. Going through so many cities, supported by people yelling “Welcome to Carmichael!,” the local high school bands playing, local cheerleaders serving you water… it was great. I’ve never felt happier being here, nor more at home in my home town.

Post race

One of the biggest learnings from this, so far, is how impactful a full marathon is to my body. I’m sore. I don’t mean my muscles hurt a bit, but sore like I can barely walk up stairs, and hobble for the first fifty steps every time I stand up. Sore like my muscles still have tenseness in them any time I touch them. Sore like I haven’t been sore before. The only consolation is that every person at work who ran it is walking the same way I am, so I know I’m not alone.

I also have had a hard time eating. I’d think, after running 26.2 miles, I’d be famished. Instead, I could barely finish half a gardenburger, a few onion rings, and a few chips. I ate six or eight 200 Calorie meals Sunday, trying starches, fruits, veggies, juices… anything after the race. I had the same issue Monday. It wasn’t until Monday lunch that I really ate anything substantial, and that was only because I forced myself to eat a calorie dense meal at Panda Express. Nothing I really wanted to do, but I could tell I was at a calorie deficit, and needed something in my body. Even now, I still don’t seem to want to take in calories, even though I know I’m still short. I haven’t lost any weight, and I’ve been a drinking a lot of water, but I’m just struggling to get in enough calories.

Anyway, this is more than long enough. But I have to say once again, I loved the race, and look forward to doing it with my friends next year.

Clarksburg 20

Place: 183/358
Pace: 9:30

The Goal

The triathlete training bible talks a lot about different type of races. “A” races being the big one or two you train for in the year, “B” races being ones you put effort into, but don’t push and train to the edge, and “C” races being those that you do, just as part of training, and just to do. No pushing, no risk, you’re just there because you love to race. That’s what Clarksburg was to me; a chance to do a 20 mile, pre-marathon, typical Sunday training run. In that light, I got exactly what I wanted out of the run, I finished, I had good times with a friend, I accomplished some speed work I never thought myself capable of, and I loved it. As a bellwether to my CIM success, all signs point to positive. Yay me!

The Course

Let me just say, this is what was meant by “Avenue of the Vines,” not the “Bovines” event. The course was beautiful, the day was perfect, I couldn’t have asked for better run conditions. The course meandered through the streets of Clarksburg, a small town just along the river, south of Sacramento. Parts of the run went through wineries, parts through country roads, parts along the levy above the river tributary. It was amazing, quaint, and perfect. In a heartbeat, I’d do this run again.

The Run

I usually title this part, “The Race,” but since I wasn’t really racing, I’m just going to call it the run. As a training run, I didn’t push myself at all. I told Harry when I was trying to get him to do this (which he had a good excuse for missing, being in Oregon),

that I wouldn’t race it, but would rather run alongside him the whole time. Well, Harry didn’t show, but Amanda did! So, I extended the same idea over to running with Amanda, and we did the first 15 miles of Clarksburg together, chatting, keeping our minds off of injuries, and just enjoying the beautiful course. Thanks, Amanda! I would rather run with friends any day, and it’s friends who’ve helped me get to where I am today.

So anyway, the first fifteen miles were pretty mild. We paced in the low 9s to start, but as injuries and a week of sickness began to catch up with Amanda (I still can’t believe she ran twenty miles after being sick all week long), our pace slowed down to the mid 10s. Around mile ten, I forewarned Amanda that I might take off around mile fifteen, depending on how we were doing. Well, right at fifteen, Amanda’s injuries really started to get to her, our pace was down to about 11s, and I felt the need to push myself a little more. So I took off for the last five miles… and it was awesome.

For the last five miles, I was running (depending on headwinds) between 6:50s and 8:20s. I would have never thought that, after fifteen miles (my longest run ever at that point), I could kick it up to run sub 8s. Frank, at mile 18 or so, told my that I could catch up with Hiroshi, and try I did. Just thirty seconds, he said, and at the 400 meter mark, I saw Hiroshi ahead. His pace was slower than mine, and I thought I had him, but that 400m mark put a fire under his feet and he sped up, leaving me to come in just a few seconds behind him. It was a nice push to bump up my speed just a little more, and I had a great time doing it.

Four Bridges Half Marathon

Div Place Place Time Pace
22/46 354/1429 1:49:36.0 8:22/M


Out on the home turf, the course is beautiful, the run lightly challenging, the logistics well executed, and the weather and timing were perfect. While my performance might not have been superb, the course definitely met and exceeded my expectations. Would I do this run again? Absolutely. Will I beat my time next year? I better!


Friday night, I had my first Master’s swim class. Now, that’s something for my training logs, not here, but it definitely affected my pre-race readiness; my calves cramped up badly in the kicking drills, and by Saturday morning for my warmup jog, they were still hurting. Sunday, as I got ready to run 4B, I could still feel the pain inside my calves. Not the right way to start a run.

Harry told me ahead of time that he wasn’t going to be making the run, but I was still expecting Amanda. Looking around, I did run into Mark E, a few STC fellows (Frank, Hiroshi, good to see you both!), and Micki and Paige, but by start time, I was alone. Oh well, I was here to train, and train I shall do!

The Course

Beautiful, scenic, hilly… altogether a great location, which is why it’s a great place to train. The mile markers were amazing, 25 foot tall poles with large banners. The new experiences on a course like this? Not being able to see the people beyond right in front of you, and not seeing the mile markers until your on them. And the worst of that, not seeing the next water station… which has big gu timing impact.

Thankfully Micki warned me ahead of time to save some energy for the last mile, or I’m not sure I would have been ready for such a long uphill, but as the announcer said as I sprinted across the finish line, I saved too much. For anyone doing this, the last half mile or so is all uphill, from the lake level up to Natomas St, and not the gradual version that you have during the start. A few switchbacks, and a steeper ascent, and you’re quite glad you’re done after that.

My Race

I underperformed compared to my last two races, but I didn’t taper off in prep (10.5 miles on Tuesday, a Master’s swim on Friday, and five miles the day before), and I didn’t push myself to the limits, so I’m not disappointed. In fact, I got exactly what I expected out of the race; a little worse than my normal, but not horrible. And considering the knee injury, the hills, and my cramped calves, I probably performed better than previous races.

I tried using Clif Cran-Razz electrolyte drink in my water bottle instead of water, and I believe I’ll go back to the basics. Electrolyte tabs, Hammer Gel, and pure water for my personal stock of fuel. I’m still not comfortable sticking to

race-supplied water, even though that seems the norm. I like to fuel when I need it, and to take gel, that means having my own water. For this race, not being able to see the water stops ahead, and thus gu in time to finish before the stop, that was probably a good thing.

Disneyland Half Marathon

Main impressions

I’ll happily do it again, no questions!

Highlights: the course, the park, the size!

Lowlights: ramping up to a 108 degree day, my time, my knee post-race, the size!

The Race

The first five miles looked about like the picture to the left…

For those of you who don’t get the reference, here it is another way: I passed 7,136 people while running, the majority of these in my first 5 miles. What this means is that my time was horrible (for me), to say the least. I felt like I was running intervals for those first miles, and yet, it was a whole lot of fun! The nature of the run kept Harry and I together for that time, because even if I’d wanted to go faster, I couldn’t. Sometimes he’d find a path through the people, and I’d sprint to grab it before it disappeared, sometimes I did. That in itself was a fun new scenario.

The day was about as awful as possible, Anaheim was the second hottest city in CA that day, at 108 degrees. The low during the night was mid-70s, putting our race in the 80s and 90s, with >50% humidity. Less than pleasant.

The Route

Fireworks went off at the starting line with the gun, which in itself was pretty neat. Then down the outside of the park along the streets, followed by a path through the employee areas into the back of California Adventure. Through CA Adventure, seeing characters there, and employees rooting you on. Then off to the main park, my favorite moment of which was when a character in the Mad Hatter costume is yelling “faster, faster!” in a great Hatter voice, while the teacups are spinning and the music is going behind him. Running through the castle, then back out to the streets.

Several of the rides were turned on, solely for our enjoyment. Then off across the freeway, through boring streets, marching bands playing along, high school cheerleader squads along the route, and lots and lots of water stations. Then through the inside of Angel’s Stadium and around the baseball field, then finally a return back to downtown Disney. The race logistics were solid, the support structure was great; 1900 volunteers and they were still short.

The Results

1:59:34 (9:07 min/mi, blech!), 1030 overall, 77th age group. Not good for me, but considering, I’m not too worried about it. I almost feel like it was more fun passing all the people, even with the time hit, just to say I passed over 7000 people! 🙂 Save the PR for another course, and another day. I had a great time, and a great vacation.

Avenue of the “bo” Vines

May 20, 2007
Time: 1:44:20
Pace: 7:57.9 min/mi


If you want a course to hit a PR, this could be it. 13.1 miles of absolutely flat, widely paved, closed roads with nothing in between you and the finish line but other races. For me, well, this was only my second race, and I’ve only been running for seven months, and my first race was at four, so I’d hope I’d improve between then and now, even if just a little.


“This 13.1 mile, flat, fast course, will take place on county roads through the grape vines of Lodi. Enjoy the beautiful scenery with the mustard seed in full bloom.”

Sounds appealing, and the start of the race was at Woodbridge Winery, a promising start. The honest truth, though, is that this course ran by more dairy farms than wineries. In fact, I believe Woodbridge is the only winery I actually remember from the course. Those with hay allergies are strongly advised to use their claritin that morning!

The Race

Not nearly as many rooters-on as Shamrock’n, the course was a bit dull in its square corners and long country blocks. The only thing to watch are the backs of the runners passing you, or of those you’re working your way to pass. Still, I can think of worse venues and worse ways to spend my time. I enjoy running, and having people with me is encouraging. If you’re reading this looking at whether to run this race, my suggestion is that you use it as a nice training race, and not think of it as a key goal. It’s a fun place to be, makes for a good long course, and I’ll likely do it again, if it fits within my schedule, but I won’t go out of my way to make it.

The Post-Party

Starting with a few glasses of wine from some fun race-bling — nice stemless glasses, we travelled through a series of wineries to wind down the afternoon, then headed out to Rubicon for a bit more relaxation. There’s no better way to finish a race than with the friends and buddies who help me get there. This is part of why I do this, to spend time with friends in healthy and fun ways. Thank you Harry, Amanda, Gabe, and to our supporters Josh and Ruby!

Rock’n out to the Shamrock’n Pace of Life

Time: 1:46:13
Pace: 8:06.5 min/mi

I can’t tell you what a thrill yesterday was. Not only did I exceed my own expectations of anything I would ever have done, but I had an amazing day, filled with fun, excitement, energy, and true joy. I was always told joy could only be found in Christ, but there is no better word to describe yesterday. The energy of life and of friendship is one of the most thrilling and compelling energies I have ever felt.

I have dropped 45 pounds in a year and a half, and I’ve gone from a guy who was sedentary and content, to one who is outgoing and full of energy. My whole self exudes confidence and fun, and I’m amazingly happy.

Now for the details of my run! I expected to finish in 2:15, in fact, I was planning on using Amanda as a pacer, since she has the most steady and perfect pace for long distance running. After mile one, however, I felt the energy of the day pulling on me, and ended up pulling ahead of my two friends, fully unintentionally. By the time I realized we were no longer together, I decided to keep going!

By mile four, I realized I was getting a bit tired, but was feeling like I was getting into that mile eating pace that just keeps on going and going. By mile six or so, there were a couple other guys, both who looked in much better shape than I, that I figured I could keep up with. So I paced them all the way until mile eleven. At any point, I’d pass by one, or another would pass by me, and though I doubt they were pacing me as well, it made for great inspiration and competition.

Each time my energy started to wane, and I’d feel myself starting to fade, I’d remember the lessons from Dr Lau and the running workshop and would just stand upright (straighten my column), relax my legs, and elongate my stride, and all my energy would come rushing back. Along with good solid breathing techniques (three strides in, five strides out, nice slow breaths for strenuous work), my body felt good!

By mile ten, I started passing some of the runners who were starting to run out of energy (like Harry did). That was a great feeling, seeing myself continuing to push those extra miles and knowing that my fears of early over-exertion weren’t holding me back. By the last 200 meters, I had enough to just bump up my energy a bit — not enough for a final sprint, but enough for a nice solid finish. And solid is how it ended.

1:46 for a finish time, averaging 8:06 per mile. My 3-mile pace! I’m so amazingly stoked by my finish, and feel great about it! Yay me! Finisher #309, and #18 in my age group.

On other great notes, Amanda and Harry were able to pace each other for the first 11 miles. And Amanda, my 10 min miler and steady energy and pacer, pulled herself forward to finish with a 9 minute pace, and broke two hours! That was so awesome! Harry was doing equally as well, but encountered his first “wall” and bonked at mile 11. He finished at just over two hours, still an impressive time, and still in the first half of the finishers! I know I would have been right there with him if I hadn’t done that 12 mile Lake Natoma run with Steve Lease and folks (thanks Steve!) And I know Harry’s got it in him to beat that pace by a long shot next time, and he will.

Anyway, that’s more than enough for one blog, but if you can’t tell, I’m still thrilled, and enjoying every bit of the high from doing this. I even think I’ll do a full marathon, this was that awesome. Just another major accomplishment, and I can imagine how wonderful I’ll feel after that.