Disclaimer: I received a free entry to 2018 Big Sur 21 Miler as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
After a very long week at work I can finally sit down and write about my Big Sur experience. I will say I had a few hiccups in my training with getting sick a few weeks ago but I will say I finished one very very hard and scenic race.
Big Sur 21 Miler Medal
We flew into San Jose and then drove to Carmel super late on Friday. We managed to wake up early enough to make it to the expo by 9:30am on Saturday. Bib pickup was super quick and even though there was a sign saying no transfer and all distances sold out, my boyfriend was able to register for the 5k! We went back to the expo hall and got our shirts and gear bags. I love the shirt I got, the heather purple is great! The 5k shirt was a super soft cotton, by boyfriend will definitely wear it.
Big Sur 21 miler shirt and merch
Race day outfit
The expo is small but there was plenty to do. Hoka One One had a huge booth and I learned more about shoes and what I should try next. The local lululemon was there screenprinting shirts. I love mine and it was worth the wait! The Big Sur merchandise was awesome. I got a custom BOCO Gear beanie, socks, and an enamel pin. I will say all the volunteers at the expo were stellar. During bib pick up they gave us directions and advice on where to park on race day, which was super helpful.
We left around 11:30am, drove to lululemon Monterrey to see what the surprise was if you showed your Big Sur bib. Both me and my boyfriend got pint glasses and a free beer after the race at a local brewery. We headed back to the hotel for a nap and some exploring in Carmel. Before dinner we explored Carmel Beach and downtown Carmel. We headed to bed around 9pm since we had an early morning ahead of us.
Big Sur 21 Miler Start
I did not sleep well the night before the race. The elevation and the distance freaked me out. I woke up a few times which meant the 3:15am wake up was brutal. I did eat something as we headed off to the parking lot to drop me off.
The buses were a bit disorganized, they finally arrived at 4:25am and we took off. My bus along with a few others passed the 21 Miler start line and kept going to Big Sur. This was terrifying since none of us on the bus had cell phone reception and kept telling the driver to turn around and go back. We finally made it to the start around 5:40am. Luckily for me there was no line for the port-a-potties and I grabbed a cup of coffee to stay warm. Thankfully, we started right at 6:30am and had to walk up a steep hill before we reached the timing mat. The weather was perfect, 55 degrees and overcast. I was still a bit cold but we started running up a hill right from the start so I warmed up pretty quick.
The first five miles were long rolling hills that had amazing views of the coast. I was feeling good and knew that Hurricane Point was coming up and needed to save energy. The view leading up to Hurricane Point was gorgeous! Even though the next 2.5 miles of hill were visible in the distance, the view was well worth it for the run downhill into the valley.
Taiko Drummers at Hurricane Point
By the time, I got to Hurricane Point I decided I was going to speed walk up much of hill. Since I’ve started tail running I’m used to ‘hiking’ up long steep inclines at a consistent pace. Hiking this section of the course allowed me to take in the view and keep my heart rate down so I could conserve energy.
There were taiko drummers at the base of the climb which was great entertainment and kept me going into the first part of the climb. Another fun feature of was the mile markers. Every mile of Big Sur has a cartoon mile marker and the ones up Hurricane Point here funny. “Hang in there” was the theme of the three and they made me laugh and take my mind off the hill. About a half mile from the top I was passed by a bunch of official marathon vehicles and then the lead pack of marathoners. Major props to them for racing one very hilly course.
Part way up Hurricane Point
Running downhill after the 2.5 miles of Hurricane Point felt amazing and the view of Bixby Bridge was also a welcome sight. The Piano Player right after the bridge is the halfway mark of the full marathon which mean there were 13.1 long miles ahead of me. I took a few photos and kept my run/walk going up and down the ‘rolling hills’.
Mile marker 11 of Big Sur
Around mile 14 I took a quick pit stop and as I was exiting it started to rain. It wasn’t that much rain but the rain caused my entire body to get cold and cramp over the course of the next mile and the last 6.2 miles were painful. Running up hills were almost impossible entering the Carmel Highlands. I kept telling myself I was going to finish and that walking up each hill was ok as long as I ran the descents.
Piano Player at 13.1
The Carmel Highlands are beautiful! I was not bored at all run/walking the last 4 miles and there were plenty of locals and volunteers cheering too. There was a local group that every year gives out fresh strawberries around mile 24 of the marathon and that was the fuel I needed to finish the race.
Mile 25 of Big Sur
The last big hill is at mile 25 and this year Hoka One One had their huge arch up and pump-up music blasting. A few of the Big Sur International Marathon employees were out cheering and saying congrats to all of the runners. Even though Monastery Beach was beautiful – that last hill sucked. I was so happy to see the last downhill and the finish line even though I was barely running at the finish.
The finish chute was very organized, I was not a huge of the Marathonfoto photographers who kept pulling me aside for a photo. If anything it made it harder for me to enjoy all of the amazing volunteers and food at the finish line. The post-race food was perfect- local produce, a cookie (it was AMAZING!), chips, Dole juice, gummy bears and a banana. I was given a heat sheet and finally found my boyfriend and was ready for a shower.
After a shower, we explored Monterrey. Grabbed brunch at Alvarado Street Brewery and walked around cannery row. I was happy I could walk even though my quads and calves were very unhappy. I did survive the car ride back to San Jose and the flight home to Seattle.
While we were waiting for our flight home, I was able to jump on Athlinks.com and claim my race results. You can check out how I did it here, and while you’re at it, jump on and make an account too. Don’t forget to add me as a friend so we can go head-to-head in future races!
Me running into the finish line
I am not going to lie – Big Sur 21 Miler was the hardest race I’ve ever run. The views and the volunteers made every mile worth it. If you’ve never run in Northern California and are looking for a bucket list race, Big Sur is well worth it. Both Carmel and Monterrey are beautiful and are worth the visit.