Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge

To qualify for the challenge, you must also be an official entrant in the 2019 Boston Marathon. You can register for Boston either through your qualifying time or through one of their charity programs. Since I qualified for Boston, I figured why not do Big Sur – it is my bucket list race. Some years, it is 6 days apart; on the opposite years it is 14 days apart. 2019 was the long year and since I have run 3 marathons in 3 weeks I was sure I could do it. However, I don’t run a sub 6. 6:08:15 at Boston was my best time. So I figured I had some work to do. Prior to attending the event, I wrote to the race director and asked him about a guide. It was then he told me about the course and told me that mobility impaired athletes have not completed this event. I figured well: GAME ON! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Doctors told me I would never walk again and I walk and have completed 13 marathons and 64 half marathons. I can do it. He wasn’t telling I couldn’t, he was saying it was hard to do, but not impossible. I had read the description of Big Sur on the website, so I knew a little something. I joined the Facebook group and wrote to other runners and they told me their perspective. One lady PR’d at Big Sur by completing a 5:45, her fastest yet. The course is challenging, more than you can ever imagine. I trained and trained until I hurt myself, trying to prove him wrong. That challenge was $300. What do you get for that? A special tent, 2 medals, a jacket that says Boston 2 Big Sur, and a finisher shirt. I am strong on the downhills and I knew Big Sur had a bunch of those, but I wasn’t prepared for the canted roads. Bernie from Achilles told me about that, but I was sure I could find a flat spot. I thought the challenge was really worth it, priorities in the wrong place. It happens to the best of us. Be smart and heed the warnings.

Flight

I flew from Houston to Monterey on American (about $453). Flights are cheaper on other airlines flying into other airports. I didn’t want to drive to and from the airport 1 plus hours, pay for a rental and pay for parking.The carry-on luggage had to be valeted. So happy it was an uneventful flight; took an Uber for $12 dollars to the hotel. I booked through Marathon Tours and my room was paid for prior to getting there.

 

Arrival

Portola Hotel and Spa held $150 deposit for incidentals. I was given a cookie like at the DoubleTree Hotel and I was in hog heaven. You know I was hungry, right? Best cookie I ever had. I actually ate two.

I dropped my things off at my room. I enjoyed the cute little view. I love balconies.

The expo opened at noon. Somehow, I got in the expo at 11:45 and got my bib before they opened. I basically opened the closed door and the person standing there helped me and gave me my bib and bus ticket.

I left the expo and went to the Fisherman’s Wharf and ate lunch at Scales Seafood. If you are Active Duty or a veteran you want to eat there. I happened to be wearing my shirt and was given VIP service.

The appetizer was free and delicious. The Crab Ravioli was to die for. I was entertained by seals or sea otters; I have no idea which they were, but I enjoyed the view of the marina from my window. I watched boats, sea animals and just looking at the water.

Desert was just so tasty and not because it was free too.

If you keep your receipt and buy something from the gift shop you get an additional 10% off. I felt as though I was winning! I left the wharf and went back to my room to finish stretching. I set my alarm to attend the Marathon Tours welcome dinner. My alarm went off and I headed to the dinner. Walking out of the hotel I met two ladies heading the same place. They wore jackets, one in a Boston Marathon jacket and the other in NYC Marathon Jacket. I had no idea that I was among the cream of the crop runners. I should have known better since most runners finished around 4 hours and 30. I looked around and noticed a see of Boston Jackets and here I am walking around in an Army polo. I am a nobody, Hahaha! We walked to the dinner and we chatted about running. I told them that I had run Boston and as usual they wanted to know my finishing time.

I had to explain that I was mobility impaired. Then they wanted to know how I got into running, if I wanted to complete the 6 Stars and I simply told them I want to complete my 50 states. I want to share my story with one person in every state and DC. We ate the appetizers, grabbed the bracelets and other freebies (raincoat and buff). They walked back towards the hotel to catch sunset, I walked with them for a bit and then decided to head back to my room. Sometime during the night my roommate came in and introduced herself. She explained she wouldn’t be sleeping in the room and I had no problems with that. She was really sweet and her friends were there.

Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early and ate at the hotel. They had a 20-dollar buffet which was also delicious. They had everything you could possibly want for breakfast. The pancakes were so tasty, made to order eggs or omelets, crispy bacon, chicken sausage, pork sausage, smoked salmon, fruit, scrambled eggs, country potatoes, yogurt, oatmeal, an assortment of cereals and juices plus unlimited mimosas. Following breakfast, I took the Marathon Tours course tour. There, we were able to hop off three times and take pictures. The guide was nice and told his experience of running Big Sur 34 times. However, he insulted one of the ladies I met Friday. He kept referring to the 21 miler participants as walkers. She eventually asked why he kept calling them that. He said because quite a few of them walk. After taking a gazillion pictures I eagerly waited for the tour to end.

The bus dropped us in front of the expo and I left there to meet up with my guide. I enjoyed Scales Seafood so much I took her. Again, the food was soooo delicious. I left there and bought fresh cotton candy (not the kind in a bucket) at a candy store. They had good caramel corn too, better than Garret’s in Chicago. I had dinner with Marathon Tours and went to sleep for the race. The dinner was nice, but nothing to write home about. They give you drink tickets, but I don’t drink that much. I may have a mixed drink every 4 months to a year. If you like to drink beer and wine grab the drink tickets and mine too.

HAPPY RACE DAY

Race morning I woke up and grabbed my Subway sandwich which was walking distance from the hotel .1 miles. FYI Monterey has everything from Benihana to Taco Bell within walking distance. Marathon Tours included a breakfast, but you must wear your bracelet. I grabbed a brown bag from the table Marathon tours provides a spread for breakfast. Granola, banana, peanut butter and jelly, cut bagel, knife, two kinds of granola bars and bottled water. They watch very closely to ensure non-group members didn’t grab food. I grabbed my portion and gave it to my guide.

Jealous, my Marathon Peeps getting on a bus with a bathroom. I walked over to the marathon bus pick up which was also at the Marriott. Their pick up started at 4 and ended at 4:30. The 21-miler started at 4:35. A lady missed her bus to the start. I found out later she had to run the 21 miler and get a 21-miler medal. Sucks for her, but you must be on time. I stood in line to board the bus, but we started walking down the street, I was wondering where the heck we were going because printed on the ticket were the words pickup at the Marriott.

No one was able to tell me why we were walking, but I followed along until I found a volunteer. We were told to walk up 4 blocks to reduce congestion. The guy asked if everyone had a yellow ticket and folks said yeah. I said no I have a brown ticket. He said Brown tickets you are in the right place, yellow tickets you missed your bus, I was so relieved I was in the correct place.

I rode down to the start next to a guy (I can’t remember his name). It was a 60-minute ride. We got off the bus down a hill which means we are probably going up this hill later. Everyone was wrapped in old clothes and old race foil sheets to keep warm. I was just fine in a short sleeve shirt and run skirt. The temp was about 55º. There was a pre-race yoga class and I participated for the last 5 minutes before it was time to start. You know me – got to get pre-race photos.

Let’s discus the disorganization at the port-a-potty line: 4 lines for 15 stalls re-damn-diculous. People, wise up! 15 lines would have been shorter, taken up less space, and possibly quicker. I did like the fact that they had toilet seat covers inside on the wall and pretty clean.

The Race

The national anthem plays right before the start, the singer got nervous and missed a few lines of the song. I think it was because he was trying so hard to add his own flair. If he would have sung it like it was written maybe could have remembered the words. I know I’m wrong for that, but that’s my opinion. But I digress. To start the 21-miler you start at mile 5 you go up the steep grade hill then cross the timing mat.

Most people ran to the timing mat, I was like it will be there when I get there. The race started and we were off down Highway 1. I ran intervals until the hill grades got too steep for me around mile marker 11. The leg brace determines whether I walk or run a hill. My legs felt great throughout the race, but the canted street made it unbearable for me. The streets reminded me of a race track, you have to find the flattest point and that was hard. My ankles were not agreeing to this madness. I was a bit salty that I wasn’t getting my Boston 2 Big Sur gear, but I somehow rejoiced on the course because this was straight foolishness to want to run on a course because it was beautiful and had bragging rights. It was a tough course, but the race director doesn’t lie to you and tell you otherwise. At first I thought he was being mean to me when he said I wouldn’t make it. He down right discouraged me and that made me want to run it more. He told me that there had been visually impaired runners, but no mobility impaired runners to finish the course. He went on to tell me that there are gale force winds some years and I was determined. I began training a year out for the Back to Back. However, training did not go like I had planned. I was misdiagnosed with a stress fracture. So, I stopped running and focused on strength training and it worked well. My legs, glutes, hamstrings and calves felt awesome! I would have run further, but it really hurt my ankles to fight the road and the brace. There are so many runners that don’t finish this course. There were 21-miler runners that didn’t finish. So if you know me you know the course was a big party, but you know I am not cutting corners or hitching rides, I am doing this Kandi Kane style to the finish. If you are a back of the packer and you know you don’t run a 5:30 on average, run the 21-miler. If your run a 15-minute pace do the 21-miler, if you are a true back of the packers do the 21-miler. You have a max of an 18:30 pace. In some places you walk a 20-minute pace. Take a camera! I sat down with the pianist like I told him I would, I beat on drums, I danced with a dinosaur, I faked played a harp, I cheered runners on and downright motivated a few to get it in gear. I played music on my speaker and runners from everywhere shouted out, “Go Achilles”.

They were very encouraging and said I was inspirational. I didn’t feel inspirational, but of course I never do. I just wanted to complete my race and help 1 person to the finish.

I shared my story before I got to the course so my race was made. I ran with Stephanie and she filmed everything. I would point out what I wanted captured in her phone and she took care of it. She also kept majority of the runners off me. It had gotten so bad at mile 24 I told her I could no longer run. Not 1 minute later a man comes out of nowhere and tries to knock me down. He hit me so hard. I said WTF. I told her that the next person that hit me was going to get it. Then I decided that nope, he was going to get F’d up. So quickly does evil just creep in your heart. I am ashamed, but really, I told her I was going to open a can of Whoop Ass. I took off on a sprint. I was about two arm lengths from him when she called my name. I turned around and asked her angrily, “what?” She said something I couldn’t hear, I slowed and she said calm down. I was livid, I wanted a piece of that dude. I had it all planned out. I was going to trip him. Then hit him in the back of his neck and continue to kick and punch him until I got tired or right before I got arrested. Of course, I would have had to take off my shirt because it said Achilles and my bra because it said Hissy Fit triathlon club.

CHiPs would have arrested me for aggravated assault and indecent exposure. It would not have been pretty.  She saved two lives on the side of that mountain Sunday because I was not going to hit him with my bare hands, I was planning on fighting unfair  and there was no Geneva Convention rules on this war I was about to start. Two seconds later she says let’s run, I told her, I can’t and that my feet and ankles hurt. Well they did but I would have run some more. We ran a little more and walked more than we ran. The plan was to just finish it with minimal damage to my ankles. I have tendonitis on the top of my foot and I was fighting the brace on my shoe that wanted me to keep my foot positioned a certain way. Simply put that was just way too much. I had to dig deep; it was by far my most challenging race. I would do it again if I could use Elektra, my WalkAide. I could never do this in a brace, the IDEO brace would break my ankle.

The volunteers at the water stations every two miles were super awesome. I really wished they had an early start so I could have finished that extra 5 miles and received the Boston 2 Big Sur accolades, but it just doesn’t work like that. It is a hard 6 hour cutoff with canted streets and mountains of absolute beauty. The weather Sunday was perfect.

However, I am always hot so my guide carried a water bottle and pour water on the top of my head and at one point I had gotten dizzy and had double vision. My head hurt so bad at another point I was nauseated. But you know what? I got it done. Never would I be afraid to stop if I truly believed my life was in danger. Big Sur may just be a one and done for me. I keep hearing LL COOL J. I am going back to Cali, Cali, Cali, I am going back to Cali…hmm I DON’T THINK SO!

 

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