Had no idea before Saturday evening that yesterday's Big Sur International Marathon would be one big experiment, but it turned into just that.
Having run the Salt Lake City Marathon just eight days previous, I was fully prepared to just go through the motions along the "Jagged Edge of the Western World" and settle for nothing more than an upright, albeit "wobbly", finish. The Big Sur event is known primarily for the exceptional scenery, secondarily for the "could kick-your-ass" hills. If you're looking for an overall description of this course let me say...if you're not going up, you're coming down.
Arrived at the Expo just in time for Jeff Galloway's afternoon talk, despite Payless Car Rental's best efforts to keep me from going on the trip at all. Long story shortened...they had NO cars when I arrived to pick up my reserved vehicle. Took them an hour to get me one. When I left the rental office there were four other customers waiting for cars the agency didn't seem to have. Anyway...
If you're a frequent visitor here you'll know that I am a big subscriber to Galloway's run/walk system. I've used my own variations of it on all 25 marathons I've started. However, yesterday's run was going to be significantly different.
Every time I've heard Jeff speak I've clued-in just that much more on the specifics of his plan. This time I really heard him when he said he and his wife were going to do Big Sur running 1 minute and walking 1 minute, over and over again. He also said they'd FINISH in 5 hours. He also explained (again!) how the basic premise is that the more frequent the walk breaks, the more energy you've got to spend at the end. For years (really!) I have been alternating between 6:1 and 5:1 ratios and still finishing (mostly!) in over 5 hours. Decided to change things up for Big Sur, and to use it as a testing ground. I set my watch for 3:1's.
The first 4-5 miles of the course are downhill, so it was difficult to determine if my revised intervals schedule was responsible for how good I was feeling, or if it was just because of the gravity-assist. As I was not really expecting to post any semblance of a record time on this race, I temporarily hooked up with the 5:30 pace group. Then, as we approached the "star of the show" hill, the famous 2.25 mile climb to Hurricane Point, I decided to move on. As my eyes and brain soaked in the awesome spectacle before me, I thought that if Jeff and his wife could do this at 1:1 I could surely do it at 2:1, so I adjusted my watch, and made my way up.
The additional walk breaks worked wonders. I was amazed at how strong I felt at the top. At that point I considered ramping things back up to 3:1 but decided instead to leave my intervals at 2:1 for a little while. My thinking was that, as most of the course from here on was downhill, I'd let gravity do a bit more of the work and I'd enjoy the additional recovery time afforded by the more frequent walk breaks.
From this point on, Hurricane Point achieved, it was pretty much automatic pilot, at a 2:1 pace, soaking in the scenery, battling the wind and the cold, but really enjoying myself. I won't say I felt "good"....but I did feel like I had this one in the bag and, for a couple of miles at least, toyed with the prospect of negative splits, comparing the second half to the first. That wasn't to be, but what did happen was, as far as I could tell, only a handful of people passed me in the last 3-4 miles. The Galloway system was paying off, in that my end pace was almost the same as my starting pace, instead of running out of steam and dying at the end.
I am thrilled with my ending time of 5:16, considering the hills and the headwinds. Looking forward now to a few days out of my running shoes. Four weeks now before race #7 in the 12in12 challenge, Rock and Roll San Diego. I may even have to change things up again for that one...and take the 1:1 plunge.