“I’m pretty sure I won my age group!”, I pronounced as my fellow Fleet Feet runners and I sat down at the Big Sur River Inn for lunch. What would normally follow is a round of cheers, but today my declaration brought laughs all the way around. Rewind about two-and-a-half hours to Andrew Molera State Park, where hundreds of trail runners gathered in the rain at the start of the Big Sur Trail Half Marathon only to be told the race was being canceled. Or, was it? It really wasn’t clear. The race organizer led with some jokes about the unpredictable weather in Big Sur and mentioned that there were two cars stuck on Old Coast Road, which was doubling as the race course. He proceeded to tell us that due to the accumulation of rain, the Forest Service was shutting the road down and the race was canceled. The news hadn’t clearly landed for us runners, so he proceeded to tell anecdotes about how he used to have an athlete’s body that made his wife swoon, and then reiterated the closing of the race, the uncertainty that it would get rescheduled, and we could still pick up our t-shirts on our way out.
The Start (end?) of the race
The Start (end?) of the race
The crowd was stunned. We had trained for hundreds of miles and hours, been asked to pay state park fees for parking, and stood around for 45 minutes in the rain only to be told — at what we thought was the start of the race — that our hard work was for a cheaply made and poorly designed t-shirt.
Later, we would receive an email from Enviro Sports stating,
“…we know that the trail running industry typically does not offer any sort of credit in such circumstances. Enviro Sports, on the other hand, is offering those that registered for this race a 50% discount off of the registration fee of any future Enviro Sports trail run.”
This is a classically bad move to retain the trust and good will of people who poured themselves into this event. Many things could have been handled differently, from the communicating to the runners, to closing the race before we had all paid to park and stood around getting soaked, to just giving us a full transfer to another race, like any other professional sports organization would. The runners were devastated, some were stranded because of the limited parking, and many had traveled from far away, as the prestige of the location makes this a highly desirable race. The organizers excuse themselves by pointing out they were trying to wait out the weather (and in the end they deferred to the county officials), but just 45 minutes later the rain had stopped and the trails had dried out significantly. I know, because we ran them, albeit in a slightly shocked state.
Determined to run, and get the most out of our already paid parking, The Fleet Feet Trailblazers crew (11 strong) quickly pivoted to putting together our own run on the ocean side of the highway in Andrew Molera. There is a 12-mile loop that would fill in nicely for the race, assuming you made the turn at the right place to cross the river. We missed it initially and did about 6 miles running around the forest trails. Once we found the plank bridge, thoughts about our misfortune melted away and race mode kicked in. My friend, Oliver, and I headed up a climb that was about 2.5 miles with 1500 feet of elevation for about a 12% average rise. This trail was nothing like the Old Coast Road of the race. What it lacked in overall elevation, it made up for in very steep sections (as high as 28%), super technical terrain, and patches of sand, mud, granite, and root-covered forest floor. Turning around at the top, the descent was like the Thunder Mountain ride at Disneyland. This wasn’t the race we paid for, but our legs certainly got our money’s worth.
I ended up running about 11.6 miles and despite messing about for the first half, I was 30-seconds under my pace goal for the race. I had mentally overlaid my race plan onto our run — drinking and fueling at the same intervals — and by the time I got back to the parking lot the ketones, chews, and isotonic gels I had were gone. In fact, the descent was so tricky, and my legs so tired, that I was eating two little Skratch gummies (about .4 of a serving) every mile just to make sure I wasn’t going to bonk at the worst moment.
Coros Training Data
Coros Training Data
As I said to my coach earlier this week, I don’t think I could have put out any more in the actual race. I maybe had a couple of miles left in me by the time I got back to the parking lot, but I left it all out there. I was feeling all of the satisfaction of running a race in Big Sur with my friends and the only thing missing was the accolades. The last 8 months of recovery work and the previous 7 weeks of training show everything I won by running out there, even if I didn’t win anything or got a bad t-shirt to prove it. At the end of all of it, the only thing I’m let down by is the organization itself and the fact that I’ve now signed up for three trail half marathons in three years and have never made it to the start. At least this time there were no health emergencies holding me back and I was able to let it fly. I will probably reevaluate my goals for the Monterey Bay Half Marathon in November. I had it in my mind mostly as a run with my community, but after this weekend, the home town race has gained “A” race status by nature of attrition.