20 May 2010


If you are just visiting this page, let me encourage you to check out a very nice set of photos taken by son Chris, along the Big Sur International Marathon Route. He began the 21-mile walk at milepost 5 of the marathon route, and took some great shots of the course from there to the end. The same photos, with my own captions, and some extras taken by my Karen and Kathryn, are here. To get the race weekend report, start here.

Better yet, since you can never recover the time you might feel is wasted, go read a good book!

My Karen and Kathryn woke up in Chris's apartment in San Jose on Sunday morning, and had a leisurely start to their day and drove to Carmel.(Kathryn's leisurely start included a 3-4 mile run on the lovely Los Gatos Creek Trail.) They staked out a spot along the final stretch and settled in for the long wait to try to see me and then Chris hit the finish line. They arrived there in time to see the first female marathon finisher, so you know they had a long wait ahead of them!

I had assured them that I would be the last of the gang of four to cross the line, and that it could be as much as 30 minutes after the real runners among us. Also, they were looking for my white t-shirt. They kept alert and saw and cheered Todd with his 3:58 finish and - to be fair given the information they had, they probably let their guard down. What they did not know was that the night before Todd had talked me into using his spare shirt, a technical tee that would wear well over the long course. It was the right decision, no doubt about that. But it was red, and that was one strike against the girls identifying me. Also, it turned out I was not 30 minutes behind Todd, but 11. So, again, they are well excused for missing me. And to be fair, I didn't see them either.

I went through the finisher's gate, got my medal, and funneled into the food tent. This was all so well prepared and staffed. I walked out within a minute or two, with a box of food including soup, fruit, bagel, water, and I don't know what else. I found a table to set things on, and phoned Karen. Or, rather, Kathryn, since Karen never has her cell phone on! They were disappointed to learn that they had missed me, but in moments were in the arena and that was my second and greater emotional moment in the day. To see Karen and Kathryn at the end of an amazing effort on a beautiful day ... that was just too much. They kindly watched me and encouraged me while I ate, and then we thought we'd best get back out to see if we can watch Chris cross the finish line.

And, we all 3 missed him! His time (somewhere around 4:58) was astonishing, and since he had started 30 minutes before the marathon gun, he was across the line in hardly any time after me. We had a great connection, and soon Todd found and joined us. In moments, too, Rick and then Adam were through and we created quite a mob. No way I should have got in before Rich - but I've explained already how that happened on the way up Hurricane Point - or Adam. Adam, it was just because he took over 100 photos along the way. Clearly  he did this route the best of us all, for the sheer enjoyment of it!

Free massages for all marathon finishers, so we got our numbers and hung around for that. When we were all through ... and, my, was that a great massage! ... we took our final photos, said our good-byes, and the men headed back to Big Sur to shower and get lunch. While the fam walked to the car, and to an excellent Mexican lunch near where the car was parked. Leisurely, outdoors, and very welcome. Then our own drive back to Big Sur to recover Chris's car. Kathryn stayed with him, while Karen and I headed back to San Jose together, and we managed to arrive at Chris's within moments of each other. A light supper preceded a drive into San Francisco to get Kathryn on a red-eye flight back to Chicago. And then, to bed!

Monday was quiet and relaxed, and it was nearly noon before I attempted the stairs down from the apartment. It was a revelation to find that while the quads were a little sore, I was not debilitated. In fact, to my very great surprise and relief, I had no recovery issues at all. Took a nice walk before supper, and the next day on the flight home only had to stand and stretch a couple of times. I got right back to work, and life pretty much went back to normal.

How do I account for the recovery success? Well, I only think about it because people asked, and assumed I would be miserable. So, here's what I think: a) definitely have to start with acknowledging God's mercy in my fitness and health; b) without question I have to thank "Coach Rich" for good counsel, training runs, etc.; and finally, c) I think I could have pushed harder on this run. I may have survived so well because I didn't work hard enough. And that is perfectly fine with me! Because the point all along was to enjoy the course and the time with others, and that made this first marathon a success in every important way.

15 May 2010

My first 26.2

The music featured along the course was a huge incentive for me to undertake this marathon. Beautiful course, 25th edition, and music. There were something like 24 musical acts along the way. I don't know if some didn't show, or if I just missed them, or if I happened to hit certain acts during their breaks. I missed the bagpipes which I'm pretty sure were listed to be at the starting line. There was at the starting line a local singer with a "Star Spangled Banner" that wasn't too annoying. I've mentioned the Taiko drummers and the legendary/iconic grand piano at the mid-point. But every "act" was appreciated. There was a really fine junior high jazz band - we had (unkindly) wondered if a group like that was put on the course to help us want to move on! But they had a nice clean sound, played in tune, and actually swung a bit. Nice. There was another middle school band, a student string orchestra, a couple of rock bands. Solo synths, Irish flute, folk harps (who - cluelessly? - had out a busker's change bucket! Did they think runners were going to have change to drop in?). Another drumming outfit  near the end, and reggae. Somewhere along mile 24-25 was a small, very fine Gospel group, singing "At the Cross," so well I felt I got church. I nearly stopped to sing with them.

Todd had wanted a picture of the 4 of us with the piano. But as already noted, by then we were each running our own race. I enjoyed the piano as I continued the descent, after noting my 13.1 time of 2:00:12. It was time to get serious now, with Hurricane Point behind me, and enter the long stretch of rolling hills, alone.

Chris and I had tried to estimate when we would find each other along the course. We thought, given our expected paces, probably around mile 17. He started with the 21-milers, at mile 5, at 6:30. With the delayed marathon start, he'd probably be farther along than that. I started to look for him at mile 16, by which time I was making my way around other walkers. Mile 17. Mile 18, and still no Chris. It occurred to me that I could have missed him: aid lines, porta johns, carelessness on my part? By mile 19 I was pretty sure I'd missed him.  But I kept scanning the field of walkers ahead of me. Then, approaching the sign for Mile 20 ... There he was! Hugs, stories, and head shot; we walked through that aid station together before I resumed my pace. "Alone again, naturally."

I don't recall my timing at that point. 3 hours something, at mile 20. The markers along the route were part of the fun, and generally an obvious prompt to check my time. The delight in catching up with Chris made both the marker and my watch secondary and tertiary, I guess. Plus, once I left that aid station I was heading into my longest run ever.

On April 5 I did my longest training run, 21 miles.I had not done a double-digit run since April 10 (12 miles). Race week I did 3 very short efforts, totaling a disappointing 9 miles. Now I was in my test zone, approaching the dreaded "wall" at some unforeseen point just down the road. Would it be in this next mile? Next step? To this point the day had gone well, and I was feeling good, amply fueling and hydrating, and had only once poured water on my head. I was keeping to a 9-minute mile, pretty closely, pretty consistently. It would be what it would be. Maybe Rich and Adam would catch me? I kept an eye forward for Todd.Chris said he thought the 4-hour pace runner had passed just moments before we saw each other.C'est la vie. I was about to enter the longest run of my life and mentally I was gearing up just to finish.

Prior to mile 18 I had slowed to walk just long enough to drink without spilling. After getting Gatorade on me several times, I began to worry about bees! From mile 18 on I was committed to walking all the way through each remaining station. That may have been equal to "walk one minute per mile," but I didn't check it out. It was what it was, and it was necessary. Each station: water/Gatorade OR Gatorade/water. A couple of banana bites. There was another GU station. I began to drink one full water, and pour the second cup over my head. And so I managed from mile 21 to the end.

One foot in front of the other, and the pace kept pretty close to the 9-minute mile. Walk through the stations, keep the liquids coming. I abandoned the banana option after only 2 or 3. Enjoy the music and especially the scenery.

Soon we were entering developed areas, and real spectators were on corners and at curbs. Not many on the southern outskirts of Carmel, but the crowd element kicked in.

Mile 23: the Strawberry Lady, another BSIM legend.Even when I got there (and I know also, later) there were still lots of berries out: topped, cold, and wet. I only took 1, but oh my!

Beaches on the left, the 25-mile marker (angel of death holding the sign "the end is near") ... and the final hill. OK, it's not a big one, and we had fair notice from the course description and video.I was so thankful to know it was coming. While dreaded (how would I feel by this point?) it would have been disheartening to be surprised by it. And there was the crowd - "up and over! and it's all downhill!" Up, over, down, cross the river, and turn ...

There was the finish line. It choked me up. I was actually finishing a marathon! 9 months earlier it wasn't even a vague notion. And here I was finishing 26.2 of the most beautiful miles on a U.S. Highway, ending in a charming California coastal town. And now the street  is lined on both sides, 2 - 3 deep along the barriers. And the occasional shout of my name! This was an awe-inspiring, humbling moment. I choked back tears and cleared my throat. I'm sure I was grinning like an idiot! What a day! It started in the pre-dawn dark in the redwood forest, and ended in the glorious seaside sun in Carmel.

4 hours, 9 minutes and 32 seconds after my right foot hit the start line, it hit the finish line.

11 May 2010

Big Sur 13.1

The first mile was the same mile we had walked up to the starting line. At the top of the drive, in the parking lot to the camp store at Fernwood, were the first of few road-side spectators. Campers, families, and volunteers who cheered us on at the beginning. At this point, mile 1, the pack was pretty tight, and there was a relaxed, non-urgent feel at least among the 4-hour folks. (The elite runners were well on their way, of course.) We would have these little pockets of spectators through the 4 or so miles of redwood forest that lined the start of the course. Where there were cabins, camps, or in one place some kind of connecting road, a small group was there to encourage us onward.

It was during these opening miles that I realized maybe the way to do this event is to be a course marshal or first aid worker. They constantly patrolled the course, the whole distance, on bicycles. Well, if I could be on that road on a bicycle, I would never have prepared to run it, that's for sure!Somewhere in that first mile, a posse of cyclists was straddling their bikes as we went by, and we couldn't help notice that a couple of them were clearly designated "defibrillators." Ha! We hoped they would track us the whole way.

These opening miles went by fast, but we were covering them at about a 9:15 pace - slower than nearly all my training runs. But great fun as the four of us stayed together, navigated the still tight pack, joked with each other and chatted up others around us. The first aid station was at 2.5 miles, still in the forest. By then it was clear I was not going to need my long-sleeved top for long. The trees peter out at about 4 miles, and by then the sun was peaking over the hills, and I was ready to lose the turtleneck altogether. I dropped that at station #2, mile 5 - where the 21-mile walk had begun, which son Chris was doing. Where, I wondered, just now?

I also knew by now that I might have done well to spend just a bit more time in the porta-johns earlier, but the lines here were way too long to stop. And, being shy, a Midwesterner, and a pastor, I was not about to just run off the road and take care of business. Though plenty of runners did ... and not only men! Well, and that was another reason not to, I guess! That waited for the next station, where there were 6 - 8 johns, and only 3 people standing in front of them. I thought, this won't take long. But, as it turns out, it did; nearly 3 minutes, and most of that was waiting. Blasted shy Midwestern pastor scruples!

The volunteers along the way were fantastic. They were ready, eager, attentive and encouraging. Which was important since there were no other spectators once we left the woods. Our bibs had first names printed boldly, so those of us who wore bibs front and high would hear random strangers call our names and cheer us on. Nice! Aid stations had water and Gatorade, or Gatorade and water - it alternated. After the 5-mile mark (station #2) they were about every 1.5 miles. For me, that meant about every 13 minutes I could get something to drink, and from about the 4th station on I took one cup of each as I jogged through the line.

The last 8 stations had fresh fruit (sliced oranges, and banana sections), and 2 of the stations had GU gel. At the first GU station, just before the route reached its lowest elevation - coming up to Mile 9, anticipating the ascent to Hurricane Point - I had my first brain-freeze moment. Buses passed as we approached this station, ferrying Relay runners I assume. (This was the only poorly conceived part of the day: diesel buses creeping past a tight field of runners, with a bank/hill on the right which only served to keep the fume/smell around us all.) Buses past, the next thing was the presence of volunteers holding up something, waving it, and shouting: "Blackberry! Blackberry!" Now, son Chris engineers mobile software for the Blackberry and has written a book on the subject. So I might be forgiven for thinking, "oh that's too bad, someone dropped their Blackberry." And I really thought that. Since I was carrying my much cheaper phone, and I presume many had phones with them if only for the cameras, I thought the relay buses must also be carrying valuables dropped along the way. So, here was someone trying to return it? Yeah, obviously that makes no sense whatsoever. So I was either in a brain freeze, or in the zone. I said to the young man, "hey, you selling that?" He laughed and said, "no, they're free" ... and then I saw that in his hand was GU, and I realized he was hawking his flavor. D'oh! I took it, laughing at myself and shaking my head.

And then I put it all behind me because there were the Taiko drummers, at mile 9+, at 40 feet above sea level, in all their drama and rhythmic might and costume. Beating away to drive us up the longest incline, the steepest grade, to the highest elevation on the course. Hurricane Point.Now the brain had to get back in gear, the training had to kick in, and the legs had to prove what they could do. It would be a climb of nearly 3 miles to get from 40 to 560 feet above sea level, in a section of road that is famous for false summits. The only way I would know for sure that I was at the top was when I saw the 12-mile marker.

And here is where I truly got in the zone.

I was "alone" at this point, in relation to the guys I had spent the night with. My long pit stop put me at least 3 minutes behind Adam, Rich, and Todd. This would have been around mile 6 or so. When I hit the road again, against all that I had read about race day, I picked up the pace to see if I could re-join the guys. At least this stretch was flat, and the day was young, and I was feeling great, and newly-relieved I had nothing to lose. I soon found that I was somewhere among the 4:15 pace group, and at this point we were limited to the left lane, so navigating was tricky. I didn't want to be rude, I was reluctant to run on a shoulder I'd never been on before, and the marshals were pretty strict about using the right lane. I hope I was not too rude, but I ran on looking for the distinctive trio of jerseys that would identify my guys. And somewhere along the way, there was Adam, standing on the shoulder on a little lift of rock and sand, looking back at the approaching field. He had waited for me. Wow. I appreciated that. We went on together, chatting and enjoying the pace. Then he wanted to stop and take a picture. Said he'd catch up, and I should just move on. So I did. This was somewhere before mile 8, and I never saw him again until we all met up in the finishers area.

Adam is an experienced long distance runner, who says he was not well prepared for this marathon. Most of his running these days is on trails. A lot of it is longer than marathon length. But the real reason he finished after me is the 100+ pictures he took that day!

I continued without Adam, had my Blackberry GU incident, and let the Taiko drummers get me in the zone. And I wish I could say more about the ascent to Hurricane Point. I was aware of the mile markers, and noted what turned out to be my 2 slowest miles of the day: from mile 10-11 (a 10-minute mile), and from mile 11-12 (about 9:30 pace). I am aware of other runners, of those who were alternating walking and running, those who were jogging very slowly, others who were enjoying their running partners and chatting all the way, some who looked about ready to stop. Me, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept my cadence roughly what it had been, and just shortened my stride. I'm not saying it wasn't difficult. This was the hill I dreaded during training - it was the one psychological hurdle that made me question my decision to begin to run in the first place. Where I live in Illinois, there aren't hills like this, and the best I could do in preparation was to make whatever hills I could part of my long runs. So, here I was, one foot in front of the other, repeating as necessary, marking mile 10, and mile 11, and then there I was, at mile 12.

I had made it to the top. This was the pinnacle, literally, of Big Sur. Many stopped to take photos, and to sight see. I should have, except I didn't have a camera, and wasn't with anyone to "share the moment with." Karen and I have pulled off here on our drives, so I guess I may be excused for not being the romantic just then. In fact, I was relieved and elated, and knew that the next mile, though downhill all the way, was actually more potentially dangerous. The course video at the Big Sur site says about the downhill from 12-13, "this is where most of the marathon injuries will happen." O - K.

So after a slow ascent with "baby strides," mile 13 was a recovery mile, with even smaller strides and an only slightly quicker cadence. It was on the downside of Hurricane Point that I came on Rich. He looked hot, tired, and beat. Talk about working your program: he said at about mile 10 (remember, that is just starting the long uphill) Todd egged him on, and he took the bait. And he was wasted. He was struggling to recover, and after he declined my offer of some GU he waved me on to keep up my own pace. Well, Rich has run many marathons, and he is my coach, so ... on I went.

The road continues to wind along the coast, and makes this beautiful descent of over 100 feet in that first mile. Mile 13 is only half-way down the full descent, but it is at the base of the iconic Bixby Bridge. Coming down the hill, we heard the grand piano. As I approached mile 13, he was playing "Bohemian Rhapsody," which I always like and which made me laugh. More on the music later, but the music is another big part of why this race in the first place. And the piano at Bixby Bridge, halfway along the course, is legendary. In all my training, whenever I thought of the piano, I somehow imagined it would be classical. I got "Bohemian Rhapsody." (Todd would later claim that he heard a Mozart opera overture. And he may well have.)

Bixby Bridge. At the dead center of the bridge is the exact center of the marathon course. I checked my watch as I hit the line. 2:00:12 Two hours, 12 seconds of forward motion. (I had stopped my chrono during the potty break). I was on track for a 4-hour marathon.

05 May 2010

Big Sur Underway

April 25 dawned long after Chris and I set out from the little cabin in the woods. It was a mile walk, up to Pfeiffer State Park and the gathering corral/starting line for the marathon. From this same location, Chris would catch a bus to the 5-mile mark, where the 21-mile event was to start. We had to walk along the road, and hadn't taken into account that of course buses would still be moving in both directions - bringing runners to the starting line from as far away as Monterey, and as close as the Fernwood resort, where we had just slept! When I realized that Chris could have shuttled here, he said "well, I needed the warm up." Which struck me as very funny, because he would be walking the 21 miles anyway! A mile walk, to warm up for a 21-mile walk? This could only come from a young man used to walking 6-8 hours every Saturday!

But it was a great warm up for those of us who ran. Except in the pre-dawn dark, with buses coming and going, it might have got the heart going faster than expected. But we made it fine, hugged, shook hands, and parted ways as Chris boarded his shuttle, and I made my way to my first ever marathon start.

It was cool, but not cold. For the start of the race I had picked up a cheap used turtleneck t-shirt, something I could abandon after warming up. I walked to the start line in sweat pants that I really didn't want to just toss, and by the time I walked a mile, and got in among the hundreds already in various lines, it was clear that my first task was to drop my sweats at that truck, and just get that taken care of. Then finish the water bottle I was carrying, and the banana which was the last of my breakfast fuel.

There was a great vibe in the waiting area. We could hear the starting line announcer long before we saw any lights or other runners, and he kept up a steady chatter until after the starting gun. People were standing around all over, but really at this point (not quite 6am) for only two things: food and porta potties. After disposing of everything I wasn't going to start the race with, I got in line for the latter. Good thing I got in line when I did. The johns were lined up on opposite sides of a large parking lot. The lines spanned the lot, alternating direction so that I had to walk all the way to the far john, turn around and face the johns I was headed for. It was impressive how patient everyone was. Some people were obviously there together. Others, like me, apparently alone. Some polite chit-chat; lots of quiet people; all the while the announcer chattering away. I have no idea how long it took to work through the line, but before I made it to my porta destination, runners were already being asked to head even farther up the road, to begin lining up by expected race duration ... obviously with the longer/slower times farthest back.

We had arranged for the 4 of us to meet in the 4-hour group. So I finally made my way there and kept scanning the crowd for Rich, Adam, and Todd. By the time I finally did see them, the race start had already been delayed about 10 minutes. The transportation of all those runners took a bit longer than they expected. There were 5,000 registered runners, they said. But in the end under 3100 were finishers. I don't know how many started, but the organization at this point was the only thing (as far as I could tell) that apparently did not go perfectly. Still, 3-5000 runners is no small organizational challenge!

Finally, people were in place, and things were ready to roll. Some local singer sang the national anthem, and ... was there an actual gun? Funny, I don't remember. But - we were off! From the front of the 4-hour pack, to the actual starting line, took us 2 minutes. Two, easy, cautious, shuffling/jogging minutes during which Todd spoke a memorized scripture acknowledging God's presence and our acknowledgment that our ability to do this comes from God and we were giving it back to him. And as he finished, our feet hit the start line.

And so we were joyfully on our way.

04 May 2010

Getting to Big Sur

I guess the race day really began with our drive away from San Jose. Back Hwy 17 over the Santa Cruz mountains, and to the coast at Santa Cruz - this is a beautiful jaunt, and one we have become accustomed to in the nearly 5 years Chris has lived out there. And I have to say, I have gotten so I can really relax as he comfortably hurtles his Saturn ION over this stretch. Chris is such a relaxed driver, and it's always easier for us flatlanders to have him driving these windy roads. (Not that I don't enjoy driving myself. I do. But others tend, um, not to, so much.)

Our goal was to hit the Marathon Expo in Monterey, at about 5pm, an hour before closing. With this event, there is no race-day registration, because the starting lines (at least the ones we were headed for) are down the course, on a road that closes by 6am. We were enjoying our family day too much to give ourselves more time at the Expo, and knew that in a pinch all we really needed to do was pick up our bib numbers, D tags, and sweats bags. Afterward, upon leaving, we would call the cabin again and let the guys know we were on the way, and pick up some final supper supplies for our pasta dinner there.

Traffic got a little odd south of Santa Cruz, and I started to sweat the timing. Not the registration stop at Portola Plaza, but our arrival for supper! We arrived in downtown Monterey around 5:15, and found an open free parking space, with the odd time limit of 24 minutes. 24 minutes? Just around the block, up the steps, and within about 3 minutes we were picking up our race material. That gave us almost 20 minutes to browse the Expo and then back to the car. Walking down one of the aisles, I saw a familiar face - it's Adam, on the phone it turns out with his wife. Adam was supposed to be at the cabin ... waiting for Italian bread that we were supposed to find and buy! Well, it turns out Todd was also at the Expo, and we ended up connecting for a few minutes while I bought a Big Sur themed technical singlet.

Todd said to the cashier that I should get a senior citizens discount, being a 54 year old first time marathoner. Her quick and cheerful reply: "anyone who can run a marathon doesn't need a senior discount!" Ha!

Chris and I headed down Hwy 1 while Todd and Adam handled the final supper purchase, and we got to see the course from the finish end, the beautiful road we would come back across the next morning. It was breath-taking (it always is) and, for me, intimidating. Seeing it now, with the run in mind, made me really question the validity of my training. Oh well, it's why we were there, and there was no turning back now!

Rich greeted us at the cabin and before long the rest of the food arrived. The 3 guys finished dinner prep, and we enjoyed a simple, fun, conversation-filled meal. I was especially happy to see my friends draw Chris in so immediately and completely. It was obvious Chris was having a good time. The meal lasted through sunset and into dark. It was no sooner over than Todd suggested walking up to the camp store for ice cream! Well, we all went up, but only Todd ate more!

Then it was "home" to bed. The guys had got in on Friday, and had 3 nights in this compact, well-stocked joint. Chris and I got the "living room" - me on the sofa bed, and Chris the better deal with a sleeping bag and camping pad. I mean, a sofa bed in a rental cabin? You can imagine. It was almost decent, but I do think he got the better arrangement. It sure sounded better ... and I should know: I was awake a lot, and I never heard a rustle or a turning over from him.

And so ended my week of jitters, poor sleep, and trying to visualize the course while I lay abed at night. But there we were, with friends, in a redwood forest, together on the eve (not to say, brink) of a great adventure. We were sleeping one mile from the marathon starting line, from which Chris would catch a shuttle to the 21-mile walk start at milepost 5. Just one more sleep till Christmas.

02 May 2010

Big Sur Marathon - the trip

Karen and I had a leisurely morning for final preparations and a reasonably timed flight to San Jose. Good old Southwest Airline, and their convenient non-stop from Midway Airport. Upon arrival we found Fox Car Rental - apparently a regional (CA/AZ) outfit, and I wonder how they'll fare if things in Arizona progress as they seem to be. If you catch my drift.

Probably the only "misstep" of the whole trip was car selection. We had arranged for an intermediate size, and were offered the P T Cruiser. Which we both dislike, and besides they look dumb. Well, for a little more money we could get a Prius? This was our misstep. In reality, the savings in gas usage probably would have offset the relatively insignificant difference in cost. On the other hand, part of our need was to drive 4 adults around comfortably, and since we've never been in a Prius, we declined. Too bad. Instead we got a Jeep SUV model, smallish by SUV standards, but pretty basic too and I'm sure abysmal mileage. But it served, and we were on our way.

First stop - the roasting headquarters of Barefoot Coffee, San Jose. I had read a Tribune article about Intelligentsia Coffee (a Chicago favorite), with a sidebar featuring other local brewers with similar attitudes and commitments. I've brought home coffee from one of the other featured outfits - Stumptown in Portland - and thought it would be fun to get some Barefoot for coming-home presents. It turns out that the roasting facility (basically a house in a common neighborhood) isn't normally a point of purchase for the coffee. If they have some on hand, they'll sell it. But they have a couple of local shops, and they also deal in mail-orders. On Friday, they were without any on hand, but were experimenting with some espresso ... mmm, did it smell great! And while I was getting the lowdown on their coffee, and directions to the closest shop, I enjoyed that experiment. Probably the first non-employee to have it. Yowza!

So, on to Chris's apartment, to the Safeway, and to get supper ready for his return from a long commute. We had a quiet evening staying in, and with the 2-hour difference especially, stayed up way too late. Saturday would be a busy day, and I didn't need one more night of poor sleep before the marathon!

Saturday had a kind of shuffling start, until we checked Kathryn's flight progress and learned they would land about 40 minutes sooner than we had planned. Yikes! So with varying degrees of preparedness, we set off for the San Francisco airport. On our way, we stopped to buy the coffee we had already scoped out. Amazing opportunity and value for the truly addicted (which I am not). With each bag purchased, a free cup of coffee. Whatever was I to do with 5 cups of free coffee, two non-coffee drinkers in the car, and my java-partner-daughter still in the air? OK, I'll take 2 and greet Kath with it. Boy, did that Jeep SUV ever smell good!

The plan was to collect Kathryn at SFO, then get a walking tour of Millbrae - the community Chris hopes to live in next, with train access to SF, the valley, and the East Bay. A shrewd choice, and one he is appropriately patient to work out. Millbrae is a beautiful town, basically built on the side of a hill. It is all uphill from the airport/trains to the interstate 280. We didn't walk the whole elevation, but ... it is steep!

We eschewed an excellent breakfast option in Millbrae, in favor of a drive to the Pacific coast, through Half Moon Bay, to Pescadero. There we like to check out the antique shop, an excellent shop that makes furniture, and have pie (at least) at Duarte's Tavern. For us this time, it was lunch - of course, with olallieberry pie. Mmm ... a King get together is nothing without food.

We continued our drive along the coast, turning back to San Jose from Santa Cruz. Chris and I would soon enough pick up that Highway 1 back in Santa Cruz, and continue down to our Saturday night lodging. And the girls would drive it on Sunday. We got back to the apartment with just enough time finish packing for the night and the marathon, and off we went.

Big Sur International Marathon Finisher

I am no runner ...

But I will keep it up if only to run this course again!

There's a lot more to say, but the bottom line is - I finished in 4 hours, 9 minutes, 33 seconds. And I felt (and continue to feel) great. Thinking that through, I have concluded that at a strictly physical, athletic level, that probably means I could have pushed harder and got a better time. But I am completely at peace with this time, and completely bonkers about having done this event.

The race was one week ago today. At this time last Sunday (4.25.10 - 1:30-ish pm Pacific Daylight Saving Time), we had reconvened in the finishing area, had our post-race food and hydration, and even gotten free massages. We had said our good-byes, and Chris and I were walking off with Kathryn and Karen, to enjoy an excellent Mexican lunch in a nearby shopping area.

On a personal and spiritual level, I have to credit God's mercy and good coaching. Coach Rich took me on as a personal project in this mad scheme to run my first marathon. To run this as my first marathon. And I know that "I am fearfully and wonderfully made," and have always been - always will be - in God's good hands. I've just never thought of myself as an Athlete, and if that label will ever be even close to accurate, that too will be God's blessing. "All the days ordained for me were written in your book, before one of them came to be." So I celebrate a personal accomplishment, and don't think of it too individualistically.

And so I celebrate!