The Race That Wasn’t

The Monterey Bay Half Marathon (formerly known as the Big Sur Half) is my favorite half marathon. I’ve run it six times. And it has often scored me a sweet PR. This year I signed up knowing it wouldn’t be a PR race but a nice way to get in some pretty, supported miles late in my CIM training cycle.

Leading up to race day, the hubs and I agreed to splurge on a nice hotel close to the finish that would be easy for him and the kiddo head over and cheer for me. We also both really like Monterey and had hoped to make a little vacay weekend and head over to the Aquarium too. Unfortunately, life happened and the hubs couldn’t make it to Monterey that week. Fortunately, Elise could! Girls weekend! (Plus the Hotel Pacific was SUPER nice and I’ll definitely keep it as an option in the future.)

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Who does want this as their running view?

The race was scheduled for Nov. 11. That week, the Camp Fire had started. And in just a few days, much of the Bay Area started to feel the effects of the massive smoke as the wind pushed it west. I ran my shakeout run on a treadmill (I hate the treadmill). But Monterey was still showing good air quality and it seemed that escaping to there would be a much nicer alternative to staying in Alameda.

I picked up Elise in Santa Cruz and we headed to the expo. There had been some fears of the race being canceled throughout the day as the air quality predictions shifted to more ominous numbers but the race staff seemed optimistic throughout most of the day. I picked up my stuff around 4:45/5pm, no mention of potentially canceling the race. The air quality was not great but still better than most of the Bay. Elise decided to do an easy run around town before we went to dinner. At 5:30pm she texted me mid run saying the race had been canceled. I checked FB, the race’s website, and my email. Arete teammates were also posting about the cancelation but nothing official yet. I waited, hopeful that this was wrong. Nope. Soon the official word came in – no race this year.  😦

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Making my own race

I was bummed but I decided to give myself a reality check – in the grand scheme of things this was not a big deal. Elise, the kid, and I went to dinner, had a few beers and hung out. I decided to check the air quality in the morning; if it was crummy I’d run on the treadmill when I got back to Alameda and if it was ok, I’d run in Monterey. When I first woke up it was in the high red but by about 7/7:30 it had lowered and it seemed to be continuing to head in that direction. I checked outside and it felt ok to me (I am not an air quality monitor, I should not trust myself). I decided to run. First, I swung by the finishing area where they were giving out food and the medals. I normally am against a medal for a race I didn’t run but I really like these medals and it was a good story!

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The earned-not-earned medal and bib

Lots of other participants also had decided to run. Many wore their bibs (that seemed kind of weird to me, but you do you) and there were still some people cheering and porta potties along the way. Since I didn’t do the traditional course through downtown Monterey and Pacific Grove, I also got a few miles in 17 Mile Drive. It was a beautiful morning.

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The bagpiper still played for those who decided to run.

My initial race strategy had been an easy warm up for a few miles, 8 miles at GMP (goal marathon pace), and then cut down to half marathon pace for the final 5 miles. I was excited for this but once the race was gone, I lost interest in picking up the miles. Instead, I did 3 easy miles, 10 miles at GMP (mostly in the low 7:30s), and 3 miles cool down, where I met Elise and the kid at Starbucks for my traditional post Monterey Half eggnog latte. It was really nice of Elise to hang out with the little miss and I was very happy to have gotten to run some of my favorite paths and finish a solid training run.

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Coloring at Starbucks

While this was great for my legs, it was super dumb. Later in the day I felt the effects of the poor air quality, my throat was sore and I had a cough. By the next day, I felt out of breath and had lost my voice. I had to show films in my classes because I couldn’t lecture. So I also learned an important lesson – if they cancel the race because of the air quality, it’s probably wise to also not run. Alas I’m stubborn and tend to learn things the hard way.

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The race organizers also took care of us runners allowing us the option to defer our entry to a future year, donate a portion of the race registration fee to the Big Sur Foundation, or donate a portion of the race registration fee to the victims the Camp Fire.

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