Flip through any article regarding bucket list marathons and must-do races and you'll find Big Sur at the top of each list. I remember my friend, Jacy, telling me about this race so I immediately had to look it up! The website completely drew me in with amazing photographs of one of the most scenic races I'd ever seen - you are literally "running on the rugged edge of the western coast" as advertised. Race hungry, I HAD to sign up for it! I put it on my calendar for reminder alerts for when registration took place. When the time came, Michael and I registered for the 21-miler because we couldn't get through to sign up for the marathon. No big deal though! All I cared about was being able to run Big Sur!
And it was amazing to see in person! The pacific coast greets you with the sound of waves crashing around you. The gorgeous green mountains and jagged rocky cliffs cascading into the sea - it's as if you're running through a painting! Just purely breathtaking. Combine all those views with the fresh, spring smells of juniper trees also. Just awesome! As beautiful as the race was, it was also brutal. I'm actually glad we "only" had to run the 21 miles! Those hills were brutal...and non-stop! And...this was Michael's longest run plus a challenging course to boot! I'm so proud of him!
We flew into Monterey on Friday afternoon and stayed at the Merritt Inn, a family-owned B&B. It was so cute and quaint. I was so glad that my fellow MRTT runner, Jacy, discovered this place! Jacy and her husband were staying there as well. We were completely within walking distance of everything! After checking in, Michael and I walked around the neighborhood and grabbed a bite to eat at Alvarado Street Brewery and ran into other fellow Savannahians - Michael and Leann. So crazy to travel across the United States and still run into folks from your hometown! After dinner, we found an old dive bar (recommended by our waitress), Alfredo's, and had a few drinks before calling it a night. We love a good dive bar!
The next morning, Michael and I went over to the expo to grab our race packets and I was able to meet up with a fellow Instagram and run blogger friend, Gregg (@nycsweat). It was so cool to finally meet "instabuddies" in person! Wished we could've hung out more! We'll have to hook up in November for the NYC Marathon!
After the expo, Michael and I killed some more time exploring Monterey before my friend Stephanie, flew in from Austin, to stay with us. She came in around the same time as Jacy and her husband, Joel. They were all running the marathon. We also met up with another friend running the marathon, Thomas, who used to live in Savannah and is now in Salt Lake City. It was like a mini Savannah reunion! We had lunch on the historic fisherman's wharf and then walked over to a British pub, Crown & Anchor, for a few beers before calling it an early night to prepare for the race.
We got back to our rooms and set our alarms. Stephanie, Jacy, and Joel had to leave a tad bit earlier because the marathon and 21-milers had separate shuttles to the start. Once we got to the start (4:30 am), Michael and I huddled around trying to stay warm. The temps were in the 40s, but the wind had quite a bite! We had a mini yoga session before the race start and then we were off! The 21-milers started 15 minutes earlier (6:30) at the marathoner's 5-mile mark.
As the race began, we made our trek on the Pacific Highway. I was like a kid in a candy shop - I couldn't get enough of the scenery and views! It was sensory overload! Luckily my friend, Chris, let me borrow his GoPro battery extender and selfie stick. I'm so happy to have used it for this race! There were so many captivating "Kodak" moments and for once, Michael agreed that I should stop to take pictures!
It was so peaceful seeing all the green foliage and cows in pastures with the Pacific Ocean in the background. I can't even describe all of its beauty. You have to experience it yourself! The waves violently crashing into rugged cliffs jutting out from the earth. The sun hitting certain parts of the mountaintops. I was in awe. As we continued running, I started to anticipate Hurricane Point's incline, a 2-mile long up a 550-ft ascent. I was counting down the mile markers and knew it would be our 5th mile. Surprisingly, it ended up being windy versus one long climb. The sound of the synchronized Taiko drummers helped us with our momentum up the hill. Once we survived those brutal 2 miles. we were rewarded with the glorious historic Bixby Bridge. I was anxiously awaiting this part of the run as the website teased us with pictures after pictures of the course. I was going to witness it in real life - FINALLY! I was surprised that it was actually shorter than I thought. Michael and I got a great selfie shot with Bixby Bridge and the ocean in the backdrop! I also got the cutest picture with Michael Melendez, the guy who plays the baby grand piano, right after you pass Bixby! It was so cool!
We passed so many beautiful homes graced on these cliffs. All I could think about was how lucky these people are (and rich) to be able to have a place with such spectacular views! Residents came out to cheer us on as we admired their beautiful homes.
Then...it got to a point where I stopped looking at scenery and was just ready for us to cross the finish line. It was cool to see the elites pass us by and some of the marathoners were starting to pass us too. I could feel that we were pushing ourselves a little faster. After another onset of hills and more hills, Michael was running out of gas and we were both tired of running up all these hills that seemed to never stop. We started our mantras and encouraged each other to get to the finish. Our bibs had our names on them so it was nice to hear the volunteers cheer us on. It gave us that extra push!
We were so happy to finally see the finish line arch and before we knew it, we were running through the chute and had medals around our necks! FINALLY! We ran Big Sur!!
It was an amazing experience and by far the most gorgeous race I've done to date. I'm so proud of Michael for getting it done! I would totally recommend you sign up for next year's lottery and get in if you can! It's super organized and one that needs to be at the top of your race bucket list!
What started off from reading a Runner's World article about the Long Run Book Club in Albany, NY spawned off Savannah's very own Read, Run, & Rant Book Club! I am so excited to merge two of my favorite hobbies - reading and running - and apparently there are many others in the local running community who are excited to join in on the fun as well!
Our first official Read, Run, & Rant took place this morning - in the rain. Thanks to all those who braved the depressing rainy morning to meet up. We all met at 7:30 at Foxy Loxy Cafe on Bull Street and ran an easy 3-miler, all the while discussing elements of the book and its characters, and finished off our running discussion of Nick Hornby's Funny Girl back at Foxy Loxy's upstairs balcony, overlooking Bull Street, over coffee and delicious pastries - kolaches, churros, and their jalapeno cornbread. Um - yummo! I can't wait to try out their scones and other pastries next time (June). I'm so glad I was able to introduce this awesome cafe to everyone who came out today. It was their first time at the Fox and everyone loved it! Foxy Loxy will definitely be our headquarters for Read, Run, & Rant.
I've never had the opportunity to be in an official book club so this was really rewarding. We had great discussions on our 3-mile run. Just a note for the runners who'd like to join us - we want everyone to enjoy the experience. This is a fun run - so do not be discouraged if you feel like you aren't fast enough, etc. We had a great flow this morning and made sure everyone was at a comfortable pace. If you have any suggestions on book recommendations, route suggestions, or anything we can do to better the book club, by all means, please share! I'm hoping we can keep Read, Run, & Rant going for some time!
For those interested in hearing what others had to say about the book, here are some other reviews I found that may be of interest to you:
I look forward to our next Read, Run, & Rant in June! Book selections and tentative dates will be out to vote sometime this week. If you have any suggestions/recommendations, please let me know!
I remember signing up for the lottery to run the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler like it was yesterday. I crossed my fingers and entered my credit card information hoping that I'd be one of the lucky ones...and I was lucky indeed! My mom had always wanted us to see the Cherry Blossoms. She talked about the festival all the time and we were making plans to go, but she passed away suddenly last March. When I received my acceptance email, it was bittersweet. I was ecstatic to finally run in DC, but sad that I was going to see the Cherry Blossoms without my mom...but then again, I knew she would be there with me. My sister drove up as well to visit her husband's family (who live an hour outside of DC) and to also attend the Cherry Blossom Festival. I was so happy that she made the trip because it meant so much more to us than just seeing beautiful flowering trees. We were there with my mom's spirit and she was all around, surrounding us with her love. The weather was gorgeous - clear blue skies that enhanced the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms even more! Also - they were in peak bloom that weekend!! It's been since 2007 that the blossoms peaked on race weekend! I have to think my mom played a part in that :)
I turned this into a family trip (aka - "race-cation" for me). The kids were on Spring break and Michael took off for the week so we jumped in the car and made a pit stop in Williamsburg, VA to visit family for a few days and then drove up to Haymarket and Centreville, VA (an hour outside of DC) to visit more family before heading to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, April 11 and the 10-miler on Sunday, April 12. What an experience!! On Saturday, we drove into DC, found our hotel (Washington Hilton in the Dupont Circle area), checked in early, and immediately went to the nearest metro. Michael and I looked like deer in headlights trying to figure out how much money to load onto each card and which train would take us where. Luckily, I had already studied the map on which stops to get off for the packet pick-up, the Smithsonian, and our hotel. Because of the festival, we were packed like sardines on the train and inside the Smithsonian stop. Oy! What a mess! All you could do was just breathe, exhale, be patient, hang onto each other's shirts, and go with the flow. My sister and cousin and their families met up with us later at the Smithsonian. We had a great time exploring the Natural History museum and the Washington monument with the Cherry Blossoms all around us. My kids surprised me and went into the Rocks & Minerals section and bought me a beautiful pink mineral Cherry Blossom tree. As soon as I got home last night, I put it next to my mom's framed picture on my windowsill. It was so sweet!!
By the time we said our goodbyes to my sister, cousin, and nieces, Michael and the kids were ready to go grab a bite to eat and get back to the hotel. We were so exhausted and of course, the metro was a mess to get back onto. We ended up walking down to another metro stop a couple blocks away to get back to the hotel. Our hotel was in an awesome area with plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops within walking distance. We walked to one of the nearest restaurants, ate, and then went to bed. Both of the kiddos weren't feeling too hot - maybe allergies? We were plum tired! I had been on my feet since 7 that morning!
So.....this is the first time I've ever run a race all by myself. This is when all the anxiety and stress kicks in! As before the night of every race, I set aside all my race gear before I went to bed. I picked my Skirt Sports Lioness (flirt) skirt and Kelly (surf) Support Tank with a cute Cherry Blossom Sweaty Band that I purchased months ago from Fleet Fleet. All of it screamed Spring! Afterwards, I tried to go to sleep, but my mind was racing! "What time do I need to get up to catch the metro?" "Will there by any other runners in the lobby that I can tag along with?" "Am I going to be walking in the pitch dark to the metro all by myself?" "Was I hydrated enough?" "Check out is at 11:00. Will I get back in time to shower before we drive home?" Gah!!! Go to sleep Cecilia!! Before I knew it, my alarm started going off at 4:45 and I got up, got dressed, and headed down to the lobby. Luckily, there was a group of 4 from New Jersey who were running also so I asked to tag along and they obliged. I love runners :)
We got to the Smithsonian stop and walked over to the staging area by the Washington Monument. It was a brisk 45 degrees and people were covered in beanies, tights, and gloves and here I am from Savannah, GA - wearing a skirt and a tank and a throwaway long-sleeve tee. I'm glad I went with my choice because as soon as I started running, I was warmed up completely! An announcement was made prior to the race start about an emergency situation in which part of the course was closed due to a criminal investigation. Our race would be shortened due to a re-route - half a mile according to my Garmin. I wasn't bummed at all. I patiently waited at the start in the Green corral, which meant that I'd indicated in my registration that I'd finish within 2:00 hours. I was in the wrong corral. It was so congested (as it should be - there were 17,935 finishers!). This is also a race that attracts some serious competitors - a $40,000 purse was up for grabs! Wow! Because it was so crowded, I ended up running most of the race on the sidewalk and/or grassy medians. However, it wasn't a big deal. I was so engrossed with the beauty all around me and the energy of all the runners! I also ran with my GoPro in hand so I could take shots of all the scenery - especially around the tidal basin area and this one street that was lined with Cherry Blossoms on both sides, providing us this beautiful canopy of white and pink blossoms! I cannot say enough how pretty this race was!! I would totally do it again if possible! I ended up finishing in 1:23:49 (8:22 pace)! I didn't look at my Garmin during the race at all and just ran by how I felt. It felt incredible coming through the Finish chute and I love being pleasantly surprised by my finish time!
The only complaint is that I didn't like not having a run buddy with me! I didn't have anyone to give a high-5 to or ramble on about how awesome the race was at the finish line :( It totally makes a difference when you have a run buddy with you!! You get to share in the race excitement and energy so when you don't have one, you're just standing there at the start line like a bump on a log. I was also supposed to meet up with Lara Zoeller (who moved from Savannah to DC), but because my kiddos were sick, I had to bail :( I was really looking forward to catching up too! Oh well, maybe I'll get another change to run in DC! Because I was alone and didn't have anyone to bask in the glory while in the post-race area, I ran through the finish chute, walked over to the medal station, snapped a few pictures, and made my way back to the metro. It was around 10:00 AM when I got back to the hotel so I speedily jumped in the shower, made sure everything was packed and ready to go, hopped in the car, and said goodbye to DC as we made our way home to Savannah.
This race and the Cherry Blossom Festival was just spectacular. Gorgeous. Vibrant. The Runner's Rite of Spring. It's totally one that I would recommend! When the lottery opens again, I highly suggest you sign up!! If you're like me and don't like to run alone, sign up as a group. If you get picked, your entire crew gets in too.
So now I prepare for my next race - the Big Sur 21-Miler with Michael in 2 weeks. We'll be joined by my friends, Stephanie Roach, Jacy Vergara, and her husband Joel, who are all running the marathon. Can't wait!
The inaugural Publix Women's Half Marathon and 5K was held on March 28th in my beautiful hometown of Savannah, GA. We couldn't have asked for better weather for race day! It was a chilly morning in the upper 40s, but was ideal for us runners once we started pounding the pavement of familiar streets in the historic Savannah downtown, Daffin Park, and Ardsley/Chatham Crescent districts. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun gently spread its rays of light upon us - welcoming us to spring in Savannah with azaleas freshly bloomed along our route. Coupled with the support of Savannah's local running clubs volunteering at the water stops and the contagious energy in the air, the Publix Women's Half Marathon and 5K was a gorgeous experience and a huge hit for Savannah!
Several months before the race, I was asked to be a part of the roundtable discussion consisting of Savannah Sports Council, Fleet Feet, My Agency, and various women of our local running community on the specifics of the first women's half marathon making its debut in Savannah. We were all excited about the potential of this race and as an active runner and participant, it was interesting to see all the details and collaboration that go into planning a race from providing input on the logo to race swag to what would entice runners to travel to Savannah. My blog title, Savannah: Where Running is a Pleasure, was a clever play on words for Publix's theme suggested by Christine Powell, Fleet Feet's Marketing guru. I liked it so much, I had to borrow it for my blog title!
When training season started, I was one of the Fleet Feet CREW coaches for the advanced morning group training specifically for this race. The dedication, determination, and sheer willpower of these runners truly amazed me. They came out in rain, early, dark, bitter cold (ok - for Savannah) mornings to log their miles and work on their speed and endurance to chase down their PRs on race day. Within those few weeks, I developed some wonderful new friendships with my fellow CREWbies. It's been a great training season and on those runs, we had the best conversations, shared lots of laughs, and offered helpful running advice. We supported each other in other races and my CREW graciously put up with me as I would whip out my GoPro to snap photos of them to display for my GoPro run photography :)
Days leading up to the race were so exciting with events like the exclusive Ladies Night at Fleet Feet with New Balance, where the first 75 ladies got a complimentary New Balance engraved glass champagne flute and EOS lip balm. Our local race Ambassadors, Victoria Ten Broeck (Victoria Runs) and Claudia Deen, along with CREW Coach Nicole Mannor (Who Gives a Fit) and local runner, Andrea Goto, gave us a sneak peak as they modeled some of the New Balance gear that would be sold at the expo. The expo was small and intimate, but just right! It provided runners with local popular vendors, such as Satchel, Leopold's, Adam Turoni's Chocolatier, and Nourish - to name a few. The swag for the race was AWESOME! Participants received spiffy New Balance gym bags embroidered with the race logo rather than another finisher shirt, car magnets with race logo, and Publix gave out strainers, water diffuser bottles, and earbuds. Sweet! The only negative comment I heard was the desire for diverse women's sizes in the New Balance race-themed apparel, which is a valid point for a women's race.
The eve of the race, I was honored to emcee Savannah's Team In Training inspiration dinner. Team in Training was the chosen charity for the race and we had pretty good participation, especially through Seacrest Partners, who had 2 teams raising money for TNT. Our honored hero, Diane Woods, is an employee of Seacrest and is celebrating 10 years of remission. The Publix Women's Half would be her 3rd half. Her speech at the inspiration dinner left us all in tears! What an inspiration! I am so proud to be a TNT alum. Such a great organization!
There was no early night of rest for me, but is there ever the night before a race? I got home around 9 pm that night and laid out my outfit and gear for tomorrow's race. I had my Skirt Sports skirt inspired by Kathrine Switzer with my "fearless" booty billboard ready to wear the next morning, along with my Team in Training race shirt. Once that was done, I waited to pick up my son, Alex, from Savannah Arts. His soccer team traveled to Dodge County. They didn't get in until late and I didn't get home until 12:30 in the morning. Ugh! However, I still managed to get up and run my own PR on race day - 1:54:57! Alex even volunteered at the water stop/cheer station behind Savannah Arts. It was nice to see him on the course!
The course was nice for us locals who run the same familiar streets over and over again. I started off running with the 2-hr pace group, led by Melissa Ramsey. It was awesome. As we ran down Drayton Street, we were reminiscing back to the Savannah Mile - where you run a mile all out. We talked strategy for this year's race and lessons learned from last year. As we turned the corner, we continued chatting about how perfect the weather was for race day. I ran with my fellow CREWbie, Cat Hudson, for pretty much of the race. We split up around mile 10 after leaving Daffin Park. I felt good so I kicked it up and ended up running with a stranger I met on the course. It started off with me complimenting her on her tattoo and we were running side-by-side for the next 2 miles, chatting about training and all things running-related. At mile marker 13, I still felt good and began to shorten my strides to increase my speed. My goal was just to run a sub 2. I ran through the finish feeling awesome...which means I could've kicked it more during the race.
Overall, it was an awesome race and so was post-race. We had City Hotel and Listen 2 Three entertain us with live music and there were beer and mimosas to celebrate. I'm looking forward to it next year! Registration is already open for 2016!
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!