RADrabbitPRO Curly Guillen recaps his half marathon race experience at Monterey Bay a week ago as he finishes his final preparation for the California International Marathon on December 4th. Read more from Curly below.
A little over a week ago I raced the Big Sur Half Marathon aka the Monterey Bay Half Marathon. I drove up the day before accompanied by fellow RADrabbitPRO Dani Moreno. This was my first time receiving accommodations at a race. We got to stay in the Portola Hotel & Spa. It was very nice and my favorite part was the hospitality suite for the elite athletes. I took full advantage of the snacks, drinks, and meals provided.
Shortly after arriving at the hotel we took a course tour. Right away I knew this was going to be a difficult race with the few climbs and rolling hills throughout. The view was beautiful! This has to be one of the most scenic races ever! I loved seeing the giant waves in the distance that looked like they were crashing on the race course.
We got back to the hotel after the tour and had to attend an elite athlete technical meeting to go over race day instructions. It was cool being in the same room with some of the biggest stars in the U.S. distance running scene. A little-known fact about me is I am a huge running nerd and I knew almost everybody's PR's in the room haha. My roommate at the hotel (shared rooms) was a 61-minute half marathoner! I finally got to meet RADrabbitPRO Ryan Miller. Very cool dude! We hit it off right away.
After the meeting, I hung out in my room until it was time for dinner downstairs at the hotel's restaurant. As I always do, I opted for the pasta dinner. I noticed some of the faster people were going with other options. I've always gone with pasta as my pre-race meal dating back to high school. At my table was fellow RADrabbitPRO Seth Totten (not racing), and also some members of the Mammoth Track Club (Lauren Jimison (who also happens to be Seth’s fiancée), Daniel Tapia, and coach Andrew Kastor). Daniel trains with newly signed RADrabbitPRO Brandon Birdsong and was familiar with the rabbit gear and had good things to say about it.
Dinner was over and it was time to head back up to the room and get everything ready for the race and try to get to bed early. I pinned my #84 bib onto my black "welcome to the gun show" rabbit singlet to go with my black/steel "daisy dukes." I set my alarm for 4:50am and heard the faint sounds of the seals on the beach all night lol.
At about 5:30am on race day I went into the hospitality suite for a bagel and coffee (rare for me, I only ever eat a little something before marathon races). We walked over to the start of the race and into the elite athlete area. I warmed up with Ryan Miller. It was a little chilly but I was kept warm by my new rabbit fall gear. I wore the "speed sleeves", "zippit", and "roger rabbits." The women were called to the start line and the national anthem was sung. The women started 9 minutes before the men. After some strides it was our turn to the start line and the invited elites were announced along with their accomplishments. A few guys were debuting at the half marathon distance. I couldn't help but think to myself as I looked around "I might not win this race but my race kit probably looks the best!" Haha. The gun goes off!
The lead pack started off a little slow. I know this because they went through 2 miles just under 10 minutes and I was still within contact. I felt pretty good until we hit the biggest climb on the course at mile 4. This zapped me of all my energy as i immediately fell off pace. I spent the next 2 miles trying to get back on pace, which I was able to, but that was it for me. I kept slowing down for the next 5. There was a big gap in front of me to the next runners and a small gap behind me. This is known as "no man’s land." There was a headwind on the way back. Attempts to get back on pace and pull off a miraculous negative split were short lived. It wasn't until the last 2 miles that I finally was able to wake the legs back up somewhat but it was too late. I was disappointed with my 12th place finish overall in 1:08:27. I had wanted to come to Monterey and PR in the half and have some good momentum going into next month's California International Marathon.
I spoke with some of the guys that finished ahead of me and they reassured me that this was not a PR course and that they themselves were 1:30-2:00 minutes off of their PR's. Although I didn't PR and was far off what I wanted to run, this was still my 3rd fastest half marathon ever. I had to remind myself the real show isn't until December 4th in Sacramento.
I cooled down with Dani Moreno, rabbit co-owner Jill Deering, and her hubby Gene. I returned to the elite athlete area and stuffed my face with breakfast burritos before heading back to the hotel room to clean up and check out.
Upon leaving the hotel with Ryan and Dani we ran into another elite runner named Will Nation and he was walking back to his room with an age group award in his hand. He mentioned that they called our names out. So we made our way to the award stand to claim our prizes. I won my age group, Dani was 2nd, and Ryan was also 2nd!
All the rabbits in town met up for breakfast at Wild Plum shortly after. Yes, I ate some more. I love pancakes! Then it was back on the road for the long drive back to Goleta.
My experience in Monterey showed me that I have a long way to go to catch up to the guys ahead of me. I may have only been able to hang on with them for a few miles this time around but eventually I'll be in the mix for longer. I have to continue putting in hard work.
I'm making my final preparations for CIM where I hope to crack the 2:20 barrier. But first, I will have one last tune up race. I'll be racing the Thanksgiving 4 Miler here in Santa Barbara.
Add me on the usual social media channels: @deejaycurly
-RADrabbitPRO Curly Guillen