Posted on Mon, Apr. 29, 2002
If ever there was any doubt Iím not a pup anymore, Hurricane
Point confirmed it for me Sunday.
Then again, even the gift of youth might not have helped
with this uphill battle.
As part of The Heraldís relay team in the 17th annual
Big Sur International Marathon, I was thrilled to participate
in one of the nationís premier races. My excitement was tempered,
however, by having to run the dreaded 6.9-mile third leg, which
opens with a skyward fight against gravity. That would
be Hurricane Point, a two-mile climb that challenges even the
toughest Big Sur veterans. Itís not for the squeamish, and certainly
not for a 43-year-old who moved to California 1 ½ years
ago from flat Florida, where the only hills house ants.
Though my athletic glory days are long gone (I peaked in
Little League), I still enjoy running, and find it helps relieve
stress. But Iím usually circling the Seaside High School track,
which sits, appropriately enough, near sea level.
At Big Sur, all sea level does is laugh at you from way
down below. The altitude didnít bother Herald systems
technician Dylan Llorin, who blazed out of the gate to give
our team, the Herald Hotfootiní Hounds, a quick start.
No. 2 runner and former high school track standout Jean-Marie
Findlen, our special projects advertising representative, continued
the charge and was soon barreling toward me. I grabbed the relay
bracelet that runners pass to each other, snapped it on my wrist
and took off like a tortoise. In my mind, of course, I
moved like a gazelle, striding effortlessly into the herd of
runners. In reality, I lumbered along like one of those leaf-eating
dinosaurs you see on The Discovery Channel, or a loggerhead
turtle crawling back to sea after nesting in the sand.
No problem, though, because my plan was to tackle Hurricane
Point slowly, as the experts recommend, and pick up speed on
the downside. Fueled by a portable cassette player blaring
loud music - I find the Grateful Dead and The Who
particularly effective motivators - I chugged along Highway
1, gaining confidence with each step. Thankfully, the
weather gods were kind, keeping the rain away and the wind to
I made it to the top of Hurricane Point, and it was all
downhill from there.
Until the next hill, anyway. But the big one was over.
How anyone can run 10 miles, then face a beast such as Hurricane
Point, is beyond me. But thatís what marathon runners accomplish
each year at Big Sur. Some of Sundayís runners - menís
winner Jonathan Ndambuki comes to mind - didnít even seem to
break a sweat. They glided along without a care, probably thinking
about what was for dinner or whether the lawn needed mowing.
Me? After six miles, my feet were hurting, I was tired and
I was nine-tenths of a mile away from passing my pain on to
reporter Victoria Manley. Now, Iím always glad to see
Victoria, but with just a few yards to go before my tour of
duty would end, she looked better than ever. I gave her
the bracelet and that was it: I was free.
Mission accomplished, in exactly one hour.
I boarded the bus and headed to the finish line, where I
watched reporter Amy Ettinger bring it on home for the Hounds.
One of the great things about a race of this magnitude is
the camaraderie, where encouraging words are freely exchanged
and strangers quickly become friends. I met people from all
over, including Vancouver, Oregon and Ohio. Each remarked
on the beauty of Big Sur, and each said he or she hoped to return.
The corkscrew curves, the pounding surf, the majestic hills
... yes, thereís nothing like exploring the Big Sur coastline,
and I canít wait to do it again.