Everyone has a dream or two, and for the past five years running the Big Sur International Marathon has been one of mine. Don’t ask me why, because honestly, I’m not entirely sure. I can’t even remember how I first heard about the race. But ever since I did, I’ve wanted to run it. This is a race that takes in 26.2 miles of coastal road between Big Sur and Carmel on the Californian ‘Jagged Edge’ Coast. And it’s not an easy race to get into. It typically sells out in minutes, and when you live in Australia, trying to enter at the start of their day, means getting up in the middle of the night to try your luck and see how fast your internet connection and typing skills are.

By Sputnik, I/O Crew Member and Adventurer.

For me, that meant waking up at 2:30am to fire up the computer and, beyond my wildest dreams, I managed to secure a spot. Which is probably just as well because they’ve since announced they’ll be moving to a lottery system from 2016. So no more ‘the quick and the dead’. It will be pure luck from now on. Having entered, I then had to start the hard work. I’ve been carrying a chronic injury for well over a year, and the last marathon I ran was the Surf Coast Trail Marathon last June when I had a very, very tough day at the office and dragged myself across the finish line in pain, well after most people had already gone home.

I don’t enjoy training of any sort, but over the past 6+ months managed to stay disciplined enough to work hard with my trainer and work towards being marathon ready. At least I hoped I was. In the few months before the race, I completed a few Half Marathons, but still wasn’t 100% certain my body would be up to a full Marathon. And let’s face it, America is a long way to go to run half a race. So I was more than a little nervous.

Usually marathoners have a ‘taper’ week in the lead up to a big run, where they take it easy so they can go into the run with their body well rested and ready to go. Naturally, I did the complete opposite. I landed in the US a week before the race, and proceeded to run every trail I could find. It wasn’t conventional wisdom, and it could well have been my undoing, but the temptation to get out there and run a bunch of new trails was too much to resist. In fairness, I did have a day or two off, but still managed to cover more than 106kms/66miles in the week leading up to the race – which was easily my heaviest weekly running load in well over 12 months! In fact, I rarely ever run that far in a week!

Running the race itself consisted of waking up at around 3am in order to catch a 4am bus from the finish line, all the way back to the starting line, a little over 26miles away. Needless to say it was cold and dark at that time. Naturally, I had my I/O Merino on, but I also have a confession to make. I’d gone to Walmart a few days earlier and bought a cheap tracksuit to wear at the start line. Yes, I know, synthetic sacrilege, right? But race protocol for a cold race morning like this, is to wait til the very last minute before the race starts, then take off your outer layers and leave them at the starting line where they are collected and donated to charity, and there was no way I was going to leave my beloved I/O Merino there. (Sorry charity people for the crappy Walmart tracksuit!)

Starting a race in the early hours of the morning, but then running for around four hours always has temperature challenges. And it’s even worse when you’re running from cool, windy shade, to full sun and back again – the range of temperatures can be pretty significant. Not to mention variations in your own body temperature. Typically, I’d say the temperature ranged from a little over freezing at the start up to somewhere around the 20c/68f mark – and yo-yo-ing everywhere in between throughout.

While some runners went for shorts and singlet, I knew the cooler weather would be uncomfortable and opted instead for a Vital long sleeve with an Altitude T layered over the top. This kept me warm at the start and through the cooler sections, but thanks to its natural breathability and temperature regulation, meant I didn’t overheat when it warmed up. Even when I worked up a bit of a sweat and ended up a little damp and the wind picked up, the MicroMerino® kept me warm. It’s one thing to read about these benefits, but when you’re out there and your comfort really depends on it, it’s nice to know there’s substance behind the promises. Running a marathon is difficult enough without also having uncomfortable clothes to contend with. Oh, and I also wore a Highpoint Necktube ‘bandana’ style to keep my ears warm. In cold and windy weather, I really suffer from sore ears, so the Necktube was exactly what I needed. It may have been soaked with perspiration by the end, but it still did the job nicely.

I managed to finish the race in pretty good shape all things considered, and the body held up well – as did my I/O Merino. I’m constantly surprized at how many runners are still wearing synthetic DriFit style running gear, or even worse, ‘Killer Cotton’ in these sorts of conditions. I kind of want to grab them and ask them what the hell they are thinking, but the middle of a race probably isn’t the best time to do that! But I’m more than happy to do it now: If you’re a runner, and you run in cooler conditions, you must try I/O Merino. Ditch the synthetics and the cotton – (You know Search & Rescue teams call it ‘Killer Cotton’ because of how poorly it performs in cold weather, right?) – and get some I/O Merino on you. Like me, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t try it well before now. And if you’re already wearing it, welcome to the club!

Watch this video to see some of the trails Sputnik ran during the trip… 

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