{State #13-Utah} Big Cottonwood Marathon

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Friday after school ended I head to the elevated state-Utah. I had a direct flight and the pleasure of sitting next to a man who was burping thick, hearty burps aloud that also had an onion-ish smell during most of the flight. I nearly gagged a few times. I feel I may need to begin wearing a sign on flights that says if you do gross or weird things on a flight, then I will write about you online. Other than this, the flight was great. I had a chance to read a book and my new edition of Runner’s World.

My flight landed at 8:40 p.m. and it was off to pick up my rental car and head to the hotel. My hotel was only eight miles away and near a gas station where I picked up water and vitamin water. So many kids have been sick at school already and I had been feeling on the verge of a cold for the past few days. Once I was in my hotel room, I laid out my race gear for the next morning and was in bed by 10:30. I had a very early wake up coming.

At 3:45 a.m. my alarm went off and I was up and out of bed. I was surprisingly not that tired and fairly efficient at getting myself ready and out the door in less than 40 minutes. I ate my typical morning bagel and packed along a Blueberry Luna bar just in case I got hungry later. I had a coffee cup with Diet Dew and a bottle of water to take on the bus ride up the mountain. I also had my layers prepared as I knew it would be cold on the mountain top (50 degrees). Buses started leaving at 4:00 a.m. with the last bus leaving at 5:00 a.m. for a 6:40 a.m. race start. I was aboard a bus by 4:35 a.m. ready to head up the mountain top.

On the ride up the mountain it was completely dark; views of Salt Lake City lit up the valley. As we climbed the mountain in the school bus, I could see nothing out the window, but could feel the bus climbing. After about a 30 minute ride towards the top our bus came to a stop. People on the bus from the area mentioned there was little space to turn around and how narrow the road is. They also mentioned there were few guardrails on Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Course Map

Course Map

After sitting for 15 minutes without moving, people started to get uneasy and wonder what was going on. A few people got off the bus to pee in the darkness; with narrow roads and no real shoulder people did this at their own risk. A few minutes later some of the bathroom goers got back on the bus and said two or three buses ahead there was a bus that took a very tight up the mountain turn too tight. The front and back tires of the bus were off the ground and the mid-section of the bus was stuck on the turn blocking both lanes of the road. No buses could go up or down the mountain. After another ten minutes some runners on other buses got off the buses to walk to the start of the race. Our bus decided that would not be smart considering mile marker three up ahead indicated we still had three miles to go to the start, it was pitch black out, and the road was narrow without guardrails.

Soon a tow truck was up the mountain and a runner told the guy to hook up his chain and get that bus out of the way. The guy said he wasn’t sure he would be able to, but the runner told him to get going. With a fresh burned rubber smell in the air and another 30 minutes past, we were headed back up the mountain…for 100 meters. Then our bus stalled and the starter went out four times in the next half mile. The last two and a half miles were uneventful; thank gosh!

Marathon Elevation Map

Marathon Elevation Map

At the top of the mountain the sun was starting to come up so we could see. The plus of this delay is it wouldn’t be dark for the first three miles of the race, rather we could see during the entire race. It was a mad dash for stops at the port a potty and packet drop off.

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The race began about 35-40 minutes later than scheduled, however the race directors and organizers did an awesome job with the entire situation. I was surprised they even got us started that early considering buses didn’t get to the top until an hour plus after they were supposed to. Finally we were off!  I’m going to let the photos do most the talking in this race report!
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The first mile was steep and I could feel my knees hurting. I was freaked; what if this continued? I kept my cool and after the first mile the feeling disappeared as my muscles warmed and the steepness declined. Many people asked me about the elevation’s impact on my running; I really didn’t notice it much at all. A few times during the race I noticed I was breathing heavier than usual, but I was also very out of shape and had been congested so I really can’t say with certainty it was the elevation.

mile 1

mile 1

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mile 1-9:30

mile 2

mile 2

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mile 2-9:23
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mile 3-9:31
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The quads were saying hi at this point already!  I was staying positive, but was also making a mental note.  I needed to keep the pace slow to save up for later.  I had a long way to go with not a lot of training to fall back on.

mile 4-9:40

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mile 5-9:20
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mile 6-9:22
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IMG_3816These miles were just ticking by so fast!

mile 7-9:30

mile 8-10:00
Big Cottonwood Marathon 8

mile 9-10:44 (bathroom break)
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The beauty of the course continued to amaze me.  By mile 10 I could really feel my quads.  I guess that is the reason for completing downhill training when preparing for a downhill marathon.  Even with a healed ankle it would have been a challenge to truly prepare for this type of course.  The pain was negated by the beauty all around.  The feeling of running in such a gorgeous place was indescribable.  I kept smiling and falling in love with running all over again.  I was so glad to be out there running; I felt so lucky!

mile 10-9:22

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mile 11-9:33
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We came out of this tight curve to a whole new scene.  New trees, and more green with a drop in elevation.  So pretty!IMG_3825
mile 12-9:28

The nice thing about just running to finish is you have time to pause for photos.

The nice thing about just running to finish is you have time to pause for photos.

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mile 13-9:24
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mile 14-9:27
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Big Cottonwood Marathon

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2
mile 15-9:33
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Big Cottonwood Marathon 11

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mile 16-9:17
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Big Cottonwood Marathon 13

This photo was for you, Meg!  I thought of you and your dad at this point and smiled!

This photo was for you, Meg! I thought of you and your dad at this point and smiled!

mile 17-9:21
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mile 18-9:13

At this point we left the canyon behind and were headed onto a bike path that led to a road.  The flat road miles seemed to be the longest miles of my life.
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The sun was high in the sky and the drop in elevation was warming things up.  Did I mention at this point my quads are on fire had been going through my head for some time sung to the tune of “This girl is on fire” by Alicia Keys.

mile 19-9:44

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mile 20-9:56
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I had been in pain for a few miles and finally felt a bit better.  That feeling would be short lived.

mile 21-12:05 (bathroom break)

After mile 21 I don’t even remember the race very clearly.  I was in so much pain. My quads hurt, my back hurt from holding my running form downhill, I was having major GI issues (stomach cramps, extra bathroom stop) which NEVER happens to me.  I knew I was thirsty and my muscles felt like they needed a GU (i.e. energy), but I knew Gatorade messed with my stomach and the issues I was having forced me to forgo any GU’s or Gatorade.  This meant no extra electrolytes, calories, or go for the hardest miles of the race.

mile 22-10:22

mile 23-9:31

mile 24-11:14

I had been pushing as hard as I could for the past six miles, taking 1:00 minute walk breaks when my stomach cramps got too bad-something I’d never done before.  With mile marker 25 up ahead I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  I just couldn’t run.  My legs had nothing left, I felt weak, my stomach hated me.  I couldn’t believe the mess I was.  There is NO crying in running.  I pulled myself together in defeat and did something I’ve never done before and I walked a mile of the race, mile 25.

mile 25-13:58

I knew I had to start running again, so I did. One more mile to go.

mile 26-10:42

So relieved to be meters from the finish!

So relieved to be meters from the finish!


mile 26.2-8:19
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Loved the popsicles and Jimmy John's at the finish!

Loved the popsicles and Jimmy John’s at the finish!


and this puppy!
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Cottonwood HS makes me think of the Scream movies..."Sydney" in creepy voice!

Cottonwood HS makes me think of the Scream movies…”Sydney” in creepy voice!

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Running this race taught me so much about pushing through pain and your comfort zone.  I never thought about quitting rather I tried to embrace the pain and remember the more I pushed, the sooner I was done.  I’ve already begun to forget how those miles hurt towards the end.  I guess that is why people subject themselves to the pain again.  

In the end I was proud.  Despite running my slowest marathon ever, I was happy I finished with only three weeks of low mileage training after being injured.  Without any downhill preparation, I ran 18 miles downhill.  I was proud and content with my time considering the situation.  At one point a week before the race, when life was crazy and my confidence low, I mentioned possibly not going.  I decided that was foolish as who knows when I’d be able to complete this race again.  I set aside my fears, went after my goal of 50 in 50, and did it.  I went big!

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset hearing about all the people who qualified for Boston at this race, but figure there must be a reason why I got injured and won’t be at that starting line next spring.  There will be chances again in the future; I must remember this when I get down on myself about my slow race time.  I went big! I ran in a beautiful location in a once in a lifetime race. I tackled a challenge of a marathon without truly training. It was an awesome experience and the runners got the gold treatment.

If you EVER have a chance to run this race-DO IT! It is gorgeous. The race is one of the most organized I’ve ever ran, the medals and shirts are awesome, runners were taken care of from start to finish with tattoos, bags, gloves, and goodies at the start; plus free photos were automatically posted to your facebook. This was a top notch race. I’m so glad I ran it as my Utah!
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Big Cottonwood Marathon
Time:  4:22:11
Pace: 10:00min/mile
Place: 835/1308
Gender: 426/733
Age Group:  48/89

4 thoughts on “{State #13-Utah} Big Cottonwood Marathon

  1. Pingback: {State #14-Kansas} Pilgrim Pacer Marathon | sneaksandstilettos

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