I finally decided to sit down and write a recap of the Big Cottonwood Marathon that I ran on September 14th. As I mentioned here, my time was 3:46:23. Let’s forget about those darn 83 seconds for a bit, because the fact is that I run for the enjoyment of running and for what it does for me mentally and physically. Sure I have goals of running a PR and hitting a Boston qualifying time every marathon I run, but at the end of the day I run because I love it. This marathon was no different, I loved every mile of it from beautiful to tough to walking to forcing myself to run when my mind and body had nothing left. I still loved it. I may not have loved ending up in the medical tent afterward, but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. Onto the race recap:
I flew in to Salt Lake City with 3 runner friends on Friday afternoon. We hit the expo, checked into the hotel and went for our pre race carb loading at a local Italian restaurant. Once we got back to the hotel everyone began getting their gear and clothes ready for the next morning. The 3:30 alarm came entirely to soon, although I wasn’t even sleeping when the alarm went off, so might as well have gotten up to get the day started. We drove to the bus pick up area, waited a few minutes, then hopped on the bus that would take us to the starting line up the mountain.
About 30 minutes and many winding roads later the bus stopped, only we were not at the starting line, we still had a few miles to go. There was some confusion at first, then we heard on the bus radio that another bus in front of us had gotten stuck on one of the tight switchback sections of the road and was blocking the road for the rest of the busses to get by. Well, runners are a resourceful bunch, so it didn’t take long until hundreds of us on the blocked busses started walking up the mountain road. We passed the bus that had gotten high-centered, walked about a half mile more and then busses from the starting line came down and shuttled us the remaining 3 miles to all the other runners waiting for us to start the race.
Bus drop off at top of mountain
Due to the fiasco of getting to the starting line, the race started about 30 minutes late. I hate when races start late (especially when I am so sensitive to heat and that extra 30 minutes at the end of this race did me in), however, I know this was beyond the control of the race director and I honestly felt really bad for the stress the director must have been under trying to get everyone to the start of the race.
Starting line in the distance
The first 17 miles we ran down the mountain that we had just driven and hiked up. It was gorgeous looking at the scenery and the weather was perfect, cool with a little cloud coverage. This part of the course included quite a bit of downhill and parts were very steep. I love running downhill, and while my legs were feeling it a bit, I was able to keep a great pace with minimal effort.
Flying down the mountain, so fun!
Then we came out of the canyon and into town. The downhill ended for the most part and the course flattened out, and even threw us some hills, which are never fun near the end of a race, I’m sure they weren’t that steep, but after 20 miles any incline feels steep to me and many people began walking and having to stop to stretch out cramping legs. By mile 21 I had slowed down and the sun was in full force, heating me up a bit too much, but I calculated my time and could run 10 minute miles the rest of the way and still come in well under by BQ time of 3:45. I got slightly excited, because when can’t I run just 5 silly miles at a 10 minute pace?! Apparently I can’t at the end of a marathon when I’m overheating!
A few miles before the demise began
The suffer-fest started around mile 22, I finally gave in and had to start walking (shuffling) and tried to pick up to a jog every minute or 2. At this point in the race it seemed like more people were walking than running, which is never a good sign! Miles 23 and 24 were my slowest at about 11:30 per mile, killing my chance of that 3:45 time. I knew this at the time, and was not happy, but somehow forced myself to run the entire last 1.2 miles into the finish line.
In the finishers chute, gutting out the last little bit
So happy to be finished!
I have never worked or pushed my body and mind so hard in a race before to will myself to not walk. I was shuffling very slowly, but felt a tiny bit of satisfaction running that last part. Once I crossed the finish line and stopped moving, I instantly got lightheaded and hobbled immediately to the medical tent. The tent was packed, and I saw an empty chair next to the tent and sat down. I asked another runner nearby to get me some water and a bag of ice and he kindly did and even brought me a popsicle and chocolate milk. I tried the milk and it did not go down, neither did the popsicle, eventhough it sounded good. I stuck the ice bag on my head and neck to try to cool down, and drank some water, but started feeling worse. By then one of my friends that had already finished (and took first in her age group!), found me and got me into the medical tent. It was so crowded they didn’t have a cot available, but I knew if I didn’t lie down soon there was going to be a problem, so my friend found a gurney, asked if we could use it, wheeled it over and helped me to finally lie down. Soon I was getting medical assistance and got an IV hooked up which helped me start feeling better.
Eventually I was able to get up without passing out and we made our way to the car and back to the hotel. The rest of the trip involved great food, great time with friends, and lots of post marathon hobbling the next day through the airport. It was an amazing weekend, and I am so grateful that God allows me these opportunities to run and be surrounded by supportive, uplifting friends that stick by my side, even in the medical tent!