Big Cottonwood Marathon Circa September 2014

I feel as if this entry needs to start with an apology. This Spring I was trying to write a blog for every race and when that became too much, I slowed and thought maybe every other race and then maybe every fourth… And then well, I just stopped altogether. So for my readers out there that do not know me on Facebook or do not follow my exploits otherwise I will just sum up my last couple months in a few sentences.
I ran my second Boston in just under 3:30 and kept alive my desire to run all 50 states in under 3:30 bringing the total down to 2. I ran a bunch of other races as well and qualified for Boston back again for 2015. I had the best running year of my life and would like to go over a couple really cool races that I missed as I did not stop to blog. Though the summer was full of fun and run I am actually going back to mid-September with me boarding a plane to go run Big Cottonwood!
Big Cottonwood is a marathon put on by Revel Racing. Revel Racing is a positive group that currently has at least three marathons in three different states where one of the true goals is to get runners qualified for Boston. The courses are always have a huge elevation drop and are very popular. They put on organized events focusing on fun and have now added a team aspect as well. I had signed up for the race hoping to get a Boston qualifier for 2016 as the race fell on the one weekend where your time qualifies for two years in a row. I also signed up because so many good friends would be there as well.
In my classic fashion, I signed up once Stephanie, Jennifer and Karen already had done so. That way they would organize it all and I would just show up and run pretty much.
I arrived in town in time to have lunch with Stephanie who was the other early arrival. Kino had invited her to lunch so we were lucky enough to meet with Brian and Kino at the airport so after rental cars, we went over to get something to eat across the street from the expo. It was really good to see those two. They have been injured earlier in the Summer so it was good to see them back at it again. After this we skedaddled over to the expo and got our supplies and ran into more friends. Honestly bigger races like this turn more into reunions of friends than anything else. We took some great pictures with the Revel signs and dropped the other two off at their hotel before we went to get Jennifer at the airport.

Kino, Stephanie and Brian

Kino, Stephanie and Brian

Jennifer had an eventful airport ride where the flight attendant had cut her off and no longer being thirsty she was hungry only by this point. She wanted anything to eat and McDonald’s was fine. About this time I spotted a sign for In N Out so Stephanie and I did her one better and she was able to eat “Animal Style”. We went back to our hotel next and while they rested I went for a short run. It was not a good day for a run as I felt a little off. To be honest I wanted to put in 5 miles but after just one it was time to turn around. I was a bit nervous considering this was supposedly one of the easier courses out there and I really wanted a good race.
We went out that night to a sports bar and though the food was not great, the company and distance from the hotel were perfect. We prepared that night and retired early with the early start. Karen got in later that night and the whole crew was together for our two week journey. The four of us would be running the next weekend at Air Force as well. The next morning we all got up, got ready and got out the door. The race was set up so that we had to take a bus to the top of a mountain to start and then finish where we parked. And the hotel was a good 6 or 7 miles from the start.
We did get to the parking lot just in time as we would later find ourselves some of the last to get on a bus. But the good news is we were albe to line up with what seemed like at least 25 good friends and even though we were stuck out there for an hour I do not think anyone cared. We were so much happier to be in the valley around 40 degrees than getting stuck on top of a mountain in the freezing cold. I did feel sorry for the Perkins that had to deal with a line of 150 runners all having to use their facilities! The bus came eventually and when we got to the top of the mountain we just got in line for the Port A Potties again. I am always amazed at how much time you spend at a running event in line or going to the bathroom.
After the stop, I lined up near the front and was thrilled to see the World Record holder for Most Marathons Victories, Chuck Engle, come my way. I yelled out to him and we chatted for a minute. Then disaster struck as the gun went off unexpectedly and he was out of position. He made a break for it but those seconds may have cost him later. I felt awful. To top it off, I was not prepared either and have to navigate around some slower runners.
Somehow I just could not get around anyone? I was not running that fast and the course is downhill! How is this? Well the course goes mostly downhill but that first mile is mostly flat and is at over 6000 feet so when I took off I felt sluggish and slow. The slow miles from the day before were running through my head, but I had to keep reassuring myself things would get better when we went downhill but I was getting passed and the negative feelings were showing. Then the downhill came… and I was running in much better form. And I was FAST and the next thing I know – my shoe was untied! Seriously? My 99th marathon and only the second time my shoe untied?!? And at Mile 3? It felt like it took me an eternity to tie that shoe and take off again. By Mile 4 I had ran my quickest mile in a marathon ever in a fleet 6:08 and got back to where I was before the mishap.
At Mile 6 we started to catch the back end of the half marathon crowd. At first it was only a couple stragglers but after a while we full marathoners were on the left full time passing three or four runners at a time and constantly. It was a very crowded half marathon. My friend Angie would later say she missed a Personal Record only because the bathroom line was over 5 minutes long waiting. It was so crowded that when a cop car started to go down the mountain? Well I had to navigate around it so I would not run right through it – twice! The halfway point was coming up and I got my mid-race Advil ready. But I was going so fast and surrounded by so many half marathoners I never even got a chance to grab a water so I had to throw it away. Then I looked down at my watch. Mile 12 was yet another 6:08. Could I keep this up?
Mile 13.1 came up and I just ran my fastest half ever – 1:24! At Mile 15 we not so finally got to the out and back. Now the out and back on the course may looks flat and honestly it would best be described as rolling hills but after running 14 straight down hill miles it was the hardest hit I have ever taken during a marathon. I could no longer keep up the Sub 7 pace and eight minutes was a challenge suddenly. Walking became a necessity to rest my poor legs around Mile 16! And it appeared others handled it much better as I watched myself get passed. At Mile 17 I saw the leaders and it looked like Chuck was in about 5th. I was somewhat relieved it was not a close race and my action had not ruined a victory for him. I was not relieved that I was missing that Advil. Pain in my legs required relief!
I hit the out and back turnaround at Mile 19 and though I felt awful, I got reinvigorated seeing all my running friends coming back towards me. Though I was losing a lot of speed I was still on Sub 3 pace and when you are doing that well you are way up front. I waved at them as we passed and some of them looked very excited when they saw I was still in front of the 3:05 pacer. As much as I tried to keep my spirits up, it was tough. I could not wait to get to Mile 23 and that downhill again. And just as she always seems to, Jennifer saw me walking.
Finally as I just passed Mile 22 someone was playing “Don’t Stop Believing” as I encountered another hill. I decided it was time to just push on and finish this one. At this point, I was sure the Personal Record time was in the bag but I kept waiting for the 3:05 pacer to catch me. The song got me going and I was able to push on – new personal anthem? I hit the last uphill just before Mile 23 and a couple spectators were laughing at me. It occurred to me the temperature had to be over 60 degrees and I was still wearing my beanie and gloves! I certainly could have won the award for the most overdressed but I had yet to feel “warm” so I pushed on.
The last three miles were downhill again so I started to develop a rhythm and a couple other runners and I leapfrogged past each other with walking breaks and sprint spurts down long downhills. At Mile 24, I kept looking over my shoulder for the 3:05 pacer when I looked at my watch again. It read 2:45. So if I ran 7 minute miles I could still get a sub 3??? What? Really? I was half mad at myself for not figuring this out before! How could I get so confused? Could I have pushed myself and rocked that Sub 3! I tried to run again at the breakneck pace but my legs were not feeling anything of that nature and when the last mile came out .1 long according to my watch, I was actually relieved. I crossed the line at 3:02:05 and was thrilled to be so close to my ultimate goal and yet no achieve it. I was happy to save that Sub 3 goal for next year.
I drank a Coke and got my grab bag. The soda came up later which just proves what a Pepsi man I am and that I did push myself harder than perhaps I thought I had. I was able to talk to Chuck who encouraged me to this was only just the beginning of better running times. Then I waited for everyone to come in. Karen hit her Sub 4 goal easily. Jennifer got a Sub 4 but could only lament that she did not get a negative split (impossible on this course). Brian and Kino were able to both get Sub 4’s as well and felt encouraged their injuries may be behind them. Stephanie was convinced she saw a bear on the course.

Stephanie is in back with her “bearface”
There were so many others I stopped and talked to it would be impossible to mention them all but everyone was thrilled and supportive about my PR and I just wanted to stick around and see friend Denis McCarthy finish. He came in soon enough and it was great to talk with his wife who also PR’d in the half marathon on this day as well (Sub 2!). As a matter of fact, two of his running friends from St. Louis also got their BQ goal!
Jennifer took off almost immediately but Stephanie, Karen and I went out and had a great time going downtown and finding a couple brewhouses to frequent. The Maniac dinner looked like a huge success and because we did not RSVP we just drank at the bar with Chuck and Jenn Pelligrino (new friend). Sure enough everyone joined us as they got done with dinner or with other plans.

The after marathon group

The after marathon group picture

Though I had pushed myself too hard on this race, I was truly happy in the end. Sometimes when you run marathons as often as I do you forget to put your all into every effort so something as pure as this race is truly special to me. This weekend after running Route 66 I saw a group of bloggers and realized I should be more like them and try to post more often. And conversely run not so often and give more attention to the runs I do go out and hit. My next run is Honolulu and I can only hope that I revisit my Pepsi afterwards with a fine effort.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Big Cottonwood has always conflicted with other race in my schedule, but I did the Revel Rockies Marathon and had my fastest time in three years.


  2. Big Cottonwood was amazing. You had a great race! Congratulations.


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