Big Cottonwood Marathon Recap

This race was brutal.  Before I got my Boston Qualifying time I had heard of this race and it was advertised as super fast. So last year when I was barely able to run (because of health issues), I thought that this would be my shot at getting in – and would be a great backup in case I didn’t qualify at Mountains 2 Beach in Ojai, California.

The pro’s of this race:

  • Runner-friendly race- they thought of EVERYTHING.
  • The price was right
  • They had gloves and an emergency blanket in our swag bags for us.
  • Free photos from the race (who actually wants to pay for photos?!)
  • BEAUTIFUL scenery (though to be honest- I was miserable for so much of it that I was wishing I was anywhere else).
  • Moose-spottings (that’s a race- pro, for sure)
  • They refund you your full registration fee right up until the race (having been burned by an Ironman withdrawal- goodbye $750- I LOVED this).
  • GREAT host hotel- cannot stress this enough- they gave us a swag bag with food and waters on arriving, provided us with a schedule, and had chartered buses that took us to the start- (Doubletree Downtown Salt Lake City)- plus we got a suite- all that for $99/night- CRAZY.
  • Great finish line cheering- lots of food- cold, wet towels for each runner.
NORMAL. 

NORMAL. 

And oooh… the Cons:

  • Freezinggg cold at the start- 9000 feet up.
  • Started 25 minutes late with little to no communication to runners of what was going on
  • Brutal 5000 feet descent… within 15 miles
  • Out and back after the descent that felt like you were climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with small toddlers holding onto your calves.
  • Out and back was not shaded. At all. And being out in the sun an extra half hour because of late start

So to be fair, I need to be better at reading and analyzing a course profile. I saw the descent here and didn’t assess it as well as I may have been able to- though when you see the course- it looks easy- just go down a mountain and then continue on to the finish line. Not so easy. We were dropped off by the bus at 6:15- miserably cold and so dark… I was just praying for 7 am to come. They told us that our bags HAD to be in bag check by 6:50 if we wanted to see them again. I had it in at 6:45…with my jacket. One minute later, I found out the start was delayed. That was rough being freezing cold for an extra 40 minutes. When we finally started my feet were completely numb. Such a weird feeling running fast and not being able to feel your feet.

We started out at 9000 feet and the beginning part was a lil uphill. I had been cautioned by so many people to pace myself the first half and not go out too fast. I did- but then I didn’t really bank the time I needed to suffer and slog out the Wasatch out and back at the end. We started on our downhill and it was steep. Not like a run down a hill- more like a constant breaking and caution in your legs to not tumble. By mile 10 my legs were in so much pain. That’s when I saw the writing on the wall. Usually in a marathon- my legs don’t start feeling anything until 20 miles or so. For them to be in such pain so early on during the “easy” part just was a huge red flag. I had kept telling myself to pace myself because the fight and the real race didn’t start until mile 16.

Throughout the downhill section- you frequently saw people stretching out their calves on the side. I kept telling myself- that may be helpful- but I already knew I was behind schedule. I finally got to the out and back (mile 16)- right on pace for a PR and then all I could do from here to the end was hold on to any dignity I had left (which was not a lot). It was the most miserable sight. People were stretching, sitting, walk/running, all of the above. Out in the hot sun just surviving. My rubber part of my earphones popped off- great. My ipod that is almost brand new died. It really felt like the end of the world- I just kept wishing for the race to be over. I was watching my garmin and trying to keep it respectable but there was really only so much control I had over my legs that felt like bricks- WAY too early in a race. “Walking off the course” was not an option as I still would have to get to the finish line to meet up with Erin and I had to save some dignity. I came in at 3:30- a far cry from 3:19 that I had been training for all summer long.

KChanelAndErinCottonWood

I was pretty disappointed coming in to that- but I’ve realized a couple things:

1.     If my bad race is a BQ, it’s still a pretty good day (I would have killed for this before)

2.     A course profile on paper may seem way easier than my legs decide that it is

3.     My training is not all wasted just because I didn’t get to see the fruits of my labor in a new PR- I’ll keep building off what I’ve already gained and get to see an even bigger PR at Boston. (Yes, I am not doing any more marathons until next April. Thank God- I need a break. ;-)

4.     Training at sea level on flats does not prepare you for a course at 9000 feet with extreme descending. Think through course profile picks better.

At the end of the day, I’m so blessed to travel and go to races and be healthy- one off race isn’t the end of the world and taking things in stride will serve me much better in the long run (pun intended). 

— K Chanel