Big Cottonwood Marathon Recap (at long last)

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for months. I apologize. Now that this is irrelevant and many months past, here ya go…

Our race alarm went off at 4am, and we popped out of bed to get ready! Just kidding, we dragged ourselves, and slowly got our race clothes on. The hotel was serving a race breakfast, which consisted mostly of bananas, PB, and bread items–a runner’s dream. There were about 3 hotels in that area, and all the runners were supposed to meet outside in a single location for the bus to come get us. After breakfast, we tried to use the restroom (because you want to get it out before the pre-race port-o-potties, believe me. There’s a reason why runners love coffee, and that’s pre-race pooping. And nothing’s worse than holding your breath in a smelly port-o-potty.), and then headed out into the 30-something degree weather to wait for the bus.

We were smart and went to le Wal-Mart the day before to get throw-away warm clothes, plus we all got metallic space blankets in our race bags. But that didn’t cut the chill. Man, it was cold. When the bus finally showed up (a fancy charter bus, woo!), we all piled in. And kept piling, and kept piling. People were sharing seats and standing in the aisle, and I still think a few got left behind. Ungood.The bus wound up the dark-ass mountain road, and I was in the very back of the bus. Remember how I didn’t like flying? No control, and all that. This was even worse–couldn’t see anything, but turning on the winding roads like a roller coaster, pitch black. Ugh. I felt woozy, sick, and super nervous. The sweat, guys. So much sweating.

Sweaty as hell

When we were finally off the bus, it was even colder than before (my nervous sweat did not help), and people were huddled down in their space blankets or swishing around from port-o-potties to pre-race hydration tables. The race was set to start at 7, so we’d timed our eating, hydration, & bathroom breaks fairly well with the start time. So, now we just waited & stayed warm until gun time. You were allowed to take your race bag and then pitch it at the bag truck at about 6:45. We decided to do it around 6:40 to avoid the masses of people. After we’d ditched our space blankets and race bags, we walked around, huddled together to stay warm, got sips of the water & PowerAde, and tried to use the bathrooms one last time.

And then the sun came up, and we were still waiting. And a little before 7 they told us that people were still coming up the mountain on buses. Once those people got here, they’d give them time to use the bathrooms, and we’d be off. You could hear the groan of the crowd. Note to all race admin: Do not ever do this. This is the worst.

When a bus finally came, people started lining up, but we got a another announcement that there were like 3 more buses on the way. Please note it was still like 30*. We waited for what felt like forever in the cold, slowly getting hungrier, the cold setting in to our legs. When finally, I think around 7:15, they told us to line up. We had to wait for dumb announcements and the National Anthem. (The only time in my life where I’ll admit I did not enjoy listening to it because we were running behind already and the singer kept taking LONG pauses between phrases because people kept singing along and she wanted to be Whitney Houston–what did you expect, mediocre singer lady?).

You see how long this preamble was before I’ve even started talking about running? That’s how it felt waiting for the race to start.

So when we were FINALLY able to start running, I had to pee immediately. Of course, all race admin think that you’ve taken care of that before now, and don’t put a bathroom until at least 2 or 4 miles in. The temp warmed up as we got moving and the sun was really up at this point. So I stopped at the first bathroom station, and soon after ditched my $7 WalMart sweatshirt. The first 15 miles felt like a breezus, man. We stopped again around mile 8 because Sean had to use the bathroom (such poor start timing, race peeps). And somewhere in there we got some GUs.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 1

I kept singing to myself to the tune of Papa Roach’s Last Resort: “Cut my life into pizzas, this is my plastic fork.” I don’t know why, but I felt such a runner’s high and was so on cloud 9, that this seemed especially hilarious to me. I’m sure Sean wished I’d just be quiet.

And then we got off the mountain and headed onto the moderately flat, but still somehow hilly out & back part of the race. And this is where shit hit the fan.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2

The out and back was pretty much one moderately rolling hills, but having just blown out our knees running down a mountain for 15 miles, we were not prepared. We did tons of hill work in training. In Atlanta, runners are known for withstanding the “heat, hills, humidity.” And to get our downhill training, we ran up them first. But really nothing can prepare you for the pounding of running downhill for that long except training by running downhill that long. Sorry but my landscape doesn’t allow for that.

Aaaanyway, our breakneck pace slowed WAY down to a trot, which, by mile 18-19 slowed down to a run-walk. During the whole race, all the aid stations had water and PowerAde. And every once and a while there was GU, and even less than once and a while there were oranges.

We trained with HUMA gels, which the guys at the local SWOLE shop recommended. HUMA gels are like 2 ingredients and GU is like 400. This is a rookie mistake. I should have 1. trained with GU or 2. brought HUMA gels. But I was not really concerned at the time.

I should have been, because this one girl stopped to talk to us during a run-walk around mile 20, and I had to hold my finger up to say, “One second” and throw up on the side of the road. This is like the ONE place that had spectators too. I managed to throw up on myself and in my own hair. It was one of my finest moments.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 3

“I hate my liiiiiifffe”

And that’s when it was over for me, for real. I was 6 miles from the finish line, so not enough to quit, but run-walking would take me another hour, and I knew I didn’t have it in me. So Sean (very graciously) walked the last 6 miles with me. We met people along the way who walked with us. One lady from Alabama who, like us, thought she could train on hills and be fine to run down a mountain. But, like us, was wrong.

So we walked for what felt like ages while our knees and legs tightened up. When we were really close to the finish line, after what felt like years of my life and tons of time to regret my decisions, Sean encouraged me to jog across the finish line over an hour after I had expected to.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 4

Look how happy Sean is that it’s over…

So I did. It was miserable. But it was over. I went to the first aid tent immediately, and they gave me some ice water, a cold wrap, and seat after telling me I was way more overheated than I thought I was. So I sat there in the shade while Sean went to get our bags. When he got back, he informed me that all the post-race goodies were gone. And after a disappointing race, that’s what I was most sad about.

It definitely wasn’t the race I expected, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I was still glad to do it (long after the pain stopped), and going out to Utah was still exciting. Sean says he’ll never run another marathon, but I think we need to redeem ourselves. 🙂

Big Cottonwood Marathon 5


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