Sunday, September 23, 2012

My First Marathon-Big Cottonwood Canyon

I just want to start this post out with saying that MARATHONS are TOUGH!  I prepared the best I could and followed that training plan to a T but I've always questioned why in the training schedule there is never a length further than 20 miles.  Those final 6.2 miles are challenging.  I think I remember reading it's because they want to get you to the starting line healthy and too many miles can be harder to recover from and you are risking injury by trying to tackle those extra miles.  OK, I get that, but at the 20 mile mark I was ready to be done.  But who starts a marathon and quits at mile 20 only because they are tired?  I surely wasn't going to.

I got about 4 hours sleep the night before and got to the parking area and bus loading area without any glitches at all this time.  I actually remembered my bib too.  I had picked up my friend Josh's bib for him the day before and he knew my story of forgetting my bib at the Top of Utah Half Marathon and so he texted me to remind me to bring it. Good idea.  I met Josh and Angela and we rode up in the bus together and hung out at the starting line until the race started.  Our bus was the very first to arrive so we got first access to the port-a-potties!  A fresh clean port-a-potty, awesome!

It was still pitch black when we arrived about 5:30 am.  They handed out mylar space blankets which were very helpful in keeping us warm.  The sky was so beautiful and the stars were so clear,  certainly a sight you can't see in the valley at home.  I wanted to warm up a little bit and walked around the huge Brighton Ski Resort parking lot and once race time got close I put my stuff in the drop bag and put it in the truck.  I got my music ready and we were off.  It was still a little bit dark at 6:30 am when it started but didn't take more than about 15 minutes to finally be able to see well.  This was an inaugural race for Big Cottonwood Canyon and they really did do a fabulous job. 

I really don't have a mile by mile report to share.  I knew that the elevation drop in the first 14 miles was about 4000 feet and I was super excited about that.  I love me a downhill run.  The canyon was absolutely stunning and vibrant with so many colors!  When the sun started coming up that just added to the beauty.  About mile 6 or 7 I saw a moose on the side of the road just off a little bit in the bushes.  Good thing he was busy looking for food.  He didn't seem at all like he cared about runners coming down the road.  Around mile 8 or 9 I had my ipod on shuffle and on came Christmas music. I didn't realize I had Christmas music mixed into this particular list.  Jingle Bell Rock by Amy Grant is what came on.  It's a peppy little song and was the perfect beat for the pace I was running at the moment and so I had to repeat that song about 4 times to get my fill.  Hey, it was cold in the canyon and Christmas music just helped remind me that that holidays are not too far down the road.  It was actually a fun little distraction to think about the holidays.

When I got to mile 13 I checked my watch and was running about a 10:00 minute pace.  I did the first half of this marathon in 2 hours and 11 minutes.  I was hoping for a bit less than that but was feeling alright with it. I know I was running as fast as I could comfortably, if that makes sense.  When we finally reached the bottom of the canyon a mile later there was a fork in the road.  Half marathoners turned left and headed South and the full marathoners turned right and headed North. (The half marathon started 3 miles down the canyon from the full) I was only tempted for a tiny moment, well not really, but I would love to come back next year and do the half.

At mile 15 we started climbing and it just seemed to gradually keep climbing.  I didn't remember seeing that on the elevation chart.  Hmmmm.......I kept looking at my watch and trying to stay within the 10 minute mile range but the sun was really shining now and I am definitely a slow uphill runner.  My pace just kept gradually slowing and I was tired.  I was fueling well though and remembered to take GU's and chomps.  I drank powerade and water at every station plus had my fuel belt on.  I also had a bag of peanut butter pretzels with me that I nibbled on throughout the race.  There were oranges at a couple of the later aid stations that was such a delightful treat at the right time!

Somewhere around mile 16 I stopped for a pit stop and somehow my Garmin got bumped without me being aware. It was now paused.  When I finally realized it I was off about .55 of a mile.  Grrrr.....That was so frustrating to me but I thought not too big of a deal because every single mile was marked on the course so well.  Now this is where it gets a little tricky.  

My goal for this race was to come in under 5 hours.  I've been told to not make a goal for a first marathon but I couldn't NOT make a goal, especially with the first 14 miles being all downhill.  I figured the next 12 after that shouldn't be so bad.  Wrong-O.  So, now with my watch being off a little over half a mile I just paid attention to the mile markers on the road but forgot to take into account the time difference that my watch was off as well. DUH...  Every time I looked at my watch I would calculate how much time I had left to get to the finish line in under 5 hours and what mileage was left.  It was all working out so perfectly, or so I thought, and I just knew I was going to make it with possibly a few minutes to spare.   

My cute friend Laurie whom I've walked with for ages called me and we chatted for a little bit when I was almost to mile 22.  She said she was there at the finish line with all my family just chatting and having a good time.  I told her I should be there in less than an hour.  A couple miles later I was wondering what time it was and changed the screen on my watch to discover that it was 11:11 am. and not 10:something like the other screen said.  I had only 19 minutes to run 2.6 miles if I was going to make it by 11:30 am, which would have been my 5 hour goal.  It all of a sudden hit me that I had forgotten about the time difference of when my watch had paused. 

The realization of my mistake smacked me hard at mile 24 and I just knew with how tired I was and how warm it was that there was just no way I was going to be able to do this.  I started crying with how disappointed I was and was so frustrated at such a stupid mistake I had made.  After a few minutes of my stupid little pity party I just decided to see what I could accomplish and tried to push a little more.  I think about mile 26 was when I saw Laurie, all smiles and cheering, just the boost I needed, waiting to help me finish.
I told her about my miscalculation and started tearing up again, and she helped me get past my downer thinking and to realize what I was doing, the big picture of running a marathon! After climbing another short hill and around a couple corners there was the big black and white inflated finish line.
  The announcer welcomed me in and said my name and where I was from.  I attempted a little jump and got my medal and hugged my grandson, the best prize ever!
Final time was 5:06:38

I'm not sure if I would have run this much differently had I not made a mistake of hitting the pause button accidentally at some point. I felt like I gave it everything I had in me today.  I will focus now on the positive and just be happy that I can say "I am a marathoner."

The after race treats are always a favorite but I guess I had to be faster to get the good ones.  Jimmy Johns' apparently was there with sandwiches but they were all gone.  I just really wanted chocolate milk but they didn't provide that.  I got water, a bite of banana, and a raspberry oatmeal bar, boring!

 There were oranges and some weird Achiva stuff as well but none of it was sounding very good at the time.  I visited my cute family and Laurie some more and watched for my official time to come up on the computer.

  I picked up my drop bag and headed to the car and then on to home.  I got my ice bath and then a nice hot shower and then the family all went to lunch.  Fish tacos from Rubios hit the spot perfectly for me!

This really was a great day and I am so happy to have been able to experience a full marathon.  I'm not sure I ever want to do another road marathon again.  I just really, really love half marathons.  I also really, really love trail running and as of right now would like to pursue more of that.  Next race is in a couple weeks,
The Wild Bunch 50K.  I am definitely looking forward to some soft dirt under my feet for 31 miles.

The race people hired Zazoosh to do photography on the course and will be providing those free of charge to the runners.  I really was a goof while running and may post a few of those when they come out.


Christy said...

Great job!!! You are officially a marathoner!! And that's an excellent time! It must feel great!!

I think you have to run one to really realize how big of an accomplishment it is! It is HARD! I remember at my marathon, my family ran the 1/2 and then rotated little bits and pieces of the second 1/2 with me. They were like, "oh I should have just run the full too!" If only it really was that easy as it sounded to them.

Great work this weekend!

Jerilee E. said...

Congrats on becoming a marathoner!! That really is an awesome time- be proud of it!
Nothing like running a marathon to make you realize how awesome half marathons are, huh? I have thought that after each marathon :). The half is just long enough to be a good, hard challenge without making me cry ;).

Gina Horkey said...

Congrats! Can you believe all of the training & preparation are over? I can see the appeal of the trail races...seems to be a different mindset & one that I take when doing LR's on my own:-) Time doesn't matter; you are capable of & accomplished so much!

Doran & Jody said...

You are awesome!!!
I am so proud of you. Keep it up Runnin' Queen!

We will see you in a couple of weeks so you can pull me down the hill with you!!

Josh said...

I felt the same way about the post-race treats. I had to make a pit stop for Chocolate Milk.

But, I have to say, you rocked it! Great job getting your first marathon under your belt!

PS-That is a pretty lame finish line. LOL!

Jess's Journey to the Land Of Skinny said...

I too have said that after this marathon I will only do halfs! I think you had a great race and it's so great that you finished and you finished strong. I hate when my watch gets just throws my whole run off! I really wish you were running St. George.
You are a MARATHONER!!!

Yo Momma Runs said...

Congrats on a great first marathon!!! I know how frustrating that can be to not reach your goal, but you did an amazing job. And you finished a marathon!! That alone is huge. I also hate when food is gone at the end. That's happened to me at several races. Especially ones that have shorter distances included on race day because those people finish faster and eat. Then the people who ran the most come back to a banana and half a cookie.:)

Julia said...

CONGRATS on your first marathon! amazing job! your smile is wonderful to see running into the finish! you look fantastic! im incredibly happy for you and cant wait to hear more about wild bunch:):):)

Arica said...

You are amazing to me!! And so fast I just saw your sub 2 hour half!! Awesome. Thanks for being such a good example and inspiration to me!

T. Hill said...

Hey there! You don't know me, but congrats anyway! I jumped to your blog when I saw "Big Cottonwood Marathon" in the links from another blog I stalk (FastCory). Great race report!

I ran this marathon as well and loved it, but the post-canyon miles did take me off guard. That 5 miles immediately after the canyon were brutal for me, and the final stretch being uphill was just mean. It was my third marathon, and I did manage a PR, but not by nearly as much as I hoped given the massive elevation drop. I think I'll do the half next year as well.

Don't give up on road marathons just yet. Immediately after a marathon is not the best time to make that decision :)

Cory Reese said...

Way to go Susette! You. Are. A. Marathon. Runner!

The good thing is that each race is like a little science experiment to find out what works and what doesn't work. You have gotten so much experience over the course of your training.

I can't wait to hear about the 50k. Congrats my friend!

wendy said...

What can I say but HOLY Freaking CONGRATULATIONS !!!
I'll have to enjoy this through your experiences as I'll NEVER run a marathon
Heck...I don't even run around the block...IF WE HAD BLOCKS here
I guess I'd have to say
I don't run around the section

Kathee said...

Great job!! I can't tell you how many times I have paused my watch and haven't restarted it! It's a huge accomplishment to finish and I heard it was an awesome marathon! Keep it up!

Alana said...

You are a. Marathoner!!!! So awesome! Congratulations! Next year I will run the half with you. I like half marathons best and think I will stick to those. But you are so awesome for Doing a full!!! Good job!

Stephanie said...

Great job on your first marathon!! I love all the pictures :) It can be so frustrating when the Garmin gets messed up, that happened to me and made me miss my big PR by a little over a minute. I think running a marathon can be like having a baby, sometimes it takes a few weeks to decide you want to do it again ;) Congratulations on becoming a MARATHONER!!!

Renee said...

Congratulations! Crazy thing is that I ran the half this day & then ran my 1St marathon two weeks later in 5:06! We're like twins ;-)