Wow! I can't believe I have made it to #99! The Big Cottonwood Marathon is one of my favorite races. I have run it every year since it began 4 years ago and I still love it. It would have been my first choice as #100 if I didn't decide to go big and do a 100 miler for #100.
For the second year in a row, I decided to captain a Marathon Maniacs team and this year we had a great group. Fellow Maniac Brenda Ngozi Stallings put together her own team to celebrate her Birthday, so between both groups, the Maniacs and Fanatics were well represented!
I was on the fence about how fast I was going to attempt to run this. I thought I might try to best my PR, thus giving me an even faster Boston qualifying time, then after talking to a few ultra runner friends, we came to the conclusion that I should use this race as a training run. I already have my BQ for next year and with my 100 miler two weeks later, I just felt the best thing to do was not completely shred my legs. Well, that was the plan.
The weekend started Friday with a volunteer shift at the expo. Myself and other Maniacs and Fanatics gave back by volunteering at the packet pick up. It was a lot of fun as we got to see all of our friends as they came to pick up their race packets!
Maniacs and Fanatics giving back!
My good friends from New York City, Chris and Nicole Orbach came!
Wilbert and Shatora and I having fun!
My friend Matt and I volunteering!
Following the expo, I planned a fun Maniac dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill. Not only did we have a nice dinner, I brought back the "Project Throwaway" competition, where runners wear their best starting line throwaway clothes and the winner walks away with the coveted Project Throwaway trophy!
Our Project Throwaway Contestants
Pascal takes home the trophy!
We had a great turnout!
After dinner I went home and got ready for race day. I wanted to be at the bus by 4:30am, which meant a 3:00am wake up call. With 4 hours of sleep, I got up, got ready and made it to the bus on time.
The race gave me bib #99 to celebrate my 99th marathon!
I got to the start and met up with my friend Chris Orbach from New York and the rest of my Maniac friends. The race started at 6:45am, so we didn't have that much time to use the restroom, take a group photo, and check out gear before the gun went off.
Maniacs at the start!
Chris was looking to sub 4:00 on this course, but after a 1 1/2 year break from running marathons after the birth of his son, he was going in happy with whatever he could do. I told him to stay with me. I wasn't planning on going all out, but would also be happy with a sub 4:00.
Chris and I lined up with the 3:55 pacers and when the gun went off so did they. They took off so fast (which was understandable in the first mile of screaming downhill), but when I was 15 minutes for the first 2 miles and they were nowhere to be found, we let them go.
The 4:00 pacers caught us and I asked them if they were going too fast and they said the worst thing a pacer can say,"we are banking time". We let them go too.
Chris Orbach and I cruising down Big Cottonwood Canyon.
At about 4 miles in Chris and I had to stop for a bathroom break. I hate wasting time at the bathroom so I was not happy when after another 4 miles, we had to go again! We were still on pace but any more breaks, our sub 4:00 will be out the window.
At about mile 9 Chris had to stop again, but he told me to go on and he would try to catch me. So I took off and a mile later guess where I was? Luckily it was a quick stop, but I was starting to have flashbacks to last year where I spent way too much time in the restroom only to have a 102 degree temperature the next day!
Getting my fuel around mile 10.
Thank goodness I didn't have any more issues and I started feeling great! I did my best to watch my pace and not make the mistake I make every year. Going down the canyon too fast can shred your legs and once the course flattens out, you are spent.
Lots of runners having fun!
Just after the half, I came across the one of the 4:00 pacers. I like this guy. He paces a lot and is a good pacer. He didn't have his sign and his partner wasn't with him. I thought he may have had a problem, so I asked him if he was OK. When he said yes, I asked him if he was still on pace. He told me that he was 2 minutes ahead and was waiting for his partner to come back to him (she was way ahead of him). At mile 16, caught her and told her that her partner needed her to pull back. That was when another guy in the group said that she told him they were 4 minutes ahead! 4 MINUTES! That is huge.
One of my favorite parts of the canyon!
At about mile 18, we come out of the canyon for the most difficult part of the race. The course turns onto Wasatch Blvd. where we have a 2 mile hilly out and back. This part surprised me as I did feel as bad as I thought I would (something I attribute to not screaming down the canyon). I did feel it on the back end of that section and had to walk for a few seconds, but overall I felt OK,
I knew that if I could make it past Wasatch Blvd, I would be fine. It was there that we were about 3 miles from the finish with a nice gentle downhill to bring you in, but with shot legs, it is still really hard.
Running up Wasatch Blvd.
I made it off Wasatch Blvd. and caught up with my friend Mark! We were both so ready to be done! Mark ran a great PR! Way to go Mark!
I knew I was in the last 1.5 miles, but with my race brain, I could not do math. I knew I was going to run a sub 4:00, but was a BQ in the cards? I was not supposed to push it, but in that moment I knew I wanted to finish strong!
It was in the last mile that I caught the 3:55 pacers. I started with them and when I looked at my watch, I knew they were either way off or my Garmin was. I asked them how far off pace they were (3:55 is my BQ). One of the pacers replied we are not that much off. I told her what my Garmin said and she said, "Yeah we are about 5 minutes ahead." Me and another girl shouted in unison "5 MINUTES!?" That was terrible pacing and they really didn't seem to care!
As a pacer myself, I know that we all have bad days. This is why there are 2 pacers per time slot. There is NO reason to be 4-5 minutes ahead. The sad thing is the 3:55 and 4:00 pace groups are the most popular. People count on the pacers to help them achieve their goals, not run them into the ground. Pacing is NOT about the free race entry, you are there to do a job! RYR Pacers generally do a fantastic job, so this was not what I would generally see with them.
At that point I took off and headed for the finish! When I saw the finish line I knew I had my BQ as well as a sub 4:00 and tried to finish strong!
Coming into the finish!
My pal Robert got this great shot of me coming into the finish!
I crossed the finish in 3:50:07! The first person I saw was my friend Meridith. She is battling breast cancer and as much as she wanted to run the full this year, she had to drop to the half. I an so proud of her and I could not of thought of a better person to give me my 1st celebratory hug at the finish!
Me and the Birthday Girl, Brenda!
After the race, we all cleaned up and headed to the Porcupine Pub & Grill for a post race after party.
Maniacs at the After Party!
After lunch I went home and crashed as the fun was to continue into Sunday!
I met Chris, Nicole, Other Chis (I will call him Dennis), Karen, Dawn and Bob for a fun day at Snowbird Mountain Resort for Octoberfest for a hike,food and fun!!
Chris and Nicole going on the Mountain Flyer!
Getting ready to take the tram to 11,000 feet!
Hiking down to the chairlift was a hysterical experience with all that wincing in pain!
Chris, Nicole and I on the Lift!
The Crew at Octoberfest!
Going down the Alpine Slide!
This may or may not have been consumed by me. OK it was delicious!
Chris (Dennis), Karen and I on the lift again. Karen was summoning her inner moose...
...and literally 2 minutes later we saw this big boy and his wife!
A roller-coaster on the trail? THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!
This weekend was so much fun. Thanks to all of you Maniacs and Fanatics for coming to Salt Lake! I hope you all had a fabulous time at the Big Cottonwood Marathon and Half Marathon. It is still one of my favorite races!
See you all next year!