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Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon – BQ attempt!

When I heard, months ago, that Hylands click here (#hylandspowered) was putting together a team for the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon, I jumped at the opportunity. The date was May 18 when I said “Count me in!” I knew that this was not going to easy though as several obstacles stood in my way.

  1. The new Boston Marathon standard- for me now 3:35 – it used to be 3:40 but now 3:35.
  2. Recent history – I had not run faster than 3:35 since I set my PR at Mountains to Beach (3:15:20) in 2012! After a several years marathon hiatus I ran the same Mountains 2 Beach in 3:36 – 2017 to qualify for Boston 2018, where I ran a 3:39. My last marathon was Mountains to Beach 2018 where I finished with a very disappointing 3:52.
  3. I was injured Nov-Feb and ran very little. So in May I had very little base mileage.
  4. My weight!!!! The last couple of years I have been rather lackadaisical about watching my weight… The months of non running added to this. On April 5 I weighed 197 pounds…. I ran Boston 2018 at 185…. M2B 2017 BQ was run at 175. My PR back in 2012 was run at 165!!
  5. The timing of the race – September…. hot weather…. not just potential heat at the race, but the challenge of getting in enough training in the heat of summer. I have not done a summer/fall marathon before.

So what did I have going for me? Why did I say “Count me in?”

  1. I LOVE running Boston and the opportunity to run it once again for Team Hylands is strong motivation!
  2. The course – Big Cottonwood is ranked 14th fastest by findmymarathon.com….. M2B is 28th! It is one of the Revel series of (almost) all downhill marathons!
  3. I could always lose the weight! I discovered years ago that if a runner is carrying some extra poundage – every pound is a minute’s time in a marathon.

So I signed up and started training – and dieting. I posted back in April about my use of dietbet, stepbet, and runbet for motivation in this area. I slowly ramped up the mileage… April 79, May 77, June 57 (with 600+cycling), July 101 and August 123. I got in 2 (3/4 marathons – 20 milers) and a couple others in the teens… that’s it….

So Thursday night I flew to Salt Lake City. Friday morning Hyland’s team mate Doug Schunk and I went for a 3 mile run. We went to the race expo and started meeting up with the team. Doug, Gerard and I drove the course. The area is beautiful. And the canyon was long and often steep. Hyland’s treated the team to Spaghetti Factory for dinner!

Saturday we got up early and stepped out the front door of the hotel where our bus was waiting to take us to the start line. We drove up in the dark and got out into the COLD predawn alpine air. Our race goodie bags included mylar blankets AND cotton gloves. I brought two sacrificial layers to wear as well. I stayed warm enough. I got through the potty line twice and got to the start line with only a couple of minutes to spare.

My plan was to go with the 3:30 pace group. I did not see one. I happened to be lined up with Gerard and Casey (both first time Hyland’s runners) and we were right behind the 3:25 pace leaders.. As the race started Casey got ahead of the group and Gerard ran right with them. They both needed a 3:25. I felt comfortable enough to go with them but held back and cruised 30 – 40 meters back. I noticed another Hyland team mate Jackie in the group as well. Jackie and I had the same goal. We both needed 3:35 officially but 3:30 would be even better!

4 miles in there was an out and back loop with a bit of a climb. The climb was not too big or long but we were still at 8000 ft elevation (my guess) so it got your heart rate up. I purposely took it very easy and let the pace group and my team mates get away.

From mile 4 to around 10 I slowly gained on the pace group. I eventually pull alongside Jackie and said hi. Gerard noticed us and for a bit we were all together. From 4 to 8 Jackie and I fell back behind the 3:25 group while Gerard went with them. Jackie and I passed each other a number of times. We happened to be together when we passed Hyland Coach Mike at mile 18.

Hi Coach!

The difficulty with Big Cottonwood is that the canyon is not long enough. At mile 18 the canyon ends. They have the runners to a 4 mile out and back. The out and back is rolling hills.. really down, up and a little down going out, followed by up, down and more up on the way back… After 18 miles of canyon running it felt mostly uphill…. both ways. The last climb to get back to the main road was especially challenging. Many competitors were walking by this point. After returning to the main road the course continues on a mostly gentle downward slope… with one good downhill about a mile to go.

As I ran behind the 3:25 group…. eventually losing contact with them, running from 10 – 18 I noted that my quads were indeed getting sore… so were my calves. I worried about Calf cramping so I took some Hyland’s cramp relief tabs…. I considered backing off the pace. I was a couple of minutes at least ahead of the suggested splits on my pacing band… but I figured that NO ONE would survive the downhill without beating up their calves and quads… so I might as well get it over with. I mentally prepared myself for a rough last 8 miles, building up my determination ahead of time to just keep running regardless.

Sure enough on the out part of the out and back the fatigue set in. The sore legs did not want to climb. When it was flat it felt like we were climbing. When it went down I was not too sore to enjoy the help of gravity. On the last climb getting back up I really wanted to walk. I figured I had enough cushion, but I also imagined coach Mike (who I had seen just prior to the corner) was still at the corner watching from afar. Other team mates on their way out had been yelling GO DALE at me…. I couldn’t take a chance on letting a team mate see me walk. I willed myself up the hill.

As we turned toward the finish the descent was minor. It was still slow and difficult. For the last several miles I had been calculating what would happen if I did 9 minute miles the rest of the way…. I walked as I drank at a water station or two…. Jackie eventually got so far ahead she was out of sight…. but then there was Gerard up there. I gained on him. I felt myself drifting to the left… I told myself it would be over in 15 minutes.. . in 10 minutes… it’s right up there… I am getting really close to Gerard…. I saw 3:29:58 as I crossed the first mat and 3:30:02 as I crossed the second.

Hyland’s team mates were all around as we fist bumped and congratulated each other.

I had definitely Boston Qualified!! The question was by how much? Registration for Boston had already begun earlier in the week. Those who had a 5 minute cushion were able to register Friday and Saturday till 5pm eastern. So, if I had squeaked in under 3:30 I could register RIGHT NOW! I went to the results table and got this:

After enjoying some shade, and enjoying some time with my friends.. we headed back to the hotel.

where I promptly registered for Boston 2020….

I am excited about the opportunity to run for Hylands at Boston once again!

And I think I know my time goal…. 3:29:59. If I beat 3:30 in Boston, on Aptil 20, 2020 at age 58.13… I will set my all time age graded marathon PR! ….. and I plan to run it at around 160 pounds….

Woo Hoo!!

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