This is how race day started for me:
I got up at 3:30 a.m. and ate two slices of my pre-race staple, cinnamon swirl bread. It was awesome. I felt great, not nervous at all. My sister and I drove down to Cottonwood Heights on the dark and lonely freeway. Parking was awesome--volunteers ushered us right into a parking stall in a well-lit parking terrace. We got out of the car and walked with the excited, if not energized crowd to the buses. This is where I said goodbye to Mindy--she was pacing the marathon while I was trying out my speed on the half.
I got on the 4:50 a.m. bus and we were on our way. During the ride up the canyon, I chatted with a nice lady from Michigan, currently living in St. George, Utah. All 50 states and several countries were represented in this race. That certainly added to the excitement.
We got off the bus at a camp ground. In the dark. In the cold. Did I mention it was dark? And cold? I believe the low temp. was around 35 degrees. At any rate, it felt like winter up there--and I am not a fan of winter, especially in September.
There were literally tons of port-a-potties. Clean toilets. Awesome!
This part was not awesome. The race was supposed to start at 7:00. We had been told that the last buses would leave at 5:30 (marathon) and 5:45 (half). Apparently everyone decided to wait until the last minute and catch the latest buses. Subsequently, there weren't enough buses to get everyone up to the start on time. Oh, except for those of us who caught the earlier buses. We were stuck waiting in the cold, dark camp ground for an extra 30 minutes. The race directors did include mylar blankets and gloves in our race bags. Life saver! Despite the blanket and knit gloves, my feet became numb in the cold. When we finally did start running it felt as if I had blocks of ice instead of feet for the first three miles.
I forgot to start my Garmin until almost a whole mile into the race. That turned out to be a positive as so much of running for me is mental and not knowing my true pace/distance really helped.
The miles flew by due to the sharp downhill grade. Between miles 4 and 5 I could feel a twinge in my achilles. I reminded myself that pain is temporary and that a PR would be worth it. I kept pushing and actually felt really good.
Until mile 10.
At mile 10 of the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon the course exits the beautiful canyon and continues on city streets. Up hill.
My pace slowed considerably and I had to remind myself to just keep moving. It's a straight shot to the finish line and the whole way is lined with cheering spectators. And I have to say that the police personnel and volunteers along the route who were cheering us on and encouraging us really helped get me to the finish line with a smile on my face.
The finish line was AMAZING! Once we crossed the line, volunteers immediately offered you your medal and a cold, wet towel. That towel = perfection. There was plenty of cold water, soda (diet Coke after a race??? Yes, please!), pizza, macaroni and cheese, yogurt, chocolate milk, and raspberry bars from Whole Foods, etcetera. There were also vendors offering free samples of their nutrition/running related products. There was also a live band that added to the party.
After downing water and plenty of diet Coke, I dodged into a port-a-potty and changed out of my sweaty shirt so I could wait for my sister in comfort.
I was happy to get my official results (as my Garmin failed me): 1:45--a 9 minute PR! I'll take it!
The medals were huge! I LOVE mine! And the race shirts are comfy and well fitted. (That's mine in the picture.)
Mindy finished the full in 4:55. The full marathon course has a tricky uphill out-and-back section that just about undoes everyone who runs it. Mindy did okay by walk/running that portion and just powering through it. Sadly, there were many runners who had quite a difficult time. I've never seen so many medical personnel at the end of a race. I saw three marathoners taken away by ambulance, several hooked up to IV's, and innumerable runners vomiting as they came across the finish line.
I think I'll stick with the half, thank you.
Over all, the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon was the best running event I've been to (not that I've been to many). I definitely want to make this one an annual race.