Sunday, September 21, 2014

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2014

I love this picture. It shows how
marathon running is a family affair.
  Once upon a time, back in April 2012, I went to the Salt Lake Marathon to watch our friends Joshua finish a half marathon and Ryan finish the marathon. I couldn't believe in that moment that I too would run either of those races. I had just started running and was still working my way up to running 2 straight miles. I was barely running 16+ minute miles and was astounded that anyone could run 13.1 or even 26.2 miles. 
  Fast forward 2 years and 5 months later and I can now say I have ran 5 half marathons and a marathon! As Joshua puts it, there was a fire lit for Mark and I that has driven us to this point since that race on a hot April day. And now, there is no turning back.
  I picked this particular race for 2 reasons: (1) I knew I could train for it without the stress of running in snow all running season long and (2) it was a mostly screaming downhill race. While recovery can be worse, I knew the race course would help push me to the pace I would need to keep to finish. However, 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles and I had to work all summer to get to that distance. After a long training summer, I felt okay going into the race. Scared, but I knew Joshua would get me to the end.
  On race morning we carpooled with Joshua and made sure we were all loaded with enough food and caffeine to push us deep into the race. We also did something no person should ever do, we tried Imodium for the first time on race day. We all found out why that is a bad choice in marathon running.
  We got to the top of the mountain after a long and somewhat concerning bus ride to cold temperatures (39 degrees) and a dark mountain top. We all went to the bathroom and tried to stay warm. Joshua hung out in a porta potty, both to stay warm and to take care of business, and we had deep text chats about running's most important topic: poop. I also had the opportunity to discuss life with Elvia and Marissa. Talk about the perfect way to prepare mentally to for what laid ahead.
  The biggest complaint that I had about this race (the only complaint really) was that they allowed people to be late for busing. Because of a few people who should have just been out of luck, the race started 30 minutes late. This was a problem because the road closures were still in force and slower runners, like me,  were constantly in fear of being swept. So that meant pushing harder in the earlier miles then we really should have. 
   We FINALLY set off and Joshua, Tim, and I got into a smooth pace to warm up. Nothing too fast, just 12 minute miles. I had my GPS going on phone and had it set to tell me on my earphone when we hit miles and how fast we were going. I knew I needed to do 12 minute miles to be safe for the out and back from being swept. I didn't take into account that we started 30 minutes late, but I also knew that I had and could do 10 minute miles down the whole canyon. However, Joshua and Tim had ran multiple marathons and advised me to take it slower to save energy. 
   The canyon is starting to look like fall and Tim and Joshua kept me in stitches. We stopped to bandage an blister forming in mile 7 and made sure we were fueling often. The miles passed quickly and soon we were in double digits. Some miles were a little slower (12 minute miles) and some were faster (10 minute miles) and still the sweeper, our friend Susette, caught up to Joshua while he was taking a selfie (I know, hard to believe) and told him the 30 minute late start time actually meant we had 30 minutes less to get out of the canyon AND to finish the race before the roads opened. That meant running, on average 14 minute miles over 26.2 miles. So we ran even faster down the canyon.
   Close to the mouth of the canyon we met up with a friend from our running group, Dulcinea, who was sweet enough to make signs for people in the running the race. She also ran with me for a little bit and gave me enough encouragement to get me going strong into the rough out and back. I am so thankful I got a chance to meet her. She is amazing.
  As we turned out of the canyon and headed into the out and back I started scanning the runners coming back on the other side of the road, looking for Mark. A mile passed, then another and I started to worry because I knew that if Mark was going to finish in 4.5 hours, he would have had to pass me already and I probably missed him. The hilly miles were getting to me and I was getting a little mad I missed him when I finally spotted him around the 17 mile mark (21 for him). Apparently he started having tummy troubles around mile 17 (I too was starting to have the same problem) and not being able to go was slowing him down. We blame the Imodium. Not being able to go is worse than runner's trots sometimes. Mark and I hugged and sent each other off with best wishes that things would move soon and I kept trudging along. I was emotional, but glad I finally found him.
  Tim kept prepping me for the wall that was going to hit around mile 20. I was still doing okay and things got much better after we finally got to the turn around spot in the out and back. After a couple of oranges, a water, and a Powerade, we headed off, noticing Susette was closing in on us again.  It was at this moment I started really disliking all the people who came late. I hate selfishness, and this kept me fuming. 
  Mile 20 came and no wall hit and I was feeling pretty great. Then mile 21 came and soon I was internalizing everything because I no longer had the energy to talk. Tim and Josh would ask how I was and I would give a feeble thumbs up. Around this time we found Dulcinea's  sign she made Mark and I. I needed this right then. Knowing Isabel was there kept me moving forward, even though I was starting to feel really terrible and there wasn't a bathroom for like 4 miles. Still, we kept going.

   At some point Susette caught up to us and Tim got far ahead of us. I knew that I couldn't stop or else I would be swept. The only things I could say was that I needed a bathroom and that I refused to be swept. I don't know how it happened, but we finally found one around mile 23 and Susette made sure I could go without being forced off the course. I love that woman.
  After the pit stop we were off again. We tried running what we could and I kept trying to just keep my nerves at a minimum. A panic attack is not a good way to go down at a race. Soon the race was forced to open the roads and we were moved to finish the race on the sidewalks. They promised that they wouldn't sweep us, but to hurry because they were taking down the finish-line. Joshua was in dire straights because his feet hurt and I was because I was still sick and my blister from mile 7 gave birth to 1000 other blisters on my toes. Every step was killer. And, apparently, going from 40 degree temps at the start to 90 degree temps out of the canyon makes for an awesome mix for sunburn and being wore out. 
   Joshua decided that this would be a good time to ask about my future race plans (which I wanted to never do again) and about what we should eat post race (which almost made me throw up and possibly poop my pants). I love him, but seriously, he has terrible timing for this kind of stuff. I hear he does it at all his marathons. He also would go off his GPS to tell me how long we had left. Of course our GPS devices measured the race longer than the race officials had, so hearing we had 1.2 miles left from Joshua when I just saw the mile 24 marker only made me crankier. I had taken out my own earpiece when I showed me at mile 26 at only mile 24. I had dropped something important earlier in the course and ran back to get it. Apparently this made the course 27.56 for me. So Joshua pointing out we were actually doing an ultra-marathon only made my more miserable. I am a lucky gal that he thinks hangry Jill is amusing and takes no offense to the words coming out of my mouth. 
  The last mile was a blur. We finally could see the finish-line in the distance and quickened our pace with every last shred of energy we had. Then Dulcinea found me and carried my water to the end so I could run faster. Then Mark found us by the last intersection and Joshua told me to leave it all in the course and so I did. And as I passed the finish-line, the second to the last runner there (Joshua is the going straight to Heaven for making sure I didn't finish dead last at my first marathon), I grabbed my medal and let out ever tear I felt over the past 6 hours and 42 minutes. I hugged Mark and Joshua and limped my way through some selfies as the race volunteers took down the race around us. But all that mattered was my medal around my neck proving I had done it. I was a marathoner!
   I am still shell shocked by it all. Joshua tells me I say things that indicate I will run another marathon again, and probably soon. Honestly, I can't say I won't ever do it, but I don't want to do it right now. I am feeling like doing another half or 12 again. I can't wait to start speed training to get my 5k and 10k times down. But, another marathon will have to wait. I am, however, incredibly pleased with how my first marathon turned out. I ran with Josh and Tim, who are both incredible. Mark and I both got to experience our first marathon on the same day. And FYI, he finished in 5 hours, 10 minutes. Even with tummy problems, he is still a stud. I had a spiritual experience, proved what I am made of, and know that I am forever changed. This is exactly what I needed.
   If you are interested, here is Joshua's take on the race. I love his recap. His whole blog is amazing. and here is my marathon told by all the pictures everyone took.

One of my favorite pictures of all time.

Every single step lead to this moment. I am a MARTHONER!


  1. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO proud of you Jill! I am also extremely happy and excited for you! I have no doubt your daughters will always remember the time Mom and Dad did a marathon. It took so much for the both of you to get to this point.


    1. I am so glad you were there, pushing me to keep going and finish this thing. You are a very great friend. I don't deserve you.

  2. You are an inspiration to all of us runner 'wanna-be's"...congrats on flourishing thru your first big one!


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