Not a new state, but a new PR!

Date: September 14, 2013Big Cottonwood

Distance: 13.1 (13.15)

Time: 1:52:33 (PR!)

What an amazing day. After seven years of running half marathons, I finally broke the sub-two hour time I’ve been coveting.  I wish I could attribute my accomplishment to following such an intense training regimen and impeccable diet, but I can’t. I give full credit to the really fast course.

This was the second year of the Big Cottonwood Canyon full and half marathons, and because I’m focusing on running races outside of my home state, I’ve been avoiding almost all Utah races for the past four or five years. The race is near my house, though, and it fit well in my race calendar this year. The website, too, showcased the beautiful course and promised very fast times.

The race certainly delivered.

The half marathon race begins about eight miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon at an elevation of 7200 feet.  (Big Cottonwood is the same canyon where Brighton and Solitude Ski Resorts are located). The course follows the very scenic, winding, paved road down the canyon and then becomes somewhat flatter and crosses into the city of Murray–just south of Salt Lake City–and ends at Cottonwood High School (elevation-4400 feet).cottonwood

In my previous post, I wrote about the possibility of getting a sub-two hour time because a recent training run down the canyon showed me that a fast time might be possible. Today, with the adrenaline and crowds, I ran even faster than I did during my training run. I felt as though I were flying down the canyon during those first eight miles and my internal mantra was, “open up and relax.” I gave myself permission to let the gravity simply pull me down the hill and I knew that, by taking full advantage of the fast downhill portion at the beginning, I would possibly shave off enough time up front to allow for a fast final time even though the course wouldn’t continue to be so steep at the end. That strategy worked, but it was exhausting.

Awkward poses in Bikram Yoga (from Google images)

Awkward poses in Bikram Yoga (from Google images)

The last two miles of this race were among the hardest I’ve ever run. My quads and calves were already sore from the pounding they took at the beginning portion of the race, and I was more fatigued than normal. But, as one motivational sign along the course reminded me, “Pain is temporary. Internet race times are forever.” I chuckled when I saw that–particularly since I had a very specific goal time in mind. Amazingly, my problematic ankle and sometimes touchy knees gave me no problems whatsoever. All those strengthening Awkward poses in yoga must have paid off.

If getting up early isn’t your thing, you might not like this race. All runners must take shuttle buses to the start, and the buses left the school parking lot between 4;00 and 5:00 a.m. Luckily, my friend Janet offered to meet me near the school so we could ride up together. She provided some great moral support in those early morning hours and our conversation made the hour-and-a-half wait for the 6:40 start time to go by rather quickly. (She also PR’d this race and finished before I did by two minutes).

The very early start time coincides beautifully with the sunrise. At the start, the sky is just starting to get light and the sun fully rises during the beginning of the race. The early morning mountain scenery was beautiful. Today, just as runners were shedding their outer layers, we were also greeted with overcast skies, but no rain and no wind. The no-rain part was a nice surprise since we have been getting a series of thunderstorms moving through the valley for the past several days. These are the same storms that, sadly, are creating such horrible flooding problems in Colorado this weekend.

The finish provided not only the biggest race medal ever (fitting the race theme of “Go Big”), but we were also treated to a great bounty of food–fruit, chips, chocolate milk, cookies, and Jimmy John’s sandwiches. The race bag, too, was nice–with gloves, a great race shirt, temporary tattoos, race stickers, mylar blanket, personalized race tag, and glow sticks.

Overall, a very, very good race experience. Kudos to the race planners. This race just might sneak its way onto next year’s race calendar as well–and that says a lot since I still have 27 other states to knock out.


Split times (even with stopping at every water station and taking a few walking breaks):















Note: Utah races are good to me. My previous personal record (2:03:08) and today’s PR have both been done in local races.


One response to this post.

  1. […] race itself was small and the course reminded me of the Big Cottonwood Canyon race in that it started up the canyon and the course meandered downhill into town. I would say the very […]


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