It’s no secret that I have an eternal crush on Big Cottonwood Canyon. I love this canyon. Ever since I was a child and my grandparents would take us up the canyon for a picnic to now as a runner — the beauty and majesty of the canyon leaves me awestruck. As a runner I jump on any opportunity to run this canyon I get — whether it’s a race or training run.
After I backed out of the Utah Valley Marathon a month or so ago, I decided to register for the Drop13 Half instead of simply downgrading to the half. This is a fun, fast course. And, unlike the Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon, 12 miles of the race are in the canyon compared to about 10 or so.
Not, that I don’t love Revel Big Cottonwood, it’s just — I love canyon miles. Being a bigger runner I love having gravity on my side. It makes it much, much more enjoyable.
Going into the race I didn’t really have a set goal. Still dealing with my sprained ankle I didn’t know what to expect? I wanted to at least come in under three hours — which I felt was doable. I still have pain in the ankle, but it’s pretty much only regelated to when I move laterally than anything.
If I wasn’t dealing with the ankle rehab I was really hoping to push 2:30 — which is what I ran last year. It’s been humbling dealing with this ankle, because I do feel like I could push that time, but the ankle hinders that. I just have to remember to be patient with my recovery no matter now anxious I am to move forward.
Race day started early — as is usual with summer races. With a 6am gun time I up at 2am and out the door by 3am so I could get on a bus for the start line at 4:30am. So, so, so, so, so early. But, that’s the beast of summer running.
After meeting up with Tim and his wife — Boojah — we rode up the canyon together. After a quick pit stop to the Honey Buckets we still had just over an hour left until gun time. The trick now was staying warm until then. Which isn’t very easy up Big Cottonwood — anytime time of the year.
While wandering around the starting line for a bit, I found a group of my friends huddled together in the Uhaul with the engine running and heat blasted to high. There wasn’t enough room for me in the cabin, but I was able to stick my face into the open window — which did the trick.
After take a quick group picture and after waiting for the majority of the crowd to cross the start line — we were off! Tim and I decided to stick together for most of run depending on how we both felt. With my ankle and his lack of miles of late — we didn’t really know what to expect? So we just we just ran together.
I felt good in the first few miles of the race. My ankle felt really good and I tried to focus on pushing myself as best as I could. It wasn’t until about mile 4-5 that I started to feel the ankle rather aggressively.
Most of this discomfort was brought on by the twists and turns in the course. Many of those turns acted much like a lateral move which aggravated the ankle. Luckily, it doesn’t cause extreme pain in my ankle, but it makes it uncomfortable enough that if I am not careful I can misalign everything about my gait and pace. Which can cause more pain and issues in the long run.
At this point I had split with Tim at the last aid station so he could use a Honey Bucket. So I just centered on my ankle, gait and pace. I cranked up my music and just watched the terrain so I could avoid uneven grades to pain my ankle.
Basically, as the course wound down the canyon my pace became more of a fartlek than anything. Which I was fine with, but it was a bit frustrating because I very much just wanted a consistent pace. But, I just focused on doing my best and pushing myself where I could.
Around Mile 8-9 Tim caught back up with me, we kept a good paced fartlek. We ended up walking most of the switchback. Even walking the switchback was tough on my ankle. The elevation drop lends itself to runners than walkers, so my quads lurched forward while my ankle got a brunt of the impact.
It wasn’t fun.
The last few miles were pretty non-descript and was easier for me to run. But, at this point of the race my ankle was hurting pretty bad — so any push I made to run faster was rather painful. So, I just tried to find a good pace that was at least faster than a walk.
Tim was hurting pretty good and started walking more, so with about a mile, mile and half out I ditched him. I couldn’t walk without my ankle hurting worse, so I had to keep going at my set pace. Plus, I just wanted to be done — aaaaaand — I felt like a sub-three time was still a reachable goal.
So I pressed forward like a hot mess.
At Mile 12 I got a second mind as we exited the canyon. And, I pushed myself, especially as I saw that I would be cutting the goal time close. I kept the walking to a minimum and only in areas where I felt I needed to slow down for the sake of my ankle. But, I felt like I had enough energy to make it.
Which, I did.
I crossed the finish line in 2:56:08. Not my fastest time, but also not my slowest. And, given the circumstances with my ankle — I felt proud of myself. I could have easily taken it easy, especially those last couple miles. But, I didn’t. I kept pushing and it paid off. And, I met my goal.
Luckily, my ankle is feeling okay 24 hours after the race. Really the only pain I have is in my quads which is expected for a race like this one. That gives me hope for a faster recovery. I start physical therapy on the ankle next week so that will only help.
But, I have Race #148 done — and now I am focused on the Bear Lake Trifecta this week. Luckily, I am just doing the half marathon trifecta, but it will be a challenge for sure. Is it the smartest? Probably not. But, I won’t have any reservations backing out of any of the races if I feel like my ankle can’t take it.
And, if all goes according to plan I will also be hitting a milestone on Friday when I run my 150th race. It’s hard to believe this journey is just 30 races away from being completed. But, at the same time — I am excited to move forward onto some other goals in my running and life. More that I will share not much later.
Anyways — I’ll be back for the Drop13 again next year. I’ve got some goals and unfinished business to deal with on this course. I want to redeem my time and hopefully meet a new PR! But, in the meantime I’ll keep my focus on strengthening my ankle, getting stronger, faster and slimmer.
But, right now the focus is on Bear Lake!
IT’S BEAR LAKE OR BUST, BABY!!!
MY NEXT FIVE RACES
Running Miles — 12.2 miles
Race Miles — 13.1 miles
Walking Miles — 24.14 miles
TOTAL MILES — 49.44 miles
Race(s) this week — Drop13 Half Marathon
June 2017 Miles
Running Miles — 21.7 miles
Race Miles — 13.1 miles
Walking Miles — 32.81 miles
TOTAL MILES — 67.61 miles
Races in May — Drop 13 Half Marathon, Bear Lake Trifecta, Bear Lake Trifecta, Bear Lake Trifecta, AF Canyon Race Against Cancer
Running Miles — 248.95 miles
Race Miles — 190.72 miles
Walking Miles — 557.26 miles
TOTAL MILES — 996.93 miles
Races done in 2017 — New Year’s Half Marathon, Sweethearts 5K, Jackpot Running Festival, SL Tri Club Indoor Half, March Madness Half, Lucky 13 Half Marathon, Emigration Canyon Half Marathon, Riverton Half, Saltair Half, Provo City Half Marathon, Jordan River Half Marathon and Drop13 Half Marathon.