RACE RECAP #75: Revel Big Cottonwood


Preparing to recap this race was difficult. Mainly, because there are a number ways I could look at it. For one, it’s my 75th race over 13.1 miles and my sixth marathon. It was a difficult race. There were some early bowel issues (aka gas) and the later miles were plagued with EXTREMELY sore feet. I would have gladly traded those sore feet for my early mile bowel issues. BUT.

Jill and Addison cheering me on at the 2012 Provo City Half two years ago.

None of that was this race. That happened to me and the race was coincidentally a minor milestone towards my 180 race goal. But, this race wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about my accomplishments.

This race was about my friend Jill. This was her crowning moment of a long, difficult and sometimes seemingly fruitless journey. This was her victory over everything that has told her she couldn’t do something like this. This was her testament to her daughters that you can do ANYTHING you want in life.

But, probably more than anything this was her victory over her own self doubts, fear and anxieties in life. Something I know awfully too much about in my own life. This is was her moment. And, months ago when she and her husband, Mark, decided to make this their first marathon I told Jill I would run with her.

She held me to that promise and that found us carpooling to Cottonwood Heights at 4am to catch a bus up Big Cottonwood Canyon with a ride home 26.2 miles away. It’s been fun watching this journey of Jill’s.

I remember quite distinctly at the Salt Lake Marathon two years ago her and Mark cheering me on during the half marathon and both of us waiting to see another friend finish his marathon. You could see Jill in awe of these runners. A couple of times she would say, “wait … they’re running the half? Mark you could do that.” Even when I told her she could do it she laughed it off and said, “MAYBE the 5K next year.”

One of the first of many runs around Liberty Park with the Gabicas.

But, I saw that spark in her eye. She got that running bug that wouldn’t leave her alone. That next January she ran her first 5K and then in May her first half marathon in Idaho. A race I really should have been at. She wanted to me to run it with her, but I opted to run the Ogden Half Marathon and it ended up raining throughout the whole race. That taught me a lesson.

Even after that first half she still couldn’t imagine doing a marathon. Whenever I would bring it up her response usually entailed an emphatic, “HELL NO!” But, I knew it was just a matter of time. I’ve seen this pattern WAY too many times with other runners. The marathon bug will get you. There’s really no hiding from it. Trust me I once tried that … TWICE.

So when she told me that she and Mark were going to run the Big Cottonwood Marathon in September I told her I would run with her. But, even leading up to the race we ran a lot together.

We ran the last half of the Salt Lake City Half Marathon together (which ended with us crossing the finish line with Slurpees), numerous runs down Emigration Canyon and WAY too many laps around Liberty Park to count. A lot of these runs were spent talking.

We talked about running and the journeys that got both of us THERE. We also talked a lot about our own insecurities and fears. I know that’s kind of a strange topic for runners, but being a bigger runner there’s a real sense of failure that needs to be overcome. The fear of being swept off the course or not being able to finish the race despite OUR BEST are real fears.

One of my favorite running moments this year as Jill and I got Slurpees before our finish at the Salt Lake City Half Marathon.

But, some of our best talks were spent talking about her daughters. If you haven’t had a chance to read her blog you should. It’s called Running for Isabel. It’s named in honor of her daughter who was stillborn with after battling a difficult pregnancy. I won’t go into the details of the pregnancy nor Isabel’s health problems, because Jill more eloquently tells the personal story on her blog and I am sure I wouldn’t get all of the details correct.

One of our main topics of conversation during our runs was about how she correlated this marathon with her motherhood. She wanted to do something to not just make her daughters proud, but she wanted to give them an example that they can do ANYTHING they to do in life.

That was one of the reasons why she didn’t want to fail while running this marathon, because her daughters were watching. I can only imagine that kind of pressure. But, at the same time I also admire her tremendously for setting that kind of example for her daughters. VERY admirable.

The closer we got to the race though I actually saw her nerves calm down quite a bit and a sense of nervous excitement came over her. I’ve seen that a lot in first time marathoners, including myself. So, I knew she would be okay. It was just a matter of getting her to the race.

The night before the race our running group met up at the Old Spaghetti Factory for the traditional carbload dinner. Pasta is one of my favorite foods to eat before a race. Especially when it’s just pasta and red sauce.

Jill, Cindy and I at the Old Spaghetti Factory! Can you tell we’re excited?

The mood was fairly festive and the reality of what was happening in less than 12 hours hadn’t set in at all. I knew I should have been a bit more nervous than I was. But, watching Jill and Mark was fun because Mark as probably freaking out at this point. You could tell that Jill just wanted to get this over with.

Marathon nerves hit individuals in many different ways. Mine didn’t show up really until I was RIGHT THERE at the starting line. But, Jill was ready. The morning of the race was more excitement then anything.

Mark and Jill picked me up at 4am and we carpooled to the bus pickup. The nerves for Jill were there, but it hadn’t hit me yet I was running a marathon that day. I had really done too many long runs past 13.1 since Utah Valley … so I should have been a bit more nervous.

But, most of my nerves were actually centered on an upset stomach I had that morning. I didn’t feel super sick, but I just constantly needed the restroom and I was slightly gassy (classy I know). So, I actually parked myself in a port-a-potty for about a half hour to make sure everything out and I was feeling fine. The last thing I wanted to do was use the restroom in two minutes, get out and then have to get back in line in pain to wait forever for another restroom.

Why am I talking so much about my bowels right now?

Anyways, back to my bowels … I just parked there and didn’t feel that bad about it. I might have texted Jill while in there and checked Facebook a time or two. But, don’t worry I sanitized my phone as well as my hands when I left the potty.

Jill, Mark and I before the race. I wore this rubber duckie shirt in memory of Isabel.

Again, why I am talking about this? Seriously, back to the race.

One of my biggest gripes though about the whole race was the starting time. The race was slated for 7am, but we didn’t leave until 7:30am. Which doesn’t seem like much of a big deal.

But, it kind of messed with us during our later miles. The roads down the mountain and on the side-streets were only open until a certain time. That half hour cut into our projections and time so we had to book it a bit harder than planned which threw things off.

Luckily, when we got to the last couple of miles they didn’t sweep us off the course they just made us run on the sidewalk, but still, the canyon was a stress to us. And, after hearing that they delayed it for a bus of runners it didn’t make us that happy because what’s the point of deadlines if you don’t hold them?

But, once we got running though it was great. It really was. Tim ran with us most of the way. He was such a great relief for both of us. He is one funny dude. So kind, so nice, so genuine and so personal. He loves running with first time marathoners and is great at helping them through their walls. I’ve learned a lot from him in that regard. Plus, he usually runs with candy … sooooooo … he’s a good one to know.

All the way down the canyon Jill was commenting on how easy this felt and how her training runs felt MUCH worse. I knew eventually she’d hit that wall, but I didn’t want to be a party pooper. Even when we had to book it out of the canyon in order to not be swept she still felt great. I was encouraged by this, but still knew a wall was going to come. They always do.

Some of the best scenery in the whole canyon (and I am not talking about Tim’s kilt).

Once we got onto Wasatch Blvd. and did our out and back Jill ran into Mark at our mile 17 and his mile 21. His race wasn’t going as he expected because of some bowel issues. But, he was still up, running and moving forward which is a great sign for any first time marathoner.

Once we got to the turnaround point and to mile 20 I expected that wall to hit anytime now. But, even when we pushed through mile 20 I was amazed at how strong Jill was running. Her determination to do this was way more than her fears or doubts and she … literally … ran with it. She was conquering herself.

But, it was around mile 21-22 that I started noticing her slowing down. The runs started moving into power walks and then eventually into just a walk inbetween bursts of running. That wall was coming up.

And, once we turned onto the homestretch you could tell she was just done. I tried to talk to Jill, but knew it was best to just her be in her thoughts. I also made the mistake of bringing up food a couple times. Bad idea. Her biggest worry at this point was being swept at any moment.

But, once she found out that the police wouldn’t sweep at this point you could see that relief come over her. All we had to do was just run on the sidewalk towards the finish line. It was a relief for me as well because I was worried they’d sweep us. But, nope. They just pull off the support on the course (which meant we had to use the crosswalks like any pedestrian).

The last couple of miles were difficult. Jill had gotten blisters and if she wasn’t careful enough she would land on one that gave her a grimace of pain shooting up her foot. My feet weren’t doing so hot either. They were just sore. I can’t tell you exactly where the pain was, my feet just HURT. Like, bad (they are fine now, thankfully). But, we both powered through that pain step by step.

Our whole friendship is based on a paper we wrote in Comm Research some six years ago about Chuck Norris. Soooo … this was fitting.

Once we got to the finish line it was a sense of unbelievable relief. Each step closer you could see Jill get faster and faster. She was chasing that title of marathoner no matter what it took. And, when we crossed the finish line into the arms of her husband I got a tad emotional as well. Here was that person that two years ago thought about JUST doing a 5K. Now she’s JUST a MARATHONER.

She went through a lot to get to this point and she earned it all. I will always cherish the moment. I am so happy I was able to be a part of it as well. Jill not only did something awesome for herself, but she also set herself as an example to others (well, she already kinda is).

Congratulations Jill! You earned this moment. You earned this marathon. And, you can always hang your head in confidence that you did something hard, difficult, but well worth the effort. And, THAT example is the example you’re setting to your girls right now. KEEP RUNNING JILL!

NEXT RACE: Huntsville Half Marathon (September 27th)

Pictures of my running adventures at the Big Cottonwood Marathon!

Total Mileage Breakdown for 2014

2014 Training Miles – 489.5 miles
2014 Walking Miles – 110.15 miles
2014 Race Miles – 320.1 miles 2014 Total Miles – 919.75 miles
Monthly Total Miles for 2014
January – 100.0 miles
February – 100.0 miles
March – 130.0 miles
April – 140.5 miles
May – 108.65 miles
June – 83.3 miles
July – 93.75 miles
August – 118.2 miles
September – 61.2 miles




  1. Great recap! I ran the half marathon and I’m still walking funny. I got a huge blood blister and my calves are still on fire. I love reading about other runner and their struggles and triumphs! I still have to make that decision an sign up for a full 🙂


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