Revel Big Cottonwood Race Recap: BQ #3


My much anticipated solo race trip to Salt Lake City began on a Thursday evening when I boarded a Southwest flight from Lubbock to Las Vegas to SLC. I had a nice layover in Vegas so I grabbed some dinner (overpriced pasta and garlic bread), played $20 on the penny slots (won a bit, but ended up with nothing), then flew in to SLC. I arrived at 10:30 p.m. and headed to the Enterprise Car Rental counter where a very nice young gentleman named Cole took care of me and even gave me an upgrade for my birthday. This trip was off to a good start.

Vegas from the plane



Mazda fully loaded SUV


I drove to my Airbnb where my host, Sharon, met me around 11:30 p.m. She was so sweet to stay up and greet me, give me my key, show me around and say goodnight. The Airbnb was a lovely basement apartment (Stewart’s Hideaway was the Airbnb name) with a nice living area, a huge, fully stocked kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom/laundry room. I crashed out within 10 minutes of my head hitting the pillow. I was exhausted!


Very cozy
Too bad I don’t play the guitar
Huge Kitchen
Comfy Bed
Tub is a MUST
Little Touches
Thoughtful Touches
Even more thoughtful touches
Great Dishes
View from across the street


The next morning, my alarm woke me around 7:00 a.m. and I headed out for a short shakeout run in the neighborhood. It was a beautiful little area called Sandy and just down the road I found a paved trail along the train tracks, so I ran along that for a good while, turned around and ran back. The cool weather was glorious. I have been fighting West Texas heat all summer long with no respite until now! I was hoping to have this same cool weather for the Saturday race, but temperatures were predicted to climb again, so my wish wasn’t to be granted. Bummer.

View from the shakeout
Surrounded by mountains

I then headed to the Expo where I would volunteer from 9:30-1:30. The expo was located at the SLC Community College about 25 minutes from where I was staying. Free parking was ample and access to the Bruin Center was quite easy. As with all Revel Races, they had the beautiful back drops and their larger than life numbers out for photo opportunities. I got another ambassador to snap a pic for me and of course he photobombed one! 


Silly Shot
Love these numbers!
Beautiful Backdrop!

I put on my snazzy official red Revel volunteer shirt and spent my 4 hour shift passing out race bibs and Goodr sunglasses. I love working at bib pickup because I get to visit with all of the first time marathoners/half marathoners as well as the veterans. There were some fun people working, so we snapped a pic.


Staying entertained for 4 hours
Revel Expo

After my shift, I picked up my own packet and shirt and headed downstairs to wander around the expo. Revel expos aren’t large by any means, but there are some nice vendors and some great freebies. My favorite booth was Rapid ReBoots. I got a free 10-minute compression session and it was just what I needed after the plane trip. I also bought a 2017 Revel Big Cottonwood shirt for $1.99 (I ran this race that year and it is my favorite shirt of all), a beer glass to add to my Revel collection, and a skull visor from Headsweats.


Highest setting felt amazing!
Swag Bag

After the expo, I headed over to the Wasatch Running Center to browse around and bought some Maurten gels for my race. I have always used GU Roctane, but wanted to experiment with the Maurten this time. It is a little pricey, so I probably won’t use it on a regular basis. I bought a few packages at Fleet Feet in Austin and tried them out on a training run or two and they didn’t make me sick and seemed to work nicely, so I decided to try them for this race.

View from the Wasatch Running Center parking lot

I needed some lunch so I found a restaurant called Pulp Lifestyle Kitchen. What a neat place! My “Buy the Roots” salad was delicious! If I ever go back to SLC, I will surely go there again!


Pulp Kitchen
Buy the Roots Salad

It was now time to drive the course. If possible, I always try to make driving the course a habit for every race I run. Even though I have run this course once before, I wanted to refresh my memory. It took about an hour to get from the bottom of Big Cottonwood to the starting area at Guardsman Pass (9921 feet up). I snapped a quick pic and headed down the course. There were a few inclines that concerned me, but nothing too scary. I knew from before that the most horrifying part of Revel Big Cottonwood was the Out and Back at Mile 18.


It was getting a little late after my mountain excursion, so I found a Target to buy my epsom salts and splurged on a unicorn bath bomb. Look what was hidden inside after it dissolved! Could there be a more appropriate good luck charm?

Surprise Unicorn!

My stop to Whole Foods for some dinner was a little disappointing as a lot of the foods on the hot bar were down to the dredges. I was able to find some beets, noodles, salad and a bit of bread. And, of course, some beer for after the race! I laid out my gear, soaked in Epsom and headed off to bed.

Flat Debbie
Goodr Sunglasses, Headsweats Visor, Onzie Capris and Sports Bra, Garmin Fenix 5S watch, Nike Vaporfly 4%, Fitletic Fuel Belt, Maurten Gel, Momentum Jewelry Wraps, Xersion tank

The alarm on my phone started ringing at 2:45am. Soooo early! I hit the snooze until 3:00 and rolled out of bed. I was excited and nervous. Yes, after 31 marathons I still get nervous. I think the thing that contributes the most to my nerves is logistics. Can I get to the start on time? Will there be an empty porta potty when I get there? Did I remember to pack everything I’ll need? And the list goes on and on…

The bus pick up was only a 9-minute drive from where I was staying. It couldn’t have been easier to drive there, find a parking place and head onto the bus.  On the ride up, I met a very nice young lady who was running her second marathon. We chatted the entire ride and that made the hour drive just fly by.

I headed straight to the porta pots and then made a nest along the side of the road next to a young man named Cayson, who was running his very first marathon. He asked me for advice about the course and I told him to enjoy his marathon number one because there is only one first marathon! I also told him not to brake on the downhill. You’ll tear up your quads even more if you do that. After about an hour I lined back up for my final trip to the porta pot and waited and waited… The line was ridiculous. This wasn’t necessarily because of a lack of potties or poor logistics, it was more because people didn’t listen and lined up in one big line instead of short lines in front of each potty. I waited so long that I missed the Marathon Maniac picture that was taken right before the race. That made me sad.

I fought my way through the mass of people to the drop bag truck and slipped off the side of the road but caught myself before I fell. There was a twinge in my right glute and it worried me, but there was nothing I could do about it now. I walked a short distance to the starting area and warmed up a bit with some dynamic stretches. There was no National Anthem, but a brief announcement and an airhorn and we were off.


Mile 1 was sooo steep! This was the largest drop at 468 feet descent. By the way, the altitude really does not bother you when you are descending so fast. I clocked in a 7:31 mile and that is fast for me. 

Miles 2 and 3 evened out a little more with a 238 and 225 foot drop. I felt pretty good and was trucking along at a good clip until the last .25 of Mile 3 where we took a sharp left and proceeded to the loop around The Old Mill Golf Course. It was a gradual ascent. I knew this was coming and just ran by effort. Not too fast, not too slow, just chugged along  while telling myself this was only going to last until Mile 4. I looped around and saw the 4 mile mark and glanced down at my watch. I ran that mile in 9:10 at altitude. Not bad. All in all, it really isn’t that much of an incline, it just feels hard. My watch registered only 23 feet. 


Miles 5 through 8 were pretty steep. I was almost getting tired of going downhill. I took a gel at Mile 5 and washed it down with some water at an aid station. During Mile 8 I started feeling like I was slowing down a bit and I was.

Miles 9 through 12 only registered drops of 104-169 feet. While I was still descending, it didn’t feel like it because it wasn’t as steep as it was before. 

I hit the halfway point at a PR time of 1:43:49. The course was beautiful. The sun was starting to come out, but we still had the shade from the canyon. I smiled and waved at all of the photographers on the course. A very nice man who had been trading off passing me and being passed by me, came up from behind and handed me my little hand towel. I guess it fell out of my fuel belt. I thanked him and took off. I was glad he gave it to me because I would need it later when the sun was beating down.

Race tip: I like to carry a little magic towel from The Dollar Tree with me during races because I often soak it in water and wipe down my neck or just have it to wipe sweat from my brow. Since it only cost me a dollar, I usually just toss it to the side of the course before I finish. 

Guns Up
This was during the out and back, but I’m still smiling

Miles 14 through 18 were a pretty steep descent. Again, I was getting a little tired of running downhill and my quads were starting to scream at me. I knew this course though and knew that I would get some relief after Mile 18 on the Out and Back section. Miles 14 and 16 were the steepest at drops of 360 feet and 333 feet. Finally, I was at Mile 18. The downhill would be done for awhile. (5 miles to be exact). I thought I would be glad for the change, but quickly decided I was not.

Miles 19-23 are the dreaded Out and Back. In almost every review that you read about Big Cottonwood, everyone mentions how bad that Out and Back is. You have to go out for 2.5 miles and make a U-Turn to go right back to where you started at Mile 18. That doesn’t sound so bad, but when you have been running downhill for so long, the rolling hills feel like huge mountains to climb. Not to mention, the shade from the canyon is now gone and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. This is where it gets really tough. I slowed way down as I climbed up to the end of the first mile. We were still headed up and my pace was so slow. I continued up the second mile to Mile 20 and on to another half mile. The road evened itself out here and I made the U-Turn. I headed back the way I came and darn it, the road seemed to be on an incline again! How was that possible? Mile 21 came and then low and behold I saw the popsicles!! What a welcome sight! They weren’t otter pops this time, they were real popsicles. And they were delicious. I actually started walking for the first time so that I could eat it. When I finished, I started jogging again until the next mile marker and the next popsicle! Yes, there were TWO popsicle stations. I was so excited! There was a little more walking in this section and then I finally turned the corner on to Mile 23 and down the home stretch. I made it through the Out and Back!

Miles 24 through the Finish Line were downhill again, but very close to the traffic coming from the other direction. The exhaust fumes were a little sickening. It was getting extremely warm and I stopped at every water station until the finish. I  drank water and poured it over my head as well. There was one more mile to go and I was determined to finish this race. I glanced down at my watch which said I still had a projected finish time of 3:45 so I took off. As I approached the finish line, I started giving high fives to the spectators who were waiting at the finish. Just before I crossed the line, I yelled at the top of my lungs “BQ” and everyone cheered. The announcer said “Now that’s the way you finish a race!” I did it! I qualified for Boston AGAIN but this time with a bigger cushion.

BQ Yell

As I made my way through the finish chute, I stopped to bend over and catch my breath because I was starting to hyperventilate a bit. At least I wasn’t vomiting like I was in 2017! A volunteer placed my medal over my head and I walked to a tub with ice cold towels and placed one over my head. It felt soooooo good. After that, I headed on over to the Results Tent. This is something I really like about Revel. You can go get your results printed out immediately after you finish.


From there, I went to the donut tent and traded my ticket for a yummy sprinkled donut. I wasn’t ready for pizza yet, so I made my way to the backdrops for a photo and then to the beer tent!


I met two very nice young ladies at the beer tent. They were both from Arkansas and had very impressive times of 3:17. One of them even stopped to go to the bathroom and still ended up with that amazing time. Wow! We sat and visited for a while until the sun was just too hot and I left to walk to my car.

Here were my splits from Strava. I ran a little extra because I was trying to avoid the camber on the road and kept having to shift over to the side or to the center of the road. You can really see where I slowed way down on Miles 20-24, but I had a really good bank of time from the first 18 miles that I knew would help me.


Strava Splits


Post Race

I drove back to the Airbnb and was greeted by my staircase. This was going to be hard! But, I was able to maneuver my way down the stairs, take an epsom bath, drink another beer, and take a nap. I sure needed one!


Post Marathon Nightmare

After a nice long nap, I ventured on out to find some pizza for dinner. Pizzeria Limone wasn’t too far and it looked pretty good, so I went there. The minute I sat down to enjoy my meal, a family of 5 with two small children and a baby came in. The baby shrieked the entire time and the kids yelled and ran around the restaurant. It was awful! The high ceilings made it worse. I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone. The food was also average at best. I was so disappointed. So much so that I decided to drive downtown to get some gelato to feel better! I found a lovely little shop called Dolcetti Gelato. It was excellent!

Pistachio and Amaretto

My flight wasn’t until the next afternoon and Sharon, my host, told me I could stay as long as I liked. She was such a great host! I got up early, took a nice little walk and said goodbye to her. I found a great brunch place called Gourmandise and splurged on Brioche French Toast! Oh. my. goodness! It was so delicious. 

The BEST Bakery 

Brioche French Toast

After brunch, I drove down to the Temple Square area and walked around for a little while before my flight. It was a lovely area.


I headed to the airport and caught my flight back to Lubbock via Denver. My trip was over and I was so grateful to my husband that he supported my taking it. I am just about recovered and am ready for my next adventure: ATHENS!!! 


Race Summary and Stats

I did a couple different things for this race than I usually do. It was marathon number 32, so I didn’t worry about trying some new things. I fueled with the Maurten Gels and ran in my new Nike VaporFly 4% shoes. They seemed to work very well for me. The only problem with the Nikes is that they don’t last for more than around 150 miles. They are a lot more expensive than my Saucony Fastwitch, so I will definitely save them for special races. 

The info on the Results page is always really detailed. It is great to see what place you are in at the different timing points and how many people you have passed (or were passed by!). Notice that my Age Group place moved up to 5th. On my results card it was 6th. Not sure what happened, but I’ll take it!


Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 4.52.55 PM.png

Here are some of the stats from the Marathon: 

1072 Finishers     531 Female     541 Male

OA Male Winner – Jason Howe, Age 42, Time: 2:27:39

OA Female Winner – Alaini Ritsch, Age 22, Time: 2:56:30


And the Half Marathon:

2592 Finishers      1734 Female     858 Male

OA Male Winner – Nathan Fredrick, Age 23, Time: 1:04:29

OA Female Winner – Mary Sullivan, Age 30, Time: 1:19:22

Total Elevation Loss:

Marathon  5,255 Feet

Half Marathon 2,856 Feet


If you haven’t run a Revel race yet, you are missing an incredible experience. Go check one out and I hope to see you there!! Thanks for reading!


8 Comments Add yours

  1. debbiegelber says:

    Yes! I hope so! Good luck on your 100!!!


  2. Ahh…you make me excited about getting older. 3:45 is my PR– but I’m in my 30s so I got time to get that number down after I run a few more 100 milers. LOL nice work!! 😉


    1. debbiegelber says:

      Haha! Yup. I’m thankful that my qualifying times are so much higher than you young’uns! I can’t imagine running that fast. It’s about the only good thing about aging! 🙄 Thanks for reading!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re more than welcome! Maybe one day we will see each other at a race again “double agent”!! LOL!


  3. RunBeckyRun says:

    Congrats! Excellent race recap as always. I think I also fear the “what-ifs” before a marathon. I haven’t run nearly as many as you have, but I’ll be running number six in October, and I still get nervous beforehand! Congrats on another BQ as well!


    1. debbiegelber says:

      Thanks for reading! Best of luck on number 6!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. RunBeckyRun says:

        Thanks so very much!


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