Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RACE REPORT: Big Cottonwood Marathon | My First DNF


Back in May, I began my first-ever Marathon training program.  While I have run Marathons, I never trained for them.  I have a goal to earn my spot at Boston 2016, that was going to take training.

My eyes were on BCW 2014, not for a BQ but to gauge my legs & summer training.  I wanted to see how I felt after a training program.

RunningBro, RunningMama and I arrived in Murray, UT (just south of Salt Lake City) on Friday evening.  Just enough time to eat and go to bed. I got about 6 hours of sleep and that was okay for me.

In the AM, Bro and I loaded the buses and headed our way up the mountain. We had throw-away jackets on, the race company provided gloves and mylar blankets.  It didn't really help.  They needed some type of heating lamps. To be 8,500 in elevation at 5am?  That's too cold.  We shivered and shook for over an hour.

Race started late because the buses didn't arrive on time and I was told they didn't have enough buses.  So, makes me wonder - how did that happen?  Didn't they know the registration numbers?  We started about 7:25, when it was suppose to start at 7am. 

We lined up and off we went.  14.5 of the course is downhill.  It was great to FINALLY run in cooler temps.  My goal was to run by effort, not pace.  I was not pushing myself, I had no need to.  To grasp the effect of my training, I had to hold back, somewhat.

Views were stunning, but I am more of a city runner. I prefer the views of the city and hearing the roars of the crowds.  Along the way, I ate some bananas and just went into cruise control.  As I looked at my pacing bracelet I realized I was sitting at around a 3:35-3:40 finish at the 5mile mark.  WHOA NELLIE!!!


  • I pulled back as I knew I couldn't keep that pace for another 21 miles.  At the 13.1 mark, I was sitting around a 3:49 finish time. I needed a 3:59 for a BQ and this is after my first potty stop.  

In my mind, as we made our way up the out and back section of the course, I was feeling like a "slow runner" and I moved over to the far right to let the racers pass me.  Yes, the weird things that goes through my runner mind. 

That was a costly mistake as by 18.27 I had a catastrophic fall.  One that left me face down in the pavement and I could not move.  Immediately surrounded by runners and spectators to help me sit up.  My first thought, "NOT AGAIN!" (remember, I fell in 2013 and that is how I fractured my leg).  I looked at my knees and then I saw blood dripping down my arms and hands.  Small amount from my knees.  My hands and shoulders had taken the brunt of the fall and it was not pretty.  I tried to get up and I couldn't.  I finally hung onto someone and said, "I need help"  Standing up and starting to walk, the pain in my right shoulder was intense and I began hobbling to the next police office about .10 from me.  More people came around me and even one joked I looked like a cast member of the Walking Dead with my arms hanging down and a trail of blood behind me.  I had to laugh, I am sure it was a sight.


  • The police officer wouldn't help me, he pointed me to the aid station.  Okay...flashbacks to the RnR2011 where I was pushed aside by race officials when I needed help.  Ugh.  That irked me. I am dripping with blood and begging for help and he points me in the direction of help.  It was obvious to me and others I could barely walk. 

I hobbled to the turn around and the aid station had bandages.  The aid station attendants were wonderful (more helpful than the police officer). They began to pour water on my wounds and even offered me a chair.   My mind was beginning to imagine rocks and grease lodged into skin and I panicked.  Once I had the initial blood wiped away, I decided to keep moving.  I know, not wise.  I felt I could jog it in and at least finish.  I was only a 10k away.  Easy.

Somewhere after 20, I fell again and I was done.  I tried to crawl to the freeway barrier to help me up and more wonderful runners came to my aid.  I felt so bad, they stopped for me.  All I could think was to get to 21 and they had medical. I wanted off this course and be done with it!

Thinking my brother was finished by this time, I texted him to tell him where I was and I was getting help.  No answer.  Then, he answers that he is at Mile 25.

1.  Why is he checking his phone in the middle of the race? 
2.  Why is he only at Mile 25, when he should of been done by then. He is a 3:05 marathoner.

I made my way to Medical Tent at Mile 21, all the while begging the photographers NOT to take my photo.  I don't need to see this ugly mess.

In my trek to Mile 21, I panicked, again.  I cried.  I felt I was going to be abandoned AGAIN on the course.  Flashbacks to Laughlin 2011 and RnRLV 2011.  I decided if they would not transport me to back to the finish, I was sitting ON the course until someone came to get me. I was not finishing, period.

The Medical personnel took one look at me and started cleaning me up. They offered me a Wagon and I gladly accepted.  Meanwhile, I heard from Bro and he has been sick on the course from Mile 6 onward.  Oh dear.  I texted Mama and my husband and assured them I was safe and I would be at the Finish soon, enough with transportation.  Hubby was at work (in Vegas) so he felt very helpless, as you can imagine. Mama was being mama, and was in a panic to see me. 

30 minutes later I arrived back at the Finish line and into the medical tent.  Two personnel worked on me to clean up the wounds.  It was evident the shoulder was swelling up.  I had ice on my shoulder and knees.  They bandaged my hands up to keep the bleeding from going all over.

Once I decided to DNF, I cared about nothing else but to get to Mama and Bro.  The BCW medal is stunning, I do not feel I missed out on a thing.  I made the right choice and glad I did.

While I know the general running population thrives on seeing bloody messes, I will not show you my wounds before the clean up.  I am not that Ugly Black Toe person who posts those type of pictures, sorry. 

After the Finish Line medical (shoulders, hands and knees are iced bandaged up)



I will show you this, this shows my shoulder, after the medical tent clean up.  The hands are just too gross and I am not wanting to share with the public. This is Bro and I at breakfast.  He finally has color in his face, after eating a good meal.  Not only did he have to take care of himself, he had to take care of me.  He had to cut my food, so I could scoop it up.  Pushing down on an eating utensil was impossible, for me. 




Here is bro at the Finish Line.  



As word began to spread I took my first DNF, my running friends were naturally concerned I would be devasted.  I appreciate genuine concern for my emotional well being, but I am not devastated in any way.  I am was not then,  and not now.  Yea, there is a part of me that feels a small sense of disappointment I didn't finish or get that BQ, but it would of been far more disappointing to push and drag myself to the Finish, for a medal.  I believe the extra miles would of caused me more harm, than any good. 


Here is a screenshot of my splits.  According to my Garmin I fell at 18.23. I was surprised, I thought it was closer to 19 if not farther.  Not sure how I mustered the ability to walk over 2.5 miles to medical station, it truly is a blur. 

You can see the 18.75 split where the times drop. Before that...all was great.  This makes me happy!



Many have asked how I fall.  That's a great question.  The only thing I can think of, since I was hugging the right side, I tripped over the uneven part of the road.  Bro and I have discussed this and since I moved over to let the faster runners pass me, that was my error. 

Bro has pointed out to me that since I was at a 3:45 pace, I am a faster runner - stop moving over!  If you ever run with me, you will see I hug the right side, for that reason.  It's a habit I need to break and I guess I need to realize I have earned my spot to run the center of the road.  This will take awhile for me to accept that I belong in the center of the road.  

What's next?  Healing.  I am under Dr's care for rehab and healing.  I can begin running when I can do an arm swing without pain.  As far as a marathon.  My next marathon will not be until 2015.  I have plenty of time to heal and train for the next Big Show.

Will I run Big Cottonwood again?  I won't say, never - but probably not. I wasn't impressed with their Start or Finish Line set up.  It started way too late (and to make us freeze, while waiting) and the Finish Line was congested and on the lap of the medical tent.  The volunteers were getting frustrated with the loud speakers in our ears and they could not hear nor help those who needed aid.  They do have a wonderful medal, but not enough for me to travel 7 hours one way. If I was local to Salt Lake City, I might - but there were too many operational issues I didn't like (Finish Line area was over crowded and a bottle neck).  

Yet, their medical staff is WONDERFUL! I cannot thank them enough for their help and compassion.  I would advise them to have a clear idea and planned driving route to get the injured back to the Finish Line Medical Tent.  Having to drive around and then the police tell us we cannot go that route, was frustrating.  Maybe better coordination with the police department.  I would also ask them not to turn away injured runners.  That was very discouraging to be turned away when I asked for help just before the 19 mile marker. 

The positive in this experience is we had some amazing Mexican food at Red Iguana's on Saturday night and we were able to visit my dear friend, Karen on our way home.  








Thank you Mama and Bro for taking care of me and ensuring my safety for the rest of the weekend.  I couldn't of done it without you.  xo   

To my race angels. I do not know who you are, but I want to find you and thank you.  Thank you for giving up part of your race to help out a total stranger.  May the Lord bless you 100x fold for your sacrifice and compassion. 

Onward to my healing, the rest of 2014 racing season and 2015.



(c) C. Ragsdale 2010-14
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Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
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