A course strategy – and overall race strategy – is a must for optimal performance on race day. Whether this is your first REVEL Mt Charleston race and your goal is simply to finish, or you are veteran aiming for a PR or BQ, you should have a well-planned strategy for how you intend to manage the course!
The head coach of REVEL’s Online Coaching Program, who has run a Boston Qualifying time in all the REVEL marathons, has prepared a detailed description of the 2018 Mt Charleston Marathon and Half-Marathon courses.
Managing the Course Based On Segments
A critical component of your strategy is the course profile itself. Where are the sharp descents? Where are the climbs? Where does the course “flatten” a bit?
You definitely want to plan your race with course segments in mind, and with an overall strategy for varying paces throughout. Your varied paces will be dictated by the elevation losses and gains, and you want to know before the race where those variations will occur.
Generally, the Mt Charleston Marathon course can be divided into seven sections:
- Mile 1: Warmup
- Miles 2-4: Swift Downhill
- Mile 5: Tiny Loop (with two short climbs)
- Miles 6-21: Steady and Fast
- Miles 22-23: Flatten Out
- Mile 24: Get Past This Short Climb
- Miles 25-26.2: Pick It Up for the Finish
The Mt Charleston Half-Marathon course can be divided into four similar sections:
- Miles 1-8: Swift Downhill
- Miles 9-10: Flatten Out
- Mile 11: Get Past This Short Climb
- Miles 12-13.1: Pick It Up for the Finish
You can study the courses yourself on the REVEL website. You can zoom in, use the interactive elevation chart, and get a feel for what lays ahead of you on race day.
If possible, you should drive the course before race day to get a feel for what the segments look and feel like. Knowing what to expect, and when, is helpful when preparing your course strategy.
The marathon and half-marathon courses are summarized below based on the segments described above.
THE MARATHON COURSE
Mile 1: Warmup
Starting at almost 7,600’ elevation, the start of the marathon is adjacent to the Mt Charleston Lodge on Kyle Canyon Road. The first 1/3 mile is a small loop on the road adjacent to the Lodge, and it is extremely narrow with a short climb. Once you make the turn on that loop, you will be heading back toward the start line. Then, after you pass the Lodge, the next 1/4 mile climbs almost 60’ as you exit the starting area. This definitely should be just a nice easy warmup for you. Start out nice and slow, and conserve your energy. After you get past this first .60 miles, the rest of mile 1 descends about 100’ of elevation with zero climbing.
Miles 2-4: Swift Downhill
After the mile 1 marker, the next 3 miles drop well over 770’ total, with an average of over 4% downhill grade and no climbing. This is a segment where you do not want to get caught up with the pace of other runners if they are passing you. You still have many miles to go, and you want to conserve your energy for the miles ahead. If you feel yourself working too hard, then simply slow down.
Mile 5: Tiny Loop (with two short climbs)
Just past mile 4, there is a climb of about 40’ as you approach The Mt Charleston Resort on your right. Once you pass the Resort, this short climb is over. Not long after that, just before mile 5, you will reach a roundabout (traffic circle) at the entrance to the United States Forest Service’s Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway. At this point, the course diverts from the main road – Kyle Canyon Road – into the visitor center parking lot. You will make a counter-clockwise loop around the parking lot before re-entering the main road again.
The loop around the visitor center begins at precisely mile 5 of the marathon. It ends at almost mile 5.25, so the total distance around the parking area is less than 1/4 mile. However, you will climb about 25’ for the first half of that loop, and then descend the same elevation as you exit the parking lot.
Miles 6-21: Steady and Fast
When you exit the visitor center parking area, you will be at roughly 6,600’ of elevation. For the next 16 miles, you will lose approximately 3,700’ of elevation. That’s an average of over 4% elevation loss per mile, which makes this course so extremely fast. More importantly, there is only one climb in that entire stretch, and it happens about mile 12.5. That one is a short but very visible climb that is over fairly quickly: the entire climb is only about 1/8 of a mile long. Be wary of a sensation of “running too fast” in this entire stretch of the race. If you feel out of control, or if you feel yourself working “too hard” while running downhill, then slow down.
Miles 22-23: Flatten Out
Just past mile 21, you will make a right turn onto the frontage road along U.S. 95. After the previous 16 miles of steady downhill, you will certainly feel how the 4% downhill grade quickly becomes a 2% downhill grade. Keep in mind that you will still lose about 200’ of elevation in this stretch of the race, with no elevation gain. However, the flatter terrain will make it feel like climbing.
Mile 24: Get Past This Short Climb
Just past mile 23.2, with only three miles to go, you will make a right turn onto Grand Teton Drive. The elevation at that turn is 2,658’. Then you will run a short - but steep - climb to Fort Apache Road, where you will turn left. From that turn onto Fort Apache, it is just over a half-mile to “top out” a slow climb to mile 23.94, where the elevation is 2,690’. After that, the course begins the gradual descent to the finish.
Miles 25-26.2: Pick It Up for the Finish
Once you reach mile 24, you can say to yourself "now downhill to the finish!" The elevation loss from mile 24 to the finish is over 170’ – a nice downhill for your final 1.2 miles! Better yet, you will encounter terrific crowds who will cheer you towards the finish line of the fast and beautiful Mt Charleston Marathon!
Summary of the Marathon Course
The Mt Charleston Marathon course loses more than 5,100’ of elevation from start to finish. Over the 26.2-mile course, you likely will surprise yourself with your speed on the downhill segments. Although it is generally true that you never want to "go out too fast" in the opening miles of a marathon, remember that gravity is your friend, and you want to take advantage of the benefits of downhill running.
THE HALF-MARATHON COURSE
Miles 1-8: Swift Downhill
Starting at over 4,500’ of elevation, the course drops almost 1,600’ from the start to mile 8, with zero elevation gain in that stretch. That is an average of about 200' per mile, which is a significant but manageable descent each mile. You will want to manage the early part of this downhill segment by easing into your pace, settling in for the long haul, and letting gravity pull you along at a comfortably fast pace. You should not feel as if you are running “too hard” or “too fast.” If you do, then you should ease back a bit and aim for a “comfortably hard” pace.
Miles 9-10: Flatten Out
Just past mile 8, you will make a right turn onto the frontage road along U.S. 95. After more than 8 miles of steady downhill, you will certainly feel how the 4% downhill grade quickly becomes a 2% downhill grade. Keep in mind that you will still lose about 200’ of elevation in this stretch of the race, with no elevation gain. However, the flatter terrain will make it feel like climbing.
Mile 11: Get Past This Short Climb
Just past mile 10, with about 3 miles to go, you will make a right turn onto Grand Teton Drive. The elevation at that turn is 2,658’. Then you will run a short - but steep - climb to Fort Apache Road, where you will turn left. From that turn onto Fort Apache, it is just over a half-mile to “top out” a slow climb to mile 10.8, where the elevation is 2,690’. After that, the course begins the gradual descent to the finish.
Miles 12-13.1: Pick It Up for the Finish
Once you reach mile 11, you can say to yourself "now downhill to the finish!" The elevation loss from mile 11 to the finish is over 170’ – a nice downhill for your final 1.1 miles! Better yet, you will encounter terrific crowds who will cheer you towards the finish line of the fast and beautiful Mt Charleston Half-Marathon!
Summary of the Half-Marathon Course
The Mt Charleston Half-Marathon course loses 2,000’ of elevation from start to finish. With an average loss of more than 150’ per mile, this one of the fastest half-marathon courses you will ever run. Over the 13.1-mile course, you likely will surprise yourself with your speed on the downhill segments.
Paul Carmona is the Online REVEL Coach who has designed training plans specifically for REVEL downhill courses. He is a 14-time REVEL Marathon Finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course!