Aug. 4, 2021

A course strategy – and overall race strategy – is a must for optimal performance on race day. Whether this is your first REVEL Big Cottonwood race and your goal is simply to finish, or you are Big Cottonwood 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 Qualifier in all of the REVEL marathons, has prepared this detailed description of the Big Cottonwood 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 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 Big Cottonwood Marathon course can be divided into five sections:

Miles 1-3: The Fast Start
Mile 4: The Loop
Miles 5-18: The Canyon Drop
Miles 19-23: The Out and Back
Miles 24-26.2: The Straightaway Finish

Similarly, the Big Cottonwood Half-Marathon course can be divided into four sections:

Miles 1-3: Gently Fast Start
Miles 4-9: PR Territory
Miles 10-11: The Canyon Exit
Miles 12-13.1: The Gradual Downhill, Straightaway 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

Miles 1-3: The Fast Start

Starting at over 9,600’ elevation, the first 3 miles of the course are on Guardsman Pass Road and include several turns and switchbacks. Overall, this first 3-mile segment loses more than 900’ of elevation. That is a significant elevation loss, and you will want to manage the drops by easing into your pace, settling in for the long haul, and letting gravity pull you along at a comfortably fast pace.

Resist the urge to chase people as they pass you. While you want to take advantage of gravity, 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.

Mile 4: The Loop

You will leave Guardsman Pass Road where it intersects with Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, turn left, and start climbing towards the Brighton Resort where you will loop around the resort area, and then head back towards the point where you began the loop.

Over the course of The Loop, you will climb slightly more 116’ to the highest point of the loop. 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, 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.

Miles 5-18: The Canyon Drop

From mile 4 to mile 18, just before you exit Big Cottonwood Canyon, you will experience the fastest part of the marathon course, with an elevation loss of more than 3,700’. There are a few small, short climbs here and there in this segment, but they are minor in comparison to the overall elevation loss.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself running well ahead of your goal pace. This segment is where the downhill profile of the marathon course will benefit you significantly. At the same time, be wary of a sensation of “running too fast.” If you feel out of control, or if you feel yourself working “too hard” while running downhill, then slow down.

Miles 19-23: The Out and Back

Just past mile 18, you will leave Big Cottonwood Canyon Road and turn onto S. Wasatch Boulevard for an out-and-back segment. For the next 2.26 miles, the course flattens out a bit and loses less elevation that the previous miles coming down the canyon. All totaled, you will lose 100’ of elevation on the “out” portion of the out-and-back, with some climbs along the way.

After the turnaround, you will run back to the entrance of Big Cottonwood Canyon and head towards Fort Union Boulevard. Over this 2.28-mile stretch, you will be climbing back to where you started the out-and-back.

During this segment, don’t panic or become discouraged if you find yourself slowing down, or if it suddenly feels harder to maintain your pace. After the significant drop of the early miles, along with the typical late-stage fatigue that is common in marathons, your legs might feel heavy and you might feel as if you are working very hard to keep going. But the key will be to keep going. Once you get past this segment, the closing miles will be downhill again.

Miles 24-26.2: The Straightaway Finish

The finish line is on Fort Union Boulevard. After the right-hand turn from the out-and-back onto Fort Union, the closing 3.2-mile segment drops approximately 430’ total, making it a gradual, straightaway downhill finish. You will encounter terrific crowds who will cheer you towards the finish line of the fast and beautiful Big Cottonwood Marathon!

Summary of the Marathon Course

The Big Cottonwood Marathon course loses almost a mile 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 1-3: Gently Fast Start

Starting at almost 7,300’ elevation, the half-marathon course drops more than 400’ total from the start to mile 3. That is an average of about 135' per mile, which is a significant but manageable descent each mile. You will want to manage the early downhill drops 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 4-9: PR Territory

This is where your half-marathon personal record (PR) will be made. Miles 4-9 all totaled lose 1,863’ of elevation, which is an average of 311’ per mile. If you are keeping tabs on your pace, don’t be surprised to see that you have picked up significant speed and are running well ahead of your goal pace. At the same time, be wary of a sensation of “running too fast.” If you feel out of control, or if you feel yourself working “too hard” while running downhill, then slow down. But be mindful that it is expected for you to be well ahead of goal pace during this long, downhill segment of the race.

Miles 10-11: The Canyon Exit

At mile 9, just before you exit Big Cottonwood Canyon, you will notice that the course starts to flatten a bit. After losing an average of more than 300’ per mile in the previous “PR Territory” section, this 2-mile stretch loses an average of half that per mile: 313’ total, or just over 150’ per mile.

You can expect a short slowdown here due to the lesser elevation loss. You will need to “switch gears” to a slower pace based on even effort and should be prepared to run much slower than the first 9 miles of the race. Likewise, you really do not want to concern yourself with runners passing you, if that happens. It is easy in a race to get caught up with the pace of other runners. You still have a few miles to go, and you want to conserve your energy for the closing downhill miles ahead. Pay attention to your breathing and heart rate. If you feel yourself working too hard here, then simply slow down.

Miles 12-13.1: The Gradual Downhill, Straightaway Finish

Just past mile 11, you can say to yourself "now downhill to the finish!" Mile 12 loses 196’ of elevation, making it a speedy pick-up where, if you are feeling good and aiming for a PR, you can turn on the speed again and feel yourself flying toward the finish. Finally, the last 1.1 miles have a gradual loss of just over 80'. You should feel comfortable locking in right at goal pace, if not slightly faster, for the finish.

In this final stretch, the crowds of spectators will grow larger as you make your way towards the finish line of the fast and beautiful Big Cottonwood Half-Marathon!

Summary of the Half-Marathon Course

The Big Cottonwood Half-Marathon course loses 2,857' of elevation from start to finish. That's an average of more than 220' per mile, making 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, and who has run the Big Cottonwood Marathon five times. He is a 22-time REVEL Marathon Finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course that he has run, with his current streak at 20 BQs in a row at REVEL marathons!

April 6, 2021

Warm weather is ahead, which means lots of sweat. Get ready for “head rushes.”

Have you ever stood up quickly from a sitting or squatting position and suddenly experienced a “head rush” or dizziness? Many runners are familiar with the sensation, but not the name of the condition: orthostatic hypotension. Commonly described as lightheadedness when you “stand up too fast,” it is something that many people experience, including non-runners. However, some research indicates that highly fit runners are more susceptible to it, especially when dehydrated. This “head rush” usually prompts people to say “Whoa...all the blood rushed to my head.” Indeed, the sensation is caused by the exact opposite - the blood (and oxygen) goes “out of your head.”

Again, the technical term for this experience is orthostatic hypotension. “Orthostatic” means “standing upright,” and hypotension means “low blood pressure.” It is caused primarily by the pooling of blood in the lower extremities while sitting, squatting, or lying down, followed by a sharp drop in blood pressure when moving into an upright position. This in turn causes a rapid loss of blood supply – and oxygen – to the brain, which causes the sensation of dizziness, tingling, blurred vision, and other disconcerting sensations.

There is no serious risk of injury from orthostatic hypotension, other than potential injuries associated with a fall if you pass out or otherwise lose your balance. While it is important to note that orthostatic hypotension can be a sign of more serious medical conditions, the likelihood of underlying medical problems is low.

Several factors can increase the effects of orthostatic hypotension, including dehydration, low sodium or electrolyte levels, and hypovolemia, which is low blood-plasma volume. A runner who has lost of lot of sweat and electrolytes is going to be dehydrated, have low electrolyte levels, and have blood that is “thicker” than normal due to dehydration – all the right conditions for a serious head rush if that runner sits for a period of time or maybe bends over to tie a shoelace and then suddenly stands up.

The important note for runners is to be prepared for the effects of orthostatic hypotension and to understand the conditions that worsen the situation. Basically, take your time moving from a sitting, kneeling, squatting or prone position into a standing position, especially if you are dehydrated or otherwise physically depleted after a workout. Be prepared to grab onto something nearby if you get dizzy after standing, and take deep breaths to help get some oxygen back to your brain. And stay hydrated during hot months ahead!

Paul Carmona is the Online REVEL Coach who has designed training plans specifically for REVEL downhill courses. He is a 25-time REVEL marathon finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course that he has run, with his current streak at 23 BQs in a row at REVEL marathons!

March 9, 2021

Since its inception in 2016, the REVEL Online Coaching Program has provided training for hundreds of REVEL marathon and half-marathon participants. The marathon and half-marathon programs both have Advanced, Intermediate, Beginner, and Introductory training levels. Marathon programs are 24 weeks long, and the half-marathon programs are 16 weeks (the Introductory levels are slightly shorter). The training programs are specifically designed for downhill racing, and the weekly schedules include regular workouts designed to improve downhill efficiency and speed.

The REVEL Online Coaching Program is designed by REVEL’s experienced and successful Coach Paul Carmona, who has run more than two dozen REVEL marathons and half-marathons, has run Boston Qualifiers on all the REVEL marathon courses he has run, and is a 10-time Boston Marathon finisher. Coach Paul and the REVEL coaches work directly with runners throughout the program and explain the purpose of every workout.

The training programs are entirely online, with a calendar that includes daily workouts, weekly targets, and overall strategy for the training cycle. The online training center also features a message tool, daily logs, videos, articles, and other resources that are included with all training programs. The coach’s weekly emails provide instructions for the weekly workouts, reminders about the objectives of that specific training cycle, explanations for the goals of each workout, and tips on how to translate key concepts into preparation for downhill racing.

The coaches stress the importance of keeping in touch with participants in the program. The coaches respond to emails directly with runners, and are available to answer questions, offer advice, and assist with anything related to training and racing.

The success of the REVEL Online Coaching Program is reflected in comments from participants in the program:

Got me to the starting line feeling like I had already ‘earned’ the PR and just needed to go ‘collect’ it at the finish line.”

The program is built in a way that you feel tangible improvements as you progress towards your marathon date. Coach Paul explains the rationale behind each workout…the weekly emails, check-ins, videos, and enthusiasm got me in the right mindset, and at age 47 I ran my best marathon with a big PR and BQ!”

It's not just a cookie cutter training plan, but a customized roadmap to take you from where you are to where you want to go.”

From those who want to do their first half-marathon to those who want to qualify for Boston, Coach Paul has the knowledge and experience to bring out the best in the people he works with.”

A year ago, I thought I could never get a Boston qualifying time. 12 months later, I now have a BQ minus 23 minutes thanks to Coach Paul and the Revel Online Coaching Program.”

To learn more about the program, visit the REVEL Online Coaching Program.

Oct. 7, 2020

You’ve been there: A few miles into a run, you are wondering to yourself, “Why am I running today? When is my next race?” Maybe you ran long the day before. Perhaps you have an especially challenging workout the next day. Whatever the reason, you are not sure exactly why you are doing a particular workout on a given day. Likewise, you might have no idea how hard you should be running, or whether you should be running at all.

Like many other aspects of life in 2020, you are caught in a cycle of uncertainty. Accompanying that uncertainty is a sense of feeling “lost,” where you are not exactly sure where your running should be – base work, speed work, race prep?

Unless you are running “just to run” - and many of us do exactly that - you are probably accustomed to training for a specific race, or a series of races. In that case, every workout in your training schedule has a certain purpose that is aligned with your current training phase. Commonly referred to as “periodization,” the optimal training method for any race distance is to go through different phases - usually lasting several weeks - where you focus on different aspects of your running. Generally, those distinct periods are base, build, sharpen, peak, and taper.

But again, all of that is shattered when races are canceled or postponed and there are extremely few certain race dates on the calendar anywhere.

So, what to do? Here is a recommended 3-step plan that can help you get through it. Remember that most training plans have distinct periods that all begin with a base period, followed by a building phase. Together, the base and build phases account for about 10-12 weeks for marathon training, and about 6-8 weeks for half-marathon training.

Step 1: Get back to basics with base work.

This is where you gradually increase your volume (total weekly miles) over time at an easy pace. The objective is to improve endurance, not to gain speed. A key aspect here is to think in terms of weeks, not days. How many weeks? That depends on your level of fitness when you begin the base work. There are no one-size-fits-all regimens for base building, and runners start their own base periods with different levels of conditioning, speed, strength, and stamina. A coach can help you schedule a series of weeks where you focus on your base training, after which you’ll notice improvements in your speed. That’s a positive development to note, but it should not be your daily goal to “beat yesterday’s time.” That will come in the next phase.

Step 2: Start to build strength and stamina.

There are several commonly used terms for the next periodization phase. “Build stage,” “quality workout phase,” and “stamina phase” are examples that coaches use. The common component of this phase is that the workouts begin to increase intensity, with tempo runs, interval sessions, hill workouts, and other types of runs. It is important to note that not all your workouts will be high intensity during this phase. A lot of your weekly mileage should continue to be at your aerobic pace. There is also a need for “recovery runs,” which typically are scheduled for the days after hard workouts or very long runs. The objective of recovery runs is to loosen up stiff and tired legs, and to move oxygen and nutrients into the muscles for repair.

Step 3: Move on towards sharpen and peak phases or GO BACK to Step 1.

After the base and build periods is the “sharpen” phase, where workouts focus on “goal pace.” Workouts include many miles of sustained intensity at increasingly longer distances. Beyond the sharpen period is the “peak,” where intensity and volume are the highest in the training cycle. Finally, after that, the “taper” period leads up to a target race.

>But in the current uncertain times we are experiencing, the question runners face is “Will my race happen, and if not, what do I do?” That is the key point at which you must evaluate the likelihood of the race occurring, weighed against your own current level of fitness, overall health, and (most important) willingness to commit to the growing demands of the training cycles ahead.

This is where you have to make the decision to (1) proceed into the next phases of hard work, or (2) show the discipline to back off training, let your body recover from weeks or months of hard work, and…start over again with base work.

It is frustrating but does not have to be thought of as “going back to square one.” Instead, think of your training as going through a series of plateaus. If you progress through Steps 1 and 2 properly, and have remained healthy through those weeks of training, you will be starting another base period at a fitness level that is higher than before. From there, you can advance through another building stage, and hopefully will see another race on the horizon.

Most importantly, you must not fall into a mentality of “I have reached this level of fitness and I want to stay here.” It is extremely difficult to sustain the high levels of intensity and volume that are common during the sharpen and peak periods. A typical training cycle has only a few weeks of training in these phases, and they are not designed for long-term training within those periods. The number one reason to avoid too much intensity and mileage? Injury. You do not want to become injured.

So, why am I doing this workout today?

Back to the initial question: “Why am I running today?” Whatever your answer, make sure that your workout is consistent with your periodization phase. Are you in the early weeks of your base training? If so, you should not be doing intervals on the track. Are you in the middle of your “build” period, where you are ramping up speed and intensity? If so, you might not want to be grinding out a hilly 10-miler the day after a hard intervals session. Are you wondering why you’re scheduled for a 3-mile “recovery run” the day after a long run? If you cannot answer the question, ask your coach. If your coach cannot answer the question...then it might be time to find another coach!

The point here is that you want to avoid the pitfall of wandering aimlessly through days and weeks of running without purpose. When faced with uncertainty, you can establish your own certainty by planning your base and build phases, followed by planning what to do next depending on the question we all are trying to answer: “When is my next race?”

Paul Carmona is the Online REVEL Coach who has designed training plans specifically for REVEL downhill courses. He is a 24-time REVEL Marathon Finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course. His current streak is 22 BQs in a row at REVEL marathons! You can contact Coach Paul at

June 15, 2020

As of now, REVEL Big Cottonwood is scheduled to commence as planned on September 12, 2020.

Let's address the obvious question. What if I sign up and the race is later canceled due to COVID-19?

For those feeling trepidation about registering, we'd like to remind our runners of the generous transfer/withdrawal/deferral policies in place. In the event that we are forced to cancel, registered participants can choose from the following options:

  • Complimentary Deferment: Runners may elect to defer the entire amount of their registration fee to be used at any future REVEL event. The current deferment fee will be waived.
  • Virtual Race: Runners may elect to run the race virtually at the time and location of their choice and receive a mailed race packet free of charge. The mailed packet will include a race shirt, medal, bib, Tru Flask, Goodr sunglasses, running cap, and customized result card showing the finish time of the virtual race. Those who select this option will also be given a code for a 20% discount on a REVEL merchandise purchase.

Given this policy we hope to have eliminated any financial risk, and we strongly encourage runners not to hesitate to register.

If the race is to commence as scheduled, what precautions will be in place to ensure my safety?

REVEL events are supposed to be fun, challenging, inspiring, and safe - and now more than ever, we take that last one very seriously.

Runners can be assured that REVEL will be implementing an extensive series of safety measures for both the expo and race day. These measures would be too long to list here, but among them include:

  • Gloves, masks, and temperature checks for all race staff and volunteers
  • Increased hand-washing and sanitation stations
  • Limited "touch-points" and vigorous sanitation of each
  • Assigned time slots for race packet pick-up and mailing options
  • Provided face masks for runners during race-day transportation

We will provide detailed updates regarding race day and safety protocol as we grow closer to the event.

We look forward to REVELing with you all in Salt Lake City. See you in September! 

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