REVEL Sun Valley Limited Edition Course Preview
REVEL Sun Valley Limited Edition
June 13, 2021

A course strategy – and overall race strategy – is a must for optimal performance on race day. Whether this is your first REVEL race, and your goal is simply to finish, or you are REVEL veteran aiming for a PR or BQ, you should have a well-planned strategy for how you intend to manage the REVEL Sun Valley course!

The head coach of REVEL’s Online Coaching Program, who has run a Boston Qualifier on all the REVEL marathon courses he has run (25 total REVEL marathons), has prepared a detailed description of the Sun Valley Marathon and Half-Marathon courses.

Managing the Course Based On Segments

A critical component of your race 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 REVEL Sun Valley Marathon course can be divided into four sections:

Miles 1-3: Fast Start

Miles 4-15: Building 12

Miles 16-24: Steady 9

Miles 25-F: The Final 100’ of Downhill

Similarly, REVEL Sun Valley Half-Marathon course can be divided into three sections:

Miles 1-2: Fast Start

Miles 3-11: Steady Middle

Miles 12-F: The Final 100’ of Downhill

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: Fast Start

Starting at more than 7,800’ elevation, the first 3 miles of the course are the fastest of the day. The course loses 562’ up to mile 3, with an average loss of more than 187’ per mile. The downhill grade, which is -3.5% overall, is an excellent boost to start your race.

While you want to take advantage of gravity throughout this section of the course by running “faster than normal” on the downhills, you need to manage the sharp drops in the opening miles by easing into your pace, settling in for the long haul, and letting gravity pull you along at a comfortably fast pace. Early in this section you might feel a bit winded from the elevation (altitude), but 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.

Likewise, you do not want to concern yourself about runners passing you along the way. It is easy in a race to get caught up with the pace of other runners. You still have many miles to go, and you want to conserve your energy for the miles ahead.

Miles 4-15: Building 12

The elevation at mile 3 is 7,272’. Over the distance of the next 12 miles, you will lose 852 feet. That is an average of 71’ per mile, with a downhill grade of -1.3% overall.

This 12-mile segment is not as sharp as the opening 3-mile segment, but still runs noticeably downhill. Except for mile 14, they all lose 50’ or more. Miles 10 and 15 are the fastest in this section, with losses of 110’ and 108’, respectively.

You will want to continue taking advantage of gravity and let your pace hold at the "comfortably fast" edge of your ability. Generally, this section of the course is where you want to “settle in” at your goal pace, or slightly ahead of it. Keep in mind that there are some short climbs in this section, especially the very noticeable 45-foot climb near the halfway point. You will see this climb if you drive the course before the race, and you certainly will feel it when you run the course. The climbing will slow you down a bit, but your overall pace in this section will still be right on – if not slightly faster than – your goal pace. Still, be prepared for the climbing so that you are not surprised or discouraged when you encounter it.

Miles 16-24: Steady 9

This 9-mile section is where you might find it hard to run faster than goal pace but should be able to hold a steady speed that is right around your overall goal pace. The total drop over these 9 miles is 511’ (average of -1.1% grade), which will feel noticeably less than any segments up to this point.

The key to this section is to maintain a steady pace that mimics the steady drop in elevation. There are no steep or fast drops, but also no hard climbs. As the course gradually drops, you want to maintain a steady level of effort to hold your pace. However, it is likely that you will notice a slowing of your pace, and that you cannot increase your pace without an increase in effort. This is due not only to the normal and expected fatigue at this point in a race, but also due to the lower amount of elevation loss per mile.

Miles 25-F: The Final 100’ of Downhill

After mile 24, the course flattens out noticeably, with the total elevation loss of only 17’ for mile 25. The good news is that mile 26 loses 75’ overall, a comfortably downhill grade of -1.4%.

Coupled with the late-race fatigue that typically sets in at this point of a marathon, the flatter terrain will make it feel like climbing even when you are running slightly downhill. But don’t panic if you find your pace slowing in this segment. You don’t want to “push” yourself to try matching the fast pace that you held in the preceding more downhill miles. Late-stage cramps can be common when runners push harder than their muscles are able to work!

Summary of the Marathon Course

The REVEL Sun Valley Marathon course loses 2,034’ of elevation from start to finish, which is a comfortable overall grade of -1.5%. Over the 26.2-mile course, you likely will surprise yourself with your "faster than normal" pace on the downhill segments.

The Half-Marathon Course

Miles 1-2: Fast Start

Starting at 6,584’ of elevation, the course drops 166’ from the start to mile 2. That is a comfortable and manageable descent as you warm up with a gentle downhill grade of -1.6%. You will need to resist the urge to chase people as they pass you. While you want to take advantage of gravity throughout this course by running “faster than normal” on the downhills, you need to manage the downhill drops – especially the second mile - 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 3-11: Steady Middle

Miles 3-11 all lose between 44’ and 70’ throughout this middle section of the course. The total drop over these 9 miles is 508’, which is an average of 56’ per mile (an average grade of -1.1%).

You can expect a gradual slowdown over this section, where the overall grade switches from -1.6% in the first two miles to -1.1% for this longer middle section. That is not a significant difference, but this section is where you might find it hard to run faster than goal pace. Still, you should be able to hold a steady speed that is right around your overall goal pace.

The key to this section is to maintain a steady pace that mimics the steady drop in elevation. There are no steep or fast drops, but also no hard climbs. As the course gradually drops, you want to maintain a steady level of effort to hold your pace. However, it is likely that you will notice a slight slowing of your pace, and that you cannot increase your pace without an increase in effort. This is due not only to the normal and expected accumulating fatigue at this point in a race, but also due to the lower amount of elevation loss per mile.

Miles 12-F: The Final 100’ of Downhill

After mile 11, the course flattens out noticeably, with the total elevation loss of 28’ for mile 12. The good news is that mile 13 loses 66’ overall, a comfortable downhill grade of -1.3%.

Coupled with the late-race fatigue that typically sets in at this point of a half-marathon, the flatter terrain will make it feel like climbing even when you are running slightly downhill. But don’t panic if you find your pace slowing in this segment. You don’t want to “push” yourself to try matching the fast pace that you held in the preceding more downhill miles.

Summary of the Half-Marathon Course

The REVEL Sun Valley Half-Marathon course loses 784’ of elevation from start to finish. With an average loss of around 60' per mile (a grade of -1.1%), you likely will surprise yourself with your "faster than normal" pace on the downhill segments.

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!

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