Blog

April 27, 2022

Rockies course review

By Paul Carmona, REVEL Online Coach

A course strategy – and overall race strategy – is a must for optimal performance on race day. Whether this is your first REVEL Rockies 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, including four times at the REVEL Rockies Marathon, has prepared a detailed description of the 2022 Rockies 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 Revel Rockies Marathon course can be divided into five sections:

 

Miles 1-13:  Fast Half (with 4 subsections)

Miles 14-16: Evergreen Rollers

Miles 17-20: Steady Drop

Miles 21-22: Flatten Out

Miles 23-26.2: Fast Finish

 

Similarly, the Revel Rockies Half-Marathon course can be divided into four similar sections:

 

Miles 1-3: Evergreen Rollers

Miles 4-7: Steady Drop

Miles 8-9: Flatten Out

Miles 10-13.1: Fast 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 1-13:  Fast Half

 

Starting at over 10,500' elevation, the first half of the marathon loses nearly 3,000' of elevation, with minimal climbing over that entire first half. The average loss per mile is more than 228' per mile, which is a 4.3% downhill grade. 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.

Generally, it is never a good idea to divide a marathon into "first half/second half" for strategy purposes. The best way to break down the first half of the course is to think of it in 4 subsections:

 

Miles 1-5, which lose over 1,300' and gain less than 10' overall. In this section, the downhills are sharp at times, and you will want to take advantage of gravity by letting yourself move comfortably fast. Each of these first five miles drops well over 200' per mile, and the only climb - which is minor - is in the first mile. After you pass mile 1, the next 4 miles each drop 250' or more and gain zero.

 

Mile 6, which flattens out slightly, with a net loss of only 150' while gaining about 10' along the way. After the early miles of higher elevation, you will find it slightly easier to breathe, but you can expect a mild slowdown due to the lesser amount of elevation loss.

 

Miles 7-11, where the elevation loss is similar to the first 5 miles but have almost no gain at all. The course drops over 1,100' over these 5 miles, and gains zero. Like the opening 5 miles, this section is where you will want to take advantage of gravity and let your pace accelerate to the "comfortably fast" edge of your ability.

 

Miles 12-13, where you will have turned off Squaw Pass Road onto Evergreen Parkway. Here, you will encounter short, gradual climbs. You will climb a little more than 30' here, which is more in these two miles than you had in the entire first 11 miles of the course. Although you will still be running downhill, the elevation loss of approximately 370' in this 2-mile section, paired with the short bit of climbing, will feel slower than the opening 11 miles. It won't be your imagination: the course will feel slower here.

 

Miles 14-16: Evergreen Rollers

Just past the start of the half-marathon, the course continues on Evergreen Parkway and gradually rolls through miles 14 and 15, then turns onto Douglas Park Road and Meadow Drive as you approach mile 16. Over this 3-mile segment, the course drops approximately 500'. The challenge is the climbing, which will be visible as you run on Evergreen Parkway. Remind yourself that overall you are still running downhill. The net elevation loss over these 3 miles is about 500 feet!

 

Miles 17-20: Steady Drop

Not long after you pass mile 16, you will make a hard left turn onto Bear Creek Road. Here, miles 17 to 20 each drop between 71' and 108' per mile. These are much more gradual drops that what you encountered in the first 13 miles and are also less than the elevation loss on Evergreen Parkway in miles 14-16. This is where you want your pace to be steady and even, mimicking the steady, gradual downhill.

 

Miles 21-22: Flatten Out

Make no mistake: this is where it gets tough for a short bit. Miles 21 and 22 together lose a total of just over 120' of elevation. Compared to the early miles of steady downhill at more than 4% elevation loss, you will notice how in miles 21-22, with a 1% downhill grade, it is harder to hold your pace.  Moreover, the climbs that do appear in miles 21 and 22 might slow your pace noticeably. 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 more downhill miles preceding miles 21-22.

 

Miles 23-26.2: Fast Finish

Once you reach mile 22, you can say to yourself "now downhill to the finish!" Even better, the downhill in the closing 4.2 miles is roughly 750’. That is over 180' per mile, or approximately a 3.4% elevation loss. You should find yourself able to resume some of the faster paces that you were able to run in the first half of the race.

One word of warning: there is a short 20-foot climb at the very end of the course as you turn onto Bear Creek Avenue and Union Avenue. It is literally within the last .10 mile, but hopefully at that point you will be glad to see the finish line ahead of you and won’t notice the short climb as the crowds cheer you on.

 

Summary of the Marathon Course

The Revel Rockies Marathon course loses over 4,700’ 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 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: Evergreen Rollers

Starting at 7,500’ of elevation, the course drops almost 500’ total from the start to mile 3. You will encounter a few gradual climbs in these opening miles, but nothing too severe. What you want to do at this early stage of the race is take advantage of the downhills, take it easy on the uphills. The downhill is noticeable but comfortable – not too steep, but just enough to let your legs turn over quickly. 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 ahead of goal pace at times during the downhill segments. Meanwhile, don’t push your pace on the gradual climbs. Remind yourself that overall you are still running downhill, and that the net elevation loss over these 3 miles is about 500 feet!

 

Miles 4-7: Steady Drop

Not long after you pass mile 3, you will make a hard left turn onto Bear Creek Road. Here, miles 4 to 7 each drop between about 50' and 105' per mile. These are more gradual drops than what you encountered on Evergreen Parkway in miles 1-3. There are no steep, 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.

 

Miles 8-9: Flatten Out

Make no mistake: this is where it gets tough for a short bit. Miles 8 and 9 together lose a total of just over 160' of elevation. Moreover, the climbs that do appear in miles 8 and 9 might slow your pace noticeably. 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 more downhill miles preceding miles 8-9.

 

Miles 10-13.1: Fast Finish

Once you reach mile 9, you can say to yourself "now downhill to the finish!" Even better, the downhill in the closing 4.1 miles is steady and gradual, dropping over 700’. That is more than 170' per mile, or approximately a 3.4% elevation loss. You should find yourself able to resume or exceed some of the faster paces that you were able to run in the earlier miles of the race.

One word of warning: there is a short 20-foot climb at the very end of the course as you turn onto Bear Creek Avenue and Union Avenue. It is literally within the last .10 mile, but hopefully at that point you will be glad to see the finish line ahead of you and won’t notice the short climb as the crowds cheer you on.

 

Summary of the Half-Marathon Course

The Revel Rockies Half-Marathon course loses over 1,700' of elevation from start to finish. With an average loss of around 130' 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 28-time REVEL marathon finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course. His streak stands at 24 successful BQ efforts in a row at REVEL marathons.

 

March 2, 2022

Mt charleston course review

By Paul Carmona, REVEL Online Coach

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, including five times at the REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon, has prepared a detailed description of the 2022 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 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.

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 near the Mt Charleston Lodge on Kyle Canyon Road. The first 1/10 mile is around a small hook shape 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 staging area. Then, after you pass the Lodge, the next 1/4-mile climbs almost 60’ as you exit the starting area. This should be just a nice easy warmup for you. Start out nice and slow and conserve your energy. After you get past this first half-mile, the rest of mile 1 descends about 100' 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 4.6% downhill grade and no climbing until the last 1/10 mile before the 4-mile marker. 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)

As you approach 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 counterclockwise loop around the parking lot before re-entering the main road again.

The loop around the visitor center begins at mile 4.85 of the marathon. It ends at mile 5.2, so the total distance around the parking area is only about 1/3 mile. However, you will climb about 35’ 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 more than 3,700’ of elevation. That’s an average of about 4.4% elevation loss per mile, which is what 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 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 226’ 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

As you approach 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 2,659’. 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 23.95, 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 2.2 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 roughly 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 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 1,660’ from the start to mile 8, with zero elevation gain in that stretch. That is an average of more than 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 2,659’. 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 2.1 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 more than 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 27-time REVEL Marathon Finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course. His current streak is 24 successful BQ efforts in a row at REVEL marathons! You can contact Coach Paul at coach@runrevel.com.

 

Feb. 2, 2022

Measure your progress with this simple 4-mile workout

Training plans help keep you focused on a long-term goal, whether that goal is to “just finish” or to run a personal record, a Boston qualifier, or a specific time. A well-designed training program will have a variety of workouts that test your ability to sustain a specific pace. Whether these workouts are “speed work” intervals, hill workouts, or pace runs, they are effective ways to measure your progress over the weeks from program start to race day.

Meanwhile, much of your training program will consist of runs that are completed at lower intensity. Long runs, recovery runs, and “easy” runs make up most of the mileage in a typical training week. These are designed to develop your aerobic capacity, or your ability to simply sustain your running effort over increasingly longer distances. Because many of your workouts will not include intensity, you might get bored with the workouts that seemingly go on and on at “easy” pace. At the same time, you might be looking for ways to measure your training progress during these easier runs.

One simple workout, which I call the “building quarters” session, is something that I use to assess my training progress. I add this to my easy runs once every other week to measure my progress without feeling the pressure to hit a specific pace.

Here is how it works:

First, warm up with your typical “easy” pace. Do this for a half-mile, mile, or whatever distance you choose.

After your warmup, run a mile where you increase your effort for .25 miles. Just a simple quarter mile at slightly harder effort. There is no time goal. In fact, it is better to avoid trying to hit a specific pace or time for the quarter mile. Run by feel, and just increase your effort.

After that quarter mile, go back to your easy pace for the next .75 miles. At the end of that first mile, you will repeat the same effort as before, but will increase your effort for .50 miles. Again, there is no specific pace or time goal for this half mile. Run by feel, and just focus on increased effort. Then recover a half-mile back at your easy pace.

Next, increase your effort for .75 miles, then ease back for the last quarter mile.

Finally, run a mile at the same “increased effort” that you ran in the first 3 miles for .25, .50, and .75.

 

A snapshot of the workout mileage is below (after warmup):

.25 increased effort + .75 easy effort

.50 increased effort + .50 easy effort

.75 increased effort + .25 easy effort

1.0 increased effort

 

If you use Km instead of miles for training, the distances for this workout are 400-meter intervals (400+1200, 800+800, 1200+400, and 1600).

Over time, the regular speed work, hill work, and pace work in your training program will help you develop speed and stamina. Those typically have very specific time goals. By comparison, this “building quarters” session is one where you merely use “level of effort” to guide your workout. Over time, what you hope to see is that your pace per mile (or per Km) is gradually increasing over the 4-mile distance. If you maintain the same level of effort, i.e., how it “feels” when you do these sessions, the result is that your speed is improving week to week. In other words, you are not working harder, but your time is getting faster. That is the positive result you are seeking!

You can do the same workout with a lower distance. Half-marathoners, for example, often do not have many 4-mile “easy runs” on the calendar. In that case, simply reduce the number of miles in the session. Do .25+.75 and .50+.50 for a total of two miles. Or maybe .50+.50 and .75+.25. Whatever the combination, remember to run by feel and to increase the distance of “increased effort” by a quarter mile.

For more advanced runners, you might see a lot of easy runs that range from 7 to 10 miles on your calendar. One way to break up the monotony of these longer runs is to add this “building quarters” regimen in the middle of your workout. I often run 10-milers where I warm up for 6 miles and finish with the 4-mile “building quarters” session.

Whatever distance you run for this workout, remember to track your progress over time, note in your log or journal that this was a “building quarters” session, and see how it goes.

 

Paul Carmona is the Online REVEL Coach who has designed training plans specifically for REVEL downhill courses. He is a 27-time REVEL Marathon Finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course. His current streak is 24 successful BQ efforts in a row at REVEL marathons! You can contact Coach Paul at coach@runrevel.com.

 

Oct. 7, 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 Big Bear course!

The head coach of REVEL’s Online Coaching Program, who has run a Boston Qualifier in all the REVEL marathons he has run, has prepared a detailed description of the Big Bear 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 Big Bear Marathon course can be divided into six sections:

Miles 1-2: The Warm Up

Miles 3-4: Slower But Steady, Get Up and Down

Miles 5-9: Rolling Downhill

Miles 10-13: Pick Up Speed

Miles 14-20: Accelerate

Miles 21-26.2: Fast Finish

Similarly, the Big Bear Half-Marathon course can be divided into three sections:

Miles 1-4: Very Fast Start

Miles 5-9: Settle In

Miles 10-13.1: Coasting In

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 1-2: The Warm Up

Starting at 6,630’ elevation, the first 2 miles of the course are almost straightaway, with very gradual turns and an elevation loss of 326’ total. Overall, this opening 2-mile segment is one of the more gradual downhill segments of the entire course. You want to approach this as a nice “warm up” to the miles ahead, and you should resist the urge to chase other runners if they pass you. You want to start the race by easing into your own 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 3-4: Slower But Steady, Get Up and Down

Miles 3 and 4 of the course are a series of up and down sections that, overall, result in -38’ of elevation for the 2-mile leg. After the opening “Warm Up” section that is mostly downhill, you almost certainly will be aware of your pace slowing and your level of effort increasing on the climbs here. This is where you will run slightly slower than your first two miles, but still can maintain a steady level of effort as you work your way uphill and downhill for two miles.

This is a segment where you really do not want to concern yourself with runners passing you on climbs. 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. With that in mind, pay attention to your own level of effort: if you feel yourself working too hard on the climbs, then simply slow down.

Miles 5-9: Rolling Downhill

This is where you will begin to build speed. As you pass mile 4, you will begin a series of small rolling hills that, overall, lose 502’ of elevation. You will encounter small, short climbs here and there during this section, but they are minor in comparison to the overall elevation loss.

If you are keeping tabs on your splits every mile or every few miles at marked intervals, don’t be surprised to see that you are running slightly ahead of your goal pace on the downhills. This is where gravity is your friend, and the downhill profile of the marathon course will benefit you significantly.

At the same time, be wary of a sensation of “running too fast” downhill. 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 ahead of goal pace during these downhill segments of the race.

Likewise, don’t push yourself on the climbs. They are short, and you gain very little by increasing your level of effort to sustain a faster pace while climbing. Once you get past this section, the course starts to get much faster, and you want to conserve your energy for the speedy downhill sections ahead.

Miles 10-13: Pick Up Speed

This is where you will start to really gain speed running downhill.

If you have “held back” your downhill speed for the first 9 miles, while managing the minor climbs along the way, you should expect to be very close to your goal splits up to this part of the race, and probably slightly behind (slower than) your target splits. Your legs should feel strong, warmed-up, and ready for the supremely fast latter half of the race.

Just past mile 9, the course begins steadily dropping mile after mile. For the first time since mile 1, you will start to see elevation losses well more than 200’ per mile. Start turning on the speed here, but don’t get too enthusiastic just yet. As you approach the second half of the course, think of these “last 4 of the first half” as an appetizer for main menu ahead.

Miles 14-20: Accelerate

The REVEL Big Bear Marathon course will give you an opportunity to start “turning on the speed” at the halfway mark. The elevation at mile 13 is 4,770’. By mile 20, where the elevation is 2,658’, you will have lost over 2,100’ in a 7-mile stretch. That is an average of more than 300’ per mile. More importantly, there are no noticeable climbs anywhere in this stretch. It is one long, sustained, fast downhill section.

This 7-mile section is where your race is made. Instead of the usual “struggle” to maintain pace in the third quarter of a marathon, miles 14-20 of Big Bear are where you will find yourself running faster than expected. Keep churning out the miles with a sense of free-flowing, efficient, downhill speed. By the time you get to mile 20, you can expect to be right on your target split, if not well ahead of it.

Miles 21-26.2: Fast Finish

The last 10K of the marathon course is a continuation of the long, sustained downhill section that began way back at mile 13. Even better, the downhill in the closing 6.2 miles is less severe than the earlier segments, which is easier on tired legs. The final 6.2 miles of the course lose 1,100’, or an average of roughly 180’ per mile. This is a comfortable downhill section, and you should be able to sustain your goal pace throughout the final 10K.

Summary of the Marathon Course

The Big Bear 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 run “too fast" at any point in a marathon, remember that gravity is your friend, and you want to take advantage of the benefits of downhill running. Still, hold back until mile 9, manage the short climbs up to that point, and then start accelerating into the second half of the course. Keep in mind that even splits (or negative splits) are highly likely on a course like Big Bear. In other words, expect your second half to be faster than your first half! The key to success will be your ability to keep accelerate from miles 13 to 20, and then holding on at goal pace (if not faster) for the final 10K.

The Half-Marathon Course

Miles 1-4: Very Fast Start

Starting at just over 4700’ elevation, the half-marathon course drops 1,288’ total from the start to mile 4. That is an average of 322' per mile, which is a significant drop.

You will need to resist the urge to chase people if they pass you. Although you want to take advantage of gravity throughout this course by running “comfortably fast” on the downhills, you need to manage the early downhill drops by easing into your pace, settling in for the long haul, and letting gravity pull you along. 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 5-9: Settle In

Overall, you will drop nearly 1,250' in miles 5-9. That is an average of 250’ per mile, which is remarkable. Compared to the noticeably fast – and steep – downhill miles from the start to mile 4, this section is a much more “comfortable” downhill.

This is the section where you can really settle into your race pace. The downhills are less sharp than the opening segment, and all of them lose between 216’ and 272’ per mile. 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. If you are keeping tabs on your splits every mile or every few miles at marked intervals, don’t be surprised to see that you are running well ahead of your goal pace.

Miles 10-13.1: Coasting In

Remember that the opening 4-mile segment loses more than 300’ per mile, and the second 5-mile segment loses 250’ per mile. This final segment loses an average of about 159’ per mile. This is still a significant drop per mile, but it is much more gradual than the earlier miles.

As the course begins to descend more gradually, you might notice that your pace is beginning to slow. Pay close attention to your own level of effort. Whatever level of effort you feel on the opening downhill segments is your benchmark; duplicate that level of effort on the less downhill miles, but do not go harder. Pay attention to your breathing and heart rate. If you feel yourself working too hard, then simply slow down. You should be coasting in for the final miles.

Summary of the Half-Marathon Course

The Big Bear Half-Marathon course loses more than 3,100' of elevation from start to finish. That's an average of more than 240' 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. He is a 26-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!

Oct. 5, 2021

Some runners use the phrase “banking time” to allow for the typical slowdown that occurs in latter miles of a race due to fatigue. The idea is that if you run faster than your overall goal pace for early miles, you will have “banked time” by putting yourself “ahead of schedule” by a certain point of the race. Later, as you slow down, you will be “making withdrawals” against that “banked time” to stay on schedule overall.

For several reasons, the “banked time” concept is not a good idea. Instead, think of building a “cushion” of time that you expect to use in your favor on the slower parts of the course. The cushion is built by taking advantage of gravity in the segments where the downhill profile favors faster running. As opposed to the “banked time” concept of running very fast (or too fast, as some critics say) early in the race, with the expectation of slowing down later in the race, the “cushion” idea is that you are doing nothing more than taking advantage of gravity, while using good course management to gauge where you are overall vis-à-vis your goal pace.

This “cushion” idea is the concept that you should embrace for a downhill race. Instead of “banking time” on the downhills, you are merely running faster than goal pace, or as fast as you can comfortably run downhill, to account for the favorable downhill profile. Likewise, slowing down on the climbs is expected. Don’t think of it as “making withdrawals from banked time.” Instead, think of it as sound, smart course management. You know that you will run fast downhill, and you know that you will slow down uphill.

The key to making this concept work for you on race day is to practice “running faster than you normally run.” With proper speed work, downhill intensity work, and pace work, your training program should have you well-prepared for the extensive downhills at a REVEL event. If you are new to downhill racing, the REVEL Online Coaching Program will provide all of the workouts you need to prepare for that PR or BQ you’ve been chasing!

 

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