Blog

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!

 

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.

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