17 November 2014

REVEL Canyon City Marathon

As I mentioned last month, I won a free entry to the REVEL Canyon City Marathon through Race Grader. REVEL is a relatively new race series started up by Brooksee which now has two event series:  the REVEL Race Series and the Goldilocks Running/Cycling Events.  Both REVEL and Goldilocks are currently in three cities with Salt Lake City being the one common location between the two series.  I was very impressed with the organization of this event (loved the fact that we got free pictures from the race) and would gladly run a race with this company again.

the marathon medals
Right from the start, this was a quality event. REVEL's website was chocked full of useful information with zero dead links and the registration process was simple.  After registering, I began to receive frequent, but not in-box flooding, e-mails that kept me updated on packet pickup and race day specifics.

On Friday afternoon, Sarah and I made the drive from Las Vegas to Azusa for packet pick-up at the race expo.  Packet pickup went smoothly and after getting my packet, I was instructed to step over to a monitor to test the chip on the bib which was a nice feature. Another nice thing with the bib, besides having my name on the front (always a nice feature), was that it had all of my emergency contact info printed on the back.  The expo itself was a small event with local vendors.  We had hit up the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas expo before starting our drive so we didn't spend much time there.  However, it is interesting to note that Hokas and Altras are now the two dominate shoes that I am seeing at expos.

The next morning, we got up at 4 AM and Sarah dropped me off at the buses around 4:45.  I got straight on a bus without any waiting in line and began the 1+ hour commute in the dark to the start line.  The bus arrived there shortly after 6 AM and I stepped out into the brisk air of the Crystal Lake Camp Grounds which is in the San Gabriel Mountains within the Angeles National Forest.  The Crystal Lake Cafe was open for people to purchase hot chocalate and a hot breakfast and there was an outdoor fireplace to keep us warm.  There were also a decent number of port-o-potties, enough for the 623 runners plus volunteers/race staff.

At 6:45, I shed my sweatshirt and fleece hat, placed them inside my drop bag, placed that bag in the equipment truck, donned my Las Vegas Triathlon Club visor and went to the start line.  At exactly 7 AM, we were off.

feeling awesome on the downhill
The course took an immediate right turn after the start line and proceeded uphill for 1/4 of a mile.  After that, it did a 180 degree turn and went downhill for the next 13 miles with an elevation drop of approximately 4700 feet over that distance. Predictably, it was very fast and without feeling like I was pushing too hard, the first half of the marathon was covered in 1:52:14 (an 8:34 per mile pace - Yikes!) which is 5:41 faster than my half marathon PR set back in April.  After that, the course leveled off a lot to more of a rolling downhill and my pace came back to reality.

The course was very pretty.  With the starting altitude being approximately 5700 feet, we were treated to an awesome view of being able to look down on the clouds and then descending through them at approximately the 3.5 mile mark. The road had a lot of switchbacks during the first half and provided scenic views of the valley as we broke through the bottom of the clouds.  We passed a lot of interesting fauna and I was amazed at how large the yucca stalks were.  It was also neat to see multiple dams and the different ecosystems that sprouted up on the downstream side of them.  I also got a kick out of not seeing any houses until we passed one subdivision in the final four miles and then entered Azusa inside the final 5K

the final stretch
As we ran the course, more evidence of how well organized the race were presented. The mile markers were extremely obvious and were large inflatable structures.  For the marathon, they counted down and for the half, they counted up.  The aid stations were approximately every two miles starting at Mile 3 and were all well stocked with a variety of supplies.  There were also motivational signs spread all over the course that were part of the REVEL branded image.  I especially liked the "Suck it up, Buttercup" one at Mile 17 since that has become a catch phrase for Sarah and me with training and racing.

The finish line and area was also full of snacks and volunteers.  After getting my massive finishing medal, I was given a damp washcloth and water and was treated to a wide variety of snacks and drinks. Picking up my gear bag was also very quick and easy.

So how did I do?  I finished with a PR of 4:24:56 which was 9:06 ahead of my St George time from last month.  I also finished in a lot of pain.  My right calf bothered me on all flat and uphill sections and around Mile 19, I began to get an ache in my right hip (felt like the socket area) that progressed from a dull ache to full blown pain in a few short miles. The end of the race was rough and I caught myself uttering Jens Voight's "Shut up legs!" quote more than a few times.  My phone battery died at the 23 mile mark and I stumbled through the last 5K at a 12:21 pace without knowing how fast I was really going and hoping that I wouldn't blow a PR.

Check out the size of that medal!
I was elated to see the time on the finish line and mustered out a little bit of a kick to finish 386 out of 623 runners.  After exiting the chute area, I hugged my wife and cried a little bit from the emotion of this race (the elation of a PR plus the disappointment of not getting a sub 4:22 (10 minute pace)) and the physical pain I was feeling in my hip.

It is two day later and I still have a lot of soreness in my legs - more than I did from my first two marathons.  However, the hip ache went away after a shower and the four hour drive home.  Despite the nice PR, running a short notice marathon is something I will have to put more thought into if the opportunity comes up again.

This was my last big race with December and January completely race free.  I do have a 12K trail run next weekend but expect to take it very easy on that one. I have a series of races booked in March, April and May and am looking for something good for both Sarah and I to run over President's Day Weekend in February.
a selfie with my support network

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