Yesterday I ran the 2023 Revel Big Bear half marathon and ran my fastest time since becoming a mom – 1:41:15! If you’re considering running Revel Big Bear to score a PR in the half marathon or marathon distance, I highly recommend it! (Last year I qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time on the Revel Big Bear marathon course).
Why I Signed Up Revel Big Bear Half Marathon
I was on the fence about signing up for Revel Big Bear since I am training for my first 50K. I am doing the Avalon Benefit 50K on Catalina Island on January 6th to celebrate my 40th birthday. This will be my first ultra distance. Training for a fast half marathon and a technical, hilly, 50K are very different, so ultimtatley I wasn’t sure if Revel Big Bear fit into my plan, even though my training buddy Megan was doing it.
For Megan, Big Bear was her goal race because she wanted to get a New York Marathon qualifier with her half marathon time (she had to run under 1:34 to do it). Revel Big Bear is a downhill course and fast, and I was tempted to sign up just to see if I could finally break my 9 year old half marathon PR of 1:40:04.
Ultimately, I signed up on an emotional whim after discovering I did not get into the 2024 Boston Marathon after it was announced record applicants (My qualifying time was 2 minutes, 29 seconds under the qualifier, but I needed at least 5 minutes, 29 seconds to get a spot at the race). Yes, I know this was no the most logical thing to do but I’m human!!
I decided that I’d use Revel Big Bear as a practice race and a confidence booster leading into my new marathon goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a larger buffer at the 2024 Revel Mt. Charleston. Or, worst case, I would run Revel Big Bear full again in 2024 to try to BQ again and this way I’d have even more practice on the course.
Plus, I love a good race trip and my friend Megan was going alone. Once I signed up, I felt excited for the race & motivated to make the best of it.
Training for Revel Big Bear Half Marathon
In May, I ran Mountains 2 Beach half marathon. At the time, I was really hoping to break 1:45, and my Spring training cycle was focused on the half marathon. Unfortunately, I got sick the week of the race, but despite that I still ran a 1:46:25. However, I was disappointed in my performance, feeling like I could have ran faster.
After Mountains 2 Beach, I started to really wonder what I could do to get faster and finally PR (My PR is a 1:40:03 from San Diego Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in 2014). I was feeling frustrated that I have been very consistently training, doing speed work, working on my fueling/nutrition, yet I cannot seem to get faster (My BQ was in a new age group, so it was not a PR).
One of the things I decided to work on was increasing my mileage. I tend to sit in the 25-30 range when not peaking and usually peak for a half marathon in the 40-45 range and a marathon around 50 miles. But the vast majority of my training is in the 25-30 miles/week range. I also strength train 3-4 times a week, which compliments my training.
Over the summer, while traveling to Europe and this fall while training to hike Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim of the Grand Canyon for my 10 year wedding anniversary, I increased my mileage and got it around 40 miles per week on average. I decreased the intensity (meaning less speed work, and no speed work at all in Europe) so that I could safely increase mileage and did more hiking.
When I returned from Europe, I went back to my run club and quickly found I was falling behind my running buddies in speed workouts, but within a month starting to see progress. I continued to build and peaked at 50 miles/week twice before Big Bear, but I did not put in the focused half marathon workouts I would normally have done.
Going into Revel Big Bear, I felt cautiously optimistic that I could PR since the course is so fast. I knew that I did not put in a specific training cycle for a half marathon, but I also wasn’t sure if my higher mileage training would pay off.
Revel Big Bear Half Marathon Race Recap
All Revel Races start REALLY early in the morning, so Megan and I set our alarm for 3:45 AM. We left the hotel at 4:20 AM, drove the 1/2 mile to the bus parking, waited in line & were on the buses by 4:45 AM. My friend Tess and her neighbor Chelsea met up with us in line and sat with us on the bus. We’d had dinner with them the night before (super plain pasta and bread from Macaroni Grill) and we’d all shared our goals and strategies for the race.
We arrived at the Revel Big Bear half marathon start line area halfway up the mountain around 5:25 AM (Note: for weather tracking use the Angelus Oaks weather station NOT Big Bear), and immediately went to the bathrooms. After that, we stripped down & dropped our bags and made our way to the start area for a short warm up. The weather was near perfect – 42 degrees. There was more humidity in the air than usual due to nearby rain, but it never rained on us. Last year, it was 28 degrees at the start with snow on the ground and this was much better.
One thing thats important to note for Revel races is that there is almost NO spectators and the start is very anticlimactic. I never heard the national anthem, there was no music, and I didn’t hear anyone tell us to start. The group just started moving and we crossed a timing mat and I said “did we start?!”
Within a few steps I realized I never checked my shoes and one of my shoelaces was coming undone. I let it work itself out for the first mile, then stopped on the side of the road to tie it.
The steepest downhill in this race is the first few miles, and my plan was to just see what the race gave me with my effort level around 7. I was hoping that it would give me closer to a 7:15-20 pace, but it ended up being closer to my goal pace of 7:30-7:40. I decided to not push it, was my legs were still warming up. (In retrospect I wonder if I should have given it a little more?)
Miles 1-3 were: 7:34, 7:32, 7:39
I found myself overanalyzing too much so I tried to turn on my music but since we had no signal, Siri wouldn’t connect to my music. I stayed alone in my thoughts with pretty much no one around me talking and no spectators for a couple more miles until finally my Taylor Swift Eras Tour set list turned on (yay!).
I found myself feeling kind of apathetic about the race in the early miles. I wasn’t nervous heading into the start and when we started, I had random thoughts like “why do I do this?” and “I’m tired”. I decided to take my caffeinated gel early, around 3 miles in, to see if it would help.
Once my music was playing and the gel hit my system, around mile 5, I started to feel better. My legs started to wake up and for the first time so far, the pace started to feel more natural and it felt good to push a bit.
Mile 4: 7:36 , Mile 5: 7:42, Mile 6: 7:36
Once I hit mile 6, I thought – “I “only” have 7 miles left. This is the beauty of higher mileage training (and having just hiked Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim of the Grand Canyon for 11 hours straight) – 7 miles didn’t seem so far. My legs were feeling it a bit but I told myself this was nothing and I needed to pick up the pace if I was going to hit my goal. I felt strong and optimistic during these miles and started slowly taking my second Huma gel.
Mile 7: 7:41, Mile 8: 7:37
I’m not sure what happened at mile 9, but I totally checked out mentally. I started thinking about the book I am reading, my business, my kids, life…and all of a sudden my watch beeped …
Mile 9: 8:00.
But the good news was, the pace felt comfortable. I started running faster, telling myself I had 4 miles to go and that I needed to dig deep. I COULD DO THIS. I just had to get more uncomfortable.
Mile 10 was a 7:32 – YES!
3 miles to go. That’s nothing I told myself. Let’s go! But Mile 11 clocked in at 7:47….just a touch too slow.I tried to pick it up but it felt harder. Mile 12 was 7:46. I still had hope though. I told myself : I have plenty left in the tank, I can really go hard in this final mile and crush it.
But then, just like last year, I turned the corner off of the main road and suddenly my legs felt SUPER HEAVY. Like I was running through sand. My pace dramatically slowed – at one point I looked down at it was a 9 minute mile. My breathing wasn’t that bad so I literally was talking to myself “no! you can do this!” But my legs decided no, they were done. (Now I’m regretting not doing more downhill specific workouts?!). Unlike last year though, my legs did not want to come back to life. I did get a small boost when turning onto the final stretch where the SINGLE SPECTATOR OF THE ENTIRE DAY (I am not joking, 1 spectator) had a sign that said “hit me for power” and I did.
Mile 13 was my SLOWEST mile, 8:27, and my PR faded away. I tried my best to give it a kick to the finish and finished with a time of 1:41:16. This was my fastest half marathon since becoming a mom 8 years ago by over 5 minutes. And I’m proud of that!
This is when the fun began – I met up with Tess and Megan who crushed their races and hit lifetime PRs. We recapped our races, watched Chelsea finish, took photos on the 13.1 sign & went to the beer garden. With a nice buzz, I felt optimistic again and when we went back to watch our friends finish the marathon(and Lindsay from our run club get a BQ!) , I was motivated and determined to figure this thing out.
One last thing to note about Revel Big Bear – as I mentioned, there are almost NO spectators. I personally would not run this race for anything but a fast time – while it’s a well executed race, the course itself is pretty boring and I REALLY love crowds and spectators and thrive on them. The spectators are a big reason why I really want to get to Boston !! If you’re looking for a race to run fast, Revel is a great choice. If you’re looking for fun, I recommend other races.
My Plan to Improve
I love running because it pushes me to learn and work hard and improve.
Every time I race I write a list of wins & also think about what I can learn from it.
Here’s the wins:
- Ran a post mom PR!! First half marathon in the 7s in years.
- Practiced carb loading/fueling and had NO bathrooms/GI issues
- Practiced on downhill course & a course with little spectators
- Had fun!!!! I had such a blast with Megan and Tess and enjoyed the experience very much.
- Consistent splits for the majority of the race. When pace fell off, I corrected it.
- Got a better idea of where I need to improve.
I know I can get better. While I feel frustrated that I have not regained my pre-kids fitness YET or as fast as some of my friends or people I know, I am confident I can get there. I know I have some things to work on to get better. One of those things is my pacing in races – I think that I hold back a little too much in the early miles (but again, is that true if my legs went to led at the end?I know it’s not carb loading or strength training bc I did that!).
I want to keep going with my higher mileage but I definitely want to do more downhill workouts for Mt. Charleston and focus on leg strength training. But ultimately, I need to continue to work on my racing mental strength & pacing. So that means some shorter distance races and more long tempo runs and long runs with a good portion at race pace or close to it .
I tend to be hard on myself, so I also recognize that I tend to overlook the progress I’ve made and just focus on where I think I “should” be. I can compare to other people and moms who seem to easily hit PRs after having kids and wonder what I’m doing wrong or why it’s just not happening for me. But I also DO know I’m making progress. And I also know that my current fitness IS really good and something to celebrate!
I know another breakthrough is around the corner. Just gotta keep my head down, work on my weaknesses, remind myself that I do this because I LOVE it & that I’m doing great, and keep going!
My Revel Big Bear Gear
The weather at Revel Big Bear 2024 was about 40 degrees at the start at 50 at the finish line. Here’s what I wore & used when I ran Revel Big Bear Half Marathon:
Shoes: Brooks Ghost (these are my regular running shoes, I did not wear racing shoes this time).
Running Belt: FlipBelt Classic
Shorts: Athleta Salutation Short
Shirt & Hat: Brooks Running (I do not think they sell this version anymore)
Water Bottle: Camelback Quick Grip
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