Updated: Jan 5
Overall, I was a big fan of the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon course. Most of the course was gorgeous, the expo was fast and easy, the other athletes were supportive and the atmosphere was great. I love a good solo run, so I didn’t mind the lack of crowd support (there were maybe 30 people on the course) or sparse aid stations (they had them every two hours, but most of them only had a couple of people at each). It also helps that I had a great race and was able to meet a lot of people in-person that I had only met online before. I also watched one of my best friends qualify for Boston, which was a huge added perk.
Getting to the Start
Race morning started with a 3:30 wake-up time so I could drop a friend I stayed with off at her bus by 4 for the full marathon, then I parked and headed over to the bus line.
The course is point to point, so a bus takes you up the mountain. It was 30-ish minutes for the half bus ride.
Once at the top, you get off in a gravel area. It was a very random stop off the side of a mountain road. But there are plenty of port-o-potties and space. I did a quick bathroom stop, tried to stay warm (it was 28 at the start and I was not used to that after living in San Diego for a few years), waited for the last possible second to check bags and all the extra warmth, then headed to the corral. We found there was some bus trouble, so we started about 5 minutes late, but other than added nerves, it wasn’t a big deal.
Racing the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon
I knew I needed to start slower than I would naturally go with the downhill, so I had given myself brakes (i.e. do not go faster than this) and found myself dipping faster for the first 2 miles as I was trying to stay with the 1:50 pace group. I knew I didn’t want to go out too fast, so I let the 1:50 pace group go ahead of me and I settled into my plan. If you have more questions about training, check out my blog on all the details here.)
Around mile 4, I was supposed to take about 10 sec/mile off, so I did that. I had ditched all my giveaway layers (an old sweatshirt) by this point and tossed off my gloves. I popped in my music and took my first gel (big fan of huma electrolyte plus).
I really dialed in to my pacing at this point because I knew from training runs I could easily start going sub 8’s and then blow up on the flatter miles at the end and I wanted to avoid that.
Around the 60 minute mark, around 7 miles, I took gel 2. Before I knew it, it was mile 9. I remember thinking “holy shit, that was the fastest 9 miles I’ve ever run. And dare I say, it all felt easy.” I’ve never had a race where I was going hard and it felt relatively easy. I think it was one of those magical races where I was just in the zone. I couldn’t believe that there were only 4 miles left and I almost didn’t want it to end. Even though I was feeling good, I knew I wanted to finish strong and the last few miles flattened out a bit, so I threw on the Hamilton guided run from Peloton. I wanted the form cues and cheers, plus that album is one of my favorite running playlists.
The course changes from a small mountain road to running on the shoulder of a road with awful asphalt just after this point. This was mentally hard for me and I was pretty annoyed. There were cars really close and no one was really paying attention to the race. This was the only point where I didn’t love the race.
The elevation also flattens out a ton, from about a 250/300 ft per mile decline to like 80 ft/mile. I kept with my negative split pacing plan until mile 12+. Around the mile 12 mark, it started to feel hard. I also took my third gel right before that around 95 minutes with hopes it would give me a boost. It did not. About mile 12.5, I threw the half finished gel in the trash, took a small walk break, then forced myself to just finish the thing.
The Revel Big Bear Finish Line
Right after, you turn left and can see the finish line—so close but so far, and I just finished. I didn’t sprint as much as I wanted, but I did it. It felt ugly and I gritted it out. But I also knew I had a massive PR! 10 minutes PR from an in-person race, 9:05 from a virtual half
After crossing the finish line, I got to meet my running coach in person, hydrated, and even got a massage because I was staying to cheer on my friend as she finished the half. It was such a fun race experience and day and I would love to do it again!