Thursday, November 14, 2019

REVEL Big Bear Half Marathon Race Recap

This past Saturday was REVEL Big Bear, where I was planning to run my goal fall half marathon. Originally I had registered for the full (thinking I could use it as a back up if my Ventura Marathon didn't go as planned), but eventually downgraded to the half. I was hoping this would be where I could secure my ticket to the 2020 New York City Marathon.

Spoiler Alert: I finished... but you will have to read on to see how I did ;)

Earlier in the summer, I had a difficult decision on my hands - what do I do for the fall running season? Do I attempt a longer distance (potentially a 100K) or do I try to run fast (potentially trying to set a new PR {personal record} or two)? I asked the InterWebs, which seemed to be pretty evenly split on the decision, so when the hubby so graciously reminded me that I wasn't getting any younger and my speedy days may soon be behind me, I finally landed on a fast fall.


Well, let's just say my training leading up to Ventura didn't go as planned (not due to a lack of effort - but because of a Fibromyalgia flare and a summer sickness that ate into the bulk of my training). If you haven't read my Ventura Marathon race recap, you can do so HERE, but in case you don't have time, let me summarize it by saying I didn't have the perfect day (which I would've needed to chase down a new PR), so I let off the gas in hopes of saving my legs for this race.

A few of my favorite pictures from the race. Three of my best girlfriends surprised me along the course! 

Between Ventura and Big Bear I would have a little less than three weeks (Ventura was on a Sunday and Big Bear was on a Saturday). My coach had me take three complete rest days after Ventura (for some people this may absolutely be too few days off after that distance, which I understand, but my coach knows what I'm capable of and I know my body, so this is totally normal for me) before getting back after it. I'll be honest, when I started back up I felt some groin tightness, but assumed it was just DOMS {delayed onset muscle soreness} or from my period that had started the day before. Unfortunately the annoying feeling never went away. In fact, during those two and a half weeks I would swap around workouts to give my body extra rest and the week leading up to the race I only ran once (the day before the race - for twenty minutes) in hopes that the pull/ strain would heal up. To say I was freaking out a bit would be an understatement.


Although Big Bear is technically located in Southern California, it is definitely not a local race for me. Depending on the route you take (which obviously is determined by what time you leave and what traffic is doing), the parking lot where the runners park for the race shuttles is between 75 and 100 miles from Oceanside. I had the decision to make - whether to stay at our house Friday night and leave super early Saturday morning or see about staying with a friend the night before. I eventually decided on staying at home because although I would need to wake up earlier, I was hoping I would be able to A) sleep better in my own bed and B) be able to hit the hay earlier to account for the early wake-up call.

And we PAY to do this to ourselves... WE BE CRAY-CRAY!

Thankfully REVEL allows someone else to pick up your bib for you at the Expo or else I would've had to go up on Friday (you could also pay extra to have them either mail your stuff to you or pick it up race morning, but you know "frugal Carlee"... I opted to ask a friend to grab my goodies when they got theirs). I also obviously made sure to have everything I needed before I laid down for the evening in hopes of having one less thing to fret about while tossing and turning in bed.

When you're #FlatCarlee revolves around the New York PRO socks you've gotta break out the orange and blue! New York inspired
PRO Compression sock
, orange Handful bra, orange Sparkle Athletic skirt, The North Face ugly Christmas sweater thermal long sleeve
shirt (a few years old), white and blue QALO silicone wedding bands, blue and orange Momentum Jewelry wraps, orange Elite ROADiD,
She Can & She Did buff, handmade pace band, Nathan handheld, ProBar BOLT chews, COROS APEX watch, and Brooks Ghost 11.

In case you didn't notice the time on the screenshot of my alarms, I actually got in bed by 6pm. And I surprisingly fell asleep shortly after that (thanks to Daylight Saving Time it was already pitch dark out so it didn't feel as terrible, especially since I shifted up all of my meals and had eaten dinner around 2pm). When I woke up it looked like traffic would be smooth sailing (I would sure hope so seeing as it was out of bed around 1:45am... right around time for last call!) and would only take me about 90 minutes. I was able to eat a ProBar PROTEIN bar for breakfast, sip on some water and peruse the social medias for a few minutes before getting ready. I was in the car around 2:45am and making my way to San Bernadino (yeah, even though they call the race "Big Bear", you park in San Bernadino and run in Redlands...).

The buses for the half marathon were scheduled to leave for the start line between 4 and 4:45am, so the crew decided to meet around 4:15 (and jump on a bus by 4:30am). It was amazing getting so many "you can do it" and "good luck" hugs from everyone. They knew I was chasing a big goal and believed in my ability to tackle whatever race morning brought. Runners truly do make the best friends! The line for the buses moved quickly when we got in it and we were boarded in an extremely efficient manner (although it would have been awesome if our group could have all been on a single bus, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes - especially when you roll with such a big group).

Did you know that school buses now have seat belts for every seat?! "Back in my day" there was no such thing!

Our bus made it to the start without issue (which is ALWAYS how I pray it'll happen, but unfortunately sometimes that just isn't reality). It took us about 30 minutes and I did my best to look out the front window most of the ride to see everything go by (since I drove up that morning I hadn't done any type of preview of the course except for what I saw online).

Once we arrived I got off the bus and into a port-o-potty line. Although there seemed to be plenty of bathrooms, I always prefer to go as soon as I can in case I need to leave myself time for a second visit. As soon as I entered the port-o-potty I noticed REVEL had put signs (and glow sticks for a little light) on the inside of the door. When I met back up with friends we chatted about the signs and they all seemed to be different. I wonder who had the task of collecting the potty jokes ;)


Similar to Ventura, my coach had a warm-up jog on the schedule. Well, because my groin was still iffy, I decided to opt out of it (sorry Kristen ;)). I was worried that if it didn't feel great it'd put me in a bad mental spot, not to mention I was having fun distracting myself with friends and didn't want to leave. (Side note - the runners are hoarded in an empty parking lot on the side of the highway before the race. The road is technically still open until the start of the race, so you could've done some running on the shoulder of the road, but it didn't seem to conducive to a warm-up, so I skipped it.)

This girl right here. She is the bestest!

You can tell we are all from SoCal, right?! It's in the high 50s and everyone is
trying to stay warm with emergency blankets and extra layers ;)

Trying not to freak the frick out ;) 

The race was set to start at 6am so around 5:50 Megan and I made our way towards the road. Like I mentioned, the road was still open (traffic and the buses dropping off runners were still going by at normal speeds) so we couldn't get lined up until just a few minutes before go time. It made me a little anxious to not be "set" ahead of time, but you had to roll with it.

The starting line area...

The race offered a few pacers (I believe for the half they had 1:30, 1:40, 1:50, 2:00, 2:10 and 2:20) so I tried to line up between the 1:30 and 1:40 pacer (although they stood about four people apart, so it wasn't super easy...). I mentioned this in my goals post, but I had only run one REVEL race prior to this one - the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in 2015 (my first BQ attempt). I don't really remember it, since it was FOUR YEARS ago, but I think the start was a little more eventful... For this race there was no National Anthem, no announcements, no nothing... In fact, I don't even know if there was a horn or a countdown... I just started running because the people in front of me started moving (in fact, I started my watch 5-10 seconds before I crossed the start line because I was so thrown off and said to myself "well, I guess we're going...").

And it's go time!

The game plan for the race was to hold back at the beginning so I would have life left in my legs to crush the last 5K. My coach laid out paces of 7:10-7:15/mile for the first 5K, 7:05-7:10/mile for the second 5K, 7:00-7:05/mile for the third 5K and sub 7:00/mile to the finish. Well, if I've said it once, I've said it a million times - I'm NOT great at pacing... or holding back... especially when you're losing approximately 322 feet per mile in the first four miles of the race... but I was going to do my darnedest because I knew this would probably be my only shot to get the sub-1:34 finish time I needed for the time-qualified entry for next year's New York City Marathon race. I didn't want to shot myself in the foot and ruin my race in the first couple miles if I could help it so I ignored the runners flying by and tried to focus on running my own race.

FLYING! Both my paces and the fact that my feet aren't on the ground ;)

Now is probably the right time to talk about gear... You see, since I was shooting for my New York City Marathon time-qualifying goal, I thought I would rock my New York inspired PRO Compression socks. Well, the only thing that I really had that would go with the socks was a long sleeve top from The North Face (I thought the "ugly Christmas sweater" feel was probably okay now that it was November... and, before you ask, I got it at TJ Maxx a couple years back). I know most REVEL races have freezing cold starts (because they all start up a mountain, hence how they have so much downhill in them), so I was hoping my long sleeve would be okay... Well, you'd think after living in SoCal for 13 years I would be used to our "fall" weather, but I apparently had a brain-fart. I know that October and November are normally WARM (hello fire season), but I guess I blocked it out of my mind. I would say within the first two miles my elbow pits had sweat through my sleeves {random piece of information about me - my elbow pits seem to be the first thing that sweat on me...}. It warmed up and it warmed up QUICK (honestly, when we were waiting for the race to start in the parking lot it was a little brisk, but that was because of the wind, not the temps... it was already around 60*). There were many parts throughout the morning where I was thankful I wasn't running the full, the weather played a LARGE factor in that (and the extra 13.1 miles ;)).

Another reason (besides qualifying for a bucket-list
race) to run fast?
Finish before it gets too warm...

I wouldn't say I was ever in danger of overheating (especially because they had aid stations with water and electrolytes every two-ish miles), but I definitely could've been running in a tank top and been fine. Within the first mile or two I took my buff off from around my neck and wrapped it on my wrist (and used it to wipe sweat off my face for the rest of the race).

The first thing the hubby said when I showed him this picture... "Wow, looks like you
were in the pain cave at this point"...  HA! I thought it was a cute picture... 

Hopefully if you've followed me for any length of time you know I've gotta #KeepItReal and even if I'm comped an entry to a race I have to shoot straight with you (because I want you to know what you're getting into when you spend your hard earned pennies). Well, let's just say this wasn't my favorite race. Now, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't say I hated it or that there were major issues, but I'd say it's pretty bare bones. The spectators are almost non-existent (in fact, I believe the pre-race information said you couldn't spectate until maybe the last mile or so), so if you feed off the energy of crowds this is not the race for you. Also, um, well, it's pretty boring. The course is a straight shot down Highway 38 and there isn't much to look at. The first few miles had some pretty views with the sun rising in the canyon, but once you started getting into civilization it was pretty 'eh'. Again, this isn't a make-or-break for me, but I just want to lay out the vibe I got so you can set your expectations accordingly. If you're looking for a fast, downhill course in the Southern California area, this could be the one for you, but if you're looking to be entertained, I'd definitely say this will not be your cup of tea. (Thankfully for me, I was strictly looking for a course to run a sub-1:34 half marathon at, so there weren't many boxes the race needed to check to be successful... and the one criteria it did need to tick was dependent on my legs, not the views, crowd support, starting line send-off, post-race perks, look of the participant shirt, etc.)


And, honestly, because I was racing, I didn't really have much time to think about much other than putting one foot in front of the other. I tried my hardest not to look at my watch (which would have been easier had my long sleeves been covering it ;)) and just kept pushing, but did catch my pace every couple miles (and when I saw a sub-7:00/mile I might have freaked out a bit because I knew it was way too early in the race to be running that fast). I knew the first four miles had an elevation loss of 1,288 feet, the next five lost 1,248 feet and the final four (plus a tenth ;)) lost 655 feet. If I was going to stick to the racing strategy from my coach, I would have to dig deep and focus on push-push-pushing (especially since I was supposed to run faster on the flatter miles, which would require more effort than running that pace on the downhill).


Although the last 5K of the race is still a net downhill, it definitely flattens out compared to the beginning portion of the race. At that point my legs felt heavy from the strong effort I had put in for the first 10 miles and I definitely hit a bit of a wall (not the type of "wall" you hear about in a marathon when you are bonking due to a depletion of glycogen, but more of a "my legs are trashed from running super fast and they need to slow down because my quads feel like rocks and they just want to walk"). I did my best to throw in little surges to pick up the pace or spot someone in the distance and try to catch up to them, but those last couple miles were definitely slow going (okay, okay, when you look at my paces they may not seem "that" slow, but my legs felt like led at that point and compared to the paces they were running earlier in the race they definitely didn't have as much pep or turn over as they did before). At this point the course also narrows from having a full lane of traffic for runners to running just on the shoulder of the road. It wasn't an issue for me since there weren't a ton of people around me, but I wonder if it was crowded when pace groups or bigger groups of runners came through.

If you can't smile while you're doing it, you probably shouldn't be doing it ;)

You may know that when I started college I thought I was going to be a math major (but eventually changed to economics because I only had to take four semesters of calculus instead of six ;)), but even still, doing math in the late stages of a race is definitely not a strong skill I possess. I had made a pace band for 1:33:59, but for some reason didn't reference it. Instead I tortured myself by trying to figure out how fast I needed to run the remaining miles at to still hit my goal.

Thankfully when I hit Mile 12 I could do some better math (even though my legs felt like I was running through jell-o). I knew at that point my goal was a possibility (I would say that although I had only seen one of my miles over 7:10 {which was the average pace I would need to run for 13.1 miles to run faster than a 1:34 half marathon}, I still wasn't sure how much time I had "banked" and how much of a buffer I would have in case the wheels fell off those last few 'flat' miles), but I didn't want to let off the gas. Don't get me wrong, I definitely thought about easing up a little when I made the left turn and saw the finish line less than half a mile away, but I had come so far already, I didn't want to take it easy. I kept telling myself "you didn't come this far to only come this far", "you can rest in 10 minutes", "let's freakin' go", "NEW YORK!".

This must be my "focused on the goal" face ;)

And, before I knew it (#RealTalk - those last few miles felt like forever, but that doesn't sound as nice, hehe), I heard Andrea call out my name and congratulate me on a fast finish (yup, I didn't know it, but a friend was emceeing the race).

The only finish shot they caught... and of course I'm looking at my watch ;) 

A quick finish line selfie with the clock in the background to confirm running faster than my goal!

After I grabbed a bottle of water and a banana I made my way over to the gear drop-off to pick up my bag (since my friend got my stuff for me at the expo, he brought it to the buses and I had to utilize gear-check). The volunteers were well organized and I got my stuff super quickly. Then I made my way back to the finishing chute to cheer in fellow runners and friends. It was awesome seeing everyone CRUSH out there (even if it wasn't the time they wanted, they still did work)!

Apparently Megan was the only one smart enough to dress for the weather ;)

We look like a PRO Compression ad, don't we?! 

Seeing as I am trying to eat more plant-based, I gave my pizza ticket to a friend and settled for my banana and water for my post-race snacks. (Reminder to myself - next time, pack more snacks for the drive home, especially if it is a long one.) I also gave my beer ticket (although I'm not sure you can call hard seltzer "beer") away because those drinks aren't my jam. I'll be honest, I was stoked that the "sweet treat" at the finish line was vegan, but the ice cream wasn't my jam. I tried both the Passion Fruit and Goji Berry flavors and didn't love either (it might have been the fact that they were melted by the time I got around to eating them or maybe it was just the taste...). But what was sweet?! HITTING MY GOAL!

My official time was 1:32:50 (like I mentioned, I started my watch early because I was thrown off by the start of the race).

We snapped a few last pictures and then it was time to jump on the bus to our cars (the buses for the start line are not at the finish line {which is a little annoying because when you are ready to go you are ready to go and don't necessarily want to take a bus, but thankfully it wasn't too much of a wait), so the runners have to take a bus afterwards as well).


Not sure if I'll use this as an official Half Marathon PR (since I don't know that I could run that pace on a
flat course), but it secured me the ability to enter the time-qualified entry for NY so I'll take it!

Oh yeah, before I forget (in case someone is wondering), I normally don't "fuel" during my half marathons. I usually don't use fuel on runs shorter than 15 miles (or ones that take less than 2 hours), but since I was racing and pushing the effort I figured better safe than sorry. I took one serving of my ProBar BOLT chews (5 chews) about 45 minutes before the race and then another serving around Mile 6. Because it was warm (and I was over-dressed), I drank my entire handheld (18 ounces) and also grabbed water cups from the last two aid stations along the course for a few last sips. And in case you care about the nitty gritty break-down of my paces, I'll also include a screenshot from my COROS App.

I love that you can get your results printed out after you cross the finish line (even if the places change as more people finish)

All-in-all, I would consider this race a success. I hit my goals (if you read my goals blog post you know I only had two, very specific goals - A) Sub 1:34, B) Finish) and that's all I could ask for. The medal was pretty (and even though I normally donate my bling to Medals4Mettle I might hold onto this one for a while - maybe till I run New York), the participant shirt wasn't awesome (but you did have an option to select a different option when you were registering, like a tank or tri-blend tee), the race was extremely organized, the course was a bit blah, the location was drivable from our house, the weather can be on the warm side, you get free race photos, downhill is harder than you think (especially when it comes to recovery), etc, etc, etc. For every positive there was something (in my opinion) a less than positive, but if you go in knowing that you are there to run a fast time and anything else is just an added bonus then you will be golden.

PS If you are interested in running next year (November 14th, 2020), you can use the code "EARLY" by November 27th to save $10. (Also, if you use a team discount you can save an extra $15, so the half is $74.99 and the full is $94.99.)

Do you prefer a downhill course, a flat course, or rolling hills?

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