REVEL Mt. Charleston Race Recap

on Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 11:45 PM

So the saying about what happen in Vegas....

Late last year I was contemplating what spring race I wanted to do.  The usual standby being either Goodlife or Mississauga, leaning towards Mississauga as I hadn't done that one in a while and I'm still not too convinced that the Goodlife course is or has been properly measured.   While browsing around the Runner's world forums late last year, I got my first hint of this race in Las Vegas as supposedly a fast course. It fit in well with the training schedule and was the week before Goodlife/Mississuga. To summarize the course basically has a 5000 ft (about 1500m) elevation drop from start to finish.

Truth be told I was contemplating making another BQ attempt but was pretty sure I wouldn't be in much better shape at the end of the training cycle as I was last year so ultimately was going to expect the same result of running a BQ time, but probably not making the cutoff.  The way I looked at the 1500m elevation drop basically meant that there would 1500m that I wouldn't have to run as it was essentially given to me free.

The plan was originally to see how I did at Around the Bay and if I couldn't hold a 3:10 marathon pace for the 30k , then I would think about doing Revel Mt. Charleston.  No I didn't quite hold a 3:10 pace (barely) during ATB and it felt a bit harder than I would have liked so I started giving serious thought to the downhill race after ATB.  The problem with that was the race sold out at the end of January. However I continued on with the training targeting Mt. Charleson hoping that I would get in off the wait list. .  On a whim, I also decided to post an ad on Craigslist seeking a bib just before Around the Bay.  The transfer policy for the race is quite generous letting people transfer right up until practically race day.   I figured if someone didn't contact me by the time the taper would start, I would extend my training by one week and do Mississauga.  Luckily a few days before the taper, I was able to secure a bib. As it turns out there were a few people looking to unload their bibs on the race's facebook page the week leading up to the race (as this was after the refund period) so I think if you're quick to act and monitor their facebook page like a hawk, you can probably secure a bib quite easily even if it's sold out.

I decided to travel down on Thursday for the Saturday race.  The weather forecast was looking okay.  Just above freezing at the start (at 7000 feet) and kinda warmish 16-17C at the finish line by the time I was expecting to finish.  This was the best I could hope for because the temperatures in Vegas in the week prior to the marathon had highs in the 30's.  The wind was also co-operating coming from the north west as the race generally run in an north north easternly direction for most of the race and a southernly direction at the end. One thing I hadn't planned on but started to worry me was a collegaue was telling me about the difficult time he had when visiting his brother in Utah and that it took him a week to get acclimated to the thinner air and here I was giving myself one day to adapt. I hoped that the downhill portion would make up for the thinner air and any difficulty I had.

Picked up my bib on Friday at a smallish expo. I did need to buy some gels which I did. I also got to try a neat device called the Rapid Reboot which is compression system. You basically stick some hipwader like air bag things around your legs and it pumps air into the bags which compress your legs.  Felt like a good massage.  Would love to own one but at $1000US for the system, not cheap.

Then decided to drive the course to get an look at the elevation and to see if there were any hills.  The course profile is a bit deceiving since 5000 ft of elevation drop tends to minimize the appearance of any hills. There were a few which I took a mental note of.

Got some take out pasta to eat back at the hotel but had difficulty eating. Forced myself to eat even though I wasn't hungry.

Race started at 6:30 in the morning and buses were leaving the finish line at between 4 and 5am.  This actually was okay for me as I tried to stay on east coast time which means wake-up time was 3:30am or 6:30 east cost time so that wasn't an issue. I stayed on the strip and required about a 20 minute drive  to the bus pickup location which was in NW Vegas.  I was expecting the casino to be empty at 3:30am in the morning, but it was still quite lively.  Got a couple of strange looks dressed up in my oversized throw away clothing strolling through the casino.

Ended up on the first bus to arrive at the start line which meant first dibs at the portapotties.  It also meant an almost 1.5 hour wait until race start.  The start line is actually located at a place with a bunch of little cabins and a chalet that has a restaurant.  Last year, the chalet was closed and people had to wait outside. This year they opened it up so that people could stay warmish which was great as it meant I wouldn't have to wait out in the cold.  There was only a limited capactiy so once it filled up, they prevented people from going in so good to have been one of the first ones there.  Chatted with some people and talked hockey with a couple of people from Boston and Vegas. Kind of odd. I guess the first thing people bring up when they find out you're Canadian is hockey.

So with 30 minutes to go, left the warmth of the chalet and did one last portapotty stop.  Actually had to wait for a bit and didn't get in until with about 10 minutes to go.  Headed to the start line and just barely had enough time to drop off my gear and settle into the start area.

As for the plan, I decided that I was going to run this without a HR monitor nor a pace band.  I thought that 3:15 would be easily doable based on the fact that I did 2:15 (and change) for the 30k distance which predicted a 3:15 marathon, and that anything under that would be due to the downhill portion, alas my 1500m of not having to run.  While I had hoped this might mean 3:10 or better, Anything beyond what I've been able to run these past few years would have been good. 

The race started and I was beside the 3:15 bunny.  The first half mile of this race is actually uphill and is probably the steepest uphill of the race so I decided I would take the first mile easy.  The uphill portion in the first half mile is all but negated by the downhill portion for the remaining .5 miles of the first mile so I wasn't too worried about that.

1 mile: 7:40

Hit the first mile well behind pace, but wasn't too worried since the downhill portion was about to begin.

2 mile: 6:55
3 mile: 7:02

So down the mountain we go picking up speed. Now you really have to appreciate the grade of the course. Mile 2 has about 300 ft of elevation drop and mile 3 has over 200ft.  For comparison, Goodlife Toronto has about 350ft of total elevation drop also over the course of a few miles, but I was about to repeat this elevation drop for over half the course.

4 mile: 7:16

So mile 4 appears to slow down back to my regular marathon pace, cause I think there was a hill on this portion. At this point of a race, you shouldn't be hurting, but my legs were aching a bit and I felt like I was huffing and puffing more than I should.  With the course starting out with an uphill, it's hard to gauge effort and then launching immediately into 7 min/mile pace doesn't leave much time or room to recover.  I had read a lot about trashing one's quads on downhill races so I was trying to mitigate that by running efficienctly, increase cadence, not overstriding and letting gravity pull me down, but that doesn't seem to have worked as I could feel my legs were not fresh.

5 mile: 7:08

As originally laid out mile 5 was supposed to have this little loop that runs into a parking lot, but they had some difficulty with getting a permit so they had to reroute the course by eliminating this loop and then adding an out and back later in the race.  At the time, I thought this would be good because the loop had a bit of a hill to it.

6 mile: 6:57
7 mile: 7:14
8 mile: 6:48
9 mile: 7:08
10 mile: 7:15
11 mile: 7:25
13 mile: 14:47 (Missed 12 mile marker)

So continue down the hill with a couple of fast miles and a couple of slow miles. With no pace band, I had no idea how far ahead of pace I was at.  I knew I was under 3:10 marathon pace, but how much under i wasn't sure.  I was hoping to get an idea at the half mark because that's where the half marathon was supposed to start. However due to the last minute course change and the elimination of the loop in the first half, the half marathon start line did correspond to the half marathon mark of the full.  I passed the 13 mile mark at 1:33:37. add on about 45-60 seconds for the extra 0.1 mile and I was pretty happy about the time.

14 mile: 7:31
15 mile: 7:28
16 mile: 7:30
17 mile: 7:28
18 mile: 7:26
19 mile: 7:22
20 mile: 7:24

After the half marathon, I started to slow down a bit.  I think  this was because of the wind from the north west.   After mile 13, the course heads in a north eastern direction so the wind which had been providing a bit of a tailwind for most of the race became a crosswind.  Still not too much to impede your effort and it was only causing a slight slow down in pace.  It was during this time that I started to think that I was getting dehydrated. As I usually do, I carried a gatorade bottle for the race that I drank from at each mile marker, in addition to drinking at each aid station.  After the half mark, I ran into some bottle issues in that the twisty cap on my gatorade bottle wouldn't twist open.  I ended up having to resort to unscrewing the cap to drink. I was careful not to drink too much before the race which in hindsight was a mistake.  There weren't too many aid stations, only 13 for the full marathon, 6 in the first half and 7 in the back half. I had taken only one cup of fluids at each aid station by this point which was maybe only a quarter to half filled.  Usually by the 30 km mark of a marathon, I will have finished my gatorade bottle.  By the time I had reached 19 miles this time, I still had quite a bit of fluid left in my bottle. My bottle issues and the few aid stations, it was clear that I wasn't drinking enough.  With about an hour to go in the race, I decided to just chug the rest of the bottle and hope to avoid getting even more dehydrated, tossing the bottle just before the 20 mile mark. 

21 mile: 7:33
22 mile: 7:54

Miles 21 and 22 were also a bit slower because I stopped to walk at each aid station to ensure I took in multiple cups of fluids.
23 mile 8:16

So mile 23 was where the race kinda fell apart.  Remember that loop that they had taken out earlier on in the race? Well they had to add that distance back in, which they did around the 23 mile mark. the probelm was the back portion of the out and back was directly into a strong wind that had been at my back for most of the race.  It was horrible, probably stronger than the wind that was at Goodlife last year.  Now 8:16 doesn't seem that bad for the mile split but you have to consider that the wind portion comprised only about 150m of mile 23 where I went from running about 7:40 min/mile pace on the out portion to over 9:30 pace on the back portion into the wind. There was still another 500m of this stuff that was going to be in mile 24. Add to this was there was slight incline which slowed me down further.  I made a time check at mile 23 since I didn't have a pace band and I knew that 3.2 miles remaining is a little over 5k.  I passed 23 miles at 2:49:30 and some quick math suggested I had  25 minutes to run 3.2 miles to finish under 3:15 which means I would have to run a little under 8 min/mile and this was still with about 500 m left of running into the headwind with the uphill that I had been struggling with for the past 150m.  And remember this was only to get me to 3:15, which was my BQ time. So I made the decision at this point that though I could possible make a BQ time, getting a time that would make the BQ cutoff which I would think would have had to have been at least 2:30 under was just not going to happen.  I had planned to take a few days in the Grand Canyon and do some hiking and didn't want to beat my legs up anymore then they already were so I walked the rest of the race.

24 mile: 14:14
26 mile:  25:23
26.2 mile: 2:08

I did try to slow jog a couple of times, but shut it down realizing there was no point. I did jog the last 0.2 miles of the race and ended up finishing with a time of 3:31:12.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I went into the race thinking that 3:15 would have been easy and that the downhill would have added to whatever cutoff I needed. I should have drank more at each aid station or at least chugged a bottle of water right before the start.  I definitely felt that I was working harder with the thinner and dryer air.  Maybe I needed more time to acclimatize to the altitude before the race? I can definitely say that it was not as easy as I thought it would be.   Looking at the Strava autosplits which shows Grade Adjusted Pace, it reports paces of 8:30's. It did not feel like I was doing 8:30 min/mile pace.

Polar Race Stats

Mile Split Time up
on 3:15
Time up on 3:10

1 07:39.6 -00:13 -00:24
2 06:54.7 00:19 -00:04
3 07:02.4 00:43 00:09
4 07:16.4 00:53 00:07
5 07:08.2 01:12 00:14
6 06:57.4 01:41 00:32
7 07:13.8 01:53 00:33
8 06:48.3 02:32 01:00
9 07:08.2 02:50 01:07
10 07:14.6 03:02 01:08
11 07:25.6 03:03 00:57
13 14:47.3 03:09 00:40
14 07:30.6 03:05 00:25
15 07:27.6 03:04 00:12
16 07:30.3 03:00 -00:03
17 07:27.7 02:59 -00:16
18 07:26.1 02:59 -00:27
19 07:22.0 03:04 -00:34
20 07:24.3 03:06 -00:43
21 07:33.2 03:00 -01:01
22 07:53.5 02:33 -01:39
23 08:16.2 01:43 -02:40
24 14:13.6 -05:04 -09:39
26 25:22.6 -15:34 -20:31
26.2 02:07.8 -16:12 -21:12
So judging from the splits, I seemed to be doing all right up until the 22 mile with a 2:33 cutoff bank which then dropped 45 seconds in the next mile due to the wind.

Official Timing Results

On the plus side, the race gives out free hi-res race photos and videos. Mine look terrible.

As for the race, generally well put together. Very efficient, though I would have liked to see a little more fluids in the cup's at each aid station.  Though the downhill is nice, there's no shade at all for practically the whole race so if you have a nice clear sky, the sun is beating down on you as it was on that day. I should have worn sunglasses.  The wind helped cool you down so I never really felt warm, but I was definitely dehydrated after sweating way too much and not getting enough fluids.

Horrible Finish Line pic. Notice the salt stains.

So, I'm not sure where that leaves me for the BQ attempt for this year.  I've been giving some thought to maybe doing Erie again, maybe Hamilton.  This is all complicated by the fact that I got into the Berlin marathon through the lottery, though I'm not sure I want to go this year.  I would have if I had BQ'd at this race, but it's scheduled right between Erie and Hamilton.  Ideally, I would take a shot in Erie which might get me into Boston 2018, and if I don't succeed, I would have about 2 months of preparation to try again in Hamilton with their downhill course for Boston 2019. Doing Berlin in between would complicate that though I suppose I could try again in Berlin but that would be less than a month between Erie and Berlin which would be less than ideal.

So afterwards, spent a couple of nights in the Grand Canyon.  I had tried to do the Vegas/Grand Canyon thing back in 2010 when I did Boston 2 Big Sur, but it was really on a compressed schedule and I didn't really get to spend any quality time in either place, something that I've always regretted. Returned this year and had a much better time, though no hiking as legs were still quite sore from the race, even with the 3 or so miles of walking at the end.

Top of the world.