I was excited and intrigued to run Revel Big Bear. Before that, I’d never run a downhill race and had my own preconceived notions about them. They were “easy and fast.”
The half I ran before was RnR San Jose, and I ran a 1:39.30. After getting the flu in May, running has not come easy to me. I’ve run my slowest half marathon times and had to stop and walk in my last two halves. I didn’t really have a goal for Revel Big Bear, just to do it, see what it was like, and have fun.
I was honored to run with Team Hylands, a brand I’ve liked for a while now. They do several teams for various races into many Revels, CIM, and even Philly Marathon. If you are interested, you can just follow their Instagram and apply if a race intrigues you. Typically they only do marathon runners, but they’ve recently opened it up to half marathoners too. It was my first time actually running with Team Hylands after getting injured the week before Big Cottonwood in 2019.
Before Revel Big Bear Half Marathon:
I hate bringing up the flu so much, but it’s part of my story and a reason running has not gone well the last six months for me. As mentioned, I had to stop and walk in San Jose and Wineshine Half Marathons because breathing felt weirdly hard. Not an “I took this out too fast way,” but something is wrong, and I need to really slow down my heart rate way. So I was hoping not to have to do that at Revel Big Bear. I would consider it a good day if I didn’t have to do that. I have been to the doctor and I’m still awaiting blood work results.
The night before, Team Hylands met at Old Spaghetti Factory, somewhere I hadn’t been since childhood. I ordered chicken and marsala, and it was good. I tried to get to bed early but was up until around 8:30. For a 3:30 wake-up call, that is late.
For breakfast, 99% of the mornings, whether I run, race, or don’t do anything; I have a waffle with peanut butter. It’s just a regular waffle and always sat well in my stomach. Over the weekend, I had forgotten it at my house, so I went to the grocery store to find something else. Bagels seem always to be my rare backup, but all the grocery store had left were jalapeno bagels. Which is my favorite bagel, but the best choice before a race? I am not sure. Anyway, I grabbed one and just hoped for the best. It seemed to be fine, but I feel lucky stomach issues are not a problem I typically have.
My alarm went off at 3:30; I grabbed the bagel, ate it on the go, and went to the bus area around 4 am. I was still feeling a little hungry, but luckily I had emergency cliff bars in my car and just grabbed one of those. Not my typical pre-race fueling, but sometimes that’s what happens. We took about a 30-minute bus ride up to our start. Then they just dropped us off in what felt like an abandoned field. I had driven by on my way to hike San Gorgonio Hike on the Vivian Creek Trail and San Bernardino Peak Trail via Angelus Oaks so I was familiar with the road we would be running down.
We waited around from 5-6, and boy, it was cold. It was about 20-30 at the start and slightly windy. The last time I needed arm warmers for a race was before COVID. I also brought an old navy jacket, hat, and scarf to toss. I was glad I did. I started with the jacket, hat, gloves and finished with none of them. The difference in temperature of 3000 feet and sea level was enough that’s what I needed to do.
Revel Big Bear Half Marathon Race:
The Revel Big Bear Half Marathon is the second half of the Revel Big Bear Marathon. It’s actually the faster half of the marathon and, to my knowledge, the fastest and steepest section of any Revel race course. The first half of the marathon drops about 2000 feet and the Half Marathon course/second half of the marathon drops 3000 feet. I learned all of this the night before and my new friends at Hylands were telling me all about it. Go big or go home. But truthfully, that also intimidated me because I’m not a great downhill runner, and I didn’t want to hurt myself.
We started a few minutes late because some of the buses were delayed. I was shivering initially, and the “go” was very anticlimactic. I was expecting an air horn, but it seemed like it was just a person who said go, and everyone started running.
I ran the first mile of Revel Big Bear in my winter jacket because I was so cold. Think of a north-face puffy coat. I wish I had a photo of that. Anyway, I warmed up and tossed it by mile 1 of Revel Big Bear Half Marathon. My goal was to take the first few miles easy. I didn’t want to overdo anything and hurt myself. I ran a 7:02 first mile and thought ok if I could just run this the whole way, I’d be pretty darn happy right now.
During the second mile of Revel Big Bear Half Marathon, I decided to use the bathroom and stopped just before mile 2. Even with the stop, I ran a 7:16. I would later find out that was the stop that caused me not to run under 1:30. Had I known that in mile 2, would I have stopped? Honestly probably. I had to pee.
I grabbed the Nuun at each aid station, although it often tasted like water. After mile 2 of Revel Big Bear Half Marathon, I seemed to be getting my groove. It’s funny; the first two miles had the most downhill (322/335) and were my slowest.
Finally, I started to get in my groove around mile 3 of the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon. I ran a 6:50 and 6:52. I could see the 1:30 pacers in the distance, but they were gaining on me. I figured they were gone. Despite running almost a 1:30 exactly, I never saw the 1:30 pacers again.
Miles 4 and 5 of the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon continued without much note. At the mile 4 water stop, the volunteers weren’t handing the water; just a grab-and-go situation. It was OK, but it took a couple of seconds to grab and another small reason that probably led to not breaking 1:30. At mile 4, I had no idea that was even an option. I’ve had to stop and walk at most half marathons since getting sick, so I don’t ever count on negative splitting.
Hylands was at mile 6 of the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon, which gave me life. I always appreciate seeing friends, especially on the west coast since that is few and far between. I powered through. I heard a rumor the back half had some flat sections, not even uphill, just flat, and most people said they ran significantly slower in the second half of the race. So I kept that in mind going into mile 7.
Mile 7 was one of my lesser favorite miles. I felt my big toenail and immediately knew it was gone. Downhill running is hard on my toes, and despite having good shoes, I knew that was gone. It just felt gross. Somewhere almost in mile 7, my other big toenail went. And no, I don’t want to talk about it or share photos. I rarely lose toenails mainly because I wear the right size shoes but also don’t do a lot of crazy downhill in training runs. Although living in Norcal where it was more hilly, I was more susceptible.
Mile 8 of the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon provided another water stop, and I had to grab it off the table. I nearly collided with someone who just stopped but luckily for us both; we didn’t. The sun started to get stronger as we headed toward San Bernardino, and I began to get much warmer. I delayered my hat, which left my ear warmer.
At mile 9 of the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon, I noticed I was starting to pass many people. I had taken the race out super easy for the grade, the first two miles were my slowest, but they were both the steepest. I didn’t want to get crazy cramps, my legs to lock up, or bonk. I also didn’t know how my body would handle the downhill. It seemed to play in my favor because I began to feel stronger and stronger as the race went on.
I hit mile 10 of the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon around 1:09.15, and it was the first time I’d been under 1:10 for 10 miles in probably a year. We began running close to a road that was open for cars. It made me uncomfortable as someone came only a few feet from racers while passing on the left. I tucked in more towards the shoulder.
During miles 11 and 12, I focused on catching the next person ahead. And weirdly enough, I was doing it. The last few miles of the Revel Big Bear Half Marathon are the flattest but they were also my fastest. The race was taking a lot of carnage, and I saw many people walking or not having a good time. I can relate, as that’s been the story of my last few halves. But it was not my story that day, and I kept pressing on.
At mile 12, I realized I could maybe break at 1:30. I was shocked. I was also kind of mad at myself for using the bathroom at mile 2 (although not I had to go). I just put the peddle to the medal and hoped for the best.
Then, we turned and headed into some headwind and a flat section. While it was only about a quarter of a mile, it was enough that I slowed down to around 7:10 pace. Interestingly enough, on Strava, it was also a segment, and I placed 10th overall. (my only Strava placement on this course)
Then we made one more turn, and you could see the finish line, over half a mile away. I gave it my best and just pushed as hard as I could. I averaged a 6:19 pace and crossed Revel Big Bear Half Marathon in 1:30.04.
Revel Big Bear Half Marathon Thoughts:
I’m thrilled with how I ran Revel Big Bear Half Marathon. Not because I ran “fast” but because, to be honest, on a course that drops 3000 feet, you are going to run “fast.” But because I felt strong. I ran a smart race, negative split, and felt good the entire time. I didn’t have to stop and walk.
My friend Janae mentioned in her race recap her friend ran a massive PR at a Revel race and then ran faster at a nondownhill race because she knew her legs could move that fast. I feel the same way. Sometimes it feels like I’m so far removed from running a 1:22 half marathon or even a 1:30 or a regular course, so it was nice to feel I could still run that pace. Do I now think I’m magically in 1:30 shape? LOL, no. If that were the case, I might have started this recap with I dropped 10 minutes from my half-time in a month.
Anyway, I had a great time at Revel Big Bear Half Marathon, and I think they do a good job race-wise. The course is pretty scenic, the logistics and swag are good, and I just had a good time. Everyone should do a Revel race or a downhill race just to see what’s it like.
Questions for you:
Have you run Revel Big Bear Half Marathon?
Have you ever run a downhill half marathon?