Before the REVEL Canyon City Marathon last Saturday, I had a major case of marathon brain. I’ve talked before about how marathon brain is a lot like pregnancy brain — your mind is so full of the big event on the horizon that it blocks out most other rational thinking. I have two good (read: humorous at my expense) examples of how marathon brain made me positively ditzy before the race.

Friday night after I got home from the expo, I set out all my clothes and race gear for the next morning. I also took my driver’s license and one credit card out of my wallet and packed them in my gear bag. No sense in taking my entire wallet with me to the race, but I at least needed my driver’s license to get there. Packing went well and I had no trouble at 3:30 in the morning throwing on my clothes and getting out the door by 3:50. The problem came when I got home from the race on Saturday afternoon and could not find my wallet for the life of me. I searched high and low all over the house. I retraced my steps everywhere. It wasn’t in my purse. It wasn’t where I’d taken my cards out of my wallet in the living room. It wasn’t anywhere I would ever normally put my wallet, emphasis on “normally.” With my marathon brain, I’d taken the cards out of my wallet and then wandered off to get something else, wallet in hand. Then when I found that something, I put down the wallet. Two whole days later I found my wallet on the dining room table, on top of the sewing basket and underneath one of the kids’ pieces of artwork. What the heck?! I think I’d set my Saucony Bullet Shorts on the table to air dry, and when I went to grab those for the race, I traded them for my wallet.

But the worst evidence of marathon brain came at 3:40 in the morning when I went to put on some Glide to prevent chafing in my, shall we say, “nether regions.” I slathered it on and put the cap back on the container, only to realize it wasn’t Glide I’d just applied, it was deodorant! I was extra fresh for the race. :) You’re welcome, fellow runners.

The "extra fresh" me at the REVEL Canyon City Marathon

The “extra fresh” me at the REVEL Canyon City Marathon

It’s been four days since the race and I feel pretty good. I haven’t been sleeping well though. I thought I’d sleep like a log after the race on Saturday, but I tossed and turned all night. I read somewhere that not sleeping well is a sign of over-training, and I’m sure for me it was a sign of over-exertion at the race.

I forgot to mention that my ankle (that pesky taper injury) didn’t bother me at all during the race. Darn — I can’t blame my lack of PR on that. I feel really lucky though. No lasting problems from the race. I left alone the big blister I got on the bottom of my foot from the downhill running, and it toughened right up after a hot bath. No need to drain it or remove the skin.

Did you ever get marathon brain? What do you do for blisters?

I have mixed feelings when it comes to my recap and review of the 2015 REVEL Canyon City Marathon, so I’m going to break it down by the race elements.

Race Expo

I love a relatively small marathon (1,199 finishers) and a small marathon expo is just fine with me. I want to be in and out and not on my feet for a long time. This expo was held at a company warehouse in Azusa with ample parking. I had no trouble picking up my bib, gear bag, and t-shirt. This race offers a lot of runner-friendly features, one of them being a t-shirt exchange at the expo — if the size you ordered doesn’t fit you can trade yours for another size, or you can pay to upgrade to a long-sleeved shirt or tank top!

Flattering gray and blue shirt shown with my marathon finisher's medal

Flattering gray and blue shirt shown with my marathon finisher’s medal

It was nice to be able to check that my timing bib was working and that my name, age and gender information were correct in the database.

The timing mat at the expo confirmed that my bib timing chip was working and my information was correct in the database.

The timing mat at the expo confirmed that my bib timing chip was working and my information was correct in the database.

Race Day Parking and Buses

The race did a good job communicating the with runners about the location of the parking lots and bus pickups for this point-to-point course. Unfortunately, while the parking map said we could just plug “701 E. Foothill Blvd” in Azusa into our navigation system to get to the full marathon parking, when I did that on my iPhone it directed me to a dead end in a new subdivision of homes! And I know I wasn’t the only one, because there were at least four cars driving around that subdivision at 4:30 a.m. and a lot of runners panicking about making it to the buses before the last one left at 5:00 a.m.! I plugged the address into my car navigation system and that took me to a road that was blocked off for the finisher’s chute! I drove around in a big circle and in a stroke of luck eventually made it to the right entrance. The irony of the whole thing is that I’d written down directions on paper before I left and I had them in the car with me, but I couldn’t see them in the dark and just blindly relied on the iPhone. Never again! I boarded the bus at 5 a.m. (there were still several other buses so I know people were able to board after that time) for the 1-hour bus ride up to the race start in the San Gabriel Mountains. Tip: Make sure to board a bus with a bathroom! It’s a long ride to the start and the race nerves can get the best of you. Plus, it’s nice to use the warm facilities on the bus before you step out into the cold at the top of the mountain.

The Marathon Starting Line

It wasn’t as cold at the top as I’d expected, maybe 45 degrees? The race goodie bag included gloves and a mylar blanket. I brought hand warmers (a brilliant suggestion by Hungry Runner Girl) and those kept me toasty and happy.

It looks colder than it was. Plenty of people were shivering but I think that was more out of nerves than cold. A hat, sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves and hand warmers kept me plenty warm before the race.

It looks colder than it was. Plenty of people were shivering but I think that was more out of nerves than cold. A hat, sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves and hand warmers kept me plenty warm before the race.

As you can see it was a gorgeous day for a race. There were plenty of porta-potties and I never waited in line more than five minutes, even as it got close to the race start. I ditched my sweatclothes in my gear bag and had that in the truck by 6:45 for the 7 a.m. start. At the very last minute I tossed my hat and mylar blanket but kept my gloves and hand warmers (tossing those at mile 3). It was so warm I decided not to wear my arm warmers and just went with shorts and a t-shirt.

The course starts at the Crystal Lake Cafe at the top of the 39 in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. It’s just a spectacular location for a race.

Out of respect for those in the campground next door to the start (I assume) there was no music at the start and not even a bullhorn for announcements, a national anthem, or starting horn. We started at exactly 7:00 a.m. with a countdown by the race director and the crowd.

The First Half (Average Pace 7:25)

I love running downhill and the speed that comes with it, and the first half of the marathon course is a downhill lover’s delight with over 4,000 feet in elevation drop. While I practiced on the course in training (see my 20-miler REVEL Canyon City course preview for more photos of the course), in retrospect I should have practiced the downhill running at race pace. As it turns out, running those 20 miles at a 9:00 easy pace did not prepare me at all for running the first 13.1 miles at a 7:25 pace! While people warn you that downhill running will trash your quads, I didn’t find that to be true at all. What hurt were my calves! Perhaps my form changed as I ran faster, or perhaps I just wasn’t well-trained enough to hit that pace during the race. I took a calculated gamble on letting my legs fly on the downhill, and I paid for it. Every race is a learning opportunity and now I know what I would do differently for a downhill race: in addition to doing wall sits to strengthen my quads, I would do lots of calf raises, and I would log several downhill miles at race pace. This course could offer a huge PR if you train properly for it.

I wasn’t the only one who got chewed up on the first half and spit out on the second. I bet if you looked at the race results you’d see a lot of positive splits by a huge margin. Many people were walking up the hills around miles 14-16 and 19 and even on the slight downhill in the last 5K of the race.

I should mention here that every single runner in the full marathon cut the course. You’re supposed to stay to the left of the cones (the right lane was open to occasional traffic guided by police cars), but I did not see a single runner adhere to that. I tried but gave up.

Miles 13.1 to 23.1 (Average Pace 9:10 for those 10 miles)

The aid stations in general were well-stocked and manned by enthusiastic volunteers, which is especially important on this course since spectators are not allowed on course until about mile 23. However, the aid station at the half marathon point (which you’d expect to be very well supplied since it was the start for the half marathon race) was lacking. A few volunteers held out cups of water and one cup of sports drink. I reached for the sports drink just as a guy behind me was calling for sports drink. When I took that last available glass, the guy yelled, “F***ER!” That took some of the wind out of my sails for sure, but I shook it off as best I could. I’m hoping karma took care of that guy.

The course hits some rolling hills over the next six miles, nothing too troublesome as long as you run by effort and not by pace. As I said though, several people chose to walk those hills, including me at some points.

The 3:25 pacer passed me at mile 16.4. I wasn’t surprised and didn’t even try to keep up. I did hope to keep ahead of the 3:35 pacer.

Miles 23.1 to the Finish (Average Pace 9:43 for that last 5K)

The 3:35 pacer passed me around mile 23. It was very motivating to me to see him holding up that 3:35 flag and I hung on behind him for dear life. I wanted to come in under 3:36:58 — my PR from the Phoenix Marathon last February — and I thought if I could just keep him in my sights I would be okay. WRONG! The 3:35 pacer completely fell off the rails and started walking in the last 5K. He finished behind me, and I finished in 3:39:08. I sure could have used his help in those last difficult miles. The last mile or two of the course was different than last year’s and I’m sorry to say it wasn’t an improvement. I ran the 25th mile okay but the 26th felt uphill until the last two turns into the finisher’s chute.

Overall I’m happy with my time, especially given that I qualified for Boston 2017 with 15:52 to spare (I’ll be in the 45-49 age group for that race and the women’s standard is 3:55). I really had high hopes for this race though and I wish I had done a few things differently. It just wasn’t the joyous experience I’d had at the 2014 REVEL Canyon City Half last year, or on my 20-mile training run. I can finally admit to myself that if I want to run a BQ effort, it’s going to take a level of mental and physical output that takes everything I have, to the exclusion of a joyous race. Which leads me to the conclusion that I’m going to run Boston 2016 for fun and for the experience! Thank goodness I have that on the horizon. I can enjoy a month of recovery workouts on the bike and in the pool and on the roads, and then training for Boston begins in December.

The Verdict

Would I discourage someone from running the REVEL Canyon City Marathon? Absolutely not! It’s a gorgeous course and a well-run (no pun intended) event. But if you’re going to go for the full, take my advice and strengthen your calves and quads. Practice downhill running like I did, but take it a step further and practice downhill running at race pace. And then go out and get that PR!

Would I encourage someone to run the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon? Absolutely. It remains my favorite race ever to date. All the fun of the downhill and the views without the punishing of the extreme elevation loss.

I ran the REVEL Canyon City Marathon this morning and while I didn’t PR in the full, I clocked a PR in the half if you count my chip time at the 13.1 mark (which I don’t, but for the record it was 1:37:19 compared to my actual half marathon PR at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon last year — 1:41:58). I took a gamble on letting my legs fly on the 4,000 feet of elevation loss in the first half, and it didn’t pay off. On my 20-mile training run on the course I didn’t get sore muscles when I ran at a 9:00 pace, but when I ran the first half of the race at a 7:25 I could feel it in my calves. My quads were fine, but my calves started feeling sore by the half marathon point and got more and more sore as the race progressed. I also developed a quarter-sized blister on the ball of my left foot. That’s never happened to me before in these shoes and socks, so I was surprised, but in retrospect I think the downhill running contributed to that and I wish I’d used some Glide on the bottom of my feet.

By the next checkpoint at mile 23.1 my time was 3:09:00, still on track to beat my PR of 3:36:58 from the Phoenix Marathon if I kept up the 9:10 pace I had run for those previous 10 miles. But my pace dropped to 9:43 for the last 5K of the race and I finished in 3:39:08. The good news? That is a Boston Qualifying time for me for Boston 2017 by 15 minutes and 52 seconds! While I am 44 years old today, I will be 45 for Boston 2017 and that puts my qualifying time standard at 3:55. So I’m thrilled overall!

By the numbers:

Chip time: 3:39:08
Pace: 8:21
Overall place: 293rd of 1199 finishers (top 25%)
Overall female: 85th of 536 finishers (16%)
Females 40-44 age group: 12th of 109 (11%)

I’ll be back later with a more comprehensive race recap. Right now I’m busy icing my calves and contemplating pizza for dinner!

It’s the last week of taper here and I got in a nice four mile run on Monday morning — two easy and two at marathon pace. And it was a good thing I wore my new Garmin 220 to pace myself because I realized that when I originally set the data screens, I chose “average pace” (average pace for the entire four miles) instead of “average lap pace” (average pace for the mile you are currently running). For marathons I like to keep an eye on my average lap pace, and that will be particularly important for this downhill marathon, REVEL Canyon City, because I expect the pace to be faster in the first half than the second. In fact I used the pace band feature at FindMyMarathon.com to create a free pace band that is specific to the REVEL Canyon City course. Other marathons I’ve generally tried to run an even pace, but that doesn’t make sense for this course. It’s nice to see what the predicted adjustments to pace are for the hills — both up and down — for this specific marathon.

Yesterday I did an easy three-miler that nearly undid six months of marathon training when I got distracted and rolled my ankle on this sucker:

Marathon killer: the magnolia seed pod of doom, next to my Brooks Adrenaline for size comparison

Marathon killer: the magnolia seed pod of doom, next to my Brooks Adrenaline for size comparison

In the instant my left foot rolled on the pod, pain shot up my left ankle and the marathon flashed before my eyes. My run came to a screeching halt. I quickly took a tentative step and tried to walk off the injury. By some miracle it felt a million times better after a minute of walking and I was able to finish the run. Throughout the rest of the day it stiffened up and became sore, but I iced it before bed and this morning it’s almost back to normal. Every taper has its aches and pains and this one is no exception. Now I just need to do one more easy three miler (including three strides and not including magnolia seed pods of doom) on Thursday and I’ll be ready for the race on Saturday.

While I ran on Monday I listened to an inspiring Runners Connect podcast interview with Olympic medalist Deena Kastor. Usually before a marathon I watch the movie Spirit of the Marathon again to see Deena race at the Chicago Marathon, but this time it was nice to listen to her advice for getting ready for a big race. She suggested that a runner list five reasons why the upcoming race should be successful. That helps calm your nerves and gives you things to draw upon during the race if and when your confidence falters.

So, here are five reasons my sixth marathon could/should/will go well:

1. With my switch to a traditional training plan that had me running five days a week, I managed to hit my highest mileage week ever (40.5 miles) and highest mileage month ever (156.3 miles in October). Not exactly numbers to write home about but pretty darn good for a 44-year-old mother of three.

2. I had that successful and joyful practice 20-miler on the course in the San Gabriel mountains.

3. I looked back over my training log (I keep one on my paper training plan and one on MapMyRun) and reminded myself that I kept consistent with the training. I didn’t miss a single run. Several times when the plan called for cross-training or rest, I rested, but I did every prescribed run. One 16-miler I cut short at 10.6 miles because I felt dehydrated and under-fueled and it was more important to set my ego aside and call it a day than continue and risk injury just to hit that 16 mile number. Sure enough I went on to have several confidence-boosting long runs after learning from my mistakes on that one “bad” run.

4. I made sure to keep up with the strength training at least twice a week. If you asked me the one thing I would recommend to other runners to improve their marathon performance, it would be to add strength training if it’s not already a part of their regimen. As little as 20 minutes twice a week can pay off tremendously in better running form and ability to hold pace in the final miles of a race when your primary running muscles are tired.

5. I nailed down my carbohydrate loading plan and race day plan. It’s not easy to consume over 600 grams of carbohydrates a day but I’m doing my best. I didn’t mind the whole wheat pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast this morning!

So, if you want to see if my ankle cooperates for the race, if my training plays off, if the carbo-loading prevents me from hitting the wall, you can track me on race day (Saturday November 7 starting at 7 a.m. PST) through my participant tracking link. The tracking registers my time at the half marathon point, 5K to go (mile 23.1), and the finish. I expect the first half to be significantly faster than the second given the 4,000+ foot elevation drop in the first half, so don’t be surprised if it takes me a while to pop back up at the 23.1 mark. Cross your fingers for a sub-3:55 (BQ) and better yet a sub-3:36:58 (PR)!

Twelve more days until the REVEL Canyon City Marathon! I’m in the thick of taper — or more accurately, the thin of taper as the training miles thin out and my muscles recover to get ready for race day. I used to hate taper and the nervous energy that comes with it, but I’ve learned a few tricks to harness that nervous energy and put it to productive use.

10 Productive Things to Do during Taper

1. Review the race course. Check out the course map online and look at the elevation profile.

With a net elevation loss of over 5,000 feet, here's hoping runners of the REVEL Canyon City Marathon did some downhill training in preparation for race day!

With a net elevation loss of over 5,000 feet, here’s hoping runners of the REVEL Canyon City Marathon did some downhill training in preparation for race day!

If it’s a smaller race or you’re hoping to be in the front of the pack (not me) make sure you know the turns. I’m lucky with the REVEL Canyon City Marathon because the directions are like, “Yo, run 23 miles down the mountain on route 39 and continue on Azusa Avenue.” It’s nearly impossible to get lost with just a few turns in the last two miles of the course.

2. Review your fueling strategy. Um, I confess I kind of failed on practicing my fueling strategy during training. I did try out a new fuel I’m very happy with — Honey Stinger Waffles. But after I signed up for REVEL Canyon City many months ago, I forgot all about checking the on-course fuel and I trained with Gatorade as my sports drink for the past six months. I just checked the course electrolyte drink and it’s not Gatorade — it’s PowerBar Perform. Oops. I’ve got just one more long run to test my tummy when I fuel with that. Fingers crossed.

3. Try out any new race gear, even if it’s the same brand/model you always use. I trained over the past few months with two pairs of Brooks Adrenaline 14s. They each have about 250 miles on them (which I know thanks to the Gear Tracker on MapMyRun.com) so I ordered up a new pair of Adrenalines for the race. I will put about 30-40 miles on them before race day just to make sure they fit the same and there are no flaws in the shoes (I’ve always been happy with Brooks but I have heard horror stories of people ordering the same brand and model of shoes they’ve always worn and finding problems with them). Plus I like to change out the laces with Lock Laces (see the link below to Marathon Tip #1: Fasten Your Shoes with Lock Laces) and test them out ahead of time to make sure the fit is right.

4. Decide if, when and how to carbo-load. The literature is unclear on whether carbo-loading really helps (especially for women) but in my personal experience I find it helps and certainly doesn’t hurt. In the three days before the marathon, I increase carbs to about 70% of my daily diet. That translates to 10 to 11 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight. I like to lay out a general plan of how to reach that total amount of carbohydrates because it’s harder than you think. Of course, every time I taper remind myself to write down that plan to save for next time, and every time I completely forget about it in the excitement leading up to and after race day. Maybe this time I’ll actually type my plan on the computer and keep it for Boston 2016!

5. Go over your travel and race day logistics. I did this yesterday and it eased my mind a lot. I wrote out directions to drive to the expo to pick up my bib and directions to the parking on race day. I gulped a little when I saw that I need to be at the marathon parking between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to catch a bus for the one-hour ride up the mountain. That’s going to mean getting up around 3:45 a.m., getting to the parking at 4:30 or so, arriving at the start at Crystal Lake Cafe around 5:30 a.m., and being prepared to wait in the cold for an hour and half before the race starts at 7 a.m. Thankfully the race organizers provide coffee, hot chocolate, gloves, and mylar blankets at the start. I’m actually really excited to be racing in cool weather after months and months of training in the heat. I mean, come on, Southern California, 90 degrees for the high today on October 26? Have mercy on us!

6. Keep your family and friends involved. If the race offers real-time tracking, send out the link to track you on race day. Pick a place to meet your fellow runner friends at the start of the race and your loved ones at the finish. If you will not have support at the race (ugh, Santa Rosa Marathon — great race but I missed having someone there!), make sure you have a solid plan for recovering and getting back to your hotel or home safely.

7. Trim your nails a few days before the race but don’t go crazy with it! And leave those hard-earned calluses intact. You don’t want to end up with black toenails after the race, but you also don’t want to have sore toes or feet before the race.

8. Gather your gear and put together a checklist for race day. This post should probably be titled 11 Productive Things to Do during Taper because in order to gather your gear, you also need to check the weather for race day. I’m going with a short-sleeved technical tee and Saucony Bullet shorts. I’ll take a hat, sweatshirt and sweatpants with me to wear until it’s time to turn in my gear bag.

9. Write down your race goals. And notice how I said “goals” and not “goal.” I already laid out my race goals for REVEL Canyon City.

10. Visualize the race to boost your confidence and calm your nerves. I’m willing to bet that at some point all marathoners have that nightmare where they oversleep on race day or can’t find the starting line and they end up running around frantically, wasting energy they should be saving for the race itself. To try to head off that kind of bad dream, I practice visualizing myself at the starting line. I’ve successfully completed my training and arrived at the race healthy (that’s half the challenge right there!) I’ve got all my gear and my Garmin is fully charged and working. I start out at a steady pace — not too fast — and slowly work up to race pace. I execute my running and fueling strategies and cross the finish line with a smile on my face!

For more advice on what to do (and not do) during taper, see 10 Tips for Taper. And for more marathon training and racing tips, see:

Marathon Tip #1: Train for the Course and Race Conditions
Marathon Tip #2: Fasten Your Shoes with Lock Laces

What’s your best advice for gearing up for race day? Do you have a race coming up on your calendar?

My family stays active through a wide variety of activities. Take Mondays for example. My marathon training plan usually calls for an easy 3-4 mile run that day. My husband and oldest daughter practice tennis together for a couple of hours in the evening. My middle daughter attends ballet class, and my youngest goes to her pre-competitive swimming lesson. I love it! But you know what I don’t love? The laundry that goes with it all. With five sets of regular clothes and five sets of workout outfits and towels, I do an average of two loads of laundry a day (much of which is technical gear that has to be hung to dry!) Often my family members end up pulling clean clothes from the laundry bins before we even get a chance to sort them and put them away. And can you guess what the number one most sought after item is? A matched pair of workout socks. I am constantly in competition with my husband and eldest daughter for those darn socks. I have tried everything – buying multiple pairs of plain white socks, buying each person a unique brand and color of socks, it doesn’t matter. Those socks are in such high demand that every matched pair is fair game.

In an attempt to defeat the sock pilferers, I ordered up a pair of performance socks that would be mine, all mine, not only due to the pink and white color (defeating the teen who claims to hate pink) but also due to the awesome female empowerment message on them (take that dear husband)!

She Believed She Could Socks

So She Did Socks

I hid the socks away until I could try them out on a short run. The first thing I noticed is that they are super soft and feel great on my feet. They come in one-size-fits-all which suits my rather large feet well (size 9.5 regular shoe, 11 running shoe). I also like that the ankle height is higher than the average running sock which means that they don’t get pulled below the tongue of the shoe in front or rub on the heel in back.

The one thing to be careful with these socks is that the weave is looser than normal, which I discovered when I snagged my ring on it as I took them off after my run. But they’ve held up well after two more washings and dryings, and — did you see this one coming? — two more wears by my teenager! Yup, she stole these socks too and she likes them! (My husband has yet to steal them but I wouldn’t put it past him. He has gorgeous long hair and is often mistaken for a woman when waiters come up behind him at restaurants. And can you guess who he’s going as for Halloween? Caitlyn Jenner.)

I finally managed to steal the socks back again from the clean laundry and I wore them on the perfect occasion — my ballerina’s “parent participation night” at the ballet studio. Now, parent participation night was fun and easy when my daughter was in Ballet 2 and we did all the most basic moves. But this time she is in Ballet 4 and I got a real taste of the athleticism of these girls! With all the running I do I’ve got some pretty tight muscles and it was quite a challenge to do the barre work and the floor moves. As I lined up with the two other brave mothers to do a series of leaps across the room, I flashed them my socks. Remember ladies, “She believed she could, so she did!”

So if you’ve got a female best running friend or an athlete in the family, these socks would make a thoughtful gift before a big race or a great stocking stuffer at Christmas. Or treat yourself to a pair as a motivation or a reward, just beware the sock pilferers in your own home!

Hooray for Made in the USA

Hooray for Made in the USA

These Socrates performance socks retail for $8.99 at GoneForaRun.com. I received a free pair of socks for review purposes but was not compensated for my honest review.

Three more weeks to go until the REVEL Canyon City Marathon on Saturday, November 7! Training for my sixth full marathon has gone relatively well. I took a chance on a new training plan (the “Own It” marathon training plan from Train Like a Mother) and while I think it’s gotten me ready to tackle the distance, I discovered that my body really, no-I-mean-it-I’m-not-kidding, does not like to run five days a week and really, yes-I’m-sure, prefers to run three days per week and ride a bike for an hour or two on the other days. My legs simply felt tired throughout the training and there have been several days where the plan called for a tempo run of eight miles and I just couldn’t do it. I could run eight miles, but not at a 7:45 pace. With that feeling and the onset of shin splints, I’m pretty sure I became the textbook case for overtraining. But that’s a lot of what I love about marathon training — each round teaches you something new about yourself, and amazingly, there is always something new to learn. Now I know what this 44-year-old body can handle and I will make a different choice next time (training for Boston starts four weeks after Canyon City!)

In spite of the overtraining, I had a fantastic 20-miler last weekend. My family and I drove up to Crystal Lake Recreation Area in the San Gabriel Mountains and stayed Friday night in a cabin there so I could preview the REVEL Canyon City Marathon course early the next day.

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Valley

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Valley

As I started out on my run at 7 a.m. and I took in the spectacular views, I got the same feeling that I get every time on race day: I am so lucky to be here.

The stately yucca stalk stands out like a sculpture in the early morning sky.

The stately yucca stalk stands out like a sculpture against the early morning sky.

I love the downhill profile of the marathon course. The top half of the course declines even more rapidly than the bottom half (see my REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon recap from last year), losing 4,200 feet over 13.1 miles. Instead of feeling like it pounded my quads though, I felt like I was cruising down the mountain. (Don’t get me wrong, I was plenty sore over the next few days, but my legs felt great throughout the 20 miles and I hardly felt winded by the end).

Much of the run down the canyon remains in the shade even as the sun comes up.

Much of the run down the canyon remains in the shade even as the sun comes up.

The course hits a couple of rolling hills around miles 16 and 19 and those were tough but presented a welcome change in the muscles I was using. I switched from focusing on maintaining a steady pace to maintaining a steady effort and just kept trucking up the hills, knowing that the downhill payoff would come again soon.

The welcome sight of water in the San Gabriel Reservoir, although you can see how the waterline has dropped significantly due to the drought.

The welcome sight of water in the San Gabriel Reservoir, although you can see how the waterline has dropped significantly due to the drought.

I completed the 20 miles in 3 hours exactly and I felt fantastic. It had just been such a joy to run down that beautiful canyon. And look who greeted me at the end:

The best sight ever -- my three girls running towards me at the very end of my 20-mile run.

The best sight ever — my three girls running towards me at the very end of my 20-mile run.

My husband and girls had driven down the mountain just in time to pick me up at the 20-mile mark.

We stayed another night at the cabin and soaked up more of the amazing sights. The next day we took a short hike out to Crystal Lake.

Crystal Lake, one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Southern California. It is fed by snow and water runoff.

Crystal Lake, one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Southern California. It is fed by snow and water runoff.

While my legs felt great Saturday afternoon after the run and on the hike on Sunday, by Monday morning I was experiencing a major case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The DOMS either means it was a bad idea to run 20 miles downhill in training or it was the perfect way to build up those muscles with four weeks to go until the marathon. I guess we’ll see on race day! I’m feeling really good now with three weeks to go. Tomorrow I’ll run 17 miles and then taper will officially begin.

Downhill running: love it or hate it? Love it! Bring it on, Canyon City! And heck yeah, bring it on, Boston!

P.S. For any of you out there running REVEL Canyon City, the Glendora Ridge Runners are doing a preview run on the course tomorrow, Saturday October 17. They have said that all are welcome, not just club members, so check out the Glendora Ridge Runners Facebook page for more details.


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