Three marathons, a half marathon, and a 10k in seven weeks is a great idea? Right? Why not? Enter the Revel Rockies Marathon to round that stretch out.
This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, though, this race has been on my radar all year. I wanted to run eight marathons this year and this was one of the ones I thought might fit into that plan. Plus, because Bitly has an office in Denver, I knew I could schedule a work-related trip to help ease the travel cost of the race.
However, while the race was on my radar, I didn’t officially sign up for it until two days before race day. I really wanted to be able to run the race, but I knew I needed to be smart and wait to see how Boston to Big Sur recovery went. Completely breaking my body isn’t worth it. Big Sur left me with some hamstring pain that I’ve been working on with my physical therapist. But I’m not surprised to have had some lingering issues after that race, it was a tough one!
My hamstring isn’t fully healed yet, but I was feeling like it was close enough to be able to run a downhill race. Even at altitude. My physical therapist was less than thrilled about this decision, though.
Revel Rockies is a Sunday race and I flew into Denver on Friday evening after work and got to my hotel around midnight. This gave me less than 36 hours until race start. I had heard from a few people, that when it comes to the altitude, you want to shoot for having less than 48 hours between arriving and racing or at least two weeks.
First up on Saturday morning was a 2.5-mile shakeout run along the Cherry Creek Trail. Breathing was…a bit difficult. Certainly not ideal. Once I was showered and ready to go, I walked over to the car rental place to pick up my car and head over to the race expo in Golden, CO. Things hadn’t gotten too crowded yet and it was a small expo so I was able to get in and out pretty quickly, but not before being spotted by Instagram follower omg.bananas.
Next up was a fun afternoon of gallivanting with fellow Disney runner Katherine. We grabbed lunch with her boyfriend and then went hiking up the Flatirons. We didn’t make it all the way up to the top because I was a little lightheaded from the altitude and didn’t want to push my legs too much, but it was still a really fun and pretty hike!
I got to bed some time around 8:45pm after laying out all of my stuff and doing a quick foam rolling sesh.
Did I mention it’s a 6am start? Yeah, an early one. It was a runDisney-style wake up at 2:45am. Oof. I quickly threw on my clothes and took my overnight oats with me for the drive over to the parking area and bus pickup in Morrison, CO.
The bus was another school bus affair—I’ve spent so much time on school buses to marathon starts this spring. It was a nice quiet ride in the dark, but seemed to go by much quicker than expected. Once we got to the start, the pre-race area was pretty small. We had some porta-potties and a small area to hang out. The marathon is only like 775 runners or something, so it’s, by a pretty good margin, the smallest I’ve ever run. For that many runners, the starting area didn’t need to be much bigger than it was. The air was cold, like 45º, maybe? And the sun wasn’t up when we got there. But one of the great amenities of this race is they give you gloves and a mylar blanket for the start so you can keep warm without bringing as much throwaway clothing yourself. Once the sun came up, things started to slowly warm up, though.
When 6am rolled around, they walked us down to the starting line which was a bit down the road. Then we were off. There was no fanfare or sound or anything. All of a sudden people started running. We were all confused and had no idea the race had actually started, but we started running because everyone else was.
The race starts at around 10,500ft, so that’s some altitude. I knew this would be a thing for me since I live at 0ft. Over the course of 26.2 miles, you drop like 4,700ft and finish at 5,800ft. A real quad-destroyer. However, the heavy downhill nature of the race means you’re getting more oxygen to pull into your lungs with each mile so that somewhat offsets the altitude a little.
Given the altitude, the brutal descent, it being my third marathon in seven weeks, and my stupid hammie, I wanted a nice slow pace. I set my eyes on 3:55 and started out with that pace group.
The first few miles were a lot of downhill running. I could already tell my quads were going to get wrecked. My paces with the group were a bit erratic, but not too bad. As we came up on the water stop at mile five, I needed to pee so I pulled off to the porta-potties. I was hoping to pull a nice 13–second Shalane-inspired stop. This did not happen. Instead, I had to wait for about two minutes or so just to get in. I think the whole stop took me about 2.5 minutes or so. I was not happy about that.
I didn’t plan to try to catch back up to the 3:55 pace group. It was too much ground to make up that early in the race. I just kept my own steady pace. Typically, I pace myself pretty well in the marathon so it wasn’t like I needed them. I also like running by myself instead of in a group so no worries there either. I figured I just didn’t want to catch back up to them before the halfway point.
The next few miles were pretty uneventful, I just enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery around me and stayed relaxed. I could have used more oxygen in my life, but I wasn’t running fast enough for it to be a huge issue. I think if I were going for a PR or running a 5k or 10k, it’d’ve be a different story. The downhill running was fine, but the cambered roads suuuuucked. It was considerably less camber than Big Sur, but it was still enough to be uncomfortable.
Around mile ten, I started to be able to make out the pace group way up ahead of me. With them coming into view, I wanted to slow down just a little. Honestly, I really wanted to go for my 9th negative split of my last ten marathons so I had no issue with trying to slow myself a little in the first half of the race.
When we got down around mile 12ish, the road started to flatten out a bit. Now we actually had some rolling hills to climb. I DIDN’T KNOW I’D BE CLIMBING HILLS! The elevation chart really squashed them down because of the scale so this was a bit of a surprise. The section from 12 to 16 was a lot of rolling. None of the hills were huge or anything like that, but I decided to walk large parts of them. With my hamstring, I didn’t want to risk pushing anything.
At the halfway point, we could see where the start of the half marathon was set up and, to be real, that shit looked like a sucky start. The half immediately turns a corner right into those hills. Not the ideal way to start a race.
Around mile 15, I had a little nausea so I walked it out for an extra minute and, luckily, it went away. I had still been keeping myself back a bit from the pace group, but I was coming up on them now. Once I started running again after that nausea break, I was feeling pretty good. We were going downhill again and I, stupidly, let my legs fly. I figured since I was coming up on the 16th milemarker, I was far enough into the race where I could just go with whatever. I flew by the pace group. I was going to snag that damn negative split, dammit!
Then the road flattened out a bit again and I realized my mistake. My legs started feeling like 💩crap💩. My lungs weren’t feeling amazing either. Between mile 18 and 19 somewhere, I started to take short walk breaks. The next few miles were all run/walk. A few runners around me were doing the same thing so we kept passing each other back and forth.
I wasn’t thrilled about these walk breaks, but sometimes racing smart and “digging deep” to push yourself means pushing yourself to make the smarter decision to value not getting injured over your time. For me, my hamstring was more important than that negative split or any time on the clock. The race wouldn’t have been worth it for me if it kept me from running for half the summer. Once I let the negative split go, it was easier to let myself go with the run/walk.
Just past the 20th milemarker, the pace group caught up to me. They had severely thinned out by now. It was only the two pacers and maybe four or five women running with them. I started running again to stick with them, but only made it like a mile before taking another walk break.
I really just wasn’t feeling it on any level. My quads were killing me. My hamstring didn’t feel great, but at least it wasn’t being taxed. I also didn’t have much energy—and it wasn’t because of improper fueling, it was because of the altitude.
At mile 23, I decided I wanted to at least run the last 5k of the race. As I approached the 24th marker, I did some quick math and realized I could still negative split. I’d have to push a little, but I could do it. Maybe. I passed the pace group again. At mile 25, I updated my math and realized I wasn’t going to be able to pull it off. I’d be like a minute too slow and I was not going to have enough left to really push it. I said fuck it and took a short walk.
With one mile to go, I figured I’d just run to the finish. The whole race has a lot of turns, but this last big was extra windy and downhill. I, again, passed the pace group.
When we passed the 26th mile marker, I was damn ready to finish. Coming down the hill before the mile marker, I could see a little bit of the finish line. I thought all I had to do was make the turn after the half marathon’s 13th mile marker and the finish would be there.
No finish line.
We had a very small hill instead. Then we turned again.
No finish line.
Then we turned one more time.
A finish line!
Sheesh. That was much more than .2 miles from the last mile marker! NOT COOL!
Seriously, don’t fuck with a marathoner like that. Your 26th mile marker HAS to be in the right place.
I finished and then found out my timing chip was fucked up and I didn’t have an official result. Danielle texted me that she hadn’t gotten any tracking for me since mile 6.6. She had actually gotten worried that something happened. Luckily, I was able to get my result all sorted out, but it was dumb.
I didn’t hang out too long after getting my checked bag and grabbing some French toast. Yes, they had finisher French toast. And Papa Johns pizza…which I did not want.
Walking back to the shuttle for the parking lot, I finally saw friend Chelsea. We had been hoping to meet in person during the weekend and it was nice for that to actually happen. I also enjoyed chatting with her for a little bit on the way back to our cars.
Overall, Revel Rockies was a fun race with beautiful scenery. It’s a small race without any real crowd support, but it’s friendly and even with only 775ish runners, I was never running completely alone. There are some nice amenities, as well. You get a tech shirt, hat, free photos, gloves and blanket for the start, and a very generous window for being able to actually get a refund too. The elevation is no joke, though. The thin air isn’t killer and you’re gaining more oxygen as the race goes on, but that descent is brutal juice on the quads and calves. Sheesh. It really wrecked my legs. I ended up with a solid four days of soreness.