REVIEW: REVEL CANYON CITY HALF MARATHON
RACE: REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon
DATE: November 15, 2014
LOCATION: Azusa, CA
DISTANCES: Half Marathon/Full Marathon
START TIME: 7:00am
WEATHER AT START: 54° Partly Cloudy (Half Marathon)/ 38° Partly Cloudy (Full Marathon)
FINISHERS: 888 Half/ 625 Full
Time to REVEL and to run!
This was the inaugural running of the REVEL Canyon City Marathon/Half Marathon, the latest race in the new REVEL race series that also included REVEL Rockies (in July) and REVEL Big Cottonwood (in September).
Registration costs for the REVEL Canyon City race start at a pretty wallet-friendly $79.95 for the half marathon and $99.95 for the full marathon (costs are basically the same across all of the REVEL races). Costs do go up as race day approaches, but you can save some additional cash with on-line discounts (check out Raceshed.com), or by becoming part of a team or allowing REVEL to post a few notices to your FB page. And given what the race offers, you’re getting some real bang for your buck.
The expo for this year’s first running of the REVEL Canyon City race was held at the Double Tree hotel in Monrovia the day before the race. While the expo was only held on one day, the Friday before the race, the hours ran from 12:00pm- 8:00pm giving you time to hop over during lunch or after work. There wasn’t any race day bib/tech shirt pick-up (due to the time constraints and busing the morning of the race). However, friends and family were able to pick-up your stuff (provided they show a picture of your ID).
The expo itself was modestly-sized, but had some vendors on-hand for you to pick up any needed race-day supplies. I volunteered on expo day, handing out bibs/swag bags (and had a lot of fun), and even during the busiest times, participants were able to get their gear within a few minutes. Oh, and the volunteers each got a pretty cool zip up sweatshirt, which is much better than the standard volunteer cotton T-shirt.
REVEL clearly has listened to runners’ wants and needs and this shows in their generous swag. The tech shirts for the race were in keeping with the style of the other races in the REVEL series, featuring an orange and light grey color scheme, emblazoned with the Canyon City emblem. There were gender specific shirts (so men and ladies both get individual designs). In addition, no dealing with the short-sleeve/long-sleeve dilemma. Runners had a choice at registration between the short sleeve design, or for an extra $5 they could opt for long sleeves.
As for the medals, REVEL has done a great job with their bling. The race medal is an elegant brushed steel design (I’m a sucker for brushed steel) showing off the Canyon City emblem and also using negative space (cut out) to show the REVEL logo. The half marathon featured a blue ribbon (the half bib was also blue) while the full marathoners had an orange ribbon (same as their bib). It really was a great piece of bling.
Like Big Cottonwood and Rockies, REVEL Canyon City also has some extra swag. In the swag bag, each runner received a pair of throwaway gloves and a mylar blanket to keep them warm on race morning. With temps on the mountain being rather cool in the morning, that was a welcome bit of swag. Race pictures are free (hear that other races) to all participants and REVEL will post them to your FB page as well. Given the $25- $30 cost most races charge for a single digital photo, this is one great perk. In addition, about two months after the race finishes, racers can expect to receive a short video montage of the race featuring some of their race photos (that they choose) and finisher stats included.
Since the race begins way up in the San Gabriel Mountains of Angeles National Park, all racers must be bussed to the start line. Participants parked at the campus of Citrus College or near the finish line to catch a bus to take them up the mountain to the starting area. Parking was free and there were plenty of buses available for racers to make it up to the start line in time.
NOTE: Spectators were not able to travel up the mountain, given that there was no parking available. Instead, fans were encouraged to cheer on their friends/family in the town of Azusa or near the finish line.
COURSE (HALF MARATHON)
The course for all of the REVEL races are “Point-to-Point” and feature significant decreases in elevation. The Canyon City half marathon course drops 900 feet during its 13.1 mile route, while the marathon course decreases a solid 5000 feet during the course of the race. It’s the biggest decline of any full marathon race in North America that also is a BQ (Boston Qualifier).
If you’re looking for a PR or a time to qualify for the Boston Marathon, this is a great race to try. There are a few uphill sections on this race, but they aren’t very steep and not too long in duration. You’ll spend the vast majority of the race motoring downhill.
NOTE: Downhill races can impact your body (especially your quads) differently than flat courses. Here’s a link on downhill training.
I ran the half marathon course, which starts at the 13.1 mile mark of the marathon course (other reviews are available to discuss the full course, or you can click here to go to learn about the full course). The half marathon course starts 12 miles up on Highway 39 and makes its way down the mountains into the town of Azusa. If you’re looking for a nice “get back to nature” course, then you’ll like the Canyon City route. Just as the REVEL Rockies and Big Cottonwood races showed off the natural beauty of their surrounding, Canyon City gives you a glimpse at the Angeles National Park and some nice mountainous vistas. Now this doesn’t mean you’re completely out in the wild as the race does run by a few manmade dams, which are fairly impressive in their own right.
The downhill nature of the course allows you the chance to go at a faster pace than normal, so enjoy the slope. The course also does wind, so runners should be wary of running tangents (hugging the turns) to make sure they don’t add unnecessary distance to their race.
One other note is that runners are expected to stay on one side of the road as this is the only access to the top of the mountain. Police escorts brought a few cars/service vehicles up the course on occasion. It only happened a few times and runners had plenty of time to make certain they were on the proper side of the street.
Once runners reach the bottom of the canyon, they’ll empty out into the town of Azusa for the last two miles. The race itself ends near Azusa Pacific University amidst the cheers of the gathered locals.
Services on the course are pretty solid… and actually quite good given the fact that everything (supplies, volunteers, power) needed to be brought up the mountain by truck. I continue to be impressed by the “person to porta-potty ratio” at the start of the races, knowing that each one had to traverse a windy mountain road. The course had several water/energy drink stops along the way with a decent amount of volunteers handing out cups. Runners who drink a lot, however, might want to consider bringing a small water bottle with them to tide them over between water stops. Other stops had PowerGel, fruit and candy. There were also medical tents sprinkled along the course. Here’s a graphic showing all of the services:
As for mile markers, they were present on the course (one or two did fall over) but given that there was no power available in the wilderness, no digital clocks were present. Runner who wanted to keep track of their time should bring their iPhones or GPS devices. Runner tracking was also available for runners as well as their friends and family.
Just like with their runner’s swag, REVEL knows how to treat runners after a race. Sure there were plenty of standard snacks after the race… chips, drinks and such. But REVEL also likes to give runners some unexpected (even unorthodox) treats. Just as Big Cottonwood offered pizza and soda (of which I partook generously), Canyon City offered its own unique snacks. Chick-Fil-A offered runners chicken nuggets (I inhaled a few of them) and Marie Calendar’s presented pieces of pie to finishers (talk about some unique carbo loading).
One other cool bit of swag fairly unique to REVEL is right after the race, each runner can get a card printed out showing off their race stats (a nice little souvenir for the ride home).
NOTE: I am one of the REVEL Race Ambassadors and my registration fee for Canyon City was covered by REVEL.
Inaugural races usually have some kind of problem: running out of water, unexpected delays, course problems or some other snafu (which we all typically forgive). Happily, I didn’t find any significant shortcomings at all with REVEL Canyon City. The race officials clearly did their due diligence and put on a fun race.
Given that Canyon City is limited to a set number of runners (about 1000 for the half marathon and 700 for the full), it has the benefit of not being an overly-complicated affair like many of the larger races (much less stressful for runners). In addition, it also allows them the opportunity to provide perks not typically seen at larger races.
I had a real fun time running REVEL Canyon City. I plan for it to be an annual addition to my race schedule.