The Great De­scent

How to crush your goals (not your quads) at the Revel Canyon City Marathon

Canadian Running - - EXOTIC DESTINATION - By Jes­sica Al­dred

As the bus to the start line lurches up­ward through the morn­ing black­ness to one of the high­est points in Los An­ge­les County’s San Gabriel Moun­tains, first-time run­ners of the revel Canyon City Marathon might won­der what they’ve signed them­selves up for. And when the bus dis­em­barks its – now slightly queasy – pas­sen­gers at a quaint moun­tain­top camp­site called (pag­ing Ja­son Voorhees) Crys­tal Lake Café, racers may fear they’ve been sec­onded for an ’80s slasher movie re­boot rather than a road race. But as the sun rises above the pic­turesque canyon and golden Cal­i­for­nia sun­shine fills its stun­ning rock for­ma­tions with al­most-mag­i­cal light, it also il­lu­mi­nates the wind­ing rib­bon of High­way 39, which will drop run­ners through a 1,500 m-plus net el­e­va­tion loss on their jour­ney to the fin­ish line – and, all go­ing to plan, se­cure them a per­sonal best.

With its huge net down­hill, stun­ning moun­tain­side scenery and small-to-medium-sized field of roughly 1,000 run­ners, the revel Canyon City Marathon is an undis­cov­ered gem for first-timers and aspir­ing Bos­ton qual­i­fiers alike. Held just out­side of Los An­ge­les in Novem­ber each year, the race boasts star­tlingly low regis­tra­tion fees and count­less perks com­pared to other ma­jor Amer­i­can races, along with rel­a­tively easy travel lo­gis­tics from most ma­jor Cana­dian cities. For con­text: for a regis­tra­tion fee that’s a third of New York City’s and half of Chicago’s, you’ll be handed a race kit that, in ad­di­tion to the usual race T-shirt, tat­toos and sam­ples, in­cludes a snazzy tech­ni­cal run­ning toque as well as gloves and a blan­ket for the chilly start line; you’ll be greeted at the fin­ish line with all the beer, pizza and Marie Cal­len­der pie you can han­dle; and a few days af­ter you’ve headed home to share your race sto­ries and newly-minted Franken­stein walk (or bet­ter yet, zipped back to L .A. to en­joy a well-earned post-race va­cay), race or­ga­niz­ers will email you your race pho­tos and video, which are in­cluded in the price of regis­tra­tion.

There is one small catch, how­ever: you def­i­nitely need to know what you’re do­ing when it comes to down­hill rac­ing. As the start­ing gun sounds and run­ners be­gin their de­scent down the moun­tain, many of them will be so giddy with the grav­ity as­sist that they’ll forego the usual early race con­ser­vatism and set new 10k and half­marathon PBs along the way. But grav­ity giveth, and grav­ity taketh away, and as the course be­gins to un­du­late in the sec­ond half, so do the paces of all in­volved. Some run­ners will hang on to run their best times, while oth­ers will (even­tu­ally) hob­bletrot their way to the fin­ish line in the town of Asuza, their quadri­ceps pun­ished be­yond the point of func­tion­al­ity, and their pride hang­ing on only for the sake of fin­ish line cow­bell, beer and pie.

In or­der to be­long to the for­mer group and not the lat­ter, racers will want to care­fully heed the “train­ing” page of the race web­site, which cau­tions against the two car­di­nal sins of down­hill run­ning form (brak­ing and over-strid­ing) and of­fers the nec­es­sary cor­rec­tives (a slight for­ward pitch to help “fall for­ward with grav­ity” and a short, high turnover run­ning stride, re­spec­tively). Run­ners train­ing for a down­hill marathon should also ide­ally in­te­grate down­hill re­peats or longer, pri­mar­ily down­hill runs ev­ery 10–14 days – the op­ti­mal fre­quency and in­ten­sity to build course-spe­cific strength with­out pos­ing a risk of overuse in­juries. Racers need to de­vise a unique race plan that ac­knowl­edges the course pro­file, bal­anc­ing the early ad­van­tage it pro­vides with the toll it can take on the legs. As Jon Krashinksy, a Guelph-based lawyer who qual­i­fied for Bos­ton at the 2016 edi­tion of Canyon City with an im­pres­sive per­sonal best time (3:10:45), points out, you have to find a kind of golden mean be­tween the two. “It’s invit­ing to just bomb it, but that’s not a good strat­egy for your splits, and I passed lots of hob­bling marathon­ers in the sec­ond half who were clearly re­gret­ting their breezy first,” Krashinsky re­counts. “How­ever, you also want to take ad­van­tage of it and, un­like other marathons, the ‘ bank­ing time’ strat­egy re­ally worked here for me.” How­ever, Krashinsky banked time cau­tiously over­all, tar­get­ing a pace only 10 sec­onds per kilo­me­tre faster than his over­all goal pace to ac­cu­mu­late a three-anda-half-minute sur­plus he could draw on in the sec­ond, hil­lier half of the race – a far cry from the 15–30 minute pos­i­tive splits posted by those who were less strate­gic in their pac­ing.

While all this ad­di­tional prepa­ra­tion needed for revel Canyon City may seem ex­ces­sive, your quads and your pride will thank you in the end. Be­cause you know what other race is pri­mar­ily down­hill? That’s right, the Bos­ton Marathon.

Get­ting there

Both Air Canada and WestJet of­fer di­rect f lights to Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port ( lax) from Cal­gary, Van­cou­ver and Toronto. Both air­lines also of­fer f lights with just one con­nec­tion from Ot­tawa, Mon­treal and Hal­i­fax.

Do-it-your­self, A-type run­ners who don’t mind driv­ing in L .A. traf­fic will want to opt for a rental car to make the 60k drive from lax to the Ar­ca­dia/Asuza area, where the bulk of race ho­tels and the race fin­ish line are lo­cated. (This op­tion also al­lows you to drive the course prior to the race, a scenic and in­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.) The most ad­ven­tur­ous and bud­get­con­scious can nav­i­gate L .A. County’s im­pres­sive pub­lic tran­sit sys­tem to the race site, sav­ing their hard-earned dol­lars for a re­turn visit to down­town L .A. when the race is over. Just make sure you al­low for two hours in tran­sit.

Stay there

For an op­ti­mal com­bi­na­tion of com­fort, con­ve­nience, af­ford­abil­ity and race-friendly f lex­i­bil­ity, the Hamp­ton Inn Los An­ge­les/Ar­ca­dia makes for an ideal revel Canyon City race ho­tel. Case in point: at our re­quest, the front desk laid out a 4 a.m., run­ner-friendly spread of con­ti­nen­tal break­fast and cof­fee in the lobby the morn­ing of the race, and kindly ac­com­mo­dated a late check out re­quest so that we could stay and watch all mem­bers of our party fin­ish the race. The lovely out­door pool also makes for an ideal pre- and post-race loung­ing spot.

Eat there

For pre-race carb load­ing, Carmine’s Ital­ian Restau­rant (311 East Live Oak Ave., Ar­ca­dia) of­fers hearty, tra­di­tional Ital­ian fare, an adorably kitschy in­te­rior with ec­cen­tric chan­de­liers ga­lore and, for those less con­cerned with their race times, end­less bot­tles of wicker-bas­ket-en­cased Chi­anti.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.