Mt. Charleston Race Recap

I love the quote, “If Plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters.”


Mt. Charleston, part of the Revel Race Series, was Plan B.

Before going to Boston my husband and I had a long talk, I was deep in taper trauma and having one of those “what-if” meltdowns: what if it’s too hot, what if I get sick, what if I don’t sleep, what if it’s an off day.  The what if’s were mingled with tears.  And my final probing what if was,  if it doesn’t happen in Boston then what about trying Mt. Charleston and my sweet, supportive husband said, “okay.”

I knew going into Boston that because of the difficulty of the course, the fickleness of New England weather in the spring, and the toll of travel that getting a sub 3  would be challenging.   But I also knew that the oldest and greatest marathon deserved my very best, so that’s what I gave it.  Still, I came up short.  46 seconds short (I would have been happy with a 2:59:59).  But it wasn’t the heartbreaker I thought it would be because I didn’t see it as missing my goal, if anything it gave me the confidence boost that a sub 3 was possible.

To be honest, when I emailed my coach after Boston, he wasn’t thrilled with my choice to turn around and race another marathon.  He felt like it would be smarter to take some time off, that I hadn’t really trained for a lot of downhill, and even warned me against the injury risk that increases exponentially without properly resting my body.  But when I explained that my heart was in it, he came up with a recovery/maintenance plan for the 18 days in between the two races.

Before I knew it, race weekend was here…again.  We drove down to Las Vegas on Friday, checked into our hotel, and breezed through packet pickup.  I couldn’t find anyone to talk to who had run the entire course, so we decided to drive it, and I’m so glad we did. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the course wasn’t as steep as I had expected, that being said, every time I drive 26.2 miles, I really am struck by the enormity of the challenge, it’s a long, long way.


My alarm went off at 3:30 am and I got ready with plenty of time to meet my friends in the lobby at 4:15.  Meeting up with my friends turns the nerves into excitement, I am so thankful for the support, laughs, well wishes, and knowing nods of runner friends.  We loaded onto charter buses which was a really nice touch and headed up the course.  We only had about 40 minutes at the start, so we quickly got in the porta-potty lines, stripped down, took a quick picture, and did a warm-up.  The mountains were breathtaking, the clouds sat low and the gentlest of snow began to fall.  I wasn’t calm necessarily, but I felt relaxed, more relaxed than I’ve ever been at the start of a marathon.  I thought of the quote by Des Linden, “Fast running isn’t forced.  You have to relax and let the run come out of you.”  I had time for a quick prayer, 3 deep breaths, and the gun went off.

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I was so happy be running with my friend Aubree, she and I were able to run together until about mile 12 , it’s always such a comfort to not be running alone.  From the beginning I felt a laser like focus on the task ahead of me.  I was thinking things like relax, run, drop your arms, fuel, and hydrate.  Even though we started with snow flurries, I knew that the elevation and the dry climate could increase my chances of dehydration.  I came to a full stop at almost every water stop (about every 2 miles) and drank 1 cup of water.  I know it costs time, but failing to hydrate early on will cost the race (I have learned that lesson the hard way).  I ran without music until mile 6 and the moment my music goes in, I really get into the groove of running, the run just starts to click.  But it’s not all perfect.  There are two things that have really helped my to gauge and redirect the challenges that will arise over the course of 26 miles.  First, is the simple mantra where I repeat, “This will not ruin my race.”  It puts me in the mind frame of problem solving or overcoming the present obstacle, like an unplanned pit stop at mile 9.  It cost me time, but it was not going to ruin my race.  Second, after reading the amazing Tina Muir’s blog, I learned to identify what she calls “panics” in my race.  This time there were 3: a calf cramp, a stomach upset after took Aleve (due to the calf cramp), and miles 22-24.  Since I recognized these as panics, I didn’t let them turn to blow-ups.  I slowed down, I took deep breaths, I assessed, and then I carried on.

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I had been running as third female, but seeing my little family and especially hearing my daughter cheering her heart out gave me the boost I needed to fight for second around mile 21. When I passed the third female, we shared a little moment.  I told her she was doing great and I was going to try to push for the next two miles.  She was so encouraging and positive.  I love that kind of supportive competition between runners.

Miles 22-24 were tough.  I was deep in the pain cave and trying to focus my mind on my tempo runs. I was thinking of this part of the race as just another set of 2 mile repeats.  I kept repeating in my mind the 6:40 pace that I was hoping for.  When I hit mile 23, I felt some relief.  I kept telling myself that even if I ran a 10 minute mile, I will come under 3 hours.  By mile 25, I knew it was done, I felt my intensity lessen, and I was filled with gratitude and joy.  Each step brought me closer to my goal, the finish line, and two people I love the most.  When I crossed the finish line I saw Amber, my training partner and the First Female with a PR of 2:35, and more than anyone she understands the sacrifices and the work it took to get there. We hugged, I cried, and then I saw Joe and Megan and my whole heart was bursting with happiness.  It was a moment I’ll never forget.

I was pretty happy...can you tell?

10th place overall and second female with a time of 2:55:16.  I was pretty happy…can you tell?

There were a lot of moments when I questioned the merit of this dream, it certainly takes a toll on my life, but I held onto the hope that it was possible.

I can’t help but think of the beautiful words by Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.”

Whatever dreams are perched in your soul, continue to chase them, keep fighting for them, and never ever give up hope.

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Happy running friends!

What’s your next race?

What is the hope and dream you’re chasing?

I would LOVE to answer any questions about this race!  Ask away!



27 thoughts on “Mt. Charleston Race Recap

  1. Braden says:

    Hi Katie! Great post. I just ran the tunnel marathon in Seattle two days ago, and I already have the bug to do another. That race is about a 2,000 ft. drop. I know I did not do enough strength training and downhill running. This lead to severe cramps at mile 22. I finished in 3:30. My goal is to BQ in the next year, and I’m looking into Mt. Charleston. I need a 3:05. I have done ironmans, but this was my first stand alone marathon. I also have good speed. I just have not put the speed and distance together yet. I love downhill running, but I’m worried about cramping on a 5,000 net drop course. Should I be? Also, what kind of weekly mileage did you do to get to your 2:55? Thanks!

  2. Dee says:

    Hi there,

    Great work again! Your post brought back so many memories from past marathon. I am planning on running REVEL Mt. Charleston next year in April This will be my 3rd marathon ( 1st – 4:13, 2nd – 3:50) and I am hoping to BQ;less than 3:35 time. It seems like REVEL Mt. Charleston is a perfect marathon to BQ from 3:50 to sub 3:35. My only concern is weather. Did it get hot and dry towards the end? Did the weather slow you down? And lastly, do you recommend it is wise to aim for sub 3:40 from 3:50 or shoot for the stars and go for 3:32? Thank you so much!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Dee,
      The course could not be more advantageous. I think you could really dream big! The weather is my biggest concern for this year. Last year we were lucky because a storm blew in and cooled things down. I would be ready for warm temperatures in May in Las Vegas. The heat issue would really be the biggest challenge the last six miles once you’re back in the city. Best of luck! Let me know how your training is going and happy running!

  3. Kim B says:

    Hi there! I found your blog through Instagram. I ran Mt. Charleston too – I live in Las Vegas and did a few training runs with Aubree (and Hollie). Congrats on all of your accomplishments! It sounds like you’ve found a great training group in St. George. I’m planning to run Snow Canyon in Nov as a qualifier for NYC. Good luck and cheers to many more happy miles!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Kim!
      Thank you so much! I was so grateful to have Aubree to run with at Mt. Charleston, a running friend makes all the difference. Snow Canyon is one of my favorite half marathons. I hope we get to meet! I’m so glad you reached out! Happy running!

  4. Eri @ Aloha Mama Runner says:

    Amazing!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations!!!!!!
    It’s my first time here (and I actually wanted to comment on your Big Island post but for some reason I couldn’t) but I am in awe at how fast and strong of a runner you are. Such an inspiration.

    What kind of things were you telling yourself when you pushed yourself at mile 22-23?
    It’s mentally challenging and I’m such a newbie in running that these posts really make me feel motivated to become a stronger runner 🙂

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi! You are so sweet! I’ll check into that comment issue. Thank you for letting me know. This is such a great question! When the miles are hard I really lean on my music to keep me focused and staying on beat. These are the dig deep parts of the marathon so I’m mentally prepared for them to be hard. Most of the time I am thinking just get through this mile, and repeating the mile time I want over and over; I’ll actually be saying 6:40 again and again. I try to visualize what crossing the finish line will feel like if I keep pushing and I remind myself that this pain won’t go on forever. A lot of times I’m thinking just run. I hope that helps! Happy running!

  5. Kimberly says:

    I’m a new runner. Going from couch to half marathon. I’ve done 5k’s in the oast and ran here and there. I understand I can’t run a half marathon over night but this half marathon is a little more than 6months away. Any tips/advice for me?

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Kimberly! There are a lot of half marathon training guides that are worth investing in. Maury at myheartracesblog has a great one. It’s important to build your mileage slowly and not increase your running more than 10% each week. I would plan on running 3-5 days a week with one long run that gradually builds your distance every other week. Listen to your body. Give yourself plenty of rest and recovery. Make sure you find fuel that your body likes and use it during your training runs. I love Honeystingers energy gels and chews. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with. Happy running!

  6. Christina @ The Athletarian says:

    Katie! Sorry I’m just getting around to reading this now. Your post gave me chills and seeing that happy picture of you at the finish line made me tear up. I am so incredibly happy for you! You are one of my biggest inspirations and to follow you as you worked so hard to reach this goal has been amazing. You should be so proud of yourself! Thank you for putting so much time into your posts. I feel like I learn something new every time I read your blog.

    Happy Sunday!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Christina you are just the sweetest ever! Thank you so much for your support. I feel the same way about you and I just loving sharing our running journeys!

  7. Jessica says:

    I’m so so so so happy for you!!!! This is amazing Katie and I loved all of the details you included about this experience for you. You have been such an inspiration to me and someone I really look up to. Congrats!!!!!!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Thank you Jessica! That means so much to me. I’m so grateful that it all came together and clicked on race day. Happy running sweet friend!

  8. Dawn says:

    One of the questions I have is about how you stopped at the water stations to fully drink. I have only been a runner for a little over 2 years so I am still learning. Last year I wore an Orange Mud hydration pack during races so I never had to use the water stations. This year I am running much faster and I wanted to ‘lessen’ my weight and use the water provided during races. I have raced 2 Half’s in the past couple weeks to practice this new-to-me technique. This past weekend I ran a Half and I did not get enough water in me. The cups were pretty bad at this race and I sloshed a lot out. In a Half I know that this is not as critical but in the Marathons this Fall I know that I need to get much more water in me. So I am very interested in knowing how many seconds you think you lost by stopping to drink? Did you drink it all in one breath? Like one big gulp? Do you think you stopped at each water station or did you run with the cup for some and then completely stop at others? Is there a polite way to stop, such as getting off to the side completely?
    Another question I had is about your recovery between the two Marathons. I will be running two Marathons this Fall three weeks apart and I am planning my recovery ahead of time. I have a coach to write the running part but I was really interested in the small details. Did you visit the chiropractor or massage therapist any more than normal? Did you eat any foods or supplements that you felt helped you recover faster?
    Thank you!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Dawn! These are such great questions. Let me start with the water. My friend, who is an elite runner, has an “every 3 mile rule” with water, she could have special water set out for her, but she said it ends up being a distraction, so she just drinks the water that’s on the course. That was a really good lesson for me. I used to really stress about water too and thought I needed Smart Water and would rely on my husband to meet me on the course. Honestly, it’s just so much easier to drink the water at the water stations. In Boston, I lost more time because I was grabbing 2 cups (it was a pretty warm day), coming to a full stop, drinking, and then catching back up to the group I was running with. I bet it took 5-6 seconds in Boston because of the crowds, Mt. Charleston was faster. Boston was so warm and Mt. Charleston was so dry I was probably stopping every two miles between miles 12 through 22. I have learned the importance of staying on top of hydration, I had a complete bonk in St. George last fall because I just didn’t drink enough. As far as my recovery between the two marathons, I just kept my legs moving with easy runs and walking, the tempo running I did between the two race was pretty limited. I did a lot of foam rolling and using Roll Recovery, and I always see my chiropractor and my physical therapist every week. I hope that answers your questions. Let me know if I can help you with anything else. Happy running!

  9. Katie Ringley says:

    Oh Katie, this post. Ah! I have chills. I’m just so happy for you. Bethany and I were texting that day just how badly you deserved it and we wanted it for you. YAY YAY

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      You and Bethany are such great friends and supporters! I felt so much good energy along the course that day! I’m just so thankful it all clicked. Happy running Katie! Mwah!

  10. Amanda W. says:

    Congratulations! What an accomplishment!!!!
    Question: Fave songs to run to? Ones that help you really dig deep when it gets tough?

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Amanda! Thank you so much! I really like Swedish House Mafia. Greyhound and Antidote are great songs with a really good beat. I also really like Dimitri Vegas’ “The Hum” it’s another one that helps me power through. Happy running!

  11. Tara Barnes says:

    Wow you are my inspiration!!! I just did Big Cottonwood half yesterday and got s new PR for me of 1:23:42!!!! I’m just starting to wonder what I could do in a full!! All your post inspire me! Your amazing!!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Tara! That’s amazing! Congratulations to you! A very experienced runner told me that once I could run a half in under 1:25, a sub 3 was possible. I know you can do it! Have you thought about running St. George in the fall or maybe Mt. Charleston next spring?
      Happy running!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Kindal! It was so fun meeting you, Mt. Charleston was such a great race and experience. Thank you so much for your kind words, I’m just so grateful it all clicked on race day. It’s been a journey and you are right I was thrilled at the finish line. Happy running!

    • Katie Guisinger says:

      Hi Jennifer! You’re so sweet! I feel the same way about you and other friends in our little corner of the internet. It’s the beauty of an online running community, we support each other, cheer for each other, and take pride in each other’s accomplishments. I’m just so grateful it all clicked on race day! Happy running!

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