Las Vegas Rock n’ “Stroll” Half Marathon

The Las Vegas Rock n’ Roll full & half marathon this past weekend should have been dubbed “the Rock n’ Stroll race. The novelty of running a race at night with the flashing lights of the Las Vegas strip glowing bright drew a crowd of thousands (40K) from I imagine all “walks” of life. I was properly positioned in Corral 8 at the beginning of the race as I was honest about what my “racing” pace was: 9 minute mile. Originally I was in Corral 14, but at the expo I asked to be moved up since my pace had increased during training. I wish I had lied and been moved up to Corral 2. Within the first mile of the race I was passing walkers! How can that be? I asked myself. Thus the remainder of the race I found myself constantly weaving through crowds, blocked by walls of slow pokes, slowing me down and leaving me feeling nothing short of frustrated. Didn’t they know I was out to set a PR?

I want to bash the race like most other participants have this past week since my experiences were similar. Lord knows it was one difficult event and after reading some other blogs and FB comments, I think I got away fairly unscathed. So briefly, this event was; way too crowded, unorganized, people (myself included) were sick afterwards from God knows what. There was massive chaos pre- and post-race. I had to crawl through bushes in the dark just to get to my corral for the start! There was no enforcement of corrals at the start, but how could there be? Volunteers can’t regulate a crowd of 33,000! I’m not sure what the aid stations were serving… water? Cytomax? but it was awful and I only stopped for water 3 times (rumor is: contaminated water at the aid stations that was from fire hydrants and put in garbage cans and then scooped into cups with ungloved hands!) EEK! There was an enormous pile of GREEN! bananas at the end (which I actually brought home and it still looks inedible). And the post-race nightmare was ridiculous! I spent more time waiting in line for a cab, the bathroom, etc… than I did running the actual half! It took 4.5 hours to get back to my hotel just 2 miles down the road! I would have ran back, but it was freezing and I was with my 70 year old mom. So on top of being sick to my stomach, I had to wait around F O R E V E R! There was vomit in the restroom sinks, I listened to other women puking in the bathroom. There were casualties strewn all around the Mandalay Bay hotel lobby/casino. There were a few lucky ones that had paramedics helping them. I actually had the thought in my head that I wish I would pass out so I could get an ambulance ride out of there! Seriously!! The entire ordeal from the time I left my hotel to the time I got back (ravenous) was 9 hours! Insanity. There would be no post-race party. I was tired, sick and just wanted to gulp down my crappy burger and fries I picked up in the cafeteria type casino grill on my way to my room. I wasn’t too far off when I posted this picture on Facebook (pre-race) that I saw of a T-shirt at the expo. There should be some added text at the bottom, insane… to run the Vegas race!

a precursor to the race...

Finding The Good
This whole year I have tried to live by the mantra that there is good from every experience we have, so I am going to try to find the positive in all this.

buffet plate #2

The first good thing I’ll start with is I got to eat a hearty and probably over indulgent carb loaded meal at the Buffet at the Wynn. It is good because I’ve been on a massive clean food kick for months and it was nice to let loose this one time.
I didn’t eat all that is in the picture. I gave the croissant to my mom and I only had a bite of pancake. But the bread pudding (mmmm… my favorite) was history as were the eggs. This plate is actually the second plate I got (see, over indulgent). On the first  plate I had more eggs, eggs benedict (I scrapped off the hollandaise), pineapple, and a piece of french toast, syrup, no butter. So, even though I had planned on eating very little (and more healthy) a few hours before the race, I attribute feeling sick post-race to this carb fest! I don’t normally eat this way. I can’t entirely blame it on the race.

Because there was only a few shuttles leaving for the race, I decided to get on an earlier one in case there wasn’t enough room. I’m glad I did, as they were really small and I heard from another guest at my hotel (who actually ended up cabbing back afterwards) that he was stuck in traffic for an hour trying to get there on the hotel shuttle. I wasn’t thrilled to leave so early for the race, but better safe than sorry. He missed the beginning of the race and started way back. But he jumped ahead in the cab line post race to share a ride with my mom and I and ended up paying for most of it. That was another good thing. 😉

On the shuttle I was checking my email and saw another donation for my charity that I have been raising money for all year. That made me smile (another good thing) especially because it was a second donation from the parents of the heart breaker (see “my story“) who is why I started running in the first place. Still, it was a nice gesture… maybe they still feel a bit of guilt?

all's quiet... a few hours before

My mom and another family member who lives in Vegas was with me and we ended up hanging in a cafe at the Mandalay until race time. It was way too cold to be outside. When it was about 30 minutes out from race time, we headed outside thinking I could get in my corral and they could hangout on the side and keep me company. But when we got outside, it was dark and there were so many people/spectators lining the street that I had to say my goodbyes and climb over bushes and trees to get to the other side and enter my corral.

As I stood there alone, I surveyed the crowd around me. I think I was the only person not part of a group. Everyone had some sort of “light up” decoration attached to them. I saw a few with a string of Christmas lights in a tangle on their backs. I thought maybe I should have gotten more into the spirit of the “nighttime” event, and donned some type of gimmicky glow in the dark ensemble. But then I shook that off… I was here for a different reason. Insanity? Besides, I had my Athleta reflective wear on. It certainly did glow!

the most crowded night-time race EVER!

The extreme cold was biting and my corral was stuffed like the turkey we ate a few weeks ago. An older couple in front of me had blankets wrapped around them. I wonder if they were going to ditch them like the jacket I was wearing somewhere during the race. (All discarded clothing was going to charity. Another good thing.) I slowly inched my way around and in front of them. I had to remember that this was (for me) a one time event, so I pulled out my iphone and took one last race photo. The battery on my phone was really low and because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find my mom afterwards, I decided to forgo running my workout program. I was torn because I really would have liked to have seen my splits, but I also didn’t want to be checking it throughout the race. I did want to enjoy it even though I was on a mission for a sub two hour race.

I spent the first few miles, aw… who am I kidding, I spent the ENTIRE race weaving in and out of participants/runners. I’m not sure they were all runners, but I guess the fact that I was passing them, especially dudes… was another good thing. I was pushing hard and it was because when I reached the 3 mile marker the time said 35 minutes plus change. My vision of running a sub two hour half was crushed at this early part of the game. I told myself I had to make up the time of dealing with a slow beginning crowd. I pressed on trying not to picture that slow time in my head. I had my earbuds in playing my run songs even though there were about 10 local bands strewn throughout the course. But the shuffle was my only comfort among the sea of strangers in the dark. Honestly looking back I can only recall a few songs that I actually heard… I was too busy talking myself through this race.

After the 6th mile and at the same time I planned to suck down a GU my right calf was starting to cramp or strain. I ignored it and said I don’t care if I’m limping across the finish… I’m not stopping! I knew there was a water station around mile 7 and I walked through gulping my second half dixie cup of water? It tasted like crap, but it was liquid and the thick chocolate GU was stuck in my mouth like cement-I think because of the dry desert air I was sucking in as well.

As we passed the Stratosphere I knew I just had 4 more miles to go. I tried to stop thinking about my “time”. I forced myself to look up and enjoy the lights and ceremony of the event. I could hear all the spectators yelling and cheering over my blaring music. Yet I failed miserably-only relishing it for a few moments here and there. I knew by mile 10 given the time posted that my dream of a sub 2 hour race was hopeless. I was physically tired, emotionally as well as. Isn’t that all it really takes… a tired mind? I gulped another crap cup of water and pushed on… I was still passing so many people. A glance at the opposite side of the street still showed hundreds of runners just beginning this journey. Insane!

reflective wear lighting up the strip

At mile 11 I decided to forgo the water station. I just wanted to finish now and told myself that I could drink all the water I wanted after I was done. Big mistake! Or was it? At the time it felt like it because somewhere in the last mile I hit the wall. I didn’t have enough liquids during the race and my defeatist mentality did me in. Suddenly people were passing me! My quads felt like lead. I just kept saying… just finish, just finish, forget the time, it is too late. The thought of pushing any harder had me picturing myself doing a face plant. Clomp clomp splat!

At last the end was in sight. The crowd was yelling like crazy. I looked for my mom, but didn’t find her and decided to just focus on finishing. As I ran across, the time read 205:14. It didn’t really matter… I didn’t PR, (my last 1/2 was 205:57). I was deflated. And then I ran smack into a wall of finishers. No room for a cool down. Grab your medal, a bottle of water, a foil blanket and get in line for a picture on your way out of a gate. I fake happiness fairly well I think. I walked up to the green banana table and got the ripest looking green one… HA! then grabbed some pretzel bags and a marathon bar (which I think was part of why I felt sick, I ate half of it.) Next door was the medical tent and my calf was screaming. The gal there showed me some new stretches to help it… a good thing… er… yeah.

I just ran a half!!

I exited the area and looked for the letter signs that indicated your last name initial for the family reunion area. At least the race folks got this one right. There was my mom and her cousin right beneath it. They gave me hugs and told me I did great and I immediately started sobbing. I hadn’t done great. I did what I did a few months back. I failed. I had so much invested in this one race (why I have no idea) and all the frustration of the night came out in a flood of exhausted tears. They looked at me like I was… insane! I think, in hindsight they were right. I mean, I did just run 13 frickin miles! Still, I am a very competitive individual and I had huge expectations for this race. My dream time was a 1:50. That 2:05 was the iceberg that hit the titanic. It sunk my ship.

Now you veteran runners, if any, reading this, are probably laughing a bit. I suppose I am still a newbie at racing and even though in the back of my brain throughout the race I was telling myself that the time they had been posting throughout was the time from the start of the race, and not my actual time, I still couldn’t discount that visual of bold red digital lights stating different. I had nothing else to go on. So a few hours later when a friend got me the live results a huge wave of relief overtook me. I had accomplished my goal and then some, as my SmartCoach training plan was predicting a finish of 1:59:56. GOOD!! I finished a bit faster and tell myself that I might even had been able to achieve that dream time of 1:50 if I hadn’t had to weave diagonally through the crowds. I’ll save that goal for the next half and suspect I will want to be even a bit faster than that. A 1:45 perhaps?

overall I think I did fairly well

This race was my most mentally challenging, toughest race to date, but I am grateful I did it despite the difficulties, especially post-race. Now, would I do this race again? NO WAY! But I learned a lot about how I will race the next time and a lot about myself.

I am very proud of myself. The most useful lesson being that I know I can do anything I set my mind to. And that my friends is always a good thing!

final results

One last word via my SmartCoach: 
Good training doesn’t require all-out efforts every day. But occasionally, you need to push really hard.
Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
~ T.S. Eliot, Nobel Prize-winning poet

Next up… a race that will be only about fun: The Spartan Race.
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