Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas 5k and Half Marathon

Bib Pick-up at the expo... #stripatnight
What a hashtag.
I knew going into the weekend that it was going to be hectic.  The fact that I would be travelling over 4,000 miles round trip just to run two races adding up to 16.2 miles was bordering on lunacy.  But let's face it, I've been at this crazy running journey for enough time that literally spending only 36 hours in a place three time zones away wasn't surprising in the least.

So that's what I did.  Early Saturday morning, I made my way to JFK airport to get on my flight to Las Vegas.  Little did I know I would run into some problems just getting to the airport.  First of all, the AirTrain was receiving some routine maintenance, and all AirTrain service from Jamaica station was terminating at Federal Circle -- from there, people would need to board shuttle buses to take them to the various terminals at the airport.  I had the unfortunate situation of having to use JFK's Terminal 4, one of the most notoriously crowded terminals, with security lines that would require the utmost patience.  Upon arrival at the terminal, the security line looked like it would take about 30 minutes to get through -- and because of all the delays, my plane had already started boarding when I finally arrived.  Quite stressed already, while in line, I receive a text from Delta saying my flight was going to now leave five minutes earlier.   More stress.

Luckily I pass through the line pretty quickly, and a nice TSA agent let me cut a few people when she realized which gate I was at... which was CLEAR AT THE VERY END OF THE TERMINAL.  I got everything through the conveyor, and my backpack containing "The Stick" was brought to one of the TSA supervisors.  This wasn't good.  The supervisor would not let me leave security with my massage stick - it had to be checked, which meant going back to the check in area, and then returning through the egregiously long security lines.  With my flight leaving in less than fifteen minutes, I made the decision for them to confiscate it from me.  Angrily, I left the security area, and sprinted to my gate. By the time I got to my gate, they were three minutes away from closing the doors to the plane.  Lucked out, I made it on the flight for the five hour trip westward.

Carb loading at Capriotti's
I landed in Vegas at about 10:30 and met up with my friend from college, Basel, who's lived in Vegas since we both graduated from architecture school.  Upon arrival, we went to the expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  It was chaotic, to say the least, but pretty large and was well set up for the sheer amount of people attending.  I picked up my bibs for the 5k that evening and the half the next night.... oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the two races I was to run were AT NIGHT.  On THE STRIP.  Pretty cool, eh?  Anyway, after a little while, we left and grabbed food at one of my favorite food spots in the area (it's actually a national chain, but to me it's a Vegas thing, LOL!), Capriotti's Sandwich Shop, where they have a sub called The Bobbie, which is basically a Thanksgiving meal in a sub sandwich.  After I was thoroughly satiated, we headed to Henderson for me to drop my stuff off at Basel's place and rest a little before we headed out again to get me to the SLS Las Vegas for the 5K that evening.

5k done!

The 5K that night was pretty cool - it was a small course that looped around the SLS and Riviera complexes right off The Strip.  While we got the opportunity to run at night, because this race was smaller, they only shut down one lane of The Strip, and it was still a little scary to be running right next to cars speeding down the road with only a set of orange plastic barricade drums separating us from potential injury.  I ran in a respectable 28:53 - not fast, but good for getting used to the elevation difference (2,000 feet!) in Vegas compared to NYC.  Afterward, we stuck around for some race-sponsored Michelob Light and the awesome free outdoor concert put on by Chromeo - by the way, it was sad to see so many people not stick around for this free concert - Chromeo was REALLY AWESOME!  Granted, it was chilly, but still - it was an absolute blast of a concert!  By that time, some other friends who were running the half the next day had arrived in the city, so we got together for dinner at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, and ended up at a great burger joint called Holstein's to finish the night.  The burgers were excellent, and the alcoholic milkshakes were delicious!

Chromeo rocking out at the 5k post
finish party
By the time we were done with dinner, we were all so exhausted because of the time zone difference, so we all left to get a good night's sleep.  I slept in the next morning and stuck around Basel's place until a little after noon.  Basel drove me to The Luxor to meet up with my friends as I was going to leave my bags at their hotel room so that I could easily get to them after I finished the race so I could get straight to the airport for my red eye flight that night.  I met up with Andrew, Donna, Hema, Joe, and Lynn at the Public House bar where they were several mimosas in, so I happily joined them to imbibe a bit myself.  It was Vegas, so it was most definitely going to be a fun run in the evening.  By about 2:30, we separated so we could all run our necessary errands before the race start at 4:30 - I headed back up to the room to change and sort out all my gear for the run.  Donna and I outfitted ourselves with quite a bit of glow in the dark gear, and sported some Rock 'n' Roll themed temporary tattoos for the occasion!

Elvis (Joe) and I!
Only a few mimosas in... PRE-race.
Awaiting the start in my corral!
While Donna was going to wait with Joe for Lynn and Hema to come down (they donned full on showgirl costumes!), Andrew and I decided to head off to the corrals - me because I had gear check that needed to be in by a certain time and Andrew who was in corral 2 (that speed demon!) At about the same time, the pre-race concert featuring Macklemore and Ryan Lewis was ending so thousands of runners began to trickle out onto the closed Strip to get ready for the race.  The race started promptly at 4:30, but it would be another half hour before I actually started.

The start line at RnR Vegas!
At 5, we were off.  And let me tell you, Sunday was already a bit cold.  The winds had come in the night before (the drive back to Henderson was unusually foggy - which was actually dust in the air being swept through with the wind) and the temperatures had dipped about five degrees lower than the day before.  By sunset at 4:30, it was pretty chilly.  The course took runners from in front of Mandalay Bay down toward the southern end of The Strip just beyond the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign before heading back up north toward the lit-up hotels.  At mile 3, some 73 couples were given the opportunity to get married or renew their wedding vows at the Monte Carlo for a "run-through" wedding ceremony.

The course had a lot of great support while passing through the hotels along the Strip. It got super quiet though as we headed further north toward downtown Vegas, and then we took a turn right into a residential neighborhood - completely devoid of people and lit by Klieg lights along the way.  It was around mile 8 when I ran into Kimberly, an online friend (and actual friend of a friend), with her friend Gail, who were doing the full marathon that night - after having done the Avengers Half Marathon in Anaheim earlier THAT MORNING.  Kimberly's been a huge inspiration to me, as she is a breast cancer survivor, and even through chemotherapy treatments, she's continued to run, train, and raise her family, with so much strength and perseverance.  Her blog, Maker Mother Marathon Runner, is a regular stop in my regular running reading.

My newest fans.
We finally returned back to The Strip, and the marathoners and half marathoners made their split at this point.  The half marathoners turned left to head back down toward the hotels, while the marathoners trekked further on to North Las Vegas, but first through the iconic Fremont Street Experience.  The remainder of the half marathon route was just as great getting closer and closer to the finish line at The Mirage.  I crossed in 2:11:39, and proceeded down the long finish chute down to the Bellagio.   And it was COLD.  My fingers were numb.  Had I realized it was going to be this cold, I would've come prepared with gloves. I headed straight for the Rock 'n' Roll tent where I got my remix challenge medal and my Super Six Heavy medal.  Less than twenty minutes later, Donna crossed the finish line and I met up with her at the Rock 'n' Roll tent where she got her Rock Idol medal for completing ten RnR races, an accomplishment that I hope to manage next year!  We hugged, posed for pictures, and then I had to set off for the long walk back to Luxor to get myself packed and to the airport while she waited for our other friends to finish.  En route, I was able to pose for a picture with some fancy showgirls!

My bling collection coming home
with me from Vegas
I managed to get everything together quickly and luckily the streets near Luxor began to open up.  I got a cab and headed straight to McCarran, and quickly through security - where apparently I was the first runner to appear after the race to the TSA agents.  Thankfully, they did not take away my medals (I would've pitched a FIT!), and I got to my gate to wait for my late flight back to NYC that would arrive early in the morning.  As soon as I got on the plane, I threw earplugs in and conked out.  About five hours later we landed.  After another chaotic experience getting out of JFK due to AirTrain troubles, I got on the subway... and I went to work.  Boy, was I tired that day.  But I made it through.  And I managed to cross state number 7 off my list. :)

State number 7, Half Marathon number 9 done!  #victoryheadstand

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