Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon

Arriving at the Vegas airport...
This time last year, I came to Las Vegas for a 36 hour trip to run the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon.  This year, I pretty much duplicated the trip, but instead ran the full marathon.  Back in July, I was able to secure a $90 one way flight from Newark to Las Vegas (by way of Charlotte), and then ponied up some extra cash to pay for the last possible redeye flight to get me back to New York on Sunday night.  The catch was that the Newark flight was at 5am... a time when no mass transit options would be available to get me from New York City to the airport, other than the last bus, which left at 2am.  I arrived in Newark about half an hour later, and then had to wait another hour (which I used for some extra sleep - on an armless bench in the terminal!) until security opened up at 3:30.  The flight was pretty uneventful (I slept again) and arrived in Vegas by around 10am, and was picked up by Hollie, who had recently relocated to Phoenix and drove up to Vegas to run the full as well.

At the expo, with my new
Hall of Fame backpack!
After stopping back at their hotel (the Westin), dropping off my bags, and also picking up another friend Deb, we headed off to the expo to pick up bibs and other necessary items.  As the expo was known to be pretty crowded, we tried to keep our time there limited before we headed off to get lunch at Capriotti's (seemingly a tradition for me every time I'm in Vegas!) sub shop.  After lunch, they dropped me off at my hotel, the Tropicana, which I was staying at for only one night.

Black Sheep Run at the 5K!
After settling in, I changed into my running clothes for that evening's 5K and also put together a bag of warm clothes to change into after the race, as I had purchased tickets for Hollie and I to go see Cirque du Soleil's KÁ at the MGM Grand.  But even before heading there, I made arrangements to see my second cousin Erika for a quick visit, who worked at the Trump International Hotel and Towers, about a 15-20 minute walk off the strip from the Bally's monorail station.

Some of the fun light tunnels at the 5k

After our quick tête-à-tête, I got an Uber to take me to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, where the 5K was to be held.  The 5K route this year was different than last years, as much of last year's race was held in the empty lot next to SLS.  For this year's race, we started and ended in the festival grounds, but also ran an out-and-back portion on Industrial Drive, just off the strip.  We returned to the festival grounds, doing zig-zags through the areas asphalted areas. I finished the 5K in 30:36, an easy 9:50 per mile pace, good to get my legs ready for the following evening's marathon (and not bad for the first time running since the NYC Marathon!)

After a couple beers, hobnobbing with friends, and enjoying the music, Hollie and I made our way to the monorail to take us down to MGM for our show.  It was a really fantastic show, but our exhaustion from the day's events was really showing, as we both looked at each other at moments during the performance, knowing we were EXTREMELY tired.  After the show, we searched for food all over the place and finally found a café at Tropicana that served a late night menu, and then decided to turn in for the night.

5K, beer, and Stratosphere photo with appropriate photobomb
Pedicures with Sharon pre-race...
Being able to sleep in the day of a race was quite awesome, so I took advantage, but still needed to pack things up as I was essentially checking out of the hotel that morning. I made arrangements to have brunch with Sharon, an old family friend of mine.  We met at Cafe Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas, and then spent the remainder of the day reminiscing and catching up over pedicures (I feel like  I'm one of a handful of people who actually gets a pedicure BEFORE a race, lol!)  Sharon helped me with some logistical arrangements for bag pick up after the race, dropping it off with Hollie and Deb since the Westin was just after the finish chute of the race; and then she dropped me off at the Mandalay Bay where I was to meet up with my friend Jeremy (fellow Team Nuun member), who was kind enough to let me use his room to prepare for the race, as his hotel was near the start line.

On the strip before the race...
Jeremy and I headed off to the park across the empty Strip where Kid Rock already began playing, slowly moving in lines to get through security, as we were needing to drop bags off at the bag drop located inside the park.  It was a madhouse in there - so many people arranged to get ready for the race!  I met up with the rest of my Black Sheepers as we watched the end of the Kid Rock concert and took lots and lots of photos, before Hollie and I raced off to get to our corral.

Kid Rock on stage at the pre-race concert
Four of us reaching the Hall of Fame - our 15th RnR race of 2015!
(photo by Hyalker Amaral)
My back :)
With the Marinos, who renewed their wedding vows during the race!
The startline!
Now, because of my evening flight, I had to arrange to get myself in as close to the front corral as possible.  I was able to get into Corral 3, and not long after the 4:30pm start, we were off, heading south on the Strip!  Hollie and I kept up with each other for the beginning of the race, in order to join up for pictures at the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, and then leapfrogged for the next two miles as we proceeded north on the Strip, past Las Vegas' many iconic hotels.

The "Welcome to Las Vegas"
sign shortly after the start of
the race!
It was at roughly the mile 5 or 6 mark where the rain started to fall.  Now... this is Las Vegas. It maybe rains five times in a one year period.  Of all days, Mother Nature decided to rain on the Las Vegas Strip today. I remember running past the SLS and the Stratosphere, and then the surroundings getting much, much darker, as we approached downtown Las Vegas.  We turned into a residential area, the same area we had run through last year - I remember it being especially dark, but this year, I didn't pay much attention - I was more concerned with watching my footing as the roads had turned slightly slippery from the rain.  Soon, we returned back toward an area with lots of lights - and ultimately, the return to the strip, running past the Fremont Street Experience (which sadly, the marathoners didn't get to run through *this* year, but got to last year.)

Just before the turn off for
the marathon
We ran four blocks back down the Strip before the turn off happened for the marathoners onto Clark Avenue.   And we weren't even halfway through the race yet - we had just reached mile 9.5.  Thankfully by this time the rain had stopped - so it rained for maybe 30 or 40 minutes total. We headed further into downtown Las Vegas, through the Civic Center of the city, and made our way up a steep uphill on Bonneville Avenue, before making another turn onto S. Grand Central Parkway past the Smith Center, and then again onto Symphony Park Avenue.  We turned into an area where three huge tent structures, the Pavilions at World Market Center, were located, and ran in and around that area, before heading back out onto the roads to S. Martin Luther King Blvd, and into the desolate areas of West Las Vegas.

Favorite sign on the course :)
Running at night is a different animal, as is running at night when there's not many people around you.  While there were over 3000 people running the marathon, having everyone spread out on a course like this one is still quite an experience, and somewhat of a lonely one.  We finally hit the halfway mark as we proceeded on the long northward haul on S. Martin Luther King Blvd, and then even made a small detour as we continued northward in a rather un-scenic part of West (or is it North?) Las Vegas.  Either way, it was VERY suburban-feeling, not like we were in Vegas at all anymore.  As we hit the 15 mile marker, we hit the turnaround mark, and I sailed downhill before we made a second turn onto W. Carey Avenue.  As I ran down, I saw Hollie and gave her a high five.  We hit mile 16 along W. Carey Avenue -- there was another turnaround just before Simmons Street, and that part just seemed to feel like it took FOREVER.  I had abandoned my normal intervals I had been keeping up with in the first half of the race.  We continued on Carey, until we ran back on Martin Luther King bak the way we originally came, retracing our steps back to downtown Vegas.

The wind was relentless, but thankfully it was no longer wet.  It made the second half of this race pretty chilly, and I was thankful to have been wearing a long sleeve shirt and long tights.  I was consciously timing my GU intake, of course, considering I hadn't eaten particularly much earlier that day and wanted to ensure I still had fuel for the rest of the race.  As we approached the mile 20 mark, just before the highway ribbon formed by I-95 and US-15, the lights of the Strip began to return to view, and we were only a 10k away from the finish.

Sharon's son Landon
handing out water at mile 22
Of course, that last 10k was a doozy, and I was resigned to the fact I was going to have my worst marathon time upon finishing.  While it had been windy, and right in my face for the long run going south on Martin Luther King Blvd, we still had to retrace our steps back to the Strip.  This included a section of the race going back through the pavilions at World Market Center.  We headed back into downtown, reaching Bonneville Avenue at mile 22, and then to Clark Avenue.  Sharon's son Landon happened to be working at an aid station, providing water to marathoners with his fraternity, so it was nice to be able to see a familiar face (though I had not met him before, but at least it was someone with a degree of separation, enough for me to push through to the end!)

The last 3 miles were ROUGH.  We ran down S. 4th Avenue, a street that runs parallel to the strip, but far enough north that it's still in the area of downtown, before emerging onto the Strip near the Stratosphere.  With two miles left to go, the wind picked up significantly as the marathoners ran down the Strip toward the finish line, still far in the distance.  We ran down the right side of the Strip, while the last of the half marathon finishers continued down on the left side of the Strip.  Finally, we saw the Fashion Show Mall, Treasure Island, and The Mirage, which signaled the finish line.

Victory Headstand!
I crossed in 5:15:26, nearly 16 minutes slower than in NYC two weeks earlier, but considering the weather, I was fine with just being able to finish.  The finish chute for the Vegas race is notoriously long (nearly a mile), so I slogged through and got my finisher medal and headed straight for the heavy medal tent to get my Hall of Fame medal from Ryan.  I grabbed my bag from gear check and then Ryan kindly took my headstand photo, and then beelined it straight to the Westin, as I had just over 2 1/2 hours before my flight (thankfully, there was a 30 minute delay in my flight's departure while I was running!)  I was able to get a shower in at Deb and Hollie's hotel room, and then grabbed a cab (which in and of itself was a mess - the streets all around the Strip were gridlocked since the Strip was still closed, and I had to navigate for my Uber driver through casino parking lots based off of satellite imagery from Google Maps, and then still needed to transfer to a Lyft car to take me to the airport due to Uber not being allowed to drop off at the airport... ugh, such a nuisance.)  But I made it to the airport with more than enough time before the flight began to board, and headed straight back home to NYC!


1 comment:

  1. Wow... You are like an energizer bunny.. Congratulations on your Hall of fame.