Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas: Round Two

I signed up for the Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas Marathon back when registration first opened. It was the same price for the full and the half, since I ran the marathon last year and Competitor really messed up with last year’s race. I really wanted to do the full, but when it came down to it, with working a full-time job, coaching on the side, a number of busy weekends full of family commitments and games I had to coach, and time spent with Maeby, I didn’t have time to train and I didn’t make time for it. It wasn’t a priority for me.

That being said, I had already signed up and the flights and hotel were booked, so on Friday, off I went to Vegas. Up until the morning of the race, I debated whether I’d do the full or the half. Ultimately, I realized how incredibly dumb it would be for me to run the full without training. To be honest, I thought I’d be able to do it, but I knew I would be in a lot of pain, didn’t want to get injured and was genuinely concerned I’d have a heart attack…and since I didn’t feel like the Las Vegas Strip would be an ideal place to collapse/experience any of the above, I chose to do the half.

I got to the start area around 4:00 p.m. The half was supposed to begin by 4:30, and after waiting in line to use the bathroom, I got to a corral just in time for the first wave of runners to start. I ended up in corral 15; since I had chosen to do the half, I just had to hop into any corral since my seeding had initially been set up for the full marathon.

Overall, the race was great. We don’t need to talk about how difficult it was running against the wind more often than experiencing a tailwind. That was tough, and obviously made maintaining any sort of normal pace that much more difficult. Instead, I think it is worth mentioning that there was more than enough water (and no stations had run out of water and been abandoned like last year, when I experienced this at mile 20), there was way more course support than last year (both with volunteers and spectators), and it really was a lot of fun. A very special shout out goes to the police officer around mile 7.35, who was blowing his whistle and cheering everyone on. I felt good pretty much the entire time, even though my splits were slower and slower as the race went on. But honestly? I don’t really care. I ran faster than I did in Providence back in August and I managed to run the whole thing. The human body never ceases to amaze me.

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The finish line was full of water, Snickers Marathon Bars, tons of apples, chocolate milk, Gatorade, bagels, and pretzels. Oh, and there were also mini smoothies from Jamba Juice.

My only complaints?

I didn’t see medical staff until around mile 7. Around mile 4, I started to experience serious chub rub since I had chosen to skip the capris and wear awful women’s shorts that I tend to avoid for that very reason. But I figured that’d be worth it since it was around 70 degrees and I didn’t want to overheat with capris, which knowing me, I would have. So that was frustrating. Maybe I missed the medical staff earlier on, but there needs to be an actual tent or some sort of sign. I actually almost completely missed the staff around mile 7, because there was no tent and it was dark so I couldn’t really see their shirts. Again, it’s possible that I completely missed the medical staff earlier in the race, but the signage needs to be better or something if that’s the case.

And then there is this complaint, and this one is big.

There was no family gathering area at the finish. With a race of tens of thousands of runners, this is an absolute must, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I had planned to meet my mom at a specific letter, but there was no area to meet after. So she went back to the hotel and I borrowed people’s cell phones to try to get in touch with her. And a lot of people I talked to were going through the same thing and were just as frustrated. It took over an hour for me to finally meet up with my mom. So there was that. Again, with a race of this size in a city this size, I cannot understand why Competitor chose not to do this, especially since they have done it at every other one of their races I’ve done (including Providence, which had only a few thousand people).

One of these days, I feel Competitor will get it right. I honestly feel like they were so close this time, with the tremendous improvements compared to last year’s fiasco. But the finish line and its lack of a meetup area was really frustrating.

My night concluded with a really delicious (and huge) slice of pizza and a cinnamon sugar pretzel from New York New York. I’m happy I ran the race, and very pleased with how good I felt. As for my next race? I’m considering Rock ‘n Roll Pasadena in February, but we’ll see. It would be good incentive to keep running through winter though, that’s for sure. And based on the afternoon I spent out there on Monday visiting my brother, it seems like it would offer a beautiful course.

The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam

With the three-hour time difference causing us to get up at 3:30 a.m., a planned trip to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam easily fell into place.  We laid in bed for awhile and left Las Vegas around 5:30 a.m.  We chose to drive out to the west rim of the Grand Canyon and try out the Skywalk.  Since there was some snow on the ground, we didn’t get a chance to go on the Skywalk.  We did, however, get to experience the Grand Canyon with hardly anyone else around.  It was beautiful.

I present to you, the Grand Canyon in pictures, of course, because reading about it wouldn’t be much fun.

The sun rising on our drive out.

On our way up to the west rim...on icy roads.

Eagle Point. Can you spot the eagle?

Cleaning the snow off the Skywalk.

Me, looking out over the Canyon.

Beautiful.

I love this.

I love the way the clouds cast shadows.

And then, on our way home, we stopped at the Hoover Dam.  It is an incredible sight.

The best part about leaving so early is that we were back by 4 p.m. for the race expo.  All in all, I’d say it was a successful day!

Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon: Recap

I am going to preface this by saying that a large majority of people were unhappy with this race for a number of reasons. You can read more about it based on the RnR Vegas Facebook page, but what it really came down to was numbers. In my opinion, this race grew too fast, too soon, resulting in some major issues that Competitor needs to address and fix if they plan on doing this kind of race again next year.

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The Expo

After getting back from visiting the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam (more on that tomorrow), I headed over to the race expo. Not much to really say here. I was able to get my bib and t-shirt fairly quickly. Once I got into the vendor area, however, it was very, very crowded. I can’t say I was all that surprised, because that will happen when there are 44,000 people running a race. With that, I really just quickly bounced from vendor to vendor, hoping to score some free samples, but honestly, I was kind of disappointed. With all the people in attendance, I expected more samples and more opportunities to try various products. After quickly wrapping up my time at the expo, I headed back to my car in The Venetian parking garage. The wait to get out of the garage was about a half hour, but again, I wasn’t surprised due to how many people attended the expo.

Race Day

I spent all day freaking out/being excited/feeling nervous/panicking about the race that was going to take place at night. My first marathon. Crazy.

I stayed at Excalibur, which was right next to the race start at Mandalay Bay. At about 2:45, I left my room and saw some other runners in the hall. I tagged along with them as we approached a very crowded tram to take over to Mandalay Bay. When we finally got there, aside from an initial sign when entering the hotel, there was no signage to get to the race. The race was supposed to start in the parking lot, but I saw many people heading towards the parking garage and others heading in a different direction. I followed those with their Rock n Roll bags, because I assumed they would be going to gear check and the race start would be nearby. My assumptions were correct, and after a long walk navigating the halls of Mandalay Bay, I found the race start.

I headed outside but could not find the start, so I asked a woman stretching if she knew. She and I got talking about the race, which she had run before. We walked over to the start, and I followed her into her corral (corral 7) where we continued talking. We continued talking until the race started and then headed off at our own respective paces.

I had heard from a lot of people that the first half of this race would be boring. My question to those people is, where are they running that is so interesting? I run the same routes at home all the time, so for me, anything other than that is a change, and a welcomed change at that. I found that those first thirteen miles flew by and I actually PR’d that first half, with a time of 2:07:49. I was very excited about that time.

Once we turned the corner, I found myself dodging and running through clothes strewn all over the place, as I imagined most of the half marathoners had throwaway clothes that had not yet been cleaned up. Shortly after, my hips and knees started hurting a lot, so I pulled over to stretch. Throughout the rest of the race, I experienced the following:

  • I had to stop and walk a few times, and pulled over to the right to walk with the half marathoners, most of whom seemed to be walking. I have no problem with people walking a half marathon (hey, I was walking part of my route too), but many of the walkers were not aware that runners were trying to get around them. I noticed this especially as I was running and had to weave in and out of walkers that were anywhere from 3-5 people across.
  • The lane for the marathoners was supposed to be clearly marked, but instead, we got a 7-8 foot part of the road that dipped down toward the curb. What separated us from the half marathoners was a cone every few hundred feet with an 8×11″ piece of paper that had arrows pointing to which side of the road marathoners and half marathoners should’ve been running on. Additionally, there were people biking along telling half marathoners to stay over to the right. Overall though, this wasn’t very effective, as half marathoners made up the majority of runners and completely took over the course.
  • Some water stations in the later miles were completely non-existent. By this, I mean I saw empty tables, with empty (and sometimes unused) cups on top of the tables, and thousands of used cups scattered all over the group. With a race of 44,000 runners, I expected cups all over the ground and was not surprised by that. I was, however, surprised that there was no water at some of the stations. And after running 18-20 miles, I needed that water.
  • There were not enough volunteers. Those who were there did an incredible job, but you could tell they were overwhelmed due to a lack of support. They were scrambling to get water to runners, sometimes dipping their hands in water to do so. A lot of people have gotten sick and this is believed to be the cause, but in no way do I blame the volunteers, as they were simply trying as hard as they could to meet the needs of the overwhelming amount of people they had to help.
  • Everything post-race was a mess. Getting my medal was fine, though I hear that they ran out of medals for those who finished later on. Getting out of Mandalay Bay was a huge issue in itself. After sitting inside for about twenty minutes and texting my friends about my finishing a marathon while stretching and hydrating, we decided to leave Mandalay Bay and grab a bite to eat. The problem was that the exit was entirely too narrow for the number of runners trying to leave, especially when combined with the number of shoppers and those who had seen a show that had just gotten out at Mandalay Bay. We stood in a pack of people for about 20-30 minutes before turning around and walking an alternate route outside that few seemed to know about, but that we were aware of after walking through Mandalay Bay earlier that day. I’ve been reading on the RnR Vegas Facebook page that people passed out and got sick standing in that crowd. The worst part about that? Medical personnel couldn’t reach those people due to the extreme size of the crowd. I’m glad I got out of there when I did, but some people were not as lucky.

In the end, I finished the marathon in 4:40:54, about ten minutes later than I hoped and expected. You do the math and you’ll see that it took me about 25 minutes longer to run the second half than it did the first. While part of this was due to the number of runners on the course, a bigger part was due to my own physical condition. I did all of the long runs but slacked off during training and as a result, my goals were not met. Obviously I need to work harder when I want something. That being said, I am very pleased with my time, especially the first half, and I’m already looking at marathons in the next couple of months because I know I can do better.

I enjoyed the course, overall. I didn’t find the first half boring, though I didn’t necessarily find it exciting either. I did not like all of the out-and-backs in this part of the race, which included one specific time that I can recall where I ran straight down a street and about halfway through they had cones to just turn around. Kind of weird, and not very fun. I liked parts of the second part of the course, but I wish we hadn’t run through such weird, desolate parts of old Las Vegas. I am not sure where else we could have gone, but I found those parts to be boring and the many turns we took through these neighborhoods didn’t help. The strip was definitely fun to run on, but I honestly expected there to be a bigger crowd of people cheering. I don’t really recall crowds of spectators, aside from a few when I merged onto the strip, and of course at the finish. The spectators I did see, however, did an awesome job cheering for all of the runners, and some had some really great signs that definitely encouraged me and made me laugh.

If they work out the issues for next year, I’ll most likely run it again. Mostly because I know I can do better on this course and I want to prove that to myself.

I’ll also post some pictures later on from the race start and finish, and–depending on the quality–some videos during the run down the strip!

I Did It!!

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I finished my marathon. I PRed the first half, at around 2:06 unofficially. I felt great for a long time but the second half killed me.  I finished somewhere around 4:40.  It was honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally.

More details to come in the next few days.  I’ll be leaving Vegas tomorrow morning and I want to enjoy what’s left of my time here.

Up first?  A massage and facial at The Spa at Mandalay Bay!