The old cliche goes, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas..." but for me, this time it doesn't...I have to tell you that I ran a great race, MUCH better race than I expected!
When I signed up for this race 5 months ago, I was just coming off of the Seattle RnR Half Marathon, which I ran injured. I had hoped to run this race injury-free but things didn't really turn out that way. If you've been reading for the past couple of months, you'll know that my hamstring injury still lingers. I've been through physical therapy twice this year (having my last session this morning) and have really fought hard to still keep myself in the game. Its been a long, frustrating, but now, very rewarding year.
The race was scheduled for Sunday at 6:15 am. My friend Tina and I flew in late Friday evening. I'm really grateful she came with me. My family and friends aren't really into running and racing so I was really thankful that she flew down to support me.
We stayed at the Mandalay Bay, which hosted the race.
The first thing we did on Saturday morning was head to the race expo. As we walked over to the convention center, we learned that a cowboy convention was taking place at the same time - runners and cowboys - interesting mix.
The first thing I did at the expo was pick up my race bib and goodie packet.
I hadn't really stayed at a race expo before so I wanted to look around and see what kind of stuff there was. The first thing we saw was this booth selling an electric stem therapy device. They were giving free sessions so I quickly plopped myself down on one of their chairs. My lateral ham was bothering me and this treatment is similar to how my physical therapist treats me. Treatment before race day! I think it really helped me during the race.
While getting treatment I saw some former colleagues who were in town to run the race too. It was great seeing them! After the treatment I walked around and made a few unplanned, but fun purchases. I figured I deserved it.
Since my lat ham was bothering me I made a massage appointment for that afternoon at Spa Mandalay. I typically get trigger point or deep tissue massages, but they usually leave me feeling sore afterward, which I didn't want for Sunday. So this time I just got a Swedish massage to loosen things up for the race. This too I believe really helped me during the race.
That evening, Kady finally arrived from Columbus. She's one of my closest friends and was running the full marathon - her first one ever! We went out for our pre-race dinner, then turned in early.
I set my alarm for 5 am, but really who am I kidding - I did not need it. I was up at 4:30 am, like clockwork.
Kady had to get up that early too because she arrived after the expo closed and had to go down to the "Issues Line" to pick up her bib. Yes, they had an "Issues Line." Oh the irony. :)
After she got her race packet, she came back upstairs and we had our wheat bagel and peanut butter breakfast, then headed down to the Starting Line. Because it was a wave start, we knew would be about another 40 minutes before we actually would start running, so we weren't in any rush to get down there. Just as we walked out, the fireworks went off, signaling the start of the race. Apparently we missed some really cool stuff like - white tigers, flying Elvi parachuting in, and a Blues Brothers cover band, etc. Oh well...
The minute we stepped outside I wanted to cry. It was 33 degrees and breezy. I won't say it was windy because it wasn't tornado windy, but there was definite breeze that brought the temperature down a few more notches. Did I say I wanted to cry? I am so glad that I made a last minute decision to use a layering shirt under my pullover and bring my new running gloves with me. I would have had frostbite without them. Kady and I were in different corrals so first we found my corral, then I said goodbye to Kady and she headed off to find her group. Thank goodness it was very crowded (27,000 runners) - the body heat kept us warm while we waited about 45 minutes before we could actually start running. During these 45 minutes a lot of thoughts ran through my mind - I tried to visualize the race, thought of my mile dedications, but mostly I just prayed really, really hard, the hardest I'd prayed in years, to stay warm, not get anymore injured and just finish the race.
The 2 words I would use to describe this race would be "Defensive Running." My plan was to start off slow and start to increase speed after the first 2 miles. Well, with all the people, I was pretty much forced to do that anyway. Actually, I would say I was forced to do that for the first 4 miles, not just the first 2 miles. There were SO MANY walkers! An unusually large amount of walkers. And how they ended up in front of runners, I have no idea. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with walkers, but 1) they should start AFTER runners and 2) they should walk on the right side of the course and let runners pass on the left. Isn't this the unspoken rule of mass transit? Shouldn't races be the same way? Between avoiding walkers and the road dividers, I was running and dodging the entire first 4 miles. This threw me off of my plan and I was annoyed. I could not find my comfort zone and really didn't find it at all during the entire race. In fact, I missed the 5K chip marker thing because I ran on the outside of it to try and stay out of the crowd.
Then at 4 miles, something funny happened. "You Outta Know" by Alanis Morrisette came on my iPod and I suddenly got a surge of energy. Its like I took all my irritability and channeled it on that song and I just pushed through. I felt strong, like I had superhuman powers. At that point I took inventory of my body and realized - nothing was hurting. NOTHING! I didn't know what was going on, but I just went with it. There were still walkers, but it was like I didn't even notice them. I just weaved in between people without any problems.
Until Mile 8.5-ish. Cardiovascularly I felt fine; my legs still felt good, but my feet started to numb. This had happened to me on a couple of training runs. I have no idea what its about. It didn't hurt but just felt weird - uncomfortable. I took my first walking break there, for about 30 seconds, then continued on.
About a mile later, somewhere between 9.5-10 miles I took another walking break. I was supposed to have my second GU at 9 miles, but I wasn't keeping track and missed it. I was feeling a little sick and I felt like if I tried to eat it while running I would probably barf. So I walked for about 30 seconds, while downing the GU as fast as I could. While timing it, I realized that I had 3 miles or so left to go. I did some quick calculations in my head (I am not a numbers person) and figured if I ran all out for the last 3 miles I would come very close to my personal record for a half marathon. That was motivation enough for me to get going again - numb legs, queasy stomach and all.
And I tried, I really did, but somewhere along the line I did have to take another walking break. This time it was because my feet were just throbbing and I just couldn't take it. But then I saw Tina in front of the Excalibur, yelling and waving like mad. I got so excited and got going again. I knew I was getting close to my time but the Finish Line looked so far away and I thought I wasn't going to break any records. But what I didn't realize is that the course turned and the Finish Line was a lot closer than I realized! I sprinted those last few yards and according to my Garmin, I had beat my PR of 2:15 by a few seconds!
However, according to the race website, I finished at 2:15 so I guess I tied my PR. But that's ok; I am just so happy with the time! I ran Seattle injured at 2:24 so this time I had no expectations; I just wanted to not be slower than Seattle. So needless to say, I am ecstatic with both results!
After I crossed the Finish Line I stretched, then met up with Tina and my friend Stacey. Stacey and I worked together in the City about 9 years ago. That's how long its been since I've seen her. She's since moved to Vegas and came out to support me too! I was so happy to see her and I'm so grateful for the both of them for the support. Having people there to support and cheer for you makes the whole experience even sweeter.
We headed back to our room so I could stretch, take an ice bath, shower, and check online to see where Kady was at. When we looked up her timing, we saw that she was kicking ass! In fact, we didn't have enough time to get a bite to eat, so we headed back to the Finish Line to greet her. We parked ourselves right before the Finish Line (which by the way, was on an uphill incline, which I think was cruel) and saw her come in at 4:49. Its truly an amazing time for a first (and she says only) time marathoner, who didn't train for the race. Her longest training run was the C-bus Half a couple months before. I'm not allowed to post any photos of her, but I cannot wait to see her Finish Line photo. Right as she crossed the Finish Line, she dropped down and did the Heisman Trophy pose. Awesome! Classic Kady, my crazy friend!
After it was all said and done, we went out in search of food. My traditional post-race meal is a burger, but it was an hour's wait at the Burger Bar so we had to settle for Chinese. We spent the rest of the day watching movies on TBS while doing the RICE thing - resting, icing, compressing and elevating. Tina flew out that night, leaving Kady and I to fend for ourselves. Soreness started to settle in everywhere (did I mention painfully throbbing feet) but somehow, we managed to leave the room to get some dinner before turning in early.
Some post-race observations:
* Personally, I thought the course support wasn't as strong as other RnR races. It didn't seem like there weren't as many bands as they usually have at these races (my favorite band being the one with the girl rapper in front of the famous Las Vegas sign around Mile 1). There weren't very many cheer groups. And most of the aid stations that I passed through were practically empty.
* I am not a fan of loop courses. It mentally kills me to see people heading back, having already made the turn.
* I did like running down the Strip and seeing tv coverage of the race on all the big tv screens in front of all the casinos.
* There were a TON of couples who raced that got married at the Paris Hotel DURING the race. I was shocked.
* There were also a ton of people who raced dressed as Elvis. Guys and girls. Wigs and polyester. How did they do it?
Even though I never found my stride, I am beyond pleased with my results. I am even more pleased that, for the most part, I ran it pain-free. Don't get me wrong, I am beyond sore now, but more on that tomorrow. For now I leave you with my numbers. I have no idea how they happened.
PS Thank you to everyone who messaged me during the race! I read your messages and they helped! But my fingers were too frozen to respond!