Where do you start when you want to write a race report about a marathon in Vegas? Vegas is an epic city! Running a marathon is an epic event! Hanging out with Beth and Emily is epic! So much to say so let’s just jump right into all of it, but not before this:
THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT THROUGHOUT THE TRAINING AND RACE DAY
We landed in Vegas on Friday morning after dealing with having to de-board our plane because of an issue with the flight attendant seat. Not a big deal but when you are up at 4:30am to get to airport early the day gets long very fast. When we landed in Vegas we went straight to the expo to pick up our packets and walk around and it was very enjoyable. Dinner at Hash House A G0-Go with Karen, my brother and sister in law and back to the hotel room early because we were exhausted.
Saturday Karen and I woke up early and went for a 30 minute run. On the way out we were with the wind and it felt great, but on the turn around it was straight into the wind and slowed us down by about 1:00/mi but it felt good to shake out the legs. We headed back to the expo to try and meet other bloggers (which I did when I ran into Beth) and what a disaster this was. I think all 30,000+ people and their families and their extend families were there. After about 30 minutes I told Karen that I had to go and sit away from the crowds because I had my fill of human interaction (a nice way of saying bumping and shoving.) At that point I texted Beth (yes I have her phone number – jealous?) and said I’m ready for lunch would you like to meet. She was kind enough to say yes and so we had lunch with Beth and her friend Erica at Otto. Otto is a restaurant owned by Mario Battali that I had the fortune of eating at when I lived in New York and loved it. This time around was no different as the pizza was excellent as was the salad and eggplant appetizer I ordered. The cannoli was good but not like old school New York restaurant good.
After heading to the hotel room for the remainder of the afternoon we went back down to the strip for the blogger meet up. We had a great time meeting with Rebecca, Jeff, Matty Beal, Jessica and Coach as well as seeing Beth again (this was a mixer by the way.) After a few hours it was time to head back to the hotel and rest up.
Sunday was race day, but waking up and not heading to a start line was hard to deal with. Lots of sitting around until around 11am when we headed to IHOP for brunch. I ordered pancakes and eggs with dry whole wheat toast. They messed up our order and thus we had an extra serving of pancakes. I wound up consuming approximately 1000 calories. I took a nap at 1pm and then after waking up at 2pm I had a smoothie, got dressed and ready to head toward the race.
We took the highway to the race site as The Strip was closing at 3pm and we wanted to park as close to the start as possible. Well as we exited there was tons of traffic and I was getting antsy. It was around 3:30p that I jumped out of the car and headed toward Mandalay Bay to use the bathroom and then head to Corral #1.
Standing around in Corral #1 I did my best to kill time and stay warm. It was at this point that I turned around and lo and behold there was Emily. A sight for sore eyes if there ever was one. I wanted to see Emily because I needed to calm my nerves and also because who wouldn’t want to meet Emily?
As we stood in the Corral we laughed and chatted as if we were cousins. Just being in her presence I felt a sense of calm come over me and I was ready to run/race. I had kept repeating to myself: Stick to the plan! Stick to the plan!
The plan was to run 2 miles at 7:30/mi pace and get comfortable then drop down to 7:10-7:15/mi for 5 miles then back off to 7:20/mile for 5 miles and hit the strip. Figuring The Strip would give me a shot of adrenaline I would drop down to 7:00-7:10/mi for 10 miles and then really hit the speed button for the final 4 miles. Stick to the plan! Stick to the plan!
As we heard the gun go off we moved slowly toward the start and then I said good-bye to Emily as started running. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected but immediately we made a left turn and so you had to slow down and navigate that turn. This would be the first of about 150 turns in the first 13.1 miles of the race. I had said all weekend that the first 13.1 miles of the course looked like it was designed by a 3 year old with an Etch-A-Sketch. We made turn after turn along with 180* out and backs mixed in. Funny thing is that in retrospect this was the better half of the full marathon.
After Mile 1 I saw that I was around 7:50/mi pace but now room had cleared out and we were running. I got down to 7:30/mi pace and held that through Mile 2. At this point I knew I had to really drop down if I had a chance. I sped up and after about 2 miles I caught up to the 3:15 pacer. I mentally took note of the fact that it took me 2 miles to catch him so I should be able to catch the 3:10 pacer after another 3-4 miles. I was running great tangents and felt strong. I was in stride and moving very well with nothing hurting too bad. The top of my left foot acted up again as it has for the past month or so following 70.3 Austin.
It was at Mile 8 that I could feel my grip on a Boston Qualifying pace slip away. We went up a bridge and I’m not sure what happened but I felt so slow. I felt as if I was running in mud and that I could not get up this hill at all. Once I crested I could feel the pull of the downhill begin to work and I caught up to the runner I had targeted my pace off of. It had also become night time at this point as well and I was just chasing this runner.
From Mile 8 to Mile 9 or so was the straightest stretch of this run and we got to experience it twice as we made a 180* turn and headed back to where we came from. At one point you make a left and head to another 180* turn but my legs felt great and I could see the 3:15 pacer just ahead of me again and I kept pushing to stay in eyesight of him. I thought that if I could be near him with about 7 to 8 miles to go I could make a push for a near 3:10 finish.
As you are running toward The Strip the light from the Luxor was a beacon to run to. We headed up over a bridge and then the sound from the crowd began to rise. You knew that The Strip was right there. We headed under a walkway and made a left turn onto the strip and the adrenaline rush took over, but that did not last long.
As soon as you made that left you could see the mass of humanity and the chaos of this merging of full and half-marathoners. A little background on this run is that the marathoners started at 4:00pm and the half-marathoners started at 5:30pm. I ran a 1:37 half-marathon and knew that when I got to the merge (sounds like Survivor) that I would be combining with those from the first few corrals of the half-marathon or those that would be running 7:15-7:30/mi paces. I had figured I could feed off of their speed but this was not the case.
The race directors and the Rock-N-Roll organization figured that a tiny cone with even smaller areas pointing for marathoners to one side and half-marathoners to another would be a good idea. Not so much. As I said I figured I would be running with 7:15-7:30/mi paces but what I found were walkers on the marathon side. This to me meant that the corrals were not policed and people just jumped in where they wanted.
I fortunately got in behind a woman who was directing traffic. By directing traffic I mean that she was yelling at everybody that the half-marathoners needed to get the (insert explicative) out of the way and run to the right. Unfortunately they did not all listen. At this point it was pick up the pace to get through this madhouse but at the same time I was expending energy dodging people.
At one point I literally ran right over a runner because he was on the marathon side of the race and came to a complete stop to grab water. I had no place to go and ran him over but luckily neither of us fell but this did practically stop me dead in my tracks. Before this sounds pompous of an us (marathoners) versus them (half-marathoners) let me just say that I think this was the fault of the organizers of the race in separating the track and not of the runners. There should have been more of a barricade between the two. If you are going to ask how did I know who was a marathoner and not, I can tell you for sure who was because I had just spent the last 1.5 hours with the same people all running at the same pace so you knew who was a marathoner and who was not.
Once you got to the first turns on the course the crowd thinned out a bit but it was still crowded. At about Mile 18 I saw the best sight I could ever have seen. I saw my wife and just had elation come over me. I tapped her on the arm and she asked me quickly if I was going to do it and I shook my head that I wasn’t going to qualify. At that point my heart kind of sank as the knowledge that this wasn’t happening truly set in. I started running with Karen and fell in behind her like we do when we run together.
I felt my pace slowing down considerably and with the knowledge that I was not going to get to 3:10 I almost threw in the towel and just run to the finish. This is when the competitor in me took over. I said to myself that my wife did not sacrifice Saturday evenings for the past month for me to just finish and I picked up my pace. I passed her and kept on running so that she would chase me.
After about 3 miles I could feel the strength in my legs begin to disappear and my pace slow down considerably. It was at around Mile 22 that I was chicked. I was chicked by my wife. She passed me with ease and was looking strong. Hoping to hang onto her heel and have her pull me I picked up my pace but I had nothing. My body was just not cooperating anymore and I slowed down for Mile 23. Again, the competitor took over and I told myself that I was going to negative split the last 5K of this race and I picked up the pace.
It was around Mile 24 where I heard cheering for Jason. I looked around and did not recognize anybody. I thought how do they know my name? Was my name on my bib and I did not notice before? I was a little disoriented and could not figure it out until the guy next to me started to pass me and I looked at his chest and saw Jason on it.
As I got closer to Mandalay Bay, which by the way always looks really close since the landscape is so flat. Truth be told is that Mandalay Bay always looked like it was around the corner but because it was flat it never showed up until you were literally on top of it and that messed with my mind a bit. I rounded the corner to come down the chute and wanted to kick it in but there was no 5th gear. There was nothing, but the beauty of seeing my wife after I crossed the finish line.
I fell into her arms and held her very tightly because I felt disappointed in being so far off the pace, but because of all the time invested in this attempt from her. I also could no longer stand the pain of my foot. I never spoke of my foot because I did not want to have any excuses for not qualifying. And no excuses is still my mantra. I gave this race everything I could and left it all on the course, almost more than should be left out there. At a couple of times I burped and could feel the bile in my throat, and then there was one experience that I thought I would be the poster boy for giving it all I had when I thought I crapped my shorts.
Knowing that I left it on the course made me feel like a champion. Knowing that I crossed the finish line in 3:31 and beat my previous best marathon time by 8 minutes made me feel like a champion.
It felt like the temperature dropped 15 degrees at the moment I crossed the finish line. I was freezing and Karen and I headed straight to gear bag pick-up. I changed clothes and immediately began hearing the complaints of marathoners regarding the merge amongst other issues people had. After meeting up with my brother and sister in law and sharing war stories it began a family affair of PRs. Karen set her half-marathon PR with a time of 1:57:00 and both my sister an brother in law set automatic PRs since this was there first half-marathon. We were all on a high until it took us two hours to get out of Mandalay Bay. My mood picked right back up when I had a post race meal of pancakes, eggs, granola, yogurt, crepes and fruit.
Here are my mile splits:
As a race this is not the place to go to try and qualify for Boston regardless of how flat it is. I also am not 100% sure this is the race to try to set a PR. I say that because it was disorganized and there were people all over the course. This is the 3rd marathon I have run and I have never had the experience I had in Las Vegas. There were people all over the place and it just felt very chaotic. I carry my water and nutrition with me so I had no experience with this but I heard from other racers that there were water stops with little to no volunteer support. I know that they ran out of medals as well. The craziness of trying to leave the hotel was too much for me especially after running for 3.5 hours.
I can say that from a competitive stand point I will never do this race again. I can also say that if I wanted to go and hang out and then jog a half-marathon with friends for some good laughs that this would be a race to put on the list of maybes.
Thank you for reading through this race report and again Thank You so much for your support. I truly appreciate it and I know that you all helped carry me through the end of this race.