Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Report

Now that I'm not running as many races it seems to take me forever to write up a report. Now that I'm not running much it seems to take me forever to write anything. My life is filled to the brim with uninteresting things that I'm not having a bunch of fun experiencing the first time, let alone reliving them for public consumption. Will that stop me from writing here? Nopers it won't!

Anyhoo. RnR-LV. I registered for that right after I ran the Nike Half Marathon in October. I wanted a relaxing get-away and of course I can't justifying travel without a race involved. So I made my flight reservations, and my hotel reservations at what I thought was a swank Vegas hotel and I signed up for the race. In between that time and last weekend a crapload of stuff came up and I wasn't as excited as I had been. Nonetheless, I had spent the money and decided to hie meself forth. Or something like that.

We all know how excited I get about freezing (thus, moving from Michigan to California right after college graduation). I wasn't happy when Chicago ended up being the freezer of arctic races and I was less happy when I discovered that Vegas was going to be experiencing their first hard freeze of the year. Oh joy. I packed all my warm race stuff and decided what the heck, I'll live.

I got to Vegas in the early evening and checked into my hotel, the name of which I won't say except it rhymes with "Nonte Darlo." I had reserved a 2 queen, non-smoking room on a high floor. I got the high floor, a non-smoking floor. The room had 1 king bed which ended up being a non-issue since I was alone (although I like that second bed because the rooms are usually larger). The biggest issue was the smell. No, not the regular smoky Vegas smell. This was a nasty, overwhelming chemical-floral smell, as if the entire perfume industry had dumped their wares on the carpet. Over and over again. It was vile.

Luckily my window opened - an inch since it was the 31st floor - and there was a strong fan in the room. I managed to clear the worst of the smell out. The only time it smelled good on that floor was, oddly enough, when someone was smoking. Yes, the smoke smelled better than that perfumey miasma. I figured out it was probably something they were cleaning the carpets with. Ew.

That wasn't the only thing wrong with my room at the Lonte Barlo. There were 3 lamps in the room, all set to "dim." Unless I was directly underneath one I couldn't read or knit, or even see very well. The shower faucet slid by itself from "warm" to "scalding" if I didn't keep holding it. The room didn't seem clean. The curtains stuck. The television had hardly any channels. The safe needed a credit card to use it. Internet access was about $20 with the taxes. The worst was there was no coffee pot. Nada. Nor would they provide one. No, said they, call room service and spend $15 for a cuppa. Huh. Good thing the tap water reached scalding levels.

Yes, this is a race report. I'm getting there. (No wonder it takes me so long to write these things...) Saturday morning I headed over to Mandalay Bay for the expo. It was a typical RnR expo: huge. Lottsa stuff. Packet pickup was quick and easy. This year RnR was giving tech shirts (aww, the last of the big races with crappy white cotton tee shirts has crossed to the bright side). The half marathon shirt was a black short sleeved generously sized (very generously) Sugoi tech shirt. I was astounded when my XXL was tremendous. I'm so used to Nikesizing that I was unprepared for something too big. Whoopsie.

For this race RnR had jumped on the red and black bandwagon that Nike's race-branded clothing had at both Chicago and SF-Women's races and once again I was unable to resist my colors. I only bought a(nother) running hat but now I have 3 red and black running hats from this years' races. Between what was already in the goodie bag and what I picked up at the booths I got a ton of swag including dog treats (that was a first), oil and vinegar (another first), a full box of mac and cheese (yet another first), gel and bars and drink mix and more.

Vegas was busy last weekend. Not only were about 30,000 people there for the race, plus their family and friends (sniff, except for those of us all by their lonesome), it was again the big Rodeo finals (and I don't know the correct name for it, sorry, not a big fan of cows y'know) and also the big NASCAR finals (or some race car thingie, not a big fan of that either). My most amusing times all weekend were wandering around and trying to decide which of the groups a person and their companions belonged to. The cowboys (and cowgirls) were the easiest: big hats, boots, big belt buckles. The runners were wearing sneakers and some piece of race-branded clothing, carrying water. A very few of them also had the big buckles but the ultra-buckles couldn't be confused with the cowboy buckles. The race car fans were the out-of-shape drunks carrying a large beer. Oh No! See RunnerGirl unfairly stereotype people!!

Sunday morning I arose early. The race was starting at 6:15 and I knew it would take me about 20 minutes to walk to the start (I had timed it the day before). I ate my oatmeal, drank my surprisingly good instant Starbucks Via (thanks again Ponte Farlo for no coffee pot), bundled into all my running gear and headed out the door at 5:15 am. Ew smelly hallway.

The thing that saved the day for me was the instant I walked outside I covered my nose and mouth with my buff and left it that way until I started running. I managed to not inhale any of the icy cold air, and lemme tell ya, it was icy cold, about 30 degrees. I joined the throngs heading to the start. I was in corral 23, way at the back. It didn't take me that long to get there so I decided to go into the hotel/casino to stay warm and to go to the bathroom. Being in the very big and typically confusing casino I think I walked for a half hour before I made it to the bathroom and back out again. I exited through a different door than I had entered so I was way up by the front and had to fight my way to the back of the crowd.

RnR was doing a challenge with the elite women and men where the women started about 20 minutes before the rest of the crowd. There was a bunch of stuff that was apparently going on at the front, like entertainers and tigers and such, but we didn't know about that until after the race. We could see part of the fireworks that were going on but the trees in the median strip blocked the best of it. Finally the race started, I think. Because of staggered start times I didn't cross the start line for almost 45 minutes after the gun. Brrr.

The half marathon was run entirely on Las Vegas Blvd. except for a very short loop at the half way turnaround. I've got to say that the road surface was very good; I didn't trip once. Not a single time, and that could be a race record for me. It was both a good route and a bad one. I didn't mind running back and forth but some people were complaining toward the end.

I was surprised by the course support. Although water stops were frequent, by about mile 6 the tables were mostly broken down with only a couple left having water or Cytomax drink. There was Gu at just past mile 9 and when I saw it while wunning the other direction there seemed to be plenty. However by the time I got there, there were literally only a half dozen packets of Roctane left - nothing else, none of the regular Gu. People must have been grabbing handsful as they ran past. I feel bad for people behind me (and yes, there were lots of them) who hadn't brought their own gel and weren't carrying bottles. Let that be a lesson to you kids, even the best organizations sometimes run short. I had my favorite Gu's and Sport Beans with me, plus the freebie Gu that had been in my goodie bag, their new seasonal flavor Gingerbread. I tasted that one and threw it out, preferring my Beans.

My plan for the race was to wun my normal 9:1 until at least past the turnaround, hopefully to at least mile 8 (which was as far as I had trained), and then see how I felt. I ran straight out for the first mile and a half and unless the course was mismarked I unintentionally kicked ass. I still think that first mile was short. I wore my Nike+ for amusement value and it said I only ran about 12.25 miles total. Huh. Have to calibrate that thing. I convinced myself to stick with 9:1 for the entire race, mostly because it was cold and I wanted to finish while there was still beer left at the end. Nope, didn't make sense to me either.

Once the sun came out it "warmed" up to the high 30's, but when we turned around it had started clouding over and I discovered I'd been running with a tail wind. I had taken off my jacket at about mile 4 and I put it back on at about mile 10. The gloves and ear warmers were removed at about mile 5 and I didn't need them again until after the race.

It was crowded the entire time I was out there, which was almost 3 hours because although I felt like I was wunning my little legs off, I was going slow as frozen molasses. Again. I did a lot of zigging and zagging and because I was there for fun, and was only running 13.1 miles, I didn't really care. I had decided that I would enjoy the race simply because I was able to run it - I was healthy enough to run, I was monetarily capable of a weekend getaway, I could drop all of my responsibilities for a couple of days. Enjoy it I did. I was grateful that I could do it. Freezing air, crowded course and all.

At the finish they draped the big medal around my neck and gave me a bottle of water. I wandered until I found the space blankets, which are now generic "Rock 'n' Roll Race Series" blankets (guess they have to save money somehow with so many races now). There were tables full of plain bagels and bananas and oranges, pretzels and some energy bars. We were able to have our pictures taken either alone, or with a frozen showgirl. Very funny, they looked miserable standing there in their outfits trying to smile while some smelly stranger crowded next to them. Yes, I had my picture taken with one. Then I tried to track down the beer tent because I guess I wasn't cold enough.

(I just bought a new camera so hopefully this is the last of the crappy pix)

After wandering in circles I found that beer tent. I didn't need to dig out my bracelet showing I was over 21 (frozen face wrinkles were all I need to prove my age) and I was handed my can - yes, an entire can - of MGD 64. Hey, it's almost water, right? I was rehydrating! Vegas being Vegas, I was able to walk back to my hotel with beer in hand and it was far enough that I had finished the beer long before I reached the Ronte Garlo.

Also Vegas being Vegas, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the squads of running Elvi. Why is it that all impersonators dress as Fat Old Elvis instead of Hot Young Elvis? It's not like any of them can sing like him. There were also many couples who married, or remarried, while on the course (at about mile 3.5) and ran wearing wedding apparel. Always something interesting to see during a race!

Would I do it again? Yeah, probably. It's still a good excuse to get out of Dodge, it's an easy course, a cheapish trip. Although I love small races, there's something to be said for the large corporate ones too.

Will I travel by myself again? Yeah, probably. Among other things I discovered that you shouldn't go out for sushi meals alone (7 bites and you're done. Literally. Then what?) and that they'll put Amy in a corner. I never felt weird, didn't feel lonely (cell phone!), didn't have time to get bored.

Now I have to figure out what I can race next. Right now it feels good slacking off a bit, giving myself an excuse to let my leg heal without taking the chance of ripping stitches. This won't last long, I like having plans (even if I end up canceling them) and a schedule to follow. If you have any suggestions for a race, let me know!


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  2. Um, gingerbread gu? That sounds disgusting! I'm glad everything else went well in your race though, in spite of the shoddy organization. And amen to the old Elvis thing - totally agree!!