Vegas Trip Report II – The Race!
I slept as late as I could on Sunday given that I didn’t get back to the hotel until two or so in the morning.
I woke up with an overall feeling of dread. I wasn’t *that* tired but I just wasn’t feeling the race. It was odd having been at the Expo two days before and then having the race at night. I had nothing to get myself psyched up for it. My back was tweaked from sleeping in the car on the way in and the last thing I wanted to do was walk/run 13.1 miles in the freezing cold.
I showered and got dressed and Rob dropped me off as near to the corrals as possible and I walked the rest of the way. I was found my corral and texted Aimee but we never ended up finding each other. I was cold and felt out of sorts. I don’t know why but I felt more alone this year. Even though I was by myself last year I didn’t feel the as lonely then as I did this year. It was weird.
I was so glad Rob and I had decided to remember a pair of sweatpants of his that he didn’t mind me ditching by the side of the road because my legs would have been FREEZING while I was waiting the two hours for the start. I’m also glad Rob talked me into buying a cheap pair of gloves because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to feel my fingers either.
After what seemed like an eternity, the corrals started moving. How it was supposed to happen was just like last year. There were 40 corrals and they were all supposed to be released within a minute to a minute and a half of each other. The theory behind it is that you sign up given the time you know you can finish in and that gives all the faster runners a chance to get out there and get a headstart that way no one is stuck behind someone that is slower than them. That is how it worked last year and it was perfect.
Last year they also had the full marathoner’s run the strip and then they broke off to do side streets before completing the marathon. That way there was little or no merging between the full and the half.
A lot had changed this year. Last year, because of the staggering of the corrals, it took me an hour to even cross the start line. I’m not sure when the staggering changed this year but it seemed like after corral 20 we were all just kind of let go to run as a massive lump of people. There were no more countdowns and the ropes were taken down.
At first I was thrilled at crossing the start line a half an hour earlier this year but I quickly realized what a problem it was going to present.
As we all started out on the road it appeared to be going well. There were these random orange cones along the left side of the road that didn’t appear to have a function as there were no signs so I didn’t think much of them. The first mile passed like nothing and I ditched the sweatpants(note to self, next year either wear tear aways or cut a slit up the ankles for easy removal, I lost at least two minutes trying to pull these suckers over my sneakers).
The first water station I started to worry just a little. The first few tables were empty and there were only volunteers dipping cups into what appeared to be a large plastic garbage can being filled with a hose. I had a hydration belt on so I kept on trucking and eventually found tables full of water that I grabbed a cup from.
Around mile three I noticed there was finally a sign on one of the cones dividing the left side lane. It said full to the left and half to the right. I wonder why it took three miles for us to be able to actually see a sign, but from then on I stayed to the right.
Last year I didn’t start experiencing doubts until mile 11 and that was just because everything was hurting and hurting bad. That year I had trained in an old pair shoes and wore a new pair with only like nine miles on them for the race. That was a lesson learned let me tell you!
This year around mile five I started to doubt myself. There is a small section near downtown where you have to go down a few side streets and because this was a night race there was one area that was pretty poorly lit. To be fare, it was pretty much the only spot that wasn’t lit well but it started to freak me out a little.
I went through the thoughts of, even though I was walking amongst a lot of people that I was all alone in a seedy area in the dark. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I started to have a panic attack. I got over it once we got back into better lighting but it freaked me out a little.
As I came up on mile six I sent my husband a text. I was going to be running right by our hotel (El Cortez) and he and my best friend Paula were going to be outside cheering for me with the sign Rob made at the Expo on Friday.
I thought about texting him to have our room key ready so I could run up and pee. I had to go fairly bad at that point and going up to our room would surely be quicker than waiting in line for the port a potty’s that weren’t as plentiful this year as they were last but I missed my chance.
As I ran passed my cheering husband and best friend it put some wind back in my sails. Rob told me I was looking strong and took some video of me and Paula was shouting encouragement. My doubt from earlier was turned around a bit and I felt that I could do it. It was half over at that point after all.
Back up on the other side of the strip I discovered the same thing I had thought last year but had forgotten about. There is a very slight incline going from downtown to the top of the strip. Something you don’t notice when you are driving it, but when you are run/walking you can tell. That also means there is a slight decline going towards downtown. The reason I know this is because the 1st half of the race I kept the same pace as the second half(I run to a certain BPM on my Ipod to keep my pace even all the time) and I was not winded or sore the first half, but was the entire second half. It is by no means a hill, but it was an interesting observation.
Another thing of note is that in the dark, running the strip was a little more nerve wracking for me. I am horribly afraid of heights. To the point where if there is no railing on a staircase I panic. It also effects me when looking up at tall things. In the daylight it didn’t bother me last year. This year, with all the lights things flashing I kind of felt like I was on sensory overload and looking trying not to look up at the buildings wasn’t really helping. It was kind of weird.
Another difference between having a race in Vegas at night instead of in the morning is the appearance of hecklers. I saw nothing but support from the crowds last year and while that was mostly true this year there were the occasional belligerently drunk people walking the strip and shouting rude things at the people running. They were few and far between but I thought that was worth mentioning as well.
I finally stopped to use a porta potty around mile nine. That was the one time I wished I had brought the little head lamp thing that they gave us in our swag bags. Trying to balance over a filthy porta john while holding onto your IPhone for some sort of light and doing your business was a bit of a struggle but I managed it.
Mile 11 brought some pretty gusty winds and a bit of rain but that quickly passed.
When I finally crossed the finish line I was handed a full marathon medal and the girl explained that they had run out of half marathon medals and they would mail me one. The full medal was just so we didn’t walk away empty handed. While I appreciated the gesture, I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell they ran out of medals. I mean, you have to sign up and pay to run this race. You know EXACTLY how many people will be running both the half and the full so unless you started handing out medals to people with no bib numbers on, you shouldn’t run out of medals! And why was there such an overabundance of full medals but not enough half?
I later heard a rumor that a lot of people changed their minds and ran the half instead of the full at the last minute but I don’t know if that is true or not.
I didn’t waste too much time thinking about, I was tired and cold. I grabbed a mylar blanket and a bagel but I couldn’t make myself choke any food down. With no one picking me up I was confused as to wear to go. People around me were angry and yelling and there were ambulances trying to weave in and out of the people walking.
I stopped to stretch briefly and then made my way into Mandalay Bay. I recognized the way as the same route we used to get to the parking garage last year. The difference this time was there were twice as many people and not a lot of forward movement.
We all bottle-necked about 500 feet from the door we had come in and moving forward was a slow and painful(literally) process.
Eventually we got to the casino entrance only to be rerouted through the convention center. Apparently people were going into shock from hypothermia and dropping like flies. I’m sure it must have been an absolute nightmare to try and get medics through the massive crowds of people and that is why they redirected us(or so I was told).
Downstairs we went, back outside into the freezing temps, around the building and in through the spa entrance I followed the crowd. Finally spotting hotel registration I ran towards the taxi stand only to find a literally never ending line. I could not see an end to the line, it just went on for days.
That is when I burst into tears.
I found an empty slot machine and sat down to bawl my eyes out.
I checked my phone and found a text from Rob asking how it went. I can’t remember what I wrote back but I think it was something like “Clusterfuck, giant wait for a taxi, going to sit here for a minute.”
He immediately called me and asked how he could help. Did I want him to come pick me up? At that point the only thing I could think of is that he’d never be able to get through the throngs of taxi’s that were flooding the entire entrance to the hotel.
After a few more tears and much frustration we decided that he would meet me in the parking garage.
I hung up and went off in search of the parking garage. There were no signs where I was indicating which direction to go in and I couldn’t find one single staff member to help me. Not even at one of the bars, the bartender just ignored me and continued chatting up two attractive females.
Like I wasn’t frustrated enough!! Finally I sat down and dug my phone back out. Thank God for smartphones! I was able to pull up a map of the casino, determine where I was on said map and get my ass to the parking structure.
Rob said just to go all the way to the top so I did and there was my knight in shining soccer mom van. I was so relieved to see him I got in the car and dissolved into huge wracking sobs.
Rob let me cry and then when I was better we headed out. He wasn’t sure which way was the right way to get back to our hotel but at that point he just wanted to get on the road and moving. Because he didn’t know where we were he was driving a little slower than normal and irritated that there was a cop on tailing us that didn’t seem to want to pass us.
Sure enough a few seconds later his blue lights came on and we were pulled over. It turns out Rob didn’t have the headlights on. Which isn’t totally true. On our van we have automatic lights but they only work in front, so Rob thought his lights were on, but they weren’t in the back where the cop was.
Anyway Rob explained that he had just picked me up from the marathon and the cop went on and on about what a good thing that was and aren’t I proud of myself and so on and so forth. Then he told Rob that because his wife did such a good job he was going to let us go without a ticket. Heh. He was really nice.
We finally made it back to the hotel where I took the best shower of my life and checked out the online world on my phone. The reviews were in on the race and they weren’t good. There was so much complaining about the way the race was organized this year but what I was shocked to learn about was how many people had gotten sick during the actual race. Rumors were flying about tainted water or possibly bad samples given out at the Expo. The other main complaint was that the full marathon runners got stuck behind the half marathon walkers and lost a lot of time and energy getting around them.
Overall I had to say I had a pretty good race. I didn’t sick with whatever was going around. My feet only had a couple of blisters, compared to almost having half of both of my feet covered like last year. I wasn’t that sore, and I didn’t get hypothermia. 🙂 I ended up finishing seven seconds later than I did last year (darn those sweatpants taking minutes off my time!) but I am still pretty proud of my accomplishment. My training actually paid off this year.
To Be Continued…
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