I received my medal, grabbed my beer, and hobbled my way to our hotel. Chad had finished about 45 minutes before me and was already showered and changed by the time I got back to my room. It was a tough pill to swallow again not having the race I would have liked to have. But I have been reminded of this many times in running and in life in general, when I try to make it about me, I will never succeed. I started running to give to those in need and when I lose sight of the reason God gave me this ability and make it about me, these kinds of things can happen to bring back my focus.
On my next marathon adventure, we packed our bags and headed to Las Vegas. This race was the first that I made into a mini vacation with Kaela. Chad and his wife were joining again for the race, making it a fun couples trip. I had battled some injuries during the summer that held up training a little bit, so had that weighing on my mind. Also, after not achieving a PR in Pittsburgh, I was determined to get one on this relatively flat course. One thing I didn’t take into consideration was you know, Vegas!
Race: Rock and Roll Strip at Night Marathon
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Finishing Time: 4:51:42
There were a lot of things on my mind for this race that included a lot of “first time” jitters. This was the first time I had flown to a race and was worried that I was unable to find proper nutrition for the two days prior to the race. Along the same idea, being in Vegas, I had to make sure I watched what I ate and how much I was drinking (which is a hard thing to do with restaurants with extensive beer list). The last thing, and by far my biggest worry, was that the race started at 4:30pm. Weeks leading up to the race Chad and I tried planning out how we wanted to tackle the late start. Stay up late night before and then sleep all day? Wake up early and then take a nap before the race? When would we eat? There were so many questions leading up to the actual race.
The day we arrived, Kaela and I spent the day walking up and down the strip keeping my legs loose. We caught a show that night and got to bed at a decent hour. The next morning after an all you can eat and drink buffet (yeah bad idea) Chad and his wife had arrived and checked into the hotel. Chad and I then took a few mile run to the expo to grab bibs and check out gear. Back to the all you can drink in the morning. I was not properly hydrated for the run and felt like I was dying by the end of the couple miles to the expo. But being that its Vegas, rather than grabbing some water on the way back to the hotel, we stopped and grabbed more beer. That night we caught another show and grabbed dinner and again got to bed at a decent hour. We had decided to just play it easy and get a good night sleep the night before the race and try to nap a bit before race start time.
Race day came, except since it was an evening race everything just seemed off. I just couldn’t figure out how to manage the day in order to be prepared for the start. From a late breakfast to an abnormal pre-race meal of Subway, things just seemed to be out of the norm. About an hour before the start we made the mile walk down the strip to head to the start line. Being that this was a Rock and Roll Marathon event, there were a ton of people. We were seeded into corrals by bib numbers and Chad and I realized quickly that a lot of the higher seeded people were sitting in our corral and we decided to make a push ahead. Race start was at 4:30 and we were able to sneak up to about the 7th wave of runners. The start was in the low 50’s which in the dessert felt a lot colder than iI was expecting.
Funny side story about the weather. Every marathon leading up to this race has had some sort of abnormal weather. We were in the thinking that since it was in the dessert we didn’t have to worry about rain like in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh but mother nature didn’t disappoint. It just happened to be one of the coldest days they have had in years with temperatures dropping to mid-40’s by the end of the race.
The start of the race was on the south end of the strip, and you head south about a mile to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and then take a u-turn and head right back up the strip. The first 6 miles or so kept you distracted running up the strip. From seeing all the “special” kinds of people you usually see in Vegas, the wedding ceremonies happening at mile 3, and all the flashing lights, it was definitely a sight to see. I later found out that the strip is only closed twice a year, this race and New Year’s Eve.
After this we made some turns in residential area and started making our way to Old Vegas. This is where I started to feel discomfort. Before mile 9, I started to get some side pains that in hindsight could have been the result of inadequate hydration all day before the race. At this point I told Chad to just keep on trucking at his pace and not to wait on me. I had walked about 1/2 mile before getting myself back together and back on pace.
One of the coolest parts of the race was heading through Old Vegas. They blocked off the center portion of the walk way and we just ran between flashing lights, casinos, and lots of “interesting” people. I think they over stimulated us during this part because the next section of the race was going to be brutally quiet. Once we left the lights, we made our way north to the residential side of North Las Vegas. No real crowd support, and only street lights, traffic signals, and the occasional police car as lighting. The only noise you heard were the footsteps hitting the payment and heavy breathing from the runners. This was the first time that I ever felt lonely during a marathon.
We headed 3 miles straight out (with one little bump out for an aid station) to the 14 mile mark before heading back same direction. Before I hit the 14 mile aid station, I was hurting bad. Stomach pains, legs tired and heavy, and started to have the doubt feeling that I may not be able to finish this after all. That all changed when I hit that aid station. There was a huge crowd of volunteers cheering and bringing up spirits, which was change of pace from the last 4 miles of quiet. I walked for about a mile and then picked up the pace. Again we had an 2.5 mile out and back before heading on the same dreadful quiet road on the way back to the strip. This time however, the quiet didn’t bother me. I embraced it as a point of focus to concentrate on the task at hand, finishing the race!
Before I knew it, I was back in Old Vegas and was so happy to see those flashing lights. One thing I did notice is that I must have been further back than I had realized because any crowd support that was there on the way out, was completely gone. The only people cheering for us where those that were making their ways between casinos. Leaving there, we took a more direct route back to the Strip only making a few turns. Around mile 23 a sharp pain in my side brought me to a stop. I tried walking it off but it took almost 2 miles of walk/run to get it away. Just before mile 25, I saw the flashing lights and casinos from the Strip and I knew that I was in the home stretch. I put everything I had left into it and pushed to the finish.
The home stretched summed up my race. As I was coming in you could hear music, but no real crowd. I had taken too long and there wasn’t much support left to be had. It was a tough race to swallow as I ran that final half mile looking at the finish line and feeling alone. Then I saw Kaela near the finish, cheering me on with a huge smile on her face. She had been standing outside in the cold for the last hour waiting to see me finish. That gave me the little boost of motivation to kick into high gear and finish strong: 4:51:42.
It was a difference experience, running a marathon at night. I definitely learned a few things not to do if ever I run a similar type of race. My PR goal was going to have to wait for another race but I was still happy to have another race under the 5 hour threshold. If I was going to give a review on the course and event, I would say that definitely would not make it your first marathon due to the lack of crowd support for most of the race. I did hear that because of the layout of the half marathon course, it may be a better suited race for those wanting to do the half.
Well this was the last race of 2014. Next on the list, heading to Disney World in Florida to get a little Goofy!