You’re supposed to play lucky numbers in Vegas, right? Well being born on 9/9, my lucky number is – you guessed it – 9, and on November 16, 2014, the one-year anniversary of my first half marathon ever, I rolled the dice on my lucky #9th half marathon and did exactly what I told myself I shouldn’t. And I don’t regret a moment of it.
Yes, November 16, just as I said I wouldn’t while completely subconsciously suspecting I would, I participated in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon. I can’t say I raced it, and I would hardly say I ran it. But put a girl in Vegas the same weekend as a marathon she’s already signed up for, find that the dry climate heals her problem spots she’s supposed to be resting, and get her all excited and festive at the Expo and hanging out with runner friends, and the girl’s gonna cross the starting line.
It was, truly, the Expo that sealed the deal. After visiting with my grandparents for a couple of days, I headed out of the beautiful community of Summerlin where they live and down to the Strip to check into my hotel room I’d booked when all was going as planned and I was planning to race RnRLV – before the tendonitis made itself known. It’s hard to resist a Run Rock ‘n’ Roll Expo, especially when Meb Keflezighi is one of the featured speakers. So I went. I thought, I’ll hear the speakers. Maybe I’ll buy a few things that are on an “Expo special” price. I’ll pick up my bib and t-shirt at least.
Then this happened and I was sold. I wanted to be part of a race Meb was running in. I wanted to get on the Strip at night, during one of the only two times it is ever closed off (the other being New Year’s Eve). I stood in the KT Tape line for 35 minutes, some volunteer gave me a shoddy tape job, and I went to check into my hotel loaded down with shopping goodies.
I loved ALL of the merch. Rock ‘n’ Roll races do it well. I had to really restrain myself from buying just about everything. It was so Vegas-happy.
My hotel room was roomy – part of a suite at the Bluegreen resort for which we have a timeshare because I’m a spoiled brat – so I was able to spread my stuff out and kick up my feet that Saturday night while most of my friends (when you participate in #runchat on Twitter, you’re never alone at a race) were running the 5K remix race. I watched UT Austin Longhorn football until it was about time to head over to the Palazzo for my
carbloading dinner reservations. I’d found George at the Expo and was able to catch Jeremy’s eye during the Meb talk, but Saturday night was the night we all really got to hang out.
It was so nice to talk running shop and various races with people as enthusiastic about traveling for races as I am. I’d never met Clarinda before but obvi George and I took over Disneyland back in August, Jeremy and I were old social media pals from when I interviewed him back in January, and Nick and I pretty much ogle each other’s Instagram shots of race medals in our spare time. Clarinda, however, was the resident badass among us, the only one of us taking on the full marathon as opposed to the half. So many mad props all around to this awesome group. We hung out at the Bellagio for a while and finally called it a night. Drinks, a little gambling, and prancing around fancy hotels til the wee hours of the morning the night before a half marathon? Vegas, baby.
The next day I took it easy all morning. The temperature took a dive overnight which I wasn’t happy about, so I dressed in long sleeves and decided not to check my sweatshirt for the night race – worst case scenario I’d tie it tightly around my waist and obscure my bib number for pictures – who cares. I ate a leisurely breakfast at the Einstein bagels attached to my hotel, took the monorail back to the Palazzo to claim cash from a ticket from a slot machine the night before, and as I was walking back through Harrah’s to get to the monorail, spotted a Dolly Parton penny slot machine and decided to give it a whirl. $42 richer later, I waltzed into Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar (for the record, as a fan of good country music, I cannot stand Toby Keith, but I needed to eat a hearty lunch with the race several hours away still). It felt like Dolly Parton had bought me lunch so I was pretty happy.
At that point it was too far away from the race starting to actually head to the start line festival, but too close to go all the way back to my hotel, so I hung out in my rental car, which I’d parked at the MGM Grand, and hydrated and listened to some pump-up music. Around 2 I began to follow the mass exodus to the Mandalay Bay parking lot thing at which the Macklemore concert would begin at 2:30 or 3 or something, and we did a lot of this:
There are so many social media people in the above let’s just say Lori is in yellow, the guy in the blue California shirt is the man behind Calloused Soles, you should definitely recognize the guy on the bottom between me and Clarinda if you follow any running bloggers at all, and equally prolific a running career but only newly familiar from me, the guy between Jeremy and me on the bottom is Michael from Point One Miles. The whole start line festival was a total reaffirmation that runners are the loveliest kind of people, and I was happy happy happy to just be among them.
I have no good shots of Macklemore, but for the pump up act before a race? Hearing “Can’t Hold Us” and “Thrift Shop” and tearing up to “Same Love”? If my body had been up to it I woulda been ready to PR the shit out of this race after Macklemore got us going.
Eventually George and I trekked to the corrals and I made him bump up with me so I’d have someone to hang with until he took off. We were corral 21 out of 40-something corrals so even though it took about 45 minutes for our corral to be let go after the race started, I was just happy we weren’t further back. I set my watch for 8:2 intervals and the “8” part was more like a trot than a run or even a jog. I was all about avoiding any pain arriving in my foot and knee, which meant taking it real slow.
So I trotted along. I said goodbye to George around the 5K mark to allow him to actually run the race at a decent clip instead of my 12 minute pace during the 8 minute intervals. I took in the sights and sounds of the amazing downtown area of the Strip, of the people cheering. I was in a much more easygoing mood for “taking it slow and careful” this day than I had been for MCM. Even with lingering injury, 13.1 miles felt like a cakewalk after the Marine Corps Marathon. Like a 5K after your first half marathon. Even though I was moving slower than ever in a race, mile 8 approached and I was like meh, more than halfway done, what’s up.
But like I mentioned, mile 8 was a bit of a turning point. This was getting into the northern end of the Strip, old Las Vegas, which can be a lot more skeezy. It’s where the wedding chapels are and things just get less glitzy and more like the shiny paint is chipping off of Vegas. Eventually the course wound its way into an almost totally dark neighborhood and I got bored. I had kept my music off for the first 10K and now, with my knee starting to protest and no pretty lights or exciting giant glitzy advertisements playing from every place you look, I was over it.
By the 10 mile mark I wanted to stop in at the 7-11 for a Diet Coke. Yes, that’s where we were in Vegas. A 7-11 was my big draw. It was at this point I decided to full out walk the rest of the “race.” It would be by far my slowest half marathon out of the 9 that this event would bring my count to, but I wasn’t willing to injure my knee any further just to break 3 hours or 2:45 or whatever. I came to play in Vegas and that’s what I did.
I got aid stations to ice my knee just because I figured it was the smart thing to do, but not because I was in agony. I hurt a bit but mainly I was just hungry and tired from moving for 3 hours. I swear, no other race is worth spending 3 hours going 13 miles. (I sound like a speed snob. Please remember speed is all relative. I’m used to 8 previous half marathons all around or under 2:30, which is by no means speedy, but that extra half hour took a mental toll I am unused to.)
Mainly, though, the best thing was getting back to my hotel, starting up a hot bath (I was shivering from the cold temps on my sweaty body after a night race in the desert), drinking the free beer while in the hot bath, and ordering a giant pizza. That will definitely go down as my favorite post-race recovery in the history of post-race recoveries for me. Solid plan for future racecations.
The weekend was amazing. I absolutely loved it even though I couldn’t actually race and it’s set back my recovery time a couple weeks. I don’t have another major race until Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans at the end of January and my physical therapists are all confident I’ll be back in action by then. I’ve been going to PT twice a week since getting back from Vegas and my knee only acts up maybe once a day. My new Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoes are perfect and I even got new shoes with better arch support and inserts for my office footwear.
2015, I’m coming for you and my major 2015 resolution is INJURY FREE.