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Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas Half Marathon Recap and Lessons Learned

Posted Dec 04 2012 1:31am

I spent most of the day today lounging on the couch.

After my mom picked me up at the airport, we ran a few errands (TJ’s and Costco) then headed back to my parents’ place to pick up the dogs and hang out for a bit. I managed to make us some quinoa and kale salads and we shared had a mid-day mini feast of black bean tortilla chips, edamame hummus, salsa and dark chocolate and sea salt toffee (I guess my post-run hunger was finally setting in) before I passed out for a much needed nap. Half marathons will sneak up on you like that. ;)

Now that I’m recovered recovering, how about a recap?

I had been looking forward to running Vegas for quite awhile (I had planned on going last year but had to change my plans about a month before the race when I suffered a stress fracture in my foot ) so I was pretty excited about it. I just thought there couldn’t be much better than running to live music at night, along the Vegas strip lit up in all it’s glory. I was right. Add Christmas decorations and race volunteers dressed up in elf suits and it was over the top.

Joan and I arrived at the race corrals plenty early. The weather had been pretty mild most of the morning but just before 2 pm, when the wind really started picking up, I began to get a little nervous about how it might affect my run. Truthfully, I felt a little nervous all around when it came to this race. I wasn’t sure what to eat to fuel for a night run (I ended up going with a kale/quinoa/veggie salad around 1 pm and then eating 1/2 a Luna bar about an hour before the race started which ended up being a good choice), what to wear (the gusts of wind were so cold but I didn’t want to get too hot once I started running), or whether I had hydrated properly (I drank well all morning and guzzled quite a bit of water a couple hours before the race but I’m perpetually thirsty so I felt like it did nothing for me). Walking around the race grounds helped to alleviate my stress a little. There were definitely some interesting characters out there – plenty of Elvi and holiday inspired outfits – one guy was dressed from head to toe in a leopard bodysuit! The energy was electric and it seemed most people had a fun, laid back attitude about the run.

Long before I came to Vegas, I had a goal in mind to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. It seemed like a decent target after finishing the San Diego half marathon in 2:09 last March . I kept my goal in mind throughout my training and, although my practice runs were usually paced around 9:30/mile, I felt I could really give it the extra push once it came down to race day. Joan and I had briefly discussed our running strategies –  we figured we’d  try and stick together for at least the first few miles and then split up if necessary after that. Shortly after we lined up in our race corrals I decided I’d keep the goal of 1:58 – 1:59 in mind but that I wouldn’t be too upset if it didn’t happen. I wanted, first and foremost, to enjoy running at least a portion of the race with my friend and, after struggling unsuccessfully to maneuver past a pair of Elvis impersonators pushing a stroller before the start of the race, I could tell there might be some unexpected bumps in the road.

And then there were a couple hiccups. Although we’d made ample use of the bathroom facilities prior to the race, both Joan and I realized shortly into the run that just wasn’t going to cut it. We made the executive decision to stop and use the port-a-potties around mile 1 before the line for the facilities got too long. We still had to wait for a couple people (seriously, who needs to use the bathroom 1 mile into the race? Oh wait…) but I think it was the best decision. As someone who barely made it through my 45 min flight to Vegas sans potty break, I could tell there was no way I would have made it through to the end had we not stopped. Hiccup #2 occurred around mile 3. Spurred on by the wind, I had decided to wear a three-quarters length shirt over my tank top that I’d previously planned on running in but once I warmed up I realized it was the wrong decision. Since I knew I’d be much more comfortable in cooler attire, I waited until I saw a water table then took the opportunity to peel off my outer layer, so, as coincidence would have it, I did indeed ‘strip at night.’ ;)

Somewhere in the midst of my impromptu strip on the strip, I lost Joan. We had planned to split up eventually but I hadn’t wanted for us to become separated so soon. Since I wasn’t sure if she was behind me or ahead of me, I stalled a little while I refastened my race bib to my tank top – but there was no sign of Joan. Wanting to make up for some lost time, I sprinted for the next 1/2 to 3/4 mile or so and was so happy when I finally saw Joan running up ahead. We ran together for a little while before deciding to go our separate ways. Before we parted, Joan told me to keep an eye on the Stratosphere and that it would be about the halfway point. I hadn’t really familiarized myself with the course beforehand so I was glad she had given me that landmark.

The next few miles I just took in the scenery. I can remember running past New York, New York, several wedding chapels and the Pawn Stars pawn shop (I smiled as I watched a fellow runner sprint in and out of the store quickly just to say she’d been inside). I think it was around mile 5 that I finally started to relax and find my stride, I was feeling comfortable and passing people left and right (I really, really like to pass people ;) ) and over all just enjoying myself. The spectators were cheering, the bands were playing good music and there was just a really positive mood in the air.

Shortly after we passed the Stratosphere, I looked down to check my stats on the Run Keeper application on my iphone. I was approaching mile 8 and was finally starting to feel like the end was in sight. Right at that time I realized a couple things: I hadn’t even busted out my headphones since the starting line (I typically tend to run with music so this was definitely new for me) and I was starting to get really, really thirsty. I had forgotten that in San Diego I had grabbed two cups of water at every stop. From then on I made it a point to double up at every water station. I tried to be courteous and wait if there was someone else needing water running alongside me but most of the time there was plenty to go around so it was nbd.

Around mile 10, I glanced down at my time, did a little mental math and figured that my goal of hitting sub-2 hours might be within reach. I really started to push myself (I ran mile 10 in 8:38) and dig deep before realizing I’d probably need to reign it in or I’d risk running out of steam before the end. At mile 11, I slowed my pace down a little, taking the advice of one of the crowd spectators who was shouting, “Breathe in, breathe out” as we passed by and gave my lungs a rest. At that point I gave up on checking my time and stats because I knew it no longer mattered. I was giving it my all regardless. The last couple miles were excruciating for me. The wind was coming straight at us at this point and it felt like the end was never going to come. I can remember thinking on multiple occasions that I’d never do this again. Somewhere near the finish I spied the guy in the leopard onesie and gave it one last push to pass him by (because, seriously…) When we finally reached the finish line at The Mirage (how appropriate), I was totally spent.

My last two miles were run right around a 9:30 pace but I’d felt like I had been moving much slower. My legs and ankles were so sore and, although it felt good to be done, it was quite different from the high I’d felt immediately upon finishing the San Diego half marathon. After forcing myself to walk around and cool down for a couple minutes, I started to feel the sting of the wind again and gladly took a shiny foil blanket from one of the volunteers. I also snagged a mini Jamba Juice strawberry banana smoothie and stretched for a bit before getting up to start looking around for Joan. Only then did I start to feel a little bit better.

I finished with an official time of 2:08:09 – not the sub-2-hour time I had wanted but a PR nonetheless, and considering the wind plus an unplanned bathroom break and a wardrobe malfunction, I’ll take it. :)

I think this half marathon made me realize a few things. In running, just like in life, you prepare the best that you can and you go out there and give it your all, never quite knowing exactly what you’ll be getting yourself into. While it’s good to have a plan, sometimes it’s just as important to be flexible, go with the flow and accept the little challenges and quirks that come up along the way. It’s all part of the process. Give it your best but, above all, remember to enjoy the journey.

San Diego was tough but there were parts of it that were relatively easy and enjoyable, and looking back I probably could have pushed myself beyond my comfort zone quite a bit more than I did. Vegas was a different – I felt like I was playing catch up from the start, and running against the wind at times made it a struggle just to maintain the pace I’d kept in San Diego. San Diego was calm and serene. Vegas was colorful and loud and at times I just had to look at the chaos around me and laugh. San Diego was very calculated, I kept to my pre-race plan and there were very few hiccups along the way. Vegas started off with a couple glitches, and really forced me to dig deep and see what I was capable of.

I’ve been through a lot of changes in the past few months – mostly work-related – and there have been a lot of ups and downs and some doubt and second guessing that has caused me to question whether I’m on the right path. I’ve had obstacles thrown at me like you wouldn’t believe. There have been so many moments where I’ve had to dig deep and force myself to grow in ways I never imagined, where I’ve had to step back and take a breath and remind myself to just keep pressing forward. And it has been a tremendous challenge.

That’s the thing I’m learning with running and with life – there are bound to be twists and turns, and guaranteed bumps in the road. Learning how to adapt and overcome challenges is how we grow as people. It’s how we gain experience and the confidence and tools to deal with the next task at hand.  The important thing isn’t always knowing where you’re going, it’s knowing that, no matter where the road takes you, not only can you handle it, but if you keep giving it your all you can and will make it through stronger than before.

I’m glad to have had this race under my belt. I think it will make me stronger and more prepared for my next half marathon (yes, there will probably be another one in my future…) and all in all, looking back, it was a pretty great run. :)

Thanks for reading my (lengthy) recap. :) Hope you’re having a wonderful night!



Get Into the Groove
My Dining Companion Phoenix to Vegas
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