Some people travel just for the sake of going to a place, but what usually dictates my personal travel is visiting family or for an event, like a race.
Back in August when I was going through a couple of tough weeks a friend of mine suggested I plan a trip to Las Vegas with her and some other runners I know from the East Coast. I looked up the Rock N Roll Last Vegas Race and was immediately in.
Las Vegas was never a spot that was on my ‘must go to’ places, but this race looked like a ton of fun, plus how could I go wrong in traveling with friends from the East Coast, doing a half marathon in such a cool environment. The Last Vegas Rock N Roll Race Series is only one of two events of the year that the strip gets closed down for. The other event is New Year’s Eve.
We arrived on Thursday and gave ourselves a few days before race day in Vegas. First off, let’s talk about Vegas itself. I was wrong to not have it on my list of places to visit, just being in Las Vegas is such a unique and fun experience. The energy, atmosphere, laughter, and ‘anything goes in Vegas’ attitude immediately sweeps you away and puts you in vacation mode. Here’re just a few of the Las Vegas sites:
It also helped that from the moment of arriving at the hotel you could easily spot other fellow runners, which upped the level of excitement and intrigue. Seeing the running shirts and jackets from races all over the world was intriguing and motivating for me. We were far from the only runners that traveled more than halfway across North America to push ourselves to our physical limit.
Let’s fast forward to Friday, where we start our day off with heading to the Health and Fitness expo to pick up our race kits. I was pretty tired from lack of sleep and jet lag but being around all these other excited runners gave me an immediate boost. As there were 35,000 runners expected to participate, I was mentally prepared to stand in long lines and be delayed in picking up my bib and race kit, but I was pleasantly surprised. This event was so well organized and setup that it went quickly and smoothly. I had all of my race gear in under 10 minutes so I want to give a shout out to all the organizers and volunteers for doing an extremely great job at the expo.
Then you get to the fun part of the expo – the runners shopping heaven. I felt like a kid in a toy store. There was running gear galore from brands such as Brooks, Under Armour, onemoremile.net, the rock n’roll race series itself, Garmin, Glukos and many many many others. Here are a few of the items I picked up at the expo:
There were two days of racing that you had the option of participating in. On Saturday there was a 5km race and Sunday was the 10km, Half-Marathon, and the Full Marathon. I ran in the half-marathon.
The girls and I took it easy Saturday night and did a bit of carb loading at a buffet the night before the race and slept in on Sunday morning so we could catch up on some sleep and rest up for race day. The race didn’t start until 4:30pm on Sunday so we had some time to kill during race day. We went to this amazing restaurant in the Paris Casino called Mon Amis Gabi and I filled up on some amazing French Toast. (Side Note: If you are ever in Vegas, do yourself a favour and make sure you have breakfast there at least one. The French Toast was out of this world.) Afterward, I went back to the hotel to rest my legs and relax before heading out to the race.
We were staying right by the finish line so we had to leave early to take the monorail to the start line area. I could hardly wait to get there. I felt like a child on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. I was excited to run the strip and take advantage of the amazing energy there. Although initially, I was a little concerned about the heat (it was about 26 degree Celsius / 78.8 Fahrenheit), navigating through the huge crowd of runners, and of how my injured foot and calf would feel, I went to the race only thinking positive thoughts. I was determined to leave it all on the race course and cross the finish line using every ounce of my endurance and strength. We started to get ready to leave the hotel around 2:00 and went down to the monorail around 2:30pm.
It was hard not to get hyped and totally energized for the race once you got to the start line area. Snoop Dogg was the opening act and greeted all the runners with great beats on a huge stage. The sights here were amazing. There were bride and grooms running in wedding attire and getting ready to tie the knot. There were countless numbers of Elvis costumes among many other creative outfits. Unfortunately, I didn’t get too many shots of these as my battery life was wearing down.
Then it was finally time to make my way to the start line. I was itching to get going by this point. Each runner selected an estimated finishing time when they registered and this dictated what Corral you started in. I estimated I would finish around the 1 hour and 55 min mark so I ended up in Corral 9. They started each corral off in waves, which further added to the anticipation and excitement.
Finally, we were off! The first couple kilometers of the race was a little tough as there was a large number of runners that ended up in this corral that was not running a pace for this time goal so I was often getting stuck in packs of people going slower than I wanted my pace to be. So after A LOT Of dodging and weaving past walkers and runners, by kilometer 4 I felt like I was in a good running groove.
There were speakers and bands set up along the course for entertainment. I turned my music off numerous times to soak in all of the sounds of the race and the cheers of people who were lined up throughout the course. The cheers, high fives, and signs from the huge crowds of people were amazing. Even towards the end of the race, there were moments I forgot how tired my legs were getting because I was so mesmerized and motivated by the cheers and support.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll race organizers did an amazing job with the setup on the course as well. It was well-marked, had signs at every mile and frequent water stops so you were never left dehydrated. I was extremely impressed with the attention to detail and the amount of water and Gatorade stops they had.
I was starting to get pretty fatigued close to the 17km mark and was actually overly hydrated and my bladder felt like it was about to burst. I know other runners have felt this pain before, but I got so desperate, I sprinted into a diner that was along the route and asked the hostess if I could use their bathroom and she was so startled she just looked at me wide-eyed and nodded yes. By the time I came out she was out of her shock and smiled at me and wished me luck in the rest of the race. I wish I remembered the name of the diner so I could send them a thank you note. I was soooo grateful and able to finish the race in relative comfort. This might be TMI for some but most long distance runners I know have no shame in talking about bathroom emergencies during long runs and races 🙂 I consider it a right of passage for long distance runners! I’ve heard so many comical stories so I know I’m not alone in this one.
With less than 4km to go my legs were feeling very tired and heavy and my nagging injury was paining quite a bit so at this point it became a mental battle as much as a physical one. Like I said above, the lights and action around me certainly helped, but the last few km’s was a lot of self-talk and telling myself I was almost there and to keep pushing because otherwise I’d be disappointed if I left anything out on the course.
I crossed the finish line and looked at my running app and I came in under 1hr 55 mins. I was aiming for 1 hour and 55 mins so I was thrilled. I checked my time to make sure it hadn’t stopped while I was in the diner and despite the pee break came in just under my time goal. This was a new personal best for me. I am slowly but surely making my way to my ultimate goal and chasing down that 5 min per km pace.
There was an error in my bib time so I had to request a change but regardless of the time I also knew I pushed past a few mental hurdles during the run, I didn’t let myself give up no matter how sore or tired I was towards the end. That’s where the mental aspect of long runs and speed runs throughout training really help during a race. When you are out there pushing yourself to new distances and speeds you really appreciate those runs where you are all by yourself and continued to challenge yourself even when you wanted to stop in a moment of exhaustion. These are the races where you also see how speed work and long distance training runs come together on race day.
This was an unforgettable experience and I certainly hope I am fortunate enough to get back to this race next November and even try out some of the other races in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. This is one more for the books and has definitely given me another motivational boost to keep pushing for my ultimate time and full marathon goal.
Thanks to all my friends, family and running coach who have been so supportive throughout this ongoing journey. Much love to you all!