Race day was finally here and I’m very grateful that we didn’t have the usual super early wake-up call after last night’s adventures. We set out to get breakfast at the Paris brunch buffet (a highlight of our trip last time) but the line was so crazy talk long that we all decided to go someplace else. It was surprisingly challenging to find a restaurant serving breakfast after 11:00, but thanks to the power of smart phones we found a place in the Planet Hollywood casino.
I was expecting it to be on par with Denny’s, but it was surprisingly good. And with the race coming up in the afternoon, I justified an insanely decadent breakfast of cinnamon-roll french toast with a side of bacon:
So delicious, but I could only finish about half of it. Afterwards, I headed back to the room to relax and stay off my feet while the rest of the gang headed out for more poker (the boys) and wandering around (Nerissa). I put on the new compression socks and put my feet up while watching some terrible TV:
Having an afternoon start time is really weird. It was hard to have so many hours of the pre-race energy/nerves. On one hand, I usually don’t have time to stretch and relax before a race, let alone take a nice hot bath. On the other, I had time to fret about every one of my clothing choices and freak out about inadequate training. Good times!
But soon enough, everyone returned to the hotel for the trip to the start line. (The strip was completely closed for the race, so our hotel was offering a complimentary shuttle to the start line.) T confirmed my last-minute decision to wear a short sleeved shirt (such a good call!) and took a cute picture of me before we got on the bus:
Don’t you love the socks? Cut up knee-highs from Target over compression socks. Geek-chic at it’s finest!
We got on the bus pretty early because I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like and didn’t want to be stressed about it. It wasn’t too bad, so we got there pretty early. I had plenty of time to find a port-a-potty and my corral. The wind had been picking up pretty steadily all afternoon and it was definitely blustery. A race photographer wanted to grab a pre-race photo of T and I, which Erik was paying no attention to, so the first shot he crashed right into me (worst picture ever!) but the one that followed was pretty hilarious:
I think Erik should pose like that for all family photos. Amazing.
Soon enough, it was time to bid my support crew farewell and line up in my corral. There weren’t a ton of people there initially, but it filled in pretty steadily:
Apparently, PF Chang had a group that ran with a Chinese dragon:
(Because half-marathons just aren’t challenging enough… )
Here’s the classy establishment that we stood next to for a while. Surprisingly, it’s out of business…
One of the things that they did for the race that I really liked was staggering the starts of each corral by 1-2 minutes. So, we’d hear the various waves in front of us getting sent off and then we’d walk forward. It was so much nicer than the usual “we’ll blow the starting horn and then you won’t be able to run for another 20 minutes and get super frustrated about it.” This way, you had space to run right away, it was awesome.
The race course goes out away from the Strip for a mile and then comes back, so you get to pass the start line. I was shocked to see that there were still tons of people still waiting to start when I ran by at mile 2. (I was in corral 11!) The wind was crazy. At one point it pushed me sideways and then another big shove from behind. (That was cool!) At times, the tailwind felt like we were running downhill, but for a lot of it the buildings on the Strip blocked it pretty effectively.
It was an amazing experience running down the Vegas strip at night. All of the lights were insane and a HUGE crowd of spectators were out cheering. I felt like a rock star and realized that I’d been running with this huge stupid grin on my face. There were bands approx every mile and a half, most of which played rad 80’s hair metal. I don’t know if it was because the race was so large or RnR races attract a different crowd than normal ones, but I never found a consistent group running my pace. There were always people walking in front of me and faster people passing me. I didn’t really know how fast I was going, so I just sort of picked a cruising pace and went with it.
I could see mile markers initially, but then I stopped paying attention. I had my Garmin beeping at me and it had been pretty close to their signs, so I stopped worrying about it. Everything was going pretty well until around mile eight. I’d expected the aid stations to have gels earlier on the course, so I was getting hungry (not a good sign). Finally, I saw them and had to slow to a walk to pound down two of them. I stuffed one into my jog bra just in case (Running is sooooo classy!) and got back to running.
The race goes through the downtown section of town (where we’d been last night) and there were a lot of turns and less spectators. It was hard to stay focused. Plus I was getting a lot of crazy cramps from a special visitor that morning (the joys of being a woman!) and was having a hard time mentally. At one point, I looked at my Garmin and it had my pace a full minute per mile slower than I expected. That really deflated me and I took a little walk break because I felt like I was already going so slow, what did it matter.
Then I rallied and made myself start running again, if for no reason than to get this stupid thing over with already. On the final mile, the cramps hit hardcore and I slowed to a walk again. It sucked so bad. Even walking hurt and running was agony. The finish line was in front of the Mirage, which was aptly named because it shimmered on the horizon for an impossibly long time. Finally, I just sucked it up and ran as best I could, grimacing and moaning my way over the line. Not fast, but not as bad as my Garmin had me believing.
Miraculously, I heard Erik, T & Nerissa in the roar of the crowd, so I knew where they were. And thankfully, I’d brought my phone along, so I could text them from the endlessly long finishing chute. I kept accepting things offered to me so I ended up with an improbable number of beverages, a space blanket, a rad finisher metal and so forth. I’d given T a bag with my finish line stuff, so I was able to change my shoes and put warm clothes on without dealing with bag check lines.
We walked back to the hotel and got cleaned up for dinner. I really wanted to wear this:
And while M and Reed approved via text and Facebook friends gave them the thumbs up, my compression socks were vetoed by the group who had to actually be seen in public with me. 🙂
We went to the tapas place in the hotel to use up a $100 dining credit that my brother had gotten when he booked the room. Should you find yourself in Vegas, check out Julian Serrano. You’ll be glad you did. The decor is super cool:
The food is AMAZING:
And I was blessed with lovely company:
We tried a lot of different dishes and I swear that every one of them was amazing. (I might have been an easy audience.) Afterward, we met up with Reed at Chandelier Bar. Reed had not had a good race either, but at least we had a cool space to compare war stories:
Even though the race didn’t go the way I wanted it to speed-wise, I still had an amazing time doing it. It’s a truly epic race experience and I would definitely come do it again. It would be a great destination for another group half-marathon (hint, hint ladies!) Though in the future, I would recommend coming in on Saturday and then spend more time enjoying Vegas post-race. All of the pre-race hijinks definitely didn’t help my performance. 🙂