Sunday, November 23, 2014

Las Vegas Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon

I ran my third half-marathon overall and my second in 2014 – the Las Vegas Rock ‘N Roll Half – on November 16.  What an experience!  The racers – right around 40,000 (that’s right, forty thousand) combined, run down the Las Vegas strip at night.  This race is one of two events where the city of Las Vegas closes its famous strip.  The other is New Year’s Eve.

My friend Sue and I flew out of snowy SLC at 0700 on Saturday morning.  Race weekend started with packet pick-up at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  The logistics of organizing a race this big are mind-boggling, but they had obviously done it before.  From packet pick-up, to shirt pick-up, to the vendor area where the latest Rock ‘N Roll gear was being sold, to other vendors selling everything any runner could possibly need or want, the runners moved smoothly.  The volunteers were friendly and helpful, and there had to be over 100 in the convention center alone.

Sue and I took on the Remix Challenge – run the 1st Annual Las Vegas Rock ‘N Roll 5K on Saturday night the 15th in addition to the half-marathon on the 16th.  After all, what else is there to do in Las Vegas on a Saturday night?  It turned out to be a fun warm-up, followed by a great concert by Chromeo and of course, a free beer.

It was a good thing the race shirt from the 5K had long sleeves.  A cold front came through the next morning and I was unprepared.  Come on – it’s supposed to be warm in Las Vegas!  While we saw the occasional runners in tank tops and shorts – and even a man wearing a white tie and black Speedo – most of us were dressed for a warmer race.

I have never been in a race with this many people.  Obviously 28,439 people (marathon and half-marathon racers) can’t start at the same time, so they organized us into corrals based on our projected finish times.  I was in Corral 13.  The corrals started about 80 seconds apart.  The vivacious woman announcing the start of each corral worked hard to get the racers and spectators excited about each corral’s countdown to start.  I wonder if she was still as energetic when she finally counted down the start for Corral 47.

The course was amazing.  We ran down the strip, through some back streets, past a number of wedding chapels, and up Fremont Street before we came back down the strip.  Fremont Street had the brightest lights and reminded me of the Las Vegas of the 60s – when my parents used to drive us down the strip at night.  And all along the course there were people cheering us on.

At the finish, we received our medals, a much needed bottle of water, and a Mylar blanket.  That
turned out to be a life-saver.  It seemed I cooled down at the same time the wind came up, and the blanket kept me out of the wind.  Brrrhh!  Much too cold for beer at this finish line.  We picked up our Remix Challenge medal and headed indoors for Mexican food and margaritas.

I have to admit I was disappointed in my finish time.  I finished in 2:05:22, exactly 2 minutes and 23 seconds slower than I finished the Salt Lake Half and only 17 seconds faster than I finished the Mesa Falls Half.  I was hoping to set a new personal record, and was counting on the lower altitude to work in my favor.  But what I wasn't counting on was slowing down so frequently to plot my next move around slower runners.  While it didn't seem like I was slowing down very much, I guess 10-15 seconds per mile of slowdown adds up.

Always one to find the positive, I have to consider the following:  There were more people in my division (Women 55 – 59) than ran the entire Mesa Falls Half-Marathon.  More people crossed the finish line ahead of me (5043) than ran the entire Salt Lake Half Marathon.  And even though I didn't beat my own time, I did much better in the standings in this race than I have previously.  I finished in the top 5% of my division, the top 13% of all women, and the top 20% overall.  Maybe that’s because more slow runners were in this race.  Or maybe that’s because everybody’s time was impacted by the sheer number of racers.    

In the spirit of continuous improvement – it’s time to do some serious speed work.

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