Well, it’s official – I’m a marathoner!
This past weekend, I travelled to Las Vegas to run in the Rock n’ Roll Marathon on Sunday. If you didn’t already know, this was my first marathon, and I’ve been busy training for it the last few months. Being my first, I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself to finish with a specific amount of time or anything like that. My two main goals for the day were to finish and have fun, and I managed to accomplish both!
Before I get into the details of the marathon itself, let me start at the beginning of the trip. Since I was traveling all the way from Alaska, I figured it would be silly to fly in with just enough time to run, so I gave myself a few extra days to enjoy the trip. I arrived in Vegas Thursday night with my mother, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law in tow. Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law walked the 1/2 Marathon, and my mom was there for cheer me on. I had tried talking my wife into coming with the kids, but she didn’t think that Vegas would be a fun trip with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. Go figure.
The flight down from Seattle to Vegas was a lot of fun, because almost everyone sitting around me was coming for the race. The couple next to me was from Canada, and they were both running the full marathon. It was the husband’s 13th, and the wife’s 10th. The woman across the aisle from me had planned to run the 1/2, but she had injured her hip during training, but had already booked all her tickets for the trip, so she was coming to watch the race anyway. Last, the guy behind me was also from Alaska, and had actually won some sort of VIP trip from Brooks, and just so happened to be sitting next to a Brooks rep. Needless to say, there was lots of running talk going on!
On Friday, we headed over to the expo to get our bibs and race packets. As soon as I walked in, I was blown away by the size of this thing. There were so many booths selling anything and everything related to running. Many of the companies I had heard of, some not. I found it funny that there were even other marathons there advertising themselves.
We started off by picking up our bibs and race packets. Unbeknownst to me at the time, we were there at the same time as Sue (@MrsFatass), because in her race recap, she posted a picture of waiting in line to get her bib, and in the picture standing right in front of her was my mother-in-law. Too bad we missed each other 🙁
After that we meandered through the main expo floor, although since I was the only runner, nobody else was that interested in looking around much, so we were out of there pretty quick.
Fun in Vegas
Friday afternoon we had some fun around Vegas. First we went to the home the of the show Pawn Stars (though with my mother-in-law’s New York accent, I kept thinking she was saying Porn Stars – boy was I disappointed!). After that we drove down to Fremont Street and wandered around a bit. It was still daytime, so the light show wasn’t going yet, but we did take a ride on the new zipline. It was only about a 30 second ride, but still pretty fun.
That night, we went to see Jersey Boys at the Venetian, which was a really good show. If you’ve never heard of it (I hadn’t), it’s a musical about the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Until I saw the show, I didn’t realize how many of their songs I actually knew. I had heard of the group, and I had heard many of the songs, I had just never really put the two together in my head. We also got really lucky with our seats – we had bought cheap tickets in the balcony, because even those were $70, but when we were heading to our seats, an usher grabbed us and moved us to much better seats downstairs on the main level! Anyways, we all enjoyed it quite a bit and I’d definitely recommend it.
One of the things I was looking the most forward to on this trip (other than the race itself, of course) was meeting some of my fellow health & fitness bloggers that were also going to be there. I was disappointed that a number of the folks originally planning on coming weren’t able to, but I still had the great pleasure of meeting 2 awesome bloggers – namely Susan (@FoodieMcBody) and Mac (@fitmacdaddy).
We met up Saturday morning back at the expo hall, where we got this awesome picture taken. We didn’t spend a real long time together, but it was a lot of fun to get to meet them both and talk to them for a bit. I was especially excited about meeting Mac, because he was the one who had planted the idea in my head about upgrading to the full marathon. And thanks again Mac for the ride back to my hotel – it’s a long walk from the Venetian to the Luxor 🙂
Saturday afternoon we took a quick drive out to the Hoover Dam (it’s only about 45 minutes from Vegas) to check out the recently opened bridge overlooking the dam. The view from the dam was pretty spectacular, and the bridge itself is quite an impressive engineering feat.
Ok, finally onto writing about the race itself! The morning of the race I work up early around 4:30 so I could eat a light breakfast and give it plenty of time to settle before the race started at 7:00. I ordered some oatmeal from room service and had just a bit of coffee, then I got dressed, applied my BodyGlide in all the right places, and began to make my way to the start line in front of Mandalay Bay.
As you can see in the photo above, I decided to put my name on my shirt. I had heard of others doing this, the idea being that spectators will cheer for you by name. I figured this extra encouragement might be just what I need for my first marathon. This ended up being an awesome idea. There were so many people yelling out my name. At several points along the course, there were groups of (high school?) cheerleaders, and it was a nice little rush to have them all cheering my name 🙂 I’m not sure if I will do it again in the future, but at least for my first marathon, it was great!
But back to the starting line – this was my first race where the runners were organized into starting corrals to help space them out on the course. With somewhere around 30,000 runners, this is a must. This meant that while the race officially started at 7:00, my corral (18) didn’t actually start until around 7:25. But being a Rock n’ Roll Marathon, there was plenty of entertainment near the start line to keep us entertained while we waited. There was a Blues Brothers tribute band playing music, and a Cher impersonator sang the national anthem just before the race started.
Finally, it was time for me to start running. For some reason, it was taking a lot longer than normal for my Garmin to find a satellite connection, so I actually wasn’t able to start it until about 1 or 2 minutes into the race. A good lesson learned for next time – turn on your Garmin long before the start of the race! The first half of the race was a lot of fun. The course was up and down the strip, so there was lots to look at, with plenty of cheering spectators, and live bands playing music every mile or so. We basically went straight down the strip from Mandalay Bay all the way down to Fremont Street and back. I was holding myself back a bit the first half because I wanted to still have plenty of gas left in the tank for the second half, finishing the first half in about 2:05.
For the second half of the marathon, we turned off the strip, and that’s when things started to get kind of dull. The scenery was nowhere near as interesting (vacant lots, warehouses, etc), there were far fewer spectators, and the bands seemed to be fewer and farther between as well. My legs were feeling pretty good at the start of the second half, but that wouldn’t last for very long. There aren’t too many hills along the second half of the course, but definitely more than the first, which was about as flat as you could hope for up and down the strip.
I didn’t have a chance to meet up with Sam from Operation Jack this trip, but I did manage to spot him around mile 14 or 15 going in the opposite direction (which I think was around mile 20 for him), and gave him a little shout out of encouragement.
Everything up until mile 20 is kind of a blur. As I said, there wasn’t much exciting to look at, so nothing really stands out as being memorable along this stretch, and I was still feeling pretty decent. Once I hit 20 miles, I knew I was in no man’s land, since everything from here on out would be farther than I’ve ever run before. For the most part I was feeling pretty good. My legs were definitely getting tired and sore, but nothing was hurting in a bad way. I stopped I think twice between mile 20 and 23 to stretch out my right hamstring that was getting a little tight. And bless the two wonderful strangers (I’m assuming they were a husband/wife) who were passing out M&M’s and orange slices around mile 22. Normally M&M’s are not something that I would think of eating while running, but at that moment they really hit the spot.
I don’t think it was until after mile 20 that I took my first “real” walking break (I had walked a few steps here and there through some of the aid stations, but nothing major). In those final miles, I took probably 4 or 5 walking breaks, between 30-60 seconds each. During one of these walking breaks, I happened to be right behind a woman who was also walking, and actually talking on her cellphone. Now, I’m not normally one to eavesdrop on other people’s phone conversations, but it’s hard not to notice when words like “orgy” are being discussed around mile 24 of a marathon 🙂
At this point, I knew that I was getting close to the end. And to be honest, I really never hit a point where I was hurting so bad that I just wanted to quit. Sure, I was tired, but not finishing never crossed my mind. There were several times where I gave myself little pep talks, or thought about my kids to help keep my spirits up. But not once did I consider stopping.
When I passed the mile 25 marker, I knew that I was almost done, and that I’d soon be walking across the finish line. We still had to cross over an overpass before making our way back to the strip, so I decided to take one last walking break and send out this quick tweet:
I am a marathoner. And no matter what happens, nobody can ever take that away from me.
(Here are a few more random photos I took during the race…)