(Photo above by Las Vegas News Bureau and used with permission)
This is my second year running the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon. Even though I wasn’t running it for the ultimate Rock n Roll bling (the Rock Idol “Heavy Medal”) I had so much fun last year that I almost immediately signed up to run it again. Seriously, who doesn’t want to run down The Strip at night? (Where else can you run after sunset and still be able to read your Garmin without using the backlight?)
Some of the festivities were the same, but 2014 brought some new twists to the race. For example, this year there were a ton of running options: 5k, “half of the half,” half marathon, and full marathon, plus the Remix Challenge (5k Saturday night plus the half of marathon on Sunday night). (Yeah, I was going to do the remix…but when it was time to register for the 5k I had no cash, and when I had cash the 5k had sold out. Boo.) Like last year, there were a ridiculous number of really great discounts and freebies for runners, including VIP club admissions and special drink menus, and discounts on massage and spa services. Next year, I swear I am planning ahead so I can go run the Remix, go clubbing, and make it to the spa.
I started the weekend by arriving just over an hour early for my flight. At the wrong airport. Oops. Fortunately I am loyal to Southwest, and they took good care of me, ensuring that I made it to Las Vegas even though I apparently can’t read my own reservations. The flight was blissfully uneventful, and I met Jeanne and Debbie in the airport. Initially we thought we’d hit the expo Friday, but since my boo-boo had me arrive an hour later we decided to skip that plan and go straight to our hotel, the Mandalay Bay. Jeanne scored a great deal on a room, and I was glad to be staying right next to the starting line (since last year I literally ran through the race to jump into my corral before it started).
Dinner started with the most amazing garlic fries, fries so deliciously garlicky that I thought I might still be sweating garlic when I hit the pavement Sunday night. Thank you, Slice of Vegas!! If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. Not only does it feature the garlickiest fries and a menu with salads, sandwiches, and other fare, it also has a full vegan menu, including pizza (topped with delicious Daiya) and a meatless meatball sandwich. Of course they have a full bar–it IS Vegas–and I finally got to try an Ace pineapple cider (technically a melomel, but who’s really paying attention?). A quick trip to Lush followed dinner, and Jeanne and I were fully stocked with all the DIY spa treats we needed for a race weekend, including bubble bars for Jeanne and a cupcake face mask and slice of snow cake soap for me.
Saturday we slept in, ate breakfast foodage at Raffles (one of the Mandalay Bay restaurants). Not creative, but by that point we were starving. After some lazing around we met up with Debbie and her husband Mark and headed to the expo by way of Aria to pick up tickets for “Zarkana.” (FYI, the Aria is not really on the way.)
The expo featured the usual wide selection of products and services for runners, and had booths for upcoming running events. (Phoenix Marathon, I’m really, really tempted.) Terryberry, official jewelry of the Rock n Roll series, now has Heavy Medal charms for Rock Star and Rock Legend, so I had those added to the bracelet I made last year, which has charms from each Rock n Roll race I ran to get to Rock Idol. (No word on a Rock Idol charm yet, which is just as well–there are no more open links on my bracelet.)
I was glad to see Trigger Point Therapy and CorePower, two of my favorite Austin, Texas businesses, representing. There were also some relative newcomers like Lorna Jane, and contests and freebies from race sponsors like Geico, Chocolate Milk, and Transamerica. After stocking up on Handanas–one of mine had an unfortunate run-in with the grate on my floor furnace–and slurping down a Mama Chia, I ran into my friend from the Spartan Race series and we caught up a little. Mark was very tolerant of my yammering on about different kinds of compression and why The Grid is the best foam roller, among other nerdalicious topics. There was just enough time to meander down the last aisle before we had to head off to “Zarkana.”
I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, and have been following them since before they had resident shows. I try to hit one each time I come to Vegas, so I was thrilled to see “Zarkana.” It’s hard to pick a favorite act, since each featured stunts and tricks I’d never seen in any other show. I particularly enjoyed the dual-level trapeze team, and the depth and richness added by the extensive use of projections. After the show it was off to bed.
Since we sort of skipped dinner, Sunday we hit up Raffles for breakfast. Not original, but the line was shorter there than at the other options serving breakfast food. Sure, I know carb-loading has been debunked as a useful practice for us athletes-with-a-day-job, but that did not stop me from eating French toast (aka birthday cake for breakfast). Afterwards I lazed around for a few hours and then it was time to throw on the running duds.
Unlike last year, and unlike pretty much the rest of the year in Vegas, it was COLD. I’m so glad I checked the weather before I packed!
Last year I wore a Sparkle Skirt and a singlet, with a long-sleeved run shirt for just part of the race. This year I wore full-length tights, a long-sleeved run shirt, and a running pullover. I was still so cold at the starting line that I snagged a zip up hoodie from the fence at the starting line and wore it for the first two miles (after which I put it back on the fence as I passed by). The cold was exacerbated by gusts of chilled wind that made me wish I’d packed my polar fleece Run Happy beanie instead of my Berkeley Half Ambassador hat.
Since I started in corral 41–not the end of the corrals!–I waited in the corral for over an hour before starting. During that time the sun went down, and the temperature dropped noticeably. Even though I’m prepared for the temperature to drop at a night race, I wasn’t expecting the cold. The switchback after the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign meant that I got to watch at least the first 35 corrals run past on their way down The Strip. When we finally got to start, I ran the first mile with Jeanne and Debbie, and then mostly ran with some walk breaks for the next few. Around mile 3 it seemed clear to me that they were pushing for a faster time than I was, so I told them to go on and stop waiting for me (since my usual pace is “stop and pet the cute puppies” pace). I was still trying to push for more running time though, as it seemed to help keep me from freezing up again and my legs didn’t feel as “dead” as they often do mid-race. I’m attributing that to the CW-X tights, since I’ve run cold races before and not had the same fresh legs experience.
It isn’t every course where you get to see a volcano explode.
Around mile 6 I realized I hadn’t taken any Energy Bits, and knew I’d be sad if I didn’t eat the serving in my belt. At the next water stop I stepped off the course to the sidewalk so I could set my cup down and get my Bits out. As I was gulping down the bits, Lisa saw my flower and ran over. (Lisa and I belong to the same running club but live half a country apart from each other, so I only see her at big races. We last crossed paths at Nike DC.) Lisa, badass that she is, is one of the runners who ran the new Disney Avengers-themed races at Disneyland this weekend. Sunday morning she ran the Avengers half, then hopped a plane and landed in Vegas in time to do the Rock n Roll Half. Oh, and she did the Avengers 5k on Saturday. Pretty amazing if you ask me. We passed the praying mantis at the container park, but I didn’t manage to get a shot of it shooting flames.
We finished out the race together, mostly walking but with run breaks (every time we saw a photographer, of course!). At the second-to-last chip timing mat we both sprinted to the finish line. I imagine I looked like a total dork, arms flailing to propel me forward without hitting anyone with the giant orange flower I was carrying. I ran as hard as I could bust it out at that point and Lisa Ms. Two-Half-Marathons-Today beat me!
[adorable selfie forthcoming]
I finished in 3:12 (says my Bia), just in time for my iPhone to die. Thankfully Woot! had a special on the Urge rechargers earlier this year, so I had one waiting for me in my bag. (Why don’t any of the running magazines recommend these things?) So while Nike+ (which hasn’t sync-ed since they updated their website/app integration this spring, to my great annoyance) now thinks I ran 23 miles, at least my Bia collected the right data.
Orange Flower is getting ready to retire, but I think Orange Flower II will launch for my role in MS Run the US. Perhaps I’ll sell petal-naming rights to help raise the $10,000 I committed to bring to fund research for a cure.
Did YOU run the #StripAtNight? What was your favorite part? Are you going to run with me next year??