Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon 2015 Race Report

Backstory

A marathon which starts in the evening... On a Sunday... In Vegas ... And runs through the strip!

Isn't that a unique experience?

In 2013, I had signed up for the Vegas marathon but ended up not running. They were kind enough to mail me the race shirt. It was a cool shirt indeed (and I must say better than this year's shirt!). At the back of the shirt was the label - "Run at night, party till dawn". I wear the shirt often and in some level of consciousness have always been scheming a Vegas "re-run"...

That opportunity came soon enough... This year. I noticed that I had some vacation time I could burn off. It also coincided with the timing of a Canadian holiday. I had company to do the rim2rim hike at the Grand Canyon and could combine that with this race.

The Vegas marathon is perhaps the largest and most popular of the RNR events (I think the corrals went into the 60s or 70s). Not surprisingly it's also one of the priciest. I got a RNR 3-pack which was a pretty good deal. I ran the RNR Denver marathon, RNR Vancouver half marathon and planned to run this.

Lead-up

We reached Vegas from the Grand Canyon at around 2pm. The marathon had some pretty good deals with a lot of the hotels. They had a great deal with the Bellagio so it was an opportunity to enhance the trip experience by "splurging" a bit on the room... At the checkin the folks at the hotel had a special gift pack for runners and a card in the room. It was a neat touch!

I then picked up my number at Expo in the Vegas convention center. It was very similar to other RNR race expos. The reason RNR events are so well organized is because they pretty much leverage the same model across all their races, customized for local tastes.

How about fueling for the race? We headed to the Bellagio buffet. Now for a race starting in the morning, I would not have dared to do so but here I had time to recover from the meal!!

I had wanted to check out the pool at the Bellagio so I started off my race-day morning with a short swim. That's another first before a marathon... This was my first swim in a long time but also a reminder that I needed it to do it more often. That was followed by some time in the Jacuzzi which I hoped would loosen my leg muscles (in any case it felt good!).

Goals

The Rim2Rim (which I finished on Friday) is a non-trivial hike. I was sore on Saturday. I didn't know what was left in my legs for the race. At the minimum I wanted to finish and then finish without a PW. Ideally, I wanted a sub-3:25. I'd say that would be my goal at the moment in all marathons I am not racing.

Pre-race

At 2:45pm I started my trudge towards the race start which was close to the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign (marking the start of the strip). It was an interesting mass of runners making their way to the start. It was also amazing to see the strip devoid of any cars! The strip being shutdown for a race is kind of a big deal so the event must really have the support of the city.

There was a Kid Rock concert in the lead-up to the race start. I was thankful for the concert because it attracted the masses and meant that everything else (such as the packet drop-off and porta-potties) were free.

As I made my way to my corral I talked to a local guy who mentioned how cold it used to be when the race was held in the first week of December. Was placed in corral 2 with an expected time estimate of 3:15. There must have been some fast runners in the race or a lot of inflated expected times. There was no policing of the corrals and several folks who had no business being in the first two corrals were right up in front! As I waited for the race to start I got a nudge from my "shoe-twin"- someone wearing exactly the same brand and color of the shoe I was wearing (Ascis Kayano 21).

It felt more like a day in Seattle than Vegas - cloudy, windy, rainy... As a boast of confidence the pre-race announcer motivated the marathoners by effectively telling us that the weather sucked and if at the split of the half & the full we wanted just to do the half we could do so! Additionally, she told us not to be surprised if we did not see mile markers since they might have moved due to the wind (little did I know what that really meant :p).

Corral 1 started. A minute delay and we were off...

Race

Weather - 63F-53F
Humidity - 23%-47%
Rain, cloudy and 20-35 mph wind gusts

mile 1: 7:44
The first mile had us running towards the end of the strip (and the Welcome to Las Vegas sign). This proved to be handy since it gave me a gauge of the headwinds we would have to battle during the final miles. There were a group of females wearing pink Chile Ts, who started in corral 1, and were almost walking... 7 abreast! It was just so irritating trying to get past them. There were other walkers to get past...

mile 2: 7:17
The first few miles (up to mile 9) had a net downhill and in addition we had a slight tail wind. I ran faster than I intended to because I realized that I'd have to deal with the inverse conditions in the latter miles.

mile 3: 7:25
5k 23:21@ 7:31
The lights and energy of the strip was cool. These would be the most spectators we would see through-out the race!

mile 4: 7:34
The Bellagio and Caesars' Palace.

mile 5: 7:19
The Mirage and the Venetian. This is also where the finish would be (resulting in a course with a slight net downhill).

mile 6: 7:27
10k - 46:24 @ 7:29
We saw the 10k runners on the opposite side. I could not help but feel they were missing out on a lot of the "action". We went past the Stratosphere and exited the Strip to the more mundane parts of Vegas.

mile 7: 7:37
mile 8: 7:32
mile 9: 7:44
We looped a bit around streets. I have to say that this is probably the first RNR event where I noticed the bands. They were pretty decent! While it was dark as expected, there were some bright lights placed on the course to provide some light.

The lights of the Fremont Street experience...

I had forgotten to take gels for the race. Fortunately at the mile 9 aid station I grabbed 5 of them!!

mile 10: 7:44
When I passed mile 10, I hit 3000 miles for the year! I had not planned such a ceremonious event to hit this mark but it was a great point in the year to hit this personal milestone :)

The split off between the half and the full course. I was afraid that it would get pretty lonely after this point. I was therefore pleasantly surprised at the number of runners who took the turn for the full!

mile 11: 7:35
We entered an artificial lighted loop structure to add in miles but also I guess to make the course interesting as well. Apart from the strip as expected the rest of the course was not very memorable but the organizers cannot be faulted for that...

A stop to tie my shoe laces. Thankfully, the only stop (unlike 4 in Denver)...

mile 12: 7:45
The main climb on the course... An overpass. It was around this point that it started raining as well. It felt like I was in Seattle :p Some volunteers even apologized for the rain!

mile 13: 7:39
half - 1:39:49 @ 7:37
After the half split, I did not see another mile marker for the rest of the course. I guess the pre-start announcer did warn us ;) In some ways it was nice not to have any mile markers. I just went by my Garmin and did not need to obsess over manually lapping the splits...


mile 14: 7:45
These would be portions we would retrace on our way back. I also saw the winner on his way back!

mile 15: 7:45
mile 16: 7:37
This was the first of the out and backs. This meant uphill+winds one way and the inverse the other way...

mile 17: 8:01
mile 18: 7:32
Another out and back. Out and backs as always gave us the advantage of being able to see runners on the other side. As expected there were no spectators. However, kudos to the volunteers - the aid stations were spot on!!

mile 19: 7:50
mile 20: 7:57
2:33:51 @ 7:42
The headwinds were the strongest I've encountered in any race I've run. I felt happy with how I held things together.

mile 21: 7:57
mile 22: 7:47
We entered the artificial structure again. By now my eyes had started burning and my vision was diminishing. The lights were actually bothering me. The only time in my life I have encountered something similar was with the brightness of the salt flats in Bolivia...

mile 23: 7:42
I continued to pass runners as we made our way back to the strip.



mile 24: 8:09
mile 25: 8:02
Very strong headwinds all the way to the finish. I could barely see. It was all about keeping moving. The half course merged with the full. I cussed when a half walker came in front of me. They have no idea how hard we were battling compared to their evening walk!!

mile 26: 8:09
Usually in the final miles a final nail in the coffin is a pacer passing you. Here I passed the 3:20 pacer! It looked like he was quite off his target and was struggling with the winds.[Confirmed: Checking the results he was over 3 minutes over 3:20]...

mile .22/,49: 3:34
The finish by the Mirage and the Venetian. It would not be a RNR event if we didn't have to run "extra". I think this should be expected for all RNR courses.

I stopped by the med tent for the first time in my 39th marathon. The doc there indicated that my eyes were impacted by the sand in the winds. They applied some drops to clean my eye out. That stopped the burning but I didn't get back full vision till 4 hours after! I have to say I was thankful that the Bellagio was right by the finish!

Results

Chip: 3:24:08 @ 7:48
Gun: 3:25:05
OA: 93/3107
Div: 22/354
Gender: 84/1901

Reflections

I am incredibly satisfied by the final result and how I battled in some tough conditions. I ran this with just a day in-between the Rim2Rim hike!

In the spectrum of bad conditions I note that winds and rain has less of an impact on the finishing time compared to heat.

Vegas is a unique experience that must be partaken in at least once.

The race was an icing to a perfect trip where we had been incredibly lucky. I feel thankful and fortunate. Onto marathon #40.

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