Vegas Vacation, Running the Strip

vegas7I had no idea what to expect when we signed up for the 2012 Vegas Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon. I read all about the debacle of the 2011 race. Runners were dropping like flies and vomiting all along the race course, blaming tainted water served straight from fire hydrants and held in garbage cans. The race had multiple bottlenecks and was overcrowded, resulting in runners getting trampled or not being able to run on the actual course. They ran out of medals, t-shirts, and food. That certainly isn’t the rave review that makes me want to sign up for a race, but I had a feeling the race organizers would be focused on kissing up to the 2012 participants to restore their reputation.

Regardless of the race, I was looking forward to our trip to Vegas for a while. Matt has never been there before, and I have only been for work. We were going to celebrate his 30th birthday, and I had a ton of ideas of things for us to do while we were in town. We arrived in town on Friday afternoon, and enjoyed a bit of the sights before the expo on Saturday afternoon. I’ve never done a Rock ‘n Roll race before, but they certainly know how to do an expo. Great merchandise, lots of photo opportunities, lots of vendors, a booth with a t-shirt cannon, and lots of  video tours of the race route. No wait for pick-up, which I always appreciate. The t-shirt (a black Brook tech tee) for this race was pretty nice and fits well. And the medal glows in the dark! Not bad swag at all. Because this was in Vegas, there were also many clubs hosting official pre/post race parties and offering up open bars or free covers for the occasion.

vegas2It was really fun to be in Vegas during the race weekend  Everywhere we went, starting with our departure from the Philly airport, we met fellow runners. Around town, you could see people in town sporting their favorite race gear from races all over the country. If you’ve ever been to Vegas before, you know that it’s a ghost town before noon. But during race weekend, you could see lots of runners out early doing runs on the strip. It was  definitely a unique experience, and the whole town had a different feel than usual.

Getting around to the various race activities wasn’t the most convenient. While it seems like everything is close together in Vegas, it really does take forever to get around. Cabs are crazy expensive, the monorail doesn’t really stop anywhere you need to go, and walking just takes forever as each hotel is insanely massive. We stayed at the Aria, which is pretty close to the center of the strip. And the expo was at the Venetian, which ended up being about a 45 minute walk. Luckily, our hotel offered a free shuttle for race participants to the starting line, which was on a side street by Mandalay Bay. The traffic getting there was awful as the strip was closed so everyone was bottlenecked onto the same side street, so we were definitely rushing at the starting line. When we arrived, we discovered there are 36 corrals. Seriously. And not a volunteer in sight that could tell us where bag check was. There was no signage for it either. I was able to pull up the race website on my phone and look at a map. We discovered the bag check was all the way back at the end of the corrals, which involved turning down another street. Matt had to jog there and back to make it back to our corral in time. Definitely not an ideal setup.

vegas5This race started at 4:30 pm, which was right around sunset. I’ve never done a race before that started in daylight and ended at night. But that’s really the only way to do it when you’re running alongside casinos. You want to see the bright lights of Las Vegas. As we waited for our corral to start, the wind really picked up, and didn’t really let up for the duration of the race. I heard that the marathon course was mainly in the desert and runners were fighting high winds and sand blowing around. Fortunately, the halfmarathon course was mainly on the strip so the buildings blocked the wind. It started to get a little chilly by the time we started, but I warmed up once we started running.

The course started on an access street alongside the strip, then turned onto Las Vegas Blvd at the South end, winding all the way up to North Vegas, through a small residential area, then back past the Fremont St area and back down to the Mirage where the race ended. There were a lot of spectators on the strip, and also a lot of tourists that were out for a night of drinking and had NO idea there was a race going on. It was fun to see the look of puzzlement on their faces as the street flooded with 40,000+ runners. It got a little quiet on the course around miles 9-11, but the finish line noise was incredible. Spotlights, bands, tons of people. You couldn’t ask for a more surreal landscape for a race.

We stopped to take pics during the race, and took it at an easy pace since we were on vacation and I was set to run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon 6 days later. It was so nice to run with Matt for a change, since he usually leaves me eating his dust. But that did make passing people a little more difficult as I was concerned about not losing him in the crowd. I think because of the location of this race, it attracted a TON of slower runners and walkers, who clearly weren’t in the right corral, so there was a lot of weaving. We also had to make a bathroom pit stop due to eating a plate full of french fries with my croque monsieur at Bouchon that morning. There were lots of well stocked water stops along the course, with plenty of gu available. The course was one of the flattest I’ve run. Gear check was pretty quick at the end and we were able to snap some pics at the finish line in front of the backdrops they had set up for professional photos.

The run itself felt fine. My stomach wasn’t super happy, but I feel like that happens every time I run now, so that’s nothing new. We took the race at a very easy pace so it was very relaxed. But I definitely didn’t feel I’d be ready to run 26.2 miles the next weekend after that race. Our official time was 2:19:56, which somehow put us in 8,285th place out of 22,000 finishers for the half. That just shows how slow of a race field this was.

Overall this was a really fun race. I love traveling for runs, and the distance of a half marathon is totally doable in the middle of a vacation without ruining your trip. It’s a good excuse to go to new places, too. We did a ton of stuff while in Vegas, including jumping out of a plane and shooting machine guns! I’m looking forward to the Disney half marathon next month!


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