Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon race recap

I love Las Vegas. In my opinion, there is no more welcoming sign in the world than this:
From the first mile of the half marathon course
This past weekend was my fourth time visiting Vegas and I had a total blast. It was my best experience there to date. Needless to say, it was tough to come home last night, and even tougher facing reality back at the office today! Sigh.

I'll talk more about Vegas itself later, but today let's talk about the race. The Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon goes into the books as my 29th half marathon completed.
The starting line
Let's start by recapping with "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" format. I'll follow with an onslaught of photos. Ready?

The Good
  • Way beyond "good," it is AWESOME to run the famous Las Vegas Strip and through downtown Las Vegas. I've heard the Strip only gets closed down twice a year - once for New Year's Eve, and once for the Rock N Roll Las Vegas race series. This experience is a privilege!
  • The race expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center was enormous. There were dozens and dozens of vendor offerings. I got this fun picture there:
  • I got to meet Sharon in person! It was great to talk to her and to have her company pre-race. I was dealing with pre-race jitters, and Sharon has a wonderfully calming demeanor which helped me relax. Thanks Sharon!
Sharon and me in the starting corrals
  • The starting festival had an entire village of portapotties. I heard this race draws about 45,000 runners, yet I never had to wait more than a couple of minutes for a portapotty. Score!
  • Thank you, Mother Nature and the weather gods for smiling on us this weekend! The conditions were perfect. Temperatures were in the 60s, the skies were as clear as could be, and there was no wind. We even got to run in the backdrop of the supermoon! I wish I'd gotten a picture of it.
  • The course was well-supported with enthusiastic, friendly police and volunteers. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of spectators on the Strip.
  • As is typical with all Rock N Roll races, the swag was very nice. Here's the medal, which spins like the Wheel of Fortune:
  • I got to fulfill my wish to refuel post-race at a Las Vegas buffet. Living the dream! =)
The Bad
  • The evening start time meant I had the entire day to think about the race and get progressively more and more nervous. My last two long runs hadn't gone well, which was marring my confidence. Further, I was feeling random aches and pains in my back, hips, knees, shins, and heels. I realized they were probably phantom, but they still scared me.
  • The signage at the starting festival could have been better, in my opinion. There were hordes of people all wandering around trying to figure out where things were.
Runners wandering around the starting festival with the Strip in the background
  • Many folks advised that gear check involved more hassle than it was worth, and to avoid using it. Additionally, gear check closed at 4:05, while my wave started at 5:00. That's a really long gap, so I did make do without checking anything. This meant I was, for example, putting on BodyGlide literally hours in advance of the race, which I wasn't thrilled about doing (see further explanation on pre-race logistics below under "Ugly"). But the timing would have been even worse for the wave that started at 5:30 PM.
  • Officials were enforcing the starting waves, but the starting corrals were a free-for-all. Mass numbers of folks were trying to squeeze through to the front of the line.
The mobbed starting corrals with Mandalay Bay in the background
  • The course was crowded with many folks running or walking in tandem. This is to be expected considering this race draws a lot of inexperienced runners and/or folks who were participating just for fun. I heard several folks talking about how little sleep they'd gotten and/or how much alcohol they'd been drinking that day. When in Vegas, right? Even so, WOW.
  • Lots of brides along the course!
    There was a run-through wedding at Mile 3, which I imagine must have been quite the sight.
  • The first half of the course ran through the Strip. Comparatively, the second half primarily covered large stretches of pawn shops, motels, and wedding chapels enroute to downtown Las Vegas. Other than a brief stretch downtown, there were few spectators in the second half.
    Typical scenery during the second half of the course
  • I started getting mentally tired around Mile 9, which is early for me. Physical fatigue started creeping in shortly thereafter. Admittedly I had barely trained for this race, but I was already running such a slow pace and making lots of photo stops. It was dismaying. 
  • My mental fatigue was made worse by the Strip resorts creating optical distance illusions. Everything looked much closer than it really was. We could see landmarks easily in the horizon, but in reality they were several miles away.
The Ugly
To summarize, the logistics of this race were a complete and total nightmare.
  • I had mentioned previously that I was considering just running the 2.5 miles from where I was staying (the Mirage) to the starting festival. The Monorail had been recommended, and on race day I could see why. The Strip streets were barricaded off so nobody could access them. The walkways were packed, plus they all wound through overpasses and through hotel lobbies. Traveling the length of the Strip on foot would have been an extremely lengthy and painful journey. Not to mention that the starting line was still another 0.3 miles from the starting festival.
  • Unfortunately, the Monorail was an unmitigated disaster, as well. I couldn't access the nearest Monorail stop because of the street barricades, so I had to walk about 20 minutes to the next access point. Once I got to the station, I waited nearly 40 minutes amidst a sea of people to board a Monorail. Once I got on, it was so packed that I couldn't even take a deep breath. This is what it felt like (and it didn't look too different):
Source
  • Once the Monorail arrived at the MGM Grand stop, everyone still had to walk about 20 minutes to get the start village. The signage wasn't very good and a lot of runners were simply following crowds, only to realize they were headed the wrong direction.
  • In total, it took me approximately 90 minutes to travel the 2.5 miles from the Mirage to the starting festival. Good lord. I had opted not to take an Uber/Lyft/cab because of all the street closures and the expected cost. In retrospect I have to believe it would have been a better option - especially if I had found others with whom to share the ride. (Yes, Adam, you were absolutely right about this.)
  • I had purposely selected staying at the Mirage since the race finishes right in front of it. Unfortunately, the finishing chute didn't actually let runners exit until we reached Caesar's Palace almost a half-mile later. Gear check was even further down, in front of the Bellagio. For no apparent reason, the chute barricades were in place well beyond all the refreshment/medal/photo tables. A lot of runners were openly expressing their frustration at being trapped inside.
The finisher chute continuing into seeming oblivion
  • Even after finally exiting the finishing chute, there were other fences and barricades hemming in some of the walkways. Some of the runners who had had enough, myself included, took to precariously climbing over the fences. All in all, it took me about 40 minutes from the time I crossed the finish line to backtrack to the Mirage. (NOTE: If anyone is considering trying to stay near the finishing area in the future, it would make more sense to stay at Caesar's, Bally's, or the Flamingo. If you use gear check, then Bellagio or Paris might work.)

OK! Now that we've got the good, bad, and ugly out of the way, it's picture time! Here is a sampling of my snapshots from running the Strip at night:
Approaching Mandalay Bay
Luxor
Excalibur
New York, New York
Tropicana with Robert Irvine looking buff

MGM Grand

Aria and Planet Hollywood

Paris
The Bellagio with a band performing in the foreground
Caesar's the Mirage, the Linq, Harrah's
The Palazzo and the Venetian
Encore and Wynn
Cool fountains in front of the Wynn
Circus Circus
Neon Elvis cheering us on
Abbey Road in downtown Las Vegas
Notice the Beatles images on the bottom
Downtown Las Vegas
The Stratosphere
It looks so close, yet it was still a few miles away at this point.
Treasure Island
Approaching the finish line in front of the Mirage, with the Mirage volcano exploding.
In case you are wondering why the street looks empty, it's because it's the marathon finishing chute.
The full and half marathoners had different chutes.
In summary, I am happy to have run the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon. It was awesome to experience the Strip in such a unique way. Based on the logistical challenges I experienced, I initially decided this was a one-and-done race for me. But as I'm typing this almost two days later, I now think I would be open to doing this race again someday after implementing my lessons learned (and also training more appropriately). Funny how that mentality works, eh? =)

Viva Las Vegas!!!

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Belatedly linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap, and linking up with MarciaPatti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.

37 comments:

  1. Congrats on the finish despite the logistical nightmare! Love the pics, I have never been to Vegas and haven't seen that many ground-level pictures before. I really dig the pics of the "old Vegas" haunts and the downtown area. That brides pic is hilarious and belongs in Runners World! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Pete!!! Would you ever consider running RnR Las Vegas yourself? I think you would really enjoy the experience. And there's no better way to see Vegas than to run the Strip at night during a half/full marathon. =) Thanks on the brides' picture! I am sure RW had ample photo fodder to choose from at this race, LOL.

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  2. Congrats on the race!! It sounds like a lot of fun minus start and finish frustrations. This race is probably on my short list of races I would like to do. Seems like it would be a lot of fun! Love all the pics :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Kayla! I think you would really enjoy RnR Las Vegas. It does remind me a little bit of the Disney races since so many folks are there just to let loose and have fun (albeit in different ways than at Disney, LOL). Nothing like seeing folks drinking the day of a race, hahaha!

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  3. I'm definitely having FOMO not running this one this year! Nice job getting all those pics! I stayed at a hotel a block off the strip that was a 10 minute walk to the start village. Greg somehow got the car in the Cesar's garage (I think)so the walk after finishing wasn't bad. I believe we stayed and had dinner there before trying to drive back to our hotel. I guess I didn't realize how lucky I was. I heard the race was really hot this year. No? It was cold last year and a freaking sandstorm until it started raining but still a blast.

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    1. I am bummed you weren't able to make it this year - it would have been so awesome to see you in Vegas! Thank you so much, Marcia! You did get extremely lucky with your pre- and post-race logistics and it was very smart to have dinner at Caesar's before heading back to your hotel. The weather conditions were awesome - temps in the 60s, clear, and no wind. We were very fortunate compared to the disastrous weather last year. How does it rain on race day in the middle of the desert for you, right? Unbelievable! You need a redemption Vegas race. =)

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  4. Sounds like a cluster and if you know me by now, you know this probably isn't my scene! I really wanted to do it but life circumstances or fate dictated that I couldn't! I would love all the sights but for sure this one wouldn't be for time.

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    1. It is definitely a cluster, which isn't necessarily my scene either. But I do think it's worth pushing through the crowds at least once, just for the experience of running the Strip. And I have to imagine very few people are running Las Vegas for time. It's just a big party all weekend. =)

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  5. I am SO glad that you had great weather! The year I ran it it was freezing! I found it odd that corrals weren't really monitored and I knew this when I started running and past someone walking at mile 2 that had corral 43 on her bib! I knew corral 43 did not even start yet...lol I'm glad you had a good time. afterwards I was thankful for the experience but also said it was a one and done. BUT....maybe in a few years I'll reconsider!

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    1. Thank you so much! I have heard horror stories about the weather conditions in prior years, which amazes me since it's the desert. How much variability can you really expect there, right? But it's all up to Mother Nature's whim, of course. OMG on someone walking from Corral 43 - that is REALLY moving up on the start. WOW. But hey, to each their own - and for a fun race like this, so be it. Yes, let's all be reconsidering for future years. =)

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  6. I know this race isn't perfect, but I'm already registered for next year as my 5th straight year doing it. I just love visiting Vegas as well. The race is my excuse to visit.

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    1. Woo hoo on running RnR Las Vegas 5 years straight! You'll have to do something extra special next year to celebrate the 5-year anniversary. =) In my opinion, I'll take any excuse to visit Vegas, too!!!

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  7. The finish chutes!!! Yes, they're so ridiculous! That's the only annoying thing I really remember about that race. I ran it on my first trip to Vegas, which was a pretty cool way to see the town! But yes, coming back from downtown feels like it takes forever!

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    1. There is NO BETTER WAY to experience Vegas for the first time than to run the Strip at night during a race!!! I remember hearing about your adventures there, which were super cool!!! It's funny how the perspectives of money and distance just get completely thrown out of the window in Vegas, right? Money feels like nothing and everything looks much closer than it really is!

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  8. I'd still like to do the 10k one year. I think the best option would be to hop behind the strip and use those roads instead to walk. The monorail reminds me of the Boston T on days the Sox have a game. Get on at the first stop because each car is going to be super crowded.

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    1. Unfortunately, the streets that run alongside the strip are a long walk from the strip itself, too. But it's definitely a consideration if you're willing to put those extra miles on your legs! Yes - any kind of public transit at a sports arena is going to be jampacked to the gills!

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  9. Congratulations on the 29th Half marathon! that is amazing!

    This race is my bucket list, but I need a lot of things to line up for me to do it.

    I totally get the "Everything looks close" idea. When we visited Las Vegas, we could see all the hotels right there, but they were all long walks away.

    Las vegas is still an amazing place! everybody should visit it at least once in their life!

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    1. Thank you so much, Ana! I hear you on how a lot of things need to line up for these races, especially since there is so much travel involved. Isn't it insane how close everything looks in Vegas? Even just going to the casino next door can involve a walk of about 20 minutes. It's crazy! And YES - I believe everyone should visit Vegas at least once in their life. Viva Las Vegas!!!

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  10. Great pictures and an awesome recap on it! I've also heard that the crowds and logistics of this race are awful! But it still seems like a good (one-time) experience.

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    1. Thank you so much, Amanda! I agree that this is a race that everyone would probably enjoy doing at least once. If I'd taken an Uber/Lyft/cab to the start and didn't have the massive walk at the finish line, I think my experience would have been much different. Lesson learned for the future!!!

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  11. Wow, The logistics sounds like a nightmare! I hate it when you want to go RIGHT THERE but you end up having to loop around a half mile or more due to barricades/lack of overpass/etc. Still - Glad you enjoyed the race and had a great overall trip to Vegas! This is still on my "maybe" list but I will definitely take your experience and advice in account if I ever get there!

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    1. YES - it's super frustrating when you can literally nearly touch the place you want to go to, but have to loop around every which way due to blockades. I am not one to track how many steps I take every day, but if I did - that would be my only consolation, LOL. Thanks Kelly! I do think this race is worth doing at least once, just with the caveat that the logistics do take a lot of time. =)

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  12. Sigh. I'm so bummed I didn't get to do this! Next year.... Being there with people who had done it before would've made life infinitely easier for me, since they were very aware of the logistical challenges and could fill me in, but if you don't have anyone to do that for you, I don't know how on earth you're supposed to figure the whole setup out. We had a (very) late breakfast at Mirage Sunday around noon, and when we left we already saw people heading south to get to the start area. I'm glad you enjoyed the experience, though, even with the headaches!

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    1. I am bummed you didn't get to run, either, but thank goodness you had race insurance and I am glad you still got to enjoy all that Vegas has to offer! To be really honest, I enjoyed visiting Vegas outside of the race more than I enjoyed running the race itself. =) Incidentally, I had a late breakfast at the Mirage Pantry on Sunday, too! I bet we crossed paths!!! And I also saw a lot of folks who were heading out at lunchtime to get to the starting area. The logistics are truly no joke. I thought about how it would be ideal to stay at Mandalay Bay the night before, then stay at Caesar's or Bally's the night after to bypass the travel times on both ends. Wouldn't that be cool???

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  13. It was so great meeting you!!! I am so glad that I made that potty break and got your message! So sorry to hear about the nightmare you had getting to the race. Not fun! You recapped the race nicely and took lots of great pics! I was mentally tired around mile 9-10 as well. I think that less crowds and it being a night race got to me at that point. I too would definitely do the race again, but next time I would love to do it as a girls weekend without kids and stay on the Strip! I want to do a buffet post race next time too! :)

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    1. It was so great meeting you, too, Sharon!!! I am glad the timing worked out with the portapotties and getting the messages through to each other. Thank you so much, Sharon! I am glad to hear you had a good experience, as well, and enjoyed the time with your family in Vegas. I am really looking forward to reading your recaps of both the 5K and the half!!! You came home with some SERIOUS medal bling. =)

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  14. Well, despite the pitfalls, on the plus side you got an awesome medal and the unique experience of running a half, in Vegas, under the super moon. I'm still jealous!

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    1. Thanks Natalie!!! This is definitely a race worth doing just for the experience of running on the Strip!!! And we'll still have to consider maybe running it together sometime in the future. =) I can only imagine what a cool costume you'd put together!

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    2. I know. Where was your Elvis sparkle?!

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    3. I ain't nothin' but a hound dog!!!

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  15. Ha a run through wedding in the course that is funny. About the same as people giving out shots and jello shots in New Orleans along the course too! The medal is just amazing and so very cool you got to meet up with Sharon! I hate you had problems with the start and getting there but hey you made it! You did a great job on picture taking, I never do well in that department!

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    1. Only in Vegas, right? Yes, great comparison to shots and jello shots in NOLA, hahahahaha!!! I need to add RnR NOLA to my list to do in the very near future as it is one of my very favorite cities. =) Yes, it was awesome to meet up with Sharon in person! We were talking about how lucky we are to have such an amazing blogger network that enables us to have friends pretty much everywhere we go. Thank you so much, Tricia! Thanks to you and HoHo, as always, for hosting the link-up!

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  16. Congratulations on H/M # 29! This definitely sounds like a fun race, although it seems they need to work on "the uglies" a bit. The logistics of a race always stress me out! I would imagine with it being at night it just adds to all that confusion too. And, I don't understand why some races have such long finishers chutes. I met Sharon in Chicago. She is a very sweet lady! Thanks for linking, Emily!

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    1. Thank you so much, HoHo! Yes, it was funny because RnR Las Vegas sent out pre-race emails saying, "The race logistics should not add to the stress of race day" but that is exactly what happened. The long finisher chutes can be torturous, indeed! And Sharon is an incredibly sweet lady, indeed. Very cool that you got to meet her yourself while you were in Chicago. Thanks again to you and Tricia for hosting the linkup!!!

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  17. You've done a ton of half marathons, so you definitely know what you are talking about when it comes to race logistics. I guess when it comes to a really big race like this, one has to decide if the cluster is worth the race. I hate crowds, so the nightmare of just getting to the race would be enough for me to say hell no! But looking at the pictures and the medal and just the uniqueness, I see the appeal! What's next in your running plans???

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    1. Thanks Amy! Likewise - you are quite the experienced racer yourself, so you definitely understand, too! And yes, it's all about balancing the coolness of the experience with the logistical hassles. Getting to run the Las Vegas Strip was definitely worth the effort at last once. My next race is the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, then I am 100% free and clear afterwards!!! What about you? I know you're looking at RnR Nashville, anything else before then???

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  18. Ugh, what a logistics nightmare!!! I am kind of glad I did not go but bummed you experienced it. I mean, running a race should be kind of "fun" without having to worry about getting to the location, gear check, and getting back to the hotel.

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