I love Las Vegas. In my opinion, there is no more welcoming sign in the world than this:
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
- 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 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.
- 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.
|Lots of brides along the course!
There was a run-through wedding at Mile 3, which I imagine must have been quite the sight.
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):
- 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
|New York, New York
|Tropicana with Robert Irvine looking buff
|Aria and Planet Hollywood
|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
|Neon Elvis cheering us on
|Abbey Road in downtown Las Vegas
Notice the Beatles images on the bottom
|Downtown Las Vegas
It looks so close, yet it was still a few miles away at this point.
|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.
Viva Las Vegas!!!
Belatedly linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap, and linking up with Marcia, Patti, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run.