Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016 Las Vegas Marathon Race Recap

Official Time: 4:35:49
Placement: 1343 out of 2573, 137th out 233 in age division
Results: Here
Race Website:Here
Weather: low 70's at start, low 60's at finish.
Garmin RouteHere

110:00Very conservative start. Hemmed in a bit. Not weaving
39:49Finally get into a bit of groove. 
49:29Got a little excited with the crowds here. I wanted to hit this pace
69:43Right on target and feeling comfortable. A little warm however.
109:48Feeling a little tired here. 
119:43Leave the half marathoners. Now it gets real.
1610:42Lots of turns here - kind of exciting though.
1810:34Had to make a very urgent pit stop. Stopped my watch here
1911:57Stomach issues. Not sure if I was going to be able to finish without walking
2111:01Starting to get my groove back
2310:03Exciting running around the fairgrounds. Was passing quite a few people
2511:28I could see the Mirage in the distance.... just needed to get to it.
Total Miles: 26.12 - 4:32:01


Since 2009, I've run the Las Vegas Marathon.  In fact, it was my first marathon that I ever attempted and ever since then, I've made it a point to come to Las Vegas and run it.  I was there when Competitor group first started the race and I continue to show up each year.

It is sort of the highlight on my year and I primarily do the race because I like to go to Las Vegas and it is a unique, one-of-a-kind experience.

It is still somewhat of a work in progress.  It was a morning race when it first started and now it is a night race (starting at 4:30).  Also, the race has constantly changed their marathon course.  It is hard to find a good 13 miles after running along the strip.


I arrived on Saturday around 1 PM and picked up my bib and shirt.  It was packed to say the least.  Basically I found anyplace to dump the car off, let Shari sit there and quickly ran in, snagged the necessary stuff, and quickly browse through the offerings.  I was in and out in about 15 minutes.  I suppose I would've hung around a bit longer and looked at more stuff, but I really have all the clothes, shoes, and marathon swag that I could possibly want.

I managed to get out of there unscathed and make  my way over to the Mirage where I was staying.

I made it a point this year not to overeat.  Last year, I overate at every buffet and the last half of the marathon was spent running from bathroom to bathroom and being in utter misery.  It really destroyed my race.  I did have a buffet in Mesquite (which is the first Nevada town you come into from Arizona) but I kept my indulgences to a regular sized meal (okay, I had an extra serving).

I tried to stay off my feet as much as possible and I did take a walk over to the Bellagio to check out the fountains / gardens, but overall, I wasn't walking up and down the strip all night long.  I did eat a pizza at California Pizza Kitchen, which seemed like a good idea.  Service was quick and overall, for Las Vegas, it was reasonably priced.

Sleeping -- which is always a problem for me pre-marathon wasn't an issue.  I could get up leisurely and pretty much not stress over the race.  Night races are awesome in this regard.  When I went to bed, the marathon was pretty far from my mind.

For breakfast I ate at a deli and had potatoes and eggs and toast. Several hours before the race, I drank some Gatorade and ate a Powerbar and polished off half a box of Wheaties.  All starches and carbohydrates.

Around 2 PM, I mixed some Tailwind and gathered my gels and made the 1.5 mile walk to the start -- which was on the south end near Mandalay Bay.

Sort of surreal seeing the Strip devoid of traffic

I know Vegas pretty well and while I did do a fair amount of walking, I was able to take some of the free trams behind the Bellagio.  Unlike in years past, the Mirage didn't have a free shuttle.  I got to the south end with plenty of time to spare and was able to use the bathrooms at Mandalay Bay for a bit and rest my legs.  I think for 2017, I'll stay a bit closer to the south end.  It was too much of a walk.

Around 3:15, I made my way over to the fairgrounds and got through the massive throng of people.  I only had to kill about 15 minutes there.  I made small talk with a few people and used the bathrooms.  Props to Competitor Group for supplying plenty of bathrooms -- I never had to wait more than 3 minutes to use one.

Snoop Dog was the opening act.  Not a fan by any means but he put a lot of effort into it.

Snoop Dog in action
Around 4 PM I had to get out of the fairgrounds and get into my corral.  It was a bit of a madhouse, but it was strictly the marathon runners and faster half marathoners who were allowed to enter the area.

In the past, corral management has been a complete nightmare.  This time, I want to say that it was largely a success.  We were packed like sardines in there, but after the first two corrals left, they let everyone else go, so within 5 minutes, of the official start, I was off and running.  There were very few people who should not have been there (i.e. walkers) and the start was much smoother than in the past.

Incidentally, I ran into a runner that I had met last year.  Funny, we were standing next to each other last year and this year, lo and behold, he was right next to me.  Awesome exchanging pleasantries again.

The Race

First off, the race was really warm.  Within a mile I was sweating -- a lot.  In the back of my mind, I was a little worried.  While I knew it was going to get cooler, I knew I was going to running 26 miles in pretty warm conditions.  There was no wind, thank goodness.

The first few miles were pretty congested.  However, I wanted to take them slow so I just waited and trudged along.  I never really can tell how a marathon will go in the early miles.  I've felt sluggish for the first 5K and then suddenly I've felt awesome.

I was hoping to run the first 4 5Ks in about 30 minutes a piece.  Being I had run a half marathon in 2:00 two weeks ago, I figured a 2:10 - 2:15 would be fairly sane and doable.  After mile 13 or so, I'd pick up the pace.

There was a TON of crowd support, especially in the early miles.  It was exciting to see people and there were plenty of signs and things to look at.  This is always the best part of the race and it is easy to get carried away with the excitement.

I had brought my phone and headphones with me but I found I never used it at all.  There was plenty of music, from country, to class rock, to metal, to Elvis / rockabilly, etc.  In all honesty, I was rarely bored (with the exception of a few streets)

After about 10K I ran into my friend DL, who was waiting for me at Sahara.  It was awesome seeing him and he managed to snag a picture of me:

After you get past the Sahara, things get a little rougher visually.  It is sort of no-man's land beyond the Stratosphere.  There are bars, porn / wedding chapels, strip bars and older motels that dot the strip.  There are still plenty of lights to look at, but the crowd support diminishes and more of the street people are out.

Around mile 8 or so you dip into a dark subdivision and make a lap around it before heading towards Fremont Street.  I really miss the years you actually got to run down Fremont, but this year, like last year, you just caught a glimpse of it.

Mile 10-ish I saw Meb Keflezighi pass me. It was amazing how fast and effortless his stride was.  I suddenly felt very inadequate and very slow.

Mile 11 saw us depart from the half marathoners.  I had studied the course a bit before the race start and I knew here it was going to be challenging.  Gone are the casinos and the crowds are pretty much gone as well.  A common complaint for the marathoners is that the second half of the course is really dull.

I think the Competitor group really did a good job.  Yes, there were some gritty areas that I was running by (barred houses, closed / ruined buildings) but running by the Lou Ruvo Brain health building was interesting.

Once again, the race organizers had you run trough the World Market area.  This is an area filled with airport hanger like warehouses.  I have never been there during the day, but at night they put up a ton of strobe lights and were playing loud music.  They ever had fog machines.  Last year they had the most obnoxious club music there, but this year they had a much better variety.

At this point, I could feel my pace slipping.  I was getting tired and it was warm.  I could also tell something wasn't quite right.  I just felt off.  My pace was more than conservative and I had done 18 miles at a faster pace, so I was surprised at how off I felt.

I was well supported throughout the race and I had done two GUs up to this point (one caffeinated) and was drinking copious amounts of Gatorade and water.  They had some Glukos stuff that I never did try.

I started to take in some Tailwind and for whatever reason my stomach just revolted.  I remember looking around for any sort of bathroom.   

Flashbacks of last year came back to haunt me.  What the heck... I hadn't over eaten.

My stomach was still not happy and less than a half mile later I stumbled upon the mile 18 bathrooms.  I dove into one and further took care of business (sorry if TMI).  I sat there for a good 3 - 4 minutes (which explains the difference between my finish time and my official time). Panic set in as I worried that I would have a humiliating 8 mile walk to the finish.  My head was spinning and I was light headed.  I just wanted a sag bus to come by and take me to the finish.

Reluctantly, I left the safe confines of the bathroom (I heard a medic talking to someone who seemed to be having the same problem as me) and I continued along the course.  After a few hundred yards I felt my stomach still cramping, but after a while it seemed to settle down.  

I needed to finish and kept my mind focused on getting the final 8 miles in.  I was breaking the race down to quarter mile segments and imaging myself doing quarter mile repeats or telling myself I was on an easy run on a familiar route.

I got a second wind when I came back to the Sahara and had my friend DL meet me again.  He could tell I was hurting (he was following me via runner tracking).  He did note that I was locked on a really even pace until about the half way point, which is incidentally when I started to hurt.

Around mile 22-ish, the race takes you into the Fairgrounds.  I think they had had the 5K the day before there.  This is basically an open, paved field.  The organizers had put lighted cones that were actually pretty easy to follow.  I was a bit nervous at times because I thought I was redoing the same route, just a never ending circle.  They had some loud music here and some lighted contraptions that were really cool (you haven't lived until you've heard the house version of Highway to Hell).  I actually enjoyed this part of the race more than I thought.  It was also here that I made up a lot of ground and wound up passing a lot of people.

The final stretch seemed to take forever.  The Mirage seemed to not get any closer.  To make matters worse, around mile 24, we had to run about a .75 mile stretch along Resorts World Drive, which is basically a street that is lined with upcoming casinos.  The turn around was at a strip / porn store.  Blah...  I think mentally I was done at this point and having nothing to take my mind off my agony didn't help.

After finishing Resorts World, I made it down the final .75 of a mile.  It seemed to take forever.  It was also here that we basically had one lane of road (while the halfers had 2).  At times the road was  a bit congested and I had to do a little bit of weaving but I was going pretty slow as it was.  I was definitely faster than the walking halfers and I was passing a lot of the walking dead marathoners.

I was just glad to be done.

Medal glows in the dark


After crossing the finish line, Shari, my wife, handed me a Sprite.  I definitely prefer Coke, but being it was a night race, I didn't want any caffeine (good luck finding a caffeine free Coke in Vegas).  It helped settle my stomach right away and I really didn't have any post race nausea.

I kept walking, grabbing some Gatorade and water along the way.  

This year they handed you a sports bag filled with snacks.  That was nice because in the past I always struggled carrying all the giveaways -- especially if it was cold.  The bananas were WAY ripe and did not look good (compared to 2011 when they were still very green).  

Exiting the "safe" zone is almost a marathon in and of itself.  It is about .4 mile of a walk from the finish line to the Bellagio, where you are finally allowed to exit.  It was nice to get in a walk and it wasn't very crowded, but that meant that I had to exit out, circle through the maze of Caesar's Palace and then get back to the Mirage... all told, about another mile.  Ugh.

This year, the race organizers surprised the marathoners with a finisher's jacket.  Bonus for me.  I love it, although the material isn't as soft as my 2010 edition (which I paid for).  Only the full marathoners got it and I thought it was a nice extra.

Overall, I liked the course.  It did have a lot of turns and some of the sections were definitely not fun.  But trying to find 26 miles of awesome running in Vegas is a huge undertaking.  I thought this was a winner although I did here several complaints.

Course support was good.  There were plenty of bathrooms at the start and they had plenty of the course.  The volunteers knew what they were doing and had plenty of water and Gatorade ready.  Water stops were every 2 miles or less.

My race performance wasn't the greatest.  I had hopes of getting 4:15.  I think the warm weather slowed me down.  While I had tapered properly, the long walk to Mandalay Bay sort of put some extra fatigue on me.  I also suffered from some stomach issues, which I suspect cost me upwards of 5 - 10 minutes.

I also struggled with my worst enemy: me.  I started having doubting and deep thoughts about running and marathons in general about mile 13.  It really wore me down and I found it hard to remain positive when my legs continued to get heavier.  I had run so much better in many of my training runs -- why was this one so much harder?

I even began contemplating whether I ever wanted to run another marathon again (or race for that matter).  I think the brief second wind at mile 22-ish helped.

Either way, after finishing, I had a pretty good emotional payoff on it.  I did sign up for 2017's full marathon since they were offering a great price ($99), so I haven't completely written off marathoning.

This race certainly gives me a lot of food for thought and I may have to re-adjust my goals for 2017.

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