Wednesday, November 15, 2017

2017 Las Vegas Marathon Race Recap - Las Vegas, NV

Official Time: 2:22:52*
Placement: N/A*
Results: Here
Race Website:Here
Weather: Upper 60's, light wind.
Garmin RouteHere
Previous Years: [2016] [2015] [2014] [2013]

310:00Right on target
69:24Too fast here. I think the cheering crowds got the best of me.
99:48Dialed it back
119:52Paused my watch for about 30 seconds.
1410:55Legs felt like lead
1610:22These miles aren't too bad. Maybe I did panic
1711:23Had to run the final 5K of the Half course. Just felt horrible -- physically and mentally
1913:20The final 7 miles of the marathon would've looked a lot like this.
Total Miles: 19.5 - 4:23:46


Since 2009, I've done the Las Vegas Marathon.  It has become a bit of a yearly tradition in which I wrap up the year.

In the past, I've done the marathon as sort of a "fun run".  That is if you can call running 26.2 miles along the streets of Vegas fun.  The scenery and vibe make it a chance for me to sign off on the year in terms of running.

I train to complete the race but I rarely have ever used it to go for a personal best.  I love visiting Nevada and this is just one way to sort of have fun and get in a run.

This year was slightly different.  I have only done 1 other marathon this year (some would argue that is one too many) and I really wanted to go off on a high note.

However, one drawback was my training leading up to the race had been inconsistent.  I had gotten what I would call the minimal amount of miles in but certainly not the level I would've liked.


I rolled into Vegas just after noon.  The marathon Expo was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  In years past, parking had been brutal. I think the last two years I basically left Shari in the car while I bolted in there and she struggled to find a space.  This year -- despite the large attendance -- there was ample parking.  Perhaps there was only one conventioneer at the place.  Either way, it was easy-peasy.

Shirt and bib pickup was a snap.  I might've bought something but the lines for the official merchandise were super long.  Plus I have a ton of souvenirs and more t-shirts then I know what to do with.  I walked around the expo seeing if they had anything I couldn't resist.  I found some 2 year old shoes that I would have liked, but I managed to dodge the impulse to buy.

I did find my name on a quilt that they had made featuring all the names of the runners: 

I also signed the neon, glow-in-the-dark banner that was to be hung during the race wishing Vegas to be strong in light of the recent tragedy.

I took off and made my way over to the Bellagio where I would be spending the night.  I wound up wandering around the Strip for a bit and eating at Margarittaville at the Flamingo (props... good food).

The Race

One of the treats about the Las Vegas marathon is that it is held at night -- with a start time of about 4:30.  So if you think of Vegas as a raging inferno, you would be right -- if you were thinking of summer time.  In November the temperature tends to be reasonable, especially at night.

I was blessed with temperatures in the upper 60's and only a very mild southern wind.  I was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and I was fine.  I had toyed with the idea of carrying throw away gloves for later in the race, but I figured it would stay warm enough.

The old starting line was near Mandalay Bay at the fairgrounds.  Due to it being a crime scene, the race organizers had to quickly adjust the race.  This year, the starting line was in front of the New York hotel and culminated at the old finish line -- the Mirage.  

So there was some juggling around with the course at the last minute.  I definitely LIKED this course.  I hung out in the Monte Carlo after taking the tram from the Bellagio.  In years past I had to hoof it about 50% of the way to Mandalay Bay (which is a long way) but this year, it was easy.

The Monte Carlo was flooded with people and one poor bathroom was deluged with people.  Around 4:00 PM I jumped into my corral and probably found one of the last places to sit. There's nothing worse than standing around for 30 minutes waiting for a race to start.  I killed time chatting with a lady names Denise (I think) from Boston.

Before I knew it, the race started and within about 5 minutes I was running.  I had been placed in the 7th corral and all in all it wasn't too bad of a wait.  In years past I had to wait about 10 - 15 minutes to start.  

I didn't have any hard and fast goals.  I had looked at some of my training runs and decided that I would be happy with a 4:20 - 4:30.  I was at lower elevation, the temperature was pretty moderate and I felt good -- no seriously nagging injuries, I wasn't feeling sick, I had eaten the right food all day and in the past 48 hours and I was hydrated.  So I figured I'd hold on to 10 minute miles (or so) and hang on for all I had once I hit 20.  Maybe the Running Gods would bequeath me with a negative split.

The first 2.5 miles had no music -- with the exception of a quartet (I think) playing sad violins in memory of the 58 who died in the mass shooting on Oct 1, 2017.  It was a somber and sad moment as we ran by the Vegas welcome sign.

I had been hemmed in initially but I actually didn't mind it too much.  I wanted to hit 10 minute miles and I was largely successful.  I was hoping to hit about 31 minutes per 5K and I think the crowds sort of spurred me on at miles 5 and 6, I was largely on target.

It was warm, but not as warm as years past and as I settled into my pace I just found myself pretty happy to be running and present.  There were times this summer when I was battling my knee condition that I wondered if I'd be here -- running a full marathon.

It was good getting all the cheers from people -- but Vegas can sort of be a lonely place -- and I felt alone.  I saw a lot of people running together or groups of runners and fans who had signs, but it was unnerving to me.  Random strangers cheered me on, which helped, but it wasn't the same.

I had made a pact to myself to run marathon pace until mile 11.  At mile 11, the half marathoners ran the final 2 miles to the finish line, while I would run another 13 (or so) out in North Las Vegas.

I made a mental check at 11 and I felt good.  Not terribly great, but strong enough to finish.  I did have to use the restroom though and had been itching to use one for a while.  But given the large number of runners (they said there were 3000 full marathoners and over 40K for the entire weekend's races) I didn't really have time to use one -- until mile 11.

I jumped in and took care of business but let's just say the bathroom situation was a bit more alarming than I thought it was going to be.

I ran another mile and I felt the urge to go again.

Did I have some bad water?  What was going on?  There really wasn't another water station for another 2 miles and by the time I made it to 13 I felt my pace going to hell.  Running a 10 minute mile suddenly seemed hard -- very hard.

I grabbed a drink and actually waited outside a porta potta until the person in there go done.  I took care of business and this time it seemed worse than the first time.  I was also pukey / fainty feeling.

I started to panic.  Did I have what it took to run another 13 miles?  Did I really want to do a dead man's shuffle for the remainder of the race?

I recalled the last 5 (or so) marathons I've done and the agonizing memory of suffering the last X miles came rushing up. There is nothing more painful than wanting to just be done but having to endure 13+ minute miles.

I opted to be done.  My job at that point was to get back to the 11 mile split point and just do the half.  I could live with a half.

So at judicious points I turned around and made my way back.  I also tore my timing chip off so as to make sure I didn't go through anymore marathon check points.  I really didn't care about officially finishing.

I finally made it back to the half marathon course and jumped back in at 10.  Did I really have to run mile 10 again?  It just put a further damper on my spirits.

To make matters worse, I was wondering if I was doing the right thing.  I had totally just did my own thing.  I wasn't going to wait to jump on a bus but what I was doing just felt wrong... I knew I couldn't cross the marathon finisher line but I had 100% done the half marathon course.  I felt like a criminal as I slinked along.

I was swallowed up with the walkers and 11+ minute per mile crowd.  I was shambling along, feeling kind of crappy but watching my splits slow climb from mid 10's to 11's.

I was ravenously thirsty as well.  I had quaffed my Tailwind and a gel and was working on another gel but nothing was sitting well and I was double fisting drinks at every aid station.  Around mile 18, my calves started to cramp.

The finish line finally came and I crossed -- with my Garmin reading that I had run about 19.5 miles.  Crestfallen, I realized I would only get a half marathon ribbon for my efforts.

I was surly when I finish.  I chugged water and just kept right on going.  I tried to get a marathon finisher's jacket but that was only for marathon finishers (doh) and I was further humiliated and humbled.  I felt really low.

I didn't even want my picture taken and I could hardly look at my finisher's medal. I still get remorseful looking at it. I didn't even want to share in the joy with some fellow runners (I usually can commiserate with other runners).

More than anything, I just wanted a do over.

I wound up making a beeline back to the hotel and went back to the room.  Shari wasn't expecting me for another hour (at least) and she was surprised.  I related my tale to her and I wound up hitting the shower and drinking a Coke.

We were hemming and hawing about where to go eat when all of the sudden I felt that wooziness pass over me again.  I sat in the bathroom for a while and thought the worst was over.  Then it hit me again and next thing I knew I was heaving into the toilet.

I have NEVER thrown up from running. Never.  And I haven't for the past 20 years.  But that night I did.  Luckily it was pretty short lived but I was done for the night.

With aching legs and an upset stomach and a mild headache, I slept restlessly that night trying to reason and explain to myself just what exactly happened.


I still have problems looking at the medal and shirt.  I really didn't do what I set out to do.  It makes me angry and disappointed.  I am a marathon runner and I am supposed to be tough and to endure.

I've run a lot of races -- maybe close to 200+ of them.  And no matter how much each one hurt, I finished them.  Even if I had to walk them or shuffle.  

Sunday night's race was the first time I had to bail on a race.  And it burned and hurt.  

Had I pulled the plug too soon?  Had I panicked?  What went wrong?  I didn't make the usual mistakes -- no overeating.  I don't drink / do drugs.  I had slept well the night before.  My training hadn't been totally useless.  I had tapered correctly and my legs for the most part felt good.  I wasn't over trained.... What if I had run the whole thing?  Would I have wound up in the hospital with dehydration?  Would I have made the 5 hour cutoff? 

I think there were signs on the wall though:

  1. My last few training runs hadn't gone well.  The last 12 miler I did (during taper week) felt hard.  This should've felt like a warm-up.  It didn't.
  2. During training runs at 9:30 pace, I would be good to go for about 12 miles.  Then my pace would drop.   While I was running easier and lower elevation my body seems to know that half of it is done and it should slow down.
  3. My confidence wasn't high.  I had a bailout plan and I was on the fence about dropping to the half from the time I started my taper.
  4. My really long long run was done in late September.  It should've been done in October.  My October long runs were 16 to 17 miles.
  5. My base training had been light. Most plans ask 40 - 45 miles per week.  I do better with 60 - 70.
  6. It was warm.
So I had my hissy fit and since then the blow has softened as I've gotten perspective on it.  I think it was helpful for me to see that the Rock 'n Roll people recognized that I had at least done a half marathon and I was in the official results.  So I can say I have participated and finished some distance in all 9 of their Vegas races.

Overall, I love the shirt.  The medal is unique.  The die in the middle rotates and I bet the medal glows in the dark.  It is also pretty heavy.

I paid $99 for the race -- at the expo last year.  So I got a nice bargain. I would've gotten a nice marathon jacket had I actually finished the full marathon.  They were asking $200+ for Expo registration...

I have to hand it to the organizers.  They scrambled after the tragedy to reroute the course and put on a world-class event.  And they succeeded. I liked the course -- no more sketchy neighborhood east of Freemont street.  Water stations were properly manned and equipped.  The corrals were cramped but still good.  There were bathrooms on the course but they did tend to be occupied.  I suspect I would've had to wait at least one or two persons in the early miles.

I also felt safe.  They had a ton of police presence and even a  helicopter flying over us.  I never felt not safe.  I have to give out a huge thank-you to the organizers, the police and all the wonderful volunteers.

My performance, however, will leave a big black mark for a while.  When I crossed the finish line I honestly didn't care if I ever raced again. In fact, I dare say, I hated running.

Is the marathon a distance too far for me?  I think I'll have to ponder that one.  In the meantime I am signed up for next year's full marathon.  So maybe there'll be redemption and I am not afraid to toe the line for a 5K.

There'll be good days and bad days and this one was one of my darker ones.

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