After the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5k, our crew headed back to the hotel for a late dinner, stretching and an early bed time. No Vegas shenanigans for us – we had another race the next day. It was difficult determining how we should eat and fuel for a half marathon that started at night. Typically, races start at the crack of dawn so this was new to all of us. We slept in and enjoyed a brunch buffet maybe a little too much. But hey – we had to calorie load for the half, right?
We made our way to the race venue around 2 pm. We chose our hotel because it had a package that included a shuttle to the start line. When you’re getting ready to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles, the last thing you want to do is walk an extra 1+ mile to get to the start line. And while I was prepared to rock out to Mister Snoop Lion Dogg, there was a last minute change to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as the pre-race headliner. Initially I was more than irked about the change and ambivalent about bobbing along with Sir Thrift Shop – but oh boy, did Macklemore put on a good show and we were right in front of the stage to enjoy it!
We rocked out for an hour to a great show. Then it was time to shuffle over to the start line. The half marathon was scheduled to begin at 4:30 pm. I found my corral (#42) and ourcrew waited for our release. We waited. And waited. Waited. And waited some more. The sun set and temperature was dropping by the minute. We waited 75 minutes until our corral began. Seriously – 75 minutes! Thankfully I was with friends, plus the new friends I met while waiting, but dang it was a very long wait to start! I’m pretty sure Meb and the fast racers finished before we even started. Oh, that’s why it’s called the Strip at Night! You wait so long to start running, it is indeed night time when you begin! I was on my feet from 2 pm when we arrived at the race venue until I crossed the starting line at 5:45 pm. I wouldn’t choose to stand for almost 4 hours before running, but that is how the chips fell with this event. The announcer informed us that if all racers finished, it would be the largest half marathon in the US!
I’m usually a huge ball of nerves before running. Even when meeting up with my clubmates for training runs, I still get the butterflies in my tummy. But ironically, I wasn’t nervous at all for this race. I was very calm – oddly calm. I rocked out with Macklemore and didn’t get up in arms about the extremely long wait to start. I think it’s because I went into this race without putting in the miles I had in the past for a half marathon, and my strategy was to walk when I wanted and run when I wanted. I wanted to have fun and avoid being scooped up by the sag wagon. I knew what I was in for in terms of the aches and pains to my knees and hips, so I didn’t want to push myself beyond my limits and potentially injure myself. By the time our corral was released, I had the ‘ugh, finally. Let’s do this!’ feeling.
I settled into a good pace for the first mile and a half. Right before mile 2, I noticed the professional photographers hanging out in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign ushering runners in. I pushed us off the course for the photo opp. I wasn’t worried about my time, so I didn’t care about stopping for the photograph. Cheese! We looped further south down the Strip and passed the sign coming back in the other direction. I stopped to get more photos and offered to take some of a fellow runner. Again – I wasn’t concerned about my time so why not get some good shots in?
Back to the running. I was officially on my own and it was so much colder than I expected. I made a game time decision to wear the long sleeves and gloves I had brought for after the race, and I’m so glad I kept them on for the race. I ran past the Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, City Center, Caesar’s Palace, and so on. I stopped at every water station about every 2 miles to hydrate. Before I knew it, we took a turn and were in downtown Las Vegas. Wait – how did that happen? I looked at my watch and realized I had run about 8 miles. Holy smokes! Over half way done! I didn’t realize I had already gone so far and hadn’t even considered walking yet. It was around this point things got serious. There wouldn’t be ANY walking for me. This was going to be a big feat considering I only did this once before, and that was when I was training with a running club and putting serious miles in. I started talking to more runners to keep myself distracted. Anybody that had any sort of sports team clothing on and I knew the mascot got a cheer from me. Bonus points if I knew the hand signals! It’s always fun to see how that perks people up! We turned off the Strip
and I kept asking people if I was still on the right course. I was going to run the half, but sure as heck didn’t want to end up on the marathon course!
We looped back around the north side and continued our race back on the Strip (phew – the safety zone!). A lot of drunk people spectators showed up to cheer us on to the finish. I checked my watch around mile 10 and did some calculations. If I busted the last 5k out at a 9-ish minute pace, I could PR! How could that happen?
I hadn’t been training for long distances, I was slowing down for photos, I was talking to people, and I certainly shouldn’t have been booking it that fast. And then I thought – hmph, maybe there is something to this triathlon training. Maybe I am in better shape than I was last year. Maybe my watch is broken. Maybe, I’m faster than I used to be!
I ultimately decided it wasn’t worth trying to sprint it in to the finish. I was worried I would blow my knee out and do more harm than good by trying to shave a few minutes off. I wasn’t even sure I could sustain a quicker pace for the last 5k. After all, I was here for fun and I wanted to make sure I finished by having a great time and with a smile on my face. And I certainly accomplished that goal! I crossed the finish line feeling GREAT! I collected my two medals and enjoyed my victory banana.
So what did I learn? That I’ve got this. That great things happen when I relax and have fun. That I’m faster and stronger than I used to be. And that I will definitely be back again next year to Strip at Night in Vegas!
Goal: Jog at a slow 11:45 pace; walk when I wanted or needed to. Stop for photos, enjoy the sights along the course and have fun.
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Distance: Half marathon; 13.1 miles
Conditions: Around 43° F with 20% humidity at race start.
Total time: 2:38:21
Pace: 11:58 min/mile
Outcome: My pace was probably closer to a 11:15-ish min/mile, excluding the time I spent slowing down to chat or stopping for photos. Whatever it was, I’m mostly excited that I ran the entire course and finished feeling strong!