Friday, December 9, 2011

Race Recap - RnR Las Vegas half marathon

Last weekend was a pretty special weekend in my household.  Not only was it The Wife and my 6th anniversary (woo hoo!), but we got to experience a couple of firsts in our relationship.  The first, well, first, is that we took a little trip to Las Vegas, together.  We both have been there separately (I went back in 2009 for the greatest concert ever...311 day!), but we had never been there at the same time.  The main reason for us never having taken a trip to Vegas together is because Vegas really isn't my kind of place.  If I'm going to go on vacation, that's not the first place (or even the tenth place for that matter) that comes to my mind.  And, with us having a young daughter, Vegas is definitely not a place that I think kids should go...but that's a whole other story.  This trip ended up happening because of the wonderful opportunity that I've had to be on Team Marathon Bar.

The strip with the Cosmopolitan Hotel with its blue lights

As a member of Team Marathon Bar 2011, I had agreed to race in at least one Rock n Roll Series event.  I chose the Las Vegas half marathon as that event.  And somehow, even though she had never run anywhere near that far before, I convinced The Wife to join me in the race!  We made arrangements for my parents to watch our daughter and our trip was ready!

We arrived in Vegas on Friday afternoon.  My dad had come with us (to make a long story short, he hooked us up with a hotel room by using his player's club card, and in return  we paid for his plane flight home.  It was much cheaper than paying for a hotel room) and was to be heading home that night.  We checked into the hotel, got the room all situated, and went to grab some lunch.  After lunch we headed out to the Disney outlet store to see if they had any sweet deals before returning back to the room.  Part of getting a free room through one's player's club card is that you agree to gamble a little during your stay, so my dad had to go play the slots for a bit.  The Wife and I took this time to participate in a TV show screening research study, which ended up paying each of us $30 cash and a ticket to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel.  Sweet!  After that was over, we took my dad to the airport, had some dinner, and went back to the room to get some sleep before we had our big day at the expo on Saturday.

As I mentioned earlier, The Wife and I had participated in a TV show review panel in which we were compensated for our time.  Well, I woke up early enough and had some time to kill while The Wife got ready for the day, so I headed back down to the review panel and participated again!  Another $40 cash money into my pocket!  Alright, now for the expo...
The Rock n Roll Series puts together expos like nobody else.  The only other races that I've been to that even come close are the Disney expos.  There usually sooooo many vendors at the RnR expos that you are guaranteed to walk away with at least a couple free things.  The Wife and I made it a point to walk up and down every isle to see what there was to sample.  And we definitely scored!  The Wife got her IT band taped with some kinesiology tape for free, we picked up about five 5-hour energy bottles, we each got a couple t-shirts, some flashing lights, Sports Beans, wine samples, and a whole crap-ton of other stuff.  I had agreed to meet at the Marathon Bar booth at 1 p.m., so we had arrived at the expo around 11 a.m. and spent a couple hours walking around.

When I met up at the Marathon Bar booth, I wasn't really sure what was to come.  I was asked if I wanted to participate in a Rock Band competition, to which I declined (had I sampled the wine a bit more, I would have agreed!).  Then I was asked to judge the competition instead.  And heck yes I agreed to that!

No, I did not play the Simon Cowell role

The 3 of us judges, judging away!
The competition was actually very fun to watch, and I wish I would have agreed to play in it.  But oh well...there's always next year!

After the Rock Band competition was over, we took a few Team Marathon photos of the members that were there, and did some filming for an upcoming weight-loss piece that is going to air on Lifetime some time early in 2012.  I'll keep you posted if I learn any more about this.  After the expo, it was off to dinner, then up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, then back to bed.  For our Eiffel Tower experience, we planned to be at the top during sunset.  We thought it would be a great view, and it was.  Check out this sequence of photos The Wife took (sorry for the quality...the battery on The Wife's good camera died so we had to use our little pocket camera.  Still pretty sweet looking in my opinion though!)

The Bellagio

Looking South from the Eiffel Tower (Mandalay Bay/race start is the gold building off in the distance)

The Flamingo hotel

Planet Hollywood hotel

The Flamingo again, with the sun setting so now it is lit up!

Looking South again, with some lights on now

And South again

And again...

Planet Hollywood is brightly lit

The Bellagio is very majestic at night

And the Flamingo hotel one more time

Race day was going to be interesting.  I had never run a night race, and The Wife had never run a half marathon, so this whole thing was going to be new to us.  We planned to wake up at a decent time, head out to lunch and be back around 1 p.m. or so in hopes to take a little nap.  Our plan hit a minor snaffu when The Wife realized she did not pack a crucial piece of her running attire, so we spent some of the morning searching for a replacement, which worked out well because we ended up at the same mall where we were planning on eating lunch.  We enjoyed a small lunch, headed back to the room and took about an hour nap.

We had plans to try and meet up with some of our friends that were also running their first half marathon prior to the race.  We thought that maybe it would be a little difficult trying to find 2 people in a sea of 44,000 people, but it actually wasn't bad at all.  We met up with them, found our way to the bag check area (which I thought was very, very well organized) and checked in our bags which we would pick up again after the race.  We spent a few more minutes inside killing time, but eventually found our way outside so we could soak up the race experience.

The Wife and Krista

The Wife and me

Krista and Zak

We failed to consider how cold it was outside, and that we had over an hour prior to race time.  So after we took these pictures, we searched out some of those outdoor heaters.  We huddled around the heaters for a while, then decided to go watch Cheap Trick finish their pre-race concert, and wait to watch the Jabbawockeez give a little sample of their hip hop anonymous dance show.  Once they were done, it was time to head to the corrals and wait for the race start.

Depending on where you read the stats, it's reported that there were 36,000 people registered for the half marathon.  I think we all headed to the corrals at the same time.  When we got over to the corrals, we immediately hit a brick wall of people and stopped moving.  We realized we were only at corral 12 and had a long way to go until we reached 24.  We saw a little break between corrals 12 and 13 and decided to try and walk to the other side of the corrals in order to get out of the crowd and be able to move back to our corral.  Well, we realized, once we were already half way across, that this was not a walkway, and we were in fact now in corral 12.  I made the executive decision to just go ahead and stay in this corral since we would never make it back to our corral in time.  We planned on running at the start to get out of the crowd and make our way to the side so we could walk.

I'm sure some people are upset with what we did, but trust me, if you saw the rush hour traffic jam that was going on, you would have done the same.  And I could tell by looking around at other bib numbers near us that a lot of people did do the same thing.  I know that doesn't make it right, it's just a result of over crowding.

After a few technical problems with the sound system (we didn't hear most of the pre race talk and national anthem), the race started!  We slowly worked our way to the starting line, waiting until it was our adopted corral's turn to start.

The first 4 or 5 miles of the race were very entertaining.  It was really cool to run down the Vegas strip with all of the lights on.

The other part that was awesome was since this race was an out-and-back style, we got to see all of the race leaders running toward the finish.  Those guys and girls are fast!

The middle portion of the race wasn't as visually appealing, but it was still fun enough.  There was actually a section where there was runners moving in both directions.  There were people everywhere!

After that little section, it was time to start heading back toward the strip.  The nice thing about this race was that there were plenty of land markers to reference where you were headed.  To know that we were headed back toward the strip, we just knew we were running to the Stratosphere.

Finally, we were back on the strip and headed toward Mandalay Bay to finish the race.

And the big finish...

Woo hoo!  The Wife just finished her first half marathon!  And she did an awesome job.  I really couldn't be prouder.  And she was obviously feeling pretty excited at the time, because she walked right by the medals without getting one!  I had to run up to her and grab her and tell her to go back and get a medal!

The post race amenities left a little to be desired (like ripe bananas instead of green bananas, and maybe some electrolyte drink?), but it wasn't bad enough to ruin the moment.  We grabbed whatever we felt we needed at the time and headed back inside Mandalay Bay to get our bag from the bag check area.  When we entered the hotel, there were runners everywhere.  There was now 44,000 runners who didn't feel like walking back to their hotel lying all over the place.  It was pretty crowded to say the least.  But we still made our way to the gear check area without any problems.  We found a spot to sit down for a few minutes and I went and got our bags.  I changed into some regular clothes (since I didn't want to wear my spandex running pants out to dinner), met up with Krista and Zak, jumped on a charter bus that drove us down to where we were planning on eating dinner.  We limped our way over to Strip Burger and enjoyed a fantastic post-race meal, including these bad boys...

That's right, 32 oz beer is a great post race rehydration tool!

And with that, the night was a success.  Everyone finished the race and lived to tell about it.

There's a lot of negative press out there about this race.  There's stories of many, many people getting sick (the rumor is that the race water may have been contaminated), running out of finisher medals, running out of race t-shirts, etc.  Some of these things were possibly avoidable, and some perhaps not.  We ended up having a great time, and didn't really let any of the problems that other runners seem to be caught up on bother us.  I can see that if you were trying to run this race for time, then you may be upset.  The one thing that was pretty messed up was how the marathon and half marathon were supposed to "share" the road.  There was one lane marked for marathon runners and between 3-5 lanes for half marathon runners.  Unfortunately, nobody really took note of this and the marathon runners sort of got screwed.  Unless they were on pace to run a 3:00 marathon, they met up with 36,000 half marathoners and had no room to run their race.  But the way we looked at it was, it's a race in Vegas, it probably shouldn't be taken seriously.

On that note, The Wife's performance really blew me away.  I went into this thing expecting to finish around the 4:00 mark, and we were under that by about 45 minutes!  The Wife has been having some pretty severe IT band issues, which had prevented her from really training, at all.  We ran 8 miles back in July, and since then she has only walked 3 miles at a time.  So for he to get through this race and to do so like she did was amazing!

Congrats on finishing your first half marathon!!!!!!!


  1. I love Vegas but I can't imagine trying to race there, especially on the Strip. Would be a neat experience. And hey, Cheap Trick!

  2. What's up Dirtbag! The race was pretty crowded, but we still had a lot of fun. I've heard that Competitor (the company that puts on all of the RnR races) has heard everyone's complaints about the race and vow to make up for it next year, whatever that means. Regardless, I think The Wife and I are considering that race again next year. And yep, Cheap Trick did their thing!