I love few things more than what Reader's Digest used to call, "drama in real life." Current events that grab your attention and shock you with each new detail. This week I got to be a part of the live action when I ran the Rock 'N' Roll Las Vegas half-marathon. Not to play Monday (Tuesday) morning QB, but I knew the race situation wasn't going to end well, given the elements: 44,000 participants + Las Vegas Strip + night. Too many people in too tight a space under poorly lit conditions.
In the days leading up to the Sunday evening race, Dimity and I traded our traditional roles: She was the optimist, predicting it would be a fun, once-in-a-lifetime party, while I was the skeptic. But, as you might have read on Facebook or Twitter, the event ended up having problems from start (overcrowded, inaccessible corrals and an abandoned wave start) to finish (a finishers' area that made a Tokyo subway train at rush hour seem deserted; not enough finishers' medals; the greenest bananas ever) and everywhere along the way (speedy marathoners blocked by throngs of half-marathon runners; walkers in the first corral; sudden jutting curbs; scurfy part of town when not on the Strip).
But, I surprised myself: I got into a zone like I've rarely achieved in a running race before. Sure, I had to dodge runners left and right (and right and left again) until about Mile 4 and whenever the roadway would narrow, but otherwise I was able to get in a serious groove. Every so often, as it was happening, I tried to analyze my almost-Zen state, and I came up with two explanations: The darkness and my playlist. Despite the blazing neon lights of the infamous Strip, the race was darker than I had expected. And this might sound odd, but since I could see my body working, at times it felt like it wasn't working, but merely magically moving through space. In addition, the darkness made it tough to check my Garmin 610 very often, so it felt like I was "running naked" (without a pace- or time-keeper). It was liberating.
My playlist: If you are a regular reader of this website, you probably know I'm the one who pays close attention to the tunes she listens to during races. Given that it had been more than six months since I'd made a race playlist, there was plenty of new material to draw from, including the can't-hear-it-enough, "Good Feeling" by Flo Rida. (Could that song *be* more perfect for propelling you forward?!) I won't go through the list song by song--you can find it here--but I have to mention I have a new favorite song to kick off a race: "Telling the World (RIO Pop Mix)" by Taio Cruz. While the song is about a man proclaiming his love for a woman, the lyrics could just as easily be about how I was feeling at the start of the race:
"Every part in my heart I'm giving out
Every song on my lips I'm singing out
Any fear in my soul I'm letting go"
I'll admit: I was fighting off a Vegas-size panic attack in the crowded corral, waiting for my wave (#8) to start (this was when the race organizers were still enforcing a wave start, rather than simply letting the masses surge forward). Seeing no other alternative, I turned my attention inward, focusing on the music pouring through my Yurbuds. Listening to Taio, I was almost instantly calmed down, and the words spoke to me. I suddenly found my previously MIA enthusiasm and optimism.
This post has gone on way longer than I planned so let me wrap it up with some final specifics: My formerly plantar fasciitis right foot stayed delightfully pain free; my body felt stronger thanks to twice-weekly boot camp sessions; and I finished in 2:00:16. Sure, my slowest 13.1-mile finish (by about a minute) in perhaps ever, but after talking to other racers (whose times were off by anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes), I'm pleased with my result.
Anybody else who Stripped at Night care to share a race anecdote?