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Rock ‘N’ Roll Las Vegas Race Report

Pre-race, Dimity and me looking, ahem, badass

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 participantsย  + Las Vegas Strip + night. Too many people in too tight a space under poorly lit conditions.

Starting line band + throngs

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.

Bright lights, big crowd

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?

25 responses to “Rock ‘N’ Roll Las Vegas Race Report

  1. I’m not going to lie…until it was the morning after the race, I was completely oblivous to all the chaos and complaints that many others had experienced. I fortunately had a great race experience! I had fun at the expo and even got to meet the both of you :)…plus bought a pretty bad ass shirt! This year, I ran with the 1/2 marathon with Team Challenge…& I had a great experience with TC! This was my second time running the LV RNR 1/2 marathon and I must say, as much as I liked seeing the lights at night, I much prefer racing in the morning…I’m a bit of a morning person anyways. I set 3 levels of goals for myself and just went in to the race hoping to accomplish as many as I could. First and foremost, I was just glad to be out there with TC and running for such a great cause…just finishing the race with TC and having a fun time was a goal in itself! Secondly, I was hoping to be last years time…1:37:58…not my fastest, but that was also 3.5 months post partum. Lastly, my big goal was to run 1 hr 35 minutes…I wasn’t going to be mad at myself if I didn’t, but it would have been nice to break that time! Well…….1:33:37 later, I crossed the finish line of the 1/2 marathon! I (thank God)ended up reaching all of my goals and had a great time at the race…couldn’t ask for much more then that!

  2. There were 3 bad races last weekend, apparently. I ran the one in DC – the Hot Chocolate 15k. I had only read the reports about Vegas that were on the FB page. Thanks for sharing your insight about the race, I was curious about what had gone on in Vegas. (also, the other bad race was the Palm Beaches Marathon)

  3. I ran the half as well and like you, I expected it to be a madhouse with issues and so I wasn’t surprised. But I also got out of the there before the bad stuff REALLY went down and even though it took me a long long time to get to where I could freely walk the 1 mile to my hotel, it worked out for me. I didn’t PR and was 6 minutes slower than my last race but also discovered I ran 2 extra miles in the bobbing and weaving (I was corral 14, the walls of walkers were stronger the further back you were). I had fun! I loved the craziness of night and drunk spectators and costumes and Vegas lights! http://aimswa.blogspot.com/2011/12/vegas-baby-yeah.html

  4. It was so great to meet both of you!! Being my first half-marathon I had no idea what to expect. Yes, the corrals were crazy and the course was crowded but I LOVED every minute. When I made that final turn into Mandalay Bay I definitely got choked up. It was amazing and I can’t wait to run my next one.

  5. I was out there on the course a long time as a coach for Team Challenge… Definitely the roughest race environment I’ve encountered!

    PS – how do you like the 610? Considering my 305 is still trucking along, I can’t justify it but I’m definitely intrigued by it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I got to meet you! ๐Ÿ™‚ I actually had a great time at the race, AND I left my three teenagers at home with my husband while I went to VEGAS with my sole sisters. Awesome!

  7. So glad you guys had a good time despite the mess. I’m sad I didn’t get to see you again. Overall my race experience wasn’t too bad. But I didn’t get my medal and for that, I’m super bummed. I didn’t even stop to take the finisher pic- it was very anti-climactic. We were briefly caught in the mess at Mandalay Bay, but by then they were finally working on the crowds. Glad you got your mojo back! =)

  8. I wasn’t there, but I did run a slow half myself in Pueblo last weekend. And I LOVE that Flo Rida song. It’s going on my next list. Thanks, SBS! I’m glad you had a good time.

  9. SBS – it’s good to hear you’re back in the saddle. Your time doesn’t matter – what’s important is you ran this race pain-free! Maybe I’ll see you at a Portland race this spring? (Race for the Roses again?)

  10. So, my sister (who shall remain unnamed) worked at the RnRLV expo. Then ran the first 4 miles of the race with her buddy, stopped had a couple of beers, then ran the 4 miles back. I like their style.

    You guys are awesome, Dimity for forgoing this 13 miles for 12 months of running in 2012, how incredibly smart! And Sarah for finding the zone and having pride in finishing pain free! Congrats to both of you, here’s to healthy and happy running in 2012!

  11. this post/race report is not long enough! So glad that it turned out well for you. There’s nothing like “the zone” – or running injury-free! Hope Dim is on the mend soon, too.

  12. Sarah – it was great seeing you guys again! While I PR’d my half (by more than four minutes), I was really hoping to break the 2 hr mark. I ended up with 2:01:12. While it was quite the experience and my husband and I had the chance to run together, it is probably not one that I will put on the schedule to run again!

  13. Okay, I didn’t strip THAT night but have to send my best to SBS for getting her Zen on. She and I are cut from the same anal cloth so I am stunned and very impressed! Excellent job both mentally and physically. Plus, no PF problems. Whooo-we!

    I agree with Sally per Bloomsday being a testament to how well a huge race can be organized. It’s been five years since I ran the NYC Marathon but there were 38,000 folks at that one and aside from a few zealous Italian men (you had to be there) it was smooth sailing. Here’s hoping LV takes a page from those books.

    Great job, Sarah and Sally!

  14. Overall, my weekend in Vegas was amazing, capped off by meeting you! That said, I was in corral 32, where I was assigned to be, based on my previous half-marathon times…and I may have been the only one ๐Ÿ™‚ My friend from Mass who came to run with me (even though she’s much faster) said that she couldn’t think of any times that we could have really pushed through the crowd any harder…we zigged and zagged so much we added almost .3 to our final distance, but I was off my PR by less than 2 minutes, so I feel good about it. I was disappointed with the green bananas (since that’s the only thing my tummy can usually tolerate, in addition to some chocolate milk, which I didn’t think to pack!) but overall think that with some better planning next year (and careful attention to correcting the things that are crticized) it can be a pretty amazing event. I was laughing when we entered sketchville that it made me homesick for the streets I used to run in Worcester!

    I know big races can be very successful. Bloomsday in Spokane, WA is a shorter race at 12k, but it has over 50,000 participants and it’s a well-oiled machine with strictly enforced corrals (you get a DQ if you start in a color group ahead of your assigned one- with the same d-tag chip timing), tons and tons of finish line and course support, and lots of history to make it a part of the community. I felt like a lot of the people on the side of the road were just standing there annoyed because they wanted to get to the next casino across the street ๐Ÿ™‚ It may take some time to build the enthusiasm for the event, but I hope to see it happen!

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