December 6, 2011

Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Race Recap

I am back from Las Vegas, where I had the most wonderful weekend away. I was debating on whether to break this recap into two different posts---one about all the pre-race activities and one about the race itself--but I think I will make it all fit into one post. Please bear with me on how long this post might get; I have lots to write!

To end any suspense, I had a great race. I ran the best race of my life, and while I didn't hit my ultimate goal of breaking the 2:30 time mark, I DID set a PR (personal record) and finished in 2:30 and change. My previous PR, 2:31 and change, was earlier this past June, at the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon. I am proud to say I set a PR by 1 minute and 9 seconds!

Also, while I had a wonderful experience in Vegas at the race, there were many, many runners who had horrible experiences. Apparently the organizers ran out of t-shirts, medals, and water on the course. The crowds were huge and there was no one to control them. Runners were denied medical aid. Apparently it looked like a war zone in the Mandalay Bay Hotel after the race, with runners puking, passed out, shivering with hypothermia---and no medical aid was available. You can read all of the complaints on their Facebook page, and on blogs such as Charlene's. I am horrified at what happened at this race, and am so thankful that I didn't run into any difficulties. A race of this caliber, put on by a reputable organization such as Competitor, who has been putting on multiple Rock 'n' Roll races for many years, shouldn't allow something like this to happen.

With that being said, let me start my recap!


While driving to Las Vegas was certainly an option for me, since it's about a six hour drive, I was lucky enough to find a cheap flight. The caveat is that the flight left from Long Beach, so I had to drive 90 minutes to get to the airport. I left the house at 6:00 Saturday morning, drove up, and caught an easy one-hour flight to Vegas. I took a cab to my hotel, the Luxor, which I had deliberately chosen for it's very close proximity to the start and finish line. (The race started and finished at the Mandalay Bay, which is right next door to the Luxor. This will come into play later on in my recap).

After checking in and putting my luggage in my room, I immediately met up with Skibba and her daughter, Little Miss. Skibba is a friend of mine who I met on Twitter. We actually met in person in June, when she also ran the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon. We chat on Twitter and often text each other, and it was great to see her again and meet her daughter. Skibba, Little Miss and I caught a cab and went to the expo to get our bibs, schwag, and check out the goods!

I was SO excited to go to the expo. Most of the races I've been doing recently had very small expos, with only a few vendor booths. Some had no expo at all, only a packet pickup. The last two races I did that had big expos (Carlsbad and Rock 'n' Roll San Diego) I was unable to really "do" the expo, as I had my kids with me. This time, it was just me and my friends, and I had all the time in the world to leisurely stroll through the aisles. I picked up my bib and timing chip, got my t-shirt, and received my schwag bag--which had a cool running headlight inside it for running at night. Score! Next, it was shopping time.

As I have written before, my leg has been in a lot of pain recently, and even just walking through the expo was hurting me. I was getting increasingly anxious about running the next day, and got the idea that maybe some compression shorts might help me. I found some at a booth and decided to buy them. I scored some RazzyRoo headbands, on sale for only $10 each. Finally, I stopped by the Another Mother Runner booth, where I bought a t-shirt (it says "Are My Kids Still Chasing Me?") and their book, "Run Like A Mother". I got to meet one of the authors, Sarah, who I tweet a lot with on Twitter (she's a fellow plantar fasciitis sufferer) and she signed my book for me! I got lots of samples of different products. One drink in particular, a cherry juice, tasted good, but gave me a bad stomach cramp. This wasn't good, as I had wanted to eat lunch (all I'd eaten all day was a scone at 6:00 in the morning at Starbucks before my drive up to Long Beach, and a Clif Bar I had in my purse the expo). I needed FOOD but felt too sick to eat anything. After the expo, Skibba, Little Miss and I wandered in the shops at the Venetian. The line for cabs was long, but we lucked out with being able to hire a stretch limo to take us back! Vegas style!

Once back in the room, I rested, read, and enjoyed my solitude. Soon it was time to get ready for dinner. Me, Skibba and Little Miss caught a cab and went to an Italian restaurant, Casa di Amore, where we met up with other friends we've met on Twitter (some of whom we've met before, some of whom we hadn't), including MoonkinRunning, CoachKristieLV, SpeedySasquatch, and SnowVols.

After a yummy pasta dinner, I was ready to go to another meet-up---this time, at the Eye Candy Lounge at Mandalay Bay. I got to meet many of my friends from Twitter, including Sara, Kimberly and Charlene, as well as many of my favorite bloggers such as Becca from See Becca Try to Tri, Emily from Sweat Once a Day, Beth from Shut Up and Run, and Jess from Blonde Ponytail. I met many more people, but I can't remember everyone!

Sara, Charlene and me

Becca and me

me, Beth and Jess

me and Emily
All too soon, it was time for me to go back to my room and get to sleep. The next morning, I woke up and had breakfast with my brother-in-law's parents, who live in Vegas. I hadn't seen them in almost 7 years, so it was a treat! I wanted to fuel for that night's race (I had never run at night before, and wasn't sure what to eat) so I just ordered some oatmeal and an English muffin with peanut butter. After, I wandered around the shops at Mandalay Bay, shopped for treats for my kids, then went back to my room to rest for a few hours. I didn't know what to eat for lunch; I was afraid to eat anything heavy or unknown. I ended up just eating a scone and a banana from Starbucks.

The Race

I had brought two possible outfits to wear to the race, one for cold weather and one for warmer. I decided to wear my capris instead of long pants, and a long-sleeved tech shirt. I also decided to wear my new compression shorts under my capris. Normally, I advocate to wear nothing new on race day (and indeed, this was one of 2 of my racing rules that I broke, the other being that I never practiced running at night) but I had been wearing the shorts since I bought them the day before, even to bed, and felt they were comfortable enough to risk it. I got dressed, taped my feet with KT tape, put on my throw-away jacket and throw-away gloves, filled my fuel belt with Gatorade and Gu, grabbed my iPod and Garmin, and went to Skibba's room to meet her and her daughter. I had brought some glow sticks and we made them into necklaces and bracelets and twisted them into our shoelaces. I also wore a glow-in-the-dark blinking necklace that I borrowed from my daughter.

The hotel was crawling with runners, all staying inside as long as possible (it was COLD outside!) All weekend I was struck by the paradox of runners in Sin City. Vegas doesn't call to mind healthy images for me (I think of casinos and cigarette smoke) yet here were thousands of runners. 44,000 runners to be exact. I had the same feeling back in the 90s when I went to my first Grateful Dead show in Vegas---it was odd to see Deadheads in the casinos. At any rate, the half marathon started at 5:30 (the full marathon had already started at 4:00) and we made our way outside at about 5:15. We were lucky not to have to gear-check; since our hotel was so close to the start/finish line, it didn't make any sense to.

before leaving the hotel room

me and Skibba glowing in the dark
outside before the race, trying to stay warm

We made our way outside and it was BEDLAM! 44,000 runners, all trying to find their corrals.

I was supposed to be in corral 29, but we couldn't really figure out how to get there. We ended up joining another corral, which was made of various people from other corrals. Apparently, no one knew where to go. Finally, we off and RUNNING!

The energy of the runners and the Strip itself was indescribable. Everyone was happy. People were wearing glow sticks, Elvis costumes, and other random costumes. There was a run-through wedding happening around mile 3 on the course, and I saw lots of runners dressed as brides in preparation for their wedding or vow renewal.

Around mile 1 I ran into trouble. My fuel belt was slipping down my pants; for some reason it wasn't on tight. I tried to tighten it, and in the process the whole belt fell off! Some guy behind me had to hurtle over it (sorry!) and I ran back for it. I had visions of my race in Long Beach, when I lost my camera and had to backtrack to find it. I got it back on pretty quickly, got it snug around my waist, but realized that one of the bottles had smashed and I was leaking Gatorade on my hand. I tossed the broken bottle and started running again. In the meantime, I had lost Skibba and Little Miss running ahead of me. I was on my own. I put on my iPod and took in the sights. At mile 2 I was getting hot and took off my jacket and gloves and tossed them to the side.

Running on the Strip, at night, was pretty incredible. We passed by all the hotels, all lit up. Even though it was dark outside, the street was still pretty lit up from all the hotels and casinos! When we passed by the Bellagio, their fountains were in the middle of one of their dance displays. It was pretty spectacular to run by that. There were tons of spectators on the street and lining the pedestrian overpasses. Soon enough, around mile 4, we veered off the Strip and ran a few miles in a seedy back section of Vegas. Even though this wasn't the Strip, it was still fun for me. I tried taking pictures, but most of them turned out fuzzy....running + darkness= bad pictures.

Flamingo Hotel, just one of many we passed

crazy costumed runner

bad shot, but this runner is dressed like Elvis

Meanwhile, I was having the best run of my life. I normally take a lot of walk breaks, but for some reason didn't need to. I usually take my first walk break around mile 3 or so. I rarely run farther than that without a break, even in training. My longest run that I ever did without a walk break was 5 miles and I only did that once. Well, on this race, I didn't take my first walk break until mile 7. MILE SEVEN! I was feeling so good! In fact, I only took 3 short walk breaks during the entire race. Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it was the fact that it was at night, maybe it was the crowds, maybe it was my mind digging deep...but for whatever reason, I was on fire!

On the negative side, I did notice that many walkers and half marathoners were on the left side of the street, despite being told (and signs stating so) that half marathoners were to stay to the right and marathoners were to stay to the left. I later read that this merge, of the marathon and half marathon, created unsafe conditions for the marathoners, who then had to dodge and weave around slower people. Also, I noticed that some water stations weren't properly manned (I recall one in particular that had no water poured, and volunteers were just then pouring out cups). This is why I always carry my own liquid. Always. You never know if water will for sure be available. Port-o-potties seemed few and far between, and only on the left side of the street, forcing half marathoners to cross into the marathoners' way. Luckily I didn't need to stop for one. And I myself almost ran into a spectator, wearing high heels, who was crossing the Strip (the race course!) to get from one side to the other.

When we turned back on the Strip, I started to get tired. I wasn't used to running for so long without many walk breaks. Miles 11-13 are usually hard for me, both physically and mentally, and this race was no exception. Plus, I was suddenly getting cold again. I was wishing I had my jacket and gloves, but those were long gone. Thankfully the crowds were back, since we were on the Strip, and that gave me energy. I could tell from my Garmin that I was doing well on time and knew that if I could keep it up, I could PR, or maybe even break 2:30. I kept running and running. My leg was hurting, but not terribly, and I chose to ignore the pain. I wanted to PR so badly!

Finally, at mile 13 I could see the finish line in the distance. At this point I really wanted to stop and walk....I was exhausted. I felt like I was going to throw up from the sustained effort. But I had to get to the finish line. People were walking in front of me and I had to weave around them in order to not break my pace. Finally, I crossed the finish line. My Garmin read 2:30. I was thrilled. Not only did I PR, but I was very close to breaking 2:30, only by a few seconds. I know if my fuel belt hadn't fallen off in the beginning of the race I would have made that goal, as I wouldn't have had to waste precious seconds locating my belt and putting it back on. Plus, now that I finished it, I was qualified to join the Half Fanatics, a group I have been coveting membership in (doing 3 half marathons in 90 days qualifies you for the lowest level; I ran my 3 half marathons in 57 days).

After I crossed the finish line, I got my cool glow-in-the dark medal (whew! they later ran out!) and my mylar blanket (which they later ran out of, too). Usually I have no use for the mylar blanket, but this time I was grateful. I was so cold by that point. I was sweaty and now that I was walking, the cold air and wind made me shiver. I called my husband to tell him I was done, and could barely speak to him due to my shivering and coughing. I waited for less than 10 minutes in the line to get my official photo taken, then tried to find food. They had bananas, which I craved, but they were all green. Instead, I grabbed a bagel, a yogurt, and a bag of pretzels. I saw water, which I passed on, but I saw no other food options. I didn't care at that point; all I wanted was to go back to my room.

I finally found my way into the Mandalay Bay, where it was chaos. There were runners all around, but it wasn't nearly as crazy as I heard it got later. I had a hard time navigating my way, but finally I found my way to the casino, and was then able to find the indoor passageway to the Luxor Hotel next door. Others weren't so lucky; because the Strip was still closed, cabs were hard to find. I have read story after story about people not being able to get a cab until midnight, or even 1:00 a.m., despite finishing the race a 8:00. And the restaurants were all packed and had hours long waits. I am SO glad I stayed next door to the finish line. I didn't have to deal with gear check, or finding a cab, or walking back to my hotel.

Once I got to the Luxor, I got on the elevator. I was still feeling nauseous, especially after eating the post-race food. I was on floor 24, and felt sick the whole way up. Someone got off at floor 23, and while we were stopped I had to talk myself into not getting sick in the elevator. When the elevator doors finally opened at my floor, I got out, walked to the wall next to the elevator bank, and laid right down on the floor, using my mylar wrap as a pillow. I was spent. I had used every ounce of energy on the race course. After a minute or so, I got up, stumbled to my room, and was in for the night. I slipped on my compression socks, left on my compression shorts, and slept. I was up early the next morning for my flight home.

All in all, I had a GREAT race, and a FANTASTIC weekend. I have never, ever run so fast or so well. I set a PR. I became a Half Fanatic. I am sad that so many others had horrible experiences, but for me, Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas will always hold a special place in my heart.


  1. Great recap and I am SO glad we finally met! Thank you for taking the time to come over and say hi and get a picture at the Tweetup.

    I am SO proud of your PR! Way to go. I hope the experiences of myself and thousands of others don't overshadow your personal victory.

    Hope to see you soon!

  2. Great recap! So glad you had a decent experience, unlike so many others =/ And congrats on a new PR and becoming a Half Fanatic Woohoo!!

  3. Great recap! Big congrats on the PR & 1/2 fanatic!!! I learned a few things along the way too! Will always wear my own fuelbelt!

  4. congratulations!!! PR and fanatic! :) I'm so glad you had a great race. I've read so many recaps about terrible experiences and read horror stories on their facebook page. yikes!

  5. I heard so many bad things from this race and was wanting to do it...but you still go your PR, nice job.

  6. I am so glad the race went well for you. After all of he horrors stories it is nice to hear something good. Great job out there.

  7. That is SO disappointing! I've wanted to do that race for a few years now (almost did it last year then I got injured and took a break from running). I wonder if they changed who was running the race? I have a friend that did it too and had nothing but awful things to say about it. :(

    Great job on your race time though!

  8. Congratulations on the PR and becoming a half fanatic. I had an awful experience in a half marathon race before but I carried my own water and gatorade with me and gu gels. In my car, I kept a banana, peanut butter on wheat bread and more cold water and gatorade. The post-race refreshments were definitely not up to par and I was SO grateful for having my own food. Everytime I run a race, I have my own banana, gatorade, and water waiting for me somewhere just in case. And like you, I STILL carry my own water and gu gel with me. I'm afraid to part with it. You just never know. So glad you made it through in one piece!!!

  9. Nice recap! Congratulations on the PR! Girl, you need to get a new hydration belt ! I never heard of the Half Fanatic. Let me check it out! I think I qualify :) I had a lot of fun at this race too. It was my BIG day after all.

    I am glad you covered some of the logistical issues too. My husband told me that my race recap was too "kind". After all, we didn't have water after mile 8, no post-race food except for green bananas ( no yogurt, pretzels ... nothing) and we were stuck in a lobby for 90 minutes.
    I also heard that a lot of people didn't get their medals while others got extras. Volunteers weren't trained whatsoever. I could go on and on and on BUT the truth is that overall it was a good experience for ME (

  10. cngrats on your PR
    this race looks like it was a huge disaster from what I people had a negative experience is a real shame. I am glad yours was pretty good

  11. congratulations!! WoooHoooo I'm jealous, that's one of my dream-vacation races! Glad you had a great race, the PR!!
    You WILL crack that 2:30!

  12. Super congrats! And sooooooo bummed to have missed you

  13. Congratulations on the PR... I was bummer to miss the whole blogger meetup/tweetup at the Mandalay Bay... but I had coachly duties right through that. I have Sarah & Dimity's book on my Kindle, it's coming up next in my reading list!

  14. nicely done! great race report...and looks like a great weekend overall. curious: why did you black out number on your race? or is that just for these pics? just being nosy. :) thanks for the purchase and hope our paths cross again soon!

  15. Congrats on the PR at RnRLV!!! That is awesome! I heard on Twitter about alot of the mishaps at the race. I'm glad you didn't experience any of them. I think it's so cool that you've meet so many of the folks on Twitter. I can't wait to meet some of the folks on Twitter and race with them.


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