Sunday, December 02, 2007

Las Vegas Marathon 2007

What happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas.

Not if you're a marathon runner, thanks to race organizers publishing race results on the internet for all to see!

But does a finishing time really say whether a race went well or not? I mean, I met my goal to run a sub-4 race time and ran a negative split. I could say I ran a nice easy first half, felt good enough to run a faster second half, and had fun the entire way.

But, I'd be lying. This was far from being an easy race for me. Still, I must say that I did have fun, as a whole. And it actually started the day before.

First off, I've never seen so many Elvises (or is it Elvi?) in my entire life. At the expo, they seemed to be everywhere ... tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, fat ones, young ones, old ones, male and female ones, Asian ones, Hispanic ones, you name it. There were also some women wearing wedding outfits (but from their shoes, I don't think they were really getting married) and several others who were dressed up. I sort of wished I had some outfit to be more part of the Vegas atmosphere.

Then later I met up with fellow blogger Rural Girl and her wonderful husband, who, like Dave, prefers to be the picture taker rather than in the photos (grrrr). All this year, I'd followed her journey to Ironman Wisconsin and had been looking forward to meeting her in person. We had a nice pre-race dinner and talked and laughed about so many things that I'm sure the waiters/waitresses were giving us the "eye" since many other runners were coming in for their pre-race meals too. All I can say is: We Were There First :-)

So, now onto the running part ...

The course, as you can see below (if you can't, click to see a bigger map), starts off along the the Strip for about 6 miles and then makes a big loop off into no man's land until mile 23.5 when we run along the back side of lower part of the Strip and end up where we started. And knowing that this was my last race for the year and my goal was to have fun, I did something I've never done before during a marathon ...

No, I didn't go out and get myself an Elvis outfit. I brought along a camera, just like I did during my Foto Fartlek run!

But, let me apologize in advance for the quality of some of my shots. I took some while running and all while not paying any attention to the lighting conditions. It's an old digital camera with limited zoom so I just pointed and clicked. OTOH, if I dropped it or somehow lost it, I would not be too heartbroken.

So here we are at the start, which was in front of the Mandalay Bay Resort. The main race start time was 6:07am, about a half hour before sunrise, but the area was well lit with neon and flashing signs as well as a very high and bright light that looks like a big white blob in my photo. What I really wanted to capture were the firecrackers going off to the right but they didn't come out well, unfortunately. And, too bad you can't hear Elvis singing 'Viva Las Vegas' as we crossed the start line. Take my word for it, the race start was pretty exciting!

The first couple miles, we were running past huge, gorgeous hotels/resorts that were lit up with dazzling lights and signs. Then on the left around mile 3 was what I was on the lookout for, the fabulous Blue Man Group. And though I'd just recently seen them in Orlando, I would have loved to have stayed for their entire 45 minute set. But, alas, there was a marathon to be run and so I continued on past them, managing to get only a blurry photo and an audio snippet.

As the sun rose, the Strip took on a different look, one that I thought was not as impressive as in the dark but it was inevitable. There were still cool things to see, however, like this striking building in the distance, The Las Vegas Stratosphere Tower, big statues, signs of who was playing where, etc. And, of course, around me running were several Elvises and other dressed-up folks who were adding to the fun.

But soon after turning off the Strip, the course scenery became a lot less interesting and I began noticing a tight feeling in my left calf. Then within a mile, the balls of my feet, particularly the left one, began to hurt and I could feel my hip flexors starting to ache. WTF???

I slowed down and tried to figure out why I seemed to be having a meltdown so soon. Was I not drinking enough? Was I hitting the wall already? Did I go out too fast? Did I race too much/hard recently? Is it because I didn't run much the past couple months?

Well, I'd been running about an 8:50 pace so far, which shouldn't have been too fast, but I knew I'd somewhat strained my left calf (soleus) during the last mile of the Thanksgiving 10-miler while trying to hold off one woman from passing me (it bothered me after the race during some of my training runs earlier this week). The balls of my feet have been tender ever since the long barefoot swim-bike transition at Miami Man. The hip flexor thing was most likely due to not much running recently and pushing too hard at that 10-miler again.

I decided that the best thing for me was to run conservatively until ~mile 20. The course had a gentle upward grade until ~mile 18 and then had a gentle downward grade until the last couple miles where it rose a bit and then flattened out again. If I could make it to 20 with plenty of energy and no all-out calf cramp or a much more severe muscle pull, I could pick up my pace the last 6.2 miles and then my buddy adrenaline would be on my side to get me through the race.

So that was my plan and with any luck, I might still meet my sub-4 goal.

But around mile 12, I stopped at a porta-potty that a guy just beat me to (hey, what ever happed to ladies first ;-). Since he took longer than I thought he would, I took the time to stretch out my left calf and snap a photo of the scenery we were now looking at. Pretty boring but I liked seeing the mountains in the distance since I don't see any in FL.

The stretching and break from running really seemed to make a big difference, though, and so when I passed the halfway point in over 2 hours (my watch said 2:02:06 but the official split was 2:05:25 -- don't think it was adjusted to account for the time it took for me to cross the start mat), I told myself that I'd stop and stretch every few miles and forgo my sub-4 hour race goal.

Yeah, right. Once I got going, I never stopped again. At mile 14, I saw some very inspiring pint-sized musicians and started focusing more on the people along the course (runners, spectators, bands, cheerleading squads, etc). By mile 15-16, I'd sort of gotten used to the aches and pains, and noted they really weren't getting worse so I inched my pace back below 9 minutes.

At mile 20, my race began. I really picked things up on the downhill sections (easy on the calf but not so much on my feet) and saw some 8:24, 8:31 and 8:32 miles click off on my watch. Uphill and flat sections were in the 8:45-8:50 range and one of the good things about big races is there was no shortage of runners in front of me to try to catch. And names were printed on the bib so spectators could cheer for me by name (how I love that!). We could also see the tall buildings along the Strip that we were running back towards, which I found quite motivating. Sorry, no pictures the last few miles -- I was all business!

Around mile 25, I began hearing the faint sounds of the group I wanted to hear second-most along the course, the Las Vegas Taiko Drummers at mile 26. Not only did it mean I was near the end but I've loved Taiko drumming since I was a kid (I'm of Japanese descent). They kept me running strong to the finish and I managed to slide in just under 4 hours -- 3:58:44 (gun time was 4:02:04). Viva Las Vegas!

The only real complaint I have about this race is the finisher photos (every race has some boring sections so that was no biggie to me). Namely, they only had showgirls to pose with, no show guys, not a single Elvis! And it seemed that only the guys were going up to get their photos taken with the showgirls (go figure). NO FAIR!!!

PS - No more long race reports for the rest of the year :-)

Added: PSS - I never saw Rural Girl during the race, unfortunately, though she was also shooting for a sub-4. But looking for her helped pass the last few miles and I'm happy to say that she did run her third (second standalone, one was part of an Ironman) marathon well. I'll let her tell you all about it.


Susan said...

Way to go! I am impressed. You hit some hard times and came through like a champ!!!!

And thank you for your constant support. You are amazing!

TJ said...

Congratulations Shirley!
Awesome race.

Brent Buckner said...

Well done!

So tempting to just watch the BMG set and then go for a 24-mile (or whatever) run....

Cliff Tam said...

Saw your skinny post. Very even split. Good job.

Iron Eric said...

I feel like doing more races now. Las Vegas looks awesome!! I will add that one on my list.

Congrats!! What a great year.

ShirleyPerly said...

Thanks everyone!

Brent: Yes, it was tempting and had they been somewhere along the middle of the course, I might have said the heck with a sub-4 and watched for longer.

Eric: IMO, this is a potential PR course with the weather usually be pretty cold and a pretty flat course. Either way, it's definitely quite unique and got a lot of fun built in.

Now to catch a 5-hr flight back home. I might need another ice bath ...

BreeWee said...

awesome! YOU DID IT!
Way to end the season with bang and I am proud of you for not giving into temptation and buying an Elvis suit! ha ha ha, I know you wanted one!


Marathon Maritza said...

Congratulations Shirley!! I know you said it wasn't your best-feeling race but way to crush 4 hours!!!!!

peter said...

Nice post about a well-run race. Way to manage the race and keep on task. After reading your detailed post, I feel like I have done Vegas. Where to next?

Bigun said...

looks like a fun race - great report!

Petraruns said...

Shirley you are amazing! Just amazing! I love to read how you adapted to the pain and then just seemed to incorporate it and move beyond it - really impressive stuff.

And I'm with Susan - what an online friend you are. We wouldn't be who we are without you!

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice job!!! Great run!!!

And I think you're right: it's probably "Elvi"

Rural Girl said...

Yah, Shirley. Nice finisher photo. I was looking for you too. You are an awesome runner who posted a great time despite the calf issue.

Annette said...

You are quite the impressive runner Shirley!! great report and I loved the pictures.

Thank you for the encouraging comments on my blog. :)

jen said...

Congrats! I love the Foto Fartlek method. You ran a very strong race despite the calf and foot pains. Great job out there and thanks for sharing the report! :)

MarathonChris said...

Great race report!!!! A wonderful way to end the year :-)

S. Baboo said...

Great race! I can't believe we must have been runnign right near each other because my clock time was 3:56:36!

IrishBlue said...

Wow, I second Susan, you are amazing.

I've always wondered about this marathon too. I've read some bad reviews on it. My husband and I like Vegas though, so it might be an option for me sometime as I really like that it's so late in the year.

Congrats Wonder Woman!!

ShirleyPerly said...

Thanks again all!

Irish: This was the third running of the New Las Vegas Marathon and each year it has gotten better and better. I avoid inaugural races because it does usually take a couple years to iron out the kinks. I did hear that the half marathon course needed more volunteers at the aid stations and a clearer markings where the course split from the marathon course but other than that, most people seem very pleased with the race.

And I'm sure it'll be even better next year.