Las Vegas Marathon Race Report

Las Vegas Marathon – December 2, 2007

I am in a LUXORious hotel in Vegas, sadly without the adapter to upload my splits from my garmin to my computer. However, being now three race reports behind, I’ve decided to capture my thoughts on the race even without the supporting data.

First off, this was marathon #16 overall, state #10. This year was “light” for me, I only ran three marathons (two in October, and this one). Since Columbus (Oct 21st), the longest I’d run was 12 miles. I didn’t have any great expectations for this race: I just wanted to enjoy it. The day prior to the race I was actually feeling quite bad: chilled and headachy – well, overall, just achy. I was worried I may be coming down with the flu or something. I took some airborne mid-afternoon and had a little nap, after which I felt a ton better. Still, I was aware of my potentially compromised physical state going into the race.

So when you think of Vegas, what do you think of? casinos, lights, elvises and showgirls. I expected the marathon to be mad with entertainment. Doug ran the race two years ago and said he had the opportunity to run behind a fellow wearing only a skin-covered speedo and running shoes. I expected it to be a madhouse.

From an organizational standpoint, I can see why people may complain. We had been told of tons of entertainment along the course, with Elvis yelling out split times at every mile. People around me didn’t even notice the mile markers until the 3rd mile, as Elvis did not appear to be anywhere in the building..

I will admit, though, that I was pleasantly surprised with the race. I had expected a ridiculous time, but it was actually a good race. The start was really nice: I found my way up to the sub-4 corral (which was denoted by volunteers asking if “I was fast” and pointing me to the sub-4 corral), an Elvis impersonator gave the best rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve heard in a long time, and we were off with a flourish of fireworks.

I knew I didn’t want to go out too fast, so I just headed out in what I thought was an easy pace. There were some spectators, but nothing too distracting. We started running up the strip, which was interesting as this was my first trip to Vegas. It was nice weather; I wore pants, a buckeye t-shirt and gloves. Around the four mile marker was the “Blue Man Group” mystery location, where they were drumming away like mad. As the first few miles went on, I felt ok but I didn’t think I was in any shape to sustain the 8:10 pace I was throwing back. I had met a girl at the starting line who was gunning for 3:35 or 3:40. Around mile 5 I heard her come up behind me, affirming that I was definitely going too fast. I made a decision to see how well I could manipulate my garmin on the fly: I set a heart rate alarm to go off when I sit 170 bpm.

Mile 1: 8:13 HR: 161
Mile 2: 8:03 HR: 172
Mile 3: 8:02 HR: 172
Mile 4: 7:56 HR: 175
Mile 5: 8:12 HR: 174
Mile 6: 7:50 HR: 174

I did this for a few miles, before I decided that this was too low, and I adjusted it to beep when I went above 175. The rationale for this was that my LT HR is roughly 173, so if I stayed below this level for a good part of the race, I would be able to finish strong.

Mile 7: 8:40 HR: 173
Mile 8: 9:09 HR: 167
Mile 9: 9:05 HR: 165
Mile 10: 8:52 HR: 168
Mile 11: 8:56 HR:168
Mile 12: 9:23 HR: 168
Mile 13: 9:12 HR: 169
Mile 14: 9:06 HR:170
Mile 15: 8:58 HR: 170
Mile 16: 9:03 HR: 171
Mile 17: 8:57 HR: 172
Mile 18: 9:15 HR: 171

So miles 6 through 20 were characterized mainly by waiting- running, and then slowing down some. It was actually surprisingly a pretty run. After going down the strip we went through some not-so-nice areas (I did find the sign not permitting “standing or stopping for the intent to solicit the employment of a pedestrian” quite amusing), but at one point we were running down a quiet street with the mountains to the front and side of us. There weren’t a ton of spectators, but I actually liked it that way. In some ways it seemed more “authentic” of a run, despite the fact it was set in a plastic city. We passed through some residential areas, again, some nice, some not-so-nice. There were some groups of jr high school cheerleaders, and my favorite entertainment may have been the group of four little boys (7 or 8?) dressed like the beatles, playing away.

The requisite food report
I did not bring the marathon toaster, so despite the fact my mom brought bagels, peanut butter and honey, I just had a snickers marathon bar for breakfast (thanks to Helen and her sponsorship!) and a boost (gasp – there was also no coffee in the room!) As we neared the start line, I was a bit worried I’d be hungry, but overall I felt ok. I did have two gus during the race, as well as some M&Ms that were offered to me late in the game. And of course, a few swallows of beer thanks to the hash house harriers! 🙂

About mile 19.5 during one of my “walk breaks”, a fellow said to me “I always see you walking, but you still seem to be ahead of me!” It was shortly after that that I allowed myself to “run my race”, no longer letting my garmin be in charge. I felt decent, although I know I didn’t finish as strong as I may have hoped or expected.

Mile 19: 8:20 HR: 178
Mile 20: 9:14 HR: 171
Mile 21: 8:20 HR:178
Mile 22: 8:08 HR: 178
Mile 23: 8:11 HR:177
Mile 24: 8:13 HR: 181
Mile 25: 8:27 HR: 181 (mmm, beer)
Mile 26: 8:56 HR:179 (had to stop to pour my own water – no Gatorade left)
Mile .2 7:31pace HR: 186

There was a nice easy descent through the last five miles, which felt great. I assume the fact I’d held back was a great help, but I really did feel like the last few miles just rolled by. I will admit that I had a moment of sobering thought when at mile 23, someone told me Mandalay Bay was just around the corner. We still had 3 miles to go: over 10% of the race. Of course it wasn’t around the corner. Generally, mile 23 you feel as though you’re almost done, but when it struck me you really have more than 10% to go.. well, I’m glad I physically felt well, because that would have done more a number on my morale otherwise. I also was disappointed not to see any Gatorade in the last 4 miles.

This was one marathon where they didn’t have Gatorade and water at every stop. I believe Gatorade was only every second stop, so I didn’t immediately notice when they weren’t offering it anymore. But I did notice that at the end of the race, when a little mouthful would have made all the difference, it wasn’t there. I had a decent finish time, so I can only imagine that most of the field didn’t have Gatorade offered to them. Too bad-

I had gone into this race wanting to run sub-4, but as I started not to rely on my HRM at mile 20, I was able to determine that it would be possible for me to run sub 3:50. This therefore became my goal. The math kept me a little busy in the final miles, but I didn’t think it would be too much of a challenge. I kept plugging along and was happy to cross the line at 3:48:27. I believe this marathon was the first to use the disposable timing chip, so I didn’t have to worry about giving anything up. I received my space blanket and my medal and wandered off to find my Mom, who’d just completed her second half marathon. I was glad to see she’d done well, finishing well ahead of her projected goal and setting a PR. We got a finisher’s photograph taken together, and it was great to share in the experience of running a race with her.

Next up (for the two of us together): the Cincy Flying Pig in May. Like mother, like daughter, I suppose. Still limping from one race, looking forward to the next….