21 December 2010

The Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon - Dec 5, 2010

This was to be the first in a series of three races for me to qualify for “Half Fanatic” status. The Half Fanatics are a group of people throughout the country who spend their children’s inheritance on half marathons. There are different levels of Half Fanatic status and I am going for the lowest, or first, level – Neptune - 2 half marathons in 16 days or 3 half marathons in 90 days. As the San Francisco Nike half marathon was outside the window for qualification, I couldn’t count it and had to start with a marathon in which I could then do one a month for the next 90 days. The Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas marathon fit my time schedule. Besides, my good friend, Jackie, was going to renew her wedding vows at this race and I just couldn’t miss that, could I? (The answer is a resounding “NO!”)

The evening of December 3rd found me frantically looking for one sock. Not just any sock, mind you. A special, $20.00 a pair sock that helped eased the sock rubbage on my foot that always seems to accompany walking any length. I needed this sock. It went with the other sock and you can’t have a PAIR of socks without two. I only had one. At ten o’clock that night, I gave up and headed to the only stores that were open at that time of night in order to replace said lacking sock. I didn’t find anything I thought would work at Wally World (there’s a shocker) so I invaded Target. Target’s selection was slightly lacking but I thought I found a pair that would work. The label claimed they were for running and that they “wicked moisture away to keep feet dry and comfortable during a workout.” I purchased the socks with all hopes for a comfortable 13.1 wrapped up in them and headed home to finish packing.

The next morning finds me trying to wake up The Boy who had to be at school to get his bus to his wrestling tournament and double-checking my bag – GU gel? Check. KT Tape? Check. iPod? Check. Charger for iPod? Check. Clothing, toothbrush, brush and brain? Check, check, check and missing. What in the world am I doing going to a half marathon? I am so not a runner. I am barely a walker. One final check of the final check and The Boy and I get in the car. I dropped him off and headed to Tami’s to pick her up. I cannot do these things without importing my own cheering section and while I know she had much better things to do, she was still willing, and waiting, for me to arrive. After telling her, “Oh, by the way – we’re not coming back until Monday” and waiting for her to throw together another day’s worth of clothes (have I mentioned how easily she adjusts to my brain farts?), we hit the road. It’s about 6 am and the sun hasn’t even thought about coming out yet. Again I wonder what in the world I am doing but like the good sport that I am, I quickly squish that thought and continue with the drive.

The drive from Grand Junction to Las Vegas is beautiful. Full of desert terrain, deep valleys and stunning mountain peaks. With only 2 passes to cross and relatively flat terrain, we made excellent time. We arrived in Las Vegas around 1 or so and headed directly to the Expo to pick up my packet and walk around the displays. In one of my earlier posts, I bragged about how excellent the goodie bags for marathons were. This goodie bag was severely lacking with just coupons and a sample of pain reliever gel the only thing in the huge, plastic, crinkly bag. The bag was to double as my race bag (held at the end of the race for me with whatever I wanted to put in it) but as Tami and I were staying relatively close to the start/finish, it worked well as a laundry bag. In any case, I digress. The expo was interesting – tons of people standing in line for itty bitty samples and hundreds of vendors praying you’d make their Christmas by buying something at their store. I succumbed to a vendor selling ingenious race belts and Tami got an excellent pair of tennis runners for $40.00. All told, between Tami and me, the vendors only nabbed $60.00 of our money. A win in our books (and wallets) but not much hope for the poor vendors. We had better things to do with our money, anyways. We had to make our offerings to the slot machine gods!

At about 4:30 pm, we head back to the car so we can make our way to Jackie and Dan’s wedding renewal at the Graceland Wedding Chapel. Jackie and Dan’s “wedding” was officiated by Elvis (a very TALL Elvis – pre-1970’s size explosion) and Tami and I got to sign their official wedding renewal certificate. I’ve never witnessed anything more funny and wonderful than their wedding. They laughed through the whole thing and their flashy wedding rings fit them more than the set they got 10+ years ago. It was absolutely wonderful. After the ceremony, we headed to our hotel to check in and get some dinner. For some reason, when Tami and I are together, we put off eating until we’re both so ravenous that we look like crown roasts to one another. We really have to work on the whole eating thing cause it will be awfully hard for me to explain to her family why I’m returning her minus an arm or a leg…

After checking in at The Imperial Palace (I told Tami she had to call me “your Royal Highness”) we decided on Denny’s. And with the decision of eating at the all-too-common restaurant, we broke our first rule of travel: never eat at the same restaurant you can eat at home. We didn’t care, though. We were both jones’n for breakfast and I was NOT going to drive on the strip to find a breakfast place when Denny’s was just a block away. Dinner was wonderful and we each ate every last bit on our way too full plates. Afterwards, we spent about 20 minutes making our offering to the Las Vegas slot machine gods and then waddled off to our room to call it a night.

The next morning, after a very uncomfortable night of “sleep” on a bed that had to have been AT LEAST 100 years old, I got up and got ready for my race. The corrals opened at 6:00 and the first wave of the race was set to start at 7:00. I put on my KT Tape, ensured the D-Tag was attached to my shoe and affixed my race number to my new handy-dandy race belt. I grabbed some cash for the monorail, a powerbar and GU, ensured I had my phone, driver’s license, hotel key and iPod and headed out the door. Tami was going to meet me at the finish and as I took one last look at her still lying in her bed, I had a moment where I almost turned around to crawl back into the sheets that covered the slab of torture that was my bed for the next couple of nights. Sighing softly, I turned around, quietly shut the door and headed to my race.

My corral was #32 – the very last group to head out. I had my Bronco Santa hat on and my One More Mile shirt that read, “I’m not slow, I’m just getting my money’s worth out of my entrance fee” – they both elicited comments, smirks, smiles and nods of agreement. 7:00 am finally rolls around and I hear the gun starting the first wave. I guessed I probably had about 30 minutes of meandering before my wave finally hit the start line and the start of my time. I began to get ready by ensuring my iPod was que’d, my Nike+ watch ready and my legs and arms were loose. I had great fun with my new handy-dandy race belt – taking my phone out and taking pictures and putting it back in. Unfortunately, a casualty of this was my driver’s license which fell out during one of my many outs and ins of my phone. I tried to retrace my steps to go back and find it but by the time I noticed its absence, my wave was picking up steam to the start line. I said adieu to my license (I needed a new picture anyways) and returned focus to the impending doom I was embarking upon.

The half marathon’s route was down the strip, starting at the Mirage, wrapping around Freemont and then turning around back to the Mirage - an “up and back” race. I usually don’t care for this type of race but this one I was ok with. I liked knowing about where I was, how far I had to go and all that. I had programmed exactly 4 hours of upbeat music to keep me going and for the first 4 miles, it worked like a dream. I was moving and passing, moving and passing and felt absolutely ecstatic. I had just passed the Luxor when I looked down the strip at all the casinos lining the way and I thought to myself, “This is fucking FANTASTIC!” I felt great, my knee wasn’t giving me any problems and the cheap socks I bought at Target seemed to be working. And then I hit mile marker 7 and the rose-colored glasses were ripped off.

In an endurance race, whether you’re running it, walking it or crawling, it’s not so much about the length of the race but rather the war that begins to erupt between your body and mind and your heart. The first thing my mind started to do was tell me that I was never, ever going to get to the turnaround point and that I was never, EVER going to be able to finish before the neon lights started to come back on again. Then my body decided to join my mind – the socks began to rub, my knee began to hurt and my arms went stiff. At this point in time, the only thing keeping me moving forward was the knowledge that it was too far to turn back – I actually had less distance to cover now, finishing the race, than I had if I quit and started to head back to the hotel with my tail between my legs – at least, that’s what my heart told me. My heart kept me going for another 2 miles solely on its own merits.

When I first started the race, I was passing people steadily. Now I was being passed and it pissed me off. Each step was agony as the sock and skin waged a war that I knew the sock was going to win. Every time I passed a first aid tent, I thought about stopping and then I would get passed and I would tell myself I would stop at the next tent. Then I passed a couple who were stopped at a hot dog vendor. They each got a fully loaded hot dog AND a beer and they were sitting down, enjoying their lunch. Did I mention that these two were IN THE RACE? 5 minutes later they pass me. They no longer have their beers but they are still munching on their dogs. And they were running. That was too much. I told my feet to shut up and I picked up my pace. I was NOT going to get passed again. I focused on a group in front of me and my goal was to pass them. And when I passed them, I focused on another group. And so on and so on.

This method worked until about mile marker 11. Every step was bringing tears to my eyes. Every step was dreaded and every step made me feel less and less strong. By this time Tami is waiting for me at the bridge to Excaliber – approximately 1 mile from the finish. I text her and tell her that I am having a hard time. I have about 1 ½ miles left and I don’t think I can make it. I keep walking. Tami texts me and tells me she’s waiting for me at the intersection just past mile marker 12. She tells me she knows I can make it there and together we’d cross the finish line.

I am furiously scanning the sides of the streets, looking for Tami. I want an excuse to quit or keep going and right now I can’t give it to me – I need someone else to take that burden. And then I see Tami. I don’t know how she convinced the police officer to let her on the race course but she did. She matches my pace and won’t let me quit. Tears are streaming down my face because I am in so much pain but she won’t let me quit. She gets my mind off my feet, talking about oh, only god knows what, but she won’t let me quit. I look down and I see that I am about to cross the timing pad. I tell her “this is the one the counts” and we both place our feet firmly on the pad and cross it. And together, we cross the balloon finish line (another 3000 miles away, if you ask me and my feet). I have finished my second ½ marathon and once again it was Tami pushing me across the line.

It took 2 hours to get from the Mirage to our hotel (which was only 5 blocks away, btw). But I had that stupid bling to prove I finished it. I couldn’t walk for the next 2 days but I finished it. And guess where we went to dinner that night?? Denny’s.

Oh, and I spanked my previous time. This one came in at 3 hours and 53 minutes.






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