December 7, 2009
Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon
Oh man, what a day.
Every marathon is a little different. And like Sean from the south mentioned, a non-runner may glaze over as you rehash the details. But since you clicked over here, I'm going to pretend you're interested and blather on.
The people who put on the Rock n Roll series of marathons have become a bit of a juggernaut. They are kind of like the big box store that sweeps into town. The inaugural events in Seattle and Las Vegas actually replaced previous events. That being said, they do put on great events.
The marathon started at 6:15am, about 25 minutes before sunrise, and it was a chilly 34 degrees. Traffic was a little crazy, so we were stuck on the off ramp as the minutes ticked by to the start. Sean and I hopped out and jogged over to the start as Marci waited for traffic to clear. She probably had a harder day than Sean and I did.
The start line was a bundle of energy like always, and there were about 24,000 runners braving the cold. There were paratroopers, fireworks, bands, 300 running Elvi - and because this was Vegas - white tigers and show girls. Since there were so many runners, they sent them off in waves of 1,000 at a time. They cut off the runners right in front of me, so I ended up being in front of our pack at the start line. I was a Kenyan for about 60 seconds.
The first part of the course was along Las Vegas blvd, aka "The Strip". Several of the large hotel video screens were showing the marathon tv coverage, as well as messages of encouragement for the runners. Once we started running, the near freezing temperatures didn't seem so brutal, and the sidewalks were soon covered with clothing cast off by the warming runners. There were quite a few spectators, some of which seemed to be up-all-night partiers who were confused at the sight of so many runners. One cool thing about being juggernaut, you can get the Las Vegas strip shut down for 5 or 6 hours.
The marathoners split off from those running the half at mile 10. We hit a long shaded section and it was suddenly freezing again. We also started a slow uphill climb that would last until mile 20. It was gradual, but it was there. I hit the half way point about a minute and a half ahead of schedule for a four hour finish. I had been running a pretty steady pace, but began to struggle and slow down.
My legs were pretty smoked to begin with and progressively got worse. Everything in the back (glutes, hamstrings, calves) began to tighten up as the road tipped uphill. I tried to maintain a relaxed run/shuffle, figuring that any sudden moves may have caused a muscle pull. There was a long out-and-back so you could watch the lead runners on their way in. I kept looking to see Sean go by, but must have missed him. As I saw the marathoners running at a 3:15 pace, I thought "they don't look like they are running that much faster than me." I was clearly delusional.
It was a huge relief when the road headed back downhill. Gravity can be your friend and I was able to pick up the pace slightly. The five mile stretch from 20 to 25 was pointed toward the pyramid-shaped hotel The Luxor, but that beacon just didn't seem to be getting closer. There were a couple of overpasses at mile 24 & 25 to climb before we looped toward the finish line. I tried for my best finishing kick after passing the sign at mile 26. Who knows if I really sped up much, but I felt fast.
They say marathoners "hit the wall" around mile 20. This is where you run out of energy/fuel and have to rely on will power until your body switches to burning fat and protein. I didn't feel like hitting a wall for me, but rather running through mud of increasing thickness. The muscles in my legs were screaming, but fortunately no muscle pulls or sharp pains.
I ended up finishing in 4:02:41. This is about five minutes slower than my June PR in Seattle, and I couldn't be happier. Though I had hoped to finish somewhere around four hours, I had no realistic expectations. As I struggled through the second half I imagined a much slower finish time.
Sean from the south finished in an impressive 3:26:29, a PR of about 20 minutes. He has eyes on qualifying for Boston, and he is now less than 6 minutes away. We celebrated with some weak beer and a post race concert featuring Donavon Frankenreiter.
It was a great whirlwind weekend.