After landing, we checked into the chic Aria hotel. I would highly recommend staying at Aria - spacious, clean, nicely-furnished rooms with state-of-art technology. Grabbed lunch while waiting for Kim's plane to land, then headed over to the expo extravaganza for packet pick-up.
I only had two things on my expo checklist - a sparkly headband and a Clif Bar for pre-race fuel. I hadn't been to a gigantic expo in quite some time and quickly realized that BIG isn't always BETTER. The take home stuff included a Brooks tech shirt (nice), a headlamp provided by Everready Battery, and Gu chomps. Cab line at the Venetian was more than a 30 minute wait so we walked back - probably too much walking the day before a long race. But we'll see. When a town has 44,000 runners and their families and/or friends descend upon it for the weekend, cabs are at a premium.
Kim and George headed to Garth Brooks afterwards while Greg and I enjoyed a slow, leisurely dinner at Firefly, a tapas bar and restaurant off the strip. Outstanding food and probably the best Sangria I've had. Highly recommend this restaurant for your next Vegas trip.
Sunday morning required the standard buffet trip. We figured brunch was a smarter choice since the race was at 5:30pm and lunch can be dicey on the stomach. I loved having an omelet with a side of broccoli and carrots and a peanut butter blonde brownie. Mmmm!
Here's where an evening race gets complicated. What do you do with yourself in Vegas that doesn't require walking or drinking. I couldn't go window shopping at the Palazzo shops or the Forum Shops at Ceasar's. I know, right?! We were bored out of our minds. So we hung out in the room, watched a movie and relaxed. I so prefer morning races where you knock out the event and then have the rest of the day to be dangerous!
We left the hotel a little before 4:00pm to take the shuttle from Aria to Mandalay Bay. We stood in a ridiculously long line that wrapped around and around feeling like it was never-ending. We were glad we made the choice to leave a little early and not cut it close for this very reason - 44,000 people were trying to get to the same start line during the same period. Several buses showed up and we didn't quite make it. Rats! We were a bit concerned about having to wait till the next group of buses come back. But wait. Three limos provided by Aria magically appeared. Can this really be true? That's right - we traveled to the start line in VIP style! The limo dropped us off right next to the port-o-potties, which had short lines. Bonus! This was appreciated considering how cold it was (low 40s). We ambled over to our corrals and tried to keep close to our new friends in Corral 15 to maintain some warmth.
Mike McCready, Pearl Jam's lead guitarist, played the National Anthem. And then we were released by corrals to start the race. Just another reason I don't like big races - the long wait to cross the start line. For us, it was about 20 minutes. That's 20 minutes standing in the cold. Let me tell you, that does NOT help race day performance. We both commented how stiff and heavy our legs felt.
And we were off! I spent the entire race dodging people and being hit, bumped, pushed or stepped on. This race was larger than even the Marine Corps Marathon and much larger than Grandma's marathon. As I've said, BIG is not BETTER, except with my husband (TWSS).
The first 4 miles were on the newer part of the strip. The lights were exciting, although at times hard on the eyes. I remember thinking the Christmas tree outside the Venetian was simply spectacular.
At mile 4, we veered off into the seedier side of Vegas. As Greg pointed out, people cheering you on in new Vegas were different socio-economically than those in old Vegas. We all agreed that we didn't like this part of the course since it was uneventful, full of potholes, cambered, and, unfortunately, this section lasted for about 5 miles.
I enjoyed passing the Wynn and the Venetian on the way back. However, it was outside the Palazzo/Venetian that my right hamstring started talking Russian to me, a language I do not understand. Next thing I know, my hips were the kind of sore I've not experienced before. Thank goodness I carry trial size packets of Biofreeze with me or I would have had to walk it in. After the race, all three of us compared course notes and we all had aching hips, which was odd because none of us had experienced that kind of pain or ache before. The only thing we could attribute it to is all the starting, stopping, and abrupt turns of dealing with so many runners. It was a frustrating obstacle course, to say the least. This must be how Josh Cribbs feels when he's running down the field trying to avoid being tackled.
As I was wallowing in my broken lower body, I caught the beautiful water and light show at the Bellagio. Just a wonderful sight to see. I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't have to dodge so many camera-wielding runners who came to sudden, abrupt stops.
Crossing the finish line was typical at a large-scale race. I'll be surprised if the Photographers can pick me out of the crowd of 50 of us crossing the line at the same time. As a result, the crowd of runners was too tight and people weren't moving forward to keep the flow going (in spite of volunteers yelling to keep moving). Medals were given out (cute nightime skyline of Vegas) and volunteers threw out in the air the space blankets. I felt like I was at a CAVS show hoping to catch a t-shirt thrown in the crowd. Seriously?!
We got a bottle of Cytomax (both Greg and I thought it was yucky), a bottled water, a FROZEN banana (I kid you not), and a Marathon bar. They had go-gurt yogurt, but my stomach told me that would not be a wise choice. We finished at different times and found each other post-race at the Family Reunion area. And then began the cattle call trek back to our hotel. We couldn't find the shuttles (no markings or signs) so we walked through Mandalay Bay to the tram. Took the tram to Excaliber, then walked back to Aria.
We reunited with Kim and George at the Todd English Pub at our hotel for some grub and good beer as well as post-race commiserating and cheers. It's always good to have a destination race, especially one where you were part of making history by being in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest nighttime race, but I'll gladly take my small town races.
2:23:30 (5 minutes faster than Wichita just 6 weeks ago!)
14,298 out of 33,123 half marathoners (crazy!)
7296 out of 21051 in gender (top third-woohoo!)
719 out of 2238 in my division
Had a great little escape with the husband, but it's always nice to be back home!