Saturday, December 31, 2011

Occupy Las Vegas- The Vegas Half-Marathon Recap

I realize it's been almost a month since I ran (sort of) the Las Vegas Half-Marathon and I haven't finished my recap. The thing is- I WANT to have liked that race- I really do. I want to have like it so much that I would go back and do it again next year. BUT...I just don't think I did- like it, that is. I have come away from that race with a feeling of "Well, that's done," instead of, "WOW! That was a blast!" or even, "Ok, that was a relatively good time," or "That was better than a kick in the ass."

So, overall, the race that I was looking forward to THE MOST this year, was just...blah. Not that it wasn't eventful- it was definitely eventful. It just wasn't the thrill ride that I thought running on the strip at night would be.

When I left off, we were lined up in our corral, getting ready for the race to start. The corrals in front of us were released and we were finally OFF! Well, not really...there were SO MANY people walking in front of us, it was hard to even get started. This is kind of typical in every race so, I thought it would eventually subside. Umm..yeah, no.

Hubby and I couldn't get into a rhythm even after a mile or so- the strip was so packed with people. And while it was very cool to run down the strip at night and see all of the lights, it wasn't so cool when people abruptly stopped in front of us to take pictures of said lights. To make matters worse, they didn't pull over to the side to snap photos- they just stopped- in the middle of the street, creating a domino effect when unaware runners smashed into them.

Our Only Wedding Photo
Three miles into the race, hubby and I arrived at the Mirage Hotel and Casino where we were participating in the run through wedding ceremony. We entered a roped off area on the sidewalk and made our way near the front of the group. A few minutes later, a Nevada pastor officiated a three minute ceremony and just like that, our wedding vows were renewed! At the end of the ceremony, the volcano in front of the Mirage went off and we reentered the race as the crowd cheered.

Once we were back on the course, it was more of the same. There were lots of walkers and people stopping every few feet to take pictures. We had to do a lot of weaving in and out, slowing down, and speeding up. At one point, a woman completely cut off hubby and I, causing both of us to trip and almost hit the decks. Oh man.

We tried to make a pit stop at a port-a-potty at one point, only to find that there was ONE available at the designated area. You mean to tell me that you organize a race for over 40,000 people and you have ONE toilet available?? Yikes. We ended up going into a McDonald's with what seemed like half of the race participants. I had to laugh when I heard a man say to his running partner, "You talked me into running these 13 miles with you, the least you could do is let me get a cheeseburger quick!" His race partner just raised her eyebrows.

After the bathroom stop, hubby and I made it back out on the course. This is when I noticed the orange cones lined up. Apparently the race organizers cordoned off a section of the course for the full marathon participants. Not only did they use tiny orange cones to divide the course, race staff members on bicycles were riding that line, yelling, "Half marathoners to the right, full marathoners to the left." So, let me put this into perspective for you. If I wasn't slamming into walkers or photographers in front of me, I was tripping over tiny orange cones or trying to avoid getting hit by a staff member riding a bicycle. Oh, and forget going to the bathroom.

Also, forget drinking any water, unless you brought your own (which we did, thank God!). As we got further and further into the race, the water stations seemed to have fewer and fewer volunteers staffing them until, finally they were simply closed down. I remember running through what HAD BEEN a water stop around mile 9 and it was folding tables, collapsed down on the ground and hundreds of paper cups littering the street. No water, no Cytomax, no volunteers...nothing. Nice.

After getting past the bathroom debacle, hubby and I had a few Gu Chomps and walked a few steps, around mile 6. At this point, I was super annoyed at the race organization (or lack thereof) and, just to add insult to injury, my iPod died. UGH! Luckily, I had my trusty back-up iPod shuffle so it wasn't completely a lost cause.

Throughout the race, I tried to stay with hubby as I really wanted to finish with him. The trouble with that was, hubby's knee was really bothering him so he'd slow down to try and shake it out and I wouldn't know since I had on my headphones. At one point, I stopped on the side of the road to see if he was behind me. He wasn't. I waited for a bit and then ran on. I kept doing this- stopping, waiting, and then running, thinking that I would find him sooner or later, right?

Eventually, I sent him a text message and he replied. Turns out, he thought he saw me run into a Burger King (you know, because the port-a-potties were so abundant) so, he followed "me" in there. It wasn't me so, after going to the bathroom, hubby started sprinting up the strip and was at least a mile AHEAD of me. I texted him, asking him to wait for me and the I started sprinting.

I caught up with him, finally and we ran on together. I miscalculated where we were in the race and I told him we only had a mile left (my Garmin GPS was WAY off due to the weaving and trips to McDonald's). So, WE started sprinting...and sprinting....and sprinting. I kept yelling to hubby, "FIGHT! FIGHT FOR THIS!" and we just kept sprinting. We were at least two and a half miles from the end. Oops.

We finally saw the finish line and we crossed it without much fanfare. Our time was terrible, but we'd finished. We got our medals and then walked through the finishers area. Oh man, this is where all hell broke loose.

Generally, races feed you a few types of snacks at the end of a race. This race provided Go-Gurt and granola, bananas. BRIGHT GREEN. Yuck. Then, we walked towards the area to get our foil blankets (oh yeah, at this point, it started to RAIN!) and the volunteers were so overwhelmed. They were tearing the blankets off the rolls so fast, they were ripping them in half. Hubby was giving a tiny sheet of blanket that barely covered his shoulders. We couldn't protest though, because we were being shoved forward by the hoards of people trying to just get out of the finish area.

We made it to the inside of the Mandalay Bay hotel and, I'm not kidding, it looked like a Red Cross disaster area might look. Runners were laying on the floor of the casino, people were moaning and clutching their stomachs and some people were even throwing up. I have no idea what folks caught but according to some reports, thousands of racers were violently sick during and after the race. We tip toed around the mess and made it to the hotel shuttle. This area was even worse! Apparently, the runners were packed into the waiting area so tightly, that people were passing out and, due to the crowds, medics couldn't get to them.

Hubby and I decided to walk- painfully- back to our hotel. As we walked, we heard snip-its of stories about others' race experiences. People talked about runners being so violently ill that they had to be hospitalized. Some folks tripped over those cones and got hurt. Others finished the race and didn't even get a medal since they ran out! Oh boy.

Hubby and I finally got back to the MGM and we just wanted to eat. We got cleaned up and went to the Rainforest Cafe. Hubby got a burger and I got a huge Cobb Salad. Afterwards, we went to bed. As much as we wanted to celebrate our race and party all night, it just wasn't going to happen.

The next morning, we had breakfast with my parents and recapped the race for them. As we spoke, I began to realize what a calamity that race had been. Furthermore, we'd heard that they wanted to increase the race participation to 60,000 in 2012. Yikes- I hope they get everything straightened out before that happens!

So- that was that. I really, really, really wanted to love the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Half-Marathon. Truly, I wanted this race to become my favorite. But, alas it was not to be. Oh well, #10 is in the books.
Our one and only post-race picture

On to the next one!

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