Reviews

Race Recap & Review: Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Weekend

What an awesome weekend!

I headed out Saturday morning to Vegas for my last Rock ‘n’ Roll race of the year (No. 8 for those of you keeping track). I couldn’t believe how insane the town looked just from my short shuttle ride from the airport.

lasvegasrnr-8After checking in to my hotel — the Luxor — and changing rooms (the one I got in the pyramid was too musty and smoke smelling), the first stop on my list was hitting up the expo.

The expo was huge, but I didn’t have a lot time, so it was a quick in-and-out trip. I decided to check out the Bellagio after.

I am not a gambler, but I knew I wanted to do it for fun on this trip. I set aside an amount I was willing to lose. I decided to play the slots at the Bellagio. I wasted about $15 before I realized that putting in just $5 or some singles at a time wasn’t going to cut it — I lost very quickly.

So I found another machine and stuck in $60. I hit the buttons, betting anywhere from $1-5 per spin. One spin, I got up to $80, and thought that’s pretty cool, I’ll keep at it. A few spins later and the machine was dinging and the number kept rising and rising. It settled at $522. I was shocked.

I immediately hit the cash out button and collected my winnings.lasvegasrnr-139

I had a little bit of cash left in the gambling money I’d set aside so I played a little longer and then walked back to the hotel, stopping when I saw the famous Bellagio fountain show had just started.

I didn’t gamble the rest of the trip.

It took forever to walk back to the hotel because of all the people crowding the Strip and all the walkways you needed to take over major intersections. Not helping for this entire trip — so many escalators and moving walkways were broken!

I made it back with enough time to take a quick shower and put on my 5K race outfit. I ran into a lovely runner while walking across the bridge between Excalibur and New York New York and we stuck together on our way to finding the monorail.

When we got to the other side of MGM, we were trying to figure out where to go to get up to the track when we ran into another pair of runners. I figured they were also taking the monorail, but they weren’t — they were going to take Lyft and asked if we wanted to hop on — the car had enough room for 4 people, anyway.

That’s what I really love about these races — you meet so many other runners and everyone is just so nice and willing to help a fellow runner. It’s this huge community where you gain immediate membership and friends.

lasvegasrnr-1The 5K was set to go off at 6, but they didn’t open the grounds until a little after 4:30. I met up with Steff and others from the Rock ‘n’ Blog / We Run Social team and we hung out — with donuts — before the start. There was music blaring and the best race day restrooms I’ve ever seen — indoors, with 100 stalls in one single women’s restroom. That meant no lines.

Finally, it was time for the race. The course was basically an out and back with some turns right around the start and finish to add the extra mileage needed.

It was crowded, and it never really opened up. Too many people were not in the corrals they should have been in given their pace. It was hard to keep running at times because of all the walkers.

Now, let me stop right here and say that I believe everyone should run the race at his or her own pace. And I hate it when runners are rude to walkers on the course when those walkers are staying to the far right and not walking three abreast or anything crazy. And since I used the 4/1 run/walk method this summer, I know there are a lot of other folks out there who use the same method for races.

So I really, really do try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know what went wrong here. Whether folks moved into higher corrals without realizing that could create a log-jam or what. Certainly when I was a beginner at races, I wouldn’t have understood why the corrals were important.

I didn’t love the 5K course — the road we were on was badly in need of repair and there weren’t as many fun buildings near that part of downtown, but I get that they couldn’t close the Strip two nights, let alone two in a row. Plus, placing the race there provided a great start/finish venue courtesy of the Las Vegas Festival Grounds.

I wore lightweight capris for the race as a test for whether I could wear capris again for the half. I so prefer running in capris over shorts. But I got too hot during the 5K and knew I’d need to switch to shorts the next night.

I anticipated finishing under 30 minutes, but the crowded course, heat, brief water stop and fact I was starving by halfway through added up. Still, my overall pace on my watch was sub-10, so that was great.

Even greater — Meb was at the finish line giving out high-fives. A lady had stopped to get a selfie with him, but I was NOT missing out on my high five from Meb, so I got it in anyway. I might have messed her photo up a little. Oops.

Finish time: 31:15

After the race, I found the rest of the crew. Some folks split off, but a good contingent of us ended up going over to the SLS where we found a pizza place without too long of a line. I was starving and devoured it.

I took the monorail back to my hotel with a few other folks and finally got to my room around 10 or so. Lights out at 11, no alarm set. Glorious.

SUNDAY

lasvegasrnr-2I woke up around 9 a.m., ate breakfast and then went to the Titanic exhibit in my hotel. It was absolutely incredible. If you have any sort of interest in history or shipwrecks or anything remotely related to the Titanic, it is well worth the visit.

After that, I went out to lunch with Libby and her crew. When she mentioned they were thinking In-N-Out Burger, I was sold. I’d noticed there was one a mile from the hotel and I’d never eaten at one before — despite all my trips out West this year.

It is just as yummy as everyone says. Back at the hotel, I grabbed a couple big pretzels so I’d have something to eat before the race — I didn’t want to get hungry during the half like I did during the 5K.

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Steff and her husband met up with me at my room, and a little bit later we went to find Libby before walking over to the pre-race festival.

I’ve never stayed for one of Rock ‘n’ Rolls post-race concerts. The closest I got was in Chicago in 2015, but I needed to catch a train so there just wasn’t time.

lasvegasrnr-28Because Vegas is a night race, they hold the concert BEFORE. And it always draws a huge headliner — this year Snoop Dogg. The concert was fabulous.

Before we knew it, it was time to walk to the start. Steff, her husband and I were running together and in the blue wave in corral 12. They were renewing vows at the run-through wedding and I jumped at the chance to be the “wedding photographer.” Ha!

I hit the porta potty one last time, and it was only 20 minutes to race start when I got back. They released multiple corrals at once instead of one at a time. We were fairly close to the front of the wave we ended up in, which meant a great view of the start line banner and the fire they shot out at the sound of the horn. I don’t know why but I just got such a kick out of the flames going into the air.

lasvegasrnr-51We officially crossed the start line at 4:45. It wasn’t too long before we hit the famous Vegas sign and we stopped for several photos. Then it was off to the run-through wedding, at mile 3.

lasvegasrnr-72The way the run-through wedding works is that at 5:30 they simultaneously marry/renew vows for all those who sign up. There were 50 couples getting married for the first time! And several of them had a cadre of friends and family there cheering. It was so great to watch.

After the wedding it felt like we were just starting the race — we’d spent about 22 minutes between waiting for the ceremony to start and having it finish — and this time we *only* had 10 miles to go. The miles really ticked by as we ran down the Strip. We stopped several times to take photos, and I was loving every minute. But we were going a bit fast, and I hoped we’d slow down eventually.

lasvegasrnr-81Somewhere after mile 6, it got a little quieter as we entered the northern part of the Strip, but there was still a lot to see — tons of wedding chapels, and the store in the Pawn Stars series. I started taking gummies in around mile 5 or so. I could tell I was getting a little tired and a little hungry and needed something to help pick me up. I had about 3/4 of a pack leftover from Chicago and I ended up finishing it completely by the end of the race.

Around the halfway point, I also noticed some of the water stops were running out of water at the first tables, but there was always plenty on the back tables, and they had a lot of refill towers for runners who carried their own bottles, which was a nice bonus.

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A bit after mile 7 there were a series of turns as we added mileage to get to that 13.1 total. I knew we’d hit Fremont Street after mile 9, and I was looking forward to seeing what some call the old Las Vegas Strip.

After that, it was a turn back onto Las Vegas Boulevard, where we’d stay for the final 3 miles.

lasvegasrnr-106My legs were killing me by this point, even though we’d eventually slowed down after mile 7 or so. We took a few walk breaks on top of photo stops and water stops in the final miles. But I was still having a blast, especially the closer to got to the finish line, where the main Vegas buildings were.

We never saw an 11-mile marker. And the 12-mile marker was probably a good half of a mile off, which was really disappointing and annoying. We knew we didn’t have another 1.1 miles at that point, but I don’t understand how that sign got where it was. We’d seen the 5 mile sign for the 10K and the 12 mile sign should have been a tenth of a mile after that. It’s not too hard to figure out!

The finish line was epic. It was set right at the Mirage, and there were lasers lighting up over our heads and fog machines blasting mist onto the scene. I felt great crossing the finish line, with a huge smile on my face.

Finish time: 2:59:55.

The finisher chute was long, and super clogged at the end because too many folks were crowded around looking for their friends and families. This is why you designate a place to meet, folks.

In the chute, we got our finisher’s medals, chocolate milk and a bag with food. The bag is a new addition for Rock ‘n’ Roll and a very welcome one. Not only will it help with carrying all the things you collect at the finish line — i.e. water, gatorade, chocolate milk — it should also cut down on those people who grab 5x as many food items as they should. I hope they keep this up in the future.

lasvegasrnr-73At the end of the chute was free beer. And I was handed two. And it’s Las Vegas, so you can just open them right there and walk down the street, enjoying your beer after the race as you walk back to the hotel. Amazing.

I got my gear check bag pretty quickly, then Steff and I went to find the  medal tent for our remix and heavy medals. I got the Eight Track medal — the thing is absolutely huge and amazing. I really wish I could do San Antonio in a few weeks so I could get the Headliner 9 medal — I really wanted that one.

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Steff, Joe and I split ways after that since our hotels were in two separate directions. I watched the Bellagio fountain show again — this time at night, when it’s so much cooler, then started the long shuffle back to the Luxor.

lasvegasrnr-108On the way, I got Shake Shack. We have these in D.C. but I’ve never gone to one and I’d been really craving a milkshake. So I grabbed one and a chicken sandwich for dinner. When I finally got back to the hotel, I grabbed another big pretzel because I knew the sandwich wouldn’t be enough, and I bought a couple beers, too, for a fun, relaxing dinner in bed.

It was the perfect ending to an awesome race weekend — and an amazing year of races.

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