When I confirmed the dates of my mother-in-law travelling from Melbourne, Australia to Tucson, Arizona, I thought where should we travel to show her some of the south-east? We were already going to take the RV somewhere and ended up going to Patagonia state park for a training weekend. So the easy choice was Las Vegas. I hadn’t been there since New Years 2010. The next obvious question, was what weekend? Since I get every other Friday off I had 2 weekends planned. But what races were on? I searched the website runningintheusa.com and found the Saints and Sinners half marathon. The race looked beautiful finishing at Lake Meade which was created by the building of the Hoover Dam. It would also be 6 weeks into the training season so thought it would be a great long run. Done.
Only in the days leading into the race did I truly look at the course profile. Previous winning times of 1:13 and a net downhill of 1,400′. Damn, this could be fast. 1:25 for age group, hmmm. Lets see.
We drove the 6 hours on incredibly beautiful roads from tucson to vegas. We stopped at Burger King and I had the chicken sandwhich for the first time in at least 8 years. (Still looking for motivation to commit back to veganism). We drove straight to athlete checkin and got our bibs and shirts. We drove to the marriott residence inn using points for a free room. I bought us a round at the Luxor, bought tickets for Chris Angel (thanks mom), and had an amazing veggie pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. We also ate sushi watching the godlas at the ventian. Bed around 11pm. Up at 6:45am, ate a piece of sugar cake from the free buffet and had a medim redbull. Drove to Boulder City 30min from Vegas and walked to starting line. There werent many people and it was quiet. I realized the National Anthem and race brief were on the other side of the car park and hill. Then, 1,000+ people crested the hill and came on over. I held Fiona to warm us up in the cold. The skies were dark blue and we were at the top of the mountain. I saw the speedsters from Boston and NY and had absolutely no idea what to expect. My legs still felt tired and weak even averaging 30miles per week the last 6 weeks and north of 15hrs training per week. But, this was a race and I would give it my best. I had half a pack of cliff shots and got ready without any warmup.
I took off quickly settling into a groove. It was a while before i looked at my garmin; i was navigating the curvy downhill, cement bike path that also descended into water runoff canals. 5minutes in I thought how easy it felt. But dropping 200feet per mile will do that! Even though i opened up with a 6:16mile and 19:40 5k which is a PR, the normalized pace from strava says i was running around 8:20miles. This is why a downhill race feels so cheap, like one is cheating. I dont use HR now so no check on that. I ran next to one girl who was Aussie and told her my aussie wife was racing too. I just kept it consistent and plugged away. Mile 3 was the only uphill. Thats when i thought of how trashed my quads were going to feel later. It reminded me of the Boston Marathon.
From the saints aid stations i grabbed water each time, and at the sinners aid station i grabbed a gatorade. I mistook a cup of cookies that i tossed away as i dont like chewing food while racing. I had more cliff shots at 35min. The views of Lake Meade easily made this the most beautful run we ever ran. The only comparison was Challene Wanaka, New Zealand. Then we ran through a series of tunnels. At nearly 25 feet tall, they were cut out of solid rock in the previous century when building the hoover dam and had railcars going though. Now, it was a dirt and stony path that was the start of my legs being zapped from the constant downhill. I saw the leader running back, counted off and hit the turnaround in 19th place with 600 behind me. I passed a young teen who must have been doing the relay. Then a few others and wondered how many in front of me were on the relay. Top ten? I saw Fiona and she took a photo. She was just going to enjoy the run having been sick the last few weeks. I saw a guy with a giant M dot. I came alongside him and pointed to my calf with my 4 Mdots. We gave a fist pump that totally missed since I was running around 6:30mile to the finish and past a fellow ironman. He yelled out about my Wattie Ink USA tri shorts saying Wattie is the best and I agreed. Into the finish past the RV park and close to the edge of Lake Meade, where it would have been 20 years ago. I ran through the Saints finishers arch to a unique silver bar medal.
At 1:27:29, I was 23 seconds faster than my last half in December on an even easier course and working not nearly as hard. I am very happy with 12 out of 633 and first in my age group and being just 20seconds short of a PR but realize if i worked hard i could have gone probably under 1:25. I cheered in more runners including wifey who ran through the Devils finishing arch in the city of sin. No a/g awards but i didnt care. The race was breathtaking from the views, not my effort. It was totally worth it. And doughnuts at the finish, yum.
It is now Friday, 6 days later and calfs are still sore. Sunday was totally off mon no run, tue/wed, 3.25m and then3.5m. Thurs ran a good 9.3m and today i am looking at running down the las vegas strip as i am on a plane heading there now for my brothers bachelor party.
When i started running in 2008, i hated running but i loved what it did to my body. 10 years and more than 10,000 miles later, what i love about running is the places it can take you. There is so much out there and running enables me to explore so much of it, and quickly! So my challenge to you is to go out, run, and explore something you never thought existed. Happy running!