Wednesday, November 30, 2016

RnR Vegas Half Marathon

Ok.  I'm finally ready to put up my review of the Vegas Half Marathon!  I was in Vegas with 2 friends and the three of us were planning on doing the half.  We also had a couple friends doing the 10k and my parents were planning to spectate and cheer.  So it was a complicated bit of logistics but here's how it all worked out.

Thankfully, we stayed at a hotel on the strip that had a shuttle to the start line.  That helped a lot.  The race also had runners split into 3 color waves and you had a different start time depending on your wave.  This was nice so we know that since we were in the last wave, we didn't have to get there that early.  We still left our rooms to get to the shuttle around 3:15.

Photo with the New York New York Hotel in the background

The shuttle dropped us off around the Mandalay Bay around 4pm.  Turns out, the Mandalay Bay is near the start line but not near the start party where the corrals are.  So it was a long walk over to the party.  We did at least get to catch a bit of the headliner concert from Snoop Dog.

Occupying ourselves during the wait by taking photos

Once we got there, we found a curb in the shade to sit at.  It was still pretty hot at this point in the afternoon and we didn't want to tire ourselves out.  We chatted a bit and of course, took more photos.  I also made a visit to the portapotties.  There were a ton of them and there were lines but they moved pretty quickly.

Waiting in the crowded corrals while the sun sets

Finally, they announced that the corrals were open for the Yellow (i.e. last) wave.  It was packed!  And we basically trudges forward in this massive crowd toward the start line.  I'm not sure how long it took but it seemed to take forever and be a pretty long walk.  I looked down at my fit bit at one point and saw that I already had more than 14,000 steps before the race even started.  One of the downsides of an evening race.


Finally, we were off!  I think we crossed the start line approximately 45 minutes to an hour after the official race start.  You can see the map of the race course from my Garmin above.  The first couple miles were an out and back starting out going south, away from the lights on the Strip.  But the race had set up plenty of lights and there was also a DJ set up in this section so lots of music.  Once we turned and came back, you could see the lights of the Strip in the distance.  And we passed the Welcome to Las Vegas sign where lots of people were stopping to take photos.  I attempted it but failed to get a good photo.  Eventually I figured I was wasting too much time and just continued on my way.

That bright blur in the back is the Welcome to Las Vegas sign

The next section, approximately mile 2 to 6, were on the Strip and this was the best part of the race.  There was a lot of crowd support, so many lights, and so loud!  This was a lot of fun.  It was very cool running past the Bellagio as the Fountain Show was playing.  There were also some fun music in this section and a Cher impersonator that I thought was really good.  My parents were planning to spectate around mile 3, between the Bellagio and the Cosmopolitan.  I couldn't see them so I did stop there for a bit too.  I tried to call my dad and got a hold of him but I was already past the spot they were at so he told me to keep going and they would see me later.

Next comes the not as fun part of the race.  Miles 6 to 9 were not as scenic and didn't have as much crowd support.  I had another stop in this section because I had forgotten to use body glide before the race and I was feeling it a bit on the underside of my arms.  So I stopped at a medical tent for some vaseline.  There was a spot around mile 8 or 9 where the race had set up a little dance party to liven up this section and that was cool.  I liked the music and lights and volunteers dancing, but they also decided to have a smoke machine which was not a good decision for people running!


Next, we came upon the lights of Freemont Street which was really cool!  I enjoyed seeing that then there was a turn and we could see the lights of the Strip again.  This meant the end was in sight!  I kept pushing on.  It seemed like a lot of people were having a hard time and sort of trudging along by this time.  It's hard to motivate when it seems like everyone around you is walking and you can see by the splits that I had a really hard time at mile 11.  I pulled it together a bit for mile 12 but then lost it again at mile 13.  It was also really crowded at this point because the marathon joined back up and a portion of the road was roped off for them.


Finally, the start line was in sight and I picked it up as much as I could to end strong.  I crossed the finish line and found one of my friends that finished before me.  We stretched and waited for our third friend.  We chatted as we walked down the LONG finisher's chute and got a medal, a bag with food, water and gatorade.  We all had a hard time with the race, due to the crowds and probably also the drier air.  My official finish time ended up being around 3:04 with the stops I had.

Watching the Bellagio fountains again from the finisher's chute

We had deliberately picked our hotel by proximity to the finish line.  We knew the finisher's chute let out by the Bellagio and our hotel had an indoor connection to the Bellagio.  So we went inside there as soon as we got out of the finisher chute and then we trudged back to our hotel to clean up before heading to a late dinner.

So what's the summary?  We're all glad we did it but also glad it wasn't a goal race.   And for me, I think it's a one and done.  It was a lot of fun but I don't feel any need to do it again.


Cons:  Crowds (at other big races I've felt like the crowds ease up for me in the back of the pack after a couple miles but that never seemed to happen here), evening race with lots of walking before the race, drier air than I'm used to

Pros:  Scenic, lots of spectators, seemed like a lot of music this year, lots of hydration stops and medical tents, relatively flat (the end is a gradual uphill), the logistics seemed really tightly run.  I also liked that a lot of the area got into the race with lots of signs around, discounts through the race, free shuttles from the hotels to the start, etc.