What happens in Vegas....

So what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas right? Well apparently I get to write about it all here, and post all the pictures on Facebook! But why not? I went to Vegas to run! And we all know running isn't complete unless we post all of our accomplishments on Facebook! 

My cousin has posted on Facebook a while back that she wanted to run the strip at night for her birthday this year. I thought it sounded like fun, I jumped on board with this idea. I had never been to Vegas, so I figured why not? I had heard some bad reviews about last years race, but it was more so about the full marathon, and I wasn't running that, so I figured, why not? Let the planning begin!

And so this past Friday I arrived in Vegas early in the morning. It just so happened that a friend of mine from NY was also in Vegas with two of her friends that weekend as well. I dropped my bags off at the hotel, as I couldn't check in yet and walked over to theirs. One girl was still getting ready so me and Erica caught up and talked about her trip to Africa. It was so intriguing and I really want to hear more about it when I can. We then went back over to the Bellagio to get tickets to Cirque de Solei's "O". Erica got me a ticket as a belated birthday gift, and I can't thank her enough.
Me and some friends by the Bellagio Christmas Tree

We walked around the strip for a while doing the tourist thing, and then headed to the Venitian to the expo. I felt bad being with 3 non-runners, so I tried not to spend too much time there. I picked up my bib, shirt, and goody bag. I did a quick walk through and stopped to talk to the newton rep for a little bit. I'm thinking about switching to newtons because I heel strike and have been having problems with my left ankle and right knee. I hear that can cause some joint issues, and I wonder if the shoes might help my stride and therefore alleviate the pain, but we shall see later on. 
They made me a sign!

After the expo we tried to get a quick bite to eat, but wound up with only margaritas and a shot of tequila. I was trying not to drink that much before Sunday, but I was in Vegas after all. We ordered tacos, but they were taking forever to come out and we actually had to wind up leaving. We had a show to catch. And the show was awesome.
Shirt and bib from the race

Saturday I got to spend more time at the expo since I was with my cousin, Adele, and she was here to run as well. We walked around, shopped, checked pretty much everything out. It was fun. I stopped my the KT tape booth and asked them about my knee pain. They said it was the most common running injury and caused from overuse. Who would have thought? Then the guy taped it up for me. I figured I would try it out before I bought some, because I was skeptical as to how this would work. It felt a little funny when I bent my leg, so I think I wasn't really keeping my knee bent when I should have been.
All taped up!
Brooks had an area where you could play games and win prizes. They also gave out tickets where you could win things like sunglasses, hats, shirts, etc. I won a shirt. Adele and I also played skeeball and won each of our games. We got a medal for winning. Two medals in one weekend. Impressive. And for skeeball. Never would think I would get a medal for such a thing. I was hoping I'd win some sneakers, but I didn't get so lucky.

T-shirt and medal I won at the expo =)

After the expo we headed to the hotel to change for dinner. We did the pre-race pasta party. it was at the Mirage and they had a beach boys cover band. The food was pretty good and it was a good time. And of course we needed carbs. Although I don't know how that works when the race you have the next day is at night instead of the morning. But carb-load we did. Then off to another show. We headed to Treasure Island for Mystere. Also a great show. The Cirque shows don't disappoint.

Sunday morning we made sure to get a good breakfast in. Eggs, hash browns, toast. Coffee. Must have the coffee. I think I could live off of intravenous coffee. It was around this time that I realized my knee was really bothering me whenever I would bend it. And the pain had shifted the the inner side of my kneecap. I wasn't sure if the tape had caused a new pain or I just had kept my leg so stiff because I wasn't used to the tape that I caused this new pain from lack of movement. I wasn't sure if I should remove the tape or leave it on. I would run back and forth on it a little in the room and it hurt a bit. It seemed like it hurt less while I ran then when I was standing still or walking. Seemed strange to me, but I decided I was going to leave the tape on. Either I was going to wind up being in pain and trying to take it off during the race, being fine, or eventually having to stop. I was hoping everything would work out.

Adele and I got ready for the race. She had never run a night race before so was a little anxious to get it over with. I had done the tower of terror so I knew what to expect. Well as much as you can I guess. We got dressed and ready, and then set out to Mandalay Bay.
Ready to Rock N Roll !!

It was cold out, so we stayed inside as long as we could and then set out to our corral. We were both in corral 25 - how lucky to be in the same one. So many corrals! We were far from the start, and there were supposed to be 2 minutes between each corral. Start time was 4:30, so that would mean we should start around 5:20. And we entered the corral a little after 4. That's a lot of time in the cold. Add to that the crazy wind we had, and it was freezing!

As we inched up to the start line the excitement grew. The band was playing and the announcer would get everyone all psyched up. And then the countdown for corral 25. 10-9-8....and we were off. We headed up the street towards the Vegas sign. In wind that was blowing sand in my face. The wind was so strong at some points it was blowing my shirt up. Luckily this was the hardest the wind was going to blow at me for the race, because it was the beginning and I had the most energy. We rounded the Vegas sign and were now running with the wind behind us, except for an occasional sideways burst.

I ran too strong too start, as usual, which cause a significant slow down toward the end. Mile 2 I ran a 9:55 min/mile. Sub 10 for a half? Crazy. I think the sights and sounds had me thinking I was superwoman or something. Or maybe it was the wind at my back. Or the fact that I was fueling differently. I had told Adele that I didn't think GU really gave me too much energy. She said she used Hammer Gel and Sports Beans. I didn't want to switch up everything entirely, so I figured I'd mix the GU and the beans. The directions on the beans say to consume a pack 30 minutes before, and then as needed. So I had the pack before. I also got some sample packs at the expo so I had them in my pocket. I was also going to try to use the GU a little earlier than usual, because I was tiring my the time I'd use them usually, so I figured, maybe a little earlier would help. Plus I had the beans, so I had extra energy sources. I was going to use GU at mile 4 and 8. 

So I ran too fast to start. At my 5k split apparently my estimated finish should have been a 2:16. Boy was that off. A little after mile 4 I had my GU. I realized at the 10k point I was slowing down a bit. That was ok. I remember feeling strong at mile 7, which when looking back at my splits, it shows. I had some beans at mile 9 - I think this helped. I usually get tired at 7 or 8. I was still ok. I started getting really winded around mile 11. I had to walk/run a lot. I could tell my time was slipping and I was getting disappointed in myself. My knee hurt for a split second, and then it felt fine. Looking at my time, I didn't even think I would finish at 2:30. That was discouraging. I think this caused my to slow even more. 

Right before mile 12 I felt a tightness in my chest and I decided to slow it down more. This made me nervous. But then I would look over at the marathoners, who are at mile 25, and they are still running. Not walking like me. That gave me some motivation. If they can do it, I can too. Then caution tape that was separating the half and full ripped off in the wind and got caught around my ankle. That took away precious time. My last two miles were over 13 min/miles. Finish time 2:36:09.

I found Adele and found our she PR'ed! That was time for celebrating. I was disappointed in my time, but happy to have completed my 5th half, and 3rd in consecutive weekends. And I was proud of my cousin's PR!

Looking back on the race I do have to say that I think the water stops were not very organized. I skipped the first one, but there wasn't really any water there anyway. Most of the others ones made you wait there for a few seconds while they filled up the cups. Those seconds turn into minutes if you stop at every one. And if they were running out of water by the time my corral got to them, what about all the corrals behind me? And there was sticky gatorade ALL OVER the streets at every stop. You literally felt like you were sticking to the ground as you tried to run through the water stops. I think they should try to work on this for next year. 

And of course, there is the space issue. It was very hard to weave around people who were going slower than me, or walking. At times I found myself having to slow significantly, or even walk because there was no way around people. I don't know if the strip can hold that many runners. Now I can understand the problem from last year when they had the full and half merge. 

On the bright side, my knee didn't hurt at all. The past two races that I did caused me pain during and after. I had to ice it and elevate it and it hurt to bend. I had trouble walking down stairs. This time - nothing. No pain, discomfort. Nothing. I found magic tape. And I would highly recommend it!

And then it was time to celebrate with an amazing dinner and some champagne. We went to Prime Steakhouse at the Bellagio. We had an awesome table overlooking the fountains. And the food was delicious. 
Dinner View

They gave us a cake to celebrate our accomplishment. Anyone who knows me, knows I love chocolate and everything sweet, so that was devoured.

So, even though my time for the race wasn't the best it could have been I had an amazing time. I got to see a friend from NY that I miss greatly. I got to spend the weekend with my amazing cousin. Got to be there for her PR! Got to see Vegas in a way most people don't get to see it. Found a way to prevent my knee from hurting during a race, and new ways to fuel while running. 
In a nutshell - Vegas Rocked !