I am extremely pleased to report that I have finished my first marathon!
After four months of training, most of which was hampered by nagging plantar fasciitis in my foot, I have successfully finished a marathon.
I plan on focusing another post on what I learned from my first marathon later this week. Although there are endless books and Runners World articles on marathon running, I started 18 weeks to chronicle my week to week progress and publicly learn from from my mistakes.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon
The Las Vegas marathon is unlike most races I’ve seen advertised. For the 2011 running, the organizers moved the event to a 4:00 pm start to allow for a run down the Strip at night. Although this allowed for a relaxed morning and a little extra sleep, it sure made time seem to stand still all day!
Going into the race, my only goal was finishing. Originally, the race advertised a cutoff time of 4:30. However, the race had instituted 3 very strict time check points that had to be met:
- Mile 8.5 by 5:40
- Mile 10.4 by 5:55
- Mile 19.1 by 8:10
Since my gun time was 4:08, my actual pace needed to be quicker than a 4:30 pace would suggest. Apparently the race had “sweepers” following the last runners and would be used to cutoff the pack at those mile markers.
I didn’t see the sweepers, but a good friend did and said it pushed her along a little faster!
According to my gps, I hit the 8 mile mark at 5:29 & the 9 mile mark at 5:39. I guess I was about 8 minutes ahead of being swept away!
Based in the same estimate, I was only ahead at the 10.4 mile check by about 4 or 5 minutes. By mile 19, I had forgotten about the sweepers, and was ahead by about 45 minutes.
After reviewing the finishing totals, I think close to 2,400 people either didn’t start, switched the half, or were swept away by time limits. That’s more than a third of the 6,000 registered runners!
The First Half of the Race
I don’t believe anyone signed up for this marathon based on the first 13.1 miles. I said after running Myrtle Beach that it was a pretty boring race until we got to the beach. Myrtle has nothing on the first half of Vegas.
Damn it was boring!
Although the sunset over the mountains was nice, and seeing the strip begin to light up was cool, the area of town we ran in was not.
A backtracking jig jag pattern through what looked like an industrial warehouse district. Oh, and a place you can shoot machine guns and a Larry Flynt Hustler store…
On the plus side, I did get to see Christy at the start, at mile 3.5 and right before mile 13 when she gave me more food & my arm sleeves. She also saw me around mile 7 but I missed her there.
Overall I felt great the day of the race, and even had my best nights sleep since arriving.
However, somewhere around mile 8 I started to feel bad. My foot felt fantastic the entire day (something I attribute to limiting taper miles & my new KT Tape). My legs started to tire, but worse than that I had a bad feeling in my stomach.
Since my 16 mile training run, I’ve had trouble fueling on the run. For the training runs, I figured it was due to dehydration or lack of water along the run. I switched from GU gels to the Honey Stinger Waffles. I had hoped that would do the trick, but apparently not. (I’ll talk about this mores
In my what I learned post, but for now, I think my issue is as much to do with my poor experience with carbo loading).
Second half of the race
Coming into the marathon, I was confident I would be perfectly fine through at least mile 18. Having hit 20 in training, and having zero issues with 3 half marathons led me to this conclusion. Sensing trouble at mile 8, told me otherwise.
As I turned onto the Strip, the vision wasn’t quite what I expected. Because the half marathon began 90 minutes after the full, the half walkers were just about a mile ahead of me clogging the road. Combine that with the fast full & half runners flying in the opposite direction on the other side of the strip gave me a defeated feeling.
I pushed through until about mile 16 when my pace dropped by about a minute per mile. At mile 18 it dropped again and was north of 13 minutes per mile each mile after that. I always wondered how someone could run so slow in a race when 10:30 in training feels easy.
Now I know.
By 18, I was busy making mental deals with myself. At first this meant that if I could run until the next water stop I could walk through it. Then I added mile markers allowed for walking. Then it became Denny’s Restaurant…
The final 8 miles were a mix of shuffled jogging and walking. I called it a slog.
It was painful. It was frustrating. It was mind numbing to hear a handful of drunks and the occasional homeless man yelling random nonsense our way. In hindsight, it was pretty amusing.
During this last slog, I was helped along by text messages from Christy, and many tweets from friends.
Fast forward to mile 25. With just one mile to go, I could see the split at Mandalay Bay for full and half finishing shoots. Right around that point the wind kicked up in my face and it began to spit ran. Oh, and it was about 40 degrees by that point. Not exactly a help!
When I finally got to what I thought was the finishing line, I realized it was only the entry shoot into the slightly uphill parking lot for the final .2 of the race. Yeah, I forgot about the point 2.
I continued to slog up the hill all the way to the line. I nearly hugged the kid (20 something girl) handing out the finishing medals. Coming in at 5:19 and change i wasn’t positive I would get a medal based in the 4:30 cutoff time. Thankfully they weren’t as stingy as the sweepers were earlier in the course and I got my glow in the dark pink medal.
At this point my emotions quickly changed. I had accomplished something I never would have believed I could do! Rewind back to early 2010 when I was pushing through a couch to 5k program and whining after running for 8 minutes straight! My training didn’t go anywhere near my plan, so I’m not surprised that race day didn’t either.
I slowly walked through the finishing chute grabbing a bagel, pretzels, and water. I skipped the finishers picture since the line was insane. I met Christy at the “D” sign and slowly walked back to the Luxor. Although my legs were sore, something near my hip or groin essentially seized up and wouldn’t allow my left leg to bend. This left me shuffling like a little old man with a dead leg!
We finally navigated through the hoard of finishers and Michael Jackson fans inside of Mandalay Bay and into the Luxor. I made the mistake of not booking a room with a bath tub, so I settled for a shower.
I know I’ve learned a lot from this 4 month experience and will share many of those thoughts soon. And to answer the burning question that most people ask at this point: yes, I plan on running more marathons! Let’s hope #2 goes a little smoother than Vegas did!