Jeff’s Post – Rock N Roll Las Vegas ½ Marathon Review – A Tale of Two Races!

Wow this is way longer than I wanted it to be – I have broken it up in sections so you can read what you like!

As I write this Tamara and I are in the air on our way home to Maryland.  We are three days removed from our last big race of the year – Vegas Baby.  We both PR’d and I personally had a good overall experience.  This was our second Rock N Roll event of the year (We ran Virginia Beach in September).  I knew going into this race there were approximately 44k registered so I was preparing for crowds, lines and everything else associated with pushing that many people through one area.

Expo

We flew in to Las Vegas on Saturday morning.  We stayed at the Venetian and the expo was connected to that building so we had a short indoor walk from the hotel.   I still enjoy the expos but find them somewhat repetitive after attending so many.   We went around 11:00 and noticed a decent crowd but getting our race bibs, shirts and goody bag went off without a hitch.  We then went through the Brooks merchandise area.  I love Brooks stuff and always like to see them at an expo.  We gathered our handful of race items and headed to the checkout.   When I first saw this line I thought they might be giving away a car at the end (soooo many people) but everyone was in a good mood and the line moved amazingly quick.  The rest of the Expo was a bit of a cluster it was just too crowded.  I made the comment to Tamara that I felt sorrow for some of the vendors because we would have bought more if it wasn’t so crowded.  We actually ended up going back later in the day (around 6:00pm) and found that experience much more enjoyable (this was easy for us because we stayed so close).

Race Day

This was our first night race and we changed time zones so we were both a bit nervous about what to eat, when to eat, when to sleep and yep we are runners so were also worried about the whole bathroom thing.  I basically reversed my eating schedule and ate what I would normally eat for breakfast (oatmeal) in the afternoon.  I also packed a few energy bars and my old standby princess gummies!  I called earlier in the day and found out that shuttles would be leaving our hotel on the hour – somehow I missed “on the hour” and when we left to get on one I found out we had missed the 2:00.  So we decided to walk the 2.5 miles to Mandalay Bay.  This isn’t really ideal before you get ready to run 13 miles but we really had no choice.  The walk seemed to take forever and it seemed like every escalator in the town was out of order.  So we walked and walked and ended up getting to the start line around 3:30.  Our event didn’t start until 5:30 but we were so worried about the crowds that we thought it would be best to get there as early as we could.  I also figured we could crash in a hotel for a while if needed.  Tamara and I took a few minutes to take a couple pictures then headed towards the finish area to see where everything was.  I wanted to find bag check and after asking a few people we were directed to the convention area of Mandalay Bay.  It was interesting walking in because we ended up walking through some sort of Western Wear convention.  All these runners mingling with all these cowboys gave us a good laugh.

We finally found bag check but more importantly found a really nice area that we could sit and stay warm inside the hotel (we also found a couple secret bathrooms on the floor above – score!)  We wanted to see the marathon start but we both decided to stay put, enjoy the warmth and rest our legs.  This comfort almost got us in trouble.  We didn’t leave to head to the start line until around 5:10 (the race started at 5:30).  We moved through a very crowded hallway towards the starting corral.  I was a bit panicked at this point because I wasn’t sure we would get to where we needed to be corral 5.  Tamara and I were in “game time” mode though – which means we both get a bit grumpy and focused at the same time.  We found a small shortcut thru some bushes/trees and worked our way up to the street but we were at coral 11.  We had a long way to go and a short time to get there!  Tamara and I took turns darting through the crowd (and boy this was a crowd) each thinking we saw a better way.  I would let Tamara push her way thru (then I just said I’m with her) and I tried to squeeze through and that actually worked very well and we got to the back of coral 5 with about 5 minutes to spare.

They used a wave start (really had no other choice) and this actually gave us a little time to get focused it also gave us a time to look at each other take in this amazing moment and wish each other luck.  Tamara and I run great together and we know in a race of this distance we will run together until the other one says go and then we run our own race.

Race

We finally got to our wave and we were off.  It was not nearly as crowded as I thought once we got going.  I notice some things right off the bat.

  • Running the strip was amazing.  During the first couple miles I allowed myself to take it all in.  I was focused but I was also enjoying the experience.  Tamara was doing her normal darting and I was right beside her.
  • It wasn’t nearly as cold as I thought it was going to be – I started to get hot early on.
  • It was dark!  I know we were running the strip at night but it was darker than I thought it would be.  I was definitely paying attention to where I was stepping .  The strip wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be.
  • I saw these little cones and it took a little while before I realized these cones were trying to create a lane for the marathoners.   I knew this was going to be tough on them.

Tamara and I were running strong and fast.  I was surprised I felt as good as I did.  I had a point at around mile 5 when my legs starting to feel a bit tired but I had experienced this before and didn’t really let it worry me.  I would later find out that Tamara wasn’t feeling as good as I thought she was.  We ran together until around mile 6 then I noticed her slowing a bit.  I had thought about a PR coming in but wasn’t counting on it due to the size of the race but it wasn’t as crowded where I was and I was running fast so I pushed away.   The middle of the race was interesting.  We went through places in Vegas I probably wouldn’t go and the course had a few more turns than I expected but I still enjoyed it.  I will cut to us back on the strip.  I was still feeling really good when we got back on the strip.  The hotels along the strip are so deceiving.  You think you are close but you are so far away.  When we went past our hotel (The Venetian) at mile 11 I could only recall how long this really was.  I quickly pushed that thought out of my head and started running.  I was hoping to finish at around 1 :39 but realized I was a little slower than that but I could still PR if I pushed – and that is what I did – I pushed.  It seemed to take forever to get to the finish line and I wasn’t a fan of how it twisted and turned at the end but the end was in sight.  I run to the finish and I PR with a 1:41 yeah!!  I cross the finish, get my medal and sneak into a side area so I can wait for Tamara.  About 4 minutes later I see Tamara cross the line and I also know she has a PR.  I love and worry that she lays so much out on the course because she was a bit groggy when she finished.  We quickly grab a water and an energy bar (I skipped the green bananas) and head back to bag check.  We sit down for a while grab our gear and decide to walk back to the hotel.  It was a long cold walk back and I was amazed at the amount of people still on the course.  We made it back to the room thrilled with our PR’s!

Facebook/Twitter Frenzy

When I woke up the next morning I went to the facebook page for RnR and was shocked to see all of the negative comments.  I felt like we were at a different race.  Aside from one possible issue (I will let Tamara address that) we really had a good experience.  I felt like I paid for the opportunity to run on the Las Vegas strip at night and that is what I got.  My expectations tend to be a little lower in the big races and I also go into a bit of a survival mode.  I print all my registration stuff before, I run with my own water, I bring everything else I think I might need and I don’t try to PR at big events (if it happens that is a bonus).  In all honesty I don’t really rely on the race organizers for much.  Finishing early and leaving early gave us this good experience.  I really do feel for all of those who had such a negative experience later on….but we had a really good race experience and a great time in Vegas!

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About werrunners

Two Runners Sharing a Journey!

Posted on December 7, 2011, in Vacation Runs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Good for you two! I’m glad that you had a great time and both did so well. My kids were in corral 3 and had the same experience as you. My husband and I were in corral 13 and saw the crowds but still had fun! Your experience is the same one that everyone had last year. Being further behind was a big difference than the front was for sure. They added too many people this year and weren’t as organized as last so many people had a bad time. We too were prepared and did fine but many people come to a new city and don’t have a backup plan if things go wrong. Hopefully they fix the problems so everyone can have fun and come back to my City again and do it next year!

  2. Thank you for such a thorough recap. I am seriously considering doing this one next year. My husband has been trying to convince me to go back to vegas for years, but with two kids, 3 and 1 its hard to imagine leaving them. Next year they will be 2 and 4. I saw all the comments on the fb page and doubted my decision, but also tend to think like you Jeff, that it’s a big race. It’s not necessarily about a PR, its about the experience. I take that to all my runs. Even training runs. Enjoying the moment! Can’t wait to hear Tamara’s thoughts!

    How far in advance did you register/get a hotel/plane tickets?

  3. Oh, P.S. DId you see that RnR is doing an innagural event in D.C. in march? Could be neat to be involved in a brand new course, although with that comes cons. lol.

    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the comments – looking forward to Tamara’s review too! I registered the day registration opened (thinking it was July) and we used a vacation package thru Southwest Airlines – worked out great and we got a good deal!

      Yes, we are registered to run the half in DC – Looking forward to it!!

  4. My experience wasn’t horrible; but getting to and leaving the race was more difficult than I’m used to in other races — in particular, the Indy Mini which has similar numbers of people but doesn’t seem to have as much trouble getting people in and out.

    I think you probably had a better time (and glad that you did b/t/w; great running!) because you started toward the front and are fast. I started in corral 10 and ran about a 2 hour race – so they didn’t run out of stuff and, while crowded, I could still get through people most of the time. I think the further back you got; the more likely they were to run out of water and whatnot and the more lines of walkers were getting in the way of people who were trying to run through.

    I really feel for the marathoners who had to merge into the back of the half marathon at the end of their race and fight their way through the poorly designed marathon lanes, choked with half-marathoners.

    Great update!

    • Hi Doug,

      Thanks for visiting our blog and for the comment. We only had to walk back to the hotel so that made it much easier on us. Just coming off a marathon that had a similar merge I definitely felt for the marathoners tough enough without all that traffic!

      Jeff

  5. I started in corral 17 and when I finished, I had this sixth sense that things were going to get ugly. I left as fast as I could but the MB had blocked off some entrances to the hotel. After cutting through bushes etc, I found an entrance and made my way as quickly as possible to our hotel which was the Luxor. My 6th sense was right. Those after me were in gridlock and unable to get out of the finish area. The faster runners had a generally positive experience, but the back half had the nightmare on Vegas Blvd.

    • Hi Fred,

      Thanks for the comment. Glad we ran quick and left early too! I feel for those in the back. We passed many on our walk back to the hotel and I mentioned to Tamara a couple times how hard it was to be out on the course that long. It was getting colder and starting to rain which didn’t help.

  6. If you want to see some really negative comments, look up the “Hot Chocolate 15K”‘s facebook page. Makes the Vegas experience sound like a ball! Great recap and congrats on the PR’s.

    More on the “Hot Chocolate 15K” fiasco in DC while you were out West:

    http://www.washingtonian.com/blogarticles/health/wellbeing/21772.html

    • Hi Hank,

      Thanks for visiting and the comment. We would have been at the Hot Chocolate if we weren’t running Vegas. We were actually reading the facebook comments for the Hot Chocolate run on the plane ride out – couldn’t believe all of the issues. I just think these races are growing too fast and the are dealing with more than your “average runner”

  7. I’m so happy that you both had a good experience. I’m a slow runner and do these races for sheer fun. I do prepare and bring my own gu & water or what ever I feel I will need. Because I understand that by the time I come around it all may be gone. I was in corral 23 (see way slow) and it was just genuinely horrible.. I do feel bad for the marathoners that got stuck behind us. I’m disappointed that I didn’t have a better experience. I do understand that when there is that many people you should lower your expectations which I did. However, when people are literally pushing you down the experience is just not good. .. No matter how understanding you want to be. I don’t think that I will be doing vegas again.. I’ve done it 3 times and I’m good:) but I will do a different rock& roll maybe Tennessee 😉

    • Hi Viridiana,

      Thanks for visiting our blog and for the comment. Definitely a tale of two races. Tamara and I see many RnR events in our future. We are going to chase them around the country!

  8. I started in corral 30. It was my first 1/2 marathon, but my second large race. I ran the Bay to Breakers 100th anniversary race in San Francisco this past May, with about 50,000 others. I am new to running. I started running about 18 months ago, at age 57 and ran my first race in October last year. I have been trying to run 1 race a month. I plan to do a full marathon late next year, and will do at least two more 1/2 marathons before then. Even though I ran in 3:05, and therefore finished much later than others posting here, I did not find that the finish was a big problem. I had a bigger problem with the start. I was disappointed that the “wave” starts seemed to stop somewhere around the time that corral 20 was started and it was a free for all after that, so it was very crowded most of the way. I was hoping to finish in under 3 hours and just missed that time. I think the crowded start, and the people who started in corrals ahead of me who had no intention of running a time commensurate with their starting corral, made the course a lot more congested that it had to be.

    As far as the finish area I did not have any problem getting my medal and mylar blanket, along with water and pretzels. I was able to meet family and friends and we walked to our hotel a mile or so up the strip. (The Cosmopolitan – first time I ever stayed there – great experience.) I am glad that I ran the race. It was great running the strip at night, and i did not mind the “off-strip” areas, but i agree that i would never walk through there on my own. I don’t expect to run this race again, but I will probably run another Rock n Roll event.

    Congrats on your PRs.

    • Jeff,

      Thanks for visiting and for the comment. Congrats to you too! Tamara and I fought to get to our corral – wasn’t easy! Seems like they could have started us on both sides of the street – not sure where you would merge though. Glad you got your medal and made it safely back from the “off-strip” areas!!

  9. I have the same feeling you do about the race. I try to be green when I race and I figured it would be insane so I carried my own water during and packed my own food for after. I also wasn’t looking for a PR (which I learned after running Rock & Roll Seattle) so was less stressed. I did get caught in Mandalay Bay but I think it was before the major crush so it wasn’t too, too bad. I do wish it had been less crowded, dark, and a smoother road so I could have enjoyed the sights more (the strip – I think I only saw the Christmas Tree at the Venetian and don’t remember anything else 😦 ) but I did enjoy seeing all the runners in costumes, especially the Elvii.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for visiting and for the comment. Sounds like you had a similar approach to us. I enjoyed the sites on the way out but was a bit too focused on my way back to appreciate everything. If I saw someone in a costume I tried my best to pass them – couldn’t let Elvis beat me to the finish 🙂

  10. I really enjoyed reading your blog re: the Las Vegas 1/2 marathon. I also ran the 1/2 marathon and had a very similar experience. I ran the Chicago marathon in October so I knew what to expect with a race this large. I have to say I had a great time and loved running the strip. I too was a little uneasy about running a night race with the time zone difference (I’m from Michigan) and figuring out what to eat and when. But in the end everything went well and I had a great run, I didn’t PR, because i had to jockey around a lot of walkers who started in the front corrals but I didn’t expect to running with 44k runners. I felt bad reading all the negative posts. Granted there were major organizational issues that need to be addressed but I can’t believe everyone had a bad experience. I do plan to go back again if they keep it a night race!

    • Hi Brenda,

      Thanks for checking out our blog and for the comment. Chicago is on my list – hope to run it soon! Glad you had a good time in Vegas – we would go again too!

      Jeff

      • I am doing the Rock n Roll New Orleans in March I will be interested to see how that one goes! I will go prepared with my own provisions for water and Gu. The whole water from hydrants that Competitor thinks is ok is scary.

  11. I’m glad to hear that the runners in the front had a good race. Those of us in the back weren’t so lucky.

    I started in corral 37 or 36 – I wasn’t sure, because those of us trying to enter the corrals were told they were too crowded and that we were supposed to go back to the end. A few of us managed to get in anyway, but only by pulling apart the fences to get to our corrals.

    I was getting nervous as there were thousands of us packed in an area with no where to go if people started panicking. This is not a good thing when people are stressed (as you mentioned, grumpy) or what I call the “bite me zone” of a race. Yes, I know we contributed to that by entering the corrals anyway. But how could organizers not know how many people would be in each corral? They had the data.

    As others have mentioned, there was no wave start after 17 as far as I could see. They just gave up and let us all go. It took until mile 6 for me to be able to run at anything near race pace.

    There were no water or other refreshments at most of the stations I hit. Or if there was, it was a trash can open for us to get water if we wanted.

    My tracking gadgets logged that I ran a bit over 14 miles and I’m guessing that’s due to all the zig zagging I had to do to get around the road blocks of walkers who were released at the same time as the runners. This is a typical whine for me on races, so not really that important. But normally in races I see marshals telling people to walk to the right or to stop linking arms or something.

    The Mandalay Bay part, which we had to endure to get our bags back was a nightmare. We saw at least 4 people hit the ground, EMTs could not get near them, and there was NOBODY doing crowd control. I finally bailed on the whole thing because I thought for certain someone was going to die.

    Having no food left at the end of a race or no medals is sad. But this wasn’t that kind of chaos. This was scary stuff.

    I won’t be back, and I wish them the best of luck trying to grow by 15 thousand more next year. I hope the fire department, police, and EMTs force them to do more for runner safety.

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks for visiting our blog and for the comment. We appreciate you sharing your much different experience. Thanks again and continued good luck with your running!

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