Race Day- 6th December 2009
       
 Ready to Rock N Roll

 On the Strip

 By Night

 By Day

I was one very nervous runner when I woke on December 6th at 5am, it was the first time since my first marathon that I was really doubting if I would finish it. The reason I felt scared to death before my first marathon was just fear of the unknown, for my 9th marathon it was fear of lack of training.

My hotel was the Luxor Casino and luckily for me was one block to the race start. Lucky as I knew I didn’t need transport and lucky because it was so bloody cold that I could leave 15mins before the race started and not get hypothermia standing around.

When I left the hotel and hit the icy blast of air, I heard a big bang and I thought ‘Oh God, don’t tell me I have my watch set wrong, and that was starters gun”, however, the bang was followed up with a flash of light. Yes it was a fireworks display at 6am, I don’t know what the poor Saturday Night party revelers thought of that, but for us runners it was very entertaining.

Las Vegas started their marathon in waves, there were 27 wave starts and I was number 8. I got into number 8 as I said I would finish the marathon in less than 4 hours. I felt like a traitor standing with the other wave 8 runners, they looked a lot fitter and enthusiastic than me, and my confidence at finishing wasn’t strong let alone in four hours. However, in my defense I did put under four because out of my 8 previous marathons, 6 were run under 4 hours, so statistical speaking I was in the right wave...mentally I was way out of my league.

I didn’t get much time to dwell on that though, between the fire works and the Blue Brothers playing all the waves in and counting them down, there was so much to see and do that the nerves soon disappeared.

As each wave left in a roar of cheers and camera flashes, Wave 8 was slowly getting to the start line. When we were nearly ready to go and the Blue Brothers were telling us to shake our Tail Feathers, I saw something move above my head, I thought I was still half asleep and dreaming but when I took a double take I realised there were two white tigers high up on the starter barricade, yes they were real, but they were in cages.

Such a surprise to see them there, next to their cages were beautiful, scantily clad show girls, I felt better then as they had more exposed body parts to freeze off than I did.

Finally it was Wave 8’s turned to yell and scream for the cameras, and when our gun went (only 10 minutes after the first start gun) we were off. It felt good to be running down one of the world's most famous strips.

We were told before the race the Las Vegas strip has never been closed on both sides, so it was quite a privilege to be part of Las Vegas history and I planned to enjoy every step of it. The first 7 miles went like a blur; there was so much to attract my attention. The lights of the strip are very big and bright, each casino has its own theme from another part of the world. It’s a bit late now as I’m up to my 6th continent, but I’m sure the cheapest, quickest way to achieve my goal (a marathon on each continent) would be to do a lap of the Las Vegas strip...I wonder if that would count!

Luxor, where I stayed is Egyptian; Excalibur is medieval; Bellagio (the one in Oceans 11) is just very flashy; Caesars Palace is not only huge but Roman; Treasure Island set somewhere in the Atlantic, Paris with its own Eiffel Tower; New York, with its Statue of Liberty; Venice even has it’s own Gondolas; MGM representing Hollywood; by the time I got to the end of the strip, my eyes were popping, I felt like I had run around the world.

Each casino had big electronic bill boards over the Strip, they showed the race leaders, the crowds, the times, the live to air broadcast…honestly there was never a dull moment.

The Strip continues into what is called Down Town Las Vegas. Here is the Vegas of old, the old style casinos that were once pretty swish until the big boys up the strip moved in. Downtown was where the famous Brat Pack reigned supreme, Elvis filmed his most famous Movie ever, Viva Las Vegas in 1964; and is probably what is known as the sleazy end, but I love it. The billboards here are about, strip shows and X rated movies; one sign told us he was doing his bit for the struggling economy by offering $10 Lap Dances!!

But my favorite bit about Down Town is the little white wedding chapels. These are the sweet little churches, offering everything you would need for a loving romantic, quickie marriage. The original Little White Wedding chapel, boasted on its bill board, 'Michael Jordan, Joan Collins Married here'. ‘Surely not to each other I thought’ but then anything is possible in Vegas. You can get married by Elvis, Madonna or Garth Brookes! and If you haven’t got the right attire, next door is a hire a tux and wedding dress shop...hourly rates were offered!!. My favorite quickie wedding idea is the drive through wedding, where a little window like Maccas opens up and you don’t even have to get out of the car…I wonder if fries are served with that!

Once we had ran the 7 miles to near the end of Down Town, we were directed back up the other side of the strip, and then my unfavoured part of the Marathon/Half Marathon Same Start Time Race was due to happen…the dreaded parting of the ways. It certainly is a very exciting feeling for 28,000 runners to take off together and when you are all running in a big group, its friendly and fun...but sooner or later the parting of the ways has to happen…it’s when the race officials split the coarse and start directing the Half Marathoners on a different road to the marathoners. Now it’s ok  for the Halvies and you can sense their high, they are waving at us, wishing us well, telling us they will  see us at the end (yeah right, you will have drank all the Gatorades and eaten all the fruit and be home in Epsom salts baths before we get to the end).

I hated leaving them, I wondered if anyone would notice if I just run with them, those stupid different coloured race numbers are there for a reason of course. Turning the corner to head out to the desert to run another 16miles, is hard, but luckily for me the group I had connected with were all running the marathon. We did go quiet for a while knowing what we had in store, but it didn’t take long for out great Pacer boys, Shannon and Greg to start pep talking us up again. I also saw David outside one of the casinos at that point in his Lazy Runner shirt, cheering me on taking pictures so that helped.
       

 Help Me Elvi

 Thats 25miles!!

 AAAHHHHHH

 
My pacer group was the best; They were unbelievable...they never shut up the whole way...and guess what I never said a word (talk about turning the tables) ..it was so good. They told us the pace we were doing at every mile, they gave us tips, they asked how we were feeling, they slowed at the drink stops, and let us catch up...they sang Rocky songs to us, they recited some of Muhammad Ali's victory speeches...these guys were incredible...but more importantly they knew what we were capable of and encouraged us all (there were about 50 of us in that pack)..I stayed with them , and at the half way I had run my slowest half marathon (1.58) time.

At that stage I told  myself I would be very lucky to get under four hours,as I never run home stronger in a marathon, at 20miles (the race is 26miles) one of our pacers gave us a talking to, he said in a loud voice, "I think it's time for some of our chickens to leave the nest" We all looked at each other a little scared thinking no way, we are not leaving the mother hens, but he was adamant, he felt some of us could do better and now was time to take off and run home stronger. He said "Don't worry if you fail, we will still be back here waiting". I thought  I could go a bit faster, it worked, once I left the group  I never looked back, I had obviously saved enough energy in the first half to allow me to use it in the second half....some Pacers are the best and I was very lucky to get these guys

The hardest part of the race to deal with was the ‘Miles thing’. I do remember miles, I think I was in Primary school though when Metric took over and of course like all things I’ve forgotten how to convert it back when needed. I know the marathon is 42.2km and 26miles, so surely you would think I would know when I was at the 20km mark, the 30km mark and even the 40km mark, but I am not good with maths and I break out into a nervous sweat when I think of Long Division.

However, there is one thing I know for sure about the Mile…it’s a bloody long way! My God it goes on and on and on. The Pacers were telling us we were doing under 9min miles, which is obviously the pace you need for an under 4 hour marathon time, so I tried to focus on that , but I just couldn’t help but always think what Kilometre time I was doing, and at times it was doing my head in. That’s why I felt the strong need to stick with the Pacers, at least they could take charge of the pace and time.

There are benefits to the Mile being long though; for a start there are only 26 of them to count down; they take a long time to come around but when they do it is the sweetest feeling; and our pacers made us do a cheer each time we saw the big Mile Sign...it did help.
 
I finished the Vegas marathon stronger than any marathon I had ever run...not sure if it was the weather, going out slow, sticking with the Pace group for 20 miles, the ‘Miles Thing’, or just the best race and atmosphere I have ever been involved in....maybe it was combination of all of the above.

I ran through he finish line and for the first time ever, thought I could of just kept going!! Crazy Stuff I know. I did get just under 4 hours as well (3:55:43).

We were well looked after we finished. We all got our own space blankets wrapped around us and a huge medal (everything is bigger and better in Vegas), plenty of food, donuts, bagels, muesli bars, fruit and drinks. On leaving we had to get our photos taken with a show girls, now there’s a good look, a red faced, sweaty, smelly, shaky over the hill marathon runner and a stunning show girl with feathers covering bits and pieces. I don’t  think that one will be going in the album!

It was great having the hotel so close to the start line, I went back showered and changed and then headed back to the after party. Plenty of music and people, but most of the runners where taking off into the casinos...'when in Rome' I thought and why not, that is where all the Marghereta’s are…I followed and sat in the bar for a couple of hours… feeling pretty pleased with myself. Not my fastest marathon but certainly the strongest and most enjoyable...it is always good to finish with a smile on your face and  a little left in the tank for the after celebrations.

That evening I felt so good I went to a Rat Pack show… Frank Sinatra has long been an idol of mine so it was fantastic to sit in a Casino in Down Town Las Vegas and listen to some of Franks greatest tunes

The next day I felt great and ready to head off to the Grand Canyon…however a blizzard meant the roads in Arizona were blocked and we wouldn’t be able to get through to our hotel at the North Rim..so another couple of days in Vegas..why not..I love the casino city.

We did trek out to the desert, Red Rock Canyon and went for a walk in snow!! Yes snow in the desert is an amazing sight. We toured a ranch that was once owned by Howard Hughes and the guide told us he has lived in Vegas 15 years and this was the fourth time he had seen snow here, so it is not a common sight.

After two more night in Vegas it was sad to leave the bright lights, but I was looking forward to seeing a little more of America. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon was still closed but we drove to the South Rim which is pretty spectacular, especially as there was about a foot of snow covering the peaks.

       
 Snow In the Desert Hello from Grand Canyon  Antarctica Girls in US

 Bring on the 7th!!

To View the Highlights of the Vegas Marathon..
Click Here
...http://running.competitor.com/2009/12/videos/rock-n-roll-las-vegas-marathon-and-half-marathon-highlight-video_7194


 

 
     
 
 

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