I'll start with race morning. I woke up tired and sore at 5:15am. Even though I hit the expo on Friday and tried to save my legs on Saturday there is just no way to not walk in Vegas. I knew I I should be worried when the bottom of my feet were still sore on Sunday morning but I tried not to think about it too much. I tried to eat, which didn't go over very well so I opted for a banana and water. As I got dressed as I was pretty mellow and when I put my running shoes I was surprised at how good they felt, or maybe my feet were relieved to be in something supportive. At some point I realized that I actually had to leave the room and that is when my heart rate started to pick-up. I was ready, I had everything I needed so that meant I really had to leave the room.
It had been a huge stressor about what to wear race day. Morning temps were going to be in the high 40's low 50's so should I wear short sleeve or long sleeves. I knew a jacket was out of the question, I opted to for short sleeves and would check my jacket at the gear check. As I made my way out of the hotel to the race area, I really became overwhelmed with how large this race was. 29,000 runners and I couldn't even find the gear check area. I did walk by my starting corral but couldn't actually see the start line. Once I found the gear check it was time to give up my jacket which I wasn't too thrilled about. I looked at the time, it was 7:30am and I my corral wouldn't be sent off until at least 7:40am if not later. I knew I had to do it because I was not running with it, so off it came.
After gear check I was able to meet up with Mary Sue and after a stop at the port-a-potties we headed over to our corral. We couldn't even get into our corral it was so full so we lined up outside just like every other corral. Honestly, people could have moved forward and made room for us but they didn't. We watched on the big screen of the Mandalay Bay as the first runners headed out at 7am. It was crazy because it took forever for our corral to move up. Once the line started to move we squeezed in but not before corral 31 jumped in front of us, so all of a sudden we were one corral back. I could have changed my corral at the expo. When I signed up for the race I had no idea how long it would take me to run a 1/2 marathon since I had never run more than 3 miles, so I guessed 3:30. By the time race week came around I was confident that I could get it done in 3 hours, but I didn't want to change because I wanted to start the race with Mary Sue and I figured it would be a good confidence booster to pass people and not be passed. I tried not to worry that I now was starting three corrals back than what I really should have, it's chipped time, so it doesn't matter I kept telling myself. All of a sudden the line really started moving and before I knew it (or 45 minutes later) we were off. I have to say it was cool, a band was playing over the start line and you couldn't help but be excited. As the gun went off and we crossed the start line I felt great and exhilarated.
Shortly after the race started I moved over to run on the left side by the center divide of the road, there seemed to be more room and it was easier to pass people. I'm so glad I did because that is probably the only reason I spotted my friend Kirsten who snapped a photo as I ran by.
Once we got on the strip I noticed that we were running at a very slight downhill which meant on the way back it would be a very slight uphill. I did my best to take advantage of the downhill while I had it. Next came the biggest mental challenge of the course, port-a-potties. Out of sight, out of mind, but when you see them it sends this trigger of "gee, maybe I need to go". I was shocked that this early in the course I felt like I had to go, I normally don't have to go until about mile 8. Although normal doesn't include waiting 45 minutes to start my run either. The lines was too long at the first set so when I came to the first aid station with a short line I stopped. It felt horrible to sop so early when I had such a nice momentum going, I mean really I think I was at mile 2. But I went and got it over with and the line wasn't too bad.
|feeling good as I head down the strip|
Back on the strip and I must say it's pretty awesome to run on the strip when there are no cars and hardly anyone out on the street, with the exception of 29,000 other runners. The strip was almost serene and I thought about all the party crowds that were probably nice and cozy passed out in their hotel rooms. This is what I signed up for, to see the Las Vegas strip and take it all in. We came up to the first band on the course and it was so incredible, you wanted to stay and rock out with them, but sorry guys, I still have a lot of miles to cover. I had been trying to ignore the obvious pressure on my bladder and couldn't believe I had to go again, I evaluated every set of port-a-potties as I approached them and none of them seemed good. I finally stopped and analyzed each line and picked one, which if course turned out to be the wrong line. I'm not even kidding when I say 10 minutes easy. I was so angry that after this I decided there would be no more breaks at all, my mind was playing tricks on me and I didn't really have to go that bad. I knew there was no way I would come in under 3 hours if I made another stop.
As we made our way down the strip we started to detour what I would call the "dive" area of Las Vegas. I actually ran past two young girls doing the walk of the shame! Oh, how I wished I had a camera, how embarrassing to be doing the walk of the shame on the morning that 29,000 runners are going to see you! This was the most scenicly (okay probably not a word) challenged part of the course. It was dirty and kind of sleazy and I was pleased to be running through it instead of leisurely strolling through it. At one point there was a dive bar that was out handing out cups of free beer to runners... thanks but no thanks. By this point my feet hurt bad, I would try to walk but the pace I wanted to keep at even a walk was actually more painful than running. Seeing how this part of the course was fairly unmotivating and the pain I was in I really struggled on this part of the course. I did a lot of walking intervals and cheered on a Duck and Griz fan along the course, hey, I needed to stay entertained.
As we made our through neighborhoods and I could finally see us getting back on the strip I felt a huge sense of relief. I was literally counting down the miles. At this point the pain was pretty bad, I remember thinking if I could have an epidural everything would be awesome, but then I wouldn't be able to run. I thought of lots of things to keep me amused and entertained. I was walking a lot at this point. All through training on a tough day I would tell myself if you walk the entire run it's okay, as long you get the miles in it's okay if you walk the entire time. This is what I told myself when I hit mile 10, if you have to walk the next 3 miles you will! My best motivation is the camera, I don't want to be caught walking in my race photos, so every time I saw a photographer I tried my best to look really strong.
I focused a lot on a story the local news ran that morning. It was a young girl who was competing on her high school cross country team, she collapsed feet from the finish line. If her coach or anyone touched her she would be disqualified, so her coach was standing next to her asking her what she needed if she could make it or not. I watched this young girl slowly get up and her hands and knees as she literally crawled to the finish line was swept up by paramedics. Her determination to get across that finish line sent her team to the state championships. I thought of her in mile 10-12 as the pain radiated through the lower half of my body, if I had to crawl across the finish line I would. While not a flattering photo by any means, I am posting this one, because I think it is the only one that shows the pain in my face.
|this says it all|
I got teary eyed as I crossed the line and really understood how momentous this occasion was for me. I never really thought about actually finishing or how it would feel to finish because I was so focused on just getting through one day at a time and one mile at a time. I still get emotional just thinking about it.
Once they gave me that medal, I didn't want to take it off, it was my badge of honor, proof to myself that I really had done it and hadn't imagined all of it! And of course, one must have an honorary photo with a Vegas Showgirl!
And finally I am reunited with Stephanie and Mary Sue, my partners in crime!
I am so thankful for this experience. I would like to think I will do another 1/2 marathon, but I obviously had the luxury of being unemployed to train for this event. Now that I'm back at work full time we'll have to see if there is any extra time for training. For now, I know I accomplished something that I once thought was impossible.
Many thanks to all of my friends who cheered me on and gave me endless amounts of advice. I was so touched by the never ending facebook posts of support an encouragement, you all helped me achieve this goal!