Monday, December 5, 2011

Las Vegas RnR Marathon Race Report

Yesterday was my first real attempt to race a marathon and my last goal race of 2011. It is bitter sweet because I have come a long way (an hour faster than my first marathon attempt in 2009), but I missed my goal of 3:15. It may seem like I am sulking to those that have talked to me. And perhaps I am a little. But I am actually quite happy with my time. While I would not pretend that it cost me my goal, I have to be honest in saying that it was a terrible event (more on that later). My sister deserves thanks for shuttling me around and taking care of my needs while she waited for the half marathon to begin.

Before getting into the race review, here are a few things to keep in mind as you read:
  1. Finishing a race poorly sucks.  I already knew this, but I was reminded in a big way. Not only is it demotivating, but it shapes your view of the whole experience.
  2. Conserver your glycogen. It is the most likely factor to determine your race fate. I ran above lactate threshold pace for too long, too early and it cost me.
  3. Don't run angry. I let the events that were unfolding get to me and I lost focus of what I was trying to accomplish.  
Here is how the race unfolded:

Miles 1 - 6.5
Being a night race, I was really unsure about how to approach race day nutrition. I tried to eat carbs slowly and consistently throughout the day and stay hydrated. We arrived in Las Vegas about 3 hours before the race. After getting my bib and changing my corral, we pretty much sat around and waited for the race to start. About 45 minutes before the race I began to feel hungry and had a horrible feeling I had not eaten enough to top off my glycogen. I returned to the race festivity area and grabbed a banana to eat. And I was also nursing some electrolytes, but tried not to drink too much to avoid having to use the restroom in the early miles of the race. The race day weather was a perfect 50 degrees with only a slight wind. Since it is late fall, it was almost cold, particularly because it was cooling down as the race unfolded.

It was apparent that the RnR people did not care about corrals. People were moving freely to wherever they wanted to be. The 3:15 pacer didn't show up until about 2 minutes to go. Immediately after the race started, we headed west across the highway to an industrial part of Las Vegas. My stomach was in distress within the first few miles. I am fairly certain it was the contents of my stomach. The distress did not impact my performance, but it was uncomfortable. I ran this way most of the first half. At about mile six, I stopped and urinated to alleviate some of the pressure. I continued to feel uneasy about my energy levels, so I took my first gel shot before completing seven miles.

At this point, I was hanging with the 3:15 pacer pretty well. I found his splits to be a little erratic even though we were on point overall.

6.5 - 13.1
Miles 6 through 10 were more of the same -- stomach distress and hanging with the pacer. Just passed mile eight they had huge tables of Roctane and I grabbed a handful. Despite my stomach distress, I managed to empty my handheld (20 oz) and refill. Finally, at about mile 9, my stomach started feeling better. The pacer pulled over to the side of the road for water and a small pack of runners kept going. The course was heading downhill and I felt good. I knew I was going too fast, but found it hard to stop. This pattern of ignoring what I knew was wrong continued to the half way point where I came in with a 1:36:15 split -- a minute plus half PR. I wasn't too worried about the pace because it was only a minute faster than anticipated and I wanted a small cushion for a fade. Just before the halfway point I took my second Roctane of the night.

This concluded our loopy tour through West Las Vegas. Now we got to run to the strip for the real excitement.

13.1 - 20
This section did me in. The runners came under the Mandalay Bay hotel and through a huge crowd -- awesome. And then we merged with the half marathon runners. The half marathon runners started an hour and a half after the full marathon runners so they could run the second half of the race along the strip at night. However, they had timed it such that half marathoners were about 10 corrals released by the time I got to the merge. Having just run a 1:36 half, I got merged with runners going at less than a 9 minute pace. I was pissed and I started running angry. The half marathoners were disrespectful of their lanes on the course and water stations were a free for all. I just kept running fast, attempting to break out of the congestion of 33,200 half marathoners.

By mile 16 my quads were burning and I knew I was burning up glycogen too quickly. But the damage had been done. I had few options other than to slow a bit and hope for the best. It was made more difficult because the lanes they set up for half and full marathoners maintained through corners. This meant that sometimes you ran the turn wide and sometimes narrow, depending on the direction the turn. It was impossible to run true tangents without changing lanes. Bikers were riding along the cones between the lanes urging half marathoners to stay in their lane. Marathoners were screaming and elbowing half marathoners. It was total chaos. I took another Roctane about mile 19. The water station I stopped at was out of Cytomax, so I got water.

I finished this section already fading. I slowed down during mile 19 (7:24 compared to sub-7:20 average pace to this point). I managed two more decent miles for miles 21 and 22 (7:11 and 7:40).

22 - 26
By mile 22 I was in damage control mode. I knew that 3:15 was a long shot, but I still had several minutes of cushion. Each mile was slower than the last. I was beginning to cramp and stopped briefly in the 23rd mile to massage my right hamstring. Fortunately, I found the proper angle and determined it hurt less to run than continue standing. I was fighting mentally to just keep running even though every muscle in my body wanted to stop. My quads hurt and both feet had multiple hotspots -- worse than anything my feet had ever felt. I took one last hailmary Roctane at mile 25. As Jon had warned, I had burned up all my glycogen and was running on pure fumes at this point. Altitude (oxygen) was not the limiting factor, energy was and I had spent it all.  Here I was running down Las Vegas Boulevard under the lights and I'll could think was, "Please Lord let this end soon".

And then the final kick to the head came at 25.5 miles on the Garmin (little more than 25 miles into the race) when the 3:15 pacer finally passed me. I tried to keep up with him for about .15 miles and just couldn't do it. I doubt he finished in 3:15 considering he passed me so late. When I made the final turn into the festivities area, I ran as fast as could. Final time 3:19:24. A 15 minute PR. I officially finished 177th out of 3787 overall, 163 out of 2398 in men, and 32 out of 481 in my age group.

Post race
After the race, I stumbled toward gear check as I drank about 40 ounces of fluid and ate energy bars, pretzels, and a bagel. I was dehydrated and having GI distress. Once I got my gear bag and put on dry clothes I began to walk back to find my sister at our designated meeting area. My hands were shaking terribly while I attempted to use my phone to text Jon and call my family. I was very, very cold. About 60 minutes after the race I had recovered and felt much better. We made the drive back to St. George and got home around midnight.

Here is a little clip from Top Gun sums up how I went about my race strategy -- so close yet so far:

A bit about the course and RnR experience
This was the second largest event I have done -- second only to the Bolder Boulder. It was a total disaster in my opinion. In particular, the merge between the half and full marathon was poorly thought out and even more poorly executed. The corrals were not enforced and runners of all different ability were all over the second half of the course. Water stations were littered in cups and excess water. And it was a RnR event, which meant poor course design, flyovers across highways, many u-turns around random cones in lonely streets. Worse yet, less than half of the course was on the strip and that was supposed to be the main attraction. The one upside was that the crowd support was pretty darn good, especially in the second half of the race.  Given these challenges, I think 3:15 was a reasonable goal had I been smart and followed my pacer until the last few miles. There was little chance of a better time. After poor experiences at Las Vegas and Denver, I don't think I will do another RnR event as a goal race.

** UPDATE ** The Las Vegas RnR Facebook page is getting crushed.  They have acknowledged the following issues:
  • Crowding at the start line and finish line (some people could not get into their corrals)
  • Mandalay Bay post race (the hotel was overwhelmed with people at gear check)
  • The merge of the marathon and half (total disaster, enough said)
  • Difficulty distributing participant amenities (not enough gear bags, shirts, medals, or post-race food)
  • Aid stations along the course (ran out of water and Cytomax)
There are also reports of runners being given non-potable water and getting sick afterwards.

Here is an image that captures what the "merge" looked like.  The red arrow points to about the spot where marathoners were turning the corner and being met with a wall of half marathoners.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your race report. I enjoyed reading it. A huge PR for you. Crappy race org though. I have no doubt you have another 15 min PR in your future. Keep up the hard work!