December 08, 2009
A week priorâ€¦
I lined up with Kate and Lindsay at the start of the Seattle Half Marathon. Less than 2 miles later, my knee had collapsed under me due to ITBS, and I couldnâ€™t finish. Ouch.
Fast forward one weekâ€¦
Two trips to an Active Release therapist and one heavy duty knee taping later, and Iâ€™m lined up at the start of the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon, attempting my first 26.2 miler ever. Iâ€™m cautiously optimistic â€“ my knee hurts a fair amount but hasnâ€™t collapsed under me since I taped it up. Kinesiology Tape is the nuts.
And weâ€™re off.
It takes less than a mile to realize the pain is going to be severe, but manageable (or so I hope). We start out at a much slower pace than our previous training runs because of the sheer number of people at the start (28,000 people entered the race). Nevertheless, weâ€™re making decent time, all things considered, and are having a great time. Running the strip is awesome.
The marathon course takes you from the Mandalay Bay down toward the â€œWelcome to Las Vegasâ€ sign, then loops back downtown, past the Stratosphere, looping one last time near the Premium Outlet Mall on Charleston. At mile 3.3 we pass by the Paris and a large group of people split off to get married on their run. I love Vegas.
Overall, the first few miles are pretty uneventful. Itâ€™s COLD out â€” 36 degrees â€” so spectators arenâ€™t lined up as much as Iâ€™ve seen at other races. Guys hand out beer near the â€œLast Neighborhood Bar in Las Vegas,â€ shouting â€œitâ€™s not Gatorade!â€ Iâ€™m tempted, but decline. Weâ€™ve still got a long way to go.
After looping back around, we come back to the Fashion Mall. Marathoners take a right turn and head out toward Somerlin; half marathoners run back toward the Mandalay Bay to complete their journey. We take the right turn and jog past Nordstroms. Suddenly, the streets are wide open â€” of the 28,000 people running, Iâ€™d guess that well over 20k were running the half. As much fun as it is running with tons of people, itâ€™s nice to be able to run without dodging around people left and right. Weâ€™ve completed a little over 10 miles at this point, and Iâ€™m feeling more confident that no matter what, Iâ€™ll finish this race. The knee is around a 6/10 on the pain scale, but I figure Iâ€™ll take some painkillers past the 13mi mark and that should be enough to get me through.
From mile 10 to the halfway mark, things are really uneventful. At some point, we notice a guy running along with us: our paces seem to mesh really well. After a couple of slowdowns for water, Kate, Lindsay and I start chatting with him, sharing how we got into running, which races are next, and of course that this is my first. We never really declare it, but itâ€™s pretty clear that weâ€™re going to run together for a while.
The Vegas course is a great one â€” extraordinarily flat â€” but it makes me realize exactly how boring most of Las Vegas is. We pass one strip mall or housing development after another, keeping in step with our new friend Russ and picking up the pace gradually as we move along. We loop through a few neighborhoods, and around mile 20, turn around for a straight shot back to the Luxor. Itâ€™s at this point that we realize that while it felt flat on the way out, weâ€™ve been climbing a very gradual hill. And now weâ€™re on the downhill. I start entertaining notions of finishing strong, rather than just finishing. Our split (our time for the first half) on the way out was 2:20, which is a lot slower than our average, but expected given the condition of my knee. We start cruising on the way back, knocking off faster miles each step of the way â€“ 9:45, 9:30, 9:20, getting faster the closer we get back to the strip. By mile 23, we can see the Luxor looming in the distance, and the four of us silently agree to pick it up. We kick it into gear, finishing the stretch from mile 25 to 26 in 7:59.
The finish line is just around the corner, and the four of us are giving it everything we have, when Russâ€™ leg cramps up. He shouts at us to run ahead and finish strong, but thereâ€™s no chance of that. When Kate, Lindsay, and I talked about our goals for this race, we decided that our goal was to finish with our friends. Even though we just met him a handful of miles ago, Russ is one of us now, and weâ€™re finishing together, even if that means walking it out. Kate gives him some suggestions for stretches and after stretching for a minute or two, we start walking toward the finish line.
With just a bit left to go, Russ tests his leg out, and we switch from a walk to a shuffle, and back to a jog. Eventually we round the corner and see the finish line â€“ and Lindsay and Russ switch from a jog to a sprint. Kate and I follow suit. We cross in 4:32:40, shaving nearly 8 minutes off of our first half.
Itâ€™s tough to make it out clearly, but you can see the four of us crossing by clicking this link. From the left, youâ€™ll see Lindsay in Green, Russ in the Orange Hat, me in the white hat + beard lifting my arms, and Kate in the yellow.
Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll remember more details later as some of the other memories fade, but I wanted to get this memorialized here before I forgot anything. It definitely wonâ€™t be the last marathon that the four of us run together, though Iâ€™m hoping for a less injurious path to the race next time around. Once we get photos and videos, Iâ€™ll be sure to post them, but until thenâ€¦