So much to update! First up - Las Vegas Half Marathon...
Slept at Dayle and Kevin's house the night before we left so that Kevin could take us to the airport at 4:30AM (thanks Kevin). We got to sit together on the plane, I, of course, passed out halfway through watching Swingers (Baby, you're so money!). We landed in Dallas and had to split up while she went straight to Vegas and I flew to LA - thank you credit card points for the cheap, yet inconvenient flight itinerary.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, she was waiting for me in Vegas and we made our way to New York, New York. The room was great, we spent a second being girls and making a mess of our clothes in the hotel room. Carrie arrived and we headed over to the expo to pick up our packets. The expo was decent, sampled lots of food and drinks (I am in love with the berry Powerbar wafers). There was a promotion to "Run with Meb" if you were in the 1:45 pace group - I know that I'm faster than that at this point, but a chance to run with Meb is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
After the expo, we walked a couple of miles over to Caesar's Palace for the buffet. It was a 90 minute wait, so we wandered around the Forum shops, tried on outrageous accessories, and got our make-up done at Dior. We ended up nearly running away from the shops to make it to our reservation. OH. MY. GOD. It was amazing. Crab legs, sushi, cheese, gourmet pizza, crab legs, dumplings of all kinds, oysters, shrimp, did I mention the crab legs? I'm not dessert person per say... but they had large mochi, summer shandy ice cream, creme brûlée, and flan. It was all phenomenal. I was so uncomfortably full after 5 plates of food, but we walked back to NYNY, enjoying the lights and people, and went to bed fairly early.
The next morning I woke up early, as usual. I let the girls sleep while I watched youtube videos of interviews from Kona and caught up on magazines (how I acquired so many magazine subscriptions I don't know, but I really enjoy them). We had breakfast downstairs at a little cafe - it was hard to plan out food for the day, knowing the race was beginning at 4:30PM. I had a bagel with cream cheese and lox that was perfect. We wandered back up the strip to find a Walgreens so we could stock up on goodies, checking out the M&M factory and Hershey's factory along the way. Sensing a bit of a theme here? The day was gorgeous, mid 50's, little breezy. We hung out in the room for awhile, got dressed in our matching shirts (though we wouldn't be running together), and headed down by Mandalay Bay for the pre-race concert by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - AMAZING. I was a bit jealous of the beer drinking all around... but I really wanted to see Meb and try for a PR (despite odd race conditions).
There were 60+ corrals... I was in 3. The girls and I split up around corral 20 and I headed up to the start line. I found the 1:45 pace group sign in corral 6 and cut in. I could see people looking around, same as I was - where was Meb? Race started, the first corral took off and I ended next to a man similarly dressed as QuailMan from Doug... underwear and a cape. At this point it was about 40ish degrees and QuailMan looked pretty chilly so I sneakily took a picture and he caught me and we had a laugh together.
We approached the start line... and out came Meb with his posse. I ended up directly behind him, snapping a variety of completely blurry pictures throughout the first mile. Of course my watch wasn't finding the satellite, so for the first 2 miles or so, it didn't track mileage... I turned it off and started the watch when I heard all the beeping around me (I saw ZERO mile markers the entire race) - thank you GPS watches on strangers!
I was annoyed with the watch, but running behind Meb was too cool. He was chatting with people around him, other runners would fly up and chat for a second, only to fall back behind the group, or we'd catch up to people and they would realize who he was and they'd freak out. It was pretty awesome. I felt like we were running an easy pace, my watch was reading 7:45-7:50 minute miles - but I honestly couldn't believe how easy it felt. Seeing the lights on the strip and running down Las Vegas Blvd was really very cool. I was surprised how few spectators knew who Meb was - we didn't get a lot of cheering as we ran past, but I suppose the running community may be smaller than I realized.
I ended up chatting with one of the guys that was with Meb. I asked how he got the gig, we chatted about our hometowns and road races and tris. Nearing mile 9, I finally got the guts to talk to Meb - once in a life time opportunity right? I told him congratulations on Boston and asked him to give my brother a shout-out on video - once in a lifetime indeed!
After hitting end on the video, I decided to smoke Meb and take off! 3-4 miles to go, I could totally PR. I ran away from the group, putting distance between myself and the 1:45ers. With the watch being off, I wasn't quite sure on the time, but I tried to enjoy the last few miles going south on the strip and taking it all in. Ran through the finish line and figured I was right around 1:43 something. PR yes, but with how fresh I felt, a little disappointed I didn't go much faster. My legs weren't sore, I wasn't breathing hard, but I got COLD very quickly. Dayle had passed me as I was near the finish line, I estimated I was about an hour ahead of her and I grabbed a foil blanket, chocolate milk and settled in for the long haul. Eventually, I was too unhappy with the cold and shivering so I grabbed some free beers, flashed the man a smile, and he gave me a cardboard case of beer to carry my goodies in, full of more beer. Thanks man.
I race-walked back to the hotel, chatted with my family and Mark and waited for the girls to arrive. The hot shower was simply divine. We got fancied up and walked over to Haakasan - a perk of running the race - for the free happy hour. We took full advantage of the hour and ended up chatting with a couple of very interesting men. I met Clay Treska (google him, he's incredibly inspiring and a super nice guy) and we all ended up having a lovely night. We grabbed food after leaving the place (because lets be honest, I need to eat all the time) and the fish and chips at 5AM really hit the spot. You never know who you'll run into... I was quite touched by Clay's story - really amazing.
The next morning, the girls and I woke up and headed out to hike with Dayle's friend from OTS (vet frat). He took us about 30-45 min away from the strip and the views were GORGEOUS. We spent a couple hours hiking to a little waterfall (okay, trickle of water), but it was simply beautiful and peaceful and a version of Vegas that I enjoyed so much more than the stereotypical casinos and tourist attractions. Surprisingly, I wasn't really sore - a testament to the training of the past year.
We ate, returned to NYNY and proceeded to nap. We had big plans to check out the Mirage, the fountains, and - by my request - the Sprinkles cupcake shop - but we were exhausted from the race, the late night, and the hike that we were all okay with relaxing and watching movies until bedtime.
The return trip was fairly uneventful, other than almost missing the connecting flight to Champaign. We got in 20-30 minutes late, race walked to our gate and were met with a pretty serious attitude from the gate attendant. "Where WERE you guys! I've been paging you and holding the plane for you!" ... Ma'am, really? Did you see that our flight was late? We came in through a K gate and had to get to G - they are definitely NOT close together. After apologizing for not parachuting out of the plane (okay, I only said that in my head...), we made it through the 40 minute flight home and Kevin picked us up and drove me home.
I later looked up my time, 1:42:55 - PR by a minute and a half. Quite pleased with that, but I know I can do a 1:40 eventually. Always looking toward the next race... I'm really happy with my fitness level at this point, it gives me hope that qualifying for Kona is a possibility next year. Who knew that the kid that joined high school track to talk to boys would actually become something of a runner?
Until next time Vegas...