We arrived in Las Vegas a week before the marathon. We executed the strategy exactly as planned: a day trip to the Grand Canyon, some shopping (ok, a ton of shopping, inevitable when you arrive the week following Thanksgiving), and some casino/hotel sightseeing with a minimum of indulgence in food and drink. Importantly, I managed to sync somewhat with the three hour time difference between Toronto and Las Vegas, helpful for being prepared on marathon day.
However, it was tough to be cautious on the walking when there is so much to see and do and so much shopping to be done. So every night my feet were sore, and I was a bit fearful that the marathon would be a bit shaky (even disastrous) as a result. However, I kept focusing on the positive factors, such as the fact that my weight felt perfect, my muscles were absolutely fine apart from the fatigue, and my cardio fitness seemed fine. My training runs in Vegas were fast and effortless. By the way, training runs in a new town are an amazing way to recon the vicinity and were an immense help in finding great spots to check out, routes to drive, access to hotels, etc.
Our resort space had a kitchen, laundry, etc., so we could cook most of our meals and thus avoid any of the gastronomic risks associated with travel pre-marathon. We soon felt completely at home and I was really psyched about the upcoming marathon. I think the fact that there were so many distractions really helped me stay loose and relaxed leading up to the race.
The expo was incredible. Every aspect of this event, from the sizes of various spaces to the placement of booths was very well done. The fact that I won a pair of Brooks Glycerin 8's sure didn't hurt. The little cafeteria area right in the middle of the expo was an excellent idea that I haven't seen in an expo before, and addresses the fact that many people rush through expos simply because they need to go somewhere to eat.
The following day, Saturday, the day before the marathon, I decided to run the local Vegas Santa Run. It was gloriously chaotic, hilariously variant in the shapes and sizes, ages and fitness levels of the participants. I think we raised a shitload of money for some local charity, so that was good. There was good grub and fun entertainment at the end, so if that 5 kilometres affected the outcome of my marathon... so be it.
The morning of the marathon was a bit chilly, pretty much as expected though, and eventually the temperature rose to the high teens Celsius. Yes, a perfect day to run a marathon. Parking around the start area would be tricky if we chose to drive down, coupled with the fact that I intended to take advantage of the free beer at the finish line, so we walked down. We walked all of the four plus kilometres. That was going to hurt on the return trip, but the beer would ease the pain.
The start time of 7 am meant that the sun was just above the horizon when the race started. I was in corral 14, and there was a little over a minute wait time between the corral releases so I crossed the start line almost 15 minutes after the race began. The race was far less crowded than 30,000 runners and relatively narrow streets would indicate in most runs, so the staggered start certainly helped.
Most of the bands on the route were excellent. the Blues Brothers types at the start were really cool, the Led Zeppelin guys further down the strip gave me goosebumps, and the Jimi Hendrix guy was a real energy boost as well. And yes, Bret Michaels and his band rocked the finish area at the end like only true pros can do. There were so many Elvi running that I don't think they could find a spare to perform.
The course itself was quite flat. Running up the strip, which I had cruised in our rented Mustang convertible all week, was really cool. One of my only regrets is that I didn't take the glass of beer offered by a bum about half an hour into the run since that would have made a great story. I hope someone took him up on it. The guys in the fake leather jackets, hair greased back, holding beers outside a seedy downtown bar at 8 am were another memorable sight. When the course veered off into Nevadan suburbia, the view changed dramatically with a greater emphasis on the surrounding mountains. Quite a bit of back-and-forth criss cross stuff, but it was all good. Chatted with some fellow runners to pass the time, struck by how many fellow Canadians there were.
I was on a record pace up to around mile 22 when I started to struggle. I felt cold and a bit dizzy, so I took longer walks at the water stations just to ensure I wasn't going to pass out. My shoes were only in their thrid run, having been purchased earlier in the week. They were exactly the same brand and size I always wear, so if anything they were a huge help (Nike Zoom Vomero 5's). I always wear the same socks as well, Nike microfibre things. And again as always I wore the official marathon shirt, which in this case was excellent (some marathons give out shirts with seams and such that cut and chafe). As a result my finish time was 4:21, which is still pretty damned good for me.
Food at the finish area was perfect, the standard stuff which is all I want at that point. Lots of water and carb drink (which I am always thoroughly sick of by the last water station, although I never fail to drink it). The pics taken with the show girl as you exit the finish area were pretty neat, but I felt sorry for the show girls because they must have been nauseous from the smell of all those runners at that point.
Bret Michaels and his band totally rocked at the finish area. I was impressed. The beer was very good. I couldn't believe how everybody was getting right into the concert considering that they were completely wiped out. Even though they waved and yelled and pumped fists, there were very few feet that left the ground in anything resembling jumps. It just goes to show ya.
The after party at Club XS in the Wynn was excellent. The dancing was crazy, the drinks flowed, and everyone was completely wiped out by ten o'clock. Our waitress was amazing. She was a pretty good server, too. We had a riot with the little bit of energy we had left.
So that was marathon number 15 relegated to history. The bling was thick and heavy, very satisfying. My opinion is that every marathoner should run this one. It's as perfectly seamless as every other operation in Vegas and how can you possibly resist that?
Besides, there are at least four In N Out burger locations in town, and if you've never had one you simply have lived an unfulfilled life.