(DISCLAIMER: This is the longest blog post I have EVER WRITTEN. It is an epic of a race recap. Feel free to scroll or skip)
This has been an amazing experience. An amazing, amazing, wonderful, incredible, challenging, painful and beautiful experience. I am never going to forget it. But just in case, I’m going to put down every single detail here. I hope you like lots of obsessive detail as well as a lot of pictures, because that’s what you’re going to get! See slideshow (scroll to end) for a trip through Foodie’s race weekend. Be aware that the slide show seems to have randomized my pictures so they are NOT in chronological order but hopefully you will recognize the images from the recap.
Where do I begin? I guess I begin on Friday night when I arrived here alone. I was all chompy at the bit so I went over the race Expo. WOW what a scene. It was very exciting. I checked-in and got my race number. The Brooks people had this giant area with prizes and a carnival atmosphere and stuff. They had a giant painted bus and a place where you could run on a treadmill and they took video of your feet running in slow-mo. That was pretty cool. I also won a bumper sticker and a hat.
I was a little sad but also a little relieved to be all alone in our giant 3-bedroom suite (which I had booked in July, thinking it was going to be Party Central, but alas, many people had to cancel). I was exhausted and I crashed very early Friday night.
I visited the Expo three times because frankly, I was kind of obsessed with my feet and ankles and determined to find whatever support I could to assure that I was going to finish this race in the best shape possible. I was worried. I’d had a good ten-mile run a week ago, but since then I was plagued by right ankle and heel pain. I was kind of freaked out.
So at the Expo I had my feet and ankles taped at the KTT booth, I bought an ankle wrap support doohickie, bought a pair of compression socks from Zensah and if they had had a shamanic healer booth, I would have gone there too. I also bought a pair of those rocker-bottom sneakers because they were 50% off (I am such a sucker for deals!). I don’t believe any of the hoo-hah that claims they make you lose weight or get buns of steel, but I think it’s probably worthwhile to change up your gait and posture. My cousin-in-law was wearing them for Thanksgiving and he swore by them and said they are great. So I got a pair. I also got a foam roller kit with a killer little roller, a foam block and a hard foam ball.
I met up with Brandon (aka @AHealthyDad) and @fitmacdaddy at the Expo and we took a fun photo at the faux finish line. It was great to meet some other healthy Tweeters!
Julianne (aka @pubsgal) and Junior arrived on Saturday afternoon and we went through the Expo one more time. We especially had a hoot going through all the Tshirts at One More Mile (I didn’t buy any). I did get some new sporty don’t-fall-out earbuds (more on those later).
After shopping-till-dropping, we went back to the hotel and got ready for dinner and our show night. Ended up at a fancy-shmancy place called Yellowtail where they served, of all things, crab sushi with POP ROCKS (yes, the CANDY) in it. It was like a weird episode of Top Chef. Did it “work?” Um, not really. But now we can say we’ve eaten sushi with candy in it. For the first and last time. See photo of @pubsgal’s facial response.
After dinner we went to see Cirque du Soleil’s “O” show. It was breathtaking and awesome and beautiful and dazzling and melancholy and just a wonderful experience. That afternoon, Dr. Mo had counseled me (among other things) to see something “physically inspiring” (she mentioned YouTube videos) and this certainly fit the bill.
We went home and I set up my pre-race pile o’stuff, put my race chip on my shoe, fastened my number to my waist belt, packed my little pack with money, Gu Chomps, etc.
I set my alarm for 5:00am but ended up waking at 3:45. I think this is pretty common. I debated going back to sleep for another hour but I was so wired I didn’t think it was going to happen. So I got up, stretched, had coffee and bagel with peanut butter.
Since the Strip was closed for the marathon, it was a bit of a nervewracking debacle getting down to the start line. (especially since I noted on Twitter that various people were heading over there starting at 4am when I woke up!!) Our plan was to leave our hotel at 6 to arrive there (4 miles away) well before 7:00am. But the hotel staff seemed rather perplexed by the whole thing and said they were having a hell of a time getting taxis to come around “the back way.” There were lots of people waiting around and no taxis. They recommended taking the Monorail, but that meant walking a few blocks from our hotel and then walking another MILE AND A HALF to the start line. I was not really interested in adding another 1.5-2 miles to our race distance, so we were holding out pretty much for a taxi.
We walked to a hotel across the street since one of our taxi drivers the night before had told us they would have taxis at their back entrance. We trudged through the casino and there were NO taxis to be seen. Anxiety increased. I kept bugging the valet guy who insisted he was putting out multiple calls and after what seemed like FOREVER, a taxi showed up. It was one of the jankiest taxis I have ever ridden in, but we did not care. It got us there.
Arrived to find thousands of people streaming toward the starting corrals. They had a “wave” start with people lined up in corrals based on estimated pace time. I was in one of the last ones. But what I did not realize is that the “gear bag check” area was not anywhere near the corrals, and I was in a bit of a panic that I was going to miss the start. By this time it was about 6:55. I needn’t have worried.
Finally found the gear check area, which was actually awesomely organized. I had packed a giant plastic bag (supplied by the race people) with warm dry clothes, an extra jacket, socks, etc. Then I rushed (I mean RAN) over to my corral. And then proceeded to stand there for like half an hour. I could tell by Tweets that Sue O (aka @mrsfatass) was in my same corral and I really wanted to meet her! But she was packed into the center of the corral like a sardine, and I was kind of claustrophic so I stayed outside the corral “fence” until the herd began moving forward.
FINALLY we started moving toward the start line which was way, way, way off. The anticipation was both killing and exciting. We kept seeing clumps of people hear the “GO!” signal ahead of us, and then we would trudge ahead a few more feet. This was a big adrenaline moment.
Then it was our turn. I was only about 3 people away from the actual start rope and the feeling at that spot was amazing. Then the 3…2…1… GO! And we were off.
I had a hard time “finding my feet” at first, trying to figure out what pace to go. I knew I wanted to walk but I was so tempted to run and I did run a very short distance before realizing that was a bad idea. I also used the first mile to figure out my electronic situation. I had an iPod shuffle which I had meticulously loaded with great music the night before. My plan was to use the Shuffle for my music, and to save my iPhone for occasional tweeting and to text Junior and possibly Mr. McBody during the race, but we had signed up for this service that gave pace and distance updates via texting during the race, so I figured he’d be updated.
Well. First problem I discovered that the NEW EARBUDS I had purchased at the Expo did NOT WORK with my Shuffle! It did not have the little volume and song-choice control button thing on it. It had a microphone, and I could swear the sales person told me or maybe I assumed, but I had NO control over the volume (it was so low I could barely hear it) and worse, I had no choice over what song I was listening to. It was NOT set to my Running playlist. AGHHH.
Music is one of the lifesavers of my running experience. It is super, super important to me and can make or break a race for me. So I immediately felt panicky about losing my best music. I had a choice: I could randomly listen to whatever the Shuffle turned up, or I could put the earbuds into my iPhone and access my playlist. But this would also suck up the battery life and then I might not be able to use the phone for actual communication.
For the first part of the race I just went with the Shuffle. I was amused that certain songs that I’d never consider “running songs” actually worked. Including “By My Side” from the Godspell soundtrack (ßnostalgia for high school era musicals).
Where are you going? Where are you going? Can you take me with you? I’ve got a pebble in my shoe. And watch me walk. I can walk, I can walllllllllllkkkkkkk…. (swelling chorus)
That kept me going for a while.
As we went down the strip I realized I had not seen any mile 1 marker. I don’t know if they didn’t have one, or I missed it because I was messing with my music. But I was really unhappy during the first 2 miles. My left arch was aching, I just wasn’t feeling GOOD, and I thought, holy mackerel, if this is the first mile, I am dead.
We passed the Mile 2 marker after what seemed like an eternity, and then I perked up because I realized I’d just finished 2/3 of a 5k. At that point I had still been seeking out the Mile ONE marker and I was beginning to freak out. But when I realized I’d gotten to Mile 2, I felt immediately better. I knew that in 1.1 mile I’d be at the first 5k.
I texted Mr. McBody to see if he was getting updates on Junior, who I knew was way ahead of me. He said he’d gotten nothing. Hmm. As it turned out the whole “auto-update” thing had technical problems and issued an apology and refund promise at the end of the day.
Texting him made me realize how much I needed that support. I began sending some updates to Twitter and it made me feel sooooo good to receive encouraging “Go Foodie!” tweets in response. It was HUGE.
Okay, so a little about the course. Basically it was my understanding (I did not study the map in huge detail and I thought I understood it) that we would run up the Strip past this giant landmark called the Stratosphere, then go a little ways past it, then turn around and come back down the Strip. So for the first part I was just focused on getting past the Stratosphere. I sort of thought of it as my halfway-ish point.
This is where the mental part of running comes in. What happened is that we passed the Stratosphere. Yay! Then a few blocks ahead I saw a bunch of runners going perpendicular on a cross street, and I thought, oh, just a couple blocks, then we’re going to turn left and come back down! WRONG. What happened is that we passed the Stratosphere and then went through this freaking long MAZE of streets, I mean it felt that Harry Potter maze of death. Within this maze we passed the 6 and 7 mile markers, the 10K etc. But it seemed to take FOREVER to get to that place of turning around and heading back down the strip.
In reality it was like this: 1/3 up the strip, 1/3 wandering around a horrible maze of downtown Las Vegas, including decrepit awful depressing liquor stores, strip bars, tacky Wedding Chapels (not the cute tacky kind, the truly bleak kind) $25-a-room crack dealer hotels, and just AGHHH, and then 1/3 down the strip. This was kind of horrific. Race planners, I think I would have preferred that 1/3 wandering around in a desert or a subdivision or the AIRPORT then that particular plot of geography. But whatever.
We emerged from the Maze and once again faced South. My first impression was, there’s the Stratosphere again. And OMG it is SO FAR AWAY. At this point I was completely disgusted with the volume and choice of musical offerings on my Shuffle so I switched to my iPhone. This again perked me up immediately and I am sure I really sped up here. I was about at mile 9 and feeling pretty good. I passed the 15k and then Mr. McBody texted me that Junior had just finished, at 2 hours 24 minutes. I was so excited for her and feeling good.
I passed ten miles. At that point I knew I was getting into territory I’d never been before: running more than 10 miles. I told myself I had just one more 5k to go, one more lap around my beloved Lake Merritt.
It started getting really hard. My left arch, which had been aching virtually since mile 1, started feeling actual intense PAIN. I did not know what to do. My right ankle, which has plagued me since the dawn of time, was miraculously feeling good. The rest of me felt pretty good – no hip or knee pain. But my left foot! (hey, wasn’t that a movie? ;-)) was suddenly KILLING. I tweeted plaintively, “11 miles oh Jesus.” I wasn’t quite sure what I meant by that, but it was an SOS of sorts. It was like… I am not sure I can do this. It was my Faltering Point.
At that moment I can say, thank God for Twitter because the encouraging messages started popping up on my phone. I cranked up the best music I could find, watching my battery level sink lower and lower. I had to pull out all the guns. Then it occurred to me that maybe I had given my left foot TOO MUCH support (is there such a thing?) by wrapping it in that ankle wrap. I had done that prophylactically, to keep from injuring it, but something was killing my arch. So I pulled over to the side and undid the Velcro straps. I contemplated taking it off completely but I did not want to stop for too long because I knew it would make me start feeling weak and sick. So I just undid them and let the flop about. I think it may have helped me a little bit. It helped me psychologically.
Miles 11-13 were hard. They were damn freaking hard. I’d say the first two miles and the last two miles of this race were the worst ones for me emotionally. I stopped tweeting and texting and just put on my determined face and powered through the best I could. Junior came up to meet me about ½ mile out and gave me an encouraging rub on the shoulder and a “Go mama!” I kept going.
Damn that last tenth of a mile! When I saw the 13 mile sign I was SO READY to be done. But we had a final tenth to go and it was, I swear, mildly UPHILL – the only hill in the entire race. I was so not in the mood for a hill of even one degree grade at that point. The end of the race was kind of confusing because there was a half-marathon finish line, a marathon finish line and a big puffy arch thing. I wasn’t sure which point was the actual stopping point. I kept running even through the finish line because the puffy arch was still a ways a way and then I asked the people, “Am I done?”
When they said, “Yup, all finished!” I just burst into tears. I cried and cried. It was so emotional. It was a big moment. Then I went to get my gear and find Junior and Julianna and listen to a few minutes of Bret Michaels (his music is Not My Thing but I like him bc he’s now a diabetes advocate). One of the COOLEST thing they had at the Post-Race Village was this tent with big cushy benches and giant TUBS OF ICE where you could go soak your throbbing feet. I took huge advantage of this. They provided big thick plastic knee-high bags to put over your socks and when I put my feet in that tub… Ahhhhhh. Nothing had ever felt so good. It was just… ahhhhhhh.
Getting back to the hotel after the race proved to be… challenging. The taxi line at Mandalay Bay was INSANE so we decided to take the Monorail. Let me just say that this was not easy and it added a good 2-3 miles of walking to our race. Not a happy thing. We were hurting and tired and at this point I started feeling all the familiar gastrointestinal symptoms of running a long race. (I will not give TMI, but let me say I was not feeling very good)
It took us over an hour and a half to traverse the 4 miles to our hotel. (which we had already passed twice during the race) Got there, showered and then Junior and I went down to the hotel spa for our post-race massage that I’d scheduled earlier. I was so zonked at this point that I just said, “My feet hurt. Please rub them,” and then I passed out on the table. I think it felt good. But when I stood up my feet STILL hurt, so she did not manage to perform any miracles.
Then we went to the room to nap for a bit then headed over to Serendipity3 at Caesar’s Palace. I am a lifelong fan of Serendipity3 in New York City and I never pass up a chance to get a Frozen Hot Chocolate. We enjoyed an amazingly delicious dinner of Kobe Beef Sliders (adorable and delicious), sweet potato fries, Summer Bries (turkey apple and brie sandwich) crab cake salad (@pubsgal) and a foot-long hotdog (Junior). It was a perfect post-race meal. Then we sent Junior off to the airport and Julianna and I came back to the hotel. And CRASHED HARD.
I was so happy to wake up this morning with only very minor aches and pains (I’ve had worse pain after sessions with my trainer) and an extreeeeeeeeemely swollen face. My lips were gigantic. That’s from all the hydrating! But after some coffee and resuming my blood pressure meds and a lot of water and trips to the bathroom, I am balancing out. I got on the airplane and came home. The end!
- I learned a lot during this race. I think even though it had its Very Difficult Moments, it was one of my favorite races of all time. I learned:
- I can pretty much run a half marathon. I think I walked a total of 2 (maximum) out of the 13.1 miles. Just knowing that is just an amazing feeling and it gets me all choked up just thinking about it. For most of the time leading up to this race I did not intend to run ANY of it, but something caught ahold of me just in the last month and I ended up shocking myself.
- I’m getting the hang of this hydration thing. Drinking sports drinks instead of (or in addition to) water has made a HUGE HUGE difference in how I feel. Ditto on the nutrition. I had about 2/3 bag of Gu Chomps plus about ½ pack of regular Gu during the race and I think that was about right. This was the FIRST LONG RACE I’ve done in which I did not experience frightening numb/tingling hands, shortness of breath, dizziness or otherwise feeling like total death. So GO ME for figuring this out.
- My final time was 3:09 so now I have a new goal of sub-three hours. Which is pretty modest but also I think quite attainable. And yes I am thinking of the Next One!! I do not think I want to go to full marathon level, but we shall see. I want to get better at doing halves.
- My final race pace average was 14:26 minute mile, or 4.16mph. When I saw those stats I got very teary because my goal was 15 minute mile and I really did better than that. This is shocking to me because it means even though I walked a bit at probably 18-min pace, it means when I was running I was running quite a bit faster than 14:26 at some points. That’s like… wow.
- I need to NOT TRY NEW STUFF on race day. Like wearing an ankle support thing just for the heck of it. Or trying new electronics. Those things both hindered me big time. On the other time, my new compression socks worked out just fine and I think the KTT taping was also a good thing.
It felt good. It felt soo gooooooood. To do something I really really did not think was possible. It’s such a mental thing! I cried (yeah I’m doing a lot of crying!) when I saw what Mr. McBody posted on my Facebook page (something he RARELY DOES):
- Overcoming adversity and numerous obstacles. 2. Overturning lifelong limiting beliefs. This required great bravery and internal fortitude. It’s a beautiful thing. Susan is my hero.
Overturning lifelong limiting beliefs! And boy, does he know this. He remembers when he’d try to coax me on a one-mile run and I couldn’t/wouldn’t do it. He remembers when I’d go YEARS without exercise and was 40 lbs overweight.
I think he pretty much summed up why I feel so damn good about this weekend. How’s THAT for a Moby Dick of a race recap??