FIT Project Las Vegas Edition Race Date: Dec. 4, 2011
It's been well over a month since this race and I have had time to let my blood pressure settle down (although it will rise as I write this). While the full details of what happened to me may never be disclosed, I will say this. From here on out I have made a commitment to support races that care about the sport of running and their runners vs. greed.
It was another busy week of traveling and I was really tired. Vegas was having cool weather which was funny because people were bundled up when it was 45 degrees. I just came from 7 degrees. Forty-five degrees was downright balmy!
I flew into Vegas Friday evening and was greeted by heavy smoke as soon as I stepped off the plane. Did I say how much Vegas is not my scene? The NFR (National Finals Rodeo) were also in town and there were enough cowboy hats to cover the world three times and still have some left over.
It was 10 p.m. and all I wanted was to crawl up in a corner and sleep. The taxi line was OUTRAGEOUS. There were probably 200-plus people in it and that was a conservative number. There were two ladies behind me and I asked them if they wanted to share a cab. We thought we our destinations were close together, but when we finally got our cab, we were sadly mistaken. They got dropped off first and me second.
While the rest of Vegas was doing their thing, I went to sleep land. The next morning I got a massage. My left hamstring, an old injury, had been bothering me all week and I didn't want to start a marathon with that feeling. After that I found a Whole Foods and had a healthy lunch. Praise the Lord.
On the way back I stopped to be a tourist and took a photo in front of the iconic Las Vegas sign.
Traffic was insane because the NFR as well as the expo. I finally found free street parking (score) and made the hike to the Sands Convention Center. The weather was cold to everyone but me. I was digging the 45 degree temps! The expo was a mob zone. Hundreds of thousands of people all trying to cram into a small space. No exaggeration. After clawing my way in and out, I wandered around the gaudy hotels.
While I am sure the residents of Las Vegas are super nice, the general Vegas scene is not for me. Everything is beyond over the top. People walking around in despair - looking for that winning ticket to make them happy, but it never will. Kids -young kids - being dragged in and out of smokey casinos. Overpriced everything. Sadness, gloom and hopelessness fill the air. My heart yearns for each and everyone of them.
Because it was a few weeks before Christmas, the holiday decorations were in full display.
After doing my walking/sightseeing duties, I headed over to Canyon Ridge for much needed soul food. It had been a rough day (I wish I could say what happened here, but I can't). The service was just what I needed because as soon I was walked out of church I got a horrible phone call. Somehow, despite the news, I was determined to keep the faith. However hard it was.
As I was driving over to friends for the evening, I cried out to God to give me peace, forgiveness and understanding in the midst of the storm.
Sunday arrived and because the race was in the evening (4 p.m. for the marathon) it was strange not to get up early! We went to breakfast, then headed down to the strip and checked in to the hotel.
After checking in, we relaxed, played with the remote controlled blackout/dim/light/day/snack/what-kind-of-mood-are-you-in curtains. Fun. The guys watched football and I took a nap. Then it was time to get ready to run 26.2 miles. Oh what fun (sarcastic) we would have!
The inside drama lasted far too long, but I had a marathon to run and run a marathon I did.
The marathon (about 5K marathon runners) started at 4 p.m. and the half marathon at 5:30 p.m. The course had the full marathoners merging at the 13.1 mile mark as the half marathons (about 40,000 half marathon people*) WERE STARTING.
But back up 13.1 miles. The first half of the race we ran somewhere out in the deserted, dark, rough roads of Las Vegas. The course support was fair, a few people out cheering, but otherwise, desolate. Because I had been hydrating all day, I had to use a bush around mile 11. Thank God I am an ultra gal.
Soon enough, the bright, gaudy lights of the strip were in our sights and we marathoners were about to hit the wall of chaos. Only we didn't know it.
Me and countless others have no earthly clue what possessed the race organizers to have one course merge as the other one was started. Remember the numbers I listed earlier? Having 5,000 marathoners literally run into a wall of 40,000 half marathoners is still beyond me. Unless you were in the very, very top of the marathon, you hit the 40,000 wall. In fact, even the elites were not spared. I have heard horror, upon horror stories. ANYWAY. I ran under two hours and hit the wall of people.
I have never seen a marathon so bad. If you look at my Garmin splits, it looks like I got swallowed by a whale and perhaps we did. The whale being the 40,000 people, mind you. There was NO way on earth to get 40,000 people across the start line. I have no idea what the race director was thinking when they were planning.
As I tried to make sense of everything as I was running, drunk people were in the streets. Throwing clothes runners had left, shouting who-knows-what and running right in front of us. Then some of the 40,000 half marathoners decided that slow walking 5, 8, 10 abreast in costume was a brilliant idea. God help us. So between weaving through drunk people AND some of the 40,000 casual people out for a stroll on the strip, the next 13.1 miles were a fight to the finish. Every. Step. Of. The. Way.
There was no marking for the marathon course vs. the half marathon course. Unless of course, you count the mini orange cones (seriously about five inches tall) that tiny white signs upside down that said "half marathon and marathon." They were a hazard more than anything! Then volunteer cyclists kept weaving in and out of the runners (literally in the middle of the runners) kept shouting: "marathoners right, half marathons left." No one listened. I felt sorry for them. They should not have been put in that position.
So as the marathoners "fought" to find a path to run, the next problem became all too real. Empty water stations. Not kidding. In the middle of a freaking race. Some were out, others abandoned, others handing out the last water cup. I witnessed runners fighting over it. It was pure madness.
Around mile 18, my lower belly began to hurt. Not cramps, almost like throwing up, but burning and pain. I thought I had to pee again so I began to search for a resemblance of a bush in the dark. I found one and then my sinking suspicion hit. A UTI. During a f*cking marathon. You've got to be kidding me. If you are a woman, you know how painful a UTI can be. And I still had eight miles to not only run, but try to find H2O, a path to run on and half marathoners to navigate. Color me livid.
As the miles wore on, the pain stayed and the general chaos did too. The marathoners tried to tell the half marathoners to stay left so we could run, but it did no good. Vegas was a very painful race.
Finally the end was in sight. I crossed the finish line in 4:29. The cutoff apparently didn't matter, because I was not the last one to finish. There were full and half runners crossing the finish line HOURS later.
You would think that the finish line would be home free with problems, but we were wrong. As everyone finished, we were suddenly jammed into hundreds of other sweaty runners trying to get a space blanket. It was dark, cold, windy and light rain had started to fall. It was utter chaos. People shoving each other, trying to claw their way out of the cramped, dark, cold parking lot space.
I never did see food. I was one of the lucky ones who got a water. After retrieving my bag from a friend I had to hike back to the hotel. In the rain. In the dark. Still in pain. Not complaining, just stating the facts of the evening. People were still finishing as I was walking back. It took an hour to get back to the hotel. Between the mobs of people to trying to navigate the stairs (up and down after running a marathon is a lot of fun), I finally collapsed into the hotel room. The guys were already back and we exchanged war stories. It was already 10:30 p.m. and not only was I exhausted, but I was still in pain. I got a quick shower and then we went to try to find something to eat.
You would think that Vegas would be open at 11 p.m., but finding food was like a needle in the haystack. The lines and wait time were insane. Although I was hungry, finding a CVS was more important. Thank God they were open 24/7. I got some AZO and a pathetic, soggy egg salad sandwich. I had to take the AZO with food and remember food options were quite limited.
I dragged myself back to the hotel and fell into bed. With running 26.2 miles and the walks afterwards, I probably got 30+ miles in for the day. It was midnight and we had to be up at 5 a.m. to get to the airport. OH. MY. GOD. After taking some more AZO, my pain was subsiding. YES.
Five hours later we rolled out of bed and dragged ourselves to the airport. I was flying standby, so by the time I got on a flight I had walked from B gate to C gate five times (10 trips total). Needless to say, I got my recovery in! I had a layover in Reno and I curled by a wall, pulled my sleeping eye mask over my head, used my backpack as a pillow and crashed for 90 minutes. They almost had to wake me up. I stumbled onto the plane and promptly fell asleep. Thank God I can sleep on planes!
Of course I wake up as we were approaching the runway and find out I was sitting next to a really cool guy. We quickly explained our lives in eight minutes, exchanged information and ... (not giving all my secrets away :)).
I finally arrived home in the dark and went straight to bed. Your own bed and pillow feels so good! If only for a few days. On to Miami Friday! Where I will run the last race of the year and the last RnR race of 2011! The. End. Is. In. Sight. Praise THE LORD.
What really happened at the race? From talking with other racers a few things happened.
1) The permit that was given was for only 20,000 people. Not 45,000. (Greed?)
2) When the water stations ran out of water (seriously), the volunteers opened up fire hydrants and used their bare hands to scoop the water out of the unlined trashcans. Can you say contamination?!
3) Countless people became sick because of the water. Like really, really sick. Hospital sick. I have no idea if my UTI was really a UTI or not. Could it have been something else? Seems really odd that I would get a UTI DURING a race. I'll never know.
4) While my bag was not at Mandalay Bay, I heard that it was a war zone. And a fire code safety issue.
5) Start corrals for half marathon. Apparently the start for the half marathons was a continuous start vs. a wave/corral start. So 40,000 people were let out at once creating a massive wall of people when the marathoners arrived at the 13.1 mile mark.
6) There was no clearly marked course/road for marathoners and half marathoners. We marathoners had to keep shoving/shouting our way through the masses of people. It was a nightmare.
7) They ran out of half marathon medals
The issues are great and vast. I only write my experience and what was told to me. I would encourage you to support races that love the sport, love their customers (that would be us, the runners), and give back to worthy causes (as a company, not a pretty race slogan).
Bottom line? When greed (i.e. numbers/stats, world's largest, etc) becomes the focus vs the love of the sport AND their customers- runners- you will have problems.
*People: while I am for everyone getting their butt off the couch and moving, please be mindful and respectful of the runners that are actually trying to run. Don't walk 10 abreast. Common race etiquette please.