November 20, 2014
I had quite an experience in Las Vegas during the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Race Weekend. There were great races, Vegas Hospitality and Entertainment, a family reunion and a VIP race experience, rolled into a whirlwind of 4 nights! I’ll talk about the overall Las Vegas attractions and VIP experiences in another post. The focus of this post will be the Expo and Races.
As I mentioned before, my family heard about the Las Vegas race weekend when they traveled with me to Walt Disney World. I had never done a race on Rock ‘n’ Roll series, and I’d heard mixed reviews so I was not sure what to expect.
I talked a bit about Las Vegas climate concerns in this post. The temperatures were nice and cool which were really nice for racing. Mind you, it was still much warmer than Toronto which was dealing with snow flurries at the time.
The big surprise for me was the humidity, or rather, the lack thereof! I often complain bitterly about humidity making races or training runs uncomfortable. But the desert weather was brutally dry. I went through a lot of water in the days leading up to the race, and could definitely feel the lack of moisture in my nose.
I went to the expo right when it opened on Friday. Actually, we got there about 20 minutes early and the line wrapped around the parking lot.
The expo was big! Lots of vendors, and lots of giveaways. My family had a great time picking up lots of items including popcorn, an umbrella, snacks, glowsticks, reflectors, and gloves.
I bought a pin, visor, and light-up wristband.
Along with the bibs, the race kit included two shirts: One for the 5k and another for the half-marathon. The kit also included the participant perk wristbands. These wristbands granted access to A LOT of discounts and deals. I took advantage of a lot of them, but that’s a story for another post.
After the Expo my family and I went north to the SLS. We had a nice view of the 5k starting area from the monorail.
I suppose the next thing I need to talk about is the glasses. I saw a vendor in the hallway between Bally’s and the monorail selling light-up shirts and glasses. I walked by on Friday twice, and finally bought these light-up glasses on my third visit on my way to the 5k on Saturday evening. I thought they’d be a fun accessory for these night races.
Rock ‘n’ Roll 5k Presented by SLS Las Vegas
This race was a mess. It was added several months after the half of the half (10k), half-marathon, and marathon were announced. It was on Saturday night which meant you could do both. And the organizers sweetened the pot granting a “remix challenge” medal for running the 5k and one of the Sunday races.
I met up with 6 friends from Mississauga who were also running before the 5k. We traveled on the monorail together towards the race.
I rode the monorail the day before the race and it didn’t seem crowded at all. However, it certainly wasn’t ready for up to 4600 runners trying to get to the SLS way out at the north end of the strip. It was packed and crowded. We were lucky we got on at the 2nd most southern station because many people couldn’t get on.
The SLS in general is a bit of an oddball. It used to be the Sahara but it went “dark” about 3 years ago and only recently re-opened. From what I gathered on the trip there on Friday, the place is bleeding money. It’s not right on The Strip so the location hurts it. But it also doesn’t seem too appealing in general.
I can see why they sponsored the 5k and featured their restaurants and stores prominently in the Runner’s Perks: It’s desperate advertising to get people through the door. However, the event felt a little thrown together and I feel like it did nothing to enhance my opinion of the SLS.
The starting area wasn’t even a parking lot. Given the badly damaged condition of the asphalt and gravel, I think it was a construction site or something there previously was demolished. There were some lights brought in, but not nearly enough. I wish I’d brought my Knuckle Lights.
The starting corrals were quite a mess too. the 7 of us were seeded across corrals 2-4, but we couldn’t get into any of those corrals because they were too full and there were fences preventing further people from getting in. We waiting in corral 8 for a while, but took ourselves out of the corral and dashed into corral 4 once a few waves had been let out.
Starting the ‘run’ we were only able to walk for the first 500 meters. There were a lot of walkers. It seems that the corrals were just suggestions and people seeded themselves wherever they wanted. Walking was probably a good thing anyways because it was too dark to see the ground and we could have easily tripped on the cracked asphalt.
Shortly after that we got onto the course proper. With one lane closed so it was very crowded and difficult to move. The wave started helped a bit, but it really wasnt enough room for 4600 runners.
The course weaved around the SLS, Riviera, and Circus Circus. Perhaps the highlight of the race for me was the Riviera’s Marquee sign:
About 1km in our group got split up. I stayed with the slower group because I wanted to save my legs for the half-marathon the next day. The temperature and dryness were uncomfortable too.
Towards the end, the group I was with encouraged me to go faster. I was tempted, but it was impossible because of the crowding. I hoped it wasn’t a sign of things to come at the half the following day
|Date||Event||Goal Time||Chip Time||Gun Time|
|2014/11/15||Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas 5k||Finish||36:01||47:05|
After the race there was a concert by Chromeo. It didn’t look like too many people were into it. We left and headed back to the monorail. The station was packed! It really wasn’t prepared for the crush of runners.
I walked from the monorail station through my hotel. I felt really out of place walking through The Bellagio in my running gear.
I’m glad I did the 5k because I was there anyways. I would have felt like I missed an opportunity if I didn’t do this race for the two extra medals. I didn’t enjoy the run, but it was a nice excuse to get out and test the legs before the half-marathon.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon
The half-marathon was a very different event from the 5k. This was a well organized event!
I started getting ready very early. The first wave of the race starts at 4:30, but I started getting dressed at 12:30 because we had a bus to catch at the Venetian at 2pm.
Dressing for this race was rather odd. It was unseasonably cold, like 10ºC! I’m glad I had the ‘hazmat jacket’ that I got at the end of the Ottawa Army Run. I wore that jacket until I got to the 2nd mile. And I got a free pair of gloves at the expo which I wore for the whole race. I didn’t think I would have needed gloves to run in the desert!
I’m glad I took a picture of the wristbands because it was a scene of ridiculousness. All of the wristbands were essentially required:
- Runner’s Perks wristband for the 5k
- Runner’s Perks wristband for the 1/2 marathon
- Race Day VIP wristband (long story, I’ll share in another post)
- Black wristband to claim “Remix Challenge” medal at the end of the 1/2 marathon
- ID wristband to be allowed a free beer after the race
As before, I met up with the fellow Mississauga runners and we stayed together until the race started.
There were a lot of VIP perks things that happened before the race, but I’ll share those in a different post.
But, everyone in the starting compound got to see Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform for about an hour. Their playlist included their hits Thrift Shop, Same Love, Can’t Hold Us, and White Walls.
We went to the corrals around 4pm. Our bibs had us seeded between corrals 19 and 38. However, there was no one checking bibs, so we just kept walking forward until we reached 17 and couldn’t go forward anymore. It felt COLD to be standing in the corral for over an hour waiting for our wave to go.
Shortly after the race started, I needed to pee. Fortunately there was a set of porta-potties at the turn around the 1-mile mark. I lost the group, and I know I lost some time, but I felt much better after that.
Miles 2-6 were great! This was through the heart of the strip. It was bright, there were spectators everywhere, and we had 3-4 lanes to run in so it didn’t feel crowded at all. I was passing a lot of people, but I think the wave start did a nice job of keeping the crowds thinned out a little.
My family was waiting at the 3 mile mark to cheer me on. Stopped for some totally necessarily selfies!
I was moving pretty quickly. My virtual partner on my Garmin said I’d caught up to the 2:20 planned pace after about 3 miles and I continued to gain ground. I was rather confused that I wasn’t catching up to the rest of the group. Their goal was 2:20 so I was wondering how fast they must have been going through that stretch.
It was cold, but I rather liked it. The gloves were totally necessary though.
The north part of the course got sketchy. After leaving the strip, Las Vegas Boulevard became a collection of pawn shops, drive-thru wedding chapels, and unsavory looking “restaurants”. I didn’t feel like taking walk breaks. There was even a part of the course that went through a residential neighbourhood. The organizers brought in some lights because there weren’t any streetlights, but it still wasn’t lit well enough.
Shortly after mile 9 the course went back to Las Vegas Boulevard and it’s a straightaway to the finish. However, as I noted in this post, the course is all uphill from there. I was pretty good about keeping a consistent pace. I took walk breaks when I noticed my pace starting to slow. My knees were hurting a little, but felt fine after each walk break.
I finally caught up to my friends around the 10-mile mark. They had been going faster than expected and were skipping walk breaks. I kept going at my planned pace, and I was surprised that I left them behind.
The glasses gave me a hard time throughout the race. They worked fine until about 5 miles and then refused to turn on. I think the shaking from running had loosened something. I took them off for a while and put them in my pocket. Around 11 miles I noticed they were on in my pocket so I put them back on. At mile 12 they died again. Oh well.
I liked the final stretch of the course. With a little knowledge of the hotels it wasn’t hard to tell how far you were from the finish. I could see the finish line from about 1km away, so I was able to put a little extra in my step and finish strong.
|Date||Event||Goal Time||Chip Time||Gun Time|
|2014/11/16||Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half Marathon||2:20:00||2:19:13||2:44:22|
I’m very happy with my finish time. It was slower than Ottawa, but unlike Ottawa I wasn’t hurting and was quite happy.
I was also REALLY cold after crossing the finish line. The foil helped, but not much. They handed me a cold beer can somewhere in the chute and I didn’t want to hold it because it was SO cold!
The rest of the group finished and we met up briefly before going our separate ways. It was a PB for many of them, and Lisa’s fist half-marathon ever!
The bling is actually rather heavy! I especially like that the half-marathon medal glows in the dark!
I was impressed by the organization of the half-marathon and the course. That alone makes this race worth trying. I’m not big on the “Vegas Experience”, but by the end of the trip I found some things I liked. Las Vegas is ridiculously expensive, so keep that in mind if you plan to do this race.
Would I do it again? Quite likely! My family is already talking about next year, so it’s another excuse for a family reunion. I’m even tempted to by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Tourpass and do 3 races for the price of too: Maybe Montreal, and both Vegas Races again!
Hope you enjoyed reading this report. I’ll talk about the overall Vegas experience and the VIP story in a upcoming posts!