In my best fantasies in the weeks leading up to the Las Vegas marathon, I’d report back that the run went by in a flash. That it was over almost as soon as it started, that I experienced no wall, no major problems, and it was just a sweet, sweet run. Thankfully, except for a blip at mile 15 when I had to pull over to stretch an increasingly painful right knee, this seemed to be the case early on. Especially when half a mile later the pain was gone, never to return. So ya, that’s how it went until mile 24, when began the longest, most difficult final miles I’ve ever experienced in any race. But let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start…)
Race day dawned freezing and windy. The start was a mess of spectators and runners. There were no pace signs. So runners just lined up. Scott, Keith and I would complain after the race this meant the first miles were spent navigating through slow runners, and those who apparently intended to speedwalk the race. Props to those who intend to walk a race but LINE UP NEAR THE BACK OF THE PACK SO THOSE INTENDING NOT TO WALK DON’T HAVE TO WASTE ENERGY WEAVING AROUND YOU.
Still, fireworks lit up the still dark sky. And as Elvis sang “Viva, Las Vegas” we all set off.
5K: I see my first friendly face, Noel. She stood shivering on the sidelines in a bright green jacket. I gave her a quick hug and she ran alongside me for a bit, shouting encouragement. I smiled and thought of how much I just love her.
Mile 7: Brit, Natalia, Jeff and Scott’s cousin provide another welcome sight. I take two Advil, drink some water, proceed. Strong, biting headwinds mark most of this part of the race. After the race, my face is to be windburned, red and as painful as a sunburn. My pace is a little off because of the wind. At least, I think it is. The clocks throughout the race are all off. At one I’m on pace for a 4 hour marathon; at the next, I see there’s no way I can hit it.
Mile 15: Stop to stretch. Knee is flaring up.
Mile 18: Support crew once again. I get more Advil.
Mile 20: Jeff! I hand him two Gu’s I’ve picked up on the course. They’re slowing me down. I imagine each ounce is costing me seconds per mile.
Mile 23: Man, I’m feeling good. Ya, I’m feeling pretty good.
Mile 23.5: What’s going on. I’m not feeling as good. What’s going on
Mile 23.65: What the hell. I can’t breathe really. My thighs are filled with lead. What the hell is that popping in my left thigh.
Mile 23.75: More popping. What the hell is that?! Why is catching my breath so hard? I begin to panic a little. My time goal of four hours is within reach but I can’t slow down. Panicking makes my breathing harder. My throat tightens, I just can’t make my breathing normal. I had a pep talk planned in the event this should happen. I begin to think of those less fortunate, as planned. I need to put this race in perspective – there are more important things going on in the world.
Mile 23.85: Not too much longer now till I meet my sis, who is coming to meet me and take me to the finish! I can make it, I can make it. Im going to need her. I’m going to need something
Mile 24: Where is my sister. Can’t breathe. The less fortunate thing isn’t working, so I steady my breathing thinking of the beer I’m going to drink later, how I intend to have a shot of tequila, hopefully with the bloggers. This seems to work.
Mile 24.15: Where is my sister
Mile 24.3: WHERE THE FUCK IS MY SISTER
Mile 24.5: I hear a man say according to his watch, he can break 4 if he maintains a 10 minute mile. This is extremely reassuring and helps to once again calm me down. If my sister doesn’t show, she’s going to be sorry, I think. I am getting angry. This causes my breathing to become even more labored. Tears threaten to fall. This also makes my breathing more labored.
24.6: I live for water stops. I live for water stops. I haven’t walked except through water stops. I begin to see mirages of water stops.
24.8: I CANNOT BELIEVE MY SISTER IS BETRAYING ME
25: Well, lookie who we have here. Is that my sister? Why, yes I believe it is.
25.05: I use what little oxygen I have to yell at my sister. This has the effect of a. making sis feel really terrible and b. using up more of my air.
25.15: I’m still yelling.
25.25: I tell my sister to run ahead of me, not slightly behind. That she’s supposed to guide me vs. the other way around. I decide I’ll have to give her coaching101 for the next race.
25.5: We get into rhythm. My breathing is still not normal. I just can’t get it normal. I’m panting and I’m breathing quite loud. I give up trying to regulate it. The finish line at the Mandalay Bay beckons.
25.75: Ya, umm, still having problems breathing.
26: We see sis’s boyfriend. “Looking good Arlene!” I try to wave. This is the part of the race that now becomes the corral, meaning you can’t exit the course without climbing the gates locking us in. Sis asks if she can exit the course. No, I tell her, I need you. We are both wearing our orange blogger shirts. “Go orange girls!” people are yelling.
The finish line: There is nothing sis can do, no place sis can go but through the finish line. So together, we cross! Mortified, my sis hangs her head and tries to make sure she doesn’t get photographed. I finally slow to a walk and struggle to get my breath together. I take my medal. Sis is offered one, which she politely declines.
My time is 4:02:16.
I meet mom and grandma, who has tears in her eyes. Reese, my son (cabbage patch kid) is wearing his white mink coat. And the shirt his mother bought him two nights before. It says Vegas, little stinker and has a skunk on it.
I hook up with the bloggers. I discover Monday my final time is 3:58. I’ve taken 18 minutes off my Vermont marathon time. What’s that mean? It means 18 minutes more and I’ve qualified for Boston.
Going into the race, I knew a weakness would be my lack of long runs. I focused on increasing speed at the expense of endurance. That sounds quite smart for training for a marathon. So it’s no shocker the end of the race turned out as it did. Another 2 or 3 long runs would have been good.
Still, I’m quite happy with the result. I ran a very consistent race. I had a support crew anyone would envy. Post race, it continued. Brit handed me a nutra grain bar and Gatorade. I felt quite special.
And I loved seeing Scott and Keith after the race. I feel a special bond with all the bloggers and their families, making this race, more than any other, feel like a group achievement. Hard to believe I’d just met them, something even sis’s boyfriend remarked upon.
If you’ve made it through that, cool. If you skipped to the end, cool too. Thanks a million times for the support, fellow bloggers and friends.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, still never doing another marathon in Vegas.