Well I'm just back from Las Vegas where I not only tried to drink Jimmy Buffet's Maragaritaville dry, but I also ran my 3rd marathon in 8 months.
I arrived on Wednesday so as to give me at least one day of partying before I had to clean up my act before running. The marathon starts at 6am to try to avoid heat and to allow us to run down a closed Las Vegas strip so I had to practise getting up early too since Sunday was a 4:30am wake up call.
The day before a marathon I normally do a 15-20 minute easy jog just to keep everything working. Well one of my running friends had discovered that the day before the marathon there was a 'Great Santa Run' where Las Vegas was trying to break the record for the most Santas in one place. It seems Liverpool in England holds the world record and probably increased their numbers 2 weeks ago at the 2006 Liverpool Santa Dash. It doesn't look like there are official numbers for either event yet so I don't know if The ZMan is a record breaker or not. Anyway my group of runners all did either the 5k or the 1 mile (though the one mile was apparently a short course). I ran half of the 5k and walked the rest because its a bit long for a warm up run. The whole thing was a bit surreal - check out the 2006 Las Vegas Santa Dash photos
So after a nice warm up and some touristy fun I spent the night resting and for once actually was in bed before midnight. Yes even though I had to get up at 4:30am there is no way to convince my body to go to sleep early. We walked down to the start line - a pleasant 2 mile hike and good way to get the legs going. It was still dark and quite chilly. The sight of thousands of fit people in running clothes heading one way and hundreds of drunk people who were still up after a night of partying was very humorous. The start was chaos - they had separate starts for the elite and wheelchair and people thought those were the real start and dashed to the start line early. This is where I realize that I have left my timing chip in my bag. Thanks to the Marathon organizers for not providing things to fasten them with I had optimistically assumed I could get something at the start and I forgot. Oh well I have my watch. We eventually got off 20 minutes late. Of course all the walkers had positioned themselves at the front of the pack so there was a lot of maneuvering to get round them. Amazingly there were people already needing the bathroom by mile 1 and so they stood in a line right across the race route - I guess small brains and small bladders are a matching set. Of course the line was too much for some people who just went in the bushes in the center of the strip for all the drunks to see. I would like to thank the lady who grossed out about 20 of us at mile 1.5 by emerging from the bushes and proceeding to wipe herself with a T-Shirt that someone else had thrown on the floor - it takes a lot to gross me out but you win the medal. By mile 2 I am back at the hotel that I started at 1.5 hours ago when the first guy farts on me as I pass him (yes someone does it again later) and I think 'well this is off to a good start'.
At mile 6 the half marathon people turn off and the pack thins out finally. The lines for the bathroom are still long and the places to hide get more and more sparse. Always funny to see lines of guys up against walls and more than a couple of 'moons' from the ladies - when you've got to go, you've got to go I suppose. Race wise I am going really well - though some of my miles seen exceeding fast and others slow. There is a decent headwind in some places and tailwind in others so that is having some effect but I am still a little dubious of some of the mile markers. By mile 10 I spot the 1st bathroom without a line and get my pitstop done in well under 2 minutes. Its starting to warm up now but thankfully the wind has blown in some clouds and we actually have a few spots of rain. So far there has been just one hill - when the road went under the freeway - and that lasted about 100m. I'm keeping up a perfect pace and I hit the half way mark at just over 2:08 - 2 minutes under my goal. In my Portland marathon at this point I actually slowed down because I knew there was a hill coming. For Vegas I wanted to get a better time - 4:22 or possibly 4:20 so I had to keep the pace up. Thankfully there were no big hills so there was a pretty good chance. By mile 18 I am cursing the mile markers - the wind appears to have taken the markers but I am assuming that every time I see a timing clock I am hitting a mile. But they are all over the place. I have no clue what my pace is.
At mile 20 I am starting to get a little tired, but nothing like Portland and I'm still moving at what I think is a decent pace. I've been passing people for most of the race - pretty slowly but consistently and as others slow down I pass more and more. Miles 22 onwards are where the fatigue has hit me before so I'm very happy to get through those and see the strip ahead. At some point here the Las Vegas Hash House Harriers have a keg set up with small cups of beer. In Portland I was far to tired to even veer over and grab one but heck I am feeling great today so I partake. It was cold and it was glorious. Since its now 10:00am the strip is reopened and so we have to run down another road that is parallel but I can track my progress by the hotels. As I go past what could possibly be mile 24 my legs are feeling a wee bit wobbly but hell I only have 2.2 miles to go and its looking like I have a good chance of beating 4:20 which would be 5 minutes off my Portland time. I stop at the water station and as I walk I realise that my legs are way more tired than I realised. I take a longer walk break and when I start to run I'm suddenly not having any fun any more. I'm still moving but I'm wondering if stopping was even a wise move - my legs are very very heavy. This sucks I am almost home on a great time and I feel like I'm almost walking. I decide that its time to rest them so I purposely take a 1 minute walk break. Of course I look at my watch and start to see my 4:20 disappear. If you remember in Portland I only managed to take 5 seconds off my time and I really wanted to do better in Vegas. After the walk I am still heavy but there are a LOT of people walking so I'm still passing some people but now there are people passing me and that's very depressing. I don't see any 25 mile marker and my split time is already over 12 minutes which given my extended walk breaks is not unrealistic. So I think I still have over a mile to go, my watch has gone past 4:10 and I am going pretty slow. Suddenly I am not even looking like I will beat my Portland time. This is the worst 15 minutes of any race I have been in - I can't believe I had such a great 24 miles and its going to end like this. I honestly think I am going to have to take another walk break soon and hobble in to the finish. As I turn the corner I see the clock for the 25 mile marker and look at my watch - its 4:12 and I feel like crap. But then as people move I see that the mile marker actually says 26 on it and I can hear people at the finish line.
I look at my watch again and very quickly realise that I'm nowhere near running a 4:25 AGAIN, in fact I am damn close to breaking 4:15 which was pretty much a dream goal for this race. Somewhere in my misery I missed the 25 mile marker and the 24 mile marker must also have been late. Suddenly my legs are not tired - I can see the finish and I AM going to break 4:15 without any problems. I listen for the cowbells from my support team and running crew and there in the crowd is an arm with the pre-arranged yard of margarita. I'm on the right side of the course so I grab it and charge the photographer with my cocktail before crossing the finish line in 4:14:39 almost exactly 10 minutes faster than my Portland time.
It turns out the margarita is non alcoholic which is great because I have drunk half of it before the crew finds me. Its tough to see the cocktail but it could well be the greatest finish photo of all time. They have showgirls to have your picture taken with though mine looks very very bored with the whole thing. Then off to the goody tables where they have thoughtfully provided water and.... well that's it. No wait there's a couple of boxes of bananas. Heck I paid $95 and they can't even rustle up some bagels. I've had better post race food at $15 5k races. So I finish up my yard of smoothie and head back off to the hotel.
Its now 2 days later and I am still buzzed about my time. Given my 20+ years of virtually no exercise its hard to imagine I have run 2 5k's, 2 10k's, an 8k, 2 half marathons and 3 full marathons in the last 12 months (actually the 3 marathons are in the last 8 months). It freaks me out to be honest as I'm sure it does anyone who has known me longer than I've been running. Consistency of training, a good coach and a team of people who run with you in all weather and are not averse to having a beer or 2 with you afterwards make it easier than I would have believed.