Up until very recently, my idea of a “race for fun” included winning, setting a PR or a combination of the two. I truly enjoy competing with myself and putting everything out there when it comes to racing. However, I decided that since Las Vegas is no place for seriousness, and the RnR Las Vegas Half Marathon was at the very end of a very long racing cycle, I would attempt to race it just for fun.
Don’t I look like I’m having fun?
I decided I wanted to run this race after seeing posts from Sue and Natalie last year. I’m pretty sure I signed up in February or March, as soon as registration opened. My plan was to run with both of those ladies and I had some local friends who were also interested.
I knew the location was a slam dunk for my husband since he travels to Vegas twice a year — once for “work” and usually once with me and some other family and friends. He immediately agreed to my race plan.
Fast forward to about September of this year and every single running friend dropped out. They all had excellent, unavoidable reasons but, I was left feeling like this would not be the race experience I hoped it would be.
Arrival in Las Vegas
Arriving in Las Vegas is to enter an adult Disneyland. The world of hotels, hospitality, endless food, people and nightlife springs up from out of nowhere as you fly west over the desert into an alternate reality. We flew in on Thursday afternoon and the race was on Sunday at 4:30pm.
If you have never been to Las Vegas, one of the first things you should know is you need to walk a ton! Everything is very spread out and I averaged about 20K steps per day. Not exactly what you want to do in the days leading up to a half marathon.
There was also some dancing in heels…
I shrugged off my coach’s note on Saturday that read “day off your feet” because, seriously, and went on my merry way of eating, drinking, dancing, shopping and being endlessly entertained. I definitely did not want to sacrifice a good time in Vegas for my “fun” race.
As noted before, there was a lot of walking involved the morning of the race and getting to the pre-race venue. It was also brutally hot. In fact, we spent a day at the pool on Friday. In mid-November. This is fantastic for vacation but not so much for running. I was slightly worried about the temperatures but also comforted that the race was at night and not having the sun beating down would be a huge factor.
After finally arriving at the pre-race venue I was feeling out of sorts. I have never run a race that started after 11am, I had a belly full of food and was listening to Snoop Dogg. It was like an alternate universe and definitely not the typical way I spend my time leading up to a race. But, when in Vegas…
I honestly had no clue what to expect in terms of my finish time. In my mind it would be somewhere around 1:35. I had finished the ridiculously hilly Leaf Peeper Half Marathon in Waterbury, Vermont just 5 weeks prior in 1:39 and the Las Vegas route was flat. This seemed very logical to me.
The start of the race was amazing. We ran out toward the airport (away from the main part of the strip) for about three quarters of a mile before looping back around. Once you hit the turnaround point, the view of the strip is stunning. I just kept thinking “I cannot believe I get to do this!” and simply ran by feel.
The weather was not a factor at all. There was a gentle breeze, with temps about 60, and the tank I was willing to ditch, I kept on for the entirety of the race.
After passing though mile 5 or 6 things started to slow down in the way of scenery and my stomach started to act up. I expected this since I had already eaten breakfast and lunch so I slowed a bit and took Gatorade at the next three stations. I also opened a Clif vanilla shot and took little “sips” for the next several miles, which calmed everything right down.
There were really no dark miles but a few darker streets where huge commercial lights had been set up, and a Toyota cheering section complete with a high-fiving Elvis. I was pushing my pace at an effort that felt comfortably hard and figured I was running about a 7:00-7:15 pace.
I’m terrible at math and, there were clocks at several of the mile markers but I wasn’t really putting it together, until I got to mile 10 and my time was something like 1:15. Wait…what?
I tried to push any thought of a finishing time out of my head and just keep running because I was actually feeling really good. I definitely did not have a “pep” to my step, which I had been struggling with leading up to the race, but I let that go too.
By mile 11 I knew I was definitely not in 1:35 range and I was coming down the final stretch when the clock read 1:39 and change. I did my best not to feel deflated but I was definitely, ever so slightly, disappointed.
Despite the clock, I finished with a huge grin and my fairly new watch greeted me with “A New Record! Fastest half marathon 1:37:57” to which I was utterly confused. I knew I had only been maybe one minute off the start clock so what was with the discrepancy in times? Again, I let it go because this was my fun race and I definitely had tons of fun!
The next day, I decided to look up my results, you know “just for fun” and this is what I saw:
My first reaction was “OMG I was running THAT slow?” but I immediately checked myself and remembered this was all about fun. And, coming in 8th in my division was pretty cool and 62 out of 13,755 women is fun indeed.
This is what I learned:
- I can, in fact, race for fun.
- Walking a ton, eating and drinking with reckless abandon and lack of sleep leading up to a race has an impact on performance. < — I knew this but to actually prove it to myself was interesting
- I would love to do this all over again next year!
Can you race or do other competitive things for fun?
What is the last thing you did just for fun?