There were 7 minutes of transition from having no awareness of the Carlsbad Marathon to receiving the email confirming my registration.
The summer prior to running the race, SugarMagnolia (Sugar for short) posted on social media that she had signed up for the 2016 Carlsbad Marathon. I was shocked because her first marathon ten plus years ago was a horrid experience and she swore off the 26.2 mile distance (with actual swear words) . I immediately went to the race website with the intention to calendar the day, so I could come down and support her along the route. Next thing, I texting Sugar to ask if it would be OK to run alongside her for the race and then boom, there we were standing out on the streets of Carlsbad at an unholy hour on a January morning. For your reference, Sugar’s race recap is here.
The most important thing to know about this race is that that elevation profile looks much worse than it actually is. Miles 6 to 9 are a mild climb, but the rest of the race is as straight forward as marathons go.
The temperature was about 45F at race start. I started out some thermal Nike tights, a long sleeved running shirt, hat and gloves. By the time I hit the ocean and the sun came up I knew I was over dressed. I yanked up my sleeves, packed away the gloves and hat and was just a tad warm the rest of the day. If I were to run this race again, I would do it in shorts and a light long-sleeve shirt and just be cold for the first hour.
The race starts inland and then runs through Carlsbad down to the ocean then head south along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). The ocean in the morning was absolutely beautiful.
At mile 5, the marathoners make a turn up Palomar Airport Road and take on an up hill climb. The three miles leading up to mile 9 are at 1.6% grade. It’s nothing daunting, but it’s not to be taken lightly either.
After the turn around near Camino Real, there is a short hill to climb, then it’s down hill most of the way back to PCH. At that point, we joined the half marathoners who were chugging southbound along the coast.
There are some very gradual rolling hills along the coast. Nothing daunting. The thing that I was not ready for was the half-marathon turn around which happened a ways before the turn around for the marathoners. The race thinned out at that point, which made things a little more difficult for me mentally. After the marathoner turn-around it was an 8 mile run back to the start, most of it back to the ocean.
This was a great race and probably one of the few I would repeat. I would definitely want to run the half, just because it is such a fun and beautiful race.
When I was little, I remember my mom and I being fogged in at Heathrow Airport in London, waiting for a TWA flight to take us home to New York. I remember people straggled everywhere about the airport. At 3 or 4 years old, I was perplexed because there was no place to sit down, or sleep. I don’t remember much else about that visit, other than my mom explaining we had to fly, “the long way home”.
Those memories came rushing back to me on short a layover in Houston last year. As I transitioned from one section of the airport to another, I found travelers sprawled out on the floors and leaning against the walls. In this case, they weren’t stuck between hither and yon waiting for the weather to clear, they were seeking charges for their devices. I wondered how many of these people are charging for immediate need vs compulsion.
They live their lives within the span of ours. Their time with us is short, but it is not insignificant in duration or effect. They rely on us solely for their well-being and we are entrusted with the care of their lives.
During the ride home from the animal shelter, our new puppy, Tango, pooped on my suede backpack. We laughed at the ingratitude of this newly adopted member of our family. A dozen years later Tango developed an intestinal problem which left him spending much of his days and nights trying to poop the smallest dollops. He wasted away to skin and bone until finally, we made the decision to put him down.
Friends would comment about how friendly and chill Tango was, in truth he was a booger-snot. Within the first few months, my wife was giving the Child a bath and Tango wanted attention. My wife kicked him out of the bathroom and so he ate the couch. He was jealous and a bit retaliatory that way. Then there was the time that he wanted to go outside while we were all busy watching a live TV show. So the dog squatted in front of the TV, looked at us and peed on the carpet.
Tango was also a trash digger. We would no sooner leave the house and he would start this routine of digging in every trash can in the house. Once after we had all gotten in the car, I had to run back in the house, and as I opened the door, Tango walked in front of me and without missing a beat dropped the trashed paper plate he had in his mouth at my feet, like it was a gift for me.
Like everyone else in the house Tango was independent and able to hang out and do his own thing. That being said, on my work-from-home days, he would always get up early and stay with me, upstairs on the couch while I worked at my desk. The rest of the week, I didn’t really exist to him, unless of course I was feeding him, getting in the refrigerator or eating dinner.
Around October of 2014, we noticed that Tango was losing weight. We took him to the vet, but there were no signs of any problems. As time went by he wasted away to skin and bone. He would eat everything in front of him,he wasn’t lethargic, we just couldn’t keep any weight on him. Then as time progressed I noticed that there were fewer and fewer of his “jewels” to clean up in the back yard.
As his conditioned worsened, he would have false sense of needing to go to the bathroom. At first, he would need to go out at about 2am. Either my wife or I would get up and let him out and then wait for him to come back in. Later he would go out more and more frequently during the night. Eventually, one of us would end up sleeping on the couch near the back door so we could let him go out as he needed to. Near the end, he would need to go in and out four or five times a night. My wife and I were trading off nights on dog duty. It was difficult.
I came home from Europe on a Thursday last June, knowing that I would be putting my dog down at 10:30am on Saturday morning. He couldn’t control his bowels anymore and was soiling everything he rested on.
Thursday night we put him outside in the back yard to sleep. He scratched at the door to come in a few times, but he we couldn’t bring him in.
On Friday night, Tango and I camped out in a tent in the back yard. He had some accidents in the tent overnight, but we cleaned things up and went back to sleep. That Saturday morning was painfully sad. I ran to the store and picked him up all his favorite foods and I made a stop at Del Taco and bought him a bacon and egg burrito for his last meal.
Being in the waiting room at the vets, with the other animals amplified the sadness. Laura and I were both sad and Tango just seemed miserable and tired from lack of consistent sleep. I just kept holding my dog in my arms, I let Laura hold him a few times, but after the administration of the sedative I only set him down for his final injection. I picked him and held him in his final moments. I swaddled his lifeless body much like I swaddled by daughter when she was a newborn; It was the only thing I could do for him. I held him and I kept holding him. Then here came a point where I just had to leave his swaddled lifeless body on the table and walk away.
The days after were filled with mixed emotions. My sister was coming into town and we were celebrating my daughter’s high school graduation. All the while there was something missing from my life. There are routines one gets into when having a pet and no longer having those routines was gutting. I continually questioned if I did the right thing. I wanted God to somehow validate my decision.
A year later, I still miss his him. I miss the exact cadence of his nails click click clicking across the tile and how when he would make exactly seven barks in succession when someone came to the door. I miss the way that he would come to the acknowledge my return from a long trip, but never more than for a few seconds. I miss how at about 8:30pm at night, he would get up walk across the floor and go crawl into my daughter’s bed and just go to sleep. I miss the eight and ten mile walks with him.
We’ve adopted a new puppy, he’s not a plug-and-play replacement, he’s a different soul, with different strengths and weaknesses; and we love him dearly.
To the horror of my bibliophiles friends everywhere, I am going to make a modest, yet heretical proposal that we should start taking certain books out of circulation and toss them in any of 1) the fire, 2) the recycling bin or 3) the trash.
Some treat books as sacred objects and once we bring them into our homes, we feel we have an obligation to effectuate a joyous experience reading them. This is all well and good if the book jives with our personal tastes, but what if it doesn’t?
If reading for pleasure but not actually deriving any pleasure was a waste of joy, a waste of life and a waste of opportunity why continue trying to read that book?
If you have ever found yourself with three or more books on the side of your bed, ask yourself why does that happen? Odds are, you are not enjoying one or more of those books and have at some level moved on; except for that belief system about the sacred/social obligation keeps that book on the nightstand and keeps us trapped, feeling that we have to finish it.
We start rationalizing and saying things like, “I’ll finish it later”, “maybe it will get better”, or “Carol gave it to me, I have to finish it”. Unless that book is owned by a library, pick it up off the floor and discard it as soon as you realize you aren’t advancing the reading of it. Free yourself of the encumbrance and open yourself up some other book you might actually enjoy (this applies to personal relationships too, but that’s a blog for another day).
Some of you will say, “oh, I can’t get rid of a book, I will put in the garage and donate it to the library or give it to some charity to sell”. Don’t waste your time and energy, dispose of it immediately. There is an abundance of books in circulation, never pass on a bad book! Donate or sell only good books you enjoyed. Consider it a form of literary natural selection.
The world won’t end. You will only be create room for something better in your life at the cost of something you weren’t enjoying.
About 2000 ft. above sea level. Flat with some elevation gain approaching mile 15.
Sufficient water and Gatorade stations. Several GU stations as well.
Running down the Strip and through part of Downtown (Glitter Gulch).
5K, 10K and a half marathon.
Good for Beginners?
This is a night race starting at 4:30pm. It is best for those who can run the 26.2 miles in under 4 hours. The time limit is 5 hours from the release of the last corral, but services begin to close up after about 4 hours after the start of the race.
THE COURSE: The course begins at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard (The Strip) by the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and proceeds about a mile south and then loops back for a long straight run north up the Strip to Downtown Las Vegas. Once downtown, a few miles are eaten up serpentining of the streets leading up to a left turn at 8th and Fremont Street.
With a short run towards (but not in) Glitter Gulch, the course makes a left turn back onto Las Vegas Boulevard and start to head south again towards the Strip. A short while after this turn, the half-marathoners continue their way back to the Strip and the marathoners makes a right turn for a 13 mile extended adventure. Marathoners run past the jail and through a festive little industrial complex on to Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Martin Luther King Boulevard brings a long 5 miles stretch slightly uphill. That leg seemed harder than it was because in the dark, I couldn’t tell how far it was until the turnaround, so there was this constant “are we there yet?” thing going in my head.
The course doubles back on itself after the turn around at mile 15 then adds a mile or so up a side street, but after that it’s a pretty straight and easy shot back to and through Downtown Las Vegas and up to the Strip. Mile 25 seemed to take forever, but all in all the this race goes very quickly (for a marathon).
ELEVATION PROFILE: Las Vegas is about 2,000 ft above sea level. If you play tennis in Vegas you will notice that the ball flies a lot more than it does at sea level because the air is slightly thinner. As an asthmatic, the Vegas air has never been a problem while running.
The race starts at about 2,200 feet and is mostly flat. The elevation profile graph makes it seem that the race is dowhill at first, but that’s an artifact of the small scale of the Y-Axis on the graph. After the first mile, the next 9 miles are downhill at an imperceptible -0.45% grade. The climb that follows to mile 15 has an unremarkable +0.38% grade. The last mile up to the summit of the race is a 1.3% grade; nothing too daunting, but the cold dark and 15 miles behind me did made it seem worse than it was.
After Mile 15, there is a short hill to climb off a side street, but it all feels flat after that.
THE WEATHER: The Southern Nevada desert in November at night, is cold. The sun set about a half hour into the race, but the course was generally well-lit. It was not necessary to carry any additional lighting. The weather was supposed to be clear and about 65°F at the start of the race, dropping down to the mid-forties through the fifth hour of the race.
A storm moved in early in the race. The average wind speeds were 19 mph with maximum gusts of 40 mph at times. There was a barely perceptible rain at first, then it became a bit heavier and then stopped. It was enough to wet the course for about an hour and my feet for the duration of the race.
RACE ORGANIZATION: The race was well done from beginning to end. The Expo is held at the Las Vegas Convention Center and parking was free. Bib pickup was easy, there was lots of merchandise available for purchase.
There were about 40 corrals, each one was relatively small. They were the width of one side of the street and about 20 people deep. The corrals seemed to be released about a 90 seconds to two minutes apart. The early miles of the race were crowded and slow.
There were plenty of water stations and a few with gels. Those stations started to tear down about 4+ hours after the start of the race. By the time I was making my final miles, there were all shut down and the huge water containers were being drained in the street.
There were medical personnel running among the crowd and there was a good police presence, especially in North Las Vegas.
My finish time did not post initially. With a visit to the race website and a click of a few links, I notified the organizers and my time was posted within 6 hours.
MY EXPERIENCE: Truth be told, 8 of the worst 10 things that have happened to me in my life occurred while growing up in Las Vegas. Other than the mountains the deserts and a few friends from High School, Las Vegas is not a place I hold in great fondness. Still, for the early bird registration fee of $99, I was willing to take a go at this race.
I started training for this race the morning of my 50th birthday back in July. I knew I was going to have to pick up my pace some to complete the race under the 5 hour limit. After looking through the race finish times for the year prior, it became clear that there were a number of runners who finished in longer than 5 hours, so I quit stressing about it, but continued to work on speed.
Laura and I drove into town on Saturday morning. We hooked up with Natalie (from the Disneyland half and the Edinburgh half ) at the Las Vegas Convention Center for Bib pickup. Laura and I then went to a celebration of the life of a high school classmate who recently passed away. I saw old friends I hadn’t seen since high school graduation, which ironically, was the last time I was at the Las Vegas Convention Center prior that day. That service grounded me in where I came from and put me in touch with some of the struggles my fellow classmates went through. It was a little strange, a little awkward at times, but I was among good, caring people.
The Sunday (race day) was a bit of odd situation. What does one do on a marathon day that begins at 4:30pm? I loaded up the car with friends and family, we had breakfast at 9am. We then took a drive out to the beautiful Red Rock Canyon. We cruised through the park only stopping twice so as not to tire ourselves out before the race.
We then made our way to New York Pizza and Pasta to pick up pre-race meals. About 3pm, Laura dropped Natalie and I off near the start line and we made our way to our respective corrals. The half marathoners and the full marathoners are intermingled. The corrals were cozy, but I have been more densely packed corrals in other races. About mile 3 the crowd thinned out enough to get a full stride safely. Then it became a matter of getting by the half-marathon walkers and the crowds of married-at-the-start-line couples and their wedding parties.
Remarkable on this run down the Strip was the Paris Hotel. The lights on the Eiffel Tower were dark in respect for the recent terror attack in France.
As I made my way south down the Strip, I remembered my mom and I walking down this same street back in 1974 on an early November Sunday morning. I tried to remember where the hotels of my childhood and teenage years used to be, the Sands, the Dunes, the Thunderbird, the Stardust, and the latest to go, the Sahara. The Sahara used to have a digit clock on top you could see for miles, that world is gone now.
As the race proceeded across Sahara Avenue, near where I grew up, I remembered learning to drive down these streets back in 1980. Lots of memories came back. Then as we made our way down into Downtown, I realized we were getting closer and closer to a dark place from my childhood, then all of a sudden there were on 8th Avenue near Ogden, in sight of what used to be called the Downtowner Motel, now the Downtowner Apartments. When mom and I came to Vegas in the early 70’s lived for several months in a 200 square foot room at the Downtowner. My mom would work one shift at the Downtowner front desk after working all morning as a maid in the motel across the street. I pretty much stayed in that hotel watching Richard Dawson, Bob Eubanks, Merv Griffin and Monty Hall all day. I remembered at the age of 9, figuring out how to make Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup on a hot plate for lunch. I stopped for a moment to look at old place and I flipped it off. I have escaped that life. A few selfies later, I was off and back down a world where I used to hang out at way too young an age.
A bit down the road was the El Cortez Hotel a place that holds nothing but good memories for me. My mom and I used to go there for breakfast when we had money and I would eat silver dollar pancakes. The first time I took my family there back in 2006, they had just taken the silver dollars off the menu, but they made them for us. That was a good day.
At the point where the course split I was happy to be away from the half-marathoners, but I also knew what part of town I was in. As I ran by the Clark County Jail, I looked at the tall dark, foreboding building that at different times had housed both my step-father and my mother. You never forget the sight of your mother being taken away to jail in handcuffs, but as I had 16 of miles ahead of me, I decided it was better to leave those weighty memories right there in that spot. Interestingly, I didn’t even notice the jail on the run back towards the Strip.
Mile 11 brought me to Martin Luther King Boulevard and a doozy of a headwind. Laura had made me a windscarf for my face at the last-minute before we left for Vegas. I was very grateful that she did.
One of the things that I have started doing during recent races is taking the time to thank the police officers along the route for their service to the community. I started getting a little more specific in my thanks. In this race, I thanked them for their weekends away from their families and every holiday they have had to miss. I thanked them for every drunk and every nasty person and every domestic situation they have to walk into. The officers of Metro were appreciative of this thanks.
As I got further into North Las Vegas I wanted to dig further emotionally and thanked the Metro officers for those occasions when they walked into my domestic situations when mom and I were dealing with a PCP/Jack Daniels-enhanced stepfather and they very professionally took him away… for a few days. Never underestimate the value of a few days respite in the middle of a nightmare.
When I finally made that turn around at mile 15, I was taken aback by how far the Stratosphere Casino seemed from where we were, given that the finish line was on the far side of that hotel. The truth was we were only about 6 miles directly away, but with the night sky, the large structure seemed 20 or more miles away.
The run back after the turnaround was relatively easy as marathons go. It was slightly downhill and the wind was at my back. The water stations, however were being taken down. I wasn’t too worried about this as I was carrying a hydration pack. Because of the high winds, the race organizers took down all but one of the mile markers. That made it slightly more difficult, especially at mile 24 my brand new Garmin died. I knew there were only a few miles left, so it was all good. I made my way across up Las Vegas Boulevard, across Sahara Avenue, down past Circus Circus (another infamous place in my childhood psyche) and on towards Caeser’s. About Mile 25, I heard Laura calling my name. She was there with Natalie and they had purchased a margarita for me to consume during my last mile. I did.
In the last quarter-mile of the race, right on cue, the song Home Means Nevada came on my iPod. Being a child of Nevada (among other places) The State song was one of those things we learned as children, like the Pledge of Allegiance, or the Our Father (if you attended St. Christopher’s Middle School). I added this song to my playlist for this race just as a reminder of those good memories about this place.
Way out in the land of the setting sun, Where the wind blows wild and free, There’s a lovely spot, just the only one That means home sweet home to me. If you follow the old Kit Carson trail, Until desert meets the hills, Oh you certainly will agree with me, It’s the place of a thousand thrills.
Home means Nevada Home means the hills, Home means the sage and the pine. Out by the Truckee, silvery rills, Out where the sun always shines, Here is the land which I love the best, Fairer than all I can see. Deep in the heart of the golden west Home means Nevada to me.
With perfect timing, the song finished as I danced over the finish line. After I received my medal, I had one last thank you for a Metro officer at the finish line. I thanked him for being there and I thanked Metro for being there at some dangerous times in my life.
For the first time, after a race, I got down on my knees and thanked God for the blessing he has given me in this life. I thanked him for the day and for the people who were in it. I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to run this race and overcome the past. I finished my margarita and made my way from the lights of the strip, towards my family and friends.