Race Review: The Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon 2015

Cold, windy, rainy and fantastic.

Key Information

Race Name The Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon
Location Las Vegas and North Last Vegas, Nevada
Elevation Profile About 2000 ft. above sea level. Flat with some elevation gain approaching mile 15.
Organization Top Notch!
Terrain Streets.
Water Stations Sufficient water and Gatorade stations. Several GU stations as well.
Highlights Running down the Strip and through part of Downtown (Glitter Gulch).
Other Events 5K, 10K and a half marathon.
Good for Beginners? Yes.
Key Takeaways
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.

At the turnaround. Note the Stratosphere Casino on the right side of the picture.
Through an industrial complex toward MLK 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.

Elevation Profile Through Mile 24

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.

Storm clouds at the start line. Wind and rain ensued

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.

IMG_1037There 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.

IMG_1028I 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.

Friends, Family and the Puppy at Red Rock Canyon

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.

8th Avenue near the Downtowner.

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.

IMG_1053 (1)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.

Obligatory Marathon Freeway Sign
Obligatory Marathon Freeway Sign

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.

IMG_1065When 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.

#6 in the Books
#6 in the Books.  I won.

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.


Race Review: The Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon 2015

The Center of Your Universe

Here’s the thing, when the world gets to be too much

I imagine it as a bubble collapsing tightly around me.

I won’t get  claustrophobic because inside the bubble is the universe of my mind

which is boundless.

The problem with being in a boundless universe of a mind is that it is so very easy to get lost.

That’s why we need an anchor:  A person that mirrors where the center of your universe is.

Our center is where our beliefs vibrate as true and all the other belief systems (BS) just fade away.

When you are at your center, you know it.  It vibrates true at just the right frequency.

You see truth and you see that which is false.

There is so much false.


May you find your center and may it be a peaceful and simple place.

The Center of Your Universe

Day 17,802 – It’s a Tuesday

I’m confused because I’m not sure if today should be considered the first, second or fourth day of my holiday.

The Western thinker in me believes that vacations should have a clearly defined, unambiguous event horizon.  Not so this break.   The Western mind wants to create artificial walls and boundaries and to classify and assign artificial meanings and values. If I were to engage my inner Eastern thinker  I would see each day, each day, each moment is equal and flows directly into the next without effort.  The ease or difficulty making the transition from one event to the next is a reflection of my inner self, not the outer world.

Siri informs me that it has been 17,802 days since the day I was born.  That’s what day this is, number 17,802.   She failed to answer the question about how many days I have remaining.

This Works

I took the picture above on my iPhone.  I use that phone for work and would normally leave it locked in the drawer in my office during vacation, but I am trying out a new personal cell and I don’t quite trust it yet.  With one little swipe of the iPhone pseudo-button the deluge of emails are turned off and the phone calls, texts and messages sit in Limbo on some Verizon server somewhere waiting for me; calling to me.  I shan’t peek today.  I peeked yesterday and poisoned the serenity of my drive up to the Central Coast of California.  I won’t be foolish again.  It’s a lot of work to get serenity back once it is poisoned.

On this day 17,802 of my life, I woke up early in Avila beach on the Central Coast of California. Laura and I came here on our honeymoon, 7,639 days ago.  It seems like just yesterday.  I think this is the 9th hotel room I have woken up in thus far in 2014.  I am weary but not tired.  My legs are incredibly sore and stiff from a hilly race this past weekend and I couldn’t just lay in bed this morning.  The girls were exhausted and I didn’t want to disturb them, so I dressed and came down to the lobby to write to you all.  You people never write back and I am getting quite resentful.  Hit the fricking Like button already, will ya?  Would it kill you to leave a comment?  I mean really.

Everyone knows the OC, LA, San Diego and San Francisco.  Few appreciate the Central Coast with its seemingly easy-going lifestyle and attitude.   Some might consider it, the moderate part of California, not politically, but in terms of being neither of the extremes of LA nor San Francisco. All things being equal, the locals seem to pull for the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland teams rather than the LA teams.  You can easily prejudge and stereotype an area by the sports teams that the populus follow.  Stereotypes are great.  They allow you to like or dislike people without having to waste time getting to know them, really quite efficient if you think about it.

The hotel offers me a complimentary copy of Tuesdays The Tribune, the Newspaper of San Luis Obispo County. The front page features a banner “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS PUPPY?” Admittedly, the dog is cute, but I am still trying to slow down enough to read and enjoy this past Sundays New York Times. The truth is I never actioned (that’s one of my work words, actioned) reading the Sunday paper from two weekends ago. That’s one of the first signs that I am out of balance.  I brought two books to read and six magazines.   We are only going to be here 3 nights. We have to get back to the OC by Friday so The Child can start finalizing her Junior Prom planning.   Saturday, the girls will indulge me by going to see a lacrosse game at Whittier College. Then the next day will be Easter, time to get together again with Laura’s family.

Time moves quickly.   The Child turns 17 in 16 days.  God willing, in another 500 or so days she will be going to college. That scheduling and planning that I just did there is fallacy of the Western mind.  A classmate of The Child’s was killed a few weeks back in a skateboarding accident.  I can’t fathom that grief.  There was also recent news of cancer in the family.  Those shocks were numbing.  The Westerner assumes that the universe has made promises to us.  We get attached to those promises and believe that they are genuine.  I learned a long time ago, growing up in Las Vegas, that one should never ever ever believe in a promise.  One should enjoy this moment, this hour, this day and these wonderful beautiful people who are in front of me.   The metaphorical phone can ring so quickly and poison the rest of the day, week, month, or life. It’s a lot of work to get serenity back once it is poisoned.

Carpe Diem, people.  Carpe Diem.




Day 17,802 – It’s a Tuesday

The Sign

A few months back, I arrived in Shannon Airport in Ireland and had to wait about an hour for my colleague’s flight to touch down.

While loitering about the arrivals lounge, I had a picture snapped in front of a sign that displayed the direction and distances to a number of cities of interest.  Having friends, family and colleagues in these four cities, the picture became special, because many friends were unseen yet represented.

Inspiration, Move Me Brightly
Inspiration, Move Me Brightly

As the months rolled by I would occasionally see the picture on my phone and smile.

Then last week, after finding myself missing several of my far-away relatives, I decided to make my own version of the sign that I recall so well from M*A*S*H.

I woke up early on Saturday and made a run to Home Depot where for the third weekend in a row, I said hello to the 6am Saturday staff.

After digging and pouring a bit of Quickcrete, I set the post in the back yard.  Once it was nice and straight, I proceeded to make the list of loved ones and the cities they are in.   This created immediate problems.  There were more relatives and cities than would fit on one sign.  I guess I could have created a second sign, but how eccentric would that have been?

I edited the list down to London, New York, Seal Beach, Pelham, Park City and South Korea.  Cut from the list were Florida, Oregon, Long Beach, CA, Temecula, San Diego, and many other cities.  I am hoping that these relatives all understand.   We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of art.

New Addition to the back yard
New Addition to the back yard

There were more than enough websites that would provide me the linear distance between cities.   For London and NY, I picked very specific suburbs to set the distance.    Given the M*A*S*H homage, I had to represent my wife’s niece who is living with her South Korea-based Army husband.  There wasn’t enough room on the sign to paint “Pyeongtaek”, let alone enough room to paint “South Korea”.  I had to use two small pieces of wood to attach the 5730 mile marker to sign.

So then after 2 days of part time work, it was done.  It just sits there in the back yard, making shadows and reminding me of people who are far far away.

I’m not really sure what to think of this sign.  It’s kind of weird and it’s kind of cool.  Is it art?  Is it a sign that I am crazy?    One thing I am sure of though, it’s mine.  I made it with my own two hands (and $12 of materials from Home Depot).  I may have to cut the dang thing off at the base when I decide to sell the house, but that’s a problem for another day.

What do you think?

The Sign

The Motorcycle Ride

Cruising down the road at 50 mph there an almost imperceptible drop in power. Wouldn’t even pick up on it if it weren’t for an awareness of the miles on the odometer. It was due about 10 miles back.

Left hand reaches down and smoothly and effortlessly switches the gas valve 180 degrees.

There is a single micro-misfire as the engine transitions to the reserve fuel tank.

About 4 seconds have passed in total and we are good to go for another 15 miles at least.

All is well and kind of cool too.


Time to find a gas station.

The Motorcycle Ride