Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Rock n Roll Las Vegas Race Report and Year End Summary

By Mike

If you've been following my posts this year you'll know that this has been one horribly inconsistent year. While the triathlon's I've done have been more for fun than for competition, I've had a few good runs including a 15K PR and a half-marathon PR. With only about 2-3 hours a week to train, I decided to focus my season largely around running given the low-maintenance nature of it (especially when compared to triathlon!). Despite the challenges I saw some gains and some potential so I decided to run a marathon to cap off the season--the 2011 Zappos Las Vegas Marathon to be precise.

After my successful 15K in late October, I felt confident that I should be able to smash my old marathon PR of 3:29. I had a nice and easy week of training the week following the race with plans finish off with two more solid weeks of training following by a peaking period (taper) leading to my December 4th marathon. I was targeting a 3:10 or lower. Unfortunately my last good day of training ended up being November 8th and I never really got back into solid training mode after that. I went from being confident of crushing my marathon record to being really unsure of what my fitness was. Still, I had my flights and hotel booked and the race was already paid for so I figured I'd still go and give it a shot hoping my fitness from the summer and late fall was still with me. Plans of a 3:10 went out the window but I still thought that a conservatively run race would still lead to a slight PR. Lindsay wasn't racing but planned to come with me as well so if nothing else it would be a weekend in Vegas. :)

Race Day
If you're not familiar with the Zappos Las Vegas Marathon, it's actually a night race, with the last ~13 miles being run up and down the strip. The race started at 4pm which meant plenty of time to wake up, eat and make it to the start in a nice leisurely manner. It can get cold in Vegas on a December night but the weather on December 4th was possibly the best you could hope for (low 40s and sunny at 4pm) so I had that going in my favor. Lindsay accompanied me to the start so having her there gave me a chance to wear warm clothing up until the final few minutes before the start gun.

After a speech by some random celebrity and the national anthem, the gun went off and so did we. The first few steps felt surprisingly tough. Despite trying to keep an easy and conservative start my shins started to feel very tight and painful almost from the get-go. My first two miles came in at a ~9:00 pace (definitely not 3:10 or even 3:29 material). I stopped, massaged my lower legs and mile 3 felt much better. I settled in at a conservative 160bpm heart rate for miles 3-8. In my past marathons I raced a few bpm higher with a very even split so I knew this was a conservative target HR. Unfortunately my pace at this heart rate was about 0:45 to 1:00 min/mile slower than desired. In terms of perceived effort it also felt like 166+ bpm and not 160 bpm. By mile 8 I was feeling more tired than I felt at the end of my 15K just over a month ago and that was over 1:00/mi faster and at a much much higher heart rate. It was clear from the beginning that "something just wasn't right" and now at mile 8 it was painfully obvious that things were going downhill (and I don't mean a nice gradual descent to the finish line). My legs were starting to run out of gas and while I could have pushed hard for a few more miles I asked myself why. I definitely didn't need to finish another marathon. I wouldn't get any satisfaction from a finish--just a much slower recovery process post race. I decided to stop pushing and just took it super easy with plans to exit the course when it looped back to the start area at mile 13.1. Found Lindsay at the half-way mark and told her that I just wasn't feeling right. Got my stuff from the bag drop off area and we just went to dinner instead.

Race Review
While I only did half the race, I got a pretty good impression of the whole course and event. The race was pretty well organized--registration, bag drop off, packet pickup, etc all went smoothly. Despite the very large race size (some 40K registrations) it was easy and hassle free to get to the starting corrals. The corals were surprisingly uncrowded too. Water was evenly placed but the sports drink was not available at a most of the aid stations (at least within the first 13 miles). On course port-o-potties were extremely sparse and located at unpredictable spots. Many male participants decided to turn random walls, posts and fences into bathrooms as a result. The first half of the race was also on rather desolate terrain going through miles of dark, quiet residential neighborhoods and a small section of highway and then past a factory at one point. There were maybe 2-3 bands playing but that's it. Also the race is often described as being a pancake flat course but the first half (with it's various onramps, offramps, overpasses & underpasses) is anything but. While I didn't do the last half, I am familiar enough with the strip to confirm that it is quite flat so that's probably where its flat course reputation comes from. The strip was also far more lively than the first half of the course too. One other thing I would change is the timing of how the half-marathon race and marathon race intersect. In 2011 they had the half-marathon start 1n hour thirty after the marathon with the last half of the marathon course being the same as the half-marathon course. This lead to hundreds, maybe thousands of marathoners running right into the back end of the half marathon field. While they tried to keep each race in it's own "lanes" it didn't quite work that way but I could see what they were trying to do. All things considered it was a "OK" run race though it does leave some major room for improvement with regard the half-marathon/marathon timing and the on-course aid station & port-o-potty availability.

Post Race and End of Season Thoughts
Las Vegas Marathon was an inconsistent race to end an inconsistent season featuring both PRs and PWs. Inconsistent schedules lead to inconsistent training which lead to inconsistent results. Surprisingly, my chronic right hip problem definitely didn't benefit from this type of training either. :) I'm currently going through some physical therapy and hope to find a good ART specialist in the Seattle area as well. At least part of reason I had a strong year last year was due to a blend of consistent training (steady ~8 hours a week) and frequent preventative trips to my ART specialist Dr Bochner in NYC. Work schedules aren't always predictable but I can at least make time for preventative maintenance like ART and applicable strengthening exercises. Sounds like the makings of a New Years' resolution. Happy New Year everyone!