This weekend, the Husband and I went to Vegas, child-free. We adore our small person but frankly, it was awesome. The Husband needs no encouraging to eat his vegetables, he showers willingly and does not need me to check his bottom after doing a poo. Totally brilliant.
We were there to meet my friend Nicola from the UK and to run the Red Rock Canyon Half Marathon, which took place on Saturday, her 40th birthday. We stayed off the strip (having been to Vegas before) at the SunCoast Hotel which was the official race hotel. The hotel was a little shabby but our room was lovely. Packet pick-up was in the casino the night before. It was very quick.
Race Day started at 5am and by 5.4 we were downstairs in the lobby, meeting the birthday girl and getting bagels, ready for the bus. It was VERY nice to simply stagger bleary-eyed out of our room onto the bus. The race was about 20 minutes away at Red Rock Canyon State Park. We had driven through the park 4 years ago, but running it would be very different. Logistics were easy, the bus was on time and we got to the start line just in time to use the loo. It was FREEZING. Seriously chilly. I huddled in my space blanket until it was time to be brave, cast it off and dash for the start line. The start line was very low-key, with about 250 runners and before we had time to get chilled, we were off.
My plan for the race? To run with Nicola. Wasn’t fussed about my time, wasn’t fussed about running the whole thing. I wanted to run it, enjoy it and take a lot of photos. We had the additional problem that Nicola wrenched her back badly on the flight out, lugging a suitcase. A trip to a chiropractor had helped but she was a little uncomfortable and we wondered how her back would hold up.
The course is one of the most spectacular courses I’ve ever run. I think only my relay in Colorado compares. We wound our way through the state park in a giant horseshoe shape. The road was well paved and we had scrubby desert, studded with cacti and Joshua trees on one side and gorgeous red cliff mountains to the other. It was just a really lovely place to run. Well chosen, Nic!
It wasn’t an easy course, however. The first five miles were pretty much uphill. Pretty runnable hills, fairly decent gradients, for most of the time, but relentless. We ran a little, walked a little and did it all again until we finally reached the aid station at about mile 5 where the hills were pretty much done. This aid station had a portaloo, orange segments and delicious Pringles which tasted like manna from heaven. We lingered there a while. We were in no rush, and it was lovely.
From there, we plunged downhill. The remaining 8 miles were pretty much solidly downhill although with three or four short but not insignificant climbs. We were on track for a 2 hr 30 finish, which would do us nicely but towards the end, Nicola’s back started to get fed up with the downhill pounding and began to hurt. She was super tough and never complained, stopping a few times to stretch it out, but I could tell that she was in some discomfort and I really felt for her. To make the situation better (worse?) I put some music on for us both and sang very loudly when the inspiration took me.
The down side of amazing, spectacular views that stretch out forever is that you can see just how far it is to the finish line…and it was a long way. But soon enough we were nearing the end. We walked a little, one more time, to ease Nic’s back and then, with quarter of a mile to go, we set off running and finished with a ‘sprint’ so that we looked super awesome. We crossed the finish line in 2 hrs 35, several minutes behind the Husband and to find Nic’s boyfriend as our personal paparazzo! Awesome.
The finish line refreshments utterly rocked. Pancakes. I piled into the pancakes and syrup like a starving girl. Utterly perfect. And then Nicola opened up a bottle of prosecco that she’d put in her checked bag so we helped her drink that too!
All in all, I have to say that this was one of the best races I’ve ever run. The views were breathtaking (in every sense). Really gorgeous. It made me so happy to run somewhere so beautiful. There were plentiful aid stations giving out water and Heed – and the air was so dry I stopped at pretty much every one. It was very well organised, the buses were on time, smooth and pleasant, and the finish line ‘party’ was great. We got a very nice black tech shirt and a HUMONGOUS medal. Well played, Calico Racing. Really nice job.
Personally, I loved the race. Whilst the competitive part of me is interested to see how fast I could have run this course, I have to say that I really loved just being out for a run and enjoying the views. I loved running along at a chatting pace with my friend, loved stopping for photos. It was a flipping brilliant morning out.
And then, later on, after naps….we hit the Strip!