Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My History with the Las Vegas Marathon

As we approach this weekends race, I decided I wanted to take a trip down memory lane. I have a pretty good "relationship" With the Las Vegas Marathon. I have raced 6 full marathons beginning in 2004 and I wanted to do a short recap on each race.

In 2003 my husband wanted to run his first marathon with me. We picked the 2004 International Las Vegas Marathon. The race was held every January and even though it was the Las Vegas Marathon it was no where near the strip. The race started near the NV state line in Jean and it finished at Sunset Park. It was a windy and cold day. We were on 3:30 pace until the half. Then the wind beat us up and we hit "the wall" and we finished in 3:46 even.
In 2005 I ran the same race alone. It was a cold day. Back then I didn't know much about nutrition and fueling during the race. Most of my runs were during the winter months. I didn't feel thirsty so I hardly drank water or Gatorade during my runs I was hurting really bad towards the end and some nice man gave me an energy gel at mile 24. It made a world of difference. I finished in 3:45:12.

Later on that year Zappos took over the sponsorship of the race and "The New Las Vegas Marathon" was created. They totally changed the course and the month of the race.  They moved it from the end of January to the beginning of December. They also moved it to the strip to attract more runners. It worked and the race was a big success. This was a pretty stressful and busy time in my life. I was just starting my Junior year at UNLV and I had a full time job. (45+ hrs a week) I have no idea how I had time to train for a full marathon but , I did.  I finished the race 3:50:10. (No Picture available, we forgot the camera that day)

In 2006 I decided at the last minute not to participate in the race. I had finals the next morning and I needed to study. I also think I may have been too chicken to race that year.

In 2007 I ran this race with the hopes of qualifying for Boston. 3:40 or bust. I under dressed for this race and I froze my butt off! It was super windy and it was a heart breaker for me because I really wanted it this day. I was on pace until the 20 mile mark and I fell apart the last 6 miles. Three miles from the finish I had my running buddy pull me in. She watched me cry during those final miles. I finished 3:44:35
Las Vegas Marathon 07 (26.2 Miles) Dolly & Debbie in Christmas Party by Dolly Contreras

 2008 was a much better year. I came into this race well trained and well rested. The weather was also perfect for once! The temps were in the low 50's and there was hardly a breeze. I told myself to hold back in the early miles and it worked. I remember hitting mile 15 and feeling great! I hit mile 20 and I felt great. Mile 23 is when the race became difficult.  I finished 3:35:15 and this was the first time I qualified for Boston on the LV course. 
LV Marathon 2008 I had a kick ass day! in My Photos by Dolly Contreras

2009 was the last time I raced the full in Las Vegas. Rock n Roll had just taken over organizing this race. I really like the Rock n Roll race series. They are a for profit running company so, their races are on the expensive side.  But, you get what you pay for: a nice technical tee, a wave start, nice goody bag, a well organized expo, and a really well organized race. It was a cold morning, 31 degrees at the start brrr. However there was no wind and I felt good going into this race. I ran a personal best 3:31:49

In 2010 I was way big pregnant. There was no way I would attempt to run this.

This weekend will be the first time I run the half marathon in Las Vegas. If I had more time to train I would be running the full. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bouncing off of the walls

On Saturday I headed out for my last long run before RNR LV. I ran 10.5 miles and it felt good I took the first half easy and then eased into a negative split second half. It was a sort of dress rehearsal for the big dance on December 4th. Sunday was a rest day, Monday was 3 easy miles on the mill and Tuesday was a 5 mile "Tempo" run on the treadmill. To say I am nervous about next weekend would be an understatement. My nerves are jangling and I can't stop playing race scenarios in my head. Tapering is tough because, you want to have "fresh legs" for the race but, the extra nervous energy gets stored up in me and it has no where to go.

I was tempted to race a 12k this weekend because it's a cheap $5 dollar low key race very close to home. But, I know that I will treat it like an actual race and I don't want to blow out my legs without giving them a chance to recover before the half marathon. My plan for this weekend is just to take it easy and try not to eat to much junk over the holiday break.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taper Time and Race Goals

The Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half Marathon are less than three weeks away. I am going to do one more long run this week and then I am just going to rest up and take it easy. I'm looking forward to the taper. I'm  also starting to feel the anticipation build for this upcoming race. By the time December 4th hits I will be buzzing with nervous/anxious energy. This is the feeling that I love/hate about running something "big". The climax for me is usually once I get into my assigned corral and right before the gun goes off. This is when I feel so alive, during the race itself  I can go on autopilot and let my training and body take over.

I don't like the fact that I think in past tense so much when it comes to running. "Before I had my son I raced two to three marathons a year". "Before I had my son I could rip off a 21:00 5k without much training". "Before I had my son, blah, blah, blah." I feel that by finally getting my butt back into the corrals that I will be able to leap over this mental hurdle and just enjoy the present day for what it is. I have a beautiful son, wonderful husband and a great life.

*Goals for Vegas*
C Goal- Just finish the 13.1 miles and enjoy this race.

B Goal- 1:45 This is a very doable goal with the training I have had.

A Goal- Sub 1:40. I'm putting it out there because I'm not going to count it out. This will require some race day magic.

I'm going to see how my body feels in the early miles, my goal is to hold back the first half and open up later on. I'm so excited just thinking about it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Red Rock on a Tuesday

I feel that I should be posting this as another long run don't. In hindsight I feel that I did a very foolish thing...

On Tuesday I was on the west side of town (which I am hardly ever on this side of town) I was on this end of town for a computer learning course, we were given an hour lunch break so I brought my running gear with me for a short 45 min run during lunch. Instead of taking a lunch break we decided to push through lunch and our afternoon break so we could get out of class early. I decided to go and run the Red Rock loop. I love this loop it is 15 miles of punshing beauty (1500ft of climbing uphill over 15 miles.)

I parked my car at the back entrance and I ran to the begining of the loop which is two miles away. I started the loop and the climb began. The first 5 miles of the loop climb over 1000ft. I took my time and plugged away like a mountain goat. I stopped at the top of the loop to take pictures. The next 8 miles were a downhill ride but, there were not easy. I was thirsty, cold, and tired. I also started to worry about the what if's. What if I roll my ankle? What if I see a coyote? What if I can't finish the loop before dark? It was dangerous to run this without a buddy and without hydration. Even though it was cold I was still thirsty. I didn't fuel or hydrate properly before this run and I'm lucky nothing happened. Cell phone reception is really spotty or nonexsistent at Red Rock.

I made it back to my car and I was happy to have finished the route.  I streched out my legs and hopped into the car to go pick up my son and do some grocery shopping. I was still driving home an hour and half later and my body cramped up so bad. I had such a bad cramp in my abdomen. My core is still weak from being pregnant and gaining weight.  That night I had the chills and it was hard to get liquids down. My body was rebelling on me for being so foolish. This was my third long run in less than a week. I'm going to back off for the next couple of days and try to get some core work in.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sunday Funday in nice weather

Today was a nice run day. I warmed up on the treadmill for one mile and I took off for a nine mile run in a hilly area in my neighborhood. Yesterday was a rest day from my 10 mile run in cold rainy weather.  The baby went down for his morning nap and I got to enjoy some alone time.
Today was chilly as well and since I was a little beat up from Friday's run I wore some compression sleeves on my legs. This was a great idea! My legs were toasty and I felt that I had extra stamina in them in the later miles. I may wear these for next months half marathon. Here are some pictures from the route.
I love looking at the Las Vegas Skyline.

Friday, November 4, 2011

10 miles in Sh*tty Weather

I have a regular 8-5 job Monday-Thursday, but on Friday I get to leave work at 3pm. Now that it's not crazy hot in Las Vegas anymore and  the fact that I don't pick up my son from daycare until  5:15pm,  I have made a commitment to run long on Friday afternoon. I figure that this will help me train for the Rock n Roll LV half marathon next month, because this race is run in the evening.  Three weeks ago I ran my hilly 10 mile route and it was hot! I had to pour ice water over my head and stuff ice cubes into my bra half way through the run. The Las Vegas area has about two seasons hot and cold.  We go from hot to freezing in less than a month. I kept looking at to give me an idea about how chilly it might be. Daytime high was 63 degrees with lows in the 40's. Not too bad. I was so grateful that I remembered to pack a long sleeve top in my bag.

I took off at about 3:15pm and it was windy.  There were 20-30 per mile headwinds and it had started to rain. I knew that this run was going to be a test of how tough I was mentally. The first 5 miles of my route climb 600ft. I wore a hot pink shirt because I was worried in that grey foggy drizzle that cars wouldn't see me. On days like this you can't worry about running fast. The roads were like a slippery ice rink and I had to be extra careful with my footing. As I was running up hill I was hit with stinging cold wind and rain. The strangest thing happened. I kept thinking about how hard this run had been in the hot temps. The heat sucks a lot of energy out of you. But the cold wind seemed to cancel out the burn of climbing uphill, and the burn of climbing uphill seemed to lessen the bite of the cold wind.

When I hit the 5 mile turn around I crossed the street in the crosswalk and I had the right away. I still felt like I was playing frogger with cars because of the low visibility and then the rain stopped. I had three awesome miles of downhill cruising. I still had to be careful with my footing because of the slippery roads.  About two miles from the finish the rain started up again. This time it was a bit more steady, I was so grateful for the wind to be at my back.

These runs are great for mental toughness. The weather for the half marathon could just as cold maybe even colder. I ran the RNR LV full in 2009. It was 31 degrees at the start. Brrr. I'm glad today was a good day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

40 for 40

I did the craziest thing about three weeks ago. I planned a birthday party for my friend and running buddy. It had been an idea that we had been kicking around for about two years. My friend was going to be celebrating the big 4-0 and she wanted to run 40 miles to celebrate this occasion. I thought she was nuts. But I wanted to make this day possible for her. We have been training partners for the past 4 years. I give her credit for lighting the competitive fire in me a few years ago. When I first moved to Las Vegas 9 years ago I was a full time college student and I also worked a part time job. I would train for a marathon just to stay in shape and occasionally I would race shorter distance races. In 2007 during my last semester of UNLV I met my friend and a lot of things just fell right into place with my training. I graduated from college and I had more time to run. This friend helped me believe in myself and she encouraged me to try to qualify for the "Boston Marathon" (I had qualified over 10 years ago but, I never had the opportunity or the means to go to Boston). To make a long story short I qualified for Boston again at the beginning of 2008 and I ran the race that same year. Since that time my friend and I have raced together, raced against each other, hurt together during 20 milers in the July heat, and gossiped during many early morning miles. When I became pregnant she was very excited for me but, I knew my life would change and our runs would be more infrequent. Still the idea of 40 for 40 was there.

As much as I would have loved to run 20 of those miles with her, I knew that I had to be in charge of the logistics. I am a control freak when it comes to planning. I have to know: who, where, when, what, and how this was going to take place. Safety was also a big issue. Even though it was October the temps were expected to hit 90 degrees in the afternoon.We mapped out a route that was 32 miles long. My goal was to have pacers at the start and then there would be several meet up spots for others to join. I would then drive back runners to their cars when there were done pacing. I also set up aid stations every 1.5-2 miles along the course with water, gatorade, ice and candy.

 The day started early for the birthday girl. Since the route was only 32 miles she got up early and ran 8 miles before hand with one of her pacers to make sure she got the full 40 miles in. At 8am she met up with about 8 pacers to begin their climb up highway 159 heading north to Red Rock state park about 9 miles into the run more pacers joined.  By this time she had clocked 17 miles and was looking strong.Some of the earlier runners were done for the day and it was my turn to give them a ride back to the start.  At the 25 mile mark another set of pacers joined. I was a little worried about my friend because she did appear a little loopy. She assured me she was ok and she kept on running. The second half of the course seemed to be much easier for her. It was a downhill ride from Red Rock State park through the west side of the Las Vegas valley ending downtown on Fremont Street.

There were fresh pacers at mile 30 to keep her motivated. I kept expecting her to hit a wall eventually but it seemed the further along she was the stronger she became.  At the end of the day I was so amazed at how smoothly everything went. I was proud of myself for planning the event and it was incredible to see her run 40 miles.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Long Run do's and don'ts

I'm in the process of training for a half marathon. My goal is to average 30 miles a week. I don't have a rigid schedule because I'm fitting in my running as best as I can. I try to do some sort of speed work once a week and one or two longish runs (7-11 miles). The rest are recovery miles. The Las Vegas half marathon is about one month away so I have about two weeks more of solid training followed by a two week taper.  Now that I'm getting closer to race day I'm trying to include a portion of the miles run during long runs at race pace so, I'm not just slogging through them.

Long Run Dont's
Expecting to run fast on tired legs
Turning a long run into speedwork
Beat yourself up for not hitting expected "splits"

About two weeks ago I deiced to do a 9 miler and I wanted to hit 8 minute miles the whole way. Without really warming up I took off at a good clip hitting these miles but, by mile 3 my legs were not really feeling the long run. I promised my self that at 5 miles I would slow down. Once I got to mile 6 my legs were hurting and I had no choice but to slow down. I took it easy for two miles and ran the last mile back at an 8 minute pace. Those two miles 7 and 8 were run at about 9:30-10:00 pace. And it was a reminder of what can happen in a race if you don't run smart. It was not a confidence boosting run to say the least. In hindsight I don't know why I expected to run well. I had run 16 miles in the previous two days. So my legs weren't fresh. This was a long run don't

Long Run Do's
Have a route picked out
Have a plan
Don't be too over zealous in the first few miles.
Take it easy the day before your long run.

Last Friday I ran 10 miles after work and I executed my run plan well. I had a 10 mile route picked out with 6 miles of running comfortable and holding back during the first half and pick it up for the second half. I wanted to hit each mile at about 8:30 pace during the first half. The first 6 miles of this run had about 350 ft of  climbing. No serious hills just a few stretches of uphill grade. The last 4 were a down hill grade that I planned to drop down to 7:45-7:30 pace depending how I felt. I'm so glad that my brain and my legs worked together and they did what they were supposed to. Those last 4 miles were in the high 7:30's with the last mile being a 7:26. A run like this makes me hopeful for the half marathon next month.