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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

#48- The Hoover Dam Marathon

I really never thought about running this race until a few months ago when my friend Chris Carnahan told me he was coming from Washington, D.C. to run it. I usually run with Chris on his turf at the Marine Corps Marathon, but when he mentioned he was running Hoover Dam, I told him I would drive down and run it with him. I immediately asked my girls, Teresa, Teota, Marsha and Liz if they were game, but when we got closer to the day, Teota was the only taker! Our friend Galen was smart and already had this race on his calendar.

As weeks went by I never heard from Chris about when he was coming in or any of the details of his trip. I kind of assumed he decided not to come. So I posted on his Facebook page the Thursday before the race asking if he was running (kind of breaking his chops and expecting him to make an excuse on why he couldn't come). I was shocked when he said he WAS coming!! Oh heck yeah!!! The thought of how we would out do our D.C. outing was scary, but scary was what happened before we even met up!

Teota and I were staying at the Excalibur. Now, Teresa had told us that this was not a nice place to stay, but it was cheap ($50 a night) and for what we needed it for it would be fine....we thought! We got our keys and headed to the hotel elevator only to be greeted by a man in handcuffs being arrested! "Nice place!" I joked to Teota. We went upstairs just to drop our bags off and then we were going to meet Chris next door at the Luxor, where he was staying. In the time it took us to drop our bags and go downstairs, a man had come into the lobby, shot his wife (who worked at the hotel) and then turned the gun on himself! WTH?!!!!!

After we met Chris and hung out for a few minutes we went back to our room to hit the hay. I crashed down on the bed, put my headphones in and fell asleep listening to a podcast. At 12:00am, I was awakened from a deep sleep with the sound of Teota's scream. Yes folks, a drunk man looking for someone named Nichole had entered our room while we slept!!!! I called security and they came up right away. We don't know who it was, but let's just say we will NEVER stay there again!

Now on to the race! It had been raining the night before and the temps were in the 40's, so we decided to prepare ourselves by wearing warm weather gear. When we got to the start the weather was cool but dry.

We got to the start about 30 minutes before the start which was just the right amount of time to use the potty, take some photos with friends and start! No waiting in the cold for too long.

Maniacs at the Start
Maricar, Teota, Peter and I
Tony (aka Endorphin Dude) and Chris Jones waiting to start.
The course consisted of two loops. We started on a paved bike path for the first couple of miles which was all up hill (I didn't really notice on the first loop as I was talking and having fun, but it hurt like heck the second loop)! We then moved onto the trail for the out to the Hoover Dam and back.
I loved running on the trail and wished I had worn my Hokas and gaitors after just a few miles on it. It wasn't technical trail, but it was a little rocky at parts and some of the smaller rocks ended up in my shoes!
Some of the funnest moments we had running this race was running with our east coast pals! OMH! Maricar (aka Lady Liberty) had us rolling at every turn! She is a hoot! We all got a good laugh at my friend Chris (who Maricar called "the spectator") who wore a hoodie and a 20 pound back pack for the entire first half of the race! We all thought he was crazy, until our military mama Teota reminded us that Chris was "Army strong" and could handle that pack with no problem, and he did!

This must be early in the race! (photo by Giovanni Guevarra)
Heading out on the trail!
The view around Lake Mead was beautiful!
One of the coolest sites on this run was when we got to the tunnels on the trail. We got to run through a number of small tunnels along the trails, which originally were constructed as railroad tunnels in the early 1930s and were used to transport men and materials back and forth between Boulder City and the Hoover Dam, which was then in the process of being built over a period of five years, between 1931 and 1936, in the depths of the Great Depression. They were huge and carved right out of the mountain!

Once we got out of the tunnels we started seeing a lot of transformers and power lines, which told us we were getting closer to the Hoover Dam.

Paul coming back from the Dam. This race earned him his 10 Maniac Stars!
Galen looking smiley as he returns!
Maricar running to the Hoover Dam!
The Hoover Dam.
After we hit the Dam (at the 10K mark), we turned around and headed back towards the start/finish to only do the loop one more time. While I usually hate multiple loop courses, this one I really liked (with the exception of the 1 1/2 mile out and back on end of each loop. I really hated that!)
Chris and I on our way back!
I will say the second loop felt a lot harder than the first loop. I hadn't noticed the first 4 miles were up hill until the second loop and I felt like I was going to die for a few minutes. Once I hit the Dam for the second time and made it through the hills following it, the rest of the course felt great as I ran down the hills that were killing me earlier.
While this was one of my slowest marathons, I loved it and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a nice Nevada run in December besides the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll race. 

Chris, Teota and I at the Finish!
Relaxing and enjoying the hot chili and hot chocolate (what a combo)!
After the race we went back to our hotel and had a nice shower and a nap before meeting our fellow Maniacs for dinner to celebrate Paul Arroyo's Titanium feat!
We had a lovely dinner at a fancy burger place at the Paris Hotel, then made our way to a few other dives before landing at this casino (I don't even remember the name of it) where they had live karaoke! With live karaoke, you actually sing with a live band! We watched for a while then Maricar and I decided to get up there and sing the B-52's "Love Shack". OMH!! that was fun!! We even had our own dancer "Jimmy"!
Maricar and I rocking "Love Shack"!
 What a great time we had. Teota and I had breakfast with Chris before we hit the road back to SLC. It was a quick weekend trip, but it was packed full of fun!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

#47- The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon

Anyone that knows me knows that I have not been a fan of The Competitor Group (owners of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series) for a while now. I used to be a huge Rock 'n' Roll Marathon fan until 2010, when Competitor nearly doubled their entry fees and started "nickle and diming" runners for services that in any other race would be free and offered as exceptional customer service, so after last year's Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon fiasco, I vowed NEVER to run another one of their races again. Well we all know the old saying: "NEVER SAY NEVER!"

Having just run my 46th Marathon, I started doing the math on what race would be my 50th. I wanted hit that milestone at a race that was filled with friends and fun. The Surf City Marathon would be perfect! I realized with the few races left on the calendar, I would need to do one more race to make that happen, but I had to go on the cheap.

My twin sister, Angel is a Regional Endurance Manager for Team Challenge (the half marathon training program benefiting the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation). She brought her three teams from Atlanta, Jacksonville and Nashville to Las Vegas to run the half marathon. Since I hadn't seen her in a year, I talked to David (since going would fall on our 5th wedding anniversary) and he gave me the OK to go and see her. At that point I bit the bullet and registered for the race.
I drove to Las Vegas right after work Friday night and arrived at the Venetian by 9:00pm. I met my sister and we stayed in and got a good night's sleep for the next day.
The next morning my sister had meetings, so I walked over to the expo to look around and pick up my race packet. A little later my sister had to work at the expo, so I just hung out there where I ran into a few friends.
Joe Taricani, my sister and I at the expo.
Goofing off with the Showgirl!
Thanks to Dave Mari I found my Fellow Flowers!
I ran into my BFF Meb Keflezighi (Olympic Silver Medalist and winner of the 2009 NYC Marathon). You know, we shared the road in NYC and hence we are BFF's! Hee Hee!
Maxim Nazaire, coach, fitness trainer and now author of the new book "Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Wellness" and I!  You need to get in shape? Max is the man!
After the expo, I hung out with my sister and her Team Challenge crew! We attended the Team Challenge pasta dinner, which was a lot of fun. Even though I didn't come back as a coach this season, I love Team Challenge! It was so cool so see a few of our Salt Lake City crew there too!
Team Challenge spirit line at the entrance of the pasta dinner! This is where we cheer for all the awesome people that raised money and trained so hard to find a cure! You see a lot of happy tears here!
Team Georgia crew were sooooo much fun!!

After dinner we walked around the hotel for a bit and then went up to our rooms to hit the hay!
It was so strange not to have wake up early on race morning! We slept in a little then met the the crew for breakfast. Before I knew it it was time to get over to the Las Vegas sign for the Maniac/Fanatic photo. 
Maniacs and Fanatics at the Las Vegas sign!
After the photo I zipped back to my hotel and got ready for the race! Since it's Las Vegas, I brought out the Marathon Maniac showgirl outfit (where else would I wear that get up?!)
My friend Galen parked his car at our hotel (as it was the right at the finish) and we met Alice and headed over to the shuttle bus. Alice was a former Georgia Team Challenge member who moved to NYC this year. She ran her first half marathon last year in Las Vegas and wanted to conquer the marathon this year. As 99% of the Team Challenge people run the half, Alice was worried about doing her first 26.2 alone. My sister asked me if I would run with her and I said "of course!" I was running alone too and would love the company as well.
As we were leaving for the start, I got a splitting headache and felt really tired. I could tell this was not a good sign, but thought as long as I can stay ahead of the sag wagon, I will be OK. This race held a little extra pressure as the cut off time was 4:30 minutes!
Fellow Maniacs Sherry and Galen
Maniac Showgirls!!
As the gun went off, I could tell in the first 3 miles, that I was struggling. By the time I hit mile 10, I felt like I was at mile 23! Alice was looking strong and doing great. Galen had done the Death Valley Marathon the day before so he was just hanging back with us slow folks.
Just a couple of New Yorkers in front of the Brooklyn Bridge!
At about mile 12.5, I started having bathroom issues and had to stop at the port-a-potty. I was really impressed with the bathroom situation this year. The longest bathroom line was one person in front of me (even at the start)! I told Alice to keep going and that I would try to catch her. Galen was in front of us and when I got to the first out and back, I was glad to see that Alice was with him. They were only about 200 yards ahead of me.
My very own cheer squad! (OK, they were not really for me, but I borrowed them!)

Between miles 9 and 21 the course is pretty dark and really boring. This did not help. I was running into Maniacs who I would see walking and practically leach onto them just to have someone to walk and talk with! I was happy to meet a few Maniacs I had never met before!
At mile 21 I got a new burst of energy when we ran through the Fremont Street Experience! It was soooooo cool! There were lots of people cheering and they had a band rocking as we ran under the largest LCD screen in the world! We exited at mile 22 and started the merge with the half marathon. That was exciting for just a minute until we were once again directed off the strip for another mile of darkness. 
Right after mile 23, we merged with the half marathon. This year they had a clear separation barricade between the two races. We could still run and cheer on the slower half marathoners with out being stuck behind them. Great improvement! I started getting a second wind and was not sure how far Galen and Alice were ahead of me until I saw my sister. She said they were about 800 yards ahead of me. At that point, I really hoped I would catch them!
At about mile 24 I saw Coach Max! I yelled at him and he came over and ran a little with me. I really appreciated that. I know I didn't look so bad when he said "I am going to leave you and help someone who needs it!" Thanks Max!  
At Mile 25 I ran in to Joe Taricani from "The Marathon Show" and I walked with him a little as he did a quick interview with me for his show. After that I put on as much gas as I had left and finished in 4:59. I was pretty happy to finish under 5:00 given how bad I felt the whole race!
I never caught Galen and Alice (because she is a total ROCK STAR), but I didn't come in far behind them. I didn't see Alice until dinner after the race and I told her how proud I was of her! I was so glad Galen was there to help her when my wheels fell off! Thanks G!
The Bling!
It glows in the dark!! Cool!
Was my faith in the Competitor Group restored? Well, a little. I still think the high race entry fees and the "nickle and diming" has to stop, but I will give them mad props for listening to the concerns that runners had last year and really making an effort to fix those problems. They even brought fresh water in for the race! So for that, I say THANK YOU! I had a great time this year!