Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Las Vegas Marathon Race Report

by Blaine Penny

The Vegas trip for my wife Sarah and I was only our second vacation sans kids in the last 7 years. Sarah was running her second half marathon and I was running my 4th full marathon.

It was only 5 or 6 weeks earlier that Sarah mentioned to me that we should go on a weekend holiday get-away. It took a few days before Vegas came on the radar - where we had never been before - and that’s how the idea of making it a running holiday came about. I was thinking all I want is a break since it had been such a busy year of house renovations, running races and charity work. I was all game for it.

The biggest challenge for us in getting away without the kids is having someone to look after them. We have no family in town and have a special needs kiddo, Evan, who has a lot of medications so no easy feat to pawn the kids off. Fortunately our good friends Ian and Anna (who live in Golden, BC) were up for the task of taking the kids for 4 days. They have 2 kids of their own, who are the same ages as ours, so they moved right into our house and stepped in to look after the kids. Fortunately Ian is a paramedic and administering the meds were no issue for him. We also brought in our respite care worker, Dana, who is just amazing with the kids to help out.

We arrived on Friday morning and 2 days before the run. Never having been to Vegas before we knew it was going to be a fine balance between sightseeing and not overdoing it knowing we had the marathon on Sunday. After all, this was Vegas! I swear we walked a marathon on the Fri and Sat.

The race weather was perfect. It was about 5 or 6 degrees with a forecasted high of 15 with no wind. With a gun time of 7 am, we woke up at 4 am for breakfast to allow enough time for food to digest and to catch the shuttle to the start. We spent about 1.5 hours at the start standing around, which is always tough when you are cold and just want to get the show on the road.

It wasn’t long before we were in our corrals and Cher was belting out the National Anthem. Then it was go time. My race strategy was pretty simple. I was looking for a time of 2:42 and wanted to have a consistent pace of 3:50 mins/km and pick it up in the second half if I was feeling good.

The course for the half marathon basically ran down and back on the strip and then the marathoners peeled off with the second half being a little more drab, running mainly through the industrial part of Vegas. The first half was really cool - tons of spectators lining the strip, Elvis everywhere, a band on just about every corner rockin’ it hard, and even 60 couples exchanging vows. I knew it was going to be a lonely second half and that I was going to have to dig deep to keep it going. This was a stark contrast when compared to the Boston Marathon that’s for sure!

There was steady climbing from about mile 6 or 7 until about mile 17 where we cranked around a 180 degree hairpin to look back on the city and I realized the extent of climbing we had done. This was a huge mental boost for me since I had been slowing a bit and we then had a 2 to 3 mile stretch of down where I could crank it out again and get back on track.

Sarah was gunning to go under 2 hours for the half, so at the 2 hour mark when the hurt really started to creep in I distracted myself by thinking about her race and how it was going for her. At about mile 20 I felt my steady Eddy approach was working well and I continued to slowly pick off runners who were fading. I had no idea of how I was doing placing wise, and really just focused on maintaining my game plan and making sure I was taking on fluid and calories at every aid station. I was pretty stoked with 3 miles to go knowing I was still on pace and could actually pull off my goal time. I also knew that I didn’t want to get too excited knowing it could all fall apart in an instant, so I kept taking on fluids and told myself it’s not a done deal until you cross the line. I held it together, but was suffering pretty bad in the final mile (where I got passed for the first time in the entire race) to post a time of 2:42 and change.

I find the marathon is a dichotomy between being focused on your game plan, but at the same time distracting yourself so you don’t dwell on the pain and the lows. The coolest thing about the whole run for me was the effortless downhill cruise between miles 17 and 19 (after climbing for so many miles) – it just felt like the easy lunchtime run pace and didn’t feel like I was in the middle of a marathon at all. Those moments are rare!

I had idea throughout the race what my placing was and didn’t care. I recall looking at last years results and thinking that if I pulled off a top 50 would be good and top 30 would be amazing. It wasn’t until Sarah’s Dad emailed us the results later that night that we realized I had placed so well. To finish in the top 10 and 1st in my age group was an added bonus and one to remember for sure.


  1. Great race Blaine! Top 10 at a major marathon is awesome.

  2. Blaine,
    That's a very cool read.
    Well done!