It’s been a couple weeks since I checked off Nevada from my 50 States list. That makes 15 states that I’ve run a race in – although I did not do a half marathon in all of those so I may go repeat some states later.
My boyfriend and I had already planned a mini vacation to climb in Red Rock Canyon. Later, I was scrolling through RunningInTheUsa.com, like I normally do, and started looking at Nevada races for 2018. It just so happened there was a half marathon the same weekend, in the same park(!), when we were already planning on visiting! Serendipitous? It was just too perfect.
I “begged” Ben if I could run it and he worked in a “rest day” into our climbing schedule. Although I do really like climbing, running (and checking off a state) is a huge passion of mine and it was just so perfect to have a race the same weekend.
It was truly a unique experience to vacation and explore the Red Rock National Conservation area to its full potential by climbing, hiking, running a race and camping all in one trip.
As much as I want to do a whole blog post on the entire trip, this post’s focus is on the race.
When I found the half marathon on the calendar, I wasn’t training for anything in particular. I was still about 6 or 7 weeks from race day so I decided to increase my mileage every week. Essentially, I did a very basic, beginners half marathon training plan. I ran 10 miles a week and a half before the race and I felt relatively prepared for a half marathon.
Since I only had a short, low mile base built up, I didn’t have any big goals for this half. I just wanted to finish, not push too hard, and still be mobile after the race since we had a few more days of climbing afterwards.
The Night Before
Ben and I were just planning on camping the whole time in the park. However, since we weren’t quite sure if the race was going to shut down roads or the entrance to the park, race morning logistics were becoming difficult. The race company did have a free bus shuttle from the race’s host hotel to and from the race, but if we were to camp, we would have had to get up all that much earlier to get ourselves to the hotel (driving back into the city) and on the bus. I decided to just rent a room in the hotel for the night before to make everything easier. This way Ben could sleep in and then get on the bus, which was free for spectators as well (and I could get in a shower afterwards)!
Packet Pick Up
Since we were in the hotel already, it made packet pick up SUPER easy, as we took the elevator down 5 floors. With time to spare and nothing to do, we took advantage of the bowling, bars and amenities of the Sun Coast Hotel and Casino.
Maybe because I wasn’t worried about anything not having many goals, this seemed to be the easiest, least stressful race mornings I had ever had. I got dressed (my clothes laid out the night before), grabbed my food (I packed myself a breakfast bag the night before), and caught the elevator to the first floor and boarded the bus (benefit of being in the host hotel).
After reading their million warnings in email and on the website, they STRONGLY suggested getting on the bus really early. That left me with an HOUR to wait, standing, in the cold at the start line. Luckily the bathrooms were heated and there was plenty of people to chat with. Actually, now that I mention it, racers were so friendly at this race and I got to chat with so many people that morning. It was quite refreshing. Besides the local company I work for, many of the most recent races I’ve gotten to actually run haven’t had all that friendly of people.
Finally, the gear drop bus showed up, and I had to strip off my layers with 5 minutes to spare before the race. Not that I minded, it was a chilly morning, only 35 degrees at the start, so keeping my layers on as long as possible was desirable. After lining up and cueing my music, I anxiously awaited the start, but there was no gun or whistle, and it seemed in mid-sentence to another racer, we were running! It was a very strange, uneventful start.
Holy HILLS! This was probably the hardest race I’ve ever run. The hills were never ending and even though I knew that the biggest hills were over by mile 7.5, the little rolls in the road felt like monsters near the end.
Nevertheless, I trucked along, keeping steady. I didn’t walk until mile 5 and then only a couple of 30-second walking breaks every other mile or so! For not being that trained, I was feeling good. It wasn’t until mile 10, as expected, that I felt DONE. My feet seemed to be the limiting factor and were hurting with every step. I kept going, even up the hill that put you into the finish line, and Ben was right there, running with me up the last two-tenths of a mile.
Overall – 3/5
If it weren’t for the amazing views, this race wouldn’t have much going for it. I’m guessing the location itself is really the only reason people keep running this race. Yeah, sure, everything was organized and in place. Things were started on time (sans a huge production or announcement). The course was marked and coned appropriately and safely. There was plenty of water stations….. But, to me, those are all things that SHOULD go with ANY race. I have very little money and when I choose to spend my money on a race, I’d like it to be on the best event it could be. Yeah, I’m picky and have high expectations, but for $90 – $100, I expected a lot.
There was no bells or whistles with this race EXCEPT the constant view to distract you from running up so much elevation gain. The swag was alright (not being advertised ahead of time, I had no idea what I would get), there was no expo (none at packet pick nor at the finish line), there was bare minimum communication and the medal was, frankly, just a medal with the race name (I like unique and fun medals).
Also, on top of all that, photos were NOT free. I’m a little spoiled in Colorado I guess because almost every race I run has FREE photos for download. I’ve already paid this company $100 to run, $130 to stay in a hotel and now there’s more money for photos of me. Geez!
The one other thing that made this event worth my money is the finisher food. They had OPTIONS! All the options. Bagels, candy, pastries, chips, chocolate milk, hot drinks and PANCAKES. You betcha, I got a pancake.
T-Shirt/Swag – 2/5
For being such a great location, the swag sure was ‘eh. Seriously. The t-shirt was just the race name (white, long-sleeved with too short of arms), same with the medal and there was virtually nothing in the goodie bag (except a flyer from their on-course nutrition, Hammer – which I tried and promptly spit out! That stuff is gross!)
Aid Stations/Support – 5/5
Like I said before, course marking and water stations are critical to ANY race. This one was no exception and they had plenty of water stations along the way, about every two miles or less. There was water and HEED (from Hammer) at all the stations and snacks at some (probably for the marathon distance runners). Due to the nature of a national park, there were restrooms throughout the whole course.
Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty – 5/5
I’ve already touched on this. The course scenery was GORGEOUS! I think this is the most scenic and pretty race I have ever run. The course followed the scenic drive of the National Conservation area which just so happens to be about 13 miles. How convenient for them! We had already driven this road a few times before race day, so I knew what to expect, but those hills just kept going and going and going!
Expo Quality – 1/5 (if that)
There was no expo. Not at the packet pick up and not at the race start or finish. It surprises me that this is the second race in less than a year that has virtually no sponsors. Don’t they know they can MAKE MONEY from sponsors!?!?! As a race director/marketing coordinator for a running company, I know that, for fact, you can get people to PAY YOU to come to your race because you are bringing in a specific market of people, i.e. runners, and if someone has a product that appeals to that target market – it’s a no-brainer! As a racer, I like expos because I like to see the lastest running gear, trends and local businesses.
Parking/Access – 4/5
There was no parking allowed at the start or finish of the race. Obviously, not everyone follows the “rules” and people still parked at both locations (and paid the National Park entrance fee) but because of this, the race provided buses to the start and from the finish and buses for the spectators to/from the finish for FREE from the host hotel. I think that is AMAZING and actually makes things easy. If we hadn’t stayed at the host hotel, thinking like a local racer, It would have been just as easy to park at the hotel and get on the bus as well. There was another option if you were staying in a hotel near the Vegas Strip for an affordable fee.
Race Management – 4/5
Even though I’ve knocked the company for not having all the bells and whistles, they still get a 4/5 for race management because things were in place and on time. It does take a lot of coordination to get the bus to/from the hotel and to the race location. Plus, they did have all the info you needed on the race website. The thing that knocks off one of the points is timing and post-race communication. It took three days to get our results and it wasn’t until day three that anything was even acknowledged. There were no live results, even though it was chipped timed. When I looked later that evening after the race and didn’t see results, I was a little irritated, but when I got back to town on Monday after climbing and there was STILL no results, I was bothered. I finally checked my emails and saw one email at noon on Monday saying the timer was working on results but there was a bug in the software. Then email #2 came at 2pm saying preliminary results were up, but they weren’t 100% correct. And finally, email #3 at 8pm, a FULL TWO DAYS (not including race day) AFTER the race stated that the results were final and online. Being a race director and timer, I was irritated at the format of results as well, being a stationary PDF that you can’t easily search. I know the systems they were using for timing and the software; plus the registration platform was on Run Sign Up which is so user-friendly that results could have easily been integrated and searchable by name. Oh well. There goes my nit-picking.
My Race – 4/5
I achieved my goals and wasn’t completely wrecked after the race! Sure, it was my slowest half marathon time probably ever (which is why I dock one point), but it was the prettiest (and hilliest) half marathons I had ever run as well. Plus, I got to rep 3W Races, Legend Compression Wear and Golden Mountain Guides while running around Nevada, so can’t be a loss there!
The afternoon after finishing, we checked out of the hotel, picked another campsite at the park and then recovered by walking parts of the Vegas Strip. The day after, I was only a little sore in my shins and feet and ended up climbing 1090 vertical feet with a hike in and out, 12 hours car to car…but more on that adventure later!