28 February 2016

Hot Chocolate 15K - Las Vegas

This morning was the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K - Las Vegas and I ran the 15K. I was really looking forward to this race since running the Hot Chocolate 15K - San Diego in 2014.  It was supposed to make a Las Vegas debut in 2015 but road construction on the course caused a late cancellation and refund of our registration fees.

Registration for the race was done through the RAM Racing website. I received at least four e-mails detailing things like packet pick-up, parking and live runner update info over the last month in addition to the original registration confirmation back in November.

Packet pick-up was held at the LINQ casino on the Friday and Saturday evening prior to the race. There was no expo but the pick-up was easy and I was able to try on a jacket to ensure that the correct size was in my bag.

waiting in the start queue
On race morning, my wife, youngest son and I arrived in downtown Vegas and parked just off the Strip at Bally's.  It was about a half mile to the start line which was located just east of the High Roller. We met up with some friends who were also running the race and hung out for a bit while waiting for the race to start with the 5K kicking off at 7:15 and the 15K at 8 AM.

At 7:45, I got in the starting queue and found the 9-minute pacer.  At 7:55, I switched my watch over to GPS mode and then we got announcement that the race would start in 15 minutes due to needing to get all the 5K runners past the 2-Mile mark so there were no conflicts between runners of the two distances.  At 8:10, we were about to start when another problem cropped up in that the police motorcycle which was supposed to be leading the race was unable to start.  At 8:17, another motorcycle was brought to the lead and the race began.

The first mile of the race was neat.  We ran around the High Roller and took the LINQ Promenade to Las Vegas Boulevard, better known as the Las Vegas Strip, which we ran on for a short amount of time before starting turning onto Flamingo. Halfway down Flamingo, we hit Mile 1 and I heard the pacers mention that we were at 9:04 which was pretty close to the target goal. A few turns later, we hit Mile 2 pretty much spot on the 18 minute mark. At Mile 3 , the course was on Desert Inn Road and went underneath the Las Vegas Boulevard. At the 5K mark (28:25), it began a gradual one mile climb from underneath that road to over the I-15.  At this point, a few of us who were running with the pacers were unable stay with the pace crew and dropped back 100-150 meters over the course of the mile.

The next 5k consisted of a 180 turn onto a side road and two loops on some side streets to get us back on Desert Inn.  I hit the 10K mark at 57:49 and was feeling pretty good despite the slight slowdown over the second 5K.  The final 5K went by pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line.

Along the way, I passed a lot of aid stations as well as a lot of volunteers acting as course marshallers. Being part of the Hot Chocolate series, four of the aid stations were stocked with types of chocolate candy. Sports drinks and water were plentiful at all.

So how did I do?  My overall time was 1:26:48 and my splits were very consistent outside of the outlier of Mile 4. My time was good for 24 of 57 in the M 40-44 age group, 101 of 356 men and 181 of 1,258 overall.

This is the second race I have run in the Hot Chocolate series and I hope they return to Vegas next year.  It is a well managed race and the 15K is a fun distance.

post-race medal and chocolate treats with the High Roller in the background

06 February 2016

Mardi Gras Masquerade Half Marathon

This morning saw me running BBCS's Mardi Gras Masquerade half marathon.  It started at Equestrian Park in Henderson, NV and used the River Mountain Loop Trail for most of the race.

Packet pickup - Race packets could be picked up at McGhie's bike shop in Henderson for a three hour period on Friday or for an hour prior to race start at Equestrian Park.  My wife was in the pickup area yesterday afternoon and was able to pick it up which meant that I didn't have to make a trip down there specifically for the packets and I didn't have to scramble to get to the race early to pick it up. The tech shirt was a welcome change from BBSC's normal shirt material and there was a copy of the book "Oola: Finding Balance In An Unbalanced World" in the packet.

Course Map
Course -  The course utilized three miles of the River Mountain Loop Trail and a mile of connector trail between the trail and Equestrian Park.  This meant the entire 13.1 miles were done on a four mile section of trail. This meant that we had multiple turn around spots as seen on the map. The first 3.5ish miles were all uphill with the first mile climbing east directily into the early sunrise which made visibility difficult despite wearing my normal Rudy cycling/running sunglasses and a visor definitely would have helped here.  After topping out the climb, there was a short rolling descent to the first turnaround. After waving to my wife who was working the aid station, I went over the electronic timer, turned around,and retraced my steps back to the next turnaround station which was at the 6.5 mile mark.  At that one, I high-fived one of our triathlon club members who was working that aid station and began the climb back to the Mile 4/9 aid station for the final turnaround. This second time up the hill was a pace killer that unfortunately took me off my planned pace for the the race.  On the plus side, shortly after making the final turnaround, the course was downhill until the final tenth of a mile.

Elevation Chart
Aid stations - As noted on the map, the aid stations were plentiful and stocked with water and Gatorade.  In addition to the listed aid stations, there was one at the 5K turnaround/half turnaround #2.

Medals - The finisher medals were nicely done and captured the Mardi Gras theme with the colors and the mask on them.

Post race - Gatorade and water were plentiful.  Food was also plentiful with bananas, Cajun Jambalaya and King Cake.  The awards ceremony started promptly at 9:30 as advertised and the overall 1st man and woman received crowns to go along with the Mardi Gras theme. BBSC also has a nice electronic system that allows everybody to look at their times and overall/gender/age group placement as soon as they cross the finish line which is a very nice feature.

So how did I do?  Overall, I finished with a time of 2:13:13.  I trained through the race with a normal training load this week and went into this one with no really specific goals in mind.  A sub-2:11 would have been nice to have with the accompanying sub-10 minute pace but I slipped off that on the uphill section after the second turnaround and could not make it back up on the downhill section after the final turnaround.

This marks my 13th half marathon and it feels great to be running healthy with only some minor post-race pain in my right heel. Also, this is the first time that I have ever stopped in a race for a picture as I paused for a picture with my wife at the Mile 9 turnaround.

pausing for a photo op

Next up - Hot Chocolate 15K - Las Vegas on Feb 28th.

16 January 2016

Valley of Fire Backcountry Trail Race

I knocked out my first race of 2016 this morning with a half marathon.  It was part of Calico Racing's Valley of Fire Backcountry Trail Race which had five distances available in the 5-50K range.

The race was held on BLM bordering the north side of the Valley of Fire State Park and was about 1.5 hours from our house.  The half distance started at 7:30 AM and packet picket was at the location prior to the race so my wife and I left our house around 5 AM to ensure we got there with no issues. The directions to the trailhead were easy to follow and because we showed up about an hour before the start, we were able to get a parking spot by the finish line instead of the overflow parking lot which was 1.75 miles away.  Winning!

After checking in, I hit up the facilities and my wife filled up my water bottles. I made a decision to run with my Orange Mud HydraQuiver to avoid hitting up aid stations.  Once that was done, it was chilly, around 35 degrees, so I stayed bundled up and listened to the course directions for the first set of runners, the marathoners and 50K runners, who started running at 7 AM.

A few minutes before my race started, I went to my car and swapped out my winter hat for a visor and dropped off the hat along with my jacket.  After that, it was time to head to the start line so Joyce, the race director, could give us directions. Once that was done, she counted down the remaining few seconds to 7:30 and then we were off like a heard of turtles.

The course was an out-and-back format on a 4x4 trail through the BLM. The running surface was primary on damp sand which had filtered off the surrounding red sandstone over the eons. This surface was easy to run on near the beginning/end of the race but wasn't very well packed starting about a mile into the race and made for some interesting footing. The course started with a short uphill section followed by a steep downhill section which was a little over a third of a mile long. After reaching the bottom, the race began an overall gradual climb through Mile 5 before starting a decent descent to the turn around.

There were aid stations and BLM pit toilets at the 3.1 mile mark which was the 10K turn around and at the half marathon turnaround. One of my wife's friends was working the first aid station and snapped a picture of me as I passed the station (see to the right).

So how did the race go for me? Overall, it went well. Other than slowing down a bit on the 1.5 mile climb out from the turn around and majorly slowing down on the final hill climb near the finish, my pace was pretty steady and the running felt good. I finished in 2:17 which was decent for the elevation change and running surface conditions. After my disappointing 2015 which was full of injuries, it was nice to get this one under my belt to start out the year.

Next up: Mardi Gras Masquerade Half Marathon on Feb 6th

01 January 2016

Kicking off 2016

2016 is here and it is time to take a look at what is on the agenda for this year.  Before we get into that, I kicked the year off with an 8.25 mile run this morning and the Strava map is awesome!

8.5 miles to kick of 2016
So what does 2016 have in store for me?  I have a handful of things booked and a few more on the schedule. Running-wise, they range from a 15K to a marathon. Here is the list.

Jan 16th - Valley of Fire trail half marathon - This is put on by Calico Racing and is a new race that is debuting this year.  It should be a well managed and scenic race on fire roads and trails on BLM surrounding the Valley of Fire State Park.

Feb 28th - Hot Chocolate 15K - The Hot Chocolate series is finally coming to Las Vegas.  I ran the 2014 race in San Diego and really enjoyed the distance and overall atmosphere of the race.  This one will be run on roads near the Strip and will be flat and fast.

Apr 16th - Rage Triathlon sprint relay - My wife, oldest son and I are racing this one as a relay with her swimming 750m, me cycling 12.4 miles and him running a 5K.  This one should be a lot of fun!

May 7th - REVEL Mt Charleston - REVEL is bringing its marathon series to Las Vegas and the course is one that I run/bike on parts of it all the time.  There is no way I could pass it up and it is my A race for 2016.  With a lot of downhill on this course and the fact that I can train, train and train some more on the entire course, there are no excuses for a sub-par performance on it.

Jul 9th - TOUGHMAN Washington State - I am doing one big travel race in 2016 and this is it.  I am racing the 73 mile duathlon which will be in a 5K run/56.8 mile bike/half marathon format.  The course is very flat and as long as the weather is good and I don't have any mechanical issues, this should be a fast race.

Aug 21st - E.T. Full Moon half marathon - This is another race by Calico Racing and I volunteered at it in 2015. It starts at midnight and runs close to Area 51 which is where the E.T. comes from.

Sep 19th - Bear Lake Brawl duathlon - I haven't booked this one yet and want to see how the marathon in May goes before committing to the distance.

Oct 22nd - Pumpkinman Triathlon sprint relay - Similar to April, my wife, oldest son and I will be racing it as a relay team.  This one is right at the tail end of his cross country season and should be a great race for the three of us.  While the distances are the same, the course is a lot different for this one and I will be mainly climbing for my ride.

Nov 6th - Snow Canyon half marathon - I ran this one in 2015 and want to see what I can do on that course when healthy.

Beyond that, there are a couple of century rides that I have my eyes on in June and October.