Race: Las Vegas Rock n Roll Half Marathon
Runner: Ping S
Race Date: 11/17/2019
Location: Las Vegas, NV
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
For one, these destination Rock n Roll races sure are good for the ego – not sure where else a 1:29 nabs you 3rd in your AG or 110/19,000 OA, but it did in Vegas =)
Secondly, as someone who enjoys Vegas for periods of time up to about 48 to 72 hours, but abhors the fact that it’s time spent almost exclusively indoors (with smokers) and that it’s one of the worst places to run (the strip, that is; except for pre-sunrise which is, ahem, difficult to achieve, in Vegas) outside, being able to combine Vegas with a road race is an ideal weekend.
Lastly, it’s of course a unique experience, the only private event for which the entire Vegas strip is shut down, and you get to run the entire length, twice, with all the lights, glitz, and glamour that you may (or may not) associate with that. The city turns out fairly well through the heart of the strip, though there are some quieter areas as well at the very north end of the course.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Logistics – I get that managing 20,000 half marathon runners and a few thousand marathoners is challenging, but clustering everyone in a “start line village” (read: empty parking lot off strip) with questionable signage and organization (there was one map showing where runners would eventually exit from but it was not easy to find – literally one poster-size map at ground level tucked away in a many-acres parking lot with tens of thousands of people milling about) and there was no other obvious way to tell where you were supposed to go (i.e., to get out of the village and to the start line, which was ONLY accessible from the village, once you were in the “village”) and then having everyone walk ~half a mile to the actual start line and corrals can’t be the best way, can it? I’ve done the race in past years where there was no start village and everyone just went to the corrals and it was a bit of a madhouse but I can’t say it was worse.
Weather – the race starts at sunset so you have the rather unique experience of weather that cools as you go versus the opposite with the more normal early am starts; that said, however, it was close to 75 degrees at sunset, which, at least to this Seattle-ite, is way too warm for good racing. Probably 65 or so by the finish, and no sun made things bearable, but definitely sub-optimal temps.
Combine this with Vegas being at 2,000 feet – which you don’t really feel but science says will take a little off your VO2 max – and the conditions aren’t that great for fast running. I will say that the first year I ran this (2014), temps at the start were ~55, so it’s possible to get decent weather, but I would not count on it.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
So, this was a first for me – potatoes on course as “fuel”. Literally, small cubes of baked potatoes in little paper cups. While I’m sure the Potato industry trade group or whoever thought that might be a great idea, that was a little bizarre to see.
Also, spied for the first time a man wearing a pink Vaporfly Next on one foot, and a green Vaporfly Next on the other – humble brag that he owns not one, but TWO pairs of $250 Nexts?! Or, somewhere out there is his buddy wearing the inverse mix of colors =)
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
Always a fun race, I was glad that although I struggled over the last few miles, I didn’t completely blow up.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
Do NOT do the full marathon here, unless you like running endless circles around parking lots off the strip in the latter miles of the race (seriously, check out that map – yikes!).
Also if you are staying anywhere not immediately around the start area, give yourself PLENTY of time to get to the start area as the monorail and other ways of getting around Vegas, with the strip closed to autos, are completely overloaded that entire afternoon.
Lastly, while the finish is at the Mirage, you don’t actually exit the finish area until the Bellagio (it’s cordoned and fenced off otherwise) so just know that if you want a hotel close to the “finish”, the one that matters is where you exit, not where you actually stop running.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
The last few miles are actually a steady, if slight, uphill, so be ready for that. Good news is, you can see the sign for The Mirage (where the finish line is) from at least 2 miles away, so that, to me, is always comforting/motivating.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
If you think Vegas at night is a sight, then yes. If you think Vegas is a natural-resource obliterating @#%$hole in the middle of the desert that should not exist, then no =)
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
Not really – as noted, slight elevation and generally warm temps don’t make it a super fast race but the course itself is pretty straight and relatively flat, with some steady but pretty gradual uphill and downhill sections making up most of it (heading north on the strip is mostly downhill, somewhat surprisingly).
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Given the size I suppose they do a decent job – but as I noted earlier, the start line village was not my cup of tea and could be better managed. Honolulu, for instance, is larger than this race and somehow managed to get the race off without the use of a pre-start line staging area.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Oddly, they had a 1:20 pace group and a 1:25 pace group for the half, which is quite fast for a race with 19000+ people where a 1:29 almost made the top 100.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Some of the hotel rates through the RnR site were actually quite good. This surprised me – we ended up staying at the Cosmopolitan, which was very convenient to both the start and finish.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Potatoes!! Get em here. Otherwise, water and gatorade and one station with SiS gels this year.
Weather and typical race conditions
Noted above – typically dry (though I believe it rained in 2017) and expect warmer temps.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
If you’ve been really dying to wear that Elvis costume while running – this is your chance.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Pretty good for spectators along the strip, and various vantage points like outdoor restaurants and bars, etc.
How’s the Swag?
It’s ok – probably getting a little cheaper for the Competitor/Wanda group…no more Brooks shirts, etc. Just your standard generic tech fabric shirt.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
All depends on how you feel about Vegas! If you like Vegas and racing, you should probably do this race.