Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Half Marathon 2012

What birthday is complete without some kind of race, right? Well, that was my thinking when I registered for the Holiday Half Marathon...not to mention the race venue was at the Los Angeles County Fairplex...which is conveniently two blocks from my house! So a race that is so local I can throw a rock and hit the gate plus the fact that was my birthday, seemed like a no-brainer.
I arrived to a venue blanketed in fog, and the sights of many runners with candy cane stripped socks and reindeer antlers...cute for them. I decided to just show my Half Fanatic pride with my blue tech tee. I took my place in the start corral with the 2:10 pace group...not sure why I felt so ambitious that day, birthday high perhaps?
So the gun goes off and the start line awning starts spewing snow...or snoap (snow/soap). I thought that was cute touch...just don't eat it. We headed out into the Fairplex and ran all over the vacant fairgrounds. I was hoping I would run into a fried Twinkie or chocolate covered bacon stand but to no avail. We continued onto the AAA Auto Club Drag Strip where we got to run on the actual rally strip. So, I guess I didn't have to wait until Walt Disney World Marathon weekend to experience this :)

We headed out of the Fairplex and headed to the Frank Bonelli Regional Park, home of the Puddingstone Lake and Raging Waters. This is where race got especially beautiful. Nothing but wonderful trees, the sun reflecting off of the lake, and the birds. One sight that caught my attention was the dew hanging on the ends of the pine needles on some of the trees. If we were in denial about it, guess what kids Winter is on her way. We ran around the park until we came upon the Puddingstone Dam. This is historically a local trail for bikers and runners alike, but to see so many runners pounding the pavement was just such an inspiring sight.

We continued through the park to the sights of more trees and great scenery. Fast forward to mile 10 when the hills really started to show up and try to stop the show. I guess that is to be expected when you race in a canyon. So couldn't complain to much. Although, on this race I embraced the hills. I looked forward to them. You have to conquer hills and other obstacles. This builds strength in not only your body but your mind. Always remember, a race of ANY distance is just as much a mental race as it is physical. So, I drug myself over this hill and down into another beautiful valley to the sights and smells of wonderful fresh pine. I guess Holiday Half Marathon was an appropriate title for this race.

We made our way out of the park, past Brackett Airfield (which is a local small airport) and back into Fairplex for the final stretch. I made my mad mans dash to the finish line and crossed with a time of 2:23. Not to bad for a birthday run. And the high kick I did as I crossed the line added a little fun for the spectators. I think there are some small logistical items that can be reviewed and improved on in the future i.e., wave start would of been nice, a larger start corral for comfort, and more tables and stations at the finishers chute. Outside of that, a pretty successful race. And the bling isn't too bad either :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rock 'N' Roll Las Vegas 'Strip at Night'

So, one day I woke up and said to myself "I think it would be a good idea and kind of fun to run down Las Vegas Blvd at night time" At this moment as I share this with you, I do not doubt that was a good decision.
Race weekend started with my arrival in Las Vegas on December 1st, and my race crew (my good friend Ruby and my brother) made our way to the Sands Expo center at the Palazzo Casino and Hotel for the race expo. We did the norm, picked up bibs, safety pins, awesome shirts, swag bags, then I made my way to purchase some arm warmers. On my way I ran into fellow Team #RunDisney cohort Kelly manning the Team Sparkle running skirt booth(you really should check them out ladies...they are kind of epic). We said hello, laughed a little, and I wished her well as I continued on my journey of discovering arm warmers, GU,and Power Bars. I picked up all of the required items for my race and headed to my hotel The Mirage. Yes, this hotel was strategically picked as it was the finish line of the race. HA!
Fast forward to race day. I didn't do to much on Sunday. I grabbed a quick bite to eat, walked down to Caesar's Palace, then went back to my room and rested my legs for the busy and exciting evening ahead of me. Around 2PM, I took my pre-game shower, put my armor on, fueled up on some Gatorade, chomped down on a yummy oatmeal raisin Power Bar and by 3PM I was ready to make my way to The Luxor Festival lot. Some people may disagree, but I actually walked from the Mirage to the Luxor. Vehicular traffic on Las Vegas Blvd had been halted due to the race but it was still congested. Yes, I could of taken the Monorail...but I found the short 30 minute walk quite refreshing. I really was able to get myself into my zone of thinking...and the lovely smell of green fig from my favorite hotel Vdara didn't hurt either. I eventually arrived at the Luxor and stretched a little bit in the lobby. I knew all that awaited me outside those glass doors were windy conditions and asphalt, and I wasn't about to sit, stretch, and potentially tear my compression running shorts for anyone so that was out. Lobby it was. The stretch was nice, I met some nice people also sharing my idea of a pre-race warm up. Once I was all ready, limber, and excited, I made my way to my starting position in corral 19.
Ok, I mentioned it earlier but I will say it again, the wind was KICKING on Sunday. Silly Pacific storm. Luckily there were no dust storms on the strip. Once our corral was given the green light to slay the scene and pay the kids dust, we shot off away from the strip and past Mandalay Bay toward the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. At about mile one we hooked back towards the strip and started the long journey toward Downtown Las Vegas. I have to tell you, It was a lot of fun running past all of the resorts on the strip. So many LED displays cheering us on, news helicopters, great bands, neon, etc etc.

We made our way past Circus Circus (barf) and The Stratosphere and headed toward Downtown Las Vegas. We ran through some sketchy neighborhood at one point which was...interesting, then made our way to Fremont Street East. The entertainment there was really cool! There was this really interesting mechanical grasshopper/praying mantis thing that shot fire out of its antenna! I couldn't get a good picture because of the lighting, but trust me when I tell you it was pretty cool! This was actually the hooking point as we headed back to The Mirage for our final 3 miles! I made my way back and continued to look all around at the interesting sights that were Las Vegas. I crossed the finish line with a smile and saw my friends waiting for me! I finished around 2:22, which wasn't half bad considering I had been slower than that in past races! My knees and body felt great! I was invigorated! Funny how Las Vegas is able to bring high energy into you life! Who knew.

All in all, a flat course that was a lot of fun! If you want a race to do that is fun and easy, this is it. Keep in mind, this is a young race only in it's third year so there are still some kinks they are working out (cough)water stations(cough). I can see myself doing this again next year for sure!