Posts Tagged ‘50 states’

Running Las Vegas – Part Two

The next day did not start out as well as planned either. I did want to eat after noon so tried to get an early breakfast as I was famished! However, surprisingly enough unless you are looking for a buffet, breakfast is hard to find on the Strip it seems. We had our hard time finding something but finally settled on Asian breakfast fusion – it was a little different. I may have been the only person at the table who enjoyed the meal. Then after a ten minute nap it seemed like it was time to eat again for a place off the strip. Then back to the hotel. And then? Well the real reason the late start time kills a runner is not the actual time to start – it is the wait. What do you do? You are in Vegas but you can’t really do anything out of line with your normal routine! It is too cold to swim and all I could think about was did I eat too much and did I give myself enough time???

Well somehow we made it to three o’clock and made our way down to the start line. There was a picture scheduled for 3:30 but as we made it to the main entrance we just knew there was no way we were going to make it. Karen had chosen to take the same day packet pickup and actually that was pretty easy to find in that mess (there was a half hour wait just to get in the staging area) and that included dropping her bag off. Everything was well marked once you got in. However by the time we got in we were late for the picture (I heard three people made it). Then, the most shocking thing of all happened – we ran into Mike Chewar! That may not seem like much but considering he wanted to be there for my 50th and there were over 40,000 runners? Incredible! I think Mike was thrilled to find us as well if for no other reason we took him back to our hotel for a quick restroom stop. Seriously, the lines were over 30 long in the waiting area! None of us wanted another half hour wait.

We made our way to the starting line after the break and as we got closer our corrals started to come up. Mike was up first in Number 17 or so. It was sad to leave Mike behind in his corral. He could have easily slipped up a couple corrals to hang out with me but he was honest and stayed where his bib said. I really respected that. And Karen felt the same way stopping in her corral 7 instead of moving forward. I was sad to let them go but we had less than 15 minutes to go by then and I usually stand by myself for the last five minutes anyway. But on the way to the front at corral 5 I got another surprise.

I ran into almost all my other remaining friends I had wanted to see – Brian, Tony, Rob and Missy! We were able to take a couple pictures together and talk about the run ahead and ones in the past. Tony was pacing the 3:30 group and I was able to meet a couple newer marathoning girls as well. We talked about what we were hoping to do and compared plans after the race. It was about this point that I ran into new friend Ted Barron! Ted is from Michelle’s hometown and she had told him I was out here celebrating my 50th. It was pretty amazing that we met each other in all those people and at the same time I was with my other friends. I do not get into many situations where I feel stretched thin but between my friends, Ted and the two new girls, my head was on a swivel answering questions.


Finally I made my way up to my corral and snuck in next to a couple Marathon Maniacs from Washington. They were both running Nevada for the first time however I do not think the States was one of their goals. It was a tiered start and the gun went off for the first wave. We moved up. The gun went off for the second and then we moved up to the start. The gun went off a third time and… it was awesome to get out there and running! The first thing I noticed after going was a few walkers off to the left. The second thing I noticed was a lot of people running up onto the ground dividing the center of the street. I was confused by those going to the right. I would find out later a little too late for me that they were taking pictures with the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. That was a great idea. Kind of wish I knew about it beforehand. Good picture opportunity!

The walkers are another issue and something I am seeing more and more of. I do not mind people walking marathons or taking them slowly. However when people make their way up to a fast corral and then start walking I am seriously torn on this matter. On one hand I think it an awful thing to do – they do get in the way and slow down the marathon. This is why corrals were created. On the other hand I really understand – if you know a run is going to take you six hours why would you wait an hour to take off on top of that? As divided as I am on this subject, there is one thing I will say for sure – please make it to a mile before you start walking. When you start walking at the start you are only making it more dangerous for everyone.

At Mile 1 I passed another slower runner I have seen before. I do not know his name or where he is from. I just know he is not really that fast. He has a large orange Mohawk and a few facial piercings. He is considered somewhat of a celebrity runner and can get free entry into marathons due to his celebrity status. That is fine – get it where you can. But honestly what is the use of a celebrity runner I thought to myself. Do people sign up when he goes to a marathon because he will be there? If that is true shouldn’t someone who ran 33 marathons in 2013 know who he is? And more importantly, I got at least ten people to sign up for Vegas and why did I not get a thing?

Yes there was bitterness at Mile 1 already folks! It did not last but to be honest I am still a bit miffed at the folks at Rock N Roll for not giving me any fanfare at all. And meanwhile others were important enough to get distinction. Where is the line and how does one cross it? Perhaps I will try to become the next T Rex Runner and blog my way to being a somebody? Then again, you only hit your 50 states once so the need to be a more popular runner may be a thing of the past. I hope I take it a bit easier in the future.

The run down the strip is fantastic and as it is night, you can clearly see why they choose to do so. Would this run be half as cool at six in the morning with just the sun light? No. And to be honest they have moved the start time up so that we don’t have to be out all night. I may gripe about a four thirty start time but it really does get the best of giving you some night afterwards and also seeing Vegas at its best. I really don’t have any specific sights to talk on the run about other than I think the Fountains of Belagio were going off as I passed them. That was cool, but not cool enough for me to stop and watch – I had a time goal!

We ran down the strip and into downtown until Mile 10 and then did some running around some pretty dark streets (I tripped even) and then made our way back to Fremont street. The halfers took a left and we took a right and the next thing I knew we were running right back onto Fremont and it was seriously the coolest part of the entire marathon! We were running through a pedestrian mall area and they had roped off the entire area for us to run through it! It was so funny to see the looks on people’s faces. Either drunk and stumbling or dazzled and fumbling, they had not a clue what was going on for the most part. They were mostly in the background as other people were standing there cheering us and I got a little excited about that cheering back for them.

And then sadly enough, the best part of the run was followed up by the worst. I have heard it was much improved from years past (rumored that you were sent out to the desert for 12 miles in the middle of the dark night) but as soon as we hit Mile 12 it was pretty much running down deserted streets. Now, some people really complain about the nothingness, but this does not bother me that much. I am pretty used to the second half of a marathon being run out into the middle of nowhere and really not much to see. Now this section of Las Vegas may have been beautiful but in the middle of the night – who can tell? And at least there was some light to make my way.

I was running a real good race about the time we went down the long strip that would become a turnaround. However the course started to turn more and more and, I started to slow down and stopped for my first water at Mile 16. I ran through the stop but unfortunately the water was not helping either. I could not put my finger on what was wrong but out there on those long marathon miles the mind wanders. And soon enough I came up with an excuse. By that time I realized I was getting real close to my bedtime back home. Could I be slowing down just due to my daily schedule? Honestly I think that was it and not just excuses because it was some pretty inspired running before that. The band at Mile 17 was inspired (especially considering the venue), but did not help at all and I started to slow even more.

The course doubled back on itself. I slowed even more until… soon enough we got back down to Fremont where I made a scene of myself as the crowd cheered us on. They helped speed me up again! By this time I could not wait to get back on the Strip and going towards Caesar’s Palace and the finish line! The neverending crowd would help push me through! But alas, like almost every marathon, there was another turn off before we got back to the Strip. And then finally after another mile and with one last turn; we were on the Strip with about two miles to go! And the funny part? I was not a fan of that part. The volunteers did a great job yelling out to the half marathoners to stay on the left but mostly due to the fact there were so few marathoners they kept wandering over to our side! It was frustrating, to say the least, navigating my way around. I was sure I would have a 3:25 but the fatigue kept holding me up and the distractions were no help either.

When I got to the last .1 or so I held up my hands with 5 on one and 0 on the other to symbolize my 50th state and happily crossed the line and got my medal in 3:25:07. I was a little hurt by the race so I was grabbing plenty of Gatorade and chocolate milk. And as I staggered over to the chain link fence, who was there? My family all found me in that mess! There was a chain link fence between us but I could not have felt closer. There was my brother Cale telling me about the day in sports. There was my sister and her husband taking pictures of me and the Dora bandaid that had made the entire journey on my knee. And there was my Mom and her friend Parker just looking proud. It was the perfect ending. One quote I loved was “Dora, got a speedy tour of Las Vegas!”


I was then lucky enough to flag down Rob and soon enough Tony. We all stood there aching. Tony’s first pacing gig was a bust as he did not feel well enough to get the 3:30. The girls we met at the beginning did not finish the race with him either so I never found out how they did. Also Ted ended up finishing with the one friend I wish I did not run into, Teresa, and I missed both of them this time around. I only found out later on Facebook that they had finished together.

And 15 minutes later I was disappointed. Karen had yet to come in and I was sure she did not have a sub 4. Based on the other finish times it was just obvious she had missed her goal and a sadness came over me. I told my family and they were mostly excited for me but I could tell that Karen’s goals meant something to them as well. Finally I saw Karen and she was hurting so I walked up to her (and selfishly grabbed a Gatorade as well) and asked, “How did it go?” She could only show me her watch. 3:59:54! She made it! My family took off soon after that asking us to meet them at Fremont Street, which I was now looking much more forward to. We were able to see Brian come in shortly thereafter. He did not look good either and all in all, none of us had a good race.

And with a good night of drinking ahead of us, Karen and I took off back to our hotel. After a short cab ride, it was a fun filled night of drinking with my family and I did not pay for a drink all night (I don’t think anyone would let me). All in all, it was an experience that can never be duplicated and even though I may have missed some noriety finishing in Vegas, having so much family and friends there with me to celebrate more than made up for it!

Weeks after as I look back to this race, it is not the final steps that finished that last run I remember. I remember the journey and all the great times and friends along the way. I wish I would have celebrated them more as I led up to this moment and thanked them more for helping me get there. Though I may have reached and completed my goal on that wonderful November night in Las Vegas, there are too many other times to mention that made this goal not about that night but the entire journey. Thank you everyone.Image


Just two weeks after Alaska, I had scheduled a marathon in Idaho. I was a bit excited about it. I had just qualified for Boston so that pressure was gone and on top of that it was a downhill race so it was the easiest of my last 7 states left to fifty. My real goal is to complete all 50 states in less than four hours so even though my average time is around 3:30, a little downhill cushion never hurt anyone. The course goes downhill for the first half with a drop of 2400 feet or so. I don’t have exact numbers but I like hearing downhill for 13 miles.

The trip began with a trip to Denver and then a flight into Idaho Falls where Karen and I were actually on the same flight. Karen made the entire schedule (as always) and we were looking at going to lunch and then straight to the expo and our hotel was the site of the expo so that was pretty much wrapped up as well. It was an hour drive to Pocatello from Idaho Falls but that would not take long. We met another runner named Tom in Denver and he ended up speaking to Karen the entire flight as their seats were together. I was happy just to catch a few minutes of rest a few rows behind them.

Tom was a great guy and we ran into each other a week later in Sioux Falls as well but there was one thing I just did not get about him. He complained about spending the extra night in the state before going home. His perfect world is to get in the day before, go to the expo, run in the morning and catch a flight that afternoon. I get it (a little I suppose) but where is the fun of visiting the state and seeing Idaho? Or meeting and hanging out with people along the way? This trip was a classic example of how you cannot have it all for me (foreshadowing!).

The rental car company was not at the airport which was against what they advertised so we were hungry and cranky by the time we hit the road. We stopped at a local place where I got a baked potato (yes, in Idaho that is what I had) and after a wrong turn (Karen requires better navigation than I provided) we made it to the hotel and the expo. We got our five pound bag of potatoes, a nice knapsack and a long sleeve tee (no marathon is perfect). After that we made a small trip to the grocery store to pick up supplies and door prizes for dinner and then had a few minutes before we went to dinner that night.

Karen had organized the dinner and she did a perfect job! More people showed up than we had predicted and the restaurant had extra seats for us! It was nice to meet some other Iowa runners there (I run alone – sad I know) and to see Mike C again after the time in Alaska and to talk to some other new runners as well. Just as we were packing up Julia and Shane showed up unexpectedly and then Heather, Galen, and Angie showed up too. Awesome. The dinner was a great success so much so that I never had time to hand out the door prizes so I just gave them to the people who stayed the longest. The three from Utah got one as did Aaron and Denis. There was a Pez prize! Lucky Denis!

After that, Karen is never one for staying up late so there were no worries about an early start as she usually wants everything off five minutes after getting into the room so she can get eight hours of sleep. And when you are on another time zone it is usually not tough to go to bed early. We woke up early and made it to the race where there were very long port-a-potty lines and lots of pictures being taken. I lined up next to a girl who was trying to run a sub three and felt comfortable with that.

A marathon maniac sang the national anthem with no musical accompaniment and it was real impressive. I could not believe she was that brave. The gun went off and we took off. And it was downhill – straight downhill. I went out at a fast 6:23 first mile (Too fast! Too fast!), but then again it WAS downhill and I was thrilled to settle into 6:35 miles for a bit after that. When we made it to the Mile 7 point I already knew I may be going a little too fast and my quadriceps were burning from the constant downhill. I was either in trouble or on my way to a PR. The course turned and went uphill for a bit but it did not slow me down. And the miles kept coming in under seven minutes until Mile 12 where a steep uphill killed me but I was able to settle into just over seven minute miles after that for the next five miles.

Four people passed me in the next 8 miles including the Sub three girl and I was thrilled to think she may make it! All I wanted was something under 3:10 so I could make it back to Boston for sure! And I had a real shot at a PR however there was a hill at 21 that just hurt me and I was fighting to keep it together. On top of that the 5K started at Mile 23 and wouldn’t you know it I came up on them just as it started! I was going to be held up by another race? Was I going to lose everything in the last three miles?

Thankfully no, I navigated just fine around the 5K crowd and even passed a runner along the way. He had a great kick and caught me but those quads were burning and I was just trying to keep it fast enough. I was more than shocked to see myself come in at a 3:08:45 – my second fastest time ever! I was also 20th overall. Afterwards there was plenty of chocolate milk and I waited for my friends to come in. Galen was first and I talked to him for a bit before Tom came in. I went out of my way to talk to him and he and I talked for a while before Heather came in. She was talking to some other runners so we met her in the finishing chute.

Now not everyone is out there to complete a fast marathon I assure you but Tom, Heather and I are all trying to complete all 50 states in under 4 hours. This was all of our Idaho and we were hoping some others would come in as well. So we just stood at the end of the finishing chute staring at the clock and the runners coming in for the next five minutes.

Then they started to come in. Paul came in with the 3:55 pacer and we all cheered for him. Karen was next and she made it with three minutes to spare. She looked shocked to see the four of us just sitting there waiting for her. We asked her if Aaron was still out there and she said that she was pretty sure he was right behind her. Sure enough he came in a minute later. He seemed much more low key about the matter. It was also incredible after the fact when we also found out our other friend JC made it as well. JC is a great runner but he does not always aim for fast times so we never even waited for him. Sad.

The after festivities had beer and lots of other drinks in addition to the chocolate milk. Running phenom Gary Krueger showed up afterwards and Heather and he went on a road trip to Colorado where he would try to win the American Discovery Trail two days later. We had some fun catching up. Afterwards and I believe I talked Mike C into Vegas to see my 50 states finish – yes! Both Paul and Mike C age group placed and that is awesome. We left after a long talk with JC and seeing Angie again. As soon as we got back to the hotel all I could think was what next to do in Idaho? We could visit a national park or something? I saw some bears exhibit was in Idaho Falls?

But Keri posted on the maniac page she and Denis would be showing up at Applebees afterward and honestly that sounded like a better time so pretty much everyone mentioned in this story and even Eddie showed up too. We were looking for him for some time before we left and I was happy to hear he finished. He is currently trying to run all 50 states barefoot – impressive! This was not a trail that was easy on the feet he reported.

As dinner ended Karen and I went back to Idaho Falls and were able to catch the falls and see the area. It was a compromise to seeing bears I suppose but like I said earlier you have to weigh these things out. It was an awesome trip and honestly, I may do it again someday (and I would take the friends over the sights again too). Certainly if you run Idaho, there are few chances to do better than Pocatello!