Does drinking bottomless mimosas chased by a to-go beer sound like a recipe for a successful half marathon? Probably not, right?
Unless you’re in Las Vegas, where anything goes and a morning of drinking can give way to victory at an afternoon half marathon.
Last month, I ran the afternoon version of the Vegas Golden Night and Day half marathon and won it – despite the fact that I’d been day drinking.
How, you may ask? Honestly, I don’t know. It was a small race. And maybe everyone else was drunk or hungover, too.
First, let me back up. When I heard I was going to Vegas for an in-person (yay!) work conference, my sister Catherine, a Vegas enthusiast, suggested that I tack on a few extra days and she could fly out and we could make it a girls weekend. I immediately started searching for any local races I could jump into. I love running in new places, and I especially love racing in new places. I found the Vegas Golden Night and Day race, which included a 5K, a 10K, and a half marathon. (For the non-hockey fans, the name was a nod to the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team.) There was a morning race at 8 am and an afternoon race at 4 pm. Assuming we’d be out late partying the night before, I opted for the afternoon race. I chose the half marathon, as that would be my long run for the week, and Catherine said she’d run the 5K.
Long story short, she got to Vegas later than planned after a total fiasco with American Airlines, in which she flew from Pittsburgh to Charlotte and got stuck overnight in that airport, sleeping in one of the terminals. So instead of arriving around 10 pm Friday night, she got in at 9:30 Saturday morning. Fortunately, I was able to meet up with a childhood friend who lives in the area on Friday night, so that was fun! When Catherine finally arrived, we headed to brunch in the Venetian casino. The food was bomb and the drinks were better. It only made economic sense to get the bottomless mimosas, and we are super responsible people, of course. 😉 After we finished up our meal, we took our mimosas to go, downed those and then stopped at another bar in the casino for beers. At this point, we had less than five hours to go until the race. YOLO! (We were tipsy, but not falling down drunk. Again, we’re responsible! LOL.)
After playing the slots for a while, we headed back to our room at Treasure Island to get ready for the race, which was being held in Sunset Park about 20 minutes away. We took an Uber there and figured the start of the race would be easy enough to find. Uh … not the case. The Uber driver dropped us off and we wandered around for a good half hour (fortunately, I insisted on getting there 45 minutes early!) trying to find the race. And we weren’t the only ones …. We saw a few other runners who were also walking around, totally lost. There were no signs pointing the way or anything! Finally, we found the start line and picked up our bibs with just a few minutes to spare. We lined up and the race director started talking about the course and the loops we’d be running and how you had to pay attention to where you’re going because there weren’t many volunteers out there and then … “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!”
Seriously, she went from giving race instructions to suddenly just sending us off. OK. Sounding like the race was a bit of a hot mess? Yes. It was. But I was just happy to be running it. I had no real expectations for how fast I’d run, especially since I’d been boozing it up, but was hoping to come in around 1:40 or slightly faster. The dry, cool weather was almost certain to work in my favor.
I went out at a pace of around 7:30 and it felt challenging, yet sustainable. The park was pancake flat and the half marathon was something like 3.5 loops around. The race director wasn’t lying when she said you had to pay close attention – I saw like two volunteers on the course and there were signs telling you what mile you were at, but because there were multiple distances, it was pretty confusing. They did have arrows on the ground, which was what I used to guide me, but I heard a bunch of runners got lost anyway. Catherine missed a turn in her race and ran almost 4 miles. She told me afterwards that one of the 10K runners also way overshot her race and was super pissed. I would have been, too!
Everything felt pretty good and my splits were consistent. I was wearing my Maryland flag running shorts and a few other runners called out “go Maryland!” Our flag is quite noticeable! I didn’t feel nauseous or anything, which was kind of surprising not only because of the drinks but because of the heavy breakfast I’d eaten. Again, I think the weather – low 60s, zero humidity – helped. My real beef was with the headlamp I was wearing. Race management said if you ran the afternoon half marathon, you had to wear reflective colors and a headlamp because we’d be finishing in the dark. So I wore my Noxgear light up vest and borrowed a headlamp from Catherine, who goes camping a lot. The headlamp was super uncomfortable and I wanted to throw it in the bushes by mile 10. Oh well.
With multiple loops in the half, and few volunteers and zero spectators, the race itself got a little boring after a while. But I needed to do a long run anyway as part of Boston training, and like I said it is always fun to have a change of scenery and run in a new place. I did get to see an awesome sunset toward the end of my race, and had I not been racing, I would have surely stopped to take a #sunsetselfie.
At around mile 11, I was holding a steady pace but knew I was ready to be done (mainly because of the damn headlamp!) I pushed through the final two miles and came in at 1:39:18. Not a PR, but sub-1:40. It took me 20 half marathons to break 1:40 and now I know I can do it after a few drinks. That’s pretty cool! The volunteer at the end told me I’d won the half (I later found out I was the first finisher, period, not just first female) and they gave me a nice water bottle as a prize, plus a finisher’s medal. Yay!
We were supposed to get free race pics, but the would-be race photographer sent out an email after the race to all participants where he basically said “sorry, had another commitment and couldn’t figure out how to clone myself.” OK then. Like I said, the race was a bit of a hot mess.
This was the first time I wore my Alpha Fly super shoes in a half marathon, and I’d be curious to see what kind of half marathon time I could throw down if I had taken the race more seriously. But that wasn’t my goal – I was in Vegas, after all! I just wanted to have fun and do a race in a new state and I did just that.