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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

RACE RECAP: Zappo's Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon

Life needs more cowbell
How do I sum up a race that I've been nervous about and looking forward to for six months?  I'm not entirely sure but I'm going to give it my best shot.  Six months ago I met Coach Barbara from Team Challenge on The Dr. Oz Show as part of the Transformation Nation Million Dollar You contest.  When I met her I was excited to train with a team and nervous about trying to run a half marathon.  I am absolutely in love with the fact that I trained with Team Challenge and would recommend that everyone do it (I'll tell you why in a minute) if you have any interest in training for a longer distance run.  So, here's what happened over the weekend.

Friday:  Dan and I flew to Las Vegas, took a shuttle bus to the hotel and grabbed a quick lunch.  We met up with my Team Challenge team to walk to the expo so we could pick up our bibs/race packets.  This was the first major race expo I'd been to and I was overwhelmed with the amount of exhibitors there.  I was excited to see new products and try a few samples.  I had no idea we'd been walking around the expo for nearly 2 hours - no wonder I was starting to get tired!  As we headed back to our room my mom called (they drove to Las Vegas to support me) so we walked to their hotel.  Mom had brought a ton of snacks and drinks for us so we went to gather them.  We came back to the hotel, enjoyed some of those snacks (she brought A LOT!) while chatting with Mom, Dad and my cousin Jane before heading downstairs to dinner.  Since Friday was my birthday I'd made reservations at Public House.  We met up with more family members, Mark (who was also running the half marathon) his wife Paula, Craig and his fiance Marina.  Dinner was super yummy and I was thrilled to be able to celebrate with everyone.

Yes, that's a cookie in the background
for post-race celebration!  Thanks Dad!
Saturday:  Dan and I met up with Team Challenge Illinois to head out on a short (30ish minutes) group run.  It was my last official Team Challenge training run and I was both excited (because we were running in Las Vegas) and sad (because it was the last group run).  When we were finished we headed to brunch with the group, which is really the best way to end a run!  After brunch we walked back to the hotel to get cleaned up before meeting up with Mom and Dad.  They'd been walking around all day and said that the Wynn (where everyone else was staying) was beautifully decorated so we decided to have dinner there.  We walked through Wynn and I was in awe at the decor - it was so beautiful.  Elegant and classy are not two words that I think of in Las Vegas but the Wynn made it just that.  We met up with Mark, Paula, Craig, Marina and Jane for dinner at Allegro.  Unfortunately, Dan and I were both pretty tired so we headed back to our hotel.  When I got back I found that my team had left me a belated birthday cupcake!  I laid out all of my race gear so I'd be ready for Sunday.

Pre-Race Interview with Coach B
Sunday:  Dan and I headed to Grand Luxe Cafe to meet Team Challenge Illinois for breakfast.  After breakfast I went back upstairs to lay down while Dan went in search of a place to watch the Bears game.  About 30 minutes later I got a major surprise - my sister and brother-in-law flew in to watch the race!  After some more resting it was time to get ready.  I was glad that I had everything laid out because it was easy to put things on and not feel rushed about it.  Once I was dressed we headed down to the lobby where Coach Barbara and I were interviewed by CCFA (how cool is that?!) and to meet my team for team photos.  
Mark and Me
He finished the race in 2:29:49
He's 100% badass awesome for that
(and more)
Then it was time to head to the bus for our ride to the start line.  Once we got there we headed to gear check, I hit the port-o-potties and then we started making our way to our corrals.  Even though the crowd at the start village was HUGE somehow Mark and Paula found me so I had someone to hang out with pre-race.  It was windy at the start village so I was glad that I'd brought a long sleeve t-shirt to wear while waiting to start.  The corrals were marked, however there wasn't any separators between the corrals so somehow we ended up lining up with 28 (our designated corral) but started with 30 - whoops!  The course started near Mandalay Bay and ran down past the airport.  This part was slightly brutal because the wind was really whipping and it was blowing a lot of sand around.  I tried to keep up with Mark (or at least keep him in my sights) but I'd lost him around the first water stop.  The crowds down by the airport were sparse but as I neared the hotels on the strip the crowds were there - and they were loud.  It was so awesome!  People were cheering for Team Challenge - whether they knew you or not they were screaming for you (this is why I think being a TC half marathoner was the best way to train!) and it gave me motivation to keep running.  Someone noticed my name (which was on my singlet) and shouted for me which was so cool!  I had a little trouble with my headphones because I was using a pair that I didn't train with.  They were earbuds with detachable pieces to go over my ears.  Unfortunately one of those pieces detached so I carried it because I didn't want to lose it.  Obviously, this is why you don't try new stuff on race day!  When I saw my family along the route I passed it off to them - thanks for hanging onto that for me!  

So I have to describe my first cheering squad.  Craig, Marina, Brenda, Alex and Mom were hanging out around mile 3 or 4 - I think but am not sure.  The first person I saw was Marina standing on the median screaming her head off - seriously she is the cutest little person ever and she was yelling and cheering.  I saw Craig holding out his hand for a high five but all he got was my ear bud piece (sorry dude, next time?).  Brenda and Alex were cheering crazy mad and since they have both run half marathons they knew how I felt.  Mom was cheering and blowing kisses.  I'm not sure who had the cowbell but I heard that thing clanging and it was awesome!  I kinda wanted to stay and hang out for awhile with these amazing people but I had more miles to run.  

Just shy of the 10K mark
Lots of things had started hurting by this point
There was more cheering from random strangers and I tried to wave or smile at them.  I thanked the water station volunteers (even though I was carrying water I grabbed some at the stations to sip because it was colder than mine) because they were cheering like crazy too.  I don't really remember much else until I got nearer to Stratosphere.  Dan had texted me and told me where he was so I started scanning the crowd for him.  I spotted Paula and her pom-poms first and Jane next.  I saw Dan (who was taking photos) and Dad who was yelling his head off.  Dan said that Dad saw how much the runners responded to his cheering and it made him yell louder!  Incidentally both of my parents were practically hoarse the next day.

I stopped shortly after this point to retie my shoes - why do they always loosen up as I run?  I ran until I hit the 10K mat and then started walking.  I just couldn't run.  My brain kept telling me to run but my legs kept telling me to lay down.  On the strip.  I hated it but kept walking quickly.  I kept thinking of Christine telling me during a training run that if I was going to walk that I had to walk quickly.  I'd pulled my arm warmers off around mile 1.5 and tied them on my belt.  I'd started to get cold around mile 8 so I put them back on.  I tried to run a few times but everything hurt and I ended up walking the majority of the rest of the race.  I met up with Coach Barbara around 11.5 and she tried to get me to run again.  That worked for all of about 150 feet.  I felt very defeated and sort of wanted to be alone but once I crossed the finish line I was glad she was there.  My official finish time was 3:03:31.

Crossing the finish line wasn't the big emotional part that I thought it'd be but that was because I felt like throwing up.  I saw chairs in the med tent and asked if I could sit for a minute.  The medics started to ask me some questions and things kind of got a little fuzzy.  I started shivering - very badly.  Coach B ran to grab space blankets for us but I couldn't get warm.  I tried to drink water but it was cold so that seemed counter productive to me.  The medic told Coach B to sit behind me and bear hug me to try to warm me up and that's when she realized how wet/sweaty I was.  She told me to get my sleeves off (done) and somehow she got my gear check bag brought to the med tent.  They asked me if I'd be comfortable changing and I said I didn't care - I immediately pulled off my singlet and t-shirt and pulled on my sweatshirt.  I got my shoes and capris off and pulled my pants on.  I couldn't get my fingers to work to get my shoes back on so Coach B helped me.  It was at this moment that I was so thankful she'd yelled at me about my gear check bag at the Hot Chocolate race because I was prepared this time!  I pulled on my the gloves and winter hat that I'd also packed (and wondered why since it was 70 degrees outside at the time!) and was then escorted to a golf cart for a ride to the main med tent.  Once there I was wrapped in more blankets and put in front of a heater which felt amazing.  Somehow Dan made it up to main med as I started to feel better.  The girl next to me was not feeling well and she started throwing up.  That's pretty much what made me get up and leave.

We started walking towards the exit and I grabbed some snacks on the way out.  We stopped at the Team Challenge tent to check-in and I got my 13.1 finisher's pin.  Clearly this wasn't the race that I thought it'd be - I thought I'd run much more, if not all of it.  However, I did it.  I did the training and I covered the 13.1 miles - maybe not the way I intended but I did it.

I made a whole list of goals before the race.  Let's see how I did:
  • Exceed my fundraising goal - Thanks to the best family/friends ever I did this!
  • Be happy while running this race (you've already done the hard work of training and fundraising and now it's time to have fun) - I did for the first 10K and then I forgot about this goal
  • Run the entire race, even if the pace is slow as hell, keep running - I did not do this
  • Listen to the crowds and enjoy the bands on the course - I definitely loved the crowds.  I didn't mind the bands though I didn't spend much time listening to them either
  • Don't fall down - HUGE SUCCESS!
  • Do not accept anything on the course (food/drink) that hasn't been tried during training - I only took water and high fives on the course, so I guess this means success!
  • Finish the race running - seriously - maybe next time?
  • Finish the race with a gigantic smile plastered all over my face - definitely failed at this one (the official race photos are proof that I didn't smile)
  • Fuel appropriately during the race - this I did pretty well
  • Have a photo taken with my space blanket and race medal - I am bummed about missing this one but the med tent seemed like a better place for me
  • Rehydrate appropriately after the race and then enjoy a beer - I rehydrated but did not have a beer.  Last night we had some wine with dinner so I think that counts as satisfying this goal
  • Eat whatever you want after the race - don't count the points but that meal is it. Then back on track. - I had a bacon cheeseburger from room service.  It was alright.  Eating yesterday while we were en route home was a little off base but I'm glad to be back on track now
  • Have fun with your family who will be there before/during/after the race - Definitely accomplished this goal.  I can't believe all of the people who came to Las Vegas to support me.  I know that I am truly blessed with such wonderful people in my life
If you are considering training for a half marathon find a group like Team Challenge (or do it with Team Challenge) because the coaching and on course support from the entire Team Challenge family was absolutely amazing.  I will definitely run more races with Team Challenge ... it's just a matter of deciding which one.  Anyone want to run/train with me?


  1. I am so super proud of you! Of course I am sorry to hear that you had a rough time at the end but glad you made it to the med tent. I think things would have been alot worse had you not choosen to go there after the race.

    I am so excited to hear about you next Team Challenge race! I know that you will accomplish anything you set your mind to!

    1. It was not the way I intended to finish the race but the important part is that I finished and now I have a new target to work towards. :)

  2. thanks for sharing your story. glad you had a great time!

    1. Thanks T! It was a fabulous time and I am so glad I did it.

  3. That was a pretty lofty set of goals and I think you kicked butt on them! Awesome job!

    1. Well, you know me - I can't just have one goal! :) Hopefully I'll be able to knock out some of these at the next half!

  4. Congrats on finishing your first half! It's an amazing accomplishment.

    There is no Canadian Equivalent of Team Challenge, or at least not that I have discovered yet anyway. I've just been diagnosed with Crohn's and still figuring out the whole support network thing.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that you're joining the ranks as a Crohnie. Let me know if you have questions about anything and I'll do my best to help out. :)

  5. My most heartfelt congratulations to you! You finished a half marathon; there is something extraordinary about that. I know it wasn't on your terms, but you still must realize that you've done something that not very many people ever attempt, much less accomplish. YOU DID IT!

  6. Congratulations on finishing your first half! (I spotted your blog post on Twitter.) I was also there for my first half; I started in Corral 20 for Team Challenge-WI. I'm sorry you had such a rough finish, but I think it's really cool how you journaled your goals and then reflected on them!

    The picture you took with "Mark" - he looks like a Mark I went to college with at UW-Platteville. Do you know if he went there? Small world, if it is!

    I'm already looking forward to the Team Challenge race at the AllState Chicago half on 6/8/2013 - maybe I'll see you there! Keep smilin' and keep runnin' :-)


    1. There is a good possibility that I'll be there! Either as a runner or volunteer.

      The guy in the photo did in fact go to UW-P... He's my cousin Mark! What a small world!

  7. just found your blog. Congratulations! Half marathons are always hard and you did it!