Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Las Vegas Marathon -- 2:59:04 as Elvis

Yes, that's me on the right, standing with my friend Alex, shortly before the race last Sunday morning. This being my 12th road marathon, I did something very unusual -- I knew that there was a whole Elvis division in the Las Vegas Marathon and I thought it would be fun and exciting and a new kind of challenge to run a marathon as fast as I could in a costume!

I've had this idea bouncing around in my head for maybe a year and a half but it wasn't until a couple of friends from my running club said they were going to run this marathon that I decided to try to make it all come together. I told my siblings and parents and other friends, and suddenly this was turning into a big weekend! At the last moment, my 8 year old daughter decided to come along as well. (My wife mostly dislikes Vegas and opted to stay home.) So, I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter and one of my sisters and my parents, and a little bit of time with my running club friends, and, oh yes, I ran a marathon and did pretty well, all things considered.

Prior to the race, I only did one real test run with the jumpsuit and I only ran for a few minutes in it, but it seemed fine -- lightweight, loose, and nothing felt irritating.

On the race morning, I set my alarm for 4:15am so that I could eat and digest my food in time for the 7am start. I was concerned about chafing so I used Body Glide on the usual spots (e.g., nipples, thighs, toes) and additionally protected my shoulders and collar bone, and parts of my arms where I thought the suit might rub. Alex and I walked from Excalibur to the nearby Mandalay Bay where the race started and finished. I only had my cell phone's camera, but it worked well enough to take the above picture. Then, the woman who took the picture asked if she could get a picture taken, too. I said, "Of course, I can take a picture of you and your friend", but she said "No, I'd like for you to be in it", pointing to me. Fame! Wow, well this was nice -- so poor Alex took a fan photo of me and two not-unattractive women.

A short while later, as we were making our way toward where we could leave our drop-bags (containing warm clothes or anything else we wanted the race organizers to hold for us for the duration of the race), another couple of women asked to have their picture with me. OK! And then again! I was starting to get concerned about the time. And then one more! OK, that was the last fan photo and I walked fast to get positioned for the start of the race.

As the announcements were made and a singer who "needed no introduction" started the national anthem and who at first I thought was Lady Gaga but was actually Cher, the rubber bands holding my sunglasses on came untied. Doh! Just 30 seconds before the race is due to start and my signature gold extra-large fully-UV-protected Elvis-style sunglasses were not going to stay on. I quickly but carefully got my cold fingers to re-tie one rubber band. Whew. Crisis prevented, and I was off!

I took the first mile relatively easy and immediately started acknowledging the spectators. "Elvis!" "Go Elvis!" "It's the first Elvis!" were some of the many many cheers directed my way. I tried to stay in character and act as I imagined Elvis might act based on a few YouTube videos and whatever vague memories I had of his movies and interviews. I would lower my voice and say "Thank you... thank you very much" over and over. I would raise one hand, kind of like the Queen-of-England gesture, and nod my head over and over again. It struck me how much of an icon Elvis still is, and what a positive aura he has, that thousands of people would be so happy and excited about seeing some guy run as him. So, I kept it up. In the first 13 miles, I must have done my little response about 200 times. I'm sure it helped that I was the first Elvis, out of possibly hundreds of Elvi.

The first half of the race went mostly up and down Las Vegas Blvd ("the Strip") and was lined with thousands of people, many of whom were there to see the race and a few others who had probably been up all night. Around mile 11, I heard "Ron!" called out and I saw my sister and daughter! Awesome! I veered over slightly and high-fived my sister. It was a very brief encounter but I really really enjoyed seeing them there. I wish I could've stopped and given my daughter a big hug but I was on a mission!

Click to see a video of me at mile 11

Some of my fellow runners said "hi" or asked me questions about my shoes (Brooke's distinctive Green Silence lightweight racing shoes) or wished me luck with my costume. I think as early as mile 5, I started running with a guy from Vancouver and we chatted about the race and our running histories. We had very similar time goals (sub-3 hour) and we ended up sticking side-by-side until around mile 23!

Near the half-way point, the race course has returned to Mandalay Bay and I'm feeling kind of worn-out and the thought crossed my mind that running a half-marathon wouldn't have been such a bad idea. But I was determined to give this race my best effort. No half measures! Live life to its fullest! So, I followed the signs for the full marathon and veered away from the finish line.

The crowds of spectators quickly disappeared. The red cliffs off in the distance were pretty but basically we're in the dry boring suburban environment. Soulless. This is an out-and-back section and I saw the front-runners returning as well as some of the wheelchair racers. (The fastest racing wheelchairs are much faster than the fastest runners.) There were bands and groups of high school cheerleaders to break up the monotony. The cheerleaders and aid station volunteers were great and really smiled and cheered us on, and I received lots of Elvis-inspired adoration from them. I couldn't respond to everyone, but I high-fived anyone who stuck their hand out and I did the usual "Thank you, thank you very much" line.

I eventually noticed a Santa Claus runner in front of me! Wow, that guy was hard core! I thought his costume was considerably more difficult than mine because he had a red Santa cap and his red coat was closed up to his neck. I was slowly gaining on him. Around mile 20, he pulled over to pee and I passed him. I was now the first-place runner with a costume, as best as I could tell.

Somewhere around mile 18, I think, for no particular reason as far as I could tell (slight wind?), my left bell bottom kept on getting snagged on my right foot. Annoying!

Past mile 20, the course got progressively more mentally difficult. There were many turns and twists and another out-and-back and my calves were getting tired and sore. I felt side cramps. My stomach felt weird -- kind of full. I stopped eating my energy gels every 35 minutes. Finally, around mile 23, I hit a real low point and I was running low on energy and my body was slowing down. I was trying hard to just "keep it all together" and last until the end. I took another energy gel even though I didn't feel like eating it. Maybe it was the slow-down period or maybe it was the energy gel, but I did start feeling stronger again.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the final miles ticked by. I was getting desperate for the race to finish. My watch showed about a half mile left and I decided to make a last big effort and I picked up the pace and started passing people. I turned on to Las Vegas Blvd again, but I still couldn't see the finish. My watch showed 26.2 miles -- where's the !@#* finish line!?! I passed the mile 26 marker. Damn it! My watch was off, which I should have known if I had remembered to check it against earlier mile markers. (There were mile markers about every 2 miles.) I was fading again. I had put in my last big effort too soon. A few runners passed me. Finally, the finish line came into view. Whew. 2 hours 59 minutes and change -- not too shabby!
A reporter of some kind asked to interview me and I gave a quick interview -- not staying in character and I don't think I offered anything particularly interesting or insightful.

My Garmin race data is here. You can see a map of where I ran and my pace.

I'm pleased with the results and this has been a really good running year, too, with my fastest 10K and marathon times. As of this writing, the official results have me at 48th place out of 5166 finishers overall and 10th out of 574 in my 35-39 age division.

I want to thank my sister and my parents for watching my daughter and spending the time to come and see the race. Thank you!