On Sunday, November 15th, I ran as a pace leader for the Rock and Roll Las Vegas 10K. I live in the Las Vegas area and this year was my 8th time participating in this event (once under previous owner, Divine Racing, and every year but one since Rock and Roll Marathon took over). I have run 2 full marathons for this event in the past, but usually I run the half marathon. I have lead pace groups several times for the half marathon, but this year I signed up to pace the 10K because that is what they needed. My assigned finishing time was 1:10, which means I would need to run an average of 11:16 minutes per mile.
I went to the marathon expo Friday morning and picked up my race packet. I spent a good part of the day working for the pace team booth. We sold T-shirts, handed out pacing bibs, pace bands and helped folks figure out where to find their pace groups come race day. Basically, the idea of a pace group is if a runner wants to finish with a specific time goal for their race, all they would need to do is find the pace group for the time they would like to try to finish, look for the pace leader holding the appropriate sign showing the finishing time, and simply follow them to finish line. The pace leader’s job is to get them there as close as possible to the predicted finishing time, without going too far over or under. This can be more challenging than it sounds!
On to the race…The Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon has been a nighttime event for the past few years. This is one of two times per year that the Las Vegas Strip is shut down to traffic (the other being New Year’s Eve). The event brings in quite the crowd from all over the world, mostly tourists wanting to run on the Strip at night with all it’s glamour. According to The Las Vegas Review Journal, this year about 6,000 people ran the 10K, 28,500 ran the half, and 5,500 ran the full marathon. The 10K began at 4:00 pm in front of SLS Las Vegas (formerly the Sahara Hotel) and the first two miles had runners heading north on Las Vegas Boulevard toward downtown. Runners then made loop around Container Park and then headed up Fremont toward the Fremont Street Experience, back to LV Blvd., then finally the last 3.5 miles headed south to finish in front of the Mirage Hotel (the same finish line as the longer races).
The 10K was scheduled to start at 4:00 pm and I arrived about 20 minutes early to gather my flock. It was still light out and I had no problem parking and finding my corral, #4. The weather was fairly decent at the start, and I was comfortable in a short sleeved T-shirt and capri running pants. There was a live band there and we rocked to the music until it was time to start. It didn’t seem too crowded compared to the half marathons I had done in the past, mainly because the half marathon is much more popular and the longer distance races were starting 30 minutes later and in a different location. I said hello to a fellow pace leader and several of my pace groupers introduced themselves and asked questions.
Eventually, we were off! After the first mile warming up my legs, we settled into a nice, steady slog. I had been assigned to a time goal that was a comfortable pace for me and first 3 to 4 miles felt good. I used the virtual pacer on my Garmin and checked my splits constantly to keep within 30 seconds of the pace. We naturally slowed through the water stops, but picked up the pace slightly after each time till we caught back up. I was beginning to think that we had this in the bag by mile 4. That was until old Mother Nature decided to mix it up a bit.
Somewhere between miles 3 and 4 the wind picked up. I first noticed it when I got a face full of flying garbage from a nearby vacant lot. The gusts got continuously stronger and stronger until my “easy” pace felt more like I was running the wrong way on one of those conveyor walkways at the airport, while simultaneously being pushed backwards. My pace sign nearly went flying into the person’s face next to me. Then it started to rain. The cold, pelting variety. All I could do to was choke up on the stick that held the sign, lean into the turbine, and turn on the steam. The last mile or so was quite entertaining due to the sign blowing all over the place but I refused to ditch it. Speaking of signs, there had been nothing provided by the race indicating any sort of mile markers (or time for that matter) so a lot of people didn’t know where in the hell we were but somehow the Garmin on my wrist said we were only 100 feet behind pace with a half mile to go. I could see the Treasure Island up ahead and knew the finish line was just beyond. I was determined to do my job and get those folks to the finish line on time! I started shouting out encouragement to no one in particular. “Okay, only half a mile left. Let’s get this B.S. over with!” I made eye contact with the woman next to me who had been right there with me the whole race. I shouted, “Let’s go for it” and we took off to the finish line! We finished in 1:10:20 (5K split was 35:30). Only 20 seconds over. That’s not too bad, actually. I’ll take it. Blame the 20 seconds on the rain.
After walking through the finisher’s area, collecting my medal, chocolate milk, banana, water, pretzels and beer I stopped to put on the arm warmers and gloves. It seemed like forever till I could exit the runners area. Eventually, I hopped a fence. I had originally planned on running a few more miles to count this as a long run, but screw it. It was cold and wet. I found some friends spectating and hung out for a few minutes to see some of our other friends as pace leaders in the half marathon pass by and cheer for them. I felt sorry for the half marathoners who still had a long way to go and for once, I was glad I wasn’t running the half. Or the full marathon for that matter. I was happy to bum a dollar off my friend and take the monorail back to my car, take my medal, and go home. Be back for more, Vegas. I’m already registered for next year!