December 11, 2008

2008 Las Vegas Marathon: Recap and Reaction

Background and Training

I decided to run the Las Vegas Marathon shortly after winning the Jerome Hill Climb over Labor Day weekend. I just had so much fun racing and competing (and actually running with other human beings) that I wanted to get out there and crank another one off. I suppose my mind was in that post season mode that every runner goes through after a good (or terrible) season where all dreams are possible: breaking the tape in epic fashion to clinch the conference championship, making the state championship for the first time in school history, or consistently running 100 mile weeks. My dream happened to be completing my first marathon fast. I could envision the perfect high volume, high intensity training plan. My training was consistent but hardly perfect.

My first week of real “training” began shortly after that coveted Jerome Hill Climb victory in early September. I was on an emotional high from the thrill of the victory and the distant dream of clicking off mile after mile en route to a fast marathon. Needless to say, September was probably my best month of training. I didn’t miss a day during the entire month. I lost that focus in October but maintained the fitness I gained in September. I missed several days of training due to some distractions. It was a good though because I was starting to overdo the training. It gave me a much needed break. I got back on the serious track in November mainly for fear of making a fool of myself in the race. I logged several long runs including a hilly 20 miler at sub 6:30 per mile pace and a Grand Canyon Hill run (see previous post). In late November, I began taking it really easy to taper. I slept a good 9 hours per night and took the running slow.


Many people wonder what I did in the few days before the Marathon. Here is a day by day account of what I did the week before the race:

Mon: 55 minutes EZ

Tue: 40 minutes EZ

Wed: 6-6-6-3-3 minutes hard w/ 1 min EZ jog

Thur: Off from running, Stretch, Cold shower

Fri: 30minute run in Bagdad, 10 minute weak ice bath solution

Sat: A couple strides in the parking lot of Buca di Beppo

RACE DAY: 4:30AM wake up call, Ate Cliff Bar and half a banana, drove to course, took crap in Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, Jogged around for 10 minutes, 6:07AM race start.

The Race

The race started and it felt like your everyday morning jog down the Las Vegas Strip. Running down the strip with fireworks bursting and flashing bilboard signs shouting “GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!” was quite a surreal experience. I had to remind myself that I was in a race and would surely be hurting very badly soon. I tried to focus on running at the agreed upon speed limit which happened to be 6:15 mile pace. I was mildly disappointed that there were no mile markers until mile 3 so I had to go by feel to keep from getting a speeding ticket. I ended up running about 6:13 pace for the first 3 miles. I was comfortable with the pace so I just kept it up. I tried to keep as relaxed as possible by chit chatting with some people the first 6 or 7 miles and made sure to take down water at every aid station.

After the strip ended at mile 6, the course got extremely desolate. There was no one around. I was alone just out there running and soaking in the scenic mountains on the horizon when some dude just pulled up next to me at around mile 12. We started talking a good bit while cruising at sub 6 pace. This was the first time I ran with someone in almost 4 months so I wasn’t really focused on the pace or pain. I could tell he was running faster than I wanted to go but I would have been all alone out there if I didn’t keep up. His advice to me was to break the race down into a 20 mile tempo and a 10k race. He certainly stuck with that philosophy by dropping me and putting over two minutes on me in the last 8 miles to claim a 2000 dollar purse. He is a 2:23 marathon so I didn’t feel too bad about him humiliating me.

Around mile 16 was the point where I was starting to hurt a bit. I had trouble keeping Gatorade and water down. I burped up banana and cliff bar almost every time I told a swig. My stomach wasn’t working properly. I had side stitches and felt like I had diarrhea. I thought about just letting it out but wasn’t ready to join that club yet.

From mile 20 to the finish my focus was just one mile at a time. I was struggling to maintain pace. My right hamstring locked up possibly from a muscle cramp. Consequently, I was basically limping the last 6 miles. I could tell because the next day I had extreme soreness in my right leg compared to my left. Surprisingly, the last 1.5 miles I felt good and finished up strong. The final 400 may have been a personal record for me (85 seconds). I got a loud cheer from the crowd during the final sprint because I appeared to be going fast. People love to see that in the final straightaway. Our culture loves speed and power.

My plan was to run 6:15’s until it got hard. Guess what, it somehow got easy. Maybe it was running so many hilly trials at a little bit of altitude or the adrenaline from being in a race, but I never ran faster than 6 min pace in training. I was surprised I could maintain that pace for the entire marathon.

3 mi- 18:39
10mi- 61:30
13.1mi- 81:18
20mi- 2:01:30
24mi- 2:25:10
26.2mi- 2:38:48

Post Race

I had no appetite for about 4 or 5 hours after the race. I had trouble walking. I had a terrible headache all day. I couldn’t nap because of muscle spasms. And I generally haven’t felt worse. With that being said, I can’t wait to do it all over again.


-Do at least 1 training run in flats before running a marathon in them.
-Practice taking cups at aid stations
-Learn how to hydrate properly during the race
-The marathon puts a great deal of stress on the body. I hate running on pavement. I would probably limit myself to a maximum 3 pavement marathons a year.
-I have never regretted running any race. There is always something to learn even if you run terribly.

*I would like to thank my brother for encouragement, support, and advice during my marathon quest


  1. what about your big sister who is the master half marathon runner...(didn't think i was checking out the blog, did ya!)

  2. congrats man, looks like your first marathon went extremly well!

    its funny that some of those problems you explained were the exact ones I had to figure out racing my bike longer distances. Heres some tips I learned...

    Early in the race start with solid food, then later move to gels which are easier to eat and to keep down.

    Drink more energy drinks(ie. gatorade) earlier, and water later, since even gatorade is hard to keep down late in races.

    Towards the very end of the race go with a swig or 2 of coca-cola. It tastes amazing and the sugar provides an extra boost for the final stretch. (Belgium favorite)

  3. Bry: Thanks for the tips. I agree with many of the things you said. I think those tips would work best at longer distances, say over 3 or 4 hours. I think you would only need 1 gel max, and plenty of fluids in the marathon since the race is only 3 hours. I was told by a couple of marathoners to drink water early in the race and gatorade late. I tried that and it was difficult to take the gatorade down so you may be onto something. Or maybe i just need practice.

    Sarah: UH OH... You are reading the blog? I may have to drastically alter it then. Haha. See you at Christmas.

  4. You're a beast. We need to run in Pittsburgh if you're back for Christmas.