Rock 'N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Race Recap

First race post Chicago was a little less than a success. I guess that's me being hard on myself, but I wasn't very happy with the way this race went for me. The Las Vegas Rock N' Roll half marathon was quite an exciting event though and I have to give it the credit it's due for being a bucket list race.

My parents came with me for the weekend. My dad signed up for the race, and my mom really enjoys gambling (penny slots, folks). We left at 6 on Saturday morning to drive out there. It was a quick drive and we arrived and checked into the Mirage around 10:30. Peter and Kim were both staying at the Mirage, which was awesome! Shortly after we arrive, Peter met up with us and took my dad and I over to the expo. My mom disappeared shortly after and I never saw her until dinner.

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This expo was, by far, one of the best expos I'd ever been too. Chicago was equally as large, but the vendors at RNR Las Vegas were better, in my opinion. Everyone's offering deals during expos, so I walked out with a lot of goodies - a tub of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides (if you have questions on this product, please ask me. I swear by my daily dose and love it), R8 from Roll Recovery (this thing never goes on sale, but they were offering sales at this expo only), and some new Momentum Jewelry bands. I also grabbed some discounted Picky Bars because those are hard to find. Overall a successful few hours at the expo. Meb was also there signing bibs, but the line to meet him was very long. I opted to stare at him awkwardly from afar and I think his security team thought I was nuts.

Peter and I went to the Outlets afterward to see if I could scoop up some new, last season Lunar Glides for Boston training. I didn't see any color I liked, but Peter landed a nice black singlet to wear in the race the next day. By this time I was pooped, so we went back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

We carb loaded Saturday at Piero's, this fancy smancy Italian place my parents love coming to when they go to Vegas. I didn't know you could pay $32 for a bowl of spaghetti, but anything can happen in Vegas right? I've also never had such delicious Italian food, so I'll give it some credit for being really damn good spaghetti.

Peter and I woke up early on Sunday to go out to Seven Magic Mountains to get some photos and see it. We also wanted to be tired enough to take a nap, so the 5:30am wake up call was just peachy. After we got back, I went to breakfast with my parents. The weird part of this race is figuring out how to eat appropriately before you race at 4:30pm. You don't want to be full, but you don't want to starve. I opted for a huge bowl of oatmeal with banana, nuts, and dried cranberries and I shared some fresh fruit with my dad. He had decided not to run the race. He hadn't trained or run much the last few weeks and it would've been miserable, so I think he made the right choice.

Rock N' Roll Las Vegas

After breakfast, there wasn't much else to do but wait. I went back to the room while my parents gambled and watched countless episodes of Law and Order SVU in between multiple naps that just left me super groggy. Finally it was time to get ready. I took my electrolyte pills, ate my apple, and got all of my stuff together to meet Peter, Kim, and Mary. Then I couldn't stop pooing. It was insane, like 3-4 times before I left the hotel. This would've been all well and good if it was a morning race, but since it was a night race and I knew I still had oatmeal and fruit in my belly, I wasn't sure when/if it was going to let me race. I decided I just had to leave and hoped the cinnamon raisin bagel Peter had waiting for me would stop some of this. We met up with Kim and Mary and jumped in a taxi down to Mandalay Bay and the starting line.

Rock N' Roll Las Vegas

We got there just after 3:30, so I ended up missing out on the We Run Social/Pro Compression photo op. Snoop Dogg was on stage already and we all made our way to the Porto potties. We hung out there for a while before moving to our corrals. I ran into Ivie and AJ, fellow Pro Compression ambassadors, on our way through. Then once we were in the corral, we ran into Allie and Edgar. It was nice to see so many familiar faces. Kim and I stayed together and found a spot near the front of our corral to wait. We couldn't believe how warm it was. It was about 75° at the start. Much warmer than last year and we were a little worried. I had the 1:30 pace band on, but my new coach told me to be careful of going out too fast. I was going to take the first 3 miles to ease into a pace and spend the next 10 miles chasing people down. The gun went off and Kim and I wished each other good luck.

Rock N' Roll Las Vegas
Rock N' Roll Las Vegas

As soon as we took off, I knew this wasn't going to be fun. I got a sharp pain in my left side a quarter mile in. I focused on my breathing and slowed down a bit, but it got worse. Like someone was stabbing me and my muscles were trying to fold in on each other. We start out going South on the strip for a little less than a mile before turning around to go North. Just after the turn around, I pulled off to catch my breath and try to open my diaphragm. Sometimes cramping like that is caused because you're breathing from your lungs and not fully opening your diaphragm. It causes your breath to be short and your muscles to tense and cramp. Well, that's what my chiropractor told me :) 

I started running again and then stopped. I saw Kim run by, so I ran up to her and we ran for a few seconds together and I had to stop again. Finally I just told myself to enjoy this, so I became content with 8 minute pace and was looking for the water station. I was dehydrated and needed electrolytes to help. Around mile 3, I finally felt better, so I picked up the pace and started chasing people down. I finally ran into Kim again around mile 5. I told her I wanted to run the race with her, so we held on to each other for about 3 miles. Just after a water station near mile 8, I lost her. I was actually feeling good st this point and was doing a 7:00 pace, so I kept going. I knew she wasn't far behind me and would catch up if she could. 

We were now running through a neighborhood that added a few miles to the course before jumping back on the strip. Once we made our way back on the strip, there was a little over 3 miles left to go. I could see the Stratosphere and kept telling myself to get there. Once I was there I knew I'd see the finish. I hit mile 11, and my legs started to die. Hard. I haven't hit the wall in a half marathon in a very long time, but it happened. This was a combination of the weather, lack of hydration, and depletion of my glucose levels. I should've grabbed a gel at mile 6 given that I hadn't eaten much during the day, but I passed it up. It was so hard to keep going. I was hoping Kim would show up and give me a boost so we could finish together, but she didn't come through. I kept getting passed by all the people I'd just chased down. I just wanted it to be over. I finally saw the finish line and the crossing was very lackluster and disappointing because I felt terrible.

I walked for a bit and turned around to look for Kim. The same thing happened to her. The warm weather was no joke and we both felt terrible. We waited for Mary and Peter to come through. Mary had an awesome race, but Peter had a similar experience to Kim and myself. We made our way through the extra long finish shoot to the medals. Rock N' Roll gives out big medals based on how many races you've done (2+ gets you an extra one), so we grabbed those for Peter, Kim and Mary before making the walk back to the Mirage.

Rock N' Roll Las Vegas

All in all, the race is a unique experience. I didn't have fun because I felt terrible a majority of the time. I've also had a tough time recovering this past week. It feels like I ran a full marathon instead of a half. This is most definitely related to my nutrition falling off since Chicago, but I'm going to bring it back together for the next two weeks leading up to the Laughlin half. We'll see how I do that with the Thanksgiving festivities!

Have you ever raced RNR Vegas? 

Have you ever raced at night?

J

Chicago Marathon Nutrition

The rest and recovery period since Chicago has been great. I've been indulging a ton and enjoying easy paced runs with less stress. Over the last 2 weeks or so though, I've started to feel more sluggish and less rested which means it's time to tighten up on my nutrition and get back into training mode with a few more races to go to finish out the season.

Chicago was the first training cycle where I really focused on my nutrition as an essential element to my success. Outside of fueling during my runs, my nutrition was my saving grace from a terrible training cycle, and it kept me healthy at the points in my cycle when my body wanted to break.

Before we start talking about nutrition, to give you some of my background, I've never struggled with weight. I've been fortunate to be gifted with a fast metabolism from my mother, and an athletic drive from my father. My name is Sugar Runs for a reason though - because I LOVE SUGAR. I initially loved running because I could eat whatever I wanted and still maintain my weight. I then loved running because it gave me a competitive drive to get faster and work harder. Since running the marathon distance though and really improving my times, it became more difficult for my body to feel good both during and after my runs. This is a combination of so many things - recovery, nutrition, and training - that need to work together to get our bodies to function at their best. I began focusing on the recovery and maintenance in the beginning of the Chicago cycle by doing physical therapy, massages, and chiropractic work, but my body was still feeling heavy and tired, so I looked outside of my physical training to what I was putting into my body.

I also got help. I reached out to my friend, Jessica Craig from Jessica Craig Health, a certified nutritionist whose been working in the health industry as a personal trainer, wellness coach, nutritionist, and even a gym owner, for the last 10 years. She's also a runner, so I knew she would understand the nutritional needs I had for the mileage I was doing. I gave Jessica my weekly training schedule with the days I worked out, the type of workout (speed, tempo, recovery, long run), and the range of miles I would be running on average per week. We talked a bit about my current diet and the foods I loved. I also set a few parameters for her (had to have something sweet each day and I didn't want to feel deprived - normal requests!), and then she worked on a nutrition plan for me.

Jessica provided me with a few sample meals to understand the types of food I should be eating and the general amount of carbs, fat, and protein I should be taking in each day. I was happy to see most of the foods I was already eating in the plan, just with more thought on their combination and when I should be eating them. It was so hard at first, but I was still able to indulge a bit in my dessert habit in much more strict moderation. After the first two weeks of changing my habits, I felt amazing. I had more energy going into my workouts, and even though they were tough, my body was holding up and recovering faster than before. Here's the significant things I changed that made the most impact.

Tracking

One of the main things I had to work on was tracking. I needed to see what I was eating and when, to figure out what I shouldn't be eating. I used My Fitness Pal to track - a website and app that has tons of foods so logging and tracking is easy and not overwhelming. You can also import your own recipes so you can find a few you love making over and over and just add it quickly.

Once I started tracking, I realized I was taking in 3,000 - 3,500 calories A DAY. That's ridiculous. While this isn't about calories, most of that was coming from mindless eating at my desk during the day or eating a pint of ice cream every night at 9 pm. I also wasn't burning that off with the miles I was running, so I had gained a few pounds. It was unnecessary and not useful to my body or what I was asking it to do for me. Tracking my food also made me realize I was not getting enough protein.

Increased Protein

Jessica didn't put me on a specific diet (paleo, vegetarian, vegan etc), but she did want me to ensure I was getting a certain range of macros each day. Macros are the amount of carbs, protein, and fat you take in each day. I was in a very flexible range for all of these numbers based on my weight. Jessica wanted me to take in a range of 175-200 g carbs, 50-60 g fat, and 100-120 g of protein. Prior to my tracking, I was taking in about 50 grams of protein. No wonder my body was having such a hard time coming back from speed workouts! My muscles weren't getting enough protein to rebuild themselves. Once I started tracking, it was easy to get to at least 90 grams of protein a day from real, good food.

Anti-inflammatory Foods

In addition to my protein intake to rebuild the muscles I was breaking down, I needed to focus on anti-inflammatory foods. Sadly, sugar is one of the most common inflammatory foods. While we need simple sugars to fuel us during our runs, afterwards, things like turmeric and tart cherry juice help reduce the inflammation in our muscles and speed recovery. I looked at incorporating these by roasting veggies or chicken seasoned with turmeric, adding tart cherry juice to my smoothie bowls, and having turmeric milk for dessert instead of a sugary treat.

It was super tough at first to cut out all the snacking and to really limit my dessert to a piece of fruit or a small piece of dark chocolate, but eventually, I felt so much better. I was more satisfied after my meals which helped stop the endless snacking, and I ended up dropping the extra weight I'd put on. Again, this is not about weight, but I lost it naturally as I began eating foods that made me feel better and more satisfied.

I'm much more focused on my ultimate goal. I want to get better at running, and in order to do that, I need to respect my body. That idea helps me make better choices and listen to what my body needed to perform better. I'll be sharing more of my nutrition throughout the Boston training cycle and will be adding some recipes that I love. If you're interested in learning more about your nutrition or working with a nutritionist to make your running better, please reach out to Jessica on her website.

How do you manage your nutrition during training?

Do you track your food?

J