It's been almost 2 weeks since my final race of 2016. I'm still glad it's over and thankful for the recovery period I'm taking to prepare for Boston training. I really debated hard about doing this race. The Las Vegas Half and Laughlin Half were races I signed up for so long ago, and neither were goal races for me. I haven't focused on the half distance in over a year, but I've benefited from my marathon training by pulling away 2 half marathon PR's this year at San Diego (1:31) and Big Cottonwood (1:26). As much as I wanted to end 2016 on a high note, I was ready for it to be over. I know some folks can handle high mileage and doing lots of racing, but I am not one of them.
I initially signed up for Laughlin because it boasted a flat, fast course and a small field of runners (about 500). This was the 2nd annual race, and I looked up the first female time for the prior year and she finished in 1:31. I thought I could go for a PR and try to win. The entire week leading up to the race, I was frustrated with how my body felt and the fact that I signed up for this race. I had a speed workout a few days before that contained two 10 minute intervals at half marathon pace, and I bailed about 2 minutes into the first interval. Not really the confidence boost I needed, but a clear indicator my body wanted to rest.
The race was on Saturday, which is always nice because it gives you Sunday to really rest after the race instead of heading straight back to work. Peter, Ricky, and I left Friday morning go go out there, made a few Dunkin' Donuts stops on the way and arrived in Laughlin just before 5 pm. Laughlin is funny because its right next to the Arizona border - you just have to cross the river and you're in Nevada. Our phones kept switching back and forth with the time because Arizona is 1 hour ahead of Nevada and California. It was annoying not to know what time it really was!
We went straight to the expo, which (as expected) was very tiny. Peter really hyped up this race on social media, so a ton of people from a local LA run club were there. We chatted with them for a bit and then went to check into our hotel. Most of the hotels in Laughlin are a bit rundown, and so is the city, especially during the winter. We stayed at Harrahs, which was at the end of the strip of hotels. I think the strip of hotels is about a mile long maybe, so a very small city. After checking in and settling into our rooms, it was time to eat. We found a local Italian place on the AZ side of the river and carb loaded there.
The race started at 7 am, and we had to be at the start line by 6:30. The start line was at the local high school, about 2 miles West of Laughlin. The course had changed from the prior year, and the race promised it was even faster than the first year. Winds were crazy and temps were low at 40° - the winds made it feel like 20°! I wore my typical tank and shorts because I knew I'd get warm once we were running. We all waited inside the high school hallways until it was time to start the race.
The race start was a little weird. The sensors were set up in the parking lot, but it wasn't clear which way you were supposed to run. I went to the front and ran into Vivian, my friend from the LA running groups. She was with Dolores, a super fast woman who won the Santa Clarita Marathon a few years ago. I began to second guess trying to win it once I saw her, but there was no time to think. The race started when some one yelled "GO!"
We winded our way through the parking lot and then went downhill to get onto the track. I only had a few men in front of me at this point. We finished mile 1 running around the track. Once we got out of the track, we had to make our way back up the hill we just came down. The hill went on gradually for what felt like forever while battling the 30 mph wind head on. I was still chasing a ton of boys, but got nervous every time someone came up behind me. My pace was slowing due to the wind and the hill and I did a 7:54 and 8:11 for my second and third mile. Much slower than the sub 6:50 I needed for a 1:30 finish time. Just before mile 3, we turned North onto the main road and Dolores came up on me. I was okay with this. She's a great runner. My goal was to maintain second female.
The main road was rolling hills, but the wind was still coming on hard. I got taken over by 2 more women running together just after mile 3. I just focused on getting through the rolling hills. I knew the course had some downhill coming up and I was a strong downhill runner. When we turned East just after mile 4, the course started it's decent. I overtook the two women and finished mile 5 in 6:26. I knew this was a bit too fast and I didn't want to cramp, but it was hard to slow down. I could see the dam and knew we had to run across it, but we kept going down and the dam was rising above us. Finally I saw the hill we needed to climb to get up the dam. UGH.
The dam slowed me down. I got through mile 8 which finished just on the Arizona side of the dam in an 8:05. About a quarter mile later, we turned around to head back to the dam and down the hill we came up. I hit the mile 9 marker, but my watch was at 8.7 miles. Uh oh. I was worried the course was going to be short. I hit the 10 mile mark on the bottom of the hill before we hit the river path to go back to downtown Laughlin, but my watch still somewhere in mile 9. I was getting really nervous that the course was short at this point. I could see the casinos coming up in the distance and I frantically searched for the 11 mile marker. I was relieved that I actually hit 11 at the 11 mile mark. Ok, back on track.
At this point, we joined the 5K runners as they were making their turnaround. The path wasn't too crowded, but there were quite a few walkers and I spent a lot of energy playing frogger with them. I was still feeling strong, but new that the 1:30 I wanted was out of reach because I couldn't make up enough time from the uphills. Then I saw the 12 mile marker and we were nowhere near mile 12. I was showing 11.65 miles on my watch. We came across a bridge and my watch buzzed for mile 12. We hit the downhill to come off the path and onto the street. When I came up to the corner, a race volunteer was yelling, "just a half mile more!" A half mile? What???
I pushed as hard as I could to make sure no woman came up on me. Dolores was out of site, so I had no hope of catching her, but I was not going to give up second without a fight. Even if the course was short. The finish line was a little lackluster, with no real signage, but I knew it ended at the outlets parking lot and I could see the sign. I came into the finish and heard Ricky yelling "Go J!" I crossed the finish and stopped my watch immediately. 12.66 miles?? 1:29:55. There's my sub 1:30, but a huge disappointment to come up short on the mileage. Based on my 7:06 average, it would've been a 1:33 finish.
I met up with Ricky and told him I was disappointed that the course was short, but whatever. We waited for Peter to come in and he did well! He ran sub 2:10 which was much better than Vegas for him (Vegas was tough on everyone I think!). We went to the finish line festival where they were giving away local beer and they started the age group awards. It took a long time to get through the 5K runners, but they finally did the half marathon awards. For placing in your age group you got an additional medal that that doubled as a beer opener. Pretty cool. Sadly, they only gave another award to the first place overall male and female finishers - so nothing for coming in 2nd. I can appreciate that though. Who care's about 2nd if you were shooting to win?
Would I run this race again? No. I love small races, but to come up so short on a race is annoying, however, I've also run a ton of long courses this year (both LA and Vancouver were a quarter mile longer). Yes, maybe it's my Garmin, but I can understand being off by maybe a tenth of a mile, but a quarter or a half mile is ridiculous (and yes, I run the corners peeps!). The time of year for this race is rough too. Last year and this year were windy, and I'm guessing it will continue to be that way. This wasn't the way I wanted to end my 2016 racing season, but I'm glad it's over and that I had a tiny bit of redemption from Vegas.