On December 5, 2015, I had the amazing experience of running the exciting inaugural Run Laughlin half-marathon in Nevada and Arizona. As the lucky recipient of a free race entry (and free hotel stay) through a #RunChatHunt scavenger hunt, I sauntered off on a fruitful journey to Nevada from Nebraska to run. Thanks to @TheRunChat on Twitter and @RunLaughlin for covering these expenses. Every little bit helps.
Before I flew to Nevada, I realized I had never gone running in the state ever (just briefly passed through Nevada a few times). So I knew that was about to change. I had run in Arizona before (visited relatives there in the 1980s).
So I ran a short shakeout run in Laughlin, Nevada the night before the race just to adjust to my surroundings and the dry, rocky terrain. Yes, it truly was like dancing in the desert. Even the cacti seemed to agree! We have to have fun when we run, right? So we can dance in the desert while running! I told race volunteers during the race “it’s dry as a desert here” and then I realized that’s because it is the desert. The Mojave Desert.
A beautiful breathtaking sunset punctuated the night before the race after my run.
So with zero experience racing in the desert climate, I was at a disadvantage. Furthermore, I was warned by the Run Laughlin race organizers that the hills especially in the beginning of the race. So I spiced my training with hills whenever I could to prepare. During the race, a fellow runner noticed I was attacking the hills with vigor and said to me: You love these hills, don’t you? I heard myself saying “Yes” surprising even myself. But hills training really builds your confidence and desire to run more hills. Run hill repeats and hills repeat themselves (you even find yourself adding them to runs without expecting to). Improvise on the run.
Another disadvantage I was concerned about was my recent rib injury: I fell over Thanksgiving weekend when my dog pulled me on icy rocks on my parents’ driveway. So I taped up my ribs carefully with KT Tape and ribs did not bother me during the race. I told myself to RELAX, breathe deeply, focus on your goals, and just have fun (not thinking about ribs during the race) and that worked. Also, my tapering strategy helped my ribs heal for the most part before this race.
On race day, I walked over to the start from the hotel. I was rewarded with an amazing sunrise, arriving just in time to see it.
We learned the morning of the race that there were more than 500 runners from 23 states and Canada and Mexico competing (some ran the 5k, others ran the half-marathon). Here we are preparing to race.
Runners showed amazing creativity in their running outfits/costumes. Note the showgirl and the Christmas sweater. Is that really a showgirl runner? With a feather headdress?
Yes, and she wore those feathers on her head for much of the race even though it was extremely windy during the race. I noticed that the showgirl runner was giving a lot of high fives during the race, encouraging other runners. So I high-fived her as thanks. The running coach in me was proud of how runners inspired helped each other (like on the hills) with encouragement by words and deeds (high-fives) during the race.
We ascended uphill almost right away after the start and they were challenging hills. Fortunately, I had done a lot of hill training so I was prepared. The wind was a factor, slowing us down a little. Usually it was more of a crosswind but it was strong for much of the race.
One of the most interesting parts of the race to me was the trail portion, which began at about mile 4. Here is a photo from the Lake Mead National Recreational Area.
One of the funniest things about the whole race was an armed bandit dressed in black who hid behind shrubs/cacti around mile 5. I regret not taking a photo with him now. He was very entertaining. He tried to distract us from running, then tried to chase us in boots and cowboy hat. And yes, he had a gun. With the trail path being out-and-back, we ran by “Black Bart” (the bandit) twice. So going downhill, I fed into the mystique by warning runners about a mysterious bandit named “Black Bart” and told them to watch out for him, he could be dangerous. Love the creative dramatic hilarity of planting an unexpected bandit on the trail!
On the trail portion of the race, I began running with a pack of men for the trail part who were very encouraging to me as we climbed hilly winding terrain and could not really see where we were going. We also had to watch out for the leaders returning on the trail part as it was an out-and-back portion so we had to stay on the right as they passed us on the left.
The volunteers were wonderful during this race, welcoming us with an Arizona flag when we crossed the Nevada-Arizona border. Festive and musical volunteers greeted us at the aid stations. The water stations were adequate and had food options as well but I didn’t want to take the time to eat during the race so I could focus on my goal.
It was a beautiful sight to reach the Davis Dam during the race. This was the part of the race that edged into Arizona from Nevada. A different state and time zone. I think the first photo from Lake Mojave is from the Arizona side.
The Colorado River portion of the race was very beautiful. The scenery of this race really spoke to me, inspiring me to run faster. But I also wanted to remember what it looked like so here are some photos.
I realized at the 10-mile mark that I was on pace to have a big breakout half-marathon (not a PR, personal record) but a significantly faster one than I have had in a very long time. So after taking this photoburst collage, I returned to running, focused on trying to maybe run a 1:45 if possible.
About mile 12 or so, the casino signs are visible and you can tell that you are close to the finish. So I gathered all my leftover energy and tried to pick it up to the finish.
I hit the finish line in 1:47:39 (8:14 pace), my fastest half-marathon since running 1:39 in 1999. A modern-day Garmin-era half-marathon record! Very excited about that. To be able to run through adversity with the rib injury and run that well was very meaningful to me. Especially on day 747 of a runstreak. There was a major post-race endorphin glow.
I thought I had a chance at 3rd place in my age group but alas, I was 5th: missed 3rd by 8 minutes (somehow I would have placed in the men’s 20s age group, I beat one of those placers by 5 minutes). But I finished 29th overall (of 295) and 5th of 15 finishers in my age group.
The biggest problem afterward were some severe calf cramps in one leg. No big deal. The amazing race scenery, challenge, and experience more than made up for the silly calf.
And the race organizers in their goody bag we received as participants surprised me with this. How do you spell post-race recovery? With “epic race” bath salts, very helpful for sore muscles. They made it a special experience from start to finish and beyond.
We received a warm welcome and enjoyed the experience very much. Once again, thanks RunChat, Run Laughlin, and to everyone who helped encourage me in my training and during the running of this race. You made it a very special memorable experience for me and I am grateful.