This past weekend we headed out to Laughlin, Nevada to have a go at the Laughlin Half Marathon. It was our first time racing this event, and coincidentally our first time visiting Laughlin. The race was set for a Saturday morning, so Friday afternoon we loaded up the car and headed out. We decided to just spend Friday night in Laughlin, opting to head home after the race on Saturday (Mindy preferred not having me stuck in a town with nothing to do but gamble for an extra night!). The drive, which is 85% the same as the drive to Las Vegas, took around four hours, and after enjoying a mostly traffic-free drive we pulled into our hotel around 8:30.
The race starts and finishes at the Avi Resort and Casino, which is located around 15 miles south of Laughlin’s main strip of casinos. This was fine for us since we weren’t going to gamble, and the hotel, while dated a little, was fine. The casino was a decent size and the slots were lucky ($20 worth of luck) for us. The draw of the hotel though was the pool and beach area. Avi is situated right on the Colorado River and has an expansive sand beach with several palapas. This was a nice touch, and by far the best beach area of any of the hotels on the river. There was a dedicated swimming area at the beach, and also the option to rent jet skis and other watercraft to cruise on the river. The pool area was also a good size and there was a tiki bar at the pool which looked like it would be a good post race spot, though we didn’t indulge. After collecting our big slot winnings and finding some dessert, it was off to prep for the race and get some sleep.
The race was scheduled to start at 7:00, a nice change from the 5:30 starts of the runDisney events. Of course, since we were running along a gravel road and not a theme park, we had the luxury of a later start. Since we didn’t arrived until 8:30 the night before, we had to handle packet pick-up on race morning. This wasn’t a problem given the size of the event and the friendly volunteers. There were several friendly folks waiting for us which meant no line to get our goods. A cotton t-shirt, some samples from Clif and a few leaflets were in the goody bag- more than enough as far as I’m concerned. (I was actually glad to see a cotton t-shirt and not a tech tee- I’m not a fan of tech shirts when I’m not working out, so this will actually get worn on a regular basis.)
After checking in, it was time to warm up the legs. It was around 55 or so when we left the hotel room, pretty close to perfect for a run. I did a few minutes for light jogging, mostly to see the condition of the course. The course is described as a flat, packed dirt fire road with some gravel overlay. I’d say that’s about right. There is a thin layer of gravel covering most of the road, and a few patches of strictly packed dirt. The gravel was a little tricky initially, but keeping good form a not over-striding kept me from slipping too much. The course is an out and back, with the first (and last) 4 1/2 miles right along the river. At the 4 1/2 mile mark the course veers away from the river and twists out to the turnaround. On the way back from the turnaround point, the course got a little slower. The sheer number of runners softened up the course and loosened some of the gravel. I’m sure a good bit was mental, but there were patches on the way back where I felt like each step was just me kicking up rocks and not moving forward.
As for my race, I guess it went pretty well. Just prior to the start the race director made his final announcements about the course. He mentioned the place where the course would veer off the river and said we should just follow Dan. Dan refers to Dan Kuch who has won the race the last 4 (maybe more) years in a row. Having seen the prior year results, I knew I wasn’t in a position to win, but I figured a top 5 spot was within reach. A minute or so later, we were off and headed down the river. Dan took off and I didn’t even try to keep up. He was within sight until the course turned off the river, after which I didn’t see him until he was headed back from the turnaround. The interesting part was I didn’t see, or hear, anybody else. This meant I was in second place, but I had no idea where third place was. I figured I’d just chug along and not peek over my shoulder. I knew I’d get a look at third place eventually since it was an out and back, and that’s exactly what happened. Around a quarter mile after leaving the turnaround I crossed paths with third, and then a short time later, fourth place. I figured I had a two or three minute lead over third and that felt pretty good.
Coming into the turnaround aid station I downed a Tropical HammerGel (hooray for caffeine!) so I knew I’d get a little bump for the 8-10 mile section of the course. I felt pretty good cruising along at my steady pace, but every time I tried to pick it up a little I felt like I was spinning my wheels. The course on the way back was much softer, and the gravel was much looser thanks to all the other runners. It really felt worse than it was though, and looking at my splits I was only a few seconds slower per mile. By this point in the day the sun had also crested over the mountains to the east and it was quickly warming up! At the mile 10-ish aid station I grabbed a cup of water, took a sip, and dumped the rest on my head. It helped cool me off pretty quick and the excess soaked into my Headsweats headband, giving me a cooling halo for the homestretch.
Around mile 11 I peeked over my shoulder to see if third place was attempting sneak attack of epic proportions, but he was not. In fact, I looked over my shoulder again since I didn’t see anybody the first time. I eased off the gas just a touch, maybe 10 seconds per mile since I knew I wasn’t going to PR. I checked over my shoulder once more at mile 12 and cruised into the finish at 1:25:15. I was second overall and first in my age group! I was actually pretty surprised given that time is only about 90 seconds off a PR. We had done a four day cruise just over a week before the race, so my enlarged waistline had lowered my expectations. I told Mindy before the race 1:27 would be a safe guess if assuming things went well, 1:25 if they went better than I expected, and any thing lower probably meant I cut the course. I’m actually pretty excited since I can only assume on a solid surface road race I’ve got a good chance to PR this year, hopefully getting down close to 1:20 (ok, maybe 1:22…).
After crossing the line it was time for some water and my new go-to post race, a vegan (yep, vegan) Hammer Recovery Bar (chocolate-peanut for me!) . Then it was time to stretch out a little bit and wait for Mindy to finish. A short time later she was the 4th female to cross the line snagging a 2nd in her age group! Another successful race day for us!
While my race quantity isn’t too high yet this year, my results are pretty good! So far I’ve gone 6th OA/1st AG, 7th OA/2nd AG, and 2nd OA/1st AG. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going! Up next… maybe the Brian Mickelsen 1/2 or Full marathon (haven’t decided!) and the Labor of Love 50k (I think…).
For those interested, my pre-race fuel consisted of….
Raspberry Hammer Gel, one Race Cap Supreme, three Anti-Fatigue Caps, two Endurance Amino capsules and one Endurolyte– all taken an hour before race start. I also had a small bottle of HEED I was sipping up to 20 minutes prior the start. Once again I felt great on course thanks to Hammer and their great products! I only took water from the aid stations and had a Tropical HammerGel near the halfway point of the course. We’re glad to be a part of the Hammer family again in 2014, and look forward to more great results like this!