Las Vegas Marathon Race Report And My Dilemma

I finished the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon on Sunday in 3:24. I put the time in there, because I was really focused on running for time, 3:15 to be exact, and it didn't happen, and I want to remind myself not to make that my primary focus in future races.

My training has been going great the last couple of months, I was pretty sure I was in 3:15 shape going into the marathon, but there were a couple of things that were out of my hands. I don't want to use this as a place to make excuses or complain, however there were some difficulties with the race that affected how I ran. If I was stronger, mentally, I'm sure I could have overcome the logistical challenges with the race. If you want to read about the fallout from the race, head on over to Facebook and sort through the thousands of comments there.

My race went a little something like this:

I started in the first corral and felt great as the sun set over the mountains to the west of Vegas and we headed to an industrial, seemingly deserted section of town, zig-zagging through city blocks, pin point turns and out and backs. My pace was solid and steady, and I was looking forward to the second half of the race were we would run up one side of the Strip and down the other. The main problem for the marathoners running the race (there were about 4,000 of us) was that as we were funneled back onto the strip, we joined 40,000 half marathoners who had started about ten minutes before my group joined them, so I was right in the middle of it, dodging, bumping, saying sorry and being called an asshole as I tried to keep the pace by weaving through the throng. It was tough and draining, but I actually sped up at this point...probably anger and adrenaline. I think it came back to haunt me because at mile 20 I didn't have much left, I slowed considerably off my goal pace and really had a tough time at the end.


I was disappointed in myself. I thought of all the hard work and the training that I had done to get me ready to run a good race, and I felt that I had blown it. I felt like I had let myself, my coach, my wife, and my friends down. And I know it's silly, but I even felt like I let people who read this blog down. I was in a pretty rough spot when I saw my wife. My daughter asked us to text her my time as soon as I finished and she immediately responded with a text saying "That's so cool. Good job." It was actually something more like "Cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's so cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" That snapped me out of the darkness and self-loathing really quick. I chalked it up to a shitty day (they can't all be great, right?), the race was over and I was in Vegas, so it wasn't all bad. We went out that night, and I worked hard at replenishing my glycogen stores until about 2 AM.

Running down the strip at night was pretty cool at times. It's not a novel idea to say that the Rock and Roll Marathon series caters to the "just finish" crowd and they do provide more of a party experience than a race. I'm not an elite runner, I like to think that I'm a relatively fast runner compared to the average person, and I just don't think these gigantic road races are for me, but for those that crave a shared experience with thousands of people and are in it more for the spectacle/party/event than the race, then these continue to be great options. It seems that as the bottom line becomes more and more important to the corporations that put on these races, the more and more they cater to this crowd. It's not necessarily a bad thing, and there are still plenty of options for more serious runners (those who still wear dolphin shorts and headbands with pride), it's just not my preferred type of race.

On the plus side, Vegas is always fun, and I didn't lose any money gambling. I also took advantage of cable TV and caught up with the Kardashians (and mourned the fall of civilization at the same time...a two birds, one stone thing). I also learned the The Discovery Channel has become the Blowing Shit Up Channel (and I kind of like it).

I try to learn something from every race, and I think I learned an important thing about myself from this race. I haven't raced a marathon since 2007 (where I broke down at about mile 20 and ran a 3:24...coincidence?), and I don't really like the distance. I don't know if I have the mental focus and pain tolerance to complete 26.2 miles at a pace that should be do-able based on the training. I can endure the dull pain of races three times as long as a marathon, but I have a much more difficult time enduring the sharp pain of speed. I give in too quickly, and I lose confidence in myself, and that's hard to get back in a marathon.

Now, I need to make a decision, and I welcome any advice or comments. I am considering two options.

The first is to continue with my training and try to run another marathon in the beginning of February. I think I have good fitness right now, I could back off and recover for a couple of weeks, then ramp up the training again for the Death Valley Marathon in February. I wouldn't go into it with a concrete time goal, I'd try to have fun and run to the best of my ability. I have friends that are running it, it's a small race, and I think it would help get rid of the slightly bitter aftertaste of the Vegas marathon. My concern about this is that I may be at the peak of my fitness right now and I will train too much and get burnt out or injured with diminishing returns.

The second option is to take a longer period of time to rest, recover, and just run without a training structure. I'm planning on a big year next year with a Joshua Tree traverse, a Zion traverse, the PCT 50 mile race, and possibly the San Diego 100 all between March and June next year, so the rest could be exactly what I need. I'm going to lose a lot of speed with this option, and that kind of makes me sad, but the rest may be necessary.

Thank you for reading, and I appreciate your comments.

One final note, I wish my blog was this awesome.


  1. Sounds like the only difference between the two options is that you would train harder for maybe two months, but still run for fun at DV. I don't see much downside there. I doubt with your level of fitness and your base that you will injure yourself. In other words running DV doesn't seem to take away from your overall running goals for the year.

    If you were trying to BQ and still go after the 100 that might be too much. (Maybe) I believe in one or two major goals in a season where you peak. One seems to work for me, but I'm older. :)

  2. I have nothing but respect and sympathy for all the marathon runners.

    I can only imagine how frustrating it was to navigate through all those walkers on the far left after having already completed a half marathon's distance.

  3. It's so funny that I predicted that is what would happen as the marathoners and half-marathoners would converge. I signed up for the marathon but ended up just running the half and was so happy that I did after seeing that debacle. After looking at the race map months ago, I knew it would be a problem! I ran in the marathon lane and stayed with the 3:30 pace group because I knew better than to get in the way of the faster runners.

  4. A valiant effort indeed -- congrats on a great season, Dax! I'd say rest up, enjoy the holidays, keep the long run around at ultra pace and occupy your mind by beginning to plan logistics for option 2...

  5. Well this is just too easy. Option 2.

    Nowhere does it say that being an ultra distance runner requires losing speed. I have found the opposite to be true! I upped the ante even more this year and just like that I'm running the fastest I've ever run before, in all distances.

    Obviously, the intenisty is a little different in ultra training, but you can still get to the starting line and bust a pretty good move on that marathon if you want to. I bet you'll surprise yourself, too. Go for option two, but plan to run DV for shits and giggles. What happens happens. But, I'd put money on you hitting your goal if you go into it relaxed and happy. By removing that "Goal Race" moniker you relinquish a great deal of internalized pressure and will instead just go do what you do. Which is kick a**.


    By the way, it's annoying to be told how fast a time is even though it wasn't "fast enough" in your mind...but seriously, 3:24 is sick. I wanna go sub-3:30 next year :)

  6. I think you did proud!

  7. my advice is to e careful of the bubble where you just forget the love of running....get back to that and a few mins here and there mean nothing...the outdoors, friends, fitness, adventure...the rest is in your head?

  8. Jeff and Toby -- Thanks for the advice. I'll definitely be taking it easy the next couple of months, and if I do Death Valley marathon, I'll do it for the experience and with a primary goal of enjoying the experience. I'll consider it a training run for Joshua Tree.

    Paige -- Thank you. I think part of the reason why I didn't run as fast as I wanted was that I wasn't enjoying the race itself. Matt Fitzgerald talks about this in his book, Run. Have you read it? I think you'd really like it.

    Christie -- Thank you.

    Paul -- great advice. I do love running, but part of that love is getting faster and training myself to accomplish new things. I know at some point this will be impossible and I'll need to come to terms with aging and the eventual slowdown that comes with it. I'm just not ready to do that yet.

  9. Dax, Just love reading your blog. Congrats again, 26.2 mile is looong race both physically AND mentally. Proud of you, but understand your frustration. Training/nutrition/conditions aside, the marathon is an unpredictable beast.weeding through walkers will drive you nuts. The only thing I can think of that might help in DV is to start off really really slow and relaxed in the beginning, and save energy for the end. I also like your motto of enjoying the scenery, that never gets old ;) Look forward to seeing everyone on Sat. and hearing all about it.

  10. hey Dax, reading Facebook posts on the race, it looks like you just picked the wrong marathon. let me know what your training schedule is like, I'd love to join you sometime. I've found the marathon is a special race for sure. it is my favorite distance. I've had a couple of good coaches who helped me along the way too. But the marathon training is important, the taper is even more important. The emotion of the running is the whole enchilada to be played with on runs especially long runs.
    And then picking a good race like Cal intl or portland or, or chicago or twin cities ; anyway I'd love to run with you and talk about all the ways to get a good marathon. emotion and spirit! sounds like life is awesome btw, Ralph

  11. My 2cents...Try something new with no expectations... a.k.a SD100!

  12. Carl -- are you running it? I'm definitely considering the SD100 for next year.

  13. BTW... that HikeGuy's journal is art! Some of his sketches of the flora & fauna remind me of those done by the old skool naturalists/explorers (i.e. Darwin, Lewis & Clark, etc.). Good stuff!

  14. Good race... Hope you do Death Valley! Recommend an ipod at mile 20 with your most excitable song list... following 'One Moment in Time' :)

  15. I just came across your blog because someone posted your "shit Ultrarunner say" on the ultralist...see, shit ultrarunner say. Anuyway, I saw this post and had to find out what the Vegas marathon was like this year with the change to a night run. Sounds like it sucked and was done in reverse with the same terrible route they had last year. I'm baffeled that they actually sent you all through the industrial area first and then had you re-join the masses. I had come to believe that Vegas was trying to destroy their marathon while some other faction was fighting to keep it alive in some form. Now I just think that they are really wanting to turn it into a half-marathon only, which is cool but they should just do it already and stopp offering up terrible marathon experiences. There are some good "marathon for the masses" type races out there, Flying Pig immediatly comes to mind, I loved that marathon like no other road marathon and the Competitor group actually did a pretty good job with the Country Music Marathon but I do prefer to stick mostly to the trails and longer distances. Best of luck!

  16. Man, I was at that race and trying for a 3:15 as well! What a total disaster it was. And you are right on about the crowd they cater to. The CEO called me after I left a message on their Facebook page and offered me $50 off any race I wanted. I declined. Good stuff, I like your blog!


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