|Red Rock Canyon with snowy peaks|
When you hear the words "Las Vegas" the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't mountains or snow. Fat guys dressed like Elvis? Sure! Casinos shaped like the Eifel Tower, Statue of Liberty, or a giant Pyramid? Check! But, there's actually more to Las Vegas than all-you-can-eat buffets and drive-thru wedding chapels. Drive just ten miles outside of town, and you will find yourself in the beautiful Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
This was the second straight year that I was able to run the Red Rock Canyon half marathon put on by Calico Racing. I'd first run the race last year in 2012 while in town visiting my family (my mother and two brothers both live in Vegas). This year the race date luckily happened to coincide with a business trip that brought me into town for a work conference.
|Erik and Matthew|
Also, this year my brother Erik and my nephew Matthew Rice were hinting that they might show up and give the race a go themselves. While most people who sign up for this race are experienced veteran half-marathon runners with years of racing and training under their belts, neither Erik nor Matthew had done much, if any, half-marathon specific training. Matthew plays soccer. Erik ran the 800 meters in highschool and played college football. But soccer fields and tracks don't have 2,000 ft hills!
As the race was about to start, Bill and I made our way to the front of the pack. Erik and Matthew were still nowhere to be seen. I'd later learn that they were still in the bathroom, having just arrived at the last minute, as the starting gun went off.
Last year I had made the mistake of going out a bit too aggressively, trying to stay with the race leaders in the early miles. This year I vowed to go out more conservatively, hanging back in around 10th place for the first few miles. Then, if I still felt good once we got into the hills, I would pick it up and try to reel in as many people as possible during the remainder of the race.
Studying the runners ahead of me, I picked out a couple of guys who I expected to crack soon including a couple of bigger guys who seemed to already be working too hard (and breathing and sweating too hard) this early in the race.
By mile 3 I found myself up in 5th place. The lead runner, a guy in blue, had already opened up a sizable lead and was moving out of sight. But runners 2, 3, and 4 were all running together in a pack, just a fifty yards or so ahead of me. Sizing them up, I figured I should be able to beat at least 2 of the 3. That would put me on the podium in the top 3 overall -- my secret goal going into the race.
Holding on for Life
As we approached the steep hill before the halfway point I quickly reeled the group in and moved up into second place. "Sweet" I thought, "maybe if the lead runner cramps up or gets hit by a bus you can win this thing". But the celebration was short lived. As I glanced back behind me, I saw that one of the three guys I had passed earlier was clawing back distance and pulling back up to me.
|Grimacing at the finish line|
I held on for 3rd place and managed to run a half marathon PR of 1:27:21, about 8 minutes faster than the 1:35 I ran on the same course last year! I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that I was the top American finisher, as the two guys who finished in front of me were from Ireland and Great Britain. Here's the official results.
|3rd place overall, first American!|