Gettin’ Lucky in Vegas: RNR Half-Marathon Recap

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While I am not a fan of Las Vegas during the day, when the sun sets, the strip becomes a completely different place. I walked across the bridge connecting the MGM Grand to the New York hotel. My eyes were focused on the marathon corrals in place, ready to run. Soon, I joined them, focusing on the DJ and the helicopters overhead, a reminder of October’s tragic event.

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As a new corral was released, I slowly inched forward towards the start line. As I was about to start, the leaders appeared on the other side of Las Vegas Boulevard, a steady battle to see who could maintain power, strength, eventually being the victor to break the tape.

Half-Marathon

The course led me towards Mandalay Bay. For the first couple of miles, the road was rough and dark, with just enough light to illuminate the potholes.

I came up on the infamous Las Vegas sign, deciding not to stop for a picture but a blurry, mid-run capture would have to do! I loved the turn around at the 2 mile mark. As the sky grew darker and inky, the Strip was irradiating radiant colors,  coaxing the runners closer.

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As I passed the airport, my legs were carrying me further down the Strip. I came upon the start and corrals were still being released. The vibrance to my left and right and from what I could see ahead helped me to find a comfortable pace and stay on it. I was just reaching the stretch of live bands performing on course! This is what Rock n’ Roll is known for and it was fun to see musicians playing tribute to Kiss and covering songs both new and loved.

As I was nearing the end of the Strip, the energy changed slightly. I had hit the end of hotels and casinos and found myself in a more dreary area that was home to some pawn shops. The course picked up again once I hit the section of wedding chapels! These are a kick! Fake flowers and huge animatronic Elvis’ dancing on signs really takes the mind off the distance. Rock n’ Roll even offers a run through wedding option, which many couples take advantage of each year!

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At mile 8, volunteers were handing out SIS gel. I’m not sure if it was because I was in the middle of the road and it was dark, but I totally missed seeing the volunteers handing out the gels until I had passed them.

Nearing the north end of the Strip, I was flying towards the Downtown area and Arts district. Complete with neon signs and lots of color, I made a little loop onto Fremont St, enjoying the view before it was a straight shot to the finish.

Whenever I am within a few miles of the finish, I always try to spy landmarks and configure my proximity. While there were mile markers on the course, they weren’t as prominant as they are in other races. I hit the Stratosphere and knew that the Mirage volcano was not too far behind.

Once again, I felt the lights from the city illuminating the road and energy on course, as if each bulb had its own cowbell. A race announcer was floating above the finish, hoisted by a balloon as she cheered on the incoming runners.

I crossed the finish a minute faster than my previous PR at Urban Cow in October. As good as I felt for the whole race, I was able to push hard and was hoping for more than a minute improvement.

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I collected my spinning die medal and picked up some water, pringles, Oatmega bar, chocolate milk and Pocky sticks . I took a minute to replenish my body with some protein and salt! I didn’t get my ID checked at the expo, so without a wristband, I was not able to get a beer at the finish.

As I slowly made my way down the strip towards my hotel, I kept stopping at medical tents asking for a mylar blanket. Each one told me to keep going down until I finally hit the last one which did not possess any either. While the race was warmer than some years, this is still something I like to see at finish lines. When will I learn my lesson to pack a jacket in bag check?

With the finish line location near the Bellagio, I had a little walk down the strip. The other side of the boulevard had not yet been opened to traffic so I was able to easily cross and make my way back towards the south end of the Strip.

This race has been on my bucket list for a couple years now and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. With contagious energy, the run felt fun and effortless. I wish the beginning of the course was able to offer more lighting for runners and the tables of gel made more easily visible and accessible. Neither of these are deal breakers, just small things noticed.

I had a blast catching up with old friends, eating delicious food and accumulating some miles. The Strip is definitely one of my favorite victory lap spots to date! I hope to visit again in 2018.

The Runologist

That Time I Ran Between A Rockstar’s Legs: RNR 5k Recap

It was time to take RNR Las Vegas off my race bucket list and turn it into a reality for 2017. After registering for the half-marathon over the summer, I toyed with the idea of adding the 5k to my itinerary in order to receive the Remix Challenge medal.

Expo

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Entering the Expo

After a quick monorail ride from the MGM Grand, the expo was located just a few steps from the Convention Center station. Volunteers and a collection of signs pointed participants in a counter clockwise loop, the bib pickup being stop #1. Next, I was ushered towards a shirt table, where I was given my pre-selected size in a plastic drawstring backpack that contained some samplings of SmartyPants vitamins and a Black Forest Gummy packet.

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Countdown to Chocolate!

The next section of the expo was dedicated to Brooks gear allowing eager attendees to try on the latest in footwear or buy Las Vegas specific wear. The most popular item to be noted at the 2017 expo was the neon yellow, Vegas Strong shirt.

As I stood in the merchandise line, it took close to an hour. I felt as if I were waiting for one of Disney’s newest attractions! I wish I had been in possession of a Tourpass as one of the perks was an express checkout lane for holders.

Vendor booths took up the rest of the expo with retailers selling anything from clothes and shoes to nutrition. This would be my thirteenth half, and by now, I like to think I know what works for me, so I passed on through.

As I neared the exit, a small section was devoted to Rock n’ Roll event registration. Medals that screamed, “I would look really good around your neck or fastened on your wall one day,” glistened as they hung from their mounts right above the registration tables.

With computers open to the registration page and my debit card placed in my hand so conveniently, I headed to the desk and signed up for the evening’s 5k. Aren’t you supposed to go big or go home while in Vegas? With only a couple hours before the run, I headed back to my hotel in order to rest before a nice 3 mile shakeout.

Pre-Race

Taking the monorail back to the SLS Station proved to be an interesting ride. The cars were full, sardine cans on steroids full. When the monorail came to an abrupt stop, there was no need to hold onto anyone or thing because no one was going anywhere. What must have looked like the word’s largest parade of clowns exiting a car, I headed out of the station and through the hotel with my fellow runners.

Across the street, stood lines of runners trying to gain access into the Festival Grounds. While I appreciated added security checking bags, this process was slow. Only a few lanes were open to 7,000 runners. I did not even possess a bag but could not see an expedited way through.

I paid a quick trip to a huge row of indoor bathroom stalls. These were a nice touch and it was pretty funny to see fellow runners taking selfies and hear their commentary.

Once at the start, I noticed security attempting to keep runners honest but still I saw a few people surge ahead toward their desired corral. Since it was only a 5k and the road was wide enough, this did not cause any problems that I noticed during the run.

Race

The course took me out along Industrial road. This course leaves the eyes searching for a little bit more, but with a quick three miles, there is not too much time to overthink the lack of scenery. Since it was an out and back, I was able to cheer on the front runners which is always fun!

On a road littered with potholes, I focused on the handful of stations along the course, complete with music and flashing lights. While these were DJ’s rather than live bands, it was still nice to have some entertainment on course. Before I knew it I was already returning back into the festival grounds and even ran between a rockstar’s legs!

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Over the roads and through the legs… 😛

This impromptu decision turned out to be fun and the perfect shakeout before Sunday’s half! I collected my medal, finisher’s snacks and turned in for the evening. While the Goo Goo Dolls were scheduled to perform just after the 5k instead of at the start of the half, I was a tad too chilly to sit and enjoy.

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Concert Stage

With a little more entertainment, runner specific monorail trains and more security lanes, RNR is close to having a flawless 5k event. I enjoyed a chance to stretch the legs over some flat and fast road while adding some nice hardware to my collection. With tuned strings, I was ready to rock the remainder of the weekend.

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Selfie with my medal

The Runologist

Hummus is Yummus: Healthy and Portable Snack Alternatives

I lead an active lifestyle. When I am not driving to the gym, I am heading to work, hitting the trails and I never seem to stop. While I am a fan of protein bars, so many of them contain chocolate, which on warmer days, starts to melt and can create a mess. I have compiled a list of my favorite car snacks that fair well in the warmest and coldest of conditions.

Chomps

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Courtesy of Google Images

I cannot get enough of these grass-fed beef sticks! I love the Original flavor but the Jalapeño puts some zest in my step! With only 100 calories and 9 grams of protein, these are the perfect snack to help muscles recover, while also filling a gap between meals!

Munk Pack

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Courtesy of Google Images

With a variety of flavors to choose from, these oatmeal and fruit packs are perfect for a quick breakfast or snack. These pouches contain a good source of fiber and Omega 3 (flax) that help keep my energy up throughout the day. Ranging from 90-110 calories, depending on the flavor, I love this marriage of fruit puree and oats!

Oloves

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Courtesy of Google Images

I love keeping a packet of these pitted olives in my car for a salty yet beneficial snack! Olives are full of vitamins, minerals as well as amino acids. These elements help to strengthen the immune system while natural fats and oils help to speed up recovery! With only 50 calories per pouch, Oloves provide a quick boost with minimal calories.

Mr. Cheese O’s

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Courtesy of Google Images

This protein filled snack is the perfect accompaniment to any trail or post workout fuel! Made with real cheese and organic quinoa, these crunchy bites offer delicious flavor and 10 grams of protein in a one ounce serving!

Wild Zora Meat and Veggie Bars

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Courtesy of Google Images

Whether I am on the trails or out running errands, Wild Zora gives my body the satisfaction it needs when I am on the go. A healthier and more tender alternative to jerky, Wild Zora creates delicious flavors packed with 7-9 grams of protein. Calories ranch from 100-130 per packet with a variety of meat to choose from such as beef, lamb, pork and turkey.

I hope you find the perfect fuel to keep healthy and strong!

The Runologist

Everything Happens For A Riesling: Wine and Dine Half-Marathon Review

After munching on the 10k the previous morning, I was ready to take on the main course of the Wine and Dine weekend. I put on a white shirt, tights and a bavarian hostess dirndl to complete the ensemble. While it is not an iconic Disney character, I dressed to support Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival!

I walked to the front of my hotel and once again found a bus waiting to take me to the Magic Kingdom parking lot! I managed to arrive even a couple minutes earlier than the morning before, giving myself plenty of time to listen to the DJ, gaze at the event stage before parking myself on the ground of my corral. There was talk of the previous morning’s lip-sync battle and I easily could have enjoyed a second round, but pretty soon it was time to start running.

I was excited! It was a new day with a different course and my first stop would be Animal Kingdom, giving my eyes the opportunity to take in what they could of Pandora.

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2017 Half-Marathon Route

Race:

4 miles stood between the start line and entering into Animal Kingdom. These first few miles took participants along tree-lined back roads. While the sun had no quite woken up yet, I felt energized with grass and trees surrounding me, unlike the rubble and machinery that had lined the 10k course.

Fairly early into the course came the first character stop, Fairies, from Peter Pan and Tinkerbell’s spinoff adventures. I carried on, running into Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa before seeing King Louis and Rafiki. Can you tell I was nearing Animal Kingdom from the genre of character stops?

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Running through Animal Kingdom 

I entered the park, running through Harambe Market, getting a quick taste of what is modeled after Africa’s informal sector. Themed markets lined our path and dancers from Festival of the Lion King greeted me with smiles and waving hands.

Eroding marketplaces soon turned primitive with a wooden walkway being the only natural thing amongst a sea of jungle. The path changes to asphalt as I entered the Valley of the Mo’ara. Still surrounded by jungle, the path opens up and the Ayram, (which is Na’vi for the floating, “Hallelujah Mountains”) come into view. These lofty rock formations, tower over-head and certainly take your breath away! (Was it the Ayram or the last four miles I had run?)

I was so excited to run through Pandora and every detail exceeded my expectations. While I did not receive any Banshee assistance to the finish line, I carried on towards the Tree of Life, then into Dino territory.

A quick exit into the parking lot, led runners to a couple of longer stretches along the highway. With the sun trying to peek through the fog, it was hot and I now had an explanation to why I could not find a drive.

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Hanging with some of my favorite bears! 🙂

I stopped for a quick photo with the Country Bears and wish I had done the same for Mary Poppins’ Penguins. As we approached mile 9, we came onto a circular on ramp that would take us on an overpass towards Hollywood Studios.

Just as the morning before, Oswald greeted runners as they entered the Studios behind Tower of Terror and onto the boulevards. Runners followed the same path towards Epcot, so I could find relief in the familiarity of the course.

Instead of going straight into the theme park as we did the morning before, runners took to the water’s edge and followed the path along Disney resort hotels. Genie greeted runners by the Boardwalk and the course finally entered into Epcot.

I was hoping for the shorter route by the U.K. and Canada to take us to the finish but realized we were running all the way around World Showcase. I had to walk a few steps, devastated by the realization of the lengthy world travels ahead. I kicked myself into gear with only a mile left, Dopey and Mushu cheered me along.

I was relieved when I was practically under Spaceship Earth, a short sprint to the finish line. In a little over two hours, it was nowhere near my P.R. from the beginning of October but a few minutes faster than last year’s Wine and Dine. I can blame my head cold and the humidity but I am okay that this was not my race. All runners will have those days and this journey is about realizing the worst has not yet happened and the celebration of victories are just on recess.

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Flying 

This course has been my favorite I have run at WDW thus far. While I am partial to Disneyland races as they supply more park miles within their courses, this race returned a similar vibe to those events hosted in California.

Finish Line:

I collected my half medal as well as my Two Course Challenge passport, commemorating nineteen race miles, and multiple countries visited. I replenished with water but left the contents of my snack box (Oreos, applesauce, tortilla chips, cheese, dried fruit) to be consumed at a later date, as I had scheduled a rendezvous with some sweet potato pancakes.

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Photo Courtesy of RunDisney

Post-Race Party:

What makes Wine and Dine race weekend extra magical, is the Post-Race Party which is held Sunday evening after the race. All half participants received a complimentary ticket and had the option to buy additional tickets for non-runner family members and friends.

As this would be my only visit to a theme park for the Wine and Dine weekend, I was especially excited. While the party did not officially start until 10 to give the kiosks time to restock and employees to kick the non-runners out, early entry started at 8. I arrived a little before and was able to get into the park.

I visited some of the International booths making sure to replenish my muscles with protein and carbs and of course some libations! 🙂

 

As the park slowly started to clear out, I headed towards Norway to get in line for Frozen Ever After. I only had to wait about twenty minutes while the ride normally boasts an hour at the least.

On my way to ride Test Track, a line was forming to take pictures with the Three Cabarellos. Between minimal wait times for rides, special character photo opportunities and a DJ to keep the evening fun and alive, the party proved to be a sweet, final course to a decadent weekend.

The Runologist