Friday, April 25, 2014

Life in the (not so) Fast Lane - Mustang 50th Anniversary Half Marathon

There are events that people describe as "Once in a lifetime." We've started a race at the end of a total solar eclipse, finished two full marathons on Antarctica and South America four days apart, and did two half marathons in the same day that were two time zones apart. In theory, we could actually do all of that again. This wasn't the case for the Mustang 50th Anniversary Half Marathon at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ford was celebrating the 50th birthday of the Mustang in three locations (Norman, Oklahoma; Concord, North Carolina; and Vegas). The race was one of several events in Vegas. On display were cars from just about every model year with proud owners from all over the country showing off their babies. Not only did we get the rare chance to set foot on the Speedway itself, we also had a chance to win a custom 2014 Mustang Shelby. (No one we know won it, but that's beside the point).

Susan and I flew in Thursday night ahead of the Good Friday holiday. The irony of missing Easter Brunch with the family because we were spending the weekend in Sin City was not lost on us. We landed in time to drop off our stuff at the Polo Towers and take a quick walk to catch the Bellagio Fountains for four shows on the quarter hour. The 10 PM song was Viva Las Vegas. It was a perfect time to get back to the hotel to get some sleep.

The Friday expo at the Luxor was non-existent. No vendors, just bib pick up. I still think the overhead view of the course looks like a guy in a Barcalounger. 

We met Al and Caryn at bib pick up and had a quick lunch at Border Grill before splitting up to let them check into their rooms. Pre-race pasta dinner was at the D.O.C.G. Entoca at the Cosmopolitan. Let's just say, it paid to ignore that voice in my head saying 'don't overdo dessert the night before a race.' Major Gelatogasm.

Race morning was a quick warm up walk to the Excalibur at 4:45 AM. It was nice to have the sidewalks clear of the usual foot traffic that usually shows up. After a 40 minute ride to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, we had another mile or so to get the starting area to drop off gear and see a bunch of our marathon family.

Big shout outs to our friend Lance Null who ran his 100th Half Marathon at Mustang. We ran into Lance a few times at Brazen New Years Eve and Brazen New Years Day. He rocked the checkered flag skirt in Vegas.

Racing on the track was a unique experience. Just to give you an idea of the effect of the banked turns, here are a few examples.

Susan and Caryn at the bottom of the bank. Al and I were two of the very few that raced along the wall.

Downward facing Dog. Uphill.
Downward facing dog. Downhill. At mile 12. I thought my head might explode.
One for Dave Mari

This was the coolest sign on the wall. I imagine our friend Ann thinking about a new paint job for her house.

Pausing for dramatic effect near mile 6.

I'm pretty sure we have a picture of the four of us facing the camera, but Al was really soaking this in.

About mile 7, we heard the horns going off inside the Speedway indicating that it had gotten warm enough to go to a Yellow Flag condition. Participants were advised to back off and a few folks didn't make it on to the Proving Grounds and had 3.5 miles cut off their distance.

Communication was really good for this race. Shade? Not so much. They did have decent support in the Proving Grounds.
And then there were the cars. So many cars. This was clearly not going to be our fastest race.

Look closely. It's not a car. It's a Decepticon.
On the way back into the Speedway, we saw the drag strip and had to take advantage of it. I have to check my Garmin for the Zero-to-6 time.

Coming back into the Speedway for the final lap Caryn and Susan decided to make the climb to the top of the bank. It was either do it at the start and risk having some ankle issues later, or do it at the end when we were tired and just take it easy on the way up.

Really... really easy...

Like most things though, it was worth the climb.

We took a quick break to soak it all in. 

Our times were much slower than the last few races at RNR San Francisco and RNR Raleigh. With American River coming up the next weekend, this was one we wanted to play with. If there was ever a 'soak it all in' kind of race, this was it.

A once in a lifetime.


The Mustang 50th Anniversary Half Marathon had 1703 participants in the half marathon (Median finish time of 2:31), 553 in the 5K (Median finish of 39:05) and one wheelchair 5K finishing in 14:17. The course was put under a yellow flag warning when we reached mile 8 (about 1:50 gun time).  Andrea Kessel won the drawing for the 2014 Mustang Shelby GTS sponsored by the Mustang Club of America.

On the Strip Eateries:
Border Grill. Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Food Network's "Too Hot Tamales") make a wonderful selection of traditional Mexican dishes and offer lots gluten free options. Ron inhaled the Chile Relleno Burger despite it being the day before race day. He didn't regret it one bit. (Price $$)

D.O.C.G. Entoca at the Cosmopolitan. Quality pre-race pasta including Cavatelli with Sausage and Porcini Mushrooms. Highlights were the gelato and Salted Caramel Budino. (Price $$$)

Otto Pizzeria at the Venetian. The Lasagne on Saturday menu is freshly made pasta with some amazing filling for the non-vegetarians of the group. The Margherita 'D.O.C.' pizza is absolutely authentic Italian ingredients and is highly recommended. (Price $$)

This week also marked the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Three were killed and scores injured in 2013. The marathon had many tributes leading up to the race including One Run For Boston, a relay from Los Angeles that finished at the Marathon finish line. Meb Keflezighi becase the first American Men's winner in 31 years. Dean Karnazes ran 26.2 to the start in 3:42 and finished the race in 3:25. A big shout out to friends who ran Boston: Kim, Claire, Kelly, Chris, Anne Marie, Todd, Yolanda, Tom, Nancy. 

And for those who missed this, a really touching tribute to what the community is all about. Boston Marathon: Runners carry a competitor to the finish.

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