Now that I’ve covered my training schedule for my first 50 miler, here’s what I did in the week or so leading up to the race.

I tapered very aggressively. I basically just did not worry about how much I was going to run from Christmas through the New Year (the race was on January 3rd.) Any training benefits that I was going to get were achieved well before, and my priority was recovering as much from my training as possible. After a few brief runs after the Christmas holiday, my wife and I flew to Las Vegas which involved a 2 hour bus ride and a 6 hour flight. We arrived in Vegas around 10:00 p.m. which was more like 1:00 a.m. for us. We were relatively tired, given that we normally turn in pretty early.

Mountains and ConstructionWhen you fly into Vegas, you can see the lights from the city (especially the strip) but you can’t see much else at night. Our drive to our resort was similarly unenlightening for what we could expect when we woke up in the morning.

Imagine our surprise, then, when we wake up and step outside for a short run and we see this directly in front of us:

Las Vegas is basically a big bowl. There are mountains all around the city. Erin and I went out for what was supposed to be a short 3 to 4 mile run. We basically just made turns as traffic dictated or where the view improved.

We saw a hot air balloon early in the run, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that it was coming down so we ran after it. We managed to catch up to the balloon just after it touched down and got to watch them take it in and put it away, which was really neat. Of course, we then had another 3 miles to run back to our room so our run was a bit longer than we wanted.

After that run, I knew that my original goals for the race weren’t realistic. I was having a lot of trouble running and thought that the altitude was causing me all kinds of problems. Granted, Vegas is only around 2000 feet, but I do live and train along the Atlantic Ocean. (I later discovered that I didn’t have any trouble from the altitude; my problems came from the smog.)

Valley of FireI ran a couple of more times throughout the week, and I spent most of Tuesday hiking out at the Valley of Fire (which is an awesome park if you are ever out that way.)

It is about an hour outside of Vegas and gets you away from all of the noise and the bustle. There are plenty of cool rock formations, lots of hiking, some interesting desert plant life, and more scenic views than you can shake a stick at. And yes, I tried.

Speaking of hiking, we also got plenty of hiking accomplished while we were in the city as well. Doing anything on the strip requires one of two things, usually both: Time and Money.

Driving on the strip is a fool’s errand. It’s the worst place in Vegas for traffic. They have a monorail behind the casinos, but it is difficult to get to and isn’t very convenient. (It’s also relatively expensive to use.) Walking anywhere involves going through the casinos and the slot machines, and if you follow the directions on any signs then you will take a very roundabout trip to get where you want to be that will bring you past as many slot machines as possible.

The downside to all of this is that it makes it very difficult to eat. There are a lot of places that serve food, but you wind up spending so much time commuting or waiting or standing around that it is very easy to miss meals. When you are somebody like me that needs to eat constantly, this isn’t such a good thing.

Erin and the Paris BalloonEverything in Vegas is over the top. They have recreations of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, they have live lions and flamingos on display, everything makes noise and flashes at you, and it all leads to intense overstimulation. I can’t imagine how people actually manage to sleep if they get a room right on the strip.

You can do actually head out to Vegas relatively cheaply, but every amenity involves an additional charge and they add up very fast.

As we were out there for the New Year, there were about 300,000 people in the streets. That’s a lot of people. My sleep schedule was really out of whack, since being on the strip for their fireworks show meant that we didn’t get back to our room until 4:00 a.m. by the time we could leave. (If you are ever in Vegas for the New Year, skip the fireworks. There are too many lights that get left on to see anything other than smoke, and fireworks really don’t compete with some of the light, water and fire shows that happen every hour anyway.)

By the end of the week, we were pretty tired. We’d ate pretty well (if not as regularly as I’d have liked) and we planned on checking out the Hoover Dam and then switching to the host hotel for the race.

Unfortunately for us, it took about 2½ hours to travel the last 11 miles to the Hoover Dam, so we missed the last tour by about 3 minutes. Okay, it was 10 minutes by the time we parked the car. After about 2 hours, I had her stop the car so I could root through the trunk for the last of my pretzels and apple leathers just so we’d have something to snack on. We never did have lunch that day.

Hoover DamThe Hoover Dam is what I like to call not quite small.

We walked around and took some pictures for an hour or so, and thankfully Erin had an opportunity the next morning while I was racing to return and take the tour. Hopefully they’ll have finished building the bypass bridge before I ever visit again so that there is somewhere for the thru-traffic to go instead of bottle-necking at the dam.

Checking in for the race went smoothly, although we later learned that some friends that were at the dam with us got pulled over by the police because they were suspected of having murdered somebody.

The host hotel itself didn’t really impress me, and the next time I do a race out that way I’ll definitely consider staying elsewhere. The casino was pretty run down and the staff definitely seemed as though they had better things to do than to cater to their guests.

It served well enough as a place to sleep, though, and their wake up calls were reliable. For a change, I got to sleep relatively early the night before the race, and on race morning had no trouble waking up. Other than catching our flight home, there was only one thing left to do on the trip.

Run 50 miles…