Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas’

The 2014 Red Rock Canyon Marathon

You know those races that have you wondering “what was I thinking?” at the start line and “that was amazing, I can’t wait to do it again!” at the finish line? Red Rock is that race for me.

I wrote posts in 2013 (here and here) about the tough course (huge elevation gains) and beautiful scenery at the Red Rock Canyon Marathon, and how nervous I was leading up to it. I watched this video many times to try to anticipate the course and its determination to crush a prairie runner. This year, I felt confident. I had run the course before, done relatively well, and was itching to do it again. Thanks to NASCAR Sunday in Las Vegas and being married to a motor sports fan, March 8th was able to become Half Marathon Saturday.

Then, almost exactly a month before the run, I injured my right hamstring. 14.4 km into a 17 km long run I got a sudden, searing pain near the distal end of my hamstring muscles, right above the knee joint. It was enough to take my breath away, make me scream and leap off my treadmill. (The kids were unfazed by this. After all, Tangled was on!) I stretched, rested a few minutes, walked a bit, then finished my run very slowly. (If my training plan tells me to run 17 km, I simply cannot stop at 14.4 km. I likely should have, but I just can’t. Type-A much.)

The next day, my hamstring was stiff and sore. I got out my Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) strap and stretched it out the best I could, then took the day off. The next day I attempted a run, only to have the same sudden, stabbing pain at just 2.2 km.

I booked a massage for the Wednesday that week and took a few more days off running. I’m not a person who gets injured, so I was totally blind-sided by this, and had no idea how to properly recover. A massage therapist myself, I knew massage would help, so when Jodie asked me “do you want me to work it pretty deep?” I answered without hesitation “I want you to tear it apart.” She did just that and the next day I was able to plod through a slow, careful 5 km. Friday I did speed work and Saturday I was able to do an 18 km long run. More careful runs and two more massages later I was feeling cautiously optimistic about the half. With Spider Tech Tape on my hamstring and my AIS strap in my carry-on we boarded the plane for Las Vegas.

I love running races on trips. It’s fun to have race medals from other places and it’s a great way to see places you might not otherwise see on a typical “tourist” trip. This is only my third “away race,” but there are many more on my “want to run” list.

Ready to rock Red Rock!

Ready to rock Red Rock!

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area lies just outside of Las Vegas. It is home to the endangered Desert Tortoise, and all runners must sign a “I will not harass the tortoises” waiver (my tortoise sighting count is still firmly at zero, I think it’s likely too cold for them at this time of year). Parking is very limited, so the race director arranges for shuttle buses to transport all runners and spectators to the start/finish lines. Our race entry also covers our admission cost to enter the park.

Photo credit

Photo credit

There were two big changes to the event this year that were big draw backs for me. First, the start time was made significantly earlier, with a 6:45 a.m. start for the half marathon (I think last year’s start was 7:30, but I’m not 100% positive on that). I like to arrive early (bathroom strategy), so that meant boarding the shuttle by 5:30 and leaving our hotel room by 5:00 to make it to the shuttle across town. Getting up at 4 a.m. (breakfast strategy) while on holidays isn’t too exciting, especially for my night owl husband. The earlier start time allowed for the addition of a 5K event, which is great… but… sooooo early!

The second change that was a con for me was that spectators weren’t allowed at the half marathon start line. In 2013, spectators were transported with runners on the shuttles to the start, then about a half hour after the gun they loaded up all our fans and took them to the finish line. In 2014, there was a designated spectator shuttle bus, and it went straight to the finish line. This is the one and only race all year that my husband is able to accompany me to, so it was disappointing not to have him there before the start. It was so nice last year to take pictures and give my warm clothes to him right before the start, then wave when the bus passed and know he was taking more pictures. He was at the finish when I got there of course, but both would have been better.

photo 1 (1)

We set off after ditching our warm clothes on a shuttle bus. The temperature was much warmer than last year, and I was comfortable in a tank top and shorts (in March! How novel!). This race takes place on the road, but it’s a one way road, so we don’t have to worry about traffic as long as we stay on the proper side of our cones. The road is marked with cones for the entire route, which is very helpful. Water stations are also very plentiful on this run, I would estimate there are around 7-8 aid stations with both water and electrolyte drink, sponsored by Hammer.

This race truly is as grueling as a road race comes. One mile flat, four miles uphill, then a few miles of big downhills (runners with knee injuries beware!), then flat again. The finish is on a slight incline, which looks like nothing, but after nearly twenty-one kilometres it’s a lot harder than it should be! Amazing panoramic views of the valley spread out before you on one side and the mountains rising high above on the other side truly make up for it though!

I had no idea how my hamstring would hold up. I had fresh spider tape on it, I stretched it, I was hydrated, I did everything I could. A motivational speaker I heard a few years ago said when you stand at the start line, don’t be nervous because you did everything you could. There’s nothing more you can do now, so there’s no use worrying. Put your training behind you and run the race.

So I did. I started out slow and conservative, sticking with a group of runners slower than I usually run. I let myself get nice and warmed up before I started picking them off. I felt strong on the hills, stronger than I did last year. I had zero pace expectations and rarely looked at my watch. The triumph I felt when I got to the top of that last big hill (pain free!) was incredible and I couldn’t help but hold my arms out in celebration. I wasn’t the only one.

Worth it. (Photo credit Lonely Planet)

Worth it. (Photo credit Lonely Planet)

Almost done!

Almost done!

Fuzzy finish line

Fuzzy finish line

In the end, my chip time for the Red Rock Canyon (half) Marathon was 2:04:31, about 45 seconds slower than last year, and my slowest half marathon to date. After an injury and a bitterly cold winter that forced me indoors for 90% of my training, I am pretty pleased with that. I was 119th out of 389 half marathoners overall and 13th out of 70 in my age group of women aged 30-39. By my search results I believe I was also the sixth Canadian overall, and the top Canadian female.

The finish line food at this race was amazing. Brownies! Coffee cake! Applesauce! Cookies! PANCAKES! I would’ve liked a bottle of water I could take along on the bus back to town instead of a paper cup, but I’m sure the cup option saved a lot of money. My maple leaf headband drew some attention at the food table, and I met fellow Canadians from across the country.

Race bling

Race bling

In the end, the pros outweighed the cons, and if we return to Las Vegas for NASCAR week next year, I will set three alarms and drag a large grumbly man to the rental car at 5:00 a.m. again in 2015.


This race is organized by Joyce at Calico Racing. Her organization uses race proceeds to help fund big cat rescues. You can learn more about Calico Racing here.


40 Before 40

A month ago I turned thirty. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My husband is a couple years older than I am, and every time he has a birthday I think “wow, he’s really old!” Then by the time that same birthday arrives for me I’m used to it and it doesn’t seem that bad. (Thanks honey!) ūüėČ

In Las Vegas this past March we met up with another couple we knew from home. She told me about her version of a bucket list. She pointed out that bucket list items are easy to put off because you don’t have a definitive deadline. I think that’s a really good point, I love checking things off a list (slightly Type-A), but a deadline helps make sure things get done. For this reason this friend has a “40 Things To Do Before I Turn 40” list. I love this idea, so totally stole it when I turned 30 and made my own list of goals for the next ten years.

Some are simple, some will take more planning, effort and yes, money. I couldn’t make them all huge because, as my husband pointed out, I have to average four list items per year! Some are running goals, some are riding goals, some are family goals, some are career goals, and some are just personal growth things. I can’t wait to do each and every one.

(Note that this list is a work in progress and was added to for quite a while. Therefore it’s rather jumbled and unorganized, but too bad.)

Forty Things To Do Before I Turn Forty

1. Run a marathon. I really want to do this, but I know the training time required just isn’t realistic for me right now. When my kids are old enough to stay by themselves for a couple of hours while I do my long runs I will absolutely run a marathon.

2. Run a total of twenty half marathons. This should be fairly attainable, as I’m at four already and have one more planned for this summer.

3. Run a sub-25 minute 5K. I haven’t run a 5K since 2011. I wanted a 24 minute time SO BAD and then did everything wrong in my target race. It was awful, and I haven’t run a 5K since. This goal has been nagging at me ever since, and I have vowed to try again in 2013.

4. Barrel race in a rodeo. I’ve been a jackpot-level barrel racer for twenty-two years. I love barrel racing, but rodeoing properly requires a TON of travel, expense and time away from home and family. I don’t care to rodeo properly, I just want to enter one and be drawn in the performance, not the slack. Those who know me know I have a young mare who should be my best shot so far at this goal within the next couple of years.

5. Barrel race in a futurity or derby. Futurities are for horses five and under, and derbies are for horses seven and under. I’d love to have my mare running well enough to be able to take her to one or two of these events in the next couple of years (she’s three now, so I have lots of time!)

6. Run 1D at the SBRA Finals. I’m not going to bore non-barrel racers with the details of the 3D/4D system, but running 1D basically means running in the fastest category, within one second of the fastest horse.

7. Take the kids to Disneyland or Disney World

8. Run half marathons in three more provinces. My big goal is to run a half in every Canadian province, so I think checking three more off my list this decade is reasonable. (I’ve done Saskatchewan and British Columbia so far.)

9. Run with Team In Training. I would like to be a part of this organization and help raise money for leukemia and lymphoma while running a target race at the same time!


10. Go to San Francisco.

11. Ride a horse to Perdue and back. This is the closest town to our farm and the round trip would be about 30 km.

12. Teach 100 families infant massage. I’m at 35 so far!

13. Swim with dolphins.

14. Go to every Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. I’ve been to Ka and O so far. I know Le Reve isn’t Cirque, but it’s included in this list too. It’s my list, I can do what I want with it.

15. Go to the NFR. The National Finals Rodeo is held in Las Vegas every December and I would love to be in the audience some day!

16. Go to the CFR. The Canadian Finals Rodeo is held in Edmonton each year, and I can’t really believe I’ve never gone before, but here we are.

17. Go to the Calgary Stampede. Again, I can’t believe I’ve never been to the Stampede. Slightly ashamed of that actually!

18. Take the kids to the Calgary Zoo. Item check-off alert! My mother-in-law and I are planning a trip there for next month! Woot!

19. Go to West Edmonton Mall’s Galaxyland and Fantasyland. This is a huge indoor water park and amusement park. This is something I’m waiting for until the kids are big enough to go on the big water slides without drowning!

20. Ride at Red Rock Canyon. I ran a half at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada this March and while I was running I kept thinking “this is great, but I really should ride a horse here!” Someone’s trailer was parked near the finish line, so I know it’s a possibility!

21. Run a Rock n Roll event. These races always sound like such a great time. There aren’t many in Canada, so this will be a travelling goal.

22. Take a trip with my girlfriends. I have a great group of childhood friends. We’ve stuck together since elementary school and are planning a trip to Banff this winter to celebrate our 30th birthdays.

23. Run 10,000 kilometers from 2013 to 2023. Again, this should be attainable. I ran 1000 in 2011 and just over 1300 in 2012, so averaging 1000 per year is realistic I think.

24. Finish the yard. Oh, the yard. It’s coming along nicely, but is a work in progress. Farm yards are enormous, but I find myself actually enjoying yard work for the first time this year.

25. Ride the ferris wheel at the Quad in Las Vegas. This March when we were in Vegas we kept wondering what that huge thing was behind the Quad (formerly the Imperial Palace). We finally saw a billboard and realized that it’s the support arms for what will be a HUGE ferris wheel. At 550 feet tall, one full rotation on the High Roller will take about thirty minutes.

The construction of the High Roller ferris wheel.

The construction of the High Roller ferris wheel.

26. Take the kids to the mountains.

27. Run to Perdue and back. Again, 30 km. This will be a long run on the way to that marathon goal.

28. Volunteer at a race. Right now I have to find a baby-sitter every time I want to run a race. Usually it involves staying over night at my parents’ place so that no one has to get up as early as I have to leave to be at a race. Call me selfish (I’ll be the first to admit it), but if I’m going to that effort I want to run the darn race! Someday soon I promise I will volunteer at a race, and maybe the kids will too!

29. Run a 5K with my Dad. Sorry Dad, but you need to start doing something. When I told my Dad about this goal, I suggested the Bridge City Boogie 2014. That gives him a year to get ready! He grumbled, but did sound vaguely interested, so my fingers are crossed.

30. Learn to shoot a gun. When I was about twelve my Dad bought me a gun. I shot it about twice and really had no interest, so he sold it. Well, now I’d at least like to know how to load a gun and shoot something. Our dog has been sprayed by a skunk three or four times this spring, and I would like to have the option of taking care of that rather than being a damsel in distress.

31. Learn to make Christmas dinner. I’ve made some big progress in the kitchen in the last ten years I think (though sometimes my husband still eats supper quietly then says, as politely as he can, “please don’t make that again.”), but Christmas still scares the bejeesus out of me. I can handle the rest of it, but that darn turkey just seems so risky. This is ridiculous, I need to learn how to cook a flipping turkey!

32-40. I¬†don’t know yet. The possibilities for the last nine options are endless! My list will fill in, and I’m excited to see where it will take me! ¬†

First Half Of 2013!

Last year my motor sports-loving husband and I went to Las Vegas for the third time. He had carefully planned our trip this time to coincide with the NASCAR race there. We went to the race and he loved every minute of it. I’ll admit, I enjoyed the first thirty or so laps and the last thirty or so laps, but it was oh so tempting to pull my copy of My Life On The Run by Bart Yasso out of my purse for the in between part!

What ticked me off was that about two weeks before our trip I opened my copy of Runner’s World and discovered an amazing sounding marathon and half marathon through the desert at Red Rock Canyon, just a few minutes outside of Las Vegas. I’m not a big winter running fan here in snowy Saskatchewan, so my runs were no where near long enough to get me ready for my first half marathon in such a short time. That missed opportunity has been bothering me for the past year!

The place my husband and I love more than anywhere else is our farm, but Las Vegas is right up there too. In two weeks we will fly out for our fourth trip to Sin City. We went back and forth about a dozen times on whether to go again this year or not, but I started training anyway, just in case. Every time we decided “we better skip it this year,” I kept training. I didn’t want the same thing to happen again, and I figured that even if we ended up not going I’d just be ahead in my training for my May half, and could maybe run one in April too.

Well, the stars aligned, we found a seat sale, and we will fly to Las Vegas on March 5. We have tickets to NASCAR, Cirque du Soleil’s Ka, a Groupon for a pasta joint, a rental car, and I am registered for the Red Rock Canyon half marathon!

If you haven’t heard of this race before, you need to check it out. The first mile is flat, followed by four miles uphill, and wrapping up with eight miles of downhill (click here to view a tour of the race course!) WHAT?! Omg. This prairie girl is a little intimidated by that overview, but I’ve been running hills on my treadmill and I think I can do it. I have no goal for this race, other than to finish. I just have no idea what to expect with this terrain and a climate so different from ours that I don’t think I can properly set a time goal.

This race has no parking. All runners and spectators must be shuttled out from Las Vegas to the start line. About a half hour after the half begins, spectators will be taken on a bus tour of the area before being dropped off at the finish line. The area this race is held in is also the native home of the endangered Desert Tortoise, and all runners must sign a waiver promising not to touch or harrass the tortoises while we’re running. This cracks me up! I’ll leave them alone, but I really want to see one!


Having this race to work towards has really kick started my training this year. I’m also registered for the 10K in the Saskatoon Police Services Half Marathon in April, and the half marathon in the Saskatchewan Marathon in May. I have some other races picked out for the summer and fall, and can’t wait to get started!

I’ve also recently joined daily mile, so if you’re on there shoot me a friend request! You can also follow me on Twitter at @RunMommyRun3

Gotta run.

Run Las Vegas

Before I get started here, let me just say that I love Las Vegas.¬† My husband and I have travelled there three times now in the last three years and we find new and exciting things to do each time.¬† I will try my very hardest to restrict this post to the running aspect of my recent trip and not sound like a tourism person telling you why you should go.¬† But you should. ūüėČ

We arrived in Las Vegas on a Wednesday night and didn’t have time for much before bed.¬† Thursday morning I woke at my usual 6:30 time ready to get up with the kids… but wait.¬† The kids were at home, and thanks to the time zone change it was only 4:30! As most mothers know, after years¬†with early rising children, we lose our ability to sleep in.¬† After lying awake for almost an hour I decided this was ridiculous! What do runners do when they’re up early and waiting for the day to begin? They go running of course!

We were staying at the Flamingo, which is mid-strip, right across from Ceasar’s Palace.¬† If you’ve never been to Vegas, there are walkways across many of the streets with stairs and escalators to get up to said walkways, so¬†the thousands of pedestrians don’t slow traffic too much.¬† As a prairie girl who has to run 4 km to find even a small hill to train on, I love these stairs! This is seriously the most hill training I get all year.¬†

I never run too far in Vegas, as you walk all day every day just doing regular touristy stuff, and I don’t want my legs to be too tired for the day.¬† I decided that an easy 5 km loop would be perfect for my first day there, and tried to hit as many stairs as I could along the way.¬† My run actually ended up at 5.7 km as I found myself on the wrong side of the street at the end of my run and had to go a ways before I could cross again.

Friday morning bright and early (which is about 9:00 for my husband, lol!) we jumped in our rental car and had breakfast before heading out of town towards Arizona.  I was so excited to see the Grand Canyon!

I had a very lovely image in my mind of running at the Grand Canyon. I imagined trails descending down the side of the mountain where others would be hiking and I could run, doing a true trail run and real hill training.  Any of you who have been to the Grand Canyon are laughing at me right now, I know!

We arrived at the Hualapai First Nation and the west rim of the Canyon after a brief stop at Hoover Dam.¬† Can you say sheer drop off hundreds of feet down? Clearly, there would be no running here! (I know people do run the Grand Canyon, there must be other places that we just didn’t get to!)

We found some rocks to climb and were able to take a picture for my Mom that looks much more horrifying than it actually is! (Tee hee!)

I finally caught on to the sleeping idea and took advantage of some shopping time on the next few days.¬† I felt guilty for missing my runs, but I also knew this would be my last real “time off” before beginning the training plan for my first half marathon.

The last day in Vegas I did a 6 km run and loved every minute of it.  The rest had served me well, and I felt like I could run forever, a feeling that has stuck with me on every run since returning home.

As a prairie farm girl, I never see anyone else on my runs at home.¬† I’m usually passed by one or two vehicles while I’m out, and our neighbors used to stop to ask if everything was alright.¬† Now they just wave and later tell my husband “I saw your crazy wife out running again yesterday!” One of the things I love about running in¬†any urban centre¬†is seeing other runners. From the man doing “hill repeats” up and down the walkway stairs by the Wynn to the women who are excited to try out the new run gear they scored at the outlet mall, I feel like I want to high five everyone I see. It’s like we’re on the same team, all working towards a similar goal.¬† This sense of comraderie is usually something I¬†only experience¬†at races, so it’s great to feel that way in training, if only for a couple of runs.

When we got home we found spring had arrived while we were away.¬† The snow was gone and temperatures were above freezing. While it was great to run in shorts and a tank top while away, there truly is no place like home. My fleece-lined tights have been put away for the season, and my arm warmers are getting a work-out during this “in-between” season. I’m looking forward to my first race of the season, the Saskatoon Police Services 10K in about a month.¬† Looking forward to seeing some of you there!

How do you fit in runs while on vacation? Do you enjoy running in new places?

Gotta run.

P.S. If you do want to check out Las Vegas and haven’t before, you must go! A few of our favorite things to do there…

– watch the fountains at Bellagio (free)

– ride the roller coaster at New York New York

– see the gardens at Flamingo (free)

– see the Sirens show at TI (free)

– the Mob Tour at the Royal Resort (just off the strip, easy to get to by bus and a short walk)

– the Mob Experience at Tropicana

– the Titanic exhibit at Luxor

– the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

Madame Tussaud’s wax museum at Venetian

– Cirque du Soleil (I saw O at Bellagio this time)

Las Vegas Motor Speedway (my husband has done the Richard Petty Experience before, and we went to NASCAR this time)

Fremont Street Experience (go at night, not during the day)

Las Vegas Premium Outlets, North (an easy bus ride from the strip. There is a South mall as well which isn’t as good but does have a New Balance store, which I loved!)