It was Friday evening and we were hurtling across the desert in my Subaru Baja on the I-40… en route for Las Vegas. The Easter weekend had just begun, but our road trip was anything but a lively impulse. So what were we doing out here? What was the meaning of this trip?
Well, Ryno Running had broadcasted a 5K event to be held at UNLV, appropriately dubbed the Las Vegas 5K, which served as the perfect excuse for Ali and me to plan a trip to Vegas. Seeing that I had never visited Sin City in my 2-year tenure in Arizona, this seemed to be the opportune time– and in the spirit of Easter! So we both registered for the event in the weeks prior, with the resolve to be Vegas-bound after work that Friday.
The race itself was going to be as intriguing as the host city and its surroundings. The course was advertised as being “flat and fast,” although I had my reservations after viewing the course tour video (which gave me mild motion sickness):
I counted nearly 30 turns when warming up on the course Saturday morning. Ryno Running had it well-marked with cones and directional signs, so the route–either fast or slow– was obvious enough. Its design mimicked something of a labyrinth, following winding concrete sidewalks between faculty buildings and through the heart of the UNLV campus.
I finished my warm-up and arrived at the starting line at 7:52AM. A group of Japanese Drummers were performing, creating a very intense pre-race ambiance. As I was wishing Ali luck (it was her first 5K) and rehydrating, an abrupt announcement was made that the race would be starting in 1 minute. I quickly meandered to the front of the starting line, settling next to my affable MarathonGuide.com teammate, Trent Briney. Memories of the start are hazy from this moment forward. I regained consciousness in about 20th place, possibly on pace for a 400m personal best.
After a few early turns, I was in contact with a very eclectic lead pack. I passed a tall athlete wearing long basketball shorts and a Nike singlet. It was road warrior Christian Hesch. “What up surfer dude!” I said casually. When the athlete turned to me with a puzzled glance, I realized it wasn’t “Hollywood” Hesch. My bad.
I did recognize Ezkyas Sisay, who distinctly powered his way to the front. He was still making it to the starting line when we were sent off, but had miraculously worked his way through the throngs of runners and pulled into the lead by a half-mile in. I went right after him, recognizing the threat of this Flagstaff-based 1:01:56 half-marathoner.
I had pulled clear of the other chasers by the first mile, and was focused ahead on the elusive leader. Chasing Ezkyas proved to be more like hunting the Predator; with dreadlocks flying, his strength and speed simply could not be matched. As we blazed through the main campus walkway, a stray dog chased after Ezkyas and nearly re-routed him. The dog had second thoughts. We then passed by a water station to the cheers of an enthusiastic group of young volunteers.
The course became increasingly technical in the final mile. We veered off the sidewalk into a grass courtyard before heading back towards the Thomas & Mack Center. I was still pushing forward in an effort to make up ground on the green adidas jersey ahead, but it seemed my efforts were only sustaining the +15 second margin.
I was careful on the final turns of the race, hoping the lack of friction between the outsoles of my T7 Racers and the grass would not send me sprawling to the ground. I crossed the finish decisively in 2nd place with a time of 14:47. Despite the slower time, I was pleased that I went after the leader (even if it cost me some time in the race). Course conditions aside, it was another important racing experience for me.
After I finished, I watched Eric (our benevolent host) gut out his race and then I ran with Ali out on the course. It was great to see so many participants in the 5K, and also in the Cease to be Obese Charity Walk. Ryan Geurts and Ryno Running did a fantastic job coordinating these events!
After a marathon pace run, awards and a gargantuan veggie burrito, Eric, Ali and I hit the Strip that afternoon… it involved a certain degree of culture shock. Here are a few photo highlights:
Hope everyone had a Happy Easter! –JDE
- Las Vegas 5K Results (insert “Hollywood” Hesch with his 15:01 Time Trial… dude missed the start)