See more of our race!
Let's start with pre-race communications...
I heard about this race on BibChat, and was intrigued. Laughlin is a few hours away by car, but what a fun getaway for a weekend, I thought. I could partake in buffets, and run most of it off with 13.1 for fun.
Communication was really good- emails were plentiful and Mark, the race coordinator, works hard to make the experience feel personal. I did struggle to find exactly where the expo was via the website once I got to the Colorado Belle, but a simple Goolge search had me off and running with the site's VERY specific directions (enter here, take this elevator, etc.). I really appreciate that the expo was open late, as I was driving in after work. I hadn't been to Laughlin in 25 years... driving in at night was a really cool site; bright lights reflecting off the river, contrasting against the blackness of a desert night. Sorry- went off on a tangent reminiscing... if I had one suggestion for their amazingly informative site, it would be a separate page titled, 'Expo.'
So once I got into the expo/packet pickup, there was no line... but there were SO MANY volunteers and several people getting their packets. The energy was high, and the process was incredibly simple. What I really liked most, were the volunteers. There were people of all ages, making small talk and being sincere, adorable kids taking raffle numbers... it seriously felt like a small town affair where I already knew everyone. Beyond that, there wasn't much merchandise available, which can be viewed one of two ways... 1) it was nice not feel bombarded by commercialism where I was going to be pressured or harassed into buying things... or 2) it was a missed opportunity to pick up some last minute items or unique items if I had forgotten something (which I almost always do). Some gels, sponsored hydration options, belt, headphones, crazy socks... I wouldn't have minded a couple of tables from which to purchase (maybe even hosted by a High School club for them to raise capital... in keeping with the small town feel).
I stayed at Harrah's along Casino Row. Close to the fun, and while all rooms are cheap (like everything was under $20 for the weekend), I am loyal to their brand. Directions were clear about parking at the local outlet mall to board a shuttle but to the start line (the local High School). I arrived on time to take the bus and it was a nice excursion bus, where I pictured it being a school bus in my head. We were dropped off, and I didn't know where to go, so I followed the crowd. We entered a hall back by the school cafeteria. There were far too many people, so I went back outside... and this is the part that had nothing to do with the race, but with nature; there were 30+mph sustained winds. Combined with sub 50 degree temps, it was really cold, and we had about 90 minutes to wait in it.
While they attempted to have food and coffee for all runners, the exceptional cold did cause them to run out of coffee, but there was delicious banana bread. There were also some porta pots, but they were in the parking lot rather than where everyone was congregated. In retrospect, using the cafeteria or larger facility at the school may have been easier to accommodate everyone, but we all lived and no one was upset... just chilly.
We started the 13.1 at 7:03, after a local HS student treated us to the national anthem (great job, young lady). We were off and running around the campus and the school track, within come confined areas at times, but terrific volunteers kept us all organized and safe. After about a mile, we began a steady incline that lasted about 2.5 miles.... whooooo was it a beast. It was a small enough incline that in most cases, the average runner could handle it, but we were also facing the 30mph headwind. I'm pretty sure some of the steps I took actually moved me backwards.
Along the hill, we experience the first of the hydration stations... each of these were hosted by a local club or group, and they were competing for a prize. Again, all of this added to the charm of the event. We got to about mile 3.5 and made a right hand turn, where it was a beautiful 3 miles of downhill. Yes. Oh yes. At this turn there were restrooms, but they were on the opposite side of the street... despite several members of my pace group saying they had to pee (the lines at the start were too long due to the extra coffee consumption and cold), no one wanted to cross the extra 100 yards to use them... a small opportunity for next time.
At the bottom of the hill (and there were several officers along the course as well as volunteers closing streets and flagging us the correct way), there was the Davis Dam visitor center- I used the restroom there as they were open and available. I was able to sun negative splits the first 6 miles, thank you downhill, despite the insane wind (thank you, Buff USA for keeping me warm those early miles).
Then we went up a very steep incline to cross the dam. The Dam Hill was worth the view of the colorado and Lake Mohave at the peak. There was plenty of energy with the volunteers and the race coordinator out there cheering everyone on. Seriously... everything feels so personal in this race.
Eventually, the torture of the climb is rewarded with more downhill (and wind blowing cones and signs away), but at this point there are less than 4 miles left. After crossing into AZ and back into NV, you're off on the river walk, cruising the Colorado River. This is a very neat area, and I stopped to take a few pictures of the palms against the river cutting through the dry desert. Before you know it, you're crossing a charming bridge, then down casino row, and finishing at the outlet... it's over. Easily, this could be a PR course, if the wind would have just cooperated.
After the finish, the medal was really unique and tied into the local feature of the event. There was a post-race celebration, but you had to go back to the Colorado Belle to enjoy it. There was free beer (I know many of you can do that after a run, but I can't... give me chocolate milk!). There was music and a raffle stacked with prizes. If I could change something, it would be that parking be available the the Colorado Belle so that we can partake and then not have to walk back to the car at the outlets, or have the party at the outlet where we parked. I'd also suggest casinos offer shuttles to the start line (I'd have paid for a shuttle not to move my car) but that has nothing to do with the race... just an opportunity for partnering casinos (and please open your Starbucks before 5am that morning... please).
Overall, everything felt intimate and local. Seriously, everyone was so friendly and genuine... and it felt like every aspect of the event was put on by some local part of the community. I hadn't been to Laughlin in 25 years... I will definitely be back.