Dr. J on Running

25 Hoover Dam Marathon, Boulder City, NV

15 December 2012

I traveled First Class to Las Vegas, courtesy of 1K status on United, and enjoyed my customary Baileys in coffee. I picked up my Hertz car that I rented through HotWire – bad idea on both Hs. The car wreaked of cigarette smell, a harbinger of things to come. I drove 26.2 miles due east towards the Hacienda Hotel and Casino, and checked into a non-smoking room.

A smoke-filled casino sat strategically between the restaurant and the elevator. My first lunch - like all my meals that week-end – were pleasant surprises on price and quality. The lunch buffet featured a diverse salad bar, a hot section complete with apricot glazed white fish and barbecue ribs, and an extensive dessert section with fresh baked bread pudding and peach cobbler – all for $3.50.

Free WiFi in the casino allowed me to play with my Android in between naps. Starbucks in Boulder City sat 4 miles up the hill, and provided free WiFi as well. So, I spent the next 24 hours alternating among the restaurant, my room for frequent naps, the casino WiFi and Starbucks. I passed the 99-cent two-egg, bacon, hash browns, and toast breakfast in favor of $5.99 steak-and-eggs. It was an outstanding choice that I repeated post-marathon.

In between Android sessions and naps, I drove to the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and the Hoover Dam. I walked half-way across the bridge in strong winds, and grabbed onto the rails with each step to avoid flying over. The view of the dam was majestic. Then I drove to the scenic overview, where I encountered a busload of Japanese tourists with cigarettes and cameras.

It rained all day Friday, compounded by strong winds and low visibility. Packet pick-up was just that. I picked up my bib, chip and thread-thin long-sleeve shirt, thanked Joyce for directing the race, and retired to my room. I slept well, called home to tell Marla that I loved her, and drove uphill to Starbucks. A tall non-fat cappuccino, a cinnamon-raisin bagel and a banana gave me a good start to the day.

I entered the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in the dark, GPS-ed my way to the Start Line, and parked the car in wait for sunrise. Las Vegas hosted three K-Love radio transmitters, so I listened to Christmas music inside a warm car. A white Mercedes coupe with CA plates parked next to me, and I got to know its driver fairly well during the day.

The skies turned dark at the start, so I added my Air Force Marathon wind-jacket to my attire. Fortunately, I did not rain, but the jacket protected me from the wind the first part of the race. I ran half-mile, walked half-mile, and repeated ad nauseum. The course started on paved trails, then turned to crushed-stone trucking roads used originally to move supplies to build the Hoover Dam.

The course elevation was M-shaped. We ran from Lake Mead up the mountains, down to the Hoover Dam parking garage, back up the mountain, down to Lake Mead, and repeated. The gravel trails provided little traction and much ankle twisting and turning. The unevenness of the trail forced me to trade my efficient shuffle for a knees-up energy-draining trot. The “money shot” off the parking garage disappointed. The dam looked nicer off the Memorial Bridge.

I met Liberty Lady of New Jersey and Peter from New York, and ran with them quite a bit in the first half. At mile 12, I hit the wall and felt totally drained. I walked a bit to no avail. My car sat a fraction of a mile away, and the temptation to drop out grew stronger with every step. I tried to muster my energy to walk, but 14 miles sounded daunting. I turned to Him for strength.

Mercedes lady passed me around 14 miles. A marathon walker with a peppy pace, I kept up with her for about a mile before I dropped off her pace. I learned soon that Yolonda had walked 110 marathons – THIS YEAR – into the Guinness Book of World Records. She inspired me to put foot in front of foot, and repeat with a smile.

When I turned around for the second time on the roof of the parking garage, I counted all of three athletes behind me. I walked up the hill, then down the mountain towards Lake Mead. The rocky trail ended just past 22.5 miles, and I felt an urge to run. So I ran the last four miles in under 40 minutes, and passed 9 athletes, including Yolonda.

I noticed Kim at the start line. We started together, ran partway at the same pace, and passed each other several times. I passed Kim at mile 26, and greeted her as she crossed the finish line two minutes later. My finishing time was 6:13:47, definitely one for the books.

Dr Kamal Jabbour reached the half-way point in his quest to run a marathon in all 50 states. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2012 Dr Kamal Jabbour