Tuesday, December 4, 2012

RACE REPORT: RnRLV | My Pacer Duties

This a race report, I felt I would never write, but I am glad I have the chance to write it.  I know, I know - many of you were waiting on pins and needles for this report.  Thanks for patience. 

Last year at this time, I was lying in bed from an ER visit that was caused by my involvement of the RnRLV debacle of 2011. It took me months to recover from that race in ways, only those close to me know the true amount of my suffering for months.  Unless you are living under a rock - you know what happened.

After that event - I was contacted by several media agencies for an interview.  I did not contact any media, myself.  With the exception of the Las Vegas Review Journal, as I contacted them - since they incorrectly reported on that event.  The media attention given to me, was not planned nor did I seek it.  Through those interviews, I became of the so-called Poster Child of everything that could and did go wrong that night. 

I believe as a collective effort (not mine, alone) -  racers were able to reform the entire industry for the better.  I saw immediate changes on the courses with water distribution and corral management, in various events.  I am so proud of those who stood up for our runner rights and for that - we are all safer on the course.

When RnR announced their proposed changes in the Spring - like many, I was skeptical, as everything looks good on paper.  I had no intentions of running the race.  However, when the pacing opportunity came up - I thought and prayed about my involvement.  As a running coach and Las Vegas resident, I knew I could not turn my back on the racers who chose to run this race. 

There comes a time we must put dissatisfaction aside to see the bigger picture.  In my mind, the bigger picture was to be a positive Ambassador to the runners, in my own city.  That was and always will be my focus - regardless who is the the organizer. 

Leading up to race day, I was met with an overwhelming amount of support.  As I expected, most runners were beyond shocked I would participate. Some even got ugly and called me a "sell out" or even "two faced" for putting my thumbprint on a race that I loathed so much in 2011.

Those who are my critics certainly have a right to their opinion, but they completely missed seeing why I was participating.   I cannot emphasize enough how my only focus was the runners.   I was not and did not participate for me or my own goals.

I chose the 2:15 pace group as it was 30 minutes off my typical race time.  A pacer isn't only "follow me" a pacer is about encouragement and being the eyes for the group. Warning of any obstacles such as uneven road, aid stations, baby strollers and etc.  I could not do that, if I was running my typical pace.  I needed energy to communicate.

I worked the Expo on Friday and Saturday, in the Pacer Booth.  It was in a much larger space than the previous year.  The first RnR promise was fulfilled.  It was wonderful to meet so many of the racers.  At one point, I had to go on stage to speak about pacing.

RACE DAY:  The text and emails started pouring in.  I think my family and friends were more nervous than I was.  In fact, I wasn't nervous at all!  One particular text stood out the most. It said, "I know you feel the weight of the city on your shoulders & all eyes are on you.  Keep your head in the race and keep your eye on the Finish Line for your group"  Despite the enormous pressure that had been put on me in the last year, I felt more calm at this race, more than I have in any other races - in recent months.  

I arrived at Mandalay Bay around 2pm, to ensure I could find parking.  Hung out, listening to retro Van Halen on my iPod.  I walked out to the Corrals to watch the Full Start and see how it was set up.

Met up with Daniel and Jacqueline around 3:30pm for a quick prayer and walk into the Corrals.  I was starting in 17.  Immediately, I saw an improvement in the organization.  Less people and they had each Corral roped off.   At that point, it looked like we were not going to have a repeat of the massive amount of runners at the start. After I gave my final instructions to my pacing group - we were ready to FLY!

Here is our group photo at the Start -

The weather forecast was WIND and more WIND.

As I stepped up to the Start Line - there was that moment I was thinking, "what in the world am I doing out here?"  I had no idea what was ahead of me and would I be able to lead this group to the Finish Line.

Luckily, I had my "human Garmin" next to me, Daniel. My Garmin would not kick in until Mile 3, so he kept me at pace for the first 3 miles.  Little did he know, he was also helping my mind stay on pace.  As we turned the corner and head down the Strip - my mind was sent back to the same view from last year.  It was a mental battle, more than I anticipated, but I was determined to plow through it and we did.

At we crossed the 4.5 mark, my friend Casey took this picture (I didn't know until after the race she was there).  My friend, Dan is holding the pacing sign while I fiddle with my hydration bottle.  (I am too his right in the black tights)

We were spot on pace until Mile 9 and then the winds kicked in.  I knew at that point, I would loose most of the 2:15 group.  Daniel dropped back and my own Garmin was all over the place.  It was time to trust my instincts. 

Running up the back end - and through Sahara - my mind raced back to a year ago.  Tears started to develop in my eyes.  My mind wanted to stop, but my heart wouldn't let me.  It was the biggest test of mental power I had ever faced.  I was scared.  Why?  I was scared to let my group down.

When we approached the Finish Line...I saw the race clock and my heart sunk.  It APPEARED I had missed my mark by 15 minutes.  I couldn't believe that I had lost 15 minutes of my time in 3 miles???  I couldn't check my Garmin (it was off)...my instant feeling was of failure.  I had let my group down.  But, a few in my group who crossed right behind me had a 2:15ish time.  I immediately text a friend tracking me to get my chip time. I finished in 2:15 and some change.  Victory!  Although I had hoped to finish in less than 2:15 - I would take it and those who in my group who hung on with me, seemed very happy.  I walked around the Finish Line looking for members of my group.  Several ran into my arms and we cried together.  So many of them had just finished their first Half Marathon!

After seeing others get their medals, I finally accepted my own medal.  I said from the beginning, I would not accept a medal until I knew my group had theirs.

That was the moment I had to sit down....and cry with relief for all the racers & my city.  I felt that our city would finally be redeemed.  The heaviness I had felt for a year, was gone - finally. 

I had beat this demon that had plagued so many of us, for the last year.  The city of Vegas was bruised and battered last year.  This year, we were victorious.  When I say that my group motivated me to get the job done, that is an understatement.   Sometimes those who give/volunteer are the ones who are the most blessed.  I know I was blessed by being around my group.

As I walked around the Finisher area, I did a lot of people watching.  I saw smiles, celebrations and genuine support for other racers.  Just as a race should be.  At that time, I couldn't of been prouder to be a Vegas resident and runner.  This is how a Vegas event should be.  

To answer the questions that everyone has asked. 
How were the promised event improvements?

I am elated to report that the organization of this race was spot-on.  All promises were fulfilled.  At no time did I feel my safety was in jeopardy and the course support was far superior to years past (even in 2010).   Trust me, I was watching!  :)

  • The water distribution looked sanitary and handled appropriately. Nonetheless, I still used my own hand held bottle of fluids.

  • Medical care was AMPLE!  In fact, it was almost overkill and THAT is a great problem to have. 

  • Post race recovery fluids and nutrition was good.  Java Juice, Chocolate Milk, Water, Gatorade, Bagels, Marathon Bars & Apples (no green bananas this year).

  • Much larger Start and Finish Line area. We didn't feel like we were a bunch of sardines.  

  • The separation from the Half/Full was outstanding.  Barriers were solid and the Full Marathoners should of felt they could finish their race without a fear of running into a wall of people. 

  • Bands were better than years' previously.  Not too many or too few.

  • AMPLE, AMPLE volunteers.  Not only were they there to help- they were polite, supportive and full of energy.  Hard to do with thousands of racers all wanting the same thing, at the same time.  Thank YOU volunteers!

  • There are a few changes - that I would recommend:

1. Medals, Shirts & anything with the logo. For the second year in a row - the graphic skyline has the Seattle Space Needle on it.  This is not the Landmark or the Stratosphere.  Easy fix, right?  Need help to verify the graphic, please send to a Vegas resident.  We know the difference between the Space Needle and the Stratosphere. 

2. Mile Marker signs - since we run at night - very hard to see.  Not impossible, but very difficult to see.

3. Huge lights at Mile 8-9 got in our eyes and difficult to see the runners ahead of you.  Several runners ran into me and I ran into several other runners.  Change the angle so the lights were not in our faces. The lights were very much appreciated, but a turn of the angle would even be better.

4.  Make sure there are plenty of GU's at the GU stations. I don't use GU, but I noticed on that last stop - the tables were bare.  

5.  Provide some type of unique reflective gear for the Official Pacers or even a special flashing light to wear on their backside.  This way, they can be spotted easily, especially to the tired racer eyes.

6.  Move the race back to the AM.  This will eliminate a lot of traffic problems for the local racers.  Not much traffic at 4am but there is always traffic issues in the afternoon and evening.  Also, the nighttime novelty has worn off. Time to bring the race back to the AM.  :)

Overall - I am very pleased how this event was organized.  
I can only hope that RnR will keep this level of safety and organization for all their races, not only Vegas.  

Will I pace again?  If the opportunity arises, I will seriously consider it.  

And....congrats to the 2:15 group!   You were stronger than the wind and you did it!  I am blessed and honored to have led you and I wish you nothing but success in all your future races!

  • My thanks to my husband and my runner pal, Angela Wozniak who supported me in this endeavor,  although they both were concerned about my involvement.  
  • Thank you to UnderArmour for outfitting me for this event.  I was roasty-toasty comfortable warm, through it all.  
  • Also, to my sponsor.  You have been an amazing support to me this past year and because of you, my life & health is TRANSFORMED.  Thank you, RobKellerMD.com!
  •  Thank you CGI/RnR for fulfilling your promises to the racers and my city.  No one was more skeptical than myself and I am glad you proved me wrong, for this year's race.  
  • Thank you Clark County, Water Department and other Government officials for stepping in and ensuring that Vegas has an event that is worthy of our city. 

(c) C. Ragsdale 2010-12
Run F.A.B.,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
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*San Francisco Marathon Ambassador 2012-13
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  1. Great race! You did an awesome job pacing and it was fun hanging out with you as long as I did. Next year I'll actually train to run it straight through. :)

    I agree with your assessment of the improvements and recommendations, including moving the race back to the morning. I was pleasantly surprised and felt I got my money's worth. Just a few improvements I might add based on other races that I think are better:
    - Start corrals EXACTLY on the minute after the start time so you can do easy math. Corral 17? Subtract 17 minutes from the Elite start/gun time. Don't make us rely on cross-checking clocks mid-run to guess. Or have a prominent clock at the start line so we can figure it out ourselves.
    - VERIFY the mile markers in addition to making them more visible. Your Mile 4 marker was about 0.2 miles EARLY and confused me (the pacer's garmin!)
    - Provide a HUGE remote lot and free shuttles for local runners so that we don't have to fight the traffic to get to casinos whose lots are closed to non-guests.
    - have both gatorade and water at every aid station. The vast majority were just water. Which is fine for a low key local RD event, but for the money we pay, give us more goodies!
    - GU should have been before mile 8. Had there been a GU stop at mile 6 it would have hit me early enough to keep up with you. By mile 8-9 with the 15 minutes it took to get into my system it didn't help until during mile 10 when I'd already petered out. My own fault for not bringing my own, I know, but it's almost a waste to have it so late in the race it doesn't help.
    - (for all RnR events) Use the Runner Broadcast System that the MCM uses that can post to facebook or twitter in addition to text messages. I know they like their incremental revenue for the text message tracking and I'd pay a small fee for it (even though MCM does it free).

  2. Thanks for being along side of me Daniel! It was rather lonely the last 3-4 miles, since I lost most of the group due to the winds.

    Love your recommendations. Be sure to send that to CGI and offer your advice.

  3. Great job Charlene. I thought I had heard that the RnR Series was purchased from Competitor by the company that owns the Tour de France. Is that true? Maybe that had something to do with the changes or maybe I am mistaken on that info.

  4. Thank you for the compliment. CGI (which owns RnR series) was bought by Calera - it was officially announced the day after RnRLV.

    Here is a link http://endurancesportswire.com/competitor-group-announces-new-ownership/


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