Well, we did it!! I survived the half marathon with basically no injuries (minus bruised toenails), and am really happy I did it. It was a pretty awesome experience overall, and even in spite of the training injuries, it was totally worth it. My time wasn't the best, 2:15, but in my defense, people did NOT get in the right corrals, so even though I was supposed to be surrounded by people who would pace about the same time as me, I got stuck behind hundreds and hundreds of walkers. That's not even an exaggeration. And it's not like these people were alternating running and walking, they were just straight up walking from the start. So for the firs 6 miles or so, I couldn't run at my comfortable pace. I was either running really fast to try to fit through gaps in the crowd, or I had to slow way down because I got stuck behind a wall of power walkers, and had to find a way to push through. I am proud to say that I never stopped to walk once, not even at the water stations. So despite getting stuck behind all the walkers, I basically just elbowed and pushed my way through. I even got stuck behind one lady walking with skies.
During any run, there are always event photographers that are stationed throughout the course to take your picture so that they can charge you like $70 for one picture. Normally, the pictures they get of me are crap, but sometimes they make me look like I'm running like a baller--
Immediately after crossing the finish line, I was greeted by a wall of thousands of people who finished before me. I'm not sure if the finish area wasn't wide enough, but you literally came to a dead stop one step after crossing the finish line. That pissed me off pretty bad because I really needed to be able to walk a bit and stretch my legs to keep from getting tight, but it was so crowded I couldn't move anywhere. After about fifteen minutes and only moving about 10 feet, I started to completely lose my mind. I could feel my legs getting tight and I was DESPERATE for water, and I had no clue how much further I had to go before I could get even a fingers length away from another person. I became convinced that I was trapped in the biggest clusterfudge I'd ever seen and that if I didn't get water soon, my mouth would crumble into ashes. I became very much like Elaine when she's trapped on the subway. Paranoia, anger, and extreme facial expressions included.
Heading down to the race, we tried to give ourselves plenty of time to walk to the starting line (about a mile from our hotel), check our bags, stretch, and find our corrals. Because of some pretty bad signage, it took forever for us to get to the bag check area, so once we came out, we had to separate and I went to my corral (21), and Jacob and Hunter went to theirs (2). Basically, that meant that because of their expected race time, they would be the second fastest group, so they would be the second group to go. Waiting in my corral by myself wouldn't have been too bad, except that it was really cold. Realistically, I think it was only probably in the 40s, but because I was in shorts and a Dri-Fit shirt and t-shirt, I was freezing. I think my leg hair grew about six inches while I was waiting for the race to start. Not to mention that my muscles were tightening up because of the weather. Eventually my group was up, but because I'm so much slower than Hunter and Jacob, my start time was more than 25 minutes after theirs. Add that onto the fact that they ran the race much faster than me, and they were waiting outside in the meet-up area for me for a really long time. It was pretty miserable outside, since it got colder over the two hours the race lasted, and they were handing out free warming blankets--the ones that look like you're wrapping yourself in aluminum foil. By the time I met up with them, they were both shivering and I was ready to get in a warm building, so unfortunately I didn't grab every free thing in sight like I normally do at a race. I managed to come away with 2 bottles of Cytomax, 2 bags of pretzels, a warming blanket, and my medal for finishing. I would've grabbed more snacks, but my fingers were pretty numb. We asked a guy to take a picture of the three of us together after the race, but it turns out he's never used a camera before because it's super blurry and terrible, but this is the only one we got after the race (actually during the entire trip).
Besides the race, it was a pretty fun trip. Because it's Vegas, we saw plenty of weirdies there. I don't have much to say about most of them, but I thought I'd just hit some of the more notable moments:
I only gambled once while we were there. I can't explain my pessimistic logic, but in my mind, if Jacob and I are both gambling, we're going to lose twice as much money, which means the trip will be double miserable. Honestly, I'd rather watch anyways, because I don't have a great understanding of the games. Hunter and Jacob peer-pressured me into playing Craps with them on Wednesday night, though. The first time I shot the dice I was TERRIBLE, and I think I crapped out after two rolls. Thankfully it was just Hunter, Jacob and I on the table, so I didn't feel so bad about losing the money of some strangers. My next turn to shoot, though, I was on fire. I was super awkward and threw the dice so hard a couple times that they went off the table, but I think I was able to roll like twenty something times before I crapped out. After a few rolls, a lady watching saw we were making money, so she jumped on the table, and just started making bets that I would roll certain numbers and I made her A TON of money. The whole thing was making me so nervous, though. Every time she set more money down on me, I could feel myself sweat more and it's possible that I may have sweat through the shirt. When I finally did lose, I decided I had won enough that I should just get out while I was up, and when I went to cash out and I tried to set my chips down, my hands were shaking so bad I knocked the stack over. HEH. No, dealer, I don't have a nerve disorder, I'm just very awkward.
SO.MANY.COWBOYS. We knew going into this weekend that the National Finals Rodeo was also taking place in Las Vegas, I guess I just didn't anticipate the number of country boys that would attract. Just at the airport in Bismarck, when we in line to check in for our flight, Jacob and I were literally the only people that were NOT going for the rodeo. Every other person in line had Wranglers, a cowboy hat, boots, or bejeweled/turquoise-encrusted crosses. When we got to our hotel, MGM Grand, we realized that it was the official headquarters for the rodeo, so I think all the rodeo participants were staying there, plus most of the spectators, and the place was PACKED. You really had to watch yourself when you were walking through the casino, because was there was a good chance you'd get a spur to the legs.
Going back to the Bismarck airport, let me tell you about the jags in front of us in security. So there was this couple, who must have been mid-40s at least, obviously going to the rodeo. The wife's bag was holding everyone up in the security line (we only have 1 metal detector in the airport), and the lady operating the x-ray machine, or whatever it is, obviously was nervous about something in the bag. She decided it needed to go through again (not sure how that changes anything), and so they pulled it out, and walked around front and scanned it again. Still, the operator was not sure, so they repeated the process. The third time through, they gave up and a TSA agent came over and pulled the bag and the wife aside to go through it. As I was waiting for my shoes and purse to come through the other end, I obviously was eavesdropping on the conversation between the TSA guy and the wife. She said "I don't know why you're doing this!! There's nothing in there, and I'm gonna be pissed if I miss my flight!" Immediately after saying so, he began pulling out toiletries that were obviously well above the allowed amount. Full tubes of toothpaste, full size hair products, face wash, that kind of stuff. I was (slowly) putting my shoes on when he pulled a giant utility knife out of the bag. I literally LOLed at that because he was like "uhh...yeah. You can't fly with this." She said "oh...I forgot that was in there. It's for when I go huntin!" Oh boy. So then, he makes it clear that he's not giving it back to her and she becomes more frustrated. At this point, Jacob and I had to walk to our gate because there was a chance we might miss the flight, so we hustled down to Gate 1 (of 4) and were nervous when we saw the doors to the jet bridge were already closed. That's never what you want to see when you're running late for the flight. Naturally, there was no attendant anywhere nearby to explain if we were too late, and as we stood there hoping the doors would open, the husband and wife caught up behind us and I was treated to more of her nonsensical ranting. "They took all my stuff! My knife! My shampoo, conditioner, hair gel! They even took my Proactiv! That's expensive s*#$!!" Now, I can sympathize with my fellow acned individual, but still. There are signs EVERYWHERE. I even overheard the guy offer to let her run down to the ticket agent to try to put that stuff in her checked bag, but she refused, so he tossed it. She continued complaining that they had confiscated her knife (a small victory for PETA), and I believe her exact quote was "I told him, 'Are you f*#$ing kidding me!? This is the stupidest s$#* I ever seen! Give me an f*!#ing break!'" Classic. Thankfully, the gate agent opened the door to the jet bridge at this point and started letting us on, so I was both relieved we made the flight and elated that I had gotten to listen to this clueless lady complain about how security had screwed her.
In addition to the Rodeo people swarming our hotel and casino like sugar ants on an old pop-tart, there was also some Country Music awards being filmed in MGM. I can't remember when it was, but at some point, we were walking to the elevators, and we saw some girl swarmed by people lining up to take a picture with her. I knew she had to be from some reality competition, but I wasn't sure.
In general, we saw a ton of foreigners taking really strange pictures. Here's the thing, Las Vegas is like the city of overstimulation, so anywhere you look, you're probably going to have something to take a picture of. But we kept seeing tourists taking pictures at weird places or with questionable things. We saw a 20ish Asian girl posing for a picture in front of the Flamingo casino. She was bent down, puckering her lips right next to the door handle like she was kissing it. Huh? Is there some cultural barrier that's causing me to miss the reason for taking that picture? Was it worth it to risk putting your mouth on all those germs? We also followed some Eastern Europeans for about half a mile. The only picture we saw them take was when one of the ladies stopped to pose in front of a Walgreens. Now I'm no world traveler. I've never been to Europe, but I would think the appeal for them would be the gaudy, ornate American resorts and casinos. Not pharmacies.
Continuing our long walk down the strip (we walked 5+ miles each day), we passed all the typical weirdos; the guys handing out the cards with naked girls, the sexual predators dressed as Disney characters, the street urchins pandering for loose change. We were going through a mixture of all of those groups, and there was additionally some guys handing out cds they had made with their rap on it. After trying to get us to buy a sample of some "really dope rap", one of the guys said to Jacob "hey man, you're a basketball player right? Out here to play basketball?" That's height discrimination! Just because Jacob's a giant doesn't mean he plays basketball. I didn't look at you and see that you're black and ask if you were a rapper. Oh wait.....
One guy was walking down the strip in the opposite direction of us, so he was coming right towards us, and had his camera held up, describing where he was, obviously making a video. That's fine, lots of people do that; just record the strip as they walk by. This guy decided that he needed to include a bit of street flavor in his video, so he lowered the camera and started walking directly towards 2 girls that were walking ahead of us. As he is clearly zooming the max his camera will allow, he was saying "ohhhh, you see them, man? The mamacitas? Oh yeah, I know you see those mamacitas. Yeah, man, some major mamacitas out here!" He got so close to their faces that we all had to stop to avoid walking directly into him. After explaining to the viewer how lucky he was to see all the pretty ladies, he raised his camera and continued walking, filming the buildings. The girls laughed it off, but I was creeped out by the whole thing. Not only that he filmed them so close to their face, but also because both of these girls were 20 something and had braces. That's the best you could find for your video, guy? You know professional whores walk up and down the Strip everyday, right?
At one point Hunter and I had to pop into a Walgreens (to admire the architecture, of course), and Jacob waited outside with our drinks, since you can't bring alcohol into the store. Apparently while we were in there, some homeless guys approached Jacob and started talking to him about his choice of alcoholic beverages. The guys saw the frozen drink he had and told him he shouldn't mess with those things because they're a rip-off. They told him what they do is just go to any store off the strip and buy the energy drinks that have alcohol in them. According to these guys (who were hammered), those drinks will MESS YOU UP. One of the guys continued chatting with Jacob saying things like "I'm gonna try to be as sober as I can with you right now., because you're not telling me to eff off like most people....I've been livin on the streets now for 9 months, and I LOVE it....." They stumbled off before Hunter and I made it back out, but not before reminding Jacob to go get the alcoholic energy drink. We did not take their advice.
On Sunday, the three of us made an epically long journey from the MGM to the Mirage, a decent walk that we somehow turned into about a four hour hike. Along the way, we stopped in Caesar's to look at the lines for sports betting, and while the boys debated putting money on some games, I decided to finish Jacob's drink. I didn't actually have very much, but it must have been strong, because the next thing I knew, I was giggling so hard I was crying. Dana, I'd like to apologize right now for the texts I sent you. At one point the boys went to the bathroom, and I was left by myself in the sports book area, laughing to myself so much that I attracted the attention of another table, who proceeded to point and laugh at me. Even though it annoyed me, it made me laugh harder.
Another time, while walking the strip, we got passed by an older black man wearing a Santa suit, saying "Merry Christmas" to everyone he passed. A nice enough gesture, I probably wouldn't have even noticed him had it not been for the old lady in front of me. The bitter old thing turned to her husband and said "Now THAT'S not the right kind of Santa Claus. I mean, seriously. That just makes me mad." Oh hey, White Power Ethel, how's your trip? Having fun? FYI, you're racist.
Well that's about all it for Vegas. I'm sure I'll think of other hilarious things, but I've been typing this for like 4 hours and I'm exhausted. We did get an update on our house (spoiler alert: it's not great), so I'll probably write about that sometime tomorrow. Get ready for a lot of rage filled caps lock.