Number 31 was the 2012 Hoover Dam Marathon. I was 7th among 173 finishers in a gun time of 3:22:25 and a chip time of 3:22:17. I finished 2:12 behind the 6th place finisher, David Goddard of Santa Monica, who won my age group. I did not intend to run too fast here, there is no hope for a PR on the hills and gravel of this run. I went out reasonably  slow, but picked things up a bit once it was clear that a top ten finish was available. Rachael ran the half in 2:18:20, 9th in her age group.  She has been rowing more than running of late, we are both a bit slow down the stairs after this weekend.

As noted in previous reports, I changed to a slow carb diet in the summer of 2011. The basic rules are: no bread or refined flour dishes, no starchy vegetables, unlimited fresh vegetables and fruit, fish over red meat but not too much meat. The plan has been working great. I lost up to 20 lb since the project began and, in combination with a shift to minimalist shoes, became substantially faster. Late summer and early Fall this year was dedicated to exploring the limits of half marathon speed, which turned out to be 1:27:03 in a 5th place finish at the New Bern Bridge Run. Leading up to the current race, however, I read a New York Times report on the paper "Dietary Tendencies as Predictors of Marathon Time in Novice Marathoners," which reports that carbo loading in the 24-36 hours prior to a race significantly impacts performance. Rachael and I took appropriate action.

We flew to Las Vegas on the morning of December 14. After a walk around town to see the Hallelujah chorus on the Bellagio fountains and the aquarium in the Forum at Caesar's Palace, we made it to Bouchon Bistro in the Venetian for a 5 pm reservation. (We stayed on Eastern time throughout the weekend, which helps with lines in Las Vegas). We shared duck confit, sweet bread salad, faux gnocchi (gnochhi made with puff pastry shells) and french fries. We intended the fries for carbo loading, but without recent training we barely made a dent in that part of the order. We saved room for chocolate mousse, however. Accompanied by a Manhattan and a bottle of  Paloumey  Haut-Médoc, we were ready to race the next day. Here is a photo of the Bellagio moment:

Bellagio Fountains

Las Vegas is not a happy town. Is the law the only thing keeping the rest of America from walking the sidewalks with beer in our hands? The people on the plane in to Vegas are different, the people in Vegas are different. We stayed at the Carriage House, just of the strip but without a casino. Very inexpensive, no line to check in. I was worried that it would be bad, but it turned out great. I walked to the start Saturday morning through the Planet Hollywood Casino, which features a 24 hour Starbucks. One craps table was surrounded by ill kept young men in sweats, another featured an excited but drunk young lady among 10 men. Who are these people? When will they go to sleep? The bus ride from Bally's to the Lake Mead was beautiful and the desert smelled fantastic.

The marathon starts at 8 am, along with the point to point 10k running from the start to the dam. It was around 40 degrees at the start with a breeze, but it was warm enough in the sunshine. Walking toward the lake to apply vasoline in the sun, I met a fellow from Michigan who asked me to take his picture with an iphone. After I obliged, we chatted for a few minutes. He was in his late 30's; in Vegas for a Home Depot convention. He installed heating and cooling systems. He had recently begun running at the encouragement of a new triathlete girl friend. He liked swimming more. As the start was quickly approaching, I began work on the task at hand, unsure how to end our conversation. When I mentioned that he might want to turn away as I was about to grease some private regions, however, he walked away and I never met my new friend again. Here is a photo of me shortly before the start:

Rainbow over the start of the Hoover
        Dam Marathon

The marathon course is a double loop along a running from Boulder Beach in the Lake Mead National Recreational Area to Hoover Dam. The path along the lake is 25 miles long, it would be wonderful to run a 1 way route. The first three miles from Boulder Beach are on pavement, then it goes along a rock and dirt trail following the old railroad route to the dam through several tunnels to the 6 mile turn around. My grandfather, Mirven Elias Brady, normally a farmer in Sanpete County, Utah, traveled with his family in the early 1930's to work as a laborer on the Hoover Dam. The only story I know of this time is that  my father caught fire when he was 8 and camping with the family on the way to Nevada. One of the adults grabbed him and rolled to put out the flames. My grandfather died in 1939, when my father was 15 and my father grew up with his widowed mother, his brother and three sisters. Of course, the world changed shortly thereafter and he served in the Navy in the South Pacific. Running through the tunnels along Lake Mead I wondered if my grandfather had been through these tunnels and if my father remembered trains running through them.

My first visit to Las Vegas came when I was 12, on a grand swing my family made in our old Plymouth Fury from Montana to San Francisco and LA and then back to Utah through the desert. There was no Interstate then and the Fury overheated in the 105 degree heat on the climb from Nevada to Saint George. Later my parents retired to Saint George and told stories of our Scandinavian ancestors, who converted to Mormonism and moved to the American West. They founded Overton, Nevada on the Northern boundary of the present Lake Mead. They worked all summer in their Norwegian wool clothing, jumping into creeks now and again to cool off.

The weather along Lake Mead was perfect for running, early morning rain drifted off and the sun came out. I ran this race steadier than any before. In keeping with my desire not to go hard, I started 10-20 rows back of the narrow starting chute. I passed people steadily for the first few miles. At 6 miles the course descends to the Dam overlook via a set of slippery switchbacks. As indicated in the graph below, I didn't even notice that I was at the dam as I kept running on. The leader (who finished in 2:50) waved and I counted 15 runners ahead as we turned to go back. The view over the lake is beautiful as the course emerges from the tunnels going back and one can see clearly all the way to the start. I saw the runners ahead of me on the trail in a great arc, particularly one in a yellow shirt bouncing along a half mile ahead. 

Hoover Dam elevation and pace

The half marathon started an hour later than the full. Rachael took a later bus, so it was great to see her on the trail headed up as I came onto the paved part of the trail. She told me that I was in 14th place. Not bad, I thought. I stayed in 14th as we came to the turnaround, and then passed number 14 as we crossed the halfway point. From then on, I targeted each runner ahead sequentially. This was slightly complicated by the fact that we were among slower half marathoners for the duration, but it was not too hard to recognize the marathoners. I passed all but yellow shirt before the dam, where I paused this time to look down at the wonder my grandfather had helped create. Yellow shirt turned out to be a challenge, but I caught him a mile past where I had first noticed him on the first loop, as we came onto the pavement for the down hill finish. Coming again to the turnaround at 25.5 miles, I was surprised that yellow shirt was only 100 yards back, so I went hard to the finish with 7th place secured. Unfortunately, of course, first place in my age group had finished 2 minutes ahead. In any case, the carbo loading theory seemed to work as I don't believe that I have ever finished so strong.

Here is a photo of me, sprinting by a lively half marathoner, at the finish. There was no marathon clock, just the half time. 

finish line shot

and here is a photo of Rachael and I in front of the lake at Boulder Beach

Lake Mead at Boulder Beach

We easily caught the Noon shuttle bus back to the Strip. Continuing an lovely culinary weekend, we had a late lunch at the Social House, with braised pork shank, foie gras lettuce wraps, seeweed salad, spicy tuna roll and tempura shrimp roll. We watched the Michael Jackson version of the Bellagio fountains, caught the early show of Ka at the MGM Grand and made it to bed by midnight Eastern time. Sunday included breakfast (kale salad with soft poached egg) at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas and the early Bellagio display before flying home.

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