The last weekend of April started with a drive to the biggest little city in the world, Reno, Nevada, for a gig pacing the Downtown River Run marathon. While crossing the Sierra Nevada mountain range, I stopped to take in the incredible views of Donner Lake.
I arrived to Reno at about 12:30pm, just in time to catch the expo which closed at 1pm. The expo was held at Dolan Lexus. The expo wasn’t too impressive. There were just a few vendors. On the positive side, it was well organized. I picked up my bib and shirt, spun the wheel for a chance to win a free entry to Rock Tahoe, talked to the Tahoe Trail Bar guys, and left. Oh I almost forgot… all full marathoners were given a hydration pack!
My friend Alandrea, also known as @mrs.motherruner, was supposed to come with me this weekend to pace the half marathon, but sadly she got injured just a week prior to the race. She made the difficult decision to bow out of the race. Since she already registered, I picked up her bib and t-shirt for her so we could race together in spirit.
When I finally got to the hotel after enjoying a delicious burrito from Chipotle, I could tell that it was a little sketchy. I don’t like to pay a lot of money for hotels, so I usually choose to book the cheapest place I can find. I’ve stayed in some pretty questionable hostels and hotels in my lifetime. I figure, if there’s a bed and a shower, I’m good.
It ended up working out well that I traveled to Reno by myself since I had a lot of work to do. With an online class and work as a teacher, I always have lessons to plan, papers to grade, etc. Not to mention my side hobby of running, blogging, and sharing pictures… there’s always something to be done! I, therefore, needed a location that had WiFi, but didn’t want to stay in my room at the hotel for two reasons.
- The room’s only source of light was a window that had black out curtains. In order to have light shine in the room, I had to have the curtains all the way open. When people walked past my room, they could see right in the room! I did not feel comfortable leaving the windows open and the room was too dark with the curtains closed.
- The WiFi at the hotel was super slow and spotty.
In the end, I looked up the nearest Starbucks, found one 0.2 miles away, and decided to walk there.
When I got to the Starbucks, I saw that it said “Starbucks”, but the doors had a sign that said “not an entry”. I was confused so I decided to enter the nearby casino to see if perhaps the Starbucks was located inside. I was very pleased with my ability to figure out where it was because lo and behold it was inside the casino. Sadly, I was still left with the problem of no natural sunlight. In the casino, it was just as black as my hotel room except now it had the lights and sounds of slot machines. At this point, I didn’t mind. All I needed was a place with WiFi to get my work done.
Three hours later, at about 6 o’clock I finished all of my assignments for my online class through UC San Diego extension and headed back to the hotel to change so I could squeeze in a quick shakeout run before dinner.
Earlier, when I walked to Starbucks I spotted a cool art garden and mural near my hotel. I knew that when I went for my shakeout run I wanted to get some pictures running by the mural. HERE is the shot that I took next to the mural.
Oh! And I can’t forget about the shot I took jumping in front of the famous Reno Arch…
I got back to the hotel after my 2 mile run and decided it was time for dinner. Is there anything better than pizza and a salad before a marathon? I looked up a place to grab some pizza, found one that had good reviews that was close by, and although I could have walked there, I decided to drive since it was getting dark and I didn’t want to be walking downtown Reno by myself at night.
It took about 30 to 40 minutes for me to get my one slice of pizza and salad, but after I took one bite of each, I realized that it was so worth the wait because it was so delicious!
I prepared my things for the next morning and tried to get some sleep. At all hours of the night, there seemed to be noise; people walking by, sirens, etc.
My alarm was set for 4:50 AM this next morning as well as 5:00 AM. Are you someone who sets multiple alarms? One of my biggest fears is oversleeping my alarm clock for a race and missing it because I have slept through my alarm. Fortunately, I didn’t sleep through my alarm and woke up in time to take a shower, get ready, pack up my things, and check out of the hotel.
Funny story about when I went to check out of the hotel… I made two trips down to the car with my things. (My room was on the 4th floor and I took the stairs down since the elevator was sketchy.) When I got to the front office, I saw there was a sign that said go up to room 333 to check out with the clerk on staff. At this point I was pushing the limit of when I had to be the starting line at 6 o’clock. The start line, fortunately, was less than half a mile from my hotel. So after going up and down the four flights of stairs a few times, I quickly ran to the starting line with my banana and bagel in hand because I didn’t want to be late.
When I got to the starting line, I only saw one out of the six pacers who were supposed to be there. Our lead pacer, who had the signs, couldn’t find the start line. She ended up getting to the starting line about 25 minutes before the start of the race.
Standing outside, in nearly freezing temperatures, can be quite chilly. Fortunately, talking to my fellow Beast Pacers and taking pictures with the sponsor items at the request of the race director, kept my mind off of the cold.
With less than 10 minutes from the 7am start time, the race photographer was still taking pictures of people in front of the starting line. We didn’t mind too much because even we got in on the starting line picture action!
The pacers are supposed to be lined up in the corral 15 minutes prior to starting time so racers know where to line up. Not only was there not a clearly marked corral, but the field size was so small! There were less than a 100 racers! The race start happened all very quickly. It seemed like we lined up and then right away were released. There was no National Anthem, no announcement that we were going to start, no nothing. Instead, they just released us. It was all kind of a bit strange.
Within the first few hundred yards the 5:30 pacer and myself could see that no one was with the 5:30 nor the six hour finishing time so we decided to stick together right behind the last finishers. We ended up sticking together for about the first 4 – 5 miles of the marathon.
At about mile 5, we ended up splitting up since there was a race walker who was carrying a pace that was slower that the 5:30 finishing time. I quickly learned that the marathon walker was a fast walker by the name of Steve who was a defense attorney from Minnesota.
Steve was very impressive! I could not keep up with him strictly by walking. I had to do a run/walk combination to keep up with his walking pace.
At about mile 12, Steve and I caught back up with the 5:30 pacer and a woman who appeared to be slowing down. I wanted to stay with Steve since I was really enjoying our conversations. My biggest fear going in to this marathon was not if I’d be able to hold my pace, but rather that I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to. Fortunately, I ended up being with a racer (or two or three) the entire race!
Sadly, the 5:30 pacer, Hoang, ended up speeding up with Steve and we had to say adieu. I stayed back with Sonja who was also quite impressive! I learned that Sonja had completed close to 100 marathons and some ultras too!
Over the next half of the race, or 13.1 miles, Sonja and I stuck together. Since I was going at a slower pace, I had time to take GoPro pictures/ videos and I even stopped to pick up $0.49!
Sonja and I eventually caught up with a husband and wife pair, Tina and Jeff, from San Diego, California. As the six hour pacer, my job was to either hold the six hour pace because six hours was the cut off time or to stick with the last finishers. Sonja and the couple from San Diego were holding a pace faster than six hours, so I stuck with them and tried to keep them at a consistent pace.
When we got to about mile 19 we had on and off police escort. At first, it started with one police motorcyclist.
Then it turned into two, then three, then four! We end up having a police escort behind us for the entire final 3 miles of the race. We thought it was quite comical and we ended up taking selfies with the police behind us. I can honestly say this was my first time having a police escort. I felt famous.
The couple from San Diego wanted to be the last place finishers, but I told them that the only way that I could run faster than six hours was if I was the last finisher. So when we got to the finish line I let the couple from San Diego go ahead. Sonja finished about a minute and a half in front of us. After the San Diego couple crossed the finish line, I became the last person to cross the finish line!
This race was a lot of firsts; my first time running in Reno, my first time finishing last in a race, and my first time having a police escourt.
When I got to the finish line I was very pleased to see that my friend who I had run into the day prior from Yuba City, was there at the finish line with her four children. They gave me my medal and lots of hugs!
The couple from San Diego and Sonja also came up to give me a hug. They thanked me for pushing them through to the finish line. It always feels good to receive appreciation as a pacer because it means I must’ve been doing something right.
I talked with a few fellow Beast pacers who stuck around to collect my sign and then Jami, her kids, and I walked to the nearby McDonald’s to grab fries, milkshake, and a Coca-Cola. Yes, there is only one time that I ever drink Coca-Cola and it is after a marathon. I’m not really too sure what it is about an ice cold Coca-Cola right after a marathon, but it sure does hit the spot!
I said my goodbyes to Jamie and walked back to my hotel since that is where I had left my car. I changed into my clean, dry clothes and started making the 2.5 hour journey drive back home.
Oh, I almost forgot! For this race, I decided to try out my new Buff arm sleeves that are especially made for hot weather. I was very impressed that they kept me warm when the weather was cooler and when the weather warmed up, they kept me cool. Throughout the course, it warmed up by over 30°! Fortunately, after putting some water on my sleeves at the aid stations combined with the breeze, I stayed very cool. Besides the cooling ability, the other great thing about the Buff arm sleeves is that they have UV protection! I didn’t have to worry about my arms being sunburned nor having an ugly farmer’s tan. What I seemed to overlook, however, was the necessity to put sunscreen on my hand. Look, can you see where the arm sleeve ended?
What’s next for me? This upcoming weekend is the Sutter Buttes Spirit Mountain run, a local half marathon in the Sutter Buttes. Then, the weekend after that, I am pacing Rina’s run half marathon in Ripon, California.
Until next time,