Rock ‘n’ Roll Strip at Night Half-Marathon Race Recap + Sam’s Birthday Celebration!

Talk about cutting it close! About five weeks shy of my bucket list goal to fill up the medal rack I received last Christmas, the journey is complete.


I just arrived back from one amazing weekend in Las Vegas to celebrate my girl Sam‘s birthday and run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Strip at Night Half-Marathon together. Sam and I met while both working at FITNESS and became great friends from there, so of course I had to hydrate in fitting fashion at the airport!


This crazy awesome lady is on a mission to finish a half-marathon in every state! It was an honor to be able to join her for one to commemorate her 24th year on the way (saying that makes me feel so old!). Even though we live halfway across the country from each other now, we’re so similar that we wear matching scarves, shorts and thumbholed jackets!


I arrived in town on Saturday evening, picked up my packet, grabbed a quick dinner and some shuteye at The Mirage (chosen for its proximity to the finish line). The next morning, Sam, her boyfriend Dustin and I fueled up at a buffet. Deciding what, when and how much to eat for an evening race was a challenge! I decided to eat a big, carb-heavy brunch then a small snack pre-race to try to avoid stomach issues during the run. Around 10 a.m., I ate a mini bagel, a big cup of strawberries, a bowl of cereal, some watermelon and a scoop of scrambled eggs. About an hour before the race, I grabbed a banana and followed my usual fueling routine during the 13.1. This seemed to work out pretty well, although I was a bit hungry come race time. Better than eating too much and having to stop during the race!


The gun for the half and full marathons went off at 4:30 p.m. to launch one impressively-sized event! Check out these stats from the Las Vegas Sun:

  • 30,000 people entered either the full, half or half of the half; 58 percent of those being women
  • 250 entrants were Elvis impersonators
  • 558 porta-potties were placed along the course
  • 440,000 paper cups were distributed at water stations (I stopped at nearly each of them because of the dry air)

Thrown off by several months of wearing a boot on my left side, my right hip and knee have been acting up since I started running again. Training was limited—I think I was able to fit in four runs since the Des Moines Half-Marathon last month. That being said, I wasn’t expecting huge things out of this race besides taking in amazing sights and having a blast, of course!


A girl on a mission doesn’t stop to take a picture! :)

This was my last big race of the year, though. Determined to hold nothing back, I eased into a steady 8:30- to 8:45-minute-mile pace for the first six miles. I normally start out very cautiously and am afraid that I’ll burn out early, so when the second half rolls around, I have plenty of gas left to kick it in strong. But what might happen if I push a bit more at the start? Could I do even better? Why not try and find out, I figured after settling into that pace…

The course continued from the Strip to downtown Las Vegas and a very dark residential area, which was really my only complaint about the course. It was very well-organized and with some lights on the streets in the less populated areas, it would have been nearly perfect! It was such a neat experience to be able to run down the Strip during sunset and after dark. It definitely helped to keep my mind off the nagging lower body aches and pains from my injury!

Things got tough around mile seven or eight when my hip flexors began to tighten up and the finish line was far from sight. That’s when my playlist really helped, so I’ll be sharing that in a future post! My pace slowed down to a 8:45- to 9-minute miles for the final half and I was hurting by the final 5K. With how competitive I am, I couldn’t let myself ease up too much because with the start I had, a PR was within reach. You know I was watching my Garmin like a hawk for the final mile!


The result: I didn’t smash my best time, but did score a PR by 5 seconds. 1:55:53! I was pretty happy with my overall stats…

  • 2,161 out of 20,566 half-marathon finishers
  • 96 out of 1,653 in the female 25-29 age group
  • 642 out of 12,665 female half-marathoners
  • 5K: 26:49
  • 10K: 53:56
  • 10 mile: 1:27:35

My hamstrings felt like they were on FIRE immediately after the finish; probably a result of my lack of training. Walking a few miles afterwards up and down the finishing chute to meet up with Sam (who is now a 10-time half-marathon finisher!) and our amazing cheering squad seemed to loosen things up a bit, as did a hot shower!


A big thank you to my new friends Tristan, Katie (not pictured), Dustin, Nick and Crystal for the cheers and high fives!


There’s Katie (right)!

We cleaned up for dinner at Paris Hotel’s The Sugar Factory, which definitely hit the spot, then danced the night away. Who are we to go against the motto of the Strip at Night, “Run at Night / Party ‘Til Dawn”? OK, we didn’t make it to dawn, but late enough to officially be celebrating Sam’s day, November 18, and racing success! To cap things off, we visited a club where Tiesto was guest DJing. There’s no better way to end a race day than with some run-friendly music!

The festivities continued the next day with an over-the-top dinner at Sushi Roku.


The garden roll was out of this world, the service was on point and the large windows offered beautiful views of the night sky.


The cherry on top of this lovely trip: a visit to Cirque du Soleil’s Love, a show based on Beatles hits. It’s hard to put into words how amazing it was! “Incredible” seems to be the only adjective that fits. The performers are such phenomenal athletes!

Now that I’ve checked filling that medal rack from my bucket list, it’s time to make those trapeze lessons happen. :) Probably with this lovely lady.


Happy birthday, Sam! Here’s to many more miles and smiles as friends and adventurers!

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  1. Karla;

    That race sounds like so much fun. I may have to add it to my wishlist of race locations. Congrats on the PR!

    • You definitely should, Jacki! The hotel prices in Vegas are fairly reasonable and the energetic crowd is from all across the country (and world). It’s a really unique experience!

      And thank you so much! :)

  2. Love everything about this post! Congrats on meeting your bucket list goal and filling up that medal rack with one more amazing (and speedy) race! What better place to do it than Vegas? It looks like you made the most of your entire visit. I saw Beatles “LOVE” a few years ago and felt the same way — such a good show!! Happy belated birthday to Sam, too! :)

    • THANK YOU, Jenn! It was certainly a memorable trip. Sam and I did schedule in some down time to just catch up and kick our feet up, but I figured that wasn’t very interesting to mention. ;) We’ll have to aim to see a Cirque show together sometime soon!

      PS: Have so much fun on your Midwest tour coming up!!

  3. This race sounds like so much fun! I want to put it on my bucket list for sure. Loving your medal rack – mine are all hanging off a lamp in our living room, lol.

    Nice job on the PR!!

    • You would rock this race, Alex! I’d definitely add it to your running to-do list. My sister got me that medal rack for Christmas last year, which is when I set the goal of filling it by December 31. Maybe it’s something to add to your wish list for the holidays? :)

      Thank you for the kind words!

  4. LOVE this post and everything about our trip! Thanks for coming again – can’t wait for trapeze adventures (bc you know it’s happening when we’re together) xx

    • It was soo fun, Sam. Thanks a million for inviting me! And you know I’m 110% up for trapeze. :)

      Happy birthday, rock star, and CONGRATS on half #10! xoxo

  5. Great race report and congrats on the PR, even by 5 seconds. Those medals look awesome, sounds like you had a blast in Vegas too. I’m definitely going to try to run this one next year!

    • Thanks, Phong! It was a wonderful trip. I definitely recommend the Strip at Night if you’re looking for another half to add to your agenda for 2014!

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