Canyon Suites Review

Now this is a view.

Spouse and I escaped the Frigid North last weekend for some R&R, Vitamin D, Vitamin Champagne and Friendship in sunny Scottsdale, AZ.

Typing this brings psychic pain, since the current windchill feels like six degrees below zero in Minneapolis.

I wish I was being figurative with my language.

A few basics: The Canyon Suites are a distinct part of the (much) larger Phoenician Resort, a Scottsdale classic property nestled into the side of Camelback Mountain.

Seriously, I don’t think current zoning laws would allow a build like this, because it is not just at the base of the mountain but abutted right into the side.

The Phoenician proper is already a great resort, but the Canyon Suites take it up several notches.

From the hotel’s website:

Here’s the lobby:

Check in was seamless. We stayed in a one bedroom suite on the first floor. There was an entry with two closets and a powder room (LOVED the marble sink), a living and dining room, enclosed patio, separate bedroom with a king bed and a master bath.

Not sure if the video tour will work, but here it is:

A few stills:

Here is the marble sink I loved in the powder room:

And the patio:

Added perks to staying at the Canyon Suites included free breakfast, a private pool for suite guests, valet parking and free shoe shine services. I sent some Gucci loafers off and they returned quite spiffy.

For fellow toiletry hoarders, the amenities are Byredo Le Chemin and include face wash, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and soap, plus lip balm and bath salts.

We arrived Friday and went for a run, went for a swim, soaked up some rays and had dinner at the on-property J&G Steakhouse, where the weather was so fine that we ate al fresco.

Then we waddled back to our suite.

Saturday consisted of more running, breakfast (free and still delicious – the Nutella mini croissants should be illegal, but at least the fancy fruit art slightly balanced it out).

I was *so* excited for Saturday night, where we’d planned dinner with my dear friends R. and J.

I brought a hostess gift and I could hardly stand to wait for them to arrive:

We had a drink at their beautiful house in Paradise Valley (the name! I want to live there for the name alone), met their dogs (and I almost stole the tiny one), had a fabulous dinner at Eddie V’s and I smiled so much that my face hurt.

It was a perfect night.

Sunday required burning off Saturday night via a long run, undoing that with the Nutella croissants, then some serious pool time.

I was super jazzed that afternoon because I’d also booked a deluxe facial. The Spa at the Phoenician is located in a building adjacent to the main hotel. As far as hotel spas go, I would rate this a 9/10. The common areas were recently re-vamped and felt peaceful and modern. There is also a really well-curated spa boutique and a separate Dry Bar.

I loved this piece of art in the waiting area so much that I tracked it down and ordered it for Fancy Pants Ranch:

My 80 minute facial was top notch. The only problem was that it was so good that when I was done, I was done.

All I wanted:

I didn’t make it far beyond relaxing on the patio, but that was just fine for our last night.

We returned home Monday, another seamless but sad affair.

Final thoughts: Spouse and I had a serious debate about The Canyon Suites versus The St. Regis. My best St. Regis comparison would be the one in Bal Harbour (Miami), which also involves a single flight (for us) and affords both sun and city amenities. Overall, I would give the nod to the St. Regis, since some suites there have their own private elevators (THE THING I DIE FOR) and there is the winning element of the ocean.

But.

The Canyon Suites were also really, really spectacular. The view of Camelback Mountain was something special and the on-site restaurants and spa give the Canyon Suites an edge. Adding the opportunity to spend time with our friends really makes the two properties a push in the end.

Which means I need to visit both a lot more to collect additional data.

It’s called research.

Kauai Trip Report, Part 3

[If you need to catch up, Part 2 is here].

I’ll try to wrap up the rest of the trip, which consisted of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We had a late flight out on Saturday night (10 PM), but we were still able to enjoy the day.

On Thursday we woke up, ran and had breakfast again at the hotel. I made the mistake of ordering the breakfast buffet. I say “mistake” because when food is unlimited, I tend to eat unlimited amounts. This wasn’t an exception. I had an omelette, an eggs Benedict concoction with crab, a small kale salad, a mini carrot muffin, part of a piece of toast with lilikoi (passionfruit) jam, and some fried rice (!). Oh, and then pumpkin bread pudding for dessert and some token fruit. Ugh. I can easily say that I got my $39 worth of breakfast, not that this should be a point of pride.

After such a decadent breakfast, I needed a nap. The weather was overcast, so I also checked in with the spa to see if they had any openings. Bingo! They did. I had an excellent massage and a facial, both with Michelle, who is the spa’s trainer. Hotel spa treatments can be hit or miss, but this was all hit. Michelle was the bomb. I liked the skin care products they used, too. The brand is Osea. Michelle told me that she calls their Red Algae mask the “hangover mask” because of its complexion reviving capability. I made a mental note of the product.

By this time it was the afternoon and we decided to head to Hanalei for dinner. The valet recommended driving to the end of the road as long as we were heading that way. It’s true: the road deadends at Ke’e Beach, which is also the start of trails to hike the Napali Coast.

The drive to the beach was quite interesting since we had to cross about seven one lane bridges to get there.

When we arrived the parking area had about a dozen cars but the beach never felt crowded. The surf was pretty strong but a few people were swimming, despite signs advising against this posted at the (empty) lifeguard station.

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I’m the worst at selfies. 

We had dinner at the Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei, which had some of the best sashimi I’ve ever tasted. This was the second – but not last – time we had sushi on the trip.

Friday was a rinse and repeat for the A.M. routine: wake, run, breakfast. I wisely avoided the buffet. We were nervously watching the weather because we had a helicopter tour scheduled at 11 A.M. and were praying that the sunshine would hold. It did.

I decided not to take any pictures during the helicopter tour and just experience it. I’m glad I did it that way. I am actually quite scared of heights and was also a teensy bit worried about becoming airsick in a helicopter, but once we took off, neither of those problems emerged. It was really cool!

I was seated next to our pilot, Steve, who made corny jokes but reassured me when he said that he had over 25,000 hours of flying time. I decided right then and there that we probably wouldn’t crash. Spoiler alert: we didn’t.

This was my first time in a helicopter, and it felt like we were floating. I loved it. The views were incredible. There would be an amazing waterfall and then bam! A better waterfall. Rinse and repeat for 45 minutes. 

Friday afternoon was beach time. I ordered tacos and a beer from my chair and had to fight off this chicken for my lunch.

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We decided to eat dinner at the less fancy restaurant at the hotel. We had sushi and fresh (cooked) mahi mahi. It rained but we were still able to sit outside under an overhang. It was lovely.

We started watching “Dateline” at 8 P.M., but both of us were snoring before we even found out Who Did It. I did not regret falling asleep at approximately 8:20 P.M. for a second.

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Saturday was a sad day since we knew we had to leave. We ran, breakfasted, and then (reluctantly) packed up our belongings and parked them at the bell stand.

We spent the entire day at the beach, probably eight hours total. It was mostly sunny. I swam. I read. I visited my jumping crab friends one more time.

At 6 P.M. we started to get ready to go. Pro tip: since many flights depart Hawaii at night, many (nicer) hotels will have a courtesy suite where you can shower, change and prepare for your (sad) return to reality. The St. Regis kindly gave us a key to an unused room and we were able to do exactly that.

Intercession: some of the Christmas decor at the hotel.

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We left the St. Regis around 7 P.M. and were prepared for an hour drive to the airport, leaving enough time to gas up and return the rental car. The valet told us a startling piece of news: there was an accident on the lone highway and a fallen telephone pole was blocking all traffic in both directions. He told us to be prepared for a three hour trip.

We set off and – for the win! – did not encounter any problems. The accident had cleared by the time we reached it and were able to get to the airport in our anticipated time of 45 minutes. We had planned to eat dinner there but the options were Slim and None. We went to Starbucks and Spouse had a sandwich; I had a bag of sweet potato chips and a Clif bar that I found in my bag. What a sad letdown from the gourmet food of the prior days.

Our first flight was slightly delayed. We left around 11:30 P.M. when the estimated departure had been 10:28 P.M. I wasn’t worried because I knew on the flip side that we had nearly three hours to kill at LAX before our final flight.

I was still pretty hungry when we boarded and sad to discover that even in First, there was not a meal service. I would have gladly eaten an airline meal at that point. The flight attendant was awesome and gave me a snack box, which I basically inhaled and then regretted because it was all junk food and salt. I felt really gross when we touched down at LAX nearly six hours later.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but our final flight was delayed nearly seven hours and I spent most of the day in the Delta lounge, eating more salt, reading my iPad and people watching. Once we landed in Minneapolis, we were met with single digits temps. Ugh. I asked myself for the millionth time why I live here. 

Final thoughts:

  • This was an exceptional trip.
  • If you love low crowds, traveling between Thanksgiving and mid-December is something you should strongly consider.
  • Nightlife on Kauai, especially Princeville, is – from our experience – limited. If you want to party, go to Vegas. If you want to chill, Kauai is your ticket.
  • Unpack half of your stuff, particularly anything fancy. This is the jewelry I brought that went unused:

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I brought this new bag but felt ridiculous carrying it during the one night that I wore a dress:

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  • The grocery store is your best bet for souvenirs, unless you have something special in mind. We didn’t.

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You may notice that I stole 10 swizzle sticks from the St. Regis. I have a collection. It’s a Thing. 

  • You need to rent a car if you plan to go anywhere. I mean anywhere. Be prepared for low to no radio options and bring cords to connect to your phone if you want music.
  • Plan a picnic. I wish I would have done this. There were so many excellent beaches in Kauai and I saw several people hanging out, eating sandwiches and drinking beer. While we were staying at a really nice resort, the beach was still public and the view was free. Anyone could bring down provisions and basically enjoy the same thing with much less expense.
  • Consider bringing your kids. I hesitate to write this, since Spouse and I remarked several times that we were having a wonderful time sans kids. However, I saw many children at the St. Regis, and there seemed to be even more staying at the neighboring condo properties. The beaches and slow vibe of Kauai are ultimately kid friendly. The time difference for most people also means a naturally early bedtime and wakeup, which is right up Kid Alley. Even without kids, I don’t think we made it past 10:30 P.M. on any given night. Kauai accommodates toddler schedules quite well.
  • Spring for the helicopter tour, even if you are scared of crashing (Me!) or heights (also Me!).

 

 

 

Kauai Trip Report, Part 2

[If you’re late to the party, Part 1 is here].

Our Wednesday routine started the same as the day before: wake up before dawn, throw open the windows to hear the ocean, head out for a run.

A quick search on our phones showed a local breakfast spot called Lei Petite Bakery that was a few miles away. I got a breakfast sandwich and a chocolate macadamia nut latte, which was a big treat since I rarely get sugary coffee drinks. It was delicious.

We also browsed the nearby shops and picked up several souvenirs at the grocery store, Foodland. Tip: grocery and drug stores are reasonable places to pick up Hawaiian souvenir staples like chocolate covered macadamia nuts, coffee, salts, etc. They have a decent selection and the prices were a lot lower than the hotel’s store, which sold mostly the same stuff. They gave us a membership card to their savings club on the spot, too, so that knocked a few more dollars off the tab.

I struck up a conversation with a woman working at one of the boutiques in the shopping center and she suggested driving to the Kilauea Lighthouse, which was only about 20 minutes away. She also told me that if I stayed until 1:30 PM, she’d be leading a free tour of the lighthouse. We were intrigued enough to head over. This area is a national wildlife refuge and in addition to the amazing views of the waves crashing against cliffs, there was some interesting birdwatching. It was overcast that day, which is why this picture looks more like New England than Kauai:

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I wish I could give a better scale to the size of the cliffs and the waves. It was mesmerizing to watch them crash over and over. I was watching for the beautiful flash of blue that can be seen when a wave crests. I kept thinking “just one more wave,” and soon we’d been watching them for more than a half hour.

The weather cleared up a bit and we headed back to the resort and the beach. img_1159 img_1171

I should have taken better ground level photos of the beach and pool, but instead I took some aerial ones from our room to try and show how uncrowded everything was, especially the pool. I went in it twice and once was the only person swimming. The St. Regis also has a really nice set-up where they will outfit your chairs with towels. Most beaches in Hawaii don’t allow alcohol, but there is bar service here. One thing to note: this is still a public beach – like all beaches in Hawaii – so there were people not staying at the hotel using it, too. Even with that, it was never crowded.

If you look carefully at the pictures above, you may see small dots in the water: surfers! It was so much fun to watch them. Most of the surfers were in Hanalei Bay, and we were able to walk along the beach to the pier. We were surprised to see jumping crabs on the rocks and many sand crabs along the beach. It became a game to spot them before they scurried back into their dens. We spotted countless holes like these on the beach:

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We were planning not to miss dinner that night and had a reservation at the Kauai Grill, which is a Jean Georges venture that easily wins the “Fanciest Restaurant in Princeville” award.

But before dinner, I had one thing on my mind: sabrage.

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Sabrage is the art of opening champagne with a saber, and the St. Regis is known for it. 

In Kauai, they do it every night at sunset, and it’s basically the It Thing for Princeville nightlife. But for me, it’s always something I’ve wanted to see and secretly do. This has been a long-held dream, right up there with playing the drums in a super cool all-girl band. (I do not have any musical talent, sadly, but as someone who regularly performs surgery, this seemed like a better bet).

We arrived about five minutes before the sabrage was to start. I started talking to a friendly hotel employee named David, and he laughed when I told him that this trip was to celebrate my Unemployment World Tour. I also confided that I was supremely excited to see the bottle opening. David said that he was, in fact, going to be doing the sabrage and would teach me how to do it.

David then got up in front of the crowd and explained a bit about the hotel, the history of sabrage and then he sabered open a cold bottle of champagne and poured some for the guests, including us. I was thrilled.

What happened next was totally unexpected: David came back with another bottle of champagne and handed me the saber. When he said that he would teach me how to do it, I thought he meant that he was going to demonstrate to the crowd, but no – this bottle was mine to open.

After some instruction, it was my turn:

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Victory! The crowd went nuts! I went nuts!

This is exactly the kind of magical moment that turns a good trip into a spectacular one. I will never forget the second when the bottle top cleanly sliced off.

And then I immediately realized that the thing I need most in the world is my own champagne saber. It’s Item Number One on my Christmas list.

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[Sidenote: I never went back to see the sabrage again on the trip. I couldn’t. The first time was too magical. I also heard a rumor from another employee that she had never heard of a guest being allowed to open a bottle, and I am still harboring the fantasy that I was the first and only person to be able to do so. I couldn’t bear to go back and see that thought ruined if it is not true].

We *did* have dinner at the Kauai Grill and it was really good, but I was so jazzed about the sabrage that I could barely focus on the food. We both got the tasting menu ($145) with wine pairing ($95), so this was a splurge-y meal. I loved the dessert, which was a butterscotch pudding confection with macadamia nuts. They served it with port AND champagne. It was nuts. Spouse wasn’t crazy about it and passed his plate to me. I obliged and ate his, too.

And then I crashed into bed. I think it was about 7:30 PM. I slept like a baby. Heaven.

 

 

What To Do When You Are Between Jobs

As I mentioned a few days ago, I am between jobs.

This is a such a rarity for me that it’s only happened once before.

I don’t count the period between finishing residency and starting fellowship as one, because I only had a weekend to pack up my stuff, drive from Colorado to Texas, and establish myself in an empty house (save a mattress) with a dog. I started my new job on Monday. 

In contrast, many of my co-residents graduated and went to the East Coast to stay in a summer house that belonged to one of their families, where they spent a week bonding and having a last hurrah. Several took the summer off before starting their new, “real” job. My friend E. charted a sailboat and tooled around Greece. I so wanted to be with her on that boat.

Fast forward three years: after fellowship I had almost three weeks off before starting my new job, the one I just left. It would have been the perfect time to do something fabulous, except I was newly pregnant with Baby #2 (Trixie), and Baby #1 (MGM) was a rambunctious toddler. Spouse was cleaning up and out our old house and wasn’t able to immediately join us, so MGM and I suffered through two miserable flights before decamping to my mom’s for a few weeks. We lived in the basement. It was summer. MGM slept about three hours a night, which meant I did, too. I was mildly nauseated the whole time. Still, I remember it as a boring yet pleasant experience, although it wasn’t the Total Reset that I imagined would ideally mark the occasion.

I want this time to be different.

Originally, I had planned for a month off between gigs. It didn’t work out, and I am totally ok with that since this means my income and benefits won’t be on hiatus. The gap is now two weeks.

I decided to do something big to celebrate.

Over the past eight years, I’ve hoarded my Starwood Hotel travel points and frequent flyer miles enough that I could book two first class tickets to Kauai and stay at the St. Regis in Princeville for a week.

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Kauai image via Fodor’s

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St. Regis image via Starwood Hotels

So that’s what we’re going to do. Spouse and I leave in two days.

While planning travel is one of my great pleasures in life, I’ve left this trip entirely open.

I’d like to do some hiking, a helicopter tour, and visit a coffee farm. Honestly, I didn’t research Kauai enough to know if there is a coffee farm there, but I’m hoping for it. Of course I will also hit the spa as much as legally allowed, and I will drink champagne.

When we return I’ll be home for two days and then I’m taking the kids (just me, no Spouse this time) on a short trip to Florida. I have to pull them out of school for a few days, which I know is not ideal, but with all the changes that are coming I thought it would be nice to do something fun for them. The three of us will leave on a Wednesday and return Saturday. We’re spending two nights with my mom at her place in Florida, and then one night at Disney (staying at our favorite place, the Swan Hotel) to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

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Image via Disney

And then I start my new job on Monday. Whew.

Full trip reports forthcoming.

 

 

 

 

 

Lo & Sons O.G. Review

Lo & Sons is a brand that gets a lot of attention on blogs and other social media.

I was intrigued by their Catalina Weekender bags after seeing a few of my favorite bloggers write about how much they held, and I bought blue one about a year and a half ago.

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Photo from Lo&Sons website

After using the Catalina for a few trips – including a complicated carry-on only jaunt that took me from a work trip in Dubai to running a race in Florida – I can attest to the fact that it holds a lot.

Too much, in fact. That trip I mentioned above gave me permanent shoulder grooves from hauling a heavy, overstuffed bag across 30,000 miles.

(Now there is a Deluxe Catalina available in two sizes that seems more travel friendly; there’s a sturdy crossbody messenger strap and a back sleeve to slide the bag on top of an extended luggage handle for easier transport).

But sometimes the Catalina is still more than I need.

Enter the O.G.

The O.G. (“overnight and gym”) bag is described as a lightweight overnight travel bag.

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Photo from Lo&Sons website

 

Honestly, the O.G. is better looking than the Catalina. It would be perfect to bring on a short work trip that involved traveling with your boss.

In contrast, the Catalina is better for a beach weekend with friends.

The O.G. also comes in two sizes: original and medium (cutely named the “O.M.G.”).

The O.G.’s features include:

  • A padded laptop sleeve
  • A side-entry shoe compartment
  • A crossbody messenger strap
  • A key fob on a strap
  • Many, many pockets to hold essentials, including pens, which seem to be something I always need and never have when I am on a trip

When I found a sale on the O.G., I bit.

I selected a black bag with lavender interior and gold hardware.

img_1014The bag arrived in only a few days. It was packaged extremely well. Every zipper, tag and strap was wrapped in packaging material.

img_1016There are metal footings on the bottom. I love when bags have this feature.

img_1017The decorative “L&S” tag on the front is a nice touch.

img_1018Ok, the above image is blurry and I have mentioned many times that I am terrible photographer, but what I was trying to show is the padded laptop sleeve, the lovely lavender interior and the folded white item in the laptop compartment is a dustbag. You know you’ve got something nice when there is a dustbag.

img_1020Here is the shoe compartment on the side. This is clever: on the inside of the bag’s main compartment, the rest of the shoe bag (entry only shown here) can be rolled up and snapped into place when not in use so as to not take up space in the main compartment with an empty, floppy shoe bag. When needed, it can be unsnapped on the inside and shoes placed in it from the outer entry shown above.

This, however, is the cleverest feature of all:

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On the back of the bag, there is a doubly zippered compartment spanning the bag’s width. There are zippers on the top and the bottom. When it’s opened all the way, this is an open sleeve to slide over the extended handle of a wheeled carry-on. If just the top is open, it is an exterior pocket that is big enough to hold a magazine, books, etc. The top compartment can also be zippered for extra security. I thought this design element was an especially nice touch.

I’m about to embark on a lot of work-related traveling, especially with carrying a laptop back and forth, so I am excited to see what this bag can do.

P.S. You may need to watch carefully, but Lo & Sons often runs sales on their bags, especially around holidays. If you are not picky about color, you can get the O.G. right now for 30% off in red or blue, or 20% off for black, gray or olive.

P.P.S. The Catalina bags are on sale, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas Trip Report, Part 4

Final installment, I swear!

(Part three is here).

The last thing we did during our Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas racecation weekend was visit the Spa at the Bellagio.

We didn’t book appointments before we arrived and were fortunate to secure them, although for a while it looked like we might not. Next time, I would book my appointments far in advance, especially for the busy hours of 9-11 AM.

In the end, the three of us were able to have facials and massages.

The Spa at the Bellagio is huge.

When they were checking us in and leading us back to the waiting area, I could see a list on a clipboard of all the people who had appointments at 9 AM, and it was a full page.

The robes, slippers and lockers were pretty standard. In the changing area, there was fresh carrot juice (I did not try; B. liked it and J. said it was gross), lemon and ginger water, tea, coffee and bottled water.

The waiting area for massages had about 15 people in it while we were there, and I did not like the fact that men and women were in the same area. There were some guys who did not seem to have their robes secured very well, and these were not the kind of guys you would want to see with their robes undone.

Fortunately, this part of the visit was brief and we could silently roll our eyes at each other while avoiding direct views of the unpleasantry.

I had booked a standard facial but changed to an anti-aging one when I got back to the room. The products were from a professional Elizabeth Arden line. I thought they were fine.

What was really amazing was the lip balm that they applied at the end. Over the course of the weekend, my lips went from dry to parched to raisin-like to peel-y. The combination of dry desert air and dehydration, plus licking my lips constantly during the race even though I know I should not do this was too much. Once the facial was done, I inquired about the balm and learned it was this brand.

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From what I can tell, What’s Your Virtue gloss is such a small company that they don’t have a website, but there is an outdated blog from 2014 I found. How the Bellagio chose this brand is a mystery, but I bought the clear gloss and I absolutely love it. This turned my dry lips around in less than 24 hours. The price was $12.

The second appointment I had was a 50 minute massage. Especially after a race, I would prefer a deep tissue massage to work out the knots, but hotel spas are – IMHO – notoriously light on the pressure. The technician I had was somewhere in the middle, so I was ok with that.

There seemed to be quite a few people who had already checked out of the hotel and had their luggage with them when we got back to the locker room. This is a reasonable strategy if you have an afternoon or evening flight (one I have used many times), because you can shower and get ready to go home after your appointment at the spa. For reference, the Spa at the Bellagio had many private rainfall showers, shampoo/conditioner/shower gel, oversized towels, and the standard things (combs, hair dryers, hair products, aerosol deodorant) that you would need. If you had an abundance of free time, you could also use hot tubs, steam showers and a sauna in the women’s only locker area. We did not have an abundance of time so we did not.

Sadly, then it was time to go to the airport.

We did.

The flight home was uneventful.

My final thoughts: I had a blast. J. and B. are super fun travel companions. The three of us had actually already been to Las Vegas for a long weekend over Memorial Day, so this was a familiar trip. I liked the fact that we could offset some of the calories with running. The two trips were different, though, so I am not sure if one was better than the other.

How does the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon compare to other races? As I said previously, the course is flat and fast. This is great. The night start is unique, as is running on the Strip. I have only done two Rock ‘n’ Roll races (the other was Dublin in 2015), and overall I think I like the organization of Run Disney races better (signage, water stops, corral placement). Having said that, I’ve done worse races, too. I would do this again. If you can swing it, I’d also strongly recommend adding the VIP package, even if just for the eagle eye view of the finish line at the post-race party.

How about the medals? These were solid, heavy and quite interesting. I forgot to mention earlier that since we did both the 5k and the half marathon, we got a third medal for completing a “Remix Challenge.” Some 5k medals are flimsy, but even this one was substantial. The half and Remix medals had spinning elements. (See below).

Would I change anything? This is a hard one to answer.

  • I definitely would have done a better job with pre-race fueling.
  • We didn’t get to try as many excellent restaurants as the first visit (including Mr. Chow and Giada’s) since we had the pre-race party one night and room service another.
  • We didn’t get any pool time (although that was mostly temperature related; it was in the low 70s and we could have gone to the pool but decided not to).
  • On the plus side, I burned off a lot of calories and didn’t feel quite so gluttonous on my way out of town despite having an excellent cookie/brownie/cupcake/cannoli from Carlo’s Bakery, and there were the Meb sightings and Snoop Dogg.

So there’s that.

And this guy came home with us:

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Las Vegas Trip Report, Part 3

(Part 2 is here if you need to catch up).

Our longest event of the weekend – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon – didn’t start until the evening, so when my friends J., B. and I woke up on Sunday morning, we decided to get some pre-race fuel via the Bellagio’s breakfast buffet.

Ugh. Mistake.

This would be a good time to point out that I rarely, rarely eat at any type of buffet situation. When food is unlimited, I tend to eat unlimited quantities, so this is not good and the best strategy is for me to avoid it entirely.

And yet, knowing this information, I boldly strolled into the breakfast buffet and proceeded to consume roughly 14 zillion calories.

At one point I used a slice of cheese pizza like a piece of toast and topped it with part of an omelet to make an open-faced sandwich.

The cheese display was also heavily pilfered.

Ditto the sushi bar, despite having just eaten a much superior sushi dinner only 12 hours earlier.

Double ugh.

The one thing I will contend is that I definitely got my $33 worth of breakfast foods, not that this should be a point of pride.

After that mess, we wandered back to our room to rest and digest.

By 2 PM, we had to head to the starting line.

Even though the race wasn’t beginning for a few hours, there was a pre-race concert at 3 PM that we wanted to see.

This guy:

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Yep. Snoop Dogg.

The starting line for this race is near Mandalay Bay. There were 22,000+ runners in the half marathon, so the starting area was quite crowded.

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Our VIP race package gave us access to a special area in front of the concert stage with tables, chairs, private bathrooms (still portable ones but barely anyone was using them, so it wasn’t as gross as usual at the start of a race), and refreshments.

img_0973This is what the area looked like:

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I was still overly full from our breakfast – even though it was hours earlier at this point – so I did not want any of the food or drinks they had in the VIP tent. The spread was impressive, though. There were several things that looked reasonable to eat before a race (trail mix), but also a massive bowl of hummus, which just seemed like a terrible decision before embarking on a two hour run.

There was also alcohol available, and I was surprised to see several people partaking. Again, this would have made my already bad decision making that day worse. I stuck to water.

Soon it was time for the concert.

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Snoop Dogg played the crowd well. At one point, he looked out at the audience and said,

What’s that y’all like to drink while you’re running? What is it? Gatorade?

Crowd screams back: “Gin and Juice!”

He begins singing that song. Crowd goes nuts.

And guess who was dancing and singing along next to us at the show? Meb Keflezighi.

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I was in the Green starting wave, which was the second group. The Blue starters began the race at 4:30 PM, Green at 5, and the Yellow wave was at 5:30 PM.

Like the 5k the night before, there were assigned corrals but they seemed like mere suggestions. People were randomly crowded into the space, so there was zero separation by anticipated speed or finish time. This meant that speedier runners were stuck behind slower runners or walkers in many cases. I did not like this part of the race set-up.

The half marathon course is flat and fast.

Runners head away from the Strip for about a half mile at the start and then do a U-turn, running past the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and then down the entire length of the Strip, which is closed to traffic for the race.

Ok, that was super cool. Later I spoke with a woman who was part of the planning team and she told me that getting the Strip closed to traffic is a big, big deal. It only happens twice a year, once for this race and again on New Year’s Eve.

I don’t know if I perceived this correctly or not, but it also seemed that much of the Strip portion was ever so gently downhill.

For the first few miles, I had to bob and weave to make room but still managed to keep a reasonable pace.

My 5k split was 29:45, which is 9:35 per mile.

At Mile 3, there was a run-through wedding area. Supposedly 200 couples got married during the race.

I did not.

My 10k split was 58:53, which is 9:29 per mile.

I secretly had a goal in my head that I wanted to get a two hour finish. I have been working with a trainer over the summer and generally done a lot of better things for my health and body, so I was excited to see what I could do.

Except the wheels came off the bus at this point.

Miles 7-10 were in a strange part of town. It was very dark and difficult to see. After the bright lights and distractions of the Strip, this took significant effort to keep momentum going.

I chugged along and we passed the Fremont Street area.

I was getting very tired, realized I had improperly fueled (Breakfast buffet! You ruined me), and walked for two minutes in Mile 10 near an extremely sketchy “hostel.”

My 10 mile time was 1:37, or 9:42 per mile.

At this point, I was demoralized. I realized I would not make it in two hours. I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to pull out three sub-8 minute miles.

Once I finished my walk break, I felt a lot better.

At least until Mile 12.

I thought I’d missed the sign for Mile 12. When I finally found it, my watch said I’d completed 12.47 miles.

This was very surprising to me, because my watch had seemed pretty accurate to the mile markers up to this point.

I was further defeated and decided to walk for two more minutes. When I started running, I felt moderately better and saw the finish line. In the end, I think mile marker 12 was misplaced and I was further than the course said.

I put a bit more effort into the finish, but my final time was a disappointing 2:09:39, or 9:54 per mile.

My overall finish was 4164/22048, and 1609/13755 for women.

Now, let me also be clear that I know I am crying over spilled milk. I was healthy. I completed the race. My finish was respectable. I get to run whereas others cannot.

I get all that, but what I am saying is that I had a personal goal in mind and felt like I’d let myself down. My time for this race was almost exactly – to the second – the same as my finish for the Tinker Bell half marathon in May. I guess I am consistent.

I got over it my disappointment pretty quickly, in fact by the time I had exited the finisher shoot.

My friends weren’t quite finished yet, so I headed to the VIP after-party, which was held at the Linq hotel.

Besides the party, there was one final VIP package perk: all runners received a very soft red fleece Rock ‘n’ Roll logo blanket. I was cold and sweaty at this point, so that blanket was everything to me.

The party was never crowded at any point while I was there. While there was an indoor area with food (pizza, sandwiches) and drinks (free beer and wine, plus some liquor, but $5 for soda or Gatorade – which was weird and wrong), the outdoor area overlooked the finish line and is where I spent my time.

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My hair looks terrible but I am happy to be done.

A slightly better shot of the finish line from above:

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J. and B. soon arrived and we had some food and wine (me). Being cold, wet and tired at a party is not all that fun, though, so we didn’t stay late.

Once back in the hotel, we quickly showered and had a celebratory drink.

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It was getting super late and this point and we decided to get room service and call it quits.

Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart’s new show was on TV, so we had a laugh watching it while we ate.

Next up: Review of the Bellagio Spa and their amazing lip balm. The (sad) trip home. Final thoughts on the weekend.