Las Vegas Trip Report, Part 1

I returned late Monday night from a long weekend in Las Vegas with my friends J. and B. 

You can read about my trip prep and packing here.

Officially, we were there to run two races that are part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon series. We chose to do the 5k on Saturday night and the half marathon on Sunday.

Unofficially, we were there to have fun.

J. and B. are Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas vets; this was a first time experience for me and a third for them. They also convinced me to spring for the VIP package, which gave us some nice perks throughout the weekend that I will detail in the trip report posts.

We had an early flight into Las Vegas, and one of the things I love about going there is how quick it is to get from the airport to the hotels on the Strip. With a 10 minute taxi ride, we were at our hotel before 11 AM.

The room wasn’t ready yet, which we expected, so we had lunch on the terrace of Olives, which overlooks the Bellagio fountains. The weather was perfect and we were able to see several fountain displays during the course of a leisurely lunch that included day drinking.

This was a perfect moment.

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The seasonal floral display at the Bellagio was stunning. It was still autumnal and I think they piped in a spicy fragrance to enhance the experience. Throughout the weekend – even in the wee hours of the morning – it was crowded with people taking photos.

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Our room was now ready. I included a few photos in case you are curious about the rooms at the Bellagio. They are nice but the decor is not exactly my style. Everything was well-maintained but it seemed a bit formal and dated.

Two queens in the sleeping area:

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Sitting room (with J. checking her email):

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Two of the bathrooms (the bottom one was a powder room. I am also not showing a third bathroom with a walk-in shower):

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This was a good room for a group of friends to share. We had them bring a roll-away single bed, but we could have easily doubled up in the queens and with the roll-away and sofa in the sitting area (which I discovered was quite comfortable during an extended nap on Sunday), you could probably squeeze in six people. B. is a member of a Bellagio perks program and we got a terrific deal on this room, so it was a no-brainer to pick it.

Next we were off to the Race Expo, which involved taking the monorail to the Las Vegas Convention Center. This process was seamless and we picked up our VIP packets within a few minutes. As far as race expos go, this was pretty standard. I was happy to score two free lip balms and a 70s-style terry cloth headband, so that was cool.

Our entertainment for Friday night was a VIP reception at Hyde, one of the signature clubs at the Bellagio. This was one of the perks of the VIP package. As we were walking in we saw running legend Meb Keflezighi. That was awesome. I subsequently saw him again on Saturday  (twice) and Sunday. I wish some of his running skill would have magically wafted on to me. 

The party had some reasonable food (sliders, cheese display, shrimp cocktail, small salads in mason jars, chocolate fountain) and an open bar.

The crowd seemed to be a mix of people who worked for the Rock ‘n’ Roll organization (all of whom were dressed infinitely better than I was in jeans and a black shirt) and regular runners like us with the VIP package. I thought the best part was the venue; Hyde is an open-air space with a direct view over the fountains. They are eye level and it was an incredible background to see throughout the night.

Oh, and there was entertainment: Ozomatli played. Full disclosure: I had no idea who they were. We stayed a bit after the party ended and Hyde transitioned into full club mode.

Another full disclosure: we had taken liberal advantage of the open bar during the party and decided that we should get a snack at that point, which was quite unnecessary. 

We stopped at a 24 hour restaurant in the hotel and placed an order that was something like this:

  • Spinach and artichoke dip
  • Chips and salsa
  • Mushroom tacos
  • Thai salad (My choice, and in retrospect, a very weird food to eat while drunk)
  • A banana split

On the way back to the room, one of my friends decided that she needed to buy this three foot bear in the gift shop:

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He became a fun presence throughout the rest of the weekend.

P.S. I will get to the running, I promise! Saturday’s events will be up next.

Dublin Recap, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the first part of my recent trip to Ireland.

If you’re inclined, you can read about that here.

Quick recap: I went to Dublin last weekend with two friends to run in the Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon.

Sunday (August 2nd) was race day.

The weather for the prior day had been sunny and in the 60s, but as everyone warned us (repeatedly), it’s often raining in Ireland.

The starting line was almost exactly two miles from our rented apartment, and after considering options we decided to walk.

Temps were in the 50s and there was a steady pre-race drizzle.

We got there with just enough time to drop gear bags and hit the port-o-potties before taking off.

Fortunately, the rain abated and the race itself was dry, although I found the wet pavement a bit slippery.

I ran the whole course with my friend J. Our other friend, B., ran the race with an Irish friend.

Here’s a description of the course from the official website:

Race past Dublin’s famous sites including Ha’Penny bridge, Christ Church Cathedral, Brazen Head Pub (Ireland’s oldest pub), James Joyce Museum and the Guinness Brewery.

So, I guess we raced past all of those places but I was pretty focused on running, not sightseeing.

B. later told us that she had an ongoing commentary from her Irish friend and that we also passed the President’s House and the home of the U.S. Ambassador.

Huh.

The last part of the race went through Phoenix Park, which is more than 1700 acres and dates back to the 17th century.

J. and I finished the course in about 2:08, which is not my best time but also not my worst. 

One thing I loved about the race: salty bags of potato chips waited for finishers. 

One thing I didn’t love about the race: we had to wait about 45 minutes in freezing, drizzly weather (it started raining again) for a shuttle bus to take us back to City Center.

The rest of Sunday consisted of showers, hot coffee and then dinner with a group of B’s friends who live in Dublin.

And here’s a cool thing that happened: I posted a post-race photo on Facebook and another friend texted me during dinner that she was also in Dublin.

A quick look at the map showed that we were only five minutes apart, so I ducked out of the end of dinner to briefly meet up with her.

There was a great moon over St. Patrick’s Cathedral as we walked back to our apartment:

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On Monday we played tourist.

Stop one was the Guinness Brewery, which was a terrific tour that incorporated every sense, including smell (there was a room dedicated to smelling the major aromas in Guinness via large diffusers), sound (an electric harp you could play, a surround sound theater playing ads from all over the world), touch (piles of barley to rake your hands through), sight (art everywhere), and, of course, taste.

This is a sculpture that emulates a pint of Guinness:

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Two statues representing iconic ads:

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The fish on the bicycle was a kinetic piece that moved.

And while we were able to get a whole pint at the end, there was another spot on the tour where you could sample a tiny Guinness:

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This was adorable.

Next we went to the Old Jameson Distillery (Whiskey Tour #2 if you’re keeping track), and like Whiskey Tour #1, I didn’t like the whiskey. Again, sacrilege.

That evening we spent 45 painful minutes in a truly terrible tour of the National Leprechaun Museum, which was too bad to even discuss.

Dinner at Rustic Stone restaurant redeemed the night. This was an excellent meal, probably the best we’d had in Dublin and that is saying a lot.

Tuesday started early with a cab to the airport and the first of two flights home.

The best part is that the three of us unanimously agreed that we have to do this again. What great travel companions!

Here are a few more snaps:

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Colorful knitted trees on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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City view

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Wig shop!

 I couldn’t have made this trip any better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon

Last year my friend B. proposed that we run a destination race together, along with her sister-in-law J.

B. and J. are both totally fun and super cool, so my immediate response was “yes!”

Except that I didn’t quite imagine that the race would be here:

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This is Dublin, folks. As in Ireland.

B. suggested the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin half-marathon, which is scheduled for August 2nd, 2015.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love running destination races and the best way to see a city is on foot. 

Here’s a description of the course from the event website:

Starting in Dublin’s Docklands area, running along the north side of the Liffey River, runners are in for a treat as they pass all of the fan favorites!  After crossing over Memorial Bridge onto the south side, the route passes the famous Ha’Penny bridge (cue the photo opps!), Christ Church Cathedral, Brazen Head Pub (Ireland’s oldest pub), James Joyce Museum, and of course, no tour of Dublin would be complete without… the Guinness Brewery.  Although, the smell of hops and barley will be fleeting, as runners continue on past the Royal Hospital and Kilmainham Gaol into Phoenix Park, one of the largest walled city parks in Europe.   It’s there that the journey turns scenic as the route winds its way through the lush park, taking in the Wellington Monument, the Papal Cross, the President’s House (Áras an Uachtaráin) and the famous Dublin Zoo, finishing with a rockin’ concert in the park!

I’ve never been to Ireland so this is going to be a huge adventure. 

I’m hoping to kick my training up a notch and have a great race.

And I’m already starting to get excited.

P.S. If you’ve done this race or visited Ireland before, please send me tips!