By: Jake Marcus
We had the Las Vegas marathon and half-marathon this weekend for Team Challenge and it lived up to all expectations. I'll just give a run-down of the weekend from the start as well as I can. We've been actively doing other things for Intestinal Fortitude but this weekend deserves it's own post entirely.
I arrived on Friday afternoon and went for a quick shakeout run after the plane ride to get rid of some of the swelling from the flight. On my run, I realized Vegas was really something else. A very unique city in the middle of a bunch of mountains. I saw my sister Alix Marcus and Tiffany Ko for the first time since August and we all checked into our rooms. We met up with some other Team Challenge people and it seemed like every other person we saw was there running for CCFA. We could tell the hotel was packed as well as Michael Jackson: the Immortal Show was going on as well as the country music awards and rodeo national finals. Needless to say, there were a lot of people in the Mandalay Bay hotel. We were invited to the VIP dinner on Friday night on the rooftop for our efforts in the summer and mingled with a lot of people and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Vegas strip. We met up with Team New England for a bit and then went to eat at Lupo Wolfgang Puck restaurant. Afterward, Brian Teague and I gambled a little at the casino.
The next day, we had breakfast and ran into some more Team Challenge people. Then, we went to the race expo which was a mad house. All Alix, Brian and Tiffany wanted were some nice apparel for the race but we ended up spending over three hours there as it was impossible to move, there was a lot of stuff, checking in was problematic and the lines took forever. We ended up making it back and I was able to get a quick run along the strip and then we went to the pasta party. The pasta party was amazing. There were about 2,000 people there and Craig Comins, the former New England director and now National director was the first to address the audience, and he did a great job. Weatherman Bob Van Dillen was the emcee and he was great as well. Next, they showed a clip which explained how December 1-7th is officially Crohn's & Colitis Awareness week. The anchorman in the clip had Crohn's so it really was nice to see how much awareness is increasing. American Idol finalist, Casey Abrams who also suffers from Crohn's gave a few words. Next, Crohn's victims Mike McCready of Peral Jam and Chris Adams gave a few words and gave an award to a lady from Pennsylvania who has gone above and beyond over the years to make a huge difference in the CCFA community. The top fundraisers were announced, followed by team roll-calls. The roll calls went on for quite some time showing just how many teams were there. The race emcee gave a few words after and had Ada, a 12-year old Crohn's patient come up to say a few words. She was very well-spoken and inspirational with her words. Next, a lady was called up for an award, but instead of receiving it from Craig, she was proposed to by her boyfriend which was pretty cool. Team Challenge president, Rick Geswell, who ran on Sunday, gave a few words and announced Team Intestinal Fortitude for the efforts over the summer. The pasta party was a lot of fun and very moving. We gambled a little bit more but I got to bed at a reasonable hour considering the race. Also, I couldn't even stay in the casino that long because the smoke and dry air was killing my throat.
The next morning we had a Team New England meeting. Team New England brought about 40 people. It was nice to see a lot of people I already knew and meet many more. We went over all the race information, did some introductions, and gave out awards. However, at the end we went around and gave our stories. All the stories were extremely moving as the room got pretty emotional. The diseases are really tough and one member said it best when he said "Team Challenge is a silver lining. Once there is no more Team Challenge our mission will be complete. Once a cure is found." It was tough to hear all the devastating stories, but the resilience of some of the members is so inspirational and makes me so motivated to continue raising awareness and fundraising. After the meeting, we went to get a quick breakfast and I also placed some bets on the football games for the day. Mandalay Bay was extremely packed and there were long lines everywhere to get food. We waited around for a while and made sure to stay nourished on Gatorade and bananas and I advised Alix, Brian and Tiffany to do the same.
I got into my race clothes and headed out to the race. The setup was very high quality and had the feel of a very big and organized race. We took a few photos before, and instead of taking photos of us, all my mom wanted to do was get pictures of Kate Gosselin who was running the marathon. Cheap Trick was playing at the start which was getting me pretty pumped up. Casey Abrams said the Natinal Anthem as well. We took off at 4pm and I ran with Kareem from Connecticut on Team Challenge for the first 10 miles or so. The first half marathon didn't have much to see and I made sure to go out slower than usual to try and negative split. I also had to use the bathroom really quickly at about mile 6. I got back on the strip and felt great until the lethal mile 20. I tried a new energy gel called electrolyte gel which seemed to work pretty well when I used it at mile 8 but I think I just felt bad from the flight, walking around a lot, and the extremely dry air. So at miles 20-23 I experienced extreme cramping and seizing up in my hamstrings (which also apparently happened to many people). The Team San Diego coach saved my race to under 3 hours by talking through how I should take short strides not stop to stretch and just take it easy. I was basically shuffling for the last three miles but managed to slip under 3 hours and felt even worse at the finish but it was nice to see my parents who actually held the finish line tape for the half-marathon winners. I went over to the Team Challenge tent and spoke with a few people and then went to shower. The half-marathon started at 5:30 and Alix, Brian and Tiff didn't go out until about 6pm so I was able to make it back in time to see them. Alix came in first and looked actually refreshed. She ran a 2:37 but said they stopped many times and closed in under 30 minutes for her final 5k. She did really great and looked like she didn't even run. Tiffany came in next and looked a bit more fatigued. She managed a 2:41 and was happy with her performance. Alix and Tiff went inside to warm up. By now, the Team Challenge tent was pretty packed and Brian came in looking similar to Tiff at around 3 hours 25 minutes. He immediately wanted to go into the hotel too. This was the worst part of the race organization as it was impossible to move through the hotel and took about 45 minutes to get 200 feet. We managed to get to Strip Steak restauarant and had some food but also noticed some people collapsing in the crowds. After running for so long, in the cold and then waiting in huge crowds for a while can lead to severe temperature issues. This obviously wasn't Team Challenge's fault but the Vegas race organizers should organize this part a little better. We waited for the crowd to die down and then went out with Team Challenege participants.
The weekend was a lot of fun. I am so proud of Alix, Tiff, and Brian for running this and especially under the Team Intestinal Fortitude. Alix has never really been a runner but I noticed one time in Argentina a few years ago she was going a pretty good paced and seemed fine. I never thought she would commit to doing a half-marathon as it is very time-consuming and her real passion for exercise is dancing. I'm so glad she did it and found a joy in running and I know she can do a lot better. Tiffany initially spoke with our endurance manager Alison Rosenfeld about doing a half-marathon this past summer. She is in the midst of finals week a UC-Berkeley graduate school and doing this half-marathon in Vegas was definitely not the best timing but she seemed very happy about her finish as well. Brian really committed himself over the weekend to doing the right things to run a good race. He stayed hydrated and did everything right to finish well. I can't express how proud I am of them for finishing a half-marathon. Stephen Marcus is next :), maybe, I don't want to put that pressure on him but we joked about it a bit over the weekend.
Overall, it was a great weekend had by all. There's no way else to put it. We discussed possibly raising all the way until Vegas because it was such a good event but we will talk about that more. Thank you all for the support of Team Intestinal Fortitude. I'm glad I was able to finish all this and able to revisit it now after finishing a final exam tonight after a full day of work in NYC. Las Vegas was such a unique city and I already miss it. Happy Holidays to all if I don't get back to writing before then. I'll try and see if Alix, Tiff or Brian are looking to write an entry so keep your eyes peeled for that. Thanks everyone.