Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sin City

You can do it all in Las Vegas
OK, I admit that I have gambled. I'm in Las Vegas, and everybody gambles, so I have done so, too. Last night, I put a dollar into the nickel poker machine, and 20 minutes later, I still had $0.85 left over and a free Corona in my hand. Tonight things didn't go so well: I lost the entire eighty-five cents and then had to insert another dollar bill into the machine so that the cocktail waitress had enough time to deliver Corona #2 for the evening. I just barely managed to cash back out with my dollar still intact.

And you wonder why I have been able to retire at age 55?
Tough to see: Two cars are in the drive-through on a Sunday afternoon
Welcome back to Sin City. I am here for the second edition of Lifetime Fitness' Leadman triathlon, an event that covered 250K last year but was scaled back to 125K today—well, and a good thing that was! Last year (if you're interested, go back in the blog archives to May of 2011) Leadman had been an epic race that was contested by about 40 racers in high heat and windy conditions. Today's shorter race (still defined as an ultra-distance tri) did not feature the same high temperatures but winds that were so atrociously strong that the finish line chute was blown over and even a porta-John on the run course was toppled. Apart from 17 Pro athletes (vying for an evenly split purse between genders of $30,000) about 175 age-group athletes entered Lake Mead at 10 a.m. for the latest start of a triathlon that I have ever witnessed. I loved not having to get up at 4:15 a.m.!
The Head Ref and his helper, Paul, right before the swim start in Lake Mead
I had a great motorcycle driver, August, and the scenery (in many ways) was amazing. I love the desert, and the colors this early in the year are not as washed out yet as they will be in two months when the mercury hits 105 F instead of just 85 F. This must be one of the most spectacular courses that I have worked (maybe only topped by the grandeur of the Rockies up in British Columbia during Ironman Canada), and with the way the wind was blowing at a steady 30 – 35 mph (with gusts that were approaching twice that velocity and that threatened to simply blow racers off the road) it was most definitely the most taxing event that I have witnessed.
Scenery ...
... and scenery
Lifetime Fitness, a Minnesota-based health and lifestyle company that runs currently 104 fitness centers (all of them pretty swank!) around the country and is promoting the largest indoor-triathlon series in the world (plus a host of other fitness and lifestyle related events) is in the process of building up this "epic" race series as an alternative to other established series, such as WTC's 70.3 events. The difference in corporate culture is evident, and the tangible effects on the race and the racers are significant. As my tenure with WTC has come to an end, I am glad to be involved with Lifetime Fitness as it is a much, much better match. Here's a pic from the classy awards breakfast, em-ceed by the best announcer in the business, Jerry McNeil, and highlighted by a string quartet. When you give away $30,000 in prize money, you might as well do it in style.
The Epic String Quartet performs at the awards breakfast at Green Valley Ranch Resort
All I can say is that I am already looking forward to the next Leadman event, in Bend, OR, later this year. It will feature both the 125K and 250K distance, and if the weather cooperates, it should be one of the coolest events that I will have ever worked.
A clean, well-run transition zone
I had taken along my trusty Ritchey to monitor the run-course but also to get some personal exercise. Yesterday, after the awards, I was free for the rest of the day, not flying out until later today, on Monday. Despite continued brutal winds (now from the north) I went for a long 53-mile ride, all of it within the greater Las Vegas area. Lifetime had paid for all staffers' accommodations at the luxurious Green Valley Resort, which is located in Henderson, on the southern edge of the metroplex. Perfect! That meant that for 23 miles I could head into the wind and then cruise back once I was spent. My route led me through most everything that Las Vegas has to offer: middle-class neighborhoods with cookie-cutter homes in "the mid-350s," a quarter of which seemed to have For Sale signs in their xeriscaped front yards. There were less-affluent neighborhoods, many of them segregated into Latino ("Se rentan bodegas y oficinas") and Afro-American (lots of churches). I rode by gated communities with lots of palm trees, and I saw the rickety tents and the shopping carts of the homeless near the downtown area where the Union Pacific railroad rumbles through town.
"Downtown" area, a few miles north of the Strip
Billboards can tell much, from the one that advertised the cheap bankruptcy lawyer ("Call 400-0000! Only $100 down!") to the one advertising the dog-poop scoop service ($11 a month). And then, of course, there is The Strip. I had always wanted to ride here. In all the years of coming to Interbike, I have never had a bike with me, and this was my chance to get into the middle of traffic and slowly cruise down the surreal icon of Sin City. I have to say, it was fun! Even though during the day things are not as glitzy as at night, there was much vibe on this Sunday afternoon, with lots and lots of tourists milling around.
Riding on the Las Vegas Strip—quite a trip
After making it back to GRV and a long shower I headed out for my evening meal to Ellis Island, a small casino/brewery just off the Strip on the corner of Flamingo and Koval. Year's ago, Judy had discovered their unadvertised Steak Special which for $5 was a great deal—and now, at $7.99, it still is! You get a decent salad, a big ol' baked potato and veggies, plus a juicy hunk of meat. Add to that the $2 20-oz. beers (not the greatest brew in the world, as far as microbreweries go, but heads and shoulders above the usual swill), and you can have a well-priced meal and fun evening under $15. What better way to celebrate what would have been our 23rd wedding anniversary?

And now it is Monday morning, and I am about to spin my legs for a few miles before packing up the Ritchey and checking out at 1 p.m. My flight leaves Vegas around 4 p.m., and I hope that the last Eagle from DFW is going to deposit me into Lubbock before midnight. A great race, and a cool trip.


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