Welcome to the long anticipated Las Vegas blog. As many of you will know I was extremely lucky to win the CEP #hungryforvegas competition. There is danger of this being a really long blog, with such a fantastic trip, so I have broken it into sections for you to choose what you wish to read. This is the overview blog which will focus on the competition and the Las Vegas experience. You can then follow the below three links:
Las Vegas Rock n Roll 5k and concert – Here
Las Vegas Rock n Roll Half Marathon – Here
Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon – Here
Before I continue I must warn that this blog is particularly positive about CEP. This is not because I won this competition. As always, I say it as it is, and you will see that when you get to my Marathon blog in particular. I entered this competition as someone who has been using CEP for about 5 years. If you look back at my blogs you will see that I have worn CEP calf guards/socks at every run I have blogged about. We were looked after extremely well by CEP and it exceeded expectations, but my thoughts remain unbiased.
It all started with this picture. I saw a competition run by CEP called #hungryforvegas. A competition to win a trip for two to take part in the Rock and Roll marathon series in Las Vegas. It was a competition to vote for the best picture and then the judges at CEP selected the winner from the top 10, one winner for Germany, Denmark and UK. I didn’t believe a stood a chance of winning. There was a prize of a pair of nighttech socks for the first 50 entries, and that is all I hoped for. I am so very grateful for all the support shown from the running community that helped me make this opportunity a reality.
Thursday- Day one:
Of course my favourite running buddy is my wife Kirsty, and so we turned this into a family holiday. Our first challenge was to get through a 10.5 hour flight with our two terrors; Benjamin and Amelie. We had a smooth flight and were picked up by Luke, the CEO of CEP USA. What a lovely bloke, and a great way to start our trip. I think Benjamin would have happily replaced me with him, I hope Kirsty doesn’t feel the same way.
I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at Vegas, but the airport was only about 15 minutes drive from our hotel, and you can see the strip as soon as you leave the airport. We stayed at the Mirage, an amazing hotel in prime location on the strip.
On the first evening we didn’t get much time to sort out as we arrived late just in time for our first get together with the whole CEP team. We met in a restaurant in the hotel called “Stack”, where we got to meet as a whole group. Winners from Germany and Denmark joined my family, and the CEP team. The restaurant was stylish, yet relaxed and a great venue to get together and enjoy a couple of beers. I had the ribeye steak which was cooked wonderfully.
We all had an early night as we planned a morning run to take in the sights of the Las Vegas Strip at 06:00 hours. This was only going to be a gentle 5k before heading off for a fun packed day of activities.
Friday – Day two:
It was lovely getting to know the rest of the CEP runners whilst we had a gentle run and had fun along the way.
We all stuck together as we navigated the strip and took it in turns taking photos. Clearly I’m not the only one on this trip who likes to take a selfie or two.
After our run and a quick shower we then met back in the lobby for our bumper day of planned activities. Originally I was led to believe the prize was for flights and accommodation, but quickly realised that there was much more included. First stop was breakfast and my introduction to an American style meal.
I’m a big eater, and did not know what to expect. After being given a banana muffin free of charge as a welcome gift I knew it would be a good meal. The muffin was enough to fill most people up and was so rich, and complemented the coffee that I became fond of whilst in Vegas. We all ate so much for breakfast that we ended up skipping lunch.
To put things in perspective, this huge portion was the kids meal. This plate is bigger than the average dinner plate.
Luke then drove us to Hoover Dam, and I must say he made a wonderful tour guide.
Taking us to the edge of Nevada on the Arizona border we first drove to a bridge overlooking the dam, and then drove down to it for a closer look. It is such a beautiful sight, and not something you would necessarily think of when going to Las Vegas. I would recommend doing this to anyone visiting Vegas.
After walking around and having fun at the Dam we headed back towards the strip. On the way back we stopped at a chocolate factory but it wasn’t that impressive. The next stop was the expo, a must do and potential highlight of every race.
My children are little heart breakers and before we even got into the expo they were rocking at the entrance. The atmosphere was buzzing when we arrived, and we weren’t even there at the busiest time.
After Amelie managed to get away from the Geico we went to explore the expo. As far as expos go it was on the larger scale, comparable with Majors such as London and Berlin. To be completely honest with you I’m not as excited by expos like I used to be having been to so many. So although I walked past it pretty rapidly as there was nothing I really wanted, it did not detract from an impressive set up.
There was no queue for the race number pick up, which was really good. We were there mid afternoon on the Friday so don’t know how this compares to the Saturday. One thing I did find silly was that my t-shirt size was recorded wrong. They were more than happy to change the size, but I had to pick up my shirt in the wrong size and walk across to another table, and then change to the correct size. It seemed like a pointless exercise to me.
One of the highlights was the #VegasStrong wall that was there as a tribute following the recent shooting. I did not realise the use of the wall at the time, but it was on display during the event, lit up with UV lighting (see Half Marathon blog). Kirsty picked up a few headbands because she forgot her Racecheck visor. These were personalised so the queue was huge, and so was the section for adding print to your shirt for free.
An interesting point to note about the expo, which you should be mindful of in America, was there was an ID check queue. As there is a Beer ticket included, and I later realised that “everyone” gets ID’d in America, you could get a band to prove age. Otherwise to receive your beer at the end you needed to have your ID with you.
I didn’t really spend much time at any other stalls as I had everything I needed for the run. On the way out we stopped by the Geico again and Benjamin rocked some more for an audience this time.
When we all left the expo we made our way back to our hotel, with plans to meet again early evening for another meal together. This was a surprise for us, as we made our way to mini Paris.
I could hardly believe it when we made our way up the Eiffel Tower to dine in the middle. A high class, and high price meal, something I would never consider to be within my means. I thought I looked rather smart, but I was not wearing a collar. When we entered the escalator I was asked if I was about a large shirt size, and when we got to the top they had one waiting for me. If I knew we were going somewhere smart I would have dressed accordingly, but pleased they accommodated me, even if I was dressed like a waiter.
The meal was absolutely fantastic, and the service was relaxed and attentive. It was lovely sharing this experience with my family, and still can’t believe we had this opportunity. During this lovely meal Simone let us into another little surprise. She gave us our VIP bands ready for the event, providing us with exclusive access to a pre and post event experience, which we had already been told about. Then she gave us all tickets for a sponsors event held at the Bellagio, which was invitation only.
We were all super excited about this, where we were told we would meet Mathias, CEP CEO. We had a few setbacks at this point, which was really upsetting for us. We had checked that it was appropriate for our kids, and were told it was ok. So Benjamin was really excited, especially because he was looking forward to seeing Luke. Obviously none of us really knew what to expect when we turned up, but it turned out that the event was being held in Hyde nightclub. Clearly this wasn’t suitable for our children. Because we didn’t know about this event earlier we hadn’t arranged childcare, which meant that we weren’t able to attend. This wasn’t anyone’s fault as it was a last minute invite for us, and a bonus which we did not realise was not child friendly. What was upsetting was how sad Benjamin got as he was so excited to be going to a party and to see Luke. Fortunately Luke arrived just before we were leaving, and Benjamin got a cuddle, but this was the last time he saw him. Kirsty then told me she wanted me to stay, so I gave her my wallet so she could get a taxi home.
At this point everyone else had gone into the club apart from Luke and Simone, and then I discovered how strict the Americans are with ID. Again, I had not taken ID with me as I had no idea we would need it, and the only ID we had was our passports. All the others had drivers licenses with them otherwise they would have had the same issues. I left swiftly a bit pissed off to be honest. I didn’t mean to be, but was already upset because of Benjamin being sad, and Kirsty not being able to join in. I had just given all my money to Kirsty for a taxi, so I ran to catch them up.
A quick taxi to drop off the family and collect my passport and I came back to join the others. It was immediately clear that this was not a suitable venue for children. There was a lovely spread of food, but I was so full from eating just moments before. We were treated with an open bar, although I didn’t drink much; not wanting to get back too late and drunk as Kirsty couldn’t join me.
Then there was our surprise from Mathias. He pulled me to one side and congratulated me for winning. He said he hoped I was having a fantastic time, and looking forward to our free time on Saturday. He then gave me an envelope and said it was something to help me enjoy the rest of the trip, and not to put it all on red. Wow… I cannot believe how generous CEP were on this trip. Not only were my flights, hotel and race entry paid for, they kitted me and Kirsty out in CEP gear before we travelled. This was already super generous, but to this point we hadn’t needed to pay for anything on our first two days, and now I was being given an envelope of cash for our free day. I could hardly believe I won, and could never have imagined the extent of this fantastic experience.
It was a real shame Kirsty couldn’t join me, but we both agreed we wouldn’t have changed the experience and made the right choice bringing our kids. Saturday was a completely free day and we wanted to spend it as a family, and the extra cash went towards our activities.
Saturday – Day three:
A theme over the next couple of days was the large breakfasts, not the most ideal running fuel. We went to Denny’s which was just across the road from our hotel. I was torn what to get so I got pancakes on the side of my meal, which was like a meal in itself.
We wanted to explore some of the hotels today, but didn’t get very far. Everything in Vegas seems much closer than it actually is, especially when carrying two kids. We started off with the Venetian which and worked our way along until we found something of interest.
lt wasn’t long before we were tired, and came across the Avengers Studio. This seemed like the ideal stop for the children, and good use of some of the money CEP had given us to enjoy.
The studio was full of interactive activities for us to take part in. It is really aimed at a older age group than my children, but we still had fun.
We then went back to our hotel ready for our evening activities. Before we got ready we decided to check out our hotel pool, and it was like a hidden paradise. A little on the cool side getting in the pool, but it was still very nice.
Arguably not the best preparation before a race, but lovely splashing around with my family in beautiful surroundings. We then picked up a pizza from inside of one of the hotel restaurants to take back to our room.
I took part in the Las Vegas Rock n Roll 5k and you can read all about it HERE.
Sunday – Day four:
Marathon day… we woke up to another morning to ourselves. On our itineraries it had originally stated we would have a morning meet up, but it was decided that we would just have free time and meet up before the run.
We decided to use the morning in our hotel, well it had a secret garden after all. The Mirage has a discrete section with Dolphins, white tigers, lions and more. We were all really excited to go and see the dolphins, and it wasn’t too expensive. On the plus side we didn’t have to pay for the kids. We upgraded to a personal experience, which is basically the cost it would have been if we paid for the kids as well.
The personal experience meant we could jump over the wall for a photo with the dolphin, definitely worth it. We could pay more for the dolphin to paint a picture, or be a keeper for the day etc, but this is much more expensive. Our brief encounter was more than enough and a great experience. We spent time watching the dolphins and relaxing, and it was great spending time together here.
Afterwards we went to see the white tigers, and I was surprised how much space there was, and how many big cats there were. If visiting Vegas its well worth a visit, especially if you have kids. We then went back to get ready for the main event, but you read more about my marathon HERE or Kirsty’s half HERE.
Monday – Last Day:
We were sad that it was the last day, but also happy to be going home in a way. Las Vegas is intense, and it takes it out of you. There is much more we could have done, but you need more time to do it all properly without rushing. We had said most of our goodbyes to the CEP team after the marathon but we also arranged to meet those that hadn’t already left in the morning.
We weren’t looking forward to the 10.5 hour flight home, but fortunately we had a night flight and this meant our kids were more likely to sleep. We checked out and had most of the day to do a bit more exploring. We walked down to little Paris and had a final breakfast in a really posh restaurant, a nice way to end our time in Vegas.
We couldn’t go without a visit to M n M world. It was a long walk, and we decided we would certainly be getting a taxi home.
We had a lovely last day, visiting some of the remaining hotels that we hadn’t yet, such as Cosmopolitan. There was still much more we could have done, but that’s the thing with Vegas, so much to do and so little time.
I just want to say again a huge thank you to everyone who voted for me to make this all a possibility. It was great to see the running community get behind me, and I’m very grateful. Also a great big thank you to the CEP team for them selecting me. The UK team have been amazing in the lead up to the big day, kitting me out with my favourite gear and some new stuff to try, and organising for me. When I arrived the USA team were fantastic hosts. Luke and Simone were fantastic representatives of CEP, and all the competition winners were lovely. Mathias, the CEO was also great and down to earth, and it was good spending time with him. I look forward to more adventures with CEP.
One last thing all. I’ve been nominated for the Running Awards 2018, for my blog. If you like my blog please vote for me, it’s quick and easy, just follow this link HERE and vote for “pick up the Pace Paul”. Thank you.