Coming off the high of Ragnar Trail weekend, I had to quickly switch gears and prepare to head out on my next adventure. I flew out Friday morning for Las Vegas for what was sure to be an “epic” weekend, which had been in the works for close to a year.
It’s getting harder to summarize how I ended up with the people I was with all weekend but here is the story in a nutshell…
If you’ve read my blog for a long time, one of the pivotal events of my weight loss journey was joining my Solemates team for Ragnar SoCal in April of 2014. The Solemates team was formed by 2 members of the From Fat to Finish Line (FFTFL) team which our 2 captains, John and Katie, were part of (Katie and another runner, Rik Akey, were the originators of the FFTFL team). Jennifer Roe was a member of that FFTFL team and her blog was actually titled “From Fat to Finish Line” – and so that is where the Ragnar team got their name. Jennifer was a film producer and after the team formed and started talking, she got the idea to maybe make their team’s journey into a documentary.
Meanwhile, about two years ago, Rik Akey started a private Facebook group where those that heard about the movie and wanted to share with and support others in their weight loss/running journeys had a safe place to do so. The team has received some press both on the Today show and through Runner’s World magazine, and the Facebook group has grown to close to 2,500 members. Members of the group were interested in meeting somewhere and the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas race was decided upon. And, after a couple of years of editing and behind-the-scenes work, the FFTFL movie had been screened several times in a few locations and the producers felt like showing it in Vegas would be a fun way to bring everyone together. So, races were registered for, flights and hotels were booked, and a theater for the screening was arranged. The FFTFL movie producers even rented a booth at the Rock n’ Roll race expo to share information about the film and group.
I flew out last Friday morning and one of my friends from high school picked me up from the airport. We had a fun afternoon of shopping and getting some lunch away from the Las Vegas strip. It was good to catch up with her and hear about her family.
She dropped me off at The Linq hotel around 4 and I checked into our room. Shortly before I left Phoenix I learned that Jessica (one of my pre-arranged roommates) had woke up very sick that morning and was heading to urgent care – and there she learned she had a double ear infection and the doctor didn’t want her flying that day. Huge bummer! I felt badly because she had just been staying at my house the weekend before and I was worried that my son’s germs had made her sick (he was sick while she was here). I had never met my other (and now, only) roommate before but was excited because we had gotten to know her via the Facebook group. Nora is from Germany and was on quite the life journey herself. She had been to the US over the summer and had spent a couple of months visiting other members of the FFTFL group – truly a testament to how close and special this community was becoming. Nora decided to come back for this event to see more members and run her first half marathon.
After I checked into our room, I headed over to what would become our FFTFL hangout for most of the weekend – a large corner booth in the far back end of the Yard House on the Linq promenade. Well-served by the best waiter on the strip, we had beers and food brought to us at least 3 or 4 times during the stay.
I took a taxi from the Yard House with Nora, Rik (the original FFTFL captain) and his wife, Cynthia, to the Inspire theater which was located near Fremont St. in downtown Las Vegas. It was a cute movie theater/bar with a reception area upstairs. It was the perfect location for our event. Soon the theater was filled with close to 150 FFTFL members (and brand new members that learned about the film at the race expo booth). I finally got to see the full documentary from start to finish – I have seen the trailer for over a year and have been looking forward to seeing the whole thing. It was really fun to see the back-stories on each runner and re-live my own Ragnar experience – complete with all of the van navigating, exchanges, etc. I think it was an excellent portrayal of what a Ragnar relay was like – and probably even more interesting for those that have not really ever lived it. I know the people around me were very inspired by the movie and liked it a lot.
Following the movie and reception, several of us walked over to Fremont Street – first to a micro-brewery for an hour or so and then we found an 80’s band. We stayed for several sets and sang and danced (and I froze!) They were really good!
After sleeping in the next morning (ahhhh!) I took the monorail over to the race expo at the convention center. First I picked up my race bib, shirt and packet and looked around for a while and then I went to the FFTFL booth to volunteer for a 3 hour shift. It was probably the most meaningful part of my weekend. I was glad to get
to spend some time with Jennifer and Angela – the film producers. I had run Ragnar Trail last year with Angela and she was great. Jennifer was super funny and her humor throughout the weekend was awesome. The booth location was, unfortunately, next to a company that was selling tuna fish, of all things. I know it is a great protein source for runners but OMG, the smell was horrific. I hate tuna anyway but sitting next to a tent of tuna samples was nasty.
The FFTFL team had a large monitor showing the film trailer along with a banner of the 12 runner’s before and after photos hanging on the back wall. It was awesome to get to talk to people at different stages of their running journey. In my 2-3 hour shift alone, I met at least 5 people that had lost a significant amount of weight and were in town to run the half or full marathon. I ended up talking with one guy for quite a while. He had lost close to 110 pounds and was in Vegas to run his 4th marathon. He just couldn’t believe what he was seeing at the booth. He had not really found anyone else in his world that had walked in his shoes. He was so happy to find “his people”. He has joined our Facebook community and is already starting to contribute. I also met a couple that had, together, lost close to 300 pounds and were there to run the half marathon. They were excited to find us. So, for that reason alone, it was neat to connect with others and I realized that while there are many many similar stories out there – there is a need for those people to share in that journey.
After my time in the booth, I wanted to get over to the 5K race to watch Nora, John and our friends that were running. I had decided not to run that race, mainly to save my legs and I didn’t really want to pay another $75 for a 5K. There were many corrals for that race, which is a little unusual for a 5K, but eventually the FFTFL members that were running/walking started out. I was really cold, hungry and worried about getting on the monorail that headed back towards our hotel so I decided to get ahead of the crowd and get going. Eventually most of us ended back up in our corner booth at the Yard House.
Race day and beyond….to be continued…