Friday, April 5, 2013

How to Viva Las Vegas (the athlete way)

The travel saga continues. This week I was in Las Vegas for an internal work conference. Of all locations in the world, Vegas would probably strike most as the least conducive for training. But coming off my less than mediocre performance at Oceanside and with IMTX quickly approaching (6 weeks!) my priorities were pretty obvious: I'd pass over sin in favor of some good old-fashioned santé.


I arrived in Vegas Tuesday afternoon so took advantage of having the better part of my day at home to knock off the scheduled Yasso 800's. Travel, and work functions set me back to 8pm when Rob Gray and I planned to get in an hour spin in at the hotel gym.

Since I learned a lot about health & fitness as it relates to Vegas, I'm hoping this entry will serve as a nice how-to guide for athletes visiting sin city. With that in mind, here is tip #1:

1) The Venetian & Palazzo gyms are open from 8:00 - 20:00, so plan accordingly. 

Rob and I were pretty shocked to hear that there were no 24-hr athletic facilities in our vicinity, bye bye bike ride.  We had just enough time to scope out the gym for learning #2:

2) The Venetian & Palazzo have a spin room, but you can only use it during spin classes (silly, we know). There are however 3 first-come first-serve stationary bikes (rocking type), two on the Palazzo side and one on the Venetian side.

We tracked down some tools (in the bottom drawer of the gym attendant station), figured out that we'd be able to swap in our pedals, and seeing as the gym was closed went outside for a light evening run.

3) Vegas is not a running town. There are tourists everywhere, the road doesn't have much of a shoulder, and there's a stop light every quarter mile or so.

We quickly figured out that running on the strip at 8pm wasn't such a good idea so went out east, up north, and finally crossed back to the strip where we anticipated there might be lighter traffic. Our round about route took us from the Venetian to the Stratosphere and back. Solid 30 minutes.

Tue. run – did the job but wouldn't recommend our route.

Now, for a confession. When it comes to Vegas I'm a bit of a pre-Madonna – I always stay at the Venetian, so when I was assigned to the Mirage I was reluctant but optimistic about how it would stand up. It didn't. I walked in and right out of my room and crossed the street to the Venetian. I was lucky enough to have a friend (Rob) staying at the Palazzo with a pretty bomb suite, and he was nice enough to share his room (not that there wasn't enough space)... I had my own room + bathroom. Corporate travel has its perks. :)

Tuesday was a late night (and all nights for that matter) due to work functions. The lights didn't go off until 12:30 with our alarms set for 5:30. But when mixing corporate travel and training that's pretty much a given: sleep is the first thing to go by the wayside.


Wednesday AM I woke up to what – for the remainder of trip – I coined "the athletes white russian:" a whey protein vanilla shake served on the rocks in whiskey glasses.

The plan was to go for a swim while no one would be swimming (6:00), but of course Vegas pools aren't open 24 hours either. Both Rob and I had to get a spin in anyhow, so knowing that there were two bikes at the Palazzo gym we made our way there for intervals. Set was 10m WU + 20M steady + 10*3m threshold + CD.

4) The Venetian & Palazzo pools open at 11:00, BUT only a handful of the 9 pools are open M-F.

We had planned to round the 1:15 spin off with a brick but it turns out Googlers are a pretty active bunch. All treadmills in both gyms were taken. 15 minutes of wandering around for a treadmill finally delivered a result and we were both able to get in 15 minutes.

5) The Palazzo gym (smaller gym) has 10 treadmills with 2 perpetually out of order. Here's the thing, they aren't actually broken, the electric wiring just can't handle the power necessities of 10 treadmills rolling at the same time *face palm vegas*.

The day was filled with business presentations, but we had a nice 90 minute gap at the lunch hour and decided to use that time for our planned swim session. We were staying at the North end of the Palazzo and found a pool that would do the trick just fine (see map below).

6) The Venetian and Palazzo have a total of 9 pools, but there's really only one that can double as a lap pool without driving you nuts (e.g. rounded edges, screaming babies, no track lines...). It's the one with the big square around it (pool #8) in the map below.

Rob and I were pretty stoked to see pool #8 was dead empty. I stripped down to my speedo and churned out a 400 before being greeted by 3 super agro security guards. Despite having no "pool closed" signs, we were promptly kicked out. Time to switch over to the child infested pool #6.

7) If you're keen to get in a swim, pool #8 is your ticket but it's only open weekends.

I managed 6 laps in pool #6 but just couldn't handle it. Babies, pregnant men, weaving and wading... I really was hoping my speedo would scare the crowds away!


Thursday we didn't get up until 6. Having learned our lesson attempting to run on the strip we opted for an hour session on the treadmill. I followed that up with ab work + foam rolling (yes, there are 2 foam rollers in the Palazzo gym, how gracious!)

8)  Need to roll? The Venetian and Palazzo gyms have 2 foam rollers!

Another long day of business meetings which we wrapped up with a terrific dinner at Tao (I recommend the chicken satay and coconut shrimp). I also managed to find enough time to rent a car at the on-site facility (Avis) and drive out to Henderson to rent a bike.



The conference concluded on Thursday evening, but as a result of some flight hiccups I was forced to stay overnight with a departure of 12:45 on Friday. So, to make good out of bad I made a mental plan to ride the Ironman 70.3 World Championship course Friday morning. In an unusual moment of foresight, I realized I would need to rent a bike Thursday evening in order to get rolling by 7:00am and catch my flight on time. 

I studied the course map and rented a bike from a place in Henderson not too far from the bike finish (furthest point South). I also stocked up on hydration and nutrition at the Walgreens under the Venetian. 

I ended up waking up on time and riding the course plus a little extra (see below). The ride was really breathtaking, taking me through Lake Mead National Park and the beautifully paved and refreshingly calm roads of the Mojave Desert. From 7-10AM on a Friday, there was virtually no motorized traffic and I only crossed paths with 2 cyclists as I was wrapping up my ride.

A cool shot from Lake Mead national park.
Near the swim start for 70.3 worlds.
Smooth roads!

9)  Outdoor riding: Lake Mead is great and an Ironman classic, seeing as it hosts the 70.3 World Championship. If you have the opportunity to do the ride, make sure to bring cash or a credit card, entry into the national park is $5.

The Ironman 70.3 World Championship bike course (more or less).

I got a little carried away in the national park and by the time I got back to the bike shop (11AM) I was an hour behind schedule. I flew back to the strip to drop off the car, had a cab hailed by 11:50 (still wearing my bike kit) and wound up at my gate with enough time to spare to buy a Berry Upbeet smoothie at Jamba Juice. My flight departed at 12:45.

Total TSS for the trip: 463.9

What a ride!


  1. I get on a plane at 6am tomorrow for a whole week of work in Vegas. Can't stand that place (been once this year already) but I do know there is a 24hr fitness with pool within cab ride distance of the strip providing far better flexibility than the hotel gyms (the chain hotels like Hilton and Marriot tend to be open 24hrs but they are also usually quite small). Also, if you run the strip in the morning its actually quite amusing watching the mix of people still out from the night before and those just beginning their various days.

  2. I like your spelling of Prima Donna!!!

  3. Theo - I'll blame the Quebecois in me on that one!

  4. Theo - I'll blame the Quebecois in me on that one!

  5. Dude if you are goin to vegas tere are whole lot of things to do in there like as its a summer u can enjoy the infamous las vegas pool parties , its pools , and ofcourse las vegas show !!!!!! u can acquire more info from city vip concierge

  6. It's funny how you'd experience Palazzo and their gym. I also went through the best treadmills going out of order. The security actually did tell me it was the treadmill power. Since your post was from the beginning of April, I would say it was down for one month.