Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Race Report - Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon

I have procrastinated enough, time to let you all know about the ET Full Moon Midnight Marathon.  This race took place out in Nevada back on August 5th right outside Area 51 and finished in the small (very small) town of Rachel, NV.  

Rachel town sign.  Passed this sign right before the finish line.

The race headquarters are in Las Vegas so that is where the race "Expo" is but it really was a packet pick up with a few tables with some stuff.  This wasn't a big race so I didn't expect much.  Packet pick up was at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.  I did a little research ahead of time and did NOT stay at at the HRH and from what I heard from other runners who did stay there, the was a great idea.  I heard that that there was tons of loud music all day long and rest was not to be had.  Yes it was close, but not worth it.  And since I was going to be staying a few days after the race, I wanted to stay closer to the strip.  The HRH is about a half  to 3/4 of a mile off the strip.  I ended up staying at The Flamingo, the original strip hotel.  It was far less expensive, a nice room, quiet (at least on the 25th floor where I was), and located right in the middle of the strip, close to most things I wanted to do.

As I mentioned, the race takes place out by Area 51, not IN Area 51 but as close as you can get without having the Government watch you closely.  The race offered a bus ride out to the start line for $30 round trip.  Most of the runners took this offer and we loaded up 10 full coach buses for the 2 hour ride north out of Vegas toward Area 51.  The buses left the HRH between 8:30 and 9:00, plenty of time to get to the start line on time.  There were 2 types of buses you could get on, a quiet bus or a social bus.  I chose a social bus since I love to talk to other runners about running and the sort. 

As we rode out to Area 51, I saw some strange lights over the Secret Government Base.  First it started slowly, the became more frequent.  It wasn't constant lights, more like flashes in the distance.  A few of us runners noticed it and were watching.  Could it be a UFO?  Could it be a secret experiment at the base?  Nope, it was just lightning.  But is certainly made us nervous hoping it wasn't going to rain on us.  The forecast did not call for rain, but in the middle of the desert, who knows.  Turns out the rain did not come.

We arrived at the start line about an hour before the start.  The buses were loaded with all the runners, including the runners running the 10K, Half Marathon, and the 51K (Get it?  51K?).  The start was basically in the middle of NOWHERE.  But there was a special item where the race started.  It was the "Black Mailbox".  This spot is where tons of UFO tourist like to go to see the strange lights over Area 51 hoping to see a UFO or maybe even be abducted by an alien. Ironically, the "Black Mailbox is really white.  Turns out that so many UFO enthusiasts were destroying the mailbox and using it as target practice so the owner, Steve Medlin made a new mailbox with bulletproof thick metal and painted it white in hopes people would stop going to the "Black" mailbox.  I guess it didn't work as it seems to be more popular than ever.  But since this is the Extraterrestrial Marathon, seems like a perfect place to start the race like this.

Here I am before the race at the "Black Mailbox".  Steve Medlin must be really pissed so many people hang out at his mailbox.

It was 11PM when we arrived so it was pretty dark, but other than the mailbox, there was nothing else to see.  It really is in the MIDDLE of the desert.  The desert here has a lot of sage bush and some Joshua Trees, other than that, maybe a few cows.  We did have the light of an almost full moon (a couple days past) to light the way along with a few lanterns and the lights front he buses.  They had quite a few port-o-lets and the lines were not too bad, and the buses were still open to use to that didn't not cause a problem.  People were just milling around, taking pictures of the black mailbox and getting their costumes in order or putting on their headlamps.  The race director made sure everyone was in place for the start (marathon and 51K only) and those who were running the half marathon and 10K were herded back on the buses to go to their start area.

 The buses lined out near the start line.  It is dark but you can see the almost full moon high in the sky.

Before I tell you how I did, let me tell you about the race itself.  First, be aware, the race starts at an elevation of around 4500 feet and climbs to about 5600 feet at right about the half marathon point.  I live in an area that is about 700 feet of elevation and maybe run at times up to 1200 feet, but that is it.  This was a factor so anyone who has never run a race at a higher elevation, be advised.  The 13 mile hill is not too steep at all.  The first 10 miles is gradual uphill but you can feel it in your legs.  Then about 3 miles to the half point, the grade increases and it does get more difficult, but not unbearable at all.  Half marathoners run about 6 miles of this hill.  After the half, there is along gradual downhill, not as steep, down to the tiny town of Rachel where the marathon goes right past the finish line and does an 3.1 mile out and the 3.1 miles back to the finish line.  The 51K goes out about 6.5 miles and then back.  This section is flatter so that helps.  The entire race (Except for the last 100 feet) is run on the Extraterrestrial Highway.  It is actual Hwy 375 but it was rename due to the folklore of the area.  They say that more tumbleweeds travel the highway than cars and I can see why now.  You actually run right in the middle of the highway.  Yeah, they tell you to stay on the side, but besides the buses passing us right after we left, there was NO CARS until some of the 10K and half marathon finishers were heading home.

The race was run entirely on the Extraterrestrial Highway. 

There is not great support on the course.  They do have aid stations but they are about 2.5 to 3 miles apart.  I used a hand held water bottle and that helped as I freshened it up at every aid station with cold water and then had water on the run.  They offered Heed to the runners too.  Why do races offer this crap.  It is just terrible.  I accidentally took a cup of this crap and had to spit it out.  But the volunteers at the aid stations were great.  There awesome people came out to the middle of nowhere to help us out and were enthusiastic too.  Some aid stations offered cookies, bananas, and oranges.

Running the race is surreal.  It is dark out but the moonlight does give a faint glow to the surroundings.  Every runner is required to wear a headlamp or carry a flashlight, but often I turned mine off an just ran to the light of the moon.  Many runners also had "Butt Lights" so you could see flashing red lights ahead of you.  If you have run Ragnar ever at night, you will know what this looks like.

I stopped a few time to look back at all the runners behind me.  Just bouncing lights off int he distance.  Wonder what the cows were thinking?  Aliens?

While the temperatures in Vegas were in the highs of 106 all week with a low of the upper 80's, but out here it was cooler because of the higher elevation.  I think the race started at about 65F and actually dropped to about 60F by the end.  This didn't mean I didn't sweat out there but it was not unbearable, like it was in Vegas later in the week.  It was comfortable.

The race ended in the small town of Rachel with an unknown population of Human and Aliens.  They really take the Alien thing to the extreme here and it is pretty fun.  The race finishers right in front of the Little A'Le'Inn, the only cafe in the town.  I think I heard somewhere that only 50 people live here so this must be a HUGE deal for them.  Racers are allowed into the Little A'Le'Inn for 1 trip through the food line.  That kind of sucked as you needed to fill your plate with everything you may need in 1 trip not knowing what will agree with you or not and after a marathon, you never know what your stomach may favor.  That wad disappointing but the spread was OK.  It was a little cold when I went through but some of the cookies looked good and applesauce.  I thought I hit the jackpot with some orange juice outside but it turned out to be hot orange juice.  ???  Never heard of that.  They had tables outside for runners to sit and talk about the race or whatever before loading buses to head back to Vegas.  Buses would leave about every half hour or when one would fill up.

The finish line was near the world famous Little A'Le'Inn.  I actually saw this place in a show a few weeks before actually being there.

The ride home was mostly quiet except for a couple guys ahead of me yapping most of the way back.  Since I left on the bus right after sunrise, it was nice to see the course we ran and what it really looked like in the light.  Some buses stopped at the Black Mailbox to drop off runners who had cars there but mine kept moving past and you could really tell there was NOTHING near the start area. 

The goodie bag runners received had all the usual stuff including ads for local races and other places that some runners like.  The shirt is pretty cool.  It is a newer tech shirt with a cool design.  I ended up wearing it one day in Vegas and had quite a few people asking me about it.  The medal is really cool too.  It is the same design as the shirt with an Alien Green lanyard.  The little green alien running is pretty cool and the sign saying "The End is Near"  All too often in the race, I knew that was just not true, but fun anyways.

Race shirt, medal, and my number.

 A close up on the medal.  Pretty cool medal.

So how did I end up doing?  TERRIBLE!!!  My worst marathon of the 40 full marathons I have run to date.  Are there factors from the race, sure, a few, but I did just about everything wrong before this marathon and that did more damage to my time than anything else.  It is OK though as I wasn't planning on a PR or even a fast time, I just wanted to have fun.  And while there were times I was not having fun, overall it was a cool experience.

What did I do wrong?
1.  I flew into Vegas the day of the race.  I left home about 1:00 AM Vegas time to go tot he airport and flew to Denver for a 4 hour layover and then to Vegas arriving at about 12:30PM  (A side note, I did get to see the Olympic Men's 10,000 Final at the airport, what an awesome race!)
2.  I tried to rest a little before leaving for the race but that didn't work.
3.  I figured lunch was about 10 hours to race time, close to the same time dinner would be before a morning marathon.  I got a plate a spaghetti but the noodles were under cooked.  I should have asked for another plate with fully cooked noodles, but I didn't as I was hungry and just wanted to eat.
4.  The HRH was about a mile and a half from the Flamingo so I decided to walk instead of getting a ride.  DUMB!  It seemed to take forever to get there and my legs tired out from moving around all the people on the strip.  It was also pretty hot out sucking my energy.
5.  I got the the HRH too late to find a place for some dinner so I ended up eating only a few granola bars and, get this, Pop Tarts.  DUMB DUMB DUMB.
6.  I come from a low elevation area, and while it really isn't my fault per say, I was not prepared for the higher elevation run.  I suppose I could have come out to Rachel and acclimated to the higher elevation, but come on.  I just had to deal with it.

What did I do right?
1.  I started the race.
2.  I finished the race.
3.  I was able to enjoy a few extra days in Vegas.

I started the race OK running a little over 9:00 pace but even after a couple miles, my pace had slowed to 9:30 edging toward 10:00.  The 'hill' was noticeable and I just tried to keep it easy being this early in the race.  I was hoping to that after the peak at mile 13, that I would be able to use the dropping elevation the way I did when I ran that half marathon in West Virginia back in June.  Wish I was feeling good enough for that when I got there.

I figured the elevation would affect my breathing as the air was a bit thinner but that didn't end up being my issue early.  The elevation caused me to be dizzy out there.  Good thing the highway was completely clear as I found it very difficult to to run in a straight line.  I was going back and forth, side to side.  I was still maintaining a half way OK pace through about 7 miles and then things just fell apart.  Remember what I said I ate?  Well, that came back to haunt me.  OK, we are all runners here and we know what it is like, but I had to stop 3 times in the desert (and 2 additional times at aid stations with facilities) for a couple minutes each time.  Good thing it was dark out.  The stopping and the leg bending trashed my legs and I could hardly run anymore for any amount of time.  My mental view was toast and suddenly it was all about just finishing if I could.  While I never actually considered stopping and dropping out, I am sure with the way my stomach was feeling, if it had gotten much worse, the thought could have crept into my mind.

I got to the half marathon aid station at the peak of the long hill, tried to eat a cookie but my stomach would have nothing to do with anything except for a little water.  I was dehydrated as I didn't want anything in my stomach as it was that upset.  The only thing I had at about mile 6 was a GU which sparked the issues.  I had to turn back about 100 feet to use the facilities and wait about 5 minutes.  I ended up going through the half at about 2:45 to 2:50. 

I started down the hill toward Rachel just trying to run a little before my legs needed yet another break.  I would say Hi to the other runners as they passed me and they would ask how I was doing.  I struck up a conversation with an older guy named Mike who lived in Nevada and told him about my upset stomach.  He ended up being the cure for me as he had a Pepto tablet with him that he gave me.  I took it and after about 3 miles, my stomach started to feel slightly better, still upset though.  We ended up running together trying to encourage each other on.  Turns out he needed me as much as I needed him to keep motivated and moving.  Hew was starting to slow too and just needed someone to run with.  We would run to the next mile marker and then walk for about a minute before starting up again.

Mike and I ended up passing Rachel right at about 4:10 which was right at the goal time Mike had (about an hour slower than I wanted) and we headed off on the 10K out and back.  We kept the same running/walking strategy as we now were passing runners going back toward the finish line as we ran away from it.  Finally we got to the turn around and were going back toward the finish line. 

Funny how goals change during a race when things either go bad or good for you.  My goal now was to finish before the sunrise (it was starting to get light out) and finish under 5:30 (Ugh time for me).  Right after the turn around, you can see the lights of Rachel off in the distance and they look like the are really close, an optical illusion.  As you run toward the lights, they seem to be moving further away from you.  With 2 miles to go, Mike was struggling some more and didn't want to hold me back anymore so he insisted I go ahead.  I was finally feeling better, at least my stomach was, but the legs were very tired but I was able to pick up the pace.  I skipped my break with 1 mile to go and kept chugging along.  Mile 26 was actually my fastest at just over 9:00 and I turned the corned into Rachel and through the finish line.  I finished in a time of 5:24.  I was so happy to FINALLY be done with that marathon.  I did finish before the sunrise. I walked the course back a little and cheered Mike on to the finish and a time under his goal.  He was very happy with his time, wish I could say the same.  But I did finish uninjured so that is always goal #1.

I did have a lot of fun in this race despite all the problems I had.  Most of my problems were completely on me so this is not a complaint, but more a recap on what I felt.  I definitely would recommend this race to anyone who likes a different kind of marathon.  Not all marathons need to be run for a super fast time, at least that is what I think.  I like to switch it up sometimes and this did just that.  I probably won't do this one again.  Right now, to me, it is a "been there, done that" kind of thing for me.  I now have Nevada completed and that makes 15 states completed and 40 full marathon completed.  As you can see, I am not too serious about just getting states.  Heck, I think I have about 20 fulls done in Wisconsin alone.

The rest of the time in Vegas was fun.  I don't gamble much but when in Vegas...  I ended up only about $100 down, entertainment expense.  I got to see an "adult" hypnosis show that was pretty funny and the show "Absinthe" at Cesar's Palace.  That was an incredible show.  Had dinner at a couple really nice restaurants and some great buffets too.  The freshest fruit I have ever had at some of them.  Did go in the pool a couple times but it wasn't cool enough to refresh you.  Walked the strip taking in outside free shows (Fountains at Bellagio and Pirates at Treasure Island, etc) and walked through a lot of the casinos too.  It was fun but I have had enough of Vegas for quite a while now.

The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas where I stayed with a nice view looking east from the 25th floor overlooking the pool.

Next on deck, I am pacing the Brewers Mini Marathon (Half Marathon) in Milwaukee and then I may run a couple full marathon in Wisconsin in October (Haunted Hustle Marathon?  Wisconsin Dells Marathon?).  There is some talk amongst my friends of taking a road trip back to West Virginia for a full in early November.  Guess we will have to wait and see.

Keep on Running!!!

1 comment:

Tattie said...

Awesome report. Thanks for sharing this experience on your blog. Love the hardware and the shirt, so well worth the "trials and tribulations" you endured. Congrats on your finish, and much respect - a runner to be admired!