Friday, August 10, 2012

ET Full Moon Midnight half marathon recap-o-rama: Part 2!

Did you miss Part 1?  I doubt it but click back if you did!

Once dressed and outfitted, we headed down to find our place on the buses that would take us out to the desert and leave us for dead drop us at the race start.  I should have taken a picture of that too, because I was so busy thinking that 700 is not a lot of people, until I saw them all lined up in the same place.  It makes a big line.  But I have to hand it to Joyce, the mind behind Calico Racing, we were on those buses inside of ten minutes.  Everything she arranged for the race itself ran like clockwork and went off without a hitch.  That part was impressive and really pleasant; the woman knows what she's doing.  I've run plenty of smaller 5ks and 10ks here in town that weren't managed as well as this one, and she had 700 strangers in the middle of nowhere for twelve hours.  Not bad!

Anyway.  The buses leave from the Hard Rock at 830pm, and drive for 2 1/2 hours, till your cell reception disappears.  Creepy.  We tried to split the difference between napping and chatting with the other racers until we arrived at the fabled Black Mailbox, where the ultra and full were to start.

Yeah, that really is it.

To Do: look up who tf is Steve Medlin-?
I totally meant to find out the deal with the mailbox before we got out there, but I didn't.  It sure doesn't look like anything, and can someone paint it black please-? Bizarre.  I did like its X-files other side:

We all hung around while the long-runners donned their glow-in-the-dark stuff and their headlamps, then after the official start we piled back on and drove 13 miles up the highway to our start.  It was pretty awesome watching the steady stream of runners go by the window as we pulled out...Even though the race happens as close to the full moon as possible, it is *in the middle of nowhere* so with the slight cloud cover we had this weekend it was pretty dark at times.

Yeah.  You're not alone...much...
So half an hour later (that makes it 12:30am, if you're counting) we were all dropped off, milling around, glowing and stretching and staring into the blackness.  And shivvering- it was a pretty brisk something-in-the-high-60s I think-- so long, heat island of Las Vegas, it gets pretty chilly in the actual desert at night!  That might have been what totally made the race for me, too; it was just downright GREAT to be running in the cool after so many weeks of fighting the heat at home.  And, no sun on my eyeballs-? MASSIVE BONUS!  <3

O hai! Thanks for being out here with me, actual people!

I'm actually not totally sure how we knew when to start, but I think it came down to Joyce standing on the other side of the highway and shouting "3, 2, 1, GO!".  Everything was pretty hilarious by that point, so it was totally in keeping.  Off we went for our first six miles of uphill...

Yes, the entire first half of the race is a steady incline.  All I can say is, it must be a lot worse in the full, because I think their entire first *19* miles are uphill.  Barf.  But for the half, as inclines go, it wasn't a nightmare.  We've been running some hills in preparation for NYC (EEEeeeee!), and because I was nervous about this race I did a handful of other treadmill runs at 5 and 6%, but the Area 51 course is never steeper than a 4% (by my amateur calculations).  So while I'd say it felt harder than a "normal" run (read: flat Phoenix) and you definitely know you're going uphill, it really wasn't bad.  If it had been 98* and sunny, I can see how that might have felt like Everest, but in the middle of the night when it was cool and I already had my silly goggles on, it was totally fine.  And when I got past it, I really felt like I'd accomplished something!

Mile, like, 3-?  That "T" underneath the sign is me!  We had to wear something reflective on the front and back of our shirts, and T's are easy to make with straight pieces of tape.
Hard to keep your eyes open through a flash after running through the dark for two hours!  I don't think I got a single picture of Jaime where she did :)
 Other than the incline and decline (pretty steady but more gradual downhill for all of miles 7-13), there is no other variation on that stretch of highway.  It doesn't so much as veer, just stretches straight for more miles than we saw.  No intersections, no turnoffs.  Just highway, desert, and 700 insane people bobbing along it.

There were, I think, three aid stations, which is *unbelievable* given how late it was and where we were.  I thanked everyone profusely for being out there but I should have asked them wtf also, because I'm really curious why they drove all the way out there and stood around handing out water and bananas at 2am!!  Angels?  Probably.  OR!- aaaalieeeeens woooooo...

There were a lot of these dancing cow signs.
There wasn't actually anything very alieny about the experience of being in Area 51, unfortunately.  There is a big cow presence, apparently.  And we saw about a dozen shooting stars, which seemed pretty unusual.  As the pack stretched out and everyone hit their stride, it was awesome to look ahead and behind and see a string of multicolored lights on the runners stretching for literally miles in either direction...and the quiet (beyond the thumping of my ipod, obvi) was pretty absolute.  There were a few costumes and some stalwart runners carrying blowup alien dolls, but not quite as many as I expected.  But it is a green race, so if you get tired of carrying or wearing something, that's just 13.1 miles worth of too bad, because you're not dropping it for the cleanup crew like you could in a giant city race.

This costume was wisely left on the bus at the last minute.

Overall, I posted my most dismal half marathon time yet, but I felt happy and strong from beginning to end.  I think the temperature and novelty factor accounts for how well I felt, and maybe a bit of credit goes to a solid month of focused marathon training...On the flip side, I'm not completely sure the incline was steep enough to account for an extra 2min/mile of overall time, but maybe that and the stopping to take pictures in the dark really does. this one.

...and this one.  I feel like all the fun pictures of me are on Jaime's blog, because she's always the one taking them.  Also, her recaps are shorter and she posts more often.  You should go read her.

...and this.  That has to be a couple of minutes right there, right? But how do you not take a picture of The Sign?
When we finally came in sight of the finish line, sometime around 4 in the goddamn morning, it was like a mirage in the night.  They must have run the ultra course past the Little Ale'inn and back in, because the glowing line of runners went on past the only buildings in sight, reinforcing the impression that it was all just a hoax. 
     Oh, and somehow I've gotten this far in a really long recap without mentioning that I forgot to bring my garmin- and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.  I stayed with The James and (tried to) let her pace us, but without the constant feedback to chew on and confirm that yes, I am still a really really slow runner, I felt awesome.  For a while in the middle Jaime kept telling me to slow down so I didn't burn us out- how great is that!  A far cry from most races, where I mentally classify every number on my watch as either "okay..." or "GO FASTER!".  I like having the data to review afterward, but I may have to start hiding my watch on my ankle or belt or something, until I can become a kinder runner in my own mind.  It certainly helps!
    Anyway, the end.
(of the race, ha!- there's more in Part 3...)

1 comment:

  1. That pic with my eyes closed is redonk. Lol! Just trying to get the lighting right for the pic of the ET Hwy sign took at least 5 minutes, if not more. Btw, I think I found a little light thingy for my phone so the flash doesn't fuck up all of the pictures!