Monday, August 6, 2012

ET Full Moon Midnight 51K Race Report

Saturday, at midnight, I ran my 5th ultra - The Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight 51K in Rachel, NV near Area 51!

I was really looking forward to this because I love sci-fi and being near Area 51 is a sci-fi geek's dream. :) I was a little worried about running thru the night because I've never done that before but I needed to do some night running for Javelina Jundred and this would kill two aliens with one stone. ;)

When I signed up for the race, I paid for a bus ticket from Vegas to the start. It's about a two hour drive from Vegas to Rachel and I didn't want to make that drive sleep deprived. I also didn't want to drive home sleep deprived so the plan was to drive to Vegas on Saturday afternoon and then get a room for Sunday. This worked out perfectly because a weekend getaway was just what I needed. I don't really like Vegas because I don't gamble and it's really smokey but I do like to people watch.

Without further ado, my race report:

I had lunch at home before I left and this was my biggest meal of the day, around 1000 calories. I left for Vegas at 1:15 and made great time since there was no traffic. I reached the Hard Rock Hotel about 4:30 and got my race packet and shirt.

Then I went to find somewhere to eat. I ended up eating at Mr. Lucky's cafe and had pancakes for dinner. :) Then I sat on a couch outside the expo to wait for the buses. As I was sitting there, I looked up and saw a man in a Run It Fast shirt walking towards me. I went over and introduced myself and it turned out to be RIF #87 PJ Johnson. It was fun to meet and get to know another RIFer!

Around 8, the RD gave us the okay to head to the buses and we all headed outside and boarded the buses. I picked the wrong bus. The bus I was on was hot! For some reason, there was hot air blowing up from the floor and it was winning over the cool air from the A/C. It made for a miserable 3 hours but I think I did sleep for 30 minutes. But then about half way to Rachel, the buses pulled over because one of the buses was hit by something and had a shattered windshield. They had to take the runners off that bus and divide them among the others. After that, I couldn't sleep and ended up talking to Wade from AZ who was sitting next to me. Turns out he's friends with RIF #121 Ed and when we were talking about RIF, he said he knew of it because of RIF #69 Nadia! I'm telling ya, running is such a small world!

We finally made it to the start at 11:30. The marathoners and the 51Kers unloaded and got ready. We had to wear reflective clothing and/or reflective tape and wear glow bracelets. We helped each other put the bracelets and tape on in the dark. I had a brief panic attack when my light, which had new batteries, wouldn't stay on. The rules for the race said we had to have a headlamp or carry a flashlight. I fiddled with my headlamp for a bit... OK, I did the highly effective and desperate bang it on my hand a few times... and it came back on. It would be a problem the rest of the night but I figured a work around. Then it was midnight and time to race.

Joyce, the RD, sent us off promptly at midnight and the swirling mass of runners and lights surged out onto the Extraterrestrial Highway. Frankly, if any aliens were out there, I'm sure they'd have thought we were the crazy ones! There were all kinds of costumes from simple antennae headbands to silver foil dresses, cyborg like vests, lots of green tutus, and various other weird outfits. It was fun to see but made me a little sad that I hadn't put together a costume.

The first 13 miles were the most challenging part of the course. It was all uphill with a headwind. I didn't realize this until a couple of days before the race. I had been so excited about running the race that I never bothered to look at the elevation profile.

As you can see, it's only about 1200 ft elevation gain so not too bad but not what I really wanted. Going into this, I was hoping to run easyish and finish between 6:15-6:30. This would be the first 50K where I would run the entire race (at the JJ50K there was a lot of walking because of the mud and at the LJC50K there was a lot of walking the hills and then the end). I was determined to run the entire thing for this one!

I was a little sleepy during the first 13 miles. I could tell because I was weaving a lot. One minute I'd be on the side of the road and the next on the center line. There were hardly any cars out there but we had the whole south lane to run in so I wasn't too worried about cars. Other than the being sleepy, I felt pretty good though.

There were aid stations every 3ish miles and food at miles 7, 13.1, 20, and 25.8. They asked us to carry water bottles and refill them at the aid stations and that's what I did. Other than the water, I had pepsi at the food stations and grabbed a few things to eat. I think I had probably 6 cookies, 5 pretzels, a handful of animal crackers, a quarter of PB&J, and a piece of banana. That's it. I didn't carry any food on me either.

Because we were running thru the dark, you couldn't really see the hill and it didn't seem so bad but the last 3 miles of the hill, 10-13, were the hardest. I think I just wanted it to be over with and get to the fun downhill part. One nice thing about going uphill though was you could see the sky and the stars without having to look up too much. I must have seen at least a dozen shooting stars while I was running. I made a lot of wishes. No, not all of them were for the hill to be over. Just 2 or 3. :)

Finally, I hit the aid station at 13.1 miles and the fun began!

So yay! I was over the hill and I gotta say that running downhill was a big relief. I tried not to pick it up too much because I just didn't know how I'd feel after the 26.2 mark and like I said, I wanted to run the whole thing. The only times I walked at all during the race were at the aid stations where I took food. I walked a few minutes while I ate but then got back to running. (There was one other time but I'll save that for later). I had thought about doing a run/walk for this but decided not too and I'm glad I didn't.

For a lot of this section, I was alone. The runners had really strung out along the highway and the only time I saw another runner was when I passed them. Like I said, some people had some pretty funky lights going on and a couple of times they freaked me out. That and the cows that you could hear but not see! But it was really nice and I had the best time on this section. I wasn't even thinking of anything while I ran. My mind was clear and I was just taking it all in. Having zero city lights around was wonderful.

I had given up on my light during the first mile because it would automatically turn off after a few minutes. It turned on every time I wanted it to but then would turn off again. It got to be annoying so I actually didn't use my light for most of the run except at the aid stations to see and when a car went by. The moon was bright enough that it cast a shadow and there was plenty of light to see.

Just before mile 20, I saw a runner veer off to the right and stop to take a picture. When I got closer, I had to check it out and saw that it was the Extraterrestrial Highway sign. I tried to take a picture of it but it was hard to get a good one.

After the aid station at mile 20, the half marathoners turned to the finish (their start was our mile 7) but the marathoners and the 51Kers kept going. It was an out and back section and we had the whole road to ourselves this time. It was a slight uphill to the turn around but was also nice because you got to see more runners and encourage each other.

I was still feeling pretty good as I left the aid station but really glad there was less than 12 miles to go now. There was another runner who left it about the same time that I did and we started talking. His name was Cliff and he was from New Mexico and he's doing Javelina Jundred in October too. We talked about the New Mexico races and which ones I should consider running for my New Mexico race and then talked running in general. We ended up running the rest of the race together.

I can't remember what mile we were at but I told him that my stomach was feeling gurgly and I might need to walk for a bit to let it settle. I told him that he could go on without me because I didn't want to hold him up. He said he would stay with me and because of that I kept running. A couple miles later though I did have to walk and he walked with me. I think because he was there that after a few minutes I started running again. Either talking to him distracted me enough or my stomach settled itself because it only bothered me for that little bit. Yay!

I could see our turnaround point in the distance, marked by the flashing lights of a police car, and I remember thinking it's so close they must have measured the course wrong! But then it never got closer! Ha! Some kind of evil running trick, I think. :) But I just kept running and finally it stopped moving and I reached it.

It had started to get lighter as I neared the turn around and once I was on my way back, the sun began to rise. It was a beautiful sunrise. The clouds across the valley caught the light and the color. 

On the way back, I started calculating what I would need to run to hit 6:57. I knew my PR for the 50K was 7:58ish (7:58:28) and I really wanted to drop that by an hour. Cliff and I were still running together and I was managing 12ish minute miles. I thanked him for running with me at this point because I think having him around kept me running so he wouldn’t have to walk. He thanked me as well and said I had encouraged him to keep running too. 

During the last few miles, my right foot was hurting and I think I adjusted my form too much to compensate because then after a bit, my left leg (outside of the knee and groin) was not happy either. But I kept running!

At 5K to go, I was pretty sure I could make my time goal. Cliff said he thought we would make it by 7. I told him I might sprint at the end because I wanted to make it by 6:57. Finally, we got to the last turn and had just a little more to go to the finish at the Little A'le'Inn restaurant's parking lot. I could see the clock and it said 6:57:20 and I hauled butt to make it there before it switched over to 6:58. And I did! Woo! My official time (gun time) is 6:57:59 (Cliff was 6:57:57). Thank god. If I’d missed it by 1 or 2 seconds, I would have been a little (a lot) disappointed.

I was done! My 3rd 50K and a shiny, new PR. And I felt pretty good both physically and mentally. My plan did not include a taper so I didn't come into this as fresh as I could have but I think I did well. I didn't give in to the demons to walk. I stayed hydrated and did great with my Scaps. I should probably have taken in a few more calories but I never felt like I hit a wall. I didn't fall asleep while I was running. And I had fun. The only disappointing part was that I didn't see any UFOs. Unless maybe some of those shooting stars weren't what they seemed! :) Oh, and I forgot to buy a magnet from the Little A'le'Inn so no magnet to add to my collection.:(

But I have a fabulous medal to add to my medal collection:

The medal is pretty big and the moon glows in the dark. Cool, huh? I loved "The end is near" on it. Just what you hope for during a long race! 

After the finish, I grabbed a towel to clean up a little and then went to get some of the breakfast the restaurant provided for us. Score! Pancakes! I was so happy my stomach felt alright so I could enjoy them.

After breakfast, I got on the bus to get a good seat and changed out my shoes and socks for sandals. I popped into the buses bathroom to change from my running gear to regular clothes and then settled in for the ride back. I slept sporadically but got a little nap in. I wasn't really that sleepy though. I talked to the two women near me for a while and we compared notes. We got back to the Hard Rock Hotel about 10:40. One thing not so good about the buses is that sitting for that long after running made me stiffen up. I went and dropped my gear off at my car and then wandered around for a while. I had a celebratory lunch at Pink Taco at the Hard Rock and had their signature Pink Tacos, which were corn tortillas stuffed with black beans, and topped with chicken, avocado, and pickled onions. They were delish.

After lunch, I took the shuttle down to the strip and walked around for a few hours and had some Ben & Jerry's. I think the walking really helped because when I went for an easy 5K recovery run this morning, everything felt pretty good and only my glutes were a little sore. I finished my celebrating with a 90 minute massage tonight. :)

So that's it! Thanks for reading my recap. If you are ever looking for a unique, fun race to do, I highly recommend this one. Just mentally prepare yourself for the bus rides. The rest was a blast!


  1. Wow, I couldn't imagine running starting at midnight and then almost 7 hours! You're amazing, lady! Congrats on your shiny new PR!!! And that really is a cool medal! Sorry you didn't see any UFOs - holding out hope one of those shooting stars really was one! :) Also hope that massage was GA-REAT!

  2. Wow. Thanks for keeping me honest (i.e., running and not walking), but even greater thanks for quickly writing a trip report. I'm going to post a link to it in the BARGE list. --Cliff

    1. Hi Cliff! Thanks for stopping by and thanks again for keeping me company on the run!

  3. Congratulations on finishing with such a great time.I really like reading your blog and maybe one day we will meet I live in san marcos Ca. So not to far away. I am training to run my first 50 k in sept..I am excited and scared and excited ..I admire your spirit..and really enjoy the race reports..

    1. Thanks Gloria! Hopefully, we will. It seems like the ultra world is pretty small so we probably will run in to each other soon. Good luck! I'm sure you'll have fun!

  4. Great rundown. Love hearing peoplea stories. Hope to be doing my first 50k this winter. Great inspiration.

    1. Thank you Kevin! Good luck with your 50K. They are a lot of fun, I promise.

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