Sunday, August 9, 2015

ET Full Moon Midnight Race!

Well, I feel like my running is really getting real again. Unfortunately, I just don't feel like I'm quite where I'd like to be with my training. I feel like my progress isn't as swift and hearty as I'd like it to be at this point. I feel like I'm not as fast as I'd like to be and I feel like I'm struggling on the long distances. I'm ok until about mile 9-10, after 10 though, it's been tough. My feet have been hurting after about 10 too. I'm hoping that my continuing to drop weight will help, but I'm just not sure I'll be ready for my full in October (Detroit International Marathon). I'm pretty sure I'll be good come December (Reggae Marathon), but October just seems really soon for me to still feel like I'm struggling. I don't know, maybe I'm fine and I just don't realize it. LOL. Time will tell, right?

So, I wanted to talk about the ET Full Moon Midnight race on August 29-30, 2015. This is the next race that I have coming up. This is another Race from Calico Racing, the same racing company that put on the Once in a Blue Moon race that I ran a couple of weeks ago. This race is pretty well known country-wide. It's a very unique race in that it's a midnight race! Here in Las Vegas, it's hard to put on races during the summer – this tends to be the opposite of what the rest of the country does – as our most popular race seasons are spring and fall. It's just so hot here in the summer, even if the race starts super early, you can't have long races because it just gets too hot too fast.

ET Race Photos 2010
2010 - Me on left with friends Patty and Melanie who also did the half - on the bus on the way there
2010 - At the marathon start, Black Mailbox area
2010 - It was my birthday so I wrote on my back in reflective tape!
2010 - This really gives you a sense of how remote the course is.  The RD gave me a birthday hat!  It was my 39th birthday and she also assigned me bib 39!
At the finish, about 4:00 am - 2010
Me at the Inn finish line with my medal! Birthday race 2010!

The ET race takes place out on Highway 375 in Rachel, NV, which is right next to Area 51. It is nicknamed the “ET Highway” because there are said to be an unusually large number of UFO sightings out there, so many that ET enthusiasts from around the world frequently go out there hoping to catch a glimpse of a UFO. The race includes 5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon and 51k ultra distances. The route is a paved road, and the finish line is at the Little Ale'Inn in Rachel, which has also been on tv and is known worldwide as a place to visit for alien lovers. I've ran the half out there four times previous – 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I didn't run it last year because I just didn't have the motivation and the drive, I guess I just didn't feel like it. But this year I've been running like a maniac for several months and I got the bug again, so I registered for the half again.

Even though I said in my opening that I felt like I was struggling, I did run 13 miles today (on the treadmill) so I know that I can complete the half distance. I do a ton of training on the treadmill because it's just too hot outside. The treadmill is convenient for me and is a controlled environment such that I can watch Netflix or baseball while I'm on it to pass the time. I know some people hate it and get bored to death but the boredom hasn't really ever been a factor for me. The gym CREEPERS however, are highly annoying to me. Today I was running and I always pick the mill at the end of the row so that there's only one spot next to me. It was Sunday and there were probably 60 open mills but of course this guy gets on the one right next to me. I HATE it when people do that. Why would you want to get on the one next to someone when there's a ton of open mills? I will never understand that.

So he gets on and starts running. He has headphones on, but he starts running and he's grunting and groaning as he's running. It was gross and obscene. Keep in mind that I had headphones on and they were turned up loud but I could still hear him “uuuhhhh” “uuuuhhhhh” “eeeehhhhh” as he was running. I kept flashing him the evil eye and then he started blowing his nose into his t-shirt! Not even in the sleeve or into a napkin or paper towel that he had with him to clean the thing, but into the NECK. Like he'd take his collar from below his chin and pull it up over his nose and blow into it. I could not have been more disgusted. I have some serious treadmill creeper stories but this was just absolutely despicable. WHY ME?!?!? Luckily he got off after about 45 mins or so, but I sure gave him a lot of stink eye. Some people are just so nasty and disrespectful. If you're gonna grunt and be gross, go do it on an empty treadmill, why do it next to me? And it's always guys too. I'm a girl running alone and it's always some gross dude that comes up next to me. I should've moved but I was like two hours into a three hour run and I was comfortable there. Note to self: ALWAYS disinfect machine before getting on it. No matter how clean it looks.

I know that supposedly the mill isn't as good for training as running outside since you aren't actually moving your body through space but I usually find that I'm faster at races than I am on the mill. I think it's because my body finds a more natural pace that ebbs and flows as needed when running outside instead of being forced into one consistent pace by the mill. I trained for my last marathon in 2013 almost completely on the mill – everything up to 16 miles – and I will probably do that this time as well. Usually in September I can start running outside again, and I am looking forward to that.

So back to the ET. Since it takes place out in Rachel, about 2.5 hours from Vegas, there are various options for getting there, but fortunately, the RD charters buses and as part of your registration, you can purchase round trip bus transportation. Some people drive themselves, some people stay out there – there are some camping and hotel options in Alamo, but that is still about 30 mins away from the race. There are limited rooms available at the Ale'Inn, but I can't imagine staying out there in nowheresville all night, lol. When I get done with the race, I'm ready to go home. The buses depart after the race back to Vegas on a rolling basis - as soon as a bus fills, it departs. So you may have to wait a few minutes for the bus to fill, but it's never been too long for me.

ET Race Photos 2013
2013 with friend Kate before boarding the bus, she did the 10k

2013 finish at the Inn!
2013 glow in the dark medal!

The buses leave Vegas about 8:45 and you arrive at the “Black Mailbox” which is where the turn off for Area 51 is, about 11:15 or so. There are porta-potties and things there, the race volunteers hand out glow bracelets and glow necklaces to the participants and everyone basically huddles up and waits for the start of the full marathon. The full starts at 12:00 midnight and the route goes 20 miles to the Inn, then 3.1 miles past the Inn out and back to get the marathon distance. After the full starts, runners running all of the other distances get back on the buses and off they go 7 miles up the road to the half start. The half goes 13 miles straight to the Inn, turns left up the Inn driveway and finishes. The half starts at 12:30am. After the half starts, the 10k and 5k runners get bused to the Inn. The 10k runs the last 6 miles of the marathon course, 3.1 out and back past the Inn and the 5k does the same route but it's 1.5 out and back.

There are some great advantages to running out there – first off the elevation is about 4000-5000 feet (Vegas is about 2000) – so this higher altitude contributes to cooler temps. Plus running at night means cooler temps as well. The race is really out in the desert and since it's ran under the full moon, you get to see the moon rise over the mountains and it's really pretty. You get to see so many stars and many shooting stars since you don't have the light pollution that you have in Vegas. Since it is at night, everyone has to wear a headlamp or carry a flashlight and all runners are required to be reflective front and back. You can buy some reflective tape with your race registration or from a store but people also come up with some amazing ideas to make themselves visible – everything from glow sticks to lights to light up tutus to flashing lights – I've seen it all out there. It's really for safety but it adds to the ET ambiance – when you look ahead or behind you in the darkness all you see is a long line of disembodied bobbing lights. It's trippy and fun, a very unique experience.

ET Race Photos 2012
I did the race alone in 2012, a nice stranger took my yearly Inn photo

2012 medal

2012 Inn finish!

There are a few things that give me pause out there. I always tell people that I have a love/hate relationship with this race. It is a challenge for me, more mentally and psychologically than physically. When you're on the bus going out there, the bus climbs, climbs, climbs uphill and when you get out far enough you lose your cell service. The road is in an open range area so there are a few sections of the road that have cattle guards on them (grates to prevent the cattle from walking across and parking) and the runners are warned that you could actually run into a free range cow on the road (I've never seen one). Also, there are snakes especially that come out at night to lay on the heat of the road. I saw a small snake once (non-rattler) but people have sighted rattlers out there. I feel pretty confident being a back of the packer that the runners before me tend to scare off the snakes, but it's just something to be aware of. Now that I've seen a (HUGE) snake when I was out at Blue Moon I'm not so afraid and I'm pretty sure I could get around a snake ok. I just don't want to not be watching and step on one or right in the path of one, so I tend to look down and watch the road closely while running this one, which is why I think a headlamp is really effective. I try not to think about how far you'd be from medical care if something happened to you out there, but they always have an ambulance on standby and I always rationalize that even if you get bit by a rattler, it's probably not going to kill you immediately before you get to medical care. It'll probably hurt and really suck bad, but I think they'd just get you to medical as soon as they can. They do have volunteers who cruise up and down the route, and as far as I know they've never had any really bad things happen out there during the race so that gives me confidence in the whole process.

There is one pretty big hill on the route, it's from about miles 4.5 – 6 on the half route (11.5 – 13 on the full route) (course map).  Luckily once you crest it, it's a pretty gradual smooth downhill on the back half and when you get about 4-5 miles from the Inn, you can see its lights (they are the only building lights out there) and you know you're on the home stretch. You can bring a drop bag and leave it on your bus, all of the buses are numbered and when the buses get to the Inn, volunteers unload them and lay the bags on tarps with numbers the correspond to the bus numbers. This is good because I always pack for basically an overnight trip in my drop bag on this race. Things I bring include: fuel for before the race, glow stuff, food for after the race, a change of clothes, a sweatshirt (it can feel quite cold at the end when you're all sweaty and it's 3:30 am and 50 degrees F at 5000 feet), towels to dry off, water and whatever drinks I want, a neck pillow and sleep mask for the drive back and anything else I can think of.

One of the best things about the race is it's a straight line for the half, 13 miles and then a left turn at the Inn and a .1 mile run up the driveway for the finish line. The road is paved and the driveway is gravel. One year I completely bit it making that turn onto the gravel and got road rash and gravel in my knees and hands when I fell. The EMTs cleaned out my wounds and bandaged me up. When I asked them if they had a lot a patients that night they said that I was the only one! Calico always puts on such cool races, the race shirts are really cool, usually black tech shirts with aliens on them and the medals have been glow in the dark the past few years. There is also a breakfast at the Inn for all of the runners and a lot of the locals come out and hang out at the Inn at the finish. I highly recommend this race if you're looking for a unique experience. Lots of people dress up in alien garb and it's quite a sight to see.

ET Race Photos 2011
2011 Race wounds!

2011 Finish at the Inn

2011 Finish at the Inn with my friend Kim who did the 10k

So, wish me luck, this will be the first half I've ran maybe since October of 2014? After the race I should have a race recap with my 2015 photos!  My running took a break for the first half of this year, but now it's back with a vengeance. My friend Irene will be out there with me doing the 10k, and this will be her first 10k so wish her luck too! Even though I feel that I am not exactly where I'd like to be, I think I'm in a much better position that I was in 6 months ago and I'm still moving forward. I have to look at my progress and not chide myself for not having reached perfection. I am down 31.8 lbs since February and I'm well on my way to having my amazing running body back. But more than that, I have two marathons that I'm registered for and it looks like I won't be panicking and dropping down to the halfs on either one. The feeling of crossing that marathon finish line is like nothing in the world – it gives you the belief that anything is possible and everyone needs to feel that at least once in their lives :)

Stay tuned for a BIG post tomorrow and for more info on my upcoming races and updates on my training!

One life!

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