Last night (early this morning?) I ran the Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Half-Marathon, an event that takes place in the middle of the night alongside Area 51 in the Nevada desert. It truly was a unique experience and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to participate in this event.
Packet pick-up was a wee bit chaotic. Participants were divided into three separate lines to check-in; marathon, half-marathon and 10K. But then we were forced to walk through the check-in lines to get our shirts. Prizes in sponsor drawings were awarded before the race and winners were supposed to pick-up their prizes at check-in, but nobody really seemed 100% positive where to pick up the prizes. I won a bottle of Udderly Smooth cream, one of the sponsors of the event. Our t-shirts were nice long-sleeve technical t-shirts (with A LOT of loud graphics all over the front) made by Zorrel. Included in our check-in bags were some small samples of the same lotion I won, a packet of Hammer gel, a card to subscribe to Runner’s World and our bib number/timing chip.
Our group met at Fleet Feetand rode together in a big 15-passenger van. The ride took about 2 to 2.5 hours to get to the marathon start. From there we used the porta-potties, got our glow necklaces and were bussed to the half-marathon start. Just before the half-marathon started, you could see the lines of men wearing glow necklaces off the side of the road, taking the opportunity to relieve themselves in the bushes. It was kind of funny, made me wish I had my camera there.
The course took place on the Extraterrestrial Highway, we had to stay off to one side of the road and make sure we were out of the way when cars came through. We also needed to worry about dodging roadkill, keeping an eye out for livestock/rattlesnakes and being careful on cattle-guards in the road. It’s also amusing when a course says that porta-potties will only be available in a few spots, but informs the runners that darkness and bushes are always available. All runners were required to wear headlamps, wear reflective clothing and encouraged to wear a glow necklace. The glow necklace was annoying after about 1.2 minutes as it bounced up and down. It promptly ended up looped through my Fuel Belt where it would be slightly less annoying through the rest of the race.
Temperatures during the race were in the mid-60’s or maybe low-70’s. It was so nice to be able to run in temperatures that weren’t scorching. It was amazing how different my heart-rate was during this run. I’ve noticed that the higher heat, the higher my HR goes during the run.
The route was uphill for the first 6 miles, then a downhill coast into the town of Rachel, NV ending at The Little A’Le’Inn. The uphill was pretty steep, but it didn’t feel overly difficult (even though we did comment that the hill was B-A-N-A-N-A-S at one point). The steepest part came at about mile 5. The downhill was actually harder, since gravity wanted to just pull me down at a pace that would have been too fast. I had to work hard to keep myself at a pace that was more comfortable for my knees. They served Hammer Heed on the course along with water, and at the “ultra” aid stations they provided Hammer gels, pretzels, oranges and bananas.
The finish line was a little confusing. They had a line of glowing green lights on the ground, channeling us toward a series of cones. The first two cones had purple lights glowing on top of them, thus I assumed they were the “finish line”. So I started slowing when I got past them only to realize the timing mats were at the end of the cones. I tried to speed up again to cross the mats, only to have somebody step in front of me almost immediately to rip the tag off the bottom of my bib number. Ideally, I would have been given a little bit of extra space to slow back down before. My official time was 2:20:14. Since this was my first half-marathon, it’s automatically a PR and I’m pleased with that time, especially considering I was running when I would normally be asleep!
They had a breakfast spread at the Inn after, including bagels, fruit, eggs, pancakes, biscuits & gravy, sausage, potatoes, etc. Even though it was still the middle of the night and not a typical “meal time”, I was starving and I had a little bit of everything! Except the gravy… I am not a gravy fan.
After breakfast, that’s when the morning started to go a little downhill for me. The person who drove our van was volunteering at an aid station and had to stay until the last half-marathoner went past. I learned that we might have to wait a little upon completion once we got to the start line, but I had no idea it would be about 3 hours long. Unfortunately my bag was in the van, so I waited for too long to get my jacket, getting colder and colder as the evening went by. I have been experiencing hot and cold flashes ever since as my body tries to figure out how to regulate its temperature.
I think the distance from this race was harder on me physically then it would have been in a typical training run for two main reasons. 1) The first being the lack of sleep since the race took place in the middle of the night. By the time I got home, with the exception of a couple minutes or sleep mixed throughout the day, I had been awake for over 24 hours. 2) The other reason it’s been kicking my butt physically is the time delay at the end of the race before I could attempt to make myself comfortable. I had to wait around while getting colder and colder, then I had to sit in the back of a van for 2.5 hours to drive back into Vegas which kind of caused my muscles to cramp up.
Overall it was a pretty fun experience. I think Calico Racing puts on a pretty good event. There are things they could improve upon (check-in, finish line, their website), but for a pretty young group they are doing an amazing job.