I have so much to say about this crazy adventure! It was quite an experience. Warning: lots of words and pictures. Lots...
First of all, I have a horse show coming up in a couple of weeks and I knew my trainer would be unhappy with me if I skipped out on riding for the entire weekend, so I got up Saturday morning at 5 AM and rode my horse before leaving on a 10:50 AM flight to Las Vegas. This is mistake #1 for the weekend.
|We flew on a brand new Southwest plane and it was HUGE.|
We decided to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel because it was the host hotel. The packet pick up was from 4-8 PM and the buses would depart for the start line at Area 51 at 8:45 PM. The plan was to check into our hotel, eat our pre-race meal, then go back to the room and nap for a few hours. Plus, we got a good deal on a room. Sounds like a perfect plan, right?
|Couldn't resist this photo op!|
|These beds are insanely comfortable. Too bad they are also supremely |
efficient at conducting throbbing base directing into my brain stem.
I should have known we were in trouble when this was our Do Not Disturb sign:
We were not prepared for the raging pool party taking place right outside of our room. It was like being inside of a club. The windows and furniture were vibrating with base from the DJ. Not really ideal conditions for napping.
|I'm pretty sure that pool is full of STDs just waiting for a host. |
Non stop making out going on down there.
Do I sound old, yet?
We decided to carb up early so we would have time to digest before leaving for the race. The Hard Rock Hotel has a Pink Taco restaurant. I know, I know, the name is awful, but the food is amazing.
|Tara doesn't believe in taking normal pictures...|
By the time we were done stuffing our faces with their signature "Pink Tacos" we had just enough time to run to CVS to get some supplies and then head over to the packet pick up.
|No frills packet pick up.|
|I already look tired before trying to nap.|
Sleep was not going to happen. The pool party was still in full swing and didn't die down until we had to get up and get ready for the run. At this point, I had been up since 5 AM and was heading out for a race the would go all night. Mistake #3. (If I ever do this race again, I will not stay at the Hard Rock)
At 8:30 PM, we headed down to the buses. This is a small race - only about 750 competitors - so all of us fit on 7 or 8 buses.
Since I hadn't gotten any sleep that afternoon, I attempted to snooze on the bus, but I was too hyped up. The bus ride was was about 2.5 hours to get to the start of the full and ultra marathons. Their start was at the black mailbox, an iconic land mark (that is now white) where UFO enthusiasts have met for years because there is nothing else out there in the middle of the desert!
|My little X-Files heart was happy to see this tag on the mailbox.|
|And we met this guy...|
I didn't get any pictures of the start line, but I wish I had. There were so few runners, that the start is not chip timed, but is clock timed. The organizer of the race basically just yelled Go! and everyone just took off. The finish was chip timed, though.
Tara and I ran the entire race together, which was good because it is so dark, cold and lonely out there, that it was good to have someone to talk to. There was a full moon and when it wasn't obscured by clouds, it was actually kind of bright.
It's very different to do a race in the middle of no where, along a top secret military base with not a single spectator. You can't help staring up into the sky hoping to see something questionable. The first half of the race is uphill with a pretty significant grade. After awhile, you really do start thinking that you're seeing stuff up in the sky. Mostly, though, you get to see a lot of shooting stars, which is so cool.
We started off doing great, but somewhere around mile 3 or 4, my stomach started to really hurt. This is the point where I really regretted having eaten so much for our pre-race meal. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and hoped that my stomach pains would pass. I was also exhausted. Running a challenging course on no sleep is not pleasant.
We finally reached the top of the summit at about 6 miles and it was so cold. I was not really expecting that, since Vegas is just as hot as Phoenix. At mile 10, I was really hurting, but decided to take my traditional mile 10 picture, which did not turn out. At all. I don't know if it was from the reflective material or what, but I could not get a good picture.
|Yes, Tara is biting the sign.|
After mile 10, I managed to finally begin to ignore the pain in my stomach and our next 3 miles were run at an 11-12 minute pace, which is pretty fast for us. We did lose significant time when we came up on the Extraterrestrial Highway sign. My phone absolutely would not cooperate. There was no way I wasn't getting a picture of this sign. I finally got a decent shot by turning off my flash and using Tara's headlamp as a light source. We probably spent at least 5 minutes just trying to get pictures here.
We could see the finish line about a mile away which is at the Little A'Le'Inn. Get it?
There was a breakfast buffet when we got to the Inn. This place was awesome. It's just like you would imagine a little restaurant/hotel in the middle of nowhere. They had a surprising number of staff members for a place located in a town this small. In fact, Rachel, NV, doesn't even have a gas station.
|I want this.|
It was about 4:30 AM by the time we got back on the bus. I semi-slept through the ride back to the Hard Rock, but it wasn't real sleep. We arrived at about 8:15, and I was so exhausted that I actually felt sick. We crawled back to our room slower than snails and crashed until the effing pool party started back up at 10:00. Never, ever stay at the Hard Rock if you plan on doing this race. Just don't.
We convinced the hotel to let us have a late check out since our flight wasn't until almost 9:00 PM. After crashing for a few hours, we headed back to the Pink Taco to stuff ourselves silly again, but I just was not feeling well. I didn't eat much, but I managed to choke down a glass of celebratory champagne.
After a very long lunch, we still had a few hours to kill, so we went across the street for a massage. The place looked somewhat questionable. I mean, this is Vegas, after all.
|You ring a bell for "service" after hours. Umm...|
All in all, this race was quite an experience. The woman that runs the show did an excellent job. I don't know if I would do it again simply because the logistics are so tough. Running all night on no sleep, uphill into really cold wind is grueling, I won't lie. But it's an unforgettable race and I would recommend any race enthusiast try it at least once. And I did learn a lot.
|And the medal is really cool.|
If I ever do it again, I will definitely stay somewhere else. I think not being able to sleep made an already difficult race that much harder. But I'm so glad I can say that I ran at Area 51. Kudos to Calico Racing for their organization of such a logistically tough event. (Apparently, just getting the permits to run there is not easy.)