Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2013 ET Full Moon 51K Race Report

The ET Full Moon Midnight Race (51K, Marathon, Half marathon, and 10K) had been on my radar for a couple years. It's a road race which I now rarely do. But it's a very unique one. For one thing, it's all alien-themed. But the theme fits - it's not one of those gimmick races where it's just a way to get your money. The race starts at the "black mailbox", which is actually white, that for years conspiracy theorists thought was the mailbox to Area 51. Spoiler alert: it's really some poor rancher's mailbox that he would for decades find people breaking into, rifling through his mail, shot at it, or blew it up. Poor guy.

You then run down the Extraterrestrial Highway the whole way. And you finish at Rachel, Nevada, which is known as an alien tourist destination, very much like Roswell, New Mexico.

Oh yeah, and you run down this highway through the middle of the night... in the middle of the Nevada desert. It starts at midnight after a 2 -2 1/2 hour bus ride from Vegas to get out there.

I had needed a break from stupid hard mountain races after my DNF at Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Mile 4 weeks before (Race Report Here), so I made my plans and signed up for the 51K at the ET Full Moon Midnight Race.

With little kids at home, I knew flying in Saturday would be foolish - they'd wake me up early that day, I'd fly out, and then hotel check-in times would make it hard to get much of a nap. So I flew in to Las Vegas late Friday night, went to a late dinner, and headed to bed about 1:30 am (3:30 am back at home).

I slept in until 10 am, went out to find a big brunch (Border Grill at Mandalay Bay - love that restaurant), then napped from 2:30 to 4:00 pm.
Yucatan eggs benedict
Dulce de luche churro tots

I took a taxi to the Hard Rock Hotel, which was the host hotel and the location for packet pickup. I was able to meet up with a Twitter friend, Devin  (@TexasDevin). Devin was also running the 51K, his dad (who would be celebrating a birthday at midnight when we all started) was running the half marathon, and then Devin introduced me to his friend, "David from Minnsota", who was running the marathon. Small world moment: David ran my New Years Double race at the beginning of 2012 - in its first year!

The shirts and bibs were cute. Comfy tech shirt and I'm a fan of any sort of custom bib. Note this awesome picture wasn't taken by me, I loved it from @CaseyRuns and wanted to be sure to point out this is her picture she tweeted.
Photo credit: @CaseyRuns

I went back to my hotel (MGM Grand), and I ate two sandwiches for a super early dinner. About 6 pm I grabbed a Starbucks mocha and went up to my room to change and make sure my drop bag was packed. At 7 pm, I took a taxi over to the Hard Rock again. Everyone was lined up in the hallways. I found a spot and chatted with the girl next to me, but it wasn't long before I recognized another Twitter pal, Casey (@CaseyRuns). It was sogreat getting to meet her, and yes, she's as tiny as she looks - itty bitty.

The buses were ready to load at 8:15 am, and it was a little chaotic. Buses were labeled "Quiet" or "Chatty", and Devin, his dad Gary, and I were able to get on a quiet bus. There was no way I was able to sleep on that bus though. We arrived a little after 11 pm. Everyone put on their glow bracelets and glow sticks and glow whatever-they-had-brought. I had 3 glow sticks hanging off of each side of my spibelt around my waist and then two glow bracelets on.

Ready... Set... Go

Then all of us in the 51K and marathon, a few hundred people, started running down a highway at midnight. The course was 1,225 feet up up up consistently over the first 13 miles. Devin and I ran together, which ended up being pretty darn perfect as we're both very chatty runners. I spotted a few friends along the way, Angela and Jeff. We marveled at the stars. We could see the silhouette of the mountains in the distance. From the name, you can deduce they choose the date right around the full moon. We turned off our headlamps and could see our shadows across the highway. Some people ran quite a bit without headlamps. I'm a little night blind so I needed my headlamp light.


We passed roadkill - a dead fox, dead jackrabbit, dead snake, and so on. Devin and I started to joke about the lack of wild"life", as I worried we would only see wild"death". But later we did see a jackrabbit off the side of the road, and then much later when I was alone, the biggest jackrabbit ever would run across the road in front of me.

The best wildlife though was when suddenly Devin screamed and jumped up in the air. Right in front of him, his light had illuminated he was about to step on the biggest tarantula we had ever seen. We stopped and gawked at his size. Then we told the people a little ways back from us that he was there and looked back to see them stopping to look.

A couple times I thought I heard cows mooing from the dark. But it could have been the vuvuzela horns they were blowing at the aid stations, which you could hear for miles. It was funny how everyone disappeared outside your headlamp. You had no perspective of what you were running in at all since we'd started in the dark too.

13 Mile Hill + Altitude 

I'd done a few altitude races this summer, so the elevation here hadn't concerned me. Starting around 4,300 ft and climbing to 5,500 before dropping back at the finish to 4,700 ft. But de-acclimated from the altitude tent, the altitude was still noticeable. It was just a LITTLE more effort to breath through normal paces. But Devin and I kept on a consistent 12:30 mile until we topped that 13 mile long hill.

But at this point, my stomach was starting to get annoyed. Maybe it was the dairy in the Starbucks mocha (which I'm still glad I took because I didn't have sleepiness issues like many did), maybe it was the weird food schedule, or maybe it was just the whole predicament of running in the middle of the night!

All Downhill

Miles 13-20 were all downhill before the course would flatten out the last 12 miles. After having trouble on a similar elevation profile at Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, this time I was happy to see my legs cooperate and turn over to make the quads work on the downhill right away. Even with the occasional "Whoa, Devin, I need to walk for a second" as I thought my GI system would rebel, our pace was decent.

At mile 20 you pass the finish line at tiny Rachel, Nevada, and keep going out another 5.9 miles before turning around and coming back. They had an aid station there and I was happy to see a portapotty because my tummy was starting to feel really upset. This is where Devin and I parted, as I sent him on ahead.

Shuffle Shuffle Shuffle

My stomach never really recovered. But I could run a little again and did to the turnaround for the marathons (mile 23.1). And then my legs started to feel really heavy and my hip flexors just wouldn't engage. And all that hydration made me constantly feel like I needed to pee for the last 12 miles of this race. So I did what I could, and I shuffled along. I cheered every single person who passed me coming back from the turnaround. It kept me focused and made time pass a little faster.

By the way, the mile 20 aid station, the mile 23 aid station, and the mile 26 turnaround were discombobulating in that in the dark on a straight highway, you constantly felt like you were only a half mile from getting there.... when you were 3 miles away. I had been warned about this but it was still a little maddening.

A Good Attitude Counts for a Lot

After we turned around at mile 26 to head back, the sun was coming up, and I could really see what I had been running in. It was a beautiful sunrise up over the mountains at the far edge of the desert. I came upon a guy who seemed awfully beat up mentally, and I gave him some encouraging words. Of course he rallied and finished ahead of me.

Of course now I really had to pee, and the sun was up and I was on a flat stretch of land where you could see for miles. Lovely. Now what. After a couple miles of shuffling along with this thought, a little dirt road ran off the main highway, and there was a small ditch and culvert barely below street level. Great, a couple feet of privacy. And a gap in the runners coming and going that at least I had a 1/4 mile of privacy between me and others. Yes, this was a milestone for this prissy runner.

I played games those last 6 miles to keep shuffling hard enough that my pace on my Garmin for that mile wouldn't drop below certain paces. Or could I get it above a certain pace for the next half mile. Mind games when you run for 7 1/2 hours!

A Finish and The Gratitude

I came into the finish at 7:24 am after a midnight start for the race. I had handled a cranky stomach for 18 miles. I had enjoyed the stars and seen the sun come up. I was proud of my great attitude the last hour on the road and that the race never really broke me down mentally at all.

Oh and the finisher medal? It glows in the dark - the whole green section does. Otherwise, decent size, unprinted ribbon, but nice.


I didn't sleep on the 2 1/2 hour bus drive back that left at 8 am. Typical for me, I was still too wired. I did manage a nap after returning and even a dinner with a Cirque Du Soleil style show (Le Reve at the Wynn).

I walked back to my hotel the long way on the Strip. Between pre-show and post-show, I walked about 4 miles. This helped recovery so I wouldn't look like a zombie staggering through the airport the next morning!

I flew back out 7 am Monday morning and was there to pick up the girls when they came out of school!


  1. I enjoyed meeting you and running with you. Funny that we had to go all the way across the country just to have a conversation.

  2. Love your race reports! M&D