Matter of fact, it’s all dark
[She’s ba-ack! Trying to get caught up on this year’s races with a few quickie posts.]
Just getting to the start line on Nevada’s remote Extra-Terrestrial Highway is and adventure. In Las Vegas temps are in the low 100s and the short walk to the Hard Rock Hotel has already sweat-soaked my race gear. In contrast, the air conditioned bus is absolutely frigid. It’s a two hour drive to the middle of nowhere, then everyone tumbles out for photos next to the legendary “black” mailbox.
I’m not a big fan of sleep deprivation, so any event starting at midnight is a stretch for me, but surrounded by the excitement of all the other runners about to do this crazy thing (marathoners and the 51K ultras start from the same point), the late night fatigue falls away and I’m off at a respectable clip.
The full moon is excessively bright, washing the stars from the sky and casting the naked Nevada hills in stark daylight contrast. Like many of the other runners, I’ll douse my headlamp later in the run, and ooh and ahh at the fireballs from the Perseid meteor shower. (I counted nine throughout the course of the night, not bad considering they had to be as bright as Venus or brighter to overpower the light of the Moon.)
The first miles fly by, but the course is uphill for the first 13, and the late-night fatigue returns around mile 11-12 as one false summit after another presents itself. Finally, at 2:30 in the morning, I reach the midway aide station, where they are just running our of jelly for the PB&J sandwiches but still have plenty other snacks. Huge props to the volunteers, who were out there all night, and in temps that were perfect for runners but a little chilly for just standing around. It’s all downhill from here – mostly.
Around Mile 15 the distant lights of Rachel, the first lights I’ve seen all night not attached to a runner or support car – come into view. A huge sense of relief washes over me, until I do the math and realize I haven’t covered 2/3 of the distance yet.
Dawn is brightening the sky as I pass Rachel for a final out-and back, and the wheels gently but decisively come off. I’ve got one sprint left in me, and that’s for the finish line; I’m walking the last two miles in. I’m still a few hundred yards out when one of the ultras comes running up behind me. “Let’s finish this together,” he says, and we do.
In brief: an unforgettable race, and one that kicked my butt.