I had been anticipating this trip to Las Vegas and the race for a long time. Since I did not do so well at Mohican, but got a lot of hill practice done there, I felt I could do pretty well at this marathon. I had not really considered the effects of higher altitude and dry air to a coastal plains dweller like myself. So, it was a slow marathon, but still a lot of fun and finishing is the goal, after all.
Now I must return to the beginning of the tale. My bags were mostly packed by Thursday because I had to work out of town on Friday and my flight was scheduled to leave Houston at 6:20 am on Saturday. I live about one hour away from the big airport, so that meant getting up at 3:30 am for the drive. I did not get to sleep until after 1am. Remember that this is a midnight marathon. It starts at midnight. Did I say that the race started at midnight Saturday??? I arrived in Las Vegas (after a short layover in Denver) at around 10:30 am Saturday. I called the hotel to see when the free shuttle would be arriving to take me to the hotel. They said, oh, about 10 minutes. There was a couple waiting before I walked outside the airport, and in my usual manner, I was having a conversation with them in no time. I found out that they were staying in the same hotel and had already been waiting at least 10 minuets before I walked outside. The hotel is 5 minutes from the airport and I was finally in the hotel room by noon.
Mellody and Jean-Maria were already in the room the three of us were sharing. I was starving at this point, so the three of us walked across the street to eat at Lucky’s in the Hard Rock Casino. It was nearly 12 hours from race time, so I carb loaded on blueberry pancakes and also ate a little bacon for protein. We walked over to CVS, and I bought a gallon of water to mix my electrolyte drink for the marathon. I finally tried to get a little nap (maybe 90 minutes) and it was time to pick up the race packet. We met another friend at packet pickup, WalkingDonny, who was walking the half marathon. The shirts are awesome, with little aliens and a space shop on the front! We go back upstairs and start getting ready for the race. We boarded the charter buses for a 2.5 hour ride to the starting line at the black mailbox on the Extraterrestrial Highway. It is a good thing it was dark outside. I don’t think it would have made me feel better to actually see the mountain we had to climb before the race. It was bad enough seeing it while riding the bus back from the finish line to Las Vegas. I am really glad I brought the long sleeved race shirt with me in a drop bag because it was cold and windy and I ended up wearing it under my crazy shirt for the whole race. We picked up our glow necklaces and used the dreaded port-a-potties, posed for some pictures and visited with new found friends.
I think the race started on time at midnight, although I can’t be sure because I lost my reading glasses somewhere out there. Everyone was either wearing a headlamp or carrying a flashlight and we were all wearing reflective clothing. We were off, and as usual, I started out too fast. I got stuck with a couple of groups of beeping Galloweenies that I kept trading places with. The worst thing about a group of Galloweenies is the fact that they pass you jogging, then stop to a snails walking pace RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, every time they pass you. It was especially irritating to me during this race because at this point, I am going on 3.5 hours of sleep. So, that made me pick up the pace even more so that I did not see them again until much later in the race when I started to slow down. Anyway, the aid stations at this race were about 3.5 miles apart, so you had to carry a water bottle. Not a problem for me, I always carry at least my fuel belt on shorter walks and both the fuel belt and a hand held on longer walks. I was feeling great, but with the climbing (not so steep in the first few miles, but steadily climbing) and the higher altitude (over 4,500’at the starting line) I thought I was moving much faster than I really was. By the 9 mile mark, I noticed that my breathing was becoming labored and shallow, so I consciously reminded myself to belly breathe like when doing yoga. I was tired, so I had to keep reminding myself to breathe deeply so that my muscles could get the oxygen they needed to keep moving forward. It was so nice to turn off the lamp and walk with the moonlight in the desert. I turned it on only when I saw that a car was approaching in the distance. A few times I looked down at the road surface and saw what appeared to be scorpions scurrying across the road. During this first half of the race, I also saw numerous shooting stars. I kept glancing to the south, into Area 51, looking for signs of the unknown, but sadly I saw no aliens or unidentified objects.
The last part of the climb over Coyote Summit, between mile 9 and mile 13 was progressively steeper, but I kept concentrating on my breathing and pressing forward. It was, however, not the smartest thing I have ever done, because by the time I crested the summit and headed back down the other side; I had run out of steam. Maybe the fact that I finally got to see my time at the half marathon point (3:09:??) also took some of my steam.
I felt something over head and it turned out to be some kind of small bird. I have not seen too many kinds of desert creatures, but when I turned toward the bird as it landed on a rock by the far side of the road, its eyes had a strange orange glow when it looked back at me.
Well, now the hard part was supposed to be over and it was all downhill from here. I passed a young man who had just been passed by another woman. He said “So What, So What!” I thought he was mad because he had been passed by a girl, then he sings another line from the song. Oh, my goodness… how funny! I knew what he was singing along with, and man was it vulgar! I had to turn around and tell him I knew he was singing “So What” from Metallica’s two disc set called Garage, Inc. I thanked him for the laugh and continued on.
Now that I was fully aware that I was going to have a crummy finish time, I planned to just have fun and finish. I ended up walking most of the rest of the race with a lady I offered a sample size body glide to when she said her shorts were wet, and she was surely going to have problems later in the race. We walked and talked and looked at the stars and talked some more. She was very interesting.
I have been studying hydration issues more fully lately because I have begun to have problems with swelling hands, even on shorter walks. It seems like I am starting to get it under control, because my fingers did not swell until much later in this marathon. They also did not swell as much as they have been swelling lately. The next issue is the bathroom issue. We were warned well in advance that there would only be porta potties at the start, then maybe 3 more along the marathon course. I passed the first 2 course potties because I just did not have to go. As I passed the 18 mile marker, I started to feel the need for a potty break. I could have just walked off to the side of the road and pottied in the moonlight, but I just kept telling myself I could wait until mile 20. That is when I had the hallucination. There was more and more traffic on the road as the night went on, so I had to keep the headlamp on most of the time. Everyone who walks at night knows that there is a tunnel vision effect after wearing a headlamp for long periods of time. This is a two lane highway with a very narrow shoulder on each side, so there is really no place to go if cars are zooming past rather quickly. One of the zoomers was a bus. I nearly got blown off the road. We were walking toward traffic and as I looked to my right I could have sworn there was a concrete barrier on the yellow line in the middle of the road. I kept looking over to make sure I was not seeing things. I also needed to get to the potty at the 20 mile mark in a really bad way. The lady I was walking with also needed to get there in a hurry. This was the actual finish line of the race where we had a 10k out and back to do, and then the race is over. As we got closer to the potty, I was still convinced that there was a concrete barrier separating the lanes of the road. The lights of the little town of Rachel started to illuminate the road, and the concrete barrier just kind of disappeared. (My friend Mellody had the same hallucination in about the same location although she was about a mile behind me) Luckily my race companion had relieved herself earlier so she let me go first. What a relief! One of the aid station volunteers was wearing a Sunmart ultra jacket, so I had a short hello, look at my cap moment. I wore my Sunmart cap during the race.
Now the last and toughest part of the race because we had to walk past the finish line and still had 10k to go. I don’t remember when the sun started to come up, but we were finally able to turn off the headlamps and saw lots of jackrabbits! We also saw a dead rattlesnake on the road. Thankfully that was the ONLY rattlesnake we saw. I was able to walk a 14 minute mile one time during the last 10k, but it took all I had to make it across the finish line. I received my medal which is really awesome. It is an alien wearing running shoes, chasing his spaceship on a black background with the Calico Racing emblem on it.
There was a nice breakfast buffet at the Little A’lien Inn that consisted of pancakes, biscuits, eggs, hash browns, gravy, and fresh fruit. Everything was really good and the staff appeared to be genuinely happy to see us! Mellody and Jean-Maria finished in that order and after we had eaten our breakfast and bought a few souvenirs, it was time to board the bus back to Las Vegas. We went back over the mountain we had to climb from the start, and since it was now daylight, we were really able to see the beauty of the countryside we had passed through in the darkness, oh, and the steep climb that we had made during the night.
This was a fantastic race with a great RD and lots of wonderful volunteers who stood out in the desert all night to make sure we were alright. Thanks to everyone involved with putting the race on!
One thing, I had no idea that the altitude would bother me so much. It is for that reason and that reason ONLY that I would not consider repeating this event, though I will highly recommend it to anyone who asks me. From now on, altitude will be one of the factors that come into play when I choose future races.
Thanks for reading! (stories from Las Vegas to follow soon enough)
Oh, and yes… malvs2walk!