So after a slight delay with our connecting flight in Phoenix, we finally got into Vegas around 10 Friday night. We were both starving, and since the hotel we were staying at was right across from the Hard Rock, we headed over there to have dinner at the Pink Taco. Ha! Dan got more than one giggle out of that one, I myself would never laugh at something so juvenile. Pfft.
I had planned to stay up really late Friday and then sleep in on Saturday, in the hopes of being SOMEWHAT rested for the race Saturday night. Um, that didnt happen. By the time we got done eating it was 11:30, which was 1:30 KC time, and I was beat. We went back to the hotel and the movie Sliding Doors was on (one of my favorites!), but I just couldnt keep my eyes open. Then I was awake by about 8:30 Saturday morning. Oh well, I figured I could take a nap later in the day.
We headed down to the pool and I found the rest of the gals from Runners Edge who had arrived earlier on Friday, and we spent a few hours there just relaxing and hanging out in the sun. Our hotel was right next to the UNLV campus, so we decided to take a walk over there to stretch out the ol' legs. We thought it might be kind of scenic, but all we managed to find were the athletic fields and an apparently abandoned greenhouse. After that we went over to the Olive Garden for an early dinner, and then back to the hotel to *try* to nap. I laid down in the room with my book, but just couldnt fall asleep. Normally I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, but I just couldn't do it. So, I got a little rest, but no shut eye.
At 8:00 that night it was time to load up the busses for our 2 hour drive north to the middle of the desert for the start of the marathon. I think there were about 800-some people doing all the races (there was also a 10K, half mary, and a 51K), but everything was so well organized that it never felt like there were that many people around needing to get on a bus. Of course, a lot of people did drive themselves, which I cant imagine doing. Why drive yourself 2 hours out to the middle of nowhere to run a race in the middle of the night, only to have to drive yourself back when you finished? No thanks.
The drive out was pretty uneventful, and I think I did manage to catch a few minutes of sleep. Before we knew it, we were pulling up to the infamous Black Mailbox, which by the way is white, where we'd be starting from. It was only about 10:30 when we got there, so we hung out on the bus for a while longer before getting out into the "cold" air. And really, it wasn't cold, it was perfect running weather. Low to mid 60's.
Everybody was just milling around talking and having a good time, and the race director was on the bullhorn trying to locate a runner by the name of Hellen Keller. Or Hellen Kellen. Or something. But you can imagine how much fun we had with that one (it's Hellen Keller, no wonder she cant find the registration table!). Wrong, I know. Somehow everyone sort of got herded out on to the road, and before we knew it, she was on the horn saying "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!". That was it, that was our start! No big fanfare, no starting gun, no actual starting line, just "GO!"
Now, this is a race to do for the pure love of running, and for the unique experience of being able to run through the desert at night. As with the actual start, there was no fanfare, no bells and whistles. I decided to run with Cynthia and SueAnn from RE, and by the time people had gotten spread out after the first mile or so, it was basically just the three of us, passing the occasional person or the occasional person who would pass us. It was very solitary, but it was amazing. We weren't concerned with keeping any certain pace or any goal time, so we really didnt even pay attention to what pace we were running, we just kept it nice and relaxed, even making ourselves slow down even further several times. No need pushing it at a race that was just for fun!
The moon was a few days past full, but it was still very bright out. We all had to wear lights on our hats or carry some other kind of light, but you really didnt need them. It was more for safety. My light burned out after 2 and a half hours, but it wasnt too big of a deal. We could see the road just fine, and to either side of us we could see the shadowy figures of scrub bushes and joshua trees, with the outlines of the mountains in the distance. They had aid stations, but they were spaced every 3 miles, so a little farther apart than other races, so we had to carry our own water bottles. They did have cups, but they encouraged us to carry our own water bottles and just refill at the aid stations to help prevent littering the desert. I had borrowed Court's Fuel Belt, and it worked out perfectly.
The first half of the race was all on an incline, but it wasnt really that noticable until about mile 11. Then miles 11-13 got steeper and it definitely felt like we were running up hill. Since it was dark, you couldnt really see where the hill crested in front of us, our only clue were the increasing number of cars headed towards us. I guess people who had come out just to do the 10K and driven themselves were headed back to Vegas. Again, I dont know why you'd drive a total of 4 hours to run for an hour, but whatever.
Finally we crested the hill and we knew that the rest, quite literally, was all downhill. That sure was a great feeling! We picked up our pace a little bit, and I was still feeling really good at that point.
Now, one of the hard things about doing a race at midnight is timing your pre-race dinner. We at at 3 that afternoon, which was pretty early. But it still wasnt time for me to digest it before the race started. I had been hoping I could make it until the end, but ah, when you gotta go, you gotta go. They did have a couple of port-a-johns along the course, but of course, none when I needed one. So I just headed off the road a bit further than I'd gone just to pee, and took care of it. Ha! I was glad I had thought to stick some tissue in my pocket for "just in case". Now I'll tell ya, that moon seemed EXTRA bright right about then. I knew nobody could see me, but it still felt like there was a spotlight on me. So, check another first off the list.
By about mile 17, I was really starting to get stiff. This was now my longest run since OK City, and I was definitely feeling it. I was having to walk a little more than I wanted, and my IT bands were really tightening up, which hasnt happened in a long time. Thank goodness Cynthia and SueAnn were nice enough to stay with me, it sure helped having someone to run/walk with!
At mile 20 we had to pass the "town" of Rachel, which was where the finish was. Then we had to do a 10K out and back. I was super tired and sore and crabby by that time, so it was hard to head out and not just turn left and call it good. But out we went. Thats about when I hit the point that I've just decided I'm going to hit in every marathon. The "IhaterunningandImneverdoingthisfuckingshiteveragain" point. I started contemplating ways to get out of doing Chicago in 2 months. Could I break my leg? Get a concussion? Come on, there has to be some good way to get out of doing it, I cant just puss out! But I am never ever running a goddamn marathon again. EVER! Oh, and did I mention I hate running? Because I do.
It was also about this point that it got COLD. Up until then, it had been perfect. But now it was 5am and I was freezing. They say it's darkest before the dawn, well apparently it's the coldest before the dawn too.
The sky was just starting to turn pink, and when we turned around at mile 23 and headed back to town, we were facing southeast and had the pleasure of watching the sun come up over the mountains while we gutted out those last 3 miles. It was beautiful, I can't remember the last time I got to watch a sunrise, and I've never gotten to watch one in the desert. THAT made me so happy that I had done the race. When else do you get to do that? Watch the sun rise over the desert mountains while you are running a marathon? Unless of course you're Forrest Gump on your (totally unrealistic, I mean, he wasnt even carrying a water bottle) cross country run.
So we finally made it back to town and crossed the finish line. And once again, there was no fanfare, just a simple timing mat and a clock set up. No cheering fans, nobody waiting to give you a massage, just a simple "I'm done". It was perfect, I cant imagine mucking up a race this pure with a fancy finish. I loved it. Of course, I loved sitting down even more.
They had a big breakfast spread inside the Little Ale'Inn for us, but I never feel like eating after a race, so I just got a Coke. And a Coke never tastes as good as it does right after you finish a marathon. Seriously, best thing ever.
Because of when we finished, we were on the last bus back to Vegas, which didnt leave until 8. So we had about an hour and a half to kill just sitting around. But that was fine with me. Finally the bus pulled out, and we drove back the way we had just run. It was neat getting to see the landscape in the light! While we didnt see any animals while we were running (bummer!) we finally saw all the cows we had heard about on the drive back. They must have been sleeping when we ran by earlier.
It was about 10 by the time we got back to Vegas, and Dan and I still had to check out and head over to Planet Hollywood where we were staying that night. So I just showered up and we hopped a cab over there. Luckilly, it was closer to the Chipotle on the Strip, so once we got checked in at PH we hoofed it down there and I got my mandatory post-long run burrito. And again, they messed it up. The Chipotle in OKC made it too small, this place tore the tortilla all up when they wrapped it so it was hard to eat. I like my burritos big and fat and with the tortillas in tact! Whats so hard about that!?
By the time we got back to the hotel it was about 2pm and I FINALLY got to sleep. I took about a 5 hour nap before I woke up hungry again and we went out in search of dinner. When we got back to the hotel after dinner, I had enough energy to play $20 in the penny slots and then it was back to bed. Kind of lame going to Vegas and spending half of my time asleep, but that's better than blowing hundreds in the casino!
Monday we walked over to Caesars for the second highlight of the trip, lunch at Mesa Grill. I have a bit of a crush on Bobby Flay, so it was MANDATORY to eat at his restaurant. And it did not disappoint! Even Dan agreed that it was awesome.
So, all in all, a good trip, and a fantastic experience. Would I do a midnight marathon again? Probably not, but I'm glad I did it. Definitely an experience that every marathon runner should have, and it's a great way to check Nevada off the list. 4 down, 46 to go!