Racing at Area 51

Ok, I think I’ve recovered enough to post some more pictures at talk about how awesome an experience this race is. Here we go!

The Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon / Half/ 10k / 51k is my favorite event. It’s at night, in the middle of the desert, down a road officially called the Extraterrestrial Highway (see pic below), and it ends at the Little A’Le’Inn, where a breakfast buffet has been laid out by the completely wonderful proprietors. They have pancakes and sausages and fresh fruit (I think I had some tiny plums from their own trees) and salad if that’s your thing. I really can’t say enough good things about everyone involved. (THANK YOU RACE DIRECTOR JOYCE!)

I’ve done the 10k and half-marathon distances here before. This is my first crack at the full marathon. (Next year’s big goal: the 51k!)

Buses and the Full Moon. (Those red things in the sky by the moon are just from my crappy race camera – don’t be alarmed)

It takes about 2 1/2 hours to get out to Rachel, NV (neighbor to Area 51) from the Hard Rock Cafe, and there is a bus ticket option. (Take the bus. The people are fun.) On the way part of the fun was watching the temperature drop – 99 degrees on the strip, 72 degrees at the race start. This time around there was also the extra fun of lightning and about 5 minutes of actual downpour to drive through. It struck me as pretty funny that people on the bus were looking around and whispering “But it’s a desert, right?….” Yeah, it’s a desert out there, but it has to rain every now and then.

The Black Mailbox

At the Black Mailbox (which is actually white) things were dry. Either the rain hadn’t made it there, or it just dried up already. Looking around is kind of surreal. Lots of reflective bits on people, full moon, a bunch of tour buses, and a full moon. (That road that t-bones the ET highway? Yeah, that goes to Area 51. Don’t go down that. Unfriendly men with guns will come talk to you. They will probably not be good at conversation.)

People milling around the start line at the Black Mailbox

The 51k and marathon start at the Black Mailbox. I didn’t notice as many crazy alien costumes as I’ve seen in past years (the 10k crowd probably won the costume contest. Did I mention there was a costume contest? There is one.)

As we start, it’s strange to notice how incredibly quiet it is. All you hear after people get settled in is some shoe slapping, and occasionally someone’s music is loud enough to hear. Living in Vegas, quiet can be a bit of a shock, or unexpected relief. Yet another reason this race is wonderful.

For hours on end, it’s quiet. The Perseid meteor showers aren’t until a couple weeks from now, but I saw at least a dozen shooting stars, or things that looked like shooting stars. Plus lightning over the distant hills. And the full moon casting a glow over the desert. I didn’t have any close encounters (that I’m aware of), but I did hear a cow (that was totally alive and non-mutilated and everything). It was beautiful.

I finally learned not to let myself get psyched out. In the dark on a hill, this race can seriously test your depth perception. I played games with myself. Like: “Moving or Stationary” or “Going Away or Coming Towards”. Hint: if you’re pretty sure it’s a car (and you may not be) it’s probably moving. And the biggest thing to keep in mind: EVERYTHING is farther away that it appears! When you think you see where the top of that hill is or where you think a cluster of lights looks like an aid station, ALWAYS add a half mile or mile or more. It can be unbearable when you think you’re almost to a relief spot only to realize it was just a bunch of lights (not even close to each other), or that it’s much further away.

Nearing the Little A’Le’Inn, I stopped to get a picture of one of the roadsigns:

Road Sign – The Extraterrestrial Highway

The part of this particular event that I thought would mess with my head is that the route PASSES the end point, goes up into a hill beyond (where you can’t see the turnaround) and then goes back. Luckily there was an aid station that soothed me with animal crackers and wild cheers before I headed away again.

I finally crossed the finish line at almost 5am. Not my best time, but this is not a course I’d recommend to anyone trying a PR. Do this one for funsies.

I ate me some breakfast and talked to some of the others at the picnic tables. There was a guy there waiting for his fiancee in the marathon, who ran about 15 miles, but wasn’t actually racing (Dude ran over a half-marathon to support his lady! He rocks!). Met the race director for the Malibu Marathon, who’s run 22 marathons barefoot now and offered to give me some guidance in going that direction myself.

This was the first time I’ve actually stayed out there long enough to see this beautiful sight: the sun rise. The big surprise: There was stuff out there that we ran past and had NO idea!

The sunrise at Area 51

I was tired at long last. I got on a bus and made it back to Vegas. The drive home from the strip was a little frightening – three very serious car accidents. It was a very strong reminder to drive carefully. So I did, and slept. Then I ATE. And slept. AND ATE.

And now I’m thinking about next year: The 51k.

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~ by jesstracey on August 7, 2012.

3 Responses to “Racing at Area 51”

  1. Alright, I’m definitely doing this marathon next year. I wanted to make it out there for the 1/2 but couldn’t make it happen. But it’s going on the calendar for 2013. I hope you keep your 51k goal!

    • Hey Dan! Joyce (the race director) just announced that next year this race is going to be on August 17th-18th. I don’t think registration is open this early, but I thought you might want to know.

      • Drat … I’m looking at a 50-miler in late August and would have only done the ET race as a taper-run. But so close to the event, I’d have to abstain. 2014 I guess!

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