We get organized in the room then drive over to the Hard Rock at 7pm. Parking is easy, we meet 2 ladies in the elevator who are also running the 51k. We pick up our race bibs (which are fabulous) and acquire an inflatable alien (it felt right). We have time to dump stuff back at the car before heading over to wait for the buses. The full moon is already quite bright.
Everyone starts heading to the hallway at 8:20 and we end up at the back of a long line so I miss saying hello to George (next time!) It is dark now and buses are loading in the parking lot. The first 5 are full so we walk back over to get on lucky bus 7. This is a designated quiet bus. We sit right in front opposite the RD Joyce who has somehow organized everyone onto buses in record time. Off we go through Las Vegas!
The trip is just over 2 hours. We eat fig bars in the dark. Joyce lets us know we have about 20 mins until arrival, at this time of the night the idea of running is just plain strange. Glowsticks are distributed after we park next to a big mass of reflective runners. It is 11:15.
Time for a photo with the black mailbox. We are in the middle of nowhere. The 10k and Half runners get back on the buses to head to their start lines further up. We huddle around for a photo then everyone starts walking to the road - the race has begun!
I came up with a strategy on the bus, I will give every step everything I have no matter what point of the race I'm at. The first stretch is beautiful, so many colourful glowing runners around us. The moon is slightly behind us to the left, it is so bright we have clear moonlight shadows (hey Mike Oldfield). We can make out the shapes of low bushes, road signs and rocks - and maybe a cow (?) off to the side. At mile 10 the incline steepens and we end up hiking up a hill which looks like it may never end.
We bend left and come out between 2 hills at 12.8 miles. Now we can see right down the road into the valley, to Rachel and past to the police car at the race turnaround. It's downhill! When I try to run again I have pain in both quads, my right knee, right achilles and down the front of my upper body. Well that's shit. We are not even halfway.
The prospect of being able to run even 1 more mile seems ridiculous. The only thing to do is keep moving forward one step at a time. Nothing is helping me mentally. I remember we have Ibuprofen and grab one from Kev. Somehow we hit mile 14 then mile 15. I become less of a bitch.
By the time we see people pulling over to take pics of the ET Highway sign, things are much better.
There's also a roadsign for Rachel, here I am with it! Join the dots.
As we get closer to the bright lights of Rachel there is no doubt at all in my mind I will finish the race. I promise myself another painkiller at 23 miles. Now we start to pass runners finishing the race. There's mile 21, progress. It is still dark.
As we get toward the marathon turnaround the sky lightens. It is becoming easier to see oncoming runners now.
We pass mile 23 and it looks like the police car is at the marathon turnaround. Nope, it's a depth perception error. The volunteer with the clipboard tells us still a few more steps until our turnaround at the trooper car. Onward!
We are determined to make the car before the sun rises. That thing is just not coming any closer. Our good friend the full moon sets to the west.
We finally reach the flashing car and have our bib numbers taken before circuiting the official turn point. Somehow after thinking I couldn't move another step I have run the entire way from there to here. We are on the homestretch now. We can already see Rachel again but it will be a long time coming!
Here comes the sun.
The desert is spectacular. Everything is bathed in warm light. I feel like crap but I don't care. I've never seen anything so beautiful.
We catch Elvis running in a powder blue jumpsuit, am I awake?
Now we count down the kilometres, less than 7, less than 6, stop asking me the bloody distance every 2 mins, less than 5. My feet hurt. Oooh look, here's a Rachel sign.
And an ET sign in daylight!
A volunteer enthusiastically hands us medals, I forgot about that!! It is so nice to sit down. Here's the finish line view from where we collapsed.
We have plenty time for some food which Joyce had to bring herself at the last minute after the venue tried to slap a huge extra charge on. (Hey I bet they didn't have Nutella eh?) It is perfect, OJ, brownies, a muffin & banana are exactly what we wanted. Plus there is water to refill our bottles for the trip back.
And that was the incredible surreal perfect night we became ultrarunners (without arguing).