Race packets have been collected and after some panic trying to get lights strung around our packs (and an alien attached to mine) we leave The Palazzo at 8:30pm. It's crazy busy downstairs, a billion people everywhere all dressed up for a night out. They have all the drinks.
It's an easy drive out up I-15, but after we turn off onto 93 the weather goes insane and there's lightning across the entire sky. Is that rain? Holy crap it's raining hard. This is worrying, the forecast was clear for Rachel, I don't even have a long sleeve top. Apocalypse! Happily it stops by the time we join the ET Highway. That was too close.
And we're here, there are cars pulling into the side road past the former mailbox site so we follow along and park. It's 10:30pm. The buses aren't here yet so there's plenty time for bathrooms and photos and general hanging around in the dark. It's a lovely warm night.
Here they are, I think there's 7 buses and it's suddenly quite busy. I don't really want to talk or think about the race, just get myself moving out onto the course. Joyce (RD) is a frenzy of activity, organizing people back onto buses and getting the marathon and 51k started.
It feels awkward starting a run in the middle of the night so for the first few miles I focus on following a pair of legs. After glancing at my Garmin I can see I'm pretty slow, so I stop looking (problem solved). I've taken off my headlight as it was bothering my forehead and I'm running with it in my hand. That will work for the whole race. It's very warm and the occasional cool breeze is welcome. At some points the wind is hot. I love the desert, so different.
I focus on getting each mile done, for the first 13 they are all uphill. Every time I pass a marker I shine my light on it and take a moment to be happy about how far I've come. Little clusters of light signal aid stations at various intervals in the dark. Those are the best, a runner's midnight oasis.
At mile 7 we pass the Half start and the uphill gets steeper. I'm trying to have a Shot Blok every mile. Miles 11 through 13 are much steeper but the scenery is changing as we climb which is interesting. The moon is quite bright and it looks misty in some parts. I manage to run most of this section, albeit slowly.
Coyote Summit marks the top! Hurrah! There's a magnificent aid station with PB&J sandwiches. Brilliant. The next 7 miles are downhill toward Rachel. At 18 miles we see the little lights twinkling below. I'm really enjoying this part. I pass a runner with a radio, I wonder if he's trying to pick up broadcasts from Area 51? I pass the halfway point (25.5km) at 3:45.
I head into the 20 mile aid station at Rachel with the back of the half marathon field, the finish line is right there but I'm going back out toward the 51 turnaround. That's okay. Around this point I realize I've really had enough of Bloks and Tailwind, I'm wishing I had water in my pack.
At mile 21 I pass Kevin who's on track for a good PR. His goal is to finish the race before dawn. There's a hint of light now so I focus on getting to the marathon turnaround then my own turnaround before the sun appears. I must have missed a couple of markers as 25 pops up to the side. I didn't really notice the marathon turn point.
The one thing I do notice is how quiet it is. Where is everyone? After I get round the cone (before sunrise - victory) I only have to make my way straight back to Rachel. The sun is rising off to the left.
I still feel good at 26.2. Let's take a dawn selfie.
Okay, less good now. I can't face any gummy synthetic food or sports drink so I ask the volunteer at the marathon turn to get my coke out of my pack. Yes, it was worth carrying it all the way around for this. I've been doing very crappy run/walk intervals for the last little while and the coke gives me energy and settles my stomach. I've caught up with the marathoners and slowly pick a few off.
I turn around to get a shot of a mile marker, my constant companion through the night. I'm actually past 28 now. My Garmin starts complaining about low battery. Shut it!
Still making painful progress toward Rachel, aaaand there's the sign.
This one is my absolute favourite! Morning light in the desert is so beautiful.
Here's the last little stretch before we turn sharp right and would you believe it I've remembered how to run.
Done! 7:31. I have to sit. We have time to check out the Little A'le'inn, then I hear my name called for some reason.
The last bus heading back to Las Vegas drops us at the black mailbox to collect the car. It is already pretty damn toasty out. This is the new 'shrine' (ie. mostly a heap of crap) at the mailbox site. The original and famous mailbox was abducted in 2015. You can see it in our 2014 race photos.