The Mr's ET Full Moon 51k Race Report

We weren't sure how running together all through the night would go, so I mentioned to the Mr it would be interesting to get his take on the race.  Without any nagging at all, this happened.  Enjoy!  (I'm kinda hoping he'll write a few more).

Since the good wife and I spent 7 hours hunting for aliens along the remote roadways of the Nevada desert it was suggested I also provide a race report to convey my thoughts on the whole experience.  I’m not very active with Twitter, do not have Facebook or a blog so I’ll give it my best shot.

As has been covered in greater detail we seemed to get the pre-race night before/day of stuff pretty much right as we both felt great going into the race.

Having spent 2+ hours on a well air-conditioned bus (driver dude, it is 10 pm at night not so hot outside anymore) I was very happy to finally arrive at the Black Mailbox and escape to the great outdoors to stretch out my legs.

Fortunately there is still 30 minutes before the race kicks off so plenty of time to get organized and take a few photos.

With 10 minutes to go Joyce gets going with a little speech about legacy runners (aka The Crazies), safety tips for running this road at night and reminding people not to drop litter (seriously people, you need to be told this?!).

All of a sudden she starts counting down the start! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ……. Everyone starts vaguely meandering towards the road in the general direction of the finish line, did we just start or am I missing something?  Joyce sets off some sort of siren on the megaphone and from the back of the crowd I’m fairly sure I see the serious runners set off, everyone else raises their tempo from a meander to a slow walk.  Inside I’m all like “run, run, I must run! The race has started, what are we waiting for?” Sue and I speed up to a decent pace still not 100% sure the race has started.

On reflection (several weeks later) I realize that this is a 51k race and most people have 6-7 hours of running ahead of them, fairly sure a quick start is not required.  With the likelihood we do more ultras in the future I shall need to learn from this and not think the same way I would approaching a half marathon.

The first 15k or so go by fairly smoothly, pace has been pretty consistent the weather is perfect and night scenery is amazing.  From the vague outlines of the mountain pass to the star-filled sky all complemented by the light covered, glow bracelet wearing crazy people the event is living up to expectations and then some.  There is the odd flash of competitive fire within me as and I have to almost physically stop myself sprinting off into the dark.

Then the hill steepens (did I mention the first 21k are on a constant uphill through a mountain pass?) to the point where it becomes more of a struggle and the next 45 minutes are spent mainly walking as we gain a further 141m of elevation over 5kms.  Hmm, hill training, why did we not think of that?  We knew there was a bloody big hill, oh well another lesson to be learned.

After what feels like a very long time we finally crest the mountain pass, oh hang on, it’s a false summit hiding the true summit another 500m up the road, at this point Sue seems to be struggling and that 500m seems a long way to go, is this a bad time to mention the next 30km are pretty much all downhill or flat?

Having spent a good while walking getting the legs into run mode again is way harder than you would think, especially given we are heading straight back down the pass and the mind wants to speed up and take advantage of the slope.

Over the next few miles the whole race is thrown into doubt as Sue is struggling with Achilles pain and the concept of running another 25+ kms, I keep trying to convince her to forget the distance, just run, and who cares how fast just run.  Two things save the day; firstly Rachel, home to the finish line and the only civilization in the area is still a good 10km away, so no choice but to keep going, secondly the magic of modern medication and Sue remembering we have Ibuprofen stashed somewhere in my pack.  Over the next mile or so Sue comes out from under the cloud of despair and seems more content with the situation and resolved to see it through.

This is just as well as what seems like impossibly far in the distance (it’s just one very long straight road now) is Rachel, beyond that (that only marks the 32k point) a faint twinkling of a police car.  Is that the turn-around?  It seems way too far away and up another big hill!

Who knows, the dark can be deceptive and either way we’ve still got a lot of running to go, head down and keep on trucking.

Rachel comes and goes as it’s all more enjoyable now, we’ve stopped a couple of times for photos by the famous highway signs and the distance is no longer this daunting task, only 19km to go!

The next bit is a bit weird as the faster runners on the way back from the marathon and ultra turn around points emerge from the dark (very few have headlights turned on and most glow sticks seem to have been abandoned) and I feel the need to stay focused and avoid collisions.  As the kms trickle by the mile markers seem way too far apart to be real, but we keep on going at a fairly consistent pace with the odd walking break.  There is now a faint light in the east as the sun threatens to reveal its presence to the world.

In an attempt to boost spirits I propose we make it to the police car before the sun is visible over the mountains.  This seems to work but I quickly realize the ever increasing light is revealing a stunningly beautiful desert landscape is what’s really making the difference for us both.  However Sue has accepted the challenge and our pace is kept up with hardly any interruptions (other than the odd photo).

Yes!  We arrive at the police car before the sun, I would like to run and hug the car but fear the policeman may not be too impressed so settle for grabbing a drink from the aid station and chatting with the fellow taking our bib numbers down to show we made it all the way there.  It turns out the big hill was further along the road and was just another nighttime illusion.  A homemade fuzzy alien thing is duly handed over to another awesome volunteer and we turn around for the homeward stretch of our toughest running challenge to date, hey? What? There’s still 10km to go?! Ah crap.

The next 10km are not the easiest by any stretch; I’m learning how hard it is just being on your feet for such a long time, regardless of how fast you are actually going.  It is a mix of good periods of running, ever increasing sunlight and an ever constant question of how far is it now.  6km Sue, 5km my love, 4.6km my dear, 3.9km, 3.7km, how about I tell you when we hit a landmark? 3km, 2.9km

However we catch a running Elvi in a rather fetching blue/green colored jump suit pass another runner or two and we are almost there.  The finish is in sight (well, kind of it is round a corner but I know it’s there) and all of a sudden we are stopping for another photo with a road sign (do you realize there are two ladies catching us?  It turns out one of them is in Sue’s age group and pushes her from 3rd to 4th (no awards for this so not a big deal) but we’ve been out for nearly 7 hours what’s another 2 minutes matter when you can get a great photo? 

In this Sue is definitely right, once more I must try and learn that time/speed are not everything and that some races are just to be enjoyed.  We cross the finish line with great relief and receive a totally awesome medal (forgot all about that bit) and gratefully sink into a nice comfy chair (which a server promptly tells us has to go back inside so shift your butt to the plastic lawn chair over there) oh well a chair is a chair at this point, just let me get my darn shoes off.

I end up 3rd last out of all male runners and now I couldn’t care less.  I just shared an amazing adventure through the Nevada desert with my wife of 14 years and I couldn’t be happier.

The two hour bus drive back to Vegas is a drag, even though I fitfully doze through a bunch of it and before you know it we are at Jack in the Box ordering the best tasting Cheeseburger since the dawn of time.

I learned a lot through this race and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.  First, I want to try more ultras/trail races, I love the idea of a more endurance based challenge rather than just being focused on what pace I’m maintaining.  Second, this is for fun!  I’m determined to ensure I run more races with Sue so that we can share the experiences together rather than just at the finish line all the time.  Finally, I shall always be grateful that Sue got us into running 3 years ago; I’ve found way more enjoyment and a sense of belonging and achievement than through any other sport I’ve played.


  1. Wow, what a view while running!

    1. It really was beautiful, the sunrise was worth all the suffering! :)

  2. I said it before, will say it again! Marvelous job. Pretty damn sure I couldn't do this. I particularly loved Kev's answers to your "how far" questions!!!

    weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! running is something inni! And we keep going back for more!!!

  3. What an amazing race!!! Right on.

  4. What a great recap! So eloquently written and I love the part about enjoying the experience with one another, not just at the finish. I can relate to this point as it's usually what JP and I do but we really should run a race together :) Congratulations again!

  5. Congrats on your ultra, you two. It was great to have the perspective from both of you. Any couple that can run together that long in a desert in the dark and in the heat with Elvi and Aliens and call each other dear (in a nice way) throughout deserve a very special medal. Great job you two! Oh, and awwwww. :)

    1. Thank you! I'm inclined to agree that perhaps a 'we're still married after all that' medal would be a thing ;)


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