Yeah, that sounds like something I would do.
On Aug 21st at 2 o’clock in the morning, I completed my 28th foot race at the ET Full Moon midnight marathon near the infamous area 51 in Rachel Nevada. Because of so many medical problems, hospitalizations and interruptions in my training, I had to downgrade from the half marathon distance as originally planned, all the way down to a 5K. That’s right, I drove over 1000 miles to walk a measly 3.1 mile race. The title picture for this post shown above is the actual road I walked and drove on.
I drove 9 hours through brown choking smokey skies the entire distance to site, which is located in the middle of nowhere in the Nevada desert. I did the race, got back in my car and drove another 9 hours home. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier.
I’m happy, because despite a string of mini catastrophes in the days and even hours leading up to this race, I still managed to make the trip and show up at the starting line with time to spare. I mean things like enduring some pretty nasty side effects from my 3rd vaccine dose that I had received just 4 days earlier. Some super bad air covering the Bay area from all the forest fires, or how about breaking a front tooth just 16 hours before I was scheduled to leave? Last but not least, the logistics of actually getting to the location due to so many last minute road closures from all the fires in the area. You name it, everything seemed to be going wrong.
Ah, but thankfully, the side effects of the vaccine wore off 2 days before I was supposed to leave. And though I had to jump through hoops to find a dentist who would see me on a Friday afternoon, by late Friday night I felt pretty confident that I would indeed make my Saturday morning departure.
I left the Bay area around noon and was hoping to make it as far as Reno by 3pm, but a truck wreck along the way dashed all hopes of doing that. Traffic was at a standstill for a full hour. Pissed off, but determined to make it to Tonopah by 8 pm, I looked for every opportunity to make up time. With only one pit stop for gas in Sparks Nevada, I made to my first destination on time. From there I rented a hotel room where I had just enough time to take a shower and get a bite to eat. Not knowing what the road conditions might be like on the remaining 110 miles to the town of Rachel in the dark, I left Tonopah at 9:30 and made it to the event site shortly after 11 pm.
Waiting for the runner busses to arrive from Las Vegas, which were due in at midnight, and which were also transporting the bib packets for the 10 and 5K runners, I used that time to get dressed and do some sight seeing around the ground and the inside of Lil Ail Inn Cafe. It was pretty dark outside, but I got better sense of the lay of the land and saw so many things I didn’t notice the last time I was here back in 2008 for the half marathon. The Lil Ail Inn serves as the finish line for the Full, Half and 51K marathons, which starts 13 to 30 miles south on the Extra Terrestrial Highway (Hwy 395) and is also the starting line for the 5 and 10Ks, which are out and back courses heading north on the same Highway.
The 5K started at 1 am and my finish time was predictably slow. I knew right out of the gate when two runners who appeared to be my age left me in the dust, that placing in my age group was hopeless. So at mile one I actually slowed down and settled into a comfortable 17 min/mile pace for the duration. No sense in risking legs cramps (from all the driving), or breathing difficulties for a first place prize that consisted of a plastic coffee mug with the ET logo on it. Maybe next time.
So despite a pretty intense 20 hours of driving with a midnight walk in the desert thrown in, my lungs and legs faired pretty well. The race organizer, as always, did a fantastic job of pulling off this event despite Covid and the remoteness of the venue. There was also a blue moon that night, which actually looked orange because of all the smoke in the upper atmosphere.
I’ve always loved desert landscapes. There’s something eerily magical about the sheer vastness of it all, and the route I took getting there didn’t disappoint. One one leg of my journey I didn’t come across a single vehicle in over 150 miles. Driving home through the Eastern Sierras and over the Sonora pass at 9600 ft was a nail biting treat as well. The scenery was indescribably beautiful.