Monday, January 30, 2017

ET Full Moon Half Marathon ~ August 20-21, 2016

I had wanted to run the ET Full Moon Half Marathon since I first heard about it in 2013 but due to conflicting race schedules I hadn't been able to until this year. I was in the midst of building my base back after my injury and surgery so a half marathon fit nicely into my training schedule. 

The ET Full Moon Half Marathon is put on by Calico Racing. The course runs along the edge of the mysterious Area 51, on highway 375. This highway has had an overwhelming number of reported UFO sightings, so much so that in 1996 the federal government officially named it the "Extraterrestrial Highway".

The race is located in Rachel, NV, which is high desert, and typically offers cooler temperatures than the Las Vegas valley. This is a night race so all runners needed to wear a reflective vest and a head lamp. 

We met at a hotel near the Strip and waited for several charter buses to take us to the race location. You can drive to the start but it is a few hours away and has very limited parking so taking the bus was a much easier option. 

The buses were labeled with the different race distances (full marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K). Each race had a different start line so having the racers separated made more logistical sense. We loaded into our appropriate bus and settled in for the 2.5 hour ride. 

The buses stopped to drop off the marathon and 51K runners who had a midnight start time. This is where the "Black Mailbox" is, as well as a last minute packet pickup for those who couldn't pick them up in Las Vegas. We had picked our packets up at the hotel before be boarded the buses. There were several port-a potties at this location too. After a brief stop, we continued on to the half marathon starting point. There were a few port-a potties here and an aid station that the marathon and 51K runners would hit on their way through. 

As 12:30 AM neared, we turned on our headlamps and lined up on the start line for some last minute instructions. My husband was going to pace me on this run since I was nervous about making my goal time. As the countdown started, we gave each other our customary "Good Luck" kiss and then we were off. 

The run was a straight, point to point course. The first 6 miles were a constant climb to Coyote Summit at 5591 feet. The climb was steady and the steepest section was between 4.5-6 miles. There was a small false summit near the top that was a bit disheartening. Once at the top, we were rewarded with a nice long downhill run to the town of Rachel, NV. 

This was an interesting venue for a race. The temperature was cooler but would have pockets of heat. The race is always scheduled on the weekend closest to a full moon. Unfortunately, there was a cloud cover so we couldn't see many stars. It was really dark and I could hear things off in the distance which often spooked me. I was glad that my husband was running with me. I just focused on following him and trying to keep up. 

Once we were closer to Rachel, we could see the small town and it's lights. It was a nice beacon to aim for. We started to get passed by a few of the faster marathon and 51K runners. I didn't mind. They had to pass the finish line for an additional out and back before finishing. 

My husband started to pick up the pace as we neared the finish line. I was struggling but was able to hang on. I knew the pain would end soon. We made a left hand turn off of Highway 375 to sprint to the end at the A'le'Inn, a tiny hotel and restaurant. We finished in 2:43:22. I was very happy with this time. It was close to my slowest half marathon ever but I didn't care. I ran the whole thing. I had hoped to finish in 2:45 and with my husband's help, I was able to come in just below that. 

There was a huge spread of food at the finisher's table but I wasn't ready to eat anything. I grabbed a banana and a cup of chocolate milk. While we were eating and drinking, we saw that a bus was ready to leave and the next one would be about 30-45 minutes later. We decided to hurry up and get on board. This ended up being a good and a bad thing. As we were riding home, I was very thirsty and had nothing to drink. I also started to have tight legs that really wanted to stretch out. In hindsight, we should have caught the later bus in order to cool down and rehydrate. My husband, as well as most of the bus, fell asleep on the return ride but I wasn't able to. We arrived back to the hotel around 6-6:30 AM. We headed home but stopped for breakfast on the way. Once home, we settled in for a nice, well deserved nap.

I would definitely recommend this race to anyone. It is put on by a great company who always provides great tech shirts, original finisher's medals. fully stocked aid stations, unique placement awards, helpful volunteers, and fun courses. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ocean Shores Olympic Triathlon ~ 7-9-16

My family decided to explore the Pacific NW for our summer vacation, so of course, we had to add a race into that trip. We selected the Ocean Shores Olympic Triathlon for me and the Washington Toughman Half distance duathlon for my husband. Both being put on the same day at the some location. The race was held on the peninsula town of Ocean Shores, Washington. 

We arrived two days early. This gave us one day to do a shake out workout as well as time to explore the coast and local area before the race. Packet pickup was held the day before in the local convention hall. 

Race morning arrived and greeted us with rain, wind, and chilly temperatures. It was in the mid 50's, raining and wind was 15-18 mph with gusts to 21 mph. Not the ideal racing conditions but we hadn't driven all that way for nothing. We set up our transitions and got ready to race. I put my wetsuit on early to help keep me warm. The duathlon started before my race so we watched the husband start and then made our way to the water's edge. 


The swim was 1500 meters in Duck Lake, a fresh water canal that runs most of the peninsula. The water temperature was mild but felt warmer than the air temperature. The Toughman Washington State athletes started first and then all the Ocean Shores Olympic athletes started next. It was a mass floating start. We entered and exited at the boat ramp. The route was a long, skinny rectangle. There were not a lot of participants so I never felt crowded during the swim. I completed the 0.9 mile swim in 30:01.

I had left my flip flops at the edge of the boat ramp but decided to run barefoot to the transition area since it was only a short distance and through the grass. Big mistake. The grass was covered with thorny grass also know as burweed. By the time I reached my transition spot, me feet were covered with burs. I had to stop and pick every single one out before I could put my socks and bike shoes on. That took a lot of time. I finished T1 in 4:17.

Once on the bike, it started to rain harder. At times, it felt like tiny stingers hitting my entire body. The bike course was an out and back skirting along the edge of the peninsula. It was a relatively flat course. The wind was really strong while on the bike. Since we were on the water's edge, there was no wind break. It made for a few really fast tailwinds along with some fierce headwinds. One of the things mentioned by the race company was that we might see deer while on the bike course. They did not disappoint. I rode by several deer eating grass next to the road. It made me a little nervous since I didn't want to have a collision with one of them. To my knowledge, no one had any problems with deer during the race. I felt pretty good while completing the 25.34 mile bike section and finished in 1:26:20.

T2 was quick and painless. I made sure to stand on my transition mat to avoid getting anymore burs in my feet. It was still raining but I wasn't cold. I headed out for the run and waved to my boys. I was in and out of T2 in 1:08.


The run was a flat out and back course. The middle half of the run was on the beach. On a normal day, it would have been a beautiful run but the rainy and windy weather made it a bit rough. For about 1.5 miles of the beach run, I had sand and rain beating me in my face. Once I hit the turn around point, the wind helped push me along. I kept a steady pace, ran the entire thing and finished strong. I completed the 6.2 miles in 1:09:25.

My total finish time was 3:11:09. That was good enough for 2nd place in my age group of females 40-49 and 5th place female overall. I was so excited! This was my second triathlon after coming back from ACL reconstruction surgery. I gave a solid performance and my knee held up great. Completing this race reassured me that my rehabilitation and training where on track and that my attempt on Ironman Arizona in November still looked good.

The company that put on this race was going out of business and this was their last race. Because of this, they did not give us race shirts and the medals were nothing great. They promised to mail me the age group award but I have not received anything and do not expect to receive one. Even without the usual race paraphernalia, I'm glad I was able to participate in this race and experience this amazing location.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cycling in Crater Lake National Park ~ 7-4-16

Crater Lake National Park has been named one of the ten best National Parks to explore on a bike. After reading about it in an article by, we decided to add it to our "Must Do" list. We scheduled a short stop while on our summer road trip to Washington and headed to the park on the 4th of July.

The ride is a 33 mile loop, with about 3800 feet of elevation gain, around the rim of the lake. It can be completed either clockwise or counter-clockwise. We decided to do the ride counter-clockwise.

We arrived early in the morning and parked at Rim Village. There was plenty of parking and a restroom open for use. Crater Lake is above 6,000 feet in elevation so it was quite chilly and there was still snow in places. We layered up and hit the road. The first 3.5 miles of the ride were downhill. It was fun and fast. We then stopped at the Park Headquarters to pick up a cycling brochure.

The next 13 miles of the East Rim Drive were closed to traffic due to debris still covering the road in places. It was great to not worry about cars but we did have to keep our eyes open for tree parts on the road. Once on the closed road, we immediately began our first climb. It was 1.5 miles long and I thought I was going to die. Little did I know that this was just the beginning. I had read about the rides difficulty but I was not prepared for just how difficult.

At the 5 mile mark we were greeted with a nice downhill. I'm a slow climber but I can fly downhill! I knew that it was going to be short lived so I took as much advantage of it as I could to gather up some speed before hitting the next hill.

Near the bottom of the hill, we came upon Vidae Falls and stopped for a quick photo break. The waterfall was beautiful and I'm so glad we were able to see it since only cyclists and hikers were being allowed on the road.

If I had thought the first hill was bad, the second hill was 2 miles of sheer torture. I was glad that we were in the trees at this section because I wasn't able to look around. I was too focused on getting up that hill. Once at the top, we stopped for a short snack break. It allowed us a nice view across the valley to the south of the lake.  

Thankfully, what goes up must come down. We had a lovely, fast 3.5 mile downhill section. It was freedom to just go and not have to worry about cars. The road was wide open and it was glorious. We came around a left hand curve and saw the main reason the road was still closed. There had been a rockslide. It covered the road and had created several large gouges in the pavement. We decided to walk our bikes through this section to avoid getting a flat. 

The next 2.5 miles was another killer climb. Once at the top, we came to our first pullout, the Phantom Ship Overlook. There were two hikers eating their lunch here so we stopped and had them take our picture. It was the first time we had really seen the lake. It took my breath away! The water was so blue. I took advantage of our stop and shed a layer of clothes. We wished the hikers well and then were on our way. 

After a 1 mile climb we saw our first big snow drift. We had to stop and take a picture in the snow. This was also the last overlook before we started our longest descent.

We rode about 2 miles before we intersected a gate blocking the road. That was the end of our closed road section. We had completed about half of the loop at this point. We continued down the 5 mile downhill section. Since we were now riding with traffic, we had to hug the shoulder and be much more aware of our surroundings. 

We were riding right next to the lake now and were rewarded with amazing views the entire time. The day could not have been more beautiful. There were no clouds in the sky and the blues were breathtaking.

At around the 20 mile mark, we stopped at a pullout for another snack break. We saw other visitors and were able to get our picture taken together. We stayed there for a few minutes to take in the unreal views. We could see the boats making their way around the lake taking passengers back and forth to Wizard Island. Seeing how small the boats looked gave perspective of how massive the lake really is. Seeing the different currents moving along the water was mesmerizing.

We continued our way around the lake. As it was getting later in the morning, we began to encounter a lot more traffic. We also began to see a lot of cyclist doing the loop clockwise. Drivers were courteous and patient so I never felt in danger. 

At mile 27, we came to the North Junction. This is where the West Rim Drive begins and traffic really started to increase. We began our final long climb of the ride. I was really starting to get tired and I was ready to be done. I knew we only had about 5 more miles so I buckled down and pushed through. There were sections here that had no shoulder with large drop-offs inches away. These sections made me very nervous. 

Once we crested the hill, we encountered road construction. They were repaving the road so we had to ride along dirt for about a half mile. Luckily, we caught the end of the single file traffic line and didn't have to wait or lose our speed. 

Finally, we came to the intersection where the East Rim and West Rim Drives meet. We turned left to make our way back to the Rim Village parking lot. Now the lot was completely full with cars circling like hungry sharks. We loaded our bikes onto the car, changed our shoes, hit up the bathroom, and chatted with a few others cyclists we had seen earlier in the day. 

I was suddenly filled with pride and awe at what we had just accomplished. I had completed a ride that many people only dream about. It was painful, blissful, horrible, amazing, frustrating, and beautiful. If you get the chance to do this ride, GO! You will not be disappointed.