Wow, wow, wow. What a run. What a weekend!
I have to start off by saying: if you do not believe in a higher power, than you have not run Red Rock Canyon at night. It is truly magnificent. Red Rock has long been one of my absolute favorite places in Las Vegas, and to see it at night - with the lights of the valley shining brightly just below - was an amazing spectacle to behold. Whether you call Him (Her?) God, Jesus, Yahweh, Mohammad, Buddha or Tom Cruise, man, does Red Rock make you feel spiritual. It's just this amazing feeling of energy, peace, and strength. Love it. Just love it.
So I felt incredibly fortunate to have signed up for this amazing race. I was doing it by myself, which was fine, until I got a text from my friend Nancy Saturday morning. She was thinking about entering...what did I think? Um...well, considering I've been training for two months, have shunned alcohol for the last ten days, carb-loaded on pasta on Friday night and got ten hours of sleep, what did I think? I think she's crazy. But I love her free-spiritedness (is that a word?) and god bless the woman for possessing the ability to wake up one morning and decide to run a half marathon that night. Nancy is also approximately the size of my toddler and clearly has a gift. Glad she's putting it to good use.
What was even cooler was that our friend Michelle got in on the action and though she didn't want to run, she agreed to not only meet us at the finish line, but to bring our favorite cupcakes as well. Seriously? See, this is what I love about running - it's about the relationships, not just the race. I love that the three of us can plan our Saturday night together, with nary a drop of alcohol or having to shell out big money on dinner, and have a fantastic, memorable time. Don't get me wrong - I love those nights just like the rest of the world. But this was a pleasant change of pace. It just warms my heart to think of all of the things this sport has brought into my life.
And just like that, the sun went down and it was go-time. Nancy and I nervously boarded the bus that was to shuttle us out of the canyon, taking note the crowd looked serious. Like, real runners. Where was the chubby mom with the stroller? I'm the only one that fit the bill, to be honest, even though I left the Bear (and the stroller at home.) We giggled as we practiced wearing our lights on our head, and I noticed all of the other runners wore their lights like old pros. Maybe I'm exceptionally immature or incredibly vain, but I just couldn't swallow the idea of wearing that thing on my head for 13.1 miles. It was just not a cute look on me.
With the moon full above us, we took off. Those first miles were killer, and I had been warned to take it slow. The elevation rose from 3,700 feet to 4,700 within five miles. At times, I wondered if I was even moving. But I'm proud to say, I didn't walk a step. I may have been slowly trudging up a canyon, but I never stopped.
Imagine my surprise when I saw ole Pink Shorts in front of me. She was resplendent in neon green on this fine evening, and every time I attempted to pass her, she'd speed up. I almost tripped over my feet when she started talking to me. "You're a good pacer," she huffed. I popped an ear bud out and smiled. "Thanks! You're doing great!" I really have no idea what I was supposed to say. I just wanted to end the conversation as quickly as possible since I was slowly running out of air.
Hitting the overlook ascent at 5.3 miles, the highest point in Red Rock, was magical. It honestly looked like a movie set up there, like someone had painted these spectacular rock formations and then backlit a tiny, glittery city that peaked through the valley's crescent. I wish I could say I smiled for the cameras, but I teared up a little at the beauty around me instead. I, however, am not looking forward to seeing the photos from this event, mainly along with my emotional facial contortions, I had worn my head light directly under my bust (instead of on my forehead) and unknowingly left it upside-down, illuminating my boobs and giving me that scary "flashlight face."
Oh, I can only imagine the photos. ::shudders::
Regardless of what I looked like, I had made it through the hardest part of the run successfully and was feeling amazing. Miles six to nine are usually my favorite anyways, and this was no different. I kind of felt like a little turtle from Finding Nemo as I ran through the ascent; it was my turn now to ride the EAC. Drop, tuck, and roll - and down the mountain I flew. Weeeeee!
I have no idea where the next eight miles went, but I do know I loved every step. Well, except for that side stitch that occurred around mile 7. That hurt. Oh, and the two nice volunteers who were so busy pouring water for phantom runners that they forgot to hand me water. Seriously, for a stretch of time, it was just me out there. I'm not sure if everyone was ahead of me or behind me, but it was just me and my headlight coming down the road. Both volunteers were so studiously pouring water that they didn't see me, causing me to yell "Water please! Water! WATER! GAH!!!" until they finally reacted. (The "GAH!" was because I was about to pass them.)
The best part of running downhill is that you get to go on autopilot. Uphill is all "Oh god, oh god, keep going, you got this, it's okay, keep breathing, it will be over soon" whereas with downhill, I just change the channel in my brain and think about whatever I want. On this particular night, I decided to think about special people in my life. That tonight would have been my parents' 39th anniversary. It was my grandpa's 94th birthday. That Sunday was my dear friend Tiffany's birthday, and Monday was her very special son Uly's first birthday. I thought about my friend Krista and her baby Andrew, my friend Katherine and her daughter Ava, and my own little guy at home. Talk about warm fuzzies.
And by mile 8, I knew I had this one. I've run Red Rock so often (but only starting at the exit and then running in), that I could practically name the Joshua trees. Every dip, curve, and climb felt familiar. As a pack of runners slowed to climb mile 10, I knew that just beyond the ridge was a fabulous downhill descent to mile 13. So while they slowed, I sped up. And it felt pretty darn awesome to pass people.
At the finish, as she promised, was Michelle with her box of cupcakes. We noshed on them while we waited for Nancy and I could not wipe the smile from my face. I had conquered Red Rock. I did it at night, too, which proves to me that the Vegas 1/2 from last December must have been an anomaly. (I'm still trying to shake that bad race my memory).
In the meantime, I'm going to sit and savor a truly awesome run over a great weekend. And like I've always said: if I can do it, you can it! Lace up those sneakers and go hit the pavement. You'll never regret it. But if you are going to go long(er) distances, let me give you two words that will change your life: compression socks. You can thank me later for it.