Getting Married At Burning Man

Those that know me would likely say that, “I am a bit of a free spirit and spontaneous.” I assume I proved them right when I decided to get married at Burning Man and then actually followed through by marrying someone I had never actually met until our wedding day. There are certainly folks that would say that is insane, but I think it was great that way.

I asked potential platonic spouses to fill out an online form. Over a dozen people responded and a group of folks sat down with me at a bar to go through the responses, names/gender were redacted to make this unbiased. The group ended up selecting someone from NYC. A virgin burner who had kick ass responses to questions on the form. Date and time were set and we agreed to meet at Champagne Lounge (who graciously let us use their lounge space for the ceremony and short reception, down the road from my camp, for the ceremony. 

After picking up a fun looking ring and sending Facebook wedding invites to camp mates I figured everything would work its way out. MagicMan would officiate, Dogbrain would walk me down the aisle, Ice Brain was to be my ring gal… It was set. For some odd reason I thought it would be a bright idea to run my first 50K the same day as my first wedding. The few hours between the race and wedding were not pretty. Could I really go through with this after putting my body through five hours of running? As we say at camp, “It’s probably fine.” So when Ice Brain ran over and said someone in a white dress walked by I knew I had to get ready for the big show.

We physically met for the first time just before we were to walk down the aisle. The music started and we were all systems go. It was great! A ton of my camp mates were there to celebrate this unofficial, temporary union. Her mad lib style wedding vows were crowd approved. I received messages from folks after the burn that they stopped by my wedding, but didn’t get the chance to catch me after.

We spent a little time wandering streets and chatting. She went with me for my post 50K massage. On my birthday there was a balloon and a flask labeled, “Birthday Bourbon. -Your Wife,” waiting for me at my camp bar on my birthday. I definitely found a winner! My camp loved her and if she’s back for 2014 she’s definitely found a home with us.

Would I do it again? I’m not sure. It takes a lot to coordinate something like this on playa, especially since everyone operates on ‘Playa Time.’ Overall the experience was a win. I wish I had spent a lil less time sleeping and a lil more time hanging out and exploring with her, but it was still all smiles in my book. So the platonic marriage to a perfect stranger turned into meeting a superb being that I definitely need to schedule a date with.

My 1st 50K & Burning Man Ramblings

Oh gosh!!! It’s been far to long and updates are definitely in order, (this is now a moot point as I have skipped this post and am now backtracking) especially on the running front as that is what has become of my life (I believe this still holds true). I forgot how much I missed running until it became my evening routine after being tucked away for over a decade.

As usual I made my way to Burning Man, I love that place and I can’t think of many other places I would enjoy returning to for almost two weeks annually. This year I decided to do two things while I was there:

  1. Run the 4th Burning Man Ultramarathon, it’s a 50k.
  2. Get married.

Both of these were things I haven’t done before and they were also among the infinite number of things I knew I could do on the playa. For some strange reason I also thought it would be a great idea to do both of these on the same day. I would later regret that, well my body regretted it. Mentally, I am glad that I followed through on both!

The ultramarathon was great. A couple things to note:

  • Cherri Bomb is the Race Director
  • You get to run beside some kickass runners
  • It’s free! Instead you are asked to bring a gallon of water & a shareable snack/fuel
  • Cool 5am start
  • It’s a looped course – four loops and an out and back
  • It gets hot
  • Clothing is optional
  • You need to acquire a ticket to Burning Man
  • It’s Ah-May-Zing! (Don’t believe me, watch this video)

I planned to use this race as a long training run while prepping for my first marathon.  I barely made it to the start on time because I love sleep. Upon arrival I jumped in for the group photo before hearing that there was only two minutes until the start. DAMMIT. I needed to pee, badly. Start on time and hold it as long as possible or use the potty and tack the time on my run? I’m a Virgo, I stood among my fellow Burners and started at the sound of the …. I don’t remember what was used, it wasn’t a gun. Right?

Into the darkness we went for almost two hours, which is when the center of the solar system decides to rise above the mountains and naturally light the city that me and my camp light every night. Although the course is looped you do not see the same thing each time since you are at Burning Man and people, art cars/mutant vehicles and parties roam around day and night. As the sun beat down during the fourth loop I remember just wanting to finish. I hadn’t run more than 23 or so miles and I tired. Hours ticked by. I sorta forgot about my bladder. A few of my campmates knew I was running and it was nice to see them on the course as they were doing morning lantern pickup. Eventually the out and back came, I was pushing it as best as I could. There it was, the finish line. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. I was done. I finished my first 50k in 5:15:23, fourth female finisher and 21st overall, not shabby.

A friend, whom I met on the playa two years earlier, met me at the finish and let me sit on his bike as he pushed it back to my camp. Upon entering camp I was greeted by, “How was the run?,” to which I promptly responded that, “Dumbest idea ever.” (I’ve since forgotten the pain and plan on running it again.) Other than tired legs, one toenail felt like it was in bad shape. Thanks to one of our awesome doctors, Dr. Tink, I was bandaged and ready to go.

I should note that I forgot my running gear on the East Coast so I resorted to wearing new gear, it worked out, kinda. I ran in an old pair of Nike Shocks, shoes that I wore for three weeks while cleaning homes in Staten Island and Far Rockaway following Hurricane Sandy. The pain of wearing those shoes for 50 dusty kilometers was worth it.

BMUltraFinisher

I was slated to be married three hours later. TBC

Ultramarathon & Marathon Training During Ramadan

It’s not hard. (إن شاء الله) Well I should say it’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not easy. When presented with the most recent heatwave in NYC I was left with to options, run in the heat or not train at all. (I’m not a fan of treadmill running now that I’ve started a serious relationship with outdoor running, so that was not an option.) Over the past couple weeks I have made it a priority to run at least four times a week, even logging over 16 miles on a Sunday run.

Going into this training season I hadn’t planned to run an ultramarathon at the end of August. It just happened. Really. I did know that I would need to log miles during Ramadan in order to hit my marathon training goals. So then this ultra moseys onto my schedule and there’s no turning back. I haven’t even run a marathon yet. I keep telling myself if I can run 30-40 miles a week in the heat and without hydration I can deal with a flat ultramarathon course with a cool start and a couple hours of running in the heat with hydration.

My ultimate goal is to finish the 50k, but I have an ambitious 4:59:59 or better goal time tucked away in the back of my mind. I was under the impression that I could hit my goal time on some of my longer runs, but I’ve found it hard to hold a slow pac, even on long runs. Last weekend I completed my run at a sub-9 min ave pace of 16.55 miles (if you don’t count the 5 minutes of water breaks, traffic lights and figuring out where we were). I believe the cooler, evening conditions aided in keeping a slightly faster, conversational pace with my fellow running buddies. My goal finishing pace is 9:39 or so for the 50k. I’m hoping that I can complete my 20 mile run this weekend at that pace, but if I stay in the low nine minute range I may be in for a surprise on race day.

I feel like I’m in a grove at this point. My weeknight runs have been at 7:50-8:40 mile averages. I don’t feel drained as much, which I can likely attribute to sitting in the air conditioning for a few minutes after runs to lower my core temperature.

Some of the things that have worked for me during Ramadan race training include:

  • Listening to my body instead of trying to hit specific paces
  • Not wasting energy by making unnecessary movements
  • Wearing breathable clothing
  • Not running more than than 6-7 miles (approx. 10-11k)
  • Starting runs within two hours of sunset
  • Having at least a .5 litre bottle of cold water nearby when the sun does set
  • Starting long runs close to sunset

Every mile during my runs I try to do a tune-up check on my body. I think about my form, my breathing, any tension in my body and how my body feels overall. I feel like this has definitely helped keep me on track and keep my mind off of the fact that I cannot rehydrate like many of my fellow runners post-run. Two more weeks to appreciate the simple things like a sip of cold water after putting a hard workout.

10 Things You Need On The Playa

For years I thought about going to Burning Man so that I could experience this ‘self reliance’ and radical expression’ that I heard so much about. In 2008 I finally subscribed to Jack Rabbit Speaks and lived vicariously through the newsletter and photos. Finally making it to the playa was surreal, for lack of any word in existence that could possibly describe it.

Like many virgins, I thought I was prepared. I mean, c’mon; I read the newsletter for years, I knew the principles, I had signed up to volunteer, I scoured the internet for tips and I checked my packing list twice. I knew I needed a tent (I doubt I would ever RV it, personal preference), food, water and a bicycle. You definitely need those things to survive on the playa. There were still things that I forgot, things I was glad that I packed and things I learned along the way. Here’s my shortlist, in no particular order:

10. Participation. Participate. Participate? Participate! This cannot be repeated enough. Just because you don’t want to join a camp or can’t commit to four hours of work a day as a ranger doesn’t mean that you can’t give back to Black Rock City (BRC). You can spend a few hours at Playa Info, get on stage in Center Camp, support an event or create your own event to share with the other citizens of BRC.

9. Lights At Night. There is nothing worse than literally running into some unlit being on the open playa after dancing it up at Disorient on Tuesday night. Be a dear and put some blinkies or glow sticks on your bike as well as yourself when you head out at night. Mutant vehicles and art cars may not see you stumbling across the playa and we would all hate for you to be that inevitable fatality that we have grown to expect annually.

8. A Vinegar/Water Concoction. Be sure to label the spray bottle that you put this mixture in. After spending hours exploring the playa your sweaty feet will thank you for keeping them from learning what playa foot is all about. Simply spray a little of this on your hands and feet and pat dry. Be sure to finish this ritual off with some lotion or sunscreen.

7. A Backpack. This sounds obvious, but it’s not. Couples tend to bring one bag and share the space. It’s not fun being the designated bag carrier with 2 water bottles, sweaters and other essentials strapped to your back. What would you do if that bag carrier of yours just so happens to wander off? Now it’s getting dark and your thirsty, what are you going to do? Don’t even let this become a potential situation, each person should have a backpack! It also makes it a little easier to get to the things you want when you want them instead of pestering the person holding all of your super cool stuff.

6. Earplugs. I even do this when I go to parties in the default world. Earplugs will help filter out the noise that will cause eardrum damage and it makes it easier to understand what the cute person in the elephant costume is screaming in your ear at Nexus. Want to get a few restful hours of sleep in your freshly pitched tent after a six hour entry queue? Pop in those earplugs and let the playa dreams roll.

5. Baby wipes. Some people feel icky after going seven days without a proper shower, but consider it a right of passage when you live in BRC. You can always head over to Nectar Village for a steam bath if you do not want to undertake creating your owner shower structure and in between make use of baby wipes to get your clean, quick fix. Remember that you’re only going to re-dust yourself two seconds after stepping outside. Save your water for drinking and your energy for playing, baby wipe the dust away.

4. Reusable Cups. It’s easy to just buy a pack of paper or plastic cups, but they’re wasteful and will become MOOP a lot quicker than you expect. Instead opt for a sturdier cup. Pimp out your favorite plastic reuseable cup or invest in a shatterproof thermos that you can attach to your bag for easy access.

3. Chapstick. I like to lovingly call the effects of chapped lips on the playa Playa Herpes. Just like the default world version, this is something that you just don’t want and your friends will probably stop sharing their cups with you. Do yourself a favor and buy a six pack in case you lose a tube. You can always gift an unused tube to someone that appears to be in need!

2. MOOP Bags. There will come the time when you are peddling down 4:00 between Engagement & Divorce (2011 street names) and you come across a half dozen used glow stick bracelets waiting to be picked up. Help keep the playa clean and carry a little bag to collect matter out of place. When you make it back to your camp empty out your travel size MOOP bag into your camp MOOP bag.

1. Your Own Personality. Just because some people choose to dress themselves up with EL wire before hitting the town each night doesn’t mean that you’ve got to do the same. Some folks prefer a simple floral shirt and cargo shorts when they head over to Center Camp for a coffee while you’ve got others that feel incomplete without their hula hoop, yarn extensions and green fur coat. Do what feels comfortable to you and just be yourself. You know the saying, Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’ Keep in mind that this is also the time to step outside your comfort zone and try something new without the fear of being judged.

Keep in mind that there’s one thing you don’t need on the playa; a bad attitude. We all get tired, dusty and possibly dehydrated at some point during our short time on the playa, but that does not mean that Oscar the Grouch needs to make an appearance (unless that is planned ensemble for burn night).

Whether it’s your first burn or your 27th you’ve got to remember that you make the city and the city also makes you. Don’t forget the bacon. The gate opens in 193 days and the Man burns in 198 days. )'(

Will Burning Man Overcome Scalping?

Approximately 53,000 Burning Man tickets were sold by July 24th, 2011, making it the first year that the event sold out in its 25 years of existence. In efforts to combat the growing  scalping attempts the Burning Man Organization (BMOrg) has instituted a lottery system, which began yesterday.

There are already a few resale sites that are offering tickets ranging for $700-1610 a piece.  Keep in mind that the highest price tickets are selling for through the legal portal is $390. Resellers are also showing that tickets will ship between February 1st and August 24th although BMOrg has stated that tickets will not ship until some time after June 1st, without giving a specific date. In Coachella’s attempt to thwart scalper’s buying up all tickets they decided to host identical festivals over two weekends, with the same lineup. Of course burning two men, two temples and cleaning out the city and ushering in 50,000 people for a second week of Burning Man is highly improbable.

There are a couple things that BMOrg can do to try and combat scalpers before they become a cancer to the event.

  • Associate names with ticket numbers so you can track the movement of a ticket, even if the names are only virtually paired
  • Force purchases to resell their tickets through a BMOrg portal
  • Include verbiage to combat scalping in the Terms & Conditions

We first heard of the lottery/random selection system a few months ago and are now seeing if this system will be viable. There are tens of thousands of ‘burners’ queuing for a chance to be randomly selected for one of the 40,000 tickets being offered at the end of this month, potentially including those that did not receive a ticket purchase confirmation during December’s 3,000 ticket pre-sale.

For the next 13 days, at least, it’s a waiting game. Shortly after January 22nd the lucky 40,000 tickets will be randomly distributed to their very lucky recipients. Let’s hope that the far majority actually go to people genuinely interested in attending Burning Man and not looking to make a quick buck off of someone that has been saving up for this amazing place they call ‘home.’