Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm losing a little piece of me...

Yesterday was a sad day for me. In this day and age of political correctness, I became directly affected. I had known for the past month or so that my former school district in the city where I grew up was going to be voting on possibly changing my high school mascot from the Apaches to who knows what. That vote happened last night and the vote was that the Apache was to go as a mascot.

Logo for the group fighting to change the VSHS mascot.

Now I get it, I really do, but I can see both sides not just one. Yes, I suppose that there could be instances where the use of this particular mascot could be seen as detrimental towards the Apache Nation but that had not been my experience at all when I was in school. The way I see it is that these types of mascots symbolize the history of our nation and in a day and age when cultural learning is limited (yes, it happens in the Filipino community as well) I see it as a way of extending the recognition of the Apache Nation.

Apache mascot circa mid-80's/early 90's.

Apache drawing (by a student) used for our senior pages
in my 1982 yearbook (when I graduated).
Now, maybe things have changed since I was in high school some 30+ years ago. Back then we were proud to be "Apaches." Heck, I even dropped out of the gifted program just so I could be a part of the Apache Marching Band, one of the winning-est bands in a school our size in the state of California. Being an Apache was a source of pride for us, school spirit was through the roof. No, we didn't have a mascot who was a caricature/comic style but rather our mascot was a student dressed in maybe not so traditional Native American garb. I don't remember if it was accurate attire, in fact I doubt it was, but then again I don't think that it was a derogatory representation of the Apache Nation either.

Apache mascot circa late 90's/2000's.
I believe that this was a student drawing.

Life size Apache warrior carved from one of the oldest trees on campus.
I can't recall if it was brought down by disease or construction where it stood.
One of the arguments was that Native American students would be afraid to admit to their heritage for fear of being ridiculed. I have no idea what the population of Native Americans, particularly Apache, were in school when I was there but I did have a friend from band who was not shy about his Native American roots and he was never made fun of that I am aware.

Yes, times have changed and who knows what goes on nowadays. But no matter what I'm still sad. When I go home I'll have lost part of my identity. Do I continue to say that I graduated from Vallejo High as an Apache or will I have to adopt the new mascot (yet to be determined) to still identify with the school? Truthfully, I feel like I'm losing part of my own identity. But sei la vie...whatever will be will be.

I will forever be a Vallejo High Apache.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My 50 States Half Marathon Quest...Thus Far

So, in 2012 I had planned to hit 30 states in a year but my health had other ideas so now I'm just shooting for 50 half marathons in 50 states. Never mind the fact that I started doing full marathons just a few months ago doing just enough to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs (thus making me a Double Agent)...I don't think I'll ever aspire to 50 full marathons in 50 states. I'm a 13.1 chick. So anyway this is what my map is looking like so's a little more fancy than my two little maps in the right side bar...

Can't wait to get started on the East Central/East Coast...that'll likely take me a couple, if not a few, years to complete.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Race Recap: Center of the Nation Series - 5 Races/5 Days/5 States

Race Series: Center of the Nation Series
Dates: Monday, September 16, 2013 - Friday, September 20, 2013
Locations:   Day 1 - Bowman, North Dakota (Half Marathon)
                    Day 2 - Belle Fourche, South Dakota (Full Marathon)
                    Day 3 - Colony, Wyoming (Half Marathon)
                    Day 4 - Albion, Montana (Half Marathon)
                    Day 5 - Chadron, Nebraska (Full Marathon)

Sunday, September 15, 2013 - Travel Day

Today would be the day of the long drive. I ended up taking off from Colorado at 4am to make the the drive to Rapid City, South Dakota to pick up one of my room mates (Denise) at the airport before making the final leg of the trip to Bowman, North Dakota.

This happened to be around the time that the floods in Colorado were happening. I had been watching the Department of Transportation website to see if I-25 would be open for my trip. It had actually been closed off and on for the 2 days prior but luckily they opened it back up the night before I left for Colorado Springs. The drive through the Denver area was a bit alarming because it was still raining, fairly heavy at times. There were areas of standing water on the freeway and I remember I did do some slight hydroplaning while going through there. After I finally made it into Wyoming the weather went to a gloomy, overcast and by the time I had gotten to the eastern side and into South Dakota the skies were clear.

The drive was roughly 9 hours (including gas and food stops) to get to Rapid City. I got to the airport just before Denise's flight disembarked. Now, this was one of those instances where I had never met my room mates before but luckily everyone would fit together well. After I picked up Denise we headed north to Bowman, North Dakota. The drive was about 3 hours and as we went through Rapid City Denise mentioned wanting to stop somewhere to pick up some groceries and such. What we didn't know is that there were no decent sized towns on the route we were taking to Bowman. Not a WalMart or Target in sight once we left the limits of Rapid City.

We arrived in Bowman around 3:30pm and checked into our hotel. At about this time we found out that our room mates, Michelle and Sherry, had had their flight cancelled and were making alternative plans to get to Bowman. They eventually got in an hour into the race the next day! We found out from the clerk that there was only one grocery store open in town and they closed at 5:30, so we headed over there and luckily they had everything that Denise had wanted to get. From the store we decided that we'd head over to packet pickup. We ended up going down this rutted dirt road to get to the golf course where pickup and dinner was being held and later found out that there was a paved road coming from the west. We got our stuff and decided to have dinner while we were there. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel to get our gear ready and turned in early, the sun was still out, so that we'd be rested for the race the next day.

Monday, September 16, 2013 - Race #1 - Bowman, ND

We woke up early to head over to the start which was 30 minutes away. It was cold, dark and the wind was blowing at a decent clip. To break up the wind I put on a plastic trash fashionable. lol!

Photo courtesy of Denise Mueller, my roomie.
Clint Burelson, race director giving instructions for the first day.
The race was at Bowman-Haley Lake Recreation Area, the course itself was on a worn asphalt road with just the tiniest bit of dirt/gravel trail at the turnaround. This series is timed, but non-competitive. It's just about getting all the states that you need in for something like the 50 states clubs where you do either a marathon or half marathon in each state. Since it was non-competitive (not that I'm a competitive runner) I figured I start out slow then go slower just to keep the wear and tear on my body to a minimum.

Clint, the race director, gave instructions on how this short course out and back would work. We'd go out and back on an approximately 2 mile course, each time we completed a lap we would need to take a rubberband which would be used to count laps: half marathoners had to do 6 laps, full marathoners 12 laps. With that we all lined up and took off at the start. I've never done a short loop course like this and didn't think I'd enjoy it, but in reality it was great. You saw the same people over and over and got to know them. By the time I finished it really didn't feel like I had just completed a half marathon.

The other 2 room mates, plus a third (Marissa) had arrived at the race about and hour or so in. So while they were still running Denise and I headed back to the room to shower and get ready to leave. As soon as the others finished their races they headed over to shower then we all got in the car to travel to Belle Fourche, SD...the geographical center of the United States (including Alaska and Hawai'i).

The drive back to South Dakota took about 2 hours. I did the driving while everyone else napped. The "new" girls had barely slept on their drive from Philadelphia to Bowman, they had driven through the night to make it to the race. We arrived in Belle Fourch in mid afternoon and had just enough time to drop off all our stuff before heading back to Rapid City so the other girls could drop off their rental car. After we dropped off the car we decided to stop at Target then eat at Longhorn Steakhouse since we didn't know what kind of food would be in Belle Fourche. We found out later that the pre-race dinner at the restaurant for our hotel was pretty lame so eating in Rapid City was a good choice. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to get our gear ready and head to bed.

Finishing Time: 3:19:00

Tuesday, September 17, 2013: Race #2 - Belle Fourche, SD

This was the day that I chose to do the first of two full marathons during this series. The start was close enough that we walked to it rather than driving. The course on this day was primarily on a river side concrete (ouch!) path with a short portion on city street. It was once again and out and back course. Clint again gave instructions that ended up much like the ones the previous day: 6 laps for the half marathoners and 12 (gasp!) laps for the marathoners. The start was quite crowded because there were nearly 200 runners on a rather narrow concrete path. After we started the path stayed quite packed until the first lap was nearly complete, at that point things began to thin out. 

I started out fairly well with run/walk/run intervals until about mile 15 or 16 at which point I was doing more walking than running. I managed to trudge on and got a boost of energy when Shirtless Sam was doing some cheerleading on the back end of the course. The next time I saw Sam I had three more laps to go and knew that I would be too tired to walk back to the hotel so I asked him for a lift back since he was at the same hotel. I tried to finish up as fast as possible, but fast was not in my vocabulary at that time. By the time I finished my feet were somewhat tender and I hobbled to Sam's car for the short ride to the hotel. 

Sam and I.
The roomies and others at the Center of the Nation monument.
The real spot is on farmland outside of town but nobody would
go out there so they made this one in town.
Photo courtesy of  Denise Mueller.
My roomies had finished hours prior and had done their bit as cheerleaders. You must note that my room mates were all younger than me by at least 5 years, had these flat bellys and abs...then there was me and my plump self! Anyway, they ran in running skirts and sports bras so they were the talk of the race while doing their cheerleader duties. When I finally got to the hotel they were all showered and using Denise's compression pants and TENS unit. While I was taking an ice bath, yeah I love those, the girls were kind enough to go get me a Blizzard which I counted as my post race protein (I have no idea if that's real ice cream at DQ). After my shower I joined in on the partaking of the compression pants and TENS unit.

For dinner, we ate at the hotel restaurant which was highly disappointing. Thank goodness we wouldn't be in town long enough to have to eat there again! It was then time to get gear ready for the next day and hit the sack.

Finishing Time: 7:19:24

Wednesday, September 18, 2013: Race #3 - Colony, WY

Yet another early morning...Off we went for the 25 minute drive to the next venue. We had heard that finding this particular venue was a little difficult so we just followed the line of cars. Funnily enough we still ended up getting lost and a guy from the mine whose property we were on kindly showed us the way (he actually led us there in his truck). I hadn't read the updated courses on the website and when I found out that this and tomorrow's races were going to be on gravel I was not a happy camper. For one, my ankles can't really deal with uneven surfaces. Secondly, I knew that I'd be getting rocks in my shoes which meant either stopping often to empty them out or suffering through the discomfort. I really wish I had brought my gaiters and trail shoes with me. Luckily the gravel on this road wasn't too bad and as long as I stuck to the packed dirt along the tire tracks I'd do pretty well. 

The majority of us were dressed in Boston Marathon colors of blue and yellow because this particular day was designated "Boston Strong Day" as a remembrance of the bombing just a few months prior. Roger Wright was doing some fundraising for the Boston One Fund and was able to raise $700. Roger gave a speech talking about his struggle for health and why he was running races, very inspirational. Clint then made his now familiar speech and then we were off. I tried to stay on the packed gravel as much as possible, and of course there was a hill right at the turnaround...thank goodness I only had to do it six times! This was a slow one because I didn't want to risk injury to my ankles (I have very weak ankles from spraining them so much as a kid) so that I could finish the last 2 races of the week. Eventually I finished and we headed back to the room to change and head out to Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Boston Strong Day Start - video by Roger Wright.
I'm at around 4:38 on the left side walking and wearing 
a blue skirt and black shrug (short jacket).

Photo courtesy of Denise Mueller.

At the gate at the Crazy Horse Monument.
Photo courtesy of Denise Mueller.

Room mates +1 at Mt. Rushmore.
Photo courtesy of Denise Mueller.
Mt. Rushmore selfie.
Crazy Horse Monument selfie.
On the way back we stopped in Hill City to eat a Desperados Cowboy Restaurant. This place was great with western furnishings and the owner, Dan, came by and talked to every table. He spent some extra time with us telling us about the restaurant, the parts of the original 1800's building and a ghost story about the place. I had planned on ordering a bison rib eye that we had read about on yelp! but they didn't have any so a couple of us went with the bison pot roast and it was really good.

Bison pot roast.
Somehow on the drive home the GPS on my phone sent us through the dark, windy roads of the Black Hills National Forest instead of through Rapid City. During this drive two deer, one right after another, decided that it would be a good idea to cross the road right in front of us. Luckily I was able to smoothly swerve around them although Denise did let out a girly scream. lol! We finally made it through Deadwood and Spearfish before getting on the right route to Belle Fourche. We made it back to the hotel at around 10pm, just enough time to get our gear ready, pack for the next day because we were heading to Chadron, NE right after the race and jump into bed.

Finishing Time: 3:42

Thursday, September 19, 2014: Race #4 - Albion, MT

Last minute packing going on in our room! We finally got everyone out and the car packed up right around 5am. We were glad to get away from this particular hotel, it was probably the worst experience out of the whole trip. My ankles were hurting just a little bit from the previous day, but not enough to worry about them. My big worry was the fact that the gravel on this course was extremely coarse and rough, no real tire ruts to follow. It was also cold. I mean in the 30's cold and wind blasting anywhere from 30-50 mph. This was going to be painful, in the sense that it would not be fun at all. There was also a big hill at the turnaround. What was it with the hills??

Moonset at Albion, MT
Clint gave his speech and we all lined up for the start. For me, this was a torturous race. I walked all of it trying to be careful not to turn my ankles. I did end up doing it several times, but I didn't think it was too bad. Between the cold, wind and gravel this was the most miserable I had been up to this point. I think it took me 4, if not more hours to finish this race. The other girls finished in around 2 hours and had been sitting in the car warming up until I finished. Once I did finish I was a human popsicle. I managed to put some pants on and my sweatshirt and headed out with the next stop Devil's Tower since we were going right by it anyways. 

We arrived at Devil's Tower in the early afternoon. We did the obligatory tourist thing and spent some time talking to another runner who asked which race we were doing. After giving her the lowdown, we headed up the hill in front of the rock and considered taking the hike around it but we were just too tired. We did see some climbers on the Tower but we ended up not staying long at all.

Devil's Tower selfie.
We ended up in Chadron, NE in the late afternoon and just ordered a pizza for dinner. A couple of us did some laundry, the room mates started packing their stuff because they would leave right after the next days race, we all got our gear for the next day ready and went to be fairly early.

Finishing Time: 3:59

Friday, September 20, 2013: Race #5 - Chadron, NE

All these early mornings all in a row were tiring. Gotta admit I think we were all happy that this was the last day of the series. My ankles were hurting this morning and I even considered not running this race, but because I wanted to qualify for Marathon Maniacs I decided that I had to do it. We took off about 45 minutes early to get to the venue, Chadron State Park. This was easily the most scenic of all the venues thus far. The course followed a trail through the woods for a short time, then on paved road up and around the campsites, up a hill, through some trees and back to the start. What was nice was that since it was a loop, during his morning speech Clint told us we could go in the reverse direction for a change of pace if we wanted to. 

There was a sense of joy that we had completed this journey (or the part of it that you chose to do, not everyone did every race) and sadness that, even as tired as we were, it was almost over. After the customary speech by Clint we all lined up and were off. Early on my ankles didn't give me much trouble, but at about the halfway point they began hurting like the dickens and I began a full on walk just to finish the race. The further I got into the race the more my ankles hurt and I just contemplated quitting but the draw of making it into the Maniacs was too much to give up. I struggled on and finally at the finish of the last lap (of 12) I staggered...ok not so much staggering...into the finish turned in my rubberbands and got my Nebraska and Series Finishers medals.

Amy and I on the last day.

Denise and I on the last day.

Me, Denise, Michelle and Sherry...the room mates together one last time.
The other girls in the room had done the half and finished long before I did. By the time I had gotten to the room and I was alone again. My ankles were aching and a tad swollen and my body was sore so I had stopped on the way to the room and gotten two 20 pound bags of ice for an ice bath. After soaking in the ice bath for about 20 minutes or so I showered and got some Chinese food to go before just chilling out in the room for a while. After some rest I started packing up and brought everything I could out to the car so I wouldn't have to deal with it in the morning. Then I slept. I slept well, and thank goodness I did because it would be a long drive home in the morning.

Finishing Time: 7:40

Saturday, September 21, 2013: Travel Day

I was packed up and out of the hotel by 4pm...yes, another early morning but this time it was to head home so it was different somehow. The drive would take me through the south of Nebraska, into Kansas, the east side of Colorado, into the Texas panhandle and finally home. I had planned to be driving for 12-13 hours including gas and food stops. 

 The drive was mostly uneventful although I did drive through areas of Colorado that had been ravaged by the storms and flooding and where there was still flood water standing on the roads. As I got closer to Texas my left ankle was quite painful and when I looked and compared the two it was swollen to about twice the size of the right ankle. I made a decision to detour to Amarillo to stop at the VA hospital ER to have it checked. I was figuring that it was a stress fracture vs severe sprain. I ended up leaving with a walking boot and the promise of a bone scan sometime during the week.  Preliminary xrays came up negative, as is the norm for stress fractures. So, aside from my medals I came home with a little extra something.

My "little extra something."

Medal haul for the week. Six races in 7 days.

What did I like about this race series?

Well organized, great snacks and hydration all the time, the camaraderie felt from seeing everyone over and over each day, friendly people.

What did I not like about this race series?

Not much, maybe just the difficulty in finding one of the venues.

Would I do this series again?

Maybe just the states that I need a full marathon in but I don't see myself being that much of a Maniac. However, I am planning on doing the Riverboat Series in April so yes, I'll be a repeat customer for this company (

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Race Recap: Alien Half - The start of a long week of racing

Race #1: Alien Half Marathon/Area 13.1
Date: Saturday, September 14, 2013 @  7pm
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Saturday, September 14, 2013: Travel & Race Day

This was going to be a long day...I took off from home at around 8am. I was heading for Colorado Springs to take part in a half marathon that night. Now, that was kind of dumb...driving all day to run at night but I have done worse. This trip was just after the flooding in Colorado. I was worried that I'd get caught up in a storm but luckily enough that didn't happen until I was already in Colorado Springs. By the time I hit the hotel, a big thunderstorm arrived and was flooding the area. After bringing my rain soaked bags up to my room, I headed to packet pickup.

The rain had stopped by the time I got to the fairgrounds but you could see it continuing in other parts of the city plus more clouds heading towards us. The big question was whether or not the race would go on. The staff seemed pretty confident that the weather forecast would hold but they also said they'd make an announcement/decision by 6pm (race started at 7pm). So, after picking up my packet I headed back to the hotel to try to get a little bit of a nap.

I returned to the fairgrounds where the race was starting/finishing. As we waited inside the main building it was lightly raining outside. The staff made an announcement that the start would be delayed by 15 minutes due to lightning. While I was waiting, I noticed a bunch of other chicks wearing SparkleSkirts as well. If you don't know the skirts I'm talking about read this. I mad polite chit chat with some of them and then it was time to start.

We started off doing a full lap around the fairground buildings we then followed a paved trail out for about 4-5 miles before turning around and coming back the way we came. We again went out on a loop around the buildings and then a 5K out and back along the same trail before crossing the finish line. During the race another Sparkle Skirt enthusiast, I think her name was Laurie, ran with me as we were going about the same pace. We chatted and it was nice to have company for a change since I usually train and run by myself.

After the race I got my medal and then headed directly to the hotel. I think I pretty much crashed as soon as my head hit the pillow. Tomorrow was going to be another crazy day of driving to get to Bowman, North Dakota for the first of 5 races in a row.

Finishing Time: 3:15:28

What did I like about this race?
Nice, smallish race. No traffic. Cute medal. Need to be sure to bring some extra lighting as some areas are fairly dark.

What did I not like about this race?
Nothing I can think of.

Would I do this race again?
Yes, but not until I mark off all 50 states as having done a half marathon.

Tale of 2 (Alaskan) Races

Race #1: Moose's Tooth Marathon
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Race Date: Sunday, August 18, 2013 @ 8am (Early Start)

Race #2: Lost Lake 16 Mile Trail Run
Location: Seward, Alaska
Race Date: Saturday, August 24, 2013 @ 9:30am

Thursday, August 15, 2013: Travel Day

On Thursday, I began my trip to Alaska. A 3 hour drive to the airport, breakfast with an online rescue acquaintance that I was meeting in person for the first time, a one hour flight, a six hour layover in Denver and another 5 hour flight to Anchorage and I was there. I didn't get to see Alaska as we were flying over since I was in an aisle seat so I would say that that was the only downer of the flight in.

My friend and former teaching colleague, Marianne and her family (I had also worked with her husband at the local base clinic), met me at the airport and drove me to their beautiful house in one of the suburbs of Anchorage. This house is in a very small town and on 2 acres in the woods with a small river flowing in their back yard. They were putting me up in their guest house, a nice 1 bedroom apartment that can probably sleep 5 or 6 total utilizing the couch and beds. I had a full kitchen and bath and a private entrance. This would work very well for my nocturnal/insomniac ways.

My home away from home was over the garage.
Then next couple of hours were spent catching up, getting the house tour and just generally with Marianne and I being the same crazy selves that we had been while teaching together nearly 10 years ago. I managed to crash out pretty quickly after unpacking what needed to be unpacked and set up my gear for the 2 races this visit.

Friday, August 16, 2013: Expo Day

After a short sleep...with my normal insomnia waking me up at about 3am I just played on the internet and watched some early morning TV until it was a decent time to get ready and go with my friend to get some groceries at about 8am. With shopping and breakfast done I decided to drive to Joint Base Elmendorf (USAF) - Richardson (Army) to check things out. A stop at the BX/PX to look around, lunch at Charley's Steak and Fries and a quick stop at the commissary (military grocery store) I took my first trip into downtown Anchorage to go to packet pickup and the race expo. The packet pickup was pretty efficient even with me downgrading from the full marathon run to the marathon walk but the expo was pretty sparse. I did spend some time chatting with Bill Rogers (2nd time I've met him) and Jeff Galloway purchasing an autographed poster from Bill and a nutrition book from Jeff. Just as a caveat, Jeff said that he has a trail running book coming out in  the next few months as well as currently working on a new nutrition book with a nutritionist. I also purchase an autographed poster of the race art signed by the artist.

After hanging out for a short while at the expo I located the starting point for the race but was unable to drive the course because  it was being run on a coastal trail that couldn't be followed on the road for most of the way. So, I headed back to my friend's house and proceeded to make some baked rigatoni and spaghetti to get me through the week. I had also purchased some chicken but it would take me a day or two to get that cooked. After a short visit with my friend and her daughter, I headed back to my guest house and just did the normal chill and race prep getting my gear ready, race food and such. I went to sleep fairly early for me..around 10pm and I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Saturday, August 17, 2013: Expo Day #2 & Jeff Galloway Clinic

This was the day for the Jeff Galloway half day clinic. There was no running involved, just lecture because he and Bill Rogers had done a couple of meet and greet runs on Wednesday and Thursday. The information I got during the clinic was great and helped to clarify questions and assist me in planning the start of a Galloway program at home. This was just so much easier than the hassle of getting into a runDisney meetup that I don't know if I'll even try to get into another meetup in the coming years.

After the clinic I made my way to the Skinny Raven, the local running store, to find either a long sleeve shirt or arm sleeves. I ended up with the arm sleeves and I'll tell you that I was glad I did buy then on race day. Next I walked to Delaney Park to watch part of the Anchorage Mile races. Apparently they used to have a mile race associated with the marathon which had stopped several years back. This year was the first time that it had been held since then. It was crazy how fast some of these people were...the girl that won the 4th heat finished in 5:35 and the guy that won the last heat finished in about 4:30!

One of the women's heat for the Anchorage Mile, <6 min pace.
I headed back to the expo to eat at the pasta feed and listen to a couple of the speakers. Jeff and Bill did an impromptu presentation, scholarship beneficiaries were introduced and a few door prizes were given out. I was really interested in listening to a speaker about hydration during races, but was rather disappointed so I headed back home for the evening. The rest of the night was chill and making sure that I had everything I needed for the race the next morning.

Jeff Galloway (at podium) and Bill Rogers at the pasta feed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013: Race Day

It was really strange not having to wake up before the rooster crows. The marathon walk didn't start until 8am and even though I woke up at 5am I had plenty of time to tape up, dress, eat and head out to the start even with a 30 minute drive. When I arrived there was a very small group of people who were there for the walk start. As time went by most of the Marathon Maniacs and 50 State members had arrived to pick up race packets and such. The weather was cool and rainy, luckily I had the foresight to pack a garbage bag for an impromptu rain coat. The rain remained with the race off and on throughout it's length. After a few announcements, we quickly took a couple of MM, HF and 50 States pictures before the starting gun went off.

Race day gear.

Marathon Maniac and Half Fanatics

The race began with an approximately 1.25 mile route through downtown Anchorage heading towards the Coastal Trail, a paved dual use trail following the coast of the Alaskan Gulf. We followed the Coastal Trail to a turnaround at the Blue Ridge then followed the trail detouring onto the Chester Creek Trail to Goose Lake before making the final turnaround to return to the finish in downtown. At about mile 6 we were greeted by a young male moose who had decided that he wanted to nibble on the leaves lining the trail. As three of us tried to get him to move by yelling and making all sorts of noise he turned around and looked at us like we were disturbing his meal before he began to move towards us. I can tell you that we moved back pretty quickly! lol! He turned back around and nibbled a little more before heading into the brush and we were able to continue the race after a 3-5 minute delay. At about mile 9 I was finally passed by the first marathoners...that's always kind of a "OMG, really?" type feeling when that happens especially when they started an hour later than the walkers.

The course had a good number of small rolling hills and a few larger hills, but nothing that I would really consider drastic. That just doesn't sound right coming from me, the hill hater. Of course I began cramping around mile 9 and started sucking down my mustard packets to help alleviate the cramps. I'm beginning to become quite a fan of straight up mustard...not! I managed to struggle through with only cramping happening on the uphill areas...sometimes to the point of not being able to flex my ankle. But no matter what I made it to the finish in 6:54:03 (official time).

After the race I must  have eaten the equivalent of 3 oranges, a watermelon slice, some water then stopped and had a half of a big slice of pizza and a Pepsi. I walked around for about 30 minutes because I didn't want to cramp on the 30 minute drive back to my friend's house. By the time I arrived at the house I chatted with Marianne then went up to the apartment for a cold soak and to just chill the rest of the day away.

Finishing Time: 6:54:03 (Marathon Walk)

What did I like about this race?

Organized, nice course, nice weather. Running into a moose (not literally) on the course.

What did I not like about this race?

Expo was smaller than I expected, but other than that it was great.

Would I do this race again?


Monday, August 19, 2013: Rest Day

Nothing much to write home about this rest day. Seriously, I stayed in and didn't even get out of my pajamas all day (other than to soak in a hot bath a few times) even when I went over to my friend's house to have dinner (it was her, her daughter and I and we were all in our pajamas!). lol! Of course I had some DOMS setting in and was more waddling than walking, but it wasn't as bad as it could've been. I finally roasted the chicken for future meals but the rest of the day I watched TV or played on the computer. I'll tell you though I slept well that night although I had woken up around 4am. Again I think I fell right asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow that night.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013: Active Recovery Day/Sightseeing

One of the things travelers must do while in Anchorage is the Flattop Peak Trail Hike. The peak is almost totally flat but in order to get up there you  hike up a fairly well maintained trail until the 2nd saddle. From there you're either scrambling over rocks with what looked like a little bouldering added to the mix or follow a steep long trail to summit. I opted not to summit since my legs were still tired and a bit achy so once I made it to the 2nd saddle I rested and enjoyed the view which was obscured by fog/clouds so I wasn't able to see Denali/Mt. McKinley (I didn't realize that they were one in the same). There was a great view of the whole of Anchorage and the Gulf of Alaska to be enjoyed. After finishing the hike I stopped back at my friend's guest house to have some lunch and take a little rest.

Arriving at the 2nd saddle...the end destination.
Mudflats from the 2nd saddle.
Downtown Anchorage from the 2nd saddle.
View to the summit of Flat Top, I didn't go all the way up.
Later that afternoon I headed north to the Reindeer Farm, a local farm that raises reindeer (duh), has a bison and a moose as well as other assorted animals. The  reindeer and the moose were certainly the highlight of this trip. We were allowed to feed the reindeer who knew that once people showed up so would food. We were entertained by an 8 week old female calf who pushed her way between the uprights on the deck railing and went from person to person trying to get fed. Once we were allowed in the reindeer pen we were all inundated with the deer who were all clamoring for food. At one point I even had a couple try to stick their faces in my jacket pocket to see if there was food in there or who nibbled on the jacket itself (no top teeth so no damage done).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013: Sightseeing Day #2

This was a pretty non-descript day of laundry in the morning before heading to the Alaska Native Heritage Center in the early afternoon. The center provides education on the different cultures of the native Alaskans and the influences of the Russians, Americans, Europeans and Japanese that either emigrated or invaded different parts of Alaska. There are tours of several different outdoor exhibits showing the types of housing and samples of clothing, tools, etc. used by each culture. There are also a variety of different demonstrations held inside of which I watched a demo of native games and part of the dance demonstration.

After the Center, I headed back downtown to get on the Anchorage Red Trolley Tour that went by key landmarks like the original location of Tent City (the first incarnation of Anchorage), Earthquake Park, the Delaney Strip Park and through some of the different residential areas of town.

Thursday, August 22, 2013: Sightseeing Day #3

This is a pretty laid back day, just sitting in my pajamas blogging, playing on the computer and watching TV. In the evening Marianne, Marissa (her daughter) and I went to the Anchorage Ghost Tour. Of course it was drizzling almost the whole time...The gentleman running the tour was very versed in the ghost stories of downtown Anchorage and told the stories of a woman committing suicide in the Captain Cook Hotel, a murder by bombing in the vicinity of the Snow City Cafe (a very highly regarded place to have breakfast), the murder of the first police chief of Anchorage after just 8 weeks in office, the death of a wanna be debutante in the fanciest theater from the 1940s and the haunting of one of the oldest hotels in town.

At the Captain Cook Hotel a woman committed suicide in a far stall in the women's room in the second tower. It's said that she is very territorial and tends to frighten women who use the stall or the stall next to it. This became such a problem that the management permanently locked the stall and yet the haunting continues.

Yeah, we all went in taking pics trying to catch the ghost.
The bombing victim was a well known woman who had a business in the same location as the current Snow City Cafe. The murder went unsolved although the ex-husband was the prime suspect, his guilt could never be proven. It's said that she haunts the cafe, particularly at night while the night crew is cleaning.

The first police chief was gunned down in an alley after abruptly leaving his wife and apartment after a strange phone call. This occurred only a block and a half from his home and he was found barely alive after sometime, but later died in the hospital. Again this homicide went fact, it was the first unsolved murder in the newly incorporated Anchorage.

"The Lady in White" is a spectre in the abandoned 4th Avenue Theater. This young lady wanted badly to become included in high society of the time. She went as far as going to Seattle to find the perfect dress which was white and which she wore to a fancy shindig at the theater. She had planned to make a grand second entrance after making a huge impression on her first entry into the party. She had gone to use the upstairs ladies room and planned to make the second entrance by walking down the fancy staircase to the lower floor. However, fate had other ideas and she ended up tripping and falling down the stairs because she was not used to wearing long dresses or high heels. She died at the bottom of the stairs. She is said to haunt the landing and a mirror in the lobby.

The Anchorage Hotel is reportedly one of the most haunted places in town. One of the spectres is a former artist in residence who had a studio on the main floor. The hotel even keeps a log of the hauntings that can be viewed in the lobby by anyone.

The tour lasted about 2 hours and was worth the $15 per person. I'd recommend going on this tour if you have any interest in history or ghosts. Since it was almost 10pm by the time we got home it was straight to bed so that I could get ready to head to Seward in the morning for my next race.

Friday, August 23, 2013: Onward to Seward

After a bit of a fitful night's sleep...about 4 hours to be exact, I woke up and hesitatingly began getting ready to leave for Seward and the dreaded trail race. I checked and re-checked everything to make sure I had all that I needed yet once I got to the hostel (yes, being cheap...better to pay $30/night for a bed and use of a kitchen in communal setting than $200+/night) I found that I had forgotten zip lock bags for some of my race foods. At least that was all that I forgot.

With the little sleep that I had gotten the 3-ish hour drive to Seward seemed to take forever. I stopped a couple of times to take some photos and eventually got close to Seward. The hostel is a little way out of town but not too far from where the buses will pick the runners/walkers up for the race in the morning and it was too early to check in so I headed into town to visit the Alaska Sealife Center. For those of you from California think Monterey Bay Aquarium. After walking through the center I stopped at their snack bar and had a reindeer sausage for lunch, pretty good actually. I still had some time to kill so I roamed around the old end of 4th Street (pretty much down town) before finally heading to the hostel to check in.

Now, this hostel The Nauti Otter, is really rustic. I mean really rustic. It's like a slightly modernized Alaskan bunkhouse. They have small cabins and a small trailer in the back that can be rented out with use of the indoor kitchen and bathroom plus the house has a couple of private rooms and of course the communal hostel bedrooms. There's even an outdoor flushing outhouse and an enclosed outdoor shower room. It's not bad, but it's not the greatest hostel I've stayed in as of yet. It's definitely good enough to sleep tonight and perhaps tomorrow if I decide to stay depending on how I feel after the race.

Nauti Otter Hostel
My bunk for the night.
For now I'm just gonna chill and cruise the net, maybe join in on some S'mores later but sleep is my priority at this point. Here's to hoping that I survive the run tomorrow. My plan is to be up and ready by 7am, run to Safeway to get a protein bar or two then head to the pick up point by 8am since the last bus leaves at 9am. Better to be early than late!

Saturday, August 24, 2013: Race Day - A TRAIL race...OMG!

Lost Lake 16 Mile Run race gear.
A very cold, windy starting area.

No medal for the trail I made my own!

Finishing Time: 5:11:39.6

What did I like about this race?

The scenery.

What did I not like about this race?
It was a trail race, I don't do trails. No medal.

Would I do this race again?

No, like I said, I don't do trail races.

Sunday, August 25, 2013: Back to Anchorage

Whale watching at Beluga Point.

Panoramic of Beluga Point.
Aleska Resort Tram

At the top of the aerial tram at the Roundhouse.
The resort from the top.
Panoramic at the top of the aerial tram, view from the Roundhouse.

Monday, August 26, 2013: 26 Glacier Cruise

Whittier, where the cruise started was about an hour and a half from Marianne's house. You have to go through the Whittier Tunnel to get from one side of the mountain to the other. The tunnel is a single track tunnel and they go by a schedule that allows for each side to take turns as well as for scheduled trains to go through. I wish I could've gotten a picture, but alas, I arrived just in time to be the next to last car to go through to the Whittier side or I would've had to wait something like 30 minutes before the next passage for my side of the tunnel. Below are some photos of Whittier:

Whittier marina...

I took the 26 Glacier cruise by Phillips Cruises. This was basically an all day trip of around 6 hours. The trip took us by area where seals lay basking in the sun, past the breeding grounds for the state bird (Willow Ptarmigan) and of course past the glaciers...26 of them, go figure! lol! On board they served lunches of fish and chips (my choice) or sandwiches. I ended up assigned to a table of 6 with a family of three of which the parents were visiting their daughter who was a traveling nurse. The couple on my side of the table were tourists from Japan. The cruise was beautiful albeit windy and cold. Thankfully Marianne had warned me and loaned me a jacket and gloves. After the cruise I headed back to do my final packing and had a last dinner with the family.

Sea otters at play...
The blues of the glaciers...

Roosting area for the state bird...

Seals just hanging out on the ice flow...

Tuesday, August 27, 2014: The trip home

I spent the last partial day doing laundry, packing and cleaning up the apartment. I was supposed to meet Marianne for lunch at Snow City Cafe, a popular establishment in Anchorage, but dummy me managed to lock my purse and keys in the house. It took awhile before I was able to contact Marianne to find a spare key. I didn't want to wake Curtis, her husband, because he was on nights that week and being a former night nurse I know how painful it is to get woken up in the middle of your sleep only to be unable to get back to sleep. So once I was able to get back in the apartment I ate some leftovers and just chilled. At about 6pm Marianne drove me to the airport where we said our goodbyes. I only worked with Marianne for a year when she was teaching but we're kindred spirits who take up just where we left off even after years of not seeing each other. I'm going to miss her and the family.

The trip home was uneventful and I had my customary nearly 4 hour drive from the airport. It was nice to get home, but at the same time I truly enjoyed my stay in Alaska. A couple of friends and I plan to go run the Mayor's Marathon in 2015...we'll see if that happens. Until next time Alaska!!