Saturday, November 9, 2013

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!!

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