Archive for August, 2013

Alaska Part Two

If you have a free hour with Dave and Michelle they make sure to make the most of it so next up was a stop to Lululemon Athletica. And thought it was just a showroom, it was an awesome (as always) visit as the ladies there were as friendly and as active as at any store I have been to. The store manager asked me all my opinions on their clothes and did not avoid any questions. She let us sit on the ski lift seat to take an awesome picture and the other associate had run five marathons! I could tell even Liz enjoyed our visit there and she is not a Lulu regular at all. Not everyone agrees but Lulu should be the official sponsor for marathoning.

We went to dinner that night organized by our Michelle. It was a really good showing considering how far out Alaska is! We had at least 20 and I was lucky enough to meet a couple new maniacs at the event. Though I met several people at the dinner, a few stood out as always. It was great to see extremely fast Marc and Amy and talk with them. Does talking to a fast runner make you faster? It was also great to catch up with Denis (though his obsession with times put off more than a couple runners) and Mike had a breakdown on the course elevation that I paid attention to and was thankful for the next day. Jorge, was another runner I met for the first time and we found out we were both aiming for a 3:15.

Pictures were taken in bunches. Dinner was served and was excellent. And Michelle gave out the door prizes which are always a huge success. I did not win but I was jealous of the person who won the French Fries flavored chap stick! Of course, it was great to enjoy a local ale. I used to never drink before a race but now I make sure to enjoy a local brew whenever I can. The winning brew for me is still the Jalapeno Cream Ale in Park City, Utah at Wasatch Brewery.

The next morning could not come quick enough! Honestly, it really did because I was still waking up at 5 AM and it was a nine AM start. I will be honest, it was raining and the last thing I wanted to do was get up and hang out in the rain. The picture was at 7:50 just before the early start. I did not want to go early but it lessened to a sprinkle and I headed out with Dave for the early picture and we lined up for the Marathon Maniac picture with a bunch of first timers and early starters who I think believed it was normal to do a picture before the run. There was not much time to spare before the early starters lined up. A race official got all our attention and announced a bear was on the course with her cub! It was pretty exciting to hear a bear had been spotted at mile 9! No one ever saw the big lady after that but to hear that before the race starts can be exhilarating!

The early group took off and there was nothing more to do so we spent about an hour at Kalani before we got around to it. They opened early in the morning on this day and I hope they did fantastic! I love it when local businesses accommodate the marathon. I know they got a win out of Michelle. She went there again that night. I was able to try and gleam any information I could out of Amy and Marc. Man they are fast. I can only dream!

The start was like any other and I even ran into a friend Kevin from Florida. I am not sure how I have run into the same guy in Florida, Hawaii, Arkansas and Alaska. This was a bad sign. He passed me in every other race around mile 16. I get out fast but his consistency gets the better of me! He recognized me and we said our hello’s. Michelle also came up and talked to him as well – we really are one happy running family. We took off and it was a mile through city streets of twisting and turning. Then the course straightened out around mile 1.5 to go onto a trail. The trail was mostly through forested land, a bit winding and far from boring. I was able to keep a good pace through the first six miles and felt really good.

At mile 6 and a half or so there was a big cheering section and I thought I was running alone but the first female was just behind me and trust me, you always know when she is coming through! People love to cheer her on and it seems like she is usually a local especially when she is around me at Mile 6. Dave had started before me and we had thought I would run into him at Mile 6 but he was not there. I actually did not pass him until Mile 11! Dave was having a great race! He snapped a picture of me as I went by and I was running alone but I was not losing pace either. I was able to keep the pace up until Mile 12 and was feeling great! I was nervous about that time…

Until the crowd cheered me on at Mile 12 and when I looked at my watch at Mile 13? They had pushed me to my best mile since Mile 2! I had to think strategy at this point. I had hoped to hit the halfway point at 1:30 which would give me 15 minutes of cushion for a BQ and when I hit halfway I was still at 1:31. Not bad at all! I kept the pace up and at Mile 16 we made the turn to go on the same path as the half marathoners. So now the traffic was going both ways. It can get a bit crowded sometimes but it is also nice to see friendly smiling faces coming at you. I will be honest – sometimes it can get a bit lonely up front. I was passed by a guy at Mile 13 but did not pass or get passed by another runner until Mile 18. I was still within .1 of a mile of him at Mile 17.

I hit the Mile 20 point and I was slowing down but I kept checking my watch and I knew I was good. I knew I needed to average 7:22 miles overall and I was still way below that. I figured if I kept running 8’s I would come in around 3:12 – perfect! And on top of that, after listening to Mike I knew the last mile was uphill so I needed extra time. At this point I started seeing all my friends and kept pushing and trying to wave at them. They were a lot friendlier than I was – I was on a mission!

I hit the hill and at first I looked good but I kept slowing and eventually when it ended I was totally jazzed. All I had was .4 left and I was at 3:11! Then it hit me. The hill was not over. As a matter of fact the worst part was yet to come. What I had not realized was that even though the trail had a hill, the hill on the road was much steeper! I struggled up that hill and was passed by two runners with ease. My left leg hurt and I was struggling! How long could this hill be? But the second I got to the top of that hill? I turned it on and ran it in to a 3:13:43 – BQ!!!!

I went over and had a couple beers with Amy and Marc. They had both came in second overall and were satisfied with their runs even if a little disappointed in the placing. I was able to meet a local runner that had run her way to a BQ as well. We had a nice time chatting and when Michelle came in to yet another BQ her and my new friend got along famously as well. I found out after the race my new friend Jorge missed his BQ. It was nice to see Dave beat the cutoff time and claim the state as well. He was doing really well until he got to taking pictures and then he took things much easier. That doesn’t matter though. That is what Dave is loved for – great race pictures. Liz commented she did not even catch up with him until Mile 22.

After washing up, Dave and I barely had time to ourselves before checking out and heading over to the after party. Marc and Amy had secured the largest table and were into drinks already. I made sure to make sure they did not feel like alcoholics. The food was good and the company was great. We ran into a lot of our friends from the night before and I was able to meet Marina White – the youngest woman ever to complete 100 marathons. I wish I would have gotten to know her better but really that is all it takes, an opening, and the next time you see each other odds are on the running paths you will be friends for life. We had to leave before the festivities really began to catch our flights but I believe the four of us were quite pleased with the entire trip.

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Alaska Part one

State number 43 was lined up in December of last year when a couple of my favorite running friends, Dave and Michelle, suggested we do the Anchorage Marathon in August rather than the one in June. Well actually it started in November when a couple Missouri runners told us the Bear Tooth Marathon was the one to do in Alaska and they were going. I told Michelle and she said Dave wanted to go and then I suggested we all get a house together to make it cheap. This never did occur as we all went our separate ways by December.

And in any case, both Dave and Michelle texted me the same day stating they had their tickets lined up and they were good to go. The two sent me their itinerary and oddly enough they were both getting into town on a Friday night and leaving on a Sunday night? I had heard that Alaska is an expensive stay and we all know that flights never go down in price so I made reservations within a couple hours of theirs since they had committed already. I suppose the only real concern would be not to get hurt in the meantime. I already knew this state would be somewhere around my 40th. I do feel a bit bad about leaving the Missouri friends behind but they never showed in any case. When they showed the map of states represented Missouri was blank. It did make me wonder though if I was the only reason Iowa was covered though…

Training was simple – run other marathons and hope not to lose it around mile 16 which had been the case all year. I will admit I did up my mileage in August hoping for a change in… anything. Vermont in May was awesome but all my other runs had been a little slower than expected. I kept training and feeling pretty good.

So when the week came up I felt pretty good and said so to my friend Karen. She warned me the course was not that tough but not to expect a Boston qualifying time from what she had heard. I trusted her and since I had not put in a Boston qualifier since July of 2012 I was putting all my eggs in the Idaho basket over Labor Day weekend anyway. You have to qualify for Boston every year and already the situation was tenuous. I had Vermont but had kept going backwards after that race. I would say I was plateauing but it was more like getting worse every race! Seriously it went from 3:18 to 3:25 to 3:22 to 3:38 and even a 3:56. It was bad and not getting better!

I took the flight to Alaska and the good news for anyone that attempts to conquer the states is that the flight to Alaska is much shorter than the one to Hawaii! That was a nice bonus. I had thought this would have me off for a couple days staggering around like I had enjoyed too much local ale, but I could tell when I landed I would never get the time change into my syetme and would not even have to adjust. I was right – I still woke up at 5 every morning and was way tired by 8. My body stayed on central time – perfect. And it could have been difficult. It was light until at least ten.

I got in late so I never even got a chance to talk to my friends and when we did get together the next morning we set the plan at first expo then try to see a glacier and the conservatory if we could fit it in. I don’t know if we could fit it all in. If we have time! Another friend Liz was staying with a local runner friend and suggested a local coffee place, Kalani Coffee that he suggested. I do not drink coffee but Michelle could never get enough of this place! I suggest all coffee drinkers check it out when they get there. It was a great layout and the breakfast sandwich was a good buy. The staff was friendly and they had good authentic swag.

Next up the expo was small and nice. There was a few things to buy (especially for the ladies) and some definite local flair. I liked some of those booths but the vendors looked pretty bored. I always wonder if local businesses do well at expos or if they mostly lose money? With maniacs like most of my friends we never really check them out. Their games and freebies can be fun and they try to talk you into it but why do I need a year subscription to the New Orleans Times Picayune? I do my best to just I just walk on by (don’t stop). One did catch my attention. It was nice to see a local guy who had his own artwork on clothing. I almost stopped and picked up a sweatshirt but at $40 a pop I did not want to spend the cash.

We headed out to the glacier next and we were told it was a one hour wait to get through a one way tunnel if we drove to the glacier! This may not matter to most people but the last thing I want to do in Alaska is spend an hour in a car on top of driving to the place! And as usual, we took more than a few picture stops so it was looking like we may not get back until six or seven. And we still had so many cool things to do! And the dinner Michelle set up was at six! I was against the glacier.

Besides the scenery was awesome! It seemed like we were in the clouds with all the low flying clouds in the area and snow caps. You could see the glaciers in the mountains – blue and massive almost like they could slip out at any time. There were people fly fishing and a little truck stop that even had a store called tourist trap. It was so pretty that even I (shocker) was seeing ample picture opportunities. However the higher we went up the more rain there was and this really stopped us from getting out too often. And it was cold enough by the time we did get to the tourist trap I was cursing my financial frugality.

We went to the observatory and hoped to catch a few sights and the history of Alaska or whatever they had there. We had yet to pass through the tunnel so I was hoping it would be very interesting! It was not that interesting. However, when we got to the observatory – we found out something very, very nice. We did not have to go through the tunnel and could just see a glacier just a half mile away if we took a boat tour. We arrived just in time for the tour and loaded up on the boat with ten minutes to spare. The tour was a scant $30 and it was funny how I would take pictures of the small bergs of ice floating in the water as I had never seen anything like it. But as we got closer they just got bigger! On top of that there were beautiful little waterfalls all over the place and mountains surrounding us. I don’t get to use the term tern very often but that is exactly what we were in – a mountain lake!

When we got to the glacier there was major blueness due to the cloudy weather and it was awesome, huge and well worth the $30. I know there are other glaciers in the US but this is not a bad destination in Alaska. We made our way back and had some decent pizza and a HUGE sandwich. I thought footlongs in Subway when I ordered it and frowned at the $12 price. Yeah, made the Subway version look like a six inch!

After that we made our way to the conservatory and saw all sorts of wildlife including bears, moose, reindeer and even a lynx. Believe it or not I was actually upset I could not find the porcupine. That was what I really wanted to see. Those quills all spiky and dangerous! We were able to see a herd feeding and watch the crew laugh when they got hit with apples and comment on who the dominant male would become. It was a little odd and perhaps even surreal.

I think everyone else had more fun in the conservatory than I did. Some of the exhibits were large and great but as is the case with any area animals are caged, some did not look good. Others stayed away from the fence and ruined the fun (looking at you Musk Ox!). And some exhibits seemed small. Others seemed too expansive and you never saw anything good. We had our fun and lots of pictures (if you were on my snap chat – it was a banner day!) and decided it was time to head back. Please stay tuned for day two and the big run!

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