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!



One response to this post.

  1. Nice post so far! I’ve run two races with Michelle, and one with Dave. Funny how small the world is, well, the running community, anyway. Looking forward to reading the rest.


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