Wednesday, July 27, 2016

State #30 Her Tern Half Marathon, Anchorage, AK, July 17, 2016, Part 2

Alaska, Day Two

We took some of Captain John’s suggestions for our second day in Alaska. After sleeping in, we headed to Girdwood to the Alyeska ski resort there to take the mountain tram up to the top of the mountain to take in the views.
Top of the trail and ski hill. Cloudy & desolate but still beautiful.
Unfortunately, the day wasn’t as sunny and clear as the previous day, but we still enjoyed the ride up and the views we were able to see. Up at the top, we decided to take a short hike to the top of the Mighty Might trail which topped out at about 2600 feet or so. It wasn’t an easy hike, but it was rewarding. 

Top of the trail.
Flowers on the mountaintop.
View looking down.
We reached the top of the trail area and found snow, alpine flowers and a waterfall. It was desolate and beautiful at the same time. We could see through the clouds down to the highway and water/mountains beyond. I can’t imagine what the views must be like on a clear day. Just sublime, I imagine. 
View looking up as we hiked down.
After our hike, we took the tram down the mountain and headed to a nearby gold panning creek. We heard the demonstration of how to pan for gold and then made our way down to the creek. Holy lots of work for not much gain, Batman! I sure hope the prospectors didn’t have to sift through all this muck for tiny flakes of gold! We found a few minute flecks of gold before being driven away by the black flies and lack of striking it rich.
Panning for gold.
There's gold in them thar hills! (Is there?) We didn't find it!
We decided to grab lunch at a place nearby called Chair 5, a family-friendly pub-style place. Not fancy, but perfect for the time and location. I ordered a salad topped with Alaskan Halibut. The fish was slightly over-cooked, but the house jalapeño dressing was fabulous. I topped it off with local beer. Yum!
Kites flying in Anchorage park near bib pick up.
Once back in Anchorage, Craig took the girls swimming while I picked up my race bib. The race expo was just around the corner from our hotel in the street between the Her Tern boutique and the Skinny Raven running store. The woman who gave me my number remarked that I was from Connecticut and asked if I came all the way to Alaska just to run the race. I told her yes, but that my family came along for an Alaskan vacation. We chatted a bit about the race route, possible wildlife viewing along the trail, and the start location. It was helpful to chat with her. I then perused the two shops there at the expo, but I didn’t find anything I absolutely needed to have. 
Race shirt and bib number.
I met Craig and the girls at the pool and watched them swim, and after showers, we headed out to dinner at Campobello Bistro, an Italian restaurant in Anchorage. Our dinner was delicious, featuring hand-made pasta and a delicious dijon-balsamic dressed salad with blue cheese crumbles and sliced almonds. Yum. We hit Walmart on the way back to our hotel for my last-minute race necessities, and then it was pretty much lights out for our clan until race morning.

Day Three: Race Day, July 17, 2016

I set my alarm for 6 am on race day, but woke up at 4:30 am to use the bathroom (for at least the 3rd time overnight!) and never really got back to sleep. Race jitters, I guess. I took my night-before purchased Starbucks bold coffee down to the lobby lounge to get it warmed up in the microwave, and while chatting with the woman working in the coffee lounge (where said microwaving was underway) a fuse blew. Clearly, it was my neurotic tendencies that caused the mishap, but it wasn’t very crowded down there, so not much harm done. 
While waiting for my coffee to get warmed up in another microwave, I met a woman and man who were both from Massachusetts (Cohasset and Northboro, respectively) and were on their way to tour Denali and then cruise Alaska. They recognized me as an east coaster by my Nantucket sweatshirt, and we got to chatting. They were really nice to talk to, and they were so interested in my running travels. I told them about my blog, and they both accessed it (or let others know about it) before the morning was up. I didn’t get their names, but thanks for reading and/or for following my adventures! It was great meeting you, and I hope your Alaskan travels are amazing!
The Her Tern Half Marathon didn’t start until 9 am, so I had some time to kill. I had one coffee, then another, stretched, ate a usual breakfast, bathroomed as many times as possible and gathered up the family for the walk to the start. They saw me off and headed out for breakfast, while I embarked on a 13 mile jaunt through Cutler Creek Park.
My view at the starting line.
My husband's view of the starting line up.
The race started at the furthest west strip of corridor park in Anchorage. We began with a loop around the park and into a residential area. At the end of that street, we entered the Cutler Creek Park which was the venue for the remainder of the race. 
And we're off....!
The park was a lovely stretch of green space spanning Anchorage along the creek, lined with most wooded surroundings. It was a largely shaded route, which was nice considering the warm sunny 70’s temps we had with us. It was a bit funny to hear all the warnings from race officials to remember to hydrate with the warm temps, especially considering that at home on the east coast the weather was a super hot and humid 95 degrees. Nonetheless, hydration is important with any prolonged exercise, so I heeded the warnings and made sure to grab liquid at each aid station. Although in my mind I couldn’t help thinking that the weather was pretty much picture perfect!
The race went well most of the way along. I caught up with the one male runner, “Greg” around mile 6 or so, and we chatted for a bit. He told me that his wife nominated him to be the one man on the course, and somehow he received the nod. The crowning moment for him was being able to begin the race with his daughter who was now somewhere in the front of the pack. He was a swell guy, providing encouragement to all the lady runners around him. Closer to the turn around point at mile 7, he passed me at a sprint and ended up handing out water at the aid station there. What a guy!
I liked the fact that the turnaround was at mile 7, as that meant that the return trip was a bit shorter. I have to say though, that always in races I can’t help but think of the philosophical words of Morrissey, “Why is the last mile the hardest mile? My throat was dry with the sun in my eyes…” In the case of this race, the sun was actually at my back on the return trip, so that was a relief, but as most race routes go, the last mile of the race also featured the largest uphill. Seriously, why is that always a thing???!!! (Those race directors are maniacal!) I did my best to get up that hill, but on the first bit I had to walk a few steps until it evened out. I started running again, and some angel of a man (who clearly was an experienced runner/trainer) helped me power up the last little bit. Thank you, angel-man! I approached the finish line spying a woman in front of me running with her young daughter, and suddenly I dug deep in to the last bit of resolve I had to outrun them. Success! it wasn’t pretty, but I did it. I finished in just about 2:04 something. In my blind sprint for the finish line, I didn’t even see my own family cheering for me, but they were there. Love you, guys! xoxo!
Approaching the finish line. 
Crossing the finish line.
My gang found me as I walked slowly past the finishing chute and into the shade to find a shake-out, stretching place. I was happy to see them, but at the same time, I felt pretty spent. I was hot, tired, sore, dehydrated, smelly and glad to be at the finish line. I grabbed some water and watermelon slices. They had tons of sweets available to the runners, but I wasn’t feeling up for that stuff. The finish line also featured a mimosa garden, but I just wanted to get stretched out and showered up. I figured, if anything, I’d grab food and some kind of drink at the airport after having some time to decompress. The finish line mimosa garden was very cute and festive though.
Now a word about the finisher's bracelet. Just like in most races, the bracelets were handed out just past the finish line. They were stored in small glass jars with cork stoppers, a nice presentation. The bracelets themselves are pretty cool, but very dainty and quite small. At first, I was worried it wouldn't fit me, but thankfully, it did. It features the initials of the marathon HTH and some colored, faceted beads. I wish I knew if the colors represented something (red, pink and gold). I couldn't help feel a little let down though. I am happy to have the bracelet, but for 50 states runners heading all the way to Alaska, I wish the "medal" was a bit more substantial. I'm interested in seeing how many other out of staters were there and what they thought, and I also wonder if any of the plus-sized runners felt let down too, if their bracelets were too small. I like the idea of the bracelet award, but I guess I just prefer finisher's medals.
Finisher's bracelet.
Once I walked a bit more and stretched, I felt better, but the crowning glory was the hot shower back at the hotel. Heaven. We rested for a bit before heading out to the airport. Viewing the race results online, my official chip finish time was 2:04:53 and 2:05:00 gun time. My initial pace was pretty good (8:47/mi), but I really slowed by the end (9:32/mi). I finished 160th overall out of 645 runners, and 34th of 128 in my age division. Not my greatest performance, but I will take it!
Our luggage loaded, off we went to the Anchorage airport. I wish we could have spent a couple of more days in Alaska. There is so much to see. Once at the airport, we had lunch complete with a bloody mary for me (hey, gotta replenish all that salt I lost on those 13.1 miles today, right?) before boarding our plane to Seattle. We were on to the next part of our vacation. Seattle with Uncle Dude and Aunt Lisa! State #30 was in the books, and although it wasn’t my fastest time, it was an accomplishment that felt half a world away. I hope we get back to Alaska someday. What a glorious state filled with incredible beauty.
Alaska card.

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