We arrived in Anchorage on Tuesday, June 15th and we were lucky enough to stay until Tuesday, June 22. We stayed with Bethany's parents who are in AK for the entire summer with the motor home (yes, they drove to AK from Cape Cod, MA). We really didn't know what to expect for the race, although we heard a couple of interesting things about this course beforehand. We heard that it was hilly, and half of it was through rocky trails through the woods. We also heard that numerous grizzly bear maulings had occurred in the Far North Bicentennial Park, which we run through for a few miles during the race.
So, we got to Alaska on Tuesday and had a couple days to see the sights, beautiful mountains, walk on glaciers, acclimate ourselves to the time change, enjoy the midnight sun, and get ready for the race.
The race had a relatively small expo at a local Anchorage hotel, with some vendors and bib pick-up. The most interesting (and somewhat disconcerting) table at the expo was a table addressing Bear Awareness, and what to do if we encountered bears along the course.
Saturday morning, June 19th, we got to the race start about an hour or so before the race, and much to our surprise, there were only two other runners there already. I guess things are a little more laid back in Alaska. Most of the other 1,000+/- runners sauntered into the starting area with around 20-30 minutes before racetime. We did get to meet fellow blogger Becca from "Running Becca."
Our race plan was to just go with the flow, and kind of take whatever the course gave us (and avoid getting mauled by a bear.) So we enjoyed the first 7 miles which ran along bike paths along the highway, we cruised these miles around 9 min/mile pace. Then at mile 7, we took a turn into the woods, and that's when things got interesting. The next 10 miles or so were on extremely rocky (and somewhat hilly) trails through the woods. I'd compare it to running on a crushed golfball-sized rock driveway. (I still have bruises on the bottoms of my feet.) There were bear droppings everywhere, we had to cross a couple small creeks, and at points the trails narrowed down to some serious singletrack. We kept our eyes open, but didn't see any bears, thankfully. We slowed down a bit in this section, but picked things up a bit once we got out of the woods, to finish the last few miles on bike paths again. We finished with a time of 4:17:09, which put us around 300th out of 1000 runners. Our goal was to finish between 4:15-4:20.
The only complaint I have was that the race shirts were not given out at the expo, they were given out after the marathon. In addition to the marathon, there was also a 1.3 miler, 5 miler and a half marathon, all three races finished much earlier than the marathon, obviously. By the time the marathoners had finished, all the small T-shirts were long gone. I (Bethany) thought that was pretty lousy and very unfair. Not to down play anyone's accomplishment, but the marathon runners ran the furthest, did the most work and paid the most, it's not fair that there were only Large shirts left when we finished. I think races should give out the shirts at the expo, that way if you are worried about not getting the size you want, you just get to the race early. Fair and square. Well, the race shirts were realllllly cheap anyway so as soon as I saw them I didn't care about getting a big shirt. They were white cotton with a TINY logo on the front. Good thing we bought nice Brook's shirts at the expo! :-)
Overall, it was a fun race. Nothing too special about it, aside from the location. After the race, we refueled with some mix1, which we brought all the way to AK with us. We also got some AWESOME race pictures! Including a great one of us holding hands while crossing the finish line.
All in all, it was an amazing vacation, such a beautiful area, and we're already thinking of heading back someday to run Alaska's other marathon (Humpy's Marathon?).
We still can't believe what an amazingly beautiful place Alaska is. The whole trip was wonderful and still feels surreal. Originally we said it was a 'once in a lifetime vacation,' but we know we will definitely go back again someday!!!
Pre-race, sporting out RaceMenu gear
The start line
Taken by Bethany's parents at mile 18
Mile 23 (mom and dad surprised us here! Thanks!)
Running to the finish
He's fine, just taking a little rest :-)
**A special CONGRATS to Steve Taylor for finishing the Western States 100 Miler today!! You can check out his blog here**
Have a good week everyone!!