Okay, it's about time I get to a Race Report, since it's been more than two weeks since I finished this one...
On Saturday June 22 2013, I ran the Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage Alaska. Alaska became the 27th state in which I ran a marathon. I was very happy to get Alaska out of the way because (along with Hawaii) it's one of the two most difficult states to get to from New Jersey, and one of the two most expensive as well.
DW and I had been planning our Summer vacation around this marathon. I am very grateful that she is willing to make some vacations out of my foolish 50 state quest, allowing me to kill two birds with one stone, if you will. That is, a marathon and a vacation in one trip. So the three of us had been planning for this trip for nearly 6 months.
There are a few marathons in Alaska each year, but I wanted to do the Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage for a couple reasons. First, Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, thus making it the easiest to get to from the lower 48. Plus, this race occurs right around the Summer solstice, and I thought it would be fun to be up in Alaska at the time of year that offers the maximum daylight. There wasn't quite 24 hours of sunlight, but it was close. I think it was 21-22 hours per day. In fact, I think I slept through whatever short nighttime period there was each day, which means I didn't see night at all for the entire time I was in Alaska. That's a little weird.
Traveling to Alaska takes a long time, for sure. We flew out on Thursday, and with the time change, there was still a bit of time left in the day. I went to the expo to pick up my race packet that day, which allowed us to do touristy things around Anchorage on Friday.
The race was to begin at 8:00am Saturday morning. That's already towrads the late side of when a marathon starts, but it was even more so considering that was noon Eastern time and I hadn't fully gotten over the jet lag yet. So waking up in time for the race wasn't a problem. I caught a shuttle near my hotel out to the start line, which was at a high school on the outskirts of Anchorage. I guess "outskirts" is a relative term. The city of Anchorage is roughly the same size as the entire state of Delaware, so you have to travel quite a distance to get outside the city limits. The start point was still well within the city, but was somewhat of a distance away from our hotel downtown.
My expectations for my performance were minimal. Friday had been a beautiful day for a run, meaning it was cool and cloudy. Saturday turned out to be sunny and warmer. Alaska is certainly not known for its warmth, but they had been having somewhat of a heat wave, with some days reaching 90 degrees. It wasn't going to be that bad on race day, with the temps only reaching the mid 70s. But it was still less comfortable than it would have been if the race were on Friday. Plus my marathon exploits in sunny weather have been well-documented. It doesn't need to be terribly hot for the sun to wear me down.
In addition, this race had a bit of elevation change to it, plus it was partly run over gravel roads and dirt trails, which are two types of surfaces I am not very familiar with. I figured I would want to take it a little slower than usual on unfamiliar terrain. And lastly, the race was near the beginning of a family vacation, and I really didn't want to burn myself out too much since I wanted to enjoy the remainder of the week. Thus my only real goal here was to finish and avoid a PW, which is still the 4:27:48 that I ran in my first marathon in Chicago. Based on my recent marathons and my minimal training in the six weeks since Delaware, and all the factors I stated above, I was guessing I'd be somewhere close to 4:20.
There were about 800 full marathoners. There were another 1800 or so doing the half marathon, but they started much closer to downtown. So the 800 of us took off from the high school at 8:00am. The first thing we did was run out to a highway for a couple of miles. This wasn't exactly the most beautiful scenery that Alaska has to offer.
Unlike in my last marathon in Delaware, I did not go out too quickly this time. I made it a point to stay slower than 9:00 per mile. I didn't want to burn myself out on another warm sunny day. After the first couple miles along the highway, we moved onto a side road that led onto an army base. There wasn't a whole lot of military stuff to see, however. This being Alaska, everything is huge, and that includes the army base. All we could really see from the road was trees. At one point, we passed a field with a sign posted to a tree that read "Danger, Do Not Enter, Unexploded Ammunition". I must admit that's that the first time I've seen that sign during a marathon.
At Mile 7, we turned onto a gravel road that went slowly but steadily uphill. This would be a bit of a new experience for me, since I haven't run much on gravel roads. Nonetheless, I felt pretty good on this long, consistent uphill climb. My pace had stayed fairly consistent for the first 9 miles, mostly around 9:10, except for Mile 7, which was slower due to a fairly steep hill. Mile 11 was also quite uphill, and was also slower.
I was pleased with all this, as it didn't feel too difficult up to this point. I passed the halfway point at about 2:05, which was really on par with what I'd been doing lately. I was happy with this, since we were nearing the highest point on the course, and the second half was mostly downhill.
But before we could go downhill, we had to climb a little more. Mile 13 went onto a narrow dirt trail, which is definitely terrain that I am not used to. We even had to run through some (very small) streams that crossed the trail. My pace slowed considerably going uphill on these trails. In fact, Mile 14 was all the way down to 11:45, as I walked a decent amount up the steep trail. The second half of the race was not off to a speedy start, and almost instantly any thought of that elusive negative split vanished from my head.
The elevation profile of the race shows that we started going downhill very soon after Mile 14. But I wasn't feeling any faster. Frankly, I didn't even feel like I was going downhill. My pace certainly wasn't showing it. I had gone faster uphill on the gravel than I was going downhill here.
After about Mile 17, we got back onto the streets, but that didn't help my pace either. By this point, I was feeling rather spent. The sun was once again wearing me down, and with most of the vacation still ahead of me, I decided to save my energy and just coast on in. Even with downhills ahead of me, I took it easy. I knew I would beat my PW, and frankly I didn't care by how much.
The rest of the race was back in the urban(ish) area of Anchorage, and it was mostly downhill or flat. Until the last 0.2 miles, which were rather steeply uphill, which I would consider quite cruel if I didn't mind just giving up and walking it. I crossed the finish line in 4:24:25, which slightly more than 3 minutes better than my PW.
I was qutie happy to see DW and DD waiting for me at the finish line. It's always more enjoyable to see some happy familiar faces than to be all alone after the finish in a strange town. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling very well. I hadn't pushed myself too hard, and yet I felt qutie awful. Other than New York City -- where I came down with the flu a couple days later and probably was running with it already in my system -- this might be the worst I felt at the completion of a marathon. And I'm not really sure why. Yes, it was warm, but not THAT warm. And yes it was sunny, but I've faced sunny days before. Could it be jet lag? Could it somehow be the unfamiliar surfaces? I'm really not sure.
I never felt in any danger of getting a new PW, so I suppose it was mission accomplished. Maybe I could have pushed a bit harder and shaved off a few minutes, but considering how awful I felt anyway, it was probably best that I didn't. Thankfully, after some food and liquids, and a bit of a nap, I felt much better. And I was able to completely enjoy the rest of my vacation in Alaska.
Overall it was a very nice race. I guess it wasn't quite as scenic as I was expecting. The races I did in Utah and Montana, for example, had more spectacular scenery. But the race was well organized and the spectators (in the few spots that had them) were enthusiastic. I'm not thilled with my results, but I am quite happy to have completed a marathon in Alaska, and to have spent a wonderful week there with my family.
Now on to the pics. Click on a pic to see it enlarged...
The start line:
Gathering around the start:
An enthusiastic runner behind me ready to start. I love his shirt:
Okay, it's the start line. We get it:
Just after the start of the race:
Views of mountains early on:
Running next to the highway:
Past a U.S. Army base:
And now entering the army base:
Running is cheaper than therapy. Yup, that's one reason I do it:
Gravel road. Now my ankles are scared:
I got someone to take my picture:
Actually, I got him to take two:
"Chuck Norris never ran a marathon". Second marathon in a row that I've seen this sign:
Still on the gravel road, still going uphill. Actually still feeling fine:
Another American flag. I love taking pictures of American flags:
"Havin' Fun in the Midnight Sun"
Here's a sign I've never seen on a run before: "Danger, Unexploded Ammunition, Keep Out"
On to some trail running:
Had to cross a couple little streams like this. It might not be much, but I'm not used to it:
Back on the roads, finally :
"Views of Russia ahead"
Now some paved trails. This I could handle. Too bad I was burned out:
Crossing a little river:
Ha! A Sofa King T-shirt:
About Mile 24. Oh yeah, I feel like crap:
Mile 26. Around this corner, we go up a freakin' steep hill before the finish chute. Very sadistic:
Finally, the Finish Line is up ahead:
Here's me coming to the end:
Congrats on #27!
Bummer to hear you weren't feeling well at the end. I hope you recovered quickly and had a great remainder of your vacation.
The unexploded ammo sign would have def been a bit unsettling - crazy. Love the Sofa King shirt though. :)
Thanks for sharing. As always, love the photos.
Dirt/gravel roads/ paths and elevation are tough when you don't get to run in them. Thats how all of Montana was for me. Oh, and tho e mountains. It looks like a tough run boB!
How to run a marathon: Step 1: You start running. There is no Step 2
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