Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Eklutna Challange

I've decided to go race crazy this summer. Signing up for races gets me out of bed early on the weekends and takes me to some cool places I have never been before. Well, this weekend was more of a familiar place. Brian and I raced the Eklutna Challenge this morning, which includes a 3 mile trail run and a 15 mile mountain bike around Eklutna Lake.

Eklutna Lake has been the scene of a few epic trips we have taken. We have biked the 13 mile trail out to the end of the lake many times. Sometimes just to camp out there. Sometimes to start an epic journey. This trail is a gateway to a really beautiful part of the Chugach.

Two years ago we attempted to climb Bold Peak, the giant 7,000 foot monster at the end of the Lake, and failed due to poor planning and lack of time. We woke up at 11am in the cabin out there and did not really understand how massive this mountain was.

Last year, in late April, we got an ATV ride out to the end of the trail to the start of the Eklutna Ski Traverse.

And finally in June of last year, we rode out one night and camped at the base of Bold Peak, making a successful attempt on the summit the next day.

Considering all of these trips, the Eklutna Challenge was not much of a challenge, but a lot of fun! Oddly the 3 mile run was harder for me than the bike. I've been running all winter, and not biking much at all, but my legs just did not seem to want to wake up today on the run. The bike ride included some pretty long gradual hills that I used to struggle with, but today they were easy. Go figure.

Next race is on Tuesday. The Kincaid Tuesday night mountain bike series starts. Then next Saturday is the Government Peak Hill Climb.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Denali Highway

A group of Brian's biking friends and I drove up to the Denali Highway this weekend to participate in one of Carlos's (of the Frigid Bits and Soggy Bottom) famous and interesting bike races. I like the races he puts on because they are relaxed, always unique, scenic, and the main goal is to have a good time. People on both ends of the cycling spectrum come to these races, from the serious endurance bike racer to well... me.

My plan was to take the dog out for a scenic ride while the rest of them raced their asses down the highway. My goal was to get to the Gracious House, a lodge that claims to have fantastic blueberry pie. I figured blueberry pie would be enough motivation to get me the 25 miles along the rolling dirt "Highway" that is the Denali Highway (not to be confused with the Denali Park road that is actually inside the park.)

It was a cold rainy, overcast day, and Brian wasn't feeling much like racing either. So he decided to join me on my take of the 50-ish mile version of this race calling it the "Pie Run". Others set out to race either 50, 80 or 170 mile version, all on a different mission.

Around mile 15 Brian and I decided that Niko in fact could not run 50 miles in one day, because he started to drop behind us a bit. We decided to ride up to the top of the next hill and turn around. Brian said he would meet me at the top. After he took off, I turned around to call Niko and saw him running straight at a porcupine on the side of the road. I screamed for him to come to me and just as he was about to grab the porcupine he turned and started back to me. I breathed a sigh of relief, and suddenly Niko changed his mind and decided he really wanted to make friends with the porcupine after all.

After planting his face in the porcupine's backside, he ran away swiftly and was shaking his head, adorning his newly groomed porcupine quill gotee. To make a long story short we rode the 15 miles back to camp, Niko slowing and slowing as we got closer. I felt bad that I was a bad dog owner and brought my Bubsy (um, I mean Niko) into this mess. He was soaking wet, exhausted and had 20 porcupine quills sticking out of his chin. I however felt like I could have gone 30 more miles.

All in all it was a miserable day, and I never did make it to pie, but a few good things came out of it. I got to do a good long ride and realized that I have a lot more endurance on a bike than I thought. I met a bunch of really fun people. We camped out under the midnight sun for the first time this year. I got to eat donuts for breakfast without feeling guilty. Last, but certainly not least, I learned how to hold a dog down, muzzle him with a bandana, and one-by-one pluck porcupine quills out of his lip while averting his attempts to bite me.

Today when the clouds finally parted, I got out for a 5 mile run along the highway and down some ATV trail that I found..

The after party...

This little girl smoked me on her three wheeler...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Do Run Run Slow

The Anchorage Running Club held their first race in town last night. It was called the Do Run-Run. A 4 mile out-and-back race from Point Woronzof on the Coastal Trail. Despite the fact that I woke up and felt like someone had repeatedly beat me with a baseball bat throughout the night, and despite the fact that I took a sick day, I forced myself out the door at 5:30pm to run my first Anchorage race of the season. I couldn't miss it, I was just too excited to see how fast I could now run shorter distances.

Okay so I was sick, and maybe I'm not fully recovered from the half marathon, but I finished the 4 mile race and there it was staring at me in the face as I crossed the finish line. 40:00:00. Exactly 10 minute miles. Which has been my slow as molasses pace since as long as I can remember. Yes, now I can hold that pace for a long time, like over 2 hours, but I thought now that I could run 13 miles I would be faster at 4 miles.

Well that is just not how it works. In order to run faster, you have to well, run faster. My body knows the 10 minute mile pace. And since I have been training in the snow and not really keeping track of my pace all winter, I really have slowed down a bit. In the fall I was running close to 9 minute miles.

So it's pretty simple. In order to get faster, I need to train faster. I'm thinking about running a full marathon within the next year and I just don't want to be out there for 5 hours. So begins my speed training.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Trail Running and orthotics

I started trail running this week. Sunday I took Niko out to the North Bivouac Trailhead where he can be off leash. We took off, winding through the woods, leaping over puddles and bouncing down rooted hills for one of the best runs I have had in awhile.

I did some running on trails last year, but for the most part I would find the steepest mountain around, power hike up, then run down, in preparation for Mt. Marathon. Not much straight trail running. Trails with rolling hills that I can actually run on are a blast. It's a nice break from pounding the pavement (or ice) on the Chester Creek Trail.

I plan on doing a little bit of each kind of training this summer. The Lost Lake run has some significant elevation gain (about 2000), but the middle section is rolling and flat until you come down the other side. Actually this is just what I have heard. I have never actually been on the trail!

I got this photo from

Yesterday I got fitted for custom orthotics for my running shoes. My doctor mentioned last week that my back and hip problems are probably a result of me having a collapsed arch on one foot. We did a scan of my feet and low and behold, there it was, my left foot is mostly flat the whole way through and the right foot is slightly collapsed around the outside edge. You are supposed to have even pressure across your toes when you stand and my toes barely touched the scanner. The doctor said this results in very inefficient running! Aha! That is why I am so slow! When I get my orthotics no one will be able to catch me.

Back to reality, they should arrive in about 10 days. I've been reading up on orthotics lately and I have only heard good things. It's interesting that most of the injuries of our lower bodies (and even all the way up to the neck) can be traced back to problems in our feet.

So training continues. Now that I've got this momentum, I'm not sure it is going to end.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Anchorage Creek Cleanup

I remember the first weekend I spent in Alaska after moving here. It was April 12th, 2005. Brian and I were staying in Wasilla and the one hour drive from Anchorage to the Valley was amazing. I remember looking up to the mountains and thinking of the endless possibilities for adventure in them.

But during that month, whenever we drove into Anchorage I couldn't help but think, "Wow, this is a dirty city. This is Alaska?" The truth is that post break up (or Spring) in Anchorage is a dirty, dirty time. All of the garbage, gravel, dirt that has been littered over the city in the six months of winter has melted out and is just staring at us. Before the trees and flowers bloom the city is gray and brown. It's an awful time to visit Anchorage.

I recall having a drink in a bar one night early on, and the bar tender told me and Brian, "Just wait. One of these days you'll wake up and it will be like Bah! in your face, the city will be clean and the trees and flowers will have bloomed. It happens really fast. You just have to wait for it."

So we waited, and we started seeing these BP trash bags all over the city. People were cleaning up. The entire community was helping to clean the city. The sun was shining about 16 hours a day and one day we drove into town, and saw buds on the trees. On the way back the trees started to bloom this bright green color all over the place. The next day in town we saw flowers blooming everywhere and the grass was green. The city was clean. The bartender was right.

So every year around this time, we wait. It's a time full of anxiety, because the trails are still wet and muddy and not bike friendly, they city is dirty, the grass is brown. Hiking is not that enjoyable because most of the trails are messy. We know any day the city will be filled with tourists, everyone will be talking about how many salmon they caught last weekend, which family members are visiting, where they camped, or telling some story about a bear encounter. That is what summer in Alaska is all about, but not yet. It's like waiting for the first snow in the fall. Is it going to happen this year?

This year instead of waiting around I decided to help out in the cleanup. My company got a group together to participate in the Creek Cleanup around Anchorage. I rode my bike down the Campbell Creek trail down to Taku Lake Saturday morning and collected trash and recyclables from the bottom of the lake and the surrounding park for hours. It felt great to be a part of the cleanup rather than just waiting around. I will definitely be back next year.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Quick update from Vancouver

My battery is about to die, but wanted to post a quick update on the Team in Training Race. This morning I ran the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon! (we won't talk about my time :) Vancouver is beautiful and the Team in Training experience has been awesome.

After waking up with excruciating back pain on Thursday night, I thought that I wouldn't be able to race. But my chiropractor fixed it somewhat and I decided to run anyway. Long story short, I had to do some serious walking/limping about halfway through the race. Then the pain went away and I ran fast to the finish line for the last 4 miles.

I am now absolutely sure that I will not be running the Crow Pass Crossing this year. I am just not fast enough... yet. I know my back slowed me down a lot, I probably lost 20 minutes because of it, but I am over 40 minutes off of the qualifying time for Crow Pass, so I am not going to push it.

Instead I have signed up for the Lost Lake Run at the end of the summer. Lost Lake is a 15.75 mile trail run over some of the most beautiful terrain in South Central Alaska. I have 4 months to train on the trails. I think this is a more attainable goal. But next year, Crow Pass!

It took me two and a half years to do it, but I am finally hooked on running again since my broken leg sidelined me for a year. I am already mapping out my training plan for the summer and cannot wait to recover from this race to do some of the shorter races around Anchorage. Hopefully the snow will be gone from town when I get back.

More later! Thanks again to everyone that sponsored me! I have a party to go to!