Monday, June 23, 2008

Solstice Weekend - Mt. Marathon Run through

I cannot contain my excitement for this race. I get that excited feeling in my stomach every time I think about it. Last year, being my first time, I felt like I was going to vomit every time it creeped into my mind. This time it's different. I've worked out all of the issues I had with the mountain and now I'm ready for it.

Saturday morning Brian and I awoke at the campground at Tern Lake, stiff and tired from the ride the night before. We ended up getting only 3 hours of sleep, but Brian had to be down in Seward at 6:15 to catch a Halibut Charter with his friend from work.

Arriving in Seward, I dropped Brian off at the docks and promptly went back to sleep in the car for 3 hours. I woke up to the sun beating down on me with Mt. Marathon towering above.

So I got dressed up in my new trail shoes and loaded up my camelbak. There were already runners jogging up to the trailhead and starting up the mountain. Most of them looked as if they were training for the race. There was also the wide eyed tourist standing at the bottom, looking up at the "trail", trying to convince himself to start hiking up.

So Niko and I started up my usual route, but I quickly discovered that was a bad idea. Niko kept running up ahead of me, trying to climb up the cliff, while knocking rocks down on me. Then he would jump back down right in front of me almost knocking me over. I decided after I scouted out my up route that we would take the switchback trail up. My up route turns out to be the same as last year. It's the safest and I think the fastest way up the mountain.

We connected back up to the up route and then settled into a pace up the long and arduous runners "up" trail. I saw tons of men and women training for the race. We came out above the treeline at the halfway point and saw that the entire "down" route is still covered in snow. Generally there is a small patch of snow at the top, but never this much snow going all the way down into the chute.

Looking up the glissade track

The snow made the trip down fast and fun. The top was kinda steep and I didn't feel comfortable sliding on the snow without an ice axe, so I ran down digging my heels in. When I got back to the halfway point, I jumped in a glissade track and slid all the way down to the top of the waterfall on my butt. It took about 1 minute. I thought, hmm, maybe the snow will be an advantage.

Looking down the glissade track

Once in the chute, I started to see where the snow would be a hindrance. Instead of just climbing down the waterfalls on the rocks, we now had to navigate our way through a series of snow bridges and ledges, intermingled with dusty rock cliffs. Niko almost slipped on one of the cliffs and got freaked out. It took me and a teenage kid that happened to witness it, about 30 minutes to talk Niko down.

All in all the run through went well. Niko will not be entering the race anytime soon. He is a hazard on that mountain. I have some new strategies for getting up fast with minimal fatigue. One and a half weeks!

On the beach in Seward

We ended the day back in Hope at the Seaview Cafe for a Solstice celebration on the streets under the midnight sun. We camped out across from the bar amongst a hundred others getting only a few hours of sleep again and ending our grand tour of the Kenai Penninsula for Solstice weekend. Time for a rest day.

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