Thursday, July 16, 2015

Just for the Halibut - Mayors Half Marathon 2015

Ten years.

Nearly ten years to the day of our first marathon, we landed in Anchorage, over 100 races later. Ron had been to Alaska three times before, but Susan had yet to check off a half marathon in the Last Frontier. It was also a milestone for us as a couple - 20 years of marriage, half of those years living a kind of travel and racing lifestyle neither of us would have imagined before 2005.

We flew to Anchorage directly after Rock n Roll Seattle, nesting a round trip Alaska Airlines flight in between the round trip from Oakland to Seattle on Southwest. Marvin the Moose continued his trek to the motherland. It occurred to us that we'd have to actually pay to check a bag, but we get assigned seating. We hadn't flown an airline other than Southwest in so long we didn't even know when to line up to board. The flight landed a little after 10 PM Alaska time, but the summer days in Alaska are long. The shuttle to the hotel didn't even have his headlights on. It was going to be unseasonably hot in Anchorage with highs in the 80's.

Marvin poses with a 478 lb halibut caught off the shores near Seward

We spent the first two days in Anchorage doing our requisite souvenir shopping and halibut eating. We had to eat at Humpy's, of course. Everybody does. We hit Bear Square later for some locally made Blueberry and Fireweed/Honey ice cream. 

Halibut and King Crab cakes at Humpy's. I sported my original race t-shirt from 2005
With temps in the low 80's, ice cream was definitely on the agenda!

We spent much of the week three hours north in Talkeetna. Wildfires near Willow on the Parks Highway forced us to wait through a few traffic control stops where the fire line was active. Fortunately, we were able to get through. Many thanks to the folks who were out there keeping us safe!

We stayed for three nights at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, which by the way, has no air conditioning. Guests kept the doors and windows open, hoping a cross breeze would cool of the very well insulated rooms. Though it was uncomfortable at times, I think the heat gave did something to burn off the cloud cover that week. Locals say that only 30% of the people who visit the area get to see Mount McKinley - tallest mountain on North America - from base to peak. We had a perfect view all 5 days we were there. Being able to see it pretty much 24 hours a day was a perk.

The pictures aren't even as clear as real life. This was the view from our room

We were able to take a few excursions that we would highly recommend for visitors.

Eat the huge pancakes at the Talkeetna Roadhouse.  This place has character. They have family style seating (large tables only) that encourage people to chat up total strangers. The folks next to us were from Portland and were making their way from Fairbanks to Anchorage with a cruise line.

We tried the locally made Birch syrup on these plate sized cakes. Lighter than maple, but still tasty!

This was hanging on the walls. They don't have any fun up here!
Do a Glacier landing. There are several companies available and we flew with K2 Aviation. Definitely take your cameras on this one, especially if it's clear. The intense blue in the glacial ice has to be seen to be appreciated. Also, listen to your guide and don't try to walk off the landing strip because they don't know where all the crevasses are hiding under the snow pack.

Also, while you're up there, experiment with your Selfie Stick. You can do that up in the mountains. They haven't prohibited their use yet.

Monster Moose angle

This is what we look like to snow.

See a Dog Sled Team: Most of the competitive 'mushers' raise money during the year with odd jobs, including giving tours and educational sessions on their teams and the sport. We also took a ride with the Talkeetna Sundog Kennel as a dozen of the 50 dogs ran a few miles in front of an ATV. They know how to take tangents well and know how to enjoy a water stop.

See Denali: We drove a few hours further north and took an 8 hour day trip into Denali National Park. With the warmer weather, many of the animals were still seeking shade so for the first half of the out-and-back bus trip, we saw just a few caribou and a fox or two. On the way back as the weather cooled, we hit the tourist jackpot: three brown bears (a mother and two cubs) came within a few feet of our bus.

Between 2005 and 2007, Ron kept going back to Anchorage because of moose sightings. More specifically, the LACK of sightings. In 2005, Ron did the full marathon and the people on the half marathon saw the moose (Ron was the only one with a camera). In 2006, he did the half, and the moose was on the full course (again, ONE camera out of the group!). In 2007, we saw a moose at mile 1 of the full. That was enough for the first decade.

Susan didn't have to wait three races to see the moose this time. We caught a trio on the way out of the park going back to Talkeetna!

By the time we got back to Anchorage on Friday, the Expo was in full swing at the Alaska Airlines Center at the University of Anchorage. It was bigger than I remember it 8 years ago, with a few more vendors. Susan took advantage of the KT Tape station (no waiting!), and the chiropractic stretching... and the full body massage chair.

"Nothing new for race day... nothing new for race day... nothing n.. aw, heck..."

We met up with Kamika who is plowing his way through the 50 state list for half marathons. Alaska would be number 44. He got his first encounter with Alaskan wildlife quickly.

The next time you see Kamika and Ron together, you can ask him about this picture below. It's more than likely we'll make something up.

Nothing new the night before the race, he says.  It'll be fun, he says...
Ron's first race in 2005 was with Team in Training, an organization started by Bruce Cleland, who raised money for his daughter Georgia, a blood cancer survivor. We had the privilege of meeting Georgia in person on this the 10 year anniversary of our first TNT race. She's been cancer free for 30 years!

The half marathon was an out and back course through Earthquake Park to the Anchorage airport. It was a beautiful trail with lots of photo ops. We took it slow so we could take it all in.

Kamika tucked the jacket away after mile 3. Susan noted that he has a few more states on his 50 State shirt to fill in (Idaho, now Alaska).

When we say the course goes by the airport, we mean RIGHT by the airport. 

We couldn't get away from the constant air traffic, no matter where we went!

And those mosquitoes were huge!... Oh,.. wait a minute.

There was a short stretch through trail at the 6 mile mark that was new this year. It made for good variety even though it was narrow.

Oh, and we saw more moose!  Not these two...

This one... oh wait...

These two! You may have to use your imagination, but I swear they were there!

They caused quite a traffic jam on the trail.

The end of the race was relaxing, like we had all the time in the world. This was the last race of our first 10 years and we're looking forward to many more.

The medals were a good size for a half marathon. The full marathon medals were even bigger.

Mayor's had a better post-race food selection than we've seen in a while, rivaling Fresno's Eye-Q - huge, freshly baked cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh baked bread with butter and the usual bananas, oranges. 

Kamika was off with friends after the race, so we had a day to spend at the Solstice Festival. We ran into a TNT transplant, Sarah and caught up on life in Anchorage. 7 days in the state, 6 days of halibut. I think that was a good ratio.

The rental car served us well, even going through the fire breaks and a few stretches of dusty road construction. I've started to appreciate the little things that we take for granted, like a car that can go a thousand miles without a hitch. I left this message on the car and Susan didn't see it until I dropped her off to check our bags at the airport. 

Who knows what the next 10 or 20 years will be like? Maybe we'll be back here in another anniversary. Maybe we'll still be racing and checking off our 200th or 250th race.

Or maybe we'll go back up to Alaska... just for the halibut.

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