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!|
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!
|"Nothing new for race day... nothing new for race day... nothing n.. aw, heck..."|
|Nothing new the night before the race, he says. It'll be fun, he says...|
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.
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.
This one... oh wait...
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.
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.