Monday, July 25, 2011

Great Alaskan Marathon Cruise, Day 3

Today was the long stage -- the 10-mile trail run in Juneau. I was both nervous and excited about this.

We started the day with breakfast in the Vista Dining Room. We selected a non-sharing table, which of course was a mere 6 inches from another table. :)

We had our briefing with John and Jenny at 9. They talked about the stage, tips on trail running, and what to do if you spotted a bear. John kept reminding people that this wasn't Disneyland -- that if we saw a bear, it wasn't a "get close to the character" photo op. Despite the fact that he once encouraged Jenny to stand close to a moose, of course...

It was kinda funny -- there were lots of questions such as "are there toilets?" Reply: "There are boy trees and girl trees."

The winners from the first stage were announced, and everyone cheered. (Though the fast family scowled a bit.)

After the briefing we went back to the cabin to lay out our gear. I decided on capris, the HVAC top, and my Rock 'n' Roll jacket to run in. We also packed a bag with the stuff we wanted for the whale watching excursion that night -- in case we didn't get back to the ship before we had to meet for the trip.

We gathered in the hallway outside of the Queens Lounge -- a sort of organized chaos -- and waited a long time. It got hot, people got woozy and grumpy, and I have never been quite so glad to walk down a gangplank and onto a dock! We walked a couple of blocks to the start -- including a very steep and long flight of stairs. We stowed our gear in the running club garage (at which point I discovered that my camera battery was dead, awesome...), got a very brief course description from the organizers, and then, with a whoosh, we were off. 

We all ran down a hill, then up, up, up a steep hill. I was feeling a bit nervous, honestly worried that I would finish last, and having some trouble breathing in the cold, wet air. So I decided to just walk up the hills. Every so often I would run a little, but the walking just made better sense. My favorite part of the beginning of this course was the big wooden bridge up to the trailhead. Very cool.

At some point Mike caught up with me, grabbed my hand, and said, "C'mon Sunny, we're walking up together."So I hustled to keep up with his super long legs as we walked at a really good clip. The trail was lovely, if very muddy and wet, and we just kept climbing.

photo by Jenny Hadfield
One section had a steep cliff, with a wire railing to keep you from wandering off it. A lot of us pretty much hugged the opposite wall on that part. We grabbed some water from the water stop there and just kept going. Jenny joined us for a bit before bounding ahead to take photos.

It wasn't all that long before the leaders -- the fast dad, one of the local high school kids, and then BJ came speeding down the trail. Mike and I cheered for them, getting no response from fast dad, a bewildered, panicked response from school kid, and a smile and whoop from BJ. I will say that, a few moments later, when fast daughter appeared, she responded with "great job, guys!", which made me very happy.

A few more people passed us, friendly greetings were exchanged, and we continued to climb. Mike and I chatted about Europe, history, and the cruise. He had started as a runner, but kept getting ingured, so he switched to walking. He has a fantastic attitude -- he just loves being out there. "I'm the lower half that makes the upper half possible." :)

photo by Jenny Hadfield
As we got closer to the top, more and more folks passed us and almost everyone engaged in mutual cheering. I won't name the one person who failed to cheer, however... Great to have so much camaraderie!

Then, suddenly, a bridge appeared -- with the swollen river flooding across it. I said, "Well, this is MY turnaround, whether we're supposed to cross it or not." We took a quick photo, and I told Mike I was going to try and run down. "But you'll probably catch up with me after I twist my ankle!" :)

Then off I went -- a bit nervous about running on a trail, but excited too. As I ran, I was surprised to come across other people still heading up -- I thought we were the end?!? -- and then a long string of walkers. I cheered for them and told them they were very close to the turnaround, which made them all happy.

Then I ran some more, meeting Jenny on her way up. She snapped a picture and said, "Brochure cover!" and I laughed.

photo by Jenny Hadfield
Then down, down, down. I took a few walk breaks, managed to jam my right ankle once, and pass a few folks. I also walked any time there were railings. I could just imagine clumsy me tripping and launching myself over them!

By the time I reached the trail head I was pretty tired and pretty amused by my time. I had predicted either 2:15 or 2:30, and it hadn't even quite been 2 hours yet.

After crossing the wooden bridge again I met Tristan, the race organizer. He reminded me that it was a right, then a quick left and then down and up the hill to the finish. I said, "Um, an out and back, right?" and he laughed. Sure enough, as I headed down the last steep hill I saw a group rejoining the road -- they had clearly gone the wrong way. (Really, it was an out and back folks!)

The hill was too steep for me to run down, or, hell, UP, so I walked. As I crested the final hill, however, I broke into a trot and arrived to cheers. Wil was serving as race photographer, which was lovely.

Wil had walked a mile or so out along the trail with a couple of folks, and then sat for a bit before heading back. The duct tape cover worked semi-well, but it started to flap off when it got too wet. When he got back he considered going back to the ship, but John deputized him to take photos, so he said he suddenly felt engaged and happy to be out there. Nice. :) And I was sure happy to see him.

We stood around for a bit cheering on a few runners and eating granola bars. Nice to be there for when Mike came in. John asked me if I had any trouble finding my way back and I said "Well, it's an out and back, right?" and he explained that several people made wrong turns and ended up in town near the ship. Really?!? The lost runners then got to the finish and complained about the lack of markings on the course...

The rain continued to pour and I got worried about Wil's foot, so we reluctantly left before the final finishers came in. We were soothed by the fact that Jenny was with them. We headed back to the ship so that we could dry off a little, so Wil could change his dressing, and so Wil could cut up a dry pair of shoes. We barely had time to get to the ship, get dry, and get off the ship before we had to meet for our evening excursion. (to be continued...)
photo by Jenny Hadfield

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