Thursday, July 28, 2011

Great Alaskan Marathon Cruise, Day 6

 This race had a very early start! We only had 6 hours in port, so we met at 6:15 for our briefing, dressed and ready to race. We docked at 7, and we were the first people down the gangplank. Not so much competition at 7:15 am, I'll tell you...

It was raining (of course), and we stood and waited for the bus.

And waited. Until a woman came running up and said, "Are you the runners? Follow me!" Turns out that the dispatcher wouldn't let our buses get on the dock, and the drivers couldn't get any closer.

But then we were on the buses and headed out to the Tongass National Forest for the final stage of the race.

This leg was organized by the Ketchikan Running and Walking Club -- which has a great logo! We were to run 7 miles in a sort of figure 8 pattern. There was a quick course description, including info on the marking (flour arrows and xs), and then we pretty much lined up to go. I lined up momentarily in front of BJ, saying, "Let me have this for just a second..." and he laughed.

I tucked a copy of the map in my pocket and we were off. Wil had been feeling better and better, so we decided to walk it goether. I had something like 1:45 left on my overall predictor time, which is what Wil predicted as our stage time. I predicted 1:50 -- just to give myself something different to aim for.

We went a hundred yards or so down a road before turning off onto a trail -- which was really well marked, by the way. Wil kept us moving at a good clip, and we actually passed a few people.

Eventually we emerged from the woods and onto a road -- a steep hill -- and laughed that this wasn't exactly the "rolling" course we had been promised.

Back into the woods (where we caught up with Don and Joyce all of a sudden) and some more rolling hills. By this point, Annette was close behind us. In a relatively open stretch of the trail, as we walked under some power lines, we came across a big pile of what could only be bear poo. A big steaming pile of bear poo.

photo by Jenny Hadfield

Annette told us later that spotting the bear poo was enough to make her quicken her pace and catch up with us, and the three of us continued on.  We passed the little water stop, through the tunnel under the road, and then back to the original trail, where we turned back and headed back toward the start.

Back on the road for a bit, then we turned off to make the loop of Ward Lake, which was exceptionally pretty. We could hear loons calling and we really enjoyed traipsing along the (now, honestly, rolling) path. We saw Jenny, who snapped a photo of us:

photo by Jenny Hadfield
 We told her that there were three people behind us, and then moved on around the lake.

After the lake there was a little loop through a campground (with a handful of rain-soaked campers), and then a tiny out-and-back spur (to get the 7 miles in). We saw a few people headed back, telling us that the turnaround was just across the bridge. (Who knew that we were so close to anyone!?!)

At some point Wil worked out that we were pretty close to hitting his predicted time of 1:45, but he thought he needed to hustle. He started walking really quickly -- so quickly that Annette and I couldn't keep up by walking. We had to trot and catch up when we fell behind.

We saw the three behind us, telling them how close they were to the turnaround, and then headed in. Wil saw, to his horror, that he had mistimed it and walked TOO quickly! He started to walk in slow motion for the last few yards. Everyone laughed, but I pushed him over the finish line.

photo by Jenny Hadfield

We headed to the shelter to dry off, get warm, and buy some cool KRC gear, and then started to hear the day's stories.

Stella had been running not too far behind BJ & company, but then "disappeared". She missed the turnaround and kept running. And running. BJ went out to look for her, but eventually she was picked up something like 5 miles off course by a Forest Service truck. Phew!

photo by Jenny Hadfield

Two other groups got lost -- I think they may have done a double loop of the first part? -- but eventually all arrived safely.

On the bus back into town, John called the Panamanian runners to the front of the bus. It seems that they had been told by the Holland America Line agent in Panama that they wouldn't need a visa for Canada as long as they didn't get off the ship. WRONG. They almost weren't allowed to board in Seattle, but Mila was able to work out a compromise -- as long as they all got off the boat in Ketchikan and flew direct to Seattle. I don't really want to think about the extra expense they must have incurred -- flights to Ketchikan cost over $1000 each -- plus a couple of extra night in hotels, and food... We all felt terrible for them, but were thrilled that John presented them with their medals in a nice little ceremony.

Then back into town, where we didn't have all that much time before we sailed. We decided to stay in town and wander around -- we walked along Creek Street (admiring a seal in the water), looked at taxidermy, bought a Christmas ornament, and had a pink of Alaskan Amber at the Fish Pirates Saloon before boarding the ship. Another perfect day.

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