Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Byer's Lake trail, or What To Do On Your Day Off

I had Monday off of work, so my husband and I decided to go hiking. The weather website said it was raining in Turnagain Arm, and raining in Palmer, but it looked pretty clear heading north, so after some searching online, we decided to try the Byer's Lake trail.

This trail is at approximately milepost 147 of the Parks Highway, on the east side of the road. It starts at the Byer's Lake campground and circles the lake in a complete loop, about 5 miles in length. 

Since we hadn't hiked this trail before, and the weather looked iffy, we DEET'ed ourselves up, stuffed hoodies and rain jackets into our Camelbaks, and strapped on bear protection. Mine was .45 caliber, and his was .44 Magnum, our standard bear repellent. And off we went.

This was a great little trail. Well maintained but not too smooth. There was a isolated little camping area on the far side of the lake with fire rings and elevated wooden tent sites. There were simply amazing views of Denali:

I love that mountain. 

There is an old falling down log cabin on the side of the trail that was pretty picturesque:

There are also two bridges to cross, one over the inlet stream, and one over the outlet stream. The one over the inlet stream is suspended on cables, and very swingy and springy. It is also fairly decrepit and leans pretty far to the right, so if the person crossing with you bounces (that would be my dear, sweet husband), you feel like you are at risk of sliding off into the water. 

The bridge over the outlet stream is on big rock pilings and is much more substantial and solid feeling. And it's quite pretty: 

All in all, it was a really nice hike. Very flat, with boardwalks over the most marshy areas. If the weather had been a little more stable (we did get rained on through the second half of the hike), and we had had more in the way of emergency supplies, we could have climbed up to the ridge and merged with a long trail there.

This is one we will probably do again and camp on the far side of the lake and hike the ridge. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Midnight Sun Run 10K race report

I've really been enjoying running in races this summer. I'm not trying to win. I'm not even close to what you would call an elite runner... Anything under 10:00 miles are fast for me. The shirts and other swag is cool, but that's not it either. There's something about running with a whole bunch of people all striving for the same goal, that I have found I really enjoy. And running a race with a friend is even better. 

I live in Alaska, and one of the best things about living here is that it's always light in the summer. So when I heard that Fairbanks has a night run on the summer solstice, I was immediately interested. All I had to do was find someone else crazy enough to make a 5 hour drive there, and the same back. My friend Krista is just crazy enough. 

So at noon on the day of the race, Krista and I and her two little kids, and my teenage daughter as babysitter for said kids, loaded snacks and tents and sleeping bags and running gear into my little car and off we went.

It poured rain all the way to Fairbanks, plus there was tons of road construction, making the drive a little more than 5 hours. We got there around 7pm, with 3 hours to kill before the race. We checked in and picked up our bibs and shirts, and discovered the bibs each had coupons for free 6" subs at Subway. We didn't want to eat a lot before running, but it fed the kids well. Then we went to a random playground which luckily turned out to be only a block or so away from the finish line. We left the kids there and caught the shuttle to the start line.

The starting corral was divided according to the pace you thought you would run, so we dutifully stood by the sign that said "10:00 mile". 

There were a lot of people there, more than I thought there would be. There was a costume contest, a jazzercise warm-up and other festivities.  We didn't wear costumes, but we did get matching tank tops for the race.

The race started on the UAF campus, and ended at Pioneer Park, but the vast majority of the course wound through neighborhoods. This seemed to cause a miles-long block party, with people along the course sitting in lawn chairs, cheering, handing out water, and watching us run by. Teenaged boys wove in and out on skateboards, and one family was handing out cans of beer instead of water. One little girl had her hose out, and I ran through the spray, which after 4-ish miles of running, felt pretty good. 

The last little bit of the course was along a bike path beside the river. I gather that the course normally runs a little more along the river, but they had to change the course last minute due to flooding.

The entire course was essentially flat and paved. There was one short section of packed gravel where they were doing road construction. They did a good job of blocking off traffic to protect the runners. The race was 10K, so a little over 6 miles, and they had signs at each mile point. 

 For me, the first couple of miles are the hardest, and I ask myself over and over why the hell am I doing this??? Once I get past that point, though, I can usually just keep going, and that's what we did. Krista and I seem really well matched this year, and we stayed together throughout the race, and I think it challenged us both just enough, without making it a killer. I ran it a little faster than I usually do. Chronotrack results aren't out yet, but Runtastic said I averaged 10:13 a mile, which is about 15 seconds per mile faster than my last several runs. When we hit the 6 mile sign, I flashed Krista the "go" sign, she nodded, and we took off, practically sprinting to the finish line. I was thrilled to see the timer say just over 64 minutes when we crossed the line. 

We were worried that we would get rained on after driving the whole way in pouring rain, but we got only a few sprinkles. The finish line festivities included oranges, watermelon, protein shakes, baked potatoes, and mini cupcakes. If we didn't have to get back to the kids at the playground, we could have stuck around and really enjoyed it more. Maybe next year. This is definitely one we will do again.