Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Alaska Endurance Trail Run race report - part 1

This weekend, I ran my first 24 hour race, the Alaska Endurance Trail Run, in Fairbanks. Let me tell you all about it. Fairbanks is about 300 miles from where I live, so I took the day off work on Friday, and drove up there. I totally enjoyed the trip because I got to drive my new car, and the sun was shining the whole way (hello, sunroof!!). I took my 17 year old daughter and one of her friends with me to crew for me, and that was a GREAT decision, even though said 17 year old daughter did not enjoy the sunroof nearly as much as I did.

“Mom, can you please close the sunroof and turn the music down? It’s too loud.”… talk about role reversal… it’s like she’s the old lady and I’m the teenager… very weird.

The course for this race is a 6 mile loop, with an aid station at the start and finish line, and an unmanned water drop at about halfway around. Because there was such frequent opportunities for water, I didn’t feel like I needed to wear my hydration vest, and instead opted to carry a small handheld water bottle, refilling at both places each loop. The only problem with this was that on Friday morning I could not find my handheld anywhere. So when I got to Fairbanks, I made a quick stop at Beaver Sports, and got a Nathan handheld soft flask to use. It was the first time I used such a thing, and it worked pretty well, and wasn’t too cumbersome to hold. It had a strap that wrapped around my wrist so I didn’t have to grip it at all to hang on to it, just to use it.

I had arranged to have access to a friend’s cabin. Susie was also running the race, and agreed to let us stay at her place for the weekend. I went there before the race and grabbed a quick nap, since I was tired from the drive. After my nap, I got to the starting area with about an hour to get ready, which I thought would be more than enough time, but turned out to just barely be enough. There were 9 people that chose the 24 hour race, and soon enough we were all lined up at the starting line, setting our watches:

Photo credit: Chris Butcher

Susie ran the first loop with me, which was pretty helpful. The course was well marked,  but there were a couple of places where there was at least a possibility of going the wrong way if I had been by myself.  We ended the first lap feeling pretty strong:

Photo credit: Chris Butcher

That's me in the pink. The second lap I ran by myself. I started with Susie, but she had decided on a run/walk interval strategy. I had no strategy, except to walk up all the hills. I decided to simply run for as long as it felt good to run, and then walk when I needed to. I waved goodbye to Susie, and ran off when she did her first walk interval. We wound up leapfrogging each other throughout the race, I think.

Travis paced me on the third loop, and I had begun to feel the miles enough to complain about his fresh legs.  I was still moving along fairly well though, and we finished that loop right after midnight, and I said goodnight to Travis.  I told him to thank his wife for letting him spend his Friday evening pacing me. I hope he remembered  Kim, you’re awesome!!
Loop 4 and the first half of loop 5 passed without incident. At some point during these 2 loops, the sun set and rose again. The sun is just amazing during Alaskan summers, and this was one of the most amazing things about this race. Luckily I wasn’t too tired yet to appreciate it. As I was running, the sun slowly set, and the sky in that direction turned pink and orange. It never got dark, and at some indefinable point, the sunset became a sunrise, and the sun slowly rose. It was truly beautiful.

 Just after leaving the water station halfway through loop 5, my Garmin died. I am missing a good chunk of data from loop 5, which I found very annoying. When I got back to the start area, I plugged my Garmin into a portable charger, tucked it into a waist belt, changed my shoes, and put on a long sleeved shirt and long pants over my shorts and tank. I had also planned on dealing with some chafing to my chest where the band of my sports bra was rubbing, and forgot, until I took off down the trail, and noticed it within about 50 feet, and had to turn around and come back. I applied some KT tape, which was actually fairly difficult as there was no privacy and I was trying to hide in my sleeping bag and put the tape on at the same time. Then I took off down the trail again, on loop 6.

This was when things really started getting hard. By the time I was done with loop 6, I was really tired and cold. I stopped at the end of the loop, and curled up in my sleeping bag. I figured I would sleep for a little while, but didn’t wake up until heard the race director announcing the pre-race meeting for the 12 hour race, just before 8 am. I probably wound up sleeping for an hour and a half or so. To avoid the crowd, I stayed put until the new runners left, then got up and got moving again.

Probably because I had stopped running for so long, my legs were really stiff and sore when  I started loop 7, but I still managed to run about half of that loop. At that point, I started contemplating quitting. I was tired, I was hurting, and I just didn’t feel like running anymore. I even texted Travis, who was planning on running another loop with me later, saying I was done. But I knew at that point it was just because I was tired, and off I went on another loop.

Loop 8 was horrible. By then, it was late morning, and it had gotten hot out. My water bottle that needed to last 3 miles, lasted me less than a mile. By the time I got to the water station, I was really struggling to just put one foot in front of the other.  I refilled my water bottle, and sat down against a tree for a few minutes to gather strength for the last 3 miles of the loop. During the second half of that loop, a lot of it was in fields, out in the sun, and I was getting pretty dehydrated, I think. I knew I needed to drink my water, but I didn’t want to. I had to force myself to drink it, and even then, I still had a couple miles to go when I ran out.  My feet were killing me, and my quads were totally cramped up, and I felt that it was physically impossible to run. I watched fresher 12 hour and 6 hour runners go by enviously. I didn’t feel like I would ever make it back to the starting area. By the time I made it back, I felt like I was in pretty rough shape. Travis had shown up by that point, but I wasn’t able to go back out. Everyone was very helpful, and offered me Tailwind, a different flavor than what I had been  drinking the whole race, and which I suddenly found completely revolting, water, apples, etc. The only thing I could even remotely consider was a popsicle, which I accepted gratefully.

Of course, as soon as I stopped, I started shivering, which is completely normal for me. I sat in a chair, wrapped in my sleeping bag until I warmed up again and ate my popsicle. It was delicious. At that point, I knew that I really was done running. Loop 8 had taken me almost 3 hours.

I knew Travis was going to check on me when he got back from running his loop, and I know he was hoping to convince me to do another loop. I felt bad, but at that point, all I wanted was to get a shower, so I left before he got back. Sorry, Travis!! We got some dinner, then went back to be there for the end of the race.

All told, I got 8 loops, officially 48 miles, in 18 hours, although the course was just over 6 miles, so it was actually a little more. I had 2 goals for this race: to keep moving for the full 24 hours, and to get 75 miles. I had gotten 41 miles last September during a 12 hour race, so I thought that was doable. I didn’t make either of those goals, but I did go farther than  I ever have before, and I knew when to stop. Although I didn’t perform as well as I wanted, and was miserable for the last little while of the race, the race itself was amazing. The trails were all very runnable, with no exceptionally steep climbs, and the route was pretty.

The aid station was well stocked with just about everything imaginable. The volunteers and director were kind and helpful, and I lacked for absolutely nothing during the race. I brought my own fuel and only used my Tailwind and Nuun out of my own stash. I think it was a really good idea to have staggered start times so that almost everyone finished at the same time, because the finish area became a great little party, with burgers and grilled salmon, and plenty of time to trade stories and ccelebrate with friends:

We stayed the night Saturday night at my friend’s cabin, which was just overwhelmingly cute, then drove home on Sunday. Halfway home, I stopped to get my daily run in on some trails close to the highway, and managed 1.17 miles without any significant difficulty, which sort of surprised me. I’ve run every day since then, with virtually no residual soreness. I took amino acids before the start, every 4 hours during the race and immediately afterwards, and I think it helped prevent some of the soreness.

I’m definitely doing some version of this race again and I would totally encourage anyone that feels like they can do at least the 6 hour event to give it a try. It really was a great race!!!

Thursday, March 9, 2017


I am almost 100% an impulse shopper. And I love sock yarn. I had decided not to buy any more for a while, and then stumbled across this post by Must Stash Yarn on Instagram:

(Screenshot of photo by @muststashsheep)

I immediately decided I had to have it. There was the main striped skein (named Be Mine), and then a coordinating speckled skein (named Conversation Hearts). I bought them both and impatiently waited for it to get here. I was ecstatic when it arrived, and I haven't been able to knit anything else since.

The striped skein was actually two half skeins, cut so that they started and ended in the exact same place, so that anything you made would match perfectly.

(Screenshot of photo by @muststashsheep)

First I made socks, starting at the toes, with the toes and heels using the speckled yarn. I couldn't stop knitting them, and I totally love them. I was sad when they were finished because I didn’t want to have to stop knitting.

When I was done with the socks, I still had quite a bit of the striped yarn left, so now I am making fingerless mitts to wear at the office, since my hands are always cold.

I also contacted Must Stash, hoping to get another mini skein of the speckled yarn. See, I make all my socks with either afterthought or short row heels, so that when they inevitably wear out, I can easily replace them and keep wearing the socks.  I've replaced holey toes too. After making the socks, I know I didn't have enough yarn left if I needed to replace the heels or toes. After some emails back and forth, I wound up ordering two full skeins of the speckled yarn that she graciously agreed to custom dye for me. That gives me enough to not only be able to replace the heels and toes, but also to make a shrug that coordinates with the socks. This thrills me because almost all of the colors that I wear a lot of are in the speckles, so I would be able to wear it with almost everything I own.

I don't have a great pic of the shrug yet, because it is all bunched up on the circular needle, but you can see what the fabric looks like, at least:

This is the first time I've ever ordered yarn from Must Stash, and I have to say I'm very pleased. The yarn is soft, and feels wonderful in my hands and on my feet and is a dream to knit. Plus the colors are amazing, and the stripes did wind up matching perfectly:

Really? I'm a tad obsessed with this yarn...

Sunday, January 1, 2017


So, you might be thinking that since I'm posting on New Year's Day, that it's going to be about my New Year's resolutions.  Well, yes. You'd be absolutely right. But first, Happy New Year's everyone, and thank you to all the people that have taken the time to read my blog!

So, some years I do more resolutions than others, but generally, I'm kind of a fan of them. Yes, they are often the same old things that everyone says, but I think that's because most people want to better themselves,  and the new year is a good time, psychologically speaking, to sort of take stock of where you are, and where you want to go. And I'm no different than anyone else in that regard.  This year in particular, I'm feeling pretty goal oriented, and I have lots of things I want to accomplish in the next 365 days or so. I'll divide it into categories, as opposed to one big list.

1. I started a project today, a sky scarf. Basically, I will knit 2 rows every day, reflecting whatever the sky is doing that day. I'll finish it on December 31. Here's the beginning of that:

2. I'm participating in a sock club this year, that includes shipments of 6 skeins of sock yarn, one every other month, starting at the end of January. I typically get far behind on things like that, but this year I want to have all 6 of them knit by the end of the year.

1. Last year, I had a goal to run every day in 2016. I missed 4 days in August, starting with a backpacking trip with the family. I'm going to nail it this year, at least 1 mile every day.
2. I ran 1225.1 miles in 2016,  according to Garmin. I'm setting a mileage goal for 2017, of 1500 miles. A friend suggested 2017 miles, but I don't think that's realistic. Not with my crazy job.
3. I tried twice last summer to do a 50 mile run. The closest I got was 41.7 miles. I'm going to nail that this year too. I'm actually thinking about signing up for a 100 miler, but I haven't decided yet. My first opportunity will be at the Alaska Endurance Trail Run in Fairbanks on June 3. I'm already looking forward to it. I also plan on running Kesugi Ridge (about 29 miles), Resurrection Pass (either 50 or 100 miles), and A Day at the Beach (12 or 24 hours). I'm going to have to miss the Angel Creek 50 this year because I'll be in Utah that weekend for an important family thing. But AC50 is on the list for 2018 already.

1. Training for all the long running mentioned above. Plus, I've got my eye on the Tahoe 200 in 2018, and I want to be in the best shape I can be to get ready for that. 200 miles is a long ways, even if I have 4 days to do it.  I have a running training plan that started on Christmas Day, actually. Tomorrow, the plan calls for 12 miles. That's the longest I've run in a few months, and I'm excited.
2. In addition to the running training, I'm incorporating cross training in the form of yoga and strength training. For strength training, right now I'm doing Insanity Max:30, which is a blend of cardio and tabata style strength training. When  that's done, I'll transition to the Hammer and Chisel workout program,  then go from there. I really like Cross fit, but I haven't been able to fit the classes into my schedule and I don't have the equipment I need to do it at home.
3. Right now, I'm out of shape. After Christmas,  my weight was at 147.1, with a body fat percentage of 36.5%. That is way too high to let me be an efficient runner. I need to get it down to less than  130, and about 22% body fat.  I started back on the Take Shape For Life eating plan (I'm still a health coach for TSFL) the day after Christmas,  and even though I've had a couple slips, I'm down to 144.1 and 35.9% body fat.
4. I've got a room in my basement that I have been planning to set up as a home gym for a while now, that is currently mostly storage and construction work space. By the end of the year, it's going to be a functioning home gym. I don't know if I'll have a treadmill by then or not, because those are crazy expensive,  but it's going to have everything else.

1. I'm trading in my car. I think I'm actually going to be ordering a car. I've never done that before.
2. Only 3 more payments on Becky's braces!!! Yay!! Then we will apply that money to pay off another bill. Start the snowball effect going! Long term goal is to be out of debt except my student loans by the time Steven graduates, in 4 and a half years. Student loans shouldn't be far behind that.
3. I'm really going to focus this year on not spending money frivolously. Not really sure how I'm going to keep track of this, or what parameters I'm going to set yet, but I'm mulling it over.

So there you have it. As concisely as possible, that's what I plan to accomplish this year. What are your resolutions? Feel free to share in the comments!!