Time: 3:44:52 Place: 3/82 (1st masters)
We were planning a trip to Alaska so decided to select dates that enabled me to run a race whilst we were there. There were several options for dates and locations but Anchorage worked best with other plans for our time in the State.
We flew in on the Thursday to give a couple of days to explore Anchorage and enable packet pick up before race morning. Given it was peak tourist season in Anchorage, we were booking relatively late (mid May) but found a reasonably priced Airbnb within a mile of the city center to make race morning easy.
I had two low mileage weeks after Edinburgh 24, with very little running and some walking, then ramped up the mileage in week 3 and again in week 4. I did a couple of 10 mile runs at the start of race week, then took it easy. It wasn’t a goal race so I would just run based on feel and see what happened.
The RunFest had a one mile race on the Saturday so I decided to enter that as well seeing as we were in town. Never having run a mile before I set out at a pace slightly quicker than I would if doing 1 mile track repeats, then ran based on feel and managed to win in 5:11.
Recovery after the mile consisted of walking around anchorage, sampling various foodstuffs from assorted vendors, and an early night.
It was quite exciting reading the pre-race material and being told that if wildlife was encountered on the trails, to stop and wait for it to move on. Not an instruction I’ve seen in many races!
I had my usual race breakfast, then jogged slowly to the start from our Airbnb (about 1.5 miles). I walked around the race village to stay loose. At around 7:50 the ultra runners and those starting early for the marathon were called forward into the start area. After the National Anthem the race was blessed by a native alaskan.
I set off at comfortable pace but was still in the top few within the first half mile and up to third by the end of the second mile.
I was running on my own from mile two but the coastal trail is lovely, undulating gently and twisting amongst trees. There are two short steep hills to the turnaround, which are both runnable. The highlight was seeing a moose and calf on a side trail at mile 8 and again at mile 12!
On my way back into Anchorage I was passing ultra runners who were still on their way out to the turnaround, then marathon runners also coming the other way.
I lost 3rd place at mile 18, as I was getting back into Anchorage, then started on the second out and back up to the university. By this point I was catching half marathoners on their out and back which made for a crowded course at times. I had a tough few miles from 18 to 22 which I put down to not being fully recovered from Edinburgh24.
At the final turn around I decided to push the pace for the last 6, helped by a gradual downhill, as I could tell I was catching 3rd place.
I regained 3rd place at mile 25, and passed Kate at mile 27 (watching near the airbnb) but I could feel the first twinges of cramp. By playing around with pacing and stride length, I made it to mile 29 before having to slow and walk for a bit. I was able to pick up the pace again but only briefly before having to slow to a walk just before the final climb up past the brewery to the city center. I could see 4th place catching me but the hill and change in the muscles used alleviated the cramp and I was able to push a good pace all the way to the finish, crossing the line in 3:44. My fastest ultra (possibly helped by the tarmac and an official distance of 49k).
There were plenty of aid stations along the route, all with water and most with gatorade. Some even had snacks which the race brief had said wouldn’t be the case. Watermelon went down very well. There was good support at aid stations and a few sections on the route but many miles of quiet trail.
The post race festivities were great, with free food (which I partook of) and beer (which I did not). The medal (large) and post race awards (glass plate) were really nice. After walking around for a bit to let my cramps ease, I jogged very slowly back to the airbnb.
Moose are very large
Drink more when it’s cool even if not feeling thirsty.
If planning to race, don’t spend lots of time on feet the day before a race (though I’ve done this more times than I can remember, especially at destination races).