Friday, July 20, 2012

Guess where I am?

One hint: It's tropical.
And hot. And on an island.

Kona airport. Everything's outdoors, how cool is that?


Hope everyone is having a great week.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Missing Mt. Marathon Racer

Sadly, missing Mt. Marathon Racer Michael LeMaitre has not been found. Today the Alaska State Troopers suspended the search.

However, Seward teams will continue the rescue efforts.

No one knows what happened since LeMaitre was last spotted by a race official around 6 p.m. July 4 approximately 200 feet from the summit.

Credit: Carol Griswold, Seward City News

The whole episode is a mystery. Yet as with most mysteries, various factors contributed to the outcome: The race doesn't employ sweepers. The timing official at the top of the mountain didn't wait for LeMaitre (who was the last racer) to reach the summit before packing up and heading down for the day. And there is no communication between timers at the halfway point at the summit to ensure all racers are accounted for.

In fact, by the time LeMaitre reached the halfway point, all timers and race officials had left the area. No one was there.

Worse yet, the race course isn't marked. LeMaitre, who had never been on the mountain, could have easily become confused by numerous side trails.

With temps in the 40s and on-and-off-again rain, it's highly unlikely he could survive three days in just shorts and a tee shirt.

It's a tragedy that shouldn't have happened (as if any tragedy should ever happen). My heart goes out to him.

Yet look at his face in the picture, which was taken at the start of the race. He looks so happy, so free. So fully himself. Maybe this isn't the worst way to spend one's last few hours. Maybe doing what you love and taking chances and facing your fears on a cloudy and misty mountain in midst of all of that glorious silence and beauty is the best way to die.

Rest in peace, Michael. I'll think of you each time I run the mountain.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Muddy Mount Marathon

Oh, what fun I had running Mount Marathon Race in the mist and mud!

Oh, how I love thee, Mount Marathon

It was a blast. Like being a kid and playing in the mud. Zooming down the snow chute on top of the mountain was like nothing else. Truly!

I had the second slowest time ever: 1:30, but had the most fun ever. In my book, that means a successful race, no?

Look how muddy I am after the race. There is even mud in my teeth, hee, hee.

The race started in coldish temps, around 47 degrees. It had been raining and everything was damp and muddy, and the mountain was covered in mist and fog.

I started with the first wave, i.e., the fastest runners.

The madness of the first-wave start area. Where am I? I dunno. MM took the pic (thanks, honey). Wish I had a butt like the woman in the blue shorts, though.

I stayed in the middle of the pack during the uphill half mile run to the mountain's base. Then I ran around and climbed up the cliffs, instead of the roots. This added extra time and distance but is much, much safer. Plus, I was with a pack of really cool women, and we all talked and joked back and forth.

Second-wave racers heading up toward the mountain. Source: Not sure

Then we were on the trail. And it was muddy! And anyone who reads this blog probably knows that I LOVE running in the mud.

This was almost a dream. It was so muddy that it was impossible to run, let alone climb, up the steep ridges (38%-55% grade). We had to keep to the side of the trail and pull ourselves up on tree roots, branches and sometimes, weeds.

I slipped and climbed, slid and climbed. I was muddy by the halfway point.

Women's winner Holly Brooks, who finished the whole race before I even made it to the top of the mountain. You go, girl! (And can I one day have arm muscles like yours?) Source: ADN

Some of the top pack runners on a foggy and misty race day. Source: Anchorage Daily News.

The most fun was the snow chute. After reaching the top, a slope of snow reached out for about 600 yards down the mountain. The chute was narrow enough so that once you sat down, you were locked in. It was like those giant slides at amusement parks, and it was so, so much fun because once you picked up speed, there was no means of stopping or slowing down. Terrifying but fun (!!)

Snow chute from a few years ago. Source: Anchorage Daily News

Snow chute from a few years ago. Source: Anchorage Daily News

Well, it wasn't fun after I finished. That snow cut my skin so that I was snow-burned and bruised. Here is what my butt looked like later that evening. And this is only the part I can show. It's more cut up near my, um, delicate lady parts, sigh, sigh.

This is after getting dirt/rocks scraped out at the medical tent.

I took the downhill portion slow. Each time I wanted to speed up I thought: You have another marathon in two months and yes, you want to run it with your face intact and all of your teeth.

Downhill portion during the junior race. Source: Anchorage Daily News.

Thank goodness, too, because there were downhill injuries in all of the race division, and the men's race injury was serious enough to warrant medivac to an Anchorage hospital.

I finished soaking wet, muddy and dirty and happy to be in one piece, with only minor bruising.

Almost, almost to the finish line.

I ended up with snow burns/cuts over my butt, thighs and back plus a nice gash running from my wrist to elbow. I consider myself very, very lucky.

And as of now, early Thursday afternoon, there is a man missing from the men's race. He was last seen about 200 yards from the top of the mountain and wasn't wearing his glasses. Please send prayers. It was 47 degrees and raining during the race and colder last night. He was wearing only running shorts and a tee shirts.

Still, my race was wonderful and I had a mystical moment near the top, when I thought of my sister and swore she was there, running beside me (can't say more because I've signed the story rights away to Alaska magazine, sigh, sigh). It was beautiful and magical, and I consider myself lucky to be part of such a race.

Cheers and happy running, everyone. I'm off to soak my aching butt.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mount Marathon, two days (gulp, gulp)

Well, Mt. Marathon is in two days. And I've done NO climbing/mountain training.

Worse still, Alaska Magazine photographer will be shooting my photo, since I'm doing a story on the race for next year.

I don't think I'll be looking my best, hee, hee.

No matter, eh? Because yesterday I had one of the best runs ever (okay, I say that a lot, but this was truly a great run).

It wasn't anything special, just a 12-miler along the Coastal Trail.

Photo caption?? (Not my pic but thanks, to whomever took it!)

But the sun was shinng and the tide was coming in, and birds were singing and everything was so green and fragrant that I was swooning as I ran.

Summer is the best.

And as I ran, I planned my next marathon. (I really need a marathon where I'm not in the bushes or porta potties most of the way).

I've tentatively decided on this:

My hometown marathon! I've never run it. And this tempts me:

Photo credit?

Ahhhh! A real beach with real sand, not pebbles and mud flats.

Plus it's a small race and the entry fee is only $50 (!!). The course sounds boring. It's really flat, and I love hills. But I'll get to see my mom and sisters, and I'll also be able to stay at my mom's house and eat my mom's food and drive my mom's car for free (a good selling point, hee, hee).

I'll wait and see how destroyed I am after the Mt. Marathon Race. If I don't break a leg and still have all of my teeth, maybe I'll go for it, eh?

But tonight I'm staying indoors and making szarlotka, a Polish apple cake. I'd share the recipe but think it's copyrighted in my book (which you'll have to buy so that you, too, can enjoy the wonders of szarlotka).

Yum, yum. And will mine look this perfect?

Happy running and baking, everyone.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mayor's Marathon race report (And I kissed another cop)

One word: Awesome!

What a race! What a course! What a great time!

Well, a great time within great misery, but I'll get to that later.

The Mayor's is an incredible course, with rolling hills and miles and miles of dirt road and trail. I can't say enough about how much fun it was (have I mentioned that I loved the course?).

However, the night before the race I woke to pains in my lower abdomen. I chalked it up to nerves, grabbed the heating pad and went back to sleep.

Next morning, the pain was still there but I gulped my protein shake and told myself that it was gas, or maybe I was getting the flu.

Whatever the case I. Was. Running. The. Race.

It vaguely hurt to walk to the starting line but other than that, I felt good. I felt great. I had trained. I was ready.

That's me in the yellow headband, foolishly optimistic at the start.

The first few miles of the course are probably the most boring: A paved bike path that runs along the Glenn Highway. I kept pace and smugly watched all those runners who went out too fast fly past me.

The sun was shining, and it was warm. It was a lovely day. I was so happy I could barely stand it.

By mile 6, I could feel pain in my abdomen with each step. I vaguely wondered if I needed to, um, visit the bushes, but soon I reached the Tank Trail, a 7 mile stretch of dirt road and trails, and let loose with a couple of fast miles, not because I particularly wanted to run fast but because I was so damned happy to be off the pavement. I love dirt surfaces.

Mile 16, and crossing a small bridge near the end of the Tank Trail.

By mile 17, I visited a porta potty and realized that I didn't have gas, I had a bladder infection; my pee was bright red and it hurt so much to, um, go that I almost screamed.

My solution: Grab an aspirin and keep running, hee, hee.

I was okay until we hit the pavement. The pain was sharp and intense, like knives in my abdomen with each step.

Yet here is the incredible part: I was still happy. I hurt like crazy but kept running, and while the pain never left and intensified as the race wore on, I never bonked. My head remained in a clear and good place.

How'd that happen? I dunno.

Mile 18, and back on the pavement again. Note how my tank is pulled up the whole race? That's because I was rubbing my poor belly.

I cried on and off, the pain was so unrelenting. Yet I was high-fiving all the kids I passed, and I was singing out loud to my tunes, and I was strangely happy in my very misery.

I pushed liquids and stopped at every porta potty (there weren't many) and kept running.

By mile 22, the pain was so intense that I had to stop and walk, twice (I'm embarrassed to admit this, but there you are). I lost all hope of meeting my goal. Yet, amazingly, I was still oddly happy.

Almost finished! Mile 25ish and look, both of my feet are off the ground! I'm still running! Very, very slowly, but still running!

My mile 24, all I could think of was: If I survived the pain of childbirth, I can survive this pain. And in my bleary mind it made perfect sense that if I endured 15 hours of childbirth and was rewarded with a baby, then if I survived the last two miles I'd be rewarded with a medal. And I swear, the medal is almost as big as a baby (Forgot to take a pic but will post later).

And as I neared the end, I did it again; I couldn't help myself. There stood a cop and the sun glinted off his head and his shoulders were so very big and so very strong. I veered off the course, threw my sweaty and stinky arms around his neck and planted a big kiss on his cheek.

That gave me the boost I needed to charge toward the finish line and get the whole damned race over with.

Almost finished. And look! Another picture of both my feet off the ground!

Except it wasn't a damned race. I was in pain the whole time and peeing blood from the midway point, yet it was one of the most positive races I've ever run.

My embarrassing slow time: 4:34.

Yet I'm strangely proud of this embarrassing slow time. Go figure.

After the race I drank a bottle of cranberry juice and dosed myself on Nature's Way Urinary Tract Herbal Formula and watched "Little Miss Sunshine" with MM. It was a good day. (Congrats to MM, who finished his first marathon: woot-woot!!)

I'm still perplexed at why this was such a good race for me when almost everything went wrong. Yet it was. Thinking of it still makes me happy.

So there you have it.