Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last Chance Marathon

A marathon is a lot longer than it used to be for me. Today I hiked the Last Chance Marathon. There was some jogging, but there was also a lot of walking, especially on the second out and back. While I'd like to be better, I'm pretty happy about it. A nice day out on trail with good peeps.

This race has been around for several years, always scheduled on the last day of the year. The idea was to have one last chance to add to your marathon totals for the year. I've never ran it, mainly because I usually work on 12/31. This year, the date fell on a Sunday, which is perfect, since I get Monday to rest up. And I'll need to--my feet hurt.

The weather was cold, but not as cold as the rest of the U.S. Maybe mid-30s. A heavy fog got me wet, I think. I felt cold most of the day, and hope I didn't catch anything.

The marathon is an out and back, done two times, from Fairhaven Park to Larrabee. There's a half marathon option, which a wiser fool would've done.

Terry, Delores, Scott, and everyone put on a top notch race. Great soup at the finish line, grilled cheese, and lots of holiday cookies. Good to see Stan--we're set for onions for the next three months---John, Dean, Ruth, and many others.

All the best to all my friends in 2018. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fir Island

This time of year, one of my favorite things to do is grab a cup of coffee and go looking for birds locally. Skagit County is a terrific place for birds: snow geese, swans, eagles, and other birds winter here. 

The flocks of snow geese on Fir Island are spectacular. Thousands of snow geese--they are loud, and will fill a field. Trumpeters swans, who pair up for life, also hole up here. We hear them honking as they fly over the house. Raptors--hawks, eagles, falcons--hunt the sloughs and wetlands. They can be seen sitting on telephone poles, doing the sentinel thing on stand alone trees in people's yards. 

These pics are off my phone, and merely illustrative of the sights to been seen. One of these days I'll go out with a nice camera and do the bird portrait thing. I did land a nice spotting scope/tripod setup, which I gave a run for the first time today. Works real good. Maybe I'll figure out a way to mount a phone and take shots through it. The internet says it can be done.

Trumpeter Swans

Snow Geese in Flight

Snow Geese in Flight

Looking out towards Camano Island

Snow Geese

Swans Again

Momma Eagle, Daddy Eagle, and Guest/Baby, By Nest

Through a Glass Darkly

The New Setup

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Seattle Half Marathon

It's been a terrific Thanksgiving weekend, with family and friends, capped by the Seattle Half Marathon.

I met up with one of my oldest running buddies, over from Spokane, and we toed the half at 7:30 AM.  Hard to recall the last time we ran a race together, but if I had to guess I'd say it was a Bloomsday in the mid-2000s. Always in touch over the years, and many trail runs, but our first race in while. I was going to do the full, but stepped down, when he stepped up. Probably for the best, since I would've taken forever on the full. Surely for the best, since we were able to get breakfast afterwards.

The Seattle Marathon has a new course. It is hillier. The course starts down by the Space Needle, and finishes at Memorial Stadium, as has been the case for many years. In between, it re-routes through the International District, avoiding I-5, and then takes some trails and streets above Lake Washington, before eventually picking up at the Arboretum, as in the past. It is harder, though still a road race.

This was another one of those days where the stomach didn't cooperate. I walked a bunch. We were fortunate to miss the worst of the rain, in a day full of gullywashers. I have a better sense of what I need to do for race prep, besides preparing for the race, but my execution is not excellent.

Good to chat with Brad beforehand, as he headed out on page 4 of Quadzilla. Good to head down to the expo with Mike, despite dropping a bit of money on this and that there. Last year I missed this race, and I realized during the nice weekend at home that I really like this routine on Thanksgiving weekend. I'm not sure how many offhand, but I've done a lot of these.

When I got home, Deb and her son had the Christmas tree up in the living room. That time of year again, ready, set, go.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fowl Run

Once again, I was a Fowl Runner. I feel so fortunate year in and year out to be able to toe the line at some of my favorite events. It's been a while since I last ran fast, but only a few days since I last ran happy.

This year's race had a touch of rain. So many familiar faces volunteering in the gym and around the start line. Then, my colleague Carin came running by me around mile two--a great surprise! I was able to keep a slow jog the whole way. I was a little off, overall, but I had enough to do the race.

Pumpkin pie at the end. Deb wanted me to bring a home a turkey, but I never seem to get so lucky. One of these years...

Thank you Skagit Runners. You make a difference.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Baker Lake 50k

Glad to be able to return to the Baker Lake 50k once again, last weekend. My favorite race.

This year's edition featured rain on the second half.  The way out was quiet and perfect temperature for running. It was overcast, and alas, no views of Mt. Baker. I took the early start, finish late route. I like the early start, because I don't have to worry about how fast I'm going, and also because there are a lot less people on the trail for the start of the race. It works out perfect for me, since the starting line is only about 45 minutes from home.

I had some indigestion out there, which affected my performance a bit. However, I've had it worse, and my head was on the trail the whole day. And I wasn't going to be fast, no matter what was going on. t took a pole to help with my hip and ankle, though I didn't really need it. Maybe if I saw a bear.  Not this time.

The trail is in excellent shape. It looks like some folks did some trail work in certain sections. Most notably, there is a new bridge across Anderson Creek, the first real crossing in the race. The past bridge was kind of sketchy, tilted a bit with a single wire to guide. I made it across the old one when it was icy a few times (in the winter), and the potential for a fall was there. So, good improvement. Some other bridge repairs were evident too.

I understand some new records were made. Congrats! The finish line was amazing, as always, with great eats and people to share with. Many smiles. Warm broth is always welcome for recovery.

Thank you to Skagit Runners, as always, for putting on this terrific event. Terry, Delores, Chris, Al, Susan, Toi, et al--terrific!

I took a few more pics this year. Here some are....

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Oktoberfest 10k - Anchorage

When in Anchorage, run with the Anchorage Running Club! I did!

The Club's annual Oktoberfest Run to End Homelessness 10k/5k runs is an out and back on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This is a beautiful paved trail that skirts the coastline outside of Anchorage, eventually providing a terrific view of the 49th State's sprawling metropolis. The fall colors continue, with yellow leaves covering sections of the trail. This is a fast, flat event that can be ran fast. Or/And run in a costume.

I just jogged/walked and took pictures. TripAdvisor said this trail is the number one thing to do in Anchorage, so I didn't make this an event as much as an activity. Glad to have a chance to check out this trail, and participate in a group run.

After the run, I later hiked on the Campbell Tract, out by North Bicentennial Park. I told my wife I was looking for moose. It took me 15 minutes to find two moose, standing like silent sentinels a little too close to the trail. Since everyone else was running with bear bells or bear spray, I decided I probably ought to come back a little better equipped. Alaska is the real deal, and you don't really have to get out of town to go wild. I was very impressed by the number of roadside trails and greenways, laced throughout the city. And the Chugach Mountains are right there, towering over Anchorage like the Wasatch over Salt Lake City or the Rockies elsewhere.

My time in Alaska is done, for now. There's enough space and things to do to take a lifetime up there. I'm really happy for the opportunity to see a bit, and visit with friends. The Equinox and the Alaska Railroad were certainly the highlights, along with my work, but I also really enjoyed picking up on the little things that spoke to what its like to live in Alaska. Things like a prevalence of duck boots, styling long underwear, lots of quads and big rigs, sports bars with fans supporting teams from everywhere, a do it yourself attitude, and open spaces. And of course the weather and sunlight/daylight differences.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Alaska Railroad: Fairbanks to Anchorage

Last weekend I rode the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to Anchorage. It was a a spectacular way to see Alaska in the fall, as the colors are turning. One of the cooler things I've done. The weather was good, and the views were long. I'm told such clear views of Denali are rare, but we were viewing this massive mountain from different angles all day.

The train ride takes 12 hours, and has two stops. I paid the premium for the Gold Star service, just short of $200 extra, and I think it was worth it. They had a tour guides talking throughout the day, explaining what we were seeing, and warning us of upcoming views. The Gold Star service has an open air platform you can go out on to, and is in an elevated car with a dome roof. You also get three meals in the dining cart, which were very good (e.g. eggs and reindeer sausage; salmon chowder, arctic cod, et al.)

But the views were the thing. The colors of the Alaska are turning yellow--and its a very short season for this--before winter comes on hard.  We went through open flats, narrow river canyons, 10 people towns, mines, along rivers and lakes. the whole bit. A good portion of the trip was through Denali National Park.  I saw a few moose, some captive reindeer, a couple beavers, a few different types of salmon.

I was on the very last train of the season. The Alaska Railroad runs a winter train, on this route, but it less frequent and doesn't have the dome car. It would be fun to try out, though, at least when there are  a reasonable number of daylight hours.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Equinox Marathon

I had the good fortune to run the 55th annual Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, Alaska last weekend. It was absolutely gorgeous, due to the fall colors. Birches--white bark, yellow leaves. Aspens. Pines. Yellow everywhere, with long views across interior Alaska.

The race is a community treasure for Fairbanks and Alaska. The race has a 10 hour time limit, which is long for 26.2 miles. This is because when it started--and today--the race has always been for "Runners, Joggers, Hikers and Walkers." Matias Saari, a former winner, recently published a book on the event, which looks terrific: "The Equinox: Alaska's Trailblazing Marathon." Once upon a time, aka the '60s, the marathon was the largest in the world for three years.

The event has a little bit of everything: trail, road, hills, flats. I think it has about 3000 feet of elevation gain. Temps started at 35, and climbed to 60 or so, but always with a brisk breeze. It is Alaska, after all. Find me another place where they nail thermometers to trees on the course. Probably for colder times, but it made me laugh.

Every mile of the course is marked by a permanent sign, sponsored by listed individuals/family.  Aid stations every couple miles. About a 1000 runners, when counting the three part relay, which is run simultaneously. A way cool patch at the finish line. A banquet in the evening.

My friend Tony ran the relay. It was great to meet up with him briefly beforehand. Running strong, as ever. Me, not so much. But I ran, I jogged, I hiked, and I walked. The combo. 26.2 is a little bit more than I should be doing, but give me enough time, and I'll find the finish line, which I did. Despite the blisters, I'm happy about it.

The first half is more challenging than the second half, with most of the climbing happening between miles 8 and 12. A fair number of beer aid stations on the course. I saw a six pack sitting in the woods at one point. Mt. McKinley aka Denali was visible from the high point on the course--a pic below as it, but it's hard to pick out. There is one gnarly, steep power line drop, called The Chute, at mile 18, which I loved. The pic above is a view from the chute, as you go down. Love those colors.

I threw a few other pics below of my visit to Fairbanks. The Museum of the North at University of Alaska-Fairbanks is worth the visit. It has some really good patrons, including the Gates Foundation. I was taken by the art, which mixed elements of traditional native art with modern day themes, sometimes edgy. I also found time to visit the Alaskan pipeline.

After the race, I took the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to Anchorage. I'll put a few pics of that incredible 12 hour ride up in a separate post.

I'd run the Equinox again. Fairbanks in September is spectacular.