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.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Skagit Flats Half

Today, during the Skagit Flats Half, I saw:

Corn fields
Berry fields
Pumpkin fields
Burlington-Edison High School
Skagit Cross-country teams volunteering at aid stations
Friends volunteering
A church
A big dog at the end of a driveway (barking)
North Cascades mountains
San Juan Island mountains
Local police and search and rescue
Thirteen mile markers
This is one of the Skagit Runners Club's key races. I think the first time I did the half was in 2001. My friend Stanley first did it in 1979.  It's a simple out and back, with an option of a full or a half. There were about 400 runners, I'm guessing, and plenty of space on quiet country roads on the return side of things. I was slow, but I was happy. Afterwards, the first week of the NFL season. A good way to kick off the fall.

Cascade Crest

This is a bit of a catch-up post, but I made it out to the Cascade Crest 100 a couple weeks ago. My intention was to volunteer with BJ, Erica, Mike, and Killer at Little Bear. Alas, due to fires, the course was re-routed into an out and back to Hyak, and Little Bear was vaporized. Rich and his team did an amazing job adjusting things. I had great fun hanging out with folks before the race, and then later out at Stampede Pass. Stampede was a happening place, with a pretty big crowd watching the comings and goings. I cheered on Seth, Shawn, and a bunch of other runners. Also, great job by everyone involved. Way to go peeps! 

I include here also a pick of the Chew and Butts sign from Cle Elum, just because. Also, August brought us the Great American Solar Eclipse. This deserves its own post, but basically at 10:20 in the morning, shadows grew long, the sun disappeared behind the moon, and society stood still for a few minutes. It was really cool.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Easy Pass-Fisher Valley-Thunder Creek

My friend Craig and I finally were able to coordinate this last weekend and do the Easy Pass to Thunder Creek route. I consider this a classic North Cascades route, and this was my 6th time going point to point in one day. I'm out of shape, though always trying to improve, and this was a pretty big effort for me right now.  It's about 24 miles, with a 2000 foot climb up to 6500 feet at the start, over Easy Pass. The rest of the way is mostly downhill.

Craig was terrific to hike with. Craig writes guidebooks, and so he's really at home on the trails. It was great to share the trail, talking about this and that. He also took some terrific photos, as part of his annual Hike-A-Thon effort for Washington Trails Association. He's pretty near his goal of raining $5000 for trails. Hopefully we get out soon again.

So...this day will forever be remembered by me as that time I got chased by a bear. We were jogging slow through the Fisher Valley, with Fisher Creek maybe 50 yards to our right.  Suddenly, I heard snorting, and crashing, and saw ears and a head coming my way. So many thoughts, compressed into a second or two. I yelled "Bear! Bear! Bear!" I ran forward. Craig said not to run. I probably was about to stop anyway--i'm not outrunning a bear. The bear came up on to the trail. I was turned towards it. I took picture #1. Then another, with a flash. The bear took off in the other direction. The theory is the bear was a two year old, still full of energy and curiosity. Happy not get be hugged, this time.

Pictures below. The Fisher Valley is one of the most beautiful places I know. It's also away from the day hikers. I love its remote feel. A good place for bears and moose and such. We did see moose pellets, and I got stung by a yellow jacket or something.

Bob Dylan and the Band on the way up. 6:30 AM meet up at Colonial Creek. 10.5 hours on trail. Home by 10, after going back to Easy Pass to pick up my car.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Needles 25k

Rich and Adam hosted a terrific semi-fat ass type run out in Easton, entitled Needles 50k. A fall back 25k option was available, and was more than enough for me.

The course is hard.

The 50k has about 10k in gain; the 25k probably comes in around 5k. The first half of the course is dry, and so you have to plan accordingly. The event starts out with a 3k+ climb or so up towards Doamrie Divide/Peak something, and the views are really cool. You look down on Lake Cle Elum and out towards eastern Washington (Teanaway, etc.). You can see Goat Peak across the way as you climb, which is the first climb of Cascade Crest. There are some picket fence type peaks to the north. Rainier. And more.

But the climb is tough. Maybe next time when I know what's coming a little better, it'll go easier. Or if I lay off the sweets. But I'd get up one miner's trail, and then there'd be another, and another, and I'm gasping, wondering about max pulse rates and blown radiators. Some really nice wildflowers, surprisingly still out-- lupine, paintbrush, columbines, astors. 

The full 50k does a loop out by Little Joe Lake and then up Mt. Thorpe, basically tracing the last trail section of Cascade Crest. And that's spectacular, with views of Lake Kachess, Mt. Rainier, and some mountains to be named later.  I didn't go that way--I did the cut through at the paper plate to the Silver Creek trail, for the so-called 25k route, which was probably 30k. This is a beautiful section in its own right--with two or three sharp climbs, and more views in all directions. The course finishes out through the Silver Creek drainage, just like CC. 

My effort was horrible. My consolation is I got out there. As consolations go, they don't get much better. Rich greeted me at the finish with a nice, ice cold Fanta, which is reminiscent of our days on the Annapurna Circuit with Seth. That was just plain perfect.

The best part of the weekend for me was seeing old friends. I camped both nights, and got to talk for a bit with many good peeps. A good time was had by all. 

Also, I camped in a field, under the stars each night. I love the Eastern Washington night sky. Satellites, the hue of the Milky Way, the pack of wolves near my's all pretty special.

Alas, no pics. Camera battery dead, and I didn't want to carry the phone, which takes bad pics anyway. Plenty of pics of the area available by searching Silver Creek, Easton Ridge, Lake Kachess Ridge, Domarie Peak. 


No pics, and not much of a report to make. Once again, I ran this terrific event on the 4th of July. I was very slow. The hip and left knee do not agree with me, and I should go have things checked, but when the day comes to get out, that's what I do. Great to see Skagit Runners peeps at the race, running and volunteering. The Skagit community is fortunate to have this longstanding event every 4th of July morning. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

New Orleans

We visited New Orleans on a work related trip last week. A great place to visit, I wouldn't want to live there...because of the summer humidity. There was plenty of walking, but not much running. 

We took a swamp tour on our last day there. Saw lots of alligators, and got to hold a two year old. We saw a couple alligators eating a deer that they must have pulled into the water, and did a death roll with. There were dragonflies, but didn't find any snakes. The swamp vegetation was lush. We did the flat boat rather than the fan boat, and I would recommend this, as the fan boat had too many tourists and seemed loud.

We ate really well. Too well, sure. We stayed in a hotel right outside the renowned French Quarter, and wandered in their daily. A couple visits to the famed Cafe Du Monde coffee shop for beignets. An afternoon at Acme Oysterhouse. The grilled were great. Etoufee. Gator bites. Jambalaya. Gumbo. Red Beans and Rice. And so on.

Our room had a view of the mighty Mississippi. We walked on its banks, but didn't make it to the paddle boat.  We did ride the St. Charles trolley out and back, which is the oldest or one of the oldest still running trolleys. This was a great way to see some of the Garden District houses, with their columns and southern ambiance in display.  We made it onto Bourbon Street a couple times--a little much for me, I think, at this point in life.  We also made it to Jackson Square, at night, with all the fortune tellers out.

Our trip just happened to correspond with a visit from Tropical Storm Cindy.  It didn't end up being as bad as it could be, but at times the sewers were overflowing with the intense rainwater. We sat under an awning for 20 minutes at one point.

Truly a terrific place to visit--I hope we make the trip again one of these days.