It’s against the law in Alaska to take a nap, do chores, catch up on email or be anywhere besides OUTSIDE when the summer sun is shining. True story. So being the law-abiding citizen that I am, when the sun rose high into the sky last Thursday morning, I declared it a hiking day. No matter that it was two days out from the Mayor’s 4 Miler. I mean, it’s not like I was running the marathon or anything! Four miles is a chump change, right? And my friend Sharone who was visiting from California was just doing 4 miles as well, so why not?
So off we went to Rendezvous Peak to attempt what my hiking book described as an “easy” climb. It turns out that “easy” just means there’s an actual trail to navigate. It does not, in fact, mean that a 1500 foot ascent in a little over a mile will feel peachy keen. The climb actually wasn’t that difficult (at least not cardio-wise). And the views at the top–where it promptly started to drizzle on us–were more than worth it. But the descent? Well, if my quads could talk, it would be exclusively in four letter words, the most benign of which would be “stop“.
Did I tell you I had a race in two days?
The next day my quads were almost as sore as they’ve been after any race I’ve done, marathon included! Luckily, with a shake out run and a little foam rolling and stretching, I felt a bit better when I woke up on race day.
Did I forget to mention this was a race report and not an article for Whiny Hikers Monthly?
So yes, this past Saturday, to celebrate the longest day of the year in the land of the midnight sun, I raced the shortest race of the series. Over the past two and half months, as I recovered from a tendon sprain and posterior tibial tendinitis (PTT), I downgraded from the marathon to the half marathon until finally resolving to race the 4 miler. With limited training and mileage under my belt, not to mention a good dose of self-sabotage with my last minute hike, I wasn’t sure how I’d fare.
We woke to pouring rain the morning of the race, the likes of which we rarely see in Alaska. My friend and I drove to the start and waited in the warm car a bit before venturing out to warm up and find a port-a-potty. While out, I saw one of my friends from Ohio and invited her to come back to the car to try to stay warm and relatively dry for a few extra minutes before her race started. We chatted for a few minutes about the glories of racing in the rain before she took off for the starting line. (She went on to win her age group. Way to represent the OH, Amie!)
I jogged to the start, did some strides and dynamic warm ups, and then got ready for the gun to go off. You gotta love those cute little kids who line up at the very front and run like Olympic gold for the first 30 seconds before stopping short and nearly tripping the less-than-agile old ladies desperately trying to running the tangents. (That would be me.)
The course wasn’t my favorite. It was an out-and-back with several sharp turns, a muddy grass path, and several short but steep hills. My first mile was fast because (a) it was the first mile and (b) it contained most of the downhill. Mile one clocked in at 6:44. As I approached the end of mile two, I started counting the women coming toward me on their way back to the finish and figured out I was a distant fourth. I looked at my watch when I saw the mile two marker and noticed my GPS was short, which wasn’t surprising given the spotty signal I usually get on the Coastal Trail. The third mile was a blur, as I tried to focus on the moment and not worry about the hills waiting for me in mile four.
And then. Mile four. It’s impossible to describe the series of hills in the last half mile without swearing like a sailor. I gave the first steep hill everything I had, knowing I had zero cushion to get the sub-28 I was chasing. I reached the top, turned the corner and saw…. another hill. I wanted to puke. I wanted to cry. I wanted to put a hit out on the race director for approving this demoralizing course. I was sure I’d left the sub-28 at the bottom of that hill, but I also knew that Salty was going to want a race report. And since, “I collapsed on the hill in the last quarter mile and started sobbing” doesn’t make a particularly great story, I kept going.
The last 100 meters were on grass through a park strip. I stumbled my way to the finish as fast as my trashed legs could take me without falling on my face. I was still so perturbed by the hill and missing my sub-28 that I didn’t realize until several seconds after finishing that I’d actually finished in 27:46. Wait, what?
Okay, backspace on all that grumbling and misery and insert jubilation here. Hurray! I love racing! What a rush! When’s the next one?
My friend Sharone and I found each other at the finish, grabbed some dry clothes from the car and returned to cheer on more friends running the half and full. (Great job Michelle, Bridget, and Haylee!) Then we hit the beer garden while we waited for the 4 mile awards. The results had me in 5th place, but if you don’t count the dude running with a woman’s bib registration, I came in at a solid 4th overall for women and first in my age group with a 27:46/ 6:57 avg. Seeing as most of the local speedsters opted for the longer races, it turns out that running the shortest race on the longest day of the year was my most brilliant race scheduling move to date.
I still haven’t forgiven that despicable hill of doom for thwarting me in the final mile, but maybe with some therapy and a few hill workouts, there’s hope for reconciliation before we meet again in the next race. And from everything I’ve learned about all the major race courses in Anchorage, we will meet again!