Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 1 of Alaska Running Camp- What am I doing here??

"Run of medium length, 2-4 hours".  Perhaps I got over confident when I saw the first day description on the itinerary Geoff mailed out.  After a delicious breakfast of eggs & bacon (I heart bacon), we drove to the start at Skaters Cabin.  Two local Juneau friends of Geoff (Houston & Brian) met us, and questioned why we were parked "3 miles from the start".

About two miles of paved road, by an Archery Range (for Handicap), and an Indoor range.  I was (basically) with the guys, as we ran at a light jog.  Then onto a dirt road for another mile-ish, where snow started to cover part of the road.  I fell a little behind.  I slipped on the snow and tried to steady myself with a plant.  OUCH!  It was a prickly plant with thorns.  In trying to brush the thorns out, I drove it deeper into my finger. 

Then about a mile on a trail that Geoff said was well maintained when he moved here four years ago.  Now, it was full of blown down trees & erosion.  I could no longer see anyone ahead of me.  Then I found them, all stopped.  We were going straight up hill, on a trail so steep the first part had a rope to help haul up. 

The next part was extremely humbling.  We scrambled up around 1,500 feet, straight up in the mud.  There wasn't really a trail, just a series of blazes.  Almost everyone was completely out of sight.  Geoff Roes & Will hung back a little, to keep an eye on me.  About every 5 minutes they'd stop and I'd scramble up.  Then they'd disappear out of sight again.  I'm in decent shape, and have spent much time on trails.  But I just couldn't keep up. Everytime I tried to push my pace, I'd slip on the mud and come near a face plant.  I kept looking forward to the snow section.

The snow section was even more humbling.  It was an Artic StairMaster.  Brian, the local, had switched off to sweep me.  The slope was just as steep as before, but now there was slick snow and trees with trecherous tree holes to contend with.  Brian kicked steps in the snow, and I followed. 

I kept looking forward to the next section on the ridge, as I thought it would flatten out.  It flattened out, but here the snow wasn't consolidated, it was an icy loose six inches.  My feet were soaked and cold. I wasn't having much fun. I felt bad for Brian, who was stuck taking care of me. 

We came out to an open area at 2:24 hours and I liked the view.  My fear had come true--I was totally at the end of the group.  Brian pointed the group out, high on the ridge and looping around.  At this point, I had very little motivation to follow them up the ridge.  I was at least an hour behind them, my feet were cold, and I wimped out.  Houston & his dog Molly were going back down, and I joined them.

 As I went down, I started having more and more fun.  I looked forward to the solid snow as my feet starting warming up.  Then the mud was fun.  Molly (the dog) was fearless!  Houston & I talked about his business plan for "dog running".  Then Geoff caught up with me and we chatted.  The trail that had seemed tough before with it's blowdowns suddenly seemed runnable.  Finally I hit the road, and cruised into finish at 5:05. 

Not dead yet, though definitely humbled.  I can hear Corle & Geoff cooking supper.  They met when Geoff was a cook & Corle a baker, so the food is darn good.  Now that I know I can't keep up, I wonder how the next three runs will be.  But I'm glad I came.

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