Alaska holds a very special place in my heart. Ten years ago I fell in love, it felt like home. With a slower way of life, very self sufficient people and the biggest outdoor playground I have ever seen the place fills my heart with so many wonderful things! Seven years ago was the last time I was there and I began to wonder if the love I felt was time making it sweeter or if I really felt that way. After going back, I realized how much I love Alaska. I have made a wonderful life for myself here in New Hampshire and won’t be leaving but I will always feel like I belong in the wild, rugged and simple lifestyle of Alaska.
I have been trying to get into the lottery for Mount Marathon for a few years and finally this was my year to run it! I have had a busy year and kept going back and forth between running it or not. My friend Laura also got into the lottery and was giving me a nudge to give it a go. As usual I was making my coach confused with my inability to make a decision on whether or not I was going so I decided that I would decide at the last minute whether or not I would hop on that plane!
Alaska, about 26 hours of round trip flying to go run 3 miles. People laughed at me and I kept wondering if it were actually worth it. The course looked amazing but sometimes photos are taken at prime locations to make an event look better than it is. I had to find out if it really were as crazy as it is made out to be.
My goal over the next few years is to find the hardest and most challenging races in the world. I want rocks, roots, steep hills, big mountains, all the things that are going to hurt! I love running the mountains here in New Hampshire and keep looking for something similar to the terrain I train on!
I did get on that plane and fly to Alaska. My friends family allowed me to stay at their place and welcomed me as one of their own family members! It was so wonderful and I even got to try moose for the first time! Yes, it is delicious.
Laura, Cory and myself hiked Mount Marathon two days prior to the race. I am not going to lie, I was almost in tears when I got to the top and saw what I had to run down. The climb was insane! There was actual rock scrambling, 53% grade slippery slopes, knee deep scree, waterfalls, cliffs, plants that could leave me with cuts and blisters and huge bears! Ok, I was really beginning to question the sanity of these Alaskans and wasn’t sure if I could even race this thing without dying! I am pretty tough but this race cannot be described through words, photographs or video.
I prepared completely wrong for this race. There was nothing that could have prepared me to train except for actually having run the course before. I knew my goals of sub 60 minutes were not happening and I needed to get through the race and focus on where I can improve so I can chase that goal next year!
Race day came and we went out wicked fast on the road. My plan was to hang with the leaders to the cliffs to avoid the congo line that was inevitable. There are no designated trails on the course. You go up, tag the turnaround and go down. I did get to the lower cliff in a fairy good position but these girls can climb! I got stuck in a congo line above the cliffs and was not about to bushwack through the devils club so I could pass. I took it as an opportunity to get my bearings and focus on what was ahead. I began passing a few girls and when we hit the upper open slope we all scattered, taking different lines to the top of the course.
My breathing was fine, my legs could not go any faster. I was not prepared for such a steep climb! I was laughing the entire way in disbelief of how hard this course really was! I hit the top and followed a girl down the steep scree chute which was not the one I practiced a couple days ago. I was terrified!!! I had never run anything like it and took it slow and cautious. I started to get passed by so many badass Alaskan girls flying down the mountain at insane speeds!
I tried to chase but almost ate it hard before my quads decided they were done. They felt like they were going to blow through my skin and I was only 1/3 down the mountain! By the time I got to the waterfall I was in so much pain but still laughing and smiling! This race was everything I had hoped for plus some! A couple of girls jumped over me as I gingerly made my way down the slippery waterfall, falling on my butt and I was in awe of their confidence and skills! Finally I was coming down the cliffs, slipping and sliding down to the last section of scree where I was actually relieved to see the pavement!
I opened it up and passed a bunch of girls who completely destroyed me on the descent! I had to tap into the only resource I had and that was road speed!
I finished in 1:08, much slower than I hoped but I was glowing and so very happy! I was the 43rd woman and I felt so ridiculously happy with my race! We took an opportunity to go watch the men’s race and it was so amazing! These people were falling, bleeding, getting back up and running with huge smiles! I thought I was a mountain runner, the truth is that I am not yet a true mountain runner! This race was inspirational and gave me the kick in the pants to really get myself in shape for this stuff!
I am going to start training to go back, I am going to find the hardest races I can and if that means not doing the fast high profile races I am okay with that. I have loved mountains for over 20 years and that is where I belong! I will be Alaska brave and strong and I do have a lot of work to do. I will be smiling from this race for a very long time!
I want to thank my incredible sponsors for their support! Thank you La Sportiva, JULBO USA, Choucas Hats and Boom Nutrition! Your gear allows me to perform my best! Thank you to my husband and pups for playing in the mountains with me and sharing a wild ride through life together! Thank you to my friends for so many great laughs and adventures! Thank you to my coach Andy for helping me dream big and train smart! Thank you to my boss for allowing me to have time to live my life outside of work, he is one of the kindest human beings I have ever met. I am one very lucky girl!
Alaska, she is everything I try to be..wild…rugged..beautiful. I can’t wait to bring my love to meet my love next July. I think Ryan might fall in love with her as well. Until then I have some serious work to do!