Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mount Marathon 2009

The 82nd annual Mount Marathon race was held in Seward on Saturday. This was my 8th year running in it. Mount Marathon is one of the country's oldest foot races. It is a three mile race starting at sea level in the town of Seward, climbing 3,022 feet to the top of Mount Marathon, and returning to town.

This year was hot. According to some of the older runners, it was the hottest it's been in at least a decade. There were no snow fields this year, very little water on the waterfalls, and almost no snow at the base of the rock face.

The trip to Seward this year went well. Adam, Ryan, Joe, Chris, made the 3.5 hour drive in the big red van, or "THE BOSS". We camped out on Exit Glacier Road which as been the usual for many years. We met up with Brandon and Ford on Friday night. The population of Seward is said to grow from the normal 3,000 residents to 30,000 people for the holiday race. It's a party.

[ Setting up camp with our massive three-room tent ]

[ The boss at camp. Due to lack of traction, we had to have three people in the back to get it back onto the road. ]

[ Adam and Ryan finding wood ]

[ Joe getting ready to cook some brats ]

[ Killing time on Friday - Resurrection Bay ]

The entire field of racers was slower than normal this year. The would-have-been winners of both the mens' and women's race passed out and ended up in the hospital within blocks of crossing the finish line due to dehydration.

My race on the other hand, went surprisingly well this year. Days before the race, I wasn't even sure if I could run. On Monday, I took a trip to the emergency room because of severe back pain before my flight home to Alaska.

My plan this year was just to finish to keep my spot in the race and hopefully do better than last year. Because of my knee pain and bad finish time last year, I was starting in the second wave of runners this year, five minutes behind the first wave.

I felt good running up the streets and still felt strong at the base of the mountain, where I'm usually gasping for breath. I was near the front of my wave. Within minutes of being in the trees, I started catching the tail-end of the first wave. Dust was constantly getting kicked up and made it hard to breathe.

At the half-way point, I was still feeling strong. I continued to pass people most of the way up. I felt tired, but relaxed as I rounded the boulder marking the top of the mountain.

Running down the mountain was hard, but my knees felt good this year. I tried my best to stay on the lower edge of the trail in the softer scree. It was hard to see on the lower part of the mountain as clouds of dust were getting kicked up by runners ahead of me. I held my position the entire way from the top down. I took my usual approach to the bottom rock face and tried to keep my body over my legs as I approached the road. For once, I didn't even get passed on the road.

[ Darrin just below the rock face ]

[ Birdman - yes, his bib is pinned to his nipples ]

[ Rory scrambling down the rock face ]

[ Trying to stay on top of my feet ]

[ Chris ]

I finished in 67th place with an official time of 1:06.55. Several minutes slower than my record, but it was the best time I had seen in three or four years. I think a combination of living at higher altitude, hiking, skiing, and cycling was good cross training for me. The mountain biking was definitely great for strengthening my knees without the impact of running. Only four more years to go now...

[ Finish line ]

[ Driving home ]

[ Driving along the Turnagain Arm at 9pm - the sun won't go down for a few hours still ]

This is a cool interactive map of the race on the Anchorage Daily News website.

I'd like to compare my uphill and downhill times to last year, but the detailed results haven't been posted yet....hopefully I can get some more race photos too.

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