After years of plotting, we are actually done plotting. All the plotting never did us any good anyway. This time, we just circled a date on the calendar and that is the deal. On August 13, two compatriots and myself (and anybody else who shows up ready to run) are going to run from the Robert Griggs Visitor Center, overlooking the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, back to Brooks Camp. We will ford three stream crossings, which might serve a second purpose of helping ice our legs midrun. We will keep our eyes peeled for interesting wildlife (lynx, wolf, hyenas...you have to admit hyenas in Alaska would be interesting...) and for mundane wildlife (grouse, bears...yes, seeing a bear here is pretty mundane...). We will stand aside when the occasional vehicle goes by. We will identify whether there are any active goshawk nests, by examining the backs of our necks for claw marks after we run through the balsam poplar stands. And mostly, we will probably mock one another, either for being slow, out of shape, or both, laugh together, and likely suffer together. Should be fun.
14 Days to Alaska
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Valley Road Run
Marathon Maniac #957
This DOES sound fun! Take a camera so you can share it with us, please.
Will you be at Equinox?
Life is a headlong rush into the unknown. We can hunker down and hope nothing hits us or we can stand tall, lean into the wind and say, "Bring it on, darlin', and don't be stingy with the jalapenos."
How far is this run?
I hammered down the trail, passing rocks and trees like they were standing still.
MM#209 / JapanJoyful#803
definitely get your moose early and go to Equinox with Holly.
I can't imagine running from the Griggs Overlook back to my old stomping grounds at Brooks Camp, especially fording three streams that are full of food for the ursines. I guess if I could eat those delicious piscatores almost every day without getting tired of them, so can they. Are you comfortable enough not to carry any guns? What about air horns, sprays,, etc.? I'd be too scared to want to take a chance. Be careful. Oh, why don't you do it out-and-back a couple of times and make it a Valle de Mille Fumes Marathon? I bet you can pick up a few entrants from the Lodge, .. maybe even King Salmon and Naknet. Hower,, you're just nuts. Equinox would probably seem normal.
Holly, I hope so, but I really don't know. At this point, we have some Russian biologists that are going to be visiting in the few days prior to Equinox, and a lot of my ability to get away may depend on the final schedule they are working off of, as well as whether I can squeeze in a moose hunt before then. So I really, really can't say how it will play out, but as it approaches some of these questions will be answered. I'll let you know as the question marks get answered how it is looking.
Carolyn, it is 23 miles of pure pleasure. Compared to the hills and elevation you run at, anyway. Unless we have to take to the woods to get around a lazy bear on the road...
Tet, Margot Falls is a couple miles downstream of the crossings, all of which are branches of Margot Creek. So there actually aren't any salmon in the creek up there, and bears are usually just wandering down the road. We won't carry any firearms, but we'll have pepper spray, and airhorn, and a park radio. I'll bring the spot device so you can watch us in semi-real time if you are that desperate for entertainment. We've not managed to attract any of the other local idiots...I mean...runners...so far, but at least a couple of them really would accompany us but had prior commitments. That's why we stopped plotting and just set a date. Otherwise none of us would ever have managed to get it to work for everyone.
I figure it is close to a marathon already, we'll see how it works out if we have to take any detours.
Two days to the run. As far as I know, there are still three of us that are going to do it. But I haven't heard direct confirmation from the other original plotter, as we've been in opposite corners of the park and/or state for the past month, so I'm assuming he is going to arrive as planned. Regardless, the other two of us will be making it happen. After much thought about river crossings, I've decided I'm just wading through with my shoes, so we'll see how the sopping wet feet affect me. Hydration pack, a candy bar, an extra pair of socks, a cell phone (for the camera...), a spot device, and rested legs are on my packing list. I am not really in shape to race 23 miles yet, so I took a full three day rest (what a wuss!) leading up to it, and hopefully that will make me feel like a million bucks for the whole way. If not, maybe it will make me feel like a million bucks for part of the way?
As many of you know, the weather in Alaska can be totally brutal. That matches well with the bugs, the bears, and perhaps even some of the citizens. Or so I've heard. So the training that led up to the VRR was conducted in lightning storms, windstorms, howling rain, unbearable bugs, and of course in the middle of the beariest place on earth. We were certainly ready.
By we, I mean me and Zach. Neal hadn't trained at all since May...
Both of these two citizens have shady pasts that include stints running on college teams. That right there makes it a totally unfair match, for me anyway. I am the opposite of a former college runner. I'm that guy that always loved running since I decided to start at age 11, put in a bunch of miles, got sort of faster, almost fast once or twice...but was never, not one single time, fast enough to make varsity in cross country even as a senior. We're talking high school here.
So leading up to this run knowing that Neal hadn't trained at all made me hope I could, just this once, see him beg for mercy at some point. After all, 23 miles is a long way to run on sheer determination and natural good looks.
As the day approached, Neal indicated he would be carrying only a waist pack with water bottles and with a pair of flip flops for the river crossings. I was thinking about bringing my Tevas, but after the experience running in the thunderstorm, I decided that I would rather run with wet feet...and Zach did too.
In the end, Neal's natural attention to detail got the better of him, so he brought the waist pack, as well as a running backpack. That way he had a first aid kit and a park radio...so I didn't have to carry a radio. Zach carried the pepper spray, so I only had Gatorade and a snickers bar in my pack. Much better than the load I could have ended up with.
We got to the end of the road and off we went. You'll notice the fierce weather came in as advertised.
The first mile or two were downhill, so we took off a little quickly and were rolling at sub-9 pace when I glanced down at the Garmin. Since it was downhill, I didn't really think anything of it.
It wasn't long before the road stopped dropping down and we were rolling up and down on our way to the first river crossing, in the middle of one of the nicest days in the history of my life, and perhaps the entire state of Alaska. Not sure how Neal decided to go for the long sleeves, but they didn't last long. Before we knew it, we had made it to the first river crossing, and Zach and I just marched across. Neal, having been much more fastidious in his planning, had brought not only the flip flops, but an entire shoe changing station including a towel to stand on and dry his feet. I guess we now all know which one of us has done triathlons...
What I didn't have in planning, I made up for by sporting the one and only spam shirt. I figured that the extra weight in Neal's pack from the shoe changing station, the park radio, and the rocks I accidentally threw in there (okay, I didn't actually...) were going to contribute to him finding himself staring at a wall of pain late in the run. But I was feeling pretty spectacular. We were clicking off 10 minute miles or a touch faster, and I had been thinking we would be running 11 minute pace. But I felt so good that the speed didn't seem an issue. Besides, I had a good hard progression run behind me, and had a solid three day rest. All geared to prepping me for a wonderful experience while Neal begged for mercy...or something. We ran on, generally downhill on rolling hills, and found ourselves entering some of the lovely groves of balsam poplar along the way.
The second river crossing follows soon after the first, and while Neal was in the middle of the foot saving process, Zach decided to check for gravel and found some in his shoes as well.
I either didn't feel any or it wasn't there, so I ignored the possibility and kept moving. Especially since there was a big hill to run up. I hate running up hills in long runs. Years ago, on my second marathon, I thought I had totally prepared for the hills. I ran the first four miles of the Catalina Marathon. Passing a lot of people that were walking. Barely passing them, because they were walking almost as fast as I was running. That was the last passing I did on that day until mile 17, when having learned what wisdom is, I walked pumphouse hill and passed a whole lot of other walkers. I do have long legs after all...
But I digress. I walked the hill, and had nearly made it up to the top when they caught me. But I pretty much made it known that the serious hills I'd be walking. Any bonking wasn't going to be from overexuberance on the hills. We continued to click off 10 minute miles and I was feeling good.
At one point I tried to take a photo and failed to get it to work, so the jokers stopped and played ham for the camera...
At the final river crossing, I realized I needed to document the changing station a little better...
But there is a tragedy hidden in that photo. Neal had dropped his waist pack by accident trying to take off the backpack...and the gatorade bottle broke. He drank some, then added the rest to his water bottle, and soldiered on. Meanwhile, Zach was making use of the cold water to ice his legs.
Actually, probably just his feet...but he did say it felt good on his legs as well...
After the final crossing, I decided to check my shoes for rocks as well, since we still had more than half of the distance to go...
We were still moving well, I was feeling well, and things were looking rosy.
But I had started noticing that my heart rate was creeping up a few ticks above what I wanted to see. It was about 3bpm high...
I tried to slow down, but we were feeling good and doing well. But I knew better. Especially on a hot day. Sure enough, somewhere around mile 19 the wheels came off. I found all of a sudden that Neal, who was now struggling a bit, was disappearing ahead of me. And I suddenly was inexplicably hot, with that feeling that I might never be able to cool down, then there I was walking. I looked down, and my heart rate had reached the level I only allow in the final half mile of a run. Uh oh.
Over the next mile I kept thinking that I could settle into a slower pace that would work, but it just wasn't there. The other two kept waiting for me and then taking off again. I told them to just go on, but they insisted we were going to finish together. Which was really irritating. I was totally bonked, and they totally weren't, and I just wanted them to disappear so I wouldn't feel bad about walking it in.
But instead I started trying to find a pattern I could hold, I would identify a distance to run, then try it, and usually find that it was too far. Suddenly, up ahead, I saw the other two back up and start moving back toward me. Then they stopped, and I caught up to them, and they told me they had encountered a bear. A really big bear. So we moved forward down the road, looking into the woods where the bear had disappeared, and sure enough, there he was. Sometimes you can see a bear in the woods. This time, there were woods around a bear. He was HUGE!!! He was moving slowly along, his butt around 5 feet tall, and probably three feet wide. Wow.
Soon after, I settled into a rythm of 40 steps running and 10 steps walking that got me to the finish. Painfully. Slowly. Frustratingly. I kept trying to cheat it one way or another, but for the most part it worked and I even managed to run in the last quarter mile.
So there we were. I was totally bonked, probably a combination of the optimistic early pace and the heat, I'm definitely not very good on hot day running. Most of my bonks are on days like that. I finished off 70 oz. of Gatorade near the end, having been pretty good at taking sips regularly. But it didn't prevent it.
I boated home, then took off on a flying adventure the next day on days off with friends, and just ran again today for the first time. In the meantime, I've flown more than 30 hours, seen airports and places I've wanted to visit, and am now finally getting to the state fair for the first time ever up here. So it has been a good few days, just no running until today.
Now it is time to plot my next assault. We are talking about the LaGorce Ridge Run next. Maybe I'll make Neal beg for mercy on that one...
Very entertaining. As promised a bear to read about too! It does look like it was a truly spectacular day.
Live like you are dying not like you are afraid to die.
Drunken Irish Soda Bread and Irish Brown Bread this way --> http://allrecipes.com/Cook/Twocat
I love this!
Before we knew it, we had made it to the first river crossing, and Zach and I just marched across. Neal, having been much more fastidious in his planning, had brought not only the flip flops, but an entire shoe changing station including a towel to stand on and dry his feet. I guess we now all know which one of us has done triathlons...
in the middle of one of the nicest days in the history of my life, and perhaps the entire state of Alaska
And I have totally been here:
I told them to just go on, but they insisted we were going to finish together. Which was really irritating. I was totally bonked, and they totally weren't, and I just wanted them to disappear so I wouldn't feel bad about walking it in.
Thanks for an excellent report with stunning photos - sounds like quite an adventure!
I just got to this. What an excellent write up of an outing with friends! I love how you guys pick a day (after much plotting) and set out to make an event of it. Sorry about the bonk, but hey, I think we've all been there. What a drop-dead gorgeous day you had! Thanks for sharing. I love your writing style and the pictures are outstanding!
What a fantastic run and great pictures.