A Running Tour of Seward!

Hi everyone!  I feel like it’s been a while since I posted anything about Seward, and let me tell you:  I’m still just as in love with living here!  I can’t get enough of all the beautiful scenery and constant humidity-free weather.  Recently while running I realized that while I do mid-run selfies from time to time, not many of you know what my usual 3 mile running route through the town of Seward actually looks like, or what the entire town looks like for that matter.  So here’s a little tour of Seward that I’ve compiled over the course of the summer to give you a chance to see Seward through my running shoes!

First, I step outside the bunkhouse and head towards town.  There’s not always a rainbow FYI  :)

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After crossing the “highway” aka a 2 lane street that’s busier than all the others, I walk down to 4th Ave where I officially start my run!  This old train car is a restaurant/hotel/bike rental store that marks the start of town.  It’s coincidently across the street from the train station.

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Right away, I’m running along the harbor.  I see this view from my window at work every day, but I will never ever get sick of it.  This particular view is from the start of the boardwalk, and you can run along here for a few blocks!

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Speaking of work, here’s my office!  Running into the harbor area means that I have to dodge lots of cars, tourists, and yummy smells coming from all of the restaurants.  As you can see there’s a line of tourist shops here and it gets pretty busy.

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On the way out of the harbor I get to run past Kenai Fjords National Park headquarters.  I still think it’s so cool that I live on the edge of a national park and get to help visitors see it every day!

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Fun fact: the state flag was designed here in Seward by a 13 year old boy back in 1959 when Alaska became a state! That’s basically its claim to fame, along with the Mt. Marathon race.

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After all the distractions of the first .5 miles, it’s time for me to turn onto the bike trail that runs along the edge of Seward.

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For the rest of mile 1, I run through the waterfront RV park.  This picture was taken a while ago - it’s constantly packed now!  Usually by the time I’m running at night most people are sitting by their campfires so I have the trail all to myself.

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This part of my run is the best chance of seeing the wildlife in the bay.  I’ve seen lots of bald eagles and seals here, but the most common thing I see on this part of the route is sea otters!  The picture below is super tiny, but the black spot in the middle of the water is one of three sea otters that I saw that night!

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Once I get to the end of town, the RVs are all gone and I have a view straight out to the Gulf of Alaska!  This part of my route is so beautiful and peaceful.  I love listening to the waves crash on the beach and smelling the ocean air!

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Eventually Seward ends and I start to head back into town.  Seward’s main attraction, the Sea Life Center, is located right on the end of town.  It’s a small aquarium where a lot of marine animal research goes on.

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I always skip over 4th Ave. on the way back so my route technically isn’t a perfect loop.  Why?  It’s filled with restaurants, bars, and tons of tourists.  Not what I really need in the middle of a run!

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When I run back towards the bunkhouse, I have to run up a long gradual hill.  But it just makes the way down even faster so I can’t complain.

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In the last .5 miles of my run I get to run on a boardwalk along the lagoon.  I can usually see salmon and ducklings in the lagoon so it keeps me distracted when I’m feeling tired!

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Once the lagoon ends, my run does too!  I love ending with such a pretty view!

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I always have time for a post-run selfie on the edge of town though  :)

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As you can see, Seward is small but pretty!  I love that I can step right outside my room and start running – I never felt safe enough to do that at our place in Philly.  And I especially love that there are quite a few nice routes around the bunkhouse so I can vary my routines if I want to run hills, trails, flat road, etc.  No matter where I’m running in town I can’t help but be blown away by how amazing it is that I’m running in Alaska!  I love it here and I’m so excited to get to know my new running routes in Anchorage too!

Do you have a “usual” route that you run in your town?  What’s the most beautiful/exciting thing that you see on your usual route?

Friday Five: My 5 Current Goals

Hi everyone!  It’s Friday…unfortunately not my true Friday since I have to work the next two days, but the good news is that it’s time for another Friday Five with You Signed Up For What?!, Mar on the Run, and Eat Pray Run DC.  This week we’re talking about goals and I was so excited to sit down and make my new list of goals for the next few months.  I think that you can learn a lot about someone from their goals, and I’m excited to read about everyone else’s goals this week!

goal deadlines

 

1. Run a sub-2:30 half marathon and not feel like I’m going to die at the end. I’ve been hoping for that ever since I started running, and I am less than 1 minute and a whole lot of pain away from that goal. I have one more half marathon left this year (Beat the Blerch in September!) and I’m hoping I can do it! I am so pumped for this training plan!

2.  Go backpacking.  I want to do this soooo bad, but it’s also kind of intense up here in Alaska.  We have to tie our food up in a tree so the bears don’t come into our tent at night, the mosquitoes are relentless and huge, and it’s cold yet sunny at night.  But I spent some time today researching basic backpacking supplies and I think I’m ready to possibly buy some soon!  Top trails I have in mind:  Caines Head, Lost Lake, and Johnson Pass.  But there are so many long trails up here that I want to try out and backpacking is my key to getting there!

3.  Find a job that I love.  This might actually be the hardest thing on here.  I know that I’m passionate about working with children and young adults with disabilities, and I’m looking for a job here in Alaska that incorporates part of my old job with less time driving and more actual lunch breaks.  Teaching might just fit that description, so I’m going to work on getting certified up here in Alaska (lots of paperwork and transcript/Praxis/certification transferring, but it should take less than a year!) and hopefully I’ll find a place where I fit in, feel appreciated, and enjoy most parts of my day.  At the very least, I’d like to make enough money to rent a nice little apartment in Anchorage so we don’t have to move back home!

4.  Join a running group and not be too afraid to go.  I really need running friends, and coincidently I also need a whole new set of friends up here in Alaska.  Why not combine both goals into one?  This is such a scary goal for me because even though I’m outgoing, I’m so self conscious and slightly awkward when it comes to meeting new people that I want to like me.  Plus even with all my running experience, I still feel like such a newbie when I meet runners who train for real and run marathons every month – why would they want to talk to me?  Hopefully I can find a chill group of runners who like eating post-run  :)  I will fit right in!

5.  Find a cross training method that I enjoy, and do it regularly.  I really don’t think hiking is the best method of cross training since it still uses my leg muscles, so I’m going to try to add something that incorporates less legs and more overall toning.  But don’t worry, I’ll still hike almost every day!  Yoga hiking is the new thing up here…

Those are my 5 biggest goals right now.  I’m hoping that by the end of October I’ll have crossed all these goals off my list!  I think that right after a big event like a half marathon, the best thing to do is make a new list of goals to keep me looking forward to the next big thing.  I love challenges so I’m excited to take these on in the next 3 months!  And honestly, I’m so excited to get started with the Anchorage job hunt/apartment hunt/final move so that we can finally start our new lives up here!

20140724-231612.jpgMy excited/nervous face at the end of my last long run before HTH!  It totally applies here!

What is your biggest goal right now?  Do you have any of the same goals that I do?

Reflecting On Half #3

Hi everyone!  Ever since finishing the Her Tern Half AKA half #3, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the race and running in general.  If you missed my recap, you can check it out here!  The short recap of it is that I wasn’t fully prepared, ran the entire race, and totally bonked in the last mile yet still finished less than 4 minutes behind my PR time.  Yesterday Andrew and I found ourselves back in Anchorage for the day so we hiked Flattop Mountain (the most-hiked mountain in Alaska because it’s so close to Anchorage!), and during that hike I was thinking about running a lot.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • It makes no sense that I was able to finish that race so close to my PR with such crappy training and so much stress and sadness in the last few weeks.  I was not feeling physically strong going into that race, so how the heck did I manage to run for 2 hours, 33 minutes and 59 seconds with only a few walk breaks?
  • Andrew pointed out that my second half marathon was 3 months ago.  Is it possible that I was able to maintain that level of fitness even after taking almost a month off of running for the move and then only running 2-3 times per week?
  • And on that note, does hiking have something to do with it?  I really do hike more than I run now, but was that enough to supplement running and get me through that half?
  • And here’s the weirdest one of all:  if half marathons are so difficult, why was I able to do one with as little discomfort as I did?  I mean, I was dying at the end and I’ve never felt that bad.  And it’s not like the other 12 miles were easy.  But it was only in the last mile or two where I was extremely tired.  It’s making me think about running a bit differently – is it actually easier than my brain makes it out to be?

Hiking up Flattop was hard – it took just as long as my half marathon, but it was only 3 miles total.  It involved rock climbing at the top and the middle 1/3 of the hike was purely on steep steps.  But yet tons of people were doing it.  It made me think about running – if a half marathon didn’t sound so intimidating, would more people do it?  If I don’t put so much pressure on myself for the next one, will it come easier for me?  Could I ever possibly do a full marathon?  It’s crazy to think that our minds could have such a huge impact on how we approach running long distances.

20140723-232640.jpgFlattop from 1/3 of the way up…

20140723-232442.jpg…and the view from the top!

I was so proud of myself after finishing half #3 because I realized that even with my small amount of training and confidence I was able to do it faster than half #1 by over 15 minutes.  It really makes me optimistic about my next half marathon in September in Seattle!  I’m starting to realize that I’m stronger than I think, and that if I really stuck to a training plan I could probably meet my ultimate half marathon time goal of 2:30.  I’m excited to do it right this time!

Also, I am seriously proud that I hiked a 1,5oo ft mountain only 3 days after a half marathon.  And nothing hurt.  What!

Have you ever surprised yourself with how well you did in a race you weren’t trained for?  What half marathon training plan do you swear by?

Race Recap: Her Tern Half Marathon

Hi everyone!  I am so excited to tell you all that I survived half marathon #3!  It was a crazy experience but I’m happy I did it.  But let me start from the beginning:  The Her Tern Half and Quarter Marathon is an all-girls race put on by the running store in Anchorage, Skinny Raven Sports, as well as its sister store, Her Tern Boutique.  The cap is 1,000 girls and they also let in one man known as the “One Lucky Guy” which is voted on by HTH participants.  I knew that this was going to be a great first race in Alaska and I loved the idea behind an all girls race with great race swag.  Finishers got a designer bracelet instead of a medal, although they didn’t release pictures of it until closer to the race and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the design.

Before I get into this, I want to remind people that I was not really fully trained for this race.  I’d been having some awesome long runs for a while and was beginning to feel so confident about getting a PR at this race, until I got sick a few weeks ago and missed my 9 miler.  Last weekend I was still feeling really weak and sick, so my final 10 miler was switched to only 6 miles – and those were pretty slow and hard.  So I didn’t really know what to expect on race day.  But I woke up Saturday morning excited for our mini-vacation in Anchorage!  My friend Amanda was running the quarter marathon, so she drove with us from Seward to Anchorage.  As soon as we got to the city we ate sandwiches for lunch at the Great Harvest Bread Co. and then headed over to Skinny Raven Sports downtown to hit up the expotique!  There weren’t many people there around 12:00, so we walked right up to get our packets.  The race had personalized race bibs, and we also got a reusable bag and a race shirt from Brooks.

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The best part was that our race packets came with 3 gift certificates:  $10 for Nathan Hydration, $25 for Brooks, and $50 for a shoe purchase at Her Tern Boutique!  The only one we didn’t use was the Her Tern shoe one because they only sold crazy expensive shoes.  Bummer.  But the expotique had a Nathan booth set up, as well as tons of Her Tern Half merchandise made by Brooks, so we had a blast deciding what to use our gift certificates on!  In the end I got a HTH branded Nathan water bottle, and a HTH tank from Brooks for only $12 total.

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The expotique only took up about 1 street block but it was still a lot of fun.  My favorite part was the race banner with all the participants’ names on it!  I was so excited to see my name up there!

20140721-192958.jpgIt’s official!  I’m running this half!

20140721-193008.jpgReady for the race!

Before we left we shopped a bit at Skinny Raven and I noticed that there are a ton of fun runs and races going on through the store.  It made me so excited to move to Anchorage and meet some running friends!  We also hit up the cheer booth, where I decorated this insanely accurate sign:

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Yes, that is a donut running in the corner!  Brooks totally gets me and my food obsessions.  After the expotique, we did our usual round of Anchorage shopping since Seward only has one grocery store and it’s so expensive there.  We bought stuff to make baked ziti for dinner as well as post-race cinnamon rolls.  We were lucky enough to be able to crash at Amanda’s friends’ house for the night, and it was awesome being able to cook in a normal kitchen again!

The next morning I woke up super nervous and feeling sick.  I hadn’t slept much and had even cried the night before because I was so scared of how the race was going to go.  I always feel underprepared for races, but the fact that my longest run was 8 miles was terrifying.  After my usual pre-race oatmeal breakfast, I got ready for the race and we headed off to the rose garden on the Delaney Park Strip.  Amanda’s quarter marathon started at 9:20, so both she and Andrew were able to see me off at 9:00!  One important thing to note about this race is that they have an early wave, which starts at 8:00.  On the website this race was advertised for girls who estimated their finishing time to be 3 hours or longer, and getting the early start would ensure that they could enjoy the post-race party.  It sounds like an awesome idea, but as I lined up with all the “fast” girls at 9:00 I started to really get psyched out.  In fact, within the first mile I was seriously one of the last people running, and I did it in a 10:16 pace!  It was totally demoralizing to be at the back and know that I was still going too fast for my race plan.  The best part about the first 2 miles is that I ran alongside a girl who was running her first half marathon ever, and we ended up chatting about life in Anchorage for a while until she needed to take a walk break.  For the next 11.1 miles I ran alone as usual, although many girls I passed/who passed me were friendly and I had a few fun conversations along the way which almost never happens!

The course was really pretty, and it got me so excited about running when I live in Anchorage!  When I’d looked at the course map and saw that the race took us all the way across Anchorage and back, I was confused as to how they were going to shut down so many roads.  But it turns out that Anchorage has a large paved trail system, and the trails go under and over roads to stretch all the way across the city!  There were times when we were running near neighborhoods and busy roads, but most of the time we were running through a beautiful, silent forest.  And most of the trail was flat too!  Whenever it went uphill it was to cross over a highway, and I knew that there would be a downhill on the other side so I kept running.  I slowed my pace down to about 12:00/mile and told myself that I could speed it up after the turnaround point at mile 7.  Once I got there I noticed that there were very few people running behind me, and it messed with my head for a mile or so until I remembered that a lot of the slower runners had actually started an hour ahead of me and I wasn’t at the total back of the pack which gave me a boost.  At mile 8 I started to think about the possibility of a PR and meeting my half marathon goal of 2:30.  I was so close in my last half, and I wondered if I could do it this time even without fully training.  And for a while I was actually on pace to do so!  I was hitting sub-11:30 miles and passing people with a smile on my face.  But around mile 11 I started feeling really tired.  I thought about taking my last few Sport Beans but didn’t really want to stop and add time, so I decided I would power through the last 2 miles without the extra fuel.  And I think that, along with my lack of long runs, was what totally killed the race for me.  In mile 12 I completely shut down – I’m not sure if I hit a wall, but I was definitely done with running.  My legs slowed down and my brain stopped working and I felt like I couldn’t control my feet anymore.  I usually manage to speed up at the end of a race no matter how tired I am, so this new feeling really scared me.  I was hunched over and everything hurt and thought I was seriously going to have to walk to the end.

20140721-193030.jpgThis is what death looks like dragging itself down the streets of Anchorage.  Dear god.

As I came around the corner with 0.5 miles to go, I saw a long hill up to the finish line and actually wanted to walk away.  But then I saw my friend Amanda a few feet away!  She ran along side me cheering me on and giving me encouragement until I got to the bottom of the hill.  I’d told Amanda I was going to walk the hill, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it with all of those people cheering me on.  So I started sprinting (which in all honesty was probably actually a slow jog at that point) and I ran into the One Lucky Guy.  He looked at me and said “Kristen, you can do this!  You are about to finish!” and ran up the hill with me.  Amanda told me he’d been doing that for all the runners after he finished which was so awesome!  And I did finish – in 2:33:59!  Only 4 minutes from my goal time and over 3 minutes from my PR.  Given my training I will call that a success!

20140721-193118.jpgSo happy I “sprinted” to get under 2:34:00!

20140721-193127.jpgThis unfortunately is my finish line photo – shoutout to my fellow Garmin wearers out there who have similar pictures!

I stumbled through the chute and got my race bling, and then expected to get water or a bagel or something.  But it wasn’t there.  And I was delirious and had no idea what to do.  After stumbling around for a while I finally found a table with tiny cups of water on it which made me so upset – all I could think about at the end of that race was drinking a bottle of water!  After chugging 2 small cups I felt well enough to look for Andrew and Amanda, who graciously led me to the cupcake tent before making me talk to them.  After eating a tiny gourmet cupcake I realized there were no other post-race foods like bagels or bananas.  I was dying, so I forced myself to eat 2 more cupcakes until my sugar level was up enough to walk around and stretch without passing out.  Amanda told me she ran the quarter marathon in 1:03 which was really awesome, and we took some time to celebrate with mimosas and pictures!

20140721-193039.jpgPersonalized glasses and a peanut butter cup cupcake!

20140721-193049.jpgCheers to finishing!

20140721-193059.jpgRocking my medal AKA the designer bracelet from Her Tern!

Honestly, at the end of the race all I really wanted was a medal and a bottle of water, but the bracelet isn’t too bad.  I’ve been wearing it since the race and while I don’t know how much wear I’ll get out of it, I still think I can hang it on my medal hanger, right?

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Overall, I’m glad I did this race.  Even without a PR or hitting my half marathon time goal, it’s amazing that I was able to get so close to my PR time.  I felt so stressed during training with all the things going on in my life, and getting sick just made it worse.  But it was cool to see that my body still can get through those miles, although not as well as I’d hoped!  Will I do it next year?  Maybe, but probably not.  All the fancy girly stuff ended up just annoying me in the end – I’d rather get actual normal race food and water at the end and have a medal instead of a bracelet that I probably won’t wear too much.  Plus, having all the slower runners start first made me one of the last few people to cross the finish line which was rough.    There are other half marathons in Anchorage and I’ll probably try those before I do this one again.  But I loved the race atmosphere, the friendly and supportive runners, and the cheering fans so I’m glad I made this my first Alaska race!

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Have you ever totally bonked at the end of a half?  Did you ever surprise yourself with a finishing time?  Would you rather get race jewelry or a medal?

Friday Five: My 5 Favorite Things About 13.1!

Hi everyone!  As if you couldn’t tell from every single one of the posts I’ve done recently, I have a half marathon on Sunday!  The Her Tern Half Marathon in Anchorage to be exact!  It’s my first race in Alaska and my first time running in Anchorage so I’m pretty excited to see what the course is like – I heard there might be moose on the trails!  Anyways, to keep up with my half marathon blog post theme that I have going on, this week’s Friday Five with Mar on the Run, Eat Pray Run DC, and You Signed Up For What?! is “Friday Favorites” and I’ve chosen to write about my favorite things about half marathons.

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1.  The race expo.  I love shopping and I love running, so when you put both of them together I get really excited!  I usually try to buy at least one item from each half marathon I run.  I’m still so proud of the fact that I’m able to get there in the first place and want to remember that feeling later…with a race-themed headband  :)  I’ve only been to race expos at half marathons so that’s a fun perk of this race distance!

20140220-213045.jpgBelieve it or not, this was me showing self control!

2.  The pre-race jitters.  I kind of have a love-hate relationship with these.  I hate being nervous, but I love that element of “what if?” that comes with it.  Will I PR?  Will I run my fastest mile ever in a half marathon?  Will I finish strong?  It’s exciting to think about all the things that can turn out awesome after running such a long distance!  I also love setting out my race items before a race.  It almost has that first-day-of-school feeling where you’re so excited to get into that outfit and see what the day brings!

20140220-213117.jpgI was so nervous (and excited!) after getting my first half marathon bib!

3.  Wearing my shiny new race bling.  I love getting medals in all races, but I really love my half marathon medals the most.  I really earned those things, and I’m proud of them.  I usually wear my race medals all day after the race, even out in public!  This race doesn’t have a medal, but it does have a pretty designer bracelet that I am excited to wear all the time.

20140331-001615.jpgRocking my medal after the Love Run Half Marathon

4.  Going home and eating all the food.  Literally, I eat everything I want after a race.  I make no limits – hey, I just burned roughly 1,300 calories!!  After long runs I eat pretty healthy, but after races I throw all that out the window and eat a pizza and a donut.  I don’t even care how unhealthy that makes me sound, you know you all do it  :)  Of course I start out with a banana, bagel, and Nuun, but once my stomach is settled I start in on the real food!  After Sunday’s race I plan on eating pizza at the Moose’s Tooth before taking a nap on the car ride home!

20140413-234642.jpgThis was after my 10k in Hershey, but it’s the same concept  :)

5.  Saying “I ran a half marathon today”.  This will never, ever get old.  Those are words I never thought I’d say up until earlier this year and I can’t wait to say them again on Sunday!

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If you follow me on twitter, stay tuned for lots of race updated throughout the weekend.  I’m not as prepared as I wanted to be, but I’m excited to see what I’m capable of doing on Sunday!  Wish me luck!

What are your favorite things about half marathons?  What’s your favorite thing about running races in general?

Things Are Looking Up

Hi everyone!  It’s been a week since my sad post, and since then things have been looking up!  I’m so happy to be out of my blah mood and back to normal.  Life in Alaska is much better when you’re in the mood to hike and run again!  Since I had such a long list of bad things last week, I’ve decided to make another list dedicated to all the awesome things going on in my life right now:

  • Nutella.  I eat it out of the jar with a spoon when I’m craving chocolate.  Does anyone else do that?
  • Taking long, lazy float raft trips down the Kenai River with an apricot beer in hand and perfect warm weather.  I could get used to this!

20140716-230740.jpgYes, I know I have a half marathon this weekend.  I only drank half!

20140716-230606.jpgWe saw at least 50 bald eagles during the trip!

  • Actually sticking to my goals that I made last week!  Coffee, you have no power over me…
  • My parents sending me treats from their vacation to Ocean City, Maryland.  These are my favorite things to eat at the beach and my parents know it.  They’re the best!

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  • The fact that I only work 2 days this week because of my upcoming half marathon.  Running is much better than working!
  • My new TOMS sailboat shoes that Andrew got me for my birthday!  I wear them as much as possible!  Here I am wearing them while hanging out on an old sailboat near the Salmon Bake.

20140716-230813.jpgSailboats on a sailboat

  • I saw a breeching humpback whale yesterday while taking a tour with our company.  No pictures because I feel like an iPhone can’t even capture that kind of thing.  But oh my god, it was amazing!!!!
  • Low key hiking to beautiful lakes we didn’t know existed.  Oh how I love Alaska!

20140716-230542.jpgBear Lake

  • Having fabulous friends who always put me in a good mood.  My husband is included in this as well  :)

I think the fact that I changed my mindset on my half marathon has helped me totally turn my mood around this week.  Of course I’m nervous – when am I not nervous about a race? – but I will get through it and make it as fun as possible.  I’ve also started working on my resume and looking for jobs so I’m feeling a bit better about the future.  Plus the weather was perfect for my days off and that’s always a plus!  Today should be my last run before the race and I’m curious to see how it goes.  I’m hoping for an easy, uneventful few miles to get me excited about the race.  Wish me luck!

What fun things are putting you in a good mood this week?  How do you like to eat Nutella?

A Look Back On My First Half Marathon

Hi everyone!  Things have been going well up here in Alaska over the past few days.  My cold seems to be gone, I have more energy, and I’m feeling much better.  Plus it’s sunny again which means I’m back to my old shenanigans of midnight hikes and long runs along the ocean.  Yes, I ran 6 miles Sunday night and it felt pretty good.  I still don’t feel 100% confident about my half marathon this weekend, but it is what it is and I’m going to do everything I can to have a great time running my very first race in Alaska!

Speaking of first races, I came across a linkup this week for Tuesdays on the Run with MCM Mama Runs, My No-Guilt Life, and Run The Great Wide Somewhere.  This week’s topic was “my first race” and it really had me thinking about my very first half marathon so I decided to join up!  As many of you know, I ran the Disney Princess Half in February and it was an incredible experience.  I feel like it’s such a different experience from half #3, and going into this half I can’t help but think back on how it felt to finally run my first half marathon!

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If you haven’t had a chance to read all about my first half marathon, take a moment to check out some of the links below!

Looking back on these posts, especially the 2nd and 4th ones up there, made me get pretty emotional.  I remember how excited I was to run in costume with thousands of other girls down Main Street and through the castle.  I also remember how nervous I was before the race, how serious I was about eating and hydrating correctly in the week leading up to the race, and how well I did sticking to my training plan.  Yeah, things went wrong and I didn’t do a perfect job of training, but I went into that race feeling as prepared as I could be.  My fear of the unknown (mainly miles 11-13.1) was terrifying but knowing that I was about to cross the finish line kept me motivated to run.  During the race I was hot, sweaty, tired, and frustrated with some of the other runners, but it was worth it when I finally finished!  If I could go back in time before the race I would tell myself to not worry because everything was going to be okay and it was going to be awesome.  I was so proud after the race and I didn’t take my medal off for 2 days!

20140225-231521.jpgBest medal ever

This time next week I’ll have completed half marathon #3 and right now my only memories of training are me stressing over our cross country move, forcing myself to run in between the rainy days, and getting sick right at the end when I should be logging longer miles.  But that isn’t how I want to remember this race at all.  In the next few days, I’m going to focus on making this race experience a good one.  I’m going to think back on all the long training runs that had beautiful views and be grateful that I got the opportunity to train along Resurrection Bay and Exit Glacier.  Even though I won’t get to dress up or run through a castle, I’m still going to have a blast running through the streets and wooded running trails of Anchorage.  I’ll look for moose while the miles tick by.  And at the end I’m going to get a beautiful “medal” aka a finisher’s bracelet as well as a mimosa.  I even get to share the experience with my coworker who is running the quarter marathon!  I’m excited to see how I do and I’m looking forward to feeling like a badass half marathoner again!

Coincidentally, today is the official registration day for the 2015 Disney Princess Half Marathon! I know many runners who are signing up today and I’m so excited for them! For many girls it will be their first half marathon and they might be hesitant to click that “register” button. But we all know you can’t hesitate to register for these Disney races, so get on it girls!  You are going to have a blast running it and I can’t wait to see your costumes! Good luck to everyone who is registering today!

20140225-231603.jpgI was so incredibly proud that day!

What was your first half marathon or big race like?  Do you still get excited for races even though they’re not your first?  How do you deal with pre-race nerves?

 

Friday Five: Fitness Snapshots!

Hi everyone!  I want to thank everyone who commented on yesterday’s post.  It was hard for me to write, but I’m so glad I put myself out there because I learned that I’m not alone.  I seriously cried after reading the comments because they made me feel like I’m not crazy or alone.  I love you all, and I can’t believe how awesome it is to be able to get advice from people I’ve never met in person.  Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, you’re awesome!

Anyways, if you read it you know that I’m in a bit of a funk and not doing too much lately.  I mean, I was sick half of this week and could barely walk up the stairs to the bunkhouse without getting dizzy so you know it was bad.  But this week’s Friday Five Linkup with Mar on the Run, Eat Pray Love DC, and You Signed Up For What?! is about sharing 5 fitness snapshots from this week, and I was suddenly feeling like taking on a challenge.  I mean, how many fitness snapshots can I get from a week where I was stressed, sad, and sick?  I had to use my imagination for this one, but it turns out I get my fitness in many different ways that don’t necessarily come from running!  I’m actually impressed how much I did since last Friday, even if I never technically broke a sweat!

Friday-5-Fitness-Snapshots

 

1.  Walking to and from work.  This is probably one of the simplest forms of staying active that I do in Alaska, but I do this 4 days a week 4 times each day (to work, home for lunch, back to work, back home).  It’s a nice relaxing way to start my day, and it helps me unwind after work.  It’s 10 minutes of “Kristen Time” and I really do look forward to it!  Sometimes I’ll see bald eagles, robins, or even baby ducklings on the way!

20140710-221200.jpgMy route home

 

2.  Hiking to Tonsina Point.  This was the first hike Andrew and I did when we moved here, and I was a bit out of breath when I did it.  I’m happy to say that when I did this last Friday I was flying up and down the hills and loving every second of it.  I would run it if it wasn’t so rocky on the way up!

20140710-221029.jpgLooking out towards the Gulf of Alaska

3.  Walking around town on the 4th of July.  This was actually the most intense workout all week since I had to walk a mile to the race start, watch the race, and then haul myself 1 mile back to the office in crazy hot weather – and I did it in flip flops with a Walking Taco in hand.  I mean, it has the word “walking” in it so it’s obviously cardio  :)

20140710-221044.jpgBest mid-workout refueling ever!

4.  Taking an evening walk around Seward Harbor.  This was another sneaky way to get cardio in – those docks are longer than you think!  I was pretty tired after spending an hour doing this with my friends, although to be fair this happened right before I got sick and probably should have been a warning sign for me.  It was fun looking at all the boats and wondering what they looked like inside.  The boat below had a mirror on the bow so we obviously needed a selfie in it!

20140710-221101.jpg#fitnessboatselfie

5.  Running.  Okay, I technically did one run in the past week and even though it ended with me feeling like I was going to pass out at mile 1.5 and needing to call for help, I still call that a workout.  I took this picture at the start of the Iditarod Trail while waiting for Andrew to pick me up.  It was so beautiful and the sounds of the waves were so relaxing.  If it weren’t for the mosquitoes I would sit out there for hours every night!

20140710-220938.jpgI wish all bad runs ended with a view like this

And those are my fitness snapshots from this week!  Usually my workouts are a bit more intense and involve actual sweating, but at least I was able to keep my legs active while feeling like crap and I had fun doing it.  Hopefully next time we do this topic I’ll have more “typical” things to post!

What’s the most low-key fitness activity you did all week?  What do you like to do to stay active when you’re feeling sick?

These Are My Confessions…

Hi everyone!  I have to be honest here:  I’m kind of in a blah mood today.  Honestly, things this week have been a bit off.  I was sick last week but kept running, hiking, etc until I finally crashed on Sunday.  I was sooooooo tired I slept the entire day on Monday (thank god I had off!) and then attempted to go for a run to make myself feel better, which ended in me almost passing out and having to call Andrew to pick me up.  Ugh.  Since then I’ve been feeling down, and since this blog is an accurate account of my life I feel the need to get this all out so you’re not like “Why is Kristen not happily posting about her own runs anymore?”.  Yeah.  So here we go…

usherA little Usher might help cheer me up

Confession:  I think I’ve been trying to do too much.  All of this sunlight makes me want to hike and run late at night, and living in what is basically a dorm is making me want to spend all my free time hanging out with the awesome people who live here.  I never get any down time to relax on my own and I usually don’t get enough sleep.  I’m 27 years old now, I should know better than to act like a college kid again!

Confession:  After nearly passing out after running only 1.5 miles on Monday, I am scared to lace back up and try again.  It is not fun trying to run what is normally a short distance and having your body say no.  I think I’m over my cold but I just don’t feel like trying again right now only to fail again.  Just not in the right mindset for more failure right now.  I know this is silly but we’ve all been there and it’s the worst trying to get over it.

Confession:  It’s not like I’m super pumped to go running anyways since it’s pouring outside and we are having quite the storm system settle into Seward over the next few days.  Running in the cold rain after getting over a cold does not sound like the smartest idea.  I can pay $4 to go to the gym downtown for 1 day, but we’ll see if it has to come to that.  But I do have that long run to do…

Confession:  My next half marathon is in less than 2 weeks and with my cold last weekend stopping all running plans, my longest run so far is only 8 miles.  I gave myself no wiggle room for things like illness, so now I feel like I’m screwed.  I want to go out this weekend and do 9 or 10 just to put my mind at ease, but I’m worried.  Even though all of my long runs this training cycle have gone well, there just seems to be a large difference between 8 miles and 13.1 miles.  The one bright spot in all of this is that my long runs have been so much faster than they were in the past half marathon training cycles, so that gives me hope that I can handle it if I keep my pace a bit slower.  Maybe all the hiking is helping?

Confession:  Sometimes I would rather hike than run.  Which makes me wish I was better at trail running, and that people would stop getting mauled by bears while running in Anchorage so I could be brave enough to try it (yeah, it just happened again).  I don’t know if hiking is a good cross training exercise for runners, if someone knows anything about that they should let me know so I feel better about doing it constantly.

Confession:  I’m starting to get tired of everything.  I’m just don’t feel like being brave and strong anymore, which are the two things you need while doing anything in Alaska.  Even going to work makes me tired (although 10 hour days will do that to you).  I’m in such a funk and I don’t know how to get out.  I miss my family and friends, a routine I was used to, the ability to just relax in my own apartment, being able to watch TV, and conveniences like nearby shopping and fast food.  I know things will be better when we move to Anchorage, but I’m just in a crappy mood right now.  Blah.

Confession:  I need to start looking for a permanent job/apartment in Anchorage very soon and it’s stressing me out.  The idea of going through yet another job search/move makes me want to cry.  Plus I don’t know what type of job I want (should I go back to working with kids?  Stay in an office job?) and the idea of starting something new is scary.

Confession:  I made brownies yesterday and I am eating them as I type this.  My food situation has been a mess since my birthday and I really need to stop eating cookies and start eating more carrots.  But they’re Ghirardelli and insanely yummy so I don’t feel too bad  :)

And for my last confession:  I know I’m being a whiny mess and that everything is going to be okay, but sometimes it just feels good to vent while eating a brownie and searching for flights home to visit my family in the fall.  I think things have been going so well here all summer that I was bound to start feeling burned out, tired, and a bit homesick.  I would much rather be here in Alaska than anywhere else, but this week has been crappy so far and the storm we’re getting won’t really help put me back in a good mood.  And I’m not looking for any pity here, just the opportunity to share how I’m feeling in case other people are feeling the same way right now.  You’re not alone  :)

So to turn things around, I’m making some goals to focus on between now and August 1st:

  • Eat at least 1 fruit and veggie a day
  • Only let myself get 1 fancy coffee drink per week at work.  My coworker and I are big enablers and can peer pressure each other into getting coffee (we have so many cute fancy coffee places in town) but I can’t afford it and neither can my waistline.  Free office coffee will have to do.
  • Do one run each week where I don’t care about time/distance.  I love running but not when it’s stressful or feels forced.
  • Go for a hike if I feel homesick.  Even the short 1 mile trail in town is pretty enough to make me feel better about everything.
  • Get more sleep.  Like seriously, a 10:00 bedtime needs to be in order.
  • Start doing workout videos in my room when I can’t run.  My internet connection is horrific but if I can download some yoga or Barre3 to do a few times a week I’m sure I’ll feel better.
  • Plan another mini-vacation with Andrew for August.  I need something fun to look forward to and a chance to get out of Seward for a few days and not have to think about work.  Maybe Homer?

goodday

Thanks for reading all of this nonsense, and hopefully next time I’m on here I’ll be feeling a bit better and have more positive running news to report!

How do you cheer yourself up when you’re feeling down/nervous/stressed?  What is the shortest long run you’ve ever done while training for a half?

Mt. Marathon: The Craziest 5k Ever Created

Hi everyone!  I survived the 4th of July in Seward and it was a blast!  As you saw in my post from Friday, the 4th of July is very different in Seward than it is in Philly.  Most notably, the fireworks are at 12:01 am on July 4th (really the night of July 3rd) and the main festivities are centered around the Mt. Marathon Race.

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Mt. Marathon is the mountain on the left.  The race summit is the first “summit” on the right side of it that has the least amount of snow.

Mt. Marathon is a massive mountain that rises up over Seward.  And each 4th of July there are hundreds of people that run it.  It’s the craziest 5k ever created!  The race starts on the road but quickly goes up steep cliffs, muddy and steep trails, and finally up over loose shale with a 3,022 ft elevation gain – and then they have to run back down the incredibly steep grade before sprinting down 4th street to the finish.  It’s insane and makes no sense.  Yet every year the race is full, and it’s so difficult to get a spot that people will pay thousands of dollars to get in.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you might remember my post about hiking the “hiker’s trail” a few weeks ago and how much I struggled to get up the “easy” trail on the mountain.  This race is no joke, and people are injured and even die on this race course.  Yet it’s a long standing tradition in Seward, which started over 100 years ago when two drunk guys at a bar got into an argument over whether it was possible to run up and down the mountain in under 1 hour.  While the first racers weren’t able to do it, both the male and female winners can now in fact make it up and down the mountain in less than an hour.

IMG_1463The map of the mountain – the race trail is on the left

mm1A picture I found on Google that really shows the steepness of the trail!

As a runner, I feel that I should mention that I have no interest in running this race ever.  Not even an option for me over here!  But I was fascinated with the race and when I heard from my manager that they were looking for volunteers for packet pickup I jumped at the chance to get involved!  Packet pickup took place at the Seward High School.  When I got there I learned that I would be doing packet pickup for the juniors.  This age group is for boys and girls age 7-17, and they only go halfway up the mountain before turning around.  And let me tell you, some of these kids were so small!  I can’t imagine being that young and running up a mountain!  A few of them sounded nervous as they gave me their last name, and I could tell that they were first time runners.  The first timers had to watch a safety video and agree that they had run the course at least once before race day before getting their bibs.  This is because so many people are seriously injured on the race course and they don’t want any more injuries or fatalities.  I also got to sneak into the gym to watch a bit of the race bib auction for people who didn’t get in through the lottery – the most expensive bib went for over $2,000!  I loved working at packet pickup – each person I met was an incredible athlete doing something that I could never imagine doing, and it was awesome being able to talk to people about what it’s like to run the race.  Plus I got some sweet volunteer swag!

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On the 4th of July, I had to work of course.   But my manager said that our office was a great place to watch the race since it’s right next to Mt. Marathon so I wasn’t totally bummed about being there.  Plus she said we could all take an extended lunch break, and I decided to use it at 3:00 pm to watch the men’s race!  One thing to note was how hot it was on the 4th.  It was probably almost 80 degrees and there is no shade on the mountain, so people were worried about how the heat was going to affect the runners.  The first race of the day was the Junior’s Race.  Just to remind you, these runners are both boys and girls age 7-17.  I am so sad that I missed this race because it had an amazing ending!  There is a 17 year old girl, Allison Ostrander, who has been breaking course records in the girls age groups since she started running it.  In a pre race interview she mentioned how she wanted to break 30 minutes in this year’s race.  Last year she was in 6th place.  This year, she was in second place until the very end of the race where she overcame the first place boy to completely win the race in 28:54!  A girl has never won the Junior’s Race so this is so exciting!  I think this 17 year old girl is my new hero!

After a busy morning at work, things died down just in time for us to watch the women’s race from the office!  It was a pretty funny scene – the boss was running around with excitement and burst in the room yelling “They’re coming down the mountain!  Kristen, get your binoculars!”.  We turned the live feed of the race on one of the computers and alternated between watching the teeny tiny racers come down the mountain through our binoculars and watching the coverage online.  I seriously can’t even explain how fast these girls were coming down the mountain.  It was literally a controlled fall and I can’t imagine ever running that fast in my life!  The finish was so close, but Holly Brooks beat out the second place finisher with only 2 seconds difference!  I got kind of emotional watching the finish because I couldn’t begin to imagine how hard it must have been to keep that lead and how proud she must feel!

By 3:00 it was time for my extended lunch break, so I headed downtown with some coworkers to watch the men’s finish!  It was cool watching it live on the computer, but it was much more fun being there in person!

20140707-183941.jpgPeople waiting for the first runner along 4th Ave

20140707-183957.jpgLooking towards the finish line

20140707-184030.jpgWaiting for the winner, plus a view of the race course on the mountain!

20140707-184039.jpgThe race course – you can see the dust kicked up from the people going downhill!

20140707-184017.jpgThe winner, Eric Strabel. coming down 4th in only 44:46!

Watching the race in person was so exciting, but I was so glad I was just a spectator!  There seemed to be 3 types of finishers:  those who were running strong and looking great, those who were totally dying/bleeding/had broken bones and wanted that race to be over, and those who were having a blast and hamming it up with the crowd (one guy was doing cartwheels and high fiving people!).  Most people were sweaty and muddy, and some were bleeding or obviously had injuries.  Most guys were not wearing shirts but were wearing gloves to protect their hands when climbing the cliffs.  One guy was dressed as Gumby!  I watched the finishers for as long as I could before I had to go back to work.

After watching this race, I have so much respect for mountain runners.  That race looks impossible, yet so many people did it and finished with smiles on their faces.  While I may be a slow newbie trail runner, this race made me want to get into it more – just not the super vertical trail running in Seward!  If you want more info on the race check out the following links:

  • Race results if anyone is interested in creeping on the insanely awesome times that people ran the mountain!
  • Race photos that really show how tough it must be up on the top
  • The story of my new hero winning the Junior Race!  They interview the 2nd place finisher and his reaction is awesome!
  • An awesome recap of the women’s race and how it feels to run the race
  • The story of Matt Kenney , a runner who was nearly killed running this race 2 years ago but was able to finish the race this year!  Such an awesome read!
  • And finally, the most epic account of what Seward and Mt. Marathon is like from Runner’s World.  They also interview my favorite coffee barista, Cedar, who holds the record for most wins by a Seward resident (7!)

Would you ever run a race like this?  What is the craziest race held in your hometown?