Monday, July 28, 2014

Amber Ferreira Wins Ironman Lake Placid

There have been numerous studies looking at how intrinsic factors(i.e. inner drive) are more effective motivators and are better at sustaining high levels of performance than external factors(societal and economic amongst others). Amber has always had that inner drive; motivated purely by the love of competition and physical activity. Training partners flaking out of workouts, having to resort to doing 10+ mile training runs in negative zero temperature or spending 4+ hours on the trainer staring at a cinder block wall, she had that drive. She did triathlon because she loved it and because it helped her focus and sort out any other problems in her life.

Triathlon, however, is a cruel mistress. This year instead of viewing it as the source of joy that she had for so long, she started seeing it as a hindrance impacting other aspects of her life. While not letting on that anything was wrong(have any of you ever seen her without a smile on her face?), she was struggling with whether she even wanted to continue to race competitively on the Ironman circuit. Two days before Ironman Texas, she still wasn't sure whether she even wanted to race. She spent more days than she'd like to recall questioning everything that she had committed to.

This inner struggle had nothing to do with triathlon itself but rather personal issues that made her question her life's path. And this was the first time since I've known her where her inner fire seemed gone. But while she may have wanted to quit, she also did not want to let anyone down so she kept on training and encouraging others to live healthy and fulfilling lives. No matter how badly she was feeling herself she always supported others and was a positive light for so many people. She may not have necessarily wanted to race, but she saw the value of inspiring health and wellness in the population so she continued to encourage and support others long after she wanted to be done herself. 

It was these same people(many of whom are probably reading this blog now) that kept her in the game. By helping others she also was helped. Whether it was a hug, positive words of encouragement, or people traveling hundreds of miles to watch her race, she began to use these extrinsic motivators to keep her from quitting and to work even harder so she wouldn't disappoint.

Now this might not be a long-term solution for dealing with other aspects of life that needed attending to, but it worked for the short-term and allowed Amber to re-evaluate what she wanted both as an athlete and an individual. These past few months have been a blessing in disguise as she is likely now to live a more balanced life while still being a competitive athlete. And luckily, it appears that while Amber's inner fire may have burned a little less brightly for a bit, it was not extinguished and will burn brightly once again. I hope you will continue to join her on that journey.

Oh yeah, she also had a race this past weekend. A little old thing called Ironman Lake Placid.
Danny and Amber morning of the race. Ready to kick some butt
Amber stayed in Lake Placid while I was in the town of Jay, supposedly only twenty minutes outside of town. However, after nearly 40 minutes of driving, I realized I was duped. I arrived in time to great Amber and Andrew Fast as they were about to warm up for the swim. Amber was thirsty and asked me to get her a water. After running this way and that(otherwise known as with my head cut off), I finally found a water bottle(I apologize to whatever TriClub I took that from). I run back to give it to her before the start of the race. Only, instead, I was stopped by a large burly fellow, who wouldn't let me through.
Security Guard:Only Athletes past this point
Danny[flashing his VIP badge]:I just have to drop this off with my athlete, Amber Ferreira
Security Guard: Not a chance. Nobody gets through.
Danny:Come on man, she is a pro and needs this before the gun goes off.
Security Guard:Nobody gets through.
Danny: Seriously, you're being ridiculous, this is for a PROFESSIONAL triathlete, let me through!
Security Guard: Not a chance, never heard of her.
Danny: Listen you [expletive], you will hear of her when she's standing on the [expletive] podium!

I then proceeded to run past him, and skirt the throngs of age-groupers to get Amber her water. Only to have her take a sip, say Thanks Danny and get back in the water.
The life of a sherpa.

I then settled in for the long day ahead. I watched Amber get out of the water, in third place and ham it up with the fans as she run to the T1 transition.
Amber exiting the water
Amber hamming it up
A blurry view of Amber
Amber's first sponsor, MC Cycles, owner Myles Chase and her sister Deidre, joined me as we drove the course cheering Amber on. By the time we saw her the first time, the heavens opened and it was pouring rain. In addition to thunder and lightening. We saw her right around mile 20 in 1st place(she caught the first two racers in the first 20 miles!! crazy!). 

It continued to rain as we drove to the second spot to view Amber, around mile 45. She had over a 2 minute lead on second place and another five on third. Things were looking good but it was really early in the race and so many things can go wrong. Breath was being held.
We saw Amber once more on the bike around mile 66 and she looked strong and apparently felt good enough to break her aero position to say hello. At that point she had almost a five minute lead on 2nd!!!!

While Amber continued biking, Myles, Deidre and I drove back into town, had lunch and had time to get a good parking spot. Yes that's how much you can do in 46 miles of riding. Or you can take over a two hour nap or watch a two hour movie... The point is: riding 112 miles is bloody long and the sad fact is you still have a marathon(26.2 miles ALWAYS) afterwards.
Amber headed out on the marathon with about a five minute lead on second place. I'm not sure she was running scared but I was certainly scared. She has never led an Ironman after the bike and while her run is good(she is a runner after all), she seems to struggle with GI issues during triathlons. And yet, at mile 12 she was still looking strong and had actually had gained over a minute on second.
Is that Amber smiling at mile 12 of the marathon??? Of course

Due to the nature of the out and back course, after mile 13, I didn't see Amber again until mile 24. I can tell you that that hour and 10 minutes were probably some of the longest in my life. I sent out as many good vibes as I could (as I am sure many of you did as well) and soon enough I saw Amber returning... I waited another four and half minutes just to see if another racer would be on her heels but didn't see anyone so I headed to the finish.
Having Audra Tassone, the run director, as a friend was immensely helpful as she let me into the finish line chute so I could see Amber as she finished. I am sure she will describe how she felt when she writes up her blog, but I can tell you that it was definitely a tear-producing moment.
Watching Amber weep as she crossed the finish line was heart-wrenching and made me realize just how close she was to giving it all up and how bittersweet this victory was for her. She deserved this win and I hope that it was the spark she needed to get the fire inside blazing again. 
She couldn't bask in the glory for long though because shortly after she finished(probably because she sat down to give an interview), she became light-headed and I had to help her to the medical tent. The nurse with us said I could come in but I was stopped... by the SAME security guard from the morning! Unbelievable. He took one look at me and said no way is this guy going in... After a few minutes of awkwardly sitting across from him waiting for Amber, I apologized for my furtive behavior and we got to talking. Come to find out he had been on duty since the night before and was exhausted. He was impressed with Amber's finish and said he now would recognize her name. He also in no uncertain terms, said that if I tried sneaking by him again he would not hesitate to knock my [expletive] to the ground.
It goes to show that you can assume somebody's motives by their actions but you never really know how or why someone is acting the way they are. Just while I was sitting and waiting for Amber(who by the way was sipping on copious amounts of chicken broth and geting the royal treatment-day spa-esque), I saw at least five athlete coaches or family members pull the same crap I had and also treat this guy badly. It reminded me that the way others treat you is their karma but the way you respond is yours.

I apologized again, this time more sincerely, and helped Amber back to the hotel. Along the way we stopped at Starbucks where she was treated like a celebrity and had her coffee paid for. If only we could get her a Starbucks sponsorship!
UP NEXT:  If Amber is to pursue Kona dreams, she will need to be on the start line at Ironman Mont Tremblant. We will see. Either way, I know that she would love your support and kind words. Next time you see her, make sure you let her know how much you have been inspired by all that she does. I know that I have. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

2014 Ironman Lake Placid Pro Start List

In little over a week, Amber will be racing in Ironman Lake Placid. This will be likely her last chance to qualify for Kona and after looking at the points she'll need to get, it certainly will be close. After a strong start to her Ironman season with a 3rd place finish at Ironman Texas, Amber will be racing in only her second Ironman distance race of the year which makes it hard to get the points she needs to qualify for Kona. She did already qualify for the 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant in September which is pretty darn amazing considering she definitely didn't build her schedule around 70.3 points.

 Placid will always be a special race for her as this was where she first qualified to race as a professional triathlete, as well as where she would train when S2 was still together. This will be her third time racing Placid, second as a pro. Her first time as a pro did not go smoothly as she broke a spoke in transition and hung out in transition until some one was able to get her a 650 wheel. Riding 700 Enve wheels on her Argon 18 bike will give her more confidence to ride hard and strong and I'm expecting to see a podium finish again for her.

This field is definitely the smallest that she's faced but there are some really strong triathletes that will make sure to challenge Amber every kick, stroke and step of the way. Here's the start list:

  1. Amanda Stevens
  2. Amber Ferreira
  3. Rachel Jastrebsky
  4. Jessica Jones Meyers
  5. Amanda Kourtz
  6. Leslie Lamacchia
  7. Kristin Lemos
  8.  Lisa Roberts
  9. Darbi Roberts
  10. Robin Sandos
  11. Kim Schwabenbauer
  12. Kathryn Thomas
  13. Kristyn Tobey
So only thirteen women look to be toeing the line but in that list you have the ever-present threat for QT2, an awesome bike-runner and an amazing swimmer to contend with. Hopefully there won't be any blocking fiascos like at Eagleman and Amber can race her race which I suspect will be a good one.
Stay Tuned! July 27th!

Monday, July 7, 2014

2014 US Mountain Running Championships

Two weekends ago, while Amber was training like a mad-woman up in Mont Tremblant, I was hanging out with my friends and family playing paintball and going to Brewfest up in Lincoln, NH. This weekend we went back up there for Amber to compete in the US Mountain Running Championships.

While I was at Brewfest, I ran into several people who read this blog which was kind of cool except that I soon realized that I had very little to talk about with them. Here's how one conversation went with one reader and one non-reader:
Reader: Man, so Alaska was awesome huh?
Danny: Yeah I had a blast, the hiking was spectacular and the wildlife amazing and...
Non-reader: Where did you hike?
Danny: Well I did some hiking in Denali and....
Reader: He hiked Mt Healy, Eileson and did the Primrose ridge in Denali and tell her about Mount Marathon.
Danny: Ummm. Mt Marathon was crazy...
Reader: Oh yeah with all that scree, it sounded awful. I can't believe that people race that!
Non-reader:  Did you see any Grizzly bears?
Reader: He saw Grizzlies, caribou, moose, fox, humpback whale, sea lions, puffins, and bald eagles!
Non-reader: Wow it sounds like you had a blast. Enjoy brewfest!
Danny: Thanks. It was nice talking with you.

This seems to happen to me fairly frequently which means that I need to purposefully withhold a few morsels of fun facts that I don't write about in my blog just so I can have actual conversations with people. Therefore when we meet in person we with have something to talk about rather than just recount. For instance, next time you see me ask me how the US mountain running championships went for Amber.

Up Next: Ironman Lake Placid(July 27th-Amber)

Okay! I cannot hold out any longer and I need to talk about Amber's race(that is about the extent of my willpower).  So here's my race report of the US Mountain Running Championships at Loon Mountain:

I met Amber up in Bethlehem Friday evening as she was coming right from a week long camp in Mont Tremblant. While I was proud of myself for an hour run in the morning, Amber had already biked three hours and done a run by the time I met up with her.
Note: I like Amber the most right after she does epic adventures and is tired and hungry. This was no exception. We ended up having two dinners(Thai and Italian) sandwiched between a visit to a brewery, Chutters and a movie(22 Jump Street). Not a bad start to the weekend :)
The next morning we continued the gluttony with a visit to Polly's Pancake Parlor where we topped off our carbohydrate stores.

We then went for a little hike up to Ripley Falls which we had always avoided because it was too short. Not for Amber that day. She kept on lagging behind and needing rest breaks. And she is going to do a five mile race up a mountain the next day?!!!
After the hike, we went to the river where we proceeded to sleep on the rocks(did I mention how much I love spending time with Amber when she has totally depleted her energy stores?), and jump in the water.
Then it was time for more food. Bailiwicks in Littleton for lunch, Chutters for a top-off of our candy needs, and then back to the Italian restaurant for dinner.
Amber and our friend Brian Lavoie before race start
When the alarm went off a 5am the next morning, I was jarred back to reality. No more sleeping in. Time for Amber's race. After a quick stop at White Mountain Bagel for a breakfast sandwich and coffee, we made it to Loon Mountain around 6:30 and the parking lot was already full. We saw a lot of our racing friends as well as some elite runners from out west. Amber said that she would be happy with a top ten finish with a field so deep.
As predicted by the fast field, the race took off FAST! I think the girls were running sub 5:30's for the first half mile and Amber went through the first mile(which included a sizable hill) around 6:15-and was probably in 25th place! So much for a mountain run. However, it did start to rise significantly which did thin the herd a bit. Amber was 10-15th when I saw her again about 2 miles into it looking strong on the uphills, only to get passed on every descent.
Photo #1
Photo #2
The two pictures above are a perfect example of how it went down for Amber for the first half of the race. As you can see from evidence #1, Amber is descending with no one in sight. Moments later, she gets passed by 3-4 girls. In photo #2 you can see her make her way to catch back up to them.
I was certainly glad I had rested all weekend because it was quite the challenge to run to each spot to cheer Amber on. I actually missed her at a few spots because she was going too fast. I was able to get to the summit before her and was able to see her make up huge ground on the girl ahead of her, only to fall short by 3 seconds. Still, she finished with a strong 8th place finish which is really quite remarkable when you consider what she did as a "taper".
Upper Walking Boss to the finish
After taking the gondola back down to the summit, we were able to cheer on the men's start before heading over to the river to cool down. After much peer-pressure, Amber got me to jump off the cliffs into the cold water. It was a wonderful end to a fun weekend.

If you look closely you can see a little river rat

 Congrats to everyone who raced Loon as it was certainly quite the challenge and don't forget to tune in to watch Amber kick butt at Ironman Lake Placid on July 27th.

Oh yeah, and next time you see me, I'll try to talk about something that I haven't already mentioned in this blog ;)

Monday, June 23, 2014

The 2014 Midnight Sun Marathon (or My Alaskan Walking Trip)

Just before leaving for Alaska, I received in the mail my 1st and 2nd place age-group awards for Buffalo and Raleigh Marathon. Admittedly, I was fairly confident that I'd be getting another one in Alaska. In fact, I actually changed my flight home to ensure that I would have enough time to stick around for awards ceremony. I am REALLY glad I did change the flight time but not for that reason.  

I flew into Fairbanks, arriving a little after midnight to a bright day. Yes, even at midnight there was plenty of sun that far north that close to summer solstice. I originally planned on exploring Fairbanks for the night and then sleeping while riding the train to Denali, but I quickly realized that I was going to fade quite sooner than that. So instead, I booked a hotel near the train station and headed there. It was only two miles away so I planned on walking it but a kindly airport worker just finishing her shift stopped in her Mazda Miata and gave me a ride. Which was hilarious in itself with my three bags stacked high in front of me in this little clown car. If I had bags stacked to both my sides so I couldn't see in any direction, I wouldn't have missed much. No offense to Fairbanks, but other than offering a plethora of strip clubs and malls, I didn't see much there that would make me want to go back. I didn't make it out to Chena Hot Springs which I did hear was nice but I don't think that I'd go to Fairbanks again. Even on the train ride to Denali the first three hours of the trip was boringly flat and uneventful.

Typical scene along the ride. 
  As I neared Denali, the sights picked up quite a bit. The river got rougher and the mountains got bigger.  And the theme of my Denali portion of the trip began: walking. In addition to the miles that I hiked and ran, I probably walked 30+ miles over the course of time I was in Alaska. It started when I arrived in the train station thinking my front-country camp site would be fairly close but I ended up walking 2 miles to get to it. The bus station, camp store, visitor's center and train depot were all between 1 1/2 and 2 miles away. And after battling with both black flies and mosquitoes and realizing that I wasn't going to go to bed at 4pm, I decided to head out for a little hike. I walked another 2+miles to the visitor's center and decided upon the Mount Healy Overlook trail.
The start of some mountains

Note: The thing about Denali is that although it has about 6 million acres of wilderness, it only has a handful of trails in the entire park, mostly comprising of bike path-esque jaunts.

With that being said, I decided upon the trail that was described as the most challenging with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. While I would never do this in the Whites at home, I decided also that it would be a good idea to hike in jeans and a cotton T-shirt. Luckily, the weather held out but it's those kind of sleep deprived decisions that can lead to deadly consequences. I didn't make that mistake again. This hike was a really nice one and I'd recommend it to anyone staying in the front-country. I got to where the trail ended wanting more and just continued up hiking to Mount Healy's false summit another 1,000 feet higher. The actual summit still had quite a good amount of snow on it and I decided not to be that stupid and try to hike it. As it was the descent through loose shale and scree provided me with my first introduction to the challenges of hiking in Alaska.

Kinda reminded me of the Franconia Ridgeline

Where the trail ended

An fun descent

The next morning, I took the Savage river bus [Editor's note: A both cool and annoying feature of Denali is that they don't allow private vehicles into the actual National Park. This is great to avoid traffic jams and keep the environment healthy but does make accessing the park(without a plane) painstakingly slow]. I had decided to do the only other front(ish) country hike that was described as strenuous which was the Savage River Alpine Trail. Supposedly it gained around 2,000 feet as well. I only say supposedly because it seemed significantly easier than the Mt Healy hike the day before. The fact that I was wearing hearing gear and was hydrating probably helped as well. Either way, when I reached the apex of the hike, instead of continuing to follow it back to the road, I decided to hike further up and trace the ridge line which I could see would eventually return to the road. The ascending was really fun but I could tell that descending(like when climbing a tree) would be substantially more challenging. As it was. After three peaks, I decided it was time to get off the ridge and started my descent back down. It started with large rocks similarly to those we encountered at Katahdin. Soon thereafter it turned into that damned scree which had me cursing not only the current terrain but also Jon Krakauer and the entire state of Alaska. I finally opted for huge brush rather than the scree as I reasoned dying from a broken ankle and starving to death was  a far worse alternative to be mauled by a bear. Oh yeah, I'm not melodramatic AT ALL. As you can tell I didn't end up mauled or with a broken ankle and after many swear words and melodious curses I finally reached the road thinking that my day was finished. Apparently the bus system didn't think so though. Usually a bus will pass about every 15 minutes or so so I was thinking I'd shortly be able to jump on one and head back and soon be munching on a nice juicy cheeseburger. Just the thought of starving to death got me hungry. Instead, I ended up waiting over an hour and walking five road miles before finally getting picked up. I did run into a moose about 5 feet off the road but that didn't brighten my mood.
The best part of the descent

The start of the loose scree
More of the loose scree

My last mile in the woods was hopping river rock to river rock

Hello Mr. Moose

In fact, I was so annoyed with this day's hike that I wrote a whole blog while sitting at the Salmon Bake's bar that evening(which I walked another 2 miles each way to get to) [Editor's note: If going to Denali either a) rent a car or b) buy a bike but do not really on public transportation]. Suffice it to say the write-up was pretty negative. Luckily, I didn't have access to a computer so it stayed where it belonged: in my head. 

I struggled out of my tent the next morning very stiff and sore. I had booked a bus ride all the way to Eileson which was 66 miles into the park. I had looked at the topo map and it looked like there would be a cool hike that I could do if I made it out there. As I mentioned above, the negative about the park is that you had to ride a bus. I think if I did it again, I'd probably rent a bike instead and ride the road because the bus goes soooooo slow. Granted it was cool when we stopped for Grizzlies, caribou, and dall sheep, but ground squirrels? Really? I guess somewhere it the world there may be no squirrels but I think there were plenty of them at the campground that we didn't need to stop for photos along the way. A two hour trip(at most) ended up taking 4 hours which only made me stiffer and sorer by the time we got to Eileson. And this is the transition from the walking trip to the sitting trip. Nevertheless, the trip was made worth while just by the view that was afforded to me of Mt McKinley and the surrounding peaks. 

The hike up Mt Eileson also got me in a better mood and the return trip(another four hours) was far more enjoyable. 

Not the only selfie I took:)

The summit of Eileson
I only have a couple pictures from this day and the next because I lost my phone charger so I was trying to conserve batteries. I took a lot more pictures of the animals and McKinley both with my real camera that my sister let me borrow. Unfortunately, my technological capabilities are pretty much limited to using this blog so I haven't yet figured out how to now get those pictures from the camera to the computer. Kind of reminds me of Zoolander: 

The next morning, I packed up, walked another 4-6 miles to see a dog sled demonstration, have lunch and catch a bus ride to Anchorage. The mileage from Denali is 237 miles so should take about four hours(if you drive 5 miles under the speed limit) but our bus trip managed to make it a six hour trip which couldn't be used to sleep because of the near constant swerving into the rumble strip. This long ride did afford me the opportunity to get to know my bus mates who included a native Alaskan(the only one I met the whole trip), guys from California and New Zealand who had just summitted McKinley and a guy from Washington who spent the last week just roaming around and exploring. It was nice to see alternatives to the people who I encountered in the campground who pretty much just RV'd themselves from place to place, snapping a couple pictures and crossing off another sight from their lists. To me that's not experiencing a place and in all honesty their pictures are probably going to be no better than the ones you can find on the internet. I finally made it to the Anchorage airport where I picked up my rental car and drove(at or above the speed limit) down the Turnagain Arm to the town of Seward. You may have heard of Seward and his "folly". He was the guy who "overpaid" the Russians a few million dollars for all of Alaska. At the time Americans viewed it as a huge waste of public funds but soon thereafter gold and other minerals and then oil was discovered and it turned out to be not so bad. I wish all follies turned out that good. Maybe if you wait long enough they do. 

Anyway, if I were to do an Alaska trip again, I'd probably either dedicate myself to a full backcountry wilderness trip in Denali or avoid it altogether and stay in Anchorage and Seward. There so many awesome peaks and things to do so close that you would have to spend very little time in the car and instead be outside and enjoy your time. In addition to lots of good seafood, the town of Seward is home to Mt Marathon and Kenai Fjords National Park which was created to protect the Harding Icefield. Sidenote: The musician Jewel's grandfather was on the first expedition to cross the hundred's of miles of the icefield. 
My first introduction to Seward
In the time I was in Seward, I hiked Mt Marathon(which I find very impressive that people run up it), hiked to Exit Glacier and went on a cruise in Resurrection Bay. The best way I can describe Mt. Marathon is to envision the pitch and length of Tripyramid and then instead of having nice steady granite dump loose and wet gravel on it. I was backsliding the whole way up. When I got to Race Point(which wasn't the summit of the mountain just where the race heads back down) I decided I had had enough of the scree and opted for a different descent. However, my path ended up not being any better as I went through a good amount of scree anyway and just added pricker bushes and wet slippery grass to the equation. Again, luckily no broken ankles. Although it was a crazy hike, it was worth it for the views of the bay and it made having dinner in town far more enjoyable when I could look up at the mountain and know I had just climbed(albeit not conquered) it. 
Mt Marathon. Doesn't look like much until you realize you gain as much elevation as hiking up Lafayette
 I decided I had had enough ankle break risking hikes and decided to keep things calm so my next trip was to Exit Glacier which was named because it was where the expedition exited the icefield. If there is one thing that the camera couldn't capture was the sheer size of this thing. The pictures below do not do it justice especially when you realize that the thing from the top of it to where I was was 3,500 feet difference in elevation. Everything is just bigger in Alaska.
Exit Glacier from a distance
The hike to Exit Glacier

Another selfie- this time at the base of Exit Glacier
 If you're not yet aware of the new thought on carbohydrate loading but it should actually be occurring the day before the day before the race so your muscles can actually turn that glucose to muscle glycogen as well as top off all nutritional reserves. For that purpose(see I really am committed to training), I decided to schedule a Resurrection Bay cruise which happened to have an all-you-can eat Salmon dinner. I can tell you my reserves were certainly topped off after that. It was pretty windy and cold on the way out to the island where we had dinner but it seemed to actually warm up a bit on the way back and we were lucky enough to see Puffin(surprisingly small little birds), sea otters, porpoises, sea lions, bald eagles and humpback whales.
Boy it was cold 

The water spout of the humpback whale

It was a great last evening in Seward.
My campground at 1am-still pretty light out

My little hut at Miller's Landing

The next morning I headed up to Anchorage, did the marathon packet pick-up and then met up with my high-school friend Travis who has been living in Alaska for the last 15 years. If I were more care-free and adventurous, his is the life I'd emulate. He works for 2 months and then does some epic adventure until his funds run out and then works again. His cycle-toured across Europe multiple times, spent a good amount of time in Southeast Asia and has done first ascents of many peaks in Alaska. Most recently, he had someone fly him into McKinley's basecamp and he skied all the way home from there. So when he texted me asking if I were up for an adventure, I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into. Luckily, he could tell I didn't want to do anything too extreme as he just took for a rock climb. The climb wasn't very technical but it was a great way to see another view of Turnagain Arm and was a nice relaxing evening before the marathon.

Notice Travis gave me his helmet. Last time we climbed together, I didn't even get a harness but instead used a daisy chain. Age makes you kinder. haha

After the climb, we headed down to Girdwood which in addition to having the only ski area in the area had a gold mine which conveniently, Travis' friend caretakes for. We spent the evening lounging by the campfire.

The next morning, I awoke the least sore I had been all week, still thinking that I would be capable of running a fast marathon. Even at the start of the race, I speculatively looked around and figured a top five finish to be in my future. As the gun went off and I started running a felt a little fatigued but was in the top 5-10 runners. I went through the mile in 7:45 and just assumed that it was a long mile. The next one was 7:05, then 7:25 and as I kept going I realized, I was no longer in the top 5 or 10 but slowly fading further back in the pack. It was as if I was running in mud while everyone else had found a dry path. The fact was I was running in mud but so was everyone else so I know that wasn't the reason. I made it through the first 10 miles averaging 7:30's and feeling like I typically do at mile 20. Another mile later and I decided I would quit. To be fair, I was actually kind of hoping that I'd roll my ankle in one of the potholes along the way, be mauled by a bear or have severe stomach issues that I could use as an excuse. Whether fortunate or not, none of those occurred and I was just left with myself wondering what exactly was slowing me down. The trouble was there wasn't one thing doing it, more like everything. I just felt tired and spent and no longer wanted to be running. At the half marathon mark which I went through in 1:39, I really made a concerted effort to quit even asking an official how best I could get home. And he pointed me in the direction of the runners ahead of me. Apparently where I was there was only one way to get out of the woods and that was through them. And this is when the trip turned back to the walking trip: at mile 15, I did my first mile of walking only doing a 17 minute mile. I came across a bike medic at mile 17 who asked if I wanted aid to which I replied, yes in the form of a ride back my car. She laughed and then went on alone. Damn her! 

Let me tell you: 11 miles of walking takes a long time! Every once in a while I'd come across someone who'd be struggling and I'd motivate them to keep moving sometimes by offering words of encouragement and other times just by running alongside them until they got back into their rhythm at which point they'd go off and I'd resume my walk. It actually became quite fun seeing how many people I could make sure would beat me. I came across an Army guy who had calf cramps and I run alongside him for about 2 miles. They weren't fast miles but they were fun ones. I met several runners out here doing their first marathons. All in all although it took me nearly 3 hours to cover those last 13 miles, it was far more fun than the first 13 when I was concerned about time and placing. No awards for me and since I didn't go sub-three, I guess I'll have to come back and try it again;) Not such a bad thing. 

And now I'm done my marathon season until September when I'll be going out west with my dad and doing the Jackson Hole Marathon. 

Amber's in peak training mode now herself and is gearing up for her next race which will be the Lake Placid Ironman in July. She is going to crush it!