Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday, May 23rd Anchorage Half Marathon to The Big Susitna

Trent/Waldron Glacier Half-Marathon

Never ran at a 9am start before! It seems Alaska handles the odd hours of daylight and later nights by getting things going a little later in the day.  Not as though there is heat to beat. Dropped off at the start at the Westchester Lagoon for bib number pick up. It is on a small pond or inlet that is surrounded by trees with those mountains clearly visible from their protective stance outside the city. I discovered that it is named after, and held in honor of a predominate couple of runners in the community. A few years ago they met a bear on their run. It was somewhat discomforting to hear. It was a wonderful morning around 50 degrees F, though some low gray clouds stalked the horizon, the rain held off and the nice weather triumphed. One of the biggest differences here is that it is so dry. None of the cloying humidity that coats itself to our skin back home. Talking to people before the race, I was told if we see a moose on the trail we are following, you will likely hear someone shout out "come on move! arg! bull*&#% moose!" Evidently they are less of a rarity and more annoying, especially if they aren't scared of you and decide they don't want to move". However, I was cautioned, if it looks mad (hair bristling, ears back) run and hide behind a tree.. they have a slow turn around ability!!
I was surveying the area and here is the flaw...back home we have all these lovely great big trees with their thick rings of growth. Here, the permafrost only allows shallow root growth, and limits tree height. The Subarctic tundra is an environment that not only slows degeneration of the old trees, but it also limits the regrowth. So even the old trees do not grow very tall or wide. Most trees seen are the black and white spruce, the birch tree and aspen. Aspens here are a bit darker in their bark color then at home, they believe it's an adaptation to the limited light here. The slightly greener hue is a color that is better for light absorption, which leads to more chlorophyll production. Also, all the green really makes the Birch's white flaking bark stand out even more starkly, bordering on luminescent.
Anyways back to the run! Flat course, ducking through a few tunnels that looked like 5x large drainage pipes under roads.  Three water stops, which it turned out I needed. Between the plane and the dryness I was evidently still a little dehydrated. Quick to figure out the weakness. Thirteen miles of trail on an out and back race with nothing but beautiful surroundings. Few houses or building were even seen, despite the location as Anchorage, wouldn't have wanted anything else! My wonderful loving family showed up at the wonderful finish line to cheer me in!!! This is the first time my sister has seen me, and my parents haven't seen any since fall of 2013 (Erie *shudders in horror*). So it was rather nice to have them there, even if for a half. It really was phenomenal being able to walk after!!  A truly kind volunteer got me a shirt and mug from the previous year. Even though I didnt place ....and I saw none for sale for this year.... I sincerely appreciated the souvenir!!! way better then blisters and hurting muscles.

Walked around an open air market going on! music food and vendors with homemade crafts and all kinds of things for sale. I found the same pastry I had in Prague!!!! THE SAME KIND!! (**see February 2010) A light flaky pastry that is a thick hollow ring to be nibbled upon. There it is rolled in cinnamon and sugar, served with hot spiced red wine.  Here it is coated in chocolate and rolled in a treat of your choice, then filled with a chocolate or creme mousse!!! A well devoured treat.

En rout north we stopped in Wasilla  right near the Iditarod dog museum. They even had a statue for Balto out front! A wolf-dog who will always hold a place in our hearts as a childhood hero as important in our minds as Roberto Clemente and Judy Blume. There was a team hooked up to a sleigh on wheels.
Barbara and Raymie Redington had a team of dogs there, giving rides and talking. Raymie Redington's father, Joe, is the one who took initiative in restarting the race again to commemorate the value the sled dog had in Alaska's history. For awhile people were no longer keeping their sled dogs, the invention of the iron snow machine made them think the cost of keeping the dogs wasnt worth it with the new machine-until they realized how  unreliable it was.
     The Alaskan husky is the perfect blend of breeds. Husky, malamute, and a few other breeds (setter too?) are combined to create this ideal endurance working dog.  They are bred to not have hip dysplasia, have thick warm coats, and an assortment of other physical attributes. More important is their mental aptitude! Another dog sledder described to us that  sled dogs cannot wait to see what is beyond that next hill. They eat raw meat combined with a special dog food that has insane amounts of fat in a single scoop. During the race, they eat 10,000 calories a day. (the mushers don't get to slack on those calories either). We learned so much talking to them. About the cold, and the distance, and the training. Their booties, aren't put on to keep their paws warm, but to protect against the ice and injury. There were three puppies there, their father is an Iditarod finisher and runs in the lead (whichever appointed position that may be titled). So, these puppies were most assuredly not for sale. Other dogs, not suited for racing, may be.
I won't fill these pages with details that I havnt lived through and may mess up. But the information we learned from the Redingtons was only continued when we stayed at The Big Susitna Bed & Breakfast with Bill and Rhodi Davidson. They were both also Iditarod dog sled racers. We learned some history, and heard a lot of stories. Like how running the dogs in the dark is so peaceful. About the routes the race takes, and how it had to be shifted this year because of the weather. The problems with wildlife, including some stories of belligerent moose. In one case the moose hung out in one section of the woods and would charge at the dogs! One time, she charged and couldn't be deterred so he shot her with a 44, and the moose still ran another 200 yards. The problem was that it was the end of the run, and he had to cut up all the meat, haul it in, and call a game guy to come collect it. Not allowed to keep the meat without permits and such (I think). I enjoyed listening so much to stories of places I have never been, encounters I had never imagined, and the history of this state with the people in it.

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