Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Read the Equinox: Alaska's Trailblazing Marathon!

The Equinox: Alaska's Trailblazing Marathon a Great Read!

I got my copy of The Equinox by Matias Saari in the mail the other week and wanted to chime in with a brief review. It's a great read. I've read a lot of running books (concurrently was reading Running With The Buffaloes, a classic by Chris Lear) and Matias' long-awaited tome of the history and highlights of Interior Alaska's flagship running race rates up there as a good one.

I'm not done yet but have made my way through much of it not cover to cover but going over it a semi-logical order of interest: the people I know, the race's highlights and glory days, and its history from the beginning is what I've gotten though so far and I haven't been disappointed. So if you haven't picked up or ordered a copy, you should do so.


I really enjoyed the compare-contrast of 1990s-2000s multi winners Mike Kramer and Kevin Brinnegar. I enjoyed running and racing with them in Fairbanks. And of course the book highlights of the epic 70s-80s battles with Justice and Murphy; in particular 1983 with Pat Cross's 2:42 and 1984 when Stan Justice broke the record with an astounding 2:41. And I closely read Matias's own account of his rise from bonking beginner, to frustrated also-ran, to multi-champion and age group record smasher.

Likewise the accounts of the women's record holders from Tina Devine, Jane LeBlond, Sue Faulkner, and Christy Marvin. I coached with Tina and Sue for many years, and Jane's also a friend. It was kind of weird being sort of the sidebar (if not foil) on Marvin's record run but Matias did a good job of capturing her race and the day.

I'm totally enjoying reading about the history of the event and look forward to filling in the gaps.

Facing Some of My Own Foibles and Shortcomings

Of course one the first things I looked at were the sections where I may or may not have been mentioned.

I was a bit surprised to see that the author remembers as being "very agitated" during the infamous train delay in my debut effort in 2004. Well, hell yes, I was agitated. Who stops for a train in the middle of a marathon? But if that's the case, then Bob Murphy could be described as livid. He swore up a storm in those two and half minutes and for the next 10 until we got to the Ester Dome. I do recall that Matias was pretty quiet, and other runners that came up to behind us were somewhat in-between.

How About a Little Love Here? Scattered in the pages are several mentions of past legends setting the record in the 50+ age group but no mention of 2009, 2013, and 2014 other than in the tables. Relays a bit short on those too, but what was in there was good. (was on 3 winning teams, men's in 2007 and 2009, and masters record in 2011).

Stepping Back Out

In the end I miss some things about Alaska and community in Fairbanks, some things less so. It's enjoyable being somewhat anonymous here. Show up to a race here and practically no one knows who I am and the only ones that might remotely care are in my age group. We have some pretty good races many times a year and the camaraderie is good. So many choices with dozens of road and trail events every weekend.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Long Live the Comp Group!

that's all

Monday, August 10, 2015

Where Goes the Competition?

Checking some of the Alaska results in recent weeks and it makes you wonder where the competition is for running going. Maybe to ultras, specialty trail races (like Mt Marathon), or to other sports like cycling, triathlons, or adventure running. Or maybe the athletes just aren't there anymore.

But case in point. This past weekend in Fairbanks they had the Santa Claus Half Marathon in North Pole. This used to be one of my favorite races out there and I ran it eight or nine times. The 2015 winning time was 1:22:30, in which he "blew away the competition." Not to knock the efforts of those who ran on Saturday, but that was the by far (4 minutes or so) the slowest winning time ever for the race and the depth of competition was pretty thin.

I went back to the archives and for the previous decade (in reverse), a 1:22:30 would place 3rd, 3rd, 6th, 10th, 7th, 6th, 3rd, 7th, and 7th. Likewise, the women's times were off, witha winning time of 1:33 (and 6th overall)!  What's also interesting at the Anchorage 10K classic on Saturday the winning time was 33:50, and that race is usually won in the 30-32 minute range. So it's not just in Fairbanks.

Monday, June 22, 2015

10 annoying things about the Midnight Sun Run

First time since 2003 that I haven't done a Midnight Sun race. Ten times at MSR and once at Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage. Even if I had stayed in AK, probably would have opted out of MSR and done Mayor's or traveled elsewhere. Had a good run there but it was time to move on.

Don't get me wrong, I love the race, and am very grateful that my two sons both won a MSR Scholarship, as well as Kuba and Erich, two of the other boys from FAST/West Valley. Nevertheless, there are a number of things that sort of drove/drive me batty about the race. So from 2,500 miles away, here is what found sort of annoying about the event.

1. Bring back the plaques! For years the age group awards were ceramic plaques with the year's artistic logo. I have seven, my wife one, and we still display these. But a few years ago they stopped and started giving out hats, or certificates, which just aren't as nice.

2. Newsminer coverage exhibit A. Print the story online! Two days later and no story? (edited to add that they did print it on the 22nd).

3. Newsminer coverage exhibit B. It's not all about the costume contest.

4. Jazzercise. Cut that CHT out. Egregiously annoying and not even a good warm up routine.

5. Fewer ads on the t-shirts. The shirts are usually nicely designed, but they are all but ruined by the billboard of 20 or so sponsors on the back. Pick one or two sponsors, put those on the sleeves and be done with it.

6. Mark the course and have course marshals direct the runners properly. Reports from the race indicated that there were some significant changes over the last half km, but it was poorly marked and the marshals just stood there.

7. Newsminer coverage exhibit C. Give a more nuanced coverage of the event and the athletes. Maybe recognize the top 5 or 10 or 20 for a job well done. Get a scoop from 1st, 2nd at least and then list the top 20 or so on Sunday's paper. Did you know that the women's winner was a former high school national champion?

8. What's with the RCN/Fairbanks "insider" low number bibs? Those should be earned with top performances in recent years, not by who you know.

9.  Advertise to the Outside. Would be a great destination race, and it used to have a national reputation, but now it's all Fairbanks runners.

10. What's up with the 12 year age group 18 to 29, while all others are at 5 year increments for adults, 2 for children? It's not that difficult, and certainly more fair to break up that age class. How about 18-24 and 25-29?

Rant over. I didn't really miss it this time, but do hope to return someday maybe even as soon as next year.

Denver, CO

Friday, January 09, 2015

Alaska Senior Games Records

First off, I'll caveat that the Senior Games are more about camaraderie and just being out there than competitiveness. That said, compete is what I do and indeed there is room for both. They keep a records list, however, so since 2009 at my first Games those records have been something to aim for. Prior to this year I'd run four races and four distances in the 50-54 age group (youngsters) and set a record in each, 1500 m, 3000 m (track) and the 5K and 10K road races. This time, especially following the knee setback in July I decided to go for it at three distances in one Games: the 1500, 5K, and 10K.

Sunday 1500 - Lathrop track. The morning day was bright and warm, perfect for a track meet. My plan for the 1500 was to run a solid time, but not burn out my legs for the rest of the week. I figured 80 sec laps would be about right, but I had done no speed work since June and just hoped 80 seconds didn't feel like a sprint! The race went like clockwork, I hit 300 in 59, and 400 in 80 sec, and just kept rolling at that. The only hitch was the butterflies that stayed with me through 500 m! Track will do that to you. Kept the pace, but had to push the last 80 meters or so to keep it under 5:00, 4:59.0. All in a good day!

Monday 5K - Chena Lakes Recreation Area. My goal was 17:40 or under on the new course. It just follows the bike path from the beach area to Laurence Road and then north to near the end of the pavement at the flood control diversion dam. No splits on the road and I didn't have my GPS, so I just estimated the pace. One more thing. It was hot! For here at least. 80 at the start. I went back to the summer archives and there were no other afternoon-evenings in June, July, August that reached 80. The last Senior Games 5K (2011) that I did was about 82. So holding a 5:40 pace proved difficult. I hit the turn around at 8:57, and that long straight stretch back (0.6 miles) was grueling! Had to push at the end and got in just under 18, at 17:59. Phew. That was the toughest of the week.

Wednesday 10K - Chena Lakes Recreation Area. The first 0.9 mile was the same as the 5K but we turned south on a path that followed the slough. This was tree lined and had a few gentle turns, so it was not boring. Temperatures were more amenable to running at 73. Originally I was hoping for a season's best and 36:30 or better, but that would require being fresh for the week, maybe 10 degrees cooler, and probably with pacers or other racers running similar paces. This was a solo effort, and I was doubtful that even a sub 37 would be possible. But that was my new goal as we lined up. The plan was to go out a little easier than I normally do for a 10K and see what I had at the middle and late stages. So at 6:00 for the first mile I actually didn't 

Returned and Gone Again

Had a great return to Fairbanks over the Holidays, but arrived almost in the status of protective custody--away from a difficult situation in Colorado. My mom passed away in December after a long battle with Alzheimers (she led a long and fascinating life), but sibs spent all the money, and now there's nothing to keep the household afloat until the issues of the Will, probate, and personal representative are settled. It's a train wreck, not my fault, but I'm in the middle trying to prevent collateral spillage and toxic waste.

Back in Alaska I skied something like 14 of 17 days, but kept a fairly low profile and didn't even do a real workout. Just skied. I tried some threshold reps at UAF toward the end of my stay but that got interrupted by a cow and calf moose on Big Whizzy, near where the Equinox Trail comes off of Sheep Creek Road. I zipped around the corner and there they were, the cow started stepping toward me and I had no time to even turn around, so I double-poled straight along a footpath until I was out of harms way. Maybe got 18 minutes of L3 effort in about 25 or 26 minutes on that workout.

Meanwhile, bounced to a number of potlucks and holiday gatherings. Barely just enough time to say hello and goodbye again to many many friends. Had at least one acquaintance ask, "Haven't you left yet?" No need to mention what ski club they belong to.

Other than seeing my family/friends and having some time to recuperate from the events of the previous months the best thing was the weather. Only one or two days where it got down to -20?! That's average. Enjoyed it, and the time outdoors.

The months and years ahead here in Colorado may well prove to be very challenging. I did find peace in Alaska, even though I may have stirred things up a bit, and enjoyed shaking up the standard order. For example, I will miss thrashing the likes of Bad Bob Baker week after week month after month for 10 years.

I'll miss it there, but also I'm at a time in life where I must face different and uncertain path.

Along the way though we will certainly find some nice trails.

So Happy New Year! And guess what?

I'm not quite done.

I have a few more posts here, and soon I think I'll start a Rocky Mountain blog.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Not quite finished

But off I go anyway.

In many, if not most, ways I'm not quite ready to leave Fairbanks. However, I made a decision based on a number of factors that added up to a move. The things I look forward to are a new job that will be more dynamic. I did not want to be waiting another 10 years for the idea of something better or retirement. Career-wise this is a good change. I also think that there will be better career opportunities for Tamara, and better health care. Those were the main reasons for the move.

For running and skiing it's a bit more mixed. After 10 years of hitting it pretty hard for both, I have felt the need for changes over the past year.  Doing the same races every year--even favorites--gets a little old. Throughout this year, way before I started putting in for jobs elsewhere, I kind of had a feeling that either I'd take a break from XC skiing in the state and that I'd be aiming for new races, mostly on the "Outside." Going to Bend last December for USATF Club Nationals had a big effect on that. In particular, I'll miss the Tour of Anchorage, Midnight Sun Run, Santa Claus Half, Musk Ox Trail Run, and putting on the Interior Alaska Cross Country Series. And yes, the Equinox (but not every year).

However, in a big way I look forward to race opportunities and challenges in Colorado. I'm most interested in XC, trail races, and hill climbs. My calendar for next year is already shaping up, with USATF Winter XC Nationals in Boulder in February, some Sky Running races in the summer (vertical kilometer, and a focus on the Pikes Peak ascent to see if I can go for an age record there). then a fall marathon, likely in Bellingham, WA where my son goes to college, or something like Vancouver.

The hardest thing about leaving is saying goodbye to friends and the community. We have roots in Colorado for sure, but we really enjoyed Fairbanks and getting to know people here.  I probably forget to mention everyone, but it's been great to be around people like Bruce and Dee, the Pitney's, Gillis family, the Mark and Maggie Lindberg, Max Kaufman, the Noons, Jacksons, Hoeflers, Kelly Egger, Endestads, Ken and Jane, the Lanfords, Tracey and her family, Dan Callahan, Hannibal Grubis, Sue Faukner and the Rorabaughs, the Lathrop gang of Kevin Brinegar, Ben Nelson, and Chad Carroll, Mike Kramer, Dave Arvey, the Berkelands, the Mayo clan, Kuba and the Grzeda's.  And many more. Let's keep in touch.

This is not an end, Alaska will be here, but a new beginning. We'll be back! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Equinox Age Grade and Other Numbers

Here are some masters age grade results. It was a rough day out there for sure.  A lot of runners were off pace. It was one of those days that the longer you were out there the tougher it got. So that made for tough going many of the masters runners.

Matias Saari (44) 2:55:01 - 75.62%
Roger Sayre (56) 3:15:51 – 75.25%
Jane Lanford (59) 4:15:42 – 71.19%
Erika VanFlein (54) 4:24:24 – 64.15%
Martha Brettell (61) 4:35:44 – 68.01%

Not only was Saari the oldest winner of all time at 44 on Saturday, he has the highest men’s age grade for the Equinox Marathon with a 75.91 in 2012. He almost matched that, and had there been better weather probably would have gone faster. With the 75.25% I jumped from 3rd all time runner to 2nd , ahead of Frank Bonzanich’s storied 2:58 in 1984.  I was hoping to take the all-time lead, but that would have required a sub 3:14:10. That was definitely not in the cards considering the poor weather on Saturday. And with a top weather advantage, Saari could have broken his 2012 age grade. So I’ll happily take the 2nd spot for men.

Jane Lanford scored an excellent 71.19% to lead the women. Maybe not the time record she was hoping for, but a very good age grade result. Marth Brettell of Cody Wyoming scored 68.0% with her age group win in the 60-64 category and Erika VanFlein was at 64.15%.

SPLITS 2013 vs 2014
I won’t post up all the splits but some definitely did it different than 2013. Last year I went in with a goal of sub 3:15 but felt ready maybe for under 3:14, so I paced myself for that. My goal this year was just to beat last year’s time and maybe run in the 3:15s. So I held back for the first 9 miles.

2013 3 mile was 20:55 compared to 22:03
2013 5 mile was 34:57 compared to 36:09
2013 9 mile was 1:02:29 compared to 1:04:53!
2013 12 mile was 1:30:20 compared to 1:31:09
2013 turn around was 1:54:50 compared to 1:55:10
2013 18 mile was 2:19:24 compared to 2:18:35
2013 22 mile was 2:46:14 compared to 2:45:23
So the upshot was that even though I was way back by 9 or 10 miles, I made it up on the out and back and final miles. The snow last year had a factor, but I also locked up a bit due to the cold, which had as much or more effect than the wet weather last Saturday.