Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Moose's Tooth Marathon - Recap

So many thoughts. Very whoa.

So, I am finally back from Alaska. (Getting home was a trip and those of you who have me on Facebook personally know all about it, but long story short - we were flying standby and all the flights were oversold to Chicago, EVERYWHERE, so getting home took days and we slept on the airport floor Monday night ...yeah, we were supposed to go home Sunday night and didn't get home until Tuesday morning, and then only because we bought tickets on a new airline!)

I have so many thoughts and feelings about this weekend. Most incredibly positive.

This is going to be long, so here's the TL;dr for those who want it: I finished in 4:44:53, but take that with a grain of salt because the course was .96 short. (Certified course, but they had an error in set up.) At the time of writing this I no longer have any pain, stiffness, or soreness. I had an amazing time and felt strong for almost all of it. Looking back I am completely thrilled and so glad I did this.

All done!!

Now, for the longer version.

We flew in early Saturday; the flight was 6 1/2 hours on the way there. I found out I get air sick, which was a joy, and that being so sick triggered an enormous migraine. We (husband and I) picked up bibs at the expo (it was a really decent expo too, and bib pickup was a total breeze!)

But instead of spending the rest of the day enjoying the beauty and coolness (60* overcast and drizzly - LOVED it) I spent it vomiting in the hotel room from the migraine. I was worried that being so ill would sabotage me for the marathon - and who knows, it might have! - but after it passed late that evening I ate and hydrated. When race morning came timezones were weird so I ended up awake at 4 in the Alaskan morning, which was 7:30 for us. It felt SO late but the race wasn't until 9am, which is a noon start as far as my body was concerned. So we ordered room service, watched a movie, and relaxed!

Left: Alaska from the plane // Right: Alaska through the airport windows

When it was finally race time we wandered over to the start line race village...roughly 5 minutes from our hotel. I wasn't sure what to expect since it was a race smaller than the Chicago ones I'm used to, but they had staggered start times for the ultra, marathon, half, and 5k - so there were tons of portopotties but it never felt crowded. It was mid 50s and overcast at the start, so though I'd brought a light jacket (I wasn't sure how it'd feel to someone who'd been running regularly in temps approaching 80 lately) I gear checked it (which took all of 30 seconds). The start of the race was neat; there was an Alaskan blessing followed by the singing of the national anthem and then the Alaska song.

Opening ceremony...thought I got a pic of the blessing too..oops.

And then - we were off! My husband and I weren't running together, but we did run the first two miles together. I mean, when would we get the chance to run together in Alaska ever again?! And I run my first couple miles slower anyway. After mile 2 he kicked me out and told me to leave him - I have to admit that despite knowing that running with him wasn't a good idea, I was reluctant. He intentionally stopped to mess with his shoe so I'd have no choice. Punk!

Husband runs!

Running in Alaska was absolutely beautiful. I am not sure what I expected, but the coastal trail we were on had views of the ocean and mountains and So wow. And the forest we were running in was wet and green and lush; a few miles in it started raining (not heavily, but definitely noticeable) and didn't stop while I was running. It was overcast and never got warmer than low 60s, with humidity in the 60s.

Left: Coastal Trail // Right: Coast!

And I felt strong. Whether it was the taper (such as it was, lol - hard to taper with a last minute race) or the better conditions, I felt really strong. I hit 13.1 miles at 2:22 (but knew I'd positive split the race, even if I didn't get tired, just because two of the three really big hills hit in the second half of the course) and felt great - on par with or better than I felt at the halfway point in Chicago when I was going slower and was better trained.  Most of my miles clicked in around 10:30 or so, absent the slow warm up miles with my husband and the ginormous hill at mile 10. I even got to see my husband around 8.5 miles in - he was heading to the turnaround point and I was leaving it. Seeing him was such a boost!

Left: 13.1m at Moose's Tooth 2015 // Right: 13.5 miles at Chicago 2014

It was around this point that I became convinced the course was either mismarked with its mile markers or short - the mile markers were really wonky on course - 1, 2, and 3 were right on par with my garmin, but 4 didn't hit until my watch said 4.6, 5 was 5.5 on my watch, and 6 was again on track on my garmin. (And not just on my watch - someone else commented on it when we hit the 6 mile mark and we chatted for a bit. Her guy was running with her and looked back at me, and totally called me out for now running without my husband. Haha! "Where's your guy? He leave you behind or you take off on him?" "Umm, I took off, but he made me - it was planned!" "Uh huh." LOL! I was guilty as it was but thought it was hilarious that someone else noticed!) 7 and 8 were normal, and 8 was where we hit our first turnaround point (spoiler alert...this was apparently supposed to happen a half mile later, but I didn't know that at the time). 9 and 10 were also pretty on point...except that the next mile marker was 12. And all the remaining mile markers were a mile apart. At mile "15" I asked the court marshal if it was really mile 15 and she said a lot of people said it was actually 14, but she wasn't sure. Eep.

At 20 miles (21 according to the course...all further miles are actual mileage rather than what the course said) I still felt really strong - unlike in Chicago, when at 20 I felt like complete crap and was ready to be done, I still felt great and looked like I wasn't going to die. (Hey, progress!)

I kept looking at the trees, or the waterline when we could see it, and laughing at how incredible and beautiful it was. "I'm running in ALASKA!" I said it out loud by accident and a woman near me laughed. But it was ALASKA! I ran in Alaska!


I did have to start adding some short walk intervals - at mile 19 I started walking 30 seconds every few minutes - but I felt good and it was paranoia over the number of inclines because I could tell I was putting more wear/tear on my quads than I was used to. (This bike trail had a lot of inclines relative to what I usually run - I ran all of them except the big hills.) I was hungry though, which I knew wasn't a great sign. I ate two packs of honey stingers on the course and took gatorade at every other water stop, but I was hungry. I'm not sure why, I actually had more food pre-race than I usually do. Intensity of effort? Maybe I need more cals on me in Milwaukee? Most of my miles here were still around the 10:40 mark minus enormous hill the second at mile 16.

Left: 20m at Moose's Tooth 2015 // Right: 20 miles at Chicago 2014

Funny story...I got a snippy lady going the other direction commenting on me taking a walk break to grab a pic at mile 20. We were going opposite ways on the course, her heading towards the turnaround, and she said "Nice to have time to take a selfie." LOL! My race lady...if I want to mark the miles with a cartwheel I could do that too. If I could do a cartwheel. Which I can't. So maybe that's a bad example. At least I got to see my husband about 1/2 a mile later?

At mile 22 my garmin flashed low battery. My F10 is not a good marathon watch unless I get faster. Bummer! :( At least in Milwaukee I think there will be clocks on course; there weren't here. I'm going to have decide how many marathons are in my future while I decide whether I upgrade to a new watch with better battery or not. At mile 23 and 24 I was starting to struggle a little - my stomach was yelling, gatorade and water weren't cutting it. I was continuing a 30 second walk break every couple minutes, but I needed it now - I think this was mostly the under-trained part because I had trouble running at a pace that kept my heartrate in the right range. (I don't run by hr exactly - it's not like I have bpm range, since I don't wear an hr monitor, but I used to and got used to what the different zones feel like...up until mile 23 all of my miles were definitely in the "I can talk and my heart isn't going too fast" area, but starting there I couldn't talk while I ran and my hr had trouble coming back down even when walking. End of race fatigue? Not enough fuel? Not sure.) I know I had figured out I was on pace for a 4:51 finish if the course wasn't short, and I was thrilled. All I had wanted going into this was a 4:59:59 and knew that being undertrained that might not have been doable, so I was over the freaking moon.

And then as usual I had a mental breakdown during the race. Hahah. I realized the course was actually truly short and got mad and mopey. Seriously, what is my deal? I WAS RUNNING IN ALASKA. For 98% of the race I didn't care about anything except looking at the amazingly gorgeous scenery. But I knew the course was short and it irritated me. "Does this even count?" "Can I even hang this medal?" "Do I get to say I ran a marathon?" "What if I re-run the last mile?" "But I wanted a sub-5!" Wah wah wah, whine whine. Whatever, Heather! Some of this was the final enormous hill (and it was huge, the biggest of the course and lonnnng, it felt like it would never end) but I ended up walking 1/2 a mile here. And not super briskly either. I should have finished in a 4:39 or 4:40 accounting for the missing mile, but I ended up finishing in 4:44:53. I did perk back up the last .2 and hauled some butt to cross the finish line - the announcer announced me coming in, said where I was from, and commented on my matching outfit (I was in pink head to toe...headband, shirt, skirt, shoes...none of which was actually planned, because I had made some outfit subs based on missing my shakeout run the day before, but might be a comment on how much pink I own!). And I was DONE!


Looking back, I'm not upset the course was short. I feel bad for the Race Director, who was otherwise amazing (seriously, I saw her on course in multiple places, always running along the course and cheering runners on - she was so invested and while I didn't realize who she was until later, I knew even then she was awesome). The official word is that when the course was set up the first turnaround point for the marathon was set about 1/2 mile too early and it wasn't caught. None of the other courses - 49k, half, or 5k - were affected, it was just that one isolated turnaround point. I was mad at the moment because I got sternly told after the race that my watch was wrong and the course was certified, but crap happens. I have a goal marathon I'm already registered for and I was winging this one for the experience. I feel sincerely bad for the people who were trying to BQ, but I'm okay. I still earned that medal. I'm still bad-ass. I still outperformed my wildest goal. (My backup goal was 5:15 - I hit the marathon point in my 50k last year at 5:25 and my chicago time was 5:57.) Even with my breakdown if the course hadn't been short I would have made 4:56 (and who knows - I might have even hit 4:51 if I didn't have a breakdown about the course being short!).

I checked in with my husband, who was about 4 1/2 miles behind me. I grabbed some post race food (chips, grilled cheese, pretzels, fig bar, gatorade, and water) and headed back to the hotel room to shower and check out while he finished. I mistimed a little bit though, I got to the finish line after he'd already crossed. Bummer! :( And bigger bummer: The only food left for him was pretzels and a fig bar. Oh, and beer. I gave him mine. But I was mad there was no food for him. I felt like that's terrible - his registration fee cost just as much as the 3 hour finishers. Why didn't he deserve food when he finished well within the course limit with a 5:50?


But at least they had a medal for him! And aren't we cute together?!

In the end - I really did have an AMAZING experience. Running in Alaska was absolutely beautiful. I was so nervous to jump into it since I was so early in the training cycle, but I had an amazing race where I felt strong and surpassed my A goal - and came darn close to my super secret goal of 4:50. What else could I ask for? And I am now confident I am going to ROCK Milwaukee.


  1. Awwww congrats to both of you! Racing in Alaska is incredible no matter what the outcome. I think your mood at the end is low glycogen stores talking. And it feeling harder at 19 is that as well plus you're at the end of your endurance. I know this feeling well. Minus the crazy flights, an amazing experience!

    1. Thank you!

      Yes, I definitely think some of it was just end of my endurance because I was undertrained. Still weird that I was hungry though, I usually have to force myself to choke down my chews by the end of a long run and this time I think I could have easily eaten another pack!

  2. Congrats to both of you! How cool you got to start together and see each other on course!

    I would have been mad the course was short. That happened to me at a half last year where I was pacing friends for their first half - I think the course was set up wrong too, and the RD NEVER told the truth about it - pretended it never happened. I think it's good your people at least were honest about it.

    That doesn't sound like enough food for a marathon. That is probably why you didn't feel great at the end. :(

    I am surprised by that lady and her snarky comment. How lame!!!

    1. Thank you! I am really happy we did run together. He wanted me to run the whole thing myself and I am glad I found a compromise - too unique of an opportunity to pass.

      I am mad, but I'm not stewing. It sucks. It's the kind of error you don't expect on a marathon course when it's advertised as a Boston Qualifier. But I can't change it and if I had known it was short it I would have run anyway.

      See, that's what I'm thinking, that I needed to eat more, but the truth is this is what I have always eaten! I ate this much for Chicago and was okay - actually less than since I only managed half a bagel since it was so early, and this time I had way more food beforehand. I do think I needed more food but I'm not sure how else to get more calories...I eat almost the whole time and with 8 more miles than my 18 miler I ate an entire extra pack of chews, which is 160 more cals. But I do think you're right and I needed more, it's just strange since I never have before but I guess things change!

      I am too. I thought it was funny! I understand the feeling of wishing you were on the other part of a turnaround - I sure felt that way at the ultra last year going into my last loop as people were finishing - but I can't imagine saying something about it! I wanted the memories, it wasn't her business if I got my pic or not, lol! It's not like I stopped her and asked her to take it for me!

    2. Also! I remember that with Gina's first half, right? That sucked! At least this wasn't my first marathon, then I'd be super super upset. I felt so bad reading your write up from that race. I agree - I am glad the race is acknowledging it and owning the mistake. It doesn't make it right per se but it does prevent it from being a salt-to-the-wound thing.