The entire month of July

So I kind of suck at blogging. Sorry.

There were two main events this July, with a lot of little ones beaten in for texture. The first is that I completed Mt. Marathon without injury or incident, save for some uncomfortable chafing in some uncomfortable places. The other is that I spent 3 nights camped on the Alaska Ferry, a trip from Bellingham to Juneau that I’ve wanted to take for years.

First, Mt. Marathon: As my previous posts note, I trained very little for this race. I was in reasonably good shape, but Marathon is the type of mountain that requires strategy. Two days before the race I climbed halfway up just to try to pick a route up. There are three options: 1) Run past the chute and take switchbacks up; 2) Stop in front of the chute and climb a near-vertical hillside covered in trees, called “The Roots” because you climb up tree roots like a ladder; 3) Go directly up the chute, which involves scaling a rock face — I’ve never tried it, but I’ve heard that’s what some of the winners do. I chose the roots, because I figured it’s the most direct route, and you’re using your arms for that part and in doing so taking some pressure off your legs.

Mt. Marathon from town.

Mt. Marathon from town.

The race starts about a half-mile from the trail in downtown Seward. The men’s and women’s races are split into two waves 5 minutes apart. I made it into the first wave (thanks Laura!), which is better since the trail is single file and you want to be near the front. I made it to the root trail, got in line, and started climbing. The climb itself doesn’t have much to describe — it’s long, and it’s hard. I had a strained calf muscle, so instead of climbing on my toes as usual I put my heels down. This meant I used my quads almost exclusively, instead of my calves taking some heat. But it saved me from injury.

The chute just above treeline. Scary!

The chute just above treeline. Scary!

Here’s how long and steep Mt. Marathon is: Picture the Empire State Building. Tall, right? Stack two and a half of those buildings together, and you’ve got the vertical height of Marathon: 3022 feet. So, let’s say you’re climbing to the top of those ES buildings. You take the stairs, but to make it like the Marathon race, you need to take every other stair to lengthen your stride. Then, take away the stairs, leaving just the incline, which is so steep you can’t put your heels down (unless you’re injured). Add some mud — I slipped flat on my front a few times, with women behind me grabbing my calves and ankles. Throw in rocks and snow, and you’ve got a difficult climb. That’s Marathon. Now imagine going back down.

I hadn’t practiced going down from the top part of the mountain. Again, there were choices: go straight down a snow field, or go around it. I chose the snow field. A deep luge had been carved out, and I jumped in and started sliding. Bad move. I was wearing running shorts, which immediately slid right up. I tried using my hands and feet to stop myself, but the incline was too great. The result: chafing. I managed to hop out of the luge at some point, as other racers were bearing down on me and they were out of control. I stood there for a few moments, watching them go by while I tried to figure out how to get down. Finally I just started running down, digging my heels in the snow.

The rest of the way down was uneventful. At the bottom, I had to run through a creek, swinging over small waterfalls and over rocks, but that was child’s play next to the snow. Once I made it half way down realized I was going to complete the race, and that felt great. I honestly didn’t know when I started if I would finish because of my calf.

I felt strong when I hit the street, and I heard my name all over. I didn’t look too sexy, but I was in good company. My time was nothing fantastic, but it wasn’t horrible either and might even be fast enough to keep me in the first wave next year.

Up next: the Alaska Ferry and why it’s one of the coolest trips ever.

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2 Responses to “The entire month of July”

  1. Hey Catherine,
    Loved your article and I am VERY proud of you for completing the marathon!!!! What a great job. I can’t imagine running up a mountain like that!
    Congrats!!!!!
    Love you…MOM

  2. urbain breaud Says:

    Is there any place to store your camping equipt. while you go in the towns?

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