Sunday, September 20, 2009

My First Ultra- Equinox 9/19/09

I can now list among my accomplishments, being able to write upside down and backwards, able to polish off 2 sacks of white castle sliders in under 10 minutes, and now ultramarathoner. Diary of a Slow Ass Chapter 3.

This is the first time I hurt since, well, the last trail marathon I ran a year ago July. This is the hardest run I've ever done, though a somewhat serious woman who breezed by me at the end when I was coughing up a lung assured me, this was easier than the IronMan. Goody for her.

Planned my work trip to Alaska to coincide with the Equinox marathon, which I had heard about from one of the neurologists in Fairbanks I was visiting. While registering, I saw that this year was the inaugural Equinox ultra (50km or 31.2mi). I didn't read much about the course until the day before I left. 80% trail. 3000 ft of climbing (in the marathon), 1800 of which was a 4 mile stretch at mile 10, then a steep descent of about 1000 ft over 1/3 mile, followed by another 1000 ft descent over bumpy trail. 80% of the runners last year were stung by wasps, and one year it was cancelled due to excessive snow. But anyone can tell you, it's the steep micro-ascents and treacherous descents that makes trail running so difficult for klutzes (or is it klutzi).

It was 40 degrees but thankfully the heavy rain of the day before had stopped just before the race. Luckily there was the UAF gym to hang out in, check out the cool polar bear decor.

The start was 700 people en masse clambering up a grassy hill that reminds me of cross-country footage I've seen. Squeezing through a small hole in a fence, had to chuckle because everyone started MOOing.

Up until the descent, life was good- amazingly beautiful course with some of the best fall foliage I've seen since Amherst (the iPhone photos just don't do the scenery justice). Mostly forest trail, some wide gravelly roads and rocky dirt trail. Walked up most the hill to the Ester Dome but that was OK, reached the halfway point well-under 3 hours.

The last time I ran trails, I promised myself I would get trail shoes, which I did. They don't do too much good if you don't wear them, however. Early on I was wishing I had brought my trail shoes, but I hadn't packed them, being stupidly afraid of running 31+ miles in shoes I had only gone 6-7 miles in.

For those of you who find my whining distasteful, turn your head. Ironmen don't whine, which is why I'm not an Ironman. Here is a summary of the descent, which started out with "The Chute", a hard dirt path with narrow tire ruts, covered by leaves and pebbles, At least 3x steeper descent than what we had just climbed.

don't face-plant.
don't face-plant.
don't face-plant.
Am I the only person who descends twice as slowly as they climb?
OW Toe cramp- walk sideways for awhile.
TA cramp. or was it EHL? Who gets a cramp in their TA while running?
Soggy woodchips. Like running on a mattress, you'd think cushy was good but it felt like quicksand, no push off and splinters getting through your socks.
More soggy woodchips. Tree roots were easier. Was actually relieved to get back on hard trail.
Slowed to a 13+ min mile pace the last 4 miles.

Limit was 50 runners signed up for the ultra, which had a 7 hour time limit. There were 22 male and 20 female finishers, the winner didn't even break 4:01. I was the 4th slowest overall in 6:44:00, but once again eked in under the buzzer.

Next stop, Bellingham Bay. After a couple beers, my legs no longer hurt, and I am contemplating a bike ride tomorrow.


  1. Well congrats on completing your first Ultra! Painful, no doubt, but just wait until the TourdeMukilteo!!!

  2. Congrats indeed. Ultra Marathon in Alaska? Those Iron Man sissies go to Hawaii, land of Luaus and Leis. You faced polar bears, armed crazy prospectors (also known as the Palin clan), and the constant threat of being drilled for oil just because. Impressive.

  3. My theory...we are girls, we can always whine. meanwhile, we fight hard too. the Descent sounds hard and dangerous. I did a run sorta like this in Montana last year. will send you the info :)