Friday morning (Dec 21) Jake and I took off about 5 hours South of Fairbanks (My first time out of the North Star Borough!) to a little town called Willow for the Willow winter solstice marathon.
We impulsively signed up about a month ago and had 5 Weeks with 4 weekends to train.
Our training consisted of two weekday runs 4-6 miles each, ending the week with a long run. We started with a half marathon distance (13.1), increasing to 15, planned for 18 but accidentally ran 21 thanks to mapmyrun.com’s gps iPhone app, and tapered to a 10 mile run.
If you’re thinking it must have been a cold month of training. You’re probably about half right. Jake and I both researched about extreme cold weather running and only came up with advice limited to about 10 degrees above zero (one caveat: MarcoPolie’s South Pole Running) So if that’s your definition of cold. Then you’re wrong, and consider it. Excessively freezing cold. We trained between temps 20 above to about -27 below and capped it at -35, although, I will say, later in training, we resorted to more indoor than outdoor runs because of additional factors- darkness, ice fog, snow buildup.
Come race day, we started at 9AM with a temperature of -30 degrees Fahrenheit. A little surprised, I was glad I packed just enough to dress appropriately. We both had it in our heads that Willow would continue its pattern of being at least 20 degrees warmer than Fairbanks and that we’d be running in above zero or slightly below conditions. As luck would have it, Mother Nature laughed in our faces.
So we set off, me wearing from the bottom up: FEET: DARN TOUGH merino wool socks, Asics running shoes LEGS: a base nylon pant layer, xc skiing wind resistant tights, an extra warmth layer as the shell TOP: a half zip dryfit long sleeve by NIKE, cotton long sleeve (bad idea) and a wind resistant layer by MOUNTAIN HARD WEAR that I got on sale at Beaver’s Sports in Fairbanks HANDS: Saucony Ulti-mitt Running gloves, and a shell mitten by SWIX HEAD: a face-mask also by MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR, and a typical Carhart Beanie hat.
I also ran with my osprey daypack with a grab pack attached (which was also a bad idea) carrying an extra facemask and beanie hat to switch out at the half way point. I tucked a few GU’s in my bra, in my back pant’s pocket and in a small pouch in my pack. The only reason I added the grab pack to my bag was to have a place to store my Swix mittens and an easy access pouch for my camera…but it ended up being more of a burden than a luxury and my camera ended up freezing within the first mile anyway. So not recommended!
Jake had about the same. He used a full balaclava instead of a facemask and wore liners with regular gloves. All that stuff is really personal preference and careful experimentation. He also ran with a Camel bak by Osprey. but it froze within about 10 mins of being outside.
Advice for running with the camel bak that we’ve gotten from other runners is that you run with it under a layer of clothes and use the cleavage you have to keep the hose and mouthpiece warm remembering to blow excess water in the hose back into the reservoir. Another vulnerable area of the hose is at the shoulder, which you can try to keep warm with a hand warmer taped around the hose. I still haven’t personally figured it out nor have I given it much experiment. I was lazy and relied on the aid stations. Which..I don’t recommend. Its doable but, not on the safest side of things!
So we finished, Jake using his schizophrenia and me resorting to Christmas Carols and 99 Bottles of Beer on the wall to get us to the finish line.
- Upstairs Dream-A-Dream
Being the little town that it is, Willow didn’t have the largest range of places to stay, Andrea, the race director led us to a gracious invitation to come stay at Vern Halter’s Dream a Dream Bed and Breakfast. We stayed in the common room which had 3 beds- Mattresses on the floor, couches and a TV, a dining table, some coffee pots and dishes for breakfast. There are also two separate rooms to stay in but they are currently being occupied by two people actually working with Vern to train up the pups for the upcoming Iditarod 2013 race. Jake and I got the privilege of meeting Luan, who is actually going to participate in this year’s race. We hope to see him do well!
Oh yea and if anyone wants to know where we found food before the race on Friday, we ate at Houston’s Lodge..which no one really recommended locally. It was more just thrown around as an option, but it was actually very good! Definitely recommend!
My first time out of the city limits was a great adventure and certainly has sparked my little flame for getting out more. Not the most upcoming but my most recent little finds includes a Mountain Running Adventure Camp based out of Juneau and ran by Geoff Roes and an Arctic Ocean bound Motorcycle Trip both of which I will blog on later.
Merry Christmas Eve!