Friday, October 28, 2016

Alaskan long run

Greetings from Anchorage! Here is a sampling of the scenery during my plane ride in:
I'll talk a lot more later about the travels up here, but first I want to talk running shop. Yesterday, I did a 10-mile long run, mostly on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This is an 11-mile trail that runs along the Knik Arm and Cook Inlet.
Source
First, some trail preparation:
I'd heard stories about wildlife encounters along the path, so I asked Vanitha for advice on what to do if it happened. She said I might run into moose or bears. With moose, she said you could probably just slink away quietly. With bears you should either play dead or fight back with everything you've got, depending on the type of bear. She also mentioned that the animals might act more defensively if they had their children with them, and that bears may "bluff charge" to try to scare you.
Vanitha said she thought bears would be an unlikely sight, since most of them are already in hibernation. That certainly made sense, as winter has definitely already arrived here. Daytime high temperatures have been in the 20s and 30s, and there is snow and ice on the ground.

Then, Vanitha said she had a bear bell, which helps warn bears of your presence in advance. She suggested I carry it around with me on the path. I found the concept of a bear bell humorous, but apparently they are readily available in grocery stores and all kinds of places here.

Vanitha's bear bell
The bear bell is a pretty cheery looking contraption, no? Maybe Santa and his reindeer are actually wearing bear bells. =D

Local conditions:
Sunrise is already pretty late here - yesterday, it rose around 9:15 AM. Overnight, temperatures were in the teens. While living in Chicago my whole life means I am definitely used to cold weather, I still didn't want to go out in conditions THAT cold. I waited until about 11:00 when the temperatures were in the mid-20s, then finally bundled up and headed out. While it was very chilly, the sun was shining brightly and thankfully there was no wind.

On the trail:
The scenery was beautiful. I can imagine in the summertime it must be even more spectacular. This was a small inland lake:
This was the view of the ocean. If you look closely, you can see mountains in the far distance:
There were a lot of spots with benches facing out towards the water. During warmer weather, it must be heavenly to sit in those spots and enjoy the view.

Some parts of the path were clearer than others. Certain areas were icy and/or had a lot of drifting snow, so I had to be careful of my footing.
Part of the trail was closed for bridge construction, so I was only able to run about 3 miles before the trail took a detour into town via sidewalk. I followed the detour for about a mile, but some of the surfaces hadn't been plowed. Therefore, I opted to come back to the path and do some out-and-backs to get myself to 10 miles.

How it felt:
Beautiful scenery aside, I didn't feel great during this run. My body wasn't acclimated to the cold and it was tough. By Mile 3 I was already feeling the exertion so I used every mental trick I could think of to get myself through. I've heard cold can mask dehydration. Sure enough, I never felt thirsty, but forced myself to drink from my handheld water bottle. Obviously the contents got icier and icier as I progressed. At Mile 5, I took a GU, but the cold had hardened it to the point it was difficult to squeeze out of the packet.

It was an enormous relief once I finally did finish! I was so happy to come back to the warmth of Vanitha's apartment, take a hot shower, and pass out on the couch like a cat hogging the sunshine. =)
Ahhh!!!!

More on Alaska to come!!!

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Linking up with LaurenVanIsabel and Marcella for Wanderful Wednesday; with Chris and HeatherLaurenAshleyAmanda and Brian, and Carolann and Macrae for Weekend Wanderlust; and with Arnie and JoSally-AnnAnda, and Anisa and Katherine for The Weekly Postcard.  

36 comments:

  1. Did you do an out and back or point to point? We cycled the entire trail when we were there and there is a huge uphill at the end on the south side!

    Did you see all the warning signs about the tides?!

    Hopefully this will give you a head start on prepping for the Chicago winter! :)

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    1. I did several out and backs on the northern part of the trail. The guides talked about the huge uphill on the south side but I didn't get to that end (which sounds like it was a good thing!) Very cool that you biked the entire trail - I can imagine it must have been heavenly!

      YES - lots of warning signs about the tide! I heard stories about people getting swept away from not heeding the warnings. Yikes!

      And yes - no better way to prep for the Chicago winter than to jump into the local climate in Alaska, for sure. =)

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  2. Wow! I'd love to go to Alaska but I don't know if I would go there now. I'm so not ready for winter. Are we ever?

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    1. We are never ready for winter, indeed! The nice thing about coming here now is that you get a really great sense of local life here. During the summertimes I hear there are tons of tourists taking over!

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  3. Wow !! This looks and sounds amazing !! But cold and dark! Sunrise at 9:15? Wowzers! I struggle with 7:15!

    Bear bells! How awesome ! Did you get one for yourself ?

    Have a wonderful trip!!

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    1. Thanks Ana! Yes, very cold and dark. Anchorage is three hours behind Chicago, too, so in between the time difference and the late sunrise, my body is very confused, LOL. I struggle with 7:15 sunrises, too!

      No bear bell for myself, but maybe when the Christmas markets open up I'll buy sleighbells. ;)

      Thanks again, Ana!!!

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  4. Love the photos! I've always wanted to visit Alaska, though I think an Alaskan cruise might be my way to go - and during the summer ha

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    1. Thanks Alexandra!!! Yes, I can only imagine how spectacular it must be here during the summertime. Cruising the Alaskan coast is such a fabulous way to see the scenery!

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  5. I really want to visit Alaska too. I don't think I would even attempt doing a run like that especially in the weather - so I give you a lot of credit. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Thank you so much, Anisa!!! In retrospect, the long run may not have been the smartest endeavor, but we got it done. =) Thank you for co-hosting the linkup, as always!!!

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  6. You're a rockstar for running the coastal trail in the winter Em! You've proven that you already fit right into the whole outdoor rugged wild Alaskan woman image...after just 2 days. :) I'm so happy you're here!!

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    1. Thank you so much, V!!! Thank you for being such an awesome, wonderful, and inspiring friend and host, as always. I am blown away by the work you are doing and the impacts you are creating! So thrilled to be here hanging out with you and thanks again for everything!!!

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  7. The views are amazing! Alaska is on my bucket list, can´t wait to experience this incredible wild nature one day! But the idea of run sounds quite challenging, and yet I´m a lover of winter sports, in general ... and this fresh cold air gives me an energy boost! It´s so cool you´ve manage to do it!

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    1. Thank you, Anna! Yes, come visit Alaska - the wildlife is absolutely stunning here! I love winter sports, too, and also love fresh cold air for being so invigorating! But definitely it's good to let your body get acclimated before going all out. =) Thanks again, Anna!!!

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  8. You are so insightful! I lived in Alaska for some time back in the 90s and used bear bells pretty regularly, but I never made the connection between Santa's sleigh bells and the bears. I think you are definitely onto something there!

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    1. LOL - thank you so much, Jim! How cool you lived in Alaska back in the 90s! Were you in the Anchorage area or somewhere else? Also very cool that you used bear bells, I'm learning they are very commonplace. =)

      I'm still having trouble finding your blog URL, if you have one. Didn't see anything on your Google+ profile. Can you please share? I'd love to comment back!

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  9. So cool! And I'm surprised at how cold it is, since we read about Kim's trip there just a few short months ago! I remember that for Chicago winter running, I usually use sports drink instead of plain water just to help keep the liquid from freezing so quickly! Can't wait to hear more!

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    1. Thanks Lauren! I need to go back and read about Kim's trip because now it'll probably make more sense to me. Yes, winter doesn't mess around in Alaska - and this is coming from a lifelong Chicagoan! Good idea to use sports drink for its reduced propensity to freeze - I'll have to try that this winter!!! Thanks again, Lauren!

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  10. It is crazy to the trail so snow and ice covered already! Since winter doesn't really hit here until January- it is kind of blowing my mind lol That is great you knocked out 10 even if it didn't feel great it will help when your race rolls around.
    The views are heavenly - I would bundle up and just walk:)

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    1. Yes, it was a little shocking for me, too, even coming from Chicago! I can imagine how much of a jaw-dropper it would be for you! Thank you so much, Karen. You are right, the harder we make it on ourselves in training, the easier it'll be on race day, yes? Good idea on just walking. If I had more time, that would have been wonderful. =)

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  11. Looks beautiful! I can't believe the 9:15 sunrise, I'll stick with ours compared to that this time of year. although I bet its crazy with the long daylight hours in the summer. Seeing this is definitely reminding me how not ready for winter I am...maybe thats why I'm headed to floria :)

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    1. Thanks Kayla! Yes, I always considered the sunrises after 7 AM to be late, but compared to Alaska it's nothing. They call it the land of the midnight sun for good reason in the summertime, indeed! I am so excited for you to run Wine and Dine (and I so wish I could join you)!!! Safe travels and can't wait to read about your experience. =)

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  12. I own several bear bells and a mace that can clip onto my running pack. I came head to head with a black bear on the trails in N WI two summers back and do not care to do that again! Luckily it was just as scared as we were, and after a curious look it bolted into the woods.

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    1. OMG - how terrifying that you ran into a black bear on the trails in Northern Wisconsin! I'm glad it just bolted away. I've heard that most bears do not want to attack and generally won't unless coerced. What a relief that you had no incident!!! If that had happened to me, I'd be wearing so many bear bells that people would think Santa Claus was coming to town, LOL.

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    2. I won't lie - I almost peed a little :-)

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    3. For me, it might even be a reenactment of that woman we saw at the Chicago Half Marathon who had missed her pit stop!!! Do you remember that?????

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  13. I would love to visit Alaska, and I loved your information about the animals, thank you! When I do visit, one thing I won't be doing is running lol, I admire you for that but I guess you do get to see a lot more of the landscape. Thanks for sharing your story. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! I hear you on running, it is a nice way to see more of the area on foot, but weather conditions can definitely make it a challenge on the body. There are definitely travels in which I would rather just focus on pure sightseeing instead of running. =D Thank you for hosting the link-up, as always!

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  14. I definitely would not want to run into a bear, ever. I've seen moose in Colorado, but never actually ran into one. They were always to the side, eating, and not caring about all the humans taking pictures of them.

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    1. Ah yes, I can imagine there are plenty of wildlife roaming about in the mountains of Colorado! It's a good thing they just go about their day without being disturbed by humans, we definitely wouldn't want to have confrontations with them!!!

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  15. Brrrrrr....we just hiked around Glacier National Park and bear spray was the only reason why I felt like i could. Good for you for getting out there and getting some miles in! #weekendwanderlust

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    1. Ahhhh... Glacier National Park is so beautiful! I am envious that you got to go hiking there. You must have had a blast and I can only imagine how beautiful your pictures must be! Thank you so much, Andrea!!!

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  16. So coooold! You are so intrepid to get out there and do the miles. That you didn't have any wildlife encounters!
    I bicycled that trail in the summer and it is super pretty.
    Can't wait to hear more about your trip!

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    1. Thanks Kelly - it was so cold, indeed!!! I'm hopeful this will help me a lot when Chicago's winter starts rolling around, too. Oh my goodness, I can only imagine how gorgeous the trail must be in the summertime! It would be super fun to bike it. =) Thanks again, Kelly!!!

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  17. Man, even just the prospect of running into moose or bears would be enough to keep me from wanting to go out for a run. Props to you for your bravery! Not to mention getting out in the cold like that! I can run just fine in those temperatures in December, January and February (and March...and April... haha), but that's because I'm used to them! It would be much more challenging going from Chicago's current weather immediately into such cold conditions!

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    1. Thanks Bethany! Agreed - I was admittedly a little nervous about running into wildlife (literally and figuratively) so I was glad it didn't happen. Honestly, every winter my tolerance for outdoor running gets weaker and weaker. Years ago, I only wouldn't run outdoors if the temperature was in the single digits or lower... these days I balk if it's below 30 degrees. But the opportunity to run in Alaska was enough to push me out the door just this once. =)

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