Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who read here (I think there are maybe 3? LOL) and to all of your husbands and dads! Hope you had a wonderful weekend celebrating the great men in your lives!
Saturday was the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Half Marathon. My husband and I ran this race six years ago and I don’t remember much about it other than it being hilly and partially on trails. We decided to sign up for it again this year since we would be in town visiting our family. I had planned on using it as my first longer-distance goal race post Boston but after a long day of traveling on Wednesday (18 hours door to door), I felt exhausted and run down and decided to use it as a moderately paced long run.
The plan was that my husband and I would run together. But about 3/4 way through the first mile, my husband looked over at me and told me to go ahead. I think he could tell that I had more pep in my legs than I was anticipating and he didn’t want to hold me back or deal with me pushing the pace the whole race. And so, at that moment, I decided to make it a race. We kissed and off I went.
Although it wasn’t a PR day for me, I walked away happy, satisfied and excited for the next few months. I can’t remember the last time I felt so strong at mile 10 of a half marathon. Usually I am just holding on or have slowed down tremendously. But, despite the hills and trails, I ran my fastest two miles of the day – and fastest two miles ever in a half marathon – both 6:40 – at mile 10 and 11. And it was my third fastest half marathon ever! For the first time in a while, I really believe sub-1:30 is within grasp.
Even better, though, was getting to meet Lauren and Chelsea, two women I follow on Twitter. We had been chatting about trying to meet up at the start of the half for several months now (they are on vacation from PA). They were super helpful and picked up my husband and my bibs for the race (since we didn’t come into town the day before).
We opted to stay at Nancy Lake (in Willow) with my husband’s parents and drive the 75-90 min to the start on race morning. Friday night was spent staying up too late and drinking too much wine – for both my husband and I. But since we were treating it like a longish run, we didn’t feel the pressure to drink water, eat a normal pre-race meal or get a good night’s sleep.
We got up about 5:15am, drank some coffee and spent some time with the boys before leaving just before 7am.
I ate a banana with almond butter right before we left (~2 hours before race start) and then drank my Generation UCAN mix – 12 oz of water with 1.5 packets of Tropical Orange (sipped it during car car ride between 75->45 min before race start).
No fuel immediately before or during the race. It wasn’t intentional b/c I usually fuel around mile 6 or 7, but because I didn’t think I would race, I didn’t bring a gel with me. But I never felt like I needed it nor did I feel like my energy levels dropped.
Calling this race hilly is an understatement. From start to finish, there was virtually no straight stretches. I felt like we were either going up and down rolling hills or doing some serious climbing or descending. Total elevation gain for the half is 1,567 feet. To put that into perspective, it’s almost double the gain of Boston but it’s just half the distance – so it’s 4x as hilly.
The race began on the road, then headed to the Coastal Trail (paved winding road that hugs the water), then jumped onto a trail for a bit, returning to the Coastal Trail and finishing up on the road.
I kept the display on my watch to show only total time and distance – it’s worked in recent races so why change, right?
I felt like I was pushing my limit the entire race – never running all out (until the very end), but running hard enough where I was out of breath and working hard.
13.25. 2:01 (8:04 average)
Splits are all over the place, but given the elevation of the course, I felt like I ran steady and consistent. The faster ones were on the rolling hills and the slower ones were the miles either on trails or with some significant climbing.
Finish time: 1:33:46 (third fastest half)
Course PR: over 10 minutes (previous best was 1:44:12 on this course)
Pace: 7:05 (garmin), 7:10 (chip)
Overall: 44th out of 1,664
Female: 7th out of 1,070
AG: 2nd out of 161
The best part was that my husband ended up running a 1:37:43 – which is a 7 minute course PR for him! He has been running longer distances but has done no speedwork in years – so he was over the moon!!!
This was such a well-organized race. There were 1,600 finishers (just for the half) but it never felt crowded. Here are some of the highlights:
- Easy Parking: My husband and I arrived at 8:15 and were able to park just two blocks away from the start/finish area. Score.
- No Lines: We didn’t have to wait at all for the port-o-potties at the start. Literally no lines.
- Relaxed, low-key feel at the start: There were no corrals – the announcer just asked that runners who are looking to run faster times move to the front and those planning to walk or jog move towards the back.
- Lots of water points: My guess is about 8 water points from start to finish along the course – all with a handful of volunteers on both sides of the road with cups of gatorade and water.
- Spectators and crowd support: There were tons of spectators at various points along the course which was a welcome sight after some quiet miles on the trails and by the airport.
- Spectator friendly: The early and end miles are on the same course, so it’s easy for spectators to hang out and see their runners twice during the race!
- Course: Not an easy course or a great one to go for a PR, but it’s a beautiful, challenging one that will let you see some trails, beautiful views of the water and maybe even some wildlife.
- Access to official results at finish: Skinny Raven (the race sponsor) had a timing table set up at the finish so you could check your official finish time and placing as soon as you crossed the finish line.
- Race Photos: For $10, you can purchase and download all of your race photos. Other races charge as much as $50 for one download (and $60+ for all photos).
If you plan to come visit Alaska, I would definitely recommend that you time it with the half marathon. It’s held each year right around the summer solstice and the the name, Midnight Sun Marathon, is because the sun is still up at midnight at this time of the year (kind of amazing!).
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