Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon (Anchorage, AK) Report and Video - June 2017

Alaska Post List

Here's Holly's race report for the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon along with some video and Dave's race chasing comments.

When I say I’m trying to run a marathon in all 50 states, everyone always asks what about Alaska?!?  Believe it or not there are several marathons in Alaska.   We chose the Mayor’s Marathon due to the ability to schedule it with a cruise and land tour.   We already covered the pre race festivities.   

Race morning started with us driving out to the start from our hotel.  This is a point to point course and the race started a bit of out town and finished in downtown Anchorage.   Stan and I were running the full and Lee and Laura were running the relay.  Dave and Pam were race chasing.   The weather was perfect, about 50 degrees and overcast but no rain and the sun would peek out occasionally.   There were a lot of people finishing their 50 states quest in Alaska and it got me excited for when I would be doing that in Hawaii.   

The start was nice and soon we were off and running along a nice paved trail by the highway.  The course was relatively flat with a few rolling hills.    We did have several miles of gravel and even some areas of single track trail.   This made it challenging and we were very happy to be done with that section of the course.   We were on the lookout for bears and moose (the day after the marathon a young runner was killed by a bear during a cross country race in Anchorage).   

It was a beautiful course with lots of mountain views all around you.   Our race chasers did a good job with a difficult course to follow.  They even walked a 1/2 mile through the woods to get to us.  I’m glad they didn’t see any bears!    We all felt pretty good and we were excited to be running a marathon in Alaska!  The course volunteers were great and the water stops plentiful.   We did get to see a moose at Mile 23 and that was very cool.    

The end of the race is very cruel.  Two massive uphill’s to get to the finish.   But we were done and got finisher medals, shirts and some decent food.  They had beer but you had to buy it, the proceeds went to charity so that was ok by me!   Now the race was over and it was time for the vacation to begin!

Dave's Comments

This was not a course designed for spectating.   After the start the first real opportunity we had to park and wait for the runners was mile 4.   Before that, they were on a path that followed the highway.  Road closures and detours barely got us to the relay exchange point in time - which ended up being almost a mile earlier than indicated.   We swapped Laura for Lee at mile 6.3 and then headed off to the next spectating point - mile 13.   This route gave us the opportunity to finally stop somewhere for a coffee.  To get to the mile 13 viewpoint we had to drive around a subdivision and find the secret entrance to the running trail.  This involved braving a very narrow wooded path and the mosquitos.   Mile 15 was also a little sketchy as we had to follow a truck down the road in a slow caravan to the spectating area.  We arrived at the same time as our runners and hurried the heck out of there to join the convoy back.  The rest of the course was back to residential streets and trails so we didn't have too many more viewing opportunities.  We traded Laura for Lee at mile 21ish so they could complete their relay.  At least parking in town at the finish line was easy and I got a sweet spot near the finish area.

Video from the race:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alaska - Anchorage

Alaska Post List

Our group of six arrived in Anchorage on two different flights. Lee and Laura came in from San Diego via Seattle while Stan and Pam were on our direct flight from Chicago O'Hare. Our flight left late (of course) but made up time and had us into Anchorage within ten minutes of schedule. Most of our 6 hour flight was spent watching movies, but as we neared Anchorage our attention turned to the windows:

We found out later these were glaciers

Because daylight lasts long in the summer our 8pm arrival felt more like 4pm. Lee and Laura had already secured our rental car and had time to explore town.

We checked into our hotel - The Anchorage Grand. It was a small hotel in what was likely an apartment complex at one time. We had a kitchen with stove, full refrigerator, large sitting area, and a lot of closet space. We were three blocks from the center of downtown and right next to the Eisenhower Alaska Statehood Monument and the train station was down the hill. It was a great location.

We headed into town for dinner. Town was still busy at 9:30PM. We found out that locals embrace this season and spend as much time as they can outside - which means later dinners. Glacier Brewhouse, our dinner location, had only one 4-person booth left and we insisted that six of us could fit. We spent the time trying beers and eating pizza.

Anchorage itself does not have any big famous sites or monuments like The Arch or Statue of Liberty. It was a small livable city - like Des Moines, Iowa. The suburban amenities were plentiful. Anchorage is fortunate to have many park spaces, the sea, and many mountains almost always in view. We were not sure how to spend our free time on Friday - and with four people in our group running a race the next day - we wanted to keep off our feet a bit. Our morning started with a 4-or-so mile walk on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Our route took us along the shoreline with views of whitecap mountains from across the water and to the Westchester Lagoon.

Time for lunch! We headed out of the downtown area towards the shopping / chain restaurant area of town. Dave found the Bear Tooth Theatre Pub online. The venue had a large dining area and a multi-use theater for art house movies and concerts. They are owned or associated with Broken Tooth Brewery (which is how Dave found them). We enjoyed their many beer offering and the sandwiches made with calzone dough were fantastic. It was a very unique lunch for the food and venue.

Ever go to Wal-Mart with six adults planning a week-long road trip? Not sure we'd recommend it. Snacks of all types were landing in the cart: Goldfish (the crackers), Good & Plenty, bagels, Rolos, several varieties of potato chips (they had Tim's from Washington so we had to load up), cracker sandwiches, a case of water..... Almost $90 later we ran out of there.

We made a stop at Lake Hood to watch some seaplanes take off. This area near the main airport has a collection of hangars and docks for seaplanes, and is home to the Alaskan Aviation Museum.

Back in the city we walked a few blocks from our hotel to the river where we should have been able to see salmon. A fishing derby was taking place and many folks were out there casting - but we did not see any fish on hooks. This was not the best place for viewing so we moved on to the Ulu Knife Factory Store and used their free trolley to climb the hill to city center. That's where we found the Alaska Public Lands Visitor Center and museum (which counted as a National Park office). Here we watched a film about the Katmai National Park and all their bears.

We found Humpy's bar in town to be a great place to sit and chat before making our way to dinner at Fat Ptarmigan. One thing we were all appreciating about Anchorage was its beer culture. Humpy's had a large selection of craft beers - many from Alaska. Fat Ptarmigan also had some great selections and we really enjoyed the ones we samples from Kassik's Brewing. The food at Fat Ptarmigan was excellent.

After our team completed the race, we hit the Anchorage Market. This area near our hotel was a tent city filled with food vendors and craft items. This is where we sampled deep-fried halibut for the first time. Excellent. There weren't any beer vendors in the market so we made our way to 49th State Brewing. Dave talked us into a large sofa area on the deck with a fire table. We camped out here for several hours while enjoying food, adult beverages and the amazing views.

We had "one more" in us so we headed up a few blocks to Williwaw. This location was a coffee spot, concert venue, rooftop bar, pool lounge, and speakeasy. The rooftop was full, leaving us to be the only patrons enjoying the ground level bar. It was ok though because we had some time to talk to our waitress, who was born in Alaska, and gained some insights on daily life. About 3/4 of the people working bars, hotels, restaurants were from somewhere else. Some work here seasonally while others made it their full-time home.

Our last experience in Anchorage was breakfast Sunday morning at Jackie's Place outside of downtown. Our 17 year old waitress pegged us as tourists by our long-sleeve t-shirts. We were wearing too many clothes. Oddly, the telephone book sized Mile Post guidebook was not the tip-off. She was stunned that tourists actually found their diner. When we said we found great reviews online she outright laughed. Fortunately the food and service were excellent and it was well worth our time to sit in a local place and watch folks come in and eat - in their shorts. After breakfast our drive to Talkeetna (or as we started calling it "Talk-an-ita") started.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Charity of the Month: Give Kids the World

Charity of the Month is a way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

June: In June we supported Alaska Conservation Fund with a $125 contribution. This organization is involved in many conservation projects around the 49th State.  We had an incredible time exploring Alaska during June and had some memorable experiences with glaciers and wildlife.

July's Charity

Give Kids The World (GKTW)

We've been supporting GKTW for years and during our Disney World trips we have witnessed the organization in action greeting families at airports.  We chose GKTW this month based on a recent Facebook post from a friend.   Her son has been working with a young boy that has a chromosomal condition that brings on daily seizures.   He is not able to walk, but participates in wheelchair skateboarding, horseback riding, etc.   No one with this condition has lived to age 5 and tomorrow (July 11) is his 5th birthday.   Give Kids the World will be welcoming this boy and his family to their resort in November.

Most avid Disney theme park fans know about the great things going on at Give Kids The World (GKTW). The 70+ acre resort (The Village) gives families of children with life-threatening illnesses a chance to have a magical week long vacation free of financial burdens and worry about the resort's ability to accommodate for their unique needs. Many of the guests are referred to GKTW by organizations like Make-A-Wish and come from all over the world. A week at GKTW typically includes ice cream for breakfast, visits to local theme parks, visits by famous characters, rides, and much more. "No" is a word seldom heard at The Village.

Give Kids The World is proud to be ranked among the nation’s top charities with over 90% of all donations going directly to catering to their guests.  Check out the many ways to help on their website.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Touring Alaska - Overview

Places visited by car
We just wrapped up two+ incredible weeks in Alaska. We are leaving for home today from Vancouver, British Columbia. Its hard to remember everything we have seen and experienced without opening the Photos App and going through the daily downloads of pictures taken along the way. We've experienced Alaska by car, train, boat, ship, little airplane, and kayak.

This trip took a lot of planning and coordination since three couples would be traveling together and we needed to balance individual interests. Holly, Laura, and Pam really did most of the work to put this all together. They did a fantastic job! Dave for the most part had no clue where we were going or the order of destinations.

We will post more details on the trip over the next few weeks (more likely months). Here is a rough outline of our itinerary with a few pictures included. As posts are added we'll edit this post to provide links to location and event posts for those truly interested in referring back for research. Since this trip included our first cruise ship experience we will also have specific posts and comments on that topic.
Cruise ship destinations