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Up Topic Training / Marathons / Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon Race & Travel Report
- - By nooner [us] Date 2017-06-28 3:26 PM
I'm going to try out a new format that I modeled from the Marathon and Beyond publication that is no longer in print. I've separated out the extra travel that we did into its own post so you can wade through that as you wish.

Mayor’s Midnight Marathon

  History/Tradition: The Mayor’s Midnight Marathon is one of the oldest marathons in Alaska (this year was the 44th). It is one of the most popular Team in Training destination marathons.

I primarily chose it because the date was close to our 30th wedding anniversary and it made a good jumping off point for our Alaska adventure.

12 out of 15 points

  Cost: The $75 registration is very reasonable relative to other races. Hotel and food costs were higher than most races I have done in the past few years. Helpful Hint: When booking your lodging, make sure that the historic hotel you are staying in has AC.:mutmad:

7 out of 10 points

  Locale: Anchorage was a nice place to visit although it was a bit “touristy” with all of the souvenir shops. My wife found plenty of artsy stores and purchased some artwork. Transportation options were great with access to trains, roads, and flights. There was a good selection of restaurants and coffee shops. We enjoyed some of the best ice cream at a place that had opened up just a week before.

12 out of 15 points

  Weekend activities: The race didn’t offer many other activities but Anchorage held a Solstice Festival that closed down a number of streets for vendors, kids activities and other food options. I doubt that many of the people in attendance at these events had any idea that a race was going on, but it gave us something to do after the run.

8 out of 10 points
 
  Expo & Registration: The expo was a decent size but not anything special. Just a few local vendors and races. There was a helpful volunteer that helped us scope out a good spot for my wife to see me along the course and we drove there after the expo. Registration was one of the oddest I have encountered. When you pick up your bib, it is assigned to you on the spot rather than being assigned previously. I was a little concerned about how this was going to work, but it was fine. I do like having names on the bibs and this prohibits that.
 
6 out of 10 points
 
  Course: The course is a nice mixture of bike trails, gravel road and just a short section of trail through the woods. We ran less than a mile on a street through a neighborhood at the very end of the race. I liked how scenic and remote the whole race felt – very much like Alaska. The first 14 miles trended uphill so we got some downhill on the way back in but there are 2 nasty hills in the last half mile. I didn’t see any wildlife during the race (just some moose poop: pbbt:) but there were rumors of a bear sighting. There was a section where I felt that the mile markers were off by a good bit, but it may have been trees blocking the signal to my watch.

The race starts at a high school outside of town and the transportation was very smooth and there were plenty of porta-johns for the number of runners. They had a local radio station pumping music and keeping the runners entertained while we waited for the start. In addition to the national anthem, the radio host (an American Idol contestant) sang the Alaska Flag song which was a lovely addition.

I never felt comfortable during the race. I don’t know if it was all of the travel that tired me out, but the whole race was a struggle. My pace was off at 6 miles and I knew it was just a day to cross off the state. I walked most of the bigger hills and tried to enjoy the day as much as I could. My back tightened up around halfway and that was a concern for the rest of the race. I chatted with a few people along the way but never latched onto anyone for any stretch of time.
Official finish time: 4:27:59. State #37 Marathon or more #60.

16 out of 20 points
 
  Race Amenities: We received our race shirts once we finished the race. The marathoners received a nice long sleeved tech shirt. It’s a nice shirt, but the design looks like they have been using it for about 40 years and could use an update. The race medal was a nice size and design, and a bit plain by modern standards.(I by-passed the regular volunteers and received my medal from Miss Alaska:hug:) I thought that there were several things about the race that could use some updating – the printed information looked like it hadn’t been updated in quite some time. The biggest ding I will give is for their post-race beer tent. I waited in a decent line and got to the front and chose an IPA from the 3 or 4 options and was asked if I had already paid my $5. As I had already picked it up and almost started drinking, my wife generously paid. They did have a number of activities post-race but I was ready to go after the bad beer experience.:meh:
 
5 out of 10 points
 
  Volunteers/Spectators: Since the race course is not easily accessible, there were very few spectators. We ran through an Army base around mile 5 and went right by the golf course / driving range. We did receive a smattering of polite golf claps in there. :laugh: Volunteers were very nice, but a few aid stations early on were understaffed. I will also mention that the Gatorade served was the lightest mix I’ve ever encountered. It was basically light blue colored water. There was no Gu offered along the course although they did have fruit, pretzels and gummy bears and many of the aid stations.
 
7 out of 10 points

Bonus - Beer Scene: Anchorage had a lot of breweries and we were able to visit quite a few in the limited time we had. A couple were a few miles out of town so a car or cab would be needed to get there. The best beers we had were at Anchorage Brewing which features many saison styles and uses Brett yeast in many of their beers.

Score:    73 out of 100
Parent - - By nooner [us] Date 2017-06-28 3:29 PM
Alaska Travel Log

The marathon was just a small part of the trip as the main reason I chose this race was so that my wife & I could explore Alaska for our 30th anniversary. We were gone for almost two weeks and enjoyed (almost) every minute of the trip.

We flew into Anchorage late Tuesday night (actually 3 AM Wednesday morning) and crashed in a hotel close to the airport. We slept until late morning, had some breakfast and drove 4 hours to Denali National Park. We picked up our passes and explored just a little bit as you can only drive into the park 15 miles. We took a small walk at a meadow to stretch our legs a bit. We had dinner at the 49th State Brewing Company in Denali where they have the van used in the movie Into the Wild (which I watched on the plane). I had read the book and had to get my picture taken in the van.

We explored the park on Thursday mostly using the shuttle bus to Kantishna which is at mile 92 of the park road. Denali is very different from most national parks in that it is primarily a wildlife preserve and not designed around various natural wonders like Yellowstone or Yosemite. We saw the big 5 mammals – Dahl sheep, moose, grizzly bear, caribou and wolf with the most being the wolf chowing down on a caribou carcass just yards off the road. We had been riding on the bus for almost 6 hours when we reached the far end at Kantishna but rather than having to riding the bus back out, I had reserved an air taxi which was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. My wife & I hopped off the bus and were escorted to a 6 seat plane where I ended up in the co-pilot seat. We flew over to Mount Denali and got some amazing views – the best being as we flew directly towards the 14,000 ft Wickersham Wall. My wife snapped some amazing pictures as I was too stupefied to do anything.

We went back to the park for a quick dog sled presentation on Friday morning before driving back to Anchorage. My travel tip for Alaska is to always buy gas for your car when you can – we almost ran out on the drive back and had to stop at a resort and beg them for a couple of gallons (at $10 a gallon :shocker!:) to get us down the road.

Sunday morning after the race we hopped on a train to take us to Seward where we were to board our cruise ship. That train ride was beautiful and we saw more Dahl sheep on that ride than we had seen in Denali. We arrived in Seward before noon and one nice feature of the train is that they transport your luggage directly to the cruise ship so we didn’t need to worry about it. We checked in and dropped our backpacks off in our stateroom and went back out to explore Seward which was a neat little town. We had some lunch and a flight at the Seward Brewing Company and took the free shuttle back to the boat.

We cruised on Holland America from Seward to Vancouver with stops in Glacier Bay where we got to watch the glacier calve, Haines where we road another train up the path used during the gold rush, Juneau where we did some whale watching and Ketchikan where we took a scenic boat ride into Misty Fjords National Monument and saw a pod of orca whales. I had never been on a cruise ship before and really enjoyed this as there were only 1400 passengers on board so I never felt overcrowded. We didn’t do a ton of the offered activities, but did enough to get out of the room and not feel too claustrophobic. The food was all very good and I didn’t run a step while there. They did have a 5K walk for cancer the last day so I joined in on that and walked in support of those suffering.

The cruise ended in Vancouver and with the flight schedule, we ended up with a full day on Sunday to explore. We spent some time on Granville Island where I exchanged lunch at the brewery for hours of poking in all of the stores. After that, we went downtown to the old Gastown section where we did some more shopping and had some dinner. We got to see the Steam Clock do its thing at 5 o’clock which was pretty cool. We would have explored Stanley Park if we had more time. We were waiting for a bus and some runners came out wearing medals and race bibs and we later found out that there was a half marathon Sunday morning. There was no way I could have arranged to have run that, but it would have been cool if that could have worked out. I did plant the seed for the Vancouver Marathon to come back and spend more time as we enjoyed the little bit of time we had.

Overall, this was one of the most amazing trips we have taken. Alaska is a huge, beautiful place and getting to see how nature survives in such a brutal environment was awesome! We were reminded however that even in a huge place like Alaska, the world is a small place:

1)  At dinner in Denali at 49th State Brewing we were seated at a community table. A few minutes after we sat down, a young couple was seated directly opposite us. They happened to be one of the few people we had seen while walking in the park that afternoon. The odd thing was that neither of them drank beer. :wtf:

2)  After we dropped our stuff off on the cruise ship and were headed back into Seward we bumped into the other couple that had been in the small plane that we had flown in by Denali Mountain.

3)  We met a couple at one dinner on the cruise ship and bumped into them at various ports but figured that was pretty common. We were heading to dinner in Vancouver and once again bumped into them on the street.

We have lots of other places on our list of things we want to see before we get too old, but Alaska is on the list for a return trip. We’d probably find some other way to explore different areas, and see some other sights, but it’s such a big place that it won’t be too hard to come up with something. I need to get all of the pictures in one place and share them some time but they can’t do justice to what we saw in real life.
Parent - - By blazer85 [us] Date 2017-06-30 1:23 PM
Nice job!  With all the travelling, simply checking the state off seems like an appropriate goal.  Good to hear the course did feel like Alaska....it would suck to go all that way and have it be a somewhat urban or suburban type race.  And what is with charging $5 for a post race beer?!

I love the format you used for reviewing the race!  I had forgotten they did that in Marathon & Beyond....it is an extremely efficient and fair way to review the race.

Did you fly directly to Anchorage?  As we get kinda closer to doing this, I have to figure the best way to get the VERY claustrophobic blazerman to Alaska. (He barely made it to Idaho.)  I've been thinking we would need to stop in either Seattle or Vancouver for a day, each way, as there is no way he will make it to Alaska without several hours to regain his composure mid-trip. He has already indicated I may need to take a kid instead of him.
Parent - By nooner [us] Date 2017-07-07 8:55 AM
Our flight connected in Seattle. I couldn't find any direct flight. Seattle wouldn't be a bad stop. You can stay right at the airport and ride the train to downtown. Vancouver had a similar set-up and we loved the day we spent there.

It was a neat trip and will be excellent no matter how you make it work for you.
Parent - - By indie [us] Date 2017-06-30 8:12 PM
Okay, I will confess to reading the travel stuff first, because I absolutely love travel blogs. It's sounds like an amazing trip. Happy thiritieth. :) Did you share any pics on FB, would love to see some, especially of that plane ride back.

Oh yeah that running thing. :wink: Nicely done. It sounds like the perfect vacation, start with a race and recover on a trip. :hug:
Parent - By nooner [us] Date 2017-07-07 8:57 AM
My wife posted a lot of the pictures and tagged me but I don't think it shows up the same way. We'll get an album set up so everyone can see.
Parent - - By Blueberry Sky Date 2017-07-01 7:05 PM
First, congratulations on 30 years of marriage! What a spectacular way to celebrate. :cool:

I enjoyed reading your perspective on Alaska. I had to laugh about your comments regarding varying "need for updating" as that is kind of Alaska in a nutshell! :laugh: It is so much more remote than people fully realize and have so few roads for such a big state.

I'm moving to Fairbanks in 3.5 months, so while I've been to the great state 3 times, you certainly saw far more than I've seen, at least so far. The info on the cruise was good to read, I'm horrifically claustrophobic and could never do a stateroom without a slider, plus singles most often have to pay a double rate, so I'll likely never get to see AK from that point of view, though I'd love to. Anyway, the Denali park sounds amazing, I may have to do that!
Thanks for writing it all out!

And, congrats on another marathon! :grin:
Parent - By nooner [us] Date 2017-07-07 9:00 AM
You'll have plenty of opportunity to visit Denali once you are up there. The plane ride was well worth the cost.

We heard that Fairbanks gets some of the biggest weather variations in the state, so you'll get both hot and cold. You are in for a great adventure!!

Thanks for stopping in.
Parent - - By Eric1970 Date 2017-07-01 9:23 PM
Sounds like a great trip! Congrats on state number #37 and your 30th anniversary!:cool: We did a similar cruise except that our left from Anchorage the afternoon of the marathon, so I couldn't stay for the post race festivities and never knew they charged extra for the beer even for participants!:shocker!::roll: I would have loved to go to Denali...I'm excited for you to post some pics on FB!
Parent - By nooner [us] Date 2017-07-07 9:02 AM
Cruising out on Saturday was an option for us, but I chose the Sunday cruise so that we weren't rushed on Saturday. I'm glad that I did even though it added an extra day onto the trip.

We'll get some pictures up.
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