Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sitka Cross Trail Half Marathon Race Recap

We just got back from an AMAZING trip in Alaska visiting our best friends Crystal and Joe. I can't even describe how thankful I am for being able to have the opportunity to go visit them and getting to spend some time together in a beautiful place.

 The four of us hiking on Harbor Mountain

When Mike and I decided on which week we were going to Alaska, we of course picked out a race for all of us to run together! At first, Crystal, Mike and I were all registered to run the half marathon. For various reasons, a few weeks before the race Crystal decided to switch to the marathon. My plan was to run the first loop of the race with her, finish the half marathon and then run 5-6 more miles with her later on (since I am training for a 50 miler).

 Crystal made this, Alaska would be our 8th state we've raced in together!

Race morning rolled around and we all got ready for the race. Luckily, Crystal lives right across the street from the race start so we didn't have to get up too early. We all walked over to the airport (the race start location) and checked in with the race director (they need to know exactly how many people are running so that mountain rescue has an accurate count).

Mike is ready to run a half marathon! Photo courtesy of Crystal

 Time to race together! Photo courtesy of Crystal

After chatting, going to the bathroom and taking a group photo it was time to get ready for the start. Crystal and I weren't standing next to each other when the race started, she was taking photos and the start happened kind of quickly, but we got to each other easily. There were not many people registered for the race, 10 for the marathon and 50 or so for the half marathon.

Crystal and I started out at a faster pace, for a marathon, but she knew we would slow down later on the gravel trail portions of the race. The first two miles are on Japonski Island and then you cross over the bridge to finish the rest of the race on Baranof Island. While we were on Alice Loop a man was outside in his bath robe cheering everyone on!

 Excited to be running, photo courtesy of Crystal

After we crossed the bridge and ran through Crescent Harbor we entered Totem Park. Right when we got to this part of the race, Crystal and I think we saw a sea lion in the water! She also mentioned that she wanted to slow to a 9:30 pace so we slowed down a bit (I did tell her I wasn't worried since we had the downhill on the bridge prior to that). It was hard to tell what pace we were running while in the park due to satellites being thrown off.

After a couple of loops through the park, we exited to the road again. It was fun to run some roads we had already run on or driven through during the week. I wore my hydration vest, to get some more practice with wearing it, so I never took any hydration from the course.

We got on to the Cross Trail and there were some decent hills on here! Crystal had shown us some of the hills prior to the race, so we knew what we were in for, but they were still tough. The downhill portions were fun, though. We did end up walking part of the worst hill, but it didn't slow us down at all and saved some energy.

One section of the Cross Trail had a lot of signs for one guy named Ryan. There were probably close to 10 signs for him in a half mile section!

After we went through the second Mountain Rescue check point (they check you off in two spots to make sure you got through the trail), we crossed over the Cascade Creek bridge. Crystal told me that there weren't very many hills left and after about a half mile to a mile the worst hills were over. I also knew that my time with Crystal was almost over.

Even though my original plan was to run the entire first loop with her, I didn't realize initially that the full marathoners had to go further during an out and back section than the half marathoners (to make up for not doing the beginning part on Japonski again). When we reached Kramer Drive, after high-fiving Crystal's friend Amanda, I had to turn around at mile 9.5 while Crystal continued on. I had also told her earlier on in the race that I wasn't going to be able to run more miles with her during the second loop since my legs were pretty trashed from all of the hiking and sightseeing we had done during the week.

I told her that I would see her at the start of her second loop and I turned around to head toward the finish. I thought I might be able to catch up to Crystal's friend Amanda so I picked up the pace a bit. I also saw Crystal's friend Charmaine who was running her first (official) half marathon (she did great!)

After you run down Kramer Drive you get back on the road to finish up the race. I could see Amanda in the distance and I just tried to keep up a good pace. I also noticed that my watch distance and the race distance were really off, I only had 10.25ish miles when we hit 11 miles.

I caught up to Amanda with about half a mile to go and we ran together for a little while. She mentioned that she might be able to get a 2 hour half marathon, which would be a PR! We ran through the roundabout and then started the run toward the finish. After a quick turn back on to the sidewalk near Crescent Harbor, I told Amanda to go get her 2 hour half marathon. I dropped back a bit and ran toward the finish line. I saw Mike on the sidelines cheering and then crossed the finish.

I finished in 1:59:06 and finished 22nd out of 49 finishers. Mike did great, and really raced it, and almost got a PR with a time of 1:43:41 and came in 9th overall!

After finishing I told Mike that I wouldn't be able to run more miles with Crystal. Joe arrived shortly after and we watched Crystal's friends finish their races and waited for her to come through. When I saw someone that had been near us during the first loop I started walking down the grass to look for her. She came around the corner pretty soon after and I ran with her a bit, and she gave me her trash, ha! We told her we would see her out on the course and she continued on her way.

We waited a bit more for one of Crystal's friends who was running her first marathon and then after she came through Joe, Mike, Charmaine and I all got in the car to go cheer on Crystal. Amanda had mentioned that she was going to run the worst hill with Crystal, so that made me feel better about not running more miles with her.

 The worst of it is over!

After stopping for some coffee, we drove to Cascade Creek to wait for Crystal to come through. Charmaine decided to run a few miles with Crystal to Kramer Drive and when Crystal and Amanda came through, Charmaine joined them. We ran to the car and started to drive to Kramer Drive. At first Mike was going to do the out and back part with her, but I decided I could run a few miles. So then Mike decided to run the last 2-3 miles with her.

When we got to Kramer Drive, Crystal and Charmaine had just come through! I hopped out of the car and did some "speed work" to catch up to them (I was moving and the aid station volunteers took notice and I thought I might puke up my coffee). Charmaine noticed me and told Crystal I was coming. The three of us ran together for a bit, and then Charmaine stopped and waited for us to come back after the turn around. Crystal was doing great and we ended up passing a few runners during this section.

 Really around mile 23 or so, photo courtesy of Charmaine

I'm in a "Run Sitka" sandwich, photo courtesy of Crystal
Time for Mike to take over, photo courtesy of Joe

We got back to Charmaine and then we were back at the aid station where Mike was going to join Crystal. At first we didn't know where he was, but Joe told us he was in the woods. As Mike said, when nature calls! He popped out of the woods and ran down the hill to catch up to Crystal. I ended up running 2.3ish miles with her, not the 5-6 miles I originally planned but I think our new plan worked out even better!

 I am glad Mike got some extra miles with Crystal, photo courtesy of Crystal

He even tied her shoe for her one time, so she didn't have to bend over. Photo courtesy of Charmaine

Joe, Charmaine and I got in the car and after cheering Crystal on while driving past we went to the finish line to wait for her. After finding a place to park, we didn't have to wait too long for Crystal and Mike to run around the corner toward the finish.

 Crystal says it looks like Mike is chasing her and she is running away from him

 Marathoner x 4!

I am so proud of her and thankful that I was able to be a part of her fourth marathon. Mike and I have been at every marathon Crystal has run and I have been able to run with her at all four of them. I am sad I won't be able to be at her marathon coming up in the fall!

 Some finish line photos

We love running! Photo courtesy of Crystal

This race was just the icing on the cake of a wonderful week spent with our friends. I am looking forward to racing state #9 in the winter!


  1. How awesome that you were able to be there with Crystal for her 4th marathon, and what a freaking beautiful place.

  2. Awesome, awesome! Can't wait to hear more about your adventures in Alaska!

  3. Why are you not here still?!?! Whyyyyyyyyyyy?! I have so many amazing memories from last week. I miss you so much already though. It's time to start counting down until January.