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Alyeska Classic Mountain Run

The view from the Alyeska tramThe final race of the Alaska Mountain Runners Grand Prix series happened this past Saturday with the Alyeska Classic Mountain Run. The shortest of all the events on the calendar, it involved 2,100 vertical feet up a 2.2 mile mix of cat roads and short single track sections to the top of the resort's tram. The race also served as a fund raiser for Matt Kenney who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury during a fall at this year's Mount Marathon race. All proceeds from the event go toward his daunting medical bills.

A cool likeness of Matt Kenney signed by the competitors, wishing him a speedy recovery

Approximately 250 competitors showed up for the leisurely noon start. The weekend before I did 5 laps up the North Face trail to the tram dock assuming, incorrectly, that I would get the race route dialed. I was a little perturbed to find out at check in that the course was completely different. Oh well. I reasoned that it really didn't matter. I was going to throttle it and let the cards fall where they may. Thirty minutes of effort didn't really require much strategy.

And the fun begins...Initially, I thought that the cat roads were going to make the race flat and more of a runner's course. But I was pleased to find plenty of steep trudging typical of mountain races along the way. There was a short downhill that lasted about a minute twenty for me but everything else was UP. 

John Weddleton and Karl Romig battlingAfter Mat Peak a couple of weeks ago I've adjusted my "threshold" heart rate upwards to 170 bpm. As painful as I knew it would be I was confident that I could hold this for the duration. I hoped this increased intensity and, thus, speed, would gain me some ground on my competitors. Since the event is shorter than the others, it's hard to know if it did. Interestingly, a woman whom I seem to battle at nearly every event, Sheryl Loan, beat me this time. She typically passes me early and then fades near the end. No fading this time. She stormed to the women's title in 31:44. 

The HR graph tells the tale of my race. Nothing but high, steady effort, right where I wanted it. The top 25 competitors separated themselves and I was on the tail end of that. The last person to pass me was a woman who has beaten me before. I don't know why I always seem to be battling women at the end of these races but I don't really care. They push me just like any other competitor. I throw chivalry out the door for racing. My only concession is a friendly hand on their back as they move by me. 

But when Mara Rabinowitz passed me with less than ten minutes to go she didn't finish the deal and move on. I stayed just a step or two behind her and plotted my finishing surge. Hell, I wanted to go really hard on this day and she was going to provide the launching pad. A brief flat section before the final hundred meters to the line provided the moment and I pulled clear. I topped the final rise and sprinted, sort of, to the line in 32:12. 

The dry heaving started about 20 seconds after stopping. I've been there before, in high school swimming puking into the gutter and several times in bike races over the years. It's most unpleasant but passes quickly. Always a little embarrassing but actually it's appreciated by this crowd. They get it. 

So, the Grand Prix is over and I think I've locked up 3rd place in my division. I'll never catch Barney Griffin but Karl Romig got a little closer as the season went on. Maybe I'll improve to the point where he and I can duke it out next season.

The last race of the year, the Alyeska Climbathon on September 8th, is not part of the series but will serve as a painful closer to a fun season. It's a straight forward sufferfest with competitors climbing the North Face trail and descending via the tram as many times as possible in 10 hours. Winners do 12 laps. I'm hoping for 11. It's going to be very hard with pacing and nutrition being keys to success. There is also a little luck involved in hitting the tram ride down without waiting too long. Stay tuned for that. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Congratulations on a great race at Alyeska - you are a motivated and strong finisher.

September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMara Rabinowitz

Thanks, Mara. Like they say, you're only as strong as your competition. I definitely went harder with you in front of me. I thought we were going to have a repeat of Govt. Peak where you schooled me. Glad you were there. Way more fun than finishing alone.

Thanks for reading.

September 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterBrian

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