This past Saturday saw another one of Alaska's mountain running races go down and I was there for all the suffering. The Government Peak hill climb outside of Palmer took place on a sunny day with 160+ runners showing up for a record turn out. The race staged at the charming Mountain Streams Bed and Breakfast which served as the perfect gathering spot before and after the event.
As I warmed up near the starting line I tried to remember the last running race I did. It was the Autumn Classic in Nampa, Idaho way back in 1987. Hmmm… 25 years. That's a while. I've certainly done plenty of racing since then but always on a bike or, more recently, on rando skis. Now, with my recent move to Alaska and a new love for mountain running, I decided to toe the line in the first trail running event of the year, Kal's Knoya Ridge Run last Thursday evening.
I traveled to Alaska following the biggest winter on record and arrived at the start of an uncommonly long period of settled weather. This allowed me to sample some of the close to town skiing in an attempt to ease some of my regret about leaving Jackson. It's been a hard transition.
The weather warms, the snow softens and melts and attention turns to the next objective. There's still skiing to be done here in Alaska but I have to drive a little farther to find reasonable conditions. So, the after work agenda changes and mine turns to running.
No one would accuse me of being an inexperienced ski mountaineer but, like one, for some reason I have never owned a pair of ski crampons. Until this season, I was always watching my friends scurry along with them while I booted with crampons. If it was super firm, the difference in speed was marginal but if it was punchy I was dropped quickly. In spring their utility is undeniable when skinning up smooth, frozen corn and glazed skin tracks. But even in winter on wind swept passes and ridges, ski crampons take a terrifying, precarious moment and reduce it to pleasurable. They add a level of security and increase travel efficiency to a degree that is staggering.