100k WC 2011

100k WC 2011

Gagarin Half Finish

Gagarin Half Finish
Gagarin Half Finish

Awards Gagarin Half

Awards Gagarin Half
Awards Gagarin Half

Cosmonauts give out the awards:)

Cosmonauts give out the awards:)
Cosmonauts give out the awards



Sunday, January 8, 2017

Busy as Bee

Well, I had a hunch I'd drop off for a while.....I  tried starting this entry over Thanksgiving, but was just too busy. Fall racing season was busy busy and between the road trips and school, I just don't have the time to check in like I used to. Right after Belochka, Leonid and I came back to Alaska for the fall racing season. Sure, we've traveled to the USA many times before, but this was his first time in Alaska. The season is pretty busy until Early October, then it just drops dead as a flipping doornail til May unless you are up to the hassle of hauling to Anchorage which I am not. We raced (and won) nearly every weekend through October until the season was up. We got some damn nice prizes along the way everything from a Kenai Fjords cruise to air and ferry tickets to massage and spa treatment and many more goodies......

                    first pink moment sunset in Anchorage at Pt Woronzof. July after 11pm.Sleeping Lady is in the background. I'd told Leonid about these views for years.

Jackolof Bay 10 miler- this was an awesome hilly 10 miler from Jackolof Bay to Seldovia. We took the water taxi from Homer and the ferry back. This was very well organized and had fun prizes. The trip was worth its weight in berries we picked after the run!

 Our first race and win for both of us

 what to do with all those blueberries!
lots of berries and no bears -it was a good day!

Six days later I repeated my win at the Run For Life 5k in Soldotna and Leonid took his first win here.It was WET WET WET this yr!!!

 GO FISH! Best recovery food :-)

The following weekend I ran the Kenai Run for Women 10k again this yr.....and here is my prize- a lovely fireweed painting :-)
....And the next weekend we ran the Costume 5k in Kenai where we both won overall! This was an offroad/on road hybrid course with hills! This worked in my favor!
 Top 3 overall Leonid then me then William
 chillin after the race!

During the last weekend of August, I had a holy day off school and a 3 day weekend.The weather gods cooperated in full and we hit the road to Seward to enjoy one of the prizes we had won- A Kenai Fjords cruise :-) 
Labor Day weekend we went back to Seldovia  for the 10k and more berries! We had to make use of that ferry ride back we had won earlier this season and we decided to spend the weekend running then picking the last of the blueberries. My fridge is well stocked with jam!
The 10k was a nice dirt road/trail course -not fast(the only fast course we really did was the 5k in Soldotna) but really pretty. We managed to win this one too! It was very well organized and marked! There were plenty of blueberries saying PICK ME PICK ME after the race!

Two weeks later was the Halibut Hustle 5k. I won this one "just for the halibut" the second year in a row and Leonid won on a technicality because the leader accidentally turned around too soon. It was a very windy day on the Spit that day and WET. I was some 40 sec faster than last year, but the course was again 300m long...ah well.
Now, I had planned to run the half at the Kenai Marathon this year so I could do Run to the Altar (the vertical trail half I did six days off the marathon last yr) and not feel like unrecovered shit. Unfortunately, Run to the Altar was cancelled and is no more. This was such a fun course-very hard gnarly ass trail. So, five days before the marathon I figured I'd do it as a long run. I was again selected to represent Latvia in the 100k WC/EC in November, but unfortunately, I couldn't afford the 3-4000$ for the trip. Yes, shit like this sucks. I'm still very capable of running well at the ultras, but the cost of travel and the logistics of getting out are killing what's left of my career. I'm out of the Little Su 50 in 2017 by default because we have Saturday School that day to make up for a holy day off midweek. I could take personal leave, but I can only justify taking personal leave for a race if it's WC/EC or a commercial race where I could offset the cost of the trip by going for prizes. I can't justify personal leave for Little Su 50k. Plus, the drive is a dangerous crapshoot that's 6 hours in good weather and maybe a no go come mid Feburary. I may be out in 2018 as well because I see we have Saturday School again mid Feb. We have a couple few Saturdays a school year when we sometimes have a Russian Orthodox holy day off midweek and then make it up on Saturday. This would be nice to do to fill the black hole of no winter races in Homer(still can't figure out why the hell it's dead as a bloody doornail October- May in Homer when we have mild winters and optimal places to race/train). However, the ends really don't justify the means.
I won the Kenai River Marathon running mostly alone all day. I beat the rain to the finish!!!! Many did not!

It was ideal weather- about +2-4C overcast

Two weeks later, we came back for the 5K in Kenai out on by American Cancer Society. Once Again, we both won and lucky for me this course was much like the costume run 5k but with 2 serious climbs one just one. I beat the girl who had just finished 3rd at HS state in XC the week before and she was better than me on the downhills but couldn't stay with me on the uphills. I used this to pull away on the climbs to open a gapand she finished about 20 sec. behind me. Had it been a flat course, I think she may have gotten me.
finish on a blustery -7C day!

The last weekend in October a couple weeks later we did a fun trail mud mile on a newly opened trail just outside of Homer. The cycling club put it on and you could run or bike it . It was a fun day!

I did the Turkey Trot (damn let 3 boys beat me LOL) about 3 weeks later. I'm training through the winter for spring summer. Yes, it continues to drive me batshit that there is nothing going on here until May. I may look into some possibilities over spring break, but' I'll see how feasible the travel etc is when it gets closer to the date and whether or not it's worth the hassle. I'm still planning a summer in Russia. Race plans if any are up in the air. It's really hard to gauge my fitness and effectively prepare for that part of the season when there are NO barometer races I terribly need March-April.Sadly, I'm pretty much being forced into retirement by default and inability to get out to the big high end races that motivate me. Without a sponsor or a means to offset the travel costs, It's just not possible. This is why I actually did most of my high level international racing in my 30s as opposed to my 20s because I had the same issues then- inability to get out as easily from Fairbanks and later Wasilla. However, at least I was able to get fit for my summer racing because in both these places, the running community had stuff going on throughout the winter. The few times there are races in my neck of the woods during the season, they are often these itty bitty 5ks and that's just not me. I need the longer stuff. I enjoy that more as well. I had planned to retire once I started slowing down after 40. I'm too competitive to have it any other way. I did finally get into proper shape late summer, so the capabilities to perform are still there, I need to be ready for that by the spring though and this not racing for some six months is ridiculous and wrong. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016


The last time I ran this marathon was in 2011 when the leaders were misdirected and ran an extra 3km! After that snafu, swore off the marathon and just started doing the 10. I'm honestly not sure I'll run a marathon this year. I've actually seriously been considering retirement after this season. If it's the beginning of the master's cliff , then it's time to retire. I always said I would when that happens. I will keep running and training because I don't want to morph into those freaks you see on the people of Walmart site, but I will not race.  I'm not sure that it's the master's cliff yet though, although since the pneumonia bout in 2014, my times have been crappy by my standards. One thing I will not do is lower my standards of what I see as acceptable performances for me personally not do I want to dumb down my running.

This past spring was just a mess with the lack of tune up races I desperately needed to get into racing shape. I do not forsee that situation improving anytime soon in the future. The other factor-incredibe demotivation because the cost of ever getting out to 100k WC/EC is beyond my pay grade. It's not going to happen without some kind of sponsorship- period. The desire to train for it is there, and qualify I could, but getting there from Alaska- not financially feasible. The last carrot I was hoping to train for- Daugavpils 50k/100k which was moved to May and I subsequently missed it by a couple days as it was the Saturday after school got out. That is something I can get to easily when I'm off school and in Moscow. Random trips to Europe in the middle of the school year- yes I have the personal leave to do it, but not the greenbacks.That whole nasty compendium of things screwing with my running has got me thinking.

My speed is still least to be desired by  my standards and I'm not sure what is going on. I have not been ill since the pneumonia and didn't get sick at school last year despite a whooping cough epidemic in the village. I did have a booster vaccine for that one though. So, there have not been major viral issues recently.I'm healthy- no injuries touch wood. Blood- not great but not the end of the world either. Lack of racing opportunity half the year is a big factor, but I think it's just a combination of all of the above. Despite all the crap, I still have the discipline to manage my time effectively so I can continue to train. The problem- really hard to train through knowing there is not much left to train for.

So, since I'm not sure about marathons this year or later on, I figured I'd do Belochka maybe one last time. It was my first Russian marathon back in 98. I've run it seven times now and won it 3 while podiuming at all the others. The ski club now helps with the course markings, volunteers on the course now  so I decided to give it one last try.

 Belochka is usually damn warm and often hot. Today, it was 32C in the shade and the start is at 11:30. There was  not a cloud in the sky. I just went out slowly and put it into autopilot which was fine save for 2 unplanned pit stops at 11 and 24km. Dammit-I suspect I got some bad cheese at the supermarket yesterday. I had a sour stomach in the morning. This course is the same ol same ol 1x 4k loop followed by 3x 12 and change. After the middle of the 2nd loop, I was on my own for 3 and 4 save for when I would pass people. I am so glad they had tons of arrows painted on the ground ! This was indeed a step up from last time. They also had volunteers on some of the tricky turns and FOUR aid stations per loop. Leonid was out there feeding me Vitargo bottles at the end of each loop. I drank like a fish and lost 3.6kg :( Again not good. My training run got me a 2nd place finish. Not bad. Our times were slow but we weren't planning fast in this heat. I felt like shit after I finished. I sat for a bit and drank then hit a very refreshing cold shower. I was ok in the shade, but when they called us up for the awards I started feeling the lightheadedness and after we got done I had to sit before attempting to go home. I have had this happen before where I barely make it home in the subway on days like this and have been close to blacking out.NOT FUN!

We were promised prize money. Ok, it wasn't bad , but the kicker was that the MEN got paid the amounts listed but the WOMEN got less. The top lady got half of what she was promised. That's just messed up and very sexist. We all agreed on that. They did that in the 10k as well. That put a damper on the day to say the very least. I did get a cool book with the history of the Olympics and top Russian athletes at them-something I may use in class for supplemental reading for the kids.

Next race will be in about 2 weeks...it will be shorter.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Racing- FINALLY!

As soon as school was out, I hit the bricks. Our summers are short because we finish later and start sooner than the rest of the schools because of the number of holy days off during the year. So, I wanted to scoot and make the most of said summer. The first thing I did the next morning after I got to Moscow was hit the lab for a blood draw. I wanted to rule out anemia and or chronic fatigue/Epstein Barr similar to what I had in 2007-08. Honestly, with my history of low ferritin and falling off the cliff back then so bad I was sidelined for 2 years before I was able to make a comeback, I need to be doing  lab tests every 4-6 weeks to prevent this from ever spiraling downward again. Well, yes,  Anchorage has a lab where I can just order the tests I need, walk in no drama and get it done. There is no such animal near me and it's a big hassle of going to a crapton of doctors just for a damn referral to get the tests I damn well know I need. Yes, the US medical system is least to be desired at times. So, needless to say, my last blood tests were in January before I left Moscow. Not surprisingly, things did come back on the low side but not the basement bottom low I had in 2007. Ok - I have ferrochel to take for a couple weeks, no need for injectable iron. Ok, this is under control...

First weekend in June, I run what they call a hilly half. I finished top 10 but yup, my speed is just in the gutter where it's been all spring. Coach says I may need up to 20 days to adust after being in the mountains for so long-I'm not buying that one simply because I've had years I've run good races very soon after coming in from Alaska like the year I popped a 1:26 in Zelenograd the day after hauling ass over from Fairbanks!
Tushino Half-

Two weeks later, I hit the track for a 3000....oh dear and it was in 30 degree heat!
 A little side note-
Still on antibiotics and four days after having a dental implant put in , I decided to race anyway. I didn't have any complications from the surgery,  but antibiotics do screw with your running. Back in February, the night before the 50k as I was falling asleep, I felt the crown on my molar come loose. less than two weeks later, the tooth underneath cracked and the crown came out. Now,, because everything in Homer shuts down by 5pm, I had the pleasure of writhing in pain from a severe abscess for FOUR DAYS before I could get help and have the tooth pulled! It cracked Thursday eve and by Friday at lunchtime, I was wondering if I'd make it through the school day. A couple of dentists in town don't work Fridays and the other quits at 3 so there was no way I was getting help until at least Monday! Yup, no one works weekends, not even Saturday! I even called Soldotna and Kenai but the nearest dentist with weekend hours was in Anchorage so I was completely screwed! OMFG! Insurance covered the tooth pull and bone graft, but no shocker here, I'd Just do the rest here in Moscow where I won't go broke. I have been doing major dental at my dentist in Moscow for cloe to 14 years now as it's just not an option in the USA where it's insanely overpriced. My coworkers go to Mexico for the same reason.

 I skipped this race last year as it ended up the weekend before I had to fly out in July. This one has always been well organized and there was a huge turnout. Over the years this one has attrcted national team types a d top men and women. Most immpressive performance of the day I'd say was Vyacheslav Shabunin's 8:38 for second place at age 45. He recently set the 1500 WR in the 1500 at 3:50 for that age group.
The winner in the pic is on the 100k national team. We do need to do a bit of the shorter stuff from time to time :)

Midweek, I jumped into a 15k xc run. This is the second to last race I did this year before I left in July as I had to back out of a couple others simply because I needed the time to pack up and ship stuff out.  Sadly, I won't be around for the 2nd and 3rd races in the series. I have really been struggling in the heat. The temps shot up into the 30s C mid June after nice mild cool temps. I had this issue in grad school coming out of Alaska and then getting slammed with high heat for the summer season. It seems really profound this year though. I've never done well when it's hot, but I'm really feeling it now. I was training in temps rarely hitting much about 10-15C til late May and was having serious concerns about how I'd deal with getting slammed with hot weather I haven't seen in a year.

Off for another 2 week time out to prepare for the next one.....

Well ....I did jump into our 1000m run at Moscow State 7 days after the 15k. I haven't raced a 1000  since January of last year. Our running club has put this on since 2004. Speed still not there totally yet but it was good enough for second. It was a good excuse to see old friends and hang out for a bit :)

Off to train until July 3 for the 30k Moscow Trail held at the snowboard/ski hill in Yakhroma. Now I've always wanted to snowboard here, but if you don't have a car it's a royal PITA to get there with your gear so I never got to go. The total elevation gain over the course is about 1000m . I'm actually pretty used to that except, yeah once again it was hot as holy hell. 11 AM start and 33C in the flippin' SHADE. I was actually trained and prepared for the terrain. The hills and logs, and sticks, and devil's club and nettles on the course really didn't bother me. It was a 3 loop course  with no shade and I actualy was doing fine until about 2 km into the final loop I started losing vision in my right eye. I knew damn well I was overheating. I even went out slow in the first loop to see what the course was like and picked it up a bit in the 2nd. I had been drinking like a fish over the past 3 days and before and during the race as well. Despite that, I ditched 3 kg! That's too much. The dizziness and lightheadedness ensued and I ended up finishing a dismal 4th. Epic fail on that one. I missed this race last year to stay home and pack and ship stuff to Alaska. 
Up and down the hill we go-

Six days later, I did a trail 10 (actually closer to 11 k) in Dzerzhinsk which is a 30 min bus ride from home. This was at a place I hadn't trained or raced since 2007.I'd have gone more, but there is nowhere to leave gear if you don't have a car. It wasn't insanely hot but the sun did come out for this one. My legs were actually ok after the 30k. The organization of this one could have been better. I had picked up my number a couple days before at the store  that was one of the event sponsors. Many did not and a huge queue resulted on race day delaying the start by an hour. Well, Leonid (coach)had come out to watch and then had planned to leave after the finish as he had to be in town by noon for a training session.  Thanks, to the delay, he never got to see the start. The course had NO km markings or course markings and very few volunteers and often none at many turns. !!! I was lucky I got to run with a group of guys who knew where the hell they were going as many people in bothe the 10 and half marathon got good and LOST!  Water happened only 8km into the loop! It was getting warm in the sun....My legs felt good and I did manage the final km in 3.55. I finished 5th overall and 1st master (geezer). However, I'm still waiting on word from the RD who told me earlier in the week I could collect my prize before next week......hmmmmmm

 check out the queue of the day

That's what I've been up to the last month and a half or so....six races in less than 2 months. That's more than I've done since LAST AUTUMN! The fact I'm doing now what should have occurred March- May if I were to rate it on a frustration scale of 1-10 :15!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Off the Grid-Again

Yes, it's been a while AGAIN. Well, the fact of the matter is that there has been nothing much to write about since my last post due to the lack of racing events for a good THREE MONTHS  following the 50k. So, what's been going on? Save for ONE RACE in mid May, and my return to Russia for summer racing- absolutely nothing, nada, nichevo, dead as a bloody doornail! I touched on this issue briefly in my last post but, now I'm going to elaborate as it has begun to really bother me and as winter bled into early spring, and has been slowly eating at me like a cancer for some time.

 The truth is, I'm healthy, injury and niggle free, etc. There is one serious issue, that may be putting me into early retirement though and it is indeed, the complete lack of any racing opportunities on the Kenai from October until the middle of MAY! If I step on some toes as I expand on this topic, good perhaps it will motivate the community to be a bit more active during this time and, hell, even if we had just ONE race per month, it's better than nothing and enough to have as a barometer race to assess fitness and or tune up race before the season gets going.

I consider myself pretty well travelled and have been a part of many different running communtites throughout the world. The sad fact of the matter, is that I have never encountered a completely dormant one for such a darn long period of time. Homer, Alaska is an awesome place to train. You can have your pick of mountains and elevation, or drop down to a totally different climate and hit town at sea level where you can run flats and where you may find bare pavemement or even the track a good chunk of the winter. I had my ass on the track from February on trying to get in shape for the upcoming season. The fact that I could do that (ok February can still be hit or miss as well as March for a clear track)was pretty amazing. I certainly couldn't in Moscow, or other places I've lived in Alaska like Fairbanks and Wasilla. OTOH, I never had trouble keeping sharp in those places especially in Fairbanks, where just about every weekend the running club had some kind of run or snowshoe going on REGARDLESS OF TEMPERATURE. Come April when the track got plowed, I just needed some little tune ups and I was ready to go. Homer is so much milder and conducive to winter training.There are so many possiblities. I was also pretty shocked that nearby Kenai and Soldotna had zeeeerow for spring races! I honestly don't get it, we are on the road system and these are all decent sized communities.

Despite my being in Alaska and my coach being back in Russia, there has been communication daily. This was the first time since 2005 I had to do long distance coaching, but it works if you have the discipline to follow through and that's never been an issue for me. I was separated during the school year from my coach in Russia from 2002-05 and posted some career best performances then. However, I was doing stepping stone races to sharpen things up. I trained, did my usual workouts , but the key component to tie all that together was missing- RACING! March, I knew I was in trouble when I was struggling to hit times that should be mundane. April, I'm still not feeling the necessary training response, all alone and not a soul to push me- still I could always push myself whenever I've been in this situation in the past to knock down solid workouts. Late April, early, May- I feel I'm beginning to get a response, but I'm so behind the 8 ball I feel that my season is in jeopardy. Something is not right, something has not been right for months, everything is sub par by my standards. The fact of the matter is that since January, I've raced just once and it was the 50k on snow. I've never been on the bench dormant and dead this long in my entire career and the consequences are becoming apparent now. My coach also knows this isn't me and something is up. After 9 years, he knows me too well and I can't fake it and say things are peachy keen and don't even try because there will be accountability anyways when I show up in Moscow for the summer and suck.

Actually, there are races, really good quality ones generally well organized, and just about every weekend and most of the winter too,but they are all in Anchorage which is a 5 hour drive from my house and required finagling an overnight at friend's who may have a couch for the weekend. In the winter, the road is just too unpredictable to mess with, and then the cost of getting there must also be considered. The other major drawback is most of them are on Saturday which would have me racing zombified after driving after school, getting in late, and up early to race on no rest. I was able to do the 50 k because I had holy days off from school that made for a 4 day weekend.

So, three months after that 50k, I finally got to do ONE race before skipping off to Russia for the summer. It was the Migration Run 5k. This one was well organized on a fast point to point course on the Homer Spit. I won this one and a lady came up to me after the finish and said it was a CR. I should be pretty pleased, but I was not. Objectively speaking, this was a sub par performance. I ran nearly a minute faster one year ago almost to the date in a downpour in Pavlovsky Posad. I was over a minute off of where I'd typically be at this time of year for a season opener in a 5. I knew things were not right and had been off. I'd give myself  a C- the win was nice and supposedly the record, but the performance itself was off.

nice home brew to the winner and beautiful hand painted rock :)

My next post will include the stuff I've been up to in Moscow so far.....

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Little Su 50K -11 Years Later, I Still Can!

My how times have changed. First off, just to get into this raceI had to sit up and wait for the stroke of midnight on November 1st then rush to sign up. Yes, I had been warned that this race now closes in several hours. Are you kidding me!? It used to be you could sign up a day or two before the race. I do have to say,that this overall trend of lotteries and rush rush to sign up for more and more races in general is really getting frustrating. It makes it really hard to plan a season. Turns out that this race has gotten quite popular and now even attracts out- of -staters. No kidding! So, after staying up, I did get in! I've actually followed this race online over the years from Moscow. The course has changed several times since I last  did it in 2005.

When I did this race in 2004 and in 2005, I was still living in Wasilla and living about 20 minutes from the course. I used to spend weekends out training on the trails where I'd be racing may of those weekends were with one of my close friends and training partners Julie Udchachon. She has been on three US 100k teams and is an awesome ultrarunner. We would go out and "play" on  those trails  for hours regardless of the conditions. She's now out of state but we are still in touch and I do have to admit that she is by far the best training partner I have ever had or ever will have for that matter. Bricks could be falling from the sky, but we'd get out there and get the job done. Those are the memories I have of the trails in these parts.

I really wish I had that kind of company now  especially for safety reasons because most of what I run is pretty remote, Some has cell coverage, some does not. Then there is the wildlife factor. It's been a warm winter and the bears aren't necessarily sleeping. I've been "delayed" by moose on a regular basis which at night can be scary because I can't always see the moose's ears and getsures to determine if it may or may not be aggressive. It may be a cow with a calf or two nearby and the last thing I need is to end up between them! I know there are wolves and coyotes on my routes and have heard howling some evenings. The alternative is to sit home on the couch all winter, but that's not really an option.

So, this race would serve as my mid- winter  motivator to fill the too large of a void between now and early May. That's another entire topic of discussion, but let's just say that I am unimpressed with the running calendar or more accurately put, the complete lack thereof one for pretty much the entire Kenai Peninsula from October-May. I had thought there would be an event in the area in March, but it turns out ...not. I really need to be training now and then do some stepping stone races in April-May to be in top shape for the summer season. I'll be on the lookout if anything gets added. I was able to do Little Su 50 only because it fell on a 4 day weekend where we had both Friday and Monday off school for holy days. It was a SATURDAY race some 300 miles away! Driving up the night before right after school was not going to happen! At the very least, if I have a Saturday race in Anchorage, I need to do it when we have a holy Friday off so I can have a rest day after the drive which is usually Thursday after school.

I did take a sleep/ rest day this time the Friday before the 50k. On Saturday, I had to be up at O-Dark-Early for the hour and a half or so drive to Big Lake just out of Wasilla from Anchorage. Sure, it was an 11AM start, but it's a good idea to get there early unless you want to park in Siberia :) I figured getting there 9 ish would be ok. The 100 milers start at 9 and the 50k goes at 11. The start/finish was at Martin Buser's Happy Trails Kennels. He is an Iditarod stud! it was actually really nice and there was a nice building to keep warm in. So, I arrived and checked in. I got to see the 100milers start. Two hours later, we were off. Now, you can either run,ski, or bike this course. You declare your category when you check in. One of the ladies who was running, noticed me before the start and remembered me from the 49k in August. She had finished third.

 photo from susitna100.com

So off we were and I was joined by a teacher from Palmer (my old school district before leaving for Moscow in 2005). About 10k in, Two other ladies joined us. One of them was the lady who ran the 49k with me. I was not going out hard and quite preferred to lollygag in the beginning because I needed my strength for later on. I knew I'd probably be pushing loose snow on hills later in the race and needed to conserve energy. We were all running the same pace and it was nice company. I did notice it seemed a bit on the fast side for this course and surface-finish pace just over 5 hours. Now, in 2004 I ran my best time of 5:05 which was actually a CR then. The first and last 10k ran across Big Lake and you could get some speed on the ice road in those spots. A year later, I ran 6:04 on a course that was nothing but loose snow! It really depends so much on conditions year to year. This year, the river and lake crossings were pretty good. There was just enough snow on the ice to give good footing. However, when things weren't on the flats, they rolled and rolled and this is where the loose snow (kind of like running in sand) was in waiting. The course is run on mushing and snowmachine trails. Our group ran together the first 19km. Then, as more rollers came along, they began to fall back. I really didn't want to take the lead this early on, but if I lollygag at a pace slower than I should be running, my calves get really grumpy. I need to run my comfort zone. I was just running a consistent effort on the hills. I actually found the surfaces on the trail so much easier to run than the mess of ice and snice I've been relegated to training on most of the winter. This is what mushing and snowmachine trails are supposed to be-runnable! The snow around Homer has just been sucktastic. We sometimes get nice big dumps and I begin to drool over the thought of hitting the mushing and snowmachine trails out here....only to have it all crashed by rain and or thawing a few days later. The result has been nasty post-holey snow save for some good stuff I found around 2000ft and above the treeline on the snowmachine trails in January (albeit after climbing through about 4km of post holey crunchy stuff to get there).

Taking a drink at bout 15k

So I was enjoying the course:) Happy feet!!! I was just out running my pace and gradually, the other three ladies fell further back. Oh dear, 30k left.....if I end up alone I really need to make sure not to GET LOST!. The course was very very well marked though. At 25k, I came through in 2:32 and change. Ok, yes if it were a road time that would be sad, but this is a whole different kettle of fish. The one and only aid station was just before about 27k. I stopped to get some eats and fluids. I decided to risk not filling my 2l bladder. I had about half left. I drank more at the aid station and took about 2 min there making sure eats and drinks were in. They had a place for trash too (no littering on the trails so carry your trash til there is a trash to put it in). I could see the 3 ladies appearing in the distance again just as I took off. After 20k or so I gradually started picking up just a little. After the aid station, I hit a flat section and the snowpack was good  and I was running this between 4:45-5min/km pace. Again, I was running a consistent effort on whatever surface I had to deal with. At about 30k, things headed for more rollers and loose sandy snow. I came out at a powerline trail on top of a hill and checked back after about 6 min and could not see anyone. I understand I was totally on my own most likely the rest of the day. DON'T GET LOST!
                                                         out around 33-34k and all alone
 At the aid station they told me there was one guy ahead of me about 2 miles. He left nice footprints to follow! I just kept going. My pace was still consistent 35k 40k.....This section was pretty with the views of the mountains. This was the area Julie and I used to stomp around in.The view was awesome and the sun peeked in and out. 8k or so to go and I hit the turn off to head back to the start. 45k....almost home. I was actually feeling pretty good , still consistent in pacing. My feet were getting a little tired on the harder icier sections from the hard surface, but aside from that, I still felt fine. I had been munching all day, drinking, got in plenty of Vitargo loading before the race and hydrating before the start. There it was....the last HILL to the finish. I finished in 5:04 beating my time from 12 years ago (aaaahhh when I was 29 and fast....). I actually did negative split along the way. The top guy was 4:57 so probably less than a mile up on me. Next lady(who was 3rd at the 49k last summer) was 14+min back and the other 2 from our group were 40+ back. At the aid station, that group was only about three minutes behind me.

To be honest, I was surprised I felt so good the whole day. I wasn't sure how I'd do because the only racing I've done since last fall was what I did in Moscow over winter break.I just figured I'd go out and run ans it would be whatever it would be.  I had been training on hilly hard terrain all winter, but not sure how much I was getting out of it with no stepping stone races to check my actual fitness.I think all that hill training on some really crummy surfaces(ie BARE ICE...but in Icebugs) helped me.  Long runs have been split between hilly gnarly trails of snow and ice and then hitting the Homer Spit on weekends for fast pavment 30-35km. I did all my long runs with the camelbak loaded to get used to running with the weight. This is a race where you must carry. There is only one aid station for refilling water if need be. No crew or outside help is allowed. Most importanly, I had fun. I just wish there were more things like this happening that are not a seven hour drive to get to!