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Veteran’s Day 8K: Race Report


I know that “down south” (which in Alaska-speak means the rest of the United States), the only thing on the running community’s mind is the NYC Marathon tomorrow. I’ve been experiencing some vicious marathon envy just reading all about it, but I’m sure that at least my parents and family are (maybe?) more excited to hear how my podunk little 8K went this morning than about NYC.

So here’s how it went down.

It’s starting to get (and stay) dark around here in the mornings and evenings, so the race didn’t start ’til 10 AM. I woke up at 6 AM for a four mile shakeout. I did this before my recent 5K, and it did wonders for getting my legs all ready to go. I came home, downed a sliver of banana mushed up on toast with a knifing of honey, and drank a pot of green tea. This is my new routine. Run a little bit early in the morning, come back and hang out at the house, and then go to the race. It’s working, so I’ll stick with it.

Then, I was at the mercy of Capital Transit, Juneau’s bus system, which is overall a solid affair but still gives me mini-coronaries whenever it decides to run late (or early).

I had to figure my way out to a race site I’d never been to before, which required sitting on the bus and then transferring to another bus for 45 minutes both ways, with the latest issue of Running Times to keep me company. I panicked and got a little confused and got off at an earlier stop than I’d planned on, so I ended up running an additional 1.5 miles to the start of the race course.

No big deal.

Except that I couldn’t find the start of the race course.


It was about 9:48. I was blundering around in some random industrial park, wondering where in god’s name I’d gotten myself, checking and rechecking the crumpled map I’d drawn for myself from Google Maps.

You see, the Juneau road race calendar tends to be stingy with it’s details — they make plenty of sense for real Juneauites, but out-of-towners like me end up doing a little head-scratching. You can’t necessarily find this stuff on Google Maps. You have to figure it out through the local back channels. I’d asked a few locals beforehand where exactly this mysterious “Brotherhood Bridge parking lot” might be found, and I’d get answers like, “Oh, it’s sort of in the valley, near the glacier, by The Safeway.”

Great. So I’d run 1.5 miles to “The Safeway,” (which, thankfully, is actually a store and not something as unhelpful as an ambiguous geographical feature like a valley or a glacier) and was now sprinting around through random buildings looking for any hint of runners. I knew I was in the enigmatic location that Google Maps had produced online, but there was no sign of any road race. I tried opening doors at a few of the buildings to look for a human who could help. I saw some lady at an orthopedic office getting a foot massage through a window, but I couldn’t find the entrance. Crap. The minutes ticked by quickly. I panicked. I’d had the foresight to program the race director’s phone number into my phone, so I took a stab at calling him.

Answering machine. “You’ve reached the home of…”

Uh oh.

I sprinted back to Safeway and asked a cashier where the Brotherhood Bridge parking lot was.

“Oh, it’s just there beyond that bridge,” she said.

Right. Right. “Bridge.” There’s a clue. Use your brain, Cathleen.

I sprinted for the bridge and saw a blue tent materialize. Success! I hastily scribbled down my race registration info, threw my $8.00 entry fee down, crumpled up and pinned on my race number, and then sprinted into the woods to pee.


Then, it was time to line up. Per usual, the race director explained the course to us beforehand. Mercifully, it was a simple out-and-back. I knew as that long as I could find the orange turnaround cone, even my directionally-challenged self wouldn’t be able to mess this one up.

I decided last night that I wanted to win. I knew I could recalibrate this goal if any super speed demons showed up to the race, but I wanted to win. The whole darn thing. Preferably in under 32:00 minutes, because McMillan’s calculator predicted 32:08 based on my 5K, and I wanted to validate that 5K with a sub-32. (Ive been secretly scared that maybe I’m not capable of the 19:30 5K I ran last month after all. I’ve had a sinking feeling that perhaps the course was short. I didn’t believe I was really that fast. So I decided that if today’s 8K was consistent with my 5K time, then I could trust that the courses were true).

Anyway, we set out and I tucked in behind the leaders, who were two guys.

Did my usual slow-start-and-stalk combination.

I pretended I was a wolf chasing two caribou, waiting for the caribou to grow tired.

Actually, I did not really pretend that. It just sounds hilarious.

Okay, what next. One of the caribou got tired, so I passed him and ran next to the lead caribou for a while. The lead caribou was friendly and we chatted sparsely in the amicable way that runners do while they race. Well, there were no mile markers, but there was a turnaround point. Caribou #1 and I came through the orange cone in 16:15, right on pace for a 32:30 finish.

I had some work to do if I was going to achieve that sub-32:00. The other runner and I traded off for the lead at a few points, but then I pushed on ahead and I was on my own.

It was nice. Mostly flat, on a paved trail through the woods next to a river. I enjoyed myself. I got the tell-tale tummy knot that signifies to me that I’m doing honest work.

Perhaps I could have gone faster if there were others ahead to catch. On the other hand, perhaps I simply do better on my own, trusting my fitness and pace, alone in the woods with nothing but my own breathing for company.

All speculation aside, I crossed the line in first in 31:54. 6:25 pace. That was a surprise.

Then, while guzzling hot apple cider, I chatted up the other runners and found a possible running group to trot with for long runs on the weekends.

First half in 16:15, second half in 15:38. Good enough for me, but I wish this could have been a 10K. I feel like with my fitness right now, breaking 40 would not have been out of the question, especially since the McMillan calculator is now dangling this “40:12” carrot in front of me based on my 31:54 today.

But there are no 10Ks to be had, and the local race calendar goes into hibernation until well into February. I am itching to run a 10K and go for sub-40. I am itching to run a marathon and try for a 3:20, or maybe even a 3:15. In fact, if I wanted to whine about the lack of road races, missed opportunities, wasted fitness, now would be the time to do it, but you know what? I won’t. I’m going to take this solid season of racing for what it was. I had three fun races here in the fall, and I’m satisfied with that.

Time to look into the local nordic ski scene.

Who else is unreasonably excited to follow the NYC marathon hype tomorrow? I feel like such a dork. I keep getting all psyched and babbling about it to my friends, and they all just look at me with pitying smiles on their faces.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/06/2010 14:43

    pretty freaking nifty indeed. ROCK ON! this fall was soooo exciting for you. gosh.

    i soooooooo feel you about not having any races in the winter to do. like you, i feel like im in such bamf shape! i just want to capitalize on it.

    and if you’re itching to run a marathon you can come to dallas with me and liz. jess will be there too. seriously. think about it. the full hasn’t filled up yet…

  2. 11/06/2010 15:22

    1. Yeah, I went to running camp from 8th grade to my senior year AND worked at one too.

    2. SEE??? WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT A TIME GOAL? See, you should just consult me for everything in life and things will be ok. (Ok, maybe that’s a stretch.)

    3. Come here and run a 10k with me on Thanksgiving. On second thought, you shouldn’t Not only because of the cost, but because I have to go to a church to get my number and it may burn down as a result. I like you. I don’t want you to burn up.

    4. LOLZ at so many details of this report. I enjoyed it. Immensely. Thank you for being my prozac for the evening.

  3. 11/06/2010 19:19

    Wow-zah. A fast time and a solid win to end your fall season!! So glad you finally found the race start so you could stalk your caribou and beat them 🙂 Congratulations!

    I too plan to follow the marathon tomorrow. Thanks to my iPhone, I can stay ridiculously connected to race details as I feed baby calves.

  4. 11/07/2010 01:00

    Good race! I’ve been told to give up on predicting race times, so wayward was I in predicting your 8k. In any case, I’ll predict you’ll run sub-40 for 10 at some time in the future. Big negative split, so it looks like you’re strong enough to hold 4s for 10k.

    Does Juneau have a 400m track? You could run a 10,000 time trial — kilometres come up every 2 1/2 laps, so it’s not that hard to count your own laps by ks. Easy to get the pace right too — 48 seconds for each 200m.

    I’m excited to see how New York goes. Not that keen on the midnight start though 😉

  5. 11/07/2010 02:21

    Great race!

    I’m ridiculously excited about NYCM. Despite some marathon envy, I’m super pumped to see how everyone does. I’ll be watching online!

  6. 11/07/2010 02:25

    Love your stalking approach and awesome job on a speedy race!!!!! You seem primed and ready for your 10K goal!

  7. 11/07/2010 07:25

    That time is freaking amazing! Sooo…this means you are one of those fleet-of-foot running gazelles who inspires red-hot jealousy in me, huh. Hmmmm. Well, I’ve decided I like you anyway. The whole “caribou stalking” segue had me laughing out loud in my airplane seat (work trip), so that was what sealed the deal.

    Whew, well glad that’s out of the way. Now that I have decided I like you in spite of your speediness, I am really looking forward to following your blog 🙂

    Rock on with your bad self!

  8. 11/07/2010 11:12

    what? who would raise their eyes at running camp? my xc team went too – total party. well, you have the group of kids who party, and then group of kids who don’t… so only half of the team was a party… perhaps we would’ve been better if we had more dedication. haha.

    i don’t coach, i just help out and run with the girls – although this year i didn’t get to do too much running w/ them on the weekends. a lot of the schools down here have a rule where you can’t coach unless you teach. i think so that schools don’t hire coaches like the college level. so, i take no credit for their skillz but i gotta admit i did tear up a little over it! haha. (yes lame i know).

    oh yeah and congrats on the win, even after getting in a 20 mile warmup trying to find the place!

  9. CMa permalink
    11/07/2010 13:14

    “The way Flanagan runs feels feline and predatory (something we tried to capture on the Running Times September cover shot .)” So happy for Shalene in her NYC debut! Nothing like the caribou hunting canis lupus balantius in Juneau, though 🙂 Great race report.

  10. 11/07/2010 14:45

    Very cool report, loved the wolf stalking bit. And congrats on your win! I would have been in serious panic mode over not being able to find the start.

  11. Murdoch permalink
    11/07/2010 16:32

    Awesome job! Its too bad theres no track 10,000’s near you, youd probably roll a 39:00 if there was. Had to work this morning so no marathon coverage, im just now catching up on what went down.

  12. 11/07/2010 17:29

    Wow, you are fast! Great job. Congrats.

  13. 11/08/2010 17:03

    awesome job, lady!! i freakin’ love how you decided you wanted to win, like it was just as simple as that.:) hey what happens when you pass the lead guy? are you like biting at each other’s heals, or did you just leave him in the dust? :p

  14. 11/08/2010 18:02

    Wow you are fast! Awesome job!

  15. 11/09/2010 03:28

    I read this earlier but am commenting now. I know, you don’t care really, but this detail is important to me. Now, a detail perhaps important to you: wooooooooo!!! It’s a fun distance, ain’t it? Sounds like you ran a smart race. I never run smart races, so people who can do so are my running role models. Do you do workouts? I’m curious. If you ever make it back to the lower 48, there are 10K’s a plenty. Perhaps the sunlight will give you that extra 13 seconds.

  16. 11/10/2010 14:22

    Wow, I’m tardy to the party but man, this was fabulous! Congratulations speedy, you are so. fast! Love the whole getting there drama, though I’m sure it was a total freak out. Great job, fast girl!!

  17. 11/12/2010 12:59

    I’m late to the game, but how awesome that you won! I love it!

  18. Tommy T permalink
    11/21/2012 16:14

    Very nice:-) Stalking the caribou? It does sound hilarious. Juneau misses you.

    • 11/22/2012 04:58

      Wow, I can’t believe it’s been two years since I wrote this (kind of mortifying) race report!!! I am so glad I found the start of the race and subsequently met all you incredible Juneau runners. I miss you all. PS. Nice 5K XC race back in September! I stalk the SERR web results all the time…


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