Blueseventy Racing

Otters & Support Abandonment

It was rough day, but a truly extreme full - with 46 degree ocean water, wildlife, and 91 degree Alaskaman heat. I’m happy to have finished through lots of tribulations.

Sometimes, I’m not sure why I returned for a second go at the Alaskaman sufferfest. With the race a month earlier than before, the water was colder, and the air was full of wild land fire smoke from a nearby 35k acre forest fire. My boyfriend insisted on supporting me as my aid for the whole race, which included helping me in transition, getting me nutrition & water on the bike, and completing the 27.5 mile trail & mountain run. I was spoiled last year with two runners and my great parents for the rest. Here’s a synopsis of the 20+ hour day:


After an early transition set up, a short bus ride to the swim start, and half an hour of mulling around, they allowed swimmers to go down to the beach. I found last year’s female champion and women’s first out of the water, and tried to stick close to her. The five minute count down started and we were allowed into the water. It was cold on my feet as we slowly made out way into the water towards the start line. Once, I was in to my waist, I dipped and allowed the cold water to fill my wetsuit. I made it to the start line by two minutes until start and got my watch ready. I tried to acclimate my face and hands to the cold and mapped my swim route. Then, the gun went off and there was the normal melee. A half dozen swimmers cut out right, swimming for deeper water. I couldn’t understand why and kept to my straight path along the shore to the dim lights on the other side of the bay through the Smokey morning. I found my rhythm and took the lead; I saw Morgan swimming about 25 yards to my right with a kayak leading her in. The water was glassy smooth. I felt my watch buzz for 500 yards and then 1000. The shore seemed to be getting no closer. I hit the bottom briefly in some shallow water and cut out a little to deeper water, but then had no further issues. I saw a few otters dozens of feet away and thought about how neat of a swim this would be if I could feel my face and feet. The water felt like it warmed shortly between 1000 & 2000 yards in, and then it quickly started getting colder as I neared the waterfall at the exit. I started sighting less to conserve my energy, looking up every 12 strokes, then every 30- 40. Suddenly, my left hand struck something warm and firm ahead of me. My reflex was to lift my head and my arm pushed down, pushing the object down with it. It began moving and thrashing and was now under my chest. I realized very quickly that it was about a 30-40 lb otter. He beat on my chest and stomach, trying to get back to the surface and I kicked and attempted to move away. The whole encounter only lasted a few seconds, but my heart rate felt like it increased to well over 200. I kept swimming and didn’t look back. I began sighting every 6 strokes again, lifting my head further and looking for other ocean obstacles and trying to regulating my breathing again. Not a few minutes later, a swimmer went cruising by me, obviously having been drafting off me until my drastic change in pace. I didn’t have it in me at the moment to chase, so I allowed the pass and tried to get ahold of myself. I no longer saw any boats around me and I was paranoid every time I caught my kick wake out of the corner of my eye. Objects on the other side of the bay became to become clear. I could see the arch and the dock and I made my way slowly to the beach. Two volunteers clad in waders helped me stand as I struggled to stand on the pebbled beach on my numb feet. I got my cap and goggles off and found Aaron who took my wet things from me as I tried to strip off my gloves and unzip my suit. We made it to the road and I was able to run the last half of the transition distance to my bike. It seemed to take forever to get the wet layers off and the dry layers on. Transition was more crowded than last year’s because of the shortened swim, but I finally got everything ready and got my bike and headed to the road. 


I took the bike out easy, focusing on my cadence and preserving my energy for the climbs. The first cyclist passed me less than a mile into the ride, and more continued to pass me every mile or so. Before I made it to mile forty, almost half the participants had already passed. I counted them as they passed and just wanted to at least make it to mike 56 and be in 27th. After mile 50, I saw very few competitors. The road had a lot of debris and was a constant effort to avoid hazards and traffic. I tried to keep my head in a good space and focused on the climbs. I finally made it over the last of the three big climbs and utilized my aero bike to attack the 30 miles of flat before the bike trail. Last year those thirty miles were one of the hardest parts of the race, and I finally felt the benefit of the tri bike. I focused on staying in aero, despite my neck hurting and becoming uncomfortable in the saddle. I turned on the bike path and attempted to negotiate the bumpy, curvy, narrow path. I could feel that the bike was not intended for this type of riding and I struggled to make it the last 13 miles to Girdwood. I finally made it onto the Alyeska highway and climbed the last three miles to the base of the mountain and to transition. I handed off my bike and searched for where Aaron had put my things. I stripped off my clothes and tried to grab my run clothes, but was missing my pants. Aaron went back to the car to get them as I ran to the port-a-potty. After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally ready to start running and Aaron was not. I told him I was leaving, and started the run without him, waiting for him to catch up.


The first few miles were smooth on the running path. Aaron caught up in less than a mile and continued to run with me. I conserved my energy and walked accordingly and kept up on my water and nutrition. We made it to the Crow Creek climb and started the first uphill of the run course. The bugs were terrible and I gave up trying to swat them away. I handed Aaron my pack so he could run ahead and fill it at the 7.5 mile aid station, but caught him easily when he forgot how to open it and ended up doing it myself, getting some delicious coke while I was there. Then, it was onto the best part of the course – the Winner Creek Trail. We ran through the winding trail to the hand tram and were pulled across by bystanders on the other side. Aaron began drifting behind me and I kept asking him to catch up. We made it to the boardwalk and while looking up to avoid oncoming bystanders, I tripped on a loose board and rolled my left ankle. I kept from falling and kept running, minding the poorly maintained boards the rest of the track to the Nordic trail. The Nordic trail was hot and a constant out and back undulating trail that was unforgiving. I had been dreading it, possibly more than the mountain climb. I started running the downhills and hiking the up. I joked with Aaron about short cuts and, instead of motivating me to complete the course, he wholeheartedly agreed with every possible escape. I had him pull me up a few inclines, before he started drifting behind me again. I asked him for some more of my nutrition and he stated that it was gone; he had been using mine instead of his because it tasted better. My annoyance grew with his incompetence as my support, but I pushed it away to get through the last half of the race. What seemed like never ending, we finally reached the end of the trail and were back on pavement for the last two miles back to transition. Aaron still kept drifting behind me and I tried to give him my pack to run ahead and ready. He made no move to take it. I opened it and readied it for a quick switch and he still made no move or comment about our plan for him to run ahead. I gave up and put the pack back on and focused on running into transition. While Aaron disappeared to get my poles and nutrition, I stopped at the aid tent and was given a hat-full of ice. I talked to the volunteers and waited for Aaron to make his appearance. I finally gave up and found him at my car. I grabbed my poles, respirated sunblock, got my pack and searched for my nutrition. I helped him put his hydration bladder in his pack and finally told him I’d be up at the checkpoint waiting for him. I left transition, ready to take on the mountain.


I got to mountain checkpoint and showed my mandatory items. They asked where my aid was and I told them he was coming. They allowed me to wait in the shade and we continued to wait. Aaron finally showed up, frantic, saying he lost his phone. I argued with him to leave it and he refused, saying it was a work phone. A volunteer agreed to go search for it so we could start, so we finally started our way up the mountain. They yelled after me that we could not part for any reason, and I scoffed, thinking I was gonna need him to get me up the mountain. I didn’t realize until later that they meant I could not leave him. The hike was just like I remembered it – rocky, hot, and steep. My support last year had me count 30 steps and stop, so I channeled her advice and took 45 steps and stopped for five breaths. Aaron tried to push me to go farther, but I kept my pace, intending to do it for the whole 2.5 mile climb. By half a mile up, he was dragging behind me again. By 0.8, he was begging me to stop. We took a few breaks for him to sit down, an act I refused to do because I was afraid I wouldn’t get back up. He stopped three times to sit in the next tenth of a mile, and finally said he couldn’t go any further. I told him that he had to. He then started complaining of chest pain and he couldn’t breathe. I told him to make it to the medical tent at the one mile mark ahead of us, and he practically ran to the EMTs while I stopped to say hi to a friend as he was on his way down. My race was over; they wouldn’t allow me up without support. I wasn’t surprised by Aaron throwing in the towel. I had seen it coming for weeks, but everyone assured me he would be fine as he would be “fresh” for the run after I had swam and biked already, and Aaron was a much stronger runner, his marathon pace at least 1.5 min/mi faster than mine. I was miserable and maybe partly happy for the excuse not to finish the race, but it wasn’t in me to quit. My friend advised to climb alone and suffer a DQ before a DNF. The EMTs said as long as I didn’t go up the mountain alone, I could continue. So, after sitting in the aid tent for five or ten minutes, I caught the next athlete going past and left to continue the race unsupported. 


I ended up hopping  between athletes and being alone for the rest of the mountain climb. I focused on my nutrition and regulating my heart rate, struggling to keep it below 150. I stopped at a stream crossing and dunked my head. It felt so good, that I stopped and laid in it completely. The cooling water was a game changer, and I felt like a new person when I started again. I climbed through the mud and snow and made it to the summit of the first climb. I didn’t even bask in the accomplishment and began the descent. My quads began cramping and I focused on keeping moving and finding the safest path down. I made it to the high route-low route cut off alone. This is the point where you either get to go up the north face of the mountain, a steeper, shorter climb and earn an orange shirt after the descent, or turn to run back through town and earn a white shirt. I asked the official if I could run the low route without aid, since I knew they wouldn’t let me ascent again alone. He refused to let me pass without aid, worrying of bears even in town. We waited, and when no one else came, he told me I had to catch the athlete who came before me before we got to the next volunteer half mile down the road. I began running, not seeing anyone ahead. In a desperate act, I called Aaron. I told him I needed him to show up to at least allow me to finish. He caught up with me and couldn’t bring himself to run, now because of a calf injury, so we walked the last miles on the path to the finish line. I crossed under the arch after 141 miles. It wasn’t the finish I had hoped for, but at least it was a finish when I had thought my race was forfeit when I was abandoned by my support. It was a tough day with tough conditions. It was as big of a win as it could be with lots of lessons learned. 


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