Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trail Running in Ketchikan, Alaska

Those of you who regularly read my blog know that I am not a fan of trail running. I detest bugs, I'm paranoid about falling or twisting an ankle, and I'd rather be chasing my road racing goals. But this trail run in Ketchikan, Alaska was an exception.

Icy Strait Point
Running in Hoonah, Alaska
The day before arriving in Ketchikan, we stopped at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah, Alaska. There were no planned running events, but Greg and I decided we would run along the water anyway. There was a 1.5-mile long path along the water with breathtaking views of the mountains. At 55 degrees and overcast, this was an incredible run. The fresh air, the scenery, and just being able to take it all in. Our legs were tired from the Juneau Half marathon followed by the Skagway run, so we just took it easy and ran 4.5 miles at a relaxed pace. Exploring new places to run is one of my favorite things to do. And I love running near water.

After our morning run, we got showered and returned to the town for fresh Alaskan crab legs. What a treat! Next up was our whale watching excursion. A tour guide took us out on a boat to a humpback whale feeding area, where we were guaranteed to see whales (or get our money back!). When the boat stopped, we hung out in the area for awhile without seeing any whales. But finally, a whale decided to make an appearance. It was very cool. These things are 40 feet in length and eat about a ton of food per day. We saw the whale come out of the water multiple times and show its tail. I took some video of it, but I don't have any photos. I also really liked being out on the boat surrounded by the mountains, breathing in the fresh air.

Whale watching excursion
Ketchikan Trail Run
On Wednesday, it was time for our final running event of the cruise: the trail run in the Tongass National Forest. We could choose to run a 5K or a 10K I had decided before the cruise to do the 5K-- enough to experience it, but minimizing the amount of time I had to spend on the trail. However, our cruise director Jenny Hadfield convinced me that the trail wasn't very technical and I would really enjoy the course. She said it was one of her most favorite places to run in the entire world! Greg wanted to do the 10K, so I bit the bullet and decided to go for it.

Finishing the lake loop
This was not a timed race; the objective was simply to go out an enjoy the trail. It also wasn't measured as exactly 10K. Jenny told us to expect about 7 miles. When we arrived at the lake, it was raining lightly and I debated if I should wear my light rain jacket. But a few minutes before the start, the rain stopped so I took the jacket off.

I spent the first mile getting used to running on the surface. I immediately realized that I liked it. It wasn't at all like the (few) trails I had run on back home. It was much more groomed. The first mile or so was around a lake. It was difficult to pass people because the trail was narrow in many parts, which forced us to keep our pace slow.

It wasn't long before Greg and I found our groove and started cruising along. We passed a few runners and I was having so much fun that I decided to up the effort a bit. And then came the massive hills. One of them was a 200ft climb over the course of a mile. And the downhills were tricky too because they were steep and we had to watch our footing in some of the areas. The trail was marked with arrows and it was pretty easy to follow. There was even an aid station!

Greg and I caught up to another runner who was going at about our pace, and we let him set the pace for the last two miles. He was running really strong, particularly on the hills, and every time we got to the top of a hill I would say something like "nice job".  Greg and I were definitely putting out a solid effort on the hills, but we were careful not to fly down them as fast as we would on the road.

All of a sudden we were at the finish. My Garmin only clocked 6 miles instead of the expected 7, and Greg's Garmin actually got pretty close to 6.2. Everyone cheered for us as we ran into the finish.

When we finished, we received a finisher's medal for all four events: the Moosehead 5K fun run, the Glacier Half Marathon, the Skagway Amazing Race, and this Rainforest Trail run.

Ketchikan, Alaska

With our finisher's medals
Here are our splits:

Mile 1: 10:05 (+14 ft)
Mile 2: 9:43 (+ 42 ft)
Mile 3: 9:25 (+119 ft)
Mile 4: 8:59 (+171 ft)
Mile 5: 8:50 (-172 ft)
Mile 6: 8:20 (-194 ft)

We then enjoyed beer and a "salmon bake" with salmon wraps. It was really exciting to watch the runners finish. We totally lucked out with the weather too. It's a rainforest and we barely got any rain!

All in all, I had much more fun than expected. I was actually a little scared about this run just because I'm really not used to trails. But the trail ended up being easy to run on and I felt like I got an excellent workout on the hills. Coincidentally, I'm in the "hill phase" of my marathon training cycle, and I'll be running hill workouts for the next three weeks.

All of the official running events are now complete and our next stop is Vancouver, Canada. I plan to write my final post on the flight home.


  1. I'm starting to embrace trails (altho we don't have many around here). I agree, there is the fear of tripping and falling. But it is so nice to be surrounded by such beauty!

  2. This looks like a really fun run. I don't like to "race" on trails, but sometimes it is fun to run on them just to relax and enjoy a run with others, or run a trail race to support a charity, cause, or friend. That's the flexibility of training- when you do 2 workouts a week, you still have other days to run and take it easy and do something like a trail run. You can work it into your schedule. Plus it's neat that the cruise has something for everyone no matter what kind of running they like to do.

    That salmon bake sounds so delicious! I'm kinda jealous that you got to refuel with awesome Alaskan food as well :)

  3. I am glad it did not rain during the race/run. Although It probably wouldn't have been too bad with all of the trees.