By: Anna Hoke, Publisher | So I finished a column for this edition titled “Home away from Home” which was about cabin life and my experiences with different types of cabins, what they offer or don’t and my general love and knowledge of cabin life… Fast forward a few days, I found myself in a conversation giving tips, encouragement and suggestions to a first-time runner of the Klondike Road Relay Race. This led me to think that it might be an appropriate column for September, seeing as though the race takes place this month on September 5th and 6th. With that said, stay tuned for my piece on cabin life in the October edition of Southeast Living Magazine. First, I will start off by saying that I am in no way a fast or talented long distance runner.
I run for exercise, I don’t normally care about pace and I am slow, so my tips will not be about running, they will be about comfort and planning! I’ve run the Klondike three separate times on three separate teams, each experience was different but running-wise they were all pretty equal on a competitive level, and by that I mean we weren’t competitive. I am sure you will see what I mean when I tell you the names of my teams… The first time I participated, I was on the Turtles, see what I mean about team names? This was an all women’s team from Juneau.
Tip #1: If possible, have two or more support vehicles. This lesson was learned quickly, yet we suffered the consequences the entire race. Our team was scheduled to have two vehicles which theoretically allows half the team to sleep before they participate in the second half of the race, and permits half the team to support the first five runners. Unfortunately, our second support vehicle broke down so the entire team was stuck in a 10 passenger van the entire race. That’s right, sleeping, supporting, eating, and finding potty places for ten tired women.
Tip #2: Bring real food. I made a beginner mistake of taking energy bars and sports drinks. I don’t really know what compelled me to bring dried up energy bars but when someone in the van pulled out a sandwich, I would have paid a lot of money for it.
Tip#3: If you have room, bring a pillow. Even if you are stuck in a vehicle or are tired, a pillow is a great accessory for sleep. The first time I ran the Klondike was exhausting, not only because we were all together in the van and lets face it, nobody got much sleep but also after all that I had to run leg 10, the last leg. Luckily I brought a pillow and was able to rest my head comfortably and mentally prepare of the run ahead. The next team I was on was “The Fat Ravens.” We thought we were pretty clever with this name and even made sweatshirts. You’ll understand the humor in the name if you ask any seasoned Klondike Runner. This trip for the most part went a lot smoother then my first experience except that swine flu was going around and sadly one of our runners came down with the illness the day before the race.
Tip#4: Try to be flexible if possible… Because we lost a runner, we had to shift around people’s legs. Instead of running my planned Leg 2, which is the shortest (but uphill) leg, I had to run Leg 1, and then we combined Leg 2 and 3 for the runner previously scheduled to run Leg 1. This change in plan was all right but the added millage was a little difficult for myself and the poor runner who had to run two legs. The race went relatively smooth and with a second support vehicle we were able to theoretically find some place to sleep.
Tip#5: know where you are going to sleep before you need to sleep. Once we were done supporting our Leg 5 runner, around 6am, we were ready for sleep! We had our sleeping bags, our pillows and no idea where we were going to lay around. We ended up sleeping on a platform a little bit passed Carcross, which was great but because vehicles driving by thought it was a funny scene, they beeped, slowed down, and took photos of four people trying to sleep in their sleeping bags on the side of the road. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep. Though we were lacking sleep the second time around seemed to go smoother, I learned to bring “real” food and had pad thai after my leg and it was awesome! Speaking of sleep, this particular team decided to save money that would be spent on a hotel and instead camped the entire time. I remembered how tired and gross I felt from my first experience and decided camping isn’t something I wanted to do after being sweaty and surviving on little sleep.
Tip#6: If you are good at roughing it, that’s awesome, but if you are a person who needs a shower and a nice bed after a long 24 hours then get a hotel room and book it way in advance. Let me tell you, the hotel room was worth the money. I split it with one other runner from the Fat Ravens team. I did however let my team members come and take showers in my room before they headed out to sleep in a tent.
The third time I ran the Klondike, I ran with the Alaskan Brewing Company team, Blood Sweat and Beers. This was an awesome team and the Brewery pulled out all the stops! We had rooms in Skagway and Whitehorse the first night, and obviously rooms in Whitehorse for the second night. We had an abundance of supporters and vehicles, great food, snack packs, and good spirits! The only thing we were missing was a clear way to mark our support vehicles so that runners and other support vehicles could recognize us.
Tip#7: Bring stuff to mark your vehicle. We ended up using some sort of yellow tape tied onto the mirrors of the vehicle but even then it was hard to find in the dark. I suggest vehicle paint or glow sticks. I saw some vehicles with Christmas lights and/or spotlights.
I also have some miscellaneous tips that are and aren’t from my own experiences. Bring a headlamp, it will be more useful then you know. If you haven’t trained with electrolyte “goo” or “blocks” don’t pick the race day to try them out, it can lead to a miserable run.
Good luck to all the runners and volunteers participating in the Klondike this year! I wish I was running this year’s race but I am nursing an injury. I hope these tips are helpful; planning ahead will do a team good!
Anna Hoke is the graphic designer and owner of Southeast Living Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.