Friday, June 29, 2012

Running Vacation

Panorama of one of the many ridges. This sums up the views nicely.

Many people probably wouldn't choose to associate those two words together. Running oftentimes is looked at as punishment, or something that is a simply a means to and end not necessarily a means unto itself. You run because you want to get in shape. You run because you stole something. You run because there is a zombie chasing you. You don't run just for fun right? And you certainly don't take a vacation simply to run around the Mountain's in Juneau, Alaska. Well I did this, along with a few other like minded individuals and it was awesome.

This situation warrants some running
We were reminded by the host, one of Ultrarunnings current top athletes Geoff Roes, that we would need to keep an open mind about what we considered trail running. The mountains around Juneau are incredibly steep, and oftentimes we were left moving up terrain that simply wasn't runnable for all but the most superhuman of athletes. This was perfectly fine to me. When the terrain gets to steep, you hike fast. Trail running is less about running every step and more about moving as quickly as you can over the terrain that you've chosen.

 And wow did we move slow in parts. Hiking straight up snowfields does not lend itself to 12 minute miles, or 15 minutes miles....or 25 minute miles for that matter. Kick stepping up a mountain is awesome. Every step matters. Foot placement is key. You are focused on not slipping and more get to run down the steep terrain after reaching the top.

Steep Ascent

We spent 5 days running around the mountains of Juneau enjoying the varied terrain. From the steep, rugged "Hawthorne Trail" to the flat and fast Herbert Glacier. On the final day we played around Perserverance and Mount Juno, each taking a slightly different approach to hammering out our last run of the vacation. Some took it easy, others blazed ahead and enjoyed a standing glissade down Granite Basin...which ended in several hilarious face plants. Others still pushed on up to Juneau Ridge and had a pretty epic adventure in the white-out above tree line. When we weren't running we were chatting with our fellow campers and our hosts, Corle' LaForce and Geoff Roes. We stayed in a picturesque cabin and were fed tasty meals.

Running up was fun...running down was awesome.

In the end though, the camp was about what most camps are about. Enjoying time with people that you probably wouldn't have met otherwise. I'm continually surprised by how grounded everybody seems to be in the trail running community. The elite athletes are elite in that they are fast, but they are not elite in the sense that they won't mix it up with mere mortals. I've never gotten a sense that any elite trail runner (Ultra or Shorter Distance) has bought into any of their celebrity. In the end we are all runners but more importantly it seems we all seem to be genuinely good, happy individuals who share a common interest and a love for the outdoors. Apologies for the sappy nature of this entry for those few of you that may be reading this. I just want to hammer home the fact that this was a pretty special event and I look forward to attending it again next year.

For those of you that may be interested, the website for the running camps is . There is one more session coming up in early August of this year. If you are looking to be outdoors for 4-5 hours a day running around the surrounding areas of Juno, and like being fed tasty meals I would highly recommend signing up for the camp!

For those of you that read this and you are still on the fence about running I would suggest trying to Trail Running. It's more like hiking....only better because you get to cover more ground and don't have to carry as much gear. It may also boost your ego....passing hikers is fun.

Marmot Hole
Bottom of Icy Gulch

Herbert Glacier

Tracks out to one of the peaks

Running up the board walks to Muir Cabin

Geoff Showing us his Playground

Juneau Mountain Trail


  1. Tom that's an awesome vacation, especially getting out the Arizona heat.

  2. Ugh, I know you're not Tom. I need to quit drinking and surfing the web..

  3. NBC should release a "the more you know" commercial about the dangers of drunken web surfing.