By JEFF HELMINIAK
This ain't so bad.
Sure, at first blush, the idea of raising funds in Alaska on the day after Thanksgiving by holding a fun run matches up with the reason Kasilof's Carolyn Roush gave when asked why she participated.
"Insanity," she said, after trotting in the first T200 Turkey Trot, which was held to raise funds for the Tustumena 200.
But as the late-afternoon sun sought to fight through misty cloud cover on a crisp, 10-degree, windless day outside the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, and as runners took off to the trademark squeaky scrunch of fresh snow being compressed to pavement, suddenly the event made sense.
It wasn't a bad way to raise money for the Tustumena 200, with 36 runners paying $20 to participate.
It wasn't a bad way to spend the day after Thanksgiving. Feed the family one day, get the family out for some exercise the next.
And, with proper clothing (which apparently included a Santa costume) and tricks such as a scarf over the mouth to make breathing easier and Yaktrax on the bottom of shoes to make traction better, it actually wasn't that bad running a race in the winter.
"This is the first time I've ever raced in the winter, so it's my best winter time so far," said Roush after finishing second in the women's five-kilometer event at 34 minutes, 28 seconds. Jen Novobilski was first at 31:58.
The Tangaros and the Beringtons led the family charge at the event.
Kristy and Anna Berington, a pair of mushers from Kasilof, crossed the 10-kilometer finish line together at 48 minutes, 16 seconds, to take the victory in the women's event. Technically, Kristy was declared the winner.
The two said they get together for morning runs throughout the winter.
"It helps us understand how the dogs feel," Kristy said.
Due to their line of work, dressing for cold weather is second nature. Anna will run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for the first time this winter. Kristy will do her third Iditarod and also her first Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.
"It's going to be hard," Kristy said of the distance double, "but knowing how I am with adventure and self-torture, I'll probably end up doing both again."
Both cited Gore-Tex shoes as a way to keep winter running comfortable. Anna suggested that the event was perfect except for one thing.
"I would have had to run more than 10K to burn off the Thanksgiving dinner I had," she said.
Going back to time spent in Salt Lake City, the Tangaros also have been using Turkey Trots to burn off Thanksgiving dinners for years.
James Tangaro won the men's 10-kilometer race in 43:44, while his future son-in-law, Michael Abrahamsen of Bozeman, Mont., finished the men's five-kilometer race in 28:43 to take second to Darik Pickerel's 24:27.
James' wife, Michele, completed the 5K in 36:26, while daughters Rachel and Ashley finished at 34:36 and 36:36, respectively. Ashley is engaged to Michael, while Rachel was visiting from Chicago. James and Michele moved to the central Kenai Peninsula last summer so James could manage the Tesoro Alaska Refinery.
"It was pretty typical," Ashley said. "It was the morning after Thanksgiving and dad said, 'We're all going running.'"
Dodging his daughter's attempt to paint him as a total health nut, James made it clear his family's next order of business would be to round up some beer and pizza.
Michael said his second-place finish in the five-kilometer run was more about getting used to running again than about getting used to the weather.
"I haven't run at all since high school," the 23-year-old said. "This weather's not that much different from Montana. I suppose I'm used to it."
James grew up in Montana, and said this winter run was getting back to his roots.
"The real trick is figuring out how to dress," he said. "It's nice not to start too cold, but then you get heavy and drippy once you warm up."
James also had a jealous eye on the Yaktrax that many seasoned and sure-footed runners had on their shoes. He said he will likely invest in some before January, when he starts training for the Boston Marathon in April.
"I can do some of that inside, but it's hard to simulate the hills," said James, who gradually pulled away from runner-up Sam Satathite for the victory. "I'll have to get outside."
The race was put on by the Tustumena 200, with a huge assist from the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and the Kenai Police Department. Tami Murray, the T200's executive director, said the event is looking for fundraising opportunities after losing a big chunk of cash in the last year.
The race lost $30,000 of its $50,000 in revenue in the past year due to a decrease in gaming receipts. That decrease came because the J-Bar-B and Riverside House closed down and the Tustumena Lodge shuttered for the winter.
The race has responded by lowering its purse from $25,000 to $10,000. In order to still entice mushers, the entry fee is down to $200 from $250 and there is no longer a late entry fee.
There also will be no T100 this year. The race course is undergoing a big change that includes adding a checkpoint in Homer. Murray said the race would like to get the wrinkles at the new Homer checkpoint ironed out before having the T100 teams there.
Murray said the T100 will be back next year.
"Mushers really love our race," Murray said. "It's a challenging race. The trail has a lot of the same features as the Iditarod."
T200 Turkey Trot
Saturday in Kenai
1. Darik Pickerel (Men's winner), 24 minutes, 27 seconds; 2. Michael Abrahamsen, 28:43; 3. Jen Novobilski (Women's winner), 31:58; 4. Carolyn Roush, 34:28; 5. Rachel Tangaro, 34:36; 6. Ashley Tangaro, 36:36; 7. Michele Tangaro, 36:26; 8. Ellie Burns, 39:54; 9. Pam Burns, 39:54; 10. Julie Cisco, 40:34; 11. Louann Morley, 45:54; 12. Stephanie Kobylarz, 45:56; 13. Tom Kobylarz, 49:55; 14. Mindee Morning, 1:00:12; 15. Christine Morin, 1:00:12; 16. Elaina Spraker, 1:04:42; 17. Brenda Ahlberg, 1:04:46; 18. Tucker Mueller, 1:13:17; 19. Meg Mueller, 1:14:01; 20. Amelia Mueller, 1:14:01; 21. Marcus Mueller, 1:14:01.
1. James Tangaro, 43:44; 2. Sam Satathite, 46:34; 3. Scott Bloom, 48:06; 4. Kristy Berington (Women's winner), 48:16; 5. Anna Berington, 48:16; 6. Michael Stangel, 29:26; 7. Kurt Strausbaugh, 51:52: 8. Scott Huff, 55:23; 9. Kristin Morrow, 58:05; 10. Lisa Renken, 1:04:26; 11. Gerald Miller, 1:09:10; 12. Gregory Russell, 1:12:36; 13. Gretchen Kraus, 1:13:02; 14. Tony Oliver, 1:13:02; 15. Maria Sweppy, 1:20:21.