Susie Kramer

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I did the full marathon twice, and I did the relay once.  My first marathon, I was not prepared for — didn’t do any long runs, and so I was very sore, and it took me almost 5 1/2 hrs.  The only reason I ran it that first year in 2000, is that I wanted to run all seven races in the Flint Hill Series. My longest training run was 16 miles,  and it was the Gold Discovery Run… the only reason I ran that far.

So the second year, I was running with Karoline Davis who convinced me that a long run would be a good idea, so I think I ran a 20 miler with her, and with Judge Ron Smith, who waited for me as I was behind everybody else. It was a very memorable experience, very sweet.  I’ll always remember that training run.  And that year, I also decided to do the full Flint Hill series, and I finished the Equinox in a little over 5 hrs, so I think that one long run made a huge difference, because your body needs to know what it’s like to be out there for three hours.

I remember running it with Roxane Rigo that year, passing each other back and forth, and of course, she beat me by a couple minutes.  And that year, Mike didn’t run so he crewed for me and it was a lot more stressful; the expectations were a lot higher with him there.  He’s very supportive though.  That Tuesday following the Equinox, I ran seven miles and felt great, and it was a whole different experience.   I think that’s when I caught the bug.  If you run enough, and train enough, you can just get so much more out of it, the racing experience.

Then I skipped it a year because Mike ran it in 2002. And in 2003, Mike and I did a relay because he married Ken and Jane at the Botanical Gardens.  I ran the first leg, Mike ran the second, then we jumped into our car and rushed over to marry Ken and Jane,  who were  both running the whole Equinox together.  Kendall (daughter) was a year old then, so swapping the kid around during the relay was interesting.

I don’t ever want to diminish the relay for people, but after having run the full marathon two years in a row, it just didn’t feel like we were participating fully.  It felt like we were shortchanging ourselves, but we wanted to run it that year and support Ken and Jane so that was the best compromise. And now that I’m race director, if anyone asked me to run the first leg with them, I probably would be open to it again, so I can be a part of the Equinox. And now that I’m over 40, I can be on a masters’ team and that would be fun, too.

For eight years, Mike ran it and I crewed for him then.  The Equinox has been a part of our lives almost every year since 1998.

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

I started training in July those two years.  And I did a few of the training runs.  I never ran up the Dome once.  I ran on hills around my house for my training.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

One 20 miler in August, and I did several 13 milers in July.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

Once you come out of the chute and are on Henderson, it’s a sense of relief, knowing I have about a 10K to go. It doesn’t seem so daunting at that point.

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

Between the Musk Ox Farm to Ann’s Greenhouse, miles 5 to 9 are my favorite.  I’m feeling good here; not too many hills.  I like running roads.

Least favorite: when you first go into the woods on Ester Dome after the first relay exchange.  I don’t like that wooded area.  That’s when I start walking, and I pretty much walk until I get to the top of Ester Dome.

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

Worst is during my first marathon when my knee was giving me problems and I had to stop after the out and back and get it iced and wrapped at the first aid station there.  So whenever my knee starts hurting me, I call it my Equinox knee.

Best moment was in 2002:  Mike didn’t win that year; he took second behind Daniel Shaw, but Kendall was a baby, and he came through the finish, and he picked her up and kissed her.  There was a picture in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner the next day.  Even though he didn’t win, it was a memorable finish.  Also, in 2009, the year Mike took 4th place.  I decided to bike down the Dome and meet up with him.  I cried when Tom Ritchie passed him on Gold Hill, but Mike told me, “It’s okay, babe, I’m cool with it.”  I have these good memories crewing for Mike.

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

In the sense that if I see someone I’ve beaten in the past, or I think I should beat, then yes, I work harder.  Last year, during the Santa Claus half marathon, I had to stop and walk because my back was bothering me again, and this woman goes by me that appeared to be in worse shape than me, telling me I was doing a good job.  This was an aha moment, and I knew I had to get my act together, so I picked it up.  I’m competitive in that way.  When I was running well in 2008/2009, I was very excited about being up front and running with people like Dorli and Jane.  That was exciting for me, but I also ran all the time; ended up getting a herniated disc.  That’s when I had to start cross-training, and my whole workout philosophy changed.  Now I run three to four times a week, and cross-train a few times a week.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Do the training runs.  Get to know the course so you’re not in shock the day of the race.  Do two 20-milers or run for three hours straight sometime in August.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

Yes!  The first year, I didn’t train enough.  And when I got to the top of Ester Dome, I wanted to quit, but Mike’s aunt walked the out and back with me and she wouldn’t let me quit.  So mentally I was done, but once I got down the chute, I was okay again.

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

No, I can’t because I’m race director.

I’m not motivated to run the whole race, but I’m motivated to be a part of it.  I always want to be a part of it, whether it’s race director, or crewing for Mike, or running in a relay.  But the experience of running in the whole thing, after running road marathons… I don’t think I could go back to this and put in the training required for it.

But I’m excited about getting walkers involved, and getting more people excited about doing the Equinox; that’s really where I’m at now.  I almost think it’s better for people to do the Equinox before they do a road marathon because then they truly have experienced a marathon in my eyes.  Being able to run a four hour marathon is great, but completing the Equinox is a much better experience, knowing what you went through.

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