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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Welcome Meteorological Spring!

Today is the first day of Meteorological Spring and you can feel the change! Well, it does help that we are leaving behind one of the coldest Februarys in years (it is possibly in the top 10 for our area).  Temperatures in the 20's F with sunny skies feel downright tropical!

It is much more fun to contemplate spending 3-4 hours outdoors running when the temps are in the double-digits and the sun is shining.  Yesterday a few of us headed out on the trails in the Piedmont/Brewer's Park area. My goal was 16 miles which I figured would take 3.5-4 hours. We ran out on the Superior Hiking Trail towards the west with a planned turn around at Cody St. The single-track was in excellent condition until we got into the Keene Creek Valley where abundant overflows covered the trail and made for very sketchy footing. We actually abandoned the trail in a couple of spots and ran/hiked down the river.
Marcus and I standing on the bank of Keene Creek, under a massive overflow.
Above us, on the top of the slope, and under all of that ice, is the SHT.
Photo courtesy of Sam.
As you can see in the above photo the trail has been totally engulfed by the ice. The river was a much better choice in this section!

Stats from yesterday's run:
 - 16 miles (15.73 on GPS, had an episode of stopping it and forgetting to restart between miles 9-10, that amounted to about .3 miles lost mileage)
 - 3:39:03 (some lost time in there due to stopped watch)
 - Elevation gain: 1, 705 ft (there was at least one 600 ft descent, then climb, over about a mile,  in  addition to a lot of small climbs and descents)
 - 1351 calories burned (not sure how accurate this is)

I learned from last week and brought along three gels (ate two) and a sunbutter-craisin on homemade sourdough sandwich (ate half and gave a quarter away, snacked on last quarter post-run). Since I didn't finish the flasks of water I had brought with last week I thought I was safe just bringing 10 ozs of water with again this week. Wrong! I found myself rationing water and supplementing with snow (harvested from off trail a bit) and still finished feeling quite parched. Marcus offered up another 5 oz. of water post-run. I got home, drank 20 oz. of my recoverite/hot chocolate concoction and headed out on some errands with a pint of water which I finished off pretty quickly. I was able to snag a small bottle of gatorade at Austin-Jarrow and was still feeling thirsty. At this point I was mid errands and there was nothing much I could do about it till I got home. It took a couple more hours of drinking to thirst before I felt the need to urinate. So, obviously it is time to bring more water along on runs!

Today I headed back out for another run. The plan was to run 8 miles, the first 5 miles with my daughter Sarah and her dog. She is training for her second trail race, this time moving up from the half marathon to 25K. Her long runs are fitting nicely into my plan to run a mid-distance length on Sundays. We decided to check out the western section of Skyline Blvd which gets closed off in the winter, becoming a playground for snowmobiles, fat bikes, runners and the occasional skier. The route is composed of some long, gradual uphills and lovely views of the St. Louis River estuary. Sam joined us and planned to continue on with me for the full 8 miles. The footing was decent initially, if you found the firm track. By the time we were heading back to the car it was feeling a little softer (temps warming into the upper 20's F). Sam and I headed back out towards the western terminus of the road while Sarah drove around to meet us. By this time the trail was definitely getting softer, even in the packed sections, and we were both glad we only had 3 miles to go.

Knitting

I have been playing around with a pattern for Lobster Mittens I found on Ravelry. As I read through the pattern I realized it was based off a standard mitten pattern, just not one I was familiar with. So I rewrote it to utilize the mitten pattern I use. After splitting for the fingers I did my usual decreases for the top of a mitten. The more I looked at the finished mitten the more I disliked the decreases (and they didn't fit all that great either. See the issue?

Lobster mitten in progress

On my hand - fingers are also a bit short which makes the split fall  in the wrong spot.


Close up of the decreases on the first/middle finger section. 

Close up of the ring/little finger section. 

Too pointy! I (and I suspect most folks) do not have pointy fingers. Back to the drawing board. I did a bit of thinking, measuring, and have come up with a better plan. Now to rip out an inch and a half of knitting on each section.

Race plans

I tend to be one of those people who enters races, especially ultras, later in the registration period when I am more sure of my ability to compete. This has changed slightly in recent years as some of my favorite events have begun to fill up quickly. Last year I signed up right away for the Spring Superior 50K (it filled in 7 days) and then ended up dropping out in the first mile when it became abundantly clear to me that the injury I had suffered a month before was not sufficiently healed and I would only be doing more damage if I continued on.

This year the Spring Superior races filled in record time (despite a server crash). I was one of the fortunate folks who managed to get in, but only because I had assistance in the form of a family member who registered both of us (smartphone savvy and a well-timed break at work).

Because of the exponential growth in the Superior races over recent years they are instituting a lottery for the Fall races. This has come as a shock to many in the upper midwest running community as we are not used to lotteries in this area. I agree with the race director that a lottery is much fairer to all then the current system which favors those who can be at their keyboards anytime of day or night.

I will admit though that my first reaction was "But I don't want to have to commit financially to running a 100 miler in March! What if I end up injured... or life/work gets in the way?" Then I stepped back and looked at it from a broader perspective. I am already training for this race. I have already made the mental commitment. I still have almost a month to gauge my fitness and training progress and make a final decision. If I get in I still have 5+ months to make arrangements for accommodations and recruit crew. The only real difference this year from 2012 will be that the race fee will have already been spent. If I don't get in, I have the time off already and will either crew/pace for a friend or volunteer at the race (something I believe every runner should do, at least as often as they race).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Long run - such as it is in February

I find that I do better with a training plan and so, with hopes of a 100 miler in my future, have started being a bit more disciplined about my running. Today's schedule called for 14 miles. For that matter so did last week's plan but I opted for shorter due to the temperatures and trail conditions. Today was a bit warmer, 9 F by one report, maybe up to low teens even. Sun was shining and the wind wasn't much of a factor. I opted to run an out and back on a local snowmobile trail. There are plenty of hills on this course (one takes less then 10 minutes to run down and twice as long to climb back up). We had an inch or so of snow yesterday and more earlier this week. With the warmer temps footing was a bit soft in spots. Great strength training, right? On the way back I added a few miles of single-track trails, some well used by hikers/bikers/runners others not quite so packed. I am grateful for a friend who joined me as it allowed for good conversation and a chance to catch up with each other.

Stats for today's run:
 - 14.05 miles
 - 3:02
 - 1,289 ft elevation gain
 - 1,255 calories (not sure how much credit to give that data)

I was really hungry by 12 miles despite the two gels (E-gel - 150 calories per packet) I consumed during the run and, for me, a decent breakfast of oats, apples, craisins and a bit of maple syrup, prior to the run. I finished the last two miles trying to distract myself from focusing on my grumbling stomach. As with last week I used two 5 oz flasks to carry water. The one in the left zippered pocket of my pack actually stayed quite warm. The one in my right, open, pocket was a bit cooler and starting to freeze at the valve.

Tomorrow will be a shorter run of 6-8 miles. Four will be with my daughter (she is training for a 25K trail run in May) and the rest on my own. It is predicted to be much colder, with highs below zero. I keep reminding myself when it is this cold that the sun is getting stronger and days are getting longer.

OKC

Finally got out with some of my recent knits for a photo shoot:
Mosaic Hat
I am working on polishing up this pattern for publication. Once I have it finished I will post a link. 

Mosaic Hat and Vertical Striped Mittens
I have several versions of the pattern for these mittens in draft form, yet another one I need to finalize and publish.

Vertical Striped Mittens v4

Wingspan - Northshore color way (Three Irish Girls)
 I enjoy knitting this pattern, a lot. This is my third Wingspan, first in this yarn.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Blustery Day in the Northwoods

Today's run stats:
 - starting temperature:  -6 F (windchill in the -20's*)
 - 10 miles of single-track in the Piedmont/Brewer Park area. Some sections had been well-traveled, others presented more challenging footing
 - ending temperature: 3 F (windchill in the -teens*)
*windchill is only a factor if you are exposed to the wind; parts of today's run were quite protected and with the sun out it was actually very comfortable. 

The tunnel under Haines Rd. I love that it is labeled for the hiking trail,
though serves a snowmobile and mountain bike trail as well. 

Bridge on Lollygagger, one of the trails comprising the Duluth Traverse.

We flushed a ruffed grouse from it's resting place.

Overlooking Haines Rd and a section of Fox Rocks that we had run earlier. 

Looking over the Piedmont area and out to Lake Superior.
My goal was to run 12-14 miles today or 3 hours, whichever came first. In reality I called it quits at 10 miles and 2:18. Significant portions of the trails we used today had seen little use since our snowfall earlier this week and presented soft footing. Often hiking was as fast as running. 

I did head back out in the afternoon with Mr. Wildknits for a 2 mile snowshoe - our first of this winter season. We spent an hour packing down a section of the Superior Hiking Trail above our house. A few areas were quite drifted due to the strong winds the past few days. 

I wore my new Nathan VaporShadow, not because I needed that much capacity today, but to test out the fit and ride (see the photo that won me the pack here: http://www.nathansports.com/blog/09-05-14/dancing-fog). I did stuff an additional long-sleeve jacket in just in case and carried my usual supplies of wet wipes, gels, and camera. Today, instead of a hydration bladder or water bottle I carried a couple of 5 oz gel flasks filled with water. The pack was quite comfortable and didn't move around at all. It will be good to give it a try with a bit more weight as the weather moderates and my weekend runs get longer.

OKC
I have been pretty busy knitting of late, mostly smaller items including socks, mittens, hats and another Wingspan. A sweater I designed is hibernating right now while I contemplate what type of neckline I want (leaning towards shallow v-neck).

Runner's Hat - Wild Duluth 100K Edition

Silk Mittens
In Other News
I have a new employer. It was not an easy decision to leave my former workplace as I had been involved with the organization for 21 years in one capacity or another, but the past couple of years were not good, my health was suffering because of it, and I needed to make a change. I deeply miss many of my co-workers, colleagues and patients.

I started work with my new employer on January 5th and so far things are going well. Learning a new system is always a challenge, but the basics of my job remain the same. After a month I finally feel like I am getting my feet under me and finding my place.


Back to Running
Monday marks 30 weeks until the Superior 100 (Sawtooth) race. Time to start official training! On the way I am planning on participating in the Spring Superior 50K and the Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultramarathon as well as a couple of shorter road races as part of the USATF-MN Team Circuit for Northwoods Minnesota-Wisconsin.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Pattern Variation

I have been on a bit of a hat knitting binge of late. First was a bright green and multicolored Runner's Hat that was donated to a local running series for their end of the season celebration:

Sorry about the quality of the photo (suspect I was using my new-to-me iPhone 3GS and hadn't learned how to use the camera properly). 

During the series you get points for each race run, or volunteered, at. First finisher gets 150 points, and each runner after that gets one point less; with separate male and female results. There is a 25 point bonus for attending all of the races, and your lowest score gets dropped. The end result is that while the fleet of foot accumulate a lot of points, it is often the most consistent runners/attendees who place in the top 10. 

At the end of the series potluck there are a lot of prizes donated by local business and individuals; essentially every runner who attends gets something. They are all laid out on a table and the series director calls out names starting with the top point getter on down. Each person then gets to choose an item from all that is on display. 

My intention was to have the hat done for this event. Alas, reality got in the way (for some reason I thought it was quite reasonable that I could knit this in less then one week on size 0 needles) and it was not quite complete on the day of the last race/end of series potluck. I placed the 2/3 finished hat on the table with a card promising the finished hat to the recipient. 

Apparently it was a hot commodity and got snatched up rather quickly. This resulted in the need to knit another hat.

Since I can't seem to knit the same thing twice I made a few revisions. Adding a couple of peerie patterns that I felt were representative of some of the features of a certain long run on the Superior Hiking Trail. I introduce to you Runner's Hat v3 aka "Wild Duluth 100k Edition":




The other day I went out for a lunch with my sister and got this in my fortune cookie:

It was amazingly appropriate! More on that in a future post. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Isle Royale 2014 - Rock Harbor, Chippewa Harbor, Malone Bay

Just a peek at my most recent trip. It was very cool, often wet and great fun.

Carved into the floor of shelter #5 at Rock Harbor
Seen along the Scolville Point Trail:
Coral fungus species
Puffballs
unidentified fungus
One-flowered Pyrola
Pipsissewa
Turtlehead (?)
Day paddle from Chippewa Harbor to Wood Lake and back:
Unidentified fungus located at portage from Chippewa Harbor to Lake Whittlesey
Moose poop! 
Getting ready for our first portage of the trip - Chippewa Harbor end of trail
Looking back into Chippewa Harbor
Unidentified tiny mushrooms
Wood Lake, as viewed from portage. Siskiwit Lake is just over the ridge line.
Lake Whittlesey - looking out from campground. 
More evidence of moose on the beach near the Lake Whittlesey portage. 
Toadlet (they were everywhere on the trails). 
Pale corydalis
Deluxe trail - portage from Lake Whittlesey to Chippewa Harbor.
18' canoe + 5' 1.5" human = tail end of canoe hitting rocks/steps at times. 
Gay wings/Fringed polygala (blooming way out of season).
Spotted while portaging canoe, photographed by my camping partner. 
What a year for fungus!!
Chippewa Harbor:
Shipwreck, Chippewa Harbor
Orchid species; near rock outcrop on trail to Lake Mason
Unidentified shrub, growing along creek from Lake Richey to Chippewa Harbor
Chippewa Harbor, looking out towards Lake Superior.
 Malone Bay:
Apparently slugs found me very attractive one afternoon.   
Malone Bay
Wild rose species
I just couldn't resist snapping a photo of this little critter on the beach.
Siskiwit Lake to Wood Lake:
On a beach on the largest island on the largest lake on the largest island on the largest lake.
Ryan Island, Siskiwit Lake, looking towards Teakettle Island. 
Owl pellet found at campground on Wood Lake

Owl pellet
Itsy bitsy skull from owl pellet
A very busy caterpillar at Wood Lake
Malone Bay:
Isle Royale shawl - Malone Bay

Finished these socks on the ferry ride to Isle Royale. They served me well.
Three Irish Girls - Deadheads color way.