Thursday, February 22, 2018


Sam Cook is a local outdoors writer for the Duluth News-Tribune. His Friday column was posted today. Please take a few moments to read it.

Well said, sir!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Night Musings

It's been a bit chilly lately and all of my cold weather running and cycling gear (stuff for single digits and lower) has been getting quite the workout. 

Last Saturday I headed out to explore the fat bike designated trails at Jay Cooke State Park. Crossing the Swinging Bridge on two wheels is interesting, though initially I was worried my handlebars were not going to fit between the hand rails. 

The route involves a lot of elevation change! Especially the Summer Trail where there are hills that are quite steep (though I always forget how tough they are until I am faced with climbing them once again). 

The route is well marked. After completing a full loop we headed out the northwest corner of the park, rode a bit up the Leimer Rd to the Alex Laveau Memorial Trail and took that north to the Munger Trail, then rode that east back into the park. Overall it made for a very nice loop with a good mix of gently rolling hills, steep climbs and fast multi-use trails. 

Fat bike trail designation signs
This week has been a step back week and as such today was a rest day. I took the opportunity to head to Mont du Lac Ski Hill to watch the NJRS race. I show up every year or two to watch a friends son compete, and to marvel at what these kids can do. It was a lovely sunny day, and when out of the wind, not too bad for standing around outside for several hours. Just ask Red:

Red Skeleton waving to the crowd
He seemed rather unaffected by the cold and had the same jaunty carefree attitude the whole day. 

I was surprised today to receive some updated photos of the Ripple Hat. It is wonderful to see a knitted creation in the wild, and obviously well-loved by it's owner. 

Ripple Hat - Pikes Peak State Park, Iowa

Currently on the needles:

Lake Superior Hiking Trail color way
Socks that are large enough I am playing yarn chicken with the end of the skein as I work towards the toe of the second sock. I anticipate having to dip into a second skein in order to finish these off. Fortunately I anticipated this and not only bought one additional skein but stashed a third as well (it is a rather pretty color way when seen in good light and is named in honor of a favorite trail system).  

4 x 2 ribbed sweater
A long neglected sweater I am designing in a lovely merino/bamboo blend lace weight yarn. I got it back out for a knitting retreat I attended last month, determined how much further I needed to knit until I reach the armhole area and ensured that it still fit (I am terrible about knitting gauge swatches, plus have lost a bit of weight since I first designed this a few years ago).

Stonecrop Stole
I was ready to work the final rows of this pattern, after completing the main body, when I discovered that either I got off on row count somewhere or there is an error in the written directions. Since the pattern has been published for some time, there is no errata that I can find, nor has anyone commented on the directions being wrong, I suspect it is knitter's error. I am currently tinking back (unknitting one stitch at a time) trying to find where I messed up. This is best done when I can devote all of my attention to the project so has been slow going. 

Yesterday I spent 2.5 hours running the SHT in Duluth. I saw a total of 4 people and 3 dogs while I was out. And the first not until I had been out an hour! It was a brisk morning, with temperatures just above zero and a light breeze out of the west. The sun was shining and the snow was doing that wonderful squeak-crunch underfoot that is only heard on really cold days. Such a wonderful day for a long run. The views over the St. Louis River Estuary and Lake Superior never get old. 

Oddly my Garmin seemed to have a bit of a glitch and, when downloaded post run, had me starting my run at least a quarter mile downhill of my house and proceeding uphill via a route that would have taken me over retaining walls, across a highway and through a dozen houses before finally syncing up with my actual route. 

I am still trying to sort out a race schedule for this year, in addition to the Superior (Sawtooth) 100 in September. Much depends on travel and family schedules so I find myself strangely uncommitted to any races in the spring and summer. 

I did sign up for a fat bike race - the Fat Forest Fourteen -  next Saturday in Grand Rapids, MN. It is  put on a by a great group of folks and held on a fun course.  I have been cycling more consistently this year so am looking forward to testing out my fitness.  

I am starting week 3 (out of an anticipated 4) of the strict elimination phase of the Low FODMAP diet, while maintaining the other food restrictions initially put in place. This week I had a mild flare of symptoms, and with Rachel's help (dietitian I am working with through Trail Transformation) we narrowed down the likely cause and adjusted dietary amounts of a couple of foods. Because we had done so much work with my diet prior to starting the elimination phase, and my options are more limited then most folks who follow a Low FODMAP diet due to allergies/known food sensitivities, we had been a bit more "free" with amounts of some foods I seemed to tolerate well then is strictly recommended. I am finding there is constant tweaking even in this stage of the experiment and am very grateful for Rachel's help. 

Note: I would strongly recommend that if anyone is thinking of trying this diet that they work closely with a dietitian who is familiar with Low FODMAPs; this is not something that should be undertaken without expert guidance. I say this as someone who came into this with a decent handle on nutrition and a medical background. It is complex sorting out what the acceptable foods and amounts are and ensuring you are getting a decent variety of nutrients.

With the longer training runs comes the need to eat mid-run and I am experimenting with new gels (some Hammer products are Low FODMAP) and foods to see what is not only palatable but provides the calories and energy needed for quality workouts. 

I do admit I am looking forward to adding foods back in, though not to a possible return of any symptoms. Fingers crossed that some favorites are NOT triggers and will once again be part of my  regular diet. 

I recently was reminded that just because a restaurant worker tells you they use, or don't use, a certain product does not mean it is true. I had a mild, limited, allergic reaction to something I ate last night from a local diner. For a brief time I was debating if I was going to actually need to use an Epi-pen for the first time on myself. Fortunately the symptoms started to subside after I stopped eating the suspect food, and over the next 1-2 hours completely resolved.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

While Listening to an Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin....

I heard the following quote from Hannah Arendt:

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

It took me a couple of listens to truly understand what she was saying (I misinterpreted the use of the word "subject" the first time).

Go back and read it again, I will wait...

I then went on an internet search to learn more about Hannah Arendt and her work. Other quotes from her book The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951):

“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries. It is as though mankind had divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence (who think that everything is possible if one knows how to organize masses for it) and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience of their lives.”

The interview with Ursula. More writings about UKL can be found here and here.

Upon learning of her death yesterday I just sat, stunned, for some time. Then I went home and gathered up all the books I own by her (a stack well over a foot tall) and contemplated their importance to me. I have been a fan of her writing for nearly 40 years, rereading one or another of her books when the times push me to need a particular bit of her wisdom.

Listening to her interview, and the response to the Hannah Arendt quote... it is what we need, now, in this time!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Cinnamon Tahini Cookies and Fun With Diets

Adapted from a recipe found at Sweet Potato Soul.

Cinnamon Tahini Cookies
I followed her recipe pretty closely, adding 1 tsp of vanilla extract (the directions state to add it but it was not listed in the ingredients for the basic cookie) and substituting 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds for the 1/2 cup walnuts (I am allergic). I also used gluten-free quick oats. My cookies took almost twice as long as the recipe stated to be fully baked. I just kept setting the timer in 3 minutes increments and took them out when they were starting to brown at the edges and no longer dented when touched in the middle. I got 9 nearly 2" diameter cookies from the recipe (and yes, I will be looking to double or triple the yield!).

They are not as sweet as you would expect with a 1/4 cup of maple syrup. I happen to really like tahini, maple syrup, cinnamon... well all of the ingredients, so this recipe was a good find. And mixes up in just a few minutes. I am hoping they provide a nice snack for cycling and longer runs.

Why this cookie and not my more traditional chocolate chip oatmeal cookie? I have been working on a lot of dietary changes in the past couple of months due to GI issues I have been coping with for several years. It all culminated with my stomach "quitting" on me during the Superior 100 this past September. After not being able to eat due to nausea and a sense of fullness for 35+ miles, except when sitting still (and not so great then), I ended up dropping/timing out at 77 miles. I had simply run out of fuel for my muscles by that point.  My nutrition plan was very similar to what has worked for me at all my ultras, including when I finished Sawtooth (Superior 100) in 2012. I normally have a pretty good stomach, so was baffled by what happened. And admittedly did not problem solve well on the fly.

I have had food allergies/sensitivities for years, with new allergies to peanuts and tree nuts developing in the past 10 years (and in the past 2-3 months I added sunflower to the list).
I knew there was more at work, had tried informal elimination diets of suspected foods with little success and decided it was time to seek expert help. Lucky for me my coach, Jake Hegge with Trail Transformation also works with a dietitian. Rachel has been awesome and has helped me to identify trigger foods and get those out of my diet, all while working with my existing food allergies/intolerances!

For the past 1-2 months I have been dairy free, peanut and tree nut free, soy free and sunflower free (go grab a packaged item randomly off your shelf, read the label, and note how fun just eliminating those groups of food can be! And remember, dairy includes whey and casein). This also meant being vigilant about not eating any foods that were "processed in a facility that also processes..." any of the above foods. Something I had not been strict about in the past, thinking none of my allergies or intolerances were that severe. When I developed the sunflower allergy I was dismayed to see how many products it is in (goodbye dried fruit) and how many products have a "contains safflower oil and/or ..... oil and/or sunflower oil". Gah!! When being strict about the elimination that ruled out a lot of things I normally would eat.

Just making the above changes decreased the symptoms I had been having for the past 4 or so years by 50-75%. And any flares of my symptoms had me shocked I had put up with them for so long (when you bring the pot of water to boil slowly, the frog hardly notices it's being cooked).

We are moving on to the next step in elimination with a Low FODMAP diet:

Hopefully we can identify any other foods that may be contributing to my symptoms. It is hard to say good-bye to garlic (hopefully just for the strict elimination phase) and a few other foods. But it is worth it to feel "normal" again.

A side effect of all the dietary changes has been weight loss. Not something I was looking for, or thought I really needed. I am moving to a model of eating several small meals each day (every couple of hours while awake) vs three main meals with small snacks, in an attempt to stabilize that. Plus, to be honest, I am hungry that often! It has also meant I am eating more meat (venison, chicken, turkey, fish) then I have in 30 years. I had considered myself an "opportunistic carnivore"(generally eating low on the food chain but having meat on occasion) for a decade, after being a lacto-ovo vegetarian for nearly 20 years. But with the current restrictions in what I can eat I needed to add meat back in on a regular basis (Low FODMAP = no legumes).

I hope to have this all sorted out, and a solid nutrition plan in place, by September. Because yes, I did make it into the Superior 100!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Great Falls, Montana

Visiting family for the holidays. Have gotten a couple of runs in on the River's Edge Trail (paved Rails to Trails conversion) including 13.5 miles today with temps in the single digits above zero. Lots of fresh snow in the past few days so the single-track trails in town were buried. I gave them a brief try today but post-holing for several miles isn't a lot of fun; especially when a few of those would have been into a 15 mph headwind. Unlike many parts of Duluth there are no trees to break the wind. My outbound tracks were obscured by the time I turned around today (on the eastern end of my run).

Scenes from today's run along the Missouri River:
Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea Sculpture

River's Edge Trail map
And a cute grandson photo just because:

A bee stowed away in my luggage much to G's delight
Tomorrow we are off to the mountains so the "kids" can ski, and G and I will hang out. Then possibly back to the mountains on Christmas day to explore and hike.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ripple Hat

"Like a stone on a surface of a still river, driving the ripples on forever..."
Cry of a Tiny Babe -- Bruce Cockburn

A new hat design was born this past week. Built off of a couple of my previous designs and inspired by the recipient's memories of an afghan made by a grandmother.

Gathering supplies from my stash of fingering weight yarns
I have a rather generous supply of fingering weight yarn of all kinds of colors gathered over 20+ years of knitting. I went diving into that stash to find appropriate colors. I used some Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in Black as my main (background) color and then collected an assortment of other bright colors and began to assemble them in "families". You can see the draft pattern underneath some of the yarn and knitting in the photos.
Draft pattern and cast-on 

First Latvian Braid completed
Latvian Braid (a 3 row pattern) has a lovely habit of severely twisting the yarns while working Row 2. By the end of the round you spend a lot of time spreading the yarns out in order to get enough free of entanglement to work the stitches. But, on row 3 it all starts to untwist, and by the end of that round there are no more tangles. Of course, I added a second braid which meant dealing with the terribly twisted yarn for yet another 2 rows!
Working on the body of the hat. Note how the two Latvian Braids are traveling in opposite directions
My pattern for a Latvian Braid has the "arrows" running towards the left (as in the lower braid). I opted to reverse Rows 2 and 3 for the second braid so the arrows would run in the opposite direction.

Working up the body of the hat. The darker toned yarns had a tendency to blend into the black yarn a bit which made for fun in low light situations. Minnesota in winter is often gray, overcast or just plain dark (we currently have about 9.5 hours of visible light, with day length of 8.5 hours).

Measuring to ensure proper size and to finalize gauge
At one point I was very concerned that I might be making this hat too big (and it may turn out I was right, you never know until someone tries it on) so I transferred all 200 stitches to a string and laid it out for measuring. This was also a good chance to check gauge (stitches to the inch). So far, so good.

Vertical stripes on the crown of the hat, following the color sequence in the body of  the hat
While running this morning I had a thought to recreate the color sequence of the ripples from the body of the hat in a vertical stripe pattern on the crown. I think the effect is rather nice, reminding me a bit of a winter sunset.

Finishing off the crown with i-cord
 I often finish off hats with an inch or so of i-cord (a knitted tube) that is then tied into a knot. I thought this was a good opportunity to bring back the gold and black from the Latvian Braid.

Inside view of a color stranded hat. 
Stranded knitting has the nice bonus of adding a little extra wool (warmth) to knitted items. Over time and use those strands start felting/fulling into the hat, adding even more warmth.

Finished, unblocked hat
After this photo was taken the hat went into a warm soapy bath for a soak. Then a warm clear water rinse and it is now currently drying on a glass head near a heating vent. 

Final measurements will be taken tomorrow after this gentle blocking. I am a bit concerned the hat may be too deep (crown to edge measurement). But fit is very individual so will wait to see what the recipient thinks. Knitting is easy to adjust (undo some stitches, rip back until the right point and reknit). If it's a matter of being just a tiny bit too large either top to bottom or circumference, the hat can be fulled to shrink it down to size. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

New Maps at Jay Cooke State Park

I was excited to see they have posted new maps at Jay Cooke State Park. Currently the Winter Map is up (trails change slightly seasonally), but as you can see in the photo, it appears there are new Summer Maps as well (tucked away until next spring).

Its nice to see official fatbike trails in the park. Even though the map indicates you can access the trail loop from the main headquarters lot it might be best to go in off of Leimer Rd to avoid wheeling/carrying a bike through the congestion that can occur on the Swinging Bridge.

Last week I got in a couple of rides at Jay Cooke on the "backside" of the park off of Hwy 23 (Spruce Loop and High Trail). May keep that up until the snow flies/they start grooming trails as it is pretty easy to get to from Duluth.

Winter Map (zoom in for details)
Fat bike trail designation
Today I was in the park for a easy run on a loop comprised of the Summer, Bearchase, Lost Lake and Silver Creek Trails. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day; perfect for a leisurely paced run including a few stops to clean debris off the trail, take in the sites and inspect the new maps.