Thursday, June 26, 2008

Late night at wildknits

What do knitting, trailrunning, RN's do in their spare time?

Finish hat brims:

Finally! How long has it been since I cast on for this hat? I can't even remember. What?! Doesn't look like a hat to you? It will, in time. Now comes the easy, mindless part. I just need to pick up and knit 234 stitches, figure out what sort of gauge I am getting, figure out how many stitches to decrease away so that I come out with a hat that fits, then knit away mindlessly for 4 inches or so until it is time to decrease for the top. Ah, relaxing knitting with no charts to follow. Don't mind those mittens sitting in the bag on the floor....

If you look closely you will see my emac monitor and on it a photo of an owl. Yup, I took that photo. Off my front steps. Little guy (or gal) was sitting in the lilac in my front yard. Boreal or Saw-whet?? Can't remember now what the consensus was. At any rate, it hung around the yard for a couple of days and I have pictures of the marks it left on the snow when it had a chickadee snack courtesy of my birdfeeder.

Ran Tuesday morning before work on the Piedmont Ski Trails. It was already starting to warm up by 10:00 am, but I chalked it up to more heat training. Headed out knowing the city crew was there mowing and wondering if I would run into them on the trail. There is a big washout at one of the culverts - too big and deep for me to jump - and too big for the mower to get across, so the grass was a bit longer on the other side. I ended up catching up to, and passing, the mower guy on the expert loop (I had the downhill advantage at that point). Luckily he could hear me whistling at him over the machine and let me by. The cool thing was that he was wearing a NMTC tshirt from the Half Voyageur! Wondered if he would catch me on the uphills, but not to worry. I kept ahead, even though I took the long way, and eventually left him behind.

The run felt hard and slow to me, though I was happy with my ability to run all of the hills out there. The ones on the expert loop are steep (again, an area I will not ski). Didn't feel a huge need to push the pace, other than the need to get to work on time, so just ran. Ended up finishing the 5k (best estimate of distance) in 29:55. Not too slow after all.

No run Wednesday, but did get a three mile brisk walk in with Porter on the Lakewalk. It was in the 80's over the hill and 59 at the Lake. Nice day to go to the lake shore with a husky. I watched the sailboat race as we walked, took a break on the beach, and by the time we had made it back to the car the wind had switched and temps were up in the 70's. Got home and knit a few pattern repeats on the bobble-cable hat brim while sipping on a Summit Great Northern Porter. Summer in Duluth can be quite spectacular!

I was planning to run tonight and, due to the heat, thought the best place to run would be Park Point beyond Sky Harbor Airport (2+ miles of trails lead to the Superior entry). Post-run swims in Lake Superior are the best. Who needs an ice bath?!

Opted to ride my bike down there for a bit of cross-training. It is 7 miles from my house, but the first mile is all downhill so hardly counts on a bike ;-> Got to the airport to discover that Jon was closing up shop and didn't want to hang around while I ran. As he was my ride back up the hill, I decided to skip out on the run. Maybe tomorrow? Though I have a race on Saturday (Knife River Solstice Run, on of only three road/paved trail races I participate in) and a long run Sunday, so may bail on the run tomorrow.

While at the airport I got to see "my" new boat. Ahem - otherwise known as Jon's herring skiff. Picked it up last weekend, along with a bunch of nets, floats, a fish descaler and who knows what else from a retired fisherman up near Silver Bay. I hear it was quite an adventure. Know it involved three miles on Lake Superior in the skiff loaded with the fish scaler, powered by a motor that hadn't been used in a few years with a canoe paddle as back-up propulsion. It is the last big item needed for Jon to get his commercial fishing business going. He has his license (two year apprenticeship served) and can set nets anytime now. I think the herring run is pretty slow at this time of year, but fall is a busy time and they go out until the ice blocks the marina. In the past few years I have learned a bit about the herring fishery on Lake Superior - and about herring. They are NOT that nasty stuff that comes in a jar found in grocery stores. Fresh water herring is a different species. White, delicate, mild-flavored. Feed in the middle layers so don't pick up gunk from the lake bottom. Small enough not to bioaccumulate too many toxins, so safe for women and children to eat. And, the pickled herring made at home... well, even I like it! Not sure what the plan is for all that fish come fall. You may start seeing ads for fresh herring on the blog soon.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jay Cooke State Park

I have long had the goal of running every trail in Jay Cooke. The DNR claims that their are 50 miles of hiking trails, 32 miles of cross-country ski trails and 12 miles of snowmobile trails in the park. Lots of overlap there, by the way.

I originally set this goal about 7 years ago when my daughter Sarah was volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding organization in the area. I would drop her off and head to Jay Cooke with Porter to occupy myself during her 3+ hour shift. Back then I wasn't running as many miles and avoided running when it was hot (which Porter greatly appreciated), which meant I did not get very far into the park on these jaunts. I did a lot of exploring on the trails away from the headquarters though. There are numerous trail loops that can be accessed from back roads or Hwy 210. The Half Voyageur and Voyageur Ultra use some of these trails on their course.

Anyway, on to yesterday's run. While most of Duluth was focused on Grandma's Marathon and the Garry Bjorkland Half Marathon (either participating in it in some way or trying to get away from it) I headed south to Jay Cooke. My plan was to run 22 miles - the last really long run before the Half Voyageur. I had plotted out a course south of the swinging bridge that worked out to be 26K/16 miles. It allowed me to run almost every trail on that side of the park without duplicating too much. Then I was planning on heading across Hwy 210 and running trails over there to get the next 6 miles in. Part of the beauty of this plan was that I needed to be self-supported and could use the car as my "aid station" as I have learned that I can only carry enough water for about 18 miles or so (at least with the equipment I currently have).

The weather since Friday has been a bit unsettled with thunderstorms popping up in the afternoon. I really do not like running when there is lightening about. I have been close to a strike before and don't care to experience that again.

I headed across the swinging bridge and out the Summer Trail. Within a mile or so of leaving the headquarters I got to the part of the park that few people use - evidenced by the extreme lack of trail maintenance. Parts of the Summer Trail are also a snowmobile trail in the winter. The grass was pretty long here. Not too bad to run through though as it was probably only calf high or so and there were areas that others had been in, so the grass was at least knocked down a bit. The long grass continued for almost all of my run, at least until I got back within a mile or so of headquarters. Guess we know where most park users are concentrated!

So, yesterday's route was: Summer Trail to Bear Chase Trails (long way around) to Lost Lake Trail to Lower Lake Trail to Upper Lake Trail to Spruce Trail, back to Upper Lake Trail, Lower Lake Trail, Lost Lake Trail and then onto an unlabeled trail on the map, but was called Summer Trail on the posts, to the Ridge Trails (near the river) and back to the bridge and park headquarters. If you have a map in front of you, I generally took right turns at all intersections, choosing the long way around if there were shortcuts. A lot of these trails are loops, so it worked out that I only ran the same trail one time - the Lost Lake Trail - and that was because it is the connector between the two trail systems on that side of the park.

The further I got from park headquarters the taller the grass and ferns in the trail got. It was obvious that very few people get out this way as the vegetation was almost untouched in places (Spruce Trail for example). I saw only a handful of people, surprising a backpacking group as a matter of fact. Also surprised a few deer, wood frogs, toads and one - soon to be really pissed off - momma ruffed grouse. I am sorry, but mad ruffed grouse are very scary - especially when they are chasing you. So much for low heart rate training!

The trails on this end of the park have some killer hills. If you have ever run the NMTC Bull Run you will know what I mean. That race uses portions of the Spruce Trail and the Lake Trails (still not totally sure which parts). These are ski trails and I am waaay too chicken to ski them because of the steep hills. But I will run them. I just kept thinking "powerlines" as I walked up the hills or ran down them.

This is also where the grass and bracken ferns got thigh high or taller. Okay - no comments about my height! It is tough running through this stuff. And at times it was a bit tough finding the trail. The woods are making their best attempt to reclaim the trails back there. Often the only difference between trail and not-trail was a lack of trees.

A few trees were down across the trails, not too many and mostly easy to get around or over. The worst part of the course for me was hitting the corduroy on the Lost Lake Trail. I couldn't see it due to the long grass, it was there for a reason (very wet) and on the way back I hit it wrong and heard a loud 'crack' from my right ankle. Good thing the backpacking youth were long gone as it hurt, I was unhappy, and I let it be known. No damage done, was back running after a few feet of walking to ensure nothing was truly injured.

Took every walking opportunity to scan my legs for ticks and dispose of them before they got too attached to me ;-> Grand total for the run was only 10 - not too bad considering what I was running though most of the time. The tick issue did make finding a 'good' bathroom spot a priority - no vegetation allowed. Lack of other humans in the area made privacy a non-issue. The deer flies are out and about, so it was a good decision to wear a hat. I really dislike the sensation of them buzzing about my head, the hat helps.

Was heading back to the swinging bridge when the sky started to darken. I had timed things well. Got to the car, shed the camelback, started to refill my water bottle and empty my waist pack of garbage when I heard the crack of thunder. Tossed stuff to the front of the car, climbed in, and the heavens opened up.

26k in 3:36. Not too bad for me. As I sat there waiting for the skies to clear a bit (remember - I do not like running in thunderstorms) I kept busy tossing ticks out the door (they seem to hide in my shoes till I stop moving), snacking on a few pretzels, making a couple of calls (checking in with Jon and Ed while waiting out the storm), and plotting out the next part of my run. I settled on running the White Pine Trail to the CCC trail and then onto the Thompson Trail and back to the car - only about 5k, so short of my original goal of 22 miles. As soon as I saw bluish skies I decided I might as well finish up the planned run.

I made it a couple of hundred feet. My excuses: heels/achilles tendons hurt bilaterally; I was cold (why yes it had been in the mid-70's all day); and it was getting dark again. Yup, I bailed out. Maybe if I had been with other people I would have kept going, hard to say. I had been cycling through thoughts of cutting the run short from pretty early. Dangers of running by yourself and having an out - it is easy to quit.

Overall though I am pretty satisfied with the run. It was quite hilly and my pace was not too bad considering the trail conditions. It was good to run it alone, after all that is how I run most of my races. I did learn not to sit around too long at aid stations :->

Throughout most of the run I kept seeing these tall pale purple flowers that looked dimly familiar. I made a point of trying to get a good look at the leaves and the shape of their growth as I ran by so I could look them up when I got home. Virginia waterleaf. I did not see much else blooming - lots of bunchberry, some canada mayflower. No ladyslippers on the trails I was on.

Not much happening with my knitting of late. Back to the same two projects that require lots of attention to work on, which means they don't get worked on. My thoughts are roaming to new sock yarn so that I can have a portable project, though if I would just finish up the band for the bobble-cable hat I would have a simple, portable project!

Planning the drive to Montana to bring Sarah to college. By late August we will be "empty-nesters". Amazing! We are the youngest of the group of parents that we know, and the first to have all the kids in college. There is something to be said for starting your family early I guess. It will be interesting to explore this new life!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rock Angels

My niece Ella.

I asked her if she was making a "rock angel". "Yeah". Ever thought of trying that? Neither have I. Maybe next time.

Location: Corner of the Lake Beach, on the Lakewalk, Duluth, MN. One of those magical days in Duluth. We sat there watching the little ones throwing rocks in the lake, trying our hand at skipping stones, and just soaking in the Lake.

My nephew Zander throwing rocks. He loved the rocks and was happily entertained for an hour. Not so happy to leave. Rough ride home for his folks.

The evening at the beach was a perfect way to "top off" graduation day. Sarah is officially a high school graduate. Open house went well. Had the perfect amount of food. Great help for the party (Thanks Trina!!! and Ethan, Bev, Dave, Judy, Erik, Sarah and to Jon for all the cooking!).

Weather here has been a bit gloomy. No tornadoes though, so can't really complain. Would like the temps to get above the low 50's though! We went from high 70's - low 80's on Saturday and Sunday to the 40's on Wednesday. Today we seem to be hovering at 50. I hear there is sunshine south of town, but we are socked in with fog at my house. A lot of people are talking about how wrong it is to turn on the heat in June. We have been holding out, but when the house is below 60 degrees.... well, it is hard. Lots of fleece and down bootees are seen around here. Good thing I have knit so many afghans over the years!

Ran on Tuesday. Decided I needed to face the hills that had defeated me on Sunday's run. Started on the Haines Rd end of the SHT and ran up to Piedmont knob, then took the unofficial snowmobile trail west to where the SHT crosses it, got on the SHT and ran to where a spur trail links it with the Piedmont ski trail and ran that back to the trailhead parking lot. Run went well, lots and lots of climbing, not too wet, and all done within a half hour as I had to get to a board meeting. Managed to cut myself (with my shoe?!?) within the first 5 steps out on the trail. Still have no idea how that happened.

Lack of sleep since Friday finally caught up to me Wednesday and combined with the cruddy weather I spent my evening drowsing on the couch curled up under a wool afghan. Still tired today, so bailed on the planned run and will get out tomorrow.

Coming up:

Trail Maintenance Hike on the Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth
Friday June 20th
3:00 pm
24th Ave. W to Twin Ponds (1.7 miles)
Tools provided
RSVP to me in the comments if you are interested in participating.

June 14th is World Wide Knit in Public Day ( There are no events listed in Duluth, but maybe there are some near you. I don't have much planned for that day: 15 mile run in the morning (no knitting involved!) and then we will see. If the weather is nice maybe a visit to the beach with my knitting.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

First 20 miler

Depending on how you count the miles ;->

The original plan was to do a long run on the Superior Hiking Trail. I pulled out my map, plotted a run, added up the mileage and realized that I would need to modify the original plan.

I had thought about starting out in Jay Cooke State Park and running to my house. Once I did the math I realized that was a 24.5 mile run. Too far (for now). Lopped off the first section - 4.2 miles, added on a spur trail and came up with the run for today - Fond du Lac (a neighborhood in Duluth) to my house. Total mileage for this section would be 20.9 miles. A bit over the plan, but I knew I could lop off a bit by running roads home in the neighborhood vs staying on the trail to my house.

Enlisted the help of my daughter (in trade for letting her have my car today) to drop me off at the starting point and started tracking down water carrying options. I am leery about leaving water at road crossings - will it still be there when I come through? The quickest driving route to Fond du Lac is no where near the trail, so it was inconvenient to stash water also. I got out the Camelback, filled it full of ice cubes and water (32+ ozs), got out the waist belt and another water bottle, filled that up, loaded the pockets with Cliff Shot Blocks, small amount of tp, and my cell phone and headed out.

As we drove along 35 we passed a sign that listed the temperature as 72 degrees (9:30 am). Hmm - guess I am getting my heat training in. Made me wonder if I had enough water along though.

The Fond du Lac neighborhood is located along the St. Louis River near Jay Cooke State Park. My house is near the ridge line. The run started by heading up the old Mission Creek trail for 0.5 miles until it crossed the SHT. Then it was up some more onto a ridge where the trail levels off. Saw yellow lady slippers here. The starflowers are out in profusion, large-flowered trillium are still blooming, and I saw a couple purple clematis also. The trail eventually drops down to Sargent Creek and crosses this incredible bridge. You have to see it. Very cool - and all the components were carried in by hand!

From there it is onto the Munger Trail for 0.4 miles (flat and paved). This is where I ran into a porcupine. I started chatting at it as soon as I saw it and by the time I drew abreast of it, it had turned back into the woods, but was displaying a nice set of quills for me to see. Once you turn off of the Munger it is about a half mile climb up Ely's Peak. This is a local climbing hot spot and the trail, in some spots, could be a rated climb! Once you are up, it is a rolling run until you climb to a crossing with Skyline Parkway. It was in this stretch that I saw a pine marten. The trail was flat and pretty clear of rocks so I was able to look around. That was how I caught movement ahead on the trail. The great thing about pine martens' is their curiosity. It was as interested in checking me out as I was in checking it out. We had a nice visit and then I headed off. After crossing Skyline the first time you get to the Magney-Snively section and more yellow lady slippers. This secion has some nice old growth forest and is a pleasure to run. It was warm enough that by the time I hit the white pines the needles on the ground were emitting a nice scent.

Skyline Parkway traverses the City of Duluth following an old beach line (Glacial Lake Duluth). It is near the ridgeline also, so when you are on Skyline you are pretty much at the top of the hill in Duluth. The section from Magney-Snively to Spirit Mountain goes from near the top of the hill to the bottom and then back up again. This was also the first section where the soils were really wet. There is a spot here that never seems to dry out and it was slow going as the mud was slick as grease. Never knew which way your foot might slide. Fun times!

From the base of the ski hill to Highland and Getchell is another up and down section. I ran this last Tuesday after hiking it with a group from Harbor City International School. It features a lot of steps, crossing under railroad tracks on a bed of taconite pellets and having to climb over a road barrier to get to the next section. I was starting to worry about how much water I had left at this point and was feeling the hills I had climbed.

The section from Highland and Getchell to my house is an old favorite of mine, though I usually skip the uphill climb from the trailhead. Not today. At least 0.5 miles of uphill on a very rocky trail along Keene Creek. Then some more climbing after crossing Skyline and heading into Brewer Park. Running the flats and downhills was still feeling pretty good, but uphills were hurting. I started thinking about my options for getting home. No ride was available so it was a matter of deciding how long I was going to stay on the trails. While running along the ridge above Haines Road I spied some.... dang, could name them while running, now can't remember their name. Pink and yellow, member of the poppy family....maybe a foot tall, prefers rocky places up here.... pale corydalis!

Down a steep hill to Haines and across and up into the Piedmont hills. And this is where I took my last sips of water. Now, I have run this section plenty of times without water - on shorter runs. Not today. Between my tired legs and the water issue I decided to bail out at the access trail down to the big overlook on Skyline. 19 miles. Cut off a couple of big climbs and a long downhill on the trail. Walked along Skyline towards home. Mostly flat, other than the four block downhill section and then the climb up my 36 steps.

The mosqitoes were pretty fierce in a few sections. Ticks were not too bad. Took one off during the run (Ely's Peak) and three at home - they were hiding in my shoes.

So, next weekend I think a shorter run is in order. As much as I would love to avoid steep hills, it is good training for the Half Voyageur, so may do a similar run.


Finished the baby surprise, just need to sew up the seams. Looks like a good fit for my nephew Zander and my sister likes the color. The first baby surprise I made for him fit for about 1 day :->

I have been working a bit of the bobble-cable hat, may finish the band one of these days.

Bird mittens?! Now I have a deadline. Sarah is moving to Montana in August so I either need to get them done before then or save them as a Christmas gift ;->

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Running, hiking, and graduation preparations

It's that season.

Lots of races to train for, wildflowers are blooming so all I want to do is get into the woods, and it's the end of the school year, so we have been receiving lots of invitations to open houses.

Oh yeah, and we have one of our own to host this weekend!

Sarah is graduating on Saturday and, due to scheduling issues, we are having her open house the same day. This means lots of cooking (Jon) and very little cleaning ;-> We are having the open house at church. Our house is tiny (under 800 sq ft) and with the vagaries of weather in the northland it is best not to have large numbers of people over and hope they can hang out outside. The forecast for this weekend involves rain.

Yesterday and today I don't think it has gotten above 50 degrees and there is a wind from the east. Even indoors the temps are below 60. I normally would never turn the heat on once it is May, much less June, but it is hard to stick by that resolve when it is 59 degrees in your living room! But hey, no tornadoes up here.

Today was the last race in the NMTC Spring Series. It was held at the Magney-Snively ski trails. These trails are hilly, very, very hilly. So hilly that I have never skied them. In the "off season" they are used by all kinds of people: hikers, runners, horseback riders....

In addition to being hilly trails, these are wet trails. Horses and wet soils are not a good combination. There were holes made by horse hooves that were 6 inches deep and hard to see because the grass is getting kind of long. The city doesn't mow the ski trails when they are too wet because the equipment damages the trails. See the problem? Granted, a bunch of runners didn't help conditions, though we may have filled in a few holes!

The soils were so wet that it was hard to get any push off. Your feet just kind of sank. And then there were the puddles. Going around them just widens the puddle and the trail - not good. But going through them can lead to loss of a shoe - or going in past your knees. What to do? Over the years I have learned to go through puddles - most of the time. A few of the ones on this trail are scary deep looking and I am short. I did manage to splash mud all the way up to my face and was covered in mud most of the way up my calves. Needed to walk a fair amount of hills, but was able to run fairly fast on the downhills despite the footing issues.

I was tired today. It has been a busy week so far. Donated blood last Friday. Ran/walked 12 miles on Sunday in 77+ temps (part of the Voyageur course from Beck's Road to the Zoo and back = lots of hills), hiked 6 miles with Harbor City International School students yesterday on the SHT from Highland and Getchell to the base of Spirit Mountain, then ran back to my car. This part of the trail has a section with 130+ steps on it. I could feel it today, especially on the uphills and when trying to pull my legs out of the mud. I think I have earned a day or two off.

The plan this weekend is to run 18 - 20 miles. When? Probably Sunday sometime. I am trying to run at the hottest part of the day to get used to running in the heat. The Half Voyageur is notorious for being hot. Heat training is tough up here. We tend to jump 20+ degrees suddenly and with the Lake, can lose 20+ degrees suddenly too.

Funny, a few months ago I was struggling to run 14 miles and now a 12 miler seems pretty easy and even that 17 miler a couple weekends ago went by pretty quick. Interesting how the body adapts ;-> Next thing you know I'll be signing up to run an ultra!

Flower update

No pictures but here is a list of what I have seen blooming in the last couple of days:

nodding trillium
large-flowered trillium
mertensia (virginia bluebells)
yellow violets
purple violets
cherry sp
apple trees
wood anemone
clintonia (buds)
wild lily-of-the-valley(canada mayflower)

I got a report today that the yellow ladyslippers are blooming in Jay Cooke. I have not been out to check on the patch on the SHT, but they are probably also in bloom. Guess I know where I need to run on Sunday!

Stay warm!

Oh yeah, I finished #2 in the female standings for the spring series! Consistency does pay off!