Well, instead of two soccer games in a row I decided to combine a long trail run with a soccer game.
Today was the first sunday run in the NMTC Fall series. Usually they are held on Wednesday evenings, but we are rapidly running out of daylight by 6:00 pm, so it is off to the weekends. Last year I played soccer at 1:00 or 3:00 pm and the runs are at 2:00 pm. Not being particularly speedy, I gave up the runs to play soccer.
This year the games are at 2:00 and 4:00 pm and to make things even better, my last two games of the season are at 4:00 pm. Hmm, takes me about an hour or so to run a 10K, a little commuting time and changing my clothes... I can make this work! Never mind my last long run was months ago, prior to the injury. I had been playing three hours of soccer of late, so running for an hour and then playing for 90 minutes should be doable ;->
Hartley is a beautiful 600+ acre park in the heart of Duluth. I love these trails - even more so in the winter. Fall is tough as the leaves are down and it is hard to see the rocks and roots. It has been very wet in Duluth of late so the trail was especially gooey. Not a bad day to have the winter weight socks on.
There have been a lot of people showing up for the races of late. The start is on an abandoned road, nice a wide, so folks can start to spread out. After that it is single track until the final third of the race when you hit the old road and then the ski trails. Fewer opportunities to pass on single-track. Okay though as I was trying to be conservative and save a little energy for the game this afternoon.
I am pretty familiar with this course and as we hit the "guard rail loop" and came near Howard Gnesen road I waited for the big hill - but it never came! Apparently there have been a few re-routes out there. Next thing I knew we were heading towards the pine plantation and my opportunity to pass was upon me. This is a great place to run - years and years of pine needles, few (if any) rocks or roots, no undergrowth - hard not to speed up in there.
The next leg involved crossing the edge of an old beaver pond. It is always wet here, but this year was another story altogether. The informal bridges that exist were under water in spots, the trail was a mucky mess. No way I was risking my neck running through this. Ran where there was "land", walked the mud-covered wooden planks and bridges, then picked up the pace when relatively solid ground reappeared. Course it was uphill by then and power walking was the order of the day.
Much of this trail is being maintained by COGGs - a local mountain biking group. They are working on some trail rehab and have been moving trail a lot. Got myself "lost" out there one time a year or two ago when I followed a new route and ended up on a road that did not lead anywhere near my car - oh yeah, and it was getting dark. Backtracked and made it back to the car before I lost all daylight.
Anyway - no lost runners today. Followed the trail as it wound in and out of the trees, eventually joined the SHT for a bit, then emptied out onto the abandoned road which led to the ski trails and... uphill. There is a short stretch near the top of the hill where you cross over a lot of sharp, pointy rocks. I think it is near the site of an old quarry. Worth slowing down here and preserving your ankles.
The ski trails are nice running for the most part - though again the leaves made it hard to see what was underneath and the trails do have more than there share of rocks. And this is where I got passed! Young woman made it by me and I did my best to keep her in sight for the rest of the race. It is hilly on this section, but by then I knew we were getting close to the end of the race and the best part was yet to come: another run through a pine plantation. The footing is so nice and it is a downhill finish, so you can get flying around the last few corners. I did my best to catch the woman in front of me at this point and it was a bit of a flying finish - especially for her. She tripped right at the end and kind of slid into the finish. Ouch! Saw her later and she had quite the scrape on her shin. double-ouch!
After a short visit with various folks I headed to the car to get out of some of my wet clothes and headed to the soccer field. Got there in plenty of time to change (first scraping the mud off my legs) and get chilled. The problem with my Raynauds is that if I get chilled at all I lose circulation to my fingers and toes. Despite changing into dry stuff on my top I got chilled and for the first 1/3 of the game did not really have circulation to my fingers.
But that was nothing compared to what happened on the field. Last week one of our players suffered a knee injury. This week it was worse. During the first half one player injured her knee and had to be carried off the field (and down the hill and around the fence) to a waiting car that transported her to the ER. By the time that was done it was the second half. Near the end another of our players injured her ankle - badly. Again, carried off the field and eventually to the ER. We ended the game at this point. Not much time was left and we were losing players pretty rapidly (for a league with few serious injuries ever). I spent a lot of my time helping to administer first aid and transport folks down the hill. Hoping everyone is going to be okay and all injuries are - relatively - minor. A good sign is when the injured party can joke by the time they get to the car ;->
All of this makes my IT band seem a minor issue. It is better overall, but a little stiff and sore tonight. Ice, ibuprofen and foam roller for me.
Stay safe this week!
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