Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Snowmobile trails..

are perfect for running right now! Firm, but not hard like pavement; good traction; no ice. 

The sun was shining, there was barely any wind (which helped as it was zero degrees F when I headed out this morning) and no snowmobiles - a perfect day!

Of course there were hills, and they seem to be harder to run in the winter (why is that?!?). The route follows the powerline corridor in western Duluth and includes some climbs (and descents) that would be familiar to anyone who ran Wild Duluth this year.

Oh, and to top it all off the Lake was steaming this morning (a sure sign of near zero or below zero temperatures). Combined with the sunrise it was a pretty spectacular sight and a great way to start the day.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Random bits

It has been awhile since I've posted so this will be a hodge podge of the past few weeks happenings.

Not too much going on around here running wise. This past week I was feeling a bit run down so skipped my Tuesday run, ran Wednesday evening and then allowed the 'blizzard' to be my excuse for not running Thursday or Friday. Did get some exercise, in the form of shoveling, over the two days of the storm. After digging out from under close to a foot of white fluffy stuff (100 plus feet of sidewalk, 36 steps and our parking area) on day one I had to repeat much of it on day two but with the added bonus of a bit of rain and very heavy, wet snow. I only made it as far as digging out our front sidewalk, around the cars and about 12 steps before a neighbor met me. By then my shoulders were shot from trying to throw snow over the already high banks adjacent to the steps.

Pre day two shoveling - those steps were clear before I went to bed!

It is a tradition around here to give the kids sleds for Christmas and they were due this year (never mind that they are in college - you are never too old to go sledding!). As you can tell by the photo we live on a hill. Just off to the right is a "road" - not maintained by the city - that makes an awesome sledding run. Later in the evening the sleds were put to the test. Pretty slow going at first (wet, sticky snow) but a nice track has been laid down for future use.

Today we picked up our ski licenses, after convincing the retailer that they indeed did sell them - an annual ritual. The city has been busy grooming the local trails and the plan is to get out and ski this week.

I also got
in a long run, starting at Lake level (Sky Harbor Airport) and eventually climbing about 600 feet up the hill and then running Skyline Blvd home. The route consisted mostly of roads - and they were a mess. Knowing that I was heading out to face a lot of ice I installed the screws today on my road shoes:

and in the process took a good look at the wear patterns (note these have about 200 miles on them). Apparently I drag the lateral edge of my heel a bit and I have no real explanation for why my left shoe is more worn down in the forefoot area than my right.

The screws help with traction on all but glare ice - and I found some of that on the Lakewalk today. Yikes! Between that and dodging cars, it was an interesting run. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Chester Creek trail runnable (mostly) and was able to get off the roads for about a mile. By the time I was near home I was ready to be done running and opted to stop at the point where my section of the SHT crosses Skyline. There was only one problem - no humans had been on this section of trail! My choice was another 1.5 miles via road or about a quarter mile through the snow. I chose the snow ;->
I called Mr. Wildknits and asked if he would pack down the trail from the house up to the 'sitting tree'. It was nice not to break trail the whole way home. About 50% of the time I stayed on top of the snowpack. The other 50% I was post-holing through up to about midcalf. Interesting cool down...

The extra time off this week, and blizzard, have been good for getting some knitting done. Finished a pair of mittens I promised a friend:
Heart Crook Pattern on hand, basic mitten pattern

This should have been a fairly quick knit but I was designing on the go and after I got the cuff done things got a bit more complicated. I hadn't really thought through how I would handle the thumb gusset and after ripping out the hand 8 times (yes, 8... it takes a while to work these things out and then I messed up the pattern - twice) I had it all figured out. The second mitten went along much faster (and I think I even wrote this pattern down!). These mittens are bright, the recipient will have no excuse for losing them ;->

Once the mittens were completed it was time to resurrect the hat that has been languishing for quite some time (I think I had intended finishing it in time for Surf the Murph or Pine Valley or the UMTR Awards Fest). Again, my design (which I have been faithfully writing down and am calling 'Runners Hat' for now). I am working with sock yarn (merino with a touch of nylon) and size 0 needles on 176 sts. Not the fastest knitting in the first place but I am incorporating a color pattern which slows it down a bit more. Once it is finished I will post some pictures.

One of my gifts this Christmas (besides wonderful flannel pjs) was a gift certificate to my local yarn shop. The question is should I buy yarn or books or needles or ??? I have plenty of all of the above and no real projects in mind (and a few to finish up). I could use a needle organization system as the method I use now leaves much to be desired (all of the needles piled together in a large ziploc bag).

December 19th Leslie
and I headed down to watch friends run the Tuscobia Trail 50k. The plan was to arrive in time to watch the race start, then hop from road crossing to road crossing for awhile before heading to the race finish and running out on the trail to meet folks and run in with them. And that is pretty much what happened. Temperatures were in the high 20's and the snowmobile trail was really soft. Made me glad I had not succumbed to peer pressure and signed up for the race! Race day photos are at my picasa site. After running 12 or so miles I am very impressed with everyone who competed that day. It was a struggle to find any firm footing.

Still considering options for races in 2010 though I have sketched out a tentative plan: Trail Mix 25K in April, Superior 50K in May, Voyageur 50 mile in July and Wild Duluth 50k in October. There are some other races I am hoping to include as well, but will wait to see how I hold up to the increased mileage. In previous years I have topped out at less than 800 miles (far less up until 2008); this year I am already at 1194. Barring a sudden injury I think I can reach 1200 by the end of the year ;->

As usual I am planning to get out to Isle Royale backpacking, hopefully both in the spring and fall. There is a section of trail that I really want to do, and I think spring would be best due to the amount of daylight and the distance between campsites on this route. It is interesting trying to schedule races around backpacking trips and vice versa. Don't want to be injured for either!

Coming up: 3rd Annual Barely Organized New Year's Day Run at Hartley Nature Center. Check out Northland Runner (scroll down a bit)for the details.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Getting ready for the first below zero run...

Tonight I joined the Wednesday night group in Duluth's Canal Park for a run. Eight hearty souls showed up to brave the cold temps and strong winds (5 F, winds 17 mph from the NNW, gusting to 30 mph). This is just the beginning! We meet each Wednesday no matter what - though the cast of characters may change. Tonight we even had a runner in Vibram KSO's - the tracks he left behind were great! Sure to befuddle the wandering tourist who makes it outside. The Lake was doing her best to impress - sending up spray that reached the Lakewalk and added a little ice to make things interesting. When it gets cold - truly cold - a fog forms above the Lake, you could see hints of it tonight. Tomorrow may bring it out in full force, the prediction is for below zero temperatures. All good reasons to bring a camera along, but would I really stop to pull it out?

Now, Thursdays are for running to work and I am not one to let a little cold stop me! I may add another layer of tights though, depending on the winds. To quote a friend: "my a** was cold", as were my legs in general. The rest of me was pretty comfortable once we got out of the head wind and a mile or so into the run ;->

Layers for tonight's run from the inside out: winter weight running bra (longer and heavier fabric), sporthill 3sp pants, sporthill 3sp top, darn tough heavy weight socks, liner gloves, surf the murph 2009 LS shirt, silk/wool mittens, balaclava, sport hill fleece vest, sport hill wind pants, new balance jacket, saucony stabil running shoes, worsted weight wool mittens, wool hat.

This set-up should see me through most of the weather this winter with a layer added or subtracted as needed. I really wish they made shoes without all of the mesh! I could feel the wind on my toes for quite some time and they didn't really feel good and warm until half way through the five mile run. Three layers on my hands seemed to do the trick and I had no real problems there - yippee!

Duluth did not receive very much snow, but what we got drifted quite a bit so while most of the run was on bare pavement there were a few ankle plus deep drifts to negotiate. Taught me about some long underused muscles! Between the ice and packed snow it may be time to apply the hex head screws to the shoes.

The Lakewalk is being impacted by some construction right now as the city works to install the first phase of the "East Interceptor Sanitary Sewer Storage Facility Project" (fancy way of saying they are trying to prevent sewage from ending up in the Lake when we get a big storm by building underground tanks). The result is a very large hole right in the middle of the Lakewalk. For weeks they have been warning about this and detour signs have been up, but we continued to run around them with no problems. Tonight was different. Got closer to Fitgers and there was a big hole in the middle of the way! We were faced with turning back or finding a way around the heavy equipment and very deep hole. To make things interesting there was a significant drop on the lake side as well and the footing consisted of medium sized loose rocks and gravel. Reminded me of a trail run!

It turned out it was possible to skirt around the hole and along an edging of boulders without falling into the Lake - if you were careful ;-> Some of the group opted for the "safer" official detour on the way back but I rationalized if I made it through once okay I would be fine the second time.

The last half mile of the run was with the wind at our backs providing a little "nudge" from time to time. This section also allowed us a nice view of a ship out on the Lake, the fog rising off the water and the waves crashing onto the shore. All the reward needed for putting up with a little cold and wind.

So here is the below zero part: 7:10 am, Thursday: -1 F, winds 9 mph WSW, -16 F windchill. Looks like I will be running into the wind the whole way to work!

Update #2
As I left the house Mr. Wildknits commented on the temp: -3 F. Unknown wind strength. Oh yeah, the temp drops as the sun rises! Did get a self-portrait with my phone upon arrival at work. Bit frosty, but I was warmer than if I would have driven!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tuesday morning run

Met Sam at 8:00 am to run some nearby trails. It was chilly! 9 F when I left my house, 11 F when I returned and a rising wind. After a brisk October we had a very mild November and this was the first really cold morning. I seem to have gotten the layers just right - hauled out the Sporthill 3SP tops and bottoms, added a fleece vest over the top, my windbreaker, a wool hat and liner gloves topped with worsted weight wool mittens.

We ran for 45 minutes, covering a 5k loop on the ski trails and then heading out on a snowmobile trail for another 15 minutes. There was a light dusting of snow on the trail (more is coming down as I type) but the footing was pretty good. Got in a lot of hills today and took in a nice view of the western part of Duluth at our turnaround spot. Frozen trails are fun to run on!

Today's run reminded me how much effort it takes to run in the winter. Felt like I was working moderately hard, but wouldn't know it by looking at the time.

One of the neatest things about the recent cold snap is the ice! There are a few spots on this trail system that have rather large "puddles" and these were completely iced over. In one spot you could see that the ice was over 6 inches thick already and there was a huge bubble trapped midway in the ice sheet.

Today confirmed that winter ultras will never be a good idea for me. My hands (notably the right) did not warm up until over a mile into the run (dang Raynauds) despite the rest of me being toasty warm. Later, after getting home, I noticed that a couple of my toes were a lovely dusky purple. Yup - will stick to shorter races with the option for getting indoors quickly during the winter months. So far, the experiment using nitroglycerin cream to combat the vasospasms has been a failure. May try it a few more times as it doesn't seem to be having any systemic effects either - at least at the dose I am using.

Bridge to Peace 5K

Well I decided to race on Saturday. The weather was perfect. Sunny, temps in the upper teens to low 20's, not much wind, a little snow on the Lakewalk in a few places (though the volunteers swept off a few sections). This race has some of the best volunteers! Lots of folks out on the course keeping an eye on runners, marking the turn arounds and cheering the runners and walkers on. The post-race refreshments were incredible. There were apples, oranges, cheese, bars and cookies (church ladies bake the best treats!).

Results: 24:22, 1st in my age group (40 - 49).

Didn't PR but am quite happy with that time. I was wheezing a bit, so the lungs were not 100% happy. Had to chase Wayne at the end but couldn't quite catch up (he also got first in his age group).

After the post race festivities, socializing and refueling Wayne, Rick and I headed to Lester Park for a long run. As I said it was a beautiful day and the trails were a treat. We ran the ski trails, eventually crossing over to Hawk's Ridge for a couple of miles and then headed back down to the parking lot. Lots of hills here as well.

I used my camelbak hydration pack and realized why I need a winterized pack - my bite valve started to freeze and the first sip or two of water was a bit cold until I got past what was in the tube (I had filled it with hot water prior to the 5K). I am looking forward to a new hydration option that will make the long runs I have planned for this winter more feasible. I have a theory that hip belt carriers are adding to my IT issues so have been avoiding their use. Longer runs require more liquid than I can carry in a handheld (and there is the Raynauds issue - though hot water could help with this - theoretically).

We ended up running 9 miles. The time flew by (good company will do that). All too soon it was time to head home (with a quick stop to refuel) and fire up the sauna. Unfortunately no one told me (read Mr. Wildknits) that the recently split wood wasn't much good. Of course that is what I used to build up the fire... burned through a lot of kindling without ever getting a fire started. Frustrating! Luckily Mr. Wildknits arrived and explained where the "good" wood was. The fire was going well in short order and a couple of runners got to wind down the day by soaking in the 180+ F heat. There is nothing like sitting out back, gazing at a star-lit sky while cooling off from a sauna.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Oh No!!

Thought I had posted this earlier*, but apparently the title was fitting for more than the subject I had in mind... guess that is what happens when you try to post in a hurry.

My favorite running mittens

Discovered this "almost hole" in my mittens the other morning after my run to work. This is sad, very sad. I made these mittens years ago out of a silk/wool blend yarn. They are perfect for most late fall/winter/early spring days when the temps dip below 50 F. When it gets really cold (below 0-10 degrees) I add a pair of liner gloves or, if it is really, really cold (teens below zero to ?) I add another pair of hand knit mittens in a worsted weight wool. I guess I had better go search the stash for the remnants of the skein and see if I can patch these up. The rest of the mitten is in pretty good shape and the left hand mitten is not sporting a matching thin area. Hmmmm - guess being right-handed shows!

Tomorrow morning I will be running the Bridge to Peace 5k. This is the second year for this race (and my second year participating) which is run on Duluth's Lakewalk. They are having to work around some construction so the course will be different this year than last. Like last year, it is snowing in Duluth tonight so the footing should be interesting in the morning ;-> I am still considering racing this all out and seeing what I can do in my last race of 2009. Another PR? Maybe not with snow on the ground but who knows. After the race (and the appropriate amount of socialization and refueling) will head out with Wayne and Rick to run the Lester Park trails. I hear the goal is to get another 7- 10 miles in (they are planning on running the Tuscobia 50K - me, I just like running long ;->).

*apparently I did post this - to another blog I am part of TeamMegaTough. Oops! Again, being in a hurry and posting may not be a good combination.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

November - The Green Month?!

So often we think of November as that brown, dreary month that we need to get through before the snow accumulates and we can get out to ski or snowshoe. I was going along with the collective wisdom until recently when I started tuning in to all of the green in the woods.

Now, I do live in an area with a lot of evergreens and I am not including those in my sightings. Instead I have been noticing the smaller things - moss, lichens, and lycopodiums (club mosses).

Moss and staghorn sumac

Oh, and did I mention the reds? Not only sumac, but mountain ash and highbush cranberry. Then of course, with the leaves and underbrush down it is so much easier to see the bright orange jelly fungus and various hues of lichens on the trees and rocks.

These are all small, easy to overlook items but bring a splash of color to what can otherwise be a monotonous background of shades of brown.

I arrived at Scharr's Bluff for the UMTR Awards Fest on November 14th rather early so went for a walk on the trails around the Gathering Center. The park is located along the Mississippi River just north of Hastings. As I headed out onto the trails a bald eagle flew by at eye level along the cliffs edge. So cool, but no time to get my camera out.

View from the bluff, north(?) along the river

I spent some time exploring the single track trails along the cliffs edge before heading more inland and onto the ski trails.

Some fungus emerging from the soil in a pine forest

asters in the setting sun

After my hike I settled into the back of my car with a warm blanket over my legs, sun shining in my face and my knitting to wait until it was time for the party to start. And it was a great party! Good company and the opportunity to meet/see a few folks I only know by names on race results. And the food! Went away well fed and impressed with the culinary skills of this group. The awards were all well-deserved and the artwork was amazing.

The next morning I met a few friends (Karen, Wayne and Leslie) for a run at Lebanon Hills and then, after a brief break to change clothes, eat lunch, buy kim chee (thanks to Leslie who spotted the asian grocer on her way to Lebanon Hills), headed to Battle Creek Park for another run. Yup - two running dates in one day! Gotta make the most of the trip to the Cities!

A friend had left a map of the park taped to the door of the building so I could find my way around as I have only been there once before. Never a good idea to take a new trail runner out and get them lost. Ended up running a hilly 4+ miles to add to the 10 that morning. About mid way through the run we were surprised by a large bird flying down the trail in front of us. Silent flight = owl. It landed in a tree ahead of us and we stopped to watch each other. My best guess is that it was a Great Gray Owl (based on size and activity during the day). So cool...

The Heart Blanket is finished - a day late! I had miscalculated how long it would take and despite knitting like crazy on the way south to the baby shower and knitting through the baby shower I couldn't get it done. On the bright side this means I could take it home and, once it was finished, give it a good soaking and block it - bringing out the lace pattern even more.

Finished off a pair of mittens that were a commissioned project. Got to use some Bemidji Woolen Mills "Homespun". Great stuff, feels wonderful to knit up and made a lovely pair of mittens that had me wishing they were for me! Tried to eek a pair of half mitts out of the remainder of the skein but, after weighing the skein, knitting up one half mitt (minus the thumb) and reweighing the skein I have determined that I will run short. Ah well, just means I have to fall back on the resources of the stash where I found a nice single skein of Knit Picks "Wool of the Andes" in a lovely blue (Sapphire Heather).

The hat is still waiting for completion (so much for the plan to have it done by the Awards Fest). I am being distracted not only by mittens but a search for a dove pattern (for church - they are looking for dove ornaments to decorate one of the trees).

Running is progressing well at this time. Feeling recovered from the ultras. Long runs are down to about 13 miles, anything less seems... well, pointless. Enjoying the time out on the trails. Wednesday night Lakewalk runs are back which means I am getting a weekly dose of speedwork ;-> One last race for 2009 (Bridge to Peace 5K) and then it will be maintenance mode until I decide what races I will do in 2010 and work out a training schedule.

An interesting quote from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) which I find applicable to both knitting and ultra-running (with a little word substitution):

"If you are in a yarn shop and are distracting yourself from buying things by assisting your friends with finding beautiful yarn, there is a good chance that you will be called an "enabler". Enablers are both feared and respected, for they lead their friends down the path of temptation and cost them tons of money, but they really do find the best stuff. If you are ever called an enabler, just remember, if you think about it right, enabling means the same things as "helping".

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Trail Running/Awards Ceremony Tradition

Tomorrow I am off to the Twin Cities for the UMTR Awards Fest. It has become a tradition to make Gypsy Soup for the NMTC last race/potluck/award ceremony festivities in the fall, so when thinking about what to bring to the UMTR Awards Fest potluck I settled on this soup. It is a crowd pleaser (so much so that a few folks expect me to bring it to Pine Valley), uses autumn vegetables and is pretty simple to throw together. Soup can be a bit problematic to travel with, especially when leaving my neighborhood (steep hills + gravity = spilled soup) but Mr. Wildknits and I think we have figured out a solution that will keep the soup in the pot and off my floorboards.

Gypsy Soup (Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, 1977 edition) has the added benefit of being vegetarian/vegan (since so many runners seem to be turning to that diet right now). Mollie describes it as "... a spiced and delectable brew of Spanish and Dickensonian origins". Mine even includes some locally grown (right out the front door) garlic!

Creating Gypsy Soup

Ingredients: olive oil, onion, garlic, winter squash, celery, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chickpeas, stock or water, paprika, turmeric, basil, salt, cinnamon, cayenne, bay leaf, tamari.

wildknits garlic in the garlic mincer - takes some effort but gets the job done

soaked the chickpeas yesterday and then forgot how long they take to cook!

a little refreshment while cooking

finished product - this soup usually has an amazingly orange color from the squash and tumeric which is hard to see in this photo

The Heart Blanket is about half way done - which leaves me a lot to do before next Saturday. I have been trying to complete a pattern repeat each day. I also have a hat waiting in the wings which I had hoped to have completed by now and I have been thinking a lot about the linen lace curtains that have been a long term occupant of the unfinished projects pile.

Surf the Murph 50K:
It has been two weeks since I finished my second 50K. I set another PR (6:20) at this race and finished 4th woman overall (and first in her 40's ;-> ). It was a tough race mentally for me. The course is not as technical as Wild Duluth but Les managed to find some very interesting single track to throw in, including one section with a wicked climb! Starting in the dark was fun - I really enjoyed running at this time of day and being able to spy other runner's headlights as they wound through the woods ahead of me. The sunrise was spectacular and I wish I had been able to get a photo of it.

I had figured I could finish this race somewhere between 6 - 6:30, barring a disaster. Unlike previous races I did not have a slip of paper with splits written down, I planned on just running what felt right. After all I was only two weeks out from my first ultra. I arrived at the first aid station sooner than I expected and then it was on to the truly wicked hills on the north side of Murphy-Hanrehan. I was glad I had run out here before and had a sense of how many there were before you came out to the road and the horse trailer parking lot and aid station.

After a quick stop at my drop bag to replenish the gel flask and refill my water bottle I was off to the next aid station. At this point I was running near or with other folks and would chat on occasion as pace permitted. I met Dave, other wise known as the "rookie" who caught up to me and stated some other runners told him to run with me because I was "tough" and would finish. Nice compliment. He had a great story to tell and we ran together for quite some time. This was his first race beyond half marathon distance I believe - and first trail race as well (he finished).

Came into the Natchez Aid Station and was greeted by Helen who had some terrific pumpkin soup waiting for the runners - just the thing on a cool, blustery day. Took off from the aid station onto what appeared to be newly created single track, where I picked up a glove and then on to more new looking trail through reeds(?) that reached well above my head. I eventually caught up to the owner of the glove and was able to hand it off. Throughout the race I would take my mittens on and off, mostly depending on the wind. My hat stayed on until later in the day and I never did remove the blaze orange hooded sweatshirt that was part of my 'costume'

The southern loop is fairly flat and I am not a fan of running long on flat surfaces.
Dave heading up one of the inclines on the southern loop a bit before reaching the horse trailer aid station

Soon enough though we were back to the horse trailer parking lot and then it was onto the single track and back to the starting area. The course wove from ski trail to single track as we made our way back towards the main parking area. It certainly kept your attention watching for flagging and guessing what would be up ahead! I ended up finishing my first loop in about 3 hours and ran in with friends that were participating in the 25K - a nice way to transition into the second loop.

After a brief stop to replenish gel and water and grab a couple items off the aid station table (so many choices!) it was onto the second loop. Soon enough I was back in the hills and enjoying the lovely woods.

This stretch of boardwalk was much less slippery the second time around with the frost off of it (note - this is looking back along the trail)

I reached the "first" aid station and who do I find hanging out but a bunch of "shady characters":

Wayne, Bill S, and Rick B.( I think)

At this point the lies started! And the whole aid station seemed to be in on it. I swear it was Wayne who said "Leslie is just 5 minutes ahead of you"! I expressed my disbelief only to hear a chorus from the guys gathered around the table that it was true. Hmmm.... highly unlikely. Leslie (from Duluth, traveling companion this weekend, second woman in the Wild Duluth 50K - her debut at the distance, and all around great friend) is FAST. If I was within 5 minutes of her she was having a terrible day. If she was having a terrible day what did that mean for me?!? We had both run our first ultras two weeks before and were both experimenting with two ultras in two weeks.

I am not one to linger at aid stations - refill the water bottle, graze from the table and then I am off. Ran this section with Wayne, Rick and eventually Karen who were all in the 50 mile race. They kept me laughing throughout! What a great way to knock off those steep hills without hardly noticing them.
The trio just prior to the start of the 50 mile race

I managed to get ahead long enough to capture a photo as Rick and Wayne climbed a hill

Then it was back to the horse trailer aid station and out onto the flat southern section. By now I was alone again and not having a good time. Physically I was okay - or as okay as someone in the second half of a 50K can be. Mentally though I was having a tough time. I have gone through this before (first Half Voyageur especially) and know it is transitory and often an indication I am not getting enough calories. I found the flat bits to be harder to run than the hills and it seemed to take forever to get to the landmarks I could remember (like the canoe chained to a tree near the lake - makes me want to go for a paddle every time I see it). I kept bargaining with myself: run x far and then you can walk a bit; and waiting and hoping to see the next aid station. Thoughts of Helen's pumpkin soup kept me going through this rough patch. The bonus when I finally made it to the aid station: Bonnie and Don were there. Even more friends to encourage me! Stuck around at the aid station a bit longer than usual, drank a large cup of soup, chatted a bit (though I think it may have taken some coaxing from Bonnie to get much out of me) and then shuffled off to the promise of "only 10 more miles to go" (it was less). Single track is always good at cheering me up a bit, the tall reeds had some interesting birds flitting in and out, and soon I was back out onto the wide trails and renegotiating with myself (you can walk the really muddy spots).

The sun had also decided to come out and the day was warming up a bit. Never enough to take off the hoody though (blaze orange hoody and green tights = pumpkin... I know, lame costume but I just could not conceive of running in much more than that). I did catch up to one runner (50 miler) as I made my way back to the horse trailer aid station but then was on my own again. It was here I finally had a stern talk with myself about the need for an attitude adjustment. I began to focus my attention on what was going right: I was still feeling strong, legs were good, stomach was good, it was a beautiful day, the light on the prairie grasses was incredible, the sun was shining...

From here on out it was a matter of ticking off the miles. Only 4 to go after horse trailer and it included some fun single track! Anybody can run 4 miles, thats almost nothing. It is amazing what a change in attitude - and breaking a task into smaller pieces - can do to turn things around!

the trail

a really poor attempt at a self-portrait near the end of a 50K

I began to run into more people (marathoners? 50Kers? 50 milers? - so hard to know) and was looking for all of the landmarks I could remember to indicate how close I was to the finish. At one point I thought I had missed a turn as it was a long way between flags and I thought I should have been on single track by now. Just about the time I was thinking I would need to retrace my steps (yikes!) I saw the flagged turn ahead. Yeah! No missed turns.

As I crested a hill I came upon a gentleman sitting in a lawn chair reading the paper.... interesting. Then a little further along was Leslie! She told me I only had a quarter mile to go. I managed to pick up the pace a bit - like a horse heading for the barn ;-> There is a small rise just before you reach the finish line and I could see my sister standing at the top with her camera in hand.... She kept staring down the trail, never raising the camera and it was then I remembered that I had never told her what I would be wearing! I had to shout at her and she managed to get a couple of shots of me coming into the finish.

Now it was time to share race day stories and wait for other friends to finish/pass through the aid station. Leslie was the first woman finisher in the 50K! Wayne finished his first 50 miler (as did Kel) and great races were run by many folks.

Les and Cindy put on a great event. The volunteers were fantastic! I was so well cared for at each and every aid station - a woman could get spoiled running these things. I got to meet some folks I only know from the blogosphere (Londell and Westy, whose wife recognized me from reading my blog). And I was able to work myself through a rough patch and come out the other side feeling pretty positive about what I had accomplished.

2009 has been a quite a year for me! I went from rarely racing to: a 25K each in April and May; a 5k in June; a 10 K and a marathon in July; a 192 mile relay (12 person team) in August; a 10 mile in September; and two 50k's in October. In each setting a PR for that distance or that particular race. I have put more running miles on my feet this year than ever and seem to be holding together. One more race to go in December and then it will be time to relax a bit, hopefully get out on the cross-country skis and plan for next years racing season.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Something Other Than Running...

because I still have not digested Surf the Murph 50K enough to write a race report.

In brief, for those who may want to know: I finished; I ran a race Sunday; Monday I was exhausted (combination of lack of sleep over the weekend, running and work); Tuesday I engaged in alternative activities (see below); Wednesday I ran a hilly 45 minutes on the SHT from my back door west and then home again; and then today, being a Thursday and "Thursdays are for running to work" after all, I ran a nice mellow 2.5 miles.

But I have been busy with a few other things:
  • Planting Garlic: I needed to get this in before the ground froze and we are running out of time up north. Tuesday morning was sunny and warm - relatively speaking - and I did not have to be in to work until noon so off to the garden I went.
preparing the bed

using an antique potato planter to make the holes for the garlic

planting the garlic (harvested from my garden earlier this fall)

Due to lack of time I did not expand the garlic bed this year. But I did plant the largest of the bulbs so am hoping for a bigger harvest next year. It will be a sacrifice, but I am sure we will manage to eat the remaining garlic in the next month or two ;->

  • Knitting:
This is a baby blanket for a niece who is expecting her first child. Those are size 5 needles - large for me (I normally work on 0's and 1's) and the yarn is an acrylic/wool blend (Plymouth Encore worsted weight) for easy care. The pattern is called Heart Blanket (Fiber Trends CH-24) and is a favorite of mine. Nice lace pattern but not too complicated... well I guess that depends on your perspective. Embiggen the first photo and tell me what you think. The original pattern came with both written and charted directions. In this case I transferred the written directions to card stock - one row per card - which makes the project more portable and easier to follow, especially later at night when my eyes are tired and do not want to focus on tiny symbols in a chart.

Never let anyone tell you knitting is not a blood sport! Last night while knitting away on this blanket I managed to poke a hole in my right index finger with the tip of the above pictured needles. Ouch!!! Drew blood - and a laugh from my daughter S who was sitting across from me. I think this is the first time I have impaled myself on such large needles. If I am careful I can still knit and avoid hitting that spot. There are few things worse than re-impaling yourself on a knitting needle - and the tips always seem to find that weak spot.

Plans for the weekend include getting straw for the garlic and strawberry beds; finishing up the weeding and rearranging of the strawberry bed (whose idea was it to put in a bed large enough for 78 plants anyway?); spreading straw on the above mentioned beds; attending eldest daughter G's UMAC (college) championship playoff soccer game; running some unknown distance on a trail somewhere in the vicinity; and making some serious progress on this blanket as the shower is in a few weeks.

Not too ambitious am I?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Surf the Murph 50K - prerace jitters

For whatever reason I am much more nervous about this race!

Could it be the travel involved? If I forgot anything this morning there is not much I can do about it once I hit the road after Job B today.

First race where I am "on my own"... no crew to help out and take care of things for me (such a nice guy that Mr. Wildknits). Trying to figure out what I might need in drop bags has been interesting - and will continue tonight when I reach my sisters' in Burnsville.

The distraction is making it hard to focus at work (Job A and Job B).... add to that all the sugary treats (carbo loading?) appearing on my desk due to Halloween and I am especially wired (attempting to resist the sugar but the cupcake decorated to look like an eyeball has to be eaten soon or it will be stale ;-> ).

Have given up on checking the weather, though I did throw a pair of shorts in the bag as last I heard a high of 50 F was predicted.

Less than 24 hours to go.....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Ultra - Wild Duluth 50K

It's Thursday night before the race: Wayne has arrived and dinner has been eaten (in typical Wildknits household fashion the dinner party grew and grew and Wayne got a fine introduction to my friends and family - poor guy). Somewhere during the evenings' discussions about the race it occurs to Mr. Wildknits that I haven't supplied him with the location of aid stations or when I might reach each one. Obviously not very prepared for my first ultra!

That meant I had to really think about pace. After visiting the Wild Duluth website and printing out the aid station directions I set about figuring out what times I would arrive. I based my calculations off of my Half Voyageur times, with a range of 12 - 14 min/mile. This would give me a finishing time between 6 and 7 hours which seemed reasonable based on my long runs on this course. I scribbled the times down on the aid station direction sheet and left it at that.

Friday I had to work (Job A, over at 1:30 pm, no Job B as school was out). When I got home it was time to run some final errands, prepare food for the dinner with running friends planned for that evening and do a little bit of prep work for the race the next day (thanks Wayne for all of your help with that!). Got home from the dinner and realized I still had stuff to prepare! Where was the food I wanted along? How about an extra change of clothes - just in case? Needed to lay out the inhaler, body glide, allergy med, blister pads... all the things I did not want to forget in the morning. Even prepped the water and oatmeal for the next morning and made sure the coffee pot was set-up. I am not very coherent in the mornings and take a while to wake up.

Got up Saturday morning around 5:00am, had some breakfast and the first cup of coffee, changed into my running gear and headed up the hill shortly after 6:00 am with Wayne to watch the first runners in the 100k race pass by. It is very dark at six in the morning and those folks were running a steep, rocky course up to where my spur trail intersects the SHT. We hiked out along the trail a bit before stopping on a nice rock outcrop to admire the stars and wait for approaching headlamps. Saw the first two runners (Sean Andrish and ??) pass by - wished them well and then headed back down the hill to Wayne's truck and the drive to Bayfront to check in and catch the bus to Chamber's Grove Park.

I was not feeling nervous - should I have been? I kept thinking - "long training run". I knew Mr. Wildknits would be out there with the red backpack I had filled with food, extra clothes and a bottle of E-Gel (for refilling my flask). I knew there would be plenty of aid stations to stop at and lots of great support. That left it to me to get myself from place to place in one piece. The calf no longer hurt, but I had been having a nagging discomfort/tightness in the back of my knee/hamstring on the left side. I was hoping this would not prove to be a problem during the race.

It was cold! 33 - 36 degrees F at the start (depending on where your thermometer was in Duluth) and I was a little worried about staying warm initially (ample evidence of that in the photo).

Photo by Rick Bothwell

Gathering prior to the start of the Wild Duluth 50K - three of us were running our first Ultra. Leslie (to my right), myself (#8) and Ron (in back - middle guy). Steve - any clues by looking at our faces how we would do?!?

Andy and Kim Holak had a wonderful setup at Bayfront Park - warm building to gather in and a warm bus to transport the runners. They put in a monster day - as did their volunteers - who I can't thank enough!! Andy arranged to have the bus stick around at Chamber's Grove Park until the start so that runner's had the option to sit on the heated bus. Turns out the bus driver is a runner and had thought about doing this race!

Eventually it was time to shed all the extra layers, run to the bathroom one last time, gather for final photos and then make our way to the starting line. Andy gave a great introduction to the course and some of the features and landmarks we would be passing on our way to the finish line. The trail was marked not only by blue blazes (white for spur trails) but also by orange flags (same ones seen at the Superior Trail Races, etc). And then it was time to start! Andy led the way (with Wynn) around the starting loop in the park and up onto the start of the course.

Chamber's Grove Park to Grand Portage Aid Station(4.3 miles)
This section involved some steep climbing initially as we followed the deer trail across a ditch alongside Hwy 210 and then up onto the ridge. Eventually we picked up a local use trail which then morphed into an old ATV trail and in time joined up with a part of the Mission Creek Trail (familiar to those who have run the Voyageur races or Zapp's Loop - an NMTC race). It was pretty easy running once up on the ridge with rare rocks. The biggest challenge, once the climbing was done, may have been the ruts from ATV's and the downed trees, until you got to the last bit when we hit one end of the infamous "powerlines". A couple of steep ascents and descents later and it was out onto 210 again and then over to the trail to the Grand Portage parking area and our first aid station. This was an out-and-back so I got a chance to see some of the runners ahead of me and cheer them on.

I came into this aid station about 10 minutes ahead of the optimistic end of my schedule and dropped my waist belt and ran for the woods. The first three miles of any run with a waist belt equals an intense need to urinate. Came back out to friends Sam and Kyle having topped off my water bottle and holding my belt and mittens for me. Gave them my jacket to deliver to the next aid station (where Mr. Wildknits would be taking up crewing duties) and headed back out on the trail. I later learned that this section may have been a bit shorter than the advertised 4.3 miles - which may help explain my time!

Grand Portage to Munger Trail (5.8 miles)
I love this section of trail and have a lot of good memories of hikes and runs here. After the out and back section from the aid station you start climbing back onto the ridge via a series of switchbacks. The woods were beautiful as the morning sun lit up the leaves. The trail meanders along ridges and dips and climbs quite a bit on it's way back towards Mission Creek (we almost parallel our journey out) and then on towards Sargent Creek (site of an amazing bridge with a great story as to how it got built) and into the Munger Trail aid station. This is where I encountered the first 100K runner of the day (Sean Andrish). This is also where I decided to take some ibuprofen as my left leg/hip was bugging me a bit. In my experience it seems like it takes an hour for it to really kick in, so taking it early in a race might prevent some problems later on, or so I was hoping.

I arrived at the aid station still ahead of schedule and feeling like the distance was flying by. There were hikers just starting out on the trail and I saw them pause at the directional signs and heard some amazed mutterings about the distance of the races ;->

Munger was the first aid station Mr. Wildknits was to meet me at and I was glad to see he was there! I came in with gel flask in one hand, water bottle in the other and handed each off - the flask to my "crew" for refilling and the water bottle to Helen. Val was busy trying to keep track of all the runners coming in and going out of the aid station. I complicated matters for her by stopping midway through leaving as I had remembered my jacket! It took us a bit to figure out that Mr. Wildknits had not connected with Sam and Kyle and then to locate where they had left the jacket. Luckily it was obvious from my perspective looking back at the aid station. I was concerned about the temperature dropping as we neared the Lake so wanted to be sure I had all layers available - just in case.

Munger Trail to Magney-Snively (4.3 miles)
The first quarter mile or so of this section is on the paved Munger Trail. Ouch. Pavement is never my favorite medium to run on. I had been joined by a few other runners at this point and was able to direct them - and another runner who had missed the turn - up onto Ely's Peak, one of the bigger climbs of the day. At first glance there does not appear to be a trail onto the rocks as you turn left off the Munger Trail. A much easier one (used by climbers) goes off along the face of the cliff. But no, we were headed up, and up and then up some more. The reward is some spectacular views along the St. Louis River Valley.

Ely's Peak is 1.1 billion-year old basaltic lava that was later cleared off and shaped by glaciers. Whenever I am up there I like to take a moment to look around and imagine Glacial Lake Duluth filling the river valley (a day when the fog is laying in the valley will give you a good visual of what it was like 10,000 years ago).

This section involves a lot of scrambling up rocks which can be a challenge when your legs are shorter than the 'steps'. It can be hard to get a running rhythm going as the trail transitions from bare rock, to wooded trail, to a jumble of sharp upturned stones. Eventually though you clear the Ely's peak area and move on to a nice patch of woods around the North Branch of U.S. Steel Creek. As I approached the bridge over the creek a group of 100K runners was also coming along the trail. I stepped aside to let them pass and then had, what to me is a typical Minnesota moment: the last runner in the group paused to allow me to cross the bridge first.

This section also includes some pretty spectacular old growth hardwoods and, like most sections of the SHT, I have some special memories of the area: scouting and flagging the trail, finding my first morel, spotting a pine marten, yellow ladyslippers, Porter's first close encounter with a porcupine... the list goes on. On race day I just enjoyed the colors of the leaves. Soon enough we made the climb out onto the first crossing of Skyline Boulevard and entered the Magney-Snively area. It was in this section that I saw Shelly, running her first 100K after a spring, summer and early fall of Ultras and marathons. Then it was on to the second crossing of Skyline (Mr. Wildknits was waiting here on his bike) and down through some large white pines and then an eventual climb towards the Magney-Snively parking area and aid station.

At the intersection of the main trail with the spur trail to the parking lot was Zach who was taking pictures. Damn, that meant I had to run up the hill - at least until I passed him!
Photo by Zach Pierce

Mr. Wildknits was waiting, ready to fill my gel flask and to take my fleece vest; Jim had the water bottle filled before I could even ask for help. Ate a couple of bananas, had a half a cup of Ultima, chatted briefly with Bonnie - who told me to get moving - and was headed out when I remembered I had wanted to grab a bar to carry along in case I got hungry for more than gels. Returned to the aid station long enough to grab this from the pack and headed down the road.

Magney-Snively to Kingsbury Creek aka the Zoo(4.6 miles)
For whatever reason this is one of my least favorite sections of the the trail. It has some great features: the stonework on the bridge over Stewart Creek; the old bridge and walls channeling a creek near an old cellar along what once was the upper end of Gogebic Street; and an old excavation site. There are several creek crossings and some beautiful views. And still not my favorite. It can be challenging to find a rhythm in here as you seem to do a lot of climbing as you descend to the base of Spirit Mountain. There are also a lot of rocks along the trail, making footing treacherous at times. At one point I landed on the outside of my right ankle - totally bypassing rolling it. Ouch! Amazingly what came out of my mouth was "son of a gun!" Loud enough to stop the runner ahead of me, who looked back to make sure I was okay. Nothing hurt so on we went. It occurred to me later part of my dislike for this section may have to do with injuries - I once took a spectacular fall and slide in the mud here.

Reached the bottom of Spirit and then began the ascent back towards the top. Ron aptly describes this as the "W" section of trail. Part of the climb involves a lot of steps - according to the SHTA trail guide 138 steps. The reward: a beautiful sugar maple forest. I stood at the top for a minute to catch my breath so that I could enjoy running on some of the nicest trail around. The surface is quite soft and it just meanders it's way through the woods for a bit, rolling and dipping into little creeks before crossing some open areas and then dropping down and joining the Kingsbury Creek trail. Andy and crew had marked this intersection well, directing runners down to the aid station alongside the Zoo. There were lots of families out enjoying the day (and an event at the Zoo). Being an out and back it was a great time to see the runners ahead and cheer each other on.

I was greeted by the sight of Rudy on his unicycle (municycle?) and came into the aid station ready for a refill on all items and wishing for a bathroom. Connie and her family were also working this station and she had been telling everyone it was "all downhill from here". Hah! I knew better, the climbing was just beginning!

Kingsbury Creek to Highland and Getchell (3.2 miles)
Headed back up the trail and looked for likely bathroom spots, which I found just past where the spur trail rejoined the main trail. I took it as a good sign that I had to pee - must have been doing something right. My energy was still good and I knew exactly what this section contained. Lots of running across open meadows, some scrambles up and down rocks and then eventually a long climb next to Keene Creek. The trail passes very close to, and under, the freeway and the road noise is ever present. It also passes under a sewer line and an active railroad track (source of the taconite for the last place finishers awards) and involves a few blocks of road running.

My stomach had gotten kind of bad and I would feel nauseous off and on - especially if I pushed the pace. Was it the bananas I had at Kingsbury? I just set the discomfort aside as best I could and plodded on. By the time I hit Cody Street I had my strategy planned for the next mile or so. Run when I could but know I would be walking a lot. I find the road bit on West Gate Blvd to be draining - it is not all that steep, but after all the other climbing it just... well, I walk it every time. I did see a patient of mine along here (led to an interesting discussion last night when he came into clinic - first non-runner I've told about the race who hasn't thought I was crazy).

Keene Creek is really quite beautiful and I always mean to return and play in the pools. There is a lot of evidence of old structures along the trail and I could see others out enjoying the nice day. It had really warmed up by now and the mittens were off for good, as was the wool hat. I made the decision that I would jettison both at the next aid station and even thought about taking off my long-sleeved top. Made the final climb up to Highland Ave, climbed the barrier and crossed the 5-way intersection and headed into the aid station.
Photo by Chris Amley

Mr. Wildknits was there as was my friend Chris (didn't recognize him at first behind the camera). I had to convince my "crew" that I would not want the hat or mittens (he knows me well - the clouds were moving in and the wind was picking up and I get chilled easily) for this next section. Eyed up the offerings, almost left my water bottle behind, and headed across the road.

Highland and Getchell to 24th Ave W. (5.7 miles)
This section starts out with a gnarly bit of trail. First though you cross Keene Creek on an abandoned bridge. Where did it go?!? Seems to be a bit of a mystery still. Turn left and you start the descent and then climb along the creek, passing an old stone building, and then eventually crossing Skyline Blvd. and heading into Brewer Park. I am getting into trail I know well now. I often run this section before work as an out and back since it is located above my workplace and not far from home. I enjoy the view from the cliffs, though I have learned that Enger Tower is much closer than it appears ;->

After a little climb the trail rolls up and down small hills, paralleling the cliffs edge until crossing under the power line and descending to Haines Rd (known as 40th Ave W. below the intersection with Skyline). This can be a scary crossing as cars come flying down the road, luckily you can hear them coming so it is easy to pause and wait just off the road. A father and his three small children (one in a backpack carrier) were just getting out of their van as I started up the trail on the other side. I dearly hoped they would not catch me!

The Piedmont hills are where I spend a lot of time running, mountain biking and skiing - close to home and a variety of trails to play on. I really do know this area well and knew I was closing in on the end of the race. This is also a rolling section with lots of runnable trail interspersed with rocky climbs and descents and some great knobs. First is Ski Trail Knob, then you cross under the power lines and descend to Merritt Creek before climbing up to Firering Knob (anorthosite gabbro - like Mt. Trudee up north). Another descent and climb to an open area and then the big climb up to Piedmont Knob. From here you have a great view of the West End/Lincoln Park, Enger Tower, and Lake Superior.

The trail descends steeply to Skyline and I love bouncing along the trail here. It is hard to let loose though as the rocks will come up to trip you and the trail has a lot of twists and turns as it switchbacks it's way down the hillside. The steps on the downhill side of Skyline are steep and gravel covered - they make me nervous! I took it pretty easy here and then opened up my stride a bit on the nice flat section that winds its way through the woods before eventually hitting the board walk. From here the trail dips in and out of a lot of dry creek beds and alder thickets before eventually coming out alongside a reservoir which leads to a section of road running.

As I looked ahead I could see Mr. Wildknits standing at the turn back into the woods. I could also see another runner! For most of the race I had run alone (kind of like it that way, though at times I wouldn't have minded a companion). As I reached my crew he joined me for the run into the next aid station. There is a bit of a climb from the road and I walked that and then, eventually, commented that I should start running again ;-> I did. There is a huge willow in here and the trail is routed right under it. I have to crouch so I can only imagine how fun it had to be for tall runners. It was at this point that I ran into Jarrow and his daughter Veronica. Nice surprise and a boost as I headed into Lincoln Park and the climb to the 24th Ave W. Aid Station. Mr. Wildknits was telling me that Jim had moved to this aid station to help out, so I would see another friend! We made it across 24th Ave W and up the side walk to the parking area and the aid station. I requested a little more gel and water (it was only 3 miles but who knows what would happen or how long it would take?), chatted with Jim a bit about how my leg was feeling (hurt, but only if I thought about it, so I wasn't thinking about it) and realized I had now run further than ever before!

24th Ave W. to Bayfront Park
The trail leaves the aid station and climbs to Skyline Blvd. and the bridge over Piedmont Ave/Hwy 53 and then enters the woods again. This is "my section" of trail. Not only does it run just behind my house but I am the Section Leader for this portion. Needless to say I know this trail well! I rolled past Forgotten Park, up to the big tansy meadow, down to Coffee Creek, past the spur trail to my house and the big basalt boulder with the large quartz amygdules, down onto the new trail bed, across Skyline, across Hank Jenson Blvd. and into Enger Park. Then it was on by the Peace Bell (lots of park goers ringing it as I went by) and into the final descent towards the finish. After picking my way down the trail out of the park I crossed Skyline again and entered a little patch of forest before crossing 5th St, and entering more woods. I was happy that my legs felt good and I could run the downhills so well. Crossing 3rd St., the trail runs alongside an old quarry before coming out on 14th Ave W., crossing 1st St. and descending some old steps to another quarry. It was here I thought I may have heard bagpipes but the sound was soon drowned out by the noise of cars on the freeway below. There are some great rock steps in this section and soon I was running out of the woods and down to Superior St/Michigan St.

I saw Mr. Wildknits waiting with his bike and across the road... a bagpiper!! Mike, a dentist at the clinic I work at had said he would be there to pipe me in. It was a great moment, and a great lead-in to the final section of my first ultra.

Mr. Wildknits joined me for a bit, per my earlier request, as I have found this last road section to be a soul-sucker during training runs. As I crossed the freeway on the pedestrian overpass I realized I was going to finish and he commented that I was running strong so he was going to bike ahead to capture some pictures of me at the end. I made my final road crossing and saw Leslie waiting to cheer me in. I had no idea how Andy had set up the finish and soon realized there was no taking the shortest route to the finish line. No, instead it was around the road and through the "formal" entrance to the park. As in all good trail races there was even an uphill - small by most standards, but still there! As I got close I realized the clock had read 6:28: something and I was determined to finish under 6:30. I was able to find a little bit of a kick and crossed over at 6:29:34.

Just outside the finish chute

Mike, myself and Leslie

By the time I had made my way out of the finish area Mike had walked over and was playing some more for all the folks standing around. He had arrived at 2:00 pm (my earliest predicted time) and played as folks came down the trail. I get the impression he was a big hit, I know I was thrilled!

Kim and Andy were wonderful at the finish, as were all of the volunteers. I felt incredibly cared for, with Kim offering to get me food or drink and delivering whatever I requested. Once I had a moment or two to put my legs up, find my dry clothes and change I started trying to track down information about the other runners I knew on the course. Mr. Wildknits headed out and, after a brief stop at work and then back at the park, made his way up to 24th Av W. to track down the whereabouts of Wayne and call me with the information.

It was fun to hang around at the finish, watching friends, and ultra running mentors, finish the race and share stories of the day. Eventually Wayne and I headed back up the hill with the intent of cleaning up, eating some more, and enjoying a sauna. Then it was time to bundle back up and head out to watch Shelly finish her first 100K. We had gotten some updates on her location while still at Bayfront, and then had called Rudy at another aid station to check on her whereabouts. Around 11:30pm we headed to the 24th Ave. W Aid Station to wait for her. Visited with Andy there and once Shelly and her pacer came through we headed down to Bayfront to wait for her finish. It was pretty amazing to see her finish! We stuck around long enough to watch the sweeps come in (there was a sprint to the finish) and then called it a night.

What a great race! All aspects were top notch and the folks volunteering were incredible! Andy and Kim - thank you for all that you did! Can't think of a better place to have debuted at this distance!

And now... on to my next ultra - Surf the Murph on October 31st.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Snowfall

Back porch - time to put the soccer ball away?
Garden:tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant, greens - done; brussel sprouts and kale may still be okay
View west onto the Piedmont hills, SHT crosses that ridge(as does the Wild Duluth course)

There were rumors of snow in the forecast, but who thought accumulation was really possible on October 10th?!? Most of the snow is melted already, though roads and trails were interesting yesterday. Had plans to meet friends for breakfast and then go for my last "long run" before next weekends race. As you may be able to tell by the last photo I live on a hill and all roads lead either up or down - steeply. Mr Wildknits (he left the house at 6:00 am to go fishing = hauling nets out of Lake Superior and picking herring) reported the roads were quite slippery and advised avoiding the steeper streets out of our neighborhood ;->. Okay.... brushed and scraped the windows and ventured out. Not too slippery on my side of town, sun had done some work already, but worse on the east side - rain before the snow last night?

After breakfast and a quick stop home I headed to the Highland and Getchell trailhead to meet Leslie and run the SHT to Bayfront Park, the last 8.7 miles of the Wild Duluth course. The bowhunters were out, saw a group admiring the deer one of them had gotten that morning. Glad I was wearing bright clothing, but may want to remember that for next weekend as the course passes through a lot of areas in the city that are part of the hunt.

We opted to avoid the trail up Keene Creek at this point due to the snow, it is barely runnable when dry and with a half inch or more of snow on the rocks would be treacherous. Instead we ran Skyline Boulevard which parallels the creek on both sides and hopped onto the trail where it crosses the road. The woods were beautiful with the snow overlaying the colored leaves. The first section we ran showed evidence of other users - hunters and hikers/runners. The footing was surprisingly good, though the wooden boardwalks could be slick where the snow had melted just a bit. Saw a couple of other runners - heading in the opposite direction.

The wind was whipping but, luckily for us, out of the west so at our backs. Temperatures were in the upper 20's and it was an adventure trying to remember what layers I need. Ended up going with tights, a short-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved shirt, fleece vest, windbreaker, wool hat and wool/silk mittens. The mittens came off at one point (then went back on later). I was unzipping and zipping throughout the run to manage my temperature. Overall the layers seemed right as I was comfortable for the duration of the run. During Wednesday's run I couldn't feel my toes for the first 2 miles so obviously had gotten too chilled at the start - will need to figure out how to deal with this next weekend so that I do not have to overdress at the start to keep the circulation flowing to my hands and feet.

The descent to Haines Road was a bit scary - lots of rock covered with snow and unknown traction. Made it down safely, crossed the road and headed into the Piedmont area. We were the first people to be on this section of trail and I wished I had my camera along. First footprints in the snow on a trail, maple leaves at their peak color with a snow overlay, views from the overlooks.... so much to capture!

The cold snap had resulted in a wholesale dropping of leaves from some trees. This could make things interesting next week as there are many roots and rocks on the trail. We managed well, with the only tripping I did over a rather large rock that was easy to see. We made it through the rolling hills of this section and then headed down hill towards the reservoir, along the road for a bit and then back into the woods. At this point we cross a small tree on board walk that goes under a very large willow tree. I have to duck - significantly - here to avoid hitting my head and Leslie and I discussed how fun this could be in the dark for the 100K runners.

Like much of Duluth getting downhill can involve a lot of uphill running. The section from Lincoln Park to Enger Tower involves a lot of steep little hills and a spur trail to my house. I have to make a conscious effort here not to pick up the pace in anticipation of turning down the trail and going home. Instead I remind myself there are still a few hills to climb before the descent from Enger to Bayfront. And what a descent!! Until you hit the road crossing near the M&H gas station and pedestrian overpass, it is one long descent. From then on it is paved surfaces and can feel long once you hit the flats along Railroad Street and before you reach the park.

Yesterday's run went well and helped me to cement in my head the route to the finish. Hopefully I can remember what it is like to run this section feeling strong and channel that energy next weekend!

Ragnar Baton

Leslie brought this by last night. Our team was first in our division (open women) and this is what we all received. It is 11.5" long by 1.5" in diameter and made of aluminum. Love the color! Not exactly sure what I will do with it though.

On the knitting front:
Intended to reknit the Celtic Braid Hat (BTW - figured out what all the increases were about - needed to do that to incorporate the patterns) but while cleaning out a knitting bag found another pattern I want to incorporate instead. It is reminiscent of runners and I think will make a nice border to a hat. Pictures will be forthcoming as the hat progresses. Because I made this change after I had already cast on for the hat; and because the pattern has a longer repeat than either of the celtic braid patterns; I had to rip back the knitting and do some recalculations. This all occurred while sitting at our local food co-op's annual meeting. Got this all figured out, recast on the stitches needed (twice as I had too much yarn left the first time and I am 'yarn frugal') and set to knitting back and forth on the garter stitch border. After a few rows I decided to switch colors, and then eventually used both colors in the same row. Of course I did not write down what I was doing. I think I need a secretary who sits by my side when I am designing and notes what I am doing for future reference (a knitter can dream). Materials: Plymouth Yarn Co. Happy Feet - two colorways; Sz O/2 mm needles (16 inch and double-points). Gauge: 8.625 sts/inch.

Writing this and then doing the math made me realize this hat will be 22" in diameter! Ummm - that is kind of big. Guess it is back to the drawing board - and frog pond - for me, this time with a calculator in hand and no distractions!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

10 days and counting...

My first ultra is in only 10 days!

I am sure at some point I will get very nervous about this. Maybe I should start thinking of a game plan - drop bags or will Mr. Wildknits crew? What is my fueling plan? Lately I have been using E-gel and, once I learned the flask trick, that has been going well (volume was too much for me at one time so put a couple packets in a flask, dilute it a bit with water, and 'sip' as needed). I do find myself getting hungry on the longer training runs and have been experimenting with some solid foods to see what sits well. No definite trend, though pretzels are a fave and the Cliff bars marketed for kids sat well.

Calf update: took most of last week off of running (no Wednesday night NMTC trail race). Did get in 17 miles on the course Saturday with Leslie and Wayne, starting in Chamber's Grove Park. Opted not to run the new start as I was not sure I could find it, so instead ran the old route. Calf felt good and I think we stumbled upon part of the course. We tried to stay true to the route, even running into the Grand Portage Aid Station ;-> It was a good opportunity to shed a layer. Headed out on the SHT from there. Our destination was Spirit Mountain.

It was a wet and cool day, with occasional spitting and sputtering from the clouds. We met at noon and didn't really get going on the trail till almost one (had to drop water at a road crossing in addition to shuttling vehicles, plus mid-day runs mean more time for procrastination in the morning!). We also planned the later start to miss out on the other two events taking place on the trail that day: Grand Traverse and a SHTA group hike. We still saw more people on the trail then I ever have - usually I have it all to myself!

The calf held up well but my left knee was a bit painful. As a matter of fact everything from the hips down hurt off and on throughout the run. Ended up taking some ibuprofen and chalking it up to a lot of days of doing nothing.

The trail was in great shape! Nice to see in light of all the rain and the number of other users on it that day. The trees are just starting to really show their colors, with some spectacular displays along the way. Even some aspens on Ely's Peak were throwing a little orange into their traditional yellow coloring. Could be a beautiful display in 10 days if the leaves hang on.

Since this was a long run, and the first since the past weekend, I was trying to be conservative and not push it too much. Walked the uphills, mentally keeping an "eye" on the left calf and ready to scale it back if it began to hurt or feel tight at all. Amazingly, not one of us brought a cell phone with so there were no options for a rescue if needed (other than sending Leslie sprinting away to get help - she is fast and was very generous with her time by running with us! But that is another reason why she is Northland Runner's Runner of the Month).

Shortly after leaving Ely's Peak it got chilly and I put my long-sleeved shirt back on. Throughout the run I was glad I had worn tights. If the temps are in the 40's on race day I think I have my clothing figured out! We stopped at the first road crossing with Skyline Blvd. to refill water bottles, dump gel packets and resupply as needed. Then it was on to one of my favorite sections of trail: Magney-Snively. The SHT passes through some old-growth hardwoods and it is beautiful in every season.

We were getting close to Spirit at this point - by road maybe a mile or two. From just past the Magney-Snively parking lot the trail joins Skyline Blvd for a bit, then drops down below the road and eventually comes out at the bottom of the ski hill. In the process you cross an old bridge and some amazing stonework along a creek, as well as the foundation of the house that this road led to. From the base of Spirit the trail climbs, and climbs some more. We turned off the main trail just before crossing the Knowlten Creek bridge and did some more climbing to the parking lot. This was the point where my calf made the announcement that it had had enough of steep hills. Not as dramatically as the past Saturday, but enough that I was glad we were coming to the end of the run.

Once we were all gathered at the car it began to rain a bit harder. We hopped in to run the shuttle (this time remembering to pick up the water drop!) and then it was off to home. I had a hot sauna waiting for me, a favorite after a long, cold run.

I stayed in the house long enough to eat (had skipped lunch and was starving at this point) and then headed out to the sauna. It is wood-fired, relatively small (seats 3 comfortably, more than that and you are way too close), and HOT! The thermometer was registering in the 190's. I have apparently lost some of my tolerance so was in and out of there fairly frequently to cool off. Since it was raining I opted to hover in the changing room doorway vs sitting in a chair out back.

The next day my legs were feeling pretty good, though a bit stiff and it was nice to get out for a walk to loosen things up. Took Monday off from running and debated if I needed to be seen and have the calf/leg worked on some more. This morning's run decided that for me. Calf felt pretty good but my knee hurt! Diagnosis: left TFL and IT band are a bit flared up, probably from compensating for the calf. Had everything worked on, iced most areas at work (when I had the time) and will block out some quality time with my foam roller in the coming days.

I feel like I have been on a month long taper so it is hard to figure out how to "taper" at this point. My plan was to resume my normal pattern on running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday this week, then really cut back next week (no NMTC race next Wednesday so that would be easy). I am hearing some rumblings that I should take it even easier in light of the ongoing issues with my leg. Hard for me to follow as I find that being sedentary just makes me feel stiffer at times. On the other hand I really do not want to mess up anything before this race. Opinions???

If it helps, I ran really easy for 30 minutes today (felt that way to me, heart rate monitor is f****d so have no real idea - either that or I have a heart arrythmia that I cannot feel), plan on running 6k tomorrow and want to run my usual route to work on Thursday. Thinking 8-10 on the weekend.

Need to save up some energy for getting gardens put to bed - though we still have not had a hard frost yet. Also redesigning the Celtic Braid Hat - there will be a version 2.0 as I work out some issues with the first pattern (like why I have so many increase rounds - what was I thinking?).

Good luck to all of you running in one of the Whistlestop races! Have fun out there - may the wind be out of the west and there be no snow this weekend!