Saturday, May 30, 2009

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Long Run

After much research and bugging runners I know in the south part of the state I settled on Murphy-Hanrehan as the location for my long run this weekend. Why so far from home? Had a baptism to attend in the area. Side benefit: new trail = less boredom with my long runs in the future.

Printed out a map to the park, searched a local running groups' website for suggested routes, bugged Wayne late at night and got a link to his garmin data from the Surf the Murph, and settled on a route that would allow me to get in 16-18 miles and be able to stop by my car to refill my water bottle and hook up with my son for the second half of the run. The planned route incoporated parts of the Surf the Murph course, though not all as some of those trails are closed in the summer (what is Oak Wilt anyway?!?).

I opted to park at the Horse Trail parking lot, in the middle of the trail system, and headed out on the trails south of the road. I had brought a map along with the route I planned on traveling highlighted. Good thing as there are many, many trail intersections. Most are marked with a post and the intersection number, but not all. All this complicated by my unfamiliarity with the area and what direction I was heading in. Meant lots of stops at intersections to determine where I needed to head next.

The trails are pretty wide, especially on the south side of the road, and I shared them with hikers, dog walkers and a few horses (and their droppings). Nice hills, though mild by Duluthian standards ;-> Heading north of the road, the trails got a bit narrower and more shaded and included a few more rocks and obstacles to avoid. I ended up not finding some of the trails I meant to run there (and what were those large mounds covered with tarps north of intersection 12?) and hitting a dead end on a road. Backtracked and headed south, finding a nice section of single-track south of the road that led me back to the parking lot. Good hills on the north side of the road - but I was a bit worried about them for the second loop as it has been a few weeks since I have done a long run (Superior 25K to be exact).

Checked my watch as I hit an intersection as I neared the trail head and thought about heading out on another loop as I was a bit earlier than our projected meeting time, but opted to go check the lot - just in case. Good thing as Jason was already there!

Refilled my water bottle, and we headed out. This time incorporated a longer loop on the south side and repeated all of my previous run, without the backtracking. This was Jason's first time on trails, so tried to take it easy on him ;->. Ended up running 1:15 on my own and another 1:40 with Jason.

Knowing that trail running is a slippery slope... how long do you think it will be until he enters a trail race?

Nice day for a run - temps were moderate, nice breeze, and good company! Had a blast running out there and someday would like to get back and explore some more.

Will post some more about the Isle Royale trip in a day or so.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Isle Royale May 2009

This will be a multi-part post. What a trip! Headed north on Tuesday the 19th and stayed at a friends place outside Grand Marais. Up at 4:00 am to get our stuff together, have some coffee, clean-up and head north another hour to Grand Portage. The ferry left at 7:30 and we were to arrive 45 minutes before that. Made it on time, unloaded the packs, got the stuff together to carry onto the ferry, checked in and had our packs loaded onto the boat and hung out until departure time. Had a nice visit with the folks from Grand Portage-Isle Royale Transportation Line prior to heading out.

Day One:The Ferry Ride

As the boat pulled away from the dock I prepared to take up my usual post in the bow of the boat, but it was not meant to be. The spray was already soaking the front of the boat, so I headed to the stern. The waves were pretty big and I knew this was going to be a tough crossing for me. I tend towards sea sickness and have discovered I can cope with it pretty well if I can do a couple of things: be outside in the fresh air; see a horizon line and stay focused on it; and keep some crystallized ginger on hand to tone down the nausea.

Managed two out of three of those requirements. The fog settled in as we got out on Lake Superior and there went the horizon line! I hunkered down in the stern and did my best to stay warm (water temp is around 32 degrees and air temp was not a whole lot warmer). It takes about two hours to get to the island from the mainland and by the end I was wishing for the trip to be over.

Small World #1

On the boat were a number of groups. In one was a young man that looked familiar, figured I had seen him last year on the island and asked if he had been out there. Nope, his first trip to the island; but he thought I looked familiar too. Hmmm... Got to talking and he had just run the Superior 50K. Ah, I had just run the 25K, maybe we saw each other there. Talked some more, compared times and realized we had finished the race together! Having not introduced ourselves at the race, Brian Peterson and I met on a boat to Isle Royale.

Spent most of my time alone in the stern as it was pretty chilly. Was joined on occasion by a young woman who would quietly lean over the side, then head back indoors for a bit. Other passengers would pop out for a bit, but not for long. I learned on my first trip to the island to wear all of my cold weather gear on the boat - makes for a more enjoyable ride. Though by the end I had donned Mr. Wildknits jacket and had a wool blanket wrapped around my legs.


As we approached Washington Harbor I was alerted by Mr. Wildknits that land had been spotted. Yeah! As we got in to the harbor the fog cleared, the waves subsided and I headed for the bow. There was still ice clinging to the shore line in several places and we saw a few double-crested cormorants hanging out on shoals peeking out of the water.

Once on the dock, with packs unloaded, it was time for the traditional talk by the NPS Ranger about Leave No Trace ethics and other items unique to Isle Royale (ie: what to do if you encounter a moose or wolf and why you should not leave anything out that a fox might like - say your boots). Then it was up to the ranger station to get our permit and off we went.

The first day we had a 8.5 mile hike to our campsite. We donned our packs (mine is always at the upper end of what is recommended for my weight, but what do you do when you get cold easily and camp during the shoulder seasons?) and headed out. The trails on Isle Royale are easy to follow for the most part, with trail markers only at intersections. Nice change of pace from the heavily signed trails on the mainland. As we hiked along, the day warmed and we stopped on a ridge top to shed some layers and take some pictures of wildflowers.

Still waiting to hear back from the rangers and Isle Royale botanist to learn what these are. Any ideas?

My main reason for going to Isle Royale in May was to see spring ephemerals - yes, I am that kind of flower geek. Other reasons included: few people, wildlife, few people, and no bugs.

Our hike was interrupted several times by my need to photograph what we were seeing, especially if I could not identify the flower or if it was something I had never seen before. For example:

Skunk cabbage - I have heard about this for years but have never seen it in bloom, doesn't grow in my area. Such a cool plant- spathe and spadix and those leaves get HUGE!

The Carolina spring beauties carpeted the woods. Amazing display!

We arrived at the Feldtmann Lake campsite and had our choice of sites as we were the only ones there. Found a nice spot with access to the water and protection from a storm. I like to get the 'camp chores' done right away (pumping water, setting up the tent, etc)so set to it. On the beach (and in our campsite) I saw evidence of one of the islands year-round residents:

Was hoping this particular moose didn't decide to wander through the site that night!

After dinner we decided to hike out to Rainbow Cove as I had heard lots of good things about the beach. The trail meandered through the woods next to the creek that drains Feldtmann Lake and came out onto

a warm beach and miles of rocks to pick through - what more can anyone ask for?

I set out to walk the beach and pick up rocks (finding many a large spider in the process), Mr.Wildknits took a different approach:

He had as much luck just hanging in one spot and sifting through the rocks.

We made our little collections, exchanged our favorites and then left them behind as we made our way back to camp.

I have been going to Isle Royale the past two Septembers and am used to it getting dark early. I forgot that it stays light until 9:00 pm and we had plenty of time for hanging out at the beach. I got out my knitting and my book and lounged about for a bit, but ultimately was ready for bed before it got dark. Woke up during the night to rain and the need to bring our boots in from the vestibule 'just in case'.

More on the trip in my next post.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Superior 25K

The opening line to most of the race reports will probably contain some variation of this phrase: "It was a dark and stormy night..."

The weather forecast for this past weekend was grim - even by northern Minnesota standards: rain, temperatures into the low 30's, howling winds (up to 30+mph) and snow. Yup, you read that right... snow, up to a 1/2 inch was predicted. How to pack for the possibilities? Into my bag went: shorts, t-shirt, long-sleeved zip-neck shirt, fleece vest, winter tights, wool hats (two - one lighter than the other), brimmed hat, silk/wool mittens, a couple of weights of socks, rain coat, running jacket, wind pants, and shoes; along with the other miscellany necessary for a night away from home.

Drove up the shore through darkening skies and intermittent rain showers. Being an optimist I was wearing sandals (besides which I knew my feet would be happier after the race in these so easier to wear them than pack them). Arrived in Lutsen with time to set-up the display board I had put together of spring wildflowers along the SHT, pick-up my race packet, get settled in my room and attend the pre-race briefing.

The weather was getting nasty at this point, lots of rain and we could only hope the storm would pass through before morning and we wouldn't be running in a downpour. Woke several times during the night and listened to the winds howling around the building and wondered if they would die down at all or if my biggest risk on race day would be being blown off the side of a mountain or being hit by a falling tree.

Woke up early (one reason to stay up there was to see the start of the 50K race at 7:00 as I had several friends running in that race) and started sorting through my stuff. Shorts? No. T-shirt? Yes, layered under the long-sleeved shirt. Vest? Only for walking around in before the race as it was chilly in our room. Tights - yes. Wind pants? Yes, but again only for wearing at the start of the 50K. It was no longer raining though the skies looked pretty dark so debated rain coat vs running jacket for awhile. Decided against it as the rain coat is heavy and overkill unless it is pouring. Opted for the slightly thicker and longer wool hat, and mittens were a no brainer. Looked out the window to see snow falling - horizontally at times. Hmmm... It was going to be an interesting day.

After checking in and milling about the 50K runners headed outside for the start of the race:

And I headed back inside to have some breakfast, read the paper and putz around for two hours until the start of my race.

The race climbs up into these hills.

The weather was interesting... very windy (nothing like starting a race heading up hill into the wind) with occasional snow showers. Better snow than rain, less likely to get wet. The races start out on a paved road at the Lutsen Ski Resort and proceed uphill to a gravel road, then a ski trail and then the single-track of the Superior Hiking Trail. From here on out it is a typical SHT running experience: roots, rocks and steep ascents and descents. With the cloud cover and cool weather I was not very optimistic about seeing any wildflowers but was pleasantly surprised. Dutchman's breeches abounded as did the carolina spring beauty's - though they refused to open their flowers, why waste the effort when no pollinators would be out and about? Also spotted violets (purple ones even), marsh marigold and bellwort, just getting ready to bloom.

The weather was an interesting factor during the race. I was glad I went with the warmer hat, kept it on the whole race. My mittens alternated between being on my hands and being tucked into the waist belt of my water bottle holder. If the wind was blowing directly on me - mittens were on, which seemed to help keep the hand swelling to a minimum. I ended up unzipping my jacket and long-sleeved shirt fairly early on and would use the zipper on my jacket to regulate my body temperature from there on out. Down in the valleys, protected from the wind: mittens off, jacket unzipped. Up on the ridges: mittens back on, jacket zipped up.

There is a long switchbacked downhill section through a maple forest early (late) in the race that I absolutely love - in both directions. It is pretty easy footing and has spectacular patches of wildflowers. Fun running (power walking).

Some of the other climbs/descents on this out and back course are a bit of a grunt - especially with short legs ;-> Saw the first 50K runner come by and then after awhile began the steady stream of runners heading back on this out and back course. this of course meant not only paying attention to the trail, but also being aware when someone was coming and stepping off to let them pass - tricky if you were on a board walk section or in a particularly narrow stretch of trail. But, trail runners being a polite lot, we all managed and would alert each other to runners coming along.

Before I knew it I could see Oberg Mountain and, checking my watch, realized over an hour had passed. Really?!? I didn't feel like I had been running for that long already. Got out some Cliff Shot Blocks and ate a little as I seem to do best with something to eat every 45 - 60 minutes and was 'overdue' at this point. Reached the Oberg Mountain Aid station, filled up my water bottle and headed back the way I came. By now the sun was staying out for longer stretches and it was quite pleasant out there, if you were out of the wind.

I have a terrible memory for landmarks during runs and tried to make a conscious effort this year to remember where certain features were in relation to the finish line so I could gauge my progress. Kind of worked this time, at least I knew when I was within a few miles of the finish ;-> What I did know this year, different from last, is that the finish line is a long ways away from where you come off the trail (relatively) and not to get to ahead of myself and try to "sprint" in to the finish when I hit the pavement. Nope, wait until you round the buildings and can see the pool ;->

Finished in 2:50:31. Twelve minutes faster than last year. My goal was to break three hours, so I am very pleased with my time and how I ran.

Though I wore my heart rate monitor I did not look at it during the race, instead just running what felt like a good pace. I have the zone set at 142 - 162 bpm, what I have been considering my long run effort, and was in that zone for 31 minutes out of the race. My average heart rate was 166, with a peak of 190 and a minimum of 103. Finished the race feeling like I had a little something, though not much, left in the tank. My legs were feeling a bit crampy and I made a conscious effort to walk a bit and then stretch a lot (something I am terrible at doing after a race). Eating and drinking after a race is still a learning process for me. Sometimes things look much better than they feel once on the inside.

A huge thank you to Gretchen and Mike Perbix - race directors; Bonnie and Donnie Riley - course flaggers; Larry Pederson; the Two Harbors Ski Team and all the other volunteers for your efforts in making this a great race! See you next year.

Now I am off to get ready for my next adventure: a five day backpacking trip to Isle Royale. We leave in two days so it is time to assemble gear, prepare meals and sort through clothing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

78 strawberries later...

Saturday I achieved my weekend goal - all of the strawberries were in the ground! It was a cold day to be working in wet soil, but perfect for the heavy work of shoveling compost and removing sod.

But to back track a bit:

Friday after work I picked up a load of compost (one cubic yard to be exact) in our truck and headed home.

The plan - cover our garden terraces with this nice product courtesy of the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD).

The problem - our hill. Now, the truck has four wheel drive, but I am not the person to attempt getting it up our hill and backed into our sloping yard to the garden. Figured I was going to be hauling 5 gallon buckets of compost up hill, but my neighbor came to the rescue. He got the truck into the yard (with no damage to truck or the sod we want). This made the moving of compost slightly easier. Instead of buckets up the hill it was buckets down the hill ;-> After a bit I lost count of how many buckets it took to a)cover a garden bed and b) empty the truck. But I can tell you it takes 4 shovelfuls of compost to fill a bucket and I can carry two full 5 gallon buckets at a time and I was at it for an hour or two. And my doctor thinks I need to incorporate upper body work into my exercise regime!

By the time I had all but an 1/8 of the compost distributed (and realized another run to the compost site was in my future) my daughter and her boyfriend (and his friend) arrived. I had the guys help finish unloading the truck for me. And then left the truck to better drivers to move (yes, we live on that steep of a slope - we reminisced about the day we moved in and hauled our upright piano into the yard via pickup. The kids thought it was going to flip out of the truck as they backed into the yard and up to the side door).

Saturday I headed out for breakfast with friends and then back to the compost site - this time to pick up a load for the woman who is starting our plants for us (co-worker, master gardener and friend). Got to her place where I could park next to the garden and helped unload the compost - yeah, no bucket hauling! From there it was to home and back to sod removal. Those strawberries needed to get in to the ground this weekend. Did I mention it was drizzly and cold?!? The first cart load of sod I tried to take down the hill and dump almost took me with it. Checked with the neighbor after that so if he heard a scream he would come to the rescue. By mid-afternoon my lower back was done in. I had already put out a call for hired help and he came through. Then Mr. Wildknits arrived and I was freed from sod removal! Got the strawberries out of the refrigerator, found my yardstick and trowel and set to work.

The strawberry bed (as well as assorted flowers and shrubs):

(Note: photos taken Sunday when the weather had improved)

Sorry you can't see the strawberry plants yet - they are quite tiny. By midsummer next year (2010) we should be rich in fruit from these plants. A long wait, but so worth it! The guys then went on to expand our garden in the front, adding another 32 square feet of bed above our existing terrace. And moving us one step closer to leveling a piece of our yard (where all the sod is going).

As I was photographing the new bed I noticed an interesting visitor to my daffodils:
Can you spot her/him?

Sunday was also the NMTC Spirit Mountain Run. A 15K on a mix of paved and gravel roads. My plan, go out easy and stay that way. The reality - took 5 minutes off last years time ;-> I guess training and consistency do pay off. I was surprised to have run so well as I was really feeling the efforts of the past two days of heavy lifting. Not much to say about the race, despite lots of people being there you are often alone on the course. It is very windy as the road wraps around from Spirit Mountain to Magney-Snively to Bardon's Peak and on out to the Beck's Road. For those who have run the Half Voyageur or Voyageur parts of the course will be familiar. I was thinking of it as having some rolling hills but nothing to gnarly.... HAH! I had forgotten about the hills on the far end, before/after the turnaround at the railroad tracks. Wow, are there some long hills back there! My big accomplishment this year was running them all - a first. I ran with a friend who would tell me to envision a rope between the two of us as I struggled up the hills (I am not a strong hill climber despite living in Duluth). On the other hand, he kept telling me to "throttle it back" on the downhills and flats as this was not supposed to be a race ;->

It was a beautiful day for a run: sunny, not too warm, wind that always managed to be in your face. By the end of the race I was feeling a bit tired and the last hill to the finish seemed to go on forever (what is it with trail run groups and their uphill finishes?). By now I was being paced in by my friend Leslie (responsible for much of my speediness this year) and she encouraged me to actually do a mini-cool down afterwards. A bit of stretching, a bit of socializing and it was time to head home to get to work on my next project: display of spring wildflowers found along the Superior Hiking Trail to bring up to this weekends races in Lutsen.

Off to Walgreens I went to have prints made, then rooting around to find a display board left over from the girls projects. Worked on the display off and on for the evening, noting that I needed to head out and get a picture of bloodroot in bloom as the only photo I had was of just the leaf.

Monday I loaded the camera into my pack and headed to a local trail after work for a walk and a known patch of bloodroot. And what a patch! It stretches into the woods for quite a ways. In addition to the bloodroot

I found:

carolina spring beauty

marsh marigold

wood anemone

and coltsfoot

Off to go work on the display some more (now that I have good bloodroot photos). See some of you Friday and Saturday up in Lutsen!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bull Run (race report) and what I do in my spare time besides knit and run

Race Report

Yesterday was the second race in the NMTC Trail Series. Named the Bull Run (though no one seems to know why) it could just as easily be named the Tick Run. Two years ago I came off the trail with 25 ticks total. Can't remember how many last year. This year... only two and both wood ticks. I am attributing my good luck this year to the liberal application of Badger Anti-bug balm. Rubbed it all over my lower legs and tops of my socks. The only place I found ticks was on my shoes and that was before race start.

The course for this race is off of Hwy 23 on the backside of Jay Cooke State Park. It is hilly! Very hilly, extremely hilly and just when you think you have run a steep hill, you hit another one. The listed distance is 4.5 miles but in the past two years the course has been altered and it may be just under 4. Which would make sense as my times the last two years are just too fast otherwise ;->

The race starts off heading downhill under some power lines and then takes a hard left onto a ski trail. From there it is a rolling course: up, down and around while you descend towards the river. In years past we actually ran along the river for a bit (Lower lake Trail) before climbing back up to the start. Now we have been taking a sharp right onto a cut off that brings us back to the Upper Lake Trail. Looking at the topographical map of the area the contour lines are mighty close together.

I have learned over the years that I can only run hills of a certain slope, so ran what I could and walked the rest. There is one hill on the course (or is it two?) that almost beg for use of your hands.

Caught up to the guy who has been running in KSO's and chatted with him a bit. He is still getting used to them and was having some issues with cramping in his calves. Last weeks run included a lot of pavement and that may have been part of the problem, plus it is early in the season yet.

Was able to run the entire final uphill to the finish this year. Usually I am so wiped by this point that I walk until I can almost be seen and then run in to the finish. Actually felt pretty good overall though my quads were complaining and had me thinking I need to do some more hill work before the Superior 25k in a week+.

As with all NMTC races half of the fun is visiting with running friends before and after. This weekend is the NMTC Skyline Run (15k). It is the only road race in the series. Used to be all on gravel road but the city in their wisdom decided to throw chewed up asphalt down so it is now paved - sort of.

Spare time activities

I am still working on expanding the strawberry bed. It is tough going removing sod/weeds and their roots from the yard. All complicated by the slope (hills seem to be a theme today). Sunday I removed three garden carts worth of sod. Today I removed two - very full - cart loads.

Getting started - my pitchfork (tool of choice) is at the top of the photo next to the rhubarb.

Partially filled garden cart. The cart is pretty big - 3'x2' at least.

The sod is being dumped in the front yard in an attempt to create one level place in our yard for sitting and enjoying the view on nice evenings.

On a kind of icky note, I have been finding a lot of these in the dirt as I dig:

Any idea whose grub they are?

During breaks to stretch my back and hamstrings I walked up to the neighbors and found that his wild ginger is in bloom:

I also took the time to photograph some of the other plants that are blooming in our yards:


daffodils (with bleeding heart just starting to bud on the far right - embiggen to see)

mertensia (virginia bluebells)

And finally, for Matt and all the other folks out there who brew beer (or just enjoy a cool beverage from time to time) the hops are up and racing skyward:

Just a week or so ago they were hardly out of the ground, now at least one vine is three feet tall. This means we need to get to stringing our support system and if I am not careful my bike will be engulfed soon. By mid-summer the hops will have climbed up the front of the porch and after reaching the roof will head across the railing. It always amazes me how prolific they are and how fast they grow. No hop shortage around the Wildknits household! (And before you ask - not sure what variety they are, sorry! Got them from a friend years ago, but they have been used in home production).

I am off to put my feet up, grab my knitting and a good book and relax for an hour of so before bed. Almost done with one sock, wondering if the yarn is going to hold out though. I seem awfully near the end of one skein already and these are not very large socks.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Superior Hiking Trail Annual Meeting Run

Warning - Photo Essay:

Wolf Ridge Trail to the SHT - snow and downed branches

Overlook - Lake Superior

Wolf Lake (Johnson lake) - ice is still present

Trail or Stream?

Highway 1 - on my way back

Ice damaged trees - trails cleared by the MCC and Wolf Ridge

About an 1/8th of the trail bed looked like this

Approach to "Superior View" overlook

Downed trees in the valley below "Superior View"

Post-run view - only wet and muddy to mid-shin ;->

Great run on the trails at Wolf Ridge and out on the Superior Hiking Trail to Hwy 1 and then to the Superior View overlook and back up to Wolf Ridge. No goshawk (scroll down to may 4th) this year!

The workshop I was to present on trail running was a bust - one person came and we chatted for about 15 minutes. I think this can be attributed to the timing of the workshop - 1:00 pm on day when most folks were out hiking. During my run I passed that majority of hikers so they got a "demonstration" of the topic ;-> Did talk to a few folks who were hoping to make it back for the workshop but didn't. Spent the rest of the time up there chatting with folks informally about running trails and clarifying my age (yes, I am that old... have kids in college) and that trail running is not just for young. ;->

The evening speaker was Sparky Stensaas, an old friend. We spent some time visiting and catching up and I looked over the books he published and found: Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski. Boy was I excited!! this is a topic I have always wanted to learn more about and now have a resource. The North Shore of Lake Superior and Isle Royale have hundreds of species of lichens with Isle Royale having over 600 species alone! Guess what book will find it's way into my pack on future backpacking trips?

Didn't see any wildflowers on my run, only thing blooming were the trees. The frost is just leaving the ground in some spots in the area. Did see Mourning Cloak butterflies, a lot of flies, one warbler (unidentified - I am terrible with birds), turkey vultures, and heard ravens.