Seems the only time I get around to blogging is after a long run ;->
Today was a "shorter" run - only 18 miles - and once again on the Superior Hiking Trail. After tough negotiations for the use of my car, I ended up with my daughter agreeing to hoist herself out of bed to drive me to my starting trail head at Munger Trail/123rd Ave W (see www.shta.org/Trail/Duluth.php for details/maps)for a 9:00 am start. I wanted to capture some of the heat of the day - it has been so cold here of late that heat training is just a dream, which means that it will be brutally hot on race day.
It was in the low 60's when I started with clear skies. An hour later it was 70 degrees F and the humidity was "up there". By noon it was 79 F!! Guess I got the heat and humidity I was looking for. Of course, with the heat came storm clouds. The last hour of my run was spent looking over my shoulder and listening carefully for thunder (I hate running in thunderstorms and was willing to bail and take a shortcut home if necessary).
The Munger Trail is a rails-to-trails paved path that runs from Duluth south to... It is flat, and leads to a decidedly not flat section of the SHT. After just under half a mile on the Munger you turn left and climb, and climb some more until you reach Ely's Peak. There are parts of the trail that resemble a climbing route (at least to this short-legged runner). From Ely's Peak the trail heads over some rocky, rooty trail to Magney-Snively Park, crossing Skyline Drive on the way. There are some very runnable sections in here and this is where I invariably see the large-flowered trillium and yellow lady-slippers.
After Magney the trail heads onto Skyline for a bit and then dives down and heads to Spirit Mountain. The trail through here is very rocky. And the rocks tend to be of the sharp, pointy variety. Last week, after "running" this section I was very crabby. It is hard to get any kind of rhythm going here, and I always wonder why the trail builders didn't lift a few more of the rocks.
This week the run went better (maybe because I was fresher?) through this section and I was in a pretty good mood when I hit the base of Spirit Mountain and started climbing again to the top of the ridgeline.
After crossing an old bridge the trail dips down again and then turns left to climb... 135 steps! I am not a fan of these steps. I have run them in both directions (up and down) and really do not like running down them. No nearby trees to grab onto and steep = recipe for disaster if you misstep. That said, the reward for climbing these steps is a beautiful maple forest with almost no underbrush and the nicest, soft trail surface. Assuming you can catch your breath after the climb and run ;->
Warning to the men - skip this next section!
Today was day 2 of my menstrual cycle which meant heavy flow. I thought by timing things just right I could make it through the run without any overflow problems, counting on strenuous exercise to slow things down. Boy, was I wrong! Even before hitting Spirit I knew I was in trouble. Call to my daughter got her to agree to deliver a tampon and ziploc to me at one of the upcoming road crossings. I figured not being even two hours into the run I should be okay for a bit, but knew I would never make it home without being a mess. Due to issues finding an appropriate place to change the tampon I had to delay until I was past the Highland/Getchell intersection. A little to late it turned out. There is nothing like trying to deal with 'feminine hygiene' while squatting in the woods and then having to stand up and run uphill on technical trail! Thankfully I had thought to tuck a couple of wet wipes in my pack that morning, so could clean up a bit. Today was a day when menopause sounds pretty dang good! Any suggestions for dealing with this better (other than carrying extras along)?
Guys it is safe to read again!
From the Cody St crossing the trail climbs passing under a railroad track at one point. This track carries trains from the range down to the ore docks. These trains are loaded with taconite pellet, which are round and just smaller than a marble. They fall out of the rail cars and onto the soil below the tracks. It is like running through a pile of ball bearings. Needless to say I move very carefully down the steps on this section. After running under the tracks you get an opportunity to run under a sewer line - ah, urban trail running! This is actually the second sewer line on the trail right now - the first runs down the trail next to Kingsbury Creek for a short bit, but does require that you cross over it twice. It is temporary and a side effect of highway construction project nearby.
After reaching the Highland/Getchell/Skyline intersection the trail crosses an historic bridge and heads up and down hill along Keene Creek. This section is very rocky, but passes a cool old building (pumphouse?) alongside the creek. After crossing Skyline, the trail meanders into the woods of Brewer's Park and will climb up to some pretty cool overlooks onto West Duluth and the St. Louis River before descending a big hill and crossing Haines Rd/40th Ave W and entering the Piedmont Ski Trail area. Today I ran with my 1 qt camelbak in it's pack along with a 16 oz water bottle in a waist belt. Had emptied the water bottle long ago and was unsure how much water was left in the camelbak. Having run out of water at exactly this point last year, I had stashed an extra water bottle at this road crossing. Picked it up and met my friend Jim who had agreed to run the last 3+ miles with me. It was nice to have some company at this point and we chatted and ran the hills and knobs of the Piedmont area before heading downhill, crossing Skyline (again) and heading downhill some more. The trail pops out next to a reservoir and then follows a road for a few blocks before heading off into the woods again. This section has a lot of hills and a few road crossings before reaching Lincoln Park and heading uphill a few blocks and popping out at 24th Ave. W.
Here is the western trailhead of the section that I maintain. After crossing the Skyline Ave. bridge the trail moves away from the road, traverses some rolling hills, passes an abandoned park, climbs to a large meadow (sight of a lot of tansy) then dips down to cross Coffee Creek. From there it is a quick run on relatively smooth trail to my access trail. Since this is also the route of the Wild Duluth 50k at some point I will need to head past my house and continue running until I reach Bayfront Park or I may automatically turn off the trail at this point.
It was a perfect day for a long run! Total running time: 3:51 (not counting pit stops). I experimented a bit more with fueling options, trying the Cliff gel first (much more palatable this time), then some shot bloks and skipping the pretzels all together. I had the camelbak loaded with water mixed with Ultima and kept the water bottle for just water (nice for washing down the gels and bloks). The gel seemed to do what it was supposed to and I felt pretty good throughout the run, with only minor hand swelling. I ended up with nothing left in the hydration bladder by the time I got home and was glad I had the extra bottle along.
Spent the rest of the afternoon at a friends 60th birthday party which wrapped up with a handful of planes taking off from his grass strip. It was fun watching them start up (most are hand-propped) and taxi off one at a time. All of them got off the strip quickly and a few came back to 'wave' goodbye before heading off to their home airport(s).
Will try to finish a post about the rest of my Isle Royale trip soon. Nothing really new on the knitting front - working away on the hat for my nephew and playing around with some celtic braidwork patterns that I am thinking of including in a future project.