Thursday, June 18, 2009

Six minute mile?!? What the heck!

Tuesday I ran to work (and today I did not, guess Thursdays are not always for running to work). My daughter needed the car and I did not have to be in until 11:30 so I was able to negotiate a ride to a Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) trailhead. From there I would run a mix of trails and road. Now, I work at the bottom of the hill and the SHT follows the ridgeline. There is a 500+ foot elevation change between where my foot met pavement for the first time and the building I work in, with the bulk of it coming in the first mile (the difference between where I first started my descent and where my foot first met pavement is another 200 feet or more).

I started my run just uphill of the Highland/Getchell Trailhead on the SHT. I usually skip the first 1/4 - 1/2 mile of this section when starting here as it is along Keene Creek and it is a technical section with a lot of ups and downs and ends up crossing Skyline anyway - making it easy to hop on on the more pleasant, relatively flat section leading into Brewer Park. From the best that I can tell, that gave me about 2.3 miles of trail to run before I came out on Haines Rd/40th Ave W and started my descent. Total run would add up to 4.1 miles and I gave myself an hour to get to work.

I really like this section of trail. It traverses some beautiful areas, including a mature maple forest where I have encountered porcupines, and some open ridgelines that overlook West Duluth, the St. Louis River estuary and the ore docks (plus my place of employment, Wade Stadium and Wheeler Field). The trail stays up high for almost the whole length of this section, finally turning inland and then dipping down to Haines Rd. The overlooks are pretty amazing and very reminiscent of the SHT further north.

As I hit the road crossing I first checked for traffic (this is one of the main routes 'over the hill' and sight lines are poor) and then checked my watch - 26 minutes and some change. I was curious what the difference would be between my trail time and my road time as the distances were pretty equal. From the moment I stepped on to the road I was descending. Haines/40th Ave W is a narrow road - two lanes, small shoulder and in a few spots hemmed in by railings that keep you from going off the edge of the hill. It is also full of switchbacks - tight corners and poor sight lines. I am learning to love running downhill and just let go, focusing on maintaining decent posture and not over-striding. All this and keeping on eye on traffic and the surface I was running on (mix of gravel shoulder and pavement where the shoulder was non-existent or too steeply sloped). After 1.1 miles I turned onto a side street, ran a few blocks flat, then downhill again, and repeated until I worked my way 4 blocks west and 5 downhill to work the clinic. Arrived and stopped my watch: 37:09.

Eleven minutes to travel 1.8 miles?!? At first I did not work out the math, then when I did I went back and drove the road portion to check the mileage. Yup - 1.8 miles. In 11 minutes. That's 6 minutes per mile! Wow - gravity is pretty dang amazing! I have never run anything faster than a seven and a half minute mile in my life - and that was years ago and a very rare event.

So, I am enjoying my rare moment in the world of speedy ;->

Yesterday I ran 5 miles with friends Rick and Shelly out in Esko. All on the roads - mix of gravel and pavement - with gentle hills. Legs were tired, but not wiped out. Today I ended up skipping my run to work (got up too late) and also skipped out on the end of the day run (friends in town). Haven't decided if I will try to make-up the run tomorrow, if I will bike to work instead, or if I will just skip it as I am running 20 miles this weekend.

Saturday I will be down at Grandma's watching for friends. I was able to procure a pass to the bleachers at the finish line so will have a nice spot to watch the runners come in. I live close enough to downtown that my plan is to walk down and avoid the hell that is parking/driving in Duluth on Grandma's weekend.

Sunday I will head out for 20 miles on the SHT. This week Wayne has committed to joining me for part of the run. In return I have promised to share with him the joys of the trail, such as: 138 steps near Spirit Mountain; taconite pellets under the railroad tracks; and the many climbs to scenic knobs and dramatic overlooks onto the western portion of Duluth.

On the knitting front:

Not much has been coming off the needles of late. Finished the reknit on my nephews hat and have gifted a couple of washcloths. Still need to get around to blocking the scarf I finished. But my fingers are itching to start a new project. I have been playing around with some celtic charted designs and have picked out some braids that I like. Thinking about a little colorwork. The questions is.... hat or socks??? Both are quite portable (want something to while away the time before the runners come in) and I also have plenty of both ;-> But, as the Yarn Harlot points out in her calendar entry today - it is never too early to think about winter knitting (and the way our summer is going, wool hats and socks may be of much use this year).


Wayne said...

Feel free to use up all your 6-minute miles in the first half of Sunday's run! :)

Chris said...

Wow! Speedy!

SteveQ said...

Rocketing downhill is fun once in a while. In 1985, I did a downhill mile in 3:47 - windmilling my arms and dodging traffic. Except for the stop-fall and the residual aches the next week, it was a blast. I developed a lot of respect for people who ran sub-4 on a track!

I'm going to have to search for porcupines on your trail someday.

wildknits said...

Wayne - I may have already used them up - nor worries about me being speedy on Sunday! Notice what my trail time was??? More like 11 min/mile.

Steve, it was a lot of fun and I was fortunate to not have a stop-fall, though crossing the railroad tracks is always a bit scary - bottom of s steep section and some spilled taconite pellets to add a dash of excitement - oh yeah and that is where the concrete road surface starts ;->

Anytime you want a tour of the porcupine habitat give a shout. Though without Porter it is harder to locate them.

Now back to my regularly paced runs...

Helen said...

Hope you guys have a great run on the SHT today - I got out this morning to do a quick recovery run post Grandma's on the section from Hartly Nature Center - went north/east first as far as the woods - not sure I was on the SHT all the time I was in the woods but it was very pretty! And then when I got back I went the other direction for a half mile or so - would have gone further but needed to get back to hotel. But hopefully sometime soon I'll get to enjoy more of the 'city' trails.

wildknits said...

Helen - impressed you were out on such a hilly trail one day after a marathon. Hope you waited till it cooled off a bit. Our run was good - hot and humid at the beginning, but got cooler as we got closer to the Lake.

I am trying to envision which section you ran at Hartley.. blue blazes = SHT, but there are lots of other trails there. The whole park is pretty nice. Used to work for the nature center so it has a special place in my heart.

Consider coming up for the New Years Day Barely Organized Run and explore even more trails.