Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Yan Teopa 10 Mile Trail Run (and other stuff)

First off - THANKS to Larry and his crew for a great race!

The In Yan Teopa 10 mile Trail Run
takes place at Frontenac State Park which is located between Red Wing and Lake City on the Mississippi River. It is a beautiful park - at least what I got to see of it - filled with exotic species like oaks and walnuts and many other plants that this northerner could not accurately identify ;->

I decided to head south for this race as it was part of the Upper Midwest Trail Runners Minnesota Trail Running Series. Plus, this August when I was in the area for the Ragnar Relay, I was reminded of how beautiful it really is and thought it would be fun to explore further.

I made reservations to camp at the state park and plans to leave immediately after work on Friday. This meant that Thursday I would be frantically packing all of my gear, plus extra - just in case. In addition to camping and the race on Saturday I was planning a long run on Sunday (there is an ultra coming up soon).

Since Labor Day I have been having on again/off again issues with the medial side of my left calf. Ran 26 miles that weekend and everything was fine. Then woke up one morning with a sore leg. Figured it maybe cramped up during the night but as it didn't really bother me too much, mostly the day after a run, I would just let it heal on it's own. No pain or stiffness while backpacking, so I figured the 'rest' had taken care of the problem. Last Wednesday I ran a NMTC race and the next day it hurt! Leg felt all stiff and sore and I decided to bail on my run to work that morning and called my chiropractor for an appointment. Saw him Friday between Job A and Job B, he worked on the leg for awhile, told me to ice it, and wished me luck on the race. Strapped ice to the leg while at Job B and for part of my drive south. In between I was applying arnica gel as it was pretty sore to the touch from all the work. Overall though it was feeling better.

The drive south was pretty, with some interesting storm clouds and then some interesting storms. They cleared up before I hit the metro area and I managed to navigate my way around St. Paul and south onto 61 and was on my way to Hastings. This is when I realized I had not packed any food for breakfast! Okay... needed to stop for gas so maybe I could find something appropriate at a gas station. No luck. Next stop - grocery store. Couldn't find one on the main drag in Hastings so hoped Red Wing would be more fruitful. Was able to locate a store there - went inside, found some cereal and juice (my preferred cereal topper - hold over from the dairy-free days when milk alternatives were too expensive) and picked up more ice for my cooler (and leg) and headed to Frontenac. By then it was getting dark and I was tired and seeing road signs was getting problematic. I managed to find the turn onto Hwy 2 but just about missed the turn into the park.

Deb greeted me and asked if I REALLY wanted site 21. "No, it was just what was available for two nights" "Well, we are going to move you to a nicer site" "Great! By the way, I have a friend joining me tomorrow night" "Oh, then you really do need a different site..." In the process I moved to site 31, conveniently located near the bathrooms and water and not quite as crowded as 21. I also asked for directions to the picnic area (race start) and learned that it was a mile from the campground. Decided it could be a good warm-up in the morning - or I would drive if running late.

Setting up camp by headlamp is interesting, but after 9 days of backpacking I am pretty familiar with my gear so it went pretty quickly. I set my alarm for 6:15am figuring it would take me some time to eat, make coffee, wash up and get to the race start.

6:15 arrived and it was pretty dark outside. Got the stove set-up and water boiling for coffee by headlamp, poured out the cereal and juice and sat down to eat. And then I saw it... my car had a flat tire. Not just low, flat. Pancake flat. Raccoons with a mean streak?!

Texted Wayne (who lives in the area - kindof - and would be at the race) to see if he had an air compressor. Sorry about the wake up call Wayne! He did and I figured after the race I would ask around about repair shops and get the tire fixed. Can't drive 4+ hours home on a donut after all. My decision about whether to walk or drive to the start of the race made I settled down to getting ready. Benefit of walking - previewed the last bit of the course.

The day had dawned clear but fog moved in pretty rapidly and it was hard to assess my surroundings. I really didn't see the area the night before and couldn't really get a feel for it in all the fog. But I did feel right at home as Duluth is often foggy. Walking over gave me an opportunity to stretch my legs and see how the calf felt. Pretty good overall so I was not too worried about the race. I had figured 1:30 was a reasonable finish time based on what I knew about the course (hilly) and my current fitness level. My heart rate monitor has not been working properly so I decided to just go with what felt good and not look at my watch for the duration of the race.

It was also my first opportunity to wear my new racing duds. I joined a team - Northwoods Minnesota - recently. They are sponsored by Austin-Jarrow, a local running store. I still do not feel worthy of the honor, but there you have it.

After registering, pinning on my number and standing around visiting with running friends (and meeting new ones) it was time to shed the layers and head for the starting line. Being a middle-of-the-packer it is always hard to hear the course instructions, but, being a middle-of-the-packer I always have someone to follow; and Bonnie Riley and Don Clark had done the course markings so I was not too worried about losing my way.

And then Larry said go and we were off! The start is flat then heads down hill. I am not much of one for running in a crowd (being short often equals other peoples elbows near my face) so I tried to find a clear spot to run, eventually passing folks by running in the tall grass. I felt great and was pretty sure this was going to be a good day to race. I have never run this particular distance before, nor did I have a really clear idea of the course, so figured I would just run what felt like a reasonable pace for 10 miles. Legs felt good, lungs felt good, temperature was great and I was outdoors in the woods!

There is some sweet trail in this park and a nice downhill (never mind that running down means running back up again). By the time we reached the flatter portions along the river the fog had burned off and it was warming up. Ugh! Sunny and humid. But it was not too bad as there were portions of trail with lots of shade. Somewhere in the flatter loop I realized I was trading places with Bryan and introduced myself. We continued to run near each other for a bit until he left me behind at the second aid station. From there it was a right turn and time to start climbing.

From ski trails we transitioned onto some sweet, technical single track! I love this stuff, it is what I am used to. I was walking some steep bits by now, but running everything else and having a blast. The only problem - it is hard to admire your surroundings when you need to look at your feet. There are some neat limestone cliffs in here that I would love to explore.

It was somewhere in this section, while running up a hill that my calf knotted up. Very suddenly and very painfully. No more running up hills! The tiniest incline induced some pretty severe pain (had me moaning a couple of times). The best I could do was walk, so walking is what I did. I could run the flats, I could run the down hills, but no more up hills! The second half of the race has a lot of up. It is frustrating to feel good overall and not be able to run. But I kept reminding myself that this was not my goal race - Wild Duluth 50k was and the object was to arrive at October 17th ready to run my first ultra.

I plugged away, running when I could, walking when I had to and reached the third aid station. Now, I had figured three aid stations, evenly spaced, so this one should be pretty close to the finish. Depends on how you define close ~ 3.5 miles according to the volunteer. Okay... wonder where we go from here as it looked kind of like a picnic area?

Kept running, telling myself that I could do this for another 5k. Eventually we passed near the campground and I knew it was another mile to the finish. We were back on single-track, some of it with a wicked slope and some nice tree roots and slippery bridges to manage. I was able to run most of it as it was relatively flat, but didn't push too much as I was afraid of doing more damage. I also knew there was a pretty good hill near the finish (what would a trail race be without an up hill at the finish?). I tend to talk to myself when running, not always silently. As we approached a sharp right turn I was chanting "turn, turn" and then started saying it louder as I realized the guy in front of me missed the turn. Eventually got his attention and he corrected his course. From here it was a short incline and then a flatter stretch into the finish. 1:34:25. I was (and am) very pleased with that time. Very close to what I thought I could do, and pretty good considering the last half of the race I had to walk every little hill.

I went in search of ice right away (no luck) and sat down to massage my calf, then was back up to walk around, eat (great post-race spread) and get my camera to try and catch pictures of folks as they came in. I totally messed up the timing and didn't get any pictures. Sorry Wayne, Chris, and Kel!

In Yan Teopa is a great course and definitely worth going to again.

After much visiting with other runners Wayne gave me a ride back to my car/campsite. I jacked up the car(every driver should know how to do at least two things: change a tire and check the fluids in their car), we looked at the tire, inflated the tire, lowered the car, headed off to clean-up, came back, looked at the tire some more, noted it seemed to be holding air and decided to take my car into Lake City for lunch and a repair job. We stopped by park headquarters where the staff (who already knew about my flat, not sure how that happened) helped us locate a repair shop and even called up to make sure they were open. First stop - Don's Auto Repair in Lake City. Took him just a few minutes to find the piece of metal that was the culprit, then a couple more minutes to make the repair.

From there it was off to DQ for lunch and dessert (mint-chocolate dilly bar - mmm) and then back to the state park for the rest of the day. In between all the running around I was icing my leg or applying arnica gel and limping more than I wanted to. The plan had been to run at Murphy-Hanrehan the next day - one loop of the Surf the Murph course. I was still game, but a little unsure how things would go.

Sunday it was time to pack up and hit the road. We arrived at Murphy-Hanrehan with overcast skies and winds that were picking up. It was hard to decide whether or not to wear long sleeves as the temperature seemed to be changing rapidly. Wayne and I started out with a plan to run easy, walking all the hills and seeing how the day would go. At first I was unable to fully straighten my left leg and figured this was going to be a long day. As the run progressed, somewhere near the south loop things loosened up and started feeling better and better. By the time we headed back towards the horse trail parking lot and onto the single-track I was feeling pretty good. Good enough to think a second loop wouldn't be so bad (encouraging as I approach my first ultra).

We made it back to the main parking lot having missed a couple of the unmapped loops but having a better feel for the course (wicked hills on the north side). From there it was off to my sisters to change and partake in treats she and her kids had baked in my honor (belated birthday celebration). All sugared up, Wayne headed south and I, after a bit more visiting, headed north. It was a long, blustery, rainy drive home and I was glad to finally roll into Duluth.

So far this week I have 0 miles of running in. I scheduled another appointment with the chiropractor, had some more work done on the calf and decided another day off wouldn't be a bad idea. Hills still hurt a bit. Will be traveling the next few days (family event) so may pack the running clothes and try to fit a short jaunt in. Otherwise am planning a long run on the Wild Duluth course for this weekend.

OKC: not much really. Finished a pair of socks, almost done with a scarf and have a hat project in the wings. As fall approaches so do opportunities for charity knitting. My employer has a "Mitten Tree" in the lobby and I usually donate items to that. Then there are the trail series prize drawings (NMTC folks usually get a hat or two or three). Hmmm - I had better get moving on the knitting!

Garden update: the zucchini plants are taking over the front steps. If the hops weren't dying off I would think they were in cahoots to keep us from using the front porch! Sungolds are still producing a lot of tomatoes - though that could change any night now. We had our first meal of brussel sprouts the other night. Eggplants are abundant, as is the kale and the garlic is all divided up and ready to go back in to the ground. What I do not plant will supply us with a portion of our garlic needs for the winter. Need to weed the strawberry bed and redistribute the "babies" to fill in the gaps. Now is the time to start putting the gardens to bed. It was a successful growing season overall!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Returned from vacation and thrown back into life

It has been a hectic nine days since I returned from Isle Royale. The trip was fantastic! The weather was warm - almost too warm at times for backpacking (or running - I was thinking of all the folks I knew running the Fall Superior Trail races as I sweated my way up some climbs the first day on the island).

The plan was to spend a leisurely time on the island. My hiking partner and I had two layover days planned and managed a whopping 45 miles in those nine days. We hiked the Huginnen Cove Loop and then the Feldtmann Trail Loop. See below (and embiggen):
from: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map - Isle Royale National Park.

We arrived on the island Saturday morning after a very pleasant crossing of Lake Superior (I have issues with sea sickness so was intensely grateful for calm seas). Loaded up our packs, registered our trip with Ranger Val and headed out to Huginnen Cove. It was to be a short hiking day - a bit over 5 miles. But the point was we were on vacation. Plus, at this stage of the trip the packs weighed A LOT! There is a scale at the ranger station and mine topped out at 46 lbs. I know, I will win no awards for ultralight camping, but every trip to the island has involved very cold wet weather so I came prepared with the liner from my winter coat, wool hat, wool/silk blend mittens and liner gloves. Getting chilled means the Raynauds kicks in and I lose circulation to my hands and feet. There are no good options for rewarming, so prevention is the key.

We took the east loop to Huginnen Cove and had a delightful, though rocky, one mile hike along the shoreline of Lake Superior as we need the campground. Along the way we had snacked on thimbleberries, but the shoreline provided us with our first opportunity to snack on blueberries for the trip.

Huginnen Cove - it was raining when we arrived


This trip was to be about mushrooms (and rangers - we saw more rangers on this trip then we have ever seen before!):

I am not good at identifying mushrooms and do not bring field guides along, so you are on your own to identify these, though I can tell you the last picture is of an Amanita species - Fly agaric perhaps. Classic progression of this mushrooms growth. For perspective on the white mushrooms size I stuck my hand in there (measures six inches from wrist to fingertip).

Day 2 we hiked back to Washington Creek/Windigo along the West Huginnen Cove Trail, finding along the way a very confused plant:
Twinflower (Linnaea borealis). This is a summer bloomer, not fall. But there were a few plants blooming out there that should have been long gone (strawberry and bunchberry for example). They respond to day length and the conditions were right.

Spent the night in a shelter at Washington Creek and as an alarm clock the next morning we heard this:

The male moose are in rut! Lots of grunting, thrashing and splashing was going on. Can you see the "decorations" on his antlers?.

We were to encounter this guy later that day on a hike back out onto the Minong Trail. He was herding 3 cows (or was it two and a yearling calf?) alongside the trail. It was in area that the trail looped around, so we very cautiously watched which way he was going and headed in the opposite direction. The moose were about 20 - 30 feet away but hidden by trees so no good pictures. Our main goal at that point was to seem as non-threatening as possible to the male (they are stupid and testy at this time of year) and we cleared out of the area pretty quickly.

I really want to hike the Minong Trail and since this was the first layover day we did a 6 mile scouting trip (out on the trail 3 miles to an overlook for lunch and then back). The trail is rugged (think SHT) and it is over 12 miles from one Washington Creek/Windigo to the first/last campsite. Makes this a challenging route. Maybe in the spring when daylight is abundant?

Looking out towards Canada from the overlook

Typical signpost - only at trail intersections

During the day hike we decided to change our itinerary a bit and leave Windigo via the Greenstone Ridge Trail, hike to Island Mine (6.5 miles) first, then on to Siskiwit Bay ( 4+ miles - where we would spend two nights as previously planned) and from there tackle the two longest sections of our trip - Siskiwit to Feldtmann Lake: 10.2 miles and Feldtmann Lake to Windigo: 8.5 miles with (hopefully) lighter packs. It proved to be a good decision! The climb out of Windigo is a bit of a bear, but once up on the ridge it is pretty easy hiking. We arrived at the intersection with the Island Mine trail to find quite the gathering of hikers! Normally we hardly see a soul out on the trail. Visited for a bit and then on to the campsite. We chose our traditional site (last year good for a wolf sighting), set up camp and went to gather water. Came back and met our first back country ranger. If I had known it was to be the "year of the ranger" I would have taken pictures!

It was an uneventful evening, with some knitting by the campfire (only place we could have one during our trip - well except the community ring at Siskiwit):

The towel on my feet is not for warmth, just trying to dry it. Managed to start that sock on the ferry, knit most of it while camping, and finished it during the drive from Grand Portage to Grand Marias after the trip. Total knitting weight - under 6 ozs and worth it!

The hike to Siskiwit involved some ascents and descents over Red Oak Ridge:

We were rewarded in the hike along Siskiwit Bay with blueberries. Stopped and picked a quart (breakfast supplement) before heading into camp. Siskiwit had been "invaded" by Canada geese, who seemed to use the same trails and shelters as the hikers:

We also had another "camp pet": Snowshoe hare - it seemed to like to join us for dinner (and may soon be someone's dinner if it doesn't learn some caution).

We spent two nights at Siskiwit. The first day we had our second ranger encounter as one pulled up in a boat to check on the supply of toilet paper in the outhouses. Our first reaction when seeing the boat was "oh no - hope the ranger is not coming to find us!". We had a nice visit with him and then it was back to solitude. The second day at the site was spent just sitting on the beach and staring into space. Vacation. Emptying the mind, and replenishing the soul!

The hike to Feldtmann Lake is long and involves climbing up from lake level to Feldtmann Ridge. We needed to get an early start to finish the hike and get camp set-up and dinner done before dark. Staying in a shelter aided the process (no tent to pack up) and we were on the trail by 8:30 am (sunrise was about 6:15 or so). Along the way we hit another blueberry patch and stocked up for the next two mornings:

16oz REI mug filled with blueberries

Better picking than at some commercial growers!

We stopped at the Feldtmann fire tower for lunch, exploring the area for a bit (there is an outhouse that is not listed in any of the guides) and then headed on towards Feldtmann Lake.
The descent from the ridge is a doozy!

But the forest is beautiful, full of mature yellow and paper birch. I had hiked this same section in May before the leaves were out. What a difference! We arrived at Feldtmann Lake with plenty of time to spare and with enough energy to hike the 0.8 mile trail out to Rainbow Cove to sit on the beach, look for rocks, and watch the sun set.

This was to be our coldest night on the island, but we woke to a beautiful scene on Feldtmann Lake:

From here it was 8.5 miles in to Windigo. We stopped by the ranger station to get some water, use a flush toilet and weigh our packs (mine: 39 lbs) - oh yeah and pick up our mail! Half jokingly I had told Wayne to send me a race report. He kept refusing so I was not expecting mail. I think Ranger Val may have been as, or more, excited then I was! It had arrived that morning, on the last possible boat to have made it before we left. There was much anticipation as I explained the letter while opening the envelope to find... three small letters (well, only two at first which was a bit confusing) - D N F. No explanation. Just the three letters. I could sense the disappointment and couldn't wait to hear the story.

The last night on the island was pretty uneventful as was the ferry crossing. Seas were up a bit and I spent my time on the boat perched in the bow, facing forward and watching the horizon line in between finishing up the sock.

Arrived on the mainland refreshed from another wonderful trip to the island!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Off to the island

Leaving for Grand Marias soon. Tomorrow we board the ferry at 7:30 am CDT, arrive Windigo at 10:00am CDT and thus begins my vacation. Here is to calm seas!

Good luck all you Superior Trail racers! It is a warm one today for the 100 milers. Hoping the cool breeze I can feel in Duluth is gracing the runners up north.

Home on the 20th, anticipate a blog entry about what I saw and did (hopefully better than the spring version that I never finished) sometime there after.

May 2009 - Isle Royale

Monday, September 07, 2009

Updates on a Variety of Things

Realized that I am being a bit neglectful of the blog and that there have been a few things going on around here:

Knitting: Celtic Braid Hat - finished. Happy Feet socks - started at the conference before Ragnar, still on the first sock (done with the heel flap, gusset and on to the foot). Looks like they are sized for someone who wears a women's 7. Scarf knit from some awesome New Zealand wool purchased in the back of a gas station/bait store/yarn store almost 3/4 finished (will knit until I run out of wool).

8/28: 21 miles with Jim at Hartley
8/29 & 30: 0 miles (did go to the State Fair on Sunday where I walked a lot).
8/31: Ran on the Piedmont Section of the SHT with a friend for 30 minutes at a decent clip.
9/1: 0
9/2: Browns Point - NMTC Fall Trail Series. Mileage is a bit up in the air. One source says 6 miles, another says 8k, and three GPS's say 5.25 miles. My time - 46.31 means it couldn't be 6 miles, thinking 8k is a bit short, but not even sure 5.25 miles is right (though impressive time for me - this is a wickedly hilly course and they changed the route a bit this year, fooling me into going out too hard at one point and resulting in some cursing at another). Finished it off with a cool down run for a mile or so.
9/3:Thursdays are for running to work (again) - 2.68 miles in 22.07. Varied my route to avoid some ascents and minimize the descents after last nights race. This led to a slightly shorter route. Felt easy overall. Also ran in the evening - 3.5k with my daughter. Mix of running and walking at the Piedmont Ski Trails (she is just starting out).
9/4: 0
9/5: 25.9 miles on the SHT from the Grand Portage trailhead in Jay Cooke State Park to Bayfront Park (most of the Wild Duluth course). Started out in the fog at around 7:00 am. Dropped water and food at Cody St. Ran with a friend for most of the time though he ended up having trouble with the humidity and dehydration and dropped out at about 20 miles. I continued on but was low on water so made arrangements with Mr. Wildknits to meet me at the spur trail to our house with a fresh water bottle (ice, water and orange-pineapple juice never tasted so good). From there it is another 2 miles to the finish. Up until somewhere in the Piedmont section I had been feeling great, and even here I was feeling pretty good, but I was tired and it was getting hot.

At Bayfront I had to hop into the truck quick as we had family arriving from out of town shortly and my car was still out at Jay Cooke. Got out of the truck at the parking area and was pretty stiff - and faced with a 20 minute drive back into town. Stopped on the way in to pick up some corn and a watermelon at a road side stand. Took me a bit to carry it all up to the house (remember I have 36 steps to climb). Lesson - take a little time after a long run to stretch before getting in a car and driving.

This will be my last really long run before Wild Duluth (though as I type this I do have at least another 20 miler planned, so apparently my perspective is skewed). I leave for Grand Marais and then Isle Royale on the 11th. Will be there 9 days and do not plan on bringing running shoes (too heavy). Backpacking will have to suffice as training.

Ended up walking up to Enger Tower later in the day with family and exploring the area. Kid pace (2, 4, and 7 yr old) was about right for me ;->

9/6 and 7: 0 miles

Boating: Sunday the winds were predicted in the low teens so we headed down to the marina for a ride on the sail boat.

Passing under the Lift Bridge. The bridge was up to allow the Vista tour boat under but had not continued up for our boat. We were all wondering if we were going to clear the underside of the deck.... we did and once we were further in the canal the bridge went higher (another, taller sail boat was on it's way out). We still are not sure if the operator did not notice us or what happened with that lift.

Family time on Jada. These kids had never been on Lake Superior before. After the sail we went and hung out at the beach for a bit and the kids swam (it was the warmest I have felt it all summer and I was wishing I had a swim suit along). My brother-in-law and his family have been in Texas for the past 12 years, now in Nebraska. Close enough to visit!

Today it was back out on the Lake with some friends in their boat. No sails, instead we motored from Knife River to Duluth, under the bridge and down the harbor to the Superior Entry and then back out onto the Lake and up to Knife River. Sights along the way:

The sunset was spectacular, as was the moonrise (which I was unable to capture).

A fishing buoy that belongs to the guy Mr. Wildknits fishes with. These are set outside the nets used for herring, marking one end. This one had gone "missing". We called Steve (the fisherman), let him know we had located it and would bring it in to the marina.

Pulling in the buoy. We were in about 380 - 400 ft of water around 2 miles off shore. The buoy is 7-8 feet tall and there is a lot of chain, then rope and a concrete block to pull up.

Safely on board! Pictured is the float. What you can't see well is the hand-carved wooden pole, the flags at the top and the 400 feet of rope and the concrete block.

After the "rescue mission" we finished our trip into Knife River, unloaded the float onto the dock for Steve to pick up in the morning and headed home.

Earlier today I finally got around to digging up my garlic (and turning the bed over). This was my harvest. Digging garlic is a little like... well, not sure of the proper analogy. Reminds me of digging potatoes. You never know what you will find when you lift the garden fork loaded with dirt. Kind of like a treasure hunt I guess. I left this in a bit too long, but am happy with the size of the cloves. The largest will be saved for planting this fall (the bigger the clove the larger the head of garlic) and the rest will be eaten. I would like to plant enough to supply our garlic needs for the year - this wouldn't do it by a long shot.

My brother-in-law is also a brewer and had an opinion on what type of hops we are growing - he thinks Cascade. He was also advising us on harvesting - they are not quite ready yet. Need to do a bit more research on how to dry and store them. We have a huge crop (see previous posts for pics).

Made some baba ghanouj with eggplant harvested from our gardens. The Sungold tomatoes are ripening but we are wondering if we will get any other ripe tomatoes - always iffy up here. The broccoli has been slow to produce any side florets after the initial harvest, the brussel sprouts are coming along and the kale is in bumper crop mode. Favorite new recipe is frying up a bit of garlic in olive oil, then adding sliced kale, sauteing and serving as a side dish or over rice or pasta (maybe with some sungolds thrown in). Our cucumbers are also getting into the swing of things and we have been enjoying a baked cucumber recipe (involves mint and feta cheese and is sooo good).

I managed to spend a little time weeding the strawberry bed today. The plants that survived are looking great! Need to get it cleaned up and ready to add some compost and move the "babies" to fill in the spots where plants died this spring. Next year I will be harvesting strawberries - and probably cursing the chipmunks for doing the same thing ;->

Oh yeah, I sent in two race applications this week: In Yan Teopa 10 mile and Surph the Murph 50k(yes this means two ultras in two weeks...).