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.