Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snowmobile trails are a winter runners friend...

especially when we have received a foot of snow in the past week and the single-track trails aren't packed down yet.

I live about a mile from the eastern terminus of the Duluth Cross City West Trail and run on it regularly. Today as I contemplated where, and when, to run Mr. Wildknits offered to drop me off at a trailhead (he knows how much I like point to point courses). With a little checking on line I determined that starting at Magney-Snively would result in about a 10 mile run, so we had a destination!

It has been pretty warm lately and the snow is fairly soft so there was a possibility that this run would be more of a slog. Fortunately if it got too bad there were plenty of road crossings that would allow me to bail and take the paved route home.

We arrived at Magney-Snively and it turned out that the snowmobile and cross-country ski trails shared the access route for a short bit. Up the hill I headed and off towards home. The woods surrounding the trail are lovely, and full of small hills. This trail took me into an area of the park I have never been in before and I had a nice time looking around as I ran.
Looking back down one of the hills.

At Skyline Blvd, looking west/back.

Spirit Mountain ski area is off to one side and I would cross an
overflow parking lot just to the left on my way down the hill.

It was as I ran along the trail in the overflow lot (set on top of the plowed up snow) that my left leg broke through and I went down - up past my knee! Thankfully the snow is pretty soft and no real harm was done.

From here it was all down hill, though not before one of the switchbacks brought me within spitting distance of the ski hills' terrain park. Soon I was passing the infamous 131 steps on the Superior Hiking Trail. Can you see them in the following picture?

SHT's 131 steps

Running downhill on a cushion of snow is FUN! The snow was flying off my shoes and I am sure I had a silly grin on my face. Despite my best efforts to warn some dog walkers I think I gave them a bit of a scare as I passed by just before reaching the base of the hill. From here the trail is flat for quite awhile(along an abandoned rail road), before another descent towards the Zoo, and then back onto another abandoned railroad grade.
A long straight stretch of trail. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you can see the
freeway overpass and my ultimate goal at the top of the hill off in the distance.
(Enger Tower is barely visible and I live just this side of it. Seems a long way off, doesn't it?)

The run started around 1100 feet or so and this railroad grade was near lake level - about 625 feet. By the time I finished the run I would have climbed back towards 1200 feet and then descended again to about 900 or so. Yup - hill training; with the added bonus of a soft surface for an extra bit of resistance.
Passing under the freeway

Climbing back up the hill. This railroad trestle is tagged with the neighboring streets name.
The SHT also passes under this trestle just a few hundred feet to the east (right).

Looking back down the trail from the road crossing at Skyline Blvd.
Somewhere near 500 feet of climbing in the past 1/2 - 3/4 miles.

Sign post at the road crossing

Once I arrived at the top of the hill, it was off to the east... and more hills!

I encountered a few snowmobilers while out and they were all very gracious about sharing their trail. Once reaching the trails terminus it was onto the roads (and down the hill) for a little over a mile to reach my neighborhood. The route map can be viewed here.

OKC (Obligatory Knitting Content)

I finished my only Christmas knitting project - a pair of socks - just in time to gift them Christmas morning. That left me free to finish up a baby sweater that has been languishing this past month. And now, I have nothing on my needles (What's that you say? What about those lace curtains?!).

I did download a pattern for some toe-up toe socks. I am thinking about giving them a try as I know a few folks that run in Vibrams and, if the pattern is reasonable, this seems like a good gift idea. Now to get a proper foot tracing....

I also have 5 skeins of a lovely alpaca waiting for the perfect pattern as well as some sock yarn that is insisting it would make a nice shawl if I would only give it a chance.

Link to pictures from todays (12/31) run on some of the same trails as detailed above. It was a bit slicker and wetter than last week. Yesterday it was raining - hard. Today temperatures were in the high teens to low 20's.

The shawl was cast on the other day and is well on its way towards completion.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The hunt for a christmas tree...

Today I headed out to Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center to harvest a balsam for the Wildknits household. Having slept in and skipped my morning run I was ready for a bit of a hike so loaded up the red pack with a Sven Saw, my pruning shears, water, a snack and my camera. My plan was to find a tree that would not only fit in our small house (~800 sq ft) but also inside my car ('07 Honda Fit).

The 18 mile drive out to Boulder from town was beautiful! Trees were still coated with a thick layer of snow. I arrived to find cars parked all up and down the access road and had a bit of a hike in to the staging area.

Christmas Tree Cut Staging Area

The Boulder ELC staff and volunteers had hot chocolate, cookies and chili available in addition to several fires and were very helpful in directing me down a quieter section of trail. I love skiing out here, and spent years skijoring here with my dog Porter and various friends and family.

Pam and Porter - Winter 2006(?) heading back to the warming shack

Today I left the skis at home as there was only about 5 inches of snow and no tracks were set. Besides, my plan was to head off trail and into the woods to find the perfect tree and skis would be a hindrance in the sometimes thick undergrowth and plentiful downed trees.

I walked down the ski trail for awhile, enjoying the scenery and quiet. Eventually I came to an ungroomed trail and used that to access another section of the trail system. From there I headed off into the woods in search of "my" tree.

After ducking under and climbing over a few trees I came into this clearing

and began to look around for a nice little balsam to thin. Many of the smaller trees were bent over from the weight of the snow and I continued to wander around, checking out the various tracks under the trees as I walked. Saw lots of evidence of snowshoe hare, deer and possibly a canid or two.

I wonder who was hanging out under this log?

The frost on this branch is a pretty good clue something has hunkered down in this deadfall lately.

Close by I found the perfect tree! I had given up on the smaller trees and started checking out the taller ones. I was most interested in a nice shaped top and a decent sized trunk (the tree stand won't adjust for the itty bitty trunks of a truly 5 foot tall tree).
The tree was part of a thick stand of balsams all over 10 feet tall. I liked it's shape and that the top wasn't all tall and spindly.

After assembling the Sven Saw I set about clearing the lower branches with my pruning shears and made the first cut. Once the tree was down (dropping a lot of snow on me as it fell) it was time to trim some more low branches and make the final cut on the trunk. I wanted the tree to be around 5 - 5.5' tall as that is a nice height for our house (and would easily fit in my car for the trip home).

"My" tree after final trimming of branches and before final cut on the trunk

Once out of the woods, I headed back to the staging area where I paid for the tree and then walked back to the car.
I needed to reconfigure the seats a bit - the back seats fold flat and the front passenger seat also reclines fully giving me 7 feet of cargo space - to fit the tree inside the car.

Once loaded up it was time to head for home. Found Mr. Wildknits working on some sourdough when I arrived.

Mmmm - fresh baked bread!

Friday, November 26, 2010


Rudy's socks that is. Sorry about the quality of this photo - I am blaming it on the incredible meal that proceeded finishing these socks.

Up next:
  • finishing touches on Baby Surprise Sweater 1 (sew up shoulders, sew on buttons)
  • continued work on BSS 2 (had to rip out about 10 rows this morning when I realized I failed to read the directions and missed a critical step)
  • start some socks for a christmas gift (What? You think I have left this a bit late? Maybe... though these are not knee high and will be a nice, soothing K2, P2 rib for the most part. Nice challenge to attempt to finish these in less than 30 days)
  • Pederson Benefit Run
I have started looking at the race calendar for next year (and pushing at least one race director to set a date as I have a major family event pending next summer - and they are trying to plan around my race schedule). In looking at the various options I have determined I am a bit of a homebody and don't really want to travel more than 3-4 hours. Lucky for me there are lots of ultras to choose from within a few hours of Duluth.

Rumor has it the ski trails are groomed! And my skis were just returned to me with a fresh coat of wax (Thanks Ron!). Hoping the temps stay on the cool side and the snow sticks around. I am looking forward to including some cross-country skiing into the mix.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

EZ's Baby Surprise Sweater

Sorry, running friends very little running content today.

For my knitting friends:

In addition to Rudy's Socks, which has turned into a rather long project, I have also been working on a baby sweater. I have two friends expecting this fall/winter and I have a firm belief that all babies should be swathed in wool so off I went to my Local Yarn Shop (LYS) to find the proper yarn for one of my favorite patterns: Elizabeth Zimmerman's (EZ) Baby Surprise Sweater.

It is a relatively easy to knit sweater with a lot of soothing garter stitch and the need to only really pay attention at a few points, perfect for working on while reading, watching a movie, visiting, etc. Initially I had thought I would knit it up in some sock yarn, but in light of my long relationship with some size 0 double points and fingering weight yarn (aka knee high socks at a gauge of 9 sts/inch) I opted for worsted weight and some size 4's.

I was steered towards a lovely swedish yarn - Jarbo Garn that is 70% wool/30% nylon and machine washable (nice features for little ones). The yarn is quite soft and a delight to knit with. Two skeins will make a sweater that should fit a 6+ month old. I have found this sweater "grows", and can be worn for quite some time.

Despite having knit many of these sweaters I still think of it as rather magical. You knit back and forth, decreasing, then increasing and you end up with this funny shaped piece:

which, with a couple of folds

turns into a sweater!

I just need to sew up the shoulder seams and find some buttons and the sweater will be finished.
Button shopping is rather tough where I live, but I have high hopes that the LYS will have something appropriate.

In the meantime I have cast on for a second sweater and continue to work on the third sock of a pair. I have started the calf shaping which means that soon I will be working on fewer stitches and the knitting should start to fly by!

On the running front:

Recovery from Wild Duluth goes well. I made it 6 days before I had to head out for a run. The weather was fantastic and my legs were getting "itchy". I only made it 30 minutes as my right quad was still tight and let me know it had had enough. Since then I have run a few races (finished up the NMTC Fall Series) and even got out for a long run this past Saturday, tacking on approximately 18 miles to my 5K race that morning.


This past weekend's weather was so lovely and I spent part of Sunday prepping a new bed for garlic. My daughter S came over to help

prepping garlic cloves for planting

She also spent a good amount of time helping to clear out the other beds and later that evening (and the next day) helped process the two deer that were given to us (a relative who likes to hunt but does not like venison).

All that is left to do before the winter snows fly is to get straw onto the garlic and strawberry beds, finish up the sauna door project (it was torn out of the concrete wall by winds this past spring) and get the wood pile in order. I am looking forward to good snow, time to ski and sauna season!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wild Duluth 100K

I swore I would NEVER do this race. I know the course, it is tough! Why would I want to do it twice? Signed up for the 50K and figured that would be a good way to end my first year of running ultras.

And then I paced a friend at Sawtooth 100.... and all of a sudden 100 kilometers on the Superior Hiking Trail seemed so reasonable.

Yes - I did step on the crazy train! Soon I sent an email to Andy and Kim Holak asking them to switch my registration to the 100K race. Now I had to figure out crew and a pacer. Mr. Wildknits stepped in and was, as always, awesome crew! He not only got up at 5:00 am to drop me at the race start, but was willing to be out there all day if I asked (which I essentially did). My friend Sara agreed to pace me in from the Munger Trail/Becks Rd aid station (aka Ely's Peak) so, other than figuring out drop bags I was set.

I had not been running all that much since Voyageur 50 mile. The combination of the Afton 50K and Voyageur in July left me a little tired and feeling less than inspired to run. I didn't run real long again until I paced at Sawtooth. That left me with only a few weeks to get in some higher mileage runs before it was time to taper.

The night before the race a bunch of us gathered at Leslie's for pizza, beer and ice cream. It was a great opportunity to pick up some last minute advice from the veterans in the group and talk out strategy for the newbies to ultra running. I then headed home early to finish prepping my drop bags before going to bed for the 3:30 am wake up (I am not a morning person, it takes me a LONG time to get moving in the morning and the race has a 6:00 am start).

Woke up, ate some yogurt and Grapenuts, drank my daily two cups (mugs) of coffee, visited the bathroom (a lot), packed the car with everything Mr. Wildknits would need for the day, and headed down the hill to Bayfront Park and the race start.

After checking in and a race course briefing we headed out the door to the starting line. Andy led the way out of the park and across Railroad Street to the pedestrian overpass and then stood in Michigan St/Superior St. while the runners streamed up onto the trail. There is a lot of climbing in the first 2 miles of the race as we ascend to Enger Park and then out west. I quickly warmed up and had to stop to remove a layer.

Eventually runners settled into their paces and I found myself running with Zach Pierce and John Taylor. As we ran through Enger Park I mentioned how well I know this trail (it is my back yard after all) and then promptly fell. This was to be the first of many falls or almost falls that day. I am usually not such a klutz and the repeated tripping added up over the day leading to a very sore right quad by 20 miles into the race (and some tenderized toes and bruised knees and shins).

As we passed by the spur trail to my house I ditched my extra jacket (which was never to be seen again) and then it was on to the first aid station. Breezed through there and on to the next section of trail. After dipping under a very large willow - twice - we were greeted by a section of trail lit by Halloween luminaries. One of my co-workers, Louise, also lives along the trail and was out to cheer us on. Thanks Louise!!

We climbed to the Piedmont knobs just in time to catch the sunrise over Lake Superior - well worth a stop to admire the view and snap a few pictures.

courtesy of John Taylor

I run these trails a lot and it was fun to share them with others. Soon it was time for another big climb up from Haines Rd and then we were rolling along the ridgeline above Skyline Parkway on our way to the Highland and Getchell aid station (mile 8.8). From there you enter the "Big W". The section of trail from H&G to Magney-Snively resembles the letter "W" - literally. It also includes the infamous "131 steps" (138 in the SHT guide to the trail) and an incredibly beautiful section of old growth maples. On this day all of the leaves were down, creating an ankle deep blanket on the trail that was a blast to shuffle through.

I had created a pace chart with three different goal times, based on 15 min, 16 min and 17 min/mile pace. This was mostly a guide for my crew and to remind me to take it easy at the start (I am terrible at pacing myself). My hope was to be able to run somewhere in the 14 - 16 hour range if all went well; though once I looked at last years finishing times I began to wonder if I hadn't set my goals a little high.

Running with Zach gave me plenty of opportunity to pick up some good advice about running a longer race. And I really took to heart his advice (after a few falls) to just walk the really technical stuff.

All of the aid stations were crewed by great folks and it could be hard at times to stop visiting and head out onto the next section. I even was treated to nut-free cookies baked by Nancy Griffith to accommodate my tree nut and peanut intolerance. Thanks Nancy!!

I encountered the first 50Kers in the section of trail between the Magney-Snively and Munger Trailheads. From there on out I would have lots of opportunity to cheer on friends as they passed by.

I had an interesting time descending Ely's Peak. Not only is it steep, but some of the "steps" are waist-high on me. By then my right quad was less than happy and I couldn't fully rely on that leg.
Coming into the Munger Trailhead aid station - Mile 20

At the Munger aid station I was greeted by Val and Eric. Val as always is a bundle of positive energy and not only made sure I got enough to eat but reminded me to maintain good posture ("tall, tall, tall"). Soon enough I was back out on the trail and headed for Grand Portage.

On a side note: Val is convinced that I have a 100 miler in my future. Apparently Mr. Wildknits spent enough time at that aid station to think that it may be true as well. Not sure what those folks are thinking!

The next section is one of my favorites. Beautiful forests, rolling hills with no huge climbs - just a joy to run. But on October 16th I found myself struggling. My right quad was sore, I had been running alone for 7+ miles and I was once again thinking about dropping out, if not at that next aid station then at the turn around point. Maybe 50K was a more reasonable distance?

Running into Grand Portage - outbound - Mile 25.7

I arrived at Grand Portage to be greeted by Jen Pierce, John and Chris Scotch. After a bit of whining, eating, and discussion about whether or not to keep going, I decided to head back out onto the trail. After all the next mile was flat(ish). I did take the opportunity to use my rescue inhaler at this point as my chest had been feeling pretty tight. I usually don't need it other than prior to a race but was very glad I had Mr. Wildknits carry it along.

I was surprised to have not seen any 100ker's on their way back yet and kept expecting them at any moment. I think I was on my way up the Grand Portage trail (and boy is that a bugger of a climb!) before I encountered the first runner on their return trip.

With the leaves down the views in Jay Cooke from the ridges are stunning! I was soaking in the beautiful light and enjoying the views while I walked and ran towards Oldenburg Point and the turn around.

And what a greeting when I arrived! Not only were the ham radio operators enthusiastic but so was the aid station crew. I was offered a variety of food and beverages but at that point was most interested in the outhouse (an opportunity to go to the bathroom without having to squat or worry about someone coming along at the wrong moment) and then putting my feet up and stretching out my legs a bit. Any talk of dropping at that point was quickly squashed by Matt Long and others at the aid station, including Mr. Wildknits, and I was off again on my way back.

It was at this point that I met up with Shelly who had been carrying cookies for me for the past 15 miles (sent along by Nancy as they were on a little car ride when I came through Magney the first time). What a treat!

On the way back to the Grand Portage aid station I started to feel better and put aside thoughts of dropping. A similar thing happened at Voyageur. The lesson I take away is to ignore what my brain is telling me in the first 20 - 30 miles ;->

Back at Grand Portage - Mile 36.3

Sooner than I expected I was back at Grand Portage. There was another rousing greeting by the ham radio folks and an opportunity to visit with some spectators. It was in this section that I had given myself permission to walk - not only the hills, but also at other points if that was what felt right at the time. That said, Jen told me I had to run into this aid station for photographic purposes (what is it with those Pierces' and their insistence on running into aid stations?!).

I was looking forward to arriving at the Munger aid station. Not only would I see Mr. Wildknits and Val again, but my pacer, Sara, was meeting me and I would have company for the rest of the run. Usually I do not mind running alone, but I was ready for a little distraction from my own thoughts at this point and knew that Sara would not let me get too whiny.

Another reason for looking forward to the Mile 42 aid station:

M. Johnson, DDS and bagpiper

Last year Mike piped me into the finish. This year, rather than asking him to sit around for an unknown amount of time late in the evening, he chose to meet me out at Magney. What a way to be greeted and then sent on my way!

As hard as it was to descend Ely's Peak, climbing up - especially that first step off of the Munger Trail - was even harder. Much of the trail here is comprised of bare rock or a jumble of sharp rocks. In other words, not very runnable. This was definitely the point where I started to really slow down. After the first crossing of Skyline Blvd. the trail gets more runnable and I felt like I kept up a decent pace.

Soon enough we were back at Magney-Snively (mile 46.3) and it was time to eat some more cookies, enjoy some hot soup and grab the headlamp and flashlight I had left with Mr. Wildknits. I also (for the 2nd time that day) admired the VW bus sitting in the lot. Apparently I had asked about it the first time through, but forgot whose it was in the intervening miles. It wasn't until a few days later that it finally clicked that the bus belonged to Dale Humphrey who was working that aid station (When Mr. Wildknits and I first met and married we owned a series of VW's - two buses and a bug. We only moved on to more "modern" transportation, ie: with heat, when our 2nd child was on the way. They hold a special place in my heart).

It is a short stretch on some truly nasty (very technical) trail to the next aid station. Sara and I joked at one point about taking the Alpine Coaster to the bottom of the hill. By now it was starting to get dark and the temperature was dropping, especially in the valleys. All the more incentive to keep moving.

My stomach was also getting a bit touchy at this point, so making choices about food was a bit harder. Soup was sitting well and I kept making an effort to eat things that were salty to help replenish the salt I was losing in my sweat (could feel it on my face). I also reminded myself to keep eating the gels I had along (egel - two packages in a 5 oz flask diluted with water, which makes it easier for me to take in. This product also contains electrolytes and seems to work well for me).

Of course now we were once again traversing the "Big W". I knew it would take some time to get through this section, especially as we would be doing it in the dark. When we reached the 131 steps I remarked to Sara that I expected I would need to rest midway up - but surprised myself by reaching the top of the stairs with no more difficulty than I do on a training run. I did take time at the top to catch my breath and admire the moonrise before we were shuffling off through the leaves on our way to the next aid station.

Running from west to east on the trail is much more familiar to me, and somehow running in the dark with a friend to talk to made the time pass pretty quickly. Soon enough we were at Cody Street, then West Gate Blvd and then on our way up to Highland & Getchell. The hardest thing about reaching this aid station is climbing over the guardrail. It is a big step and I am sure it is amusing for spectators to watch weary runners negotiate this obstacle (especially those of us who are vertically challenged).

Shane - who was staffing this aid station - took my request for grilled cheese to heart and had a hot sandwich waiting for me. He used the ham radio operators and the drop bag labeled with my race number to track my progress (I hear I was a bit later than expected into the aid station). He also had some home-made potato soup on hand (yippee for hot food when the temps dip into the 40's!).

It was here that I was greeted by quite the group of well-wishers. Not only Mr. Wildknits but also Wayne N., Karen G., Vicky B. and my friend Roger R. (who ran his first sub-20 min 5k that morning) were out to cheer me on.

At this point, after having ascended to the top of the ridge, you are rewarded with spectacular views over the bay, West Duluth, the harbor and Lake Superior. The lights are incredible and I am reminded how lucky I am to live in this city and what a gift this trail is to the community!

As we reached the section of cliffs that parallel Haines Rd we could see a car parked near the trail crossing. Interesting.... Once we reached the road crossing it became clear that Bruce, Sara's partner, was waiting there for us. I was really touched by his being out there and cheering us on.

From here I am in my neighborhood and really do know every inch of the trail. This is good and bad. I knew where I could try to push a bit and where I just had to keep up a steady walking pace. All of this of course complicated by it being quite dark. The moon was up, but was not bright enough to offer much help.

There is a steep descent off of the Piedmont knobs which can be a hoot and a holler in the daylight when there is clear trail. It was a bit of a slog this night as I did not want to fall (had enough of that early in the day). Soon enough we were across Skyline and descending some more towards the reservoir, 10th St (a two+ block section of road - where we saw Bruce again) and then on towards Lincoln Park and the last aid station. As we crossed the foot bridge over Miller Creek I started to see glowing colors in the trees along the trail. It took me a bit to figure out that someone had hung glow light bracelets on the route up to 24th Ave. W. Very cool!!

The road crossing was eased by some volunteers that stopped traffic to let us across. This is a tricky spot as there is a bit of a blind corner at the top of the hill and it can be hard for cars to see pedestrians.

Leslie S. was at this aid station, along with Rudy and others to cheer me on. She had won the 50K race that day and we had a moment to do a bit of catching up on how her race went. I was also warned at this point that Shelly was close by and I had better get a move on if I wanted to beat her to the finish. Off Sara and I went, cup of soup in hand to "run" the last 3.1 miles to the finish.

The last section is rolling for about a mile or so, then climbs to Enger Park and from there it is a two mile descent to Bayfront Park. About a mile from the finish Shelly caught up to, and passed, me. She was moving along quite well and was just cruising down the steps. She has had quite the year, topped off with finishing the Sawtooth 100 just a month ago and knocking over an hour off her Wild Duluth time from last year.

The finish is on pavement, though still on the Superior Hiking Trail. It was at this point that I checked my watch for the first time in hours (I had taken it off and strapped it to my Nathan pack early on due to a bit of hand swelling) and realized how late it was! As I came up to the race finish I saw 17 hours and 14 minutes on the clock. But more importantly, I had finished my first 100k and felt like I ran well.

I was touched by how many folks stayed up to watch me finish (and possibly bet on who would cross the finish line first, Shelly or I). I also got the opportunity to catch up on how others' races had gone.

Soon though I was shivering (despite putting on dry layers) and Mr. Wildknits was loading me into the car for the trip home where I was greeted by the 36 steps that lead to our front door and the 16 steps that lead to our upstairs (and bathroom and bedroom). Negotiating them wasn't too bad and I managed to climb into the shower and get cleaned up without tipping over.

The next day my legs were sore and getting down those stairs involved holding onto the handrail, the wall and employing that special hop-step that many a long distance runner is familiar with. By Monday I could navigate the stairs without holding on and was able to hop on and off the sailboat with only minor difficulty (we took the mast down and had her lifted out of the water). Tuesday and Wednesday I was out walking a local ski trail with no major issues. I am allowing myself a few days off of running as my right quad has been protesting a bit - especially things like getting up from a squat or fending a boat off a dock. It was a little bit hard not running to work yesterday (after all Thursdays are for running to work) but it seems like a proper recovery is in order.

One year ago I ran my first ultra - Wild Duluth 50K. I followed that up two weeks later with Surf the Murph 50K. Then this past May I ran the Superior Trail 50K, in July it was Afton 50K, then Minnesota Voyaguer 50M (my first at that distance), and now my first 100K. What a year!

I have been blessed with some incredible trail running friends and mentors, wonderful team mates (Northwoods Minnesota-Wisconsin and Team Mega Tough) and an awesome crew (aka Mr. Wildknits) that have made this year of running ultras possible.

A quick note about equipment/clothing:

Duluth in October can be cold! We were blessed with dry, relatively warm weather but it was in the 30's at race start, warmed to upper 50's/low 60's during the day and then dropped again. I am fortunate to have Icebreaker as a sponsor via Team Mega Tough and I used their crew top, long-sleeved shirt and socks during this race. I was warm and comfortable throughout and had no blisters (a first)! As a knitter I know the value of wool; and merino is one of the best fibers out there. I have been running in this stuff since last fall/winter and it is holding up quite well.

Team Mega Tough is also sponsored by Nathan. I have been using the Intensity Race Vest for all of my ultras this calendar year. Prior to Wild Duluth I received a new vest (due to a leaking bite valve) which has had some upgrades from their previous model. The bite valve worked flawlessly and the pockets seem to be a bit bigger, especially the zippered one on the left, which made it easier to store a 5 oz gel flask (also a Nathan product) as well as other needed items.

I have been working my way down from motion control shoes to something with a bit less stability. Right now I am running in Montrail Sabino Trails and really liking them. My local running store Austin-Jarrow (also sponsor of Northwoods Minnesota-Wisconsin) and their wonderful staff got me hooked onto these shoes. I have a very wide forefoot and bunions (hallux valgus) which makes fitting shoes a challenge and means mail ordering shoes is out of the question. I have learned the hard way that fit can change in the same model of shoe from year to year. Jarrow and his staff have been troopers in finding shoes that fit my feet.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sock Deconstruction

I redesigned and finished knitting sock one of "Rudy's Sock - Take 2" yesterday and today it was time to harvest the yarn from the first version to use for the second sock of RST2. Why yes, this means I will have knit three knee high socks in order to come out with a pair. I try not too think to hard about that, after all designing and knitting is something I love to do.

Rudy's Sock - Take 2 on the top with the first version underneath - notice the difference in the calf shaping?

Side by side view...
in addition to redesigning the leg to fit his calves and not mine,
I made a few other pattern modifications. Can you pick them out?

Calf shaping - back view. Trust me, they look pretty good on the leg.

Undoing kitchner stitch is... well... not fun.

Toe is open and the ripping out has begun. I ended up using my umbrella
swift for the grey yarn (at first) and hand winding the gold yarn.

The yarn is quite wavy from being knit up.

Early on in the deconstruction process.

I have reached the heel. This was the only spot where there is a break in either
of the yarns. The heel was added after finishing the leg and foot (Peasant Heel).

Almost there!

One socks worth of gold yarn. The umbrella swift made it easier to wind off the yarn from the sock and then to make it into a center pull ball (took a few trips through the ball winder and swift to ensure it wasn't wound too tight - never good for yarn, or humans).

One socks worth of yarn, ready to be knit up again.

I am not going to bother washing and weighting the yarn to get rid of the "kink" left over from it's recent incarnation as a sock. I don't think it will matter too much as I am re-knitting it right away.

Pattern Details:
  • Wildknits original with inspiration from knee high socks designed by Nancy Bush and Elizabeth Zimmerman.
  • Stripe pattern is based on the numerical value of e.
  • Yarn is Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift, Colours: 425 (mustard) and 103 (sholmit)
  • Gauge is 8.875 sts/inch
  • 2x2 ribbing for 4 inches, followed by about 14.5" of knitting for the leg and then the appropriate amount of knitting for a Rudy sized foot.
  • Peasant Heel (this link takes you to an amusing description of an Afterthought Heel - same concept really, though mine was not an afterthought, but instead a way to maintain stripe integrity).
  • My usual toe decrease, which looks exactly like the heel. So really, these socks have two toes, or is that two heels??
I may get around to writing up the pattern in a format that is usable by others, depending on demand and how quickly I get distracted by other knitting projects (there are two babies on the way and a shawls' worth of lovely variegated merino awaiting their turn in the knitting line-up).

Tonight I head up the north shore to cheer on runners in the Superior Sawtooth 100 and then pace a friend for a bit during the night and early morning. The socks will come along.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Vacation plans...

...have changed.

First my backpacking partner canceled due to illness (heading to a wilderness island in the middle of Lake Superior with a bad virus is not a good idea). So, after determining that no other friend could join me with less than 48 hours notice I switched to Plan B: Solo trip.

The big question when backpacking solo is "Can I fit the gear I need into my pack?". Tent, water pump, stove - those all still need to go and don't change size based on whether one or two people are in the party. I could cut back on food, cook kit, & fuel. Clothing is another issue. The forecast is for wet and cool, which means warm stuff for the non-hiking hours, which tend to be bulky (relatively speaking). I had things laid out and was fitting them into the pack with the plan to finalize things this morning, run some last minute errands and head north by early to mid afternoon with the intent of spending the night in Grand Marais and then catching the ferry early Wednesday morning.

Early this morning I called the ferry line (Grand Portage-Isle Royale Transportation Line Inc) to cancel one of the reservations only to learn that the Voyageur II was still out at Rock Harbor and was not able to leave the dock due to high seas. Their best guess was that the ferry would get back to Grand Portage Wednesday night and then maybe head out at 5:00 am Thursday morning for a round trip run.

As I listened to Don (one of the owners) I thought about my planned itinerary and realized that I would be pushing it to make the trip I had planned - assuming the boat went out Thursday morning. I ended up canceling the trip. There were too many questions and in all reality they weren't even sure they could get out Thursday - all depended on what the Lake had in store.

That leaves me with a week of vacation and the majority of my friends off at races. So... what to do with my time?

Here are the list of options generated so far:
  • Go into work. Ummm... NO! I need a break in order to go back and be a good nurse, co-worker, wife and human being.
  • Help Mr. Wildknits with some work projects. (yesterday I was "opening an airplane" ie: taking out screws and sliding inspection panels open). Hmmm... seems like work to me.
  • Finish the socks I have been working on for months (and at the same time get caught up on my reading).
  • Ride the motorcycle (assuming it stops raining and the gale force winds die down).
My bike and I at Oldenburg Point in Jay Cooke State Park.
(helmet is in my hand - just behind the gas tank in case you are wondering)

  • The Superior Fall Races are this weekend and as I said above I know lots of people running in the various events so multiple opportunities abound there to join one of the races, crew, volunteer or just go from aid station to aid station and cheer.
  • Stay home and do nothing unless I really feel motivated, including running.
So - if faced with a week of unstructured time what would you do!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Where did I go???

August seems to have flown by and here we are in September. In just a few days it will be time to head north for my fall trip to Isle Royale. Of course this means I will miss the Fall Superior Races and won't know how all of my friends did until I return from the island. (While it may seem odd that I would leave town over that particular weekend, I am only half joking when I say it is in self-preservation. I believe there are those who would try to talk me into running one of those races, and not the shorter ones! Maybe some day, but I am not ready yet - and may never be).

Running has been... well... mixed. I had a few good runs after Voyageur, then some truly crappy ones, and then... well I decided I was not recovering as well as I had hoped and nixed the idea of heading to Marquette, MI for that 50 miler. This freed me up to answer the request for a blood donation and off I went to Memorial Blood Centers. Apparently one benefit of donating rarely (and running ultras?!?) is a hemoglobin value that was the highest I can ever remember it being.

Two days later I had a really good "long run", followed by a decent week of running. Then it was back to crappy runs. What the heck!?!

I have been mixing in some time on my mountain bike on the local trails, but the frequent rains have put a stop to that (trails were too muddy). Although, being an optimist, the bike is still in my car, hoping to be taken out for a ride.

With running not going so well and no real desire to spend hours on the trail I have been freed up to play around on my BMW (1984 R65). On decent weather days I have been using it to commute to work and to make small trips around the area. Last weekend Mr. Wildknits and I hopped on the motorcycles (he also has a BMW - 1975 R75/6) and headed north to Embarrass to visit friends, check out the fair and the Finnish homestead, and run the Flying Finn 10K.

I had thought, based on past runs, that I might be capable of a 48 minute 10K. Sunday morning dawned warm - 70+ degrees at 7:00 am - and windy. Very windy!! After arriving at the race start and registering I headed out on the race course for a short warm-up jog. As I turned back to head up the hill to the start/finish the heat really hit! Without the headwind it was toasty out there.

Back at the start I spied a young girl doing her warmup. I commented to my friend "she is going to kick my ass!" And she did, as well as every other woman in the race. This girl was amazing! From what I hear she looked good the whole time (this was mostly a loop course with only two, short, out and back sections). It was fun to watch her skip back with her prize money at the awards ceremony. Oh yeah - this was her second year winning the women's race. It turns out she is 12 years old. I think in a few years one of the Range schools will be dominating the high school running circuit with her help.

I did not hit my goal pace, finishing in 51.25. The heat, wind, and overall fatigue (or is it lack of desire to push hard?) got in the way. I remember coming to a hill and having to tell myself that I didn't get to walk - this was not an ultra! I am not overly disappointed though as I finished 4th woman overall, first in my age group (40 - 49) and set a new road PR for that distance.

After lunch with our friends we loaded up the bikes for the ride home. We decided to take a route via Hoyt Lakes and onto Forest Rd 11 (aka Co Rds 15/16) over to Co. Rd 2 and into Two Harbors. What a lovely ride!! I was reminded what a beautiful part of the state I live in. We encountered very few vehicles, no mega-fauna (deer/moose/bear) and a handful of grouse waiting to cross the road.

All of that riding had me feeling much more comfortable on the bike and ready to take my motorcycle skills test this morning. The forecast was not auspicious and I was on the telephone early to see if it would be canceled ( they are not offered if the roads are wet). Per the DMV staff the decision would depend on the road conditions at the actual time I was scheduled to take the test. The rain held off, the skies even cleared for a bit, so I left and took the leisurely route to the testing location. I was a bit shocked to see how small the course was, and that there were cars parked very near by. After some moments to regroup and calm down (I get a bit anxious before tests which I blame on the torture device known as the NCLEX-RN and its computerized adaptive testing) I proceeded to get on the bike and pass the test. I now have my motorcycle endorsement! Perfect timing as my license is about to expire.

I have managed to get some knitting done, though progress has been slow on the socks. I am not sure they are small enough to go along on the backpacking trip, so may have to resurrect the hat I started last May while on the island. Or maybe come up with something new (there are two babies on the way this winter and all babies in northern climates should have a handknit woolen item to wear or be wrapped in).

As far as future races go, the NMTC series has begun and there are a few shorter races I am considering before Wild Duluth 50K. But what I really need to do is get back to some long runs. I seem to be stuck at 13 miles right now and that just isn't going to cut it in 6 weeks. It is time to get a 20 miler in I think, then off to the island for 5 days of cross-island backpacking fun before I head into some serious training.

One year ago I had NEVER run an ultra. Wild Duluth was my first and led to a string of races that has me up to 5 ultras so far. If all goes well I will add another 1 or 2 to that list by the end of 2010.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Monday Evening Sail

Finally the weather, time and other commitments conspired to allow us to get out on Jada for a brief evening sail about the harbor. It was a glorious evening! Scenes from our cruise down the point:

Wind turbine blades lined up in the port. They come in via ship
from Europe and then are trucked out of the harbor west to ????

Saltie loading some type of grain - possibly oats - from the smell. Bound for Europe or somwhere overseas.

Closer than it appears in this photo, this laker had just come in under the lift bridge. Nothing like a really big ship chasing you down! Some discussion about who had the right of way ;-> (we were under sail if that is any help).

The Coasties were out and about so PFD's were donned in hopes of NOT attracting
their attention. Being boarded is a hassle and seriously changes the tone of the outing.

Downbound towards the Superior Entry.

Tugboats lined up, remind me of ducklings.

Heading back to the marina. Sailing is at it's best heeled over a bit.

Dredging the shipping lane. Amazing process to watch! This must go on almost constantly as the St. Louis River brings sediments into the harbor. The depth changes pretty radically if you get outside the shipping lane, so we pay careful attention to the bouys (nothing more embarrassing than grounding your boat!)

Sunset over the grain elevators and the Duluth hillside

She still Knits?!?
My latest project has been a doozy. Months long as I custom knit some knee high socks for a friend. The first sock (on the right) turned out to be a bit large in spots so it was back to the drawing board as I refigured my gauge, took new measurements of the leg in question and redesigned the sock. I decided to keep the first sock intact for now and start the second sock. Gives me something to compare to. If the second sock turns out okay I will then frog the first one and reknit it.

Minimum supplies for knitting knee-high socks. Small notebook has leg
circumference measurements at one inch increments from below knee to ankle.

Yarn - Jamieson's Sheltland Spindrift; Colors #103 Sholmit and #425 Mustard
Needles - Size 0 (2 mm)
Gauge: 8.875 sts/inch
Pattern: Wildknits original. Stripe sequence determined by the numerical value of e; leg length 18" from top of cuff (in second version, 16" in first). Peasant heel. Wedge Toe.

Recovery Update:
My legs are feeling quite good. Post-run foot and ankle swelling appeared 24 hours later (as it did after Afton) but was less severe and mostly confined to the right foot. Massage on Monday worked out some kinks. Ran yesterday for 3 miles on the SHT west of Ely's peak. This seemed to get the swelling to subside. Plan to run today and will see if Thursday's are for running to work or maybe I will get the BMW R65 out again ;->

First ride on my new bike!