Xylaria species

Xylaria species

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Afton Fat Ass - 2011 edition

May get around to saying a bit more about this in another post, but for now here are the pictures I took along the way. What a blast!! It is the most fun I have had running/hiking/climbing in a long time.


On the knitting front
I have been busy knitting. Finished the project I was commissioned to knit in a week (gotta love the combination of big yarn and needles). Finished the scarf I had posted about earlier and cast on a new project on the drive down to Afton (thanks Craig for driving!!) and got a row done at the post-run gathering and a bit more on the drive home before it got to dark to knit. I am resurrecting a hat pattern I designed years ago; back in the days when I taught knitting retreats on a semi-regular basis. It incorporates a bit of mosaic knitting into the band. I am using some more of the wonderful locally dyed yarn I picked up recently (Three Irish Girls Wexford Merino Silk, in two one of a kind colorways).

I have a sock project in mind as well (or two or three - they are the perfect carry along project). I am not sure why the sudden burst of knitting creativity, but am enjoying the time I am spending with yarn and needles.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Update

It has been pretty quiet around this blog of late.

Running
I ran Surf the Murph 50K on October 29th. My stomach was fine, my mind.... well, I struggled. Thanks to friends, volunteers and other runners for keeping me going and getting me back out for the second loop when I was considering a drop. Found some motivation the second time around by picking up all the litter left by runners (there is a rant brewing...). At the last aid station I went out with Marty, who would go on to win the 50 mile race. He got me moving a lot faster and I stuck with him as long as I could, though eventually couldn't keep up the pace as we hit the hills on the northern side of the park. As I caught sight of the finish line I looked at my watch: 6:59:23... could I sprint in for a sub-7 hour finish?!? You bet!! I made it with 5 seconds to spare.

Surf the Murph is about costumes. And there were some great ones out there.
50 miler, Rick Bothwell, upon receipt of his hot fudge sundae at Natchez Aid Station.

I am a bit lame about dressing up, but managed to rummage about the house and find a soccer referee uniform, complete with whistle and cards.
Emptying garbage out of my pocket at the Horse Trailer Aid Station - Loop #2

A few folks got to see the cards in use as I issued yellow cards to: Helen for misidentifying me as a football ref (she meant American Football) and Marty for lapping me. Red cards would have been shown to anyone I caught littering!!

This was a long 50K - 33.92 miles. I managed to miss a turn the first time round (that is what I get for ignoring the hints the race directors gave in the form of flagging and orange paint), so may have actually run 34 miles. The dry weather led to a very firm surface and by the end of the race my knees were letting me know they had had enough. I could have easily worn road shoes on this course and may keep that in mind for the future if it is this dry.

Surf is a great race, well organized and the finisher's "award" was inspired. A wooden plaque that we branded with our race distance. The race organizers and volunteers are awesome and I don't think I can ever say thanks enough for the time and effort they put in to making this event happen.

Looking at my running log in early November I realized I had accumulated 800 miles despite being out of commission for much of the spring. This made me think reaching 1000 miles in 2011 was feasible, so that is now my goal. In the meantime I feel like I am finally back in shape and have been running well. Now to maintain that fitness through the winter, avoid injury, and be ready to race next year.

Knitting
With the return of cooler weather, and some new yarns as inspiration, I have been knitting a lot. Amongst the recently finished objects are a hat
(donated as a prize for the Fall NMTC Series awards) and a pair of socks, finished just in time to wear at the UMTR AwardsFest. I immediately cast on a scarf with a lovely merino wool/silk blend yard. Which I then proceeded to rip out several times while I redesigned the pattern.
I finally settled on Little Arrowhead Lace, a pattern that I found in a Barbara Walker Treasury. This seemed appropriate as the yarn was dyed in Duluth. The pattern was inserted into my basic scarf recipe and, when blocked, will result in a nice open fabric.
This project has been set aside briefly while I work on a shawl commissioned for a co-worker. In the meantime I have stumbled upon another pattern that has me eager to get out the double point needles again.

Outdoors
Daylight is a limited commodity at this time of year and I am learning to adjust to spending much of my time not at work in the dark. We have had an extended mild fall season and just got our first accumulation of snow. With the advent of snow comes a whole new way to experience the natural world. Animal tracks were abundant this morning on my run at Jay Cooke State Park and it was fun to see a hint of who else was using the trail. In one section, there must have been a smammal convention, as tracks were very abundant.

Now that the temperatures are dropping it is less likely that bears or raccoons will be roaming our neighborhood. This means I can put the bird feeder up and welcome back the resident flock of chickadees. I am a bit surprised they haven't been looking in the door already - they are usually pretty adamant about their supplementary food source.

In addition to regular visits by birds our yard is, unfortunately, frequented by deer. They wreaked havoc on the garden this year and are so immune to our presence it is hard to get them to run off no matter what we do. The rabbit population seems to be down and the other night I got a hint as to why when I saw a fox run up the hill. Yeah for predators!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wild Duluth 50K - 2011 edition


Well, I could throw out lots of reasons for my performance this year:
- injury in February that hampered any real training until June
- work stress (first week of "Go Live" on our new EHR - electronic health record - coupled with weeks of being short-staffed)
- surprise visit from a family member that changed my 'night before the race' plans drastically
- middle of the night GI issues
- minimal training (in my opinion) for this distance

I went into this race with a goal of finishing between 6 - 7 hours. Six hours was very optimistic, but I had run close to that at the Superior 50K a couple of years ago, so not impossible. Seven hours was an acknowledgement of my training effort and current condition. Runs leading up to this race were mixed, making it hard to really judge my fitness level. I was sure I could at least match my time on the course from my first year of running ultras, so there was my third time goal. Over all though I just wanted to have fun and not have a mental bonk. I looked at this as a time to rest my brain... life is pretty simple on the race course - eat, drink, run, walk.

Friday I helped flag one section of the course which allowed me to stretch my legs a bit after a week of tapering and clear my head after a very stressful day/week of trying to care for patients and learn a new charting system. Along the way I saw:
- a very large hawk perched on a log, finishing off a meal. It stuck around quite awhile, but flew off before I could get my phone(camera) out of my pocket. I was within 10 - 15 feet of the bird and my best guess was that it may have been a red-tailed hawk;
- a garter snake, curled up on the trail near one of the bluffs, I managed to capture a picture before it disappeared into the grasses;
- a ruffed grouse, running down the trail ahead of me.

My friend Sam met me near the end of my section, helped with the final bit of flagging and then gave me a ride back to my vehicle. From there it was a quick dash to race headquarters to drop off flagging supplies and say hello to friends. I thought I was heading to a pre-race pasta party but it was at this moment I got a call from a brother-in-law informing me he was in town (from California!) and wanted to get together for dinner. Off I went to meet him at a local restaurant. We had a great visit and then it was time to head home and prep for the race (by now it was past 9:00 pm). Thankfully Mr. Wildknits had agreed to crew for me and was willing to be at every aid station as needed, so I didn't need drop bags. Instead I packed up the red backpack with everything I thought I would need for the day, and added additional items (first aid kit, S-caps) to a small bin.

I was up for good at 4:30 am to have coffee, eat breakfast and finish getting ready for my race. Shortly after 6:00 am I hiked up the hill to the SHT to cheer on the 100K runners as they passed by. The moon was so bright that I didn't need my headlamp. What a beautiful morning! I was able to see most, if not all, of the runners pass by before I had to head back down to the house for a ride to the race start.

This race has really grown in three years! Once runners were checked in and race instructions given, we were off. I was feeling pretty good and tried to keep things easy as we ran along the trails in Jay Cooke State Park to our first aid station at Grand Portage. Somewhere in this section I realized that I would need to stop and take care of my feet. The area near my bunions was quite painful and I was worried about blisters already. Regretted not applying blister pads to those areas before the race, but had not been having issues in any training runs so didn't think it was necessary.

I came into the first aid station in 53 minutes (5.3 miles), well ahead of my optimistic estimate. Let Mr. Wildknits know I needed the blister pads and ran off to use the "facilities" while he found the first aid supplies. I left the aid station still ahead of schedule.

The section between Grand Portage and Munger Trail/Ely's Peak is one of my favorites and I often head here for training runs. It is 5.7 miles long and, in my mind, broken into two parts, divided by Mission Creek. It is in this section where I anticipated seeing the lead 100k runners - and I was not disappointed. Chris Rubesch came by looking very strong and from then on out I split my time between watching the trail in front of me for obstacles and trying to spot oncoming runners so I could move out of the way as needed.

Knowing the trail gives me a bit of an advantage and I was able to anticipate the aid station and powered in, so I would have a bit more time if needed.
Val and Jen were working this station so it was fun to do a bit of visiting as I checked my hydration pack to see if I needed a refill. I also met up with a few more 100k runners I knew here.

The climb up Ely's Peak is a bear! Especially so when some of the steps are waist high. I offered to let the runners behind me pass, but they seemed content with my pace. This may have led to me pushing a bit more up the hill as I tend to do that when I have someone close behind (I always think I am too slow and subconsciously increase my pace). Near the peak Zach Pierce was taking photos and I had to give him a bit of grief about needing to run and smile near the top of a climb.

Somewhere in this section my stomach started to turn and I could no longer eat or drink. Water was not sitting well, nor were the gels I usually rely on. I slowed considerably while I tried to sort out what was wrong and not make things any worse. I arrived at Magney - Snively (mile 15.3) not feeling well at all. Chicken broth wasn't palatable, but cola, ginger ale and Heed were. I decided if worse came to worse I would walk it in as everything else felt fine.

It is only 2 miles to the next aid station at the base of Spirit Mountain and I focused on getting there in a timely manner without getting hurt (the trail here is quite rocky and mostly downhill). I took Mr. Wildknits words to heart to not think about my stomach (has worked on rough Lake Superior crossings).

It was great to see the crew at Spirit Mountain (Storkamp's, Don Clark, et al) and I downed some more ginger ale and Heed before heading up the trail. My stomach was settling down at this point and I continued to feel strong. Mr. Wildknits had indicated that a few friends were up ahead and were looking forward to me catching up to them. I thought he was just trying to motivate me so was quite surprised to actual see my friend Sam just prior to reaching the drop into Kingsbury Creek. Unfortunately she was also having stomach issues and had slowed quite a bit. My attempts at motivating her were not successful and I was soon running on alone.

This section is quite rolling until it passes under the freeway, then crosses Cody St. There has been a lot of construction in this area recently and there was netting down over straw/fiber that was catching on my shoes. This led to a bit of "high stepping" in order not to trip. After a short walk up Westgate Blvd (someday I will run this stretch) it was onto the Keene Creek Valley and the climb to the Highland & Getchell aid station. I had quite a surprise waiting for me once I made it up the final set of steps, over the barrier and across the five street intersection. Ed and Linda Dallman had driven up from Florida! Ed is one of the people I credit with getting me into ultra running and Linda has been there at many an aid station to tell me to stop whining and get moving.

At this point my stomach was feeling better but I was sticking to liquids from aid stations so as not to risk another episode of stomach trouble. I think I may have taken three pretzels here, but was still not too keen on water so avoided that completely. I think I also gave up my extra flask of gel as I knew I wouldn't be using it. This next section is where I had been flagging the previous afternoon, and is a part of the trail I know well as it is close to home. I headed out, looking forward to the beauty of the woods and the views over Western Duluth and towards Lake Superior.

Soon enough I was descending to Haines Rd, then crossing to the Piedmont Hills. After a bit of rolling trail it was time to descend towards Skyline Blvd and on towards the 10th St reservoir and Lincoln Park and the 24th Ave. W aid station. When I reached the bridge over Miller Creek I found it lined with spectators. What fun! And what a change from last year when I ran (well really walked) this bit in the dark!

From this aid station it is only 3.1 miles to the finish. It wasn't long until I was passing the spur trail to my house, crossing Skyline again (and again) before entering Enger Park, rounding the Peace Bell and then starting the long descent towards downtown and Bayfront Park. I still felt strong at this point and like I could continue on if needed, which was nice in light of my training this year. The finish is interesting, one of the few stretches of pavement, but it is so fun to run up towards the big arch in the park.

My official time was 7:12:02. By far my slowest in a 50K. I did not meet any of my time goals but I did have fun and I didn't crash mentally so I count this as a success.

After having a bit to eat, swapping stories, and cheering in other runners I headed home to clean up, bundle up and head back out to the course to watch for 100k runners I knew. It turned into a late night/early morning but was so worth it to watch friends finish this challenging race.

Sunday I was back out on a race course for the NMTC Hawk Ridge 6k. Initially I figured at best I would be walking much of the first mile as it is uphill, but surprised myself by running the whole distance (thanks Chris for the great chat up the hill!) and turning in a respectable time as well, with a pretty decent finishing kick.

It took most of the week before my stomach was back to normal and I had much of an appetite or a taste for water. I took Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off from running (though did get out for a walk on the trails Wednesday). Thursday's are for running to work so that is what I did, in what may be record time! I did opt out of a run home though as I was still a bit tired and had had two close calls with vehicles that morning and just was not up to battling traffic.

OKC

All this free time has meant more time for knitting. And a good thing as I have cast on, knit, ripped out, redesigned, cast on, knit, ripped out and reknit a hat three times. I know how to get the most out of my knitting dollar! As of now the hat is moving along nicely and should be done in plenty of time for the NMTC end of season potluck and awards ceremony.

Today, rather than running, I headed out with Mr. Wildknits to the Lester Park mountain bike trails. This was my first venture onto these trails (on a bike) in over 20 years. Wow!!! Spectacular! We had a blast and I was smiling ear to ear by the end of our all too short ride. From there it was on to an event at the Three Irish Girls yarn studio where not only did I get a lot of knitting done, but I managed to walk out of the studio with 5 skeins of yarn (hard to resist a merino, silk blend or some lovely merino fingering weight yarn). I must have been overcome by all the yarn fumes in the air....


Tomorrow it will be back to racing, with a 9k (NMTC Roughrider aka the Powerlines to those familiar with the Voyageur course) and then the following weekend Surf the Murph 50K. After that.... well, we shall see what the new year brings.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wild Duluth 50K

7:12:02

More details to follow....

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Running the Superior Hiking Trail


Early October long runs on the SHT

What an incredible weekend to run the Superior Hiking Trail!!

Saturday I headed out from Bayfront Park with Wayne to run 20 miles. We were eventually joined by Ron who had started out west. It was quite cold that morning, with frost coating many plants. The clear skies did lead to a lovely day for a run. And temps eventually warmed into the low 50's.

For whatever reason I felt pretty off for much of the run and thought about dropping out more than once. By the time we reached Magney-Snively I was thinking about how nice it would be to sit in the sun while I waited for Ron and Wayne to finish and come back to get me with the car ;->

I persisted (with the support of my friends) and in the next stretch to Ely's Peak I started to feel better and was able to pick up the pace and enjoy the last 5 miles of the run. I ended the run feeling ready to go on - a good sign with two 50Ks pending in the next month.

Today I (along with Wayne and Rick) headed out to a new section of the SHT. I wanted to get in a 10 mile run and it seemed a good time to check out the trail between Duluth and Two Harbors. With a bit of research I settled on the Sucker River to Fox Farm Rd section. It was much warmer today, with temperatures reaching the low 70's on the interior ridges. The trail is surrounded by a forest mostly comprised of hardwoods and the colors are reaching their peak. I spent a lot of time on the outbound leg stopping to take photos and enjoy the scenery.

An out and back course allows you to see new things on the same section of trail. Certain views only become evident when moving in one direction or the other. This was most evident with the campsite which I passed by without seeing on the outbound leg. On the way back it was also easier to enjoy the openings in the trees that allowed glimpses of Lake Superior and the hills between.

The entire run today felt great and I was able to push things a bit, finishing strong. This has me feeling a bit more optimistic about my upcoming races. We ended the day by heading to Knife River and it's beach to ice our legs in Lake Superior.

OKC

Finished sewing the zipper into the Tomten Jacket!

It is ready to be delivered to my co-worker and her new baby. This frees me up to finish off the socks I have been working on and maybe start designing a vest for Mr. Wildknits.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Isle Royale Fall Vacation

Isle Royale September 2011

What a trip!!

My hiking partner and I decided to base camp and explore the eastern end of the island via day hikes (and runs, in my case). The weather was pretty ideal. It was a relaxed trip overall, just what I needed.

Returned home and left the next day for southern Minnesota and another kind of camping (this time in a state park). Spent the evening helping Larry Pederson flag the route for the In Yan Teopa 10 mile trail race. Saturday was race day. Despite waking up and not feeling really inspired to run I seemed to rally and had a good race.

Next up: Wild Duluth 50K in a little over two weeks. My first ultra of 2011!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

August Mini-Vacation

Took a few days off and headed north to the Gunflint Trail. The original plan was to take the motorbikes on their first camping trip. Thursday night, while performing a pre-trip fluid check on the R65 we discovered:
- the oil in the gear box was pretty nasty looking, requiring a change (which we accomplished, as well as changing the oil in the final drive) and
- the final drive filler bolt had stripped threads.
This meant the bikes would stay at home and I would spend much of Thursday night doing research of fixing stripped threads in a BMW final drive.

Plan B involved loading the Fit (my trusty blue car) with our mountain bikes and way too much stuff and heading north after taking care of some business in town Friday morning. We had left the motorbikes behind due to mechanical issues but ended up dealing with a tire issue on the Fit. While stopped at a scenic overlook midway along the Gunflint Trail we noticed that the left front tire seemed a bit low and would need to be pumped up. Luckily Mr. Wildknits had tossed the full-sized bike pump (as well as the frame pump) into the car. We (well really Mr. Wildknits) spent a lot of time filling that tire in the next two days! We finally arrived at the Trails End Campground and set up camp in the site we had reserved alongside Seagull Falls.


We explored the campground via bike, then headed back for dinner and beverages while we watched the sun set over Gull Lake. The next morning we pedaled over to the boat landing and hiked the nature trail along Seagull Lake. This campground is in the area affected by the Ham Lake forest fire and, while devoid of large trees in many places, the fire was good for the blueberry crop! We snacked our way along the trail which ended at the lake shore where I spotted this tiny little plant. Since my wildflower field guide was back at camp I took photos:
Common Pipewort

and later looked the plant up in my favorite field guide - Newcomb's :

We headed back to camp and after packing up drove down the Gunflint trail with a plan to run the Magnetic Rock Trail.


Mr. Wildknits heading up the trail to the main attraction.

I climbed up on a bit of the rock that had fallen off to lend scale to this photo. I am 5'2" on a tall day.

After our run and a picnic lunch at the trailhead we drove to the Flour Lake Campground. We checked out sites before settling on this one:

It was a bit of a hike in but the reward was a small, private sitting area right on the lake. After setting up the tent we brought the chairs down to the shore and just sat - enjoying the sun, the view, our reading materials and a little bit of knitting:

A White Admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) took a liking to our gear and hung out with us much of the afternoon.

After this nice break we set out on the mountain bikes to explore the surrounding area. We headed out on some ski trails that link area resorts, but after about a mile turned back as the ground was getting steadily damper (aka boggy). We ended up back on the gravel road, though I kept turning off on side trails until Mr. Wildknits requested fewer detours and more riding ;->

Sunday we packed up and set off for town. But first another run! Our original plan was to explore the Daniel's Lake Trail - a spur to the Border Route Trail. Once we tracked down the trail (the guide was less then explicit on how far the parking area was from the trailhead) and got a look at it we opted instead for the Lima Mountain Trail. This is Minnesota's fourth highest peak at 2,238 feet. It is a relatively short, but steep trail. The run had the added challenge of being overgrown with several downed trees. The best view actually occurred mid-way up on a exposed shelf we traversed. Once we reached the summit we were a bit underwhelmed by the view:

There was an extended family that was also hiking the trail and Mr. Wildknits and one of the guys set off through the underbrush to find the remnants of the fire tower. Mr. Wildknits came back with this little guy (or gal) to share with the kids:
Sphinx Moth species caterpillar

Remnants of the fire tower


USFS electrical "closet". There was evidence of old batteries and electrical hook ups inside.


We finished up the run with a playful sprint down the road back to the parking area. After a bit of exploring in the area, playing with the seedpods of Jewelweed, and a picnic lunch it was time to pump up the tire for the drive into Grand Marais. We stopped briefly to enjoy the view from the Pincushion Mountain parking area, then made the final drop into town and found a gas station with a working air hose for a final filling of the tire prior to the drive home.

One of the highlights of a north shore vacation is a stop in a restaurant for a meal of locally caught fish and chips. We bypassed the Dockside as it was busy and instead headed to Beaver Bay and The Crossings at Cove Point. We had an excellent meal of fresh caught Lake Superior Herring (aka Ciscoes).

The next two day's of our vacation were spent at home taking care of chores, having a new set of tires installed on the Fit, picking up some new to us canoes, and getting in a nice run on the Knife River section of the SHT with some bonus miles for me into the village of Knife River and down Hwy 61 to the wayside rest near Stoney Point.

I headed into work Wednesday very relaxed, caught up on my sleep and, I hoped, ready to dive back in.

Edit: Not sure what is up with Blogger but this last bit was invisible for awhile(sorry - looked okay when writing and missed when posting). I can't explain the font changes. Get what you pay for I guess!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Seen on a Long Run... Part 2


Thimbleberry!

131 (million) steps. Hard to capture how steep these truly are.
Yes, this is on the Wild Duluth race course.


Field Garlic (Allium vineale) - alien. "Serious pest of lawns,
pastures and meadows" according to Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.

Common Dodder or Love Vine (Cuscuta gronovii). "Parasitic plant with yellow or orange stems and dense clusters
of small, white flowers... Tightly twines around the stems of other plants and absorbs their
sap through tiny suckers." Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.


Sam enjoying a post-run Coffee Creek ice bath.

Small waterfall on Coffee Creek below the trail crossing. This also makes a
great sledding run in the winter when the creek overflows the ice and refreezes.

Hanging out with the water striders, other aquatic insects and, as it turns out, leeches (shudder!)

Downstream view.

Todays run was a bit shorter than planned at 13.1 (or so) miles but did include The Big W and the Piedmont hills. Rather than continue on to Lake Superior for an ice bath (15+ miles), Sam and I decided to play it safe (my schedule called for 14 miles, she ran her first 50 mile two weeks ago) and ran back to Coffee Creek to soak the legs. The temperature was perfect! Cold enough to make you hesitate, but not so cold your toes went numb immediately.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Seen on a long run...

Last Saturday I left my house, hiked up the hill a few hundred feet and headed west on the SHT. This route involves hills; lots of them! I ran an out and back course with the turn around at Highland & Getchell which is just at the start/end of "The Big W" as the next section (to Magney-Snively) of the SHT is fondly referred to. Along the way I saw:

This rock formation which is large enough for me to crawl into;

Monotropa uniflora
aka: Corpse Plant or Indian Pipe.

Also found raspberries and blueberries which meant I had to take a few snack breaks. It was a glorious morning for a run and I had the most fun I have had in a long time. I ran with a friend and this was his longest trail run ever. Fun to bring someone else into the fold!

Later that day I joined my youngest daughter in her move across the state to Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was a long day of driving but offered us a great opportunity to chat and, once we arrived, to explore her new home together. Sunday, while waiting for the rest of the family to join us, we headed to the Greenway and I ran while she biked. I have never been to Grand Forks so this was a wonderful way to see a bit more of the area and check out the Red River (which was still over it's banks). Finished out the day with a bit of cross-training (aka the moving truck arrived and we unloaded it) and then drove back home that same night. By Monday morning I had logged 22 hours of sleep in 5 days. Not ideal for functioning at work!

Based on a week of consistent running I sent my application in for the Wild Duluth 50K. I decided I should finally commit and hope that this will help keep me on task as far as training goes. I tend to be more motivated when there is a goal ahead of me (and money on the line).

It seems to be working so far as I have logged runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (which are for running to - and from - work after all). Tomorrow I will hit the trails again, this time tackling The Big W and many more hills on my way home on a point to point run. Sunday I am scheduled to run again and have yet to sort out where that will occur. I do know my legs are much happier on trails than pavement so suspect I will opt for another section of the SHT.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Orchid!


Found the "mystery" orchid this past Sunday on my long run. The working identification from botanists at the Minnesota DNR is the white form of Platanthera psycodes (Small Purple Fringed Orchid).

Also seen was Corpse Plant (Monotropa uniflora) just emerging from the ground. Gotta love these flowers! I was lucky enough years ago to witness a bumble bee pollinating them (back in the days before digital cameras - at least in my life).

The dewberries and strawberries are abundant along the trail and the blueberries, raspberries and thimbles should be ripening soon. Perfect supplement to the typical long run fueling options.

Running has been coming along slowly. Seems that I have more "difficult" runs than not, but am hoping that trend will change. The fibula is fully healed, now I need to get the rest of me (particularly the mind) back into the swing of things.

Garlic Scapes

Spent some time Tuesday morning, before running to work, cutting the tops off my garlic plants and weeding the garlic bed. There is some volunteer flax, thanks to the straw I used for mulch last winter, that I am attempting to leave in place so I can gather seeds and increase my flax crop (maybe someday there will be enough to experiment with linen or seed production?). Occasionally I am a bit overeager in my weeding and the flax gets pulled along with the undesirable plants. Tonight we incorporated some of the scapes into dinner (a broccoli, tomato saute served over whole wheat pasta). Yum!

Our cucumbers are producing already and there are zucchinis on the way. The eggplant and tomatoes are flowering as well. I am not sure if the peppers will produce this year - they just don't look all that thrilled with what summer has offered so far. The broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts are surviving an onslaught from the cabbage moth worms with the help of liberal applications of BT. So far (and I dread to even mention it) the deer are staying out of the gardens.

Last week my neighbor shared pictures of the bear that was hanging out in his yard. I am assuming this is the same one that broke through the rope and got into the garbage the other morning. Ah - urban wildlife!

Speaking of photogenic wild animals:

Red Fox Kit

This little guy (or gal) has become a regular visitor to Mr. Wildknits at his worksite. It was born this past spring and at some point sustained an injury to a hind leg. We think it is the same kit the DNR wildlife folks assisted for a time, which may help explain some of his habituation to humans.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Sunday Drive

Mr. Wildknits and I took the BMW's out for a little jaunt last week. I was excited to check out some bits of Northern Minnesota I have not been to in many years and talked Mr. Wildknits into taking a day off from work to check out some backroads and visit friends. I also had an ulterior motive - I had finished the "secret knitting project" and wanted to deliver it.

We left Duluth and headed north on Hwy 61. After a brief stop in Two Harbors to top off the tanks (there were no gas stations for the next 70+ miles and neither of us is quite sure of the mpg's on our bikes) we headed north on Co. Hwy 2. The road is in great shape, and is pretty straight and wide until after the intersection with Co. Rd 15. Here it takes a bit of a jog and then narrows considerably.

Co. Hwy 2 at the White Pine Picnic Area

Our first destination was the White Pine Picnic Area (part of the Superior National Forest). The pines are old and very tall and some grow so close to the road that they have reflectors marking them to avoid a collision at night.
White pine

This turned out to be a nice area to take a break and explore before heading north to Hwy 1 and then west to Ely.

A couple of airheads in the pines (1976 R75/6 & 1984 R65)

Of course I found a few species of flowers on the short hiking trail:
One-flowered Pyrola (Moneses uniflora)

Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)

Hwy 1 has a reputation amongst motorcyclists as a fun ride. I finally had enough confidence in my bike handling skills to tackle its twists and turns. Granted, it was not at high speeds, but I would argue that no one should be taking blind curves on a narrow road bordered by bedrock very fast - on two wheels or four. Add on the very real opportunity to see moose and a bit of caution is prudent. Within a few miles I was grinning as we navigated the road. The scenery is amazing!! As we road along I would see flashes of lakes, streams, bedrock and blue flag (wild iris species) amongst the varying hues of green from the trees and underbrush. Since it was a hot day I was hoping the moose were all off hanging out in shady ponds to stay cool.

At one point I noticed a car deep in the ditch to my right. I think it would have been hard to see from the vantage point of a car and wondered about it. There was no where to pull over (no real shoulders) and I had several cars behind me so it wasn't until 6+ miles later that Mr. Wildknits pulled into a side road. He had seen the car as well and we were both concerned that there may have been people still out there. Luckily the road we pulled into was the entrance to the Voyageur Outward Bound facility and there was a staff member sitting in her car in the pullout. She overheard us talking about the situation and volunteered to drive back and check on the vehicle*. She also got to witness my less than graceful attempt to turn on a down sloping gravel road and the subsequent "dismount" (the bike is okay, though windscreen is scratched. I got a lesson in gravel road slow turns and why my Aerostitch jacket was a good investment).

We continued on to Ely and stopped at the local DQ for a snack and to get directions to a friends house. It was time to deliver the knitting project I had been working on since April.
Healing Shawl (Malabrigo Aguas)

We topped off the tanks in Ely and then headed southwest on Co. Rd 21 to Embarrass to visit some friends. It was a nice time playing with a baby,

touring the new chicken housing,


and discovering a new (to us) species of inchworm.

Eventually it was time to head home. We hit Aurora as the town was gathering for it's Fourth of July parade, so had a bit of a detour before we found the road out of town and towards Hoyt Lakes. From there we headed south and then east until we reached Co. Rd 44 (aka Pequaywan Lake Rd). This was another narrow, twisty road through the woods, skirting several lakes and taking us through the town of Brimson (site of the Brimson Sisu run) before eventually morphing into the Normanna Rd on the outskirts of Duluth. At the turn onto the Jean Duluth Rd we stopped for a break. And boy was I grateful!!! I had been trying to telepathically communicate my need to get off the bike for the past 20 miles. Not only was I thirsty but also a bit 'saddle sore'. Mr. Wildknits is much more comfortable on his bike and will stand and ride as needed. I am not there yet and needed a break off the bike before the cross-town journey home.
Junction of Normanna and Jean Duluth Rds

This stretch of Jean Duluth was the worst road we were on all day! At times I thought bits of my bike would rattle off. Fortunately it improved after 5 or so miles and we were back to smoother roads for the rest of the journey. All told we put 232 miles on the bikes that day.

*We have never heard the outcome of the vehicle in the ditch. I am hoping all the occupants were okay (and not still in there when we spotted the car - our worst fear).

Running

Monday, July 4th I headed to Tofte with a group of friends for the Tofte Trek 1ok. This race takes place on trails in the vicinity of Carlton Peak. The first half is all climbing and while it seems reasonable that the second half would then be all downhill I swear I ran a few ascents then as well. This race also has a well-deserved reputation for being muddy. This year, with all of the rain we have had, could have been an epic mud year. As with many small town races on the North Shore, it was also a great opportunity to catch up with running friends - kind of like a running family reunion.

I am still trying to recover from 3 months off related to a stress fracture. While my brain thinks I should be able to jump right in where I left off, my body has other plans. This was a hot race and early on it became apparent that my choice to carry a water bottle was a good one. I ended up power hiking a lot of the ascents in hopes of having something in the tank for the downhill bits. This allowed me to really enjoy the mud puddles! I waded right through the middle, never going past my knees and getting mud splashed all the way up to my arms and chin by the end of the race. I figured I may have been in contention for muddiest runner until I saw a little girl that was taking great delight in stomping through the puddles (she was in the 10k walk - and an inspiration!).

My performance at this race was useful in getting me to drag out some old schedules and get a bit more methodical about my training. I haven't used a schedule for over a year, but since I am essentially starting from scratch I decided it might be nice to have a plan for building my mileage back up to something that might allow for a return to Ultras this Fall.

Knitting

With the shawl delivered it was time to cast on a baby sweater for a co-worker that is expecting in August. I chose the Tomten Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman (6th pattern down). I thought I had the month of July to work on this sweater but learned last week the shower will be this Thursday!! Fortunately I chose a worsted weight yarn and the knitting is progressing nicely, though it will be rare to see me without needles in hand if I am not running, at work, or on the bike.

Gardening

Our transplants finally made it into the garden over the long holiday weekend. Poor things! The broccoli and brussels sprouts were immediately set upon by the cabbage moth worms. This meant a trip to the local feed store for some BT to sprinkle on the plants. I hear that our tomatoes are not too much smaller than those planted out at the normal time (yes the weather has been that bad!). It will be interesting to see what produce we get this year. In addition to the broccoli and brussels sprouts we also put in:
eggplants
cucumbers,
anaheim peppers
hungarian hot wax peppers
three + varieties of tomatoes
(Celebrity, Sungold, and 'cherry mix' - heirloom seeds I picked up at the Landscape Arboretum)
zucchini

These plants join our garlic bed in the front yard terraces. The strawberries are setting fruit and are in desperate need of a good weeding (oat straw is a good winter mulch but leads to a weed issue in the summer).

I had thoughts this spring of giving up gardening when it seemed that the weather was never going to warm up and allow us to work the soil or put the plants out without little tiny jackets to keep them warm. I do still wonder if growing 4 beds of garlic would be unreasonable; it is such an easy crop relatively speaking, and might actually result in enough garlic to meet not only our needs for the year, but also provide 'seed garlic' for the following year.