Thursday, October 01, 2015

Look what followed me home!

Last week I received a great gift - a certificate for a fat bike. Since I was heading out of town the next day I had to delay a visit to the local dealer - Galleria Bicycle to try out bikes. The certificate was for a Framed Minnesota 2.0. I did ride their 15" model but it was too tall for me (aka, I was hitting the bar when standing over the bike). Brent the owner convinced me to try the Wolftrax, which, even though it was the same frame size, has a lower stand-over height. The fit seemed good and after thinking about it overnight I let him know I wanted to buy this bike. Luckily for me he had the color combination I wanted on hand and had it built up later that day. Sadly, I didn't have time to pick it up until today.
Framed Wolftrax 15" next to my Fit
Once I had a quick tutorial on removing and re-installing the through axle it was time to head for the trails for a quick ride before darkness fell. 
Can't ride over it, can't ride under it. 
I headed to a new section of the Duluth Traverse off of the old Mission Creek Parkway. I was joined by my daughter and son-in-law for a short bit, but due to a mechanical issue with one of their bikes I was on my own after about a mile. I was having fun learning how this bike handled on the trails and rolling over terrain that would have made me think twice on my mountain bike. I did encounter a short section with many mud puddles and dismounted and walked through a few to prevent further damage to the trail. When I reached the downed tree I took a short break to capture this photo and then lifted the bike up and over for a bit more riding.

I ended up turning around after 2.5 miles as I was loosing light fast. On the way back I flushed:
 - a grouse
 - a beaver (which ran across the trail in front of me, then waited until it was well into the pond to slap a warning)
 - a few deer

All in all it was a good first outing on the bike.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A bit of catching up, a volunteering opportunity, late summer sightings and trail ethics

I started writing this post in the last few minutes of summer 2015. Tomorrow (now today) brings us the autumn equinox and the slow, beautiful slide towards winter. 

I am off on my annual camping trip in a day, though this time not to Isle Royale. That trip will need to be deferred a year due to lack of PTO (new job = resetting the time off clock to zero). Instead I am heading for the Sibley Peninsula and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. If all goes well I will hike/run out to the Head of the Giant at least one day and gaze at Isle Royale across the water. 

I have hit a bit of a lull in my running, finding it quite hard to run more then about 11.5 miles at a time. This is not setting me up well for Wild Duluth 50K. But, I have decided to go with what feels like fun while running and figure the fire will rekindle in due time. I suspect several years of very stressful work conditions, coupled with my injury this spring, have emptied the tank and it will just take time to refill it. 

I did make it up to Superior 100 to volunteer this year. I did some crewing as well, though no pacing this year (just as well in light of my attitude towards long runs of late). 

I have been helping Andy and Kim Holak with recruiting and organizing volunteers for the Wild Duluth races on October 17th. If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in volunteering please contact me at lbmessereratgmaildotcom. As Robyn Reed points out in a recent blog post volunteering can make you a better runner!

Autumn Crocus - they always appear just as the seasons change
Sungold tomatoes - Mmmmmmm
Riders out after a heavy rain = wrecked trail.
This is on a brand new section (not open) of the Duluth Traverse
I was saddened to see the damage to the newly built trail above my house. I was exploring the area a couple of days after we received heavy rain (1.5 inches in an hour). This section is so new (built the previous week) that it isn't even open to riders yet. It will likely mean a delay in opening the trail due to the need for repair work. A similar situation happened at Lester Park earlier this year and resulted in a really nice section of new trail being closed a large part of the summer for repairs. Hopefully along with all the new trails will come a push by COGGs to educate the mountain biking public on trail ethics, something similar to IMBA's Rules of the Trail.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sunday Ride - and a little running

Saturday I headed up the shore to meet up with friends for a run on the Superior Hiking Trail in the Finland area. It has been a long time since I have seen that section of trail in the daylight!

Photos from Saturday's 14 mile run:
Sam, Marcus and Ron enjoying the view from the Section 13 cliffs
Three-toothed Cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata) - Section 13  cliffs

Beaver Pond - partway through the Co. Rd 6 - Finland section
There's a spider in there somewhere.
Swans (one was hidden in the tall grasses to the left)

Somewhat sketchy boardwalk across the beaver dam

Worth taking your time to traverse in order to avoid a swim

Glacial erratic?
Looking back at the trail from the bridge over the East Branch of the Baptism River

East Branch of the Baptism River - looking upstream

Fruit of the Nodding Trillium

Corpse Plant/Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Lilly's Island on Sonju Lake
 I took a little break here to look around, write a note in the trail log, and remember a hike with my dog Porter (who passed away 7 years ago).

Sonju Lake

Lilly's Island

I finished up my run at Sonju Lake Rd. trailhead and then proceeded to George Crosby-Manitou State Park to wait for Sam, Marcus and Ron to finish up their run. While I waited I took a stroll around Benson Lake and scoped out some of the campsites in preparation for future trips.

Virgin's Bower (Clematis virginiana) - growing along the road/trail to Benson Lake
 I stopped on some rocks to wet my bandana and wash the mud off my legs only to discover a friend:
Fisher Spider (Dolomites species)
 Nestled along the rocky edge of Benson Lake I spied this plant:
Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)
 Apparently the leaves make an "...excellent wintergreen-flavored tea, which is also very high in caffeine" (Canoe Country Flora - Mark Stensaas) and the berries are edible, assuming you can find enough for a meal.
Benson Lake
Overall it was a great day to be out in the woods. I covered 14 miles (longest run since my injury) and my legs felt the best they have in ages. Due to my pace I was often alone, which is just what I needed to get regrounded and recuperate from a rough work week.

Sunday Mr. Wildknits and I headed out on the airheads. We took the scenic highway north to Two Harbors, then Hwy 61 to Co. Rd. 3. This gave me ample opportunity to practice my gravel road riding skills (maintained 40 mph). It also took us out of the fray that is north shore traffic during tourist season.

We made a brief stop at the Silver Bay Airport (outside of Beaver Bay), then headed to Beaver Bay for a pit stop before traveling up Co. Rd. 4/Lax Lake Rd to Hwy 1 and then on to Finland for lunch at Our Place (the pulled pork sandwich was delicious!).

From Finland our plan was to take Hwy 1 to Hwy 2 to Hwy 15 to Pequaywan Lake Rd and on back to Duluth. Unfortunately we had to detour to Two Harbors for gas (the tanks on the airheads are not all that large and gas stations are few and far between up north).

We did stop at the White Pines rest stop on Hwy 2 for a break. It is one of my favorite spots in that section. This time we didn't take stay long, but in the past have walked around and enjoyed the old growth white pines.

Taken a few years ago at the rest stop. I have since removed the back rack from my bike. 
Overall we did 180 miles. An enjoyable tour of northern Minnesota. By the time we got home my throttle hand was a bit sore (no cruise control on these older bikes). But I did become more comfortable using one foot to balance the bike at stops, with the other acting as a counter balance on the foot peg. A technique Mr. Wildknits had shown me via a Youtube video about riding tall bikes. While the R65 is not tall by most peoples standards, when you are 5' 1.5" almost every bike seems tall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


It has been nearly 3 months since I fractured my proximal fibula and I am finally back to a semblance of a normal running schedule. It has been a long recovery. After my diagnosis (two weeks post fracture) I was told I would be in the stirrup (air) cast for 4 weeks.

While I was unable to run I biked - a lot! I managed a couple of 100 mile weeks (commuting to work and a few "long way home" rides plus mountain biking when the trails were open). While biking up the hills in Duluth is good for the leg muscles it just isn't the same as running and I was itching to get back on the trails. Early on I wore the cast even while biking due to concerns about re - injury if I had to put my foot down suddenly, especially while mountain biking (the fibula's primary role is as a stabilizer vs weight bearing).

Due to the cast it was difficult to hike and that meant I missed one of my favorite times of year in the Northland. April, May and early June are the time of spring ephemerals (flowers that bloom between the end of winter and full leaf-out of trees), and I wasn't able to get out to enjoy them.

At my follow-up visit at the end of May I was given some physical therapy (PT) to do at home, an ankle brace to wear on my initial runs and instructed to ease into running slowly (2 miles every other day). I followed instructions (mostly - I am a slacker when it comes to home PT) but developed pain within the first 2-3 runs. This meant another week off. And a very frustrated runner.

I did head off to the Kettle 100 in early June to crew for a friend who was running the 100K. Initially I had hoped to be able to jump in and pace a runner if needed, but due to the set-back I limited myself to short walks down the trail to find my runner.

The trip to Kettle did allow me to put in some dedicated time on the Dovetail Shawl I had started just prior to Zumbro. I had a goal of finishing it while at the race, but fell short by a few rows.

Dovetail Shawl - Kauni 8/2 Effektgarn EQ and Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift Black

Once I was able to run again I eased back in with very short runs. As I was able to tolerate more running I increased the length of each run while still limiting how many runs a week I did:

Week 1: 4 miles (2 runs)
Week 2: 8 miles (3 runs)
Week 3: 21 miles (4 runs)
Apparently that jump was a bit much and I backed down the following week.
Week 4: 15 miles (4 runs, one 10K race included)
Week 6: 25 miles (4 runs)

During this time I suspected that some of the discomfort I was experiencing was due to damage to the muscles/tendons/ligaments in the proximal part of my leg at the time of the initial injury.  So I made an appointment with my chiropractor to have some work done on that area, in addition to a much needed adjustment of my neck and upper back and some work on my right shoulder/rotator cuff. Initially things didn't feel too bad and then he found the "spot". Ouch! Since then I have noted a lot of improvement and suspect that he worked some junk out of the area (aka realigned the muscle fibers and broke up some scar tissue).

I am returning to my previous schedule of running Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturday/Sunday this week in addition to upping my mileage:
Week 7 (now): 18 miles (2 runs)

It's a little experiment to see how things feel and to help me in making my final decision about the big race on my calendar. Any hopes of completing Superior 100 (Sawtooth) in a time near my previous finish are long gone. Now I just need to decide if it is feasible to even toe the starting line with any hope of finishing in 38 hours and not doing too much damage.

Tofte Trek 10k - July 4, 2015
I love the age group rocks and was pretty pleased to finish in the top three this year

Sunset in the Powerlines - after marking a portion of the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon  course

Monday, May 11, 2015

Well now.....

Time has slipped away and I owe you an update:

 - April 6 -12: regular weekday runs of 4 miles (Tuesday) and 8 miles (Wednesday). I skipped my run Thursday so I could get a head start driving south to volunteer at the Zumbro Endurance Runs. No running for me until I returned home Sunday afternoon where I joined Sarah for a nice 9 miler at Jay Cooke State Park on a very warm day.

 - April 13-19: 5 miles on trails (planned 4) on Tuesday in my Inov-8's (have been running my shortest run each week in these shoes). 10 miles on Wednesday (up from the planned 8 due to peer pressure and fun trails). 4.5 miles on Thursday (down from 6 miles due to the longer runs the previous two days). Saturday I headed out the door for my first 20 miler of the year. It was a fun run with Shaun in which we stopped a lot, took many photos, explored side trails, and enjoyed a sunny yet blustery day on the trails. Despite our leisurely pace (or because of it?) I rolled my ankles a lot; three times on my right side and twice on my left. None of the rolls was very painful though I do remember at least one having me hop a bit and another being remarkable for happening on a relatively smooth gravel road. By the time we reached my house my gait was being affected by pain in my right lower leg which I attributed to tweaked muscles from all of the ankle rolls.

Cherry species - Ely's Peak area
Wintergreen berry - Ely's Peak area
Hepatica - somewhere on the SHT in Duluth

Creek near Magney-Snively, SHT Duluth

Close up of the ice - where SHT crosses the creek
Fancy new railing on the old bridge near the
Highland & Getchell intersection - SHT - Duluth

Sunday I met my daughter for a run at Jay Cooke State Park. She wanted to run 6 and I was planning on 12. My right lower leg was a bit stiff at first but seemed to loosen up as I ran. By 2.5 - 3 miles things had gotten worse and I opted to finish up the day by hiking back to my car. I couldn't run any further due to the pain I felt each time I bent my leg.

- April 20 - 26: No running but a lot of limping. It felt like I might have an acute tendinitis as it hurt to bend my knee. I iced a lot and had some deep tissue work done that week as it felt like I had tweaked the peroneus longus muscle. By the end of the week I was able to walk normally so thought I would try a short run Saturday. Made it 0.1 miles before the pain made it clear I was not going to be running yet. Since I wasn't able to run I was making good progress on my most recent knitting project:
Dovetail Shawl
I am using Kauni Wool 8/2 Effektgarn (Rainbow color way) as called for in the pattern but have combined it with a nice solid black to bring out the color changes. It is quite stunning. I started this shawl just before heading south to work the Zumbro races.

- April 27 - May 3: Still no running. Sigh. I had now missed one race for the Northwoods Team (Get in Gear 10K) and had another race and hike planned this weekend. I was mostly able to walk without pain, but hills and stairs still hurt. I could bike, so rode one night after work and commuted on another day. By Friday, in consult with a health care provider, I decided it was time to get an x-ray. One of the doctors I work with ordered the imaging and I had this done prior to seeing a Sports Medicine doctor that afternoon. Diagnosis: hairline fracture of my proximal fibula. The crack was going down the length of the bone from just below the fibular head. The odd thing was that it hadn't hurt to have my fibula manipulated. My doctor attributed the injury to the ankle rolls I experienced during the long run two weeks previously. I was provided with an air cast to wear for the next 4 weeks. I could continue to bike, so got in rides both Saturday and Sunday including a 9 mile mountain bike ride (shhhh.... my doctors might not like hearing that one).

My mountain bike in it's natural setting
Hepatica - white and purple variants
Wild Oats
 - May 4 - 10th: Lots of biking to and from work (15 miles round trip). I also brought my bike to Stillwater, MN to ride the final miles of the Break the Stigma Run with Julio and his crew. It was great to see him finish his run across Minnesota. Sunday I volunteered at the NMTC run which involved some short bike rides up and down the Spirit Mountain ski hill (shhhhh.... don't tell my doctors) and scouting out pockets of wildflowers amongst the bedrock outcroppings.
Large-flowered Trillium
Viola species
Ribes species

Large-flowered Trillium and Bellwort
Sarsaparilla species
Strawberry species
Large-flowered Trillium
So... three weeks of healing down and three more to go. I see my Ortho doctor at the end of May for a follow-up x-ray and visit. Hopefully all will be well by then and I will be cleared to start running. I am already seeing improvement, only experiencing mild discomfort when walking downhill/down stairs (an issue when you live in a house perched on a hillside).

I won't be running the Spring Superior 50K, but plan to head up to volunteer and cheer on my daughter in her first 25K this weekend.

I am hopeful that I will still be able to run Voyageur in July, and my doctor was pretty confident that would be possible (assuming I keep up with cross-training). My goal race is Superior (Sawtooth)100 mile and I am willing to set Voyageur aside if needed to ensure I am in good condition for this race.