Sunday, November 29, 2009

SHT, Hyland, Afton, MN River Bottoms... all in a week's work!!

Hard to believe December is almost upon us - but what a great month November proved to be for running in the midwest!! I was so lucky to be able to get my heavy training for Hellgate in while the weather stayed decent. Of course, I could be faced with very different conditions in the mountains of Virginia in 2 weeks time but I think the ability to train well beats freezing my ass off for hours in miserable conditions simulating a 'worst case' scenario!

SHT

"Gotta love the SHT" was Connie's comment after I posted photos of last Saturday's run on fb. And that pretty much summed it up! The trip up north started with picking up my mother at MSP Friday afternoon... we headed straight up to Duluth. I could tell she was wondering (yet again) where she'd gone wrong with me as we took a detour along a lonely Skyline Drive to the Magney-Snively parking lot to drop some aid for the morning - it was pitch black, cold and windy - just as it would be when I planned to get there at 6AM the next morning.

After getting to see some of the trail during the Wild Duluth race weekend I'd really wanted to get back up there for a training run for Hellgate and figured it would be a good spot for the long one. So I'd made arrangements to run the SHT-Duluth section point-to-point starting at Grand Portage (in Jay Cooke state park) at 4AM, meeting up with folks along the way who wanted to run shorter distances. Starting this early gave me some more night running experience (Hellgate starts at midnight) - and it meant I would be done at a decent time so as not to completely abandon mother!

So, after a few hours of fitfull sleep (sort of like pre-race nerves!) - I woke at 3AM and drove out to Grand Portage. Lisa was going to be meeting me at 6AM at Magney-Snively so I hoped I hadn't underestimated the early sections. I started running at exactly one minute to four and everything was going well for the first hour when next thing I'm lost in my thoughts... and roll my right ankle. OW. Followed by many other choice words. I couldn't believe it. Well, I could. But I was pissed. It was just getting back to normal after rolling it a few weeks earlier at Hyland. That morning I'd continued to run on it but it had swelled up quite a bit by the time I finished the run. The right one's always been a bit weaker having pulled ligaments years ago (while doing some distinctly non-running activity) and I've rolled it badly several times over the years but I have to say the white hot pain I experienced this time around was new. A few moments of thinking I needed to turn around, feeling very shaky, followed by some tip-toeing forward, then walking, then very tenatively beginning to run. Hmmm... this doesn't seem so bad after all. But maybe it's just the shock and it's all numb? I'd say I was in shock alright but I knew I needed to keep moving or I'd freeze and I decided I was closer to Lisa's car than mine. So off I went. Soon I was at the Munger Trail and then hiking up towards Ely's Peak. Remarkably the ankle didn't give me much trouble the rest of the run. At one point I rolled it just slightly but no pain. I couldn't believe it after the initial pain being much worse than usual. Maybe finally, the 'dodgy' ankle has given up complaining!

I got to Magney at around 6:10 with Lisa waiting for me. Another car had pulled into the parking lot a few minutes before and was over at the far side. It's this sort of creepy shit that scares me more than anything I might meet out on the trail. I was glad I hadn't been there on my own rummaging through my drop box with my headlamp...

We set off for Spirit Mountain and beyond. It was fun running with Lisa who knows this trail well. As the sun came up the views over Duluth were fabulous. And running down along Kingsbury Creek was just gorgeous. It was dark when I covered that section sweeping at WD. Just thinking about it makes me want to run there again soon! Got to Highland & Getchell just before 8AM where we met Kami, Eric, Vale, Guy and Jenny. They had all driven up that morning. The next few sections are a lot of fun, some nice rolling hills and technical trail. We met up with Leslie Semlar along the way which was very cool. Unfortunately Eric's achilles didn't hold up well so he headed back to the car and planned to meet us at the end. What a bummer after coming all the way up. But it's not a tendon to mess with. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for the run. I'd gotten a bit chilly standing around for the few minutes before we left H&G but was well wamped up within a few miles. Lisa jumped off close to her house at Enger Tower and then Leslie turned around as we hit the pavement just before the footbridge. Myself, Vale and Kami continued down towards the Canal Park area to the Lakewalk and over to the Rose Garden. Guy & Jenny had left a drop bag there complete with a can of sf red bull for moi - awseome!! As we headed up towards Chester Creek I called Andy - he ran down towards us and then as we headed up towards UMD we detoured over to their house to say hello to Kim and make use of the facilities! Nothing like a home-AS at that point in a run...

Andy ran with us through the next section past Hartley Nature Center (really loved this part) and showed us a route through the woods rather than running along Vermillion road which was very cool. Kami had stopped at the Nature Center - she'd rolled her ankle recently as well and didn't need to push it so Eric met her there and then myself and Vale continue on to the finish at Martin Rd. Some lovely wooded sections and singletrack to get us there. The full trail distance with all the spurs to parking lots etc is 39M but I figure I did about 36M. Good enough!!

Got cleaned up, heated up (aka coffee) and then met up with Mum in Canal Park for a look around the shops. Back to the hotel to relax for a bit and then we went for a lovely dinner at Thai Krathong and later met up with Kim and Andy at the Thirsty Pagan (where I would definitely have devoured the tasty looking pizza if I wasn't already full!). Next morning I did an hour out-and-back from Highland & Getchell to top off a great weekend.

Hyland

Lots of running at Hyland these days. For some reason I had rarely trained there until this year but it really is a great park and since the summer the Friday mornings with the guys have been a real treat. Good company, great runners... and always entertaining conversation!

Wednesday evening I headed out there for a run a bit later than planned. But they had the ski trails around the lake lit so it was fun to do some loops of that section. Though I have to wonder why the park is lighting the trails given that I didn't see another soul on my 11 mile run! The following morning I was out there again as Val and I hit the ski hill at 6AM... with the day that it was I decided to dedicate a hill to the many people in my life I owe Thanks to... 10 hills later I figured it was time to start multiple dedications... and hill number 20 ended up being a general catch all Thank You!

Home, shower, church, visited friends and enjoyed yummy pre-feed Irish Coffees - and then off to Kami's for a fabulous meal and afternoon of fun with her family. It was a great way to spend the day. Of course, we all ate plenty... everything was so scrumptous. Finished off with a few board games where the competitive spirits came out in full force!!

Hyland again Friday morning with those who'd stayed in town for the holiday - ran off some of the damage with 2 loops. And then did some damage to the wallet for the afternoon...

Friday night we went to the MN Orchestra to see Hansel and Gretal - Wow! It was a fabulous production. I'd been to a few performances at the Bascilia previously but never to Orchestra Hall and not to a staged production. It was really well done and the music and singing were unreal.

Afton

Saturday the trail fun moved east for the annual FA at Afton. Great to see everyone out there. I'd planned an early loop and ended up with company meeting John and Matt at 6AM. After Friday's 17 miles I wasn't so sure about their 2:15-ish plans so I let them off as we hit the Africa loop... Matt PR'd for the 25K! I rolled in about ten minutes later and we added on a bit before meeting everyone else for the 9AM start. Mum had come out with Vale so she hung out with Alicia while we all headed out in the sunshine... it was yet another beautiful Fall day and we knew it could well be the last one... off we went meandering through the park, chatting, laughing, enjoying the trails. I headed back to visitor center around 11AM to finish with 24+ miles. And then proceeded to feast - it is a wonderful thing that many trail runners are also awesome cooks!

I crashed pretty early last night with the few long days catching up with me. Hot Yoga this morning felt so good. I hadn't been in a week so it was nice to stretch out and let the heat soak in. With the running easing off now I hope make it a few times a week.

MN River Bottoms

For a while now I have been meaning to check out two local trails - Lebanon Hills and the River Bottoms. And finally I made it to one of them today! And better still I got to run with Pam - we figured it had been several months since we'd run together which is yet another reminder how quickly this year has flown by! We started out at the parking lot just off Old Shakopee Raod in Bloomington and headed east. It was a perfect end to a few weeks of hard training with a nice 10 mile run on flat soft trail. I definitely have to come back here on snow shoes this winter - it will be perfect to work on technique before tackling the hills! The trail was quiet with just a few bikers. So peaceful - hard to believe a city lies atop the bluffs!

Two weeks until Hellgate. But first a long weekend in Vegas with the girls. Talk about two completely different weekends - but I am looking forward to them both!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"The Returnee"

As I was logging on to the Hennepin Co. fine payment system earlier today I thought it was quite clever, though not very amusing, that the word verification read "the returnee".

It made me wonder if this was a customized program. Maybe there are other word verifications like "gotcha!" and "ha, now, you're sorry..."

In any case, upon seeing the $1.50 "convenience charge" that was to be added to the online payment I went with the less green option of mailing in a check. Just like the last time.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Where The Wild Things Run, Surf, Race... and Party!!

Again, it’s been too long.

Hard to believe how quickly the weeks are flying by. We had an early taste of winter, then a fabulous few weeks of autumn, Thanksgiving is almost upon us... and then it will be Christmas! I love Christmas. It is without doubt my favourite holiday. I love Christmas trees, lights, decorations, presents (especially the presents) and of course, the food. I love traveling home for Christmas. I love the buzz. At airports, around town, pretty much everywhere you go. I love the complete insanity of last minute Christmas shopping. It’s a ridiculously commercialized, over-hyped holiday. And I love it.

Meanwhile, there’s been some running, some racing, some volunteering... and some partying. I will start at the end since I might never get there if I don’t. I am actually sitting on a flight to Miami as I type this and will upload it later. It’s no wonder time is flying by given the amount of travel lately. This is another work trip but I can’t complain – packing only shorts and t-shirts for my running gear – how bad??

Party

The party of course was the UMTR Awards Fest last Saturday evening. What a fun time we had! Needless to say I was thrilled to receive, er, a few awards. Two I knew about, the other was a genuine surprise. I’m not humble, or shy, or unassuming in any way – but I honestly continue to be a little in awe of all that I have achieved in the past few years. That probably sounds the complete opposite of what I intend but basically I am just thrilled to bits to be able to run and race as I have. I still pinch myself some days out on the trail – is this really me? Am I actually “a runner”? Winning stuff? Course records? And having the time of my life while doing it...


Speaking of course records – I think I set one this morning for running (in 2 inch heels) from the security area to gate G17. Ohmigod... I thought I was doing ok for time – until I saw the line for security. I’d been upgraded which usually means a short line but not at 9AM this morning. 20 minutes later I’m sort of getting close... but its less than 20 minutes until the flight departs. My boss was on the flight so I text him and he asked the agent how much time I had... 9 minutes... by the time I got through security and grabbed my stuff I had 3 minutes... I legged it! Turned the corner to G17 just as the airline agent had gone through and let the door close behind her. I thought no way she’s letting me on. But I raced over and knocked, okay pounded, on the door – she was at the end of the jetway and turned around – and, phew, came back to open the door for me! I was very thankful. I then proceeded to cough incessantly for the first ten minutes of the flight – I’m sure the guy beside me was wondering what he was going to catch!

I digress. The party – great collection of people as at any trail runner gathering! All the usual suspects, though a few couldn’t make it. And a few new faces whose names are familiar from races this year. Lots of people brought their partners and families and of course it was a very social occasion with everyone mingling throughout the evening. Though I still managed not to speak to some people I meant to including Kel and Londell - sorry about that! Some official business whereby Zach and other were elected to the board for 2010. Well, actually for 3 years I think – congrats Zach ;) Then of course there was the food. Wow. I could not help myself. I must have had at least 10 servings of desert. Who made that blueberry cheesecake? It was phenomenal. And Karen’s cake – that deserved an award all by itself! And of course there was Matt's homebrew... without which a trail running party is not complete.


Jason Husveth gave a very insightful and entertaining talk on his work and the ecosystems in our region. Clearly a very accomplished ecologist, Jason has made some serious finds including several rare plant species. Bryan Cochran got the slideshow going, a few hiccups but it continued to run while people socialized some more. And in between all of this the awards for the MN Trail Series and the Fab Five Fifties were presented. Kate and Steve doing the honors for their respective series. Including the one Steve gave himself which was quite funny. I was sitting beside Carl who assured me that Steve’s point system is indeed accurate – he should know as he maintains it - though I’m still not convinced! The announcement that Chippewa Moraine 50K will be the Championship race in the ultra series next year. I didn’t catch which one for the MN series. Jim McDonnell introduced the 1st annual Braveheart Snowshoe Series - check out the UMTR website for more details. I, for one, plan to snowshoe a lot more this winter! Then later some more awards. Daryl Saari received a very fun Wynn Davis’ original for his Gnarly Bandit accomplishment (several 100M/K distances). I have no doubt the large framed personalized cartoon superhero poster will hang proudly in the Saari household! Next up was Trail Person of the Year which went to a very deserving recipient – Wayne has had a great year of running, finishing his first 50M at Surf – but beyond that was one of the volunteers that cleared trail after the ice storm hit the SHT in May, volunteered at several other races – Voyageur is the one I remember most as he gave me a great boost at the last AS telling me John was just ahead (I know Wayne, I wasn’t supposed to tell – but Thanks again!), and then helped an injured runner at Superior thereby forgoing his own race. Now that’s someone you want to share the trail with! And then Trail Runner of the Year - Bonnie was doing the honors here and before long it became apparent she was talking about yours truly. All I’ll say is I’m honored and feel incredibly lucky to be a part of a fantastic community. Both Wayne and I also proudly received a piece of Wynn’s artwork - definite conversation starters!


You see what I mean by Original Artwork! Thanks Wynn for your hard work on all of the awards. And thanks Karen for taking the photo :)

Race

With getting back into running after the shin injury I was building up the miles throughout October. Then along came the BSC 6K – this is the only race of Corporate Fitness Series that is for BSC employees only (others include well known 5 and 10K races around the cities – HeartBeat, Autumn Woods Classic etc). I had run it in 2006 and again last year, setting a CR each time, but definitely wasn’t feeling up for another one this year after a 20 miler at Murphy two days earlier. But, I laced up the bright orange racing flats that I haven’t worn since a half marathon in May and we took off around Rice Lake (Maple Grove). First mile was around 6:10 and each subsequent one a little slower – but with a nice downhill finish I managed to hang on and finish in 23:38 (6:21 pace) – 1st F and I think 7th overall. There are a few speedy guys at work – I think the winning time was around 19:40. I took almost a minute off last years time so was well pleased with that. Though funnily enough I did this thing I often do in races that I plan to run every year – as I’m entering the last half mile and knowing I’m likely to finish faster than I have in the past I think to myself – maybe I shouldn’t push it quite so hard – it will just make the time to beat even harder next year!!

The next race for me is Hellgate 100K in mid-December. I am super excited about this race. Much more my cup of tea than a 6K race! Training pretty hard for it right now though I know I should be doing hill repeats. I shall have to get myself to the ski hill at Hyland next week...

Surf

Halloween saw the second year of the Surf the Murph races in Murphy-Hanrehan Park in Savage. If you have not run at this park yet please get there soon – it is an awesome park so close to the metro area. I didn’t pay too much attention to this race last year as I knew I wouldn’t be able to run it and I didn’t know too many others who were. But this year I decided to respond to Cindy’s email looking for volunteers. My motivation was not entirely philanthropic. I wanted to make sure I would not sign up to run it to allow myself plenty of time to recover from my planned 100 mile race (Angeles Crest 100). As it turned out, AC-100 didn’t happen (forest fires) but a shin injury did (overuse). When AC-100 was cancelled I’d signed up for the North Face 50M in Madison the week before Surf but then with the injury it proved to be too soon to race that distance. I thought briefly about rescinding my volunteer duties and jumping in the 50K at Surf but honestly I’d had so much fun at the aid station at Wild Duluth that I decided instead to continue to get in some good training for Hellgate and channel my energies towards a fun AS for the runners.

And boy was it fun?! The Halloween theme was easy, the menu prep a little more challenging for me who is not so used to the kitchen. Note to self – check the oven next time before turning it on to 375F. The poor frying pan that had been resting easily on the shelf for God knows how many months was a little dried out when I discovered it as I was putting the banana bread in. The pumpkin soup took a few practice runs that week – not helped by my blender falling apart mid-way through the first batch. I didn’t get to taste any of the pumpkin pie but if anyone is wondering what the ‘secret ingredient’ was – onions! It was meant to be another batch of soup until I discovered that can was pie mix and not puree. Can? What, the soup wasn’t prepared from scratch? And to make matters worse I actually had a conversation with one of the runners about roasting pumpkins. My justification for that particular white lie is that I didn’t want to disappoint him and have him leave the AS all depressed.

It really was a fun day. Les and Cindy and all of the volunteers put on a great event. Fun to see Maynard at the start, caught up with Sean Faulk who I’d met at Superior (and who is off to Japan this month to run a marathon!), and had a chance to chat with many other training and racing friends throughout the day. And I got to hang out with Christie who worked the AS for several hours – she is new to trail running so I thought it was very cool that she would volunteer at a race to see what it’s all about. The 50 milers came through the AS 3 times, the 50K twice and the marathon and 25K runners once. Pretty soon I had no idea who was running what race but it was fun to see the same faces over again! Spotting the lead runners was easy though – Duke had an awesome run in the 50M finishing in just under 7:30 – despite taking a spill just before coming through on lap 3. Bonnie and Don were at the AS at the time and how cool that Duke took the time to say hello (and clean up!) even though he was clearly on his way to setting a high standard for the inaugural year of this distance. Valeria had a nice win for the women as she and Eric ran together for the day. Both experienced a few issues but finished strong. It was Val’s birthday so we had a card and cupcakes at the AS to celebrate! Brian P had an awesome run in the 50K lowering the CR significantly. Leslie Semler won for the women to cap off a great year. I don’t know Leslie but had intended to seek her out on Saturday night but got distracted... that blueberry cheesecake! The marathon field was the smallest one but take nothing away from female winner Lisa Trainor who at 50 continues to set standards. I want to be just like her when I grow up. I’m not familiar with most of the other names or the 25K runners – except for Carrie who did great to finish her first 25K not long after her first half-marathon race. And a huge shout-out to Justin Barton, Maria & Doug’s son, who at 13, finished his first 25K!

All in all, a fun day on the trails with 4 races, ~150 runners, gorgeous October weather... and more Halloween candy consumed than I care to remember.

Wild

Similar to Surf, I signed up to volunteer at this race months ago. It would be exactly 4 weeks after AC-100 and knowing that running TCM last year after Sawtooth was a bad idea I figured a chilled out weekend up north would be more in order than a race. It was a blast. From start to finish. I took the Friday off work, ran with the guys at Hyland that morning and then arrived up at Bayfront Park a little before midday just as the trail markers were being organized. We set off to mark various sections, Andy and I taking the southern most ones. Right from the outset at Chambers Grove, where the 50K would start and the 100K would turnaround, I knew that Andy and Kim had designed an awesome course. The first hill was a killer as many enthusiastic 50K’ers would discover the following morning. The course wound its way through some neat singletrack, along ridges and soon onto the SHT. Earlier in the summer, Holly and I had run the subsequent sections from Grand Portage through Munger Trail (where our AS would be) and up Ely’s Peak. We split up the marking to make the most of the time and got it all covered except for a short section close to Bardon’s Peak area which I marked the following morning. Got back to the Bayfront Area and before long it was starting to get dark. As I am writing this I think I covered much of the remainder in an earlier post... and the stewardess just told me to put my laptop away. Suffice it to say that Wild Duluth is a race you should run next year! The course is awesome and the fact that Duluth is so accessible for many in the MN/WI region makes it all the more appealing. The weather certainly helped this year but I think even in colder or wetter conditions it would still be beautiful. I had such a fun day – and night – sweeping the course with Jeff and Pat was a blast. Hearing stories of their running careers and beyond, all the while running new trail by headlamp, with the city of Duluth lit up beneath us.

I cannot wait to get back up there – and as it happens I don’t have to... roll on Friday night!! I’ll send out an email to the dead runners list in case anyone else would like to join in the fun.

Ok, the laptop has to go. Apparently there’s a space shuttle taking off somewhere around us in ten minutes and I happen to be on the right side of the plane to see the action!!


P.S. Online again at hotel. The launch didn't happen (on time) - but the green-blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean made up for it. Glorious. I love the sea. Almost as much as Christmas.