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!
"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.
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.
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!