October 28, 2007

Carver Park

What an awesome weekend to get out on the trails! Perfect weather both days: sunny, cool start then warming up to the 50's, light wind, no bugs, still some color left on the trees. The only clunker seemed to be all the road closures for construction projects that were getting in the way of where I wanted to go. So I dug out my copy of Minnesota Running Trails by Kate Havelin to find an alternative to my usual trail running haunts (Hyland or Afton), and settled on Carver Park near Victoria.

Part of the trail suggested by Kate was closed for the season so I had to improvise a little, but I got in about 5 miles (the longest run I've done with the new Sole footbeds). Nice soft ground with the trails dry and in great condition, gentle rolling hills, lots of small lakes and marshes, a few boardwalks through the marshes, mixed hardwoods, open praries, etc. I think the highlight for me was watching a trumpeter swan family of 3 paddle around and "tip" their back sides up in the air. I felt like I had the park to myself - very few other people there, which I thought was odd for such a perfect day.

October 27, 2007

Don't Mind the Buzzards Circling

For the past month or so, I've been experimenting with insoles. Why? Here's the complete skinny:

I've been blessed with high arches and a neutral gait. Never had any of the common foot maladies that plague distance runners......until September 22, 2007 at the In Yan Teopa 10 mile trail race at Frontenac State Park. Perfect day, perfect conditions, nice trail, same shoes and sock make/model that I've been running in all summer. Why, then, at mile 3 am I getting a searing hot spot on the medial side of my big toe on my right foot? I stopped a few times during the race to tighten my laces, rearrange my sock so the seam wasn't in the "wrong" place, etc. No joy. At about this time, I looked up and noticed a half dozen turkey vultures circling. Not exactly a comfort when one is having a tough day on the trail. I finished a significant portion of the race oversupinating my foot to get off the hot spot, and was glad to finally cross the finish line. The buzzards went away, but my foot was pretty sore. Over the next week or two, the plantar fascia on that foot was pretty riled up (probably from oversupinating) - enough so that I didn't run much at all.

I tried Superfeet at the recommendation of a podiatrist who works with runners, but they were uncomfortable on my heel (which may have still been a little sore and swollen from the plantar fasciitis). Then a mountaineering client of mine recommended Sole customizable footbeds which he uses and likes, especially for long hikes in the mountains. Anything that is customized has got to be better than a generic insole, so I decided to give them a try. I found them for only $45 regular price at REI in Bloomington (they are $55 on the Sole website). You just pop them in a preheated 200 degree oven for a few minutes, put them into your shoes, put the shoes on, and stand in a neutral position for 2 minutes while they mold to the shape of your foot. Double bonus (at least in my mind): not only do they mold to the exact shape of your foot, but to your foot in the particular shoes that you're running in.

Wimpy insoles that came with shoes:

Sole customized footbeds:

So far I've only done short milage with them - I'm still getting used to having something pressing against my arch. But I'm not having any hot spots, heel discomfort, or buzzards circling - it will be interesting to see how they do with longer runs. I'll keep ya posted!

October 25, 2007

Slippery Slope

After becoming smitten with trail running at Afton this summer, I decided to check out what other trail races are held in Minnesota. I'd heard about the spring and fall races on the Superior Hiking Trail and decided to go up to Lutsen and check out the 25K course (which is also part of every other SHT race course). I'd hiked that part of the trail shortly after it was built almost 20 years ago and remembered it as being very rugged - not the sort of terrain I'd be able to run on very well. I also remembered it as being absolutely beautiful. I went up in late July, and as it turns out, my memory was pretty accurate.

A few weeks later I was back, this time crewing on Saturday morning at the Temperance River aid station for the fall races. This was an interesting experience because we got to see runners from all 3 events in various stages of decay. It was mile 8 for the marathoners, who were still fairly fresh. It was mile 83+ for the 100 milers, who were looking pretty glassy eyed if they even made it that far. The 50 milers came through twice: mile 18 and again at 32. I was (and still am) in awe of the folks who had the guts to toe the line and do an ultra on that terrain. Race Director Larry had warned those of us in awe that we were on a slippery slope - starting with a short trail run, crewing at another event, and next thing we're going to be out there with the others experiencing the decay first hand.

I think I'm on the slippery slope. I'm pretty sure I'll see Wayne out there too. The Superior Trail 25K in the spring and the Moose Mountain Marathon in the fall are both major goals of mine for 2008!

October 24, 2007

Getting Started at Afton

So how did I get started trail running? Hmmmmmmmmmm........

Once upon a time, I was nationally ranked in orienteering. This involves running through woods, swamps, marshes, tall grasses, up or down ravines, etc with virtually no trails or footpaths at all. Hard work. Then I got more involved with road running - smooooooooooth pavement the entire way. It only seems logical that I would go from one extreme to the other and end up somewhere in the middle: on trails. As they say, all things in moderation, including moderation. At least, that's what I say ;)

Anyhoo, on a cool April day, I decided to sign up for the Afton Trail 25K to be held on July 7, 2007. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I had access to the course map in addition to topo maps of Afton State Park from MNOC, so I had a chance to check out the terrain that we would be running on. I already knew about the Afton hills, so that was no biggy. In fact, it was a relief to be on trails since my last orienteering adventure in that park landed me in the hospital with a punctured artery in my leg (doncha just love hidden rusty old barbed wire)? That's a story for a different day.

As it turns out, July 7 was the hottest day of the summer - a heat index of 100. Since I really hadn't trained properly, my goal was to stay out of the ambulance. The race director explained The Rule (absolutely no whining) at the start, and we were off into the woods. I already knew what to expect on the course, so I actually felf pretty relaxed. Two things that really struck me about this race: the other runners were all very friendly and supportive, and the aid stations were like running up to a Thanksgiving feast. In spite of carrying my own electrolyte drink, pigging out at the aid stations, eating salty stuff, I did have some problems with my legs cramping the last 2+ miles. It was just too hot and humid to replace the fluids lost from running. I always weigh myself before and after long runs (especially in hot/humid conditions), and in spite of drinking 20 oz of my own sport drink, 4-6 oz of Heed at each of the 5 aid stations, another 20 oz of recovery drink after the race, eating a cheeseburger, chocolate chip cookies, pretzels, potatoes with salt, strawberries, and PBJ sandwiches, I weighed in 2 pounds lighter at the end compared to the start. But I achieved my goal: I finished and didn't end up in the ambulance. Yep, it was hot (but I'm not whining Scott), and I was hooked!

Trainer Tip: weigh yourself (preferrably undressed) before and after long runs or runs in hot/humid conditions. For races I even write my prerace weight on the back of my bib for emergency medical purposes. If you are drinking the right amount of fluids, your weight should stay about the same. One pound = 16 oz fluid.


For the past 10+ years, I have been very busy building a Personal Training business from scratch. Prior to that I was a Medical Technologist for about 15 years, but I got tired of working crappy hours, for low wages, under high stress, and being exposed to chemical and biological hazards. In 1997 I decided it was time for a career change. I still have low wages, work lots of hours (but not crappy ones), and love what I do!

Being self employed (in any field) means that you are always working. Always. I typically put in 12 hour days spending all of my time and energy on everyone else's training program, but haven't had much left for myself. A decade later, I've found myself in the worst shape of my life (physically and mentally). This past year I finally decided that I needed to make my own fitness a priority again. The purpose of this blog is to help keep me focused on my own trail running goals as well as document my progress, triumphs and failures.