April 29, 2008

In Search of Hills

RT Anderson overlook

The exercises that most people dislike the most are typically the ones they need the most. They're also the exercises that folks avoid doing, because, well, they don't like them. As a result, weaknesses develop, which makes us dislike them even more. So we avoid them even more. Vicious cycle that can turn into disaster. Unfortunately, I am no exception, even though I know better given what I do for a living.

So after a long winter of dismal, unfocused, spotty training, I realized I need to haul my carcass up and down some hills to get ready for the Superior and Afton races (among others). Not just gentle measly bumps ala Hyland (most of which I still ended up walking at Trail Mix), but steep, serious hills.

Since Trail Mix, I've been doing more strength training, tempo runs, and hill repeats on the treadmill during crappy weather days. Today, I went out to RT Anderson for the first time since the November Fat Ass run. Had the place to myself. Sunshine. Light wind. Trail in pretty good condition (a few short slippery spots that should dry up in no time). Fresh turkey tracks. Nice single track. Felt kinda gassed after only 2 loops (4.5 miles according to Garmin). Nice hills!

I definately need to spend more time on the hills.

April 21, 2008


Check out this free software called AutoStitch. It automatically creates digital panarama shots if you have overlapping digital snapshots. I took these at Bredesen Park this afternoon.

Open the software, select each of the following 3 photos...

and it produces this in just a few seconds:

Another one:

Pretty cool, huh?


As I mentioned in my Trail Mix report, I had some trouble with the muscles in my feet cramping during Saturday's trail race. Not my calves - my feet. I believe that this was caused by fatigue of muscles that simply don't get used very efficiently when running exclusively on paved paths or the hamster wheel, especially when constantly encased in shoes. There is a fair amount of peer reviewed research to support the notion that today's running shoes may contribute to many of the overuse injuries incurred by runners (feel free to do your own research using the Highwire link provided under "training aids"), and running barefoot allows your body to work the way it was designed. In the past I've never had problems transitioning from asphalt to dirt, probably because I was rock climbing on a regular basis (very effective strengthener of intrinsic muscles in feet!). Since I haven't been climbing much at all this past year and Trail Mix was only my second time off road this spring, things didn't go heavenly on Saturday as far as the tootsies were concerned. Anyhoo, I already knew about the potential benefits of running barefoot, but was too chicken to actually try going sans shoes outdoors - until I found out about Vibram Five Fingers KSO's from Keith.

Vibram Five Fingers KSO with Injinji socks

Took 'em out for their maiden voyage on the dirt paths at Bredesen Park this afternoon, and...WooHoo! Got to run through puddles, on soft dirt, asphalt, over twigs (ouch) and rocks (ouch), grass, etc. Still have tender feet! I only went about 2 and a half miles - my forefeet were starting to feel mildly bruised, but I expect that I just need to get used to actually feeling the terrain that I'm running on. Calves weren't tired at all. And my feet felt light as air (unlike Saturday at Trail Mix wearing clunkers that collected mud).

Oh, and the trees are budding, and turtles are popping up on logs in the ponds. It's officially spring!

April 19, 2008

Trail Mix Race Report

Well, today was the day I've been looking forward to for months - the MN trail race series opener with the Trail Mix 25K at Hyland Lake (which turned out to be a little less than 25K). Because of the snow and ice still on the ski hill, that part of the trail was eliminated from the course. Race Director OC mentioned that he may have us run the course backwards next year so that we can run up the ski hill to make up for it :) OC also dedicated this year's race to his wife who passed away in February - our race shirts have her name printed on the sleeve. A nice touch, I thought.

As we were lining up at the start, it was fun to catch up with Keith, Wayne, Kate, Bryan, and a few others (sorry who I'm missing)! We were all discussing our "what to wear" strategies - I had to apologize for my pasty white legs, but I was in good company ;) I was a little overdressed, but was able to shed an extra shirt after a few miles and felt fine. No rain during the race, and it actually turned out to be excellent weather for running.

My first loop felt pretty good! Considering the rain overnight and the overcast skies this morning, I thought the course was actually in decent shape. Yes, there were many muddy spots, but they were fairly short and most of the trail was pretty firm. (What a difference a week makes for the folks who ran in a foot of snow at Chippewa last Saturday)! As I was running toward the Hill trail, I passed Brook and Karen G as they were returning on the Lake trail toward the start/finish area to complete their first loop of the 50K. I never did see Steve or Carl.

With my horrible winter training, my lack of miles - especially trail miles - caught up to me a little bit on the second loop. Starting about mile 9, the muscles in my feet started cramping. My longest runs this year have only been 10 milers, and they've been on pavement or the treadmill. I guess the intrinsic muscles in my feet were voicing their displeasure, but it was actually kind of funny running with my toes stuck together. I ended up doing a little more walking on the uphills the second time around. One of my favorite things on both loops of the race was seeing a pair of loons on Hyland Lake, which must have just iced out (it was still mostly iced over when I ran there Monday). Wayne was there to cheer me through the finish line, and Kate wasn't far behind.

I'd hoped to stick around to visit more and hopefully catch the 50K runners coming in, but I was just too cold. Couldn't get warm even after adding layers of clothes and sitting in the car with the heater going, so I ended up just coming home. I look forward to hearing how everyone else fared, especially those who ran the Chippewa epic just last week!

Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped with the race! Everyone was very friendly and helpful - I tried to remember to thank them for supporting us when I went through the aid stations.

See the results here.

Runnin' in the Ruff 10K is 2 weeks away in Milaca...

April 14, 2008

Hyland Lake Trail Update

Trail Mix course map (click on picture for larger image).

I've enjoyed reading everyone's race reports from this past weekend - Northwoods trail runners are awesome!

I had a few client cancellations this week, which meant that I ended up having the afternoon off. Beautiful day - actually starting to feel a little bit like April! Went out to Hyland Lake for another cruise around the Trail Mix course, or at least most of it. I couldn't remember the exact route on the way to the Richardson Nature Center, so I'm pretty sure I shorted that section a little. This was my first real trail run since last fall, so my ankles are reminding me of a few muscles that took the winter off. Anyhoo...

The trail is starting to firm up nicely in lots of places, but there will still be some muddy spots this Saturday. There were a few small patches of snow in spots, but I expect that to be completely gone by race day; with the exception of the ski hill which still has a good 10+ inches of packed snow that seems kinda stubborn (unless we get some rain). It was a little slippery going down the ski hill, especially at an angle to catch the trail in the woods (which is still very muddy). Muddiest sections: the gradual north facing downslope early on in the course that runs parallel to East Bush Lake Rd and pops out near the paved intersection (aid station?), and the south running section after descending the ski hill until you get to the Lake Trail (almost lost my shoes in the deep mud in one spot). The wood chipped Lake trail is in excellent condition, and the Hill Trail has a few slippery muddy spots that should be in pretty good shape by Saturday. Same for the loop towards Richardson and the goat track up the back side of the ski hill - a few slick muddy spots, but drying out nicely. Of course if we get any rain, my trail predictions for race day are out the window ;)

For those who ran McNaughton or Chippewa this past weekend, these conditions will be a cake walk!

See ya Saturday!

April 10, 2008

Let the Games Begin!

Well, the first big race of the season for the Upper Midwest Trail Runners is the inaugural Chippewa Moraine 50K near Chippewa Falls, WI this weekend with Wynn serving as RD. Sounds like this will be a doozy of a start to the season since we are expecting another foot of snow in these parts over the next 2 days! I think I may possibly be the only trail runner in Minnesota who won't be racing this weekend, but I'll get in the mud next Saturday with the Trail Mix 25K at Hyland Park in Bloomington.

There are a few other updates related to this years Minnesota Trail Race series to mention:

The Afton Trail Run has a brand spankin' new website, and it's pretty spiffy! John will be replacing Scott as RD, but I'm confident that it will continue to be a spectacular affair, and that there is still absolutely no whining allowed ;)

The SMU Trail Scamper has their registration form available to download here, and a view of the course map here.

The Chester Woods RD has recently started a blog. Check it out for updates and trail conditions. You can also view the course map here and register online here.

Good luck to everyone running (or snowshoeing) at Chippewa, Mad City, McNaughton, or wherever this weekend!

April 5, 2008

Chain of Lakes

With all of the soggy, frozen, muddy, etc trail conditions being reported, I opted to do a 13 miler around the Mpls chain of lakes today. Game plan: park near Calhoun, head to Harriet, come back to Calhoun, take the Lake of the Isles detour, and do another lap around Calhoun. Almost exactly 13 miles.

Here's what really happened:
Slept like crap - woke up around 2:30 am and tossed and turned until it started getting light out. Finally crashed and got up around 10 am. By the time I ate breakfast, got dressed, yadayadayada, it was almost noon before I got to Lake Calhoun. Beautiful spring weather, with the temps already mid-50's. Realize that I am waaaaaaayyyyyy over dressed (shorts and t-shirt would have been ideal; I was in running tights and Under Armor winter gear mock T-neck). Being one of the first warm days of the year - and on a Saturday no less - at least half of the population of Mpls was also out enjoying the still frozen lakes.

Started out along the west side of Calhoun as planned. The dirt track next to the asphalt is in great shape - past the muddy stage. Took the detour over to Harriet - pretty crowded there too. More strollers - probably because it's the lake with the Elf Tree. BTW, the Elf Tree's door is pretty dinged up. Poor little fella...he's probably still at the winter cabin. Still some spotty snow pack on the path at the south end of the lake in the Elf neighborhood. Back over to Calhoun, north along the east side and the detour to Isles. Finally, an uncrowded path. A brand spankin' new path, with deep mud surrounding the path on all sides. They did a bunch of path reconstruction over the past few years, and grass has still not been replanted. Went back to Calhoun figuring that by now the crowds have probably thinned and I'll do one more lap. Wrong. Even more people have come! Picture Get in Gear where half of the people bring their dog. By the time I got back to my car, I couldn't stand the crowds anymore and pulled the plug. Only did 9.9 miles, but I felt a little gassed, overheated, and my knees were sore. Also starving, since I never ate lunch.

Knees have been pretty achy this week - especially after a 9 mile run on the treadmill this past Tuesday - and they are still buggin' me even now. I don't know why, but the treadmill really gets to my knees. Hopefully I can do a longer run outside on Tuesday since 10 miles is the longest I've managed so far this year and my first 25K is in 2 weeks. Yikes!

Sounds like we will be getting an all day rain tomorrow, which should melt a lot of the stubborn snow that's been hanging around. Actually, I think we are supposed to get rain every other day all next week.

Only 2 weeks 'til Trail Mix - I may need to bring a snorkel ;)

After 6 months of winter, I can't wait to get back in the dirt and see my trail running buddies!