August 30, 2008

Last Dance Before Moose

Today was my last trail run before heading up the Shore for the Moose Mountain Marathon (aka kiddie fun run) this Friday. Headed out to Hyland Lake where I saw more people running the trails than ever before - except during Trail Mix. Did about 10K on most of the Trail Mix course (cut out the loop towards Richardson and the ski hill). Also did a strength training workout for the upper body before running.

I had a pretty horrendous week as far as training goes. Work has been extremely busy (a good thing), but has left me exhausted after pulling 12 hour shifts every day. Only ran once (4 miles yesterday) since my Afton run last weekend. Hope to get a short tempo run in early this week as well as a short easy run or two. Perhaps a barefoot hike too. Then a day or two off.

Hope to get out of the Twin Cities late Friday morning and perhaps catch a glimpse of my 100 miler buddies at one of the aid stations on the way up to Lutsen. They start their journey Friday morning: while I'm at work, they will be running. When I'm eating lunch, they will be running. When I'm driving 5+ hours up to the pre-race meeting and packet pick up, they will be running. When I'm stuffing myself with pasta the evening before my race, they will be running. When I'm sleeping, they will be running. When I get up in the morning and have a pre-race breakfast, they will be running. When I get on the bus to get shuttled to the start of the marathon, they will be running. When I finally get started on my own journey, they will still be running. I will probably have a chance to share the trail with a few of them when we'll all be running.

Now you know why the marathon seems like a kiddie fun run ;)

Best wishes to all Superior trail runners next weekend!

August 23, 2008

Afton Again

Headed out to Afton again today for another round of hills. The goal for today was to get about 12 miles of hard hill work in before beginning a serious taper for Moose Mountain 2 weeks away.

After a very busy and sleep deprived week, I slept in this morning :) Stopped by the gym on my way out to Afton for a quick upper body strength training workout, then successfully bypassed REI without stopping in for their Labor Day Sale. It was past 10:30 when I finally pulled into the lot at Afton, just in time to see Matt as he was finishing up for the day. I'm pretty sure I saw Steve's car in the lot too, and it was still there when I finished (with a bottle of vitamin water on the windshield), but I never did meet up with him on the trail.

I did the same hill loop as last week, except only 2 laps. Turned out to be 11.7 miles, which felt pretty good! Today was my last pass through the blackberry patch for the year, though there may still be a few good ones next weekend for anyone heading out. Saw a wild turkey family on the trail (didn't get chased this time), and instead of buzzards circling there were bald eagles soaring. Definately a step in the right direction!

August 17, 2008

Hill Repeats at Afton

Headed out to Afton this morning for more snake hoppin', berry munchin', and hill runnin' as planned. Goal was to get a good 20 mile run of solid hills before beginning to taper a bit for Moose Mountain. I ended up starting the 25K loop in the forward direction, but chose to create a smaller loop so that I could emphasize running hills rather than the flatter terrain (ie Africa Loop and the long, flat, straight stretch that runs parallel to the St. Croix River towards Meat Grinder).

My loop included the run up to the Africa Loop, but rather than run the loop I made a right turn at the top and took the usual trail back down to the start of Nigel's Hill. Then ran Nigel's and the Campground loop as usual. This would allow me to refill my water bottle (Nathan vest) as well as hit the blackberry patch on each loop ;) Repeat 2 more times. For my fourth and final loop, I left off the quick trip up to Africa and just did Nigel's and Campround Hills.

Met up with Karen Gall as I was heading down the flat stretch from Nigel's to my last run up to the Campground. It was nice to have some company after almost 5 hours of hill running! We visited the berry patch up in the campground one more time before heading back to the parking lot. Karen was kind enough to slow to my pace rather than run her own workout - thanks Karen!
Total tally for the day:

20.78 miles
total elevation = 8823 vertical feet
average pace was just under 15 min miles (although the later miles were much slower than the early miles)

Consumed 4 liters of Heed, 4 Clif Shot gels, 5 S caps during the run, and some Endurox R4 immediately afterwards. My pre and post race weights were the same (I think that may be a first for a run this long)! I still start feeling a little queasy after drinking Heed for a few hours, but have found that eating crystallized ginger helps to settle my stomach.

Only 1 buzzard showed up while I was at the top of Nigel's Hill on my last loop, but he wasn't very persistant. Today's workout felt better than my 17+ miler 2 weeks ago, even though I was up late watching the Olympics and tossing back a few Summit Extra Pale Ales.

I'm tired and my knees ache, but I think I'm going to sleep pretty good tonight ;)

August 16, 2008

Days of Old Track and Trail 10K

I had planned on using today's "race" as an easy 6 mile trot in preparation for a grueling 20 miles of hill repeats at Afton tomorrow. Not sure why, but the run didn't feel all that easy. Makes me a little nervous about being able to pull off one more good long hill workout before Moose Mountain in 3 weeks.

Beautiful morning for doing anything outside! Got to Maple Lake High School in plenty of time to check in and socialize with the gang. Lots of folks in the MN Trail Run Series showed up for this one - a few of which I hadn't seen in awhile :) This is a pretty small and laid back race, so it was nice to have a few more folks than usual since the proceeds benefit the high school's cross country and track teams.

We started out on a paved road for a short distance before turning onto a dirt road. We probably ran at least a mile and a half before reaching a park where the actual trails began. Very nice run through the woods - non-technical trails with a few small ups and downs, but fairly flat (at least compared to most of the other trail races I've run). After the trail loop, we doubled back on the dirt and paved roads to finish near the softball field on the high school campus. Given the easy nature of the course and the pace I was running, it felt tougher than it should have. Oh well - I'll recover by watching more Olympic coverage on TV today.

Thanks to all of the volunteers who came out to support the runners!

August 15, 2008

Weekend Running Plans

Tomorrow is race number 8 of the 12 in the Minnesota Trail Run Series - this one being a 10K in Maple Lake. I'll be using it as an easy 6 mile run so that I can be rested for...

...hill repeats at Afton on Sunday. Lots of hill repeats. Planning on getting 20 miles of hills in preparation for Moose Mountain Marathon (race #9 in the series), then start tapering a bit. Hopefully there will still be a few blackberries on the bushes! If you want to join me, I'll be sticking mainly with Nigel's and Campground hills.

Don't mind the buzzards circling ;)

August 10, 2008


After getting my butt whipped at Afton last weekend, I decided that I really needed to test myself on more rugged terrain, similar to what I'll be facing during the Moose Mountain Marathon in (gulp) less than 4 weeks. Didn't have time to go all the way up the Shore, so I decided to try the Duluth section of the Superior Hiking Trail. I'd gotten some great feedback from Andy Holak about the rockiest, rootiest sections of the Duluth trails and headed up for a day trip yesterday. This would give me a chance to test my foot (about 99% healed) on rougher stuff as well as try out my new Nathan hydration vest (reviewed here).

The plan was to park at the Magney Snively trail head, do an out and back to Munger for 8.6 miles, resupply at my aid station (car), then do another out and back to Spirit Mountain to get 15 miles total. Unfortunately, I was late getting out of the Twin Cities and ended up just doing the first half.

The trail here started out to be pretty smooth - several patches of rocks here and there, everything covered in pine needles, gently rolling rather than the steep, rocky, rooty climbs that I associate with SHT. This is actually a really fun little piece of running, and I found myself grinning like a village idiot going through this section. Definately a different flavor compared to the SHT further up the North Shore. There are several overlooks of the canals and city of Duluth. Gradually came out to an exposed section of rock that reminded me of the level loop on top of Oberg Mountain near Lutsen. From here you can see Ely's Peak, which is the photo at the top of the page.

Lots of wild flowers in bloom right now - very pretty run.

Once I got to Ely's Peak, things got much bumpier.

Since this is an exposed section without many trees, the familiar blue blazes are painted on the rocks. Steep rocky climbs (use of hands is highly recommended in places) - this was more what I was looking for!

Unfortunately, this bit was rather short, and about a half mile later the trail popped out on the paved Munger trail for the last 0.4 miles to the Munger parking area. Headed back the way I came and enjoyed the open views once again.

Back into the open woods for my fun running section. I have named this section of the trail "Joyride" because it's just so flippin' fun!

Preceived effort for this run was: easy. All in all, I was hoping for more steep climbs as I think that's my weakest link right now. Ely's Peak definately fills the bill, but it's very short. And the shorter drive to Duluth vs Lutsen/Tofte is still 5 hours round trip (and $30 gas money). I'll probably spend the rest of my training time doing hill repeats out at Afton, Hyland ski hill, or RTA in prep for Moose Mountain.

Even though I didn't accomplish my training goals, I'm not sorry I went up to run this section. It was nice to try a new trail, and to catch yourself smiling while running through the North Woods is a good thing.

August 9, 2008

Running Paraphenalia

As I was getting ready to head out for my long run one morning this week, I had to chuckle about what I was putting into my pockets - and what that would look like to a non-trail runner:

4 small baggies with pre-measured amounts of white powder (Heed).
1 small baggie labeled "S" containing 4-5 capsules filled with an off white powder (S caps).
1 small baggie labeled "E" containing even more capsules, slightly larger than those in the "S" bag, also containing an off white powder (Endurolytes).
1 small baggie containing several yellowish small rock-like chunks dusted with a white powder (crystallized ginger).

Honest, Officer. I'm just going out for a long run through the woods. Really.

August 2, 2008

Buzzard Magnet

After much deliberation, I decided to stick around town and do some hill work out at Afton today. Got out there a little late (10:00 am) and started out with the usual - the 25K race loop in the forward direction. The plan was to get 16-18 miles total with some added emphasis on hills.

Be careful what you wish for.

I decided that the Africa Loop and the Back 40 would be a nice 10K warm up before attempting multiple repeats of Nigel's & Campground Hills. Part of the logic for this was to delay having to do too many repeats of Nigel's & Campground, there is a solar powered water pump at the top of the Campground so I could carry a hand held rather than the Camelback, and I really wanted to check the blackberry patch on the top of Africa. Alrighty then!

Temps were in the mid-70's, approaching 80, and I calculated that I should probably consume at least 2 bottles of Heed during the Africa/Back 40 loop. Not happening with a single hand held, but I figured I'd be able to make up for it as soon as I got up to the Campground. Was sweating like a pig! Felt reasonably good, and was taking 1 S cap/hour as well as 1 Clif Shot.

Africa started out pretty uneventful. So was the Back 40. Got back up to the Africa Loop right near the big blackberry patch. There were a couple of people deep into the patch, but all of the bushes I could see had nothing more than green berries. A few just starting to turn pink - nothing even remotely ripe. (The smaller patch in the campground had a few ripe ones - next weekend should be prime)!

It was at this point that I think I had my highest heart rate reading of the day - at a time that I was barely moving. Focusing all of my attention on the berry patch, I wasn't paying attention to the ground. Just as I was in mid-stride to start running further down the trail, I heard an odd vibrating sound. Looked down just in time to see that I was about to step on a large brown snake that was coiled and rattling it's tail. Crikey! I was able to jump over the snake and run several feet down the trail. After swallowing to get my heart out of my throat and back into my chest, I just had to come back and take a closer look. Turned out to be a fox snake pretending to be a big kahuna. Cheeky little bugger - he was still coiled and rattling even when I went back. With his tail in the dry grass, it sounded like it could have been a rattle snake.

By the time I got down to the river, my water bottle was bone dry. Decided to head up Campground Hill in the reverse direction to get to the water pump and tank up. Down the other side, then back up Campground Hill in the forward direction. Did 2 more loops of Nigel's Hill & Campground Hill, then headed for the barn. I hardly ran at all my last loop, and was really dragging up that last repeat to the campground.

Totals for the day:
17+ miles with Africa Loop x 1, Back 40 x 1, Campground Hill x 4, Nigel's Hill x 2, and a pathetic climb back up to the visitor's center. Total elevation according to Garmin was 14,400 vertical feet total, but I don't buy it. I'm guessing it was closer to half that.

Perceived effort:
Afton handed me my ass today. After only 17-18 miles. Since the Superior Hiking Trail is more difficult, Moose Mountain Marathon is shaping up to be a death march. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so: as I got back to my car in the parking lot I looked up to see about a half dozen buzzards circling. Again.