September 27, 2008

In Yan Teopa 10 Mile

Eleven down, 1 race to go in the 2008 Minnesota Trail Run Series! Today's race was the In Yan Teopa 10 mile at Frontenac State Park. Wish I had brought my camera along - this is a beautiful park located among the steep bluffs along the St. Croix River south of Red Wing. The course is mostly gently rolling, non-technical trail in open terrain with a couple of steep, noteworthy climbs through singletrack in the woods. The fall colors are just starting to turn - it will be spectacular in a couple of weeks!

Met up with the usual gang at the start, but noticed that someone was missing. There are 4 of us attempting to complete all 12 races in the MN Trail Run Series, and Jim gave us a scare by being uncharacteristically fashionably late ;) After taking a scenic detour to get to the race, he somehow managed to drive 80 miles in an hours time to make it to the start line just as we were all heading down the trail. We half joked about camping at Nerstrand the night before the Big Woods Half Marathon just to make sure we make it to all 12 races. Half joked.

Much of the first half of the race is on wide grassy gently rolling trails in open terrain. Nice to have wider trails especially at the beginning so that people don't get too bunched up. I was feeling pretty good early on and tried to settle in to a comfortable pace. It seemed like there was a lot of downhill grade for the first few miles, which we would have to make up for later ;) Came to the first of several road crossings (I didn't remember that many road crossings before) and soon we were at the first of 3 aid stations. I had a hand held so I just ran through the first aid station and continued on. More wide grassy trail, but a little flatter now. I was grateful that the skies were remaining overcast, as I was starting to notice the high humidity. Took an S Cap and a Clif Shot shortly before coming in to the second aid station just past the half way point.

The second half of the course is more difficult (read: uphill) and also has more singletrack through the woods. I was starting to feel overheated from the high humidity, so it was nice to catch the breeze every now and then. My pace was starting to slow a bit, probably from the uphill grades in addition to feeling hot. A few wide switchbacks up to more singletrack, then the really steep switchbacks with lots of stairs leading up to the third aid station at the top of the bluff. By now, my hamstrings were threatening to cramp, so I had to slow down a bit. Topped off the handheld with water and headed out for the last few miles.

More gently rolling hills in open terrain - the sun was starting to pop through the clouds and I was really feeling hot even though the temp was only about 70. Still feeling like my hamstrings were going to cramp any time we came to an uphill grade, so I was walking even the gentle uphills. Took another S cap and kept going. One or two people passed me before we got to my favorite section of the course - the winding singletrack in the woods just before the finish. Finally popped out of the woods and trotted into the finish just in time for the awards ceremony.

I had originally planned on running the course a second time to get a 20 mile run in, but there was no way that was going to happen with the way my legs were feeling. I had also forgotten my Nathan vest at home, where it was loaded with water and gels ready to go. Oh well.

Thanks again to RD Larry & Colleen and their awesome volunteers for putting on another great event! I will have to pull my weight next year by doing some volunteer work at races instead of running all of them :)

September 20, 2008

Mpls Trail Loppet 5K

I must confess, when I decided to attempt to run all 12 races in the Minnesota Trail Run Series, the Trail Loppet 5K in Wirth Park really didn't sound all that interesting to me. It was scheduled just 2 weeks after Moose Mountain Marathon, which is primarily why we chose the 5K for the 10'th race of the series rather than their flagship half marathon. Moose Mountain was my "big" race this year (and on my favorite trail to boot), so in addition to needing a little recovery time, everything else afterwards seems a little bit of a let down.

Woke up to a hazy morning and drove the short distance to Wirth Park in Minneapolis. The weather was shaping up to be beautiful for a short hop through the woods - low 60's, a little humid, sunshine, and no wind. Met up with many of the usual cast of characters: Jim, Wayne, John, Kate, Brook, Steve, and Lisa - all except Wayne were running the shorter distance.

The 5K basically covered the same trail as the first few miles of the half marathon, which started only 10 minutes later. This did result in a few log jams on the narrow single track portions of the trail as the front runners in the half marathon caught up to the slower 5K runners. The beginning of the course was basically a wider asphalt trail that has seen some better days, which led up a short hill and then over broken concrete slabs in front of the building where we picked up our race packets. I thought this was supposed to be a trail race?

We finally got into some single track with a few very short technical sections. Very short. Then it was out onto grass and running past a school, back into the woods and along a power line section [nothing like the infamous power lines of Voyageur ;)], and more short sections of single track. The course then popped out onto a sidewalk which ran alongside a road bordering Wirth Park, then back onto asphalt pretty much the rest of the way to the finish.

There seemed to be a pretty good turn out for both events, and I believe the proceeds benefit the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation. If you've never tried trail running before, this would be a fun way to get your feet wet and see what it's like to run in the dirt, especially since you can compare it to asphalt and concrete all in the same race! Personally, I would have preferred more running on dirt trails instead of the pavement, but it was still a great day to be out in the woods with my buddies :)

Looking forward to a nice 10 miler in beautiful Frontenac State Park next weekend!

September 12, 2008

Hat Tip

RD Larry & Colleen

When races are run well, it's easy to forget the countless hours of hard work done by dozens of people who work behind the scenes to make the event what it is. They do their jobs so well that they become invisible to the folks who are out enjoying the trail. We forget that someone had to design the logo for the race, get shirts/hats/mugs/brochures/etc. printed and distributed, get trophys/medals/buckles made, secure permits/permission from land owners to run on any given trail that particular day, get permits or make reservations to use certain rooms or buildings for "race headquarters" during the event, make up the goody bags and pre-race packets, secure sponsors, hang banners, get timing equipment and set it up, market the race, arrange for medical/first aid, enlist ham radio operators, buy food and prepare it for the aid stations, recruit volunteers to work aid stations, mark and sweep the course, get runners registered (early and at the last minute), post results, arrange for catering post race food, lug the awards down to the finish line and distribute them to the winners, and clean up the mess after everyone else has left. I'm sure there are several other jobs that I've forgotten to mention.

Here is a tip of the hat to the volunteers who work behind the scenes so the rest of us can have some fun on the trail! The pictures I have happen to be from the Superior fall races, but this hat tip is for anyone who has ever volunteered to work an event. And if you haven't done it yourself, you should ;)
Just a few of the folks to thank for an awesome gathering at the fall Superior Trail Races:
Temperance Aid Station
Tettagouche Aid Station
Sawbill/Britton Peak Aid Station
Cramer Road Aid Station
Silver Bay Aid Station
Oberg Aid Station
Marathon check in crew, who also served as... ...the finish line crew.
Thank you all volunteers! Our great trail races wouldn't be nearly as awesome without you!

September 7, 2008

Moose Mountain Marathon

Short Version:

This is the only marathon I have ever run where I needed to use my hands.

In 26.2 miles, my Garmin showed 10,923 total vertical feet of elevation gain/loss with the steepest pitch up Carlton Peak being an 89.8% grade.

Long Version:

I managed to get out of the Twin Cities by late Friday morning, which allowed me to stop by the Silver Bay and Tettagouche aid stations later that day to check on my buddies who were running the Sawtooth 100 miler. I think I was actually more excited about their race than my own, especially since it was the first attempt at 100 miles for several of them! It was fun to catch a glimpse of several of them coming through the aid stations and hear how they were doing. I eventually got to Lutsen for packet pick up and the pre-race meeting before stuffing myself with pasta and hitting the sack.

Got up early Saturday to catch the bus to the start - it was perfect weather - slightly overcast and about 50 degrees. Looked like there had been a little rain overnight, but the skies appeared to be clearing. Anywhere on the Superior Hiking Trail is one of my favorite places on Earth, so I was getting excited to get going!

Finally arrived at Cramer Road for the start of the race and got lined up with Wayne and Jim. Larry said "Go!" and we were off on a 1.2 mile loop before heading past the Cramer Rd aid station and down the trail. I had never run this section of SHT before, so really wasn't sure what to expect as far as difficulty. Some said there was a monster climb, others thought it wasn't too bad. I don't remember any long or difficult climbs, but I had fresh legs at this point. Very pretty run past Fredenburg Creek, which was flowing more than some of the rivers! There were quite a few of us running together at this point, kind of like a freight train rolling through the woods.

We arrived at the first aid station (Temperance) 8 miles later and I realized that I hadn't been drinking nearly as much water as I should have. That's one of the problems that I have using a Nathan or CamelBak - I can't tell how much I've been drinking. Decided that I needed to pay more attention to my pre-race plan of 1 S cap every hour, 1 Clif shot gel every hour, and drinking at least 1.5 liters of Heed between aid stations.

The section between Temperance and Sawbill is very pretty and very runnable for about 2 miles up until reaching Carlton Peak. The trail runs parallel to the Temperance River on one side, crosses over it, then begins to climb a bit before hitting the steep rocky section up Carlton Peak.

During this section I had my first encounter with the bees that had already plagued other runners and got stung just above the knee. Dang! I made a mental note of the time since I tend to swell more than the average person, and I'd seen Molly at the Silver Bay aid station just after she returned from the clinic as a result of a bad allergic reaction to a bee sting the day before.

Oh well, nothing I can do about it now - time to climb Carlton Peak and keep moving toward the Sawbill aid station. The volunteers there had some stuff to help take the stinging sensation away, and mentioned that lots of other people had also been stung.

I seemed to waste a lot of time in the aid station, and finally headed back out onto the trail. Shortly after leaving, I encountered another swarm of bees. Thankfully the trail here was relatively easy, so I was able to sprint ahead to get away from the swarm without getting stung again.

The section between Sawbill and Oberg is probably the easiest section of the SHT I've ever travelled - nice open forest and the trail is not so steep, rooty, or rocky compared to the rest. The trail gradually dropped down to a good sized pond and I passed a beaver lodge, but didn't see any resident beavers. A pair of runners caught up to me and asked how I was faring with the bees. They had both been stung too!

Getting close to the Oberg parking lot, I heard the buzzing of yet another swarm of bees. Managed to find another gear to elude the swarm and just kept charging toward the final aid station at Oberg. Just 7.1 miles to the finish now.

After spending too much time in the aid station, I finally headed out to get up and over the last 3 hills and settle a score with one particular blown down tree on top of Moose Mountain. (As it turns out, I'm not the only one who had an issue with that tree last spring, right Barb)? I got past Oberg Mountain and Rollins Creek in good shape, and the long steep ascent of Moose began. This final section is probably the most difficult for the marathon course, and the climb up Moose at this point in the game can be a doozy. I'll be darned if I didn't hear the buzzing of another swarm of bees! I knew I couldn't sprint all the way up Moose Mountain, but I was able to go far enough to get away from the bees one last time.

After reaching the ridge top without any drama, I realized that my tree had been cleared from the trail and it was clear sailing! At least until it was time to come down the other side, at which point my knees were screaming during the steep descent. I think it took longer for me to get down Moose than to go up!

Now there was just the long jog that everyone forgets about: up and over Mystery Mountain. It is not nearly as steep or technical as Moose, but it seems to last forever! Finally, I could hear the rushing water of the Poplar River - almost home now!

Popped out onto the gravel road and jogged home to the finish at Caribou Highlands. Larry was waiting at the finish to congratulate me and give me my finishers trophy. He was also curious as to whether I'd seen any of the 50 milers since they were running a new, more difficult course this year and none of them had finished yet. Nope, I hadn't!

It was fun catching up with everyone at the finish - had to find out how the 50 and 100 milers were doing and how everyone else's run went. A few of us agreed that the marathon seemed easier than the Superior 25K back in May, perhaps because the blown down trees had been cleared and we'd had all summer to run hills ;)

I can't thank the volunteers enough for everything they did so that the rest of us could play in the woods during the bee/wasp/hornet convention. Perhaps I'll save that for a separate post.