September 23, 2009

Fall Running Season

I've been having a difficult time trying to decide which races to do the remainder of this season. The biggest obstacle was figuring out whether or not to take another crack at 50 miles this year, or put it on the back burner for awhile. I really want to bag a 50 miler, especially since I couldn't pull it off at Lean Horse last month (say "hello" to my new pet monkey).

Last Saturday I went out to Murphy-Hanrehan for a loop of the north and south ends of the park (most, but not all of the 15.6 mile loop that will be part of the race course). My pace ended up being about 14:45, which was slower (and felt harder) than I wanted it to for only doing a single loop. The 50 mile race has 3 of these loops plus some bonus miles in the hilly north end. This run didn't do a heck of a lot for my confidence as far as finishing 50 miles on this course goes.

The other thing tugging at me is that I really want to do the inaugural Wild Duluth 50K, but it's just 2 weeks before Surf the Murph. Three or four weeks would have been perfect as a last long training run, but 2 weeks is cramping my style a bit.

One potential solution would be to run just the 50K at both events, but that would mean I'd have to put up with the monkey living with me in cramped conditions all winter long.

It finally came down to a coin toss: heads would be the 2 50K's, tails would be the 50 miles. First toss was tails. I still stewed about it for another 2 days and realized that I've already got my spreadsheet set up for Surf the Murph (right down to how many gels, how many ounces of sports drink between aid stations, when to drop and pick up my lights, etc). Got out the coin again: this time heads. Crap. I was hoping for a slam dunk to make this decision easier.

Today the coin came out one last time: tails. My Surf the Murph 50 mile registration is in the mail. I still haven't decided what to do about Wild Duluth - perhaps a course sweep, aid station volunteer, or 50K hike?

What the hell am I getting myself in to?

Hope to see you in Frontenac for the In Yan Teopa 10 mile this Saturday!

September 16, 2009

Superior 2009

Bean Lake

For this year's fall Superior races, I chose to participate by spending time on the other side of the table at Oberg aid station. Volunteering gives a whole new perspective to races when you see just how much work goes on behind the scenes!

Drove up to Gooseberry where I would camp for the weekend on Friday afternoon. Got to the Silver Bay trail head about 4:30 and decided to hike up to Bean and Bear Lakes with the hope of getting some nice photos of the 100 milers coming through on their way to Tettagouche. As it turned out, I was a little too late and only encountered 3 runners on the trail before meeting the sweeps near Bear Lake. Temps were unseasonably warm and the humidity was ridiculous for this time of year. It was hazy enough that I could hear the fog horn in Silver Bay going off the entire time I was on the trail.

Bear Lake

Just barely made it out of the woods before dark, though I did at least have the good sense to bring my headlamp along just in case. It was pitch black by 7:30 and still very warm and humid. I didn't sleep very well that night in the tent because it was too warm for the sleeping bag, but too cool to remain uncovered for very long. I think the temps only got down to the mid-upper 50's overnight (that's what you hope for highs, not lows when running long distances).

Woke up shortly after 6 am and drove to the Crosby Manitou aid station on my way up to Oberg to watch the 50 milers go through. It was the first opportunity to meet crews or drop bags for this group, so I figured I could snag lights or extra clothes from runners who didn't have crews and relocate that stuff to Oberg where they might be needed again later. Doug and Maria had the place decked out with glow lights, lanterns, tiki lamps, leis, etc. Must have been very festive for the runners coming through, especially the 100 milers who passed through overnight!

Crosby Manitou aid station

Unfortunately by daybreak a third of the 100 milers had already dropped, most likely because of problems caused by the heat and humidity.

Got to my assigned aid station at Oberg by 10 am where I would remain until 9 pm with Kate, Jim, and Curt. Oberg is the "Last Chance Saloon" for all 3 races (marathon, 50 mile, 100 mile), and this year many of the runners wouldn't make it that far. Those who did should be proud even if it took longer than anticipated - it was a tough day on an already tough trail!

By far, the most common question runners had when they rolled in to Oberg was "What's this next section like?"

Kel: Do you want me to tell you the truth, or should I fluff it up a little?
Runner (ponderin'): ummm, tell me the truth.
K: You've got 3 hills and 7.1 miles left.
R (gulp): Are the hills bad?
K: The middle one is noteworthy.
R: How long is it?
K: I don't remember exactly, but it's called "Moose Mountain."
R: What's the trail like?
K: Some rocks and roots. It's well marked - just follow the orange flags.
R: Can you give me more details?
K: Yes, but they probably won't help.
R (staring across the Oberg parking area towards the trail head): Tell me anyway.
K: It's at least 0.1 miles across the parking lot to the Oberg trail head. When you get to the top of the hill, you'll come to a trail junction - make sure you stay to the left. It will be well marked with orange flags - keep the flags on your left. You should see a little inland lake on your left as you follow the trail. If you see a great big lake on your right, you're most likely doing some bonus miles on the Oberg Loop. It's a delightful little loop and I highly recommend doing it some time, but not today. This first hill really isn't that noticeable, and you'll descend to Rollins Creek which means that you've got 5 miles left to go. Then you'll start climbing a steep hill. And climbing. And climbing.
Curt: It's the stairway to heaven.
K: Once you're at the top, it's fairly flat and runnable for a bit - just make sure you don't take the spur trail up to the gondola. Stay to the left. Then you have a steep descent. Once you're done with Moose, you've only got 1 hill left. It isn't nearly as steep or technical, but it keeps going for awhile. Eventually, you'll hear the sound of water running - that's the Poplar river and you're almost home. You'll pop out of the woods where you've got a long, gentle downhill on a gravel road into the finish area that's more than half a mile long. So, you've basically got just 10K of running in the woods and a little bit of flat, easy gravel.
R (still staring across the Oberg parking area towards the trail head).
K: They have beer at the finish.
R (perking up): Well, I guess it's time to go for it. I'll just follow the orange markers.
K: Good idea.
R: Thanks!
K: Have a great run!

Next runner in to Oberg: What's this next section like?
Kel: Do you want me to tell you the truth, or should I fluff it up a little?

Thanks to all of the runners who toed the line at Superior this year! It was a pleasure and a privilege to serve you!

September 8, 2009

Some Runs in the Park

Murphy-Hanrehan Park

I've been getting some fun runs in ever since returning from South Dakota a couple weeks ago!

Last Saturday a bunch of local runners showed up at Afton to help Karen celebrate a big birthday. I did a 7 mile hill loop which included zipping up to the top of the Africa Loop, but skipped running around Africa and the Back 40 and just came back down to the river, then did Nigel's Hill and Campground Hill before heading to the visitor center for our vegetarian picnic. Lots of fun hanging out with the gang! Felt good to get some hills in after running flatter stuff in preparation for Lean Horse and Grand Island.

Sunday I headed out to Murphy-Hanrehan to check out the south end of the park. I'd only ever run the hillier north end in the past, and thought it would be fun to see other parts of this gorgeous park that sits only 20 minutes from my house. Got about 6.5 miles in on the sandy trails that are a little more rolling hills on open prairie compared to the steep, hilly, wooded north end. Saw more horses than people on the trails. The 2009 Surf the Murph course includes all of last year's trail plus these southern trails, so this run really got me thinking about doing this race again.

This past Saturday, I headed back out to Murphy-Hanrehan to meet up with Les (Surf the Murph RD) and Wayne for a tour of this year's Surf the Murph course. Wendy and Steve were also doing the training run, but they were running well ahead of the three of us most of the time. We had originally planned on doing the full 15.6 mile loop, but ended up cutting it a little short and just did 13+ miles since some folks have a rather longish race looming large this weekend ;)
I didn't remember so many steep hills on the course last year - I think some new ones have been planted! There are a few extra loops that are not on the trail map that provide some little surprises too! The prairie grasses are really pretty this time of year, and some trees are already starting to show fall colors. Running with the RD has got me seriously considering taking another crack at 50 miles this October!

So Sunday, back out to Murphy-Hanrehan I went. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite running spots and I can get there in half the time that it takes to get to Afton. I still get a little turned around on some of the trails and need to take a map with me. Ended up doing just 6.5 miles in the northern hilly section and only met one other person on the trail. I'd say that in general, the hills at M-H are shorter, steeper, and more plentiful compared to the longer hills at Afton.

This weekend I'll be working the aid station at Oberg on Saturday, giving all of the runners at the Superior races one last gentle shove towards the finish line. Hope to get some hikes/runs in on the Superior Hiking Trail Sunday - perhaps the Bean and Bear Lake loop near Silver Bay.

Great stuff!