Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 7

Boring running week since I was traveling for work for most of it.

Monday: 8.1 mi, road
Tuesday: 5.2 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: 5 mi, treadmill
Thursday: 5.1 mi, treadmill
Friday: rest
Saturday: 10.3 mi, road & trail (home to Bagley to Hartley & back)
Sunday: 16.4 mi, trail (SHT – Normanna Road to Sucker River & back)
Total: 50.2 mi

Monday I was planning for 10 miles and didn’t get there. I had a lot to do to get ready for my trip – and even then I ended up packing Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I managed to hit the workout room at the hotel and torture myself for 65 minutes (the max workout time on the treadmill + 5 min cool down) after dinner. Yes, after dinner each night, since Tuesday we went to dinner on our way from the airport, and Wednesday and Thursday we went shortly after returning from our site visit. Since I was the one who rented the car, and I’m also not a total antisocial jerk, I had dinner at 6 with the rest of the group, rested in my hotel room for an hour, and then ran. Trail running has helped me become more adaptable to running on a full stomach. Thursday was rough as I had eaten a delicious smorgasbord of Indian food, but I wanted to give myself the opportunity to have Friday as a rest day.

It turned out I needed Friday as a rest day since I had a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call, had to drive in the dark through a thunderstorm, and then found the airport coffee shop wasn’t open yet. Upon landing in Minneapolis, I hoofed it down to Starbucks but saw there was a huge line and had to head back to my gate. So I didn’t get coffee til I landed in Duluth. Thus, there was no way I would be running – I was already a zombie. I suppose I could have napped, but eh.

Saturday I ran from home to Bagley Nature Area, ran half the loop (the half without the hill), split off on the Superior Hiking Trail, and crossed to Hartley. I did the Root Canal loop at Hartley and was coming around the Old Hartley Road trail (which is now a gravel trail) and came upon a man who informed me there was a bear up ahead. A runner who had passed me earlier was yelling at the bear and making noise to try to get it to leave the trail, so I joined him. I wasn’t especially worried since it was a single bear in August – not a cub, not starving – but I wasn’t about to just scoot by it while it munched on the side of the trail. The bear moved after a few minutes and we cautiously approached the spot where it had been. Seeing no sign of the bear, we both took off. This was fortunate as it would have added a couple miles to my run to go another route, and it was already late. I’d actually almost decided not to run that day, since I’d hurt my neck rolling over in bed, but by 6 PM I was feeling guilty enough to get off my butt and get the run in.

Sunday I had another late start, due to 1. waiting until Austin Jarrow opened so I could get some more gels 2. rain and 3. procrastination. Oh and 4. missing a turn. It ended up raining for a significant portion of my run, so waiting was basically pointless. I drove out to the Normanna Rd. trailhead, which is kind of annoying to access. I think I could have taken an easier route from where I live if I’d just looked at a Duluth map, but I followed the directions on the SHT site, and then misread them and turned left on 61 too early, realized I would be heading into a dead end, and had to go back to the next left turn spot to get turned around the right way on 61 again. So I didn’t start running til 3:25 or so. And I forgot my GPS watch, which I have NEVER done (but have almost done several times, so I guess that was bound to happen), so I had to use my iPhone, at 49% battery, to track my run. (I put it in a plastic bag to protect it.)

The trail was ok, it had a lot of grassy sections which kept my feet soaked the whole time. It’s not particularly challenging, there are some ups and downs but nothing too hard. The worst part was the deerflies buzzing around me constantly, even with the rainfall. I wasn’t swarmed, but I couldn’t ever really be rid of them. They kept getting stuck in my hair, which was disgusting. I even had a whole (dead) one come out while washing my hair after getting home.

I was actually intending to run 18 miles, but when I got to the spur trail to the parking lot, I realized that I was only at 8.2 miles (or so… since Strava truncates after the first decimal place – they don’t even round!) and decided screw it, I’m over this. The bugs, the rain, and the grass had frustrated me. Plus I was going to be done after 8 pm if I kept going. This ended up being a good choice, as the gray skies and denser forest in the last few miles meant I was running in low light. I was pretty cranky for the second half of the run, and ready to get it over with. A few times during the run I heard what sounded like dogs barking/baying in the distance, but eventually convinced myself they were coyotes and started to get a bit scared with a few miles to go. They didn’t seem to be getting closer to me, but that didn’t mean things couldn’t change. I am a lot more afraid of encountering a coyote (or wolf) than a bear. For all I know, it could have been some hillbilly’s hound dogs howling for their dinner.

The rain and the general dampness of the trail made all the little footbridges slippery, so I walked over them to be careful. Apparently that wasn’t enough, because a mile or so from the end, I stepped on one slightly tilted plank and my foot slipped off into ankle-deep mud. I couldn’t get my footing back and ended up having to crawl to the next section of planks before I could get back on my feet. It was a bit of a desperate moment but not the end of the world. I am glad that’s the worst thing that happened because I had run my iPhone battery down to almost zero using Strava, and when I got back to my car, I found my other phone had also been drained to almost zero by… I’m not sure what. Trying to find a signal or something stupid. I really need to remember to put it in airplane mode before going off the grid for a run. I didn’t have chargers for either phone in the car, either, so if I had car trouble or an injury, I’d have been screwed.

I’m glad to be home the next couple of weeks and I’m looking to ramp up the mileage slightly before stepping back again once I go on my road trip. Halfway to the Birkie!

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