Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 5

A taper of sorts.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5.3 mi, trail (Lakewalk), 132 bpm
Wednesday: 6.7 mi, road, 131 bpm
Thursday: 7.3 mi (4 x 1 mi), paved trail (Munger), 147 bpm
Friday: rest
Saturday: 6.2 mi, trail (SHT @ Becks Rd), 144 bpm
Sunday: 9 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk), 144 bpm
Total: 34.6 mi

Winter is coming. It’s depressing to think about, and the weather is still nice so it’s easy to forget, but it’s looming. The days are shortening, and I’m starting to realize I can’t lollygag around home and still get in a workout before dark. Twice this week I was caught out at dusk with no headlamp and no reflective vest.

Monday I took a rest day because my hips were hurting. I wasn’t especially concerned because both sides hurt and it felt more like muscular soreness than a real injury, but I did not want to take any chances. I don’t really like to take Mondays as rest days, since it means I don’t have flexibility later in the week, but sometimes it’s necessary. I felt much better on Tuesday so clearly it was worth it.

Tuesday & Wednesday: boring runs of no interest.

Thursday I ran 4×1 mile on the Munger Trail and it was hard. My hamstrings did not like it. I felt for awhile like they were on the verge of snapping, like violin strings, when one slight turn of the peg would be too much.
My repeats were:
9:20 @ 175 bpm, 9:30 @ 176 bpm, 9:34 @ 175 bpm, 9:40 @ 173 bpm
I had to slow a bit on the 3rd repeat because I thought I was going to barf up my energy bar, and on the 4th repeat I guess I just got gassed. Strava says I set a mile PR. Hooray I guess.

Friday I had planned to run and didn’t and that was fine. Saturday I did a trail run and bonked like 3 miles in, thanks to some bad timing. I had a gel and felt better but it was still not the best run.

Sunday I ran the Lakewalk from Brighton Beach to Canal Park, which was one of my goals for the season. I didn’t really want to run 14 miles, so I wasn’t sure what to do, then had an epiphany, I could ask my husband to pick me up at the Rose Garden and drive me back to my car. I try hard not to ask him to do stuff like that too often, but the Rose Garden is fairly close to my house (not close enough to run! and all uphill), so it wasn’t a huge burden for him. The Rose Garden/Leif Erikson park is a Pokestop, which meant it was crawling with people not paying attention. Canal Park was also teeming with tourists. I should have known this, and attempted the run anyway, so it’s my own fault.

I managed to do yoga or some other quick strength training almost every day this past week, so I am going to pat myself on the back. I guess the hip soreness scared me into getting my stretches in. Now it’s time to take it easy with a lot of gentle running leading up to the race on Saturday.

Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 4

My last big week before the race!

Monday: 6.2 mi, trail (Western Waterfront trail), 134 bpm
Tuesday: 5.4 mi, trail (SHT starting @ Magney), 151 bpm
Wednesday: rest (yoga)
Thursday: 7.3 mi (8 x 0.5 mi), paved trail (Munger), 143 bpm
Friday: 5.7 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk), 126 bpm
Saturday: 14.4 mi, trail (SHT @ Lutsen), 144 bpm
Sunday: 5.5 mi, paved trail (Bong Bridge), 130 bpm
Total: 44.4 mi

Last week was an eventful week. Monday, I found a new trail, the Western Waterfront trail. It is accessible from the Munger trail near the Munger Inn. It’s not a really long trail, but I wasn’t able to traverse the entire trail due to construction. This gravel trail follows the St. Louis River in west Duluth, with nice views and very little traffic, at least when I was on it. I will have to give the entire trail a shot some time, once I’m confident the construction work has passed by.

Tuesday, in addition to running, I did some trail work on the Superior Hiking Trail. I was able to sign up through an event at my work, so I can’t really call it volunteering, as I got paid. We assisted with a trail re-route near Keene Creek, including moving a small footbridge (the one that crosses the creek right before the trail goes under the freeway). I got to meet Larry, who is responsible for trail maintenance on the Duluth sections of the SHT, and give him a big thank you for the great trail conditions. I used a glorified rake called a MacLeod (?) to do final grading of a section of the trail, and removed roots and weeds from the trail. I was planning on running right after we completed the work, but it was 88F so I went and got an iced latte and cooled down for awhile before running in the late afternoon instead.

Thursday’s speed workout left me with horribly tight hamstrings both Friday and Saturday. Each day, it took a couple miles to loosen them up. Friday I went running on the Lakewalk and saw a bear. That was exciting. There was a chain link fence between the bear and me, but the fence wasn’t actually containing the bear. S/he was just chowing down near Tischer Creek. At first I thought it was a large dog, then backtracked realizing, no, that’s not a dog.

bear jamboroo

It’s a freaking Country Bear Jamboroo on the Lakewalk.

I’ve spent hours and hours running alone in the wilderness but I see a bear on a well-traveled paved trail in the city. Of course.

Saturday I trekked back up to Lutsen to finish my recon of the marathon course. All I had left to do was the Oberg to finish section, which I’ve already done as it is the Superior 25K course. And oh yeah, it sucked last time. I found it challenging this time around, but not nearly as difficult as I did back in May. I was able to scale Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain without stopping (though Moose Mountain was still incredibly tough), although I know when I’ve got 20+ miles on my legs, it’s going to be a lot harder. I can attribute my improved ability on the course to a couple of factors: 1. Improved fitness (I think) 2. Better weather (cooler in August than in May, that is odd) 3. Managed expectations (I knew that Mystery Mountain would go on forever, so I was mentally prepared). The first few miles of the run were tough due to my tight hamstrings. I had to pick around a lot of rocks and roots and didn’t have the maneuverability I’d have like. I had to stop a couple of times to practice my latrine-digging skills, so that was a bit annoying, but that was only due to poor planning/timing, not stomach issues. I encountered a group of ladies hiking on the trail, hearing them before I saw them as one was wearing bells to scare off wildlife (I assume). Jokes on you, lady: all the bears are in Duluth.

Sunday my hips hurt, so I didn’t push too hard on my recovery run. I ran across the Bong Bridge from Duluth to Superior (and then back again), which was cool, but not as cool as I’d have liked.

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A bridge from a bridge. #conservationofmomentum

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It is a short run; the bridge is probably less than 2 miles across. I thought at some point the view would be breathtaking, but I never quite got my socks knocked off. I don’t plan to run this route often, but I wanted to give it a try at least once.

This was probably one of the most interesting training weeks I’ve had, with something notable happening every single day (new trail, wildlife encounters, trail work). I am pleased I’ve been enjoying running again lately; it means the break I took in July to get my head straight was worth the time off training. Never dismiss the power of a mental health break.

Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 3

The week ended not with a bang, but a whimper. However, overall it was a good week.

Monday: 7 mi, road, 138 bpm
Tuesday: 6.3 mi, trail (SHT starting @ Highland/Getchell), 144 bpm
Wednesday: 5 mi, road/trail (including 8x Chester Bowl ski hill), 146 bpm
Thursday: rest (yoga)
Friday: 20.4 mi, trail (SHT, Sawbill to Temperance to Oberg to Sawbill), 152 bpm
Saturday: rest
Sunday: rest
Total: 38.8 mi

I had a great week of running, capped off by a weekend of doing nothing. I had planned for Saturday to be a rest day, as I was heading down to the Twin Cities overnight, but I had also planned on running Sunday after returning to Duluth. I didn’t. Oh well.

Friday’s run was VERY important. I was pretty nervous about the section of the course I ran, starting from Sawbill and heading back to Temperance River where I turned around last week, then ran through Sawbill (stopping at my car to throw some stuff away and refill my sports drink bottle) to the Oberg parking lot, then turned around and went back to Sawbill.

The profile looks a little scary.


Yeah, that climb out of Temperance scared me. But it wasn’t really that bad! Carlton Peak gets fairly technical at the top, but it isn’t a straight up climb, and none of the climbs are too frightening. (Photo from the race website.)MMM3

Here’s what the elevation profile looks like from my GPS data. MUCH more manageable, no?

I ate a lot more during this run. I had 2 protein bars, 4 gels, and about 32 oz of sports drink. I didn’t feel like I truly bonked during this run, like I did last time, and I didn’t have any horrible, frustrating rage. Man shall not live on gels alone, I learned. I think I have a good idea of what I need to carry with me during the race, and I’ll supplement by stuffing my face at aid stations as I am able.

I’m starting to get excited for the race, and almost maybe a little bit confident, or at least much less pessimistic. I’ve got food, clothing, and gear nailed down already, and I’ve got one more date with the course (and my friend Moose Mountain) this Saturday. Less than 3 weeks to go!

Trail Review: SHT Cramer Rd to Temperance River

I haven’t done a trail review in awhile, since many of my runs have been either on the same portions of trails I run over and over again, or they don’t have definitive starting/stopping points.

Over the weekend, I ran the first 8 miles of the Moose Mountain Marathon course, starting at the Cramer Rd trailhead in Schroeder, MN.


The trail starts off with some rocks and roots, but nothing overly technical, and remains fairly runnable for several miles. There are a few ups and downs in the first 2 miles, but nothing exceptionally tiring. There are a few places where the entire width of the trail is rock (as in, one single slab, not as in many small rocks), which I don’t like, due to the lack of traction. If the course is dry and mud-free, it’s not a big deal, but I did find it slick in spots since it rained while I was out running. Some of the plank bridges also got a little slippery, in fact I nearly twisted an ankle sliding sideways off of one. I am sure in drier conditions they are fine, although the wood is well-worn so I did find I was struggling with traction even on drier boards.

After about 3 miles, the trail starts to follow the Cross River, and that is some of the most pleasant running I’ve ever had. The trail is relatively flat and easy to traverse along the river, with a few tough spots, but the sound of the river rushing by is heavenly. The trail crosses the Cross River at a bridge 5.3 miles in. The ascent out of the river is a bit steep at first, with a ladder to climb, but it is not overly difficult after that point.

The descent down to the Temperance River, which comes about a mile and a half after the Cross River bridge, is fairly steep and lasts for about a mile. The next trailhead is at the end of the descent, but I continued along the trail down to the bridge crossing the river, which is about 3/4 mi past the parking lot. The trail follows the Temperance River fairly closely, with lots of great views that I did not photograph, I am very sorry. It’s worth seeing in person. It is a pretty popular spot along the SHT, so I had to dodge a few groups of hikers as I went along, and then encountered all of them again when I turned around.

Speaking of turning around: taking this hike in reverse is much, MUCH more difficult. The long descent to the river turns into a long, steep climb that seems endless. I tried not to think that it was almost over, that it couldn’t keep going, but at times I got frustrated. I didn’t stop, which was good, but I lost all energy and will to keep moving once I got to the top. Or what I thought was the top, which wasn’t, because after maybe 0.2 miles, I had another little climb. It was a little blip, but for someone already beaten down by the trail, it felt like a lot. There seemed to be more uphill than I thought there would be, since the descent coming out had been more gradual. I was feeling it on the way back, that’s for sure. I pulled it together for the final 3 miles, after eating some food and catching some easy sections of the trail.

Despite the frustrating climb, this is a new favorite section of the Superior Hiking Trail, thanks to the 2 miles along the Cross River and the portion along the Temperance River. Running from Cramer Rd to Temperance was significantly more enjoyable than running the opposite way, but there was no way to avoid that, since I was running alone.

Regarding the Moose Mountain Marathon in particular:

Here’s the race elevation profile, with the section I ran highlighted. (The image is from the Superior Fall Trail Races site):


So, it’s the easy portion of the race. Look at that ascent out of Temperance heading toward Carlton Peak. Great googly moogly, that will never end.

This is the actual elevation captured by my GPS (remember the first 8 is the marathon course, the second 8 is my return trip, not the next 8 of the MMM). I think the narrower scale of the map gives a clearer picture of the “feel” of this section of the race, although it sure doesn’t make that climb look any better. There’s a slight error in the data on the descent into Temperance River – the profile in the ascent is much more accurate. Yes, it does feel like going straight up, although I’m sure other races have steeper sections than this.


Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 2

I’m living in denial. This marathon isn’t less than a month away. Everything’s fine.

Monday: 5.1 mi, road, 142 bpm
Tuesday: 7.2 mi, trail (SHT starting @ Twin Ponds), 157 bpm
Wednesday: 5.2 mi, road/trail (including 7x Chester Bowl ski hill), 152 bpm
Thursday: rest (30 min of yoga)
Friday: 5.2 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk), 141 bpm + 20 mins of yoga
Saturday: 15.9 mi, trail (SHT @ Cramer Rd), 155 bpm
Sunday: 5.2 mi, road, 135 bpm
Total: 43.7 mi

Definitely a quality week of workouts. But also a reminder that I don’t feel very ready for a marathon.

One notable stat to mention is my average heart rate on these runs. Half of them have average heart rates over the target of 143 bpm I had when I was doing MAF training. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. It’s freeing, not being tethered to that monitor and obsessing over staying aerobic. But now I’m in a sort of no-woman’s-land, with some aerobic workouts, some that are mostly aerobic, and some spots where I’m hitting my max heart rate (or thereabouts). It’s probably not good to hit my max heart rate on a long run. But what am I supposed to do when there’s a huge steep hill to climb? Climb it, heart rate be damned.

I was fairly pleased with my run on Tuesday. It was HOT when I started, although I waited til about 6:15 pm to start, so I didn’t have the blazing sun on me. I managed a much faster pace than I normally do for trail training runs, even on the steep climb I hit after leaving the Lincoln Park area. Between that run and my hill workout the next night, I was feeling pretty confident about my training.

Saturday I ran the first ~8 miles of the Moose Mountain Marathon course. I’ll have some details on that run later, but I made some key observations during this run. First, even with all the climbing I’ve been doing, I’m still not in super great shape for the big climbs. I really struggled on the way up from the Temperance River after I turned around, and I know that the climb out of the river is even harder in the opposite direction, since it crests Carlton Peak. I am nervous about that. I was swearing and getting frustrated during miles 10-12 on Saturday. I think I can also attribute that to poor nutrition. I need to be better about timing my food so that I’ve got energy during a climb. I pulled myself together once after those few low miles, but I was really, REALLY cranky for awhile. And also very nervous, because of the challenges that will face me on the course next month. I guess I need to constantly stuff my face with food while running.

Sunday I was a little bit sore in the quads and stiff in general, and I lacked energy on my recovery run. Not surprising. After my run I had to sit in the car for an hour and a half to drive back, not an ideal situation. I got home from Sunday’s run just as the men’s 400m finals began, so I got to see Wayde van Nienkirk’s amazing race. Perfect timing.

Somewhere on Sunday, while I was cursing and grumbling, I surpassed 1000 miles for the year. I’m less than 200 miles from surpassing my total miles for 2015, so I’m on track for this to be my biggest year yet!

Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 1

Obviously this is a continuation of the training I’ve been doing all summer, rather than a 6 week marathon training program. (MMM is Sept 10th.) I took a couple weeks “off” from training, averaging about 16 miles/week, so this past week of training was my return to training-level mileage.

Monday: 6 mi, road, 135 bpm
Tuesday: 6.4 mi, road/trail (including 6x Chester Bowl ski hill), 152 bpm
Wednesday: rest (30 min of yoga)
Thursday: 8.5 mi, road, 152 bpm
Friday: rest (travel)
Saturday: 5.6 mi, road, 144 bpm
Sunday: 5.1 mi, road, 142 bpm
Total: 31.8 mi

This is almost double the mileage I’ve done the past 2 weeks, but I didn’t feel like it was a huge, exhausting increase. I did do mostly road running, mostly due to time or travel constraints.

My focus for this mini training cycle is my “lazy” running. I have complained about this before, but I have this terrible tendency to sit back when I’m running. I’m not an expert in running form and I don’t really know how I “look” when I’m running, but I do know how it feels. When I’m running “lazy,” I’m leading with my hips, and my shoulders are back. When I’m not running “lazy,” my shoulders and upper body are more forward. I suspect that I’m also running a slightly higher cadence when I’m running in a more engaged way, but I haven’t paid much attention to cadence so I can’t say. The more engaged running style is much more efficient; I can run faster paces while maintaining the same heart rate, and I can run faster overall. I don’t think I can go much faster in my relaxed/lazy posture, and so I need to train myself to stop running in that posture. Easier said than done. No more mindless running for awhile.

Tuesday’s hill workout was tough, but necessary. Chester Bowl is fairly steep, and my legs start to burn before I’m even halfway up. I need to learn to avoid going there on Tuesdays, though; I forgot about the concert series. It’s not on the hill, so it’s not like I was running through the audience, but there were still more people milling around the bottom than I’d like, and there was a young couple lying literally right next to the only dirt path up the hill. They didn’t move for my first few reps up the hill, which was really awkward. I didn’t feel like moving off the little path, since the grass had not been cut recently and I didn’t want to add that extra challenge. I ran about 4 more miles after I complete my hill repeats, and my legs recovered nicely, so I think the workouts are really beneficial.

Wednesday I could/should have run, since my haircut was… canceled, at the last minute, kind of. Rather, I drove up to the salon and it was no longer a salon, but a travel agency. I did not get the info that the salon had moved/closed when I made the appointment 3 weeks ago, which seemed like maybe some important information to have. I did about 30 minutes of yoga, although I really, really sucked at it. I struggled with all the poses and my flexibility in certain positions was pathetic. I did 5×10 pushups after. That was my one organized strength workout for the week, oops.

I didn’t do a long run this weekend due to travel. My family got together at the cabin my dad rented for the summer, and I did not want to take the time for a long run. It was much more important to spend time with people, especially my nephew, who lives in Grand Forks, and my grandparents, who will be returning to Florida permanently, and no longer coming up to Duluth in the summers. I didn’t want to spend 2-3 hours (or more) alone doing some boring long run (the scenery is nice on the lake, but the only running options are county roads with no shade, or smaller roads with lots of bugs) when I had limited time with everyone. I also slept in a tent Friday and Saturday night and didn’t get good rest, so a shorter run was less taxing. I don’t know if kneeboarding and tubing officially count as strength training, but I’ll count both. It took a lot of strength to hang on for dear life when centripetal force threatened to fling me out of the tube (actually a raft) during a particularly tight, fast turn. I did a small amount of lake swimming as cross training, too!

This upcoming week, I’ll be getting serious about running again, and getting my mileage back up in the 40s. My plan is to start running earlier in the day, like when I get home from work, not an hour and a half later, after lolly-gagging about. This will give me time to do strength workouts after running, and also ensure I don’t miss prime-time Olympic coverage, which is a HIGH priority.