Race Report: Superior 25K 2018

Official Results:
Time: 3:49:45 (16 minute improvement over last year, 62 minute improvement over 2016)
Pace: 14:48
Placing:
Overall: 217/297
Gender: 98/164
AG (F 1-39): 54/83

Watch Results:
Time: 3:49:53
Pace: 15:48
Distance: 14.54 mi (somehow the exact same GPS distance as last year!)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 3:59:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: salmon BLT with fries, bagel and cream cheese
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 2 gel packets (I ate 2 and grabbed 2 at the AS), water. I ate 2 cookies, 2 cups of Coke, and a cup of ginger ale at the AS.

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff,
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration pack

Discussion: Oh man, I really love this race! Of course I’m glowing because I finally got under 4 hours, but I always find myself more fulfilled and happy after a Rocksteady Running event.

This year has been a lot different as I no longer live in Duluth. The drive is now 4 hours instead of 1.5, which sucks. I feel so far away from home right now (and my cats!) There’s a lot of construction between St. Paul and Duluth, too, but we left early enough to avoid traffic since I was signed up to volunteer. I thought I had to be there at 3:00, so I was ridiculously early for the actual check-in (it began at 4), but there was plenty to do. I was tasked with selling merchandise again this year, which is fun. I like talking to other runners and I always like the other people who I’m working alongside. It is so great to see those people out on the trail, or volunteering the next day, when I need a pick-me-up during a race. Every friend I’ve made as a runner has been from volunteering, and every time I volunteer, I make new friends.

After my shift was over, I was pretty drained from all the talking and from being on my feet, and also very hungry. We had dinner at the lodge restaurant and then watched a movie (Munich, which is boring and long) before lights out. I actually slept, sort of! I woke up early, though, so I probably only got about 4 hours of sleep. That’s way better than normal. I still don’t understand why I woke up at 5:45 but whatever. I laid in bed til 7 regardless.

Usually I do a lot of prep work the night before a race: lay out all my stuff, stock my hydration pack, etc. This time, I did basically nothing. That was kind of dumb as I did waste some time finding stuff and prepping. I also didn’t make a checklist of race day to-dos, which resulted in me nearly forgetting to put on my bib. Whoops. I “made” my bagel and cream cheese, walked over to the race headquarters for the mandatory race day check-in, and decided it was warm enough to skip my arm warmers. It wasn’t even raining! Miraculous. It was fairly humid, though, and without a breeze, the air was very… present. I went back to the hotel room to finish getting ready, and finally made it out the door just after 7:45. Not bad for an 8 AM start! This is literally the greatest race for that reason specifically.

I didn’t bother to warm up, because I obviously didn’t have the time, but I hadn’t planned on it. I don’t think it’s as necessary for me in long runs like this, although the beginning of this race is fast since it’s on the road.

I’ve run this race two other times, plus I’ve done a few training runs on the same trails, and I’ve run the marathon which includes the same trail (in only one direction).  I really reaped the benefits of that this year. I knew when to take it easy (the switchbacks on Mystery), I ran quickly but in control down the back of Mystery Mountain, I ate a gel between Mystery and Moose Mountain, and I knew after I got down the back of Moose Mountain that I wasn’t that far from the turnaround, and there were plenty of runnable sections. I also knew when I was finally at the last downhill into the aid station and turned on the jets to ensure I got there under 2 hours. I made it to the one and only aid station at the Oberg trailhead in 1:57:56, which includes the time in the aid station, so I was on track for under 4 hours if I didn’t lose too much time on the way back.

I ate 2 cookies while walking uphill out of the aid station, and then started running once I hit the downhills. Once I got in the vicinity of Moose Mountain again, I started walking to conserve energy. I knew it would be painful on my legs and my lungs, so I walked some easier sections to save myself some of that pain. It paid off, because while Moose Mountain sucked, I was still able to go up in one sustained push – no stopping to catch my breath or try to put out the fire in my legs. It’s better to just get it over with. I remind myself that 100 milers have to do this with like 98 miles on their legs. I surely can do it with 10 or 11. It helps.

The top of Moose Mountain seemed longer this year than it has in years past, but I also was able to run most of it. I only needed a little bit of recovery after the climb before I was able to run again. Maybe not that fast, but I was still running! And it was kind of cold up there, with a lot more wind than I’ve ever experienced up there. I started wishing for my arm warmers, as the only things cold were my hands (which were also puffy, ugh) and forearms. I walked the few uphills I came across, but it seemed like that descent was never going to come. I had no idea how many miles were left in the race at this point, and I was worried I was getting farther and farther away from my sub-4 goal. I hate going down that side of Moose Mountain a lot more, because it’s steeper with more big drops down that are hard on my knees. Maybe it’s not a big step down for a normal sized person, but I’m short, and my legs are short.

I got to the bottom and ran for a bit, until I got to the last footbridge before Mystery Mountain. Once again, I wanted to save myself some pain and started walking before I ran out of runnable terrain. I ate a gel and starting singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” to pass the time. To give readers a sense of time, I made it to 49 bottles before I got to the top. But it worked! It kept me going. My hope was that if I got to the top of Mystery Mountain with half an hour or more remaining, I’d make it under 4 hours, because I think it’s around 2 miles from there to the finish, and it’s almost entirely downhill. I took off once I reached the top, and was running technical downhills better and faster than I ever have before. Somehow, I was flying, as if I hadn’t run 13.5 miles already. I just wanted to get to the river, because then I knew that I’d be on the road imminently, and could speed up more. I heard the Poplar River and knew it was close, and I plowed through the remaining mud as best I could. I crossed the bridge grinning, and then I walked the one final evil uphill that I swear was not there when we started.

I’m not really sure how fast I ended up going since my GPS was so off, but my watch says I ran the last full mile (mile 14) in 12:16 and the last 0.54 miles in 9:03. Uh, that is faster than my 5K PR. Granted, it is all downhill, but still, wut. Whatever my actual pace was, it felt very fast and yet I didn’t worry for even a second that I had dropped the hammer too soon. I actually caught one of my friends on the final descent toward Caribou Highlands, after we’d left the ski hill – so within the last 0.25 miles of the race! What a jerk move on my part, haha. There was a huge crowd of people at the finish line cheering for me, both friends and strangers, and the race announcer called me “our good friend Donna” which always makes me feel like I belong. I was so thrilled so have made it under 4 hours, by a LOT, and really pleased with pretty much everything about my race prep and execution.

I cleaned off my shoes, strode off to take a shower (I had hardly any stiffness in my legs, and NO chafing, not even from my sports bra), and then went back to have my post-run chili. I considered returning to volunteer for awhile longer, but I was feeling a bit tired at that point and didn’t have warm enough clothes for standing around. Plus my husband was back in the room, hoping we could do some exploring. One of these days I’m going to be one of those badazzes who finishes a race and hops right into volunteering.

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Off-Week #1

I can’t say that I’m enjoying this off week as much as I’d have liked. I started feeling cold-like symptoms on Tuesday, and have been suffering through them ever since. So far, I haven’t been completely incapacitated by them (I did take a half day from work in order to get some extra sleep on Wednesday, but that was it so far), and I’m hoping I’m on the mend. I was a little concerned because I had the same progression of symptoms I had back in October, but I also didn’t attempt to run an ultramarathon in the rain, so I’m thinking I might be on the mend.

Here’s how my week went:

Monday: Strength training
I did several reps of a rather complicated combined strength move I found on the internet when searching for “exercises for runners dumbbells.” I also did some planks (3×20 seconds) and wall sits (3×60 seconds), and then I did a yoga video.

Tuesday: Strength training
I did a circuit workout I found on Self.com, which I had to modify slightly because I don’t have an exercise ball. Also I had to do box jumps onto the basement stairs because I don’t have anything else sturdy to jump on, which made me hesitant. I did a yoga video and then went out to a nice dinner and walked around Bentleyville with my family. It was like 12F and windy as heck.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: Nothing
I lazed around trying to recover from my cold. Oh, and watched some hockey Friday night. That got the heart pumping.

Saturday: Hiking
I decided on Friday night that as long as I didn’t feel worse when I woke up in the morning, I was going to go on a short hike. I almost didn’t go, but then after I ate lunch, I felt better, and went on a 4 mile hike.

It was cold, but manageable. I was worried about getting cold because I wouldn’t be running hard, but it wasn’t a problem. I made sure to wear my super warm gloves (which I need to clean now, thanks to the deluge of snot from my poor nose) but other than that, I wore what I normally wear to run when it’s cold-ish. (I wasn’t bundled up the way I was when it’s really cold, of course.)

I hiked the Superior Hiking Trail, starting at Martin Road and heading back to town this time. It was still fairly icy in spots, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the scenery the same way I thought I’d be able to, but I still stopped to take a few pictures and check out a few views. Since it was icy (and sometimes the ice was covered in a thin layer of snow, so sketchy), I never really felt the urge to run and didn’t worry too much about my pace. It was very relaxing! This section is okay – it has a really nice stretch along Amity Creek, but then it joins up with a gravel road, goes between two cemeteries (kind of a downer), and then ends up on the street for awhile before going into Hartley. I only went 2 miles in before turning around, so I didn’t get onto the street. While I hiked, I had “Life is a Cabaret” in my head, probably because I was by cemeteries and I want that song played at my funeral.

I did feel kinda chilled and tired when I got home and through the evening, so I was worried I’d get up and feel sicker, but I didn’t!

Sunday: Hiking and ice skating
I got up decently early and was actually out on the trail by a little after noon. It’s a lot less stressful to get out for a hike than it is to get out for a run. I don’t know why – maybe this will help me stop getting so anxious about runs, and stop procrastinating? Maybe?

I wanted to go to Ely’s Peak, but I suspected approaching it from the Beck’s Road trailhead would be treacherous, due to the steep rocky climbs. I ended up starting at the Magney-Snively trailhead (heads up: Skyline Drive is open to the trailhead, but closed directly after it), and after 3 miles, still had probably half a mile to go to Ely’s Peak, so I skipped it. I was only planning on 6 miles, and it would have probably added 25 minutes to my hike to actually “summit” the peak. So I turned around. This section is tough on the way to Ely’s Peak, lots of uphills, and my legs were definitely feeling it. There were a couple of icy or otherwise sketchy sections that forced me to slow down, and on the way back, I somehow was able to catch myself just before my tailbone hit the ground. Yikes.

That sky. #superiorhikingtrail #duluth #conservationofmomentum #fueledbylefse

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I enjoyed a bit more challenging hike, even if at times I felt pretty tired from the effort. U had a song for this hike, too: I couldn’t get the Bloodhound Gang’s “Bad Touch” out of my head today, for some reason.

After I got home, had a latte, and took a shower to warm up, I drove out to Pike Lake, where my dad had cleared a rink on the lake behind his house. I didn’t get there until 4:30, when the sun was already almost gone, but we had a great time skating in the twilight for an hour. I brought a stick and a puck, but he forgot his down in the Cities, so we just skated around and had fun talking, and then looking at the stars with an app once it was late enough for the stars to come out.

I’m really hoping I didn’t overdo it during the weekend, because I’m hoping to get back to strength training during the week (and do more hiking & skating next weekend!), and also making some lunches for myself. I haven’t had the energy to make food or do any meal planning, but I do need to get to the grocery store for my work potluck (once I figure out what I’m making, ugh).

Wild Duluth 50K 2017: Week 14

Wow! Look at that revisionist title!

Monday: 4.3 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 5.1 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 4 mi, treadmill
Friday: rest
Saturday: 8.4 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Fox Farm Rd to Sucker River & back)
Sunday: 11.2 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Reeves Rd to Lake County Rd 301 & back)
Total: 32.9 mi

I’m still training for Wild Duluth! So this still works as a training week.

Since up til Saturday, I was still planning on running a marathon on Saturday, I did short runs in a controlled environment while watching Game of Thrones on HBOGO. My cats watched the whole time, judged me on my form, and then swarmed onto the treadmill the moment I stopped it. They love plopping over on it, I suppose because the belt is warm.

Hm, that reminds me, I need to lube the treadmill deck.

To salvage the weekend, I decided to hit 2 more segments of the SHT. I ran 8.4 kinda sucky miles on Saturday. The segment is nice, with a few lovely views. On a cooler day I might have liked it more, but the sun was hot! It ended up in the high 60s F, maybe even 70, and I forget that those temps can feel fairly warm when running. I was really glad that the thru-hike distance was much shorter than the advertised distance, because I was ready to get that run over with. It’s a bit hillier than I thought it would be, but another day it might be a perfect section.

Sunday’s segment would have been really pleasant and runnable if not for the mud. The first half mile is along a county road, then the next half mile is on a snowmobile trail. A word to the wise: snowmobile trail = mud + standing water + long grass. Yuck. The rest of the trail alternated between pleasant single track and ankle deep mud. My shoes are in rough shape.

I had to hose myself off after getting home, and completely rinse out my shoes. I stuffed them with newspaper, which absorbed a bit of the water, and I’m out of town until Thursday, so they will have a chance to further dry out, but we’ll see. They only have to make it 3 more weeks.

When I wasn’t slopping through the mud, I was running along Silver Creek and LOVING IT. There are a lot of very easy to run portions of this section of trail, and I would love to get back there when it’s drier. It was a bit more of a drive than I’d have liked, but it is the farthest section of the Duluth to Two Harbors segment (and would have been even farther if I’d started at the Co Rd 301 trailhead) and is a bit beyond what I usually like to drive for a medium-length run.

I’m hoping for one more higher mileage week and then I’ll step down a bit, and then do something similar to the beginning of this week for that final race week – it seemed to work.

I’m considering running another race the weekend after WD50K, but I’m not sure. It would require travel, and I’m already doing a TON of traveling this month (I’m writing this post from Kansas, and next week I’ll be in Massachusetts. Right after WD, I’ll be going to Edmonton). On the other hand, it sounds like fun, and could be a chance for redemption on two accounts – one summer goal, and one fall goal. We’ll see.

Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 13

What’s a taper?

Monday: 5.9 mi, trail (Hartley)
Tuesday: 8.6 mi, road
Wednesday: 5.2 mi, trail (Minnesota Point)
Thursday: rest
Friday: 10 mi, pavement (Lakewalk)
Saturday: 5.3 mi, road + trail (Ran to Bagley, did one short loop, ran home)
Sunday: 11.2 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Rossini Rd to Lake County Demonstration Forest & back)
Total: 46.3 mi

I know the marathon is this weekend, but since I had 2 weeks “off” and my goal race is Wild Duluth, I figured there’s no harm in running a regular week of mileage. I spent a lot of time on the trails, too, I guess in some kind of attempt to make up for all the road running I’ve done this summer. And also because summer was giving its last dying gasp this past week.

Monday I ran at Hartley, and started a bit late, to the point where I was running in… hemidemisemidarkness, I guess. It is hard to get in a lot of mileage at Hartley since the trails have changed a bit, but I still enjoy running there.

Then I went home and made A Food.

It’s been awhile since I made something really good for dinner (I was on a good kick for awhile), but I made this Golden Rice Bowl with Spicy Cauliflower and Black Beans bowl. I had dinner and 3 lunches out of this recipe, and the flavors are delicious – turmeric! Red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper! Also I am mentioned* in the recipe!

*I choose to believe “some of my favorite people in the world” includes me.

Tuesday I ran an unremarkable road run. Eating a lot of cauliflower kind of messed with my GI system so I cut it a little short, I was planning on 10 miles.

Wednesday, I needed a reset, and decided to go for scenery over miles or speed. I haven’t been out on Minnesota Point in a long time – I run the roads out there, but not the trails. Part of this is because it involves running in sand, which I dislike. The trails are also pretty short – I had to run all over the place and get creative to get to 5 miles. Some of the trails end abruptly, or they are overgrown. I just prayed there wasn’t any poison ivy (I didn’t contact any, whew). I finished running at sunset.

#Duluth #parkpoint #conservationofmomentum

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Friday my legs felt terrible when I set out on the Lakewalk. (Well, actually I started in Kitchigammi Park.) I wasn’t interested in slogging it out so I kept forcing my legs forward and ended up running a sub-13 minute pace without overexerting myself (once my legs loosened up, that is). I narrowly missed getting hung up by the scenic railroad where it crosses the trail near Blackwoods, but it passed before I got there. The acoustics were right and I could hear the announcers and the crowd at the East-Denfeld football game even after I was a couple miles away. It was a great way to spend a Friday night. I thought about all the football games I went to in high school, usually sneaking in with the pep band and dancing along to “Green Onions” and the other jazzy tunes they would play.

Saturday was hot. I was headed to a hockey game that afternoon so I needed to get my run in before. That meant running in the heat of the day, and I’m pretty sure it was 85F, with full sun, when I headed out. It was pretty miserable and I walked whenever I felt like it. I was so glad to be out of the sun during my quick loop at Hartley (I did the big hill loop, so at least I didn’t cop out that way), and I was wishing for a water bottle on the way home. On a 5 mile run! Ugh.

Sunday was hot too! I hit another Duluth-to-Two-Harbors section of the SHT. It was only 70F in Duluth, so I thought it wouldn’t be so bad up the shore. Nope, it was almost 80F. My run was painfully slow, due in part to the heat and also due to the more technical terrain, as compared to the segment I ran the weekend before. I had to climb over fallen trees and pick my way through scree, so I naturally slowed down over the mostly runnable section headed the opposite way.

I’m taking it fairly easy this upcoming week (with my usual strategy of denying the race is coming up soon) before spending basically the entire month of October traveling (3 out of 4 weeks, I have a business trip, and the only week I don’t is the week leading up to Wild Duluth, so I’m not thrilled), so who knows what kind of mileage I’ll get after that. I’m excited about the Birkie, even after finding out the race time limit is 7 hours (which was my goal time, oops) and realizing I’ll have to leave the house at 5:30 a.m.

Birkie Trail Run Training Weeks 11 and 12

The woman who kicked the hornet’s nest.

Monday: 10.4 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: rest (trip logistics)
Wednesday: rest (driving)
Thursday: rest (driving – some walking at Niagara Falls)
Friday: 2.5 mi, treadmill
Saturday: rest (some walking at Thorne Head Nature Preserve, also lots of aggressively bad dancing)
Sunday: rest (water-skiing for “cross-training”)
Total: 12.9 mi

Monday: rest (walking around Kennebunkport, water-skiing)
Tuesday: rest (driving)
Wednesday: 3.75 mi, treadmill (plus walking around the ballpark in Cleveland)
Thursday: rest (driving – some walking at ballpark in Detroit)
Friday: 6.6 mi, road
Saturday: 9.1 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Twin Ponds to Haines Rd & back)
Sunday: 12.6 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Rossini Rd to Fox River Rd & back)
Total: 32.1 mi

A week and a half of only treadmill running really sucked! Good thing it only consisted of two runs. My Monday (week 11) run got split into 2 runs so that I could get some stuff done. I ran on the treadmill, then did some trip prep, then ran on the treadmill some more. I’m trying to remember why I did this – I assume it must have been raining or cold. Or I just wanted to be around to get more stuff done.

I had also intended to run Tuesday (week 11), and in fact got dressed in my running gear and, after visiting my grandparents, started driving to the Highland/Getchell trailhead, and about halfway there, looked at the sky and realized the one time I don’t obsessively check the weather before going out running, a giant thunderhead is looming over the hill. During the downpour, I drove to buy pet food and litter, which was a good use of time and was sort of on the way. I considered going home and running on the treadmill, but realized I had a lot of trip prep left to do, plus some additional housecleaning. (I actually cleaned my house somewhat during the time I had off before we started driving. It still looks messy compared to most people’s houses, but a heck of a lot better than it had, and it was nice to come home to clean sheets and no dirty dishes.) I can’t do laundry and run the treadmill at the same time since they are on the same breaker, so I decided not to run. I could have managed my time better and gotten in one more run before I left, but that would require a lobotomy.

My treadmill run on Friday (week 11) was uneventful, as was my treadmill run Wednesday (week 12).

I was SO glad to get back out running on Friday (week 12). I almost didn’t get out there because I thought it was going to storm – then I watched the radar animation and saw the path of the rain. However, it was misty and visibility was low, plus my allergies were acting up badly and I’d taken a pill that was making my head a bit fuzzy, so I shortened my 8 mile run to 6.6. That doesn’t seem like much but 1.4 miles takes me awhile, so I was able to provide my brain enough excuses to turn back for home early.

Saturday (week 12) I wanted to make sure I ran before the predicted thunderstorm hit (spoiler: it didn’t) and get home in time to have a shake from Coney Island Deluxe courtesy of my dad. I decided I’ve been avoiding tough trails long enough, and decided to run the Superior Hiking Trail from Twin Ponds back toward Enger/24th Ave W/Highland-Getchell, turning around when I reached around 5 miles. This didn’t work out. First off, it was 1. sunny and 2. warm, two things I was not anticipating. I didn’t put on sunscreen, because I am stupid, and I only brought one handheld, which I thought would be sufficient for a cooler day. Maybe it would have been enough, we’ll never know.

I really hate that section of the SHT. After passing through the 24th Ave W trailhead, there’s a quick flat section followed by this really long, steep, annoying climb. It’s less than 400 ft in total elevation change, but it has a fairly steep grade and I am also not a mountain runner so I don’t know what I’m talking about. Then there’s a bunch of little climbs I don’t like, some of which are exposed. So I was hot, rationing water a bit (nothing dire), grumpy, hungry somehow (oops), and overall not having a good time. I reached Haines Road and decided to turn around there, even though it was short of 5 miles (I think 4.6?), because I didn’t want to go up that climb (it’s short but steep and also slippery due to lots of exposed boulders) and I also wanted to be done before 5. I tried to make up some time on the way back after having a gel (not enough), and was starting to enjoy myself once I started the descent of the aforementioned annoying climb. Somewhere before Miller Creek, while I was cooking along, I got stung by a bee. I haven’t been stung in a long time (which is surprising, since there are bees all over the place on the SHT), and while it was initially less painful than I remembered, it still sucked, and it hurt the rest of the run (I was stung on my right calf muscle) and the rest of the night it both hurt and itched. I decided to cheat a little to get done sooner, and ran along Skyline Drive past Enger Park Golf Course instead of dipping back onto the SHT after crossing Piedmont. I was able to get done a bit more quickly by running on the road (although I got back on for the last 2 segments at Enger Park), and by that point I was SO DONE with running and didn’t care if I ran 10 miles.

I decided I will not be running the Wild Duluth course sections of the Superior Hiking Trail from now until the race. I don’t need to be annoyed by/sick of the race course come race day. It’s just very irritating that the SHT section nearest my home is the one I hate the most. Yes, I could go the other way from Twin Ponds, but it’s all downhill from there until the Lakewalk, and then it’s a lot of city running back up the hill to Hartley. I barely consider that the SHT.

Sunday I tried out a new segment of the SHT, as per my fall running goals. I drove up Highway 61 to check out the Rossini Road to Fox River Road section. I actually intended to go the other way, but when I pulled up to the Rossini Road trailhead and was getting my gear on, a woman I know came out of the woods. We started chatting and she offered to run the Rossini Road to Lake County Demonstration Forest section with me at another time, since it would be new to her. So I headed back toward town instead of up the shore. I think I’m going to make a separate trail review post, so I won’t get too far into the details of the trail. I started about as late as I could start while still getting done before dark. This was great until I took a wrong turn on the way back and ended up going north until I was past Larsmont, so I got home after dark anyway. Oh man, I cannot even think about what it’s going to be like when daylight saving time ends. The run itself felt good and I was moving along pretty well. I didn’t get hungry til the last few miles, at which time I reminded myself during a race, I’d be eating stuff at aid stations instead of eating a single gel over 12.8 miles. Oh, I ate a tiny granola bar right before I started running. So a tiny granola bar and a gel over 12.8 miles (and 3.5 hours). Not the best. I did have plenty of water as I decided to wear my hydration pack (which I’d initially vowed not to wear until the race – but I didn’t want 2 handhelds and it’s basically the same as a weighted vest, right?) and didn’t close the valve on the mouthpiece so it leaked all over my passenger seat and my gear. Sigh.

Fall Running Goals: 2017

It’s meteorological fall! Time for some new goals!

  1. Course personal best at WD50K.
    The time to beat is 10:25:27. Obviously an overall 50K personal best would be amazing, too, but the course is harder.
  2. Set another marathon PR.
    This is tricky, because the Birkie is not actually a marathon distance. So I’ll look at overall pace in addition to overall time.
  3. Run all the remaining segments of the Superior Hiking Trail between Duluth and Two Harbors.
    Segments remaining: Sucker River to Fox Farm Road, Fox Farm Road to Rossini Road, Rossini Road to Lake County Demonstration Forest, Lake County Demonstration Forest to Reeves Road (11 miles, yikes!), and Reeves Road to Lake County Road 301.
  4. Take 2 weeks off deliberately.
    Once I’ve finished Wild Duluth, I’m going to give myself 2 weeks off, for real, with no guilt. I need the mental reset, and to let the blisters and scabs and twinges truly heal. I’ve taken time off before, but usually due to either illness or a mental funk, so it’s never as satisfying as planned time off.

Checking in on my summer running goals:

  1. Reach a personal best in distance.
    Nope.
  2. PR at the marathon distance.
    I ran 7:22:17 at the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon, a PR of 1:01:12.
  3. Run from home to my dad’s place on Pike Lake.
    I never made the time to do this. I still need to plan a route and then drive it to see how safe the roads look.
  4. Run from Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock Lighthouse.
    I did this at the end of July. It was ok. I might try it again and go all the way to the lighthouse.

Only 50%? That’s not a very good showing. I did a lot of other fun stuff this summer so I don’t mind.

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!