Monday, May 19, 2014

Spring Superior 25K 2014

It was a beautiful day on the awesome SHT. I was a ragged and beaten runner on the Spring Superior 25K. I knew coming into the run that it was going to be tough as I gaged my readiness at Battle Creek two weeks earlier. Form that run, I expected about a 15 minute pace in good trail conditions and an added minute to 16 min/mile pace given the expected spring conditions. Turns out, I was nearly spot on.

The race day was beautiful with low temps in the morning and blue skies. The mountains still had snow on the ski trails reminding of remnant snowpack in the Rockies. The soil as thawed to about 9 inches bit still frozen below that which turned long sections of runnable trail to over-ankle deep mud and water hiding jagged rocks, at times, beneath. Add that to the typical SHT big climbs, rocks and roots (with a little ice slope to boot) and the course stayed exciting.

As I tried to get my head around running in a massive group of runners for the first two or so miles (I have only started officially running sanctioned races this year) a couldn't help but want to blast past everyone. Though I was not racing anyone, I reminded myself to slow down and let the others do their thing while I got into my grove. At about he top of Mystery Mountain things spread out and the running got easier. I worked my way up and over Moose, then Oberg and into the aid station in 1:57'ish which was a nice surprise given the slow start. Would it be possible for me to come in sub 4? I hoped for 4:00 so I filled bottles and headed out immediately.

All was fine as I met Nora Compton on her way to the Oberg Aid Station looking really happy and excited to be ahead of schedule on her first SHT run. The run down Oberg below beautiful rock buttresses and a perfect prow/arete (must TR it some day) was terrific until the beginning of the climb back up Moose Mountain's south side. The jog became a slog...the slog became a drudgery. I let several 50K and 25K'ers pass on the iced slope and then the stairs. By the time I was to the top I was officially bonked. I trudged the rolling ridgeline that would otherwise be a dream trail run section en route to Mystery Mountain.

I managed to run/walk and regain some small bursts of lightness here and there, but, all in all, the climb down Moose then back up Mystery was a real low point in my day. For the first time since my first 50-mile run I experienced self doubt and the beginnings of loathing. I worked through the challenge as best as I could manage then trotted down the mountain with Lutsen's ski runs trying to fool into thinking the end was just around the corner. I allowed myself a little guard-letting once I turned out of the woods and onto the bridge crossing the Poplar River, knowing that I was within about a mile from the finish. The easy pavement section to the lodge, the easiest section of the entire day, was demoralizing as I felt nauseous and fully fatigued. I managed to feel some happiness (relief) however as I turned off the tarmac and onto the last couple hundred yards to finish at 4:09, which came as a big surprise as I was fully expecting 4:30-45.

Nothing too surprising happened this day. I knew I was not in the same fitness as 2+ years ago before nearly completely stopping running. I knew my pace was going to reflect this. I knew conditions weren't "optimal" and also knew that this is a relative term. I knew my mental fitness wasn't where it can be. Coming in within 6 seconds of my predicted pace and within 9 minutes of the resulting finish time did provide confidence that I can objectively assess my skills and abilities.

I have an enormous amount of work to do to get ready for Afton 50K in early July. The trail is not quite as hilly, the footing is substantially easier, which both bode well. The heat and distance, however, are a concern. Superior showed my, very clearly, what I need to do. I am trying to focus on this rather than being tempted to say the trail showed me what I DIDN'T do over the past two years.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Right Effort

Today, Pete and I ran the paved trails at Battle Creek. The first 2 miles of which are a fairly steady uphill climb which, under normal conditions, isn't too tough. Today, however, we rarely dropped our soles onto asphalt as the path was covered in slush covered ice with pools of water to spice up the mix. Pete did great given the conditions, me...not so much.

The major accomplishment for me today was not getting off the couch and running 5 miles (I had to do a few walking breaks on the hills of ice and slush), rather it was the fact that I did not get down on myself for my lack of discipline over the past 2 years. Yes, this lack of discipline has led me from the best shape of my life to my worst, but I have gotten to a point where I, on good days, am open to the fact that it has been a pretty tough 2 years. I am also starting to be able to allow myself to not only be OK with my recent past's lack of Right Effort, but also to see this moment as a birth into a positive space where I have the opportunity to be open to allowance of Joy; something I have been becoming more aware that I rarely allow myself.

The burning lungs and legs have subsided. The muscle fibers are pulling in protein to rebuild and fix the damage done during the run. My endorphins are working through their rewarding neuropathways to open a clearer, happier head space. Little by little, the miles, time, scenery and experiences I am re-opening myself to this year are all wholesome efforts with immeasurable benefits. No short cuts, no easy way, only effort. And when my head space is open, loving and non-judgemental, I experience these moments in truly Right Effort.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Back from a nice trip to Vegas for business, climbing and nightlife! Its time to get this middle-aged, frumpy body back in shape! It seems the past couple years have taken their toll on me both physically and mentally and that I have settled into inertia. Well, I'm done with that phase now and am moving back into my preferred active lifestyle.

To get my (m)ass moving again, I will need the assistance of additional sources of power: namely, YOU. I have set up a means of scheduling group runs (below the blog title block, above). Since I am typically the limiting factor in scheduling runs and cannot schedule less than 3 or so days out, I felt the need to simply put my likely availability up for you to take a look at and see if fits into your time frame. My wife's schedule changes regularly, so some of the blocks of time I have set up may not work on any given week.

Click on the "Schedule an Appointment" button to set something up. I really look forward to running with you soon and hope to be able to keep up with you!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Return to Battle Creek

The training has been going great thus far. Although, mostly on road or paved trail miles, St. Paul is such a beautiful place to run, its all good. But its not all great. That's where places like Battle Creek Park come in.

Battle Creek has become, over the years, my backyard playground. The meandering mountain bike single track (actually multi-purpose uses allowed) climbs steeply up heavily rooted, sandy bluffs on the proudest lines. The woods this time of year light up deep maroons, golden yellows and brilliant oranges; especially when running bathed in early morning or early evening sunlight. The steep, long hills are just relentless enough and spaced well for recovery time.

Mid-summer, the scene is lush green with impossible variety of shades and textures. One section of forest snakes across ravine contours covered in ferns and moss. Another through Maples and Oaks standing boldly as witness to your passing. Other times, you run through open prairie dominated by Big Bluestem on fire with color in autumn, standing tall a foot or two above your head and forming an alley of dancing, wavelike walls. Other times you simply find yourself frozen on vistas spanning the Mississippi River valley, massive riverine wetlands and view of downtown St. Paul that evoke pride in one's home town.

Six miles here is worth 8 or so hard-paced asphalt runs for me in terms of energy demands, but there is simply no comparison between the two environments for depth of fulfillment. Regardless of the massive effort required of a runner to keep running the single track trails of Battle Creek, the quality of "after-glow" I get in spending my time there breathing hard is, as of yet, only equalled or surpassed by the Superior Hiking Trail and portions of the Ice Age Trail near Luck, Wisconsin.

And this trail is in my back yard...

Friday, December 17, 2010

An easy mod for winter running

I recently grew tired of chilled feet and having to resort to my road shoes or boardy Goretex trail rigs that are too stiff for road running. I also didn't want to have to spend $125 for a winter shoe that I only use 2-3 months out of the year. I couldn't find a nice running overshoe to fit my ultralight trail runners. So, I purchased the Pearl Izuumi Barrier Shoe Cover for bikers and made some very simple modifications and am able to put them on any of my 6 or 7 other running shoes as I see the need. COST : $50. Cut underfoot/midfoot webbing to separate sides.
Cut out about half of the rubber under the toe to reserve enough to just wrap underfoot.
Wrap to toe rubber under the shoe and pull the overboot tightly back towards the heel.
Fold under the flaps left from slicing the underfoot webbing and insert 2 or so pins through all material. I used a butter knife's flat face to push the pins all the way flush insto the midsole.
I started with the arch, then pinned on the outside edge. For my wife's shoes, I needed to put in about one more pin on each side between the midpoint and te toe to ensure that rig doesn't get lifted of the side of the shoe by snow.
The Pearl Izumi Barriers have a velcro closure on the heel allowing you to access the shoe and finish affixing the rig to your warm feet. It's easy to pul the pins shown with a breadknife and switch to another pair of shoes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


As I exit my 1.5 month "off season" and begin setting up various training schedules, I have decided to write down some aspirations for the next 10 months (thereby making me more accountable):

1. Further develop my Buddhist path of practice with diligence, effort and mindfulness.
2. Continue to work on being a better father, husband, son and friend.
3. Reinvigorate my career and continue developing additional ways to enhance the TC Metro area's natural resource conservationist's skill set and efficiency; do the same for myself.
4. Enter several running races and complete a 26.2-mile road race in under 3:30, a 50-mile trail race in under 10:00 and a 100-mile trail race in under 24:00.
5. Trad-lead 5.11c or better, sport climb 5.12c or better.
6. Climb the Casual Route on Long Peak's Diamond (east face), or similar alpine rock route.

Of course, each one of these bullets would require a short essay to fully describe what each of these aspirations entails (the means at which they will be achieved), but that is better done in future blog entries or discussed in person over a nice meal and a beer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Four Days

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be granted the privilege, via lottery entry and my wife's and mom's tag-team care for the kids, to sit, walk and eat in complete silent meditation with 30 others for a four day weekend. It's literally impossible to articulate the personal experience, or course, but, in short, it was a truly beautiful, productive, challenging and powerful way to spend four days. I so look forward to having the opportunity to do it again, except for much longer, in the future.

Common Ground Meditation hosted the retreat and several noble volunteers supported us Yogis during the four days by cooking, organizing and otherwise keeping as many distractions at bay. Mark, as usual, was an absolutely insightful, supportive and brilliant teacher and guide for the entirety of the retreat. His morning guided meditations, his evening Dhamma talks (especially), the small group meetings and the private meeting all lending a grounding effect on the weekend, providing motivation and guidance that was invaluable.

We arrived on Thursday evening for a meal and briefing including some last minute chat time before and during dinner. At the end of dinner came the beginning of Noble Silence, to be observed until Sunday afternoon. We spent the evening meditating and listening to the first of Mark's Dhamma talks. I spent the later evening meditating, looking out into the dark night across the lake from the warmth of the retreat center and though its windows.

We awoke the next morning, as we did the following mornings, to the sound of the wake up bell; a small chime struck every few seconds by a Yogi walking the hallways. What a peaceful and effortless way to wake. So much better and easier than my obnoxious alarm clock back home. By 6:15, earlier for those brave enough, we began our 15 hours of meditation that was spent either in sitting, walking or during meals (the food was incredible).

On Saturday morning, we walked into the meditation hall and spent our first 45 minutes of the day in meditation. Before entering the hall it was still dark outside. As we exited the hall the sun had come up, shedding light on a glorious new world covered in fresh, huge-flakes of snow. It was gathering in nice pillows on the boughs of the trees, layering thick blankets over the ground and obscuring the complete view of the lake in that magical way that is so alluring to the eye. Although this was a silent retreat, I'm certain I wasn't the only one to accidentally let loose a gasp of joy in response. It was so difficult not to make eye contact with the other Yogis and share the experience beyond what we could, in that silence.

My mind started to finally settle and I was getting the clarity I needed to work on my meditation more productively. That day and the first half of Sunday provided amazing challenges and some rewards for my efforts; the perfect amount for me for my first retreat. Overall, I'd say that the the combination of the four day length, the tremendous effort of the volunteers on our behalf, the food and the guidance of Mark made for just the right experience for me; and I'm certain several others.

I'm so very grateful to have had the support and opportunity to have those four days and look forward to helping other Yogis on future retreats.