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.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Meeting of Two Masters

Sometime in the early 1970’s, two Buddhist masters met in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of them, Kalu Rinpoche, was a renowned Tibetan meditation master who had spent many years in solitary retreat in the remote mountain caves of Tibet. The other was Seung Sahn, a Korean Zen master who had recently come to the United States and was supporting himself by working in a Province, Rhode Island, Laundromat, slowly planting the seeds of Zen in the minds of those coming to wash their clothes. At this now famous meeting on enlightened minds, Seung Sahn held up an orange and, in classic Zen dharma combat fashion, demanded, “What is this?”

Kalu Rinpoche just looked at him, wonderingly.

Again Master Seung Sahn asked, “What is this?”

Finally, Rinpoche turned to his translator and asked, “Don’t they have oranges in Korea?”

--Joseph Goldstein, One Dharma, The Emerging Western Buddhism

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Battle Creek Single Track

SINGLE TRACK ROUTE OVERVIEW (Note: follow single track through the XX Ski trail area into the woods)

I love Battle Creek. I run Battle Creek. I keep running Battle Creek. I never see other runners at Battle Creek. I'd love to run Battle Creek with others and share my experience. Therefore, I've slapped together a mini-guide to the lovely, technical, hilly single track (NOTE: avoiding the wide ski trails, which are also very nice) of the county park I hold so dear. When I can't get away to Afton or the North Shore. When I want something like the Snowshoe loop of Afton's 25k course, but want more of it. When I want to get ready for moderate length, steep, technical hills akin to the north shore (sans excessive rocks and roots and more realistically runnable), I head to Battle Creek.

ELEVATION PROFILE (Note: data from Garmin 305; +/- 50 ft)

Sure the elevation gain/loss is half that of Afton. But it still provides ample opportunity for ass-whooping good times on its steep hill after hill vector. Think of this course as a condensed Afton, both horizontally and vertically; a step up in grade from Hyland, to be sure, but still runnable in entirety. That is, until you start stacking loops such as what I affectionately refer to as the Dukkha Loop.

The course I have grown to love starts at the visitor's center parking lot. It snobbishly avoids the wide ski trail leaving the lot and takes the nice multi-user single track mountain bike/hiking course 50 feet from the car. Stay on that delicious sinew as it winds through Big Blue Stem and Indian Grass and a small patch of trees until it joins a major ski course. Jeer left for 50 feet and look for a "Do Not Enter" mountain bike sign. Mountain bikers follow a distinct direction on their loops. Since this is a multi-user course, it's best to run against bike traffic (the course here-in described). That being said, I only occasionally need to jump off to the side to allow the passage of our bi-wheeled friends, so don't be too amped up on needing to dive off into the ground cover; the track is under-utilized.

The single track drops down and left via a moderately technical stretch to a nice meander through the ferns and woods. It crosses another major ski track, up and over a log and follows Lower Afton for a jaunt where it veers up and right just short of South Battle Creek Road. Surmount a short hill, drop down the other side and look for your single track through the woods as it winds up a hill on the other side of the major ski trail you'll need to cross. This is is a great warm up hill with some nicely placed stones (thanks mountain bikers) to fortify the slope in one short stretch. Avoid taking a faint track left down a ridge/spine that would lead back to the ski trail. Top out onto another major ski tack and take a left, downhill. Follow this major artery for 0.15 miles to a somewhat inobvious abrupt left jaunt down single track towards South Battle Creek Road. If you miss this, continung on the ski trail brings you to Battle Creek Elementary and more Hyland Park-esk ski trail.

Cross South Battle Creek Road and head to the right for 75 feet to a chained off trail head and jump it (don't worry, the chain droops nearly to the ground - even my 40 yr old butt can leap this obstacle). Veer left at the immediate Y. This path takes you around the souhteast side of "Hole in the Prairie." Follow this track to a T-intersection and go left. I like to then opt for the nice little technical footing track that drops off to the right within about 50 feet of the T. This brings you to the top of the "Garnet Canyon Primer" (a much, oh so severely, reduced switchback trail of the approach to the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton's infamous 26, or so, major switchbacks, but hey, I like grand descriptions). Drop down this fun section sticking to the major trails (avoid short circuits that cause erosion - don't be lazy). Touch the "Blarney Stone" (a nylon post at the trail's junction with Point Douglas Road south) and turn around. Go back up hill. Do not collect $200.

GARNET CANYON PRIMER - Northern perspective (note: at places in these photo overlays, the GPS data shows two tracks; that's an artifact of the innacuracy of the GPS not lining up the return or second lap I ran in that area)

Gallivant back to the T and go left, this time. This whole area is currently under ecological restoration. In another 10 years, this will be, hopefully, a terrific example of Oak patient and, in the mean time, watch out for 1-2 inch dia. stumps. The track fades into woodland now and switches back, then drops to the top of a major switch back mountain bike track that looks way too fun. Consider taking up mountain biking as you express your best discipline by staying center, then right on all possible tacks. Exit the roller coaster at a nice boulder as you spill out onto pavement (road runners: this pavement trail is an EXCELLENT running course that starts at the Point Douglas Rd parking lot and goes up through the park along the Battle Creek itself all the way to the water park and picnic grounds. It then joins nice, easy trail running through areas including a dog park - check it out).

DUKKHA LOOP - Northeast perspective. North Shore Primer descends/ascends slope on left of view

OK, now that we're warmed up, run across the parking lot and catch the sandy single track right of the biking path's tunnel under Hwy 61. Perform a graceful switchback back uphill, to right, to catch the main hiking trail avoiding a faint mountain bike trail off left and a rock step; also left. Shortly after the trail veers left, away from the parking lot, catch a lesser groomed trail to the left. You've missed it if you hit stairs uphill. This neat mountain bike trail (signed) contours languidly, at first, up the west side of the bluff. You'll do one rising slope, a switchback to the right, then one to the left, rise up a slope and then catch a left at the next switchback. Instead of taking the switchback to the right, jaunt fearlessly to the left. Your legs are massive.
Follow this track to a crossing with another single track. Continue through this, straight. Don't go right. Don't go left. Right takes you backwards towards the stairs I mentioned earlier. Left dead-ends at an overlook (nice photo opp). Drop down the eroded track/gully wash down, down, despairingly down, ducking under and jumping over possible dead fall, until you bottom out on an abandoned asphalt road that nature is successfully reclaiming; albeit by primary colonizing weeds (avert your eyes Jason and Amy). Sternly let loose a gruff vocalization and head back up the North Shore Primer.
When you return to the intersection of single tracks described earlier, take a left to join the main track. You'll need to take one more immediate left to avoid returning to the parking lot at the end of Point Douglas Rd. Diligently follow this track up short, steep, loose, root-bound trails, keeping right at all times for full flavor. Summit at an old concrete foundation for what was once, I imagine, a look out tower or ski jump. Keep right and drop down steep sand (watch for poison ivy especially late in the summer). Avoid any paths to left. One or two less frequented trails drop down prematurely to the asphalt bike/walking path on the right, so stay on the main trail following a beautiful, casual single track down a nice rib and contour until you spill out onto the asphalt.

DUKKHA LOOP - Southwest perspective
Immediately across from you, on the other side of the asphalt path, you'll see a tempting, sandy single track rising through the Smooth Brome (Jason, Amy, settle now - in good time) grass....avoid temptation. Instead, take a right on the asphalt. Begrudgingly follow it until it crosses the Creek (0.15 miles) where you'll see signage for the mountain bike path at the edge of the woods. Take a left into the woods here and cross an immediate single track, then left to catch the main trail up and out of the last major hill of the Dukkha Loop. Run, or power walk, up this nice hill to its summit at a Y.
If you want another 2 mile repeat of the Dukkha Loop take a right. Follow it, keeping to the right, a short distance to reach the point where you started dropping down the Mountain Bike Switchback trail you already descended earlier. Repeat the loop. Way to go! Repeat as necessary until you feel your father would be proud of you.
When you're done with the Dukkha loop, take the exit pitch Y to the left to escape the perils. Follow this back to South Battle Creek Road and reverse the warm up section described earlier.
The running at Battle Creek is more technical than most trail running within 45 minutes drive of the Twin Cities. If you you stick to the single track and avoid the ski trails you'll enjoy the flavor of Afton's Snowshoe loop. The hills a steeper than Hyland but shorter than Afton so it fits nicely between the two somewhat polar opposites of trail running styles. I love the combo of technicality, steep yet not insane hills and proximity to home. It is not the place to log major log days, hoverer, unless you're needing the mental training of repeating loops such as the Dukkha Loop. For really long days, I'd recommend doing the route as described with one repeat of the Dukkha loop per lap. Maybe adding a second or third go at the Garnet Canyon or North Shore Primer would be beneficial for those heading to the Superior Trail Races or other gnarly races. Probably too steeply hilly for Leadville, or similar, training.
I sincerely hope this posting provides you an experience close to what I keep having at Battle Creek. Contact me any time for a run.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Louisville Swamp WMA 13-14 miler

My proposed 13-14 mile running loop at Louisville Swamp WMA. See Blog entry below ("Misty Morning Hop") for a run report and photos.

Misty Morning Hop (shuffle)

(morning mist on the wetlands of Louisville Swamp Wildlife Management Area, S. Tracy)

This past weekend was my first of several training weekends geared towards Peter Grimes and my up and coming fall running trip: the Maah Taah Hey 100 mile trail run - Badlands, North Dakota. We're taking three days of at least 33 miles each to make the distance. To get ready, I decided to start stringing together 3 longer days from Friday through Sunday and slowly add miles to those weekends until I get to about 2/3 the expected daily distances we expect on our trip.

This weekend, to wrap things up, I decided to revisit a favorite location of mine to run 13 miles: Louisville Swamp Wildlife Management Area, nestled in the Minnesota River Valley just south of Shakopee. There are about 17 miles of trails and 2500 acres of savanna, oak woodlands, floodplain forest and wetlands with abundant birds to look for in each habitat. There's an historic farmstead with stone buildings standing in an old field part way through the trail loop and even a huge glacial eratic (boulder), popular for years with climbers, to run past.

(the main wetland complex of Louisville Swamps WMA as seen from the savanna)
I was very happy to have been accompanied on the run by rockstars Arah B. and Adam S. I picked Arah up at 5:40 am then we swung by and grabbed Adam and it was off to the races (so to speak). The WMA welcomed us with a beautiful mist, blanketting the lowlands of the rolling countryside, and cool temps. I had pieced together a 13-14 mile circuit that includes both Louisville Swamp WMA trails and the State Cooridor system, which runs through the preserve, but the tremendously muddy and flooded lowlands foiled that plan so we stuck to the preserve's main trail system.

(plant geeks: please ignore the predominant Mullen in this pic...focus on the landscape!)

Although portions of the trail system were muddy and slick, the majority of the running was pleasant over easy terrain with only an occassional hill, nothing major. Running here would probably be best in late summer, fall and early winter, with the fall colors likely being the best time. Running at this time of year includes mosquitos; a real challenge when stopping for potty breaks on the woods. Regardless of this fact, however, the views and the abundant wildlife make running here at any time of the year a welcoming proposition.

My first long weekend caught up to my legs around mile 10, unfortunately right about when the trail brought us back to the car. So, somewhat apprehensively, I set off with the still strong Arah and Adam to run another 3+ miles on the State Cooridor Trail. A little over a mile later and I needed a 3 minute walking break, so I cut the other two loose and enjoyed the stillness of the woods. The day had warmed up substantially as well, so my water consumption had nearly doubled since morning. After the short break I resumed running only to find the others turning around at a flooded section of trail under a railroad bridge. I was able to force out the last 1.5 miles back, fighting the urge to stop and let my smoked things and calves relax. Turns out the previous day's bike workout on my monocog 29-er, trailing Rowan in the Chariot for 16 miles, did me in. On the other hand, I think the fact that I was bonking really close to the end meant that my running/biking plan intensity level was nearly perfectly planned out. Always try to look on the bright side, right?
Arah and Adam finished far stronger than I and Adam took off to finish his goal of 14 miles for the day to find that the horse and/or deer flies had awoken. He returned to the car no worse for wear and we called it a day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Running with the Devil

It started out responsible enough. I waited for the end of the tornado watch to head out for a 12 mile run knowing that I'd get pretty wet, but welcoming it given the heat of the day. I love running in the rain after being in the sweltering heat of a summer day.

A nice quick trot down the steep Isabel St and up the long shallow gradient of Wabasha Bridge with downtown St. Paul as a backdrop. So far so great, in part due to Fleet Foxes playing over my Ipod! Hit Kellogg, take a right and get my first and last significant downhill for the next 4 miles. I pass the wonderful Lowertown area of St. Paul and start the long rise of Kellogg Bridge as I put downtown running behind me.

And it begins...

Midway on the exposed, long, high Kellogg bridge Fleet Foxes add the rising and alarming sound of sirens to their otherwise extraodinarily mellowing style. Hmmmm. I look to the west and see the tell-tail ominously dark and otherwordly colors of a tornado-potential skyscape. So much for waiting for the tornado watch to pass before running. The rest of the run includes forecasting ahead, every few moments, to the nearest culvert, bridge, cave, or underpass...just in case I decide to integrate some sprints into the run. Thoughts of Dorothy and flying, stiff, mooing cows come to mind.

I turn off the end of Kellogg and catch the continuing rise up along the cliffline to the top of Indian Mounds. What a glorious place to be buried! The Sioux of the area chose this spot to bury their kin given its tremendous position in the landscape. As I run past these mounds I am again amazed at just how wonderful and fortunate St. Paul really is. And just how fortunate I am.

I reach a high point and meander down the path to the Highway 61 crossing and catch Upper Afton as it negins to sprinkle. Another long, steady rise to the top of another high point along the Mississippi River I'm feeling surprisingly well on this run! I crest the last hill just as all Hell begins to break loose. The rain intensifies, the wind swirls the vegetation into chaos and lightning is going off all over the damned place...exactly half way through the run. Perfect! No easy way out. I remove the headphones to enjoy the concert of sound.

I drop down onto the path leading through Battle Creek Park that follows the creek on a steady, dark descent into the gorge where two Indian Nations faught a historical, epic battle seemingly forever ago. The rain now ramps up to an intensity that forces me to buckle under the stinging of its drops threatening to peel my skin off at times. I can barely keep my eyes open to watch my foot placements and give up on looking straight ahead. Branches have fallen off trees onto the path in places demanding instant hurdling and side-stepping skills to develop spontaneously. I mentally locate the up-coming cave and estimate my foot speed downhill, over the creek and dive-time into the caave should a tornado suddenly jump over the top of the gorge ridge high above me.

I escape the volitile, impossing gorge and cross under Highway 61 to catch the footpath back home along the Mississippi River. I run through streamlets sometimes deep enough to overtop my shoes, dodge fallen limbs and two boulevard trees that were uprooted and bear down through the pulses of intensity in the storm. As I reach the barge docks just east of downtown, tug boat captains amplified voices cut through the storm in unclear, deformed tones and their spotlights move around through the darkness and hit the shoreline where I run. I make my turn back up the second to last hill, a good one, back to Kellogg and up to the Wabasha Bridge.

Still going strong! This is wonderful! The rain slows to a nice rate as I run down the beautiful bridge and catch, interestingly enough, Water Street. I head away from home, so I can get that extra mile in, to catch the mother of all hills in St. Paul: Ohio. Fortunately, I only need to do a portion of it, to Isabel, the first street off it from the bottom, but definately feel every stride. The rain picks back up in intensity one last time as if to say "you're not home yet...I still have you for another 3/4 mile!" As if to punctuate the point, a piece of hail finds its mark in the exact center of the top of my head. The wind ramps back up to gail force and the rain goes back to droplets too big to be real. I follow cliffline overlooking downtown back to my home and decide that the 2 block cool down walk will have to be run at what feels like breakneck speed.

I open the door and walk into the house with the biggest smile I've had on my face in quite some time and my wife doesn't need to ask why. She just lights up and smiles knowingly and with joy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Battle Creek Sunrise

The alarm goes off at 4:15 and I rub deep slumber from my eyes and try to focus them on the floor as my reluctant body struggles to get upright. By the time we make it to the trailhead at Battle Creek for our morning run, both Alicia and I are awake and, amazingly, excited. The day's first rays of sunlight are illuminating the sky, shedding the darkness of night as well as our drowsieness.

Running at Battle Creek is fun. Flat out fun. Although there's only about 8 or so miles of single track, there's also another 3-5 of ski trails, if you like. To have it's kind of hills and trail so close to home is nice for those times when going off to Afton or other hot-spots doesn't fit into my schedule. To experience it's trails this early in the morning, once you're awake and moving, is heavenly.

We do our 6 miles or so feeling like we're two kids having gotten away with something, snickering all the way home and throughout the day (in-between moments of nearly falling asleep at our desk that is).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Getting Re-Acquainted

There have been several months, actually more than I care to admit, where I have set aside climbing for other responsibilities and pursuits that fill up my current life. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just unusual. After a nice break from climbing, I found myself, for the second time in two weeks, at the dramatically overhanging cliff-come-cave of Willow River State Park, WI. I can't think of a more beautiful, fun and challenging place to get back into the mental and physical groove of climbing.

As I pulled and body torqued off of deep, positive pockets, move after move after glorious move, my center was found, again. Clip the rope into the quickdraw and an audible "click" provides the mental biscuit this dog craves for reward (read: security) after the last stretch of pumpy climbing; and a metaphor for the mind grasping, understanding in an instant why I love this practice of centering so much. "Ah, this is how it is. I remember this place. This is the physical side of my meditation practice that has gotten me to places deep in my Psyche and heart that all but sitting practice cannot touch."

The endless, consistent roar of the waterfalls below me, nothing but clear air to fall into, the coarse texture of positive juggy hold after hold, the breeze and sun all work together to carry me upwards. And this day, the mind doesn't limit my body. Although my body is now better suited for running than pursuing higher end climbing, it performs surprisingly well; a welcome, encouraging shock, to say the least. The bug has found and bitten me again. My sights are now set on routes I've not touched, or contemplated even while in peak climbing shape of yesteryear. And why not?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two Rivers Shuffle fun run report

Do people post "fun run" reports instead of "race" reports? Why not? Then again, do must people do 30-50 mile “fun runs” without the support an organized race provides? Be it stupid, or otherwise, I seem to have a few twisted friends that do, so here goes.

First off, see the nice video of pictures of the run taken by participant Joel Button on the posting after (below) this one.

Several folks couldn't make the inaugural event this year due to various reasons ranging from injury, bad timing with training schedules and all the way up to a sudden case of pregnancy (congratulations Katie!). The three of us that did make it to the "starting line" (Joel Button, Peter Grimes and myself) were admittedly not quite far enough along in our training schedules to feel too comfortable with the 30 mile plan. None-the-less, we decided to simply see what happens and take things as they come. We parked the car at the old historic Fort Snelling site, fueled up, talked about stretching a bit and I complained about what seemed like early stages of a stomach virus.

We sauntered down the initial steep hill to the warm up section for the day: Pike Island, a flat, gravel and sand run around the perimeter of the island bound on each side by rivers; the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Peter is on a “run as fast as I can go at that moment” binge as of late so that meant 8-8:30/mile “warm-ups” for the start of our 30 mile day…Joel and I complained under our breaths, then a bit more loudly, far too early in the day. Peter just smirked.

We rounded the island then headed off on ½-mile of asphalt below the Fort, under the Highway 5 bridge, then caught the start of the best section of trail for the day: single track, technical, hilly hiking paths along the proudest lines of ridge and river bed you can find at the Minnehaha dog park/Minnehaha Falls Park. This section is a real jewel located in the Twin Cities. It’s moderately tough and very beautiful. Joel nearly started to cry with joy and I fought off my morning’s nausea effectively as this is the type of terrain I live for; a perfect distraction. We ran up and down, over and under, left and right, scrambled up and under sandstone cliffs. Peter mentioned something about having already peaked on the island once we got onto the more friendly trails along the Minnehaha Creek. Payback is a B@*$#. I couldn’t help but feel like I was peaking at that moment, however, and knew that it was FAR too early to feel that way.

We took a nice quick break at the outlet of a major stormwater outlet at the confluence of the Creek and River where we admired the first of several popular graffiti sites. We then turned up the Creek and chased a Heron up river, passed a painted turtle and a couple stone bridges and crossed over to the other side just below the Falls. The trail moved from fun, moderate single-track to easy, wide terra firma as we headed back towards the river, looking forward to repeating the “North Shore Primer” as I call it: super rocky, rooty, dodgy running. On the second pass through the dog park we avoided the ridge line we took on the way in and stuck to the floodplain. We meandered through the Maple/Cottonwood forest and caught a nice single track below another sandstone cliff face and what I have dubbed Luka’s Couloir and Nancy’s Falls. The first is a cleft breaking the cliff face that Luka (my dog) and his deceased BFF, Toady, used to scramble up in winter with Kiri and I over the years. The second is a nice little waterfall spilling down its gully through the face. This pleasant track follows a narrow shelf 10 feet above the river. It always reminds me of the much grander scene from Last of the Mohicans where the 3 heroes chase the rival tribe up the mountain (“baldy”) pass to save their women in the climax of the film. OK, so I tend to glamorize a bit. Curse of the romantic.

We sauntered back to the car after 9.5 miles of really fun running where we took a 10 minute break to re-fuel. I switched out to road-running shoes for next section as Joel taped and lubed his toes. Peter just shook his head and laughed at our busy behavior, but, secretly, I think it was nervous laughter. Our next section was 15 miles (out and back) and the day was really warming up. We all felt as if we could easily un out of water for this next section so we downed a bunch first, then filled up; Pete and with two hand-helds and Joel with a Joel with his hydration pack. Pete and I were experimenting with Hammer’s Peperpeteum Ultra Endurance drink and, so far, were very pleased.

The second section took us from the parking lot across the Mendota Bridge, and exposed 1-mile long, noisy expanse over the Minnesota River where we picked up the paved river trail to the quaint hamlet of Mendota. We crossed the road downtown and ran below the historic Sibley house to pick up the gravel, flat Minnesota Flats Trail on the Minnesota River’s east bank. This typically easy, gravel trail is wide enough for 2-3 runners abreast and is flat. It travels from Mendota, under the Mendota bridge, through floodplain forest and along expansive wetland complexes. It also travels under the 494 bridge (unreal graffiti and views of the bridges underbelly architecture) all the way to the Cedar Ave bridge where you turn around and head back. This year, after the spring flood, however, sections of the trail were soggy, overfilled with sand and heavily rutted by rogue 4-wheelers making it a little more challenging than typical. Pete seemed to have gotten a bit of a second wind here and exclaimed that running was less painful than walking (we were starting to take short walking breaks from time to time in the heat). Joel and I hung back a bit, but then I started to feel the same way as Pete, so I broke off from Joel and left him to his wise game plan. I caught up with Peter 1 mile short of the Cedar bridge massaging his calves and knees and expressing concern over his knee. I sat with him to take a break and we rested until Joel caught us. We all took inventory of our water supply, the beginnings of cramping, level of fatigue and decided to cut this section short and head back to avoid being without water for 2+ miles should we continue forward. Joel caught his second wind end moved on down the trail ahead of Peter and I as we alternated between running (read: jogging) and walking during the heavily rutted sections. Peter caught up with Joe and then I eventually caught them just as I got a major 2nd wind. I had taken a Gu a downed my last gulp of water 2 miles from the car and was feeling Really good so I ran off at 8 minute pace for ¾ of a mile or so.

We all regrouped at the Mendota bridge for the last stretch back to the car and again excused myself for another mile of 8-8:15 minute pace running. We regrouped at the other side of the river and jog/walked back to the car. We immediately downed water and ultimately decided that the pull of Sea Salt, a restaurant back over in Minnehaha Falls Park, was too great. So we formulated our recovery drinks, changed shirts, drank the drinks and loaded up the car abandoning the last 6 miles for another day (what was to be a crossing over the Highway 5 Bridge to access Crosby Farm for its sweet trail running).

Sea Salt’s fish tacos and Surley beer, courtesy of Peter, were as good as I remembered. We enjoyed hanging there enjoying the recollections of the run, 24 miles and change, feeling very pleased and not overly remorseful of falling short of 30.

2 Rivers Shuffle

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2 Rivers Shuffle

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Home Trails


Why it's taken me so long to "discover" Battle Creek as a running resource eludes me completely. Thirteen or so years ago I was struggling on my hands and knees with a chain saw for months, 10-hr days, cutting and removing invasive shrub and tree species in this park as part of a restoration effort. The bluffs were challenging then and they remain so. Only now, the challenge is linking the while mountain bike trail section with no walking on the hills. After two runs, a 12 and an 8 miler, I'm not there yet, but I figure 3-4 more trips should get me there.
This a a wonderful area and a nice primer for attemtping to run the entirety (all hills) at Afton SP's 25K loop. It's track is mostly single width and you can add on as much wide, casual, yet still plenty hilly, cross country ski trail to add distance. It's difficulty is somewhere between Afton and Highland park, making it challenging, but doable.
I LOVE having such resources right in my back yard (oK, 10 minutes away)! I once read that the best trails are those right at home. I'm beginning to see why.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Facebook | Shawn Tracy


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Two Rivers Shuffle

Come one come all to the first, hopefully not the last, "Two Rivers shuffle"

I have put together a fun-run with several distance options from 3 to 50 miles. Of course, for those joining the 50-milers later in the day you'll have to suffer the slow pace and the moaning and complaining and likley have to hang at the "drop-station" van until we make it back from one of several, different loops...but hey, maybe that's incentive to go for the long run?

This is a "mixed" ultra consisting of both trail running and asphalt paths in the urban setting, but don't let that fool you! The trails I've linked together are possibly the best the twin cities has to offer in one continuous circuit linking both cities. Home base, and the support van, is located at Forst Snelling SP and several loops branch out and back from there, so no crew people needed that would have to sacrifice an entire day to help us. The longest ssection without aid is the first 20 miles of the day, so packs may be required for that section depending on conditions and your needs. All trails stick to the two rivers' cooridors and offer fun, highly variable running with beautiful vistas.

For more information, see my Facebook site or contact me directly at 651-278-4047