Monday, July 26, 2010

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.

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