Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend runs

I came into the weekend knowing it was my final weekend to do anything that might help me at McNaughton. The plan was simple run 25 miles on Saturday and at least 10 on Sunday.

For Saturday, Karyn and I decided to run the Cannon Valley bike trail from Cannon Falls to Welch and then back. She needed a 20 miler so this was about perfect for that. We parked in Cannon Falls and as it turned out we had the trail almost to ourselves. The trail has a downhill grade towards Welch which meant it would be uphill on the way back to Cannon Falls. It is also an asphalt trail and the trail took it's toll on me as the run went on. As we got closer to Welch, my lower back was hurting, I think it was just the pounding of the trail and the fact that I was wearing trail shoes. They are newer but I know that they don't have quite the cushioning of road shoes. After the turn around in Welch, we started the uphill climb, again it's not that bad but it does wear on you. Here is an elevation map from BimActive (USGS), you can see the downhill grade followed by the uphill return.

Since my back was hurting, I decided to try some power walking to reduce the pounding and I found out that I was able to do this fairly effectively and was keeping up with the 12 to 13 minute pace we were trying to keep. I alternated running with power walking the whole way back and believe it or not, my confidence for McNaughton went up. I can power walk a long ways, not at a 13 minute clip but probably at a 14 to 16 minute clip. The key is to do it before exhaustion settles in.

The picture below is of the Cannon River, it was a up but not overflowing it's banks. We also saw a Bald Eagle about a mile outside of Welch. They are such amazing birds.

With the 20 miles behind us, my plan was to run an additional 5 miles in Lebanon Hills. I figured by breaking up the run it would be a bit easier yet give me the affect of a longer run. I did end up taking a detour though as the Butler Bulldogs were on TV when we got home and being a good Hoosier I had to watch Butler play. The good news is that they won and with the final four in Indianapolis this year (which is where Butler is located), I think it's safe to say that the crowd will be behind them.

So after an hour or so break and about half of a pizza (I am not sure if pizza was a good choice for between runs nutrition but it did hit the spot) I headed over to Lebanon Hills. As I got my shoes on, I was thinking that this maybe wasn't the best idea I had ever come up with. I started to run and went down the hill to the Jensen lake trail and that thought was confirmed with a fair amount of knee pain and a bit of back pain. I said to myself give it a few minutes and see, surprising enough within a few minutes, I seemed to loosen up and was able to run. My plan again was to mix running with power walking. I did it with no issues and got in another 6 miles. The nice thing was as I came around the backside of Jensen lake, I thought I could go another 9 to 10 miles without any issues, granted that would only get me 2/3 of where I will need to be in 2 weeks but it still was a good feeling.

A picture looking back across Jensen Lake as the sun was setting. Day 1 of the weekend complete with 26 miles.

For Day 2 of the weekend, I headed to Murphy. I wanted to run the northern loop and maybe the southern loop, goal for the day 10 to 15 miles. Why the variation in mileage distance, no reason other than I wanted enough mileage to make sure I would have a feel for McNaughton but I didn't want to push too hard and risk an injury. My original plan was to run the Surf the Murph course but my route ended up getting a bit messed up as they had a lot of the gates closed (last weekend they were all open). Add in a gusting wind and it wasn't going to be a great day. I did get a few pictures, no signs of spring yet but that's ok as there is almost no sign of winter left either.

The next picture was part a treat that I didn't anticipate, since my route was messed up I finally made my way to the southern section but I wasn't really in the mood to be out in the open with the cold wind against me which is what I was expecting. So when I came to a fork in the path that I would normally have gone left, I went right. I thought it would just lead me out of the park but along the way I saw a single track path. I went for it and my legs were feeling good again, it's always amazing on the energy boost I get when I end up a trail that I don't know. As I went down it I noticed a stream and I had a thought, I wonder if I will come up to the stream and if I do should I practice for McNaughton? Sure enough the trail came up right alongside of it and I just had to run through the stream (McNaughton has stream crossings so this gave me some practice). It was cold but felt great. This picture is from after I crossed it. So wet shoes and feet accomplished, I proceeded to run back to the horse parking lot and the day was over, 11+ miles. A nice weekend of running completed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

McNaughton Explanation

Sometimes you carefully plan things out and sometimes you don't. The decision to enter McNaughton would be one of the latter ones and here is my explanation why.

I struggled all winter long in getting my runs in, I didn't start out that way but I quickly got there as the darkness, cold and snow descended. I had entered December full of goals, better said would be wishes, as if there is no action than it is a wish. If there is action then it is a goal. I read that somewhere just recently and it made sense. I had a focus of running well at Chippewa, then the race was canceled and I lost my focus. Now in fairness to Chippewa there are a number of events that I could have substituted for it instead but I failed to do so and it just took something away. Chippewa was easy, it's almost local, it was my first ultra event, I had done it both years and I had wanted to do it well this year. So I just drifted through December and January with no plan, then it came back in early February and I tried to regain my zeal but it didn't happen, the race was moved up two weeks and I languished in the thought of running in snow.

So as I headed into the first deadline to enter Chippewa I punted. I decided to wait and make sure the snow was going to be gone. Meanwhile, Wayne and Karen had started to lobby about McNaughton and they started to catch my attention. So now that I have bored you with the background info, what is the explanation for doing McNaughton?

It just sounded like it would be good idea (yes, I may have been influenced by Wayne and Karen). It would get Illinois off of my list, it is another 50 mile event, it is a 10 mile loop course where I will be running with folks running 100 miles. So it will get me some knowledge of what that means. I have never attended an event with 100 milers and this will put me right into the middle of the event. In my original plan I thought I would volunteer at Zumbro 100 (April 9 & 10) to get this experience and then run two weeks later at Chippewa. It also breaks my Chippewa streak so in the future I can just run that for enjoyment not because of a streak. I do know I will miss it this year and will pencil it on for next year.

So I signed up on Monday, then I checked the course, note to self before you sign up for a 50 mile event, check the course, verify your training and think very carefully about it.

I of course did none of these so it looks like I will be going into a moderately hard course, under trained but with plenty of time to finish. So the plan will be to take my time, not get injured, enjoy myself and learn a whole bunch.

On a lighter note, here is the first available weather forecast from for McNaughton.


Apr 10 - Times of clouds and sun High 58° Lo 40°

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An odd occurance at work

You know the old phrase "when you think you have seen it all.....", well today at work I had a very interesting experience that fits that category.

I was sitting at my desk getting some work done on my computer when I heard something behind me. I have an office and when I am working on my computer there is nothing behind me but a wall. So I turned and looked to see what had fallen. At first glance I didn't see anything then I looked down and to my amazement this is what I saw.

Not this exact snake but one just like it. I believe it had fallen out of the ceiling near a light fixture. Some might wonder how I reacted, well this is where all the years of running trails paid off. I looked at it and thought it can't be, I moved it moved, I thought to myself it is. It then moved under my desk. I got out of my chair, thought to myself, did I just imagine that?

I walked out into the hallway and talked to a fellow worker. I mentioned to him what had happened, he said no way. I said I think so. Anyway, we looked for it and we didn't see it. Now I was sure of what I saw so I walked down and told facilities, they said no way. They said they would send someone up to take a look, he stopped by, we didn't see it but he said they would set some traps and call in the exterminators. He left, I pondered sitting down at my desk but decided against it. Instead I decided I needed to find it if I was going to get any work done. So I asked another employee if she had a flashlight, she did, she asked why? I told her, she said no way and came with me to look for it.

We went back to my office and I scanned behind the desk with the flashlight but didn't see it, she then got down real low under the desk and said I see it. I said good and mumbled I am not loosing it. She said what did I want to do, I said nothing, I would let facilities deal with it. About then another employee stopped by and asked what we were doing, we told her and she said no way. She asked about what facilities would do, I said probably trap it, kill it, I didn't really care. She said we should catch it, I said go ahead. I left them to their task thinking that they wouldn't do it. When I got back to my office a few minutes later sure enough they had caught the snake in my recycle basket and they took it outside and set ii free.

As to where I work, I will keep that to myself, some of you know but for others it's best they don't. Anyway, it did make for an interesting day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Decision Made

It's McNaughton, now I just need to finish training this week and I will be set :-).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Decision Time

I have been vacillating back and forth on which race to do on April 10th, originally this wasn't even an issue as I wasn't planning on doing any races on the 10th, then Chippewa was canceled, then it came back. The fact that it moved from the 24th to the 10th was no big deal except for my fear that we would be running in snow again, now that the snow has melted that is of less of a concern. So I would be doing Chippewa without a doubt except Wayne and Karen are planning on running McNaughton and well they would like company. So they have been giving me reasons to run it with them and then you add in the fact that I have been non committal towards Chippewa and I haven't exactly discouraged them. I am not sure why I am non committal towards Chippewa but for some reason I am. Maybe it is a been there, done that frame of mind.

So when I went into this weekend, I mentally set a deadline of next Sunday.

On Saturday, Wayne and Karen were heading to Afton to run hills to get ready for McNaughton I couldn't join them but I did mention to Wayne that if he joined me at Murphy on Sunday he might be able to help me make up mind. And guess what he did, he drove up from Rochester simply to lobby me and he said it provided him a chance to go visit his brother but I am pretty sure he would not have come up today without the taunt.

We met at 9:00 am in the horse lot, my plan was to run the southern section and then run the northern section and then do a repeat on the southern section. Wayne and I talked a bit about a lot of things one of which was that if I wanted a t-shirt for McNaughton, I needed to sign up tomorrow (so much for my deadline), we also got to relive Surf the Murph and on that note, I took a few pictures.

As we headed back into the horse lot area, Wayne said he kept thinking Londell would be there to hand off some food and drink and get us on our way. This picture is from the spur leaving the horse section as you head around towards the northern section.

Remember that section Les added so we could get the view of Minneapolis, I do and I am still not sure how steep it is but here are a few shots.

Almost to the top

And now the view, sorry Les but the phone camera didn't do it justice.

Wayne and I ran together for the first 12 miles, we had stopped at the mt. bike lot and then looped back to the horse lot as I had decided to avoid running anymore in the southern section but instead I was going to run the whole northern Surf the Murph loop which would get me to the 5 hour point.

Oh yeah about that decision I need to make, well Wayne and Karen have been lobbying a bit and Karen probably made the best point in a recent email. I had said that I want to keep my Chippewa streak going and she said:

"Mike, keep in mind the thing about going for streaks, you have to do them for a long time to even mean anything, (if then it even does). How many years, especially at your starting age are you willing to devote to chippewa? Are you going to keep doing it when you are mid 70's?"

Great point, how long would I be willing to keep it going? What if it gets canceled again next year?

So as I bid Wayne good bye back at the horse lot, I was still feeling good and figured I had plenty of time to ponder my choices. Before I knew it I was heading towards the number 6 hills. Have I mentioned that they are still very steep, anyway, as I went up them, I thought McNaughton is supposed to be hilly, what the heck am I thinking, I am not in shape for Chippewa let alone McNaughton. As I got up the last hill and headed back down, I started feeling better. I was tired out but still running but could I go another 30 miles, No Way!. Then I thought about the comment I made to Karyn when we were running yesterday or did she make it to me, long run brain strikes again. Anyway, the comment was you condition your mind for the distance you are going. We were going 8 yesterday and that's how much we had, today I was going 21 to 22 (5 hours regardless of mileage) and that is what I had in me.

I could go into detail, yet again about which one to do but frankly it's not worth it. If I do Chippewa, I am sure I will finish and I might get a PR but not by much. If I do McNaughton, I am not so sure that I am ready but I should be able to do it, right?

So Chippewa or McNaughton, decision tomorrow, that is if I want to be guaranteed the t-shirt and if I run 50 miles, I darn well want the t-shirt.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unbelievable run in Lebanon Hills

I am so happy, I decided to run after work today in Lebanon Hills and to my delight the snow is almost completely gone.

I was amazed at how good of shape the trail was in, it was so nice to be able to run without slipping and skidding in the snow and I was also pleasantly surprised at the mud. There were only a few sections that were bad and frankly they weren't bad. I have run in Lebanon Hills in much worse conditions and for the first run of the spring without snow, it was great. I am not sure if the ground is still frozen and the snow just melted across the ground or if it is a by-product of the trail work they did last year or yet some other reason, regardless, it was a delightful run.

I also carried my phone and took a few pictures. I started in a light rain and when I ended the sun was out. This picture is at the start of the run on the south side of Jensen Lake, btw, be careful on the wooden bridges, they are a bit slippery

The next picture was 4 miles later and if you look real close you can almost see the huge hawk. I tried to get close but the hawk decided against that. Unfortunately I didn't take the time to figure out how to use the zoom on the phone camera or I might have gotten a good picture. Oh well, it was still neat to see the bird from about 20 feet away.

Near the end of the run, looking back across Jensen Lake, notice how blue the sky has turned and to think I thought it was just my mood change as the result of the run.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring is here

Spring is here, yes, spring is really here. Over the last 2 weeks the snow has been disappearing and the temps have been moving upward. I absolutely love this time of year except for the moment my trails are still snow covered and they probably will be for another week or so but the bike paths are clear, I am running in shorts, what a wonderful time of the year. The rains will come the temps will continue to move up with an occasional move back down, white turns to brown which will quickly turn to green. Homes I can see from the trails will disappear as the forest reappears and hides them from view. Yes, If we follow our normal pattern, winter won't surrender completely, we will probably still have more snow but the corner has been turned.

I am less than a month from my first race of the year and on that note, I talked with Karyn concerning Chippewa and McNaughton and after I expressed my disdain for running in snow (for probably the 100th time) we both agreed that I might as well wait another week or two before I sign-up. So that means no decision as of today, I do think the snow will be gone at Chippewa but I will gladly pay the extra $10 if it means no snow and why do I think if I sign up today, there will be a snow storm next weekend :-). McNaughton would be $80 so Chippewa is still cheaper, granted it doesn't get me the state of Illinois like McNaughton would but it would keep my streak going of 3 in a row. Another advantage for Chippewa is that it is just a 50k and McNaughton I would need to go 50. Granted I would have more than enough time as they give you the same time for the 50 as they do for the 100 but it is still 50 miles. Decisions aren't they fun.

Karyn and I went for a long run today and it was a fantastic day, turns out it got up to 64F. Back to the run, Karyn revised her marathon program to one a little more sane so today's run was scheduled for 18 miles. I had written down 23 for myself as my plans are still focused on Chippewa and I would like to get in a 25 miler so I figured I should ease my way there. Something like 23 today, 20 next weekend, then 25 the week after, taper for 2 weeks and head to Chippewa.

Well, today we decided against going up to the Lakes again and instead chose to run the bike paths in our neighborhood. We ran a route I used to run when I was doing road marathons and hadn't yet discovered the trails. It is a somewhat hilly loop that goes from our house up to the Highline trail in Eagan, past the Zoo and back home.

The run was going fairly well and at about 4 or 5 miles in I mentioned I would probably add 5 more miles to the run. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. As the run went on, it started seeming that maybe it wasn't such a good idea. You see we were on a paved hilly bike path. Here is the elevation map from today's run, you can see it was hillier from miles 4 through 12.

As we went up and down the hills, my legs seemed to take a pounding and were transferring the impact to my knees and back, I was reminded yet again of how much I love my trails. At around 14 miles, I knew that it would be stupid to run 5 more miles. I mentioned that maybe I would just run 5 later in the day. Again it seemed like a good idea. Well, my back is so sore that again I think it would be stupid so I am going to cap it at 18 for the day. I ran in a pair of trail shoes that have 200+ miles and it may be the cushion remaining wasn't enough for the loop we ran.

So with today's shorter run I think I will instead go for 21 to 22 next weekend and if I am lucky, the snow will be gone and I can run in Lebanon or Murphy. After that I will go for 25 and then taper for Chippewa or will it be McNaughton?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Endurance Planet, Marathon Talk, Lebanon Update

One of the podcasts I have listened to for a while is called Endurance Planet. I like it as it not only covers ultrarunning but recently did two things, one it opened up it's "members only" content and two it added a segment called Marathon & Beyond Monday's.

Here is how they describe themselves:

Endurance Planet is the premiere online destination for runners, cyclists, triathletes, and adventure racers. Endurance Planet offers podcasts, videos, articles and products to members which provide inspiration and education. Endurance Planet gives you all the tools to boldly answer the question, “How far can you go?”

For the M & B segment they read an article out of Marathon & Beyond. I wasn't sure about this segment but they really do a nice job of bringing articles to life.

Examples of some recent shows include:

In pursuit of the Badwater Cup: an interview with Jarom Thurston

Charlie Engle on Running the Sahara
Marathon & Beyond Monday: Confessions of an Ultra Marathon Skeptic
A Different Kind of Addiction

Click on any of these links or go to their website and give it a try.

On a related matter, a whole bunch of new running podcasts have also appeared, one that I like is called "Marathon Talk", it may be because it's put on by a couple of brits and I like their accents but it's very well done so check it out too. If you want even more don't forget to go to the Running Podcast website. The only problem I have is that I am so far behind in listening to my podcasts, I have 98 in my cue and every time I whittle it down, the weekend comes and more podcasts appear.

Last, I ran in Lebanon Hills tonight and it wasn't fun, I know I said a day or so that I am headed to Chippewa, well that is if the snow melts. Last weekend it was hard packed snow and very runnable, tonight I put on my trail shoes and basically slid down the hill as you enter the Jensen lake trail, I actually slid off of the trail into the snow to keep from wiping out so I went back to my car and changed to shoes with screws, they helped but between the ice and the now very uneven surface, it was not fun, after looping around Jensen Lake, I aborted and ran another mile and a half down Pilot Knob. It ain't often I leave a trail for pavement but tonight was one of those nights. So hope I see to some warmer days and the snow continues to retreat as I am ready for spring.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A month to Chippewa?

Well, I am a month out from Chippewa and I have 5 days to register for the lowest price ($55) after that it goes up $10. I was looking through my logs and my previous posts about Chippewa and I got to thinking, what are the odds of snow on April 10th?

This question actually splits into two categories, what are the odds of snow on the ground and what are the odds of snow falling from the air. I am more concerned with the snow on the ground issue as we need some warm temps and some rain to wash all of this stuff away and we have a chance of this happening. If I look at the odds of snow coming on that day, the normal temp for New Auburn, WI is a high of 53 and a low of 31 and a record hi of 81 and a low of 17 per, so I would say the odds are good for no snow coming down on us and if does it should melt. Of course in 2008, I would have said the same thing. The one thing that I see looking at the ever accurate forecast from Accuweather at least for the next 15 days is that they call for temps in the mid 40's with one day at 50 so some of the snow should be melting. Now calls for 3 or 4 days in the 50's over the next 10 days. So two weather sites confirm that I have a chance.

So with the weather analysis done, the race reviews from the past studied, the training not yet completed, the weight not all lost, the cross training not started but with the shoes at the ready, what should I do?

You have challenged me the last 2 years but I have finished both times. Some might say that the first year was a draw and the second year albeit a minor disaster for me, it was still a PR thanks to the snow the first year. So with that in mind, I have to admit that last year, you humbled me a bit and you helped me understand what I could endure as I survived some on course minor injuries added in dehydration followed by a wrong turn that added another mile and survived a fall or two, all in all I came away with a lot of respect for you the wonderfully delightful Chippewa course.

So, I have no choice but to say Chippewa here I come, let's go for 3 years in a row.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Running Shoe Upate part 2

I posted a bit back about the shoes I was still wearing and the ones that I had retired and I mentioned I had some new ones. Funny thing about those new ones, I ended up returning both pairs and the process appears to be hassle free.

First about the ones I returned, I bought some old standbys, Saucony's current incarnation of their Grid Omni and since the price was right their Grid Guide Trail. I bought them at Sierra Trading Post again using their coupons to get extra off (this time it was an additional 25% off and free shipping). You should be able to get a coupon either from them (sign up for dealflyers) or online at the coupon places like,, etc. For those not familiar with Sierra Trading Post, they sell closeouts and seconds and I should add I have no financial interest in them. I just like the fact that I have gotten some decent deals on shoes having bought 4 or 5 pairs of shoes from them with no issues with the purchase and no issues getting my mileage out of them. I have bought shoes from local running stores, REI, Backcountry, Zappos with success but the prices at Sierra, I haven't been able to beat.

In this case, I got both pairs for $101, the Progrid Omni 8's I paid $52, normal price at Sierra Trading $79.95, normal retail $110.00, the day I bought them they were marked down to $69.95 plus the 25% off, so you need to be patient to get the the absolute best price and you should wait for a coupon if you can.

ProGrid Omni 8

The Progrid Guide Trails were $64.95 plus the 25% off so about $49.

ProGrid Guide Trail

Why did I return them, well when I put them on I remembered why I quit wearing the Omni's, the heel slipped. Saucony's usually have a narrow heel but there is something about the heel cup that isn't right for me. I could have laced them differently but I don't like doing that and I especially didn't want to do it on both pairs. So I decided the right thing to do was to try and return then. So what is the return policy at Sierra Trading Post, they say free with one caveat. When you buy shoes, they send you a return label from UPS. Their policy is that they deduct $5.75 from your original order but if you do an exchange the shipping on the new order is free.

So with the plan in place to ship them back I went to their website to take a look and see if they had some that I wanted to do an exchange for. I had just run 19 miles in my retired Vasque VST's and I thought maybe I should just buy another pair. I thought about the fact I am doing probably two road marathons and a handful of ultras so should I buy some road shoes or just stick with trail shoes? As I looked through their available shoes, I said to myself, you just ran 19 miles in some worn out trail shoes on a paved bikepath, stick with trails shoes and don't sweat it. Besides, I don't plan to run on roads or paved bikepaths once spring/summer eventually gets here. The only time I will see pavement is during the road marathons.

So I looked through what they had available and read through the various reviews (both on their site and many other internet sites) and narrowed my choice to the VasqueVST's or Vasque Celerators. The VST's with my new 25% off coupon would have been $49, the Celerators $52. I chose the Celerators as they have the same last as the VST's but a different heel (my older VST's had suffered the heel separation problem).

Vasque Celerators

Since I had bought two pairs before I debated getting both of them anyway but I noticed they had some North Face shoes, so after additional research I chose to get a pair of North Face Fire Roads. They were $49 with coupon, so again the total of my purchase would be $101.

North Face Fire Roads

Since I needed to do the exchange, I called them. The person who helped me on the phone was very easy to deal with. We did the exchange, she explained that they would credit the refund back to the account they were purchased on and that they would deduct the $5.75. I should note that some of the on-line shoe places do free shipping both ways but usually their prices are higher so if that bugs you, checkout, and others. She asked if I had a coupon code, the item numbers for the new shoes, an account to charge against and then she said since it was an exchange the shipping was free and I was done.

The shoes arrived 4 days later and they both fit fine so I am ready for spring to come and to get a lot of miles on them. I don't like dealing with returns anywhere but I did find this an easy process and will continue to shop for shoes at Sierra Trading Post, just make sure you get your coupons, wait for additional discounts (if you can) and you too can get a fairly good deal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I went for a run with Wayne today and I think he may have set me up. You see we run together on Thursdays usually with Karen. Today she wasn't able to make it and as Wayne and I exchanged emails as where to run we agreed to run in the River Bottoms from 35W towards the old Bloomington Ferry Bridge.

As I think about it though, he agreed to it rather quickly and I think I know why. You see last week we ran from 35W to the Cedar bridge. Wayne and Karen had not run this section before and it is a favorite of mine except it's too short of a section (~4 miles). Anyway running the opposite way seemed to make sense. If you aren't familiar with this section or even the countless miles of trails along the river bottoms, give it a try some time, anyway here is the map of the run as saved from SportTracks based off of my Garmin data.

If you look at the picture you see how the trail follows the rive and how nice and green everything is. Today everything was white.

Yes we knew it would be snow packed but last week when we ran the opposite way it was fairly runnable. Today it was not, we slipped and slid and got our legs torqued the entire way. We made it out 4 miles and we both agreed that it was time to turn around. As we went along we got to talking about Chippewa. I said I didn't want to ever run in snow again, well at least I don't want to do a 50k or longer in it. Wayne agreed and reminded me again that I could join them at McNaughton. You don't think he could have intentionally brought me to this trail do you? Well, today he made some good points, so I was thinking I would hold off on sending in that entry to Chippewa. As I thought more about it, I was starting to think maybe I should join them at McNaughton then it hit me it does snow in Illinois too. So I think I will wait a few more weeks and see.


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