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.