Monday, November 26, 2012

Running Heroes

When asked who their running heroes are, most runners would probably start to name off the Olympians of yesteryear; Billy Mills, Frank Shorter, Joan Benoit.  Some would even name a few of today's elites, but when I think of my running heroes I think of some of the men and women who taught me and inspired me and accepted me as a new runner.

In the past month I have been fortunate enough to see and chat with some of them and I feel so happy and lucky to have done so.  Fred and Jeanne McCurnin, Curt Krieger, and Dave Nauman were four people that I admired and learned a lot from as I began my running life.

Not only are all four of them excellent runners in their own right, but they are wonderful people and were terrific role models to me and, indeed, good friends.

Now I see myself becoming a running role model to others in the Duluth community and I often think of these four running heroes of mine and hope that I can pass on my love and respect for the sport of running as they did to me.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Great 888

So in my life there's running and running and running and blah, blah, blah.  It's not that I get sick of it, not at all, it's actually my favorite topic, but there comes a time when I need a break from heel to toe drops and fartleks and and "can I order this in a different color".  So last weekend, I got to take a vacation!
Now normally, I don't like vacations.  I don't really like to be away from work for too long, I get nervous.  But I was really looking forward to this trip.  And so off Gretchen and I went to southwestern Wisconsin for a foodie road trip.
The drive down through the Driftless region was amazing.  Hills and valleys were everywhere, filled with lush green trees and terraced fields of corn and hay and straw.  Cows were spotted against the pastures, leisurely munching on the green fields.
And the idea of "leisurely" was the theme of the weekend.  Our first stop was in Westby, WI.  Westby is a small, Scandinavian town with a nice B&B, a great gift shop and a gentle home town feel.  From there we stopped into nearby Viroqua for dinner at the Driftless Cafe.  The Driftless is a really nice, funky little place with delicious food and a great atmosphere.
Cool pint glass at the Driftless
After spending some time in Viroqua, we continued on, driving through the Kickapoo Valley.  It seemed that everywhere you looked out the car window was another post card view.  It was stunning scenery.  We stopped at the Nordic Creamery to get some real Wisconsin cheese and I have to tell you, it was amazing!
Ellie at the Nordic Creamery
Our next destination was the National Mustard Museum!  Not a local mustard museum, not a state mustard museum but a NATIONAL Mustard Museum!  It was a blast!  The NMM is a place that simultaneously pokes fun at and pays respect to mustard.  It's a place filled with thousands of mustards for sale and you can sample any of them.  Plus a mustard hall of fame and gift shop where you can buy items from the fictional university, Poupon U, bacon frosting and mustards of the world.
National Mustard Museum
Norwegian mustard

Bacon frosting
After spending the night with some friends in Verona, we made our way to New Glarus to spend some time in the very Swiss town.  We ate at a delicious restaurant called the "Glarner Stube", which means "the living room of Glarus".  I had a pork schnitzel sandwich and red cabbage, very Swiss-German!  We also stopped at a delicious Swiss bakery that I would describe as Pastry Heaven!  It was like Christmas in July for a pastry lover like myself!
about 1/3 of the yumminess in the bakery
After downtown New Glarus we took a quick peek at the New Glarus Brewery, which was a very impressive place!  We got there not long before they were closing for the day so we didn't get a chance to tour the grounds but we did get a tasting and I can attest that they do good work there!
Part of the New Glarus Brewery
From there we headed to Albany to stay at a great B&B, the Albany House, and an amazing dinner in this tiny little town called Monticello.  The restaurant, called "The Dining Room at 209 Main" offers incredible chef created dishes that rival anything the New Scenic Cafe has to offer.  I had the barbequed cajun shrimp and andouille sausage with cheddar grits, sauteed greens and a smoky roasted garlic sauce.  Gretchen had pan seared wild caught king samlon filet with tomato and kalamata olive conasse, roasted fingerling potatoes, haircot vert and a light fennel cream sausce.  Our appetizer was crab and avocado on fresh herbs with truffle vinaigrette and a micro green, radish and cucumber salad.  Yeah, it was that kind of place!  The service was wonderful and the food was even better and there's nothing like their famous dessert, the sticky toffee pudding with roasted pecans!
Before driving back to Duluth we stopped at a quaint little town called Paoli, which offers about 2 blocks of wonderful gift shops and outstanding galleries.  
Our round trip mileage was exactly 888 miles for the weekend and we can't wait to go back to such a fun and relaxing area, to re-visit some of the things we loved and to do some of the things we didn't have time for.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Been Away So Long

So it's now been 2 months since my last post.  2 months!  Wow, I need to get my butt in gear.
Well, I've pretty much filled those 2 months with running.  And working.  And sleeping.  And then some more running.  Such is my exciting life!
One nice run that I did want to post about was a 23 miler a couple of weeks ago on the Voyageur course.  I started at the zoo, ran out for about 2 hours and ran back.  I really like that course because there's a bit of everything.  Even though I prefer running technical single track over anything, it's nice to break it up a bit with some easier ski trails and even some road.  The Voyageur course offers all of those things.
Starting down at the zoo means a long climb up to the Spirit Mountain ski hills.  A nice thing about this is that you simply can't start your run out too fast, the climb won't let you.
The trail along this section was pretty dry as our low snowfall winter has made nearly all of the local trails very runnable, very early in the season.  But as I got to the ski hills, I was surprised to see such massive piles of snow still on the mountain.
This particular guy was right in the middle of the trail and about 10 feet high.  I had to decide, do I go around it, or over it?
Over it.  Here's a view of the bay from the top of the snow pile.  Fortunately I was able to avoid any altitude sickness!
So I plugged on to Skyline and in to Magney-Snively park.  The notorious, swamp infested park west of Spirit Mountain.  Full of horse holes, and mud holes, and probably some R.O.U.S.s!  However, this year it wasn't too bad.  Not that I really mind getting wet and muddy on a trail run, in fact I welcome it, but I have to admit, it was nice to not have to deal with it too much.
So as you can see by the picture, it's a dry year at Magney!  However, this little puddle, and a few others were pretty much unavoidable so the usual outcome occured:
Nice and muddy shoes!  Just the way I like 'em!
After leaving Magney and hitting Skyline again to cross Beck's Road, I took the long down into the Mission Creek/Fond du Lac trails.  I really enjoy this section (heck, I like them all!) but it's nice to have a long down hill and then flatten out along the creek for a bit.  The trail does require a couple of Mission Creek crossings, which I decided to rock hop through this time.  On race day I just plow through the creek.
So from here I continued on for a bit until turning around and doing it all in reverse!  All in all it was a great day on the trails.

I couldn't agree more!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gorgeous Day in Hartley

Today was the kind of winter running day that you dream of.  I like to do my Sunday runs later in the day so I can sleep in and run in the warmer temps and I'm so glad I did that today.  My plan was to do between 2 and 3 hours in Hartley, looping around the guard rail loop and what I'll call the swamp loop, making a nice figure 8.

I started at the parking lot at the Nature Center and hit the guard rail loop first for a clockwise turn around the trail.  The trail itself was perfect, packed down but still soft from the fresh snow we received and the warm temps of the day.  I knew there was a possibility of some slippery ups and downs so I wore my Salomon Fellcross.  They proved to be the perfect shoe for the situation.  I think having the right trail shoe for the conditions is akin to choosing the right kick wax for your skis and I nailed it today.

After the guard rail loop, I cruised over to the swamp loop and then back to the parking lot.  Then, I turned around and did the same thing in the opposite direction.  Then, I turned around and did the same thing in the original direction again.  Overall, I ran 2:41 and loved every minute of it.  The temps were perfect, the sun was shining and the trail was incredible.  Great day!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Podcast on Running Form and Minimalism

I'm a big fan of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.  I've met him and worked with him in Colorado, corresponded with him through email and appreciated the work he's done for the running world.  He recently was a guest for a podcast on  He speaks on minimalism, running form and injuries.   I've always liked his approach toward minimalism.  He's an M.D. so he can speak to the science side of running, he's a highly accomplished runner so he can speak to the performance side of running and he leads clinics for thousands of people every year so he can speak in simple, understandable language to everyone.  I encourage every runner to listen to what he has to say.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Arizona and the Coldwater Rumble

As Hypo and I entered the airport last Friday night, the temperature in Duluth was -6 degrees F, making it a perfect time to fly to Arizona.  So we boarded a plane at 7:30pm Duluth time and set off for Mesa where we would land at 10:30 Arizona time and be met by Clint to drive us to Fountain Hills.  We would then try to quickly get some sleep before waking up at 4am driving for an hour to get to Goodyear, Arizona and the Estrella Regional Park for the Coldwater Rumble 50k.

Around 60 runners lined up at the starting line for the 50k.  We started the race in partial darkness and cool temperatures in the 40s.  I had high hopes of finishing well in this race, so when the gun went off, I started out quickly and joined the lead pack of about 6 runners, one of whom was Hypo.

With myself, Hypo, Deb and Marcus in the 50k and Clint in the 19k, we were going to make sure that Duluth was representing well down there.  I had gone in to the race with a lot of confidence and a willingness to push myself to compete, something I haven't had for races in the past few years.  Lately, as I've gotten older, I've been mostly competing with myself, with the course.  But I'd like to make 2012 a year of trying to push myself beyond that and get as fast as I can, so I went into this race with that attitude.

I wasn't sure what running in Arizona would be like.  I had seen pictures of the course online and I didn't think it looked too difficult.  The hills weren't anything worse than what I run in all the time here in Duluth and the trail didn't appear to be too technical.  Pictures can be deceiving, I soon found out.  But before the trail had a chance to make an impact on me, the sunrise did.  Never have I started a race in a more beautiful setting.  The sun was rising over the mountains, there were a few clouds in the sky and there were colors everywhere.  Cactus were silhouetted black against the painted sky.  It was incredible.

We started out fast and held the pace for quite some time.  Normally, I don't like to start out fast, but this time I did for a few reasons.  One, as I mentioned, I wanted to push myself more than usual.  Two, I wanted to run with Dave a bit and show well for Duluth Running Co.  Three, it was a blast!  We were racing along the single track trails, at mid 6 to low 7 minute pace and it was so much fun.  I told myself at about 4 miles that I should really back off because I'd probably pay for this later but I decided not to because it was just so much fun to run like that.

So we kept rolling along and the pace settled down some as the terrain dictated us to.  We ran through very technical and rocky single track, requiring constant attention on your feet.  Though the scenery was stunning, you could only enjoy it for quick glances or you'd run the risk of tripping on any of the many sharp and loose rocks that littered the trails.  For those who know the Rolling Stone NMTC race, it was a lot like the start of Rolling Stone but with sharper rocks and for about 30k of the race.

If the course wasn't extremely rocky, then we were usually running in old river beds which were sandy washes.  They were like running on a beach and each foot fall would sink about 2-3 inches into the sand.  While some of the washes were short, maybe 10-20 meters, others were quite long, 1/4 mile to over a mile at times.

We did have a few miles in the longer 31k loop that was straight and a slight downhill.  This was an old jeep road and it was a welcome respite from the single track but like the dried river beds, this road was very sandy as well.  By then we had hit mile 10 and I was running with a really cool guy from Flagstaff.  We were chatting about stuff and cruising along nicely, sitting in 4th and 5th place, respectively.  We were reeling in the 2nd and 3rd place guys, one of whom was Hypo and got in to the aid station just as Dave was leaving it.  My confidence at that point was really high, as I was feeling great and was putting together a good race.  That would soon change.

We hit the 13 mile mark in 1:41, I had fallen just a bit behind and dropped into 6th place by mile 15 but I was still running well and not far behind the others so I wasn't really worried, there was still plenty of running left.  However, for me, there wasn't plenty of good running left.

At about mile 16 I started to really hit the wall.  I was slowing considerably and was not having a good time.  The fast pace, though fun, had burned me and I was having to regather myself.  I hoped I would be able to relax for 2-3 miles and then get back into running quickly again and try to chase down a few people.

As I mentioned, the course was very rocky.  By that I mean that there were loose rocks and protruding sharp rocks but even the trail itself was pretty much rock.  These were not the soft, dirt packed trails we're used to in Northern Minnesota.  No, these trails were pretty much like running on the road, and my legs were soon feeling like they were in a road race.

So I trudged on to the Start/Finish area where the 31k loop ended and the 19k loop began.  As I neared the Start/Finish I contemplated dropping out.  My legs were shot and my spirit was diminished.  Never have I been that close to dropping out of a race but to be frank, by that time in the race I wasn't really having a lot of fun anymore.  But no, by the time I got there, I knew that there was no way I was going to drop.  Dropping out because I'm not having fun is lame and not something I ever want to do.  So I went out for the 19k loop and struggled mightily, trying to slog on and run with a bit of pride.

And slog on I did.  It's probably the best way to describe my form for the next 8 or so miles.  I was shuffling along, my legs and my feet feeling a lot like they did at Sawtooth, simply beaten up.  But as often happens in ultras, I came back to life.  I don't know what happened or where it came from but at about 4:15 I started feeling pretty good again, and for the first time in over an hour, I was really running hard!

I was starting to feel good again and even caught a few people who had passed me during my bad stretch.  I had no idea what place I was in and I didn't really care by that point but I was just really happy to be running and having fun again.

So I came into the finish area with a time of 5:08:42, good enough for 13th place overall.  It was a disappointing finish given my expectations going in but it was still a great opportunity to be able to be in Arizona for the weekend and to run on those amazing trails.  The day was made even better as Dave, aka Nacho, went on to win the race rather handily, despite falling down the side of a mountain and cutting up his knee pretty badly.

Hopefully we'll get a chance to get back there next year and Hypo can defend his title and I can do even better.  And even if this race didn't quite go the way I had hoped, I still had a blast.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Evolution of the New Balance 110

Sorry to keep going on about this particular shoe but attached is a link to a great story on the evolution of the 110.  If you're a shoe geek, like me, you'll find it interesting.

I really like the feedback of both Erik's and Tony's desire for and approval of a more aggressive lug pattern.  I think what some people forget about aggressive lugs is that while they obviously provide better grip on the ups and the downs, they also provide cushioning.  So if you have a very minimal trail shoe, with very little midsole in it, but the shoe has very aggressive lugs, you therefore get a lot of cushioning.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the article.