Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day Meander and a Battle of the GPS Watches!

Today I went out for a 3 hour long run that I've been planning for a bit.  I was hoping to join the boys yesterday for their respective run, but alas, my retail job meant I had to work on the 24th.  So, I ventured out on my own.

I had a good run, overall.  Starting at Lester, as I usually do, I headed up and started exploring.  The weather was perfect for running long, mid 30's with some wind, though I didn't feel that in the trials.  The trails themselves were in pretty good shape to run on.  With the snow we received the other day, it packed down nicely and covered up the ice that had made many of the single track trails virtually un-runnable.

I wore both my Garmin 405 and my new Nike SportWatch, hoping to see which one was more accurate.  I've displayed my Nike results for reasons I'll state below.  (you will probably need to use Firefox as your browser to fully open the link, it doesn't seem to fully open with Safari)

I'll start this off by stating that GPS watches are not 100% accurate and sometimes they're not even close.  But usually, they're pretty darn good and it's a nice, though not necessary technology to use.  Both Garmin and Nike, I'm told by my Nike rep, use the EXACT SAME satellites for their respective watches.  I find this to be interesting, but I suppose it makes sense.  I assume the Garmin and Tomtom (the system that Nike uses) simply pay for the rights to use the satellites that probably someone else owns.  That being said, it would seem that both watches would display pretty similar information while on a simultaneous run.  That was not the case.

A few minutes after starting, my Nike watch beeped.  I had hit one mile.  I looked over at my Garmin (I had the Nike on my right wrist and the Garmin on my left) and it read .87 miles.  I felt like that was marginally acceptable difference, especially if I had been doing a shorter run, but I knew that I was going to be pushing 20 miles so that .13 difference over 20 miles would could be rather substantial.  Was I really going to run 18.4 miles or 20 miles or 22.6 miles?  Truthfully, I'm not the kind of person that gets too obsessed about that kind of thing, (you wonder why I even went through this whole experiment then?  Honestly I was just curious) so I didn't worry about it.

I felt like the big difference, though, was in what the two watches said about my current pace.  THAT was vastly different, as well.  (It's to be expected, since the Nike watch had me reaching a mile before the Garmin watch did)  The Nike watch said that I was running at a much faster pace, I believe it was nearly a minute per mile faster!  To me, that's drastic because on these long runs, I want to make sure my pace isn't too fast, especially at the start.

So after a mile, I knew it'd be REALLY interesting to see the differences at the end of the run.  And about a mile later, it all ended.

I nearly reached the top of Skyline, right at Hawk's Ridge, when I ran to the edge to check out the view from an overlook that I'd never been on.  I looked down at my Garmin to check my elapsed time (The Nike watch only displays 2 bits of information at a time and I had chosen to view pace and distance and forgo elapsed time on that watch) and I stared down in shock at a blank screen!  WTF?  The battery had drained completely even though I had fully charged it.  Ugh.

So according to my Nike watch, I ran a little over 20 miles.  I assume that the elapsed time was accurate so I'll count the 3 hour 14 minute run as good.  And my planned little experiment will have to wait another day.  Now it's time to stuff my face with some amazingly good sugar cookies and chocolate covered peanut butter balls.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another Great Weekend of Running

Last weekend I was able to get in back to back longish trail runs on Saturday and Sunday, this weekend I was able to do the same.  Gotta love Duluth!

Yesterday, Hypo, Ryan and I ran while Schuney biked.  We started at Lester, heading up the COGGS trails.  However, after about 5 minutes on the COGGS, it was evident that they were far too icy to run on so we hopped on to the snowmobile trails and headed up.  Up over Lester we headed to Amity and climbed that trail to Jean Duluth Road, crossed the road and took a right at Vermillion, taking that to the Martin Road where we hopped on the state snowmobile and pretty much made our way back.  Adding a couple of loops here and there, Schuney, Hypo and I got in 2.5 hours of good effort.

Today, Gregg and I ran while Schuney again biked a similar course, minus the Vermillion section.  We got in about an hour and forty minutes.  My legs were very sore from yesterday's run but they were able to loosen up well and I was feeling pretty solid for most of the run.

I'm getting all of this in because I've decided to run a 50k in Arizona in January.  We'll see how that goes, I'll be thinking of it a bit as a training run but I do want to go down there fit and prepared and hopefully put in a solid effort.

So my training continues.  With this race on the horizon and others in the future, I've got an optimistic outlook about what's to come.  Patience has always been a strength of mine and though sometimes waiting can be difficult, keeping a positive attitude is helpful and provides strength.

And speaking of strength, I want to end this post with a video of some bad ass XC running.  Jon Brown, one of the main competitors in the video is a former NCAA XC Champion from the legendary Iowa State University.  Enjoy.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Flying Monkey and a Sunday long run

What a great weekend of weather for running!

On Saturday, I put together our first annual Flying Monkey Prediction Race at Lester.  Eight hearty runners came to partake in our 3.3 mile race along the bike trails, ski trails and snowmobile trails of Lester.

For the prediction race, I had everyone predict what they would run the 3.3 miles in, given a hard effort.  The slowest prediction then got to start first, with the person with the next slowest prediction starting after and so on.  Each person would start a given time after the first person left, based on their predicted time, meaning if the first person predicted 40 minutes and the second person predicted 38:40 then the second person had to wait 1:20 before they could start.  If, say the fastest person predicted they'd run it in 27:30, then they'd have to wait 12:30 after the first person left before they could start.  The first person to cross the finish line wins.

The theory with this is that a) everyone gets a legit chance to win the race and 2) everyone should finish relatively close together.  It creates an interesting dynamic because you have the slower runners in the lead at the start, knowing there's people there chasing them down and the faster runners are in the back, trying to catch people.

I first took part in one of these events in Mason City, Ia with the legendary Curt Krieger and the McCurnins and I've been wanting to put one together up here for quite some time.

I'd say we had pretty good success with the event, mostly we all had a good time, the weather was perfect and most of us got a chance to stuff our faces at Billy's for breakfast afterwards.

On Sunday, I got together, again at Lester for a long run with Schuney, Hypo and Chris.  We got nearly 12 miles of hilly trail running in.  We climbed up Lester, hit some COGGS trails, some ski trails, some snowmobile trails.  We cruised over to Amity and ran up to Hawk's Ridge, came back down the Amity trail, wandered up to Maxwell and came back down the Lester ski trails.

It was a great day of running, with warm temps, little wind and a perfect amount of fresh snow on the ground.  I love running in weather like this and am thrilled to be able to put in some long miles on so many kinds of trails.

One of the great things about winter running is coming home and warming up with some good food and drink.  I poured myself some nice hot chocolate and got to work on some fresh loaves of Swedish Rye Bread.  Nothing like a warm, great smelling kitchen on a Sunday afternoon!

Locate. 8^)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Shoes

Yesterday, I received a pair of these.

They're the Lone Peak trail shoes from Altra.  I took the on an easy 5 miler tonight on the COGGS trails at Lester.  Altra is a new company out of Utah that currently makes a very small line of shoes, all of them with a Zero heel to toe drop.  That means the the heel of the shoe is not elevated above the forefoot of the shoe, as it is in most traditional running shoes.  Indeed, Altra builds all of their shoes to have the heel and the forefoot on the same level.

Another unique aspect of Altra shoes is the wide, very wide toe box.  The folks at Altra believe that the toes should be able to splay naturally upon impact and that a healthy foot should be widest at the toes.

Altra does not like to think of these shoes as minimalist, but I think they fit many of MY definitions of minimalist footware.  I personally see minimalist shoes as meeting at least three of the following requirements: One, weight.  I feel that minimalist shoes should weigh less that 10 ounces (for a men's size 9), Two, heel to toe drop.  I think minimalist shoes should have no more than a 6 millimeter difference between the heel and the forefoot.  Three, simple upper design.  I think minimalist shoes should have an upper that has very little overlays, allowing the foot to move naturally, to NOT be strapped in by "arch wraps" and "flex panels".  Four, flexibility.  Minimalist shoes should be relatively flexible, again to allow the foot to move naturally.  Others will have their own opinions on what "minimalist" shoes should be, but those are my criteria.

So Altra does not consider the Lone Peak (or their road shoe, the Instinct [the women's shoe is called the Intuition]) a minimalist shoe, and I think it's because the Lone Peak still offers a decent amount of midsole foam, something that's often shunned by the hard core minimalists.  However, the midsole in this shoe is relatively firm.  What I found was that I still had really good "ground feel" without feeling like I was barefoot.

The traction on the Lone Peak seemed to work pretty well.  There was little to no mud on the trail tonight but I had excellent grip on some of the steep downhills and sharp turns.  The shoe has a relatively flat outsole, so there is plenty of ground contact and the lugs are aggressive but not intrusive.

Overall, the shoes performed very well.  Despite being a bit wider than what I normally like for my narrow foot, they still felt agile to me, something that I find to be very important when running technical trails.  I was impressed with the Lone Peaks, enough to replace my X-Talon 212s?  Probably not, but I think many people would like them and they'll make for a great second pair of trail shoes for me and if there's another 100 miler in my near future, I'm sure I'll use these for most if not all of it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A little spin on the SHT and an RIP to the Talons

Today I went out for an easy 2 hours on the Superior Hiking Trail.  I started at Enger Tower, headed west of an hour and came back.  The trail was in great shape, very runnable (as "runnable" as the SHT can get) save for the wooden bridges and planks which were very slippery.

It's so nice to have so many great trails to choose from in this town.  I can go from technical single track like the Superior Hiking trail, to hilly ski trails, to relatively flat snowmobile trails and get in a long run on any of them, and all of them are within a few minutes of my house.  I feel lucky to live in such a place on this planet.

Speaking of the planet, a couple of weeks ago I came across this video:

When I see this video, I think of the power of "home".  On this single planet, we all have a home.  It may be difficult to think of 6 billion people unified, but this video is evidence that we are, at least in a sense of sharing a home.

RIP to the Talons

After the Living History Farms race, it became apparent to me that my beloved Inov8 X-Talon 212s had ran their last race.  I'd gotten 3 good seasons out of those shoes, literally using them year round.  I'd taken them through mud, rain, snow, standing water, slush, sand, tall grass.  Over rocks, roads, dirt, ice.  Never have I ran in a shoe that was so able to handle all of those conditions so well.  I'll be buying a new pair soon and will look forward to many miles of wonderful running with them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living History Farms

This past weekend I traveled down to Des Moines to participate in the Living History Farms Race.  The "Farms Race", as it's known in Iowa, is a 7 mile cross country race that brings in over 7000 people.  It's the largest cross country race in North America.  The course is a challenging one, with 7 creek crossings, plenty of mud and steep hills.

Dave Schuneman, Kandi Geary and Shane Olson came down as well, so we had a great DRC contingent to represent northern Minnesota.  Shane ran the XC race with me, Kandi cheered us on and Dave raced in the first ever Survivor Cross race, a CycleCross race later in the day that ran along the same course.

I've ran this race a few times over the years, but it's probably been about 8 years or so since I last ran it, so it was really fun for me to get back there.  This race is admittedly over crowded, and I knew that the first half or so would be slow so I started off in the middle of the pack.  I didn't start my watch, but I'm sure my first mile was around 10 to 11 minutes.  I didn't really care, running fast wasn't my priority, I just wanted to have fun and re-live the race.

As we twisted our way through some of the living farmsteads of the Living History Farms grounds and the old familiar smell of horse crap filled our noses, I started moving up.  Through corn fields and pastures we eventually worked into the wooded areas of the complex and began our series of creek crossings.  Jumping into the first crossing I must have hit a low spot because I sunk down and the water wet up past my knees.  This caused me to fall forward a bit and my hands caught me as I was heading down, sinking deep into the muddy bank on the opposite side of the creek.  I pulled out both hands and they were black with Iowa mud.

Most of the creek crossings were pretty shallow and only required a step or two to get through them but on 2 or 3 of them, a very steep, slippery bank waited on the other side.  These were a challenge to get up but they are what make the LHF race so famous.  It's why people come, to get really muddy and have a blast!

I finally caught Shane, who had gone out really fast, around mile 4.  I asked him how he was doing, "I'm trying to catch Sponge Bob," he said.  So I took it upon myself to find Sponge Bob, who apparently had been ahead of Shane for the entire race, almost taunting Shane with his squeaky voice and square pants.  I took off, trying desperately to chase down that bastard Sponge Bob.

Literally over the river and through the woods I went, searching for a giant yellow square sponge.  I made the last, long climb up through a pasture, hurdled a few logs along the way and came back into the town area to finish along the main street.  Alas, I never saw Sponge Bob but I had a great time anyway.

Below is a short video of Dave traversing one of the creek crossings during his CycleCross race.  The steep climb up the muddy hill had to be even more difficult with a bike on your shoulder!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Nice Double and The Folly of Moderation

Today was a great day of trail running for me as I was able to squeeze in not one, not three, but TWO good efforts on the trails!  This morning I did 2 hours out on the Voyageur course.  I started at the zoo and went out for one hour.  I got about a mile (maybe a little less) beyond the Beck's Road before I turned around and came back.

It was interesting because the usual thought is that for the full Voyageur, it's a little more difficult coming back (from the zoo to Carlton) than it is going out (Carlton to the zoo).  So with that in mind, I assumed I'd get back in about 55 minutes since I (a) went out very easy and (b) pushed it a bit more coming back.  Well, I pretty much ran the second half of my run today in the same time I ran the first.  This makes me believe that (a) it's very possible that when doing the full Voyageur that the second half is slower (and if so, is that a result of the course being more difficult or is it more because you're just so damn tired?) and (b) maybe, the difficult climb up to Spirit Mtn. is more than made up for during the long downhill on Skyline and after crossing Beck's Road?  (this being on the way back to Carlton.)  Interesting, I'll have to delve deeper into that mystery.

My second run of the day was the 5.5k NMTC run at Pine Valley.  It sucked!  Okay, truth be told it was a lot of fun.  The trails were great, there were a lot of great people out there to chat with before and after the race, and I didn't puke!  Yep, we'll call that a success.

The course was a roller coaster, (minus the upside down loopy thing) with really nice surface to run on.  My legs were predictably not willing to try to race for 1k, let alone 5.5k but my brain was stubborn so I pushed on pretty much as hard as I could.  By 2k my brain was starting to question itself and my legs were saying "See!  I told you so!  Why the hell don't you listen to me!?"

Well, my legs were pretty much my parents and my brain was pretty much an insubordinate teenager (as it nearly always is) so I pressed onward, consequences be damned!  As it turned out I ended up gaining a few spots in the middle of the course and finished in the top 19 which wasn't too bad, for me.  Plus if you throw out the college kids and the recently out of college kids (which you should, if you're 40) and if you throw out the other people who are simply way faster than me, then I'm sure I finished in the top 5.

As it turned out, today's running was a bit of a tribute to Barb and Gene Curnow.  Barb and Gene have devoted countless hours to the running community over the years; directing the Voyageur and Half Voyageur, and heading up the NMTC races.  They both retired from the NMTC and Voyageur races.  Today was their last event as directors and will be sorely missed as such.  They are living treasures of running in Duluth.  And while I've only known them for a very short time, it's been an honor to assist in the NMTC races, to run the Voyageur and to hear all of their stories of running and runners over the years.

So with today's double that I did, and the fact that they both required some effort, I got to thinking about Moderation.  It's a concept that I'm very familiar with.  I have Norwegian blood, I come from 2 families of Iowa farmers.  Moderation is our creed, our mantra.

However, I've often heard the phrase "everything in moderation".  Now maybe I've blogged about this before, (sometimes I forget where I share with people my version of genius) but the very term, "everything in moderation" is, by definition, NOT moderation.  Because you can't do "everything" in one way and consider it Moderation, you simply must do some things in excess.  Like Chocolate.  Face it, chocolate is a helluva lot better in excess than it is in moderation.  (Again, consequences be damned!)

And as I proved today, running is sometimes better in excess.  (Hell, I probably proved it at Sawtooth but I'm not always quick to discover the obvious)  Moderation would have told me to not run the NMTC race today but I'm really glad I did.  My legs will probably have the final say (parents usually do) but I will sleep tonight pleased with my excess.  I can say, with a moderate amount of confidence, that excess equals satisfaction.  (But not always)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Winter Running (Soon, Tony, very soon)

It's been an amazing Autumn for running, lately.  The temps have been slightly about normal and we've had very little rain.  I really love running during this time of the year for a couple of reasons, one being the weather.  But also, I love the fact that the racing season is over, and you can simply run just to run.  There's a difference between running and training, and it's nice to get out of the training mode for a bit and just enjoy the run for what it is.

That being said, I'm also really looking forward to some winter running!  I love the sound of that first crunch of snow underfoot, the completely different scenery along the trails and the soft, forgiving surface.  The video below, of Tony Krupicka, describes it well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Humans are incredible

This is an amazing video.  Try holding your breath as long as Sulbin does.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Park 2 Park 2 Park (2 Park 2 Park) and the mindset of mud

Three days of running in a row concluded today with a 2.5 hour run on the trails.  I took off from my apartment on 1st Street and headed up the hill to Chester.  The colors and the temperatures have been amazing lately and it's been great to take advantage of Duluth's incredible trail system.  I plodded along up through lower Chester at a leisurely pace, trying to keep my heart rate low.  A quick loop through upper Chester's ski trails and I was off to Bagley to enjoy the scenery there.

Little did I know, or rather, I had completely forgotten that the NMTC trail race was taking part in Bagley at the time.  I dinked around for a loop in Bagley, trying to stay out of the racers way (luckily I got there as the leaders were finishing up, so I didn't get in anyone's way) and crossed Arrowhead to Hartley, assuming to get lost!

Back to Bagley for a bit, however.  Last Friday, before Saturday's wind and rain, I did a loop through Bagley and was taken aback by the stunning colors there.  The leaves on the maple trees were thick and this incredible neon green/yellow color.  Against a clear blue sky they created this ceiling of gold above me as I ran on the perfect wood chipped trails.  It was one of the most simple, beautiful runs I've ever had.

Okay, now to Hartley.  I actually didn't get lost!  I think I'm starting to get most of that park figured out now.  Anyway, I entered off of Arrowhead, headed over to the guard rail loop, cruised over to the Nature Center, doubled back a bit and exited Hartley again at Arrowhead where I retraced my route back home through Bagley and Chester.

It was a classic day of trails in Duluth!

Despite the rain we had Saturday night and Sunday morning, the trails were very dry, save for a few spots in Hartley along the COGGS trails.  I want to declare, publicly, that I LOVE MUD!  It's one of the great things about trail running, getting dirty!  As I see it, if your legs aren't covered in mud after a trail run, then no matter how good the run was, it still wasn't complete!

When I co-directed the world famous Pilot Knob Trail Race in Forest City, Iowa we had two races per year, a 15k in the spring and a 5 miler in the fall.  Our race and those trails were notorious for being incredibly muddy.   I'm talking about slipping around corners and falling muddy.  Sliding down hills on your ass muddy!  One year for the 15k it was an absolute downpour, the people had a blast!  I remember one lady saying "Why don't they pave these trails?!"  She never came back!

There are some runners who simply don't like running in muddy conditions.  When they encounter a puddle, they will do everything they can to avoid it.  Slowing down to a walk, tip toeing around the edges, their shoulders hunched up as if trying not to wake a sleeping lion.  For some reason, they seem to feel that their running clothes should be treated like their finest dress clothes.  It's the mindset.  The mindset that mud is to be avoided.  At all times.

Me, I go in with the feeling that this is my chance!  Why do I care if my shoes are muddy?  Why do I care if the back of my white running shirts are all permanently stained with mud splatters?  These puddles, these muddy runways are opportunities to bring back my inner child, to get dirty and play!

Life is not always a smoothly paved road that lies down for you and surrenders.  Sometimes it's a hilly, rocky, mud strewn trail that fights back.  Treat each as they are.  Respect each as they are.  And in that present moment do what the situation calls for.  Next time, run right through the middle of that damn puddle!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sawtooth review

Well it's been nearly 2 weeks since I ran Sawtooth.  I told myself I'd wait a while before blogging about it so that I'd have some time to let it sink in.  Here's what I can say about it:  It's really hard!

There's no doubt about it, 100 miles is a long way to go on foot.  Sawtooth was by far the most difficult thing I've ever done.  I have this strange mixture of pride and disappointment concerning the race.  I'm proud that I finished, that I ran the whole time and for the most part kept my spirits up.  But I'm also disappointed that I ran slower than what I thought I was capable of.

Concerning the aspects of the race that I'm proud of;  like I said, I'm very pleased that I pretty much didn't stop.  I don't think I took longer than 10 minutes at any aid station.  I never really stopped and pouted or felt defeated.  I never once questioned myself if I would make it all the way.  I was confident that I would always locate the strength I needed.

Running Sawtooth was a continuous series of peaks and valleys, especially after about mile 40 or so.  It was then that things started to get tough.  I'd slow down, my legs would be screaming, my feet would be screaming (whoever said you can't feel more than one pain at a time has never ran 100 miles!)  But suddenly, my strength would return and I'd be running again.  I never knew how long either episode would last, but my mindset was to take advantage of the good stretches and use them and not to worry about the bad stretches and just work through them.  The key was always to keep moving forward.

I think priority number one for any 100 miler and especially for a person's first 100 miler is to finish.  First and foremost the goal is to finish.  I never lost sight of that goal.

However, it's in that priority number two that my disappointment lies, finishing time.  I thought my window would be anywhere from 27 hours to 32 hours.  People have said for Sawtooth you pretty much take your Voyageur time and multiply it by 3.  That would've put me in that window I had set for myself.  I hit the 50 mile point in about 13 hours, which was right on time, I still should've been in that window, and by mile 60 or so, I was feeling really good.  Gregg and I had by that time established a rhythm and I was having a great race.  I was moving up on people and began having thoughts of finishing high.

But at about mile 70 or so, the wheels really fell off.  Going through Crosby-Manitou was an especially difficult challenge as the climbs through the first half of that section were relentless.  I pretty much walked the first 2/3 of that entire section and starting losing a lot of time.  There would be a lot more walking to follow.

Most of my difficulties came with my quads being so incredibly sore.  I don't know what it was, probably the downhills that beat them up, but I've never had soreness like that in my quads before.  Also, my feet were really hurting.  Even now, nearly two weeks later, my toes on my right foot are a bit numb and I have a very tender spot on the outside of my left foot.

So will I do it again?  The answer to that question is easy: Yes!  It was an amazing experience.  It was absolutely everything I thought it would be but better.  The course was beautiful, the aid station volunteers were friendly and helpful and of course my crew and pacers, my friends, were perfect.  I simply couldn't have done it without them.

I did discover some things.  I did find out.  I gave it everything I had, but at the same time, I know I have more.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sawtooth and the Big Mystery

Back in January I decided that I was going to sign up for the Sawtooth 100 miler.  It was around February that I started telling people.  At the time, September 9th seemed so far away, now it's nearly here.  Gulp!

It's funny, I've been thinking about this race for well over nine months now and I still can't seem to get my head around what this race is, what it will be like.  I know we start at 8am on Friday at Gooseberry.  I know the race ends, 102.6 miles later, at Lutsen.  I know it will hurt.  A lot.  But most of the rest is a mystery.

I assume it'll take me between 27 and 33 hours to complete.  I assume I'll want to quit at some point.  I assume I'll have moments of pure joy.  But this unknown.  This exploration into uncharted territory frightens me and excites me at the same time.  What will it be like to hurt at 3am, barely able to lift my legs over the unending hills?  What will it be like to cross that finish line?  And that's why I signed up.  To find out.

Sometimes, I think you just have to accept the unknown, to revel in the mystery and have the confidence that it will all work out.  Usually, if you give it all you have, it WILL work out.  And that is my other known factor in this.  It's my trump card.  I WILL give it all I have.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I had a major catastrophe happen in my home late last week.  I can't be sure, but I'd nearly call it a life threatening coffee maker broke!  Imagine the horror I had to face!  No coffee in the morning; that sweet aroma filling up my tiny apartment.  That first, warm sip of the sweet nectar of the Gods.  My morning ritual taken from me by some cruel hand of fate!

Ah, but I was hearty.  I'm a runner and runners know how to deal with discomfort, so off I flew to McDonald's for an early morning coffee and a return to that electric ride of caffeine in my bloodstream.

And since then I've made due, mostly by drinking my coffee at work.  I haven't bought a new coffee maker yet, I really hate driving up the hill but that dreaded trip is coming soon, I'm sure.  Seriously, I can only deal with so much discomfort!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Watching the Moon

Staring out tonight at this amazing full moon.  I'm wondering what reflections I'll see in it.  Who else is also staring at it?  It's a beautiful thing to see.

I recently learned that the Earth once had two moons, orbiting together on the same plane.  They collided, and essentially became one moon, as if they were meant to be that way.  Circling around on the same orbit until eventually they came together.  It's why the side of the moon that we don't see, the so-called "dark side of the moon" is made up of completely different elements than the side we do see.

In "The Symposium" Plato gives us the dialogues of a dinner party, where many of the guests at the party discuss their respective views on love and desire.  The guests see love as many things; a response to beauty, a cosmic force, a motive for social action and ethical education.

Aristophanes, a poet, tells a tale of human unity.  How we were once two people, together, with our cosmic mate, if you will.  Some were two men (of the sun), some were two women (of the earth) and some were a man and a woman together.  Those who were man and woman were known as being of the moon, since the moon is like both the earth and the sun.  What Aristophanes tells in his story is that the Gods split us in two and since then we've been in constant search to find our mate.

"Long ago, our nature was not the same as it is now but quite different.  For one thing, there were three human genders, not just the present two, male and female.  There was also a third one, a combination of these two...For another thing, the shape of each human being was a rounded whole, with back and sides forming a circle.  Each one had four hands and the same number of legs, and two identical faces on a circular neck.  They had one head for both faces, which were turned in opposite directions, four ears, two sets of genitals, and everything else as you would imagine from what I have told you so far...The reason why there were these three genders, and why they were as described, is that the parent of the male gender was originally the sun, that of the female gender the earth, that of the combined gender the moon, because the moon is a combination of sun and earth."  -excerpt from the speech of Aristophanes from Plato's "The Symposium"

There's a great movie called "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" which is essentially based on this tale by Aristophanes.  The movie is a musical and the song "The Origin of Love" sums up the theme.

Sometimes is seems that love is a cosmic force.  I've seen it work miracles.  I've seen it transform people. And all this time, the moon has been there, watching us.  Watching those miracles happen.

Monday, August 8, 2011

5 Days in Boulder

That John Denver guy knew a thing or two.  I'm out in Boulder, Colorado right now for some work and play.  Newton running has brought us out here for a two day coaching class and a 3 day retail summit.

It's been great being out here.  The sun is always shining, the views of the flat irons and the front range are tremendous.  I just got back from a run of a little over an hour, climbing up for the first half until my heart was threatening to pound out of my chest.  I stopped for a bit at the top of a pass, took in the amazing scenery, let my heart rate calm down and then took the trail back down into town.

Walking along Pearl Street has been nice; people watching, the street performers...We've had some really good food and met some interesting people.  And I've learned a TON!  I'm also pretty excited because one of the speakers we get to meet today is Olympic Gold Medalist, Frank Shorter.  The man who possibly single handedly started the running boom in America.  That will be fun.

Still, I do miss Duluth.  The trails, the lake, the view from Hawk's Ridge, the peonies at the Rose Garden...and I can't wait to get home.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Voyageur Review

To be perfectly honest, as I sit here right now, I could probably sum up the Voyageur in one word; Ouch! But as you'd expect from a 50 mile race, there are many things that occur and many things that one has to go through from start to finish.

I started out my morning with a 4am wakeup.  A little bit of coffee an english muffin, and three M&M's (one red, one orange, and one yellow) and I was ready to go.

The forecast called for temps in the 80's and a 50% chance of rain in the afternoon.  When I got to Carlton at 6am it was obvious that it was going to be a very warm day and eventually the forecast proved to be right.

We got going at 7am and as I did last year, I hung towards the middle of the pack, keeping things slow and easy for the first 3.5 miles.  This first section of the race is mostly single track trail, filled with roots and rocks, it's great fun to run on this challenging terrain when you're fresh.  Not so much after you've already ran 47 miles however, as happens upon your return back to Carlton.

After crossing the swinging bridge, it's there that I often feel like the race actually starts.  We swing onto some open ski trail in Jay Cooke.  It's a chance to run a bit quicker if you like, and to chat with runners.  I ran with fellow DRC Team Member, Ron Hendrickson through a good chunk of Jay Cooke.

For me, the first 10 miles or so went by very smoothly and I was feeling great.  Then, the power lines.  It's in the infamous power line section that the first introduction of hurt begins in the Voyageur.  Many of these steep hills are simply un-runnable, you work your way up and gently tread your way down them, over and over again, all while being exposed to the sun and heat of the day.  I got behind a couple of guys who were probably going a bit slower than I wanted to at the time, but I decided to hang back with them and move ahead a little later.

I got through the power line section rather easily and moved on down the trail, still full of running and feeling very good.  For most of the rest of the first half of the race, I was feeling great.  I was passing runners and moving smoothly.  I began to imagine who I would catch, could I move in to the top 10?  Either way, I just wanted to stay consistent and prepare myself for the voyage back.

Running the long downhill into the zoo, I started to see some of the lead runners making their way back. Another fellow DRC Team Member, Chris Rubesch was looking solid in 5th place at the time, we wished each other luck and continued on our respective ways.  (Chris would end up running a great race and finishing 4th)

I got to the Zoo in 4 hours 3 minutes, which was a bit slower than I had hoped, but not too bad.  It was great to see everyone there, helping out and chatting.  Kandi, Paul, Shane and Dave were awesome and really lifted my spirits.  It was tempting just to stay there and hang with them for the rest of the day!

However, I still had the second half of the race to go, so I started the long climb out of the zoo and over Spirit Mountain.  It was there that I started having trouble.  It was very, very hot down by the zoo and my stomach started cramping.  I was experiencing some difficulty and decided to take things easy for a while and hopefully I could get through this bad patch and start moving better again soon.

There comes a time in every 50 mile race when things are not going well and having the experience of being through that before comes in very handy.  Also, having run the same race last year was of great help to me because I knew what to expect and what parts of the course would be more runnable than others given my state of discomfort.

So I was able to locate some strength and locate some motivation and once the long climb was over I was able to start pushing again.  I had been passed by quite a few people between the aid station and my slow climb but I knew that there was a very good chance that I'd see some of them again as the second half of the race is a totally different thing than the first half of the race.

Things started improving as I made my way out of Magney and down Skyline.  I got to the Becks Road aid station and I was starting to feel better.  It was obvious to me that I'd worked through the bad patch and I was able to start moving more fluidly again.

Moving through the rest of the course on the way back was still a lot of work.  As you'd expect, my legs were heavy and sore, my stomach was still not 100% but it was getting better.  It's in these times of the race that you simply move forward, running when you can and walking when you need to.  And when I say "running", it's really more like a shuffle, nowhere near the kind of running that one does for the first part.

Often, for the trip back, you're running by yourself and things can get lonely but as you come into an aid station, you hear human voices and your spirit magically lifts!  This happened to me at the Peterson's aid station.  I had just turned a corner and slowed to a walk, my head was down and I was hurting.  Then the aid station volunteers spotted me through the trees and started cheering!  Instantly a smile came to my face and I was running again and there, at the aid station, I discovered a magical food; salty bananas!

I can only describe salty bananas by saying they taste just as bad as you'd expect!  I watched as another runner took a bit of banana and rolled it in a bowl of salt.  "Brilliant!" I though to myself and since she was doing that, and was ahead of me, I figured I'd try it too.  Plus with the intense heat, I had been loosing a lot of salt and my stomach couldn't really handle my Heed/Whey drink I had left in my drop bags, so I was only taking water at the aid stations.

I rolled a chunk of banana in the bowl of salt and took a tentative bite.  Yuck!  It tasted exactly like salt on a banana, which is not a tasty combination.  But it worked!  I started running again out of the aid station and though my stomach complained a bit later, my energy level returned and I was able to run much quicker and more consistent.

Two more aid stations came before the end and I went with the salty bananas the rest of the way.  I was certainly dead tired and ready to be done, but I knew that I'd finish fine and knowing that really improved my mood.

It was great to see familiar faces, friends of mine at the last aid station at Jay Cooke.  Lisa, and Ron (who unfortunately had to drop out) and Shane really brightened my spirits and helped make the last 3 miles along the river more tolerable.

I moved along through the roots and rocks as best I could, walking through some of the more rocky sections and some of the ups but mostly just trying to get the damn thing over with!  After what seemed like a long 3 miles, I came to the Munger Trail.  I was nearly home!

It's such a relief coming back to the Munger and making that turn into town toward the school.  It's funny how you can be so incredibly tire and still locate some strength to run hard, to finish strong.

So it was another successful Voyageur for me.  I ran a little slower this year than last year, but I feel like I ran better.  I certainly ran tougher and smarter.  It helped having some inspiration from so many volunteers and friends that came to watch and those who were in my heart and mind.  Thank you all!

*(Photos courtesy of Paul Behrens)

Friday, July 22, 2011


No, I don't have a problem, I'm totally in control of my shoe buying.  I can quit anytime I want.  It's just that I don't WANT to quit right now.  Shoes are simply too fun!

From racing flats to trail shoes, from road trainers to minimalist shoes, I've had them all over the years.  Every catagory, nearly every brand, in an entire spectrum of colors.  My all time favorite being these beauties:
Mizuno Phantom
The Mizuno Phantom.  The best shoe ever made!  I bought a pair of these in 1999 and my feet partied in them for quite some time.  I still have the same pair, boxed up in my closet.  I break them out on occasion, when I'm feeling nostalgic.

Among the others shoes that are sharing closet space with my beloved Phantoms and those that I'm running in today, are these:

My Arsenal

Shoes, I've convinced myself, are not an indulgence.  They are a necessity for enhancing the running experience.  They aid in your swiftness your agility.  They offer protection and speed.  And dammit, they're really cool!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

So I've recently been yelled at for not posting enough on this thing.  I've no idea why they'd want to read the drivel I produce, glutton for punishment apparently.  But, since I've been in a letter writing mood tonight, I may as well put a few words down here, too.

So one thing I wanted to post about last time, but I forgot to, was the most important details of our trip to the William O'Brien race a couple of weeks ago.  Forget about mile splits, finishing time and all the rest, the data that, to me, sums up the day is the caloric intake that occurred at Hardee's roughly an hour after the race.

I'm not sure what possessed us to stop at Hardee's, maybe it was Dave's constant whining about how hungry he was, maybe it was a force of habit for Erik to stop at any random fast food joint (he is only 23, after all!).  I can't be sure, but I think I may have protested quite a bit, suggesting perhaps a much classier and healthier eating establishment.  I don't know, that's how I remember it, but of course my memory can be a little fuzzy (I am 40, after all!)

Either way, we walked into the place, ready to take on the best or worst that Hardee's could dish out.  I remember feeling a little like Clint Eastwood, weary but prepared to fight.  And fight we did, as all three of us ordered the 2/3 lb. Monster Thick Burger.  It looks like this ->
only not as appetizing.

The thing pretty much has an entire farm in between two buns with a half gallon of mayo slopped in there.  And I start to question my sanity when I go on 28 mile training runs?  Trying to eat this thing was as difficult as Dante had in reaching the sixth circle of hell!

Add to this cardiac arrest inducing behemoth a medium fries and a diet Coke (because I want to stay healthy!) and you get, according to the Hardee's website: A total of 1750 calories, 1030 of those coming from fat, 40 grams of that fat the saturated kind, 215 grams of cholesterol, 4000 mg of sodium, oh and 70 grams of protein.

Having recently gotten a CPR/AED certification, I was starting to get a little nervous.  I know I could get Erik or Dave out of trouble, but could those goof balls save me?  Would I have to perform CPR on myself?  We didn't go over self-CPR in class!  Can it even be done?  My god, would I die of a heart attack in a frickin' Hardee's along the damn interstate!?  Oh why didn't I order the Gluten-Sensitive Side Salad and a water?  Water is good, and I guess it's okay to avoid Gluten every now and then, right.  I've heard some horror stories about that nasty Gluten!

So I'm pretty convinced now that as soon as our state government gets back up and running (any day now, really) we should petition them to make it a law to have an AED in every Hardee's.  It's a public health issue!

Well, fortunately for me, I couldn't stomach the entire burger.  I left about 3 bites left and a few fries.  I just couldn't take it any longer, so I waved the white flag.  You won this round Hardee's but I'll be back. I'll be back with a steely eyed look and say to you, "Go ahead, make my day".

Sunday, June 26, 2011

First race in a long time

What a great weekend I had.  The weather was great, and I was fortunate enough to spend time with some great people.

On Sunday, I headed to Marine on St. Croix, MN for a 10 mile trail race at William O'Brien State Park.  Schuney and Erik came with, so Duluth had a nice contingent in the roughly 150 person race field.

I was pretty anxious to race after watching the Grandma's races over the weekend, and not having raced since February at Snowshoe Nationals.  I had been looking for a race with a bit of distance, preferably a half marathon, just to test my fitness a bit.  I found this race off the Northland Runner site and decided it'd be a good enough test as sometimes 10 miles on the trail is worth 13 on the road in terms of effort.  I'd say this one was pretty close.

The race was deceptive in its toughness.  The trails themselves were easy.  Virtually no single track to speak of, and very little dirt in general.  Some of the trails were crushed rock, but the vast majority of the race was held on grassy ski trails, about 20 feet wide.  The relatively long grass was difficult to run through and did tire my legs a bit, but overall that wasn't the main difficulty.  The biggest reason for the tough race was the hills.  The constant hills.  There was a steady climb at the start, followed by a series of constant ups and downs, not unlike Lester Park here in Duluth.

I traditionally like to start out slow for races, but this time I went out a bit quicker than I would've liked.  However, that "quicker" would soon be reduced to a "less quicker" as we began to climb for 3 miles or so.  At that point in the race I knew that it would be a grinder for the next 7.   I ran about 15 seconds back of Schuney for a good majority of the race, but mostly it was a solo run, almost more like a workout.  That was a bit frustrating to not see anybody to try to chase down.

I ended up finishing 8th overall, Schuney was 7th and Erik was 5th.  The crazy thing is that though I finished 8th overall, I finished 3rd in my age group!  There are some truly impressive old guys out there!

So I'm pleased with the race.  I ran as well as I could have and it was nice to get on some new trails and see some new sites.

It was a very good weekend, indeed.

William O'Brien 10 mile race by tsrun26 at Garmin Connect - Details

William O'Brien 10 mile race by tsrun26 at Garmin Connect - Details

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Feels like Summer

One of my favorite things to do is to hang around outside on a Summer evening.  I have vivid memories from my youth of playing baseball until the sun went down.  Until it became so difficult to see the ball that you actually got scared a line drive would knock your teeth out, simply because you wouldn't be able to see it coming.  I remember that after the sun went down the lightning bugs would come out and my brother and I would go to the garage and get the wiffle ball bats.  It was time for lightning bug baseball!  We would walk around the yard, bat in hand, and wait.  Wait for that instant, yellow glow to appear and then...THWAK!  With one targeted swing, we'd send a mini yellow meteor flying through the air.  It was great fun.  Maybe a bit cruel, I admit, but great fun none the less.

And now here I sit, on a summer evening, on my front porch.  The sun is going down, kids are out playing and I'm reminiscing about those great summer nights.  And it's so nice that it finally feels like a summer night.  We've had to endure such a difficult Spring, with cold temps and wind and rain.  The one good thing about all of that is that it makes you appreciate these golden, sunshine days.  And they always come, the days of sun.  It's up to us to make the most of them.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Two weeks ago I ran 28 at Lester.  Things went well with that run, as well as 28 miles can go.  But afterwards, I got pretty sick.  I lost a full week of training to a nasty virus that kept me from running, and kept me out of work for a bit.  I think that 28 probably depleted my immune system a bit and the virus had free reign to move in and put up a couple of hotels.  The rent was high.

So finally, earlier this week, I started feeling better and was anxious to get back into running again.  So what did I do today?  Another 28 in Lester.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Shouldn't I be getting wiser with my rapidly advancing age?  More and more stubborn seems to be the case.

So today's run started out okay.  I knew I didn't have the bounce in my legs that I like to feel, so I tried to keep it casual for the first lap or two, but on the second loop, I kinda had a feeling that it was going to be a rough day.  Schuney joined my for my third loop and that lifted my spirits again and we ran a bit quicker than what I'd previously been running.

Then Schuney had to go and I was staring into the face of two more loops.  Solo.  This was not going to be pretty.  Today's fourth loop felt like last time's fifth loop and I knew that was a bad omen.  I was able to gut that one out without too much trouble.  The ultimate loop saw my demise.  Within a mile I was reduced to a walk, followed by a shuffle, followed by a walk.  I would repeat this slow dance for the next 4 miles until the last, downhill mile when I had finally had enough suffering and just had to get home.

I had mostly suffered from glycogen depletion, I think.  I probably didn't eat enough the night before the run and I think that effected me.  Plus, I think not having ran very much for the past week and my illness caused me to lose some fitness, certainly some strength.

So lesson learned.  And anyway, it's just a training run.  Bonking isn't a helluva lot of fun but it's better to do it in a training run than it is in a race.  So tonight it's ice cream and compression socks!  That'll fix whatever ails ya!  But man, I could sure use a massage, and a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Why do I do this?! by tsrun26 at Garmin Connect - Details

Why do I do this?! by tsrun26 at Garmin Connect - Details

Monday, May 16, 2011

SHTn' in the woods and Gettin' Loopy in Lester

What a weekend of running!  My Saturday was pretty much consumed by running-related activities from sun up to sun down.  In the morning, Clint and I led our training group on their long run along Highway 61.  That took me until a little after 10am.  After that I went to the store and worked a busy day until 5pm.  Clint, Schuney and I followed that up with an amazing 8 mile trail run on the Superior Hiking Trail.

We started at the Beck's Road and headed west, getting almost to the Grand Portage trailhead before turning around.  The trail out there was, hmmm...what's the word?  Perfect!  It was perfect trail running.  The trail itself was nice and tacky, there was enough mud and water in spots to keep it interesting, the up hills were challenging and the down hills were fast.  There was still enough flat surface that, if you wanted, you could open up a bit and run quickly.  We didn't though as it wasn't about that kind of running, mostly we just wanted to get some trail miles in.

Another thing that I really like about those single track trails is that they require a little bit of athleticism.  With the sharp turns and obstacles to hop over, those trails test your agility and your eye-foot coordination. You have to be good with your whole body and stay balanced as you navigate the terrain.  Having quick, nimble feet is a bonus on those trails.

A little after the run, we met at the Brewhouse for some burgers and beers.  A great day, indeed.

Sunday, was a whole other animal.  And when I say that, it's not to say that I didn't have fun.  I most certainly did, but Sunday was about moving forward.  It was about distance and time on my feet.

Lester Park has always been my favorite park in town.  It was the first park I ran in when I first moved to Duluth and I continue to enjoy it every time I'm there.  Even though the ski trails that I run on out there are "easier" then the SHT single track trails, I still am challenged out there and find a lot of benefits from running them.  What I really like about that park is it's mix of the long up hill on one side and the long down hill on the other side.  What I get out of that, is the steady climb which helps build strength in my legs and keeps me from beating myself up too much and the with the long down hill, I get a chance to push my leg turnover.

So on Sunday, I got that opportunity for 28 miles.  5 loops of 5.62 miles.  Around and around, again and again.  Sounds fun, eh?  I gotta say, it was fun!  Good ole' Schuney (that guy is always up for doing something crazy!) joined me for a good loop and a half.  It was great to have him there, to run along with me.  All in all, everything went really well.  I felt pretty solid the whole time, only the last, long climb was a bit difficult, but I think I handled it just fine.  The only sour spot was the watermelon flavored vomit/burp I experienced at mile 25.  Blech!  GU Chomps are just fine the first time, thank you!

So not only was this run a bit of an experiment in terms of looping Lester park for 4 hours, but also for my shoes.  I wore 3 different pairs of shoes for this run, to see how I liked each and if I'd maybe prefer one over the others.

I started with one loop with Vibram TrekSports.  This was the very first time I've ever worn them for anything other than a quick little treadmill jaunt and I have to say that I rather liked them.  They performed really well in the mud and on the soft trails and grass.  They drain water very quickly and of course are very light.  My two complaints are the toe separation, and the lack of cushioning under the foot.  Both of these are more symptoms of not wearing them enough.  I will use them more often for trail running, so I'm sure that I'll toughen up a bit.  What I do like the most about them is that they almost make you run properly.  With tougher feet, I got the feeling that I could run for a long time in them.

My second pair of shoes I wore for 2 loops.  They are a pair of Brooks cross country spikes, the Mach 12.  They are very narrow and after having my toes spread out in the Vibrams, my feet at first felt very constricted in them.  However, I really like running in them because of their narrowness and their flexibility.  They offer you great agility when needed and I felt like I could come out of deep mud very quickly and easily because of the narrowness.  They also drain water very quickly, which is a necessity.

For the final 2 loops I wore my all time favorites, the Inov8 x-talon 212s.  They simply are the best trail shoe I've ever worn.  Very light, very flexible with perfect traction.  The outsold is aggressive but sheds mud very quickly, which is important.  Though the x-talons are pretty narrow by trail shoe standards, they were by far wider than the Mach 12s and my feet needed that room to spread out.  I had planned it that way, to save them for last, thinking that the extra width would feel good, and I was right.

Looking back on the day and wondering if I'll do something like that again, I think I would.  I really had a good time, I learned a few things and got some great training in.  Now I get to take a day off and recover, I wish I had another Cadbury Creme Egg!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Trials of Trails

Today was a challenging but fun trail run with Gregg out on the Superior Hiking Trail.  Gregg and I started at Magney Snively and headed west for a little over an hour before turning back and heading home.  The trails were in great shape, but as anyone who has ran on the SHT knows, there are some very challenging sections and as we approached Ely's Peak, we were in one of those challenging sections.

Steep ups and downs with continuous rocks to watch for and tip toe around makes for some very difficult running, especially on the downhills where it becomes important to control your speed as those jagged rocks, like teeth, lie waiting to take a bite out of your feet and ankles.

Gregg headed home after 2 hours but I was planning on going farther, so I took off again from Magney to try to add on some more miles.  Yeah, that didn't really happen.  I was pretty drained from the hills and more or less running on empty anyway, so I called it a day soon after.  Even though we weren't running very hard, it was a real effort and that will be some great training ground for Voyageur and other races, but not every week.

So upon coming home, after a nice, warm shower, I discovered one of the great post run recovery foods; a Cadbury Creme Egg.  It was delicious!

Monday, May 2, 2011


I headed out to Jay Cooke yesterday for some trails and time with myself, with my thoughts.  Both were much needed.

I started in Carlton, basically at the start of the Voyageur 50 and ran along most of the trails of the course.  The rain has certainly made for a lot of mud and wet areas along the trails, my shoes were pretty much covered in mud by the time I got back.  My socks were soaked, my feet were cold and wet.  My legs were sore and I was HUNGRY!  But at the same time, I felt great.

It was a lot of fun being out there, the trails are beautiful, the St. Louis river was quite a site to see as I crossed the swinging bridge.  I kept thinking what it would've been like to discover that area.  To be one of the first humans to lay eyes on that gorgeous river.

So I headed out for about 11.5 miles, getting out along the Grand Portage trail, which was awesome, before turning back and essentially retracing my route.  It was a great day of running and seeing.  Thinking and being.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Bagley Hamsters

An easy 11 at Bagley today with Gregg and Schuney.  And when I say 11, that means about, oh I don't know, 8 or 9 loops around the park.  I felt like a hamster on a wood chipped wheel.  That's not to say that it was bad, because to be honest, it was my idea.

I've been desperately wanting to get on some trails lately and away from the lake walk.  Not only will this be necessary for the trail races I plan to do this year, but it will be very necessary for my sanity as well.  There really is something very soothing about running through the woods.  No cars rushing by you, no exhaust fumes, no concrete pounding your bones.  It's such a basic and beautiful way to run.

So we chugged out 11 by simply running the Bagley figure 8 loop in different directions, sometimes taking a left at an intersection and sometimes taking a right.  Any time you run a trail in a different direction, you're basically running a completely different trail.  This helped brake up the monotony of the park but of course more than anything, having Gregg and Dave there to chat with made it much more enjoyable.

Also, the run was made enjoyable by the shoes I chose to wear, my Inov8 x-talon 212s.  These are simply the best trail shoe I've ever worn.  I used them last year for the Voyageur 50 miler and didn't have a single issue with them.  Today I was able to get great traction on the snow covered trails because of the shoes' aggressive outsole but because they are also very light and flexible, I'm able to be very agile in spots where agility is necessary.  (Actually, agility comes into play more often on trails that are more technical, like the Superior Hiking Trail)

However, the vaunted shoes were not quite perfect, for just as I was stepping onto one of the bridges for our penultimate crossing, my left foot slipped out from under me and I went down like I'd been shot.

Now in my football playing days they used to tell me not to cut with my inside foot, always cut with my outside foot.  Actually, that's a lie, I stopped playing football when I was about 12 because it was then that my 8 year old brother got bigger than me and I could no longer beat him.  Anyway, so maybe no one ever told ME not to cut with my inside foot, but I know that when I was at Iowa State as a "student" that I lived in a house with guys who were on the football team and they knew to always cut with your outside foot, so that you're less likely to slip and fall.  I can attest that that is correct.

So, as I was stepping onto the bridge with my left foot, I cut hard to make a left turn (that was my inside foot)  And with the snowmelt and the wet wood and my overall dumbness, I crashed down on the bridge, and to steal a line from Morrissey, "the pain was enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder."  (that's a helluva lot of pain)  My butt took the worst of the fall, but my right foot slid under the side wall for the bridge too, and I bruised the top of that foot.

I'm really not looking forward to waking up tomorrow as I'm concerned that I'm going to tighten up and things will feel even worse.  Anyone want to come over and give me a butt massage?  (Please say no!)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Declaration

Having woken up at 3am ish on Saturday morning to get ready for our group run and then following that up by working a busy day at the store, I was concerned I'd have trouble arising this morning for our scheduled run.  Sure enough, my alarm went off at 7:30am and the next thing I remember was Schuney calling me at 8:30 and asking if I was going to make it.

I really did want to run, despite the sights and sounds of the nasty weather and my overall feeling of lethargy, so I got my sorry butt outta bed and drove down to meet Dave, Clint and Gregg at Dave's place.

We took off up Seven Bridges and headed out towards Maxwell and the gravel roads out there.  And while some of the roads were a little slushy, the weather wasn't really too bad.  To be perfectly honest, I rather like running in the rain.

We ran 11 miles of gravel and hills and blacktop and slush.  As usual, the conversation was good and the pace was controllable.  I really felt like I could've ran for another 11 miles, but I knew that with my lack of sleep that my body would revolt.  I have been fighting a head cold lately so I didn't want to push things too hard.

I am looking forward to being able to get on the trails pretty soon and I will need to as it's been now publicly stated that I plan on running the Sawtooth 100 in September.  (Gulp)  I've been thinking about it for months now and made my decision around January but I hadn't told anyone until recently.  So....if any of you would like to pace me for a bit, Friday evening, September 9th will be a great opportunity to spend some time with a bitchy, whiny and utterly annoying Tony!  Consider yourselves warned!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Keys to open doors

Love.  Compassion.  Forgiveness.  Mindfulness.  Calm mind.  Awareness.  Patience.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Last weekend was the USSSA National Snowshoe Championships in Cable, WI.  Dave S., Jen, Meg, Chris, Erik and I went over for the weekend and had a great time.  Meg's parents (though her father was out of town) were gracious enough to host us in their beautiful home and provided us with wonderful hospitality.

On Saturday morning, we woke up to see a landscape freshly painted white as 2 to 3 inches of new snow fell during the night.  It created a beautiful scene and made for a perfect backdrop for the Championship races that took place later that day.

The Senior Men's race was a fun but challenging 10k over the hills and through the woods of Forest Ridge Golf Course.  Duluth Running Co. showed well as Chris finished 16th overall, Erik finished 18th, Schuney was 32nd and I trudged in at 38th.  Jen rocked the citizen's 5k race later in the day, finishing 7th for the women, but my vote for most impressive DRC performer of the day was Meg who finished 8th overall in the Senior Women's 10k!

I was pleased with my race, I started slowly and passed a lot of people throughout.  I probably passed about 15 people in the last 5k as my plan was to run the first half relaxed.  It's always nice when you're able to race your plan well, and still know that you gave everything you had.  I feel like I did that but of course now is the time that I start to look back and wonder if I should have gone out a bit harder.  Overall though I'm proud of my effort and since I'm not one to worry about the past, I simply won't worry about the past.

On Saturday night we were treated to a nice banquet (where Erik tried to steal some cake) and an overly long awards ceremony.  It was great to see Meg and Erik up on the podium and really nice for me to see an old running friend of mine from Iowa also on the podium as he won his age group.

After a relatively calm Saturday night by the fire we woke up eager to race again!  Okay, we barely crawled out of bed and dragged ourselves back into town to take on the team relay race, a 4 x 2.5k.  Erik led our team off with a great leg, finishing in second before handing off to me.  I took off like a turtle and slowed down from there!  My legs do not like to go fast under optimal conditions and a day after a hard 10k with snowshoes on are certainly less than optimal conditions.  I lost two spots to a couple of guys that I've decided were probably on EPO.  That put us in 4th place overall.  I tagged off to Dave as he bailed me out and gained some ground on the guys ahead of us.  I don't remember if he passed anyone back or not but I'm sure he ran a faster split than at least one of those guys.  Chris then anchored our team with a terrific effort.  Catching and passing one guy and biting the heals of the 2nd place guy before  running out of room.  Overall, the DRC team finished in 3rd place and I have to say, it was a blast!

All in all, it was a great weekend of racing and hanging out with friends.  We can't wait to go out to Frisco, Colorado next year for the 2012 Championships!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Spaces New Places

This weekend was a good one for my running as I was able to discover some new terrain with the help of some friends of mine.

Saturday, Schuney, Henry and I ran at Northland Country Club, taking on the hils of that golf course.  Dave and I ran in snowshoes while Henry stayed in his road trainers.  The course was amazing to run on, full of long, grinding hills and some absolutely amazing views of Lake Superior.  For the most part, the snow was packed down pretty hard, as there's a groomed ski trail throughout most of the course.  This made the snowshoeing easy but we did hit a couple of sections where we were post holing a bit.  It's definitely a place I'll be returning to next winter for some hill training.

Sunday I ran with Gregg for just under 9 miles at a nice, easy pace.  We ran mostly along the Hartley trails, which may not be new terrain for many Duluth runners, but I pretty much never go up there.  I was impressed with the evenness of the snow packed trails, they were nearly perfect to run on.  I was in my road trainers and never once slipped.  It was really nice to have Gregg lead the way and show me some of his regular route, I'll be hitting those trails more often.

All in all, I'm feeling pretty healthy right now, my legs are pretty fresh, I've gotten a bit of speed work in but I'm still keeping my weekly mileage rather low.  I have the USSSA Snowshoe National Championships next weekend in Wisconsin and I'm feeling ready for that.  I've no idea what to expect, how I may do, but I'm certain that I'm at least physically and mentally ready to race.  The unknowns are how fast my competitors are and what the snow conditions will be.  I can only go and do my best and see where that takes me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Usually Wednesday is my favorite day to run.  It's an easy pace, a nice distance (usually 8 or 10 miles right now) and I can just relax and play for a little bit.  But tonight just wasn't that fun.  I doubled yesterday, though not a very intense double, so maybe my legs were tired from that.  Also, I didn't sleep very well last night, so that probably had something to do with it, but either way I just didn't have much tonight.

I went out and back along the Lakewalk.  It was a really nice night to run, temps in the mid 20s, no wind and even a few snowflakes falling slowly.  I knew after a mile or so that it was going to be one of those runs where you just don't feel 100% so I focused on not focusing on that, and just let me mind drift.  For me, these runs are a kind of meditation, a ritual of sorts.

And while my legs just didn't have it tonight, I still had a nice run, and enjoyed my time out there.   Tomorrow's another day, another chance.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Company You Keep

I remember a few years ago, when I was running a lot and getting more serious about it and setting PR's,  I was engulfed in the sport.  I'm not really one to obsess about things, generally I'm laid back and take everything in stride, but I was getting obsessed with running.  When a recent issue of "Running Times" would come in the mail I would drop everything and read it cover to cover.  I would spend hours on  reading message board threads both informative and inane.  I would listen with awe as some of my local running heros, men and women who had been running as long or even longer than I had been alive, as they would tell of races past and wisdom earned. I look back on those days now and I have to say that I'm grateful that I did become obsessed.  I can't quite go to the length of saying that running changed my life (for our change comes from a myriad of sources and our ability to recognize and then use those sources) but running drastically improved it.

Running taught me the value of self discipline and the importance of commitment.  I learned that consistency makes you stronger, that effort is itself a great reward.  I discovered the joy and strange paradox of being completely depleted from a hot, August 10 mile run and yet completely filled with a feeling of life's abundance.  And while I had to learn these things on my own, I couldn't have learned them at all without those heros of mine, whom I looked up to, who showed me the way.

And it continues to this day.  I have new running heros to look up to now.  Some faster than me, some slower (it's never been about faster/slower anyway).   I can find inspiration in every runner I see, for they all have a story worthy of their effort.  They all have a reason.

We runners share a common bond, and that is to continue.  To continue to move forward, as fast and as far as we can.  And in the interims, we can reflect, we can dream, we can appreciate.  And as I sit here on this windy Sunday night, I see an unread "Running Times" on my coffee table, to my left I have work that needs to be done but I'm happier right now to think about those who have taught and inspired me.

Health is the greatest gift,
Contentment the greatest wealth,
Faithfulness the best relationship.

                                                                                    -The Buddha

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Our training group

Tuesday night and tonight were our first two group runs for the latest edition of our Training Group.  The interest and turnout has been tremendous so far, I'm really pleased with the direction we're heading.  I'm sure this will be a fun and motivated group.

We're taking things nice and slow so far, just 3 miles, easy for both runs.  We're doing this just to get everyone physically ready, to get their respective minds and bodies prepared for the consistency of training.  By keeping things short and easy early on, most will be able to be fully recovered for their next workout.  In about 4-6 weeks, we'll be getting into harder and a bit more intense stuff.

I've really enjoyed leading these training groups.  I'm a believer in the power of running to create confidence and joy and of course to improve health.  But I'm also a believer in people and their respective abilities.  I've seen, in these training groups, people come a long ways and become strong runners.  They are very inspiring to me.

Little by little.  Everyday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Long runs

If only my legs could talk.  I guess in a way, they were talking to me all morning during my run with Dave and Henry.  During all 18.76 miles of the run.  They were basically saying, "Stop!  Right now! I don't want to do this!"  I, in return, told them to shut up and trudged along the lakewalk and Hwy 61 for a decent run that was only made better by my company.

These are the days when running with someone is invaluable.  I used to be a solo runner, mostly because I lived in small town Iowa and only a handful of people there ran anyway.  But also, because I preferred running alone.  Now, I've come to learn the value of running with others on occasion, that it's not only important because having others there helps push you through the days like today, but also because it's really good just to get out and be with the guys for a bit.

That being said, I do still like to run solo at times and to go inside myself for a while, that's needed by everyone, and me in particular because I'm a pretty introspective person.  (Indeed, I probably self-analyze too often!)  But by now I've grown pretty sick of myself and need to have that time with others, so it's really nice to have these guys to run with.  I think I've found a good balance.

And so speaking of balance and self-analyzing, I've been thinking a lot lately about my life.  About where I'm at and where I'm going.  I have friends that I love, a job that I love, and a supportive family.  I have pride in who I've become but I also have a commitment to trying to improve myself, everyday.  It's true that there's an area or two in my life that's maybe lacking, things I need to work on, strengths to be gained and potential for an even greater life, but all in all I'm overwhelmingly happy and content.

Even on those long runs, when I don't feel 100%, there's still value to be taken, still an opportunity to learn.

"I ate so much SPAM last night." -Dave H. (I can't take credit for that one!)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Better Than Yourself

"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.  Try to be better than yourself."
                                                                                                        -William Faulkner

Easy 8

One of my favorite runs is a simple, 8-12 mile out and back run.  I love to just go out at a casual pace and not have to think too much about the course or my effort.  It allows me a chance to decompress and even relax.  (Funny to think of running up to 12 miles as relaxing, but we all know that it is!)

Last night was one of those nice runs where my mind wanders pleasantly, and my body feels light and responsive.  I started out and ran most of my miles in the 7:50s to 8 min pace but decided to throw in a couple of quick surges too, just to see.  Just to see how I responded from Tuesday's ladder workout I did on the treadmill and to see how long I could hold the surges.  I've always felt that a great way to gauge fitness is to test my surges weekly and see how long I hold them.  Once I see that I'm able to hold them longer, then I start getting confident that I'm getting fitter and stronger.

All of these surges are simply done by feel.  I don't care what pace I'm running at but I do care about the distance.  Last night, I probably went about 800-1000 meters per surge.  The next time I do these surges within an easy run, I'd like to be able to hold them longer, maybe 1200 meters.  Again, I don't use this as a workout but as a way to gauge my fitness, and I don't do them for every easy run, just occasionally and only if my body is feeling good.

Last night was a good one, a confidence booster.  I'm looking forward to more of those!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The DRC Super Team Party

Last night was our Duluth Running Co. Racing Team Party.  We met at the Thirsty Pagan in Superior and proceeded to stuff ourselves with beer and pizza and good conversation.  It was really nice to have our team party in a more relaxed setting so that people could mingle and chat with everyone.

I think everyone had a good time, I know I did.  It was great to see so many people there, especially since we had it during the Super Bowl, which I don't think too many of us cared about.  Seriously, what's a Super Bowl party anyway?  It's a gathering of friends with food and drink and conversation, there just happens to be a silly football game on in the background, which people only half-heartedly watch anyway. Last night, we just eliminated the silly.

It turned out that our party was also the day after my 40th birthday and totally unknown to me, a plan had been put in place, to acknowledge that.  When Steve, the owner, came out and turned off some of the lights I thought "Oh that's nice, Steve has something special planned for us."  And then when everyone started singing "Happy Birthday" I thought, "Oh cool, it's someone's birthday, I wonder who's it is."  And then they started walking toward me and I thought "Tony, you're an idiot, it's yours!"  It was a real surprise and it was really nice of everyone to do that.  I appreciated it very much!

So hopefully this 2011 brings everyone a great running season and much happiness.  I think last night's Team Party was a good start.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

15 Along the Lake

It's not very often that I get a chance to run on February 5th in upper 20 degree weather.  Usually it's cold or snowy or windy or all three.  At least it has been for most of the February 5ths of the past 40 years.

So with the nice weather and other incentives, it was nice to get out and run with Dave H. and Henry.  We started out along the lakewalk, headed east and continued on up the North Shore for a few more miles, turning around at about 7.5 miles.  The lakewalk wasn't too bad to run on, the corn snow actually provided a little bit of grip compared to the surface on Wednesday when I ran it last.

We started out running 7:50's or so, which was probably a bit too fast to start with.  After getting to some more appropriate 8 minute miles, Henry turned off to head home and Dave and I sped up a bit.  We got to 6:20s for a bit before I fell off.  I haven't held that pace for quite some time, so my body wasn't ready for that.  It was fun to go quick for a bit though and to be honest, probably good for me too.

Other than the quick pace at the end, I felt totally comfortable the whole time.  It's such a great feeling to be getting in shape, to be getting stronger and fitter.  And then, of course, to know that there's a lot of training to do.  That's a nice thing about having done this for a long time now.  I know what needs to be done and how to go about it.  That knowledge gives me a lot of confidence for the upcoming season but what's really important is having the foresight to know that there may be some bumps in the road.  And if they do happen, I know I have the tools to handle them properly and in turn, to come back stronger.

All in all, a great day.

"It's good to be on the road again."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Finding Contentment in the Modern World

Recently I made a trip to visit my family in Iowa.  I stayed for a few days with my sister and brother-in-law and their two children.  My brother-in-law, Rich, and I always have some great conversations.  Rich is a very talented musician and a piano tuner who has a very strong reputation in the music industry.  (he's tuned for such notables as Ben Folds, Jack White and Lori Line: she wanted him to go on tour with her)

Rich spoke to me of how he was impressed with how I'm able to seemingly be content in all situations.  How I seem to be at ease at all times.  Rich, himself, is not.  He's a very nervous and worrisome person.  I think he's right about that, though, I am often very content.  It's something that comes easy to me.

I believe firmly in keeping life simple, to not surround yourself with too many burdens or too much drama. I think this is where my contentment comes from, my belief in the simple.  Desire, of course, is fine and not to be discouraged, it can keep us moving forward.  But at what cost?  Far too often, I feel, we are driven by desire, and thus we have no control over ourselves.  It's our desire that is in control.  The late Serbian author Danilo Kis (sp?) once said, "When you hit the bullseye you miss the rest of the target."  I think that quote speaks to my contentment.  I understand that the rest of the target still has value.  (indeed the bullseye isn't even the space with the highest point total on a dart board!)

If we could only find value in everything, for there is value in everything, and more importantly, in the simple things, then I think everyone would find much more contentment in their lives.  And what I've found is that once I'm filled with contentment, and I'm truly at peace with myself, then all of the other aspects of my life become more beautiful, more important.  Somewhere in the Bible (imagine me quoting the Bible!) someone asks "What are the most important things in life?" and I don't know for sure, but it's probably Jesus, says "The things you cannot see."  That is contentment.  Knowing that and understanding that and eventually living that.

Health or reputation: which is held dearer?
Health of possessions: which has more worth?
Profit or loss: which is more troublesome?

Great love incurs great expense,
And great wealth incurs great fear,
But contentment comes at no cost.
For who knows when to stop
Does not continue into danger,
And so may long endure.

(from the Tao Te Ching)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Easy 4 mile shake out run

This morning I went for a brief, easy run, just to clean out my legs a bit from yesterday's long run.  I was pleased to discover that they felt fine really, not nearly as sore as I thought they'd be.  I attribute that to the fact that we were running on snow covered trails, so the pounding on my legs was greatly reduced.

Today was also only the second time in my life that I've ever ran with music.  I recently bought an ipod Nano to use for certain runs and really just to play with.  It's interesting, running with music.  I had always thought I'd hate it because I so enjoy letting my thoughts roll out at their own speed.  I had assumed that I was a bit more autonomous with regard to how these thoughts came to me, but now I realize that that wasn't the case.

What I've discovered is that any external stimulus can create and drive our thoughts, be it the beauty of an evergreen who's branches are dusted white with snow, or the smell of burning leaves in the autumn or even the music on my ipod.  All of this has the potential to be the starting point of a train of thought that may lead to something profound or important, or they may even just fizzle out quickly and, in turn, propagate new thoughts.

A fun discovery about the ipod is that so many of these songs, especially those from my younger days, have memories attached to them.  The first song that came on today was "Bigmouth Strikes Again" by the Smiths.  Great song!  That song made me think of high school and the days of discovering the Smiths and the very small circle of friends that loved that band too.

So now I've come to grips with being a runner with an ipod.  I'll wear my earbuds with pride!

"As the flames rose to my Norwegian nose and my ipod started to melt." *lyrics adjusted by me.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

14 in the snow

This morning I got together with Dave, Dave and Henry for another Saturday run.  Today we went for a little over 14 miles, a little under 2 1/2 hours.  We went out and back along the snowmobile trials, starting at Lester Park and turning around just short of the Martin Road.  Schuney and I ran in snowshoes, while Hypo and Henry spun their wheels in their road trainers.  I really don't know who had to work harder in the snow but it didn't really matter, we all stayed together, starting out very easy (around 12 minutes for the first mile) and finishing the downhill 2nd half quicker but in complete control, just rolling along nicely.

It's always such a pleasure to run with these guys, we can stay in a nice pack and we get along so well that it's a great group to be in.  And then, of course, there's the beauty of the trails.  Today, we had temps in the mid 20s, a fresh few inches of fluffy snow and light, slow falling flakes for most of our run, it was gorgeous.

The challenge of the route we did is the constant climb on the way out.  Our turnaround point was just beyond the 7 mile mark, but the first 6 miles is nearly all uphill.  There are few steep hills, and the ones that are steep are thankfully short, but it is a steady, consistent climb and you will definitely feel it get to you at some point.

The beauty of that, however, is then the steady, consistent descent you get to feel as you come back down. It's a chance to open up a bit, if you like, and run a little faster, at least a little easier.  It's a well deserved reward from the effort you just put in getting to the top.

And such is life, isn't it?  Ups and downs.  Challenges and rewards.  And good times with friends.