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!

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