10 December 2012

Race Report: 2012 Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run

NOTE - I saw lots of cameras out there but no pictures are surfacing on the facebooker/picasa/flickr besides Brent's. Where are they? Or am I just spoiled?

This year was my fourth go at the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run (PMETR). As I mentioned last year, it's somewhat of an unofficial STL championship of trail running. It's a REALLY HARD 7.5+ mile route. In 2009, my first year, I remember looking at the winning women's times and thinking...really? The winner went 8:13/mi pace? I totally got this. Uh....yeah....that year I finished in 1:24, good for 11:12/mi pace. See what I mean? PERE MARQUETTE IS REALLY HARD.

So. 2012. How to describe? Pre-race I had some goals that I didn't share with anyone (not that anyone asked, which is a good thing). After two years of being second in my age group, I wanted to finally win the darn thing. And, I wanted to improve on my time from last year which was 1:07 low. I knew this was going be hard since 2011 featured lightning fast trails, and I had somewhat of a breakthrough performance (11 minute improvement from 2010).
2012 TBD.
Let me embark on a side note here about race goals. They are a tricky thing, but especially so in trail running because the trail conditions have a huge effect on the results. I could be at peak fitness but a heavy rainstorm the night before could turn Pere Marquette's trails into a snotfest of mud and leaves. Those are slow conditions. So what can we use instead to judge performance? Final ranking/placings aren't very good metrics either. You can't control a) who is able to register for a race that sells out in 30 minutes, or b) who shows up healthy. So taking these two things into consideration...yes I still make goals. But I am willing to look at them under the lens of race day conditions and race day roster.

Anyway, back to the race report itself. I leave my house about 15 minutes behind schedule so when I get to Pere Marquette State Park I have to rush through pre-race prep. Park car. Get race number. Get shirt. Change clothes. Find water. Go warm up. I've gotten to know quite a few people at this race so it's hard to execute all of these things without getting drawn into well-meaning conversations. So to those I spoke with briefly before the start of the race: I apologize for cutting things short. I had several things on my mind. We are still friends.

I see fellow SLOC member Eric just as I'm beginning my warm up and am actually grateful for this chance at conversation - I want a trail report, and to confirm my shoe and clothing choice with him since he's just returning from a jog. We agree my Salomon Speedcross 3s are appropriate for the slick conditions, shorts and a t-shirt are good choices, and the trails are wet and muddy but not peanut-buttery. OK. Time to go find out for myself - I jog part of the first climb. My HR is higher than I'd like it to be but since I'm not planning on using that for pacing today, I just start ignoring it now instead of later. My legs feel good and the trail isn't as bad as I expected with the overnight rain and fog, but it's still going to be slick.
The only picture proof I have of racing...can you even spot me? Photo by Brent Newman. 
To avoid a bottleneck at the trail entrance, Pere Marquette seeds its runners and sends them off in waves of 20. Last year I had the unexpected privilege of starting in Wave 1 with the top women (Wave 0 is top men). This year, I have been placed in Wave 3. To be honest, I'm a tiny bit miffed at this, but there really isn't that much difference between the two waves for trail conditions. I just tell myself I'll need to earn my way back up to Wave 1. I strip down to running shorts and a t-shirt and join my wave with about 1 minute before our start. Mike counts us down and we go!

I let my legs loose and they start churning up the first climb...350' gained in just over 1 mile. It's a rough one, and two girls in my wave pass me: pink shorts (Katie) and high pony (Janet). I let them go (after assigning race names) because my strengths are pacing and downhill running, both of which are not important in the race just yet. Much like the 5k, I try to run the first two miles at an uncomfortable but not crazy pace. On the downhills is where I let things rip. High pony starts to come back to me about mile 3 I think. I'm able to pass her where a tree has fallen across the trail.

Just after passing high pony, I start to have some doubts. Do I have the strength to chase down pink shorts? What about 1:05? You're not even half-way there yet! I'm already breathing pretty raggedly and snot is flying everywhere. Negative thoughts creep through my brain. I start to get scared. But, almost as soon as the bad stuff enters my mind, I remember some words that we start every Monday night yoga class with. I can't quote directly but it's something like "acknowledge thoughts from your day but then release them and focus on your practice now".  So I acknowledge. I feel my burning legs and bursting heart. And then I release those feelings and focus on running fast.
One of the few photos that captures PMETR's steep terrain. Photo by Brent Newman. 
At the base of the second climb, I see a beautiful sight: pink shorts. She has been out of my vision since passing me early and I can't really believe that I'm about to pass her back. But there's just one problem - we're at the base of a climb and that is my weakness. So I decide to try to keep her pace on the up. It's really difficult. My breathing gets loud and all of a sudden I have another yoga moment: ujjayi breath. We learned this at class last week and my breathing now reminds me of the sensation - making the sound of the ocean with my breath and sending it deep into my belly. I breathe ujjayi style for all of climb #2, gaining 250' in a half-mile. I emerge over the top still within a few seconds of pink shorts. 2.5 miles, two descents, and one climb left. Game on.

I rip the next descent. I pass a lot of people, many of whom I've been yo-yo-ing with all race. By now we're friends and they make comments like "nice downhilling" and "see you on the next climb". It's awesome. I learn that one of them has been a participant in every single running of PMETR so far. He's in a Team Godzilla shirt and as I pass him he says he's been blessed to run so much. I hold onto that positive thought add it to the cheers from spectators as we approach the base of the last climb. I am leading pink shorts at the road crossing and she is still behind me as we hit the stone steps. I have a race-crazy thought pop in my head and I say it out loud: "Let's rock these steps!" No one is laughing. I go back to my ujjayi breathing.
The stone steps, about mile 6.5. Photo by Brent Newman.
Pink shorts passes me after the stone steps and I do my best to hang with her. Because Pere Marquette ends on a downhill, I always feel like I have an ace up my sleeve at this point in the race. I am excited to be locked into this duel and ready to give it my all once the trail hits the out-n-back section of the race. 600+ runners have turned the formerly-just-slick trail into a genuine slopfest. This my last chance to get a gap on pink shorts before the flat finish line sprint. I send a prayer to the Salomon gods and throw myself down the hill.

I'm flying. Really. It's exhilarating and scary and in-the-moment. This is RACING. I don't dare look back even once I get to the flat. There are still about 400 meters left in this race and pink shorts has excelled so far when the trail is flat. I see Eric jogging backwards on the route cheering, and he yells at me to GOOOOOOOO!!!! I try and then pink shorts comes sprinting past me. There isn't even a half-second for me to latch onto her hip and gut it out. She wins by 2 seconds. But we both run 1:05 for 4th and 5th place overall female. I can't even bear to ask her age so I look it up once I'm back in the lodge. She's 24. RELIEF!!!
I have never gotten so many facebook likes on a picture before. 
I'm really happy emotionally but my legs are a complete wreck. I grab some cookies from the buffet (seriously,  there's like 100 different kinds, each one delicious), throw on some extra layers, and head out for a cool-down shuffle. I feel a little better when I return to the lodge and check the results again - no one from a later wave has run faster than expected. I hold onto my 5th place overall and age group win. I'm completely stoked to bring home the 1st place AG plaque. It will have good company on my shelf with two other 2nd place AG awards.

Pin It

Race Report: 2012 Castlewood 8hr AR

Ever since I saw ROCK Racing put together multiple newbie teams at the 2011 Castlewood 8hr AR, I knew I wanted to do the same in 2012. The Castlewood 8hr AR, put on by Bonk Hard Racing, is the perfect event for aspiring adventure racers in the Midwest. First, it's short: 8hrs is the advertised time but the course is complete-able in 4-5 hours for the winners and 5-6 hours for a decently fit team. Second, it's designed for inexperienced racers - minimal UTM plotting, simple navigation with plenty of safe route choice options, and familiar terrain for anyone in the St. Louis area. Bonk Hard has done a great job at making this a "gateway race" for anyone remotely interested in adventure racing and I was excited to bring new faces to the start line. I teamed up three people associated with Pfoodman Racing: Young Ben, a totally rad newly-turned-17-year-old; Courtney, a supa-fast mountain bike/cyclocross chick who is extending her racing repertoire to endurance events; and Keith, a Pfriend of Pfoodman stoked for new experiences like running off-trail and paddling a canoe.

Me teaching Young Ben how to use the electronic mapping wheel, while Keith supervises.
We all meet up at Alpine Shop for racer check-in on Friday night. We receive some very purple, very cool race shirts from Bonk Hard and Courtney and I get new Omni-Heat baselayers from Columbia for being among the first 20 women to check in. (There were 20 shirts for the men too but they had already been claimed.) We all pick up a little something from the shop with our 30% discount coupons...so nice! Then it's off to Dewey's Pizza for eating, plotting, and strategizing. When we get there, however, it's a bedlam with a 35-minute wait. Enter my AR buddy Bill, the navigator who I raced with for my entire first season! He tells us to get pizzas to-go and then come over to his house just a few blocks away for a quiet and spacious area to plan. How awesome! We take his advice and are soon stuffed with delicious pizza and plotting our routes. We have maps for the first trek, the first bike, and a good idea of the first paddle. We talk about some last-minute strategy, gear lists, clothing choices, and at 8pm I send my new adventure racers home for packing and sleeping. It's a little weird to pack my own gear in my own apartment and then sleep in my own bed the night before a race - usually these things are done in a hotel room cramped with bikes, gear, and teammates. I miss that.
Courtney is serious about route planning.
Race morning is quite warm and calm - great weather for any race, let alone one in December! We meet up in the Pfoodman-favorite Ranger Lot at Castlewood State Park. Everyone is well-prepared and pretty soon we're dropping bikes off at the start/finish line and chatting with other teams. In fact, we're in the middle of a conversation with Alpine Shop (Jeff educating us about his self-made wrist-warmers) when Gary yells "GO!" and Doug has to remind everyone that there's a race starting.

TREK 1 (4k redline, 0:40)
Trek 1: CPs 1-10, any order. Which way would you go?

Typical AR start...people scattering in every direction!
We had decided the night before to go 8-7-4-1-5-2-3-6-9-10. Turns out, most other teams decided that was a good route too so we are in a huge herd running to CP8. Young Ben punches and we stay low for the attack on CP7. CP4 gives us a little trouble since I'm not sure if the flag is on top of or below the bank, but Ben spots it high and we are fine. Then a quick climb up to CP1 and contouring down to the road for the fast run to CP5. 5 could have been a little tricky but there are two or three teams standing on the road right below it, acting like a billboard for us. Then we climb up to CP2, directly across the ridge for CP3, down a little via the trail for CP6, back up high for CP9, and a fun bushwhack and creek crossing to return back to CP10/HQ. Ben has been punching everything while Courtney, Keith and I stay lower and regroup after each CP. When we get back to HQ, there are still plenty of bikes around and we learn that we're in the top 10! I am so excited by this for a couple reasons: first, after my nav disaster a few weeks ago, I didn't make any big mistakes here; and second, my team as a whole is generally new to off-road running, and we seem to have paced it perfectly with no injuries. Score!

BIKE 1A (14mi, 1:11)
TA from Trek 1 to Bike 1.
I tell everyone to keep their layers on even though we're hot because we have 10 miles of fast pavement to tackle - our damp clothes will be cold on the bikes. So we get our shoes sorted and then take off down Kiefer Creek Road. I'm a little nervous about CP11 since I don't have that part of the map out, but we figure it out after one false stop and are on our way. CPs 12 and 13 are road junctions so no mistakes there. There is some climb to this route but reviewing things the night before I don't think there are any other options. CP 14 is on a paved downhill bike trail which we locate easy enough. CP15 is a little trickier - I'm navigating from memory at this point (didn't want to stop and re-arrange the maps) so all I can tell my team is the clue: "bridge". Turns out there are several bridges on this trail and I'm not sure which one it is. Fortunately, Young Ben has been here before so after we pass the last bridge without finding the punch, he suggests that we stop and check the maps. We do, and realize that we overshot the CP by about 400 meters. As we are checking the maps, The Happy Mutants blast past us, the only team to pass us so far. Backtracking, I count reentrants and at the correct bridge, we stop and look for the punch. It takes few minutes to realize it's hidden on the side of the bridge, but Ben punches and we are back on track, cruising to the west side of Castlewood on the Al Foster Trail. This section of the park always makes me nervous because there are lots of similar-looking trails, but we make it through just fine, riding on the flat and fast singletrack.

TREK 2 (2k redline, 0:34)

As we approach CP21, we see a few volunteers and a few bikes. At first I think it's a gear check but then I realize we have a surprise trekking loop. This is confirmed when SuperKate hands us the "Bonus Map" and we quickly transition into running shoes. The points look similar either direction (clockwise or CCW) you take, so I confer with Ben and we agree to go counterclockwise (38-37-39). (PS read her volunteer report from the day here.)
Courtney, Keith, Ben, and me in transition. Photo by SuperKate!
The nav to 38 is really simple...go uphill. Ben punches high as we cross paths with eventual winners 33 Down (my former teammate Sunny is their girl and they are rockin!). We also see Kuat and Bushwhacker hot on their heels. Horserace! I'm quite happy to stay out of the battle for first place - today is about (p)fun for the Pfast and the Pfurious! 37 is a little tricky because the small valley is full of unmapped brush (there was a note on the clue sheet warning of unmapped veg). But we just have to follow the streambed uphill a short way and then Ben spots the flag. Then it's some trail running and uphill slogging to 39, again an easy punch. I wish I was wearing a Garmin for our route from 39 to 40 (back to our bikes). I had just planned to go downhill on a bearing, but Young Ben knew about lots of abandoned trails that would take us in the right direction. So I turn off my nav brain and let the 17-year-old lead the way. And he does a great job, making excellent use of relatively un-veggy (is that an adjective?) old trails that pop out exactly at the railroad tunnel. Awesome job Ben! Then we simply get back on our bikes and ride away towards the canoe put-in.

BIKE 1B (4mi, 0:21)
Courtney and I rolling out of TA. Photo by SuperKate!
This was a really easy leg, we ride the last little bit of singletrack out to the Al Foster, and then haul on the gravel path to the put-in near Glencoe. Once we arrive, we are greeted by two awesome Bonk Hard volunteers, Suzanne and Jackie, and given UTM coordinates for the next 2 paddle CPs. Ben and Keith take care of securing the bikes in the boats while Courtney and I plot. It takes a few extra minutes to make sure the bikes are stable (Courtney's lefty fork is a little bit tempermental), but since we are all riding really nice equipment, it's worth it to make sure we won't lose anything if we dump.

PADDLE 1 (10k, 1:58)
The paddle, 22-23-24-25.
I shove the first boat off with Courtney in front and Ben steering, and then hop in the back of the second boat with Keith. It takes a few minutes to remember how to steer a canoe with canoe paddles, but pretty soon we are tracking straight down the river.
Courtney and Ben waiting just after the put-in.
The whole paddle leg is...relaxing...an extremely far cry from the last time I was in a canoe. We all seem to ignore the fact that there is a race going on and instead just enjoy the December sunshine and warm temperatures. With my extremely limited canoeing knowledge, I give everyone a couple pointers and it's enough to make us stable on the river. I learn that Keith has never even been in a canoe before, let alone one with bikes in it! But we all manage just fine. We get passed by lots of teams but it's no big deal. It's a nice day, we haven't gone swimming, and we're still somewhat close to the front of the race.
Me and Keith waiting at a CP while Happy Mutants pass.
Courtney has the passport and punches 23 and 24 with ease. As we are making our way towards the take-out at the Castlewood boat ramp, my favorite moment of the race happens. Courtney and Ben are ahead of Keith and I when I see a few Pringles chips float by on the water. I glance up and notice that Courtney is munching away. 
Courtney running for the punch at CP23. 
"Courtney, quit littering chips or we're going to get penalized!" I call up ahead in a joking tone. Chips are bio-degradable and therefore not really litter, right? "Oh, I'm not littering, those chips are for the fish!" Courtney cheerfully calls back. Oh. Of course. How could I forget? Fish need to eat too! 
Courtney and Ben punching CP24.
The paddle ends with me violently needing to pee (almost a repeat of Castlewood 2011) so as we reach the take-out I sprint up to the woods. It takes some time to get the bikes re-assembled, but we get things sorted and pass the gear check with flying colors. We are rewarded with the last map of the day: 7 CPs on the bikes.

BIKE 2 (5mi, 0:50)
Last map of the day! With our route highlighted in orange.
While I personally had been hoping for more trekking, a mountain bike leg is the best-case scenario for our team. We are mountain bike racers, after all, and very familiar with the trail system at Castlewood. I nav the remainder of the race using trail names. Young Ben leads and I feel like a musher, commanding her team with ease.
CP26: "bottom of River Scene"
CP27: "on the right just before the Dirt Crits field"
CP28: "left turn onto the connector to the back side of Lone Wolf"
CP29: "the ruin at the top of Lone Wolf"
CP30: "the bench at the top of Justin's"
CP31: "on the left at the end of the doubletrack after Ries"
CP32: "just before the switchback at the bottom of Grotpeter"
We hit all of these points cleanly. I am riding sweep (code for: I am the slowest on the team!) and often by the time I pull up to the CP, Ben has already found it and punched, and we are ready to ride again. We are machines! Courtney takes a digger on the log after the Lone Wolf switchbacks but pops up bravely and keeps on rolling. I share my mantra for whenever I crash: Jeff Sona would be proud. Because if you're not crashing every once in a while, you're not riding hard enough. When we punch CP32, I tell the team that it's our final CP and we just have to make it to the finish line. We're all a little surprised...done? Already? I'm thankful there are no teams behind us so we don't have to take any chances (side note: ask Alpine Shop about their sneaky bike-whack). We roll to the finish line as a happy team...The Pfast and the Pfurious!

POST-RACE (5:34 total time, 8th division, 13th overall)
Ben, Keith, Courtney, me. 
I'm super stoked that we finished in good spirits. That was my main goal of the day and we totally crushed it!  What's more, we had no big mistakes. We weren't blazing fast (like the winners 33 Down who finished in 4:30-something) but we worked together, stayed well fueled and hydrated, and continued moving forward all day. And we were still in the top 25% of teams. That just shows how adventure racing is so much more than pure fitness. I love this sport! We got to enjoy post-race pizza from Bonk Hard while catching up with friends who raced and volunteered. I love hearing stories from everyone's day. I'm already looking forward to December 7th, 2013...Young Ben, Courtney and Keith should be ready to captain their own teams by then so I'll be recruiting 3 more newbies! Pin It

05 December 2012

You're Invited!

OK, yes, I'm STILL working on the Castlewood 8hr race report but I forgot I need to post this ASAP. It's an invitation. To my birthday party!
File:Birthday candles.jpg
If you know me, you'd probably guess that I was a pretty easy kid growing up. My parents read this blog so maybe they can chime in here but I don't think there were that many Emily/Mom or Emily/Dad altercations (of course there were lots of fights with my brother, including an emergency room visit, but now we like each other!). Even now, I'm really bad at fighting with people. Insults are not my thing. As a kid, I had two go-to threats:
Oh, what a hell-raiser I was. My parents probably laughed out loud each time I yelled these.

Anyway...I'm telling you this story because I am having a birthday party next month! And despite what I may or may not have said as a child, I do want to invite you to it. There's a catch, of course...it involves running, or biking, or both. Here are the details:
Me after a summer run on the Chubb.
Who: You and all your friends
What: 29mi run (or bike)
Where: Chubb Trail (Lone Elk parking lot)
When: Sunday, January 27th. 9:00am start time
Why: Because it's my birthday, that's why. But I'm not doing any crying.
Is this your real birthday?: Well, my actual bday is 29-Jan (golden! yes!) but pretty much everyone will be working. So I'm celebrating on the 27th.
Can I see some ID?: Only if I get a free fried ice cream and sombrero and you sing to me in Spanish.

Sorta accurate elevation profile of the route. There's a lot of climb.
Join me for a birthday run! I plan on attempting 2 out-n-backs of the Chubb trail on foot (28 miles/45 km) plus one extra mile somewhere along the way to bring the daily total to 29mi/46.6km! There will also be a 50k (31miles) option in honor of Jeff Sona who is turning 50 on 30-Jan! If you want to bike for some portion of this please feel free, but make sure to arrive at the steps at the same time I do so I can watch you try to clear them. I might bring my mtb too and if legs get tired then we'll just ride the second out-n-back. If you want to do less mileage, please feel free to join for just 1 out-n-back or even a partial out-n-back. It's all good! This is not a race, nor it is supported, so please bring your own water and calories. Cupcakes are acceptable fuel, especially if they have birthday candles in them. I also like Oreos, thanks for asking.
Chubb in the summer. http://soleadventure.com/2010/06/hiking-the-chubb-trail/
Afterwards let's go to my fav wing place...TJ's...for some delicious wings/pizza/beer, nom! If you don't want to run or ride or heckle, then meet us at TJs sometime after 2pm. That is the earliest guess I can make. I have never run this far on trails, so it might take longer. I can text you if you let me know you're coming.
OMG. Yum. I can probably eat 29 of these.
Yep, this is a LOT of advance notice for a birthday party. But, not every birthday party involves running double-digit miles. So consider yourself warned with PLENTY of time to train up for the distance. Please feel free to invite your friends (but only the cool ones).
Self portrait after last Saturday's trail run.
Important links:
Chubb Trail Info: http://www.gorctrails.com/trails/mchubb.asp
Chubb Trail map: http://gorctrails.com/images/maps/chubb.pdf
Random guy's garmin track: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/170345172
TJs: http://tjwings.com/
Perfect prep non-race: The Lost Valley SHivering Icy Trail Run

Start training!! Pin It

04 December 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

OK, yes, I'm working on a race report from the Castlewood 8hr but I want to get you caught up with my Thanksgiving. It was memorable from both a family and friends perspective!

I flew into DLH on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning, my family was planning to participate in the Gobble Gallop 5k (me) and Gobble Gait 2mi walk (Mom, Dad, and Beve). Since the start/finish line was only a few miles from my house, I decided to jog there. It was an easy run and the weather was fantastic - warm enough for capri tights and a t-shirt with arm warmers. Duluth doesn't always get this lucky in November and I was happy to experience it.
BRR Summer Speedwork 2010. 
I had no idea what to expect in the 5k race. I've had a long-standing goal of a sub-20min 5k since 2010 Big River Summer Speedwork. I went through 12 weeks of focused track work in an effort to produce a smokin-fast 5k. I worked hard in all of the sessions, but still fell slightly short of my goal, running a 20:08 on a hot August night. Now, I was in the middle of 30runs30days, but all of my efforts had been at MAF or below, hardly the ideal prep for a PR 5k. But, I knew the weather was perfect, the course was a fairly flat out-n-back, so I lined up about 10 rows back of the start line, near a couple of guys who were also gunning for 19:XX.
Gobble Gallop 2011. Competition is cutthroat. (Bad pun?)
The gun went off and I ran the first mile off of feel (I had set my watch to show only time, no HR data). I locked into an effort that was uncomfortable but not crazed. I glanced at my watch as I passed the first mile...6:20-ish. Good. Perfect. Stay strong. Mile 2 contained the 180* turn, so on the approach I was able to count women and figured I was in 13th or 14th. The turn was smooth and soon I was hauling back to the finish line. There were numerous runners in turkey costumes in the field behind me, but my favorite runner was one dressed as a chef - clearly providing inspiration to the poultry. Mile 2 went by in 13:00-ish. Again, good, but I really need to hold strong to achieve my goal. I sensed another girl runner on my hip and I refused to let her pass - I told myself all of the AR and trail running this year had made me strong, and this is where strength would shine. I was hurting, but focused on form and thinking strong thoughts, which were buoyed by cheers from my family on their walk. GO EM!! When the finish line clock finally came into sight, I could still see the 19:XX and realized I was going to do it. I ran strong through the finish line in a flurry of women, I think 2 or 3 of us together, and stopped my watch...19:53!!! Yes!!! Elation!!! I walked/jogged back on the course to find my family and celebrated with them as they finished. I hung around for awards (I won a pie!) and then jogged back to my house to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

I was equally excited to visit Minnesota for Thanksgiving because my buddies at the Gnome Hunters AR team/MNOC have a Friday tradition: The Turkey Burner. It's a social run/bike event intended to bring people together outside of stores and malls for a fun longish workout. I was offered a really nice 26" full suspension mtb to borrow from my friend Peter, all I had to do was bring pedals, a helmet, and running shoes! Score! So my Mom and I hit the road EARLY Friday morning for the drive down to the Cities. Oh, I should mention, it had started snowing on Thanksgiving night so the roads were in not-so-good shape. We were driving 40mph on the interstate. Eeek! I was really nervous that we wouldn't make it in time, but things cleared up by about Hinckley, so we were able to make the start at House of Coates just before 9am. Relief!
Turkey Burner 2012 crew at the start. I was at the Wal Marts.
Peter was already there and asked for my pedals so he could put them on the bike while I got layered up. How nice! Except...I dug around in my bag, and then my other bag, and then my Mom's car...no pedals. I called my brother, he checked my bedroom in Duluth, yep they were sitting in my backpack still. CRAAAAAAAP. We asked everyone else who was there, but no one had an extra set of SPD pedals, or flats. Multiple plans were made but in the end my Mom drove me (with Peter's bike) to a nearby WalMart, I bought a pair of $8 plastic platforms, and we met the group just before they started the run. Not perfect, but I still had plenty of running/biking/socializing time ahead of me.

After the run, Biz sharing some snacks. Yes he (and Molly) wore unicorn helmets the entire time. Awesome.
The run was super fun, about 30 minutes of easy jogging where I got to catch up with the WEDALIans about fall races and meet some new MNOC people wondering what this AR thing was all about. The run was capped off with some history lessons, a group photo, and eating Biz's niece's peanut-butter-banana bread.
Then it was onto the bikes! I knew it was going to be cold, and it's always tricky this early in the season to get clothing right. I got pretty close, with 2 base layers and a shell jacket, 3 layers tights plus tri shorts, toe covers over my running shoes, 2 pairs socks, 2 pairs gloves, and a buff. The multiple thin layers helped keep an insulating air pocket around my body and nothing really ever got dangerously cold. My fingers hurt for a while, but a few minutes of well-timed sunshine helped that.
Me and Dana cruisin. This was her longest ride ever and she crushed it in tough conditions! Way to go!

All I did to the bike was lower the seatpost a tad. But it was comfortable all day!
Our route was fairly straightforward back to the cars (at House of Coates), but its point-to-point nature had us going into the 20-25mph wind the entire time. Oh, and the air temperature was about 25F. Pretty rough conditions for a gravel grinder but the crew hung enormously tough. Drafting was important and I rode on both sides of the wind - pulling when I felt strong and hiding when I wanted a break.

We all opted for the "short"-course route which brought us back to House of Coates after 25 miles of gravel for me (35 miles for everyone else). There, we thawed and enjoyed some delicious burgers, like really insanely delicious. Wow. Kudos to everyone who braved the gnarly conditions!
History stop at Chimney Rock. Yes, that is a Chimney.
Before we left the Cities, I got to meet up with my buddy Andrei who is injured (and also afraid of cold weather). It was super nice catching up with him and we ate my prize pumpkin pie from the Gobble Gallop! I'm not sure when or where we'll get the chance to team up again next season, but I really hope it happens! After our little tea-time chat, my Mom and I jumped back in the car and drove up to Duluth. It was a great day! Minnesota has such a great orienteering/adventure racing community and I'm stoked to be included when I'm in the area.

Fave spot at Hartley, pre-instagram.
I had one last task to accomplish while in Duluth...working on a map of Hartley Park. MNOC has set up a permanent O-course on the eastern part of the park, but there is more good terrain on the west side. However, COGGS has been trail-building and the current map is outdated. So I volunteered to do some running with a Garmin to try and get a better handle on the existing trail locations. Saturday was still quite snowy and cold but it's easier to stay warm when running so I bounded out the door once the sun was out. I hit just about every trail in the area, but there were a bunch of un-mapped ones that confused me a little. About 2 hours in, my hands started to become badly chilled...the kind of cold that signals to your brain "stop being tough and do something now" so I made some ad hoc mittens out of my spare armwarmers and bailed for home. I wasn't terribly worried, my appendages have been exposed to lots of cold when I was outside at the barn all day, but I knew that inaction would make things even more unpleasant. I was using a GPS app to double-check my Garmin, so I had to operate the phone with my nose to stop its tracking. Talent!
That's my brother's hand, but I share the sentiment.
Saturday night we took a family trip to Duluth's new Amsoil Arena to watch the UMD Bulldogs play some hockey. I've been a Bulldog Hockey fan since I was about 4 or 5, I even had the Maroon Loon wish me a happy birthday one year, and I still love going to games. We had dinner at the Duluth Curling Club before the game, a delicious walleye sandwich for me. There was a big Thanksgiving bonspiel going on so lots of activity on the ice. It was cool to watch, and very local...very few cities in the US even have curling, let alone a thriving club with league play just about every evening. My Dad plays on Wednesdays, in a league with 2 of my high school teachers. Yep, that's Duluth for ya.
Northern Minnesota at its finest!
Anyway, back to the game, it was a bummer as the 'Dogs played pretty badly and lost 5-1. But it was still fun time!

Sunday morning I took a quick run out to the barn to visit Flyer. I had grabbed an apple off of our backyard tree, but when I gave it to her, I realized it was still frozen. Ooops. She ate it anyway and I got to give her a good scratching. She's very fat and fuzzy, both good things for the winter! I also saw some mtb tracks at the trail system nearby. Any guesses what they're from?

Should be pretty obvious.
Pin It