August 29, 2012: Marquette 50 Mile – Roots, Rain and Spiderman
August 3, 2012: Mowing the Seeds of my Discontent
"Oh, yeah. I just need a higher ramp and a good bit of speed..."
- Construction work on Beck’s road did, in fact, occur on weekdays. (Who knew?) Large trucks and bulldozers make the Mission Creek trailhead difficult to get to. Damn. Off to park at the Buffalo House, an eating establishment up the Munger trail in the other direction.
- It’s a long walk in on the Munger trail from the Buffalo House to the access trail that leads to the Powerlines. (Let's call that access trail the AH, which may or may not be the initials of its creator – depending on whether you are asking me while I'm under oath.)
- My 4-cycle string trimmer is a piece of @#$%. It fails about 20 minutes into some simple trimming along the AH trail. The Mowing Gods have a peculiar sense of humor. (Yes, there are Mowing Gods. I think they're Greek. They had a god for everything.)
- It’s a long walk back to the Buffalo House when you’re in a bad mood.
- It apparently doesn’t take much for me to switch from casual mowing mode to “I'm on a Mission.”
- There’s a fine line between badass and dumbass. You make the call. While pondering my fate over a Dairy Queen hot dog, I decide to go get my push mower and bring it in to the Powerlines.
- It's not unreasonable getting a push mower in to the Powerlines from Hwy 210 in Jay Cooke State Park. But... Hwy 210 looks like the Grand Canyon after being decimated by the Great Flood of 2012. My only access is the rocky, rooty, single track of the AH trail. But I’m game. So, back to the Buffalo House, and off down the Munger...
- The long walk from the Buffalo House to the AH trail is decidedly shorter when two DNR guys on ATVs come along and let you know you can’t be on the (closed) Munger Trail and have to turn around. (Oh? This trail is closed? You don't say...)
- It’s a long walk back to the Buffalo House when you’re in a bad mood.
- I am bound and determined to cut some damn thing today. Poking around back by Beck's Rd., lawn mower sticking out of the trunk of my car, I realize folks are using the abandoned DWP railroad grade to drive around the construction area and get down near the Mission Creek trailhead. Bingo.
- One probably looks kind of foolish taking his mower out for a walk through a construction zone on Beck’s Rd. and down the Mission Creek trail.
- One has boundless energy when he thinks he has scored a strategic victory – making bringing a mower down the hilly goat path that is the AH trail almost tolerable. (But, would it kill 'em to put bigger wheels on these things?)
- Hmm. Didn't know mountain goats were native to northern Minnesota.
- @#$% it's hot out here.
- Mental Note #1: Streams are rocky.
- Mental Note #2: Mowers are heavy.
- Mental Note #3: That stream crossing before the big hill on the Powerlines sure is wide.
- @#$% it's hot out here.
- I note that a mower is vastly more productive than a string trimmer, under a certain set of conditions which tend to be pretty well defined. Those conditions are somewhat intermittent on the Powerlines.
- I note that a mower is decidedly more difficult to get up that first big hill after the river crossing than a string trimmer. Gravity is a harsh mistress.
- Boots make an interesting sucking sound when pulled from near knee deep mud. (Holy s--t! How can the base this hill still be such a friggin' mess?! It's like a damn kiln out here!)
- Common sense will finally prevail half-way up a ridiculously steep, mud covered hill on a @#$%ing hot day, while largely carrying a piece of power equipment that is designed to be pushed...
- Common sense will not carry a mower back up the AH trail for you.
- One has much less energy on the return trip dragging a mower and a gas can back up the AH trail.
- Stubbornness and sanity are inversely proportional.
"Oh, yeah. I just need a bit of water and a couple of gels..."
May 23, 2012: Featured Trail: NMTC Bull Run
|This one…||Not this one.|
May 7, 2012: Featured Trail: NMTC Point Pine Run
April 18, 2012: The 29 Seconds of Zumbro
The Occupy Zumbro encampment was already well established by the time I rolled into the river bottoms on Friday. Despite my leaving work early to drive down in late-afternoon, it appeared my humble abode would be relegated to the tent suburbs. As I popped my shock-corded poles into place, I looked up at the hills. Somewhere out there, diligent runners were making their way along the ridges and coulees like a parade of ants on a sugar trail. They had been going since 8 AM that morning, seeking the 100 Miler belt buckle.
I had come down to southeast MN for the Zumbro Midnight 50 Miler, so had a few hours to kill before I'd get to set off. The plan was to take a nap and wake up an hour or so before the start to gear up. Given that I suffer a bit from “broken alarm clock anxiety” before any race, the sleep was fit-full at best. So, I had to be content with applying the Chuck Norris philosophy of “the body sleeps, but not the mind”. Hey, it worked for him in the movie the Octagon when those night-stalking Ninjas attacked. (Don't you dare question the wisdom of the baddest man alive. He'll beat your...) But, I digress.
It had been nearly 6 months since Wild Duluth, and I was jonesin' for some mileage - which perhaps explained the facial tics. So, by the time the start rolled around I was pining to go. Race Director John Storkamp kept the formalities brief and on his command we all took off. As Friday turned into Saturday, we disappeared into the darkness.
Running at night on trails is a double edged sword. Even with decent lights one can only see so far down the trail. On the plus side, because you can't see the scope of what you are doing, you are undaunted by the mini-Everest the trail is currently ascending. You just put your head down and keep motoring, figuring it will end at some point - hopefully before you get a nose bleed. On the other hand, you know there is some fine scenery out there as you run the ridgeline. But there you are, running in a little Gerbil Ball of light saying, “Wow. Another head-sized chunk of limestone on the trail. Haven't seen many of those tonight.” But, there are treats to be had - like when a critter came swooping from over my shoulder and down onto the trail in front of me, skittering away into the woods. Flying squirrel. Good evening, Rocky.
Things moved along well. I began to pass the 100 milers, getting the opportunity to check in on some friends' progress. Wayne, Rick, Arika, many others - all doing well. First lap done, on to the second – during which the sun finally started coming up. And the views were indeed spectacular. Pace still felt decent. Too many gels had my stomach in a loop for a bit, so I looked to more solids. Fortunately, there were plenty of aid stations, allowing one to run from buffet to buffet. Second lap done, on to the third.
Somewhere over on the other side of the hills drama was unfolding as the 100 Miler race leaders approached the finish line. After leading a good portion of the race, Bob Gerenz suddenly found himself shoulder-to-shoulder with Matt Aro as they neared the end of the race. Still side-by-side, they entered the open field 1000 feet from the finish line. After 100 miles of racing, it would come down to a flat out sprint. In the end, Bob held off Matt... by 2 seconds.
Back on calmer parts of the trail, I had been cruising along for quite a while. After pushing what felt like a pretty solid pace, somewhere between the 40-45 mile mark I finally started feeling the miles. I muscled the last 5 or so miles in, arriving at the finish in 11 hours, 33 minutes - for 12th place overall. Can't complain. I was tired for certain, but it felt pretty reasonable overall, especially considering it was an early season race.
After my race was done I took a little nap, then went back to the finish line to watch the rest of the 100 milers come in. One by one they emerged from the woods, making their way across the field to the finish line. The clock ticked - the 34 hour hard cut-off fast drawing near. As the numbers clicked past 33 and a half hours, I and my colleagues waited. 20 minutes left. 10 minutes left. Single digits... With just a few minutes left, a runner emerged from the woods – followed shortly by a second. The crowd started yelling, spurring them on. Time was short! They could make it, but they would have to sprint! And so they did.
With just over a minute left, my good friend Rick Bothwell crossed the finish line. He bent over, hands on knees to catch his breath, relieved he'd get to sign the finisher's banner today. Meanwhile, the other runner dug deep, pushing hard. And after the seemingly endless miles of hills, rain, lightning, sun, mud, sand – using up whatever energy was left - Anjanette Arnold finished her first 100 miler, with only 27 seconds to spare.
I've had my ups and downs in these long races. At some point in every one it seems, there comes a moment when I wonder, “Why the Hell do I do this to myself?” Then, I remember... It's about running alone silently at 2 AM. It's about the comedy of sliding down a muddy hillside on your... It's about seeing a friend get hugs from her kids at the finish line. It's about the Beastie Boys cranking on the radio at an aid station. It's about flying squirrels. It's about cheering for friends and racing against others. It's about seeing tears dripping over a smile. It's about PB & J on a tortilla shell. It's about falling down, and getting back up.
And it's about the fact that 27 seconds at the back is just as important as 2 seconds at the front.