Hi, I am Randy from the flatlands of Superior, WI. Back in the day just might be an appropriate title for this. For my 30+ seasons of running I hope to share some regional running history, trail running information, and observations about our sport / activity / pastime.
Happy trails or roads,
October 8, 2010: TRI-umphant in Redwing
The Saturday Running events for the Twin Cities Marathon was always a time when my wife and I would take our three daughters to St. Paul to in run the children’s races. We would spend a day doing a few special Twin Cities activities. Fast forward through middle school, into and beyond high school. My girls are no longer no longer little girls anymore. Today the finisher’s medals still evoke special memories and stories for them, and for us as parents. The opportunity arose again this summer to build some special memories with one of my daughters.
2010 becomes triathlon time for my youngest daughter, and it's time for me to help her through her first full event. We chose the Wingman Triathlon in Redwing, MN. The experience from the team race last year gave her the desire to tackle an individual sprint tri this year. Redwing, like Duluth is built on the side of a hill, so I was a little apprehensive about the cycling part for her. She did fine except for being confident with her speed on the descents. I didn't account for that. She had her white knuckle moments due to her lack of experience on a fast rolling, high pressure, skinny tire road bike. Her transitions were smooth and the run was uneventful. She even shared the company of her dad to the finish. That's how we could write this.
Here's how I experienced it: She kicked my butt in the swim (duh! she’s a SHS swimmer). T-1, she’s out in short order and on the bike. I'm confident in my cycling abilities and figure that I'll have caught up to her within the first 4 miles of the 13 mile ride. From there it's dad and daughter to the finish line. For me, I'm out of the swim and into T-1. I manage to get my tri-top stuck on my wet body. I get it stuck in such a way that it rolls up to create a man-bra; the “Braun” really does exist. Up down, up down, tug...a garment version of a finger trap! I get that mess sorted out so I could move on to changing my shoes. I used running shoes and cycling toe-clips instead of the usual clip-in pedals. It’s not a problem until you pull your speed laces, the elastic breaks, and it snaps back into the shoe. Major problem! How to tie a knot with one-half of a lace, I “MacGyver” a solution and begin my run out of transition with my bike and crash face first on the chip timing mat.
My wife looked on in amazement. I’ll bet she probably thought “Randy Triathlon” had been replaced by a far less capable clone "Lost in Transition Randy." The usual 30-45 second transition is up to three-minutes. I leave Coville Park with no cyclists in sight. I now become "Last out of Transition Randy, Butt Last Randy, Pending Oxygen-debt Randy” … you get the picture.
Up next a train! Can this be happening? Thankfully, it didn't stop the race or impede anyones progress. I make it to the RR crossing just past four miles, and I spot a biker off in the distance. I didn’t recognize who it was. This rider didn't appear to be a rookie. I put my head down to do my best Lance (1999-2005) impersonation to catch-up. To my surprise, it's Megan. Wow! She’s riding with a flat back, up-tempo cadence, relaxed arms, uphill, and with excellent form! Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery! We enjoed the rest of the bike and run together in the spirit of father, daughter bonding.
It seemed like nothing more unusual could happen until....while finishing up in the locker room my wife yells in: "You better get out here ASAP you won the 50's division". How cool is that! My daughter gets to pace me to an age group win and completes her first tri all in the same day. I accept my award and wonder--where are second and third place? There were no other Grand Master's. Perhaps it was meant to be that way. So, in a way my award becomes more of a participation award.
Isn’t it ironic that for all of those years of supporting her and her sisters to get those participation medals and creating special memories at the TCM Saturday events. Her role as a triathlete had allowed me to get a participation award and create a special memory, including a fun story. This time it was my daughter making me feel a little special. So in the 2010 Wingman Tri, only one 50 year-old male participated, longevity rewarded.
That age group award for me, marks that body of work (years) on the life continuum, of seeing a little girl participant grow to a young woman / athlete. She hasn’t let me off the hook for being so “ancient” that I’m running out of competitors and age groups.
That’s part of what daughters are supposed to do too!
August 1, 2010: Voyageur Number 12
The Minnesota Voyageur, 12th edition. Let us rewind a bit. Considering my eclectic fitness pursuits over the past five or six years, showing up at the start line of the Voyageur is not a given anymore. This year started with two competing goals. Stretch the triathlon distance up to a 70.3 at Chisago Lakes and perhaps putting Voyageur number twelve in the record books. A few things tipped the scales in favor of the Voyageur. One started as an innocent conversation with "Ultra-Shelly" after the Brian Kraft 5k in Minneapolis about the Kettle Moraine Ultras in early June. On the drive home from Minneapolis, I started formulating a potential training plan and ruminating about fifty-mile training and the event with ultra-fondness.
Then I had to consider the reality, my events calendar for June and July. I was positive that the 1/2 Voyageur was going to be in my plans, so I had one big run covered. What I was left with was five weeks and about seven to ten days to taper and rest for the full Voyageur. If this was the ski season, no problem, six weeks works just fine for a block of Birkie training. For me ultra preparation feels much more like ski training than road marathon training, so I adopted some skiing elements. A few other factors that tipped the balance for doing the Voyageur. When I checked the pre-entry list I found that Kevin Mackie from Brule had entered to run his first fifty mile, I thought I should be there. He is a former North Shore Strider and running friend from the 80's. How cool would that be? Pushing me even harder to send in the entry form was the mix of friends, first timers, volunteers, and the unique stories that every Voyageur brings.
On to my training plan. My format was really basic. Every week I would try to do thee Voyageur trail workouts. Two of two hours and one of three to four hours. Nothing fancy! I knew that racing the Bjorklund and Minneman Triathlon with a half of a tank of gas was going to happen, so be it! I put my plan into action. I did a quick taper for my focus event this year the Buffalo Triathlon on June 4th and did my first long-run the very next day. I'll have to admit the volume of training worked pretty well. I still did some swimming, running, and cycling workouts too. “Rain rain go away” ... it seemed that every time I did something on the Voyageur trail it was just after a rain or I was being rained on! My workout and weather timing was awful. Add a hotter than normal June & July, nasty tick season, weeds, and muck. A nice day for the Voyageur was paid in advance.
The final benchmark would be a well executed 1/2 Voyageur, not too hard, but a good effort. My back to the eighties moment came early at the 1/2. Kevin Mackie, Mark Howard, and I all started together. We were all local road racing regulars that had very similar speed back in the day. We hadn't shared a starting line since the mid-eighties. It was very memorable moment indeed. Lots of time has passed, but somethings never change. I finished the 1/2 Voyageur and felt like I could turnaround and run back. Mission accomplished!
My race report. I’ll change things up a bit and provide a day doing fifty miles section by section. You will likely need an energy gel or aid station about halfway through this. A fifty mile should read like fifty miles too. The first section is Carlton to Jay Cooke / the Swinging Bridge. Welcome to the parade! Moving through the roots and rocks on the Carlton Trail is where acquaintances are renewed and this is the most social of all of the sections. I had the opportunity to catch-up with old and new ultra-participants. Some information about the plans for the day start to take shape. Jay Cooke to the Forbay Dam: “Sweat much!” My first indicator that fluids and electrolyte management was going to be key happened early on. I was absolutely soaked with a very easy effort within the first fourty-five minutes. I had calculated just before the race that I had run 943 miles in Voyageur Marathon and full Voyageur events over the past fifteen years. I should know this course. Guess who takes a wrong turn! Thankfully it was a sight detour.
The Dam to Peterson's: Just before I hit the Munger Trail pavement I ran into Lisa who was running her first fifty mile. This was a fun encounter and I had the opportunity to share some insights and was very impressed that she had recently run a twenty-two minute 5K on a very tough course. Good job with the PR and for completing your first fifty! Peterson's to to Grand Portage: Oh no! Leaving the aid station I get the "aura" a Migraine. I 'am fortunate that I just have an annoying visual disturbance, a slight dull headache, and feel a bit off for awhile. I know some folks that are completely debilitated and can do very little when they experience them. I do my best to stumble through the three river crossings to Grand Portage while my vision is off. A guide runner would have been helpful. My vision starts to get better after about twenty minutes, almost on schedule to arrive at the aid station.
Grand Portage to Seven Bridges: The Migraine is pretty much done, except for the mental fog. The Power-lines were exceptional. Over the past month I have been stumbling through knee high grass. What a treat! I make the acquaintance of another first time fifty-miler from Duluth. The Migraine fog helped to as erase his name, but we shared some Tour de France observations and opinions. Closing in on Seven Bridges I tell him about a book that I am reading about the history of the Tour de France by Grame Fife. I had to add that to that just in case he forgot the title or author and reads the blog. Not that a lot of other things didn't happen for him over the rest of the day.
Seven Bridges to to Fon du lac: The easy ride down the trail always seems to allow for a train of ultra runners to form. The peloton! This is another very social section and the banter begins. Into Fon du lac and it's Dan Proctor, a true event original. He has been involved a long time and I would guess the entire twenty-nine years in some capacity. Fon du lac to Beck's: It did rain somewhere during the day, I just can't recall when or where. Migraine fog! The trip down to Mission Creek is a red clay trough of grease! My buddy Glen Hill from Maple, passes me never to seen again until the turnaround. He kept his pace for most of the day and had a good run. Good job Glen! Beck's aid station. Gummies from Glenn and Cassey, the perfect treat for the rest of the climb. Beck's to Magney: This section has final third of the big climb from Mission Creek into the Magney ski trails. When you add it all up it can be more than thirty minutes of going up with a couple of small dips for good measure. My good deed for the day involved calling a group of runners back to the Magney ski trail entrance after thay missed the ribbons to turn in, on Old Skyline. That could have made for a long day for them.
Magney to the Zoo: This section goes pretty well, I get to see Kim and Connie both looking strong, Ron is way ahead of where I expected to see him (good job folks, outstanding times and efforts) and ultimately make to the aid station. I do a shoe change and struggle through not cramping while I try to unlace my shoes. Cramp! I stand up and instantly invent the "Ultra-Chair" a lawn chair get stuck to my water bottle belt. This could come in handy later! Stand up it's still there, sit down and it's right in place. HSN lookout! I did manage to get my shoe and chair issues resolved and began to think of energy and food. At the State Fair this year, on a hot day, look for the Eve's Frozen Grapes stand. It will be a money maker! She did some test marketing at the 1/2 Voyageur Marathon and got the correct mix of frozen and grapes for the fifty-mile. Perhaps some market research needs to be done for a green version. With a bag full of my frozen grapes and a Popsicle it's off to Magney again. I greet Tom Bunk on the way out and before I get to the Spirit Mountain ski slopes he has caught me. I did enquire if he brought a NASCAR pit crew, that was one fast turnaround. Tom is an ultra class act and exceptional host when your are participating in events in Southern Wisconsin. Sharing any part of a Voyageur day with him is an honor and inspiration.
Magney to … Fon du lac: The "Twilight Zone" I see two runners ahead of me while leaving the aid station. I won't see another runner for more than an hour. Magney is a churned muddy mess, keeping your feet going in one direction was an accomplishment. I see Voyageur founder Brian Patterson and Matt Evans watching and run through to the Glenn & Cassey gummy aid station at Beck's. From there I do the red clay version of the Greasy Gulch run down to Mission Creek. At Fon du lac aid station and I see runners again, and bump into the winner of the Roger's Run 5K, volunteer, Shane Olson.
Fon du lac to Seven Bridges: It's conserve as much as possible for the upcoming ordeal I envision for the power- lines. Steve Jurek and finally get to run together for awhile and we recall his first Voyager in near hundred degree heat. What's a little red clay anyway! Seven Bridges to Grand Portage: The connector trail to the power lines is a mess and with slippery footing. It’s a good thing for the trees, lots of branches to grab for help. On to the power-lines. Dry! I can't believe it. This section would be no problem at all. I feel a race report was due here. Enter Ryttie's Running Race Report Service. Jonas is running the trail for a workout after working an aid station and gives me the information on Glen Hill, who is having an exceptional race, my buddy Kevin that was coming fast, and anyone else that I inquired about. I made my way to the Purgatory hills and on to Grand Portage well informed.
Grand Portage to Peterson's: Over three hours to do two hours of work. Not a bad proposition if your looking at cutoffs and the potentials of full on cramp lock-up. Just out of the aid station Kevin passes me looking fresh and making time. I consider he spends lots of time training on the North Country Trail with Matt and Dawn Long and Glen Hill. He's done his homework. At that particular point I don't have the energy to match his pace for a bit of conversation. He's gone in no time and on to a good finish.
Into Peterson's for a shirt change, it feels good to be partially dry. Peterson's to the Dam: I ask for a bottle of ice water and off I go. I use the ice water to rinse my quads to cool the big muscle groups, it's then that I notice that it stings just a little…lot! Ouch! I have a case of chubby thigh rub going on and no body glide. I make my way through Gill Creek and notice on the uphills it's no minor case of thigh rub. I see the little trails of blood and sweat running down my thighs. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most extreme case of thigh rub, this was a 9.9! I make it to the Dam and check the watch, plenty of time even with a total meltdown and the thigh thing.
The Dam to Jay Cooke: My new longer shorts that were so cool and stylish are killing me with every step. Steve Jurek catches me at the log cabin before Jay Cooke. Just before we cross the road I see Doug Happy...again! I think I saw Doug more than any person during the entire Voyageur, at many aid stations, helping with traffic, and at the finish. He moves pretty quick, or I'm moving much slower these days. In my book Doug is another inspirational guy for me. We have raced in the same age group for years. He did the Voyager before I ever considered it, and was one of the key people that provided the insights to put me on the starting lines for my first triathlon and Voyageur. Thanks for the support Doug, and thanks in general!
New faces at Jay Cooke aid station. It's Sam and Leslie. Fifteen years ago I worked the same aid station with Gene's sister and brought my three daughters (ages 3-6)and a new kitten. Each year when I ran the Voyageur I would update how they were doing. Now it's one in college, one entering college, and one in her senior year. The Voyager also marks time. I have to admit I missed our yearly exchange, but was inspired by the new crew. Thanks for the energy! Working that aid station also leads to entering the Voyageur in the next year.
Jay Cooke to the finish: Steve and I decide to take it in comfortably and converse our way to the finish line. I was so grateful to have someone to talk with to take my mind off of the discomfort I was trying to manage. We run through most of the sections without catching anyone or getting caught. Steve and I agree to not do anything stupid like turn it into a hundred yard sprint at the finish. We have a photo finish, I hope it make for a good picture! When it is all said and done its 11:42 well under the cutoff times and a pace that allowed for a very enjoyable day on the trails.
Post race: I feel fine, never locked-up from cramps during the run, and I fully expected that to happen. The scream heard around Carlton (Scream I)! It was time for a shower at the Carlton school; Irish Spring body wash should be called Irish Torture! That's all I can say without having a flashback! I get home and see my wife and she gives me the "did you go horseback riding or ultra running.” I had that kind of a walk going on. The scream heard around South Superior ( Scream II the Sequel )! My daughter tells me that Aloe works wonderful for tender skin … just not Aloe lotion with alcohol in it. I just might have taken the pain scale up to a 9.95.
Number twelve lived up to my expectations, I was very pleased. At the moment I’m a very part-time ultra guy. The training format that I choose seemed to work pretty well and did the job. I have the Wild Duluth and Birkie Trail Marathon on my schedule so that's a good indication of a good ultra-experience.
Congrat's to all the folks that shared in the fifty-mile experience. The first time finishers, veterans, and volunteers.
A thing to remember… Aloe, ah no!
June 18, 2010: Gma's " Are you ready kids"
Running takes center stage in the Twin Ports this weekend. This is the event your friends and neighbors will be asking you about and may be part of water-cooler conversations on Monday morning. Take a cue from Mark Stoghill's article in the Tribune today, finish! Not finishing really does hurt for an entire year. Been there and done that!
A lesson I learned from years of ultra-marathoning was that if you feel bad don't quit. Stop for a bit, re-group, and start again. Sometimes, all it takes is a few (or many) minutes for your body to catch-up on fluids or fuel, be patient. The crowds from Brighton Beach to the finish are second to none, they will give you the needed lift to see the finish-line, just hang in there. The support that the runners receive at Grandma's is truly special.
The measure of the effort isn't always the clock. It's making it to the start-line (all your training) and seeing the finish-line. It's your participation that may be inspiring to friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. You just might see them at next year’s race. I have. Good luck to all of those in the Irving 5k tonight, the Bjorklund 1/2, or full marathon. Tomorrow we all get to share in the effort, for me it's the 1/2.
Now go run!'
June 12, 2010: Tri a Buffalo burger sometime!
After a mediocre spring running, things clearly lined-up for my 5th consecutive Buffalo Triathlon. For the second year, the team of Glenn, Shane (NR blogger) and I did the day trip to Buffalo, MN. Glenn served as our moral support and photographer, Shane was participating in the Olympic distance event and I was competing in the Sprint event. I must admit that in the world of triathlons, I spend as much time more looking at weather reports for wind speeds as I do for XC skiing and waxing temperatures. Anxious swimmers, like myself, hate choppy water!
About the triathlon experience, I must digress. Buffalo has a very special place in my heart as far as events go. It was my very first tri back in 2006 with nine months of swimming leading up to the event. That time included swim lessons to actually learn how to swim. Adult swimming instructor, Cathy Olson, at the Duluth YMCA worked her magic to teach an "old dog" some new tricks. About five years ago I could tread water and even muster a dog paddle or breast strok-ish thing for 25 yards. Line me up to go from point A to B in open water, no way in the world that was going to happen. To add a bit more to my aquatic anxiety, I had two near drowning experiences in my past. Yes, I was clearly in need of some aquatherapy / swim counseling / instruction to ever consider an event in open water. Cathy succeeded where others had clearly failed. Today I'm doing much better as a swimmer, but still get a little anxious from time to time. Buffalo has tapped into a wide range of emotions and feelings for me: anxiety, anticipation, accomplishment, competition, camaraderie, community, and empathy!
During the pre-race announcements, news came that Paul Jorgen was not able to participate in this year's Buffalo Triathlon. For those that don't know the story, he was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma and completed the 2009 Buffalo Tri during his chemotherapy. Paul was to participate as part of a team this year, but was unable to. Race director Brett Oden passed along some words of encouragement and inspiration from Paul to share with the participants. Sadly, I learned Paul passed on June 7th. A memorial has been set-up in his honor to help families with melanoma, Tri 4 Your Cure, (1407 4th Street NE, Buffalo, MN 55313). I have had my experiences with a malignant melanoma and feel fortunate it was caught early, but not without some surgeries and downtime. June 6th was also the second anniversary of the passing of a really great co-worker to cancer. The day had a very special meaning for me, punctuated by the news of Paul's condition. Thoughts and prayers to his family. I'll admit I gained inspiration from every Tri 4 Your Cure shirt I saw on the course, there were lots!
Now about the competition: the swim went very well, the winds died and I left the water with an all time best. I actual finished within my group of swimmers, the "Geezer's" 50+ bunch. In most tri's at T2 I have no difficulty finding my bike because I swim so slow that everyone has left by the time I get there. This year...bikes...I must be swimming faster (thanks to Sarah our Superior YMCA master's swim coach). The bike portion of the event had little in the way of winds, so keeping the speed in the 20+ mph range worked out. Consider I bike on a vintage 1987 Trek aluminum race bike...I give-up lots in technology to my carbon fiber and disc competitors. 13 miles on the bike in 38:40 another all time best. T2 in 62 seconds and on to the run without having to work through the "stickman leg syndrome". The run wasn't an all time best, but good, 21:56 for 3 miles. My overall time: 1:13:36. The time would be seven minutes faster than 2009 and three minutes faster than my best ever at Buffalo. A respectable age group finish too! All that pool time amounted to something. I'll attribute a bit of inspiration to the effort too!
Shane did well with a solid effort the day after a ten mile run. If I'm ever competitive with him in a run again I'll have to remember not to be within 200-400 yards of him at the finish. He has a killer kick, just ask the 10-15 runners he left in his wake at the end of his run leg. I suspect a good G'ma's from him, no pressure though! The remainder of the day involved supporting and cheering for the Duluth contingent, DRC folk, the Agar clan, Dan Duff, Kirk Vesterstein, and others. Glenn opted not to do the event because of his focus on the Bjorklund 1/2 next week. He had the good fortune of witnessing all kinds of nervous and anxiety ridden behaviors from his traveling partners, I'm sure he has some stories to tell.
Some final thoughts: from time to time an event occurs that embraces all of your senses, captures your emotions, bonds friends, builds community, gives inspiration, and provides personal accomplishment. I have done hundreds of events, big and small, in 31 years. This year's Buffalo will easily rank as one of my most memorable. It was truley special on a very personal level. When you are provided the privilege of experiencing all of those things that make us human, in one day, one event, it's rare but very meaningful. Be sure to wear your sunscreen and get a skin cancer screening regularly. When in Buffalo be sure to try a buffalo burger, it's worth the trip!
April 25, 2010: Millinium Trail Preview
Here are my updates about the kickoff event for the NMTC Spring Series.
First, we won,t be starting or finishing on the pavement at all this year. The course is approximately 3.5 miles with with nearly every type of running surface short of a running track to run on.
I did a course time trial on Sunday to see how it feels. Here is my report. The first third is flat soft and some sections are water logged trail. You will experience some good sections of running and some of energy sapping soft / spongy trail. One 50' section has ankle deep water. There are some really runnable fast section in the first third.
The second third of the course (the western section) very dry, but it's the hilliest part of the course. When you leave the last big hill on the course you will hit a turn on to the pavement I could call "T2 Turn" ( tri folk will understand why) you are now on pavement for about a 1/3 mile. The soft trail and hills should have zapped your legs by now so you will have that "stick man" tri feeling...just like after T2.
T2 to the finish is the final third and it runs back to the ski trail and not to the parking lot down the paved trail. A few quick roller hills and "surprise" I found a connector trail of single track technical trail. Jump some downed trees and navigate some natural obstacles and it is back to -cc-> like wide dry trail to the finish. My time was about 29:00 with a good push because I was doing a pre-event time trial for this blog entry.
Expect a course tougher on your legs and about three to five minutes longer by running time. See you all on Wednesday for the kickoff.