Trail Monday: Minnesota River Bluffs Trail

Today, I had the odd combination of needing to do both my trail run and my long run.  I considered various options.  It seemed highly unlikely that I'd run around the Pike Island loop three times.  It'd rained last night so both Baker and Elm Creek seemed unlikely candidates.  I had strongly considered the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail but there is way too much construction between me and the trail head to make that viable. I settled on an old favorite, The Minnesota River Bluffs Trail

Trail: It's a dirt trail, but long enough to get in a full 10 miles.  It's paved right at the beginning and then again near the bridge up/over 62.  The rest is beautiful packed crushed limestone.  I've been on the trail several times, and am getting more and more familiar with it.  My favorite parts are around the lakes which are always quite scenic.

Hills: The only real hill of note is the one leading up to the overpass over 62.  I walked up on the out and the back, mostly in honor of keeping my heart rate low but also as an excuse to eat and take a drink.  Yes, miracle of miracles, I packed food and water today.

Ease of Running: I almost feel bad calling this a "trail run" because it's not nearly as dramatic nor technical as where I typically go.  It's a crushed limestone trail on what I assume to be an old railroad bed.  This trail has the distinction of being my first foray into running on a non-paved surface.

Animals: There were some birds, no deer.  There was a dead frog.  When I see frog road kill on the bike bath, I tend to blame the frog and not the biker.  This path is actually unusual for the number of people I see when I'm on it.  There were a few runners and loads of bikers.

Will I come back? I've missed this trail and it was nice to be on it again.  This is actually a great trail for winter running because it's so nicely cleared.  The horse trails turn into snow mobile trails and I assume they are off limits to hikers.  Logistically it's a bit different now for me to come here.  I used to come some days after work but my territory has changed slightly so I don't get down to Hopkins anymore.  In addition, all of the roads between me and this trail head seem to be closed, bridges out, under construction, etc.  It took me a while but I was able to work out a back roads way of coming and going, so the fall and winter running here is looking positive.


Trail Monday: Elm Creek Park x3

Last week I did not trail run.  I did lots of other running and just didn't make it to a trail.  This week, I thought I was going to bail on running, but headed outside on an errand and found it to be the nicest day ever.  I headed out to the trail after all.

 Trail: The horse trail continues to be brutal.  About 1/4 mile of it was mowed today.  That was the best thing ever.

Hills: I figured out today that one of my favorite down hills comes at almost the exact middle of the course.  I walked up most of the uphills and ran all of the downs.  The Larisa Danis plan is going strong.

Ease of Running: It's getting harder.  I can't even imagine what Baker is like.  The grass is getting way taller.  The woods are still generally a pleasure.

Animals: The number of frogs and toads I saw today was biblical.  I also saw deer, a hawk, wild turkeys and tons of butterflies.  The butterflies are my favorite though impossible to photograph.

Will I come back? My own personal challenge for the day was to go faster than the last time I did this course.  I managed it well, though mostly by utterly ignoring my heart rate.  My heart rate average was still 146 bpm for the entire time.  I needed a confidence booster in anticipation of the trail running coming up next month, so I went a bit harder than usual.


Trail Monday: Elm Creek Again

Today marked my second trip to the north loop of Elm Creek Park Reserve.

Trail: I did the horse trail again, and this thing is brutal.  It's well marked, and a very nice loop.  Total distance is around 7 miles.  Today was wild flower day.  There were clovers, black eyed susan, queen anne's lace, and any number of purple flowers I can't name.  This song was in my head the whole time.

Hills: Perhaps the most frustrating part is that the hardest section comes in the middle, and it's near impossible to get my running groove back after that middle rhythm section.  

Ease of running: I agree with my earlier statement for the most part.  This trail is really runnable for a grass trail.  In most of the places the grass is mowed or worn down from the horses.  There were a few puddles, though nothing as bad as the first time around.

Vermin: I am thrilled to report a tick free run. It was not mosquito, gnat nor fly free though.  Many good insects lost their lives today.  Jerks.

Other animals: This may be the first time I didn't see a deer.  I may have seen something drinking from the lake, but I felt like what I saw was too still.  I did see a falcon, eighteen million frogs, and all of the butterflies and dragonflies.

Will I come back: I now have a determination to conquer this trail. I am so slow on this thing.  I want to keep going on it until I get stronger and faster now.


My New Special Power

This story brought me a certain amount of glee as I read it.  Not earlier when I was trying to drive though.

My new special power for the summer - name a road and I'll tell you where the construction is.

Where I work: 
169 - May actually be done
100 - Stay away. 
394 - I've been staying away at rush hour, but had no trouble getting to Costco in the middle of the day on Monday.
494 - Really really really stay away, except if you get into the construction zone you can't really get out.
US 10 - Being re-done in Ramsey, lanes are all over the place, as are big trucks.
94 - being made wider between Rogers at St Michael.  The combination of the 94 project and the 494 traffic patterns are outstanding.

Where I live: 
Lake Street - being resurfaced by my gym.
31st Street - about to be resurfaced and painted with bike lanes.
26th and 28th Streets - rolling closures while they are resurfaced and protected bike lanes installed.
Those of you familiar with south Minneapolis will understand that the biggest east/west streets across the city are all closed at the same time. 

Because I love St Paul too: 
35E and US 52 - I don't even understand what's happening in St Paul, but it gets wild over there by the river.
MN 5 - Remember that time I tried to take Nathan to the airport and we got in the monster traffic jam from hell?  It's because of this bridge.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head.  But give me another road.  There's more I'm sure.


Trail Monday: I forgot all about it until Saturday

Trail running has all these intricacies that make it a bit harder to schedule for me.
Sunday I'd actually thought to do a trail run but it was crazy hot and then stormed all night.
Monday the aforementioned storms put me off running on grass and dirt for the day because I'm basically against a mud slog.   Tuesday night I did make it to Elm Creek but it was crazy hot again, and I was without proper trail shoes, and in a part of the park where the horse trails are much harder to follow.  The rest of the week went on until last night when I was all "I haven't done a trail run yet this week.  Doh!!"  

Trail: Ft Snelling - Pike Island.  This time I had a goal of running six miles, so I wound up doing and odd mix of a loop and out and back on the island to get the correct distance.  (One loop around the outside of the island is roughly 3 miles.)

Hills: Yes, that one hill.  Anyone who's ever run at Ft Snelling knows what I'm talking about.  See what it does to my heart rate?

Ease of Running: This is the most runnable trail of the three I've done so far.  It's got a wide flat path.  There were some giant puddles in a couple places, but I was able to pick my way around them without any trouble. It was a bit rocky at times, and sandy at other.  I found myself wishing for a shoe with rock plates in a couple places, and I'd never felt like that the other times I've run here so I'm not sure what's up.

Nature: I saw some deer coming up from a drink at the river, and a fresh Bald Eagle sighting that was pretty cool.  I also thought I was going to get attacked by some crows.  I'm not sure what they were so mad about.

Will I come back: Well obviously.  I'm digging this route a lot, partly because it's so much closer than any other option that exists, and I can squeeze it in quite early in the morning if I need to.  Adding biking into the workouts has also been a positive for me so I'd like to keep it up.


June 30 Day Learning Challenge: Yoga

I read about the 30 Day Learning Challenge.  It sounded interesting and I thought about what I'd want to learn.  Resuming my efforts with Duolingo came to mind.  What I ultimately landed on, though, was doing Yoga for at least 10 minutes per day for the entire month.  Learn by doing.   Since I wasn't going to take a class every day, Youtube videos seemed my best option.

The beginning: I had a lot of luck with this in the beginning, and had fun discovering different types of yoga and different videos along the way.

The middle: I stayed strong through the middle of the month, missing a day here or there, but not feeling too terrible since I was still averaging over 70 minutes per week and running is really the only 'every day' streak I've ever been able to maintain.

My undoing: Vacation for the last week of June had been planned long before this June 'Liz learns to do yoga' business.  I actually did some Yoga and stretching on vacation, but I didn't plan to do it the way I should've.  I mean, when I thought about running I looked at maps and routes and considered alternate routes and what 'trail Monday' would look like.  I didn't do the same thing for this, so I didn't have a space picked out in my mind to practice, nor a time of the day, etc.  So most of the time it just didn't get done becuase too many other wonderful things distracted me.

Overall: I spent an average of 11 minutes per day stretching or doing Yoga in June.  Yes, I have that information in my training log.  Shut up.    

Thoughts: Despite it being more like the "21 day challenge" than a 30 day challenge, I'm glad I gave it a try, and I learned some things along the way.  I really like Restorative Yoga.  I really dislike downward facing dog for extended periods of time. I like stretching best directly after a run, with a second best being directly before bed.  Stretching and Yoga tend to make me pancake-like.  Anything that helps me relax is a good thing.

Will I keep up this habit: I actually really enjoyed the Restorative Yoga and have added some of the videos to my various YouTube playlists so I can keep doing them.  I don't know that I'll do it every single day, but I do like the idea of having that to aim for.

Some of my favorite videos: 
  • Yoga Practice for Runners - I've done this one several times, mostly after runs.  It's the most challenging and 'active' of all the videos.
  • Restorative Yoga - my first date with Restorative Yoga.  There's some awkwardness when the camera momentarily stops working but I generally liked it.  
  • Restorative Yoga Video - different from the one listed above; I didn't like this one as well at first, but I quickly came to love it.  It's a bit slower than the other video in the best way possible and totally relaxing.
  • Yoga for Hips.  I run and bike and sometimes Zumba. It's important.
  • Yoga, An Evening Practice  I liked all of the Ekhart videos that I tried.  Her voice has sort of a hypnotic quality to it, so it makes you forget you're upside down and trying to stick your front leg behind your head to scratch your back, or whatever weird positions she tries to get you in.
  • Bonus: Not a video. But this is hilarious


Trail Monday: Trail Sunday Again

Trail: I hit up the Ft Snelling Pike Island Trail again.  A couple of weeks ago, I rode to the trail by bike and had a great run.  This week, I took a slightly different route by bike and started my run in a different place, but still had a great run.  This the most runnable dirt trail I've found, and the biking is a nice touch.

Hills: Did I ever tell you about that giant hill at Ft Snelling?  Here's the elevation profile?  Guess where is the island and where is the mainland with the giant hill.

Ease of Running: I ran this in my Skoras.  Not even trail shoes.  Because the trail is that good.

Nature: I did, in fact, see a deer.  This deer had a very small rack.  But I saw him on the bike trail on the way home.  Happily, I did not encounter any wild turkeys because they are mean.  It had rained recently so there were one billion snails.

Will I come back: I'm digging this bike/run scenario and digging the trail too.