Trail Monday: WIlliam O'Brien 10 Mile Trail Race

It's race day, the reason I made sure I ran on trails at least once a week with pretty good regularity all summer. William O'Brien 10 Mile Race and 10 miles is a very sensible trail race distance.

Trail: We ran parts of the lower park and the camp ground by Lake Alice, and parts of the upper park which was mostly prairie and some woods.  The course was very well marked.  We had aid stations at mile 3, and then at the loop by miles 5.5 and 6.5.  I was happy for the water and Gatorade because I didn't carry any of my own. 

Hills: The hills are for real.  To recap, Pike Island has 144 feet of gain, all at the end up that big hill.  Baker has 178 feet of gain, and I whine about it a lot. Elm Creek actually has the most gain at 211 feet. For reference the Flying Pig Half Marathon clocks in at 696 feet of gain.  This trail had a whopping 709 feet of elevation gain.   Lesson for next time: I need to run more hills. 

Ease of Running: Absolute pleasure.  The only single track is up and down that ginormous hill at miles 1 and 3.  The rest of it is a mix of cinder trail and wide grass track.  I was so happy the grass was mown and fairly beat down by the time I got to it.

Nature: I did not see many animals.  I'm going to guess the 200 runners in the woods scared them off. My parents said they saw some butterflies.  I did see lots of flowers.  The course is straight up gorgeous.

Will I come back: FrontRunner put on a great race, and the course was great.  I would run this trail race again in a minute, if I keep up with the trial running next year.  My training plans for next year are definitely the wild card.

About the race: My parents were in town for the race and told me to only run trail races from now on.  Another friend joined us today, and they three were together spectating. While I was running, they had a visitors center to walk in, and they checked out some of the trails themselves.  At the end of the race there were leftover shirts and my parents scored them as out of town spectators.  Park entry, parking and packet pick up were all super easy.  The course was very well marked.  The volunteers were awesome (shock!).  I met some people who seemed to be running about my pace and wound up sticking with them.  I knew I would be slower than them on the up hills something to practice for next year.  I was really surprised how much faster I was than them on the down hills.  Something I should keep practicing for next time, because it earns me time on the courses. I was both crazy hungry and not wanting any food by the time the race was over. 

Special thanks to my crew: Mom, Dad, and Lucinda!


Trail Monday: Trail Sunday

Today was the final trail run before my only trail race of the year.  The most important thing this run did was help me make a decision about which shoes to wear on race day. It's not the ones I wore today.

Trail: Ft Snelling's Pike Island.  I've run here several times before this summer.  The loop around the island is roughly 3 miles, so it's the shortest of all the trails I've found acceptable.  The Anoka Preserve is technically shorter, but I'm divorcing that trail.

Hills: The island itself is fairly flat.  The run on the mainland from where I park my bike to the island is another story. This is the hill I use to identify my "max heart rate" for heart rate training.  174BPM may be a new record for me.  Is that good or bad?

Ease of Running: There was more gravel on the island than there has been in the past, and that's what hurts me in my itty-bitty minimal trail shoes.  It's clear gravel was added to some parts of the trail that had been flooded for a while, probably as a way to improve drainage. And it was those moments it was clear to me I needed different shoes for the race.  Shoe choice aside, this path is an absolute pleasure.  It's wide and clear and most runners don't even bother with trail shoes on it because it's so well done.

Nature: I saw road kill on the bike path.  I can't imagine being the biker who managed to run over a squirrel.  How does that happen? 

Will I come back: Likely.  I've liked this path for several reasons.  It's by far the closest to my house and the only trail that doesn't require me to drive to it.  I also like the excuse to add biking to the workouts.  The trail is short enough that I can easily do it, even when I cut back miles for the post-race season.


Bonus Trail Friday: Baker Park Reserve Part II

I found myself badly wanting to break in my new trail shoes.  I'd tested them on the rather tame Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail but I badly wanted to know how they'd be on grass and rougher trails.  I knew I'd be around Baker Park Reserve at the end of the day, and it seemed like I could make a 6 mile run work in my schedule this week, so I jumped on the chance.   I'd been here once before and was looking forward to the rematch.

Trail: I ran the horse trail around Lake Katrina, though I don't think I saw that lake once.  The horse trails are largely grass.  Long long grass.

Hills: These hills do not stop.  That hill at mile 4 is hard, but I 'ran' up most of up.  That hill at Mile 5 is awful and I walked.  Bombing down the other side was an absolute blast though.   I found myself thinking that the rolling hills on the Baker paved trail would actually be good training for the Flying Pig

Ease of Running: Awful.  And then wonderful for moments, before it goes back to awful.  The first time I was here, I knew nothing about trail running and just thought "running in grass is hard".  Then I ran at Elm Creek and thought "this grass is way shorter than Baker, and that makes things much easier".  Today I just thought, "this grass is too long, this is no fun".  The grass is crazy long and the footing is jacked in some places.  I know the course is groomed for horses and it's probably a great trail for that.  But running it is slow and hard.  The parts of the course that run through the woods are a pleasure and I lived for them.

Animals: This was not a big animal day.  I saw butterflies and dragonflies and not much else.

Will I come back: I find myself torn. I like Baker, and the location is sometimes convenient for post-work runs. But it's not so fun running on the horse trails.  I think if I do come back, I will check out the paved trails and see if I'm any happier there.


Trail Monday: Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail

I had many many needs today.  They included a long run, breaking in new shoes, not getting the new shoes muddy, and avoiding horse trails as much as possible.  I'd been thinking about the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail for a while, and it met all my conditions.  I've run this trail twice before, slightly different parts.  Once last summer and one other time last winter when my phone died.  It was winter and it was cold. 

Trail: Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail.  Similar to River Bluffs, this is a crushed limestone trail.  The surface is interesting enough to call it a trail, but tends to drain well and be utterly non-technical.  I started in Excelsior, and ran a 5 mile out, 5 mile back route.  I picked this particular spot on the trial because I thought it would offer the best views of the lake.  I was so right.

Hills: No lie.  I felt like I was running up hill all of the time.  You know those days when flat ground looks like it's up hill?  Turns out there may have been some truth to my feelings, given the elevation profile, but probably nowhere near how I felt.

Ease of Running: Absolute pleasure.  Have I mentioned the crushed limestone?  The trail was actually packed today, and the hardest part of running when when the trail got narrow, and there were bikers and runners and walkers.  Oh my.

Animals: I saw birds of prey, ducks in the ponds and dogs on leashes.  There were way too many people out to expect to see a deer.

Will I come back: I think so, but sporadically.  This trail is crazy scenic with all of the bays on Lake Minnetonka.  This trail is also crazy far away, and on not the funnest route in the world to traverse, so I pick my moments sparingly on this course.


Trail Wednesday: Sadness

It's been a little while since I've had a Trail Monday.  Step back weeks, storms, and a road trip were getting in my way.  I'm having a low mileage week this week, but still needed to get in some trail work, so I headed to a trail I hadn't run on in quite some time.

Trail: Anoka Nature Preserve, where I've run before and loved, but it's quite a short trail really.

Hills: There are some rollers here, rolling down to the river bank and up away from it, but nothing terribly steep nor painful.

Ease of Running: Nightmare. This is where my sadness came.  I've been here before and the trails were grassy in the "farm" areas, and sandy to dirt in the wooded and shaded areas.   They were heaven and utterly runnable.  At least in my memory and old pictures. 
I don't know what happened in the last year.  Because now, in real life, they are big fat gravel roads.  The kind of big fat gravel rocks that hurt your feet to step on.  The loop I did was 2 miles and that was absolutely all I was going to do.

Animals: Do high school students count as animals?

Will I come back: Sadly, no.  I'm so over that gravel pit it's not funny.