Saturday, January 2, 2016

Minneapolis Diaries

I spent most of November and December in Minneapolis.  Although many of the highlights revolved around time with Leah, eating all manner of excellent food, and enjoying the remarkably livable city, I was able to get some quality outdoor time in.

Note: Since being home in Montana, there has been a lot of great skiing.  More to come soon.

White Bear 10-mile race
I arrived on Halloween, and during a walk around town in the afternoon, discovered there was a 10 mile road race the following day.  By scaling Halloween evening drinking back a few notches, I showed up feeling surprisingly spry.  My goal was to split as close to 6 minute miles as possible, and after a 6:15 first mile, I pushed the pace just a touch, moving ahead of a large chase pack (the leader ran off the front from the start).  I hung on for the rest of the race, running just over 6 minute miles.  The leader was way out of sight, and the third place runner was just out of sight arrears, so I just pushed at a hard but sustainable-barring-a-surprise-meltdown pace to the finish second in 1 01.08.  I ran about as hard as I could have, and it was great fun, and a good introduction to Minnesota.

State park exploration
Leah and I got out of town almost every weekend to explore a few of many state parks within day driving distance of Minneapolis.  The most memorable days were a long afternoon looping around the Murphy-Hanrehan park, and a return to Afton for a spin on the 25 K course.  We also spent a day climbing at Red Wing, but I can't really climb anything harder than 5.9 any more, and it was quite humbling.

Afton trail running
This state park is close to town, about as hilly as one can find, and the trail network is fantastic.  There is a long-standing annual ultra race which takes a nice logical double 25K loop, and I spend two days on the course, slugging out the full 50K.  The first time, I ran it at a sub-race pace but ran all the hills, in a sort of a low quality hill repeat workout.  I completed the double loop in just under 5.30.  I was super tired at the end, and had a first ever complete core stabilizer meltdown.  The second time, I stuck to a more consistent strategy, walking and running the uphills just over the aerobic threshold, and running everything else at a hard aerobic effort.  Except the last 20 minutes, which I pushed at a hard effort in an attempt at even first and second half splits. At 4.44, It was my fastest ever 50 K, which was an encouraging bookend to about six weeks of consistent quality training.
Nice rolling trails at Afton.
The Wolfe training experiment
Renowned runner and all around great guy Mike Wolfe put together a "training experiment" plan to prepare for randonee racing.  There were many crusher days doing strength work in the gym, quality hill repeats and tempo runs, and easy cruiser adventures, which provided a nice way to explore the city on foot.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I struggled much of the time with minor lower calf strains (attributable largely to pavement running coupled with high training volume) and a low level but persistent cold.  But I was able to get all of the hard strength and aerobic work in and about 75% of the speed work (I skipped two speed workouts in an effort to not exacerbate my cold).  I don't know if I am stronger than in past years, but I certainly have not lost fitness during my stay, and have learned a lot about structuring a training plan, and how to be more effective with quality speed and strength work. Highly recommended.

Grand Rounds attempt
I tried to run the exterior of the Grand rounds, a paved trail system which makes a 30ish mile loop around downtown Minneapolis and the town portion of the Mississippi.  I ended up going down in flames around mile 25, beat and way behind schedule.  Leah was nice enough to come rescue me.  My legs were destroyed for a few days afterward. Not a long distance road runner yet, I guess.  It would be more fun to do this on a bike.

Superior Lake trail
We spent a surprisingly dry early December weekend running and hiking along the Superior trail. In two short days, we covered well over twenty miles of the trail.  It was surprisingly slow and boggy in places, but overall the trail is striking, steep, and remarkably wild.

Born to Run 5 mile race
The day after Thanksgiving, I ran the Born to Run 5 mile race in New Jersey.  Despite being pretty blasted from back to back intervals and hard leg strength work courtesy of the Wolfe training experiment (see above), I gave it a hard go.  In retrospect, I went out a little too hard, as my splits slowed about 20 sec/mile over the course of the race, but I generally moved up in the field, and finished quite thrashed in 28.10 and seventh place.  Leah ran a good race as well, splitting low-7 minute miles and finishing strong.
Givin 'er at the start of the Born to Run 5-mile race.

Creative commuting
We have a nice bike friendly 4-mile commute, and I was able to bike to work most days.  With a flexible schedule, the commute became more and more adventurous the longer I spent in the city.  In addition to run commuting quite a bit, I spent several mornings doing 15-20 mile loops on the way to the office.  The most memorable commutes were a loop around lakes Johanna and Josephine, a big 20-mile loop along the Mississippi south from campus, and a run to work when it was raining so hard that I arrived at the office with my rain coat, running coat, and shirt all completely soaked through.

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