Chicago Ragnar

This year my family decided to try some new territory and we signed up for the Chicago Ragnar. We started in Madison, WI taking mostly back roads and eventually found our way down the shore of Lake Michigan and into Chicago. It was a complete blast. The course was overall very flat, a totally different experience from the Great River Ragnar, which we’ve done the past four years. A good portion of it was also run on trail, paved mostly with a few exceptions of crushed gravel. This was good and not so good. You see, the fun part about Ragnar is that you can follow your runners along the course and cheer them on if they are running along the roadside. When we were on this trail, there was no way to cheer on anyone or support them in any way. We made of the most of it anyhow and it still proved to be a really great experience running through some beautiful parts of both WI and IL.

We negotiated a pretty early start time (6am) with the Ragnar officials, as they originally had us starting around noon on Friday. The start was fairly hectic and I made it to the start line (I was runner 1 for our team) with just enough time to tie my shorts and then we were off. I didn’t even have time to hit the porta potty! My first run was 6 miles around Madison’s Lake Monona on a paved path. It was great to see the sun light up the lake and the city. The lake was filled with triathletes doing their morning swims. The temps were perfect (low 60s) and my legs felt light. I ended up taking the lead of the runners in our start wave and then passed a bunch of runners from the 5:30 start.

Not knowing how many runners were ahead of our team, we continued to pick off runners throughout those first few miles. We somehow managed to run the entire race in either second or first place. It was nuts! In every other Ragnar experience, I have always been surrounded by other runners for the whole course. This was not the case this year. By the time the clock struck 12:30am, we were in first place as I passed a runner along the shores of Racine, WI. We were even creeping up on the van that sets up the exchange points! It was was kind of fun, but also creepy knowing that you are out there all alone with no one around while running in the middle of the night nearing the edges of Chicago. We all made it unscathed and I’m not sure how we placed overall, but we were the 4th team to cross the finish line that afternoon! UPDATE: We finished 145th out of 502 teams. Not too shabby!


That’s my leg to the right of the rainbow sock. And that’s my dad to the left of the runner with the rainbow sock. And that’s my cousin Aaron in the penguin suit.


Finding Strong

A film about how running can transform lives and communities. You can watch it online HERE at 4pm today.

“At the time I started the idea I looked at the running world and wondered why it kept telling the same story; Hero’s journey, personal records, fitness, vanity, stuff that is pretty narrow compared to the breadth of humanity that participates in running. I was not involved in that story telling in any way at the time so to be fair there are some great stories being told I had not been exposed to. Regardless, I saw a lack of style and passion in most of the storytelling I did see.” —Brian Vernor, filmmaker

A Dirty Weekend

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” —Margaret Atwood

This past weekend was the epitome of this quote. It’s been raining on and off for the past two days, but that didn’t deter my friend Joslynn and I from going into the woods to run. We ended up switching the long run to Sunday and did a shorter run on Saturday between downpours. Saturday’s run was about 5.5 miles, doing a couple of loops in Bagley on the soft wood-chipped trail. Following the run, we hit up the farmers market and then out to brunch at Sara’s Table with a few other friends. It was a good day to sit inside, drink coffee and mimosas, and enjoy a great meal and good conversation.

The weather for yesterday’s run proved to be much better, but the trails were swampy as all get out from all of the rain. We started at the bottom of Lester and ran up the ski trails to Amity Creek Trail, and then up the SHT and back down. The total mileage was about 13 miles. Joslynn is fairly new to town and it’s been fun to show her a new trail every run we do. Duluth has such an expansive amount of trails and I’ve been enjoying the variety lately, too. It gets me out of my routine. On the way back down Lester during our run, we were just stomping through the puddles and laughing at the amount of mud on our legs. It was a great run!

After the run, I had to play kickball and I was a little stiff to say the least! I started to loosen up towards the end of the game and caught the game winning line-drive. The adrenaline that comes with that is pretty awesome and I was glad that I showed up to play. When I got home after kickball, the sun was starting to poke through the clouds, so I made an effort to plant the perennials that I had purchased at the farmers market on Saturday. I weeded the garden and got to work. I can’t even remember what plants I got, but I’m sure they’ll do their thing and look great. Plants are awesome like that. I also planted some basil, cilantro and mint over the weekend. I’m hoping to plant some other edibles in the coming weeks as well. I feel like I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to dedicate to this type of work, so it felt really good to garden last evening. It was very peaceful and I can see how people find a sense of calm while digging in the dirt.

My plantar fascitiis is acting up pretty bad after the weekend, but I’m hoping to rest up this week and run easy only on Wednesday. I’m saving myself for Ragnar this coming Friday-Saturday!

Want to. Have to.

Signed up for my first 50 mile trail race this afternoon. Had to stop mulling it over and just dive in. It also helped that I had a nudge from a friend who also signed up! Accountability is a good, good thing. Time to run.

Trail Running

“You will walk into some places and feel the weight of the world slip from your shoulders. These are called safe places. They are few and far between. Covet them.”

The trails are starting to clear around here and I couldn’t be more grateful. My bad foot has been feeling really good lately (*knock on wood*) and I’ve been steadily increasing my mileage each week. I’m optimistically cautious and will keep moving forward bit by bit. It feels so good to be back in the woods on trail. Tonight, I’m scoping out the SHT right out my front door. Only 3 more hours of work…

Time Out of Mind

Here’s a really interesting short film about Diane Van Deren, who underwent surgery to remove a part of her brain that was causing her to have seizures. Since the surgery, she has trouble remembering her own physical limits and keeping track of time. Both good things for ultra running, but not so good for other things in her life.

“You feel freedom. You feel light. You feel vibrant. You feel energetic.”

Springing Around

With the arrival of warmer temps, my activity schedule is shifting ever so slightly. As much as I love winter, as soon as it starts to rain I’m ready for the snow to walk out the door. Spring is my least favorite season, as it’s typically too warm to ski and too swampy to visit the trails. Last Saturday was my last day of cross-country skiing…so far. I hope to get out a few more times for some last hurrahs before the snow melts completely. On the other end, I’ve been ramping up the running side of things. I’m sticking mainly to roads at this point, as the trails are getting soft and we still have about 3-4 feet of snow base to contend with. Running is not easy in that stuff and it also seems to do a number on my foot/ankle. I’m building my base back slowly, with doing a short 4-mile loop from my front door ending it with a nice, long uphill. The foot has been feeling relatively good for most of my runs, so I take this as a good sign.

This past weekend I skied and ran with Amanda, my friend and fellow workout partner. She’s always game for adventure and we seem to consistently find ourselves heading out for longer fitness excursions. We rocked out an awesome ski at Boulder on Saturday and Sunday we rolled out some decent running miles up the scenic. That was the longest run that both of us had done in quite some time, somewhere in the 8-mile range. The sun was hot and it felt great to run free of hats, mittens and long pants. I’ve been trying to sprinkle in more pool time here and there as well. And, when it gets nice enough out, I plan on commuting via bike to work a few days a week. Cross-training is fun and I seem to really enjoy the variety that comes with that territory.

Here’s to more spring-like weather…until tomorrow when we’re getting another 8 inches of snow! I’m not putting away my skis just yet…

Road Miles

On Saturday, I put on a good chunk of road miles. Ten to be exact, which isn’t bad considering I haven’t run more than two times a week in a long ass time. I haven’t run ten miles in one stint since October even. I was a bit nervous to test the foot out for that distance, but figured I could bounce out along the way if needed, as the lakewalk goes right past my place. I managed to make it the whole way, but my mind/body/spirit are definitely made for trails. I had a few achy moments with the foot toward the end, but as of right now it feels pretty good. My calves are a bit destroyed, but I think that happens to me almost anytime I run pavement. It was a confidence booster to say the least (even though I was running slow as molasses), but it makes me excited to run trails!

I also purchased some new trail shoes that I’m pumped to try out on my next outing. After doing some research, I decided on the Montrail Mountain Masochist. I’ll get a good chance to test them out while running and hiking the rooty trails of Hawaii in a week and a half! I’m headed for the Aloha state April 10 and returning the 22nd. Spring in Duluth always leaves me a bit gloomy, as my favorite season comes to a close and xc-skiing ends. The trails become quite soupy and we’re advised to stay off them until they dry up, which leaves me running the lakewalk more than I’d like to. So I’m hoping that by the time I return from Hawaii, some of the trails will dry up a bit.

That’s all folks!

Well, this is depressing…

I don’t even want to post it, but I will. This is/has been my running schedule of the past few months. The first step to getting back on the horse is admitting you haven’t run much since October. I hope all this time off has been a good thing! Yikes. What this little, dandy chart doesn’t show you is my cross-country skiing, my gummy bear addiction and my deep affection for pizza.

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The Lester Mystery

After a year of speculation, I finally figured out what the mysterious, screeching animal is in the Lester woods! About a year ago, I was running the ski loops in Lester after dark with my friend Meg. We heard this awful, prehistoric-like screech and it scared the crap out of us. We screamed, then laughed and started sprinting through the woods. I heard it again on a few occasions after that night last year, but I never saw it. I always left those woods feeling slightly on edge and definitely creeped out.

A couple of weeks ago, I was running the loops with Cremers and I heard it again! We stopped and shined our headlamps into the woods to get a better look. There had been rumors and sightings of mountain lions in the area for a number of years and I hoped that we weren’t about to come face to face with something of that nature. The screeching wouldn’t stop and it sent shivers down my spine. Cremers spotted glowing eyes through the trees; feeling unsettled, we decided to high-tail it outta there. My brain reeled with thoughts of what kind of animal makes that sound.

Flash forward to today—a co-worker sent me a link to animal sounds, after we had talked about the Lester mystery animal over lunch. I clicked through a few that were at the top of the suspect list. After a few failed attempts and out of sheer curiosity, I clicked on the porcupine. Low and behold, the awful screeching sound filled my speakers! Ah ha! Check it out here to listen to it yourself.

Who knew porcupines were such masters of horror?!