Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Turmoil at home...peace in the woods.

Used the first mile to take care of an errand by returning a DVD rental then finished on the trails.

7 miles

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Running Naked

Rain in the forecast and already starting to sprinkle by the time I headed out for today's run.  I chose to use the screw shoes today but not until after working on replacing a few of the worn screw heads with new ones.  I even added a few extras because yesterday's ice was so treacherous.  The ice, today, was less slick because of warming temps and no sun to cause glistening ice.  The screw shoes had fantastic traction and never felt in danger of taking an endo.

By running naked (my reference in the title), I was not talking about my choice of clothing but rather that the iPod was left home today.  No music, no podcast, just the sounds of the outdoors.  I was pleased to once again come to grips with another aspect of what makes trail running so enjoyable...the sound of the woods.  Today there was the honking of the Canada Geese as they took turns taking off from the open river stretch they've been frequenting.  Also the wind in the tree tops, rain on the fallen leaves, woodpeckers drummimg....I had been missing  this by turning on the iPod.  Good to be back!

While running, a glance down provided another blast to the owl pellet.  This is what remains as indigestible (bones, hair, feathers) of their prey and is expelled in pellet form from their mouth.  By dissecting the pellets, sculls and bones can be keyed to determine what the owl has been eating.  I did a rather extensive field project while in college to compare the food habits of  a couple Great Horned Owls in Clear Lake to a different couple in Ames.  I went on to devise an importance value for each the different prey, based on an technique I had learned in class for deer browse patterns in brush.
owl pellet with some rodent leg bones exposed
  10 miles today with rain at the beginning and end but fairly pleasant and dry in the middle.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Intentionally headed out for an easy day and it was a good thing.  The overnight temps in the teens and then the sun shining on the ice meant very slick portions to the trail.  I saw several other runners today and each one was slipping on ice at some point while in my sight.

I was pleased to come across a new cache of black walnuts that I bagged for cracking to replace what I've already eaten from last fall's stash.

working on the approx. 65 new walnuts picked up today
9 miles and it took me longer than what I was able to run yesterday's 15 mile practice but enjoyable in a different way.  An additional mile walk just before dusk...felt good to get out a second time and loosen up a bit.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blessed With Diversity

I've tried to capture some of the character of the trails afforded by the routes at Lime Creek through the use of photos during those runs.  So far, this year, I've been on the bluff trails, in the upland woods, or around the quarry.  But in addition to the rocks and woods there are also the prairies and a different terrain available.

I was having a great day of "real" running so I tacked on all of the prairie loops for a longer mileage day.  This boded well for the shoes I chose today, a new pair of Salomon Comp 3's that have been on our basement shelf a couple of years just begging to break out.  I also gained first hand evidence of much of an advantage I had been obtaining from the "screw" shoes I'd been using for the trails this week.  Much of the woods trails were ice and, without the screw shoes, I was slipping at times today.  It was actually easier to keep up the running pace rather than try walking on that long as I didn't need to stop or change direction the running was fine.

Took advantage of the time to catch the latest podcast with Lucho.

15 miles today for 55 for the week

Saturday, February 25, 2012


The NIACC XC teams were recognized for their achievements at last fall's regional and national tournaments during half time at this afternoon's basketball game.  The men won regionals with a perfect score (in fact they had the top 8 overall finishers). Then they finished fourth at nationals with a best-placed finisher at 11th overall.  The women's team finished 15th at nationals with a best-placed finisher at 2nd overall.  Likely the best combined finishes since the program began...but with more to come...stay tuned.

My time on the trails went very well this morning as I listened to the latest Talk Ultra podcast.  Still good footing and weather not too bad so a comfortable workout the whole way.

10 miles

Friday, February 24, 2012

In Memory Of Buck

My health was not 100% today but I needed to get back on the trails.  It was sad to be along the same path that I had so often taken with Cory's dog, Buck.  There had been a fresh layer of wet snow last night and the trail seemed softer than recent trips.  There was still light snow falling, at times, and it was very quiet.  Only a very few other tracks to indicate that there was not much going on yet out there today.

In passing one of the benches along the trail, I couldn't help but do my own edit and dedicate today's time on the trail to Buck.

Surprisingly, my legs and breathing felt incredibly good and the walk/run was easy today.
6 miles

Thursday, February 23, 2012

And Again Illness...What's Up With That

After increasingly more congestion and joint soreness throughout the day yesterday, the overnight left me restless and with a bit of fever.  Therefore, even though I'm beginning to feel better, today will be a rest day so that I can get back to training sooner.

Another factor in my decision to not head out on the trails was the unfortunate news that my son's dog, Buck, that I've grown very fond of, died unexpectedly today.  Buck had been my companion on many workouts through the past year.

0 miles

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I revisited my thoughts about why I started this blog and whether to continue.  The intent was to provide me with not only a personal log but also a means to record photos and general observations in a chronological fashion.  To that end, I think it's working out pretty good.  Unfortunately, I catch myself commenting a lot on weather, trail conditions and such...stuff that is often lost in my conventional training log.

I began my outing by first updating the stickers on the back of my Jeep.  I had received a newer version of Ultrarunnerpodcast and also received an  iRunfar  sticker from Bryon Powell.

I took time to check some of the deer trails today in hopes of possibly finding an antler shed.  Last year I found a couple but didn't start until late March.  The deer trails are much trickier to negotiate.  I spooked a  half dozen deer and they were either all does or the bucks among them have already shed their antlers.

Deer beginning to cross out of woods into the adjacent open field.

They're looking at me while I'm partially hidden in trees.

6 miles. Chose to make today an easier day due to all the roads yesterday.  I may attempt a bit of a walk later this afternoon or early evening.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Playing It Safe

Rather than continue to lament over poor trail conditions, I chose to run the roads again.  I can run gravel and shoulders and be totally assured of solid footing.  So straight out, often used, North Carolina Avenue to County B20 then back in on gravel to Plymouth Road and paved streets to return.  
County B20
I was pleasantly surprised today by how easy I was able to keep running.  I did, however, get plenty of short breaks because I still find it difficult to ignore discarded deposit containers and recyclable bottles.  

The loop ends up being 8 miles and I chose to run the majority of it with only the quick stops along the way.  I filled one entire bag with recyclables before I arrived home. A mile walk as cool down.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I ended up venting a frustration to Facebook today.  The crappy trail conditions and my struggle to get back to routine running forced me to remind myself that it's plenty early in my build to the Black Hills 50 to not worry at this time about my pace.  The "rose" in the current state of weather is that I am getting out for extended periods of time, even while the "thorn" is the mud and ice.  Typically, I wouldn't be on these trails at all...I'd be on snowshoes around the quarry trails!

The regularity with which I'm on trails at Lime Creek brings with it acknowledgement of other routine users.  Whether I'm on the snowshoe trails or the connection from the Elm Drive trailhead, I see many of the same users nearly every time out.  Today I again saw Red Pickup Man with his two dogs.  I also have befriended Postman, Bigfoot, Two Dogs Girl , Man with Pack of Husky's, and XC Skier (I'm unsure of any of their real names.)   I think my Indian name is "Runs With Beer" according to a sign given to me as a Christmas gift.

Red Pickup Man with his small white and small black dogs

8 miles today at varying pace but mostly quite slow while I listened to Lucho's most recent "Ask the Ultrarunner" podcast.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Easy Day but not by design

Sometimes the weather just doesn't cooperate.  The atypical February has dealt us an early mess that I usually only deal with in March.

Only good footing is along the edges of the trail.

Not much for snowshoes the whole winter (so far) and the trails are not safely runnable except for short stretches.  So today ended up being an easier pace with walking when necessary because of ice.

10 miles today so at 61 for the week..

Saturday, February 18, 2012

NJCAA Region XI Indoor - The Blue Meet

Drove to Decorah this morning to help with day 2 of the regional meet.  I took an easy day and spent an hour walking what I remember of the cross country course around campus.  Photos help show off the interesting campus at Luther.
through the woods along the xc course

circling the practice fields beside the sports center

The indoor track is in the center building with the blue roof.

It occurred to me during the meet, that due to team colors...there was an awful lot of the same blue... including the track surface!

3 miles for me today .

Friday, February 17, 2012

Head For The Hills

Wanting to kick-off the weekend with a good run because of indoor track Regional meet tonight and tomorrow,  head coach Curtis Vais, contacted me for a long run this morning.  We headed out to some near-by gravel roads that consist of some of the few hills to be found around Mason City.
Me wearing my safety orange Dion snowshoe jacket (only snow is in a ditch)!

Curtis Vais heading down one of the hills often used for NIACC practice
This route afforded us the benefit of solid footing and room to run while talking (assuming I could keep up) in addition to some hills.  The run went fairly well for me, though I tired from the steadiness of the roads and no change in foot plant that I get at the trails.

Upon return home, I used Google Earth to estimate the distance of our route and found it was nearly 11 miles.  My most consistent run, not on trails, in a long time.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shitty Trails

Every year the trail becomes troublesome, at times, during the spring thaw.  That seems to have occurred more than once this winter and today was all over the place for conditions...pretty shitty.  There was ice, snow covered ice, slush, and mud.  There were a few places where snow was protected and my tracks plus the deer were the only traffic where it was easier and safer to run.

Regarding dangerous sport...I got a good laugh out of a video posted in the news at Ultrarunnerpodcast today.

7 miles.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Broken Record

I nearly took off for the trails today with the intention to repeat the same workout as the past two days.  However, I know from past experience that I could be treading on dangerous "ice", so to speak, by trying too much too soon.  Even though I had been getting in this kind of mileage in weeks past, the recent cut-back and change in intensity was setting me up to over-do it.  

So unlike the me of the past, that would likely have pushed through another 10 mile run because yesterday's went so well, I backed off and did more walking today, mixed with some good runs.  Sure enough, I was plenty tired by the end and could easily have hurt myself if I'd attempted another hard 10 miler.

And speaking of lessons learned, I read some good advice from a cross-post by friend George Zack, directed to master's runners.

8 miles total of run/walk

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What a Great Day

I used the screw shoes at Lime Creek again today and probably could have gone out on snowshoes. For whatever reason, perhaps last week's forced reduction of miles or maybe the increase of pavement while in Chicago, the running went very, very well today. I was able to run steadily today and didn't stop for photos or find it necessary to take walk breaks.  I'm sure I could have run even further but headed home because of Valentine's Day and plans for a late lunch and a movie!

10 miles, continuous running and good pace considering the unstable footing with snow on ice yet today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Screw Shoes

It was exciting to see fresh snow falling today but it wasn't enough to consider snowshoes, yet.  
Fresh snow falling but not more than an inch yet

Ice layer shows through the snow

Knowing that there was a lot of ice on the trail, and the prospect of slipping due to the fresh snow layer, I opted for modifying an old pair of shoes to "screw shoes". Screw shoes are something I learned about through my association with Colorado's Incline Club and are a very inexpensive way to gain some traction without microspikes or commercial ice cleats.

Turned out to have been the right decision because there was some serious ice under there and, in fact, even the deer were slipping on the trail!

white-tailed deer prints shows some serious slippage

But it was quite pleasant to be back to the woods and put in longer effort that included some of the back trails.  Caught up on some podcasts and kept up with more running than walking.

10 miles

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Catching Up With the Photos

Back home.  Nice to be here...I realized during the drive back that some people (and I'm one) seem to do better when they can stick to their routine.  Chicago has some great things to see and do...but I wouldn't want to live there.

So I'll try to post several photos of random stuff that I referred to in previous posts rather than go back and repost.

Too Much Pavement

Feb. 5 .... strobe-light effect from fence

Tues. Feb. 7....abandoned railway

Wed. Feb. 8...Humboldt Park...Breathe Oxygen!

Thursday Feb. 9...Lakeshore Drive

River Otter at Lincoln Park Zoo (last week... Lime Creek's wild otters were eating fish)

Wolves at Lincoln Park Zoo

Old time corner bar features traditional beer

billboard at a construction site that summarizes how I felt during the entire trip

approx. total miles for my day on the 9th
anxious Buck looking out condo window and wanting another walk
With the drive home, and stop for lunch at Vinnie Vanouchi's in Galena, and the stop to visit my Mom in Onslow, I did not get out for any mileage today.  So with a week where I was sort-of out-of sorts, I did gain some additional toughness for the legs and a desire to get back on track trail running next week.

0 miles today but 41 for the week

Oh and last but not least, I scored some more brew that I can't get in Iowa!
Flying Dog's Double Dog and Three Floyd's Zombie Dust

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Don't Even Try To Buy Spray Paint in Chicago!

I wanted to help Cory out with some projects before we head back home to Iowa. I intended to spray a piece of trim for the base of a fireplace only to be laughed at by the sales attendant at a nearby Kmart. He said, "This is Chicago, if you want spray paint, you need to drive out to the suburbs!". Apparently, it's been against city ordinance to sell or even use spray paint in downtown Chicago since 1995. I guess an electrician or professional painter can get some if they're over 18 years old. I ended up buying some acrylic paint and used a brush.

I got out a couple times for a workout and then some additional dedicated walking.

7 miles total on the day

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lake Effect Snow

The TV News has been promising the potential for snow this weekend. I got out earlier this morning while temperatures were still mild and sidewalks perfectly clear. Good thing...because the wind picked up and snow began to fly by mid-afternoon. It was a bit more difficult to negotiate the streets when I headed out for a quick errand at 4:30 PM.

It's interesting to see what a difference the large body of water to the east can have on the local weather. I understand that it was a bit colder than here back in MC today...I can only hope that there will be enough snow in Iowa for me to get out again on the snowshoes once we get back.

5 miles today

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Going for Distance...Lakeshore Drive

I wanted to get a longer run in today so challenged myself to get to the paths along the lakeshore. This challenge was with full knowledge that a majority of the run was going to be pavement.

The additional torture along the route I chose was the wonderful aroma of fresh-brewed coffee each time I passed a Starbucks...there must be one every two blocks! I also noticed that regardless of the rather chilly ambient temperature, there was added warmth from underground when running past many of the open grates within a few blocks of downtown.

The lakeshore was beautiful today as the sun was shining and there were few other bikers or runners at the time I was out. I lost track of how far I was going or what pace I was keeping and ended up running through the Lincoln Park Zoo. What a treat to see a River Otter performing water acrobatics and Wolves pacing around their wooded enclosure!

I eventually made my back to Cory's neighborhood, but not before getting in more than 10 miles of mostly running amongst brief stops for photos. My knees could really feel it by the time I got back to the condo.

I took Buck out after lunch for his walk and my recovery...most likely an additional 3 miles for a 13 mile day. And my legs can testify to the work I'm subjecting them to...

Again, I'll post some photos once we get home to Mason City.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pavement to Park

I decided to take a different approach yet, today, and used Google Earth to locate the closest green space to my son's home in Chicago. As a result, I headed straight down Division along some of the widest sidewalks I've ever been on and ended up at Humboldt Park. Similar to most urban parks, there is a combination of paved paths and green space. There's also several ball fields and a tennis court.

So I was able to run the perimeter and criss-cross the center staying mostly on grass, passing beside some wetlands with ducks and geese. It was quite pleasant considering how depressing it was to pass through the totally urban landscape along the street route through the city. There was an interesting sculpture in the park inscribed with two words that caught my eye and imagination...breathe oxygen...(photo to be posted later).

I also took a dedicated walk with Cory's dog, Buck, so got some additional time out on my feet!

7 miles

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Solitary trail running in the Windy City

So it's more difficult to post while in Chicago because of limited computer access and no good way to get any photos downloaded. Yesterday was a bit of a bust for real running because even the short run on pavement on Sunday left my legs kinda trashed. But I got out for some steady distance at slower pace for a total of 5 miles.

Today, I decided to, again, make it easier on the legs and believe it or not found an abandoned, elevated, train line that runs between block after block of apartments and homes...but is dirt and gravel and seldom used by the general public. I had to sneak through a break in a fence as there is very limited access. In fact, it is probably considered trespassing! There's evidence of dog walkers, clandestine beer drinkers, and a few mountain bikers but otherwise it's like being lost in the middle of the big city. No hassles for street crossings or store fronts and miles of open "trail"! You basically feel alone even though you constantly hear the police sirens, auto horns, and very loud rumble of trains on active tracks. I'll post some photos when we get home to Mason City.

4 miles so far today with a good chance I'll get out again this afternoon.

2 additional miles before dark

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Unscheduled Trip To Chicago

Late Friday we talked with my son, Cory, and decided to drive to Chicago to help him out. We'll dogsit Buck and be around the condo while Cory's on business in New York. So after the 6 hr. drive, I headed out for a run before the Super Bowl start.

I hadn't run this much pavement in a very long time and could really feel the extra shock. I was surprised during the run at one point, while running along a high, steel bar fence with the sun setting...there was the bizarre effect of a strobe-light...very disconcerting and raised havoc with my running rhythm.

During dinner at a local neighborhood restaurant called Frontier, we were watching the start of the game (with many New England fans) and one table had an entire roast hog delivered table-side,head and all. I wish I'd had the camera.

4 miles today and 36 for the week

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hilltopper Invitational

Traveled with the NIACC track and field teams today to Mt Vernon for another indoor meet. We're still in the process of trying to get as many athletes, individual and relays, qualified for the indoor national meet in Illinois.  We arrived early enough for me to sneak out on the local roads for a run of my own.

It was a bit icy to start so safer to run on the gravel beside a county blacktop. Then the walks were better as I came back into town so the temperature must have been rising.

Again, there were some good races today.

Samoane Waddy and Caila Jones are running in blue in this shot.
4 miles