Thursday, January 30, 2014

Go Ahead...Take the Step.......

I've enjoyed using my traditional Iverson runners for snowshoeing the past two days. They are heavier and larger than my preferred Dions but do a fantastic job of packing the trails. Since I'm racing this weekend, I embrace getting out on heavier, more cumbersome shoes so that race day will feel "fast".

Because of the choice of snowshoe, of course I'm moving slower. The bonus in that is more time to listen to the podcasts that I seem to be still catching up since the Christmas holiday. I am also more tuned in to the surroundings and couldn't help but notice an unusual set of deer tracks leading straight to a cliff above the quarry. With no apparent hesitation or interruption in the tracks, they drop immediately off the cliff and to the quarry below! I see the same lack of concern with my son's dog when I'm exercising her. She'll jump into the air with no regard for her landing. I tend to be more conservative in my foot plants when running these days.

Notice the tracks go right off the cliff to the quarry surface below.

Playing fetch with Piper.

A lot of good trail packing today should lend itself well to future quick running. 6 miles yesterday and another 8 today.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Looking Back

Like many of you, I'm sure, we're sometimes asked what got you started in running or biking or why do you enjoy it so much? My answer most often goes back to my father while I was growing up. I'm the oldest of five boys and we were brought up in the country near Dubuque, on the Mississippi. At a rather young age, about once a month, my Dad would take us out into the middle of the Mississippi River, have us swim to shore, then bike for 10 miles, and finish with a 5 mile run home. I found I really liked the biking and running but the hard part was for us to get out of the rock-filled, burlap bags in order to swim!

Truthfully though, I did get to thinking back to my younger days, growing up outside of Dubuque, Iowa. The impetus was several of the podcasts to which I'd been listening were dealing with nostalgia or the guests being interviewed were from an era of running that I remember during my progression from track to road to trails.

Podcasts like Elevation Trail's Christmas episode on nostalgia, or Marathon Talk's interview with Pete Pfitzinger or Ultrarunnerpodcast's interview with Frank Bozanich. All very interesting to me as I now realize that because of my longevity in this sport, I have become one of "the old guys" and can relate to references of past runners or training schemes because I lived through them! I think back to who made the covers of Runner's World or The Runner magazines.

Other podcasts that I'm taking in currently help promote a healthier style of life. Changes in recommended nutrition plans, sleep patterns, or outdoor living, in general. Without realizing what he was doing, my father was establishing a healthy lifestyle for our family in the 1960s and '70s.

He found a farm in the hills outside of Dubuque where we rented a house and orchard. There was also a farming operation and home on the same property. We were able to buy raw milk for our daily consumption and made homemade butter. We were able to get out regularly and volunteer with some chores like baling hay or herding cattle. Dad had us work in the orchard or in the rather large vegetable garden we kept every summer. This provided a definite advantage of keeping my brothers and I "grounded".

The property was very diverse, with a farm pond stocked with bass and bluegill or an occasional catfish. There was a stocked trout stream that flowed through some of the back acreage. There was a rock quarry where I hunted for fossils and woods where we could hunt rabbits and squirrels. The woods also provided blackberries and raspberries, wild cherries, and morel mushrooms every spring. We would sled the hills in winter and hike the woods in summer.

Quite a few advantages when I look back but I felt isolated at that time. It seemed that I had only a handful of close friends and I spent a lot of solitary time when hiking or hunting. Perhaps this is some of what allows me to enjoy long periods of training alone now.

Much more rambling than I typically allow myself. Now it's time to go out and run.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Self Grooming

Year's past and even with the few measurable snows we've had this year, I've always been proud of how the ancillary trails around the quarry become runnable and more easily traveled. The work this year has been shared with the snowbikes and it doesn't seem to take long after each snow and the trails become "quicker". 

Yesterday, the county took one pass with their snow machine but no groomer...this left the trail wide and loose and caused some difficult running and biking. Today they made another pass after some snowbike passes and my snowshoeing from yesterday and today. Turns out, they didn't intend to groom but merely found it necessary to travel back to the river where a snow machine had been anonymously abandoned on the ice.

Usually this path is barely 8" wide!
Seth Bell was out working the trails at the same time that I was today. Always good to see the trails being enjoyed regardless of the weather.

6 miles total as I begin to taper a bit for the weekend snowshoe race.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sidehill Gouger

Even with sub-zero temps as the forecast high today, I felt very comfortable while making the rounds at the quarry. Spooked up some White-tailed Deer and tried a couple have to look close near the center of either shot.

Because the snowshoe race coming up on Saturday, I wanted to work some more on the hills. The course is set by Scott Gall, a former winner of the Barr Trail Race in Colorado and known for his unique course setting for snowshoe races. I could barely walk after the state competition on his course a few years ago. You need to be a "Sidehill Goucher" to excel on the style of course he sets.

So I worked a few of the uphills available around the quarry. 6 miles today.

Riding the Waves

The weekend was a busy one. I ran well on Friday in anticipation of having difficulty finding time on Saturday due to the NIACC track meet at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon. The weather moderated again on Friday, above the freezing mark, so there was a bit of snow packing in my snowshoe cleats. The clippers keep coming through and there was some snow overnight with wind but not nearly as much as occurred Sunday.  

The swing in temps and wind forecast for later on Sunday was incentive for me to get out by noon for a longer snowshoe run. I was first tracks in many areas again but the snow bikes were out and I broke trail for them in some areas and they broke trail for me in others.

The track meet went quite well for NIACC. The men won the meet and the women finished 3rd. There were numerous 1st place finishes and a couple additional national qualifier performances.

5 miles Friday and 8 on Sunday.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Sun Dog Day

The clippers keep coming and today was another sub-zero wave. But that didn't mean that it wasn't comfortable running the trails. In fact, it was more pleasant at -2° than at 5° with yesterday's wind. The evening snow, together with the wind made for very smooth, rounded patterns  on the snow. The county had just groomed the main quarry loop so those portions were excellent, fast running.

7 miles total today and one of my quickest elapsed time for the quarry trails. Then as I headed back to my Jeep to head home, I saw some distinct sun dogs in the western sky line. Another good workout in the books!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Roller Coaster

I can't remember a winter that has had the weather fluctuations of this one. Bitter cold and wind followed by a short warm-up then another cold spell. Alberta Clippers have been mentioned on the weather reports.
My winter look...abandoned before the track clean-shaven!
I haven't posted since Thursday, partly due to an indoor track meet in Sioux Center at Dordt College and partly due a 24-hour bug I somehow contracted.  The meet went quite well for NIACC and we gained some more national qualifiers. I then woke up in the middle of the night, vomiting and with a slight fever. I suspected food poisoning but perhaps just a stomach flu.

Got out on the trails on Monday after a day in because of the flu. It was peaceful and snowing while out there. Ended up with 8 miles on the day. I saw that someone else was running the trails on regular running shoes...eventually crossed paths with an ex-NIACC runner, Ethan Mulford.

Today was bitter cold again but I felt great while running, I only felt cold when stopped or walking. I could see by tracks that a friend of mine, Dave Nauman, was also running some of the trails on his Northern Lite snowshoes.
Apparently a favorite tree for local woodpeckers!
7 miles today.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

First Tracks Again

Yesterday was status quo and I ran my typical workout with snowshoes.  There was a bit of fresh snow overnight but also rather strong winds.  
The trails had enough new snow that the county was able to get out and groom...great running conditions as I was the first to show up after the groom. My time out there was a bit schizophrenic with sunshine and wind then overcast and snow flurries then sun and snow flurries. 

The bonus once I got out to my ancillary trails was being 1st tracks on the fresh snow except for the wildlife. The routine deer tracks were obvious but I was treated today to coyote tracks that appeared to be so fresh that I kept looking ahead for a glimpse. I saw one a couple years ago and the county posted a shot from a game camera they set up this winter so there's positive evidence of the coyote activity in the area.

7 miles yesterday and 8 today.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Obstacle Course

The front that moved through overnight brought a change in wind direction with gusts up to 50 mph.  There was a fresh layer of frozen rain on the snow and light flurries all day. This allowed for very fast snow conditions on my regular snowshoe route around the quarry.  Only thing slowing me today was the occasional branch across the path!

Enjoyed the quicker running and ended up with an 8 mile total.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Long Shadows

One adjustment that has been allowed by retirement is the ability to get out for my runs at mid-day.  I've forgotten what it's like to enjoy a run as the sun is going down.

Today I found my mid-day consumed with a water supply consulting job.  So my snowshoe was postponed until after 4 PM.  It was very pleasant and the difference in lighting struck me as something that I've missed. My first clue was how long my shadow appeared while running my warm-up leg.

I turned back and enjoyed the change in color as the sun dropped lower towards the horizon.

 And the way the prairie grasses seemed to glow.

By the time I'd finished my workout, the moon had become very visible and is approaching it's full phase.

Cut it a bit short tonight at 5 miles.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Winter Wonderland

Took an extra day off from posting but not from snowshoe running.  The shift in weather has resulted in an interesting effect on the trees and the trails around the quarry have been a bit surreal.

7 miles yesterday and 6 today.  Still working on a bit more substantial post within the next day or so.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How Much Wood

The weather is finally coming back and we're able to sustain longer efforts outdoors without fear of adverse repercussions.  I was still feeling sluggish so chose a moderate effort and more relaxed pace.  I'm way behind on the podcasts that I listen in on regularly and am trying to catch up.  The seed for a future post regarding the past was planted during today's listens.

Noticed evidence, today, of the surmise of a Hairy Woodpecker last night beside the trail.

Also realized that I failed to show a short, yet steep, hill that I like to run snowshoe repeats on when working the Quarry Trails.

I  definitely appreciate being able to get out on these trails every day!  6 miles.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Head For the Hills

It's always been tough to find any decent "hills" when training around Mason City.  In the winter, I enjoy the rolling terrain found around the quarry trails that I use for snowshoe running.  In fact, it's hard to believe that such interesting geology is a mere 5 minute drive from my home and this is Iowa.

The shadows obscure the steepness of this slope.

Other snowshoers have been out on the ice of the quarry.

Today I ran the hills but also took it easier and slower than yesterday.  I've been hitting the snowshoeing rather hard lately and needed more of a recovery day.  6 miles total. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Knee-jerk Reaction

I've had years of experience in running outdoors during cold, Iowa winters.  Even with that experience, I made the mistake of reacting to the -20° temps and high winds of yesterday by wearing similar layers of clothes today...9° and calm wind.  I was severely over-dressed and found myself  uncomfortably warm!

It was beautiful out on the Quarry Trails and I had a rather brisk, steady run on the snowshoes.  The snow has really firmed up with use and the cold.

Another 7 miles today.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Silent Killers

Saw evidence that the owls were out hunting in the woods last night. Occasionally, I can see one gliding through the brush but they are really quiet.

It was very cold out today with temperatures continuing to drop and winds increasing. It is supposed to drop into dangerously low sub-zero temps and wind chill overnight. But today again, it was fun to be in the woods and the bluffs offered a bit of protection.  A Facebook group called Ice Beard Runners just invited me to join and coincidentally I haven't shaved since Christmas so I decided to post a photo.  Most of the members that are posting have shown some significantly better frost build-ups than me.


Nearing the the Old Mill on Lime Creek Trail system

But how about this ice beard!  Hope the weather doesn't have this effect on any runners tomorrow.
I, Hatchet Jack, being of sound mind and broke legs, do leaveth my rifle to the next thing who finds it, Lord hope he be a white man. It is a good rifle, and kilt the bear that kilt me. Anyway, I am dead. Sincerely, Hatchet Jack.      

Found myself remembering past conditions at a specific location along the trail...but for some reason I really didn't mind the snow of today.

January 5, 2014

June 13, 2013

April 16, 2013

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mouse Tracks

Another great day for the snowshoes.  Overnight temps rose to around 30 degrees before dropping into the teens for the day.  This helped the trails set-up and foot plants were firmer today than yesterday.

However, the snow beside the trails is still soft enough to showcase animal activities like mouse tracks...

or I've also been amused by how the squirrels can locate the walnuts that are buried in the snow and pinpoint dig them out.

and then scurry back to the south side base of a nearby tree to eat their prize.

Pleasant, steady 7 mile day.  My legs and hips are feeling the stress of the regular snowshoe run outings so far this winter...but it feels good to hurt like this again!