Thursday, February 27, 2014

Take A Nap

One privilege of having retired for the most part, is being able to set my own schedule (within reason). If I choose to stay up late watching television or working at the computer, I do. There's no worry of lack of sleep as I then choose to sleep late or even enjoy a nap in the afternoon.

I've noted a few spots on the trails where deer have evidently chosen to sleep or nap. Their body heat causing enough thawing to smooth out the snow. Funny how often they pick the already packed stuff from my run route.


Catching up on some podcasts so spent some extra time running. Surprising how mild it still seems even in sub-zero temperatures. 7 miles today.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Just Another Day Out On the Trails

"I never knew a man go out for an honest day's walk for whatever distance, great or small...and not have his reward in the repossession of his own soul."  G.M. Trevelyan

Very cold day but excellent conditions for snowshoe running and a pleasure to be out. Someone else had been running ahead of me but I didn't see a soul while I was out there. 6 miles.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Snowshoe Interstate

For the second time in as many weeks, someone on a snowmobile chose to illegally ride on Lime Creek property and destroy the condition of many of the ski trails. While this sometimes improves the trail for snowshoes, I hate that anyone feels privileged to abuse the trail system.

Perhaps if we need to look for the silver lining, the county chose to take their groomer out to fix the damage and with colder temps returning, the main loop was a fantastic running an interstate highway is to drivers!

Other snowshoers and the snow bikes had been in the woods, as well, so the run went quite well today. 6 miles.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Making Running Play

Today reminded me of why I continue to run even with having to deal with knee issues as I age. There have been times when I wonder why I'm out pushing myself into discomfort but then have a run like today that is totally a joy. There's no doubt that I feel better running in snowshoes on snow than on roads or summer trails.

Last Thursday's snowstorm has left the quarry trails in the best condition for snow running that I've seen this winter. The storm also created havoc with trees and branches in the woods. But that is exactly what set today apart. I was not just out trying to run down a trail but rather running, ducking, twisting and jumping...felt like a kid again!

Friday night and yesterday was taken by helping at the NJCAA Region XI indoor track meet at Storm Lake. We had a few national qualifying performances and some other close calls.  Men's results and women's results  There's a last chance meet next Friday.

6 miles today.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Something In the Air

I rushed through a snowshoe run yesterday in fog, light rain, and sleet. The forecast was for some major wet snow followed by wind and dropping temps. The snow began after I got back home and I spent several sessions just keeping my drive and sidewalk open.

So it was great to get dug out and hit the trails today in sunshine. Again I needed to watch my time out because NIACC track and field is heading to Storm Lake this afternoon for our regional meet. I am picking up our evening meal on my way out the bus.

As I ran around the quarry trail, I noticed, again, an unpleasant, septic odor. This seems to be increasing each day and is always at the point when I'm downwind of the quarry pond itself. I suspect that snow cover and ice has allowed for the water to go septic and last week's warm temps exposed the surface in enough places that gasses were released.

I absolutely made the correct decision to wear my Iverson wooden runners today because they ran perfectly on the fresh snow and kept me from sinking too deep. Beautiful out there today.

Got in 5 miles yesterday and another 4 today.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Enough Already

After the frigid temperatures we've been dealing with, most folks around here seem to enjoy the above freezing weather we've experienced this week. While I can't say that I prefer the minus zero stuff, I do prefer it to above zero at this time of year because of the effects on snow conditions.

Third day in a row for temps close to or above 40° and it does play havoc with snowshoe running. While I typically enjoy seeing deer while I'm out, they can certainly mess up the trail system with their sharp hooves.

There was a distinct improvement in the runnable snow in the stretches that remain shaded all day.

I cut this run short as I began to feel a bit more wasted than usual. Watching the Olympics is really messing with my normal sleep pattern. 5 miles.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dions Make Good Dog Repellent

Another warm day in North Iowa. As I got started on the trails, a woman was heading back towards the parking with two dogs in tow...or rather loose. There's a sign posted that claims dogs must be on a 6' leash. I tend to not worry about that requirement when there is no issue with control by the master. I have never trusted Piper when I've been dog-sitting so I always keep her on a leash. 

One of this woman's dogs was a large Golden Retriever and it was crouched beside the trail as if waiting to pounce on prey. The prey turned out to be me as it rushed forward, growling, and teeth bared. My only option at this point was to raise my Dion-clad foot directly towards it's face and that brought about an abrupt stop...until I went past then it tried to sneak from behind. So I stopped and watched the dog, raised my snowshoed foot each time it moved towards me and listened to it's owner yell at the dog on each approach. Finally the owner caught the dog and I was on my way!

Yesterday's extra work on breaking the trail was enhanced by a subsequent snowshoe hiker so the path was nicely groomed and prime for smooth running today. I had less issue with clumping snow today because I sprayed a good amount of silicone spray on the bindings of the snowshoes.

Six miles total on the day.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Snow Rollers

My first exposure to snow rollers was years ago, when I regularly snowshoed the river. I saw the phenomenon and was quite impressed. 

This morning we received a few inches of new snowfall followed by clearing and a fair amount of wind. The temps were warming and topped out around 35° so the snow was really packing under my snowshoes today. But the woodland trails were a blast and I enjoyed being out. Snow rollers were forming from the drop of a crotch in a tree!

There was extra effort to run today because of the snow and drifting. I plowed through most of my ancillary trails and will need to consider running in the mornings to avoid warm temps the rest of the week.

Cut it short at 5 miles because of the deeper snow. More often than not, I felt like I was running on tennis balls because of packing snow in the bindings. The county had made a loop around the main trail with their groomer so those segments were more runnable. The warmup provided by the need to shovel my drive and sidewalk left me a bit sore on today's total efforts.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Back Again...

The week really had me down with congestion and fever so I didn't get out for any runs. Really missed the daily fresh air and trails.
Saturday was an indoor meet  at the University Wisconsin Platteville. Nice facility and efficiently organized meet but still a long day for everyone.There were a lot of athletes and it began snowing while we were in so the trip home was more treacherous than usual. We had some good performances and are getting closer to setting the athletes for events at next week's regionals.

The NJCAA National meet is in The Armory in New York so it was fun to watch my DVR recording of the Millrose Games yesterday when we got home. Interesting to see the track and even some shots of the exterior of the there in three weeks.

Got out to the quarry trails again today and wore my wooden Iverson snowshoe runners because they do a better job of packing snow. There had been some ski activity and at one point another snowshoe runner but I was first tracks on some of the ancillaries.

Someone ahead of me was wearing some older Tubbs racer's that I also use at times.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

On the Edge

Spent my Saturday travelling to Grinnell for another indoor meet. NIACC did well and got a couple more national qualifying performances against some 4-year colleges. We had six 1st place finishes on the day. Very nice indoor facility.

The cyclic weather dropped snow again yesterday followed by cold today. Nice sun and some freshly groomed trails gave me an energetic start then I noticed that snowmobiles had used the Winnebago River so I did as well.

I haven't ventured onto the ice at all since a mishap years ago that found me standing chest-deep in a very cold, watery hole in the ice and no easy way to get back up onto the wet ice! But I trusted the snow machine paths and knowledge of routine cold temps to feel secure with the extra distance on a level surface.

The river provides a different scenic beauty than the quarry loops.

Need to be especially aware of divets and open areas that could allow a breakthrough!

Easy running.

7 miles and plenty of enjoyment. Saw some hawks (Red-tailed) and spooked off a couple of Barred Owls.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Recant the Rant?

OK, so I provided photographic evidence of how hikers were destroying the snowshoe running (and snowbiking) conditions. Today, I need to qualify that by saying that not all hikers have the same disregard. The prints visible during today's loops show that at least two of the folks are attempting to walk the same general routes but without affecting the main trail conditions.

To these outdoor enthusiasts I say "Thank You". Just as is most often the case, I should be careful not to lump all into the whole. I'm sure there are some snowshoers or some bikers that are oblivious to other uses of the same area and can wreck the experiences of others.

Bikes and snowshoes on the left; walkers and hikers on the right!
Great weather conditions today as temps warmed to the mid-teens and winds were manageable. Put in my traditional 6 mile loop and enjoyed being outdoors while catching up on podcasts.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Still Looking Back

The other day I spent some time on a post regarding my background in Dubuque. Today, I drove through Dubuque on our way to return my son's dog to him after our dog-sitting for the past 6 weeks. As I drove past Washington Middle School, I remembered that my time there as a student (then called Washington Junior High) was actually the very beginning of my interest in running as an activity.

We moved to Dubuque and I was the new kid from out-of-town when I walked the halls in the fall of 1964. I saw a list of top 10 finishers from an annual cross-country race that was an intramural competition early in each school year. I took the challenge of trying to introduce myself by making the list and signed up. The race was all on the school grounds and started and finished on the football practice field built into the hillside behind the school. I stopped briefly today to take a photo of the site...that hasn't really changed since I was there 50 years ago!

I remember we had a choice of running up the longer, more gradual slope (on the far side of the first photo) or the shorter, steeper slope closer to the building (in the middle of the 2nd photo). I chose the steep slope and the move pulled me ahead of a lot of the others competing that day...ended up 5th overall and made the list in the hall. Turns out I also made the list for contact from the track coach for spring and I've continued to run ever since.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Multi-Use Rant

I'm a strong proponent of activities to get people outdoors and exercising. Whether that be training similar to what I enjoy or simply a family hike, I have always been passionate about helping promote. This has been through past part-time work at a running and ski shop, to volunteering at Lime Creek Nature Center, or through membership in local clubs like North Iowa Touring, Mason City Multi-Sport, Nature Club, or the now defunct running club back in the early 1980's.

But for all encouragement I get from seeing folks out using the trails, I can't help but feel frustration when I see abuse, such as indiscriminate trash. Or sometimes the surprising amount of manure left along the trail by horseback riders. Then again, the same folks that are hiking seem to have little regard for trail snow conditions. Hikers walk down the middle of the newly groomed skate-ski trails or more annoying to me personally they tear up some of the ancillary trails that I've previously bragged about self-grooming into nice runnable condition.

The past couple of days, I've struggled for balance on a few of my previously packed line because of hikers that couldn't seem to walk straight!

I still put in 8 and 6 miles on Monday and Tuesday but I do wish the hikers could be more careful. Think I'll take a couple off from the snowshoes to recover some spring in my stride. I've been working rather hard lately without much recovery. This week sits good for rest and the weather is bitter again anyway. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Iowa Games...Iowa State Snowshoe Championships

Every year that I've gone to Cedar Falls for the State Championship Snowshoe Race, I've been assured of a challenging course. Scott Gall the race director is well-known for for a unique style of using the terrain for what he calls "a true snowshoe course". Again he did not disappoint. Nature cooperated with a bit of fresh snow during the week and a new layer the morning of the race.

Here's a video from the 2011 race that helps demonstrate some of this course. 

One problem with snowshoe races, especially in Iowa, is you can never depend on having snow for the races. More than once this race has become a trail race rather than running on snow. Perhaps this is one reason why participant numbers have varied greatly here through the years. This year's conditions were great and it is disappointing that more runners didn't show up for the race.

Over 30 hearty souls hit the line to start and, for whatever reason, I took off like I used-to-could only to realize, early on, that an older, wiser Curt should slow down to a manageable pace for a 60-year-old. My first 5K loop actually had me in pretty good position but I was relegated to my typical regimen of walk-running the 2nd loop because the loose snow was playing a bit of havoc with my knees. The course turned a bit to sugar-snow and I didn't get many solid foot plants. 

Results. Scott and friend, Randy Bill, ran the race together to finish 1st and 2nd, with former Mason Citian, Chris Jensen, following closely in 3rd. Randy said he and Scott were a bit guarded in opening up to race each other because they're both heading to a 50K  race next weekend. I ended up winning my age group  and qualified for the U.S. Nationals held in Vermont again this year. I  first ran Nationals in Vermont in 2006 and then again in Minnesota (2007) and Wisconsin (2011). 

Calling today's total at 7 miles after warm-up and cool-down.