Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday Morning

Pete and I get our long run in this morning. It works for both of us and our families.

The Trail. Today the trail was almost impassable.

We ran 4.5 miles on it and then jumped on to a gravel road. The next 15 miles were on gravel and a little pavement, out and back. None of the last sentence is very good for me. Going out it was windy and beginning to snow. Most of the snow fell on our right shoulders and backs. The road was in good shape. No military helicopters diving and circling this week. A couple of guys building a shed in a horse pasture.

We ran to the Sunrise Cemetery, turned around, and then took a few pictures as we ran back through the Sunrise. The naturalist at Wild River, David Marker, told us today that Sunrise did have several commercial the 1890s.

The Sunrise River

Sunrise almost had a president

The "Almost President"

The return... WINDY, SNOWY, SLOPPY, WET. We couldn't wear sunglasses because the snow caked up on them, but without glasses, the snow hit our eyes, forcing them closed.

Back to the beginning

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Our church, no, more accurately, those who regularly attend our church have a common, seemingly innocuous but disturbing characteristic. Yes, I'm mentioning it on this blog site for two reasons. First, it does have to do with running; more accurately, with the type of living that running oftentimes creates. Second, I possess this common, seemingly innocuous but disturbing characteristic myself.

Two disparate events in the last 24 hours brought this concern into focus in my mind.

The second event, which I'll mention first, came to me as I listened to Samantha Power, on MPR's Midmorning, talk about Sergio Vieira de Mello, a member of a UN envoy killed in Iraq. Among other things, Samantha described Sergio as an atypical UN official and went on to say that he was the type of person who would enter a room full of people and make many people feel important. Specifically to my point, when Sergio was talking with a particular person, he made that person feel like they had his complete attention and that it pained him to leave this particular conversation. It did not matter if the person were a diplomat or a destitute refugee.

This second event reminded me of the first event which I observed last night after our church's Wednesday Night Connection service. As people were congregating, I noticed Pastor Piper talking with a young boy in the commons area. As I walked by, I watched one thing: Pastor Piper's eyes. (Now I've tipped my hat to the problem mentioned earlier) As Pastor Piper was engaged with this young boy, I noticed two teenagers beeline toward the pair. Several minutes later as I returned from the nursery, I watched Pastor Piper's eyes once again. His eyes were riveted on the person with whom he was speaking.

Now, I've noticed his intense, discriminating concentration when he talks with people at the front of the church after each service. In a sense, it would be expected. But here he was, in the middle of the commons, with at least 80 people buzzing around, and his attention was spot-lighting one young boy and then two teenagers.

So, here's the problem. We at Bethlehem have developed a bad habit, at least while we are at church. It is the habit of scanning the crowd while talking with a particular person. It really bothered me when we first attended regularly. I don't notice it much anymore, but I fear this is because I do it also. It is very difficult to believe that someone is empathizing with me if they are not looking at me. Unless we are sitting and talking, and then it's not so important to be looking right at each other. Otherwise, it feels as if the "scanner" is looking for someone more important.

So, this is where I think this problem does have something to do with the type of living running often creates. Running often makes the rest of life slow down, acquire a more vivid hue, and relationships often become a little more full. It might be endorphins, or maybe being alone out on the trail/road for too long. Whatever the reason, I find myself slowing down with people more.

I've come up with only two solutions to our scanning at church:
1. Everyone goes on a quick run right after the service but before talking in the common,
2. Set up lounge chairs all over the commons area so we can sit and talk but not necessarily look at each other.

I think #1 might work as long as we don't mind errant smells. The problem I see with #2 is that, "If you give a mouse a lounge chair, he's going to want a cocktail to go with it." And I've always taken an uncompromising position against consuming alcohol openly while at church.


Pete pointed me to the new Afton Trail website. It's nicely done.

I almost registered for the 50K just looking at the site. However, in light of other training runs, the potential for heat and Leadville one month later, I'll error on the side of discretion and do the 25K.

The site has great photos.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Monday Morning

On Monday, Pete and I cranked out 20 miles at Wild River State Park.  It is an impressive park.  For over 10 miles, we snaked our way north on a snow covered trail.  To our right was the St. Croix River.  We see the abandoned Arrow Railway from Minneapolis to Duluth.  The end of the railway is right on the trail, and right before it required an expensive iron bridge to cross the river.  There's an ancient Indian settlement somewhere around, several fur posts, and an abandoned town that had a hotel.  Is it possible to run with a metal detector?  

We exited the park at its northern entrance, ran through the small town of Sunrise and returned on gravel and paved roads. 

The first 10 miles were some of the most difficult I have ever run.  For the first 5 miles, we "scatter stepped" through ski tracks, snow shoe tracks, boot tracks, deer tracks, turkey tracks, coyote tracks and some unidentifiable tracks.  Lots of tracks.  Whoever would come after us would have to add trail running shoe tracks to their list of tracks.

For the next 5 miles, we encountered no tracks but our own (if you look backward).  However, this made things worse.  Each step consisted of: an initial crusty, seemingly stable surface plant; the foot punching through the aforementioned; the foot traveling through soft under-snow as if it were powdered sugar; the foot coming back up through the powdered sugar; and the foot trying to ascend through more crusty surface-snow along the toe area.

By the time we reached pavement, my legs were like ground beef.

Between miles 10.7 and 13, we tried to stride out on a road that, while plowed, was most likely plowed by a zamboni. [word has it that Martin Zellar is performing at LumberJack Days this year] The gravel road from Sunrise, MN back to the south entrance of Wild River is incredible: rolling hills, lined by pine trees, farms, and several large lots for sale.

We finish the run with a protein infested meal at a little cafe in Taylor's Falls.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ultrarunning is a Gift

"Who has told every lightening bolt where it should go,
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow?"

"The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine."

There are benefits to running beyond 26.2 that surpass fitness. 
I've seen parts of creation that I would not have seen otherwise: 

• snow covered mountain ranges • a baby black bear
• deer a plenty • a porcupine
• massive fields of pristine snow • groves of beach trees that look like paintings
• rushing streams & rivers • prairie grass frosted with dew
• eagles, falcons, hawks •snakes
• frozen rivers and lakes • clear, bright sunrises
• lightening storms rolling across CO mountains

The gift of the sacrifices of others on my behalf:
• a wife and family that not only manages when I'm gone, but puts up with me when I'm back
• friends and their friends who have crewed and paced

I've had countless hours alone to:
pray, enjoy creation, spend time with Pete, think, organize my thoughts, and grow lonely so that I can't wait to return home.

Ultrarunning is a gift.  Like all things, it is given in love.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
-Frederick Lehman, translation of a 1050 a.d. Jewish poem

Friday, March 7, 2008

Family Ski Day

Grace and Eli

Levi and Marty at the end of the day.

On our last day at Vail, Marty and I skied with all the kids except Zeke. It was a very cold, windy day. This was Levi's first time to ski with the family. His ski lessons have been paying off. He skied very well. Eli and Emma snow boarded. They are both pretty good. Grace skied. She is very good as well.

We all can't wait to get home to balmy Minnesota. The Weather Channel has been reporting Minnesota temps in the 50s this past week. :)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Started out at 5:36am. Cold, snowy, but little wind. Probably 8 degrees.  2 1/2 hours, about 11.5 miles.  5.5 miles up in 1.5 hours. 6.5 down in a lot less time. Ran to 9800 ft.

Red Sandstone Road on other side of Highway 70 is a winding road that cuts through two mountains.  It turns into a snowmobile road, closed to other vehicles. It is a wonderful winding road with a deep ravine on the left going up. At about 9100 ft. the road splits and either goes down to Piney Lake or up to Lost Lake. I went up, but Lost Lake proved true to its name. I walked almost the entire trip up. I tried to run sections, but could only maintain a jog for 2 minutes at best. Coming down was more difficult than going up. Wind was stronger, feet kept breaking through the snow and the snowmobile tracks kept my ankles wobbly. Saw no animals at all.

This was looking out at Vail ski runs at about 8800 ft.

The path looked like this about 80% of the time. Off in the distance, I saw great clouds of snow blowing off the peak of some mountain. I thought is was a 14er, but there are none north of Highway 70.

Here the path split. Great views.


At 2 1/2 hours, I stopped, took this photo of my watch, took a few other photos (including this one that shows that the trail continues to go UP!), ate a BLOK and S-Cap, and turned around.

One last photo coming back into Vail/Lionshead.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I Ran the Trail

I ran this morning. Started at 5:25am. Snowing, a little wind. About 15 degrees. My goal was to run the trail that Pete, Marty and I ran in August (and I've run many times) but to run it to the next trailhead. I've never been able to do that, even in nice weather. On the map, it looked about 3 miles and an easy run.

For the first 700 ft of vertical climb, the trail was actually well worn. That was about .8 mile. My pace was 20 min/mile. All walking. Actually, less than walking. There was about 8 inches of solidly packed trail. This 8 inches of solid was not in a straight line. Any step off of it was a knee to hip deep plunge in powder.

At 8800 ft, what had been about a 10-15 peopled-tracked trail went to single track. Single track across a frozen stream up to 9000 about .5 mile later. At 9200, the single set of tracks disappeared. Up until now, I was using a single headlamp to help distinguish which foot plant would remain on top and which might result in a "trip to the hip." Now, in front of me lay fresh snow and no tracks. THe headlamp was no help.

I ran a little, walked a lot for another .5 mile only to find a trail sign/map that clearly stated that by the nature of my being there reading the sign, I was in violation of §GL550.323 which stated that I was not supposed to be there at this time of year and could face fines. I assumed I wouldn't have to pay the fines while standing there. There was no fee deposit box!

The map lacked a, "You Are Here," red dot. As best as I could determine, the trail proceeded either to my right and up the incline for more mountain OR to the left where the trail proceeded to the edge of a cliff. It looked like a place where you would walk and look out over the Vail valley. I'd been out for over an hour and on the mountain for 45 minutes of it. I did not want to go back, did not want to retrace my steps.

So, I walked down toward the cliff-overlook and there to the left was a very small catwalk/ledge where the trail headed down the mountain. I was able to run most of the 1.5-2 miles down by running on the up-side of the trail (on the 45 degree area just above the trail). I didn't plunge through the snow most of the time. At the bottom, ran across a frozen bridge of ice that covered a small stream. Then ran along the stream, a few switch-backs and then out onto the road. Then, back on the frontage road along Highway 70, crossed the pedestrian bridge, ran through Lionshead, and managed to find myself ordering a double shot espresso with a splash of hot water for myself and a double shot, wet cappucino for Marty in the new Starbucks.

2 hours, 7.5 miles, HR: freakin' off the charts! I thought I was going to blow up several times!

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I want to make a strong statement, actually several, based on Jenna's comments. I love Jenna and Beth for the same reasons; they both can swear better than I, and they both say exactly what is on their mind, even if it knocks me off-kilter for a minute (and few things do that having been a boarding school principal and dorm parent for 7 yrs).

1. Some people should not have children. Some people are incapable of properly raising them. I think of Brittany Spears. Children are immortal beings that parents get to share in the creation of. This is weighty stuff. An immortal being. It has a start, but it will have no ending.
Parents will be accountable for their role in this process. Let's pray the Brittany matures into this reality.

2. Children are not necessary in order to have a complete family. Ok, now you know I'm not Catholic.
God had Adam name the animals for a reason. If it were me, by the second pair, I'd be wondering where my partner was. Sure, leopards are nice and soft, but you can't....., let alone talk with one. Then, God creates Eve, and specifically tells Adam that she is one like him. So much so that she is FROM him. WOW. Not a leopard or tree fog, but a woman.
All of the previous days, God ended his creation work by saying it was good. But after making Eve, and bringing Adam and Eve together, He said that it was very good. That's God pronouncement on a man and woman. End of story. It is very good. Nothing else is needed for it to be complete. Nothing. Adam and Eve's children did not come until later.

Children are guests to the family. They are not the center. The husband and wife relationship is the primary relationship in the family, whether or not there are children. We all know of families in which the children are the center. Aside from a lengthy analysis of why, let me just say that we've all recognized that that dynamic doesn't feel right.

A married couple can accomplish many things for the kingdom of God without children better than if they had children.

So, never judge a family by its size, whether it contains 2 or 15 (like our friends at church whose son saved lives during the 35W bridge collapse).

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Running in CO

I ran on a treadmill this morning at an Embassy Suites in Denver.  One hour at 8.30 pace.  
Now we're up at Vail.  I hope to run every morning, except tomorrow, and maybe Monday.  Possibly miss another one as well.

My goal is to run this trail on the other side of highway 70 that goes from Vail to West Vail.  It traverses the side of the mountain.  Last March, I ran about 3 miles of it, up to 9200 ft. but had to turn back because of the blinding snow and cold.  I also wasn't sure where the trail actually went.

In August, Marty, Pete and I ran up this trail while we were getting ready for Leadville.

If you have time, check out some of our photos from Leadville. Thanks.

Ultra running: it's all about the calories!

Proof that one does not need to be as skinny as a rubber band to run.