Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Fun Run Season

With the completion of Icebox, my official, somewhat abbreviated, 2015 racing season came to a close. Now we're in the full swing of one of my favorite seasons of the running calendar, the Fatass and Fun Run season. A time to enjoy easy-paced running with friends, frequently followed by (or incorporating) fantastic food and a lot of laughter. It's a great time to run with friends from the front of the pack, the back of the pack, or not in the pack at all because of incompatible race schedules. 

So far, it's been a good one. 

Upper Midwest Trail Runners Fatass

The season kicked off the weekend after Icebox with the UMTR banquet and fatass runs. The morning of the banquet, we held 5K, 10K, and 20K fatass runs at Lebanon Hills, finishing at the picnic area with hot drinks. 

I led the 10K route around the park at a "no runner left behind" pace. It was great to catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones. We hit some of the Lebanon Hills highlights, going up Touch-A-Butt, down the deer trail, and staying on as much singletrack as we could find. It was fun running into the 20K group, led by Janet. ("I'm leading from behind," she explained, as they all took off in front of her.) 
Thanks, Samantha, Lisa, Eric, Rick, and Radek!

Afton Volunteer Fatass

The following weekend was John Storkamp's annual Afton fatass and potluck, open to volunteers from any of his Rocksteady Running races or any of the other local trail races. The last two years, it had been a "meet up at 7 or 10, run a loop on the Afton course, then potluck at noon" affair. But this year, John reverted to the classic "Buzzard's Bluff" group run format. His invitation said "this year's format TBD... blood and/or swimming possible with a chance of some running thrown in for good measure." Mention was made of bushwhacking, opportunities for clothing ruination, and general good times. 

Saturday before Thanksgiving dawned cold -- 20 degrees starting temperature -- but still no snow. A couple dozen of us took off from the visitor center and immediately plunged into the dense woods, pushing through buckthorn on deer trails. Soon, the little group I was running/hiking with was off trail altogether and bushwhacking through the November woods. 

We caught up with everyone else by a ruined fireplace in the woods.
Sheila, Jamison, and a whole bunch more 
Listening to readings from John's very important book.
We wound through the woods some more, on trails I'd never seen, stopping every so often for re-grouping and tomfoolery. The sun came out and despite the cool start, it was comfortable going.

We came down a bouldery descent and found ourselves on the river trail, right by the Meat Grinder. John organized sprints up the flat railbed trail.
John, Kevin, and some other fast dudes. Look at those smiles!
(photo credit: Todd Rowe)
Back up the Meat Grinder, around to the Snowshoe Loop, where we again quickly went off-trail and down a creek bed...
photo credit: Karlene Apelt
... tried some bad parkour, and made and an aid station stop under the road bridge with snacks, sparkling juice, and a rock-throwing contest. 
Then, a little rock climbing! (Karlene Apelt)
Mostly class IV scramble with a couple of class V moves.
Or you could do what John did, and just run up the
vertical slope next to the rocks. (Todd Rowe)
Somewhere in here was the "photo booth".  
We looped back past the Visitor Center, then skirted around the Africa Loop on narrow singletrack, with great views of Afton Alps' snow-making operation. Ended up at the Back 40 where the group split between the folks doing the "VO2max workout" (Kevin later told me it involved a sprint straight up a steep bank) and the rest of us. We climbed back up to the prairie and ran in the sunshine, talking as we went.

With a loop out to Campground Hill to see the new trail under construction and three hours or so on the clock, the fatass was over and it was time to eat. Lots of folks at the potluck who ran earlier, later, or different.

Including Rob, who had just completed the first
ever Afton 100K. FOUR freaking loops!
The highlight of the potluck was talking with runners and volunteers who've been doing this stuff for a long time. It was great to talk to John Horns, Steve Quick, and Loren and Pam Albin. Every year, I come away from this event with a better sense of where the Minnesota trail running scene has been, where it's headed, and where I belong in it. Thanks, John, for catalyzing such an amazing multigenerational running community.


Never did this one before. Edward and Alicia Sandor issued a general invitation to their Thanksgiving morning fun run, and my schedule was open. Why not?

Nine of us headed out from their Uptown/Lowry Hill neighborhood and quickly found ourselves on trails I'd never seen, right in Minneapolis.
By Cedar Lake? Some body of water or another.
Woods. Dirt. It's all good.
We ended up on the trails by Cedar Lake and the Luce Line, and from there meandered up to Theorodore Wirth Park. As we set out on Wirth trails, the light rain turned to light snow. By the time we'd run the cross-country ski trails around the wildflower garden, there was a light coating on the ground.
Edward, Bob, Scott, me, SNOW!
I got thrashed on the XC trails, then pushed to keep up on the secret singletrack running along the rail lines. Snow was falling. I was starting to get hungry. Two hours and about 10 miles later, we were back at the Sandors' and drinking hot coffee. It was a perfect way to start Thanksgiving Day.

Donut Day Fun Runs

An organized loop run around Minneapolis, stopping at donut shops along the way? Pure genius, courtesy of Jordan Hanlon. I've done this one before, twice, and was looking forward to doing it again.

Unlike other years I've donutted, the weather was warm. (In 2013, our starting temperature was -11F; this year, it was 32, rising to the 40s!) A half dozen of us met at 7 for a pre-donut out-and-back along Minnehaha Parkway, then regrouped at 8 for a couple of laps around Nokomis. At 9, we gathered for the official run.
BJ, Hadley, and a photobomb.
The photobombers, unmasked. Steve and Bob.
John talking with donut mastermind Jordan
I wanted to be home by 11, so again opted for the 5 mile/2 donut shop route. I ran it with Janet...

Warmed up with pre-donut miles,
and ready for some donuts!
... and with Mike.
We enjoyed fantastic donuts and coffee on the house at Mel-O-Glaze, skipped A Baker's Wife, pleading long lines and donut overload, and the miles flew by. Jordan raised money for TreeHouse Youth and organized a canned goods drive for the Little Kitchen Food Shelf. Thank you, Jordan! Awesome event and I'm glad we could do some good.

Burroughs Family Fun Run

K's school does a Family Fun Run every year in their PE class. It's a continuous long run -- in kindergarten, 20 minutes; first graders do 25 minutes, and so on to 45 minutes in 5th grade. The kids train for it every week and learn about pacing. During the run, in the gym, the teachers play music, turn on laser lights and a disco mirrorball, invite "special guests" (teachers), and generally make it super fun. It's a little like FANS for 7 year olds.

Yesterday, K and I ran 25 minutes (61.5 laps in the gym -- we counted!). We held hands, high-fived a lot, sped up in the last 5 minutes, and generally had an awesome time.
Super proud of this guy.

'Tis the Season

Here's to a great running year nearly past, and to a great year to come. Peace and joy to you all, and enjoy your season.
Just had to put this one in again :-)