Tuesday, November 15, 2011

First Ride to New Work Location in Minnetonka

Well, this last weekend our company finally made the big move from way out in Maple Grove to out in Minnetonka. I had been studying and discussing bike options for this new location, it definitely was now within reach of me, as a casual biker and occasional bike commuter. And since the weather was not too shabby I needed to get this out of my system before the beginning of winter.

Great route along Minneapolis Greenway and Cedar Lake Trail. It must be about 70% on bike trails! Will verify this, though. All in all a much easier ride than going to Thomson Reuters in Eagan, even though it is a couple of miles longer. No significant hills at all! That's good and bad: a lower barrier to actually doing the ride but less of a training effect.

Issues for my first ride:

1. Went into the neighborhood off W River Road and needed to carry my bike up a flight of stairs. Next time I'll stay on River Road right up to the trail head.
2. After Lake Calhoun I should have hopped onto Dean Blvd for a shortcut. Instead I followed the Greenway to the intersection with Kenwirth Trail.
3. Stopped at Victoria Rd. to check my chicken scratches. I was right on.
4. Ice-cold feet. Need to invest in some shoe covers. Maybe a plastic baggie around my running shoes?
5. The dark was not an issue, my bike light was plenty bright, as was the street and trail lighting.

Interesting to see how many cyclists were out, I crossed and passed fewer than a couple dozen. A few joggers and folks walking their dogs, too. Cedar Lake Trail goes through along BNSF railroad with overgrown easement and through some wetlands, which is very nice.

After work I went back via the Mill City District and the Stone arch Bridge. I appreciated the stiff back wind, especially when seeing how hard the cyclists heading homeward from Minneapolis were working. The trail was very easy to find, within 30 minutes I was at the new Twins stadium. The first time I needed to stop after getting on Cedar lake trail was when I hit the river.

Again smooth riding, across the Stone Arch Bridge and then onto SE Main Street. I must have missed my turn for all of a sudden I found myself on a railroad service road. There was a squad car parked a little further down and fully expected to be turned back, but the officers paid me no heed. So I continued, crossing Dinkytown below street level and re-emerging onto fifth street behind the Ridder Arena. I stopped shortly at the Gopher Football Stadium to see if Lynn might be in her office. She wasn't, so I continued.

After I got my big light on I merged into the heavy bike traffic on the UMN Transit Way and was home in another 10 minutes. This seems to be the route of choice for a quick commute to work, barely more than an hour, admittedly with a lot of help from the strong westerly wind.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Arctic Commando Trail Run 2011

For the last three years I have been looking forward to the Arctic Commando Trail Run. "Arctic Commandos" is the nickname of St. Paul Central Sr. High Schools XC Ski Team and for the last four years they have been conducting a trail race at Battle Creek West in which I have participated every year. Since I started blogging, I wrote about it, too (see here). Outside of orienteering I do not participate in any sanctioned running events except for this trail run. I like the low-key atmosphere, the absence of crowds and the challenging terrain. In the past, the 5k loosely followed the ski trails at Battle Creek, occasionally switching to the single-track MTB trails. This year, the Sisu Nordic Ski Foundation worked hard at pulling a sanctioned event to this location and the 2.5 km and 5 km loops were homologated by the International Ski Federation and by the US Ski and Snowboard Association and the runners followed the new loops, benefiting from an additional 20 m of climb. (Ben Popp of Sisu said during last Thursday's Year Round Group that Doing 50k (or 10 laps) at Battle Creek at m will trump the Birkie's 1188 m easily with its 1900 m of climb, though I do not know whether I'd want to do 10 laps of anything, hills or no hills.

Off we go on this beautiful late fall day.
(Photo courtesy of  Ed Swain, available at skinnyski.com)
It looked like a good crowd again, a new record, according to co-organizer John Kendrick. It's good to see so many young kids participating in physical activity. We lined up across a wide open area just before the finish, as always slightly chaotic. And off we were. One guy took off like a rocket, he ended up winning, a good 7 minutes ahead of me. There were the usual suspects, athletes younger and/or faster than myself, that started to build a distance between me and them. I passed John, with whom I had a friendly rivalry over the previous years. Until now I had been able to keep him at bay.

Working hard to keep the next generation and some competitors closer to my
own age at bay (Photo courtesy of  Ed Swain, available at skinnyski.com
One guy passed me confidently on the slight incline early on in the race. I let him go but caught up with him on the next hill. we stayed together on the down hill and when, approaching the next upward slope I heard him mutter "what, another hill?" I knew he wasn't going to be serious competition, since this was just the third out of seven or eight serious climbs. During the next climb, one of the young 2-milers challenged me. He looked like 10 and when I checked the results, he turned out to be eleven. We ran together till the split, he having the advantage climbing and me, taking it back on the downhills, thanks to my longer legs. He will doubtlessly have a career in xc running and track, a talented athlete.

I did the initial 2.5 km at a 4:34 pace, then I stared slowing down and that's when John K overtook me. I could not keep up and regretfully had to let him go. I finished in 26:06, with a pace of 4:58. As usual during peak efforts like this I started suffering from a runny nose. But it felt good to have participated, Improving my pace over that of previous years, in spite of the added climb and the slightly longer course. If there was a regret, it was not having Colin's (my older son) classmates cheering me on from the sidelines. They have all graduated from Central ...

The results are available at www.skinnyski.com, as are a series of photos of the event.

Link to all Arctic Commando trail runs.