Back country running with video

One of my favorite aspects of summer are the extra opportunities to run in places I’d like never go in the winter. The past several weeks have given me a chance to hit trails in the region, and head out on gravel roads for long runs.

A few weeks back, a friend invited me over to Turtle River State Park, a short drive west of Grand Forks, for a late afternoon run. It came after a tough double on Wild Hog Wednesday, which included nearly 5 miles at tempo, so my first venture back to the park in 3 years would be a slow jog.

It turns out that two of the local cross country teams also were there for a workout. I followed one large group out on the trails — and I marveled at the sights and sounds. For a few miles, I reimagined myself back on the trails in Portland, Ore.

And then I had a chance to caravan to Maplewood State Park, near Pelican Rapids, Minn., for a long trail run. Again, it’s been a few years since I’ve been to the park, but it proved to be great company and a challenging workout. If you’ve never run Maplewood, it’s definitely worth the drive — this video shows some of the spectacular views from the hilly terrain through trees and prairie grasses.

With a few days off late last week, I opted for a long run on Friday to clear my weekend schedule. This time, I found myself on familiar ground, running the gravel roads that became my weekend tradition during last year’s training for the New York City Marathon.

Then, on Saturday and Sunday, I hit the pavement as I continue my training for the St. George (Utah) Marathon, now less than 10 weeks away. The sizzling heat and thick humidity have added an extra layer to my training this summer, but my mileage remains consistent as I feel my fitness improving.

Since I was in Fargo over the weekend, a few of us watched the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels perform at the Fargo Airsho. We climbed on a buddy’s roof. Watch a video of the Blue Angels flying overhead.

The summer sizzle

The clock ticked toward 10 a.m.and this was going to be a difficult test.

Temperatures were beginning to soar on Saturday morning and I really didn’t want to bonk on my longest run since March. That would mean having to get up early the following day in hopes of logging my first 14-mile effort in the build up for the St. George Marathon.

Instead of grabbing a bottle of Gatorade, I opted for a 50-ounce Camelback pack with water and headed outside. And rather than running gravel roads to the south, my route would include 14 miles in the city — mostly along blacktop and concrete — so I could spend the final 4 miles headed into a southerly breeze.

Four months ago, I suffered heat exhaustion during an 18-mile mountain trail race under the scorching Arizona sun. Frankly, I haven’t quite been the same since.

There would be no escaping the sun on this Saturday as I ran on a bike path, along roadsides and through the industrial park on Grand Forks’ west side. The only reprieve would come late in the run, beyond the point of no return, when I had already suffered.

But there is a certain familiarity and dignity to the suffering. When I lived in Fargo, I often would embark on long runs on the narrow roads by the industrial park there. Those long runs had proven helpful in my marathon training.

By the time I arrived home Saturday, the thermometer had reached 80. The near-70 percent humidity left me drenched. A sense of satisfaction washed over me as I prepped the grill to share lunch with Coby — burgers and hot dogs. While we wouldn’t be spending time this weekend at the lake, I filled the kiddie pool for the pooch, who turns 2 later this month.

In the pictures below, Coby and one of his best Golden retriever pals, Bode, enjoy some time together late last month. 

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On hot days, Coby doesn’t need any more incentive to cool down in his pool.

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On the Fourth of July, Coby exhausted himself chasing his Kong tennis balls. While he’s become fond of the water, he finally needed a rest after several hours of swimming.

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After burgers and hot dogs, a Saturday at home meant play time in the yard with his toys. He prefers to tear cheap frisbees apart with his teeth.

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For my part, I’ve come to loathe and love the heat training. There’s a sense of accomplishment, even if the miles drift by more slowly.

After a mid-June injury, my training has focused mostly on building miles at the expense of speed. The weekly mileage has begun to climb as I extend a daily running streak and trade miles for fast workouts, which I will look to insert as the injury heals and allows for harder efforts.

For now, though, I’m embracing the mileage and soreness accompanying my marathon plans, and look to last year’s New York City training as a guide to summer running. Hard work now, in the summer heat, will pay off when the cooler temps arrive in the fall.