Going for green

“Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'” — Peter Maher

With record-breaking temps, it’s time to shed the layers and run outdoors. It couldn’t come sooner after an interesting winter, with several cold snaps that tested the hardiest of souls, and spring races not far off.

The best part for me will be early morning runs with Coby, who will turn 20 months old later this month. As a tiny pup, he ran alongside me, trotting alongside me for 2 or 3 miles at a time. After some research, though, I put his running on hiatus. The best information that I could find argued that dogs shouldn’t start a running regimen until they’ve reached full size.

Now, on occasions I grab the leash by the door, Coby still gets excited. Those early runs must be hardwired into his memory — he puts the leash in his mouth and appears ready to pull me along with him.

IMG_2388

IMG_2412

IMG_2411

The warmer weather, and disappearance of snow, means I’ll be returning to runs along the Grand Forks Greenway and streets. My faithful little Golden retriever will soon be joining me on many of those runs.

For the past two days, the lingering effects of Sunday’s half marathon were apparent. A recovery run on Monday was a pain, literally, as sore muscles and a lingering nerve issue made every step memorable. A speed workout for Tuesday promised more of the same.

On Tuesdays, my marathon training plan calls for intervals, one of my favorite workouts. The training cycle calls for a series of 20-second surges, followed by 1-minute recovery jogs, in the middle of the workout. Still, I’ve adapted the plan to running longer intervals with the same recovery jogs. Until today.

Instead, after a 3-mile warmup run, I found myself at a popular park with several soccer fields. My improvisation turned into 10 intervals of 100-meter sprints on the grassy fields and recovery jogs of about 75 meters. With achy muscles, I was thankful for a soft surface.

My hope for the coming season includes plans for several shorter races to focus on increasing speed and leg turnover.

There are several short races coming up on the schedule. This Saturday, runners can expect great temperatures for the St. Patrick’s Day 5K, one of the best running events offered in Fargo. There are numerous other regional races available in the coming weeks and months. Click here to see a race listing.

Red eyes, big canyons

“I loved the feeling of freedom in running, the fresh air, the feeling that the only person I’m competing with is me.” — Wilma Rudolph

For a fleeting moment, when the alarm sounded, my thoughts turned to regret. It was 3:30 a.m., and my plane arrived less than 5 hours earlier.

After arriving in Arizona, I packed all my running gear and prepped the coffee maker for the early wake-up call. The excitement, which prompted me to sign up for the Xtrerra Black Canyon Half Marathon a few weeks earlier, seemed a distant memory.

Even with a long drive, the early morning commute beneath the freeway lights through the city and north of Phoenix went quickly with so few people on the roads, and my arrival to a dark parking lot to the race left plenty of down time. Organizers had just begun to set up the race village and finish line area.

An hour later, I joined other runners on one of six school buses shuttling us to the start — a gravel road set in a canyon nearly 13 miles away. Along the way, a good conversation among strangers turned to veterans of the race providing tips on the course, upcoming races and trail running in the valley.

Near the start, runners huddled around a large bonfire and a couple sunflower propane heaters. Laughter, gear talk and comparing gels continued as a race official joked about rattlesnakes and river crossings.

Soon, we were off down a dirt road before the trail narrowed into a single track path. We crossed dry washes, dodged the desert vegetation and sidestepped rocks and ruts. Many of us wondered how deep the river crossing might be.

Between miles 3 and 4, runners found out. A swift current of spring snow melt, nearly up to my knees, rushed through the gully. The coldness proved therapeutic and I wished it had been deeper for my burning quads.

It wasn’t long before the real climbing began. My breathing was weezy and labored as I struggled to reach the halfway point. It was too early to walk, but John, one of the runners on the bus, warned of big climbs at mile 8 and 11. At some point, it would be easier to power walk the inclines and hope to pass on the downhills.

Running desert mountain trails requires focus. One moment the sun will blind you before you tuck behind shadows. It’s hard to discern depth along the rocky terrain without rolling an ankle. The beauty often takes a back seat to the concentration required to forward, relentless movement along the switchbacks snaking up and down the canyon peaks.

As mile 12 approached, the commotion at the second river crossing offered renewed excitement. Volunteers cheered and offered drinking water. As the day heated up, I thought for a fleeting moment of sitting down in the river to cool off and let the coolness envelope me. My legs stiffened exiting the water and then came the penultimate climb. Soon, there was a trail span allowing for a short recovery before the final ascent.

After cresting the final peak, my racing instincts kicked in. Runners from the simultaneous 9K event had joined the trail at the river crossing, and the single-track path offered little room for passing. I found myself hurdling rocks, small cacti and other desert plants on the side of the mountain to pass some runners, but many practiced the trail running code by stepping to the side to allow a pass.

The final half mile proved to be a hard press to the finish line. At the end, the exhaustion reinforced a vital reminder: I was alive.

IMG_2484

After about 10 minutes, and a cup of water, I was on the road, driving again and on the lookout for a cheeseburger. And after a quick change of clothes, a drive further north for my first visit to Grand Canyon National Park.

IMG_2479 IMG_2440 IMG_2433 IMG_2428 IMG_2465 IMG_2420 IMG_2459

Designing better cities

“You must expect great things from yourself before you can do them.” — Michael Jordan

If you live in Fargo-Moorhead, you may know there’s a broad discussion going on right now about walkability, the use of bikes and how city design can impact recreational and pedestrian accessibility.

Community members are invited to participate in the discussion from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday (March 3) at Dakota Medical Foundation, 4141 28th Ave. S., Fargo. You can even register for the event here or view the Building Cities poster.

Runners, bikers, walkers and interested parties are invited to listen and share in the discussion.