Finally some pro soccer

Sunday night the Minnesota United FC got their second home victory, under a beautiful evening sunset. The weather was perfect for a Sunday evening game with temps in the mid-60s. I went back and forth between wearing my sweatshirt and taking it off, opting finally for going with just a t-shirt at the end of the game.

We had a wonderful game with solid defense and a beautiful goal in the second half. We managed to make it out of the first half with no points scored against us, which I believe is the first time this season. We controlled the ball well, and new players like Sam Cronin, pulled our lines together and kept Colorado from getting too close too often. Cronin in particular was fun to watch, as he’s tremendously aggressive and has a bit of an enforcer personality.

Colorado wasn’t playing their best game, but despite that I felt like we really showed that we can compete in this league. We put together a solid 90 minutes of soccer and looked like a pro team again. Considering what we went through the past few games, I would have even been happy with a 0-0 draw. However, a 1-0 win was music to the crowd’s ears. Well… that plus Wonderwall playing at the final whistle; a new tradition whenever we win a home game.

I’m glad we finally pulled things together, and can’t wait to see us develop even more as the season progresses.

Some bike maintenance

I don’t do a ton of bike maintenance myself, but basic stuff like changing brake pads is easy. The other day when riding I noticed that my rear brakes weren’t engaging very hard. When I looked them over I discovered that one side was wearing VERY unevenly. I’m at a loss as to how I had it mounted wrong last year, that would have resulted in such an uneven wear pattern.

Today I decided to replace them again and make sure that I got them on straight. So far it looks like I managed to get it to work, but it also required some adjustment of the caliper tension wire. It seems like the posts on brake pads are all slightly different, which requires the tension to be reset when you put on a new brand. Needless to say this took a bit of putzing, but hopefully it’s good to go. I’ll take it out for a longer spin soon, but so far it seems to be OK.

It’s fun to be able to do some simple things like this, and maybe soon I’ll try something a bit harder, like changing out a derailleur or gear cassette.

Trail Mix 25K

This year we decided to add in the Trail Mix 25K race into the Upper Midwest Trail Runners Trail Series. It’s a very popular local trail race at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, and is a great introduction to trail running for beginners. I hesitated on signing up early, and opt’d to just do race day registration.

I had never been to this park before, so I was curious about how the course stacked up to other routes. I did some searching on Strava and discovered that the elevation nearly matches the Elm Creek horse trail loop, meaning that this should be pretty familiar territory for me. Both routes are also around 7 miles in length, so this should be just like doing two loops of Elm Creek.

I arrived early to register and then chatted with other folks that I knew that were there. I snapped a pic of the UMTR folks for our Instagram feed right before we launched at 9:30am. I stuck to the back of the pack, since I’m not a fast runner, and I also like to avoid the crowd at the front. This still doesn’t mean I went out at the appropriate speed, and probably should have dialed it back a bit. Soon the mass of people started thinning out and I was able to set my pace and settle in for a few hours of running.

The course was double-wide horse trail, with a couple of short gravel roads, and two segments of bike path. In other words, this is very similar to anyone who’s run Elm Creek before. The main difference being that I felt like I was on pavement a bit more between a couple of the trail junctions. As for elevation, the hills were much more mellow than Elm Creek. Even with a similar about of climbing, I never felt like I was climbing up anything tremendously steep. However, the downside to smaller hills is that you end up with more of them. You also tend to run up them without thinking, expending energy that you might not have on sharper hills.

Trail Mix is a great race for people crossing over from roads, and one of the benefits is frequent aid stations. The loop is 12.5K long, and there are aid stations roughly every 3K. This means that you’re coming across water and food frequently enough that you don’t have to carry any if you don’t want. I opt’d to not carry any water, and for the most part was fine. There were a couple moments where I felt like I would have liked some extra water, but the aid station was never that far away.

IMG_0863On my first loop I felt pretty good. I ate a lot of food in an attempt to keep my energy up, and made sure I was hydrating enough. I ran more of the uphills than I probably should have, but I wasn’t keeping up an outrageous pace. I came into the start/finish area to start my second loop in just over 90 minutes, which was just fine with me. My training this year has been pretty bad, so I was happy with my time so far. I gobbled up some food and headed out on the second loop.

The second loop was hotter than the first, so I doused my head a bit when I came across water. I also felt my energy wane somewhat so I backed off my pace and started doing a bit more walking. However, I enjoyed running through the mud puddles; prancing my way through, while others futilely tried to stay dry. As I got close to the final aid stations I realized I was pretty much out of energy and so I kept it slow the rest of the way in. My final loop came in around 107 minutes, which considering where I’m at fitness wise was just fine with me. My overall time was 3:19.

I grabbed a bit more food and chatted with folks a bit before deciding I needed a nap and headed for the car. I made my way home, showered and immediately fell asleep for a nap. It’s somewhat frustrating to me that I’ve declined so much that even a 25K has me feeling like my first half-marathon race. I know I can get back out of this but it will take time. It may affect my decision to attempt the Superior 50K in a few weeks. I’m considering just volunteering and work on building myself up for Marquette 50K later this year.

I had a good time at Trail Mix, and I can see myself coming back again next year. It’s a fun, easy, course, and it is very well managed. The was an abundance of aid and volunteer support, making the entire experience fun and easy. The weather was amazing, topping out in the 60s by the time I was done. Thankfully, there was a cool breeze most of the time, so it never felt overwhelmingly hot (I do wish I hadn’t forgot sunscreen though).

If you’re looking for a fun race, especially as a new trail runner, Trail Mix is a great event. Even if you’re experienced in running on dirt, Trail Mix is a really beautiful place to run and get in some solid miles with great support.

Morning run

Slip on the shoes and tie the knot

Make it a double to make sure

breath in, breath out

One foot in front of the other

Headlamp bobbing along the ground

breath in, breath out

Round the first curve, still stiff

Heart rate not quite settled yet

breath in, breath out

Thoughts start to trickle in

Give them space, they make the miles melt away

breath in, breath out

Concrete and asphalt… wishing for soft dirt

Pre-work runs require efficiency though

breath in, breath out

The final night chill descends moments before dawn

The morning light soon chases away the frost and fog

breath in, breath out

Approaching the final turns towards home

Mind still racing with thoughts

breath in, breath out

Stop the watch, turn off the light

Breath in, breath out one last time

Begin the day

Easter Vegas vacation, day 4

IMG_0836Our final day in Vegas was subdued. Our flight left late afternoon, so there really wasn’t a lot of time to do big adventures. I started out the morning with a 4 mile run along the wash, however this time I took a different fork and ran along the south side instead of the north. This ended up bringing me to this really cool overlook that resulted in the panorama that I set as the featured image in this post. The overlook was basically a small hill with a path leading up to the top, but it was fun to climb and had a great view.

IMG_0840Once I got home and cleaned up, the wife and I headed over to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. My wife is into birds, and this was only a few miles away from the apartment, so it was a perfect final day activity. The bird preserve consists of various ponds that used to be a part of the wastewater treatment plant, but had since been segmented off just for bird viewing. They offer loaner binoculars, which was awesome, but once again I regretted not packing my big camera. Next time I’m out there I’m bringing a nice big lens.

IMG_0841We wandered around the preserve for a good 90 minutes as we watched various birds that we never see in the Midwest. Because these were ponds, there was plenty of waterfowl to be seen. However, we also got to see a few other neat birds like a yellow headed blackbird, and multiple hummingbirds. One humming bird even sat still in a tree branch near us, giving us a great view of something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in Minnesota.

Once we finished at the bird preserve it was time to return to the village to pack and wait for our flight. We had a few hours to kill, so we spent it resting and talking with family. Soon it was time to head out, and so we loaded up some cars with the luggage, while we returned the rental car. Our flight home was uneventful, although with the time difference it meant we weren’t getting into bed until close to 1 am.

IMG_0842Overall, this was a good trip, and we had some fun. Unfortunately, when you get a couple dozen people together for a family event it’s hard to call a trip “restful”. There’s simply so many things going on that it gets hard to just chill and relax sometimes. That aside, I’m very glad we were able to go and spend time with everyone. As families age, and people move, it becomes harder and harder to take time to be together. Spending time with family when you can is vitally important, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity on this trip.