Treasured Haven Farms 12 Hour Run

Ever since I changed my running philosophy this year, I’ve been much happier with where I’m at. I’m not stressed about “the next big race” because I don’t actually have any races planned. I’m just doing things when I feel like it. Case in point, the Treasured Haven Farms 12 Hour Run that I did on Sunday. My wife had signed up for this run a long time ago, so I knew I would be there, but I didn’t decide to join in until 9 days before the race. It was another moment where I said, “what the heck, that sounds fun.”

Treasured Haven Farms is one of the hidden gems of the trail race world here in Minnesota. It’s a small organic farm that opens up their property to trail races a few times throughout the year. We’ve done a 7 mile race there before and it’s a lot of fun. This is old-school trail racing at it’s finest. No chip timing, no big fanfare, just a bunch of land with trails on it, and a clock at the finish line.

When we arrived we were greeted by a few other UMTR friends who had also made the trek. They had opted to do the 3 and 6 hour version of the race, which was probably smart given the predicted high temps for the day. This was going to be one of the hottest days of the year with temps reaching into the 90s. We also found out that besides my wife and I, only one other person had signed up for the 12 hour race. This factor would be key later in the story.

img_2720At 7 am the race launched and I started out at a decent pace figuring I should, carefully, bank some miles while the air was still cool. I locked in to an 11:30 pace, which under most, flat, circumstances is my “go all day” pace. The loop that we were running was 3 miles long around the edge of the farm fields, with a couple jaunts on to some beautiful wooded paths. These wooded areas became sanctuaries throughout the morning as the temps started to climb and the sun started beating down hard.

The first couple of hours melted away pretty quickly for me. Just over two hours in I had a solid 10 miles on my legs and was feeling pretty good. After three hours I decided it was time to move to a run/walk strategy to help conserve energy and survive the climbing temps. By this point the 3 hour runners were finished up, however our amazing friend Ann, and another friend’s husband DuWayne (she was running the 6 hour) decided to be our crew for a while.

Every time we came in from a loop they were right there making sure we had everything we needed, throwing away our trash, and generally taking care of our every need. They stuck around for a lot longer than they needed to and treated us amazingly. We were humbled and grateful for how wonderful they were to us. Another friend of ours, Bob, showed up with trail running fixture, Pearl the dog. He lives near the farm and so he stopped by a couple times to encourage us. That was a huge surprise and really lifted our spirits as the day wore on.

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Pearl! pc: Bob

As the race continued I caught up to my wife who was a loop behind me. We would occasionally stick together but usually one of us would move ahead of the other as we were feeling good. As the loops wore on I ended up spending a lot more time at the main aid station, taking my time as I felt like it. I went in to this race with very minor goals, and so I wasn’t pushing too hard to do anything phenomenal. A few days before the race I thought it would be amazing if I could get 100K or 50 miles, however as the weather report got hotter and hotter, I decided that if I could bang out a 50K I would count that as a success. By 5 hours in I was already at 20 miles, so I knew a 50K was pretty much in the bag.

As the 6 hour run was finishing up a huge blessing rolled in, in the shape of clouds and a light rain.  Suddenly everything started to feel right in the universe again. There was a breeze with the clouds and the temps dropped in to the 70s. It was a little bit of heaven. Granted I had still been running for 6 hours and was feeling all that pain on my legs. I had a major blister on my right big toe that I got covered up, but it still was an irritant. As the hours wore on it also became apparent how lonely the rest of this day was going to be. After the 6 hours folks finished up, the only people left were myself, my wife Lisa, and another runner named Eric.

Eric was crushing the course, lapping us repeatedly as he racked up miles. He was a solid runner and a super nice guy, however, it sounded like he was just doing this for a training run and that the only reason that he bumped up from the 6 to the 12 was because only my wife and I had signed up for it. One of the times he was passing us he mentioned, “Hey if you guys want to call this early just let me know, I’m cool stopping whenever.” At this point I think we were all feeling a little silly having just three runners keeping a race open for an extra 6 hours.

My wife and I talked about it and decided to keep going for a bit longer, but that if any one of us decided to drop that we’d all probably call it a day. At the eight hour mark I took a solid 15 minute break as my wife and I talked about things. She was hurting bad and just wasn’t feeling confident that she wanted to go on any further. The rain had stopped a long time ago, and the sun was coming back out. The temps were predicted to climb back into the high 80s before we would be done. She decided that she was done. I looked down at my watch and realized I was at 30 miles, so I opt’d to go out for one more loop and knock out a solid 50K.

33781994_1983613511649334_4959292251567030272_oAs I headed out for this final loop I found my body working really, really well. Maybe I had just adapted to the pain, but I felt like I could run again. I ended up running almost all of that final loop and knocked out a 35 minute 3 miler. That was almost as fast as my initial loops early in the day. Since this was going to be my final loop, I decided I had better leave everything out there on the course, and so I pushed myself to sub-11 minute pace as much as I could and crossed over the finish line with a few minutes before the 9 hour mark to spare.

With ~33 miles and 9 hours under my belt I decided it was a good day, and I was more than happy to join my wife in calling it done. That’s the beauty of a timed race like this. You can stop whenever you want and if you decide you’re done earlier than the bell, that’s totally up to you. I clocked in my second 50K of the year, only 4 weeks apart, which is light years beyond where I’ve been in previous years.

I probably could have gone on another three hours and finished out 40+ miles, but I wasn’t out there with anything to prove. I kept moving for 9 hours, completed a solid distance, and even found a second wind late in the day that propelled me to some solid running on tired legs. That’s one of the biggest ‘wins’ that I took away from the whole day; proving that just because you’re in pain at one point in a long race, doesn’t mean you’ll be in pain the entire race. Pain is temporary, and our bodies are often able to do a lot more than we think they can.

img_2721I’m incredibly happy with how this race turned out. I don’t know what is next for me, as I’m not doing any long term race planning this year. I’ve got my favorite 5K (Endless Summer French Park 5K) coming up soon, but other than that it’s all up to whatever I feel like. That’s one of the best feelings I’ve had as a runner in a long time, and it’s made all the difference in my attitude and enjoyment of running overall this year. Low pressure and running for fun. It’s what trail running is supposed to be about.

 

Quick Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

We got out today to catch a showing of the latest and greatest movie in the ever expanding Star Wars universe, Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is a film set in the younger days of our favorite scoundrel, Han Solo, as he begins his life and career, long before he ever met Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I’ll keep this review short and spoiler free, and simply say, this is one of the most fun Star Wars films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a heist-style plot (as might be expected with Han being a smuggler) that jumps from one tough situation to another. Just like future Han, sometimes things just seem to always get worse, no matter how good a feeling he has about things. In this movie we meet an array of characters that are new, as well as a couple old friends. In particular Lando (played by Donald Glover) was a complete scene stealer, just like in Empire Strikes Back. He was smooth, cocky, and witty, despite not always being able to get himself out of his bad situations.

The entire movie plays out with lots of action, which flows together smoothly into a wonderfully fun plot that doesn’t require you to have to think too hard. This is a movie that you can just sit down and enjoy. You get nods to a lot of the broader Star Wars universe, but it never pulls you away from the swashbuckling that is happening right in front of you. Solo doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It’s just good, solid, Star Wars fun.

I realize that it hasn’t gotten overwhelming reviews, but in my book it’s one of the most fun movies I’ve been to in a long time. It brought me back to my youth as a big Star Wars fan, with high stakes adventure that is fun to experience. It’s well worth the price of theater admission in my book. Just don’t go in with expectations for anything other than a fun romp.

Too young

Back in 2007 I was a big World of Warcraft gamer, and it remained my primary hobby for many, many years. I was deeply involved in the community around the game, and many of the personalities who talked about it in various forms of media.

One of the biggest names of the day, that I went on to follow in subsequent years after leaving WoW, was John Bain, otherwise known as TotalBiscuit. John was a law graduate in Britain before he turned to video game commentary. His show WoW Radio was a hugely influential show in the WoW community, and I have tons of fond memories of watching their hilarious antics in-game.

In the years since, I’ve followed him on and off through his game criticism career. I’d occasionally watch a video of his when he would talk about a game that interested me. I always loved his critical mind, and his sense of humor, even when I didn’t 100% agree with him.

Yesterday he passed away at the age of 33 after a long fight with cancer. Over the past few years he’s shared his struggles, his optimism that he could beat things, and his pain as treatments lost their effectiveness. Once again it’s a case of someone being snatched away from the world far too early and it makes everyone take a moment to evaluate how they’re living their lives.

Video games are sometimes derided as just a waste of time, but for many people they are a huge part of life, and what gives their lives mean. Totalbiscuit was an inspiration, entertainer, and foil, to many people. He enriched more lives that he’ll know, and the world of video games is lessened by his passing. RIP Cynical Brit, and thanks for the memories.

O.G. Inspiration

This past weekend I was at the Spring Superior trail races which include a 50K, 25K, and a new 12.5K distance on the rugged and remote Superior Hiking Trail. This race has a special place in my heart as it was one of my best performing trail races after I transitioned from roads in 2015. I finished the race with my legs covered in mud, and loving every second of it.

Ever since those early races I’ve become more and more involved in this amazing trail running community in the Upper Midwest. One key aspect of this community is that you can’t go very far without running in to one of these four O.G.’s; Brian Landstrom, Harry Sloan, Dan Doty, and Jeff Goldstein. These guys are the originals. They have dozens of 100 mile, 50 mile, and 50K races under their belts spanning decades.

When I say that they’re the originals, that’s not an understatement. Harry Sloan was running Western States back in 1983, and was the first race director of the Superior 100 trail race, which has grown in to one of the biggest and best 100 mile races in the world. Brian, Dan, and Jeff have all been on the scene of the earliest Minnesota races, including the Voyageur 50 where legend Scott Jurek still holds the overall course record. In short, these guys have been around.

I’ve had the privilege of sharing miles with Jeff on multiple occasions, as we both run at Elm Creek Park. He’s an inspiration, and a tremendous trail mentor. If there’s something you need to know about trail running, he’s one of the best to ask. I’ve personally learned a tremendous amount from him, even on just a handful of runs together over the years. I’ve also had the honor of pacing Brian for a few miles at the Hitchcock 100. He’s not the kind of guy who usually needs a pacer, but when I was standing around after my runner came up injured, he let me drop in with him for a while.

The amazing thing about these four guys is that they’re often found together. After decades of running trail together, spending hours and hours in each other’s presence, they still manage to not get sick of each other. They’re trail people through and through, and they manage to continue to get the job done, year after year. This year was no exception with each of them completing the Spring Superior 50K, welcoming each other across the finish line.

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It’s guys like this that I want to be like when I grow up. To be able to continue to do the thing I love for as long as these guys have been doing it, is a life goal of mine. As someone who came to this sport just over 3 years ago, I’ve got a long way to go. But, with amazing guys like this to look up to for inspiration, I feel like I might just have a shot to make it there.

Why can’t Google make up their mind?

I’m a big user of Google Services. I’ve loved Google Docs since it first launched, and use it all the time for both personal and professional things. I’ve also been a long time user of Google’s instant messaging ecosystem including GTalk, Hangouts, and Allo (briefly). On top of all of that I also use Google Play Music as our family music subscription service.

Anyone who’s familiar with Google’s product history knows that they often try things, and then change their mind and move on to something else. Google+ was supposed to be the new Facebook competitor. Hangouts was the new GTalk. Docs became Drive, and so on and so on. Google’s IM application history is a convoluted story, and a complete mess that still isn’t resolved. Right now we’re all waiting in anticipation for their new “Chat” app that will come pretty close to being an iMessage clone for Android, as well as the ability to use it on the web.

The big news of today though is their music subscription service. Google has now launched YouTube Music, which is targeted directly at players like Spotify. It’s a music subscription service that allows you to play music on demand, as well as take advantage of deep playlists to help you find new music. It’s basically a small enhancement of their existing Google Play Music service. But instead of just improving Google Play Music, they’ve created yet another new product that directly competes with their older product.

Thankfully, existing Google Play Music subscribers get a free subscription to YouTube Music, but it begs the question, “How long till Google kills Play Music?” There’s not a lot of point in Google having two music subscription services, so eventually they’ll most likely go down to one. Since YouTube is the hot new kid on the block, it probably means that eventually all of us Google Play Music people will just end up having to change which app we’re using and move over to YouTube Music. That’s not the end of the world, but it’s annoying.

Google just can’t seem to keep it’s eye on any one thing for a long time. It’s like a kid with Asperger’s who has a new favorite TV show that they’re TOTALLY in to every week. Something new and shiny comes along and they decide to change everything, sometimes for what seems like the sake of change. It’s this type of stuff that makes me wonder why I bother trying Google services. Maybe I should have just gone to Spotify or Amazon and be done with it. Thankfully I don’t need to make any decisions right away, but come on Google, let’s get it together.