Exploring the Hardwood Trail

The wife mentioned going for a longish bike ride today, and so I took a look at some trails that we hadn’t ever explored before. I settled on the Hardwood Trail that starts in Hugo, MN. As you head north the trail eventually changes to the Sunrise Prairie Trail near Wyoming, MN, before continuing on all the way to North Branch, MN. All total it’s about 25 miles one direction.

We were interested in something shorter, so we parked in Hugo and headed south for a half a mile before hitting the southern end and turning around. We then proceeded northward until we turned around at 11th Ave. The ride north was really nice and pleasant, for one simple reason. The wind was at our backs.

We knew that there was a bit of wind from the south, but what we didn’t know was how incredibly strong it was. It turns out that 20mph sustained wind with gusts over 30mph really isn’t that much fun. Whereas we had been cruising along at an easy 14mph on the way up, the return trip barely registered 10mph. My average heart rate jumped 20bpm on the trip back, which was a pretty big indicator of how hard we were working.

It took us 47 minutes to get back to the car, and it was hard earned. That was one of the more difficult rides I’ve done, and I think in the future we should probably check the wind on the weather report before picking our route. However, besides the wind, the trail was really lovely.

IMG_0954It’s a railroad grade trail, meaning it’s pretty much flat. It’s rather exposed to the elements (which didn’t help in today’s wind), but on an overcast day I could see this being a wonderful trail to ride. Granted, we didn’t get past Forest Lake, so perhaps it’s a bit more shaded to the north.

The pavement was well maintained, and all of the street crossings were easy to navigate. Because it’s a straight line it was really easy to follow, and it meant we could just ride and enjoy the scenery. Today’s wildlife spotting’s included a couple of beautiful swans grazing in a farm field, as well as a bald eagle riding the wind currents.

I’m excited to try out more of the trail, and maybe get a group together to ride the whole 50-mile out and back distance sometime.

 

2019 Biking Year in Review

It’s time once again for my annual wrap-up of my running and biking adventures for the year. This year marked a huge change in my biking behavior, due to a couple key things. First off, having a fat bike meant that winter riding was more comfortable for me. Even though I only got out once in January, it still meant that I was on my bike every single month of the year. That’s a huge milestone for me.

IMG_0388.JPGThe other aspect that changed for me was seeing my bike as a viable means of transportation, more than I ever have before. This meant that even in February I was using two wheels to get around and get places I needed to be. A couple of these early rides took me up to Anoka for some singing gigs my wife was doing, and it showed me that I didn’t need to depend on the car for everything.

This attitude propelled me into main riding season with a sense of purpose to try and reduce my dependence on my car. This was helped by my job change in May that brought be back to working for Metro Transit, and working in downtown Minneapolis. That means my job was less than 10 miles away from my house, which is a great distance for commuting. For days when I didn’t feel up to the full distance, I also had the option of the train, which is only 1.8 miles from where I live. In fact, towards the end of the year my car sat in the garage most weekdays.

IMG_0235.jpgIt wasn’t all business though. My wife and I also went on some adventures together, and with our friends Abe, Chuck, David, and Dale. We’ve did the Gateway Trail, around Coon Rapids, some trips to the Lake Woebegon Trail and Paul Bunyan Trail. This is all in addition to some jaunts around town for food and beer. This meant that my 2019 mileage was almost double what I’ve ever done before. As it stands right now I’m finishing out the year at 1385 miles, which is a HUGE improvement from previous years. Especially when still running 1500 miles a year. With my perspective on using my bike for more commuting, I’m positive I can up that mileage even a bit more next year without impacting my running too much.

IMG_4801.JPGI also continued to ride with the Beer & Bikes gang, which got me on the road at least once a week. It continues to be a great way to keep me biking consistently throughout the year, even when I may be slacking at other times. In addition I held my annual Fall Fifty+Five ride, which is 50 miles and 5 breweries. It’s an all day excursion that draws a lot of new people out, and is a great time. This year we ended up with some wet and cold conditions, making it not quite as enjoyable as years past, but still a good time overall.

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Beer & Bikes at Free Bikes 4 Kidz again!

In bike news, I also had a big change. Since 2011 I’ve been riding on a Trek FX 7.2 hybrid bike. It’s been a solid ride for me, and it’s launched me on a great number of adventures. However, I felt like this year was the time to make a change. I had been testing bikes on and off for months, and had narrowed down to the gravel bike category. I felt like it was a great fit for the types of adventures I like to do. Coincidentally, it also fit with my wife. She came along for some of my test rides and fell in love with the Salsa Journeyman, which she picked up mid way through the year. I still hadn’t decided on what I wanted yet (I take a long time to decide these things), but knew there were a few models I was focusing on.

DSC01584.jpg Eventually I had an opportunity to test ride a Salsa Vaya and immediately fell in love. The steel frame was supple, and the geometry fit me perfectly. It comes with a Shimano 105 with a 1×11 groupset, which was exactly the drivetrain I was looking for. It was exactly the bike I wanted, and at the time was on sale, so I jumped at it. It’s been an amazing tool the second half of the year. Before I put it away for the season I had already logged close to 300 miles on it in just a couple short months.

IMG_0061.pngSome of those miles were due to my spur of the moment bike packing trip with my friend Mike. He had picked up a bike this year, and since both of us love camping and the outdoors, it was a great fit. We headed out to Carver Park in Victoria, MN and spent the night. It was really cool to be able to bike somewhere, set up camp, and enjoy a night outside. It was a bit cooler and wetter than we wanted, but we still had a great time. I can’t wait to do more adventures like this in 2020.

Screen Shot 2019-12-26 at 10.45.37 AM.png2019 was an amazing year for my biking, and I’m excited for the future. I feel like I’m in a great place with both my running and biking. I do plan to hit a couple gravel ride events in 2020, to get some exposure to that side of things, but otherwise, I’ll continue to build on my desire to use my own power to get myself around. I can’t wait to keep building next year.

Fitness week recap – 12/2/2019

Week Starting 12/2/2019
Running:
 14.3 miles
Biking:
 33.4 miles
Steps: 68.787
 (34.33 miles –  20.03 walking)

Impression: Two weeks ago was vacation week for me and my running and biking was pretty much non-existent. This last week though I got back on the horse a bit and got in a solid week of runs. None of them were double digit, but I’m OK with that. I’ve been dealing with a knee niggle, so I’m trying to not push things too much.

I did manage my longest fat bike ride ever though on Global Fat Bike day, totaling out at over 18 miles. That long on the fat bike has shown me though that I need to make a few adjustments. Some things aren’t as comfortable as I would like them to be.

Next week I need to get into serious sled pulling. Tuscobia is coming up soon and I’m still trying to ride my fitness level from earlier this year. We’ll see how this goes…

 

Fitness week recap – 11/18/2019

Week Starting 11/18/2019
Running:
12.5 miles
Biking:
 14.8 miles
Steps: 83,999
 (41.5 miles –  29.00 walking)

Impression: Pretty simple week this past week. Rode my bike to the train 4 out of 5 days, and got a few runs in. Still working back in to things, however dealing with some niggling issues. I’ve got arthritis in my right big toe that’s causing me pain after I run, as well as a ganglion cyst in my left foot. It’s inflamed a bit, which is putting pressure on my left ankle. Needless to say I’m cutting back a bit and giving my body a break, but without completely stopping activity. My doctor was adamant that I should do what I can to keep being active, as that’s one of the best way to help anything arthritic.

My long run was almost 7 miles, and I combined it with some errands. It made it a bit slower of a run, but I had fun using my two feet to get me around where I needed to go.

Fitness week recap – 11/11/2019

Week Starting 11/11/2019
Running:
9 miles
Biking:
 38.1 miles
Steps: 71,932
 (35.14 miles –  26.14 walking)

Impression: Didn’t get out an run much this week. Still dealing with some troublesome muscles and joints. Working on stretching and rolling things out, but it’s recovering slowly. It’s not that I can’t run, I got in a couple solid runs this week, but that it doesn’t feel like I want it to. It’ll come with time. I’m not too worried about it. I do have one pain in my foot though that I might get some imaging done on just to be sure.

On the biking front though this was a nice week. I got in a couple solid rides, including a 15 mile day on Saturday hitting Silverwood Park for Pokemon Go Community Day, and then over to the new Forgotten Star brewery in Fridley. Was a beautiful day out… as long as you were traveling north. There was a really cold wind coming from the south that slowed you down a LOT. Thankfully my Vaya was back from the shop and I got to ride it again before the snow gets too crazy. I might get a few more rides in with it this year, but eventually I’ll hang it up so that it doesn’t get all gross through the winter months.