Mid week I decided to try and get a 50 mile training run in this weekend. I hadn't yet decided if it would be upon trail or road. Road would be much easier, but I wouldn't be able to bring Topaz. Trail would be snow covered and tough, better training for McNaughton and I would be able to bring Topaz along.
I have been collecting trail maps between my home and the Blue Hill Trail, where I normally run. I figured out a route between the Sand Dunes State Forest, the Grant N Aid Snowmobile Trails, the Ann Lake State Campground Horse Trails and the Wildlife Refuge. I penciled in a map to bring me from my home to the Blue Hill trail via all of the trails mentioned above. I would only have to run a few miles upon Country Roads between here and there and on "Orrock Corner" I could refuel at the gas station, about 20 miles out. I figured it would take me at least 12 hours to run this route in the winter, upon snow covered trails.
I asked the boys what they would like to do while I ran all day long. They both decided upon snowboarding. I called Mom's to offer rides home from the hill if they were willing to pick the boys up. Plans were set. I had their snowboarding gear all set by the front door with lunches packed and money for dinner at the chalet. I would pick them up at 7PM.
I decided to run my new scoped out trail run. I fastened red blinking lights onto my GoLite pack and Topaz's collar. After running the County Road for a two miles we would venture onto snowmobile trails. I didn't know if there would be snowmobilers out at 5 AM but who knows? I figured flashing red lights would help us out.
I packed Heed, HammerGel, Cliffblocks, Advil and Doggie Bones. I had my cell along for just in case. Extra batteries for the flashlight incase I didn't make my 4 PM finish time. Extra mittens and neck gaitor for comfort.
We were off at 4AM. The neighborhood was dark and quite..and spooky. Off onto the County Road, along the St. Croix River, up onto the Grant N Aid Snowmobile Trail for roughly 5 miles. Thankfully, I didn't see any snowmobilers. There was a good 8" of snow on the trail, but they must not get out and snowmobile quite so early. I did see a few on the way back home.
My bottles of Heed froze up pretty quickly. It was -8F when I left home and there was a stiff wind blowing. Even in the woods it was cold. It was dark and I hadn't run here before so I was rather skittish. Topaz was running like a wild dog; checking out the new scents of the new area.
I heard wolves howling. They freaked me out. I stopped and listened and I could hear them so clearly. I was on a snowmobile trail through pines, with low bog areas around. I had no clue where the wolves were. I began to talk to Topaz in a loud tone. Eventually I didn't hear them any more.
The sun began to rise as we exited the snowmobile trail and got onto the Sandune State Forest trails. These trails were mainly horse trails, from what the map said. There are a few horse camps out there, I guess. The trails are beautiful. It looked like some people had been cross country skiing out there during the week, as it had snowed on Wednesday and I could see the ski trails.
Soon we were on the Ann Lake Campground trails. These were drifted over and I couldn't really tell where the trails were. They were supposed to be horse trails. It was tough going, trudging through the deep snow.
As we got off of the Sandune State Forest Trails we entered some private property areas along the Wildlife Refuge. We ran through prairie areas of the Refuge. It was difficult through here; there were no tracks, there were huge drifts and at times I was up past my knees in snow. I was thankful I had worn my knee high gaitors over my shoes. The prairie was bumpy, with piles of dirt here and there to run over. I was glad to get off of this area.
For a while we had to run along County Road 5, to hit Orrock Corner. Here I realized that I didn't want to tie up Topaz to the gas station door. My friends own the liquor store next door, so I walked over there and asked if Topaz and I could come in. The gal working welcomed us in, offering Topaz a bowl of water, as she ran hot water over the frozen bottles, adding new water for me. I then added Heed, ate a banana, had a gel and headed for the Blue Hill trail.
We ran Sherburne Wildlife Refuge fire roads through the next area to County Road 9. There were many deer through here. During deer hunting season this area is just full of hunters. I counted 36 deer while running through here. It was amazing. Topaz kept running hard after the deer, trying to herd them back to me. I told him to take it easy; we still had miles to cover.
At 9 am we made it to the Blue Hill Trail; our stomping grounds. We ran a loop and headed back home, hoping to find the same way he had come.
We made another stop at the liquor store for water and a rest. I was getting tired of running through the snow. I pulled some ice out of Topaz's paws. I took a few Advil and re-lubed my feet up with my foot potion.
As we were entering the Ann Lake Campground I could smell a camp fire..and grilled cheese sandwiches! Was I halucinating? I didn't think so. Pretty soon I noticed hoof prints. There were actually horse people out here camping. I ran down a dirt road, that I hadn't covered on the way out, and saw campers, trailers and horses..and then people. A gal asked what in the world was I doing? I told her going for a long training run. She told me they were riding 25 miles and were tired, taking a lunch break. She couldn't belive I was running 50 miles, alone. They offered me a sandwich, but it just didn't sound good. I passed, but refilled my frozen Heed bottles with their water and they offered Topaz a bowl of water too. He ate a piece of bread and a piece of lunch meat.
As I said goodbye to the horse people, I thought that they kind of reminded me of a group of runners. They are out there in the woods, doing their thing, nobody knows they are there..kind of like a sub-culture, passionate about horses. We are the same, only passionate about running.
They gave me the lift I needed to get out of my tired funk. I ran a bit faster, a bit happier, heading toward home. I was glad that I was going to make it before my 4 planned time.
We entered the snowmobile trail and sure enough, a group of 8 snowmobiles zoomed past us. I don't think they even saw us. They were flying and oh, the fumes and noise. Ish. I could hear them for a long time. I rather hear the wolves and be freaked out by them! I guess I'll probably never be a snowmobile owner.
Off of the snowmobile trail, onto the County Road, along the St. Francis River, back into our neighborhood and home sweet home!
What a great adventure. I can't wait to do it again WITHOUT snow! It was just so difficult. I swear the wind became even gustier as the day went on..I was SO cold.
I came in the house, turned on the fireplace, fixed a hot cocoa, took a shower, made a sandwich and headed for the hill to pick up the boys.
This morning was a much kinder, more gentle, 15 mile run at Blue Hill. When I began running it was still dark. When the sun began to rise, it was spectacular! It looked like a pink ribbon was pulling the sun up into the sky, the sun, a big red ball. It had snowed last night, and when the sun was shining upon the field that I was running in, it looked like a field of pave cut diamonds. What a great morning!