T-minus 2 days to Marathon!

Honestly, this part is hard.  All the training is done, the miles and long runs are behind me.  I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, and now I’m forced into “taper mode.”  For someone who’s used to running and pushing the limit every day, holding back is torture!

My last long run was a 20 miler two weeks ago.  It IMG_4214 trimmedwas made infinitely more bearable by running it with my daughter, Karen.  Although we’re training for different marathons, we both had the same long runs to do.  It was my last 20 miler, her first in the training regimen.  We set off together and used the time to good advantage, keeping up a constant conversation.  We covered a lot of ground and finally caught up on each others’ lives.  It was worth the 20 miles to have the time together.  Really.

This week I’m supposed to be resting.  Doing short runs, taking days off and gathering strength for the big day on Sunday.  It’s not working very well…  I’ve decided I am not going to sacrifice living for the sake of shaving a few minutes or seconds off my marathon time.  So although I’d already run this morning, I hopped on my bike this afternoon – it was just too nice not to!

Now it’s a mind game.  Checking the weather forecast.  Wishing I hadn’t.  Thunderstorms are not my preferred running conditions. Neither is heat.  Even this morning, the temperature in Duluth was a sunny 45 degrees as I set out for my run.  Minneapolis is predicted to get into the 80s on race day.  My body is not ready for heat.

I’m looking forward to the Expo tomorrow.  Packet pick-up is always an infusion of energy and excitement – the first surge of adrenaline for the race.  I love walking up to the table with registration packets, under the Marathon heading.  The big one.  That’s for me.

This is my first marathon in almost three years. And I’m ready.  Minneapolis Marathon, here I come.Minneapolis Marathon logo


Duluth’s legendary ice

Here it is May 28, and we still have ice on the lake.  That’s no surprise to anyone who spent the winter here.  There is no doubt we had sufficiently cold temperatures to generate enough ice to last a lifetime.  Or at least into June – we think.


Some days it’s here along the Duluth shore.  Other days the wind sends it over to the Wisconsin side.  Today, the floating remnants filled the rocky shoreline along the Canal Park portion of the Lakewalk.  Although it was a brilliantly sunny day, the NE wind swept down the lake to maintain a permanent chill in the air.  It didn’t feel like a whole lot of melting was going on.IMG_4426 trimmed

Being a weekday, visitors were sparse.  But those who lingered after the Memorial Day weekend were clearly intrigued with this wintry phenomenon.  The ice featured prominently in many a tourist photo.

I just missed getting to the bridge in time to see the Paul R. Tregurtha arrive.  But I did catch the current it generated.  Ice floes bobbed in the canal, gliding under the bridge and into the harbor well after the boat disappeared from view.

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It would appear that the Vista fleet is finally able to venture out into the lake for its tours, after weeks of being confined to the harbor.  Those on board seemed thrilled with the ride, including the now famous ice.

With June 1 just four days away, the possibility of still having ice on Lake Superior looks pretty good.  Time will tell if this ice breaks that barrier.  I hope so.  It’s the stuff legends are made of.

In Search of Color

It’s been so drab for so long.  It didn’t help to wake up to dense fog, which obliterated all surroundings, brown or otherwise.  My morning run took me up to Hawk Ridge, where nature defied all knowledge of Lake Superior or even houses below.  With my senses screaming for stimulation, I went out on a mission to find color.

Knowing I’d need to get away from the lake to lose the fog, I headed up to Hartley Park.  Getting out of the car I could already tell the difference – the sun that had finally emerged packed some real warmth, and it wasn’t long before I was shedding layers in the welcome heat. The hunt was already off to a good start.

My primary mission was to find wildflowers.  That meant sticking to trails that were more out in the open, in the hopes that I would find a microcosm of spring where things were blooming.  What I found instead were nascent blades peaking through the fall’s dead grasses, ferns beginning to take form and little else.  I realized I might have to lower my expectations, and look for color in other forms.

Reaching Hartley Pond I found a IMG_4294 trimmedpeaceful scene.  There a lone loon dove and surfaced in the calm waters.  I gradually became aware of the birds singing in the trees and the sounds of nature surrounding me.  I decreed that the blue of the sky reflected in the pond, surrounded by the green trees qualified as color.IMG_4279

Moving on, I was glad for my hiking boots as I slogged through wet and muddy terrain.  In following one of the little streams, I spotted the shiny green head of a mallard.  He cooperated long enough to pose for me, and I decided to chalk another one up for spring color.IMG_4318 trimmed

I marveled at the fascinating plants growing alongside the stream, with their bulging balls bobbing above the leaves.  And then I saw them – flowers!  They were Marsh Marigolds, and I found one – and only one – that was in full boom!  My first wildflower of the season, glowing in a radiant yellow and brightening my day.  I could finally declare success.  And if one wild flower is in bloom, surely others are soon to follow.  I can’t wait for the explosion of color.

The Rocks

Picnic on The RocksWe only knew the place as “The Rocks.”  It was our favorite picnic spot.  On any given day, if the weather was nice Mom would pack up the little grill, food for dinner, and marshmallows.  As soon as Dad got home from work we’d be off to The Rocks.

The prime feature of this site was the huge expanse of flat rock adjacent to Lake Superior.  It was the perfect sitting area, table, cooking platform and viewing spot.  We loved to run around on the rocks, dip our feet in the water and explore.  Mom always brought a towel because someone was bound to fall into the lake.

Adjacent to the The Rocks was a pebble beach, with an endless supply of rocks to skip or throw into the lake.  We spent hours filling Lake Superior with those rocks.

IMG_4204-001Little changes over the years alongside Lake Superior.  That area now known as Brighton Beach is just down the road from our house.  Who knew that years later I would return to Duluth and settle so near The Rocks?  The area is much more park-like these days, with an abundance of picnic tables and park benches for staring out at the lake.  But I still prefer to sit on The Rocks.

I’m continually drawn to this small section of shoreline.  In the summer I run or cycle through it almost daily.  If I set out on a walk, I always end up there.  When the wind churns up the lake, I head there to check out the crashing waves.  In winter I love exploring the continually changing ice formations.  When Mom died, I sought solace on The Rocks, listening to the lapping water.

DSCN8992Mom and Dad introduced me to The Rocks.  Now I enjoy sharing them with my kids and grandkids.  That pebble beach is like a magnet, the rocks irresistible to all ages.  No visit to Duluth is complete without going down to the lake and throwing rocks.  No matter what season.

No doubt, years from now it will still be the same.  And I have no doubt it IMG_0328will always have that same appeal.  The big flat rocks will host picnics, and the pebbles will find their way into the lake.  Its name may change again, but to me it will always be The Rocks.



Mothers Forever

Mothers’ Day evokes memories of those hectic years raising young children.  The sloppy kisses, hand made cards and the great Fishing-Opener-Mothers-Day weekends at the cabin are all part of my Mothers’ Day repertoire of happy memories.

But what is even more rewarding is to see it continue into adulthood.  As my children have grown into adults, our relationship has naturally changed.  They are all out own their own now, but we still enjoy each others’ company.  In addition to the usual family gatherings, I’ve been extremely grateful to be able to share some special times together with each of my children.

In this case, I think pictures speak better than words.


Karen inherited my love of running, and we fulfilled a collective dream running the Boston Marathon together, crossing the finish line holding hands.


Canoeing in the Boundary Waters is one of Carl’s passions – we spent 4 great days together on a mother-son canoe trip.


Erik taught me to skate ski, which led me to take up marathon ski races – here we are before the start of the Mora Vasaloppet.

I have my own mother to thank for the same relationship.  Thinking back, one of the best things I ever did was to join her on a theater trip to London.  It seemed extravagant at the time, leaving my husband and family to fend for themselves while Mom and I traveled together.  But it was worth every mother-daughter minute.IMG_0982

Being a Mom never ends.  I look forward to many more years of special times and adventures with my children and now grandchildren.  I’m so glad it’s a forever thing.

Whatever the Weather

We runners are resilient.  No matter the weather, we are out there pounding the pavement, putting in our miles.  And those of us living in Duluth are especially so.  We have to be, as the seasons here hold no loyalty to the calendar.  So although this is the height of the marathon training period, it’s not exactly shorts and t-shirt weather.

weatherMentally I planned to do my weekly long run today.  Never mind the fact that tomorrow’s weather looks to be beautiful and sunny and my calendar is open, my inner control center said it had to be today.  This morning.  Early.  Because I like to run first thing in the morning.

I awoke to what sounded like water.  Was it rain?  The falls on Amity Creek?  Wind?  Crossing my fingers, I arose to find that the rocks next to the house were dry – a good start.  The rest of the word was enveloped in a heavy fog, but it was not precipitating.  And my weather app said rain would not show up before noon.  That was enough for me – I was going.

Fog turned out to be equal parts mist.  The closer to the lake I got, the heavier it was.  But it wasn’t raining.  I had the proper clothing, and blessed my wind mitts as I pulled them on to keep my gloves dry.  The scenery wasn’t spectacular, but there were other small compensations.  The street cleaners had been out, clearing the shoulders of grit and sand on the Scenic Highway.  My running and cycling personae thanked them for that.   Traffic was light, and I certainly didn’t have to dodge other runners.

Doubling back to the Lakewalk, I found more company.  Folks were out running and walking.  Even a bike or two passed by.  Greeting one another as we passed, some exchanged conspiratorial glances with me that acknowledged the craziness of our pursuits in the drippy weather.  Others appeared as if it were a fine day, totally unaffected by the local conditions.  Somehow my fellow damp athletes validated my choice, and I pressed on in the belief that I’d be glad I stuck to my plan.

On my return from Canal Park the weather gods took pity on me.  The wind dropped and the fog lifted.  The mist had dried up.  It was almost decent weather.  I willed my legs to keep churning, clocking off the miles and setting mental milestones in the distance.  As I logged miles 19 and 20 I thought of my daughter doing her long run at the same time in the Twin Cities.  My virtual running partner carried me through.

Make no mistake, when I reached our driveway, I was glad to be done.  I made it back before it rained, and maintained a decent pace.  I was still warm, and relatively dry.  And  I could check off one more long run before my race, the Minneapolis Marathon.  All that despite the weather.


Park Point Delivers

The weather wasn’t the greatest, but needing to get outside we decided on the Park Point Hiking Trail.  We had no particular purpose in mind.  Rich would be happy to find some birds, and I’d be content with a bit of exercise and fresh air.

With strong NE winds blowing off the lake, chilled by the miles of ice crushed up against the sandy beach, we were glad to find that the trail’s trees kept us reasonably sheltered.  In fact, as the skies brightened and we warmed with the effort of walking through shifty sand, the afternoon’s prospects improved considerably.

IMG_4026Detouring to the bay side, it was positively calm and almost warm.  There it was easy to dawdle through the grasses, soak up the sun and listen to the water quietly lapping at the shore.  While Rich checked his favorite birding spots, I wandered the shore admiring the driftwood, including the teepee sculpture left by some industrious visitors.

Warmed by that interlude, we continued along the trail.  Despite the growing patches of snow, and the cold winds that pierced the IMG_4038 cropped 2tree branches, we happily carried on and eventually made our way to the end – the Superior entry.  Walking out the narrow catwalk on the outside of the piers was chilling as we met the full force of the wind and were surrounded by ice that clogged most of the entry.  But having come that far, it wasn’t an option to stop short of the end of the pier.

It was only chance that made Rich look up as we carefully picked our way back to land, and there it was – a IMG_4053 croppedboat about to enter the canal.  We’d seen it loading at the grain dock across the harbor, and wished it would finish in time to see it leave.  It appeared our wish was being granted! Pushing its way through the floating ice, the Algoma Equinox created currents that propelled other ice flows past our perch back out at the end of the pier.  Slowly, gracefully it slid past us as our cameras clicked and whirred.

At the same time, we realized this was turning into a double-wish day.  Rich had speculated that the boat anchored off shore was waiting for the same grain dock, and sure IMG_4035enough – now it was visibly moving closer.  It seemed to be barely inching forward, and it was frigid standing out there in the wind.  But we knew we couldn’t leave.  Neither of us had ever seen a boat go through the Superior entry before, and now we had the chance to see one go in and one out all in one visit!  We alternately huddled behind the cement ramparts and peered over the edge to check on the boat’s progress.  ByIMG_4066 cropped the time it came close enough to put our cameras into action again, we’d been out there nearly an hour.  It looked like a twin of the departing ship.  But we welcomed the entrance of the Burns Harbor and accompanied it along the length of the pier, nearly keeping pace with its careful movement.

Regaining the protection of the hiking trail, we couldn’t help but feel pleased with our adventure.  We’d experienced the dichotomy of Park Point weather, ushered two ships through the Superior entry, and found plenty of photographic material.  For an afternoon with no expectations, Park Point certainly delivered.

Signs of Spring

Nearly a week into May and it still feels like March.  I admit it, this is depressing.  And looking ahead at the weather forecast, it doesn’t get any better.  That big old ice cube in the lake is going to be with us for some time, so “cooler by the lake” is a reality for the long haul.

Despite the drab skies and being surrounded by brown barren ground, this afternoon I set off to find Spring.  Traveling up Seven Bridges Road, I diligently scanned the roadside and woods.  Surely the IMG_4016further inland I traveled, the greater the likelihood of finding something green.  Hoping that I might stumble across a micro climate to nurture growth and possibly even an early season blossom, I continued on.  Optimistically.  But it wasn’t to be found.  The best I could do was some early emerging wild lupine.  Just seeing the young leaves was a hopeful sign.  And the more I looked, the more clusters I saw coming up through the otherwise desolate ground.

Realizing that I wasn’t going to find spring flowers, I tried to liberate my mind from its narrow mission.  And the longer I walked the more I discovered other indicators.  Just the fact that the road was snow-free was a good start.  For a surface untouched by snow plows and trampled by snowmobiles and foot traffic, it took a lot longer to melt.  So that was progress.  Runners, dog walkers and cyclists IMG_4019were out taking advantage of this transformation.  Surely that was a symptom of spring.  Amity Creek was awash in spring run-off, rushing down toward Lake Superior and creating white water wherever it coursed over rocks and fell over steep drops.  I only had to ignore the snow still clinging to the shady riverbanks.  Coming up on one of the road’s famous stone bridges, I spied a young couple snuggled up close and enjoying the view.  Ah, spring lovebirds.  Speaking of birds, there was a symphony of song in the woods, if one only stopped to listen.  And come to think of it, I heard a flock of loons fly overhead this morning, easily identified by their distinctive plaintive cry.  Spring migration at its finest.

It’s slow in coming.  But the signs are there.  I still haven’t given up on finding those wildflowers in bloom.  I just may have to venture further away from the lake to find them.

North Shore Triple Exposure

It was a long week.  Especially for those of us who thrive on outdoor activity.  Day after day of hard driving winds, sleet and rain meant squeezing in workouts in the “least bad” part of the day, and bearing the gloomy skies from behind rain-soaked windows for the remainder.

So when today dawned bright and sunny, in was an irresistible invitation to reconnect with Mother Nature.  And by instinct I headed for the North Shore.  My first engagement was my morning run.  Padding down the road along Brighton Beach, I took in the rich blue of the sky and the water reflecting the same deep hues.  The intensity of the colors filled my soul, after days of drabness deprived of this beauty.  Bright white ice still clung to the shoreline, in stark contrast with the blue – a dazzling sight.  The heavy gray rocks added the perfect balance and seemed to anchor the scene.  It was easy to press on, mile after mile admiring the shore and drinking in the sunlight.  Lacking a camera, I had to memorize the images of the shore in my mind instead.

As the day progressed and still we were graced with the sun, I knew I hadn’t yet had enough.  For my second encounter I enlisted a friend and cycled up the shore.  The same spell-binding scene passed by even more quickly as we pedaled.  Although the air was cool by the frigid water, it felt refreshing and crisp with the aid of the sun.  At Stony Point we circled back on the dirt road along the shoreline.  Where days earlier the pounding waves and high splashing water were the attraction, today it was a tranquil setting where a family picnicked on the rocks.  This time I had a camera in my trunk bag, but I was enjoying the ride too much to bother stopping to try and capture it.

After dinner I was enticed out to takeIMG_4005 a walk with my husband.  Hearing a boat toot for the bridge, we were inexorably drawn back to Brighton Beach once more.  My third visit to the shore for the day.  With the shipping lane finally opening up with increased traffic, the boat made rapid progress and was soon opposite our position.  The sun was low but still shone on the shallow ice as well as the passing ore boat.IMG_4012

Finally I was able to get some photos.  On foot, not distracted by the need to keep moving, I found the right motivation to focus and shoot.  I could record the end of the day, if not the beginning and middle.  I guess the third time’s the charm.