Monday, June 19, 2017

Kettle Moraine 100-mile Run

After a failed effort at completing a 2018 Western States qualifier in February (DNF at mile 80 of Rocky Raccoon), I thought I wanted more time for recovery and training before making the next attempt. Recovery went better than expected, however, and within a month, the idea of trying to run Kettle 100-mile in June was actively bouncing around in my brain. In another month, I had successfully strung together some 3-4 hour trail runs and convinced myself to give Kettle a try. The course is slightly more technical than Rocky, but not so arduous to require special training, so as long as I could run, I could adequately prepare, in theory. Although I still started the focus on this race closer to the event than ideal, I got a good confidence boost from getting in some 75 mile weeks, including a couple back to back 30-mile, 20-mile weekends. More importantly, I put in some ‘mental’ training with reminding myself I had to start easier, not be competitive, WALK HILLS! and do everything I could to keep myself moving toward the finish.

The day before the race was clear and cool where we were camped along the Menominee River on the northern border of Wisconsin with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We were up and out relatively early to meet one of Rudy’s former work colleagues in Milwaukee for lunch. It was super sunny and hot in Milwaukee and I was more than a little worried about the heat after spending the previous two weeks in northern Michigan, seeing more 40F days than 60F! After lunch, we made our way to Whitewater Lake Campground, ten miles from the race start and secured ourselves a spot. As soon as 4 pm came around, we made a quick trip to packet pickup. I glanced around for familiar faces, but not too many people had arrived yet, so we went back to camp, expecting my dad to show up soon. The rest of the afternoon was spent reviewing some logistics with Rudy and finishing drop bag assembly. Just did basic pasta for dinner. Dad and his girlfriend got in as we finished eating – they were held up by a truck fire north of Madison! Only a little bit of chatting before turning in for the night by 10pm.

Race Day was Saturday, June 3. I woke at 4:00 for the 6:00 start and had my standard pre-race breakfast of coffee, banana, and oats with chia, peanut butter, and honey – just cold soaked this morning, already 60F and I didn’t need to add heat to my body. The forecast I looked at called for a clear morning, then heating up to the mid-80s with a greater chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. I took care of sunscreen, body glide, and double checks before the easy drive to the Nordic Trailhead in Kettle Moraine State Forest that served for the start/finish area. Parking was also easy, as was delivering drop bags, and getting my ankle chip. I spotted Mary from Duluth – finally in person! Then not much waiting for go time.

Duluthians ready to go - Mary in pink, Leslie in green
The start was pretty pleasant with the route beginning on rolling hills on wide ski trail. I got to stick with Mary and get to know her a little better. I kept going through Tamarack aid station, just a few miles in. Mary stopped for water, but quickly caught back up, and we joined up with ultra legend and Gnarly Bandit contender Angela Barbera too. We hit Bluff Aid Station just over an hour in – mileage of 5.6, I was expecting 7.6 miles! Rudy missed out, he was planning to bike to the first leg aid stations, but I did get to see my dad, let him know we were two miles short, then carry on. I had lost Mary and Angela – I get a little overwhelmed and distracted at aid stations, especially the early ones. Shortly after the aid station, and an excessively marked intersection dubbed ‘Confusion Point’, we were finally on the Ice Age Trail. A little hillier and rootier, still quite runnable though. I fell in with other groups of runners, mostly hanging back and eavesdropping on their conversations, and enjoying the scenery. Eventually, I struck up some chatting with Gary from Canada, going for his first 100, after only a few years of running and one year since his first ultra!

The 'red barn' with tons of phlox along the trail

When we hit Emma Carlin aid station, my watch was two miles off still, but I got to see Rudy this time. Then on to more rolling singletrack. In general, the course had more slightly steep and slightly long hills than expected, which I appreciated for being obvious walkers. Definitely a pretty area and the bugs were not bad at all! Gary and I continued pulling each other along, commenting on the train we were approaching just as we noticed we would be crossing the tracks, but the train was through by the time we reached it – though I don’t think stopping a few minutes in the midst of 100-miles really hurts anything.

About five miles of this section included wide open prairie, on mostly good trail with nice boardwalks over the wet sections. Happily we didn’t have the sun out through here, but there was lightning not too far off, and we pushed the pace a little to get out. The thunderstorms started up mid-morning, depositing an inch of rain over the next few hours. The trail started getting muddy, but much of it seemed to have a good sand base, and I just ran through puddles without issue.

Getting soggy

Hwy 67 was the next aid station, followed by two miles of more nice rollers to the Hwy ZZ aid station. I think I just restocked gels and fig bars, and took in some salty snacks before starting on the five mile loop to Scuppernong aid station, just across the parking lot from ZZ. The portion near ZZ was pretty hilly and pretty muddy, Gary and I were encouraging each other on how ‘fun’ some of the steeper descents would be on the return trip. Over half the loop was nice gentle ski trail, though. I hit ~30 miles at Scuppernong just under six hours, feeling fine, and the rain seemed to be done for now. I think this is where I lost Gary (he ended up finishing about an hour behind me – successful first try!), as I believe I was alone, trying to enjoy the relatively dry and flat ski trail while it lasted. As expected, the singletrack near ZZ was even more muddy with some sketchy descents and challenging climbs, but not nearly as death-defying as anticipated!

More mud in the section to Hwy 67 too, and the sun started coming out. As feared, the sunshine was out in force for the prairie. Mercifully, there was a breeze, but also more mud, much more mud, I was grateful I had escaped much of it the first time through. Luckily it was not sticky or super-deep, there was sliminess in spots though, and maybe a little sucking, my gaiters do a good job of keeping my shoes on! I worked on relaxing through the mud and keeping my effort easier with the heat. I started getting ice at every aid station, but still started to feel the effects of the hot sun setting in. The sno-cone machine at Bluff aid station was a miraculous sight! I got a blue one.

The Prairie

More solo time in second half may have contributed to the slowing pace, but mostly it was the temperature. I was feeling hot and nothing sounded appetizing, I tried to get a gel down every hour or so and fruit at aid stations, looking forward to sundown and a cooldown. During the final section back to Nordic, I noticed a sign that said ‘5’, I assumed it meant 5k left, since I was already a couple miles in to the section that was less than six miles in the morning. My GPS was done by this point so couldn’t really check. Then, the sign at Tamarack said ‘4.8 miles to Nordic’, and I figured it was from prior years when the section was really 7.6 miles. Then, I hit some very steep ski hills between signs 4 and 2 – I didn’t remember these, and didn’t think I was that distracted with chatting with people! It was fun that a couple were named, the toughest one for Tom Bunk, a local legend who succumbed to cancer a couple years back. Just before sign 1, a spectator running out to meet another runner told me ‘One mile to go!’ I don’t remember the times between the signs now, but at the time, it did make sense they were more like mile splits than kilometer splits. I then figured the section must have been altered a little to get the mileage closer to 100k and 100 miles. I discussed this with some one later and they thought the same thing was done last year, race documents didn’t seem to be updated for the change though. I did like the idea of running more like 95 miles (being out for an hour or more less), but I easily made peace with the mind shift back to getting 100 miles in.

Headed back out, pretty much at max muddiness

I was back to Nordic Trailhead and the 100k mark at about 13.5 hours. Luckily I was not at all tempted to call it at 100k. I think I just grabbed some fruit from the aid station, got a headlamp into my pack, and headed back out. One of the race directors was yelling ‘100-miler out!’ whenever one of us departed, eliciting cheers from everyone hanging out and providing a nice little boost to the runners. Back through the steep ski hills as the day’s light faded. I managed to reached Tamarack just as it was about as dark as I could stand, and was able to abuse a volunteer’s hospitality with getting my headlamp out of the pack.

The sun was down, but I was not cooling off. The forecast called for a low of 60F, but I don’t think it even got below 70F. There were some nice distractions of whippoorwills and fireflies. As I approached Bluff aid station, I had the idea to try ice in soup, that ended up being pretty satisfying! Back at Confusion Point, the course went left for a new out and back leg on the Ice Age Trail. The singletrack was somewhat hilly, but nothing crazy steep and the mud was not bad at all. I could see the trail skirted lots of little ponds and the frogs were singing fantastically! I was getting increasingly thirsty, but my stomach also felt pretty bloated, so water consumption was tricky. My frequent sipping and occasional forced gel didn’t seem to worsen anything.

At the Hwy 12 aid station I tried ice in mashed potatoes – not as good as the iced soup, but still more non-sugar, cool calories. Preparing to head back out, I overheard that the next section was arguably the toughest of the course, and it was. At least at that point in the race, it seemed pretty hilly – with a few of the steeper slopes having some slimy mud. There were some runnable stretches in the middle though, and lots of frogs! I started noticing hot spots on my inner heels and my left arch was a little tender, nothing bad, but I kept thinking about how quickly I deteriorated at about this point in the last race – still a long way to go! I continued to feel hot and bloaty too, but kept putting down hard candy and gels. Toward the end of the section were seemingly endless steep ups and downs with railroad tie steps that were slow for me to navigate, but at least there were quite a few people coming back to cheer on.

I hit the Rice Lake turnaround about 19:20 with 19 miles remaining. 24 hours seemed unlikely unless the temperature dropped and I really bounced back. I was even feeling sleepy, first time this has been an issue for me – I think this is probably where I had some Coke. There was a little lightning in the distance, providing hope for some more rain, but I never got it. Not much to say about the return trip, nothing changed: kept thinking I needed to eat, but my stomach felt distended and I was so thirsty! I kept at the fruit and gels, and trotting flats and descents. I felt out of breath with every little climb though and I was ready to have some company with Rudy – greeting the other runners heading out was good, but less personal in the dark.

A few miles back into daylight, I finally returned to Bluff, where I ditched my headlamp and picked up my pacer. I decided to get a little more water to get to the finish. Rudy grabbed a pitcher and added ~20 ounces to my pack. A few minutes later I discovered I had ended up with Heed – BLECH! No disastrous results though, and I figured the extra calories would not hurt. We just kept moving forward, my uphill walking was slow, but I could still jog at a pace that was faster than most walkers. Despite the sips of Heed, I was starving and deciding to get in one more gel in the last few miles. We kept plugging along, no bouts of despair or magical spurts of energy, but I was happy to see we ended up completing the final 7.6 miles just under two hours for a finish of 25:24:47, 34th place, and 6th woman. 

Rudy pulls me into the finish once again

I gathered up some congratulations, my finisher kettle, some calories, then the shoes came off and to get them and my feet hosed down – way overdue! Finally, we enjoyed the breakfast provided, being careful not to overdo the food.

We stuck around a little, chatted with a few familiar faces from Minnesota, made a quick trip to a nearby campground for a real shower, then returned to Nordic for the final hour of finishers. I did attempt a nap, but my legs kept jolting just as I drifted off - Rudy slept like a champ, as usual while I hung around the finish line. For the 100-mile race, there were 242 starters and 101 finishers – an incredible drop out rate. I’m guessing it was mostly the heat, but I could see the mud creating a lot of issues too. I ended up with big blisters on my inner heels, just from mud abrasion, and my feet were super pruney with the toe nails packed with dirt. No major problems though!

Nutrition Summary:
<250 ounces water
~3000 calories
6 or 7 plain gu gels
1 cherry lime gu
1 espresso gu
4 fig bars
4 or 5 pieces hard candy
1 sno-cone
~8 oz Coke
~10 oz Heed
~1 orange
~1 cup canned potatoes
~3 cups watermelon
~1 cup mashed potatoes
~1 cup noodle soup
~1/2 cup veggie soup
~5 baby dill pickles
a couple green olives
2 chunks of hummus wrap
3 dried dates
3 dried apricots
~10 dried cherries

Some positives:
No cramping
No major muscle/tendon/ligament issues
Very little foot problems for having wet, muddy feet all day
Energy OK

Some struggles:
Too hot, couldn’t cool off – more ice and water? Also, more heat training, I knew it wasn’t wise to be in the UP right before this, but I don’t regret that
Thirsty, but waterlogged/tight stomach
Difficult to eat – but I did force calories in and was always relieved that no problems resulted, just had to force it!
Tired – never the threat of falling asleep or hallucinating, but probably felt a bit more sleepy than I have at other events
Chafing on my back where I was putting ice, maybe a little ice burn? I know you are not supposed to put ice directly on the skin, but I always have – probably better to put ice in a buff around my neck, or just more inside my pack
Little splotches of heat rash wherever I had clothes on, not a nuisance during the race and faded within a day after
I think the blisters on my inner heels were solely the result of dirt getting packed in there, and my feet were looking rugged when I finally took shoes and socks off. Although these little problems didn’t change my outcome, cleaning up my feet when the bulk of the wet conditions were over probably would have been wise – though I didn’t know what the rest of the course would be for muddiness or if more rain would come

Consistent running works! Even though I got away with less than three months of formal training, I think focusing on an event for at least a few months is important
Keep the calories coming in, even if it sounds like a terrible idea
If feeling hot, try to go overboard on sponging off and taking ice

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Keweenaw

May 26
A cool morning, a fitting reminder we are headed to the Keweenaw Peninsula to participate in the annual 'Ride the Keweenaw' festivities. We killed a little time in Ontonagon, strolling around, buying groceries, hanging at the library.

The little city park was a nice spot for lunch

Eventually we go to Adventure Mine for first group ride of RTK, kicking off that evening. It was fun to see lots of Duluthians! I opted for a 'rest' day, easy choice since every trail in this little park are advanced. I just looked at some flowers, before the black flies drove me back to the van, and got in some stretching and reading.

It has been so fun to see all these spring flowers for months!

After the ride, most people continued on to Houghton where more kickoff events were happening, but a few of us hung around and camped right there. The bugs were annoying but not aggressive, and they did diminish, with just a few mosquitoes biting after sundown, so not bad for chatting and showing of the van until bedtime!

May 27
A little cool and buggy, but not terrible. Everyone is up and out relatively early to get to Houghton for the next group ride at the Michigan Tech trails at 9 am. I still have yet to bike those trails, I got in my last pre-Kettle 'longish' run while Rudy participated in one of the many group rides. A couple of hours of socializing and rest before the next ride at Churning Rapids at 1 pm. Rudy went out with the fast group, and I joined a 'moderate' group. I was uncertain of my choice as my legs were a little tired from the start, and I was the slowest of the bunch, but I warmed up and had fun and made it! I had run here a few times with the MTU Cross Country team, and it was cool remembering a few sections of trail.

View from the 'tower' at Churning Rapids

Another break before the final ride at Swedetown. Both of us opted for slightly more casual groups - with the easier, flowier trails, and 20-30 miles already on most people's legs, it was certainly more 'fun'. Even with the raffle and bbq following this ride, most people had already headed up to Copper Harbor for the more aggressive biking, and checking out the next day's courses. We stuck around for the food though - standard burgers and brats, but surisingly great sides (well, in my opinion, lots of veggie-laden salads!) We soon made our way to Copper Harbor too and found a spot near our Duluth friends at a campground in development just outside of town - it was packed! The night was just more good visiting with our friends.

May 28
We drove the mile back into town, where Enduro races were happening. The racers had some light steady rain to start their attack of the rocky trail and wooden bridges, but people still had fun and biked hard! Rudy didn't race, and got in some fun rides with a few other guys. I hung out, reading, strolling around town and down to the water, and occasionally finding someone to chat with.

A calm Copper Harbor, Hunter's Point on the left

Breeziness and scattered showers continued, but we got to see some periods of blue skies in the afternoon! After Rudy cleaned up we went back to camp for burgers and brats with the Duluth crew. After that, most people headed back to town for awards and partying. Rudy and I, along with Duluth friends Dave and Tiffany, stayed back and enjoyed catching up around a nice little fire.

May 29
Happy Memorial Day! Again cool, with bouts of light rain, and no internet to check weather! But we lucked out and stayed dry for a stroll to Hunter's Point with Dave and Tiffany.

Looking back toward town
Ominous clouds

By the afternoon, most everyone had departed for home and the campground was pretty quiet. Nothing too exciting for the day of continued light rain and breeziness. I did get out for a jog on gravel paths around town, and Rudy watched Mystery Men (sounded a little cheesy). We also made a quick trip to town for hot water. Copper Harbor wasn't completely empty, but it was a big change from the weekend! Back to a pretty standard evening of soaked black beans and rice, and Hand and Foot - Leslie wins twice!

May 30
Cool and breezy, not so much precipitation though! After breakfast, we parked the van at the marina, which magically has wifi! A bit spotty, but enough for me to catch up on some internet things while Rudy got a good bike ride in - the rocky, sandy trails drain quickly, so not too much wetness for him. Aside from a little strolling, I didn't do much besides hang out and read - Copper Harbor is a difficult place to be resting before a big run, especially when the weather is not conducive to relaxing by the lake. Back to town for hot water, then camp. A little more wind and drizzle in the evening. Polenta and red sauce for dinner, then Trivial Pursuit and Hand and Foot - Rudy wins both.

May 31
Cooler and windier. Some light rain too. We returned to the marina to kill time and wait for the weather to warm up. I got in a nice little jog. Not much change in the weather, and we decided to take care of some laundry - apparently there's a public laundromat at Fanny Hooe Resort and Campground. Rudy got out for more biking while I got clothes washed. Rudy was out a couple hours longer than it took to do laundry, so I just hung out at the van. Apparently, we overstayed our welcome, the guy in the office told us to leave about two minutes after Rudy returned - I've heard about Fanny Hooe's sternness with their rules and being jerks, and now I have my own example! On the literal bright side, the sun finally came out!

Our pretty little camp spot, with sun!

Dinner was quinoa and lentils, followed by some financial planning fun. We've recently been thinking about simplifying and increasing our financial 'awareness', so starting to do some real planning for our return to real life! Still got in a round of Hand and Foot - Rudy crushed it again.

June 1
Back to cold and rainy. Not a big deal, time to head south anyhow. So, one of our favorite things about the Keweenaw is the Jam Pot - a little store run by monks at a monastery in Eagle River that has the most fantastic baked goods, in addition to local fruit jams, etc., that they make all from scratch. Since we would easily drop $50 there, we saved our treat-shopping for the end of the UP visit, but the Jam Pot was randomly closed for the day due to a funeral at the monastery!

Worst part of our visit

We weren't reduced to tears, but it was very sad indeed. We carried on, and settled for a stop at the Hilltop Cafe in L'Anse. I didn't have high expectations, the place is known for giant sweet rolls, but that doesn't mean they are 'good'. I was pleasantly surprised the rolls are also delicious, and have apple filling! We also picked up a ginger cookie (so-so, a little too chewy and not very spicy), a date bar (yummy and not sickeningly sweet), and a scotcheroo-style bar with oats instead of rice krispies for the base (also quite tasty). Jam Pot goods would have been preferred, but I guess this saved us a little money, and there weren't as many naughty options to be tempted by for the next few days. We continued south a few more hours, crossing into Wisconsin in time to see lots of dumb little deer threatening to jump onto the road, then back over to Michigan to find a camp spot on the Menominee River.

The Menominee River, a nice spot to just sit

We had a nice evening of hanging out, with not too many bugs. Ate shells and cheese, more budget discussion and numbers-running, and one game of Hand and Foot - Leslie win!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

On to the UP

May 19
A cold morning - in the 40s! Was nice that we had a few 80+ days to soak up some heat. We packed up and departed Hamburg to head north. One fun stop in Clare for 'Cops and Doughnuts' treats - cake and raised doughnuts, and a big molasses cookie - all very good!

A busy place, and for good reason!

Outdoors destination for the day was Grayling, at the Hanson Hills Recreation Area. A walk for me, and bike for Rudy, through nice open woods. A small park, but good trails and even an archery 'course'.

We found camping nearby in the Huron National Forest - there was a little sketchy sand in the road, but we made it through! Ate pasta and played Hand and Foot and Rummy 5000 - Rudy won both.

May 20
Even colder! But sunny. Not much dawdling, with a long drive ahead. Just to be safe with the sandy road, Rudy let a little air out of the tires and no problem getting out. Rudy had fun re-airing the tires with a bike pump - good way to warm up! We finally got into the Upper Peninsula!

Crossing the Macinac Bridge

We continued on to Hiawatha National Forest, south of Munising for Bruno's Run - a nice ten mile loop - I ran and Rudy biked.

Nicely signed trail
Lots of pretty little lakes along the loop

We found a spot to camp less than half a mile away to hang out in the van during the breezy and drizzly evening. Ate lentils and rice and played Hand and Foot - two wins for Leslie!

May 21
A cool, breezy morning is good for running in the woods! I hit Bruno's loop again, with light rain during the second half, but not bad. With rain forecast into the afternoon, we didn't hurry to continue on to Marquette, where we acquired some bike parts and killed a little time at the coffee shop, and having a late lunch in Negaunee of Irontown Pasties.

Rudy had a traditional, I tried the veggie - delicious

Once the weather settled, we checked out the South Marquette Trails. The main trailhead has a nice little pavilion for Rudy to replace a bike tire under.

Fun bike art
My kind of practice skinnies
Easy to follow trails
The 'South' trailhead

Rudy ventured out on random fun trails, while I took an easier loop by bike (Morgan Creek). The trails not too bad after all the recent rain - they are definitely well built and used.

'Carp Eh Diem' Trail

After the riding, we found a spot to camp along the nearby Marquette Mountain Road. Dinner was barley and red sauce, followed by Hand and Foot - Rudy won, and 3-13 - Leslie won.

May 22
Just a little morning rain, and cool again. We headed back to the South Trails for more biking. The slightly more challenging Pioneer Loop was fun for me, and Rudy got in a few sections he hadn't been on before. A little lunch break, then we went to the North Trails. There are more intersections and not quite as well marked, but still nice trails with less wet spots.

We drove a few miles north to Harlow Lake for camping. Ate bean burritos, and got in an evening stroll down to Harlow Lake.

Bluebead Iris, I think
Harlow Lake

Closed out the day with Hand and Foot - two Rudy dominations.

May 23
A putsy morning - not going anywhere! After breakfast I get some black beans soaking! Rudy biked most of the trails in this little system - lots of rugged stuff that he enjoys. I got out for a nice little hike, getting in some of the singletrack, the 'Jedi' trail was especially interesting.

Some cairns to follow
I think recommended direction is coming down this

The weather was cool and mostly cloudy, we pretty much hung around the van. Rudy got in his super-hero movie fix with the green hornet. Eventually we cooked and consumed our black beans, then played Trivial Pursuit (Leslie win!), and some Hand and Foot - one win each.

May 24
40s and rainy - not lovely weather. I dawdled enough in the morning that it was down to a drizzle at the start of my run and even that was done by the end - not so bad! I even got to include some of the North Country Trail, which was well marked, but didn't seem to be very heavily traveled, maybe a little early for most hiking in northern Michigan.

Following blue blazes

We headed back toward Marquette, stopping at little Presque Isle State Park to check out the beach.

We returned to the South Trails for Rudy to get in another ride, I just did some reading, enjoying the little bits of sunshine that appeared once in a while. Back to Marquette Mountain Road for camping. Dinner was split peas and sweet potatoes, then we spent a little time assembling a food budget spreadsheet - interested in looking at what we spend on food, what the best 'calorie per dollar' items are, how we can save money with the eating, etc. We'll see how that goes! Still found some time to play a game of Hand and Foot - Rudy crushed it again.

May 25
A little damp and cool, but not raining! I got in a short run on the Grom (aka 'Kids') Loop and Gorge-ous Trail, loving the sun and being serenaded by winter wrens, before we headed to the Ishpeming Trails. We actually started from a little park in Negaunee. Rudy got in the 'Epic' loop and thoroughly enjoyed that. I did the beginner trail and started on the Epic, but was not at the level of even the first few miles of singletrack. So I bailed after only one minor crash and arm scraping. After Rudy wrapped up his bike ride, he got in a little dip in Teal Lake - sunny and relatively warm, but breezy too, and a chilly lake - looked refreshing!

We then continued west, stopping to camp just off a snowmobile trail in Ottawa National Forest.

We got in a little stroll on the snowmobile trail (it quickly became fairly wet), then made some mac 'n cheese and played Hand and Foot - one win each.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

MD, PA, IN, MI - lots of visiting friends

Early May included a lot of driving and visiting friends, less 'exploring', pictures, and out in the woods time, so I'm reverting to even more generic summarizing than the typical posts, for some of the stops at least...

May 5-7
After a little hiking around Massanutten, we head to my MTU running teamies, Christy and Paul's, just outside Baltimore for a few days of meeting their kids and pup, fantastic grilled pizza and spatchcock chicken on a Big Green Egg, lots of chatting, and even a couple long runs on nearby trails in Harford Glen Park and Gunpowder Falls State Park. While Christy and I were putting in some miles, Rudy helped Paul chop the remains of a very large oak they recently had to take down, and make another cheesecake! So much goodness.

May 7-9
Made our way to see another MTU teamie, Megan, just outside Philadelphia. Megan is in academics and was super busy with end of semester work, but we still got in some good visiting and eating (she made us a simple, but delicious pasta dish) and I was ambitious enough to make some bread and pizza and blackberry crisp. Got in a little strolling and jogging around her nice neighborhood, a pretty chill couple days for Rudy and I.

Finally some rhododendrons in bloom
May 9
We depart Megan's and drive about four hours west to camp near Raystown Lake. Pretty damp day, so lots of hanging out, I did get in a stroll on the Horsefly Trail though, starting a little binge of geeking out on birds. I managed to identify a black and white warbler and common yellowthroat - heard and saw many more of course! Dinner was easy bean burritos, gaming was Hand and Foot - Rudy win.

May 10
Later to wake than hoped, but enjoyed the nice sunny morning watching (mostly listening to) birds - notable sighting was a scarlet tanager. We drove to the other side of the lake for trails. Raystown Lake Trails have a good reputation, and I did enjoy them - nothing too technical or steep - but I really couldn't discern much difference between easy, intermediate, and advanced trails - Rudy agreed, a nice area, but maybe not worth making any big trips for.


Though I should also say that a lot of trails were closed due to pipeline construction, so could normally get two days of fun from the system. A 15 mile run for me, and Rudy biked a similar route, but tacked on another little loop I left out. After our few hours of activity, we drove to the South end to check out skills park, but that was also closed. And we just missed the open hours for the Visitors Center, but there were some decent nature trails to check out, including a nice little bird habitat area with lots of bluebirds, swallows, sparrows, wrens, and cat birds.

Chock full of birds

We eventually went back to prior night's spot as the sunny afternoon clouded up (supposed to be rainy the next day.) Ate lentils and rice and played Hand and Foot and Rummy 5000 - Leslie wins both.

May 11
Rain started up a little sooner than previously forecast, (once again we were freed of the internet to get weather updates) but I got in an hour run in mostly light rain. Could've avoided some of the precipitation if there was less dawdling while I woke up, but I did get to see an oven bird! We continued to head west for a long day of travel, extended after I managed to break the speaker, resulting in a little shopping near Pittsburgh. The drive through Pennsylvania was mostly in the rain and fog, not bad scenery though, and just a little traffic headaches around Pittsburgh. We continued along the West Virginia and Ohio border to Wayne National Forest in Ohio, stopping at the Ring Mill Campground along the Little Muskingum River.

Ate butter and parmesan spirals (I think maybe the blandest Annie's noodle and cheese product we've tried so far) and watched Django Unchained.

May 12
Still damp, but a nice morning. Soooo many birds! Seemed like a lot of them were higher up in the taller trees, but I did get to spot a couple indigo buntings, along with sparrows and wrens, an American redstart, and I belived spotted towhees (the Eastern variety should be more common here, but ?) We continued to drive through southern Ohio and into Indiana, occasionally weaving into West Virginia and Kentucky to our destination a little south of Columbus, IN to visit Dan, who Rudy knows from college. There was much learning and excitement with Dan's solar power system and Chevy Volts. Dinner was burgers.

May 13
Another long run for me. Lacking ambition to find an enjoyable route, or drive anywhere, I spent 24 miles on roads to get in six miles of trail at Muscatatuck Park. At least it was a nice little park that looked to be most utilized for camping and picnics as I didn't see any people on the trail.

did come across a cute little turtle though...

I didn't seem to do too much damage with all the pavement, we'll see what the next few days bring, and it was probably good mental training! During my excursion, Rudy helped with adding solar panels to a barn addition being constructed.

Dinner was teenage boy food (there are two of them there!) - fish sticks, chicken bites, hot pockets, corn dogs, and fries. After spending way too much time on the computer, I finally hung out on the deck and enjoyed the pleasant evening. more chatting

May 14
We leave Dan's and head to Brown County - I think we ended up in National Forest for camping, there is a mix of federal and state land in the area. We both got in some running on the Nebo Ridge Trail, pretty back-country, but a nice tread through the woods. I was able to ID a few of the plants around our camp:

Blue eyed grass

Dinner was bean burritos and game was Hand and Foot - Leslie win.

May 15
A lovely sunny morning. We headed north to Brown County State Park. Rudy bought a permit (on top of the State Park entr) allowing him to ride all the trails, but I stuck to the free beginner trails, since I wasn't to anxious to do a ton of crazy biking anyhow. The easy trails were actually pretty fun and a sufficient outing for me. We ended up with sun and 80s again - like summer! After the bike rides, we went back south to camp in Yellowwood State Forest. Ate some rice and lentils and played a gam of Hand and Foot - Rudy win.

May 16
I got in a nice short gravel road run before our longish drive north. We made a stop at Nick's Kitchen in Huntington, Indiana, which is supposedly the birthplace of the pork tenderloin sandwich. Rudy got the tendorloin and I checked out the house made sausage sandwich - food was OK, but the pie was really good!

Rudy's large pork tenderloin

Black Raspberry, 'Hoosier' Sweet Cream, and Rhubarb

After lunch we had a few more hours of driving to get to my MTU friend's place in Hamburg, MI - Jess and Clint, and we got to meet their new baby Kora. The rest of the day included a nice stroll, awesome visiting, and yummy salmon salads.

May 17
Clint and Jess had their normal work lives to attend to, so we were on our own for the day. I got in a run on the Lakelands Trail, which is a paved rail trail, but there is enough of a shoulder that I mostly stayed off the pavement. Then a little laying around in the sun before we headed to Brighton Recreation Area for biking - decent trails, we each had fun - me with the easier trails and Rudy on the more advanced stuff. Not much time before our working friends returned home and we had some burgers - beef and portabello - and got in some good visiting.

May 18
A short run for me, then Rudy and I headed to Pickney State Park to bike the Potowatami Trail. I somehow got onto a shortcut, but got to experience most of the 17+ mile loop - another nice trail. And another hot day - we took a dip in Silver Lake before leaving the park. A little chill time, then strolled to Hamburg Pub to meet Patrick - one of my former coworkers, who is also an MTU grad and really into biking. It was a lovely couple hours of catching up, with snacks at the pub, followed by tacos back at Jess and Clint's. Another chill evening, which fantastically included watching some Bob Ross painting mindlessness.