Monday, May 24, 2010

Tuesday Trails: Hyland Hills Park Preserve, Bloomington, MN

This post is the second in a series of trail reports. The first report filed last week on Theodore Wirth Park, can be found here:

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This week’s trail report takes us a wee bit further outside the metro to just barely outside the 494-694 loop in Bloomington, MN. Our journey takes us to Hyland Park Reserve, part of the Three Rivers Park System (formerly Hennepin County Parks). You may know this park as the place with the ski jump looming over Highways 494 and 100, but Hyland offers much more.

Hyland Hills features over 10 miles of soft, hilly trails, about the same amount of flatter, paved trails, ski trails, boating, fishing, Frisbee golf, and picnic facilities. But what concerns us most today are the soft trails.


Hyland, unlike Wirth and many of the other metro trail systems, feels utterly subdued. The trails are in excellent shape, provide challenging hills, but are so consistent and well-maintained that it’s almost like running on soft asphalt. For the user looking to escape civilization, Hyland doesn’t offer nearly as much as other parks, but for those looking to run on soft trails and get a great hill workout, it’s hard to do much better than Hyland.

That’s not to say Hyland feels like downtown Minneapolis or Uptown. Rather, almost every time I run at Hyland I see deer, wild turkey, turtles laying eggs, and I’ve even heard reports of a coyote. The park is big enough to support diverse ecosystems while still feeling like it’s just an extension of your backyard.

Personally, I love running at Hyland. The trails are familiar to me, the scenery is constantly changing, and the well-managed (and actively burned) prairies offer surprises on every visit.


While the main access to Hyland is on East Bush Lake Road at the southwest side of the park, accessing this location takes a long time, especially in traffic, and makes the park feel remote. A much closer (to the urban core) access point is at the northeast corner on Chalet Road, right next to Normandale Lake. The map below shows this access point and a suggested route.

Another benefit of accessing the park in this location is that for a short warmup or cooldown, one can run the nearly 2-mile flat paved trail around Lake Normandale. Just be warned that most of the trail is not lit.

The main loop (on the map below) is about 8.5 miles from the parking lot at Chalet Road. If you’re looking for more, you can add loops through the ski hill, or my favorite, taking the long, gradual path up to the top of the ski jump for incredible views of the entire metropolitan area. Rumor has it that Bloomington police camp out there on the 4th of July to make sure no one climbs the ski jump for an even better view of the fireworks. When I was in high school, I worked at a hotel across the street from the ski jump and we would watch the fireworks from 15 cities from the 22nd floor. It was pretty incredible. If you ever get the chance to watch the fireworks from the ski jump, let me know what it’s like!


Lastly, I’d like to mention that every April, Hyland Hills hosts a trail race, the Trail Mix 25K and 50K. I have not run it, but I’ve heard it is well organized and executed. Generally the course is still wet in April, so the race often will tear up the trails for weeks, if not months. Fortunately, the conditions were dry this year for Trail Mix and the trails are in fine shape! I just ran them last week and can vouch for the trail condition.

Enjoy the trails!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Post Medtronic TC One Mile report

Thanks to RunMinnesota writer Patrick O'Regan for this Medtronic TC One Mile recap and interview with Lopez Lomong.

USA One Mile Road Championship Press Conference

I attended the press conference on Thursday at noon for the USA One Mile Road Championship, which was run on Nicollet Mall that same day (May 13th). The top competitors were all in attendance. A panel of the top women, then the top men competitors answered questions. The host was Virginia Brophy Achman – positively the last word in being a gracious host.

Doug Logan, the CEO of USA Track and Field, gave some opening remarks. He commented on having lived in this area. He also said he had got up early that morning to get to a run in the rain. Doug sees a brightening future for USA track and field. Meb Keflezighi won the New York City Marathon last fall; Ryan Hall was fourth. Doug said the US may have reached a tipping point in the road racing part of the sport. And, on the track, recently, Chris Solinsky set a new American record in the 10k, running the remarkable time of 26:59.6, breaking Meb’s record by some 14 seconds and becoming the first non-African to run the distance in under 27 minutes. Now is the time, Doug said, to expand the sport, making track and field younger and broader in focus. To that end, this summer there will be a series of races shown live on

Doug said he strongly encourages athletes to get involved with the media. Empowering the athletes themselves to promote the sport is crucial. They can take matters into their own hands. First person contact with the fans, Doug said, is a great way to stir up excitement for the sport. At the US Indoor Championship, for instance, many of the athletes tweeted the results to family and friends. Word gets around that track and field is an exciting sport.

The fields were stellar. Just to take the panels and highlight some of their accomplishments:

Women’s panel:
· Anna Pierce
o 4:28.37 mile
o 10th in the Olympic Steeplechase (won the Trials)
o 6th at the World Championships at 2009 in 1500
o 2nd in the world ranking at 800 in 2009

· Christin Wurth-Thomas
o 4:27.18 mile
o 5th in world ranking at 1500 in 2009
o 5th at World Championships in 2009
o Won Gran Prix meets in New York and Stockholm

· Heather Dorniden
o 4:38.8 mile
o Nine-time All-American at U of M
o Won NCAA Indoor Championship at 800 in 2006
o 3rd at USA Indoor Championships in 800
o 9th at Drake Relays last year in 1500

Sarah Bowman
4:29.72 mile
4th at USA Indoor Championships at 1500 in 2010
Won NCAA Indoor Championships in Mile in 2009
Won Pan American Junior Championships in 1500 in 2005
Won USA Junior Championships at 1500 in 2005

Men’s Panel:
Rob Myers
3:53.78 mile
Two-time USA Indoor Champion at 1500 (2004, 2008)
2nd USA Indoor Championships at the mile (2005, 2007)
3rd at USA Outdoor Championships at 1500 in 2005
3rd at Olympic Trials at 1500 in 2004

Lopez Lomong
3:53.35 mile
Won USA Outdoor 1500 Championship in 2009
3rd in 2008 Olympic Trials
Semi-finalist in 2008 Olympic Games
NCAA Outdoor Champion in 2007

David Torrence
3:56.75 mile
Won USA One Mile Road Championship in 2009
Won USA 3000 Indoor in 2009
Won USA Junior Championships in 2004

Garret Heath
3:58.71 mile
4th at USA Indoor Championships at 1500 in 2010
Finalist at World Indoor Championships at 1500 in 2010
Pac-10 Champion at 1500 in 2007

They all strike me as small men and women – like antelopes, long, thin legs, scarcely an upper body to speak of – born runners. They don’t get the attention they deserve – not in this country, in any case; they would be heroes in Kenya or Ethiopia – but this is good in a way. They are as down-to-earth as people who are among the best in the world at something could ever be.

All the athletes on the panels were wonderfully engaging in their comments. To keep this short, I’ll limit my attention to a brief interview I had with Lopez Lomong, who happened to be sitting next to me at the table. Rob Myers and one other competitor were at the same table.

Do you have a favorite track workout?

Lopez: I like to run 5 by 600… I don’t want to give the times, because I’ll be giving away my conditioning to my competitors here (he laughs)…

Do you run the ladder workout (800, 600, 400, 200 and back up)?

Lopez: Not too much… I’ll run the 600 at 90 seconds with 30 seconds rest… After that, I’ll jog 400 and run 300 repeats all out to get quicker…

What would be your time if you ran the 400 as hard as you could?

Lopez: I’m not a good sprinter… Forty-six seconds… It’s okay, but not…you know, at a high level. I would not be real good at that distance. Only average.

(For a miler? This is plenty of speed. Most guys who run the 400 in that time couldn’t run a mile under five minutes.) What is your half mile PR?

Lopez: One forty-five.

Typically, how many miles do you run in a week?

Lopez: Eighty-five.

What were your best times in high school in the mile?

Lopez: As a freshman, I ran the mile in 4:48, as a junior 4:32, as a senior 4:10.

Have you had a problem with injuries?

Lopez: Yes, in the World Championships leading up to the Olympics (2007), I was troubled by a hamstring injury. This limited my performance, and I was eighth there. The injury continued in the Olympic year (2008), and I could not train properly. There was always ice-time and I was slowed when I ran…. Running hard just irritated it… I made just the semifinals at the Olympics… But this is over now. I am training hard and in good shape.

Do you lift weights?

Lopez: Not too much. Only light weights. I use dumbbells now and then to calm my nerves, but not too much.

Is stretching important to you?

Lopez: A lot. With the hamstring injury, I stretch a lot. It eases the tension in my muscles.

Were there runners in your family? Parents or siblings?

Lopez: You know, before I came here I was one of the lost boys of Sudan. My parents never had the opportunity to show what they could do. But in Africa, running is what you do to get from here to there; it is part of being brought up there. We ran everywhere. When I came here, I was so happy to be part of this country. I compete for the joy, and I am very proud to be competing for the USA.

Do you have a coach?

Lopez: Yes, my coach is John Hayes of Texas. He has been my coach for the past five years – ever since college.

Do you run with a team?

Lopez: No, it is just me and my watch.

You do the interval workouts alone?

Lopez: Yes.

How do you handle the anaerobic grief without support? You are bound to back off.

He just smiles broadly.

(Apparently, the watch keeps him on pace.) You love to run, huh?

He continues to smile and nods.

One last question, Lopez. Do you have a goal in mind for your running?

Lopez: London (the Olympic Games site in 2012). Since last year this has been my goal. The World Championships last year (were part of that), and the World Championships (next year, too) will be. I have been training (all along) for London. It is all for London.

You think you can get a medal?

Lopez: He smiles and nods. Thank you.

Thank you, sir. It has been an honor.

The order of finish for the races is:

Women’s Race:
Anna Pierce – 4:33.9
Sarah Bowman – 4:34.9
Christin Wurth-Thomas – 4:36.3
Amy Mortimer – 4:38.5
Heidi Dahl – 4:40.8
Heather Dorniden – 4:42.1
Sonja Friend-Uhl – 4:44.9
Lauren Hagans – 4:45.6
Laura Janusjewski – 4:46.0
Meghan Armstrong – 4:46.2

Men’s Race:
David Torrence – 4:04.0
Daniel Huling – 4:05.4
Jordan Horn – 4:05.7
Derek Scott – 4:06.1
Garret Heath – 4:06.4
Lopez Lomong – 4:06.4
Liam Boylan-Pett – 4:06.7
Alex Tatu – 4:07.9
Darren Brown – 4:08.8
Robert Myers – 4:11.0

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Women's Training Camp

Remember when it was summer way back in April? Here are some nice photos of the MDRA Women's Running Camp to remind us of what it was like.

This camp takes place every year from April through May and as you can see everyone looks to be having a fabulous time. spring. The class has 41 women of every age and ability, from absolute beginners to 6:30 milers. The coaches and runners all work out together in an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship, every woman doing her best and striving to be better. The class has 4 coaches who are able to group women with others of their own ability level, so everyone feels valued for their effort. There are speakers every night on a broad range of subjects. If you are interested, you should join us next spring, or join one of the marathon, half marathon, or ten mile classes offered by MDRA.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Try the MapMyRun Beta

Here's a quick FYI for those of you who are users of MapMyRun. There's a new and improved beta version you can use that's available now. You can use it to access all your saved routes and create new ones too. Check it out here:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Trails: Theodore Wirth Park, Minneapolis

Hello Minnesota Runners! This is a new feature that I’m calling, “Tuesday Trails.” Pretty creative, huh? Every week, or every other week, there will be a blog post on, you guessed it, Tuesday, and the topic will be… no, not Sudoku… the topic will be a trail in the Twin Cities. At some point I may expand the scope to Greater Minnesota, but you guys out there are so “Great”, you don’t need me to highlight all the awesome trails you have. Basically, I’m starting with what I know.

I’m beginning the series with unpaved trails, since the weather has been mostly fantastic and the trails are snow-free! This week’s trail report is a real gem: Theodore Wirth Park.

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Theodore Wirth Park is part of the Minneapolis Park System, yet actually resides in Golden Valley. Go figure. It has several distinct parts: Golf course, cross country ski trails, sledding hill, mountain biking trails, beach, and running/hiking trails!

Theodore Wirth Park was established in 1889 and was named Glenwood Park. (To see some really cool old photos, search for Glenwood Park at the Minnesota Historical Society’s website.) The park was expanded and renamed after the late, great Minneapolis Park architect of the same name.

There are over 700 acres of parkland and many miles of trails. So, where to run? To me, there are two principal options (please feel free to share your experiences below):

1) Connections to other regional trails: Grand Rounds, Luce Line and Bassett Creek Trails. Theodore Wirth runs mostly north-south and the paved trail that runs through it is part of the Minneapolis Grand Rounds bike trail, a 50+ mile loop around the entire city. Running on the rolling paved trails provides access to Minneapolis Chain of Lakes (by way of Brownie and Cedar Lakes) to the south and to Victory Memorial Parkway to the north.

Now that the Luce Line has fully connected to Theodore Wirth, from the paved trail, one can run west on the Luce Line out into Golden Valley, on to Plymouth and beyond, all the way to Lake Minnetonka. I biked on this recently and the new section of the Luce Line in Wirth is pretty nice. The only problem is that the very attractive pedestrian wooden bridge at the edge of the park is rather slippery in the morning dew.

Wirth also connects to Bassett Creek Trail on the east side of the park, which allows one to run toward the Bryn Mawr neighborhood, to Cedar Lake Trail and ultimately Downtown. This is a very pleasant neighborhood run.

2) Trail running in South Wirth: My favorite part of running at Wirth is the trail running! Who knew you could get some amazingly tough and beautiful trails and hills right in Minneapolis? OK, fine, Golden Valley. I live in Uptown, and within 3.5 miles of running from my house, I’m deep in the heart of South Wirth and hitting the hills hard. So where do you run? Looking at the map (south of Hwy 55), it doesn’t look like there would be a lot of mileage, but the Park Board has done a fantastic job of cramming a ton of trails into this small space without making it feel like they’ve crammed in a ton of trails.

The best map I've found showing the trails in South Wirth is the ski map.

There are two parts of South Wirth: Quaking Bog on the west side of Theodore Wirth Parkway, and Eloise Butler on the east side. Both have their unique challenges. The side that has Eloise Butler Wildflower Sanctuary has about 4 miles of trails (entirely outside the sanctuary). The course generally follows the cross country ski trails, with a few small deviations. The terrain is full of steep climbs and descends, and my favorite: a gorgeous section of trail through a coniferous forest glen that feels like Northern California. It’s hard to get the exact loop in Eloise down well. I usually just end up running there for a half hour or so until I feel like I’ve run out of trail.

After Eloise, comes the Bog. Quaking Bog, that is. The route in the Bog is well marked with ski posts, so just follow that main loop for a 2.5 mile time trial. Highlights include several tough climbs, a beautiful Tamarac swamp, and trying to run by the house with the constantly barking dog without waking it up.

The best places to access the South Wirth trails are from the parking lot off of Glenwood at the South beach at Wirth Lake or from the south by Brownie and Cedar Lakes off of the Grand Rounds.

There you have it! If you haven’t run on these trails, steer your car/bike/feet toward northwest Minneapolis for trail running in an urban setting!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hugh are you? Hugh, Hugh…Hugh, Hugh.

A calf strain I suffered a couple weeks ago led to a very bizarre encounter at Hyland Hills. To date, I’ve provided updates on my adjustment to wearing the Vibram Five Fingers and for the most part it’s been going pretty well. That is, until I strained my right calf. This occurred during a hill workout wearing my normal running shoes. In hindsight, I should have seen this coming.

Wearing the VFF is completely different experience from wearing regular running shoes. Your heels rarely touch the ground, the bottoms of your feet get tired, and most importantly your calves do a great deal of the work. Even though I was running in them only once a week, my calves got to a point where they were almost always tight. For all my runs. And, since I almost never stretch, this, I believe, likely led to the strain. Okay, so all lessons aren’t easy ones, right?

Anyway, after a week without running (which seemed like a month) I jogged to Hyland Hills over my lunch and was just about to disappear into the woods when some guy yelled,

“Hey, are there any good trails in there?”

I turned towards the voice and here’s this guy walking up me wearing a pair of green Vibram Five Fingers. In the small talk that ensued I learned he was a marathoner/triathlete also trying out the VFF. I couldn’t wait to ask him how it was going and here’s how the conversation went…

Me: So how do you like the Five Fingers?

Him: Pretty good, I’m just wearing ‘em once a week.

Me. Me too. So how’s it going? How ARE you adjusting to them?

Him: Pretty well, that is until I strained my calf. You get a killer calf workout in these!

Me. You strained your calf? Me too. When did you do that?

Him. Last Tuesday.

Me. Me too! So, you’re going to give them another shot now?

Him. Yeah, this is my first time since I got injured.

M: Me too!!! (Okay, at this point I was immediately thinking one of my buddies put him up to this. There was NO WAY we’d have the exact same experience like this, right?)

After this exchange I introduced myself to him and asked him his name. It was Hugh, which totally freaked me out because well, it rhymes with mine. (I’ve totally got goose bumps writing this now.) What are the odds? Anyway, we enjoyed a short run together in Hyland Hills. Later, I was astounded to find out Hugh was born on the same day and in the same town I was! Okay, this part's a lie.

So what have I learned from this uncanny experience? You have to exercise patience with the VFF. Listen to your body. Hugh I and both tell you that if you’re experiencing pain or tightness, back off. If your calves are tight, and they will be, give them some extra attention in the form of a post-run stretch, or by using a foam roller. Doing this will help you avoid injury so you can continue enjoying the benefits of the VFF.