I just returned from a short visit to Red Wing, MN. Before traveling to this cozy little hamlet located some 50+ miles from Minneapolis, I was talking with some friends and we lamented over the challenges facing inhabitants of such a cool - well, sometimes downright frosty - climate. My cousins live in Golden Valley and I visited them one Christmas when the temperatures didn't get above zero for over one week. This is a place where car batteries are plugged in overnight... and during the day for most every day in the winter (or so it seems), and people spend lots of time indoors to avoid frostbite from just stepping out the door to get the mail.
Fortunately I checked the weather forecast before traveling, which I always do and highly recommend to anyone traveling to another city - no matter what the season. Most likely the weather at your destination will not be the same as the weather where you live. It can be colder, warmer, wetter, drier... you get the picture. Although I was prepared - I'm known as an overachieving planner - some of the others who I met up with in Red Wing had not even glanced at a weather forecast for the area including one of this year's Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team members, Matt Byrne.
En route to Red Wing on a shuttle van I asked Matt if he wanted to go for a run. It was hovering around the freezing mark and a bit windy when we arrived in Red Wing at 3:15 p.m. We decided to meet in the hotel lobby at 3:30. I wore tights, a long sleeve shirt, heavy gloves, and a jacket. Matt, on the other hand, was dressed in shorts and a long sleeve shirt. I asked Matt if he was sure he'd be warm enough. He said that he had no other warm clothes with him, not even a jacket although he was wearing a pair of lightweight gloves. He said that just looking at me all bundled up would probably make him think he was warmer. Maybe there is some type of osmosis or channeling effect I wasn't aware of.
We decided to go for an hour of easy running. I like to find trails in every city that I visit, but sometimes it is a challenge. Not so on this particular adventure. Matt and I set off down Main Street (honestly, this was the name of the street where our hotel was located), heading toward a hillside that presumably from the top overlooked the town of Red Wing. As we ran down the road we both looked at the hillside and said... almost in unison... something to the effect of, "There's got to be a way to get to the top of that hill, let's go find it."
We ran on Main Street for about 3/4 of a mile and then turned onto an overpass. That was definitely the wrong direction as we were heading toward Wisconsin over a bridge that spanned the Mississippi River. We backtracked and headed up a two-lane highway flanking the hillside. We looked for an access point - a road, a trail, something to get up to the top of the hill. Another 1/2 mile and there it was... a trail. A very steep trail that went straight up. Matt took off like a rabbit and I trudged along behind him ascending the hillside. We ran under a canopy of elms, oaks, and other deciduous trees some still sporting their fall colors, while others were already bare. The trail was fairly wide and had a light blanket of leaves although we could still see the trail underfoot. We continued up and encountered steps, about 120 of them as I recall the number embossed on the adjacent memorial plaque. These were the Kiwanis Steps we later discovered on the run. We crested the hill, ran out to a lovely overlook with a sweeping 360 degree view of the area, backtracked to the river-side of the hill, and headed down. The other side of the hill was mostly single track trail covered in leaves that were knee deep in spots. Not only were there mounds of leaves, we couldn't see the trail which had lots of tree roots and rocks underfoot. I was careful picking through the trail whereas Matt charged ahead stopping every once in a while to make sure I hadn't taken a digger on the trail. It was about one mile or so down and included a few switchbacks and a lot more leaves. We ended up at a visitor's gazebo which had a large map describing the trail system we had just enjoyed.
We decided to head back to the hotel another way and ran down a road toward a gravel pathway next to railroad tracks. It flanked the Mississippi and was a bit chillier by the water with no shelter from the insulating leaves or trees we had just left. After about 45 minutes I asked Matt if he was cold... this is after I mentioned to Matt several times during the run that I was very toasty warm. Perhaps the reason Matt surged ahead a few times was to avoid my gloating over my preparedness for the weather. He said he was alternating between cold and not-so-cold. After nearly an hour I headed back to the hotel and Matt continued on for a few more miles.
It was a great run and the following morning at about 7:00 (when it was still dark as the sunrise was at 7:45 a.m.) a group of about eight of us headed out to run the trails on the "bluffs" which is what the hillside was named by the locals. It was way colder in the morning and only a few of us had appropriate layers of clothing. Lots of chilly extremities on the morning run.
Again, the lesson learned is to check the weather forecast and be prepared for your trail runs with the appropriate gear! To the left are some well-dressed statues on Main Street outside the hotel St. James and below a photo of Matt and me at dinner one evening.