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Hey Adventure Foot readers! I’ve got some fun news!

Nuun Hydration before my long run! These flavors are grape, fruit punch and tropical!

Nuun Hydration before my long run! These flavors are grape, fruit punch and tropical!

Adventure Foot is now an ambassador for Nuun Hydration!  I was introduced to Nuun out on RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa.)  It was one of those days over 100 deg. and over 80 miles, and another rider noticed that I looked exhausted and that I’d sweat so much that there was salt dried in my jersey and my shorts.  He asked me if I was staying hydrated and I replied, “Yeah, I’ve had like 8 bottles of water!”   And he said, “Well you can’t just drink water! You need electrolytes too!” and he popped a Tri-Berry Nuun in my water bottle.  Not much later, my headache had subsided, I felt much better, and I became a real believer in Nuun!  Anyway, I’m sure I’ll tell you much more about Nuun over the next year of my ambassadorship, so stay tuned for more!  I’m also planning a give-away, so now would be a good time to “like” Adventure Foot on Facebook, and while you’re at it, like Nuun Hydration too!

Now, on to adventure!

Cross country skiing at Wakonda State Park

Cross country skiing at Wakonda State Park

It’s funny to have just told you about one of the hottest days I can ever remember, seeing as the last few weeks around central Illinois have been so cold and snowy!   But like any good adventurer, I like to follow my foot no matter what the weather.

Wyconda State Park

Wyconda State Park

Quincy took on a pretty deep coat of the white stuff in two big snow events in the last couple of weeks, and it seemed like it was the perfect time to try out some winter sports that we normally don’t have enough snowpack to support: snow shoeing and cross country skiing! The only problem?  I don’t have gear.  Luckily though, my very sweet friend from the bike club, Deb Esnault, had both and was willing to let me borrow them.  Also lucky for me: we wear the same shoe size!

I headed over to Wakconda, our nearest Missouri State Park.  Wakonda State Park in LaGrange, MO is reclaimed land which was once a series of quarry pits.  Now, the quarries are 6 deep lakes surrounded by nicely groomed hiking trails, camp grounds, and swimming beaches.   I’ve spent plenty of time hiking and kayaking there in the summer, but I’d never been over in the winter before.

Adventure Foot Cross Country Skis!

Adventure Foot Cross Country Skis!

My friend Karen and I were going to cross country ski together, but our schedules didn’t work out, so my Wakonda trip turned into a solo expedition.  I pulled up at the park and unloaded my gear.  Save one man setting up to ice fish, I had the entire 777 acre park to myself.

I decided that I was going to cross country ski the 3.5 mile trail around Agate Lake first.  I’d run on that trail before, so I knew it was wide and not too hilly.  Since this was the first time I’d tried cross country skiing, I spent a little time at the beginning of the trail trying out the skis and learning what they were capable of.  The first big difference I found between these and downhill skis is that it was surprisingly easy to move uphill.  That’s primarily due to the way the boots are attached at the toe but not at the heel.  The heel detachment allows for a more natural foot motion when walking uphill.

581867_616430828371818_2096944925_nThe second difference I found was that though these skis were much better at making it up hill, they were much worse at making it downhill!  The shape makes turning the skis difficult and their textured surface doesn’t slide as well down a hill.  That’s okay though, because cross country skiers are often bringing gear and things along, so controlled slow descents are probably preferable.

Once I had the hang of things I set out around the lake.  It wasn’t long until I’d found a good rhythm and was scooting right along the trail.  The day was gray, but the trail was still very beautiful.  I watched a few immature bald eagles dive in the open water at the center of the lake and the only tracks in the snow besides mine belonged to coyotes.

About half way around the lake there is a camp shelter, which I used to prop up my camera for a quick blog pictures. Though cross country skis allow you to stay on top of the snow, it’s still a big cardio workout, and I had really worked up a sweat!  On a longer trail in rougher conditions, I might have really been in trouble since I was so wet.  It would be bad news to have bad weather or cold wind set in if I were too far from shelter.  Anyway, since this wasn’t an episode of Dual Survival…

The beautiful trail around Agate lake.

The beautiful trail around Agate lake.

I really enjoyed the rest of my time on the trail.   The hills the lake offered were gentle and rolling, and just enough of a challenge to keep it interesting.  I liked how quiet the skis were on the undisturbed snow, and it was nice to have some time by myself.  I was back at my car in no time at all.

Showing off my Adventure Foot by the start of the Jasper Lake trail!

Showing off my Adventure Foot by the start of the Jasper Lake trail!

Like I said before, we have so few opportunities to play in deep snow around here, so even though I was pretty worn out from the skis, I decided I was still going to snow shoe for a little while.   I switched gear and headed off towards the smaller Jasper Lake trail.

Snow shoeing was much slower going than the skis, but it had its own charms.  Snow shoes have large flat bottoms called “decks” for staying on top of the snow, but also have metal cleats called “crampons” on the bottom for gaining purchase on slippery rocks or ice. The bindings fit around a regular pair of hiking or snow boots and are attached to the deck by bolts that rotate and let your feet move in a walking motion.

A frozen corner of Jasper Lake

A frozen corner of Jasper Lake

I used the snow shoes to explore the lake shore and generally poke around a little.  The park looks so much different in the winter and a little sunlight showing through the clouds added a lovely sparkle to the snow.  The snow shoes were fun to try and really did save energy when compared to just trudging through deep snow.

Wyconda State Park Map (Click to view larger)

Wyconda State Park Map (Click to view larger)

I really enjoyed my solo trip to Wakonda and am looking forward to visiting this nearby park for more adventures, no matter what the weather.  I hope you find ways to follow your Adventure Foot this spring! There’s so much to explore!

thanks-for-reading

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I know you’re all waiting for my RAGBRAI recap, and I promise I will get to it. It’s just tough to put a whole week into a blog!  In the meantime though, I have to tell you about 2 Big Events coming to the Muddy Mississippi!

Ladies Night Kayaking

It’s me– kayaking! You should kayak with me.

Calling all ladies!  I will be leading two girls-only paddling clinics on the Quincy riverfront this month at a special reduced rate!  The classes will be $25 per person and will include your boat and equipment, your life jacket, and instruction in basic kayaking.  I’ll also be demonstrating kayak rescues.  The classes will be held at 5:30 pm on Tuesday, August 21 and on Tuesday, August  28 both at 5:30 pm. 

Spaces are limited and you are required to RSVP by either contacting me on my Facebook page or emailing quincykayak@yahoo.com with your name and phone number.

And as long as you’re learning to kayak, you might want to join in for:

The Quincy 5-Miler Hand Powered Boat Race!

The Quincy Five Miler is a 5.4 mile head race on the Mississippi River and Quincy Bay from Knapheide Landing along the Illinois shore, through The Cut and into Quincy Bay, below the course of the First Quincy Boat Race (1872), and under the bridges to the finish line at the South Side Boat Club.  It will be held September 15th at 11 am.  Entry fee is $25 and will include a t-shirt and prizes to winners of each division.

The great thing about this race is just about anyone can enter and you stand a great chance of winning a prize.   You can literally enter any river-worthy hand or foot powered boat.  I’ll be rolling in a Valley Avocet Kayak in fire engine red!  But you could show up with a canoe, a paddleboat, a stand up paddle board, a row boat, an outrigger canoe, a racing shell…  heck, you can build a Huckleberry Finn style raft and grab some sticks and paddle it on down the river if you want to.    The divisions will be set the day of the event based on type of craft and men’s and women’s divisions.

There is a lot of history behind the race in Quincy.   Once a rowing powerhouse, Quincy has a history of waterborne competition going back to the first race in 1872. The first race was a two miler (out one mile and return), put on by the newly formed Nautilus Rowing Club. The start line was on Quincy Bay 2 1/2 miles North of Maine Street. First prize for the Single Scull race was $40 in gold; second was a pair of spruce sculls. The race included singles, pairs, skiffs, and “working boats”. The “four oared” race included entries from Quincy’s Union and Nautilus rowing clubs.

The South Side Boat Club was formed in 1886 and for the next seventy years Quincy provided strong crews for regional and even international competition. Aggressive recruitment included calls for the most able bodied to join the clubs and promises of expert coaching and paid expenses to races. Race boats were loaded onto train cars on Front Street and transported to Central States Amateur Rowing Association regattas throughout the Midwest. The many trophies and medals on the walls of the South Side Boat Club at 640 S. Front Street in Quincy attest to the considerable success of its crews which include numerous regional championships, a national championship in 1904, and a second (losing out on 1st place by only 2/5 second) in the World Rowing Championship of 1934 in Liege, Belgium.

Quincy’s last racing eight was sold in 1950 after decline in the sport after WWII. Quincy’s recreational water interests moved to power boating and folks gradually lost sight of human powered boating as a popular activity. As Quincy Bay silted in over the years (a controversial local topic) power boat access has become more and more limited. However the shallow draft of paddle and row boats provides easy access from downtown to a wildlife-filled scenic waterway that stretches north from town along North Bottom Road.

To find out all of the details on the race and to print the waiver and registration, please click here to visit the race website.   If you would like to race but need to rent a kayak, you can contact me at quincykayak@yahoo.com  I have a limited number of kayaks available for a rental fee of $10 (which includes life jackets and paddles) and they will be assigned on a first-come basis.  You must have some paddling experience to rent a boat (no first-timers!)

 I hope to see you on the water!

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I organized a Bridge to Bridge (Quincy to Hannibal and back) ride for the 4th of July, and despite the high temps, attendance was GREAT! I’m so happy so many people came out for this and I hope we do it again next year!

I know what you guys are thinking… “Where in the world has Adventure Foot been?”

Many apologies for the lack of blogs lately.  It’s not for want of topics, rather for lack of time for coherent, thoughtful writing!   Ah well, we all get busy sometimes I guess.  So here’s my attempt at catching you up with the goings on that have been going on.

By Land:

Friend-of-the-blog Jared Busen and I got a bike ride in just this week.

What I’ve primarily been up to is biking my little Adventure Foot right off!  As most of you know, I’m headed off to RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) next week.  There, I’ll be tackling just shy of 500 miles and over 16,000 feet of climb (Iowa is decidedly NOT flat!) alongside thousands of other cyclists for the biggest, longest, and oldest bike tour in the USA.  It’s a dream that started when my grandma’s restaurant was a rest stop on the route in 1992.  I was 10 at the time, and I said that one day I’d bike across Iowa.  Now I’m 30, and now I’m going to make it happen!

Anyway, in training for this crazy ride, I’ve racked up 1200 miles on the bike in 2012.  If you’re counting, 1200 was my total number of miles from 2011. I hit my first thousand fully two months earlier this year than last.  I feel like I’ve put in the training to make RAGBRAI great.  I also feel like I’ve gotten a whole new perspective on every backroad and little diner in Central Illinois.  My husband and I have done a lot of training and, though I’m nervous about how hard 500 miles in 6 days will be, we’re as prepared as we’re going to be.  Besides- I have a great plan: Bike ten miles, eat homemade pie… bike ten miles, eat homemade pie… (and repeat)

By Sea:

I also took Jared and his slightly damaged Adventure Foot kayaking recently. He’s rehabbing an injury… but don’t worry… he isn’t as sad as he looks here 😉

Biking has to take a break a couple of days a week, so I’ve also been hitting the water for some kayaking!   The best news about that is that I will be doing a lot of guiding with Kayak Quincy during the month of August.  I’m especially excited to be leading three Ladies Night Kayaking Events.  Details are not 100% set yet but the events are tentatively set for August 14th, 21st and 28th (all Tuesdays) at 6 pm on the Quincy Bay.  It’s my personal goal to get many more female paddlers going on this super fun sport.  It’s a great workout for your core, it’s not dangerous (I promise, you can’t get stuck and you will have a lifejacket, so being a good swimmer isn’t even a requirement), and it’s so much fun!  My Ladies Night classes can have a maximum of about 12 people, and since he’s tagging along, Kevin will get to be my lovely assistant for a change!  If you’re reading my blog and you already know you’re interested, you can send me a message on Facebook and I’ll reserve your spot.  You’ll get all your equipment including lifejackets, instruction and around 2 hours on the water for $30 per person.   I’ll be on KHQA’s Morning Show the first week of August to talk about the Ladies Night Events- so if you really want a spot on a specific day, you’re better off messaging me before my TV appearance!

If you are not a lady or prefer a mixed group and you want to kayak with me, you may also message me and I’ll find a class you can get into!  Also: Click here to read about one of my favorite kayak experiences to date- I helped guide members of the Quincy Park District along with Illinois Lt. Governor Shelia Simon on the river last year.

Upcoming Events:

You know summertime is just full of events and I’m sad to say, I think my Events Calendar is probably missing a few. Please comment on this article if you want an event added!! Some of the events I’m most excited about are:

Run for the Cross:  Quincy’s only nighttime race!  This event is unfortunately the same weekend as I’m on my big bike trip, but if you’re not cycling 500 miles, I suggest going to South Park and participating in Run for the Cross!  The 4 Mile Fun Run/Walk benefits  the Back to School Help Fair providing immunization, physical and dental exams, haircuts, and various school supplies to children whose families need assistance.  Get all the info and register by clicking here!

Mississippi River Run 5K and 10K will be held August 25th in Hannibal, MO.  If you missed the chance to run over the river at Bridge the Gap, or you’re like me and just enjoy every chance you get to run across the river, you won’t want to miss this race!  Click here to go to the event website.

Ryan Craven and I will both be helping guide with Kayak Quincy and organize the Quincy 5 Miler Hand Powered Boat Race

Quincy 5 Miler:  If you only try one new thing this year, make it the Quincy 5 Miler Hand Powered Boat Race!!  This race hasn’t been held on the Quincy Bay in 62 years… but we’re bringing it back baby!! the South Side Boat Club and Kayak Quincy are partnering to bring kayaks, rowboats, canoes and more to take on a course that was first run in 1872.  Kayaks will be available for rent for the event on a first-come basis.  I’m coming into the race with the eye of the tiger and high hopes!  I may never win a foot race, but I’m planning on being competitive for this one!   If you’re interested in trying the race but you’ve never paddled before… you should come try Kayak Quincy.   I REALLY REALLY want to have a strong female representation at this event- so come to my Ladies Night classes and then get your booty to this race.  For more info, click here.

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Well, Adventure Foot readers, I must say that I’m feeling a little pressure about writing my first blog post since my super-sweet television debut on KHQA’s Morning Show.  If you missed the longer broadcast, click this link and prepare to be amazed (also prepare to see why bloggers generally stick to writing and avoid the un-editable live stuff)!

Anyway, to tamp down the nerves about what to write about next while simultaneously providing a springboard of potential ideas for readers to get their Adventure Foot out the door, I’m going to write (er.. .am in the process of writing) a post about the ideas I have for being active in the next few weeks.

As the Illinois Half Marathon and I-Challenge is quickly approaching (April  27th/28th), my first thought is about training.  This will be my second half marathon this year, and if it’s possible, I’m more nervous about it than I was for Little Rock.  Heck, I had no expectations going in to my race at Little Rock.  Now I have a time to live up to!  To that end, I’m thinking about going for a long run with the Heartland Road Runners and Walkers Club on Saturday.  If I can do double digit miles again, I guess I’m ready.

Since I’m going to train for some running anyway, I am thinking of going to participate in the 2nd Annual Story of H.O.P.E. 5K Fun Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention  next Saturday morning (April 14th) in the Flower City Park in Palmyra, MO.  It’s a lovely park, it’s a great and underrepresented cause, and it’s going to be fun.  Maybe while I’m over there running I’ll take a stroll through the JW Wells Nature Park, too.  There’s a 1 mile trail that’s good for a short hike and the park is home to at least 3 different geocaches… read more about that here!

And as long as I’m making plans for April, I have been tossing around the idea of participating in my very first triathlon.  The Abraham Lincoln Triathlon Series in Springfield is hosting a Mini and a Sprint Triathlon on April 21.  I’m considering “tri-ing” the Mini.  There’ll be a pretty strong contingent of Quincy folks there, and hey, I feel like a 100 yard swim, 5 miles on my bike and a 1 mile run  is something I’m totally capable of.  There’s still time to sign up for either the mini or the sprint tri, or check this website for more triathlon dates in the series.

Besides all of these weekend ideas, I’ll have to make some decisions about what to do on the weekdays!

Ultimate Frisbee?

Mixed Martial Arts?

Bike Club?

Road Runners After Dark?

Morell Mushroom Hunting?

Disc Golf? 

… or all of the above.

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Doug, Laura and the penguins of the Frozen Buns Run.

My friend Doug and I headed to St. Louis this weekend for the Delmar Loop’s “Frozen Buns Run.”  Same event, 2 stories to tell.

I May Be Starting To Enjoy Running

by Doug Burdic

Ok, here’s a ridiculous premise:  I set my alarm on a Saturday to drive to St. Louis to pay $20 to run three miles (slowly) in 30-degree weather to turn around and drive straight back.  On the surface, this seems asinine.  Below the surface, this seems asinine.
Normally this space is reserved for cynicism, but the thing of it is, I actually enjoyed myself for the most part.
I was joined by Laura, who’d told me beforehand she would not be running with me as she previously had, which was fine as I like to keep my failures as far under the radar as I can.  We wandered through some of the shops close to the starting line, took a picture with some people dressed as penguins (smart costumes; they were the warmest people there), lined up to start, then the gun went off.The first part of the course went uphill fairly steeply, which meant I was making horrific time almost straight off the bat.

The course meandered through a nice neighborhood, the roads were good and snow-free, and if you were running in the sun the weather wasn’t too unbearable.  Several miles in (it felt like several) some lady watching us go by said there was only a mile to go.  I don’t know this to be true and, in hindsight, strongly suspect that it wasn’t.  I knew the course would turn right just before the finish line and could see no one turning right ahead of me.

Finally it did, and I saw the finish line, which meant it was time to stop trying.  I don’t know what it is about them, but something about seeing finish lines makes me think I’ve finished before I actually have.  I’m okay with this situation for now.  I flailed across the line (there’s no other word for it), found Laura, ate a banana and a cookie and it was time to leave.

I can’t find much to gripe about, which is disconcerting.  I will say that the city of St. Louis owes me roughly four downhill stretches, which I will accept in the form of a cashier’s check.  Beyond that, it was a nice run and a pleasant experience.

After we got back to Quincy, it was time for a nap and then it was time to get drunk.  I’m far more accomplished at napping and drinking than I am at running, but I can’t help but think that gap might be closing.  Am I turning into a runner?

The finish line of the Frozen Buns Run.

An Off Day

by Laura Sievert

This weekend I headed down to St. Louis with my friend Doug for the Delmar Loop’s Ice Carnival and their annual kick-off event, the Frozen Buns Run.  The 5K and 10K courses started right in the heart of the thriving business district at the historic Blueberry Hill nightclub and restaurant.

I entered the 5K race for this run.  It’s actually the first 5K I’ve run since I began training; the last few events I’ve entered were longer distances (10K Turkey Run, 11K Veteran’s Run).  I wanted to try a speedier run this time instead of going for distance, so I set a goal of completing the 5K in 30 minutes or less.

Well, a short story long, I didn’t do it.  We lined up at the starting point and the gun went off and I didn’t get my usual surge of excitement for an event.  I kind of put a foot into a runner with a jogging stroller in the first 10 yards of the race which irritated me.  Things didn’t get better from there.  I spent the whole first mile dodging walkers, passing people and being passed, and generally not finding my groove.

The run was part of the Ice Carnival, which featured an ice sculpture at every business!

I didn’t listen to music for this race, thinking I would feed off the energy of the crowd, but this really just created the opportunity for me to fight mentally with myself the whole time.  My internal dialog kept worrying about how much getting around the walkers had me off my time, how much my foot was still bugging me from whatever I did to hurt it last Tuesday night, how the freezing cold air was stinging my nose and throat, and how pessimistic I was about the uphill I was on.

The course was fine for the most part, and the event was generally well-run, though I’d like to see a wave start for 10K, 5K, and then walkers to avoid that congestion that had me tripping at the beginning.  I was just having a rotten day.  The uphill sections were long and tough, but it’s nothing I felt like should have stood in my way for my 30 minute goal.

I finished in a time of 33:39.  I know I’m better than that time.  As a matter of fact, I looked back at my ‘easy’ training runs in the past few weeks, and I’ve got times better than that when I wasn’t trying for speed.  Even my per-mile time for the Vet’s Day run- which was more than twice as long- was better than this performance.  It was a PR for an event (my last 5K was the Hannibal Cannibal with a time of 35 something) but certainly not a PR for that distance.

I guess what I learned from this experience is that you’re going to have off-days as a runner.  Not every event is going to go your way, and I guess that’s okay.  I can see that I need to focus on positives when I run and try to stop mentally tearing myself down.  Most days I can do that, but some days I can’t.  This Saturday I stood in my own way and my effort was just lackluster.

Don’t get the impression that I’m too discouraged though.  I’m signed up for the Catch Cupid if You Can 5K in Hannibal, and I’ll give that goal another try.  I think it’s important to acknowledge that bad days happen, and I’ll just have to adjust for my next run.  I’ll do it, I know I can.

Special congratulations to my friend Doug on his day at the Frozen Buns Run.  He was participating in only his second event ever and shaved almost 3 minutes off his Jingle Bell Run time.  That’s a huge improvement in a short amount of time.  In answer to the question at the bottom of his blog: Yeah, Doug, you’re becoming a runner.

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The sign at the bottom read, “Hill? You Can’t Handle This Hill!”

Too shocked to have the sense to conserve my precious oxygen, I turned to the runner next to me and gasped, “Is this hill seriously trash talking us?!” I should have saved my breath because I needed every bit of O2 I could gather for the climb up Lover’s Leap in the middle section of the Hannibal Cannibal 5k Run.

The 16th annual Hannibal Cannibal was held this past Saturday morning in downtown Hannibal, Mo. More than 1,700 runners from 26 states braved temperatures that had already climbed into the mid-80s by 7 a.m. to participate in 5k or 10k courses. Each course began in downtown, headed up the highway and over the overpass, took a turn and then climbed the infamous 600-foot bluff known as Lover’s Leap.

This was only my second 5k run ever, but I was feeling pretty confident at the starting line. I gathered with the other slower runners near the back of the pack, and, when the cannon went off, the runners surged forward and formed a great river several blocks long and four lanes wide. My iPod playlist was cued up to a Deadweather song, and I felt like I was making good time as I crossed the highway overpass.

That’s about when the Hannibal Cannibal’s tag line, “It’ll eat you up,” began to make sense. Highway 79 from the overpass turns into a long, low hill. I’m going to say it’s about a 30-degree grade (though I’m just holding up my fingers to estimate, so I could be way off). The thing just goes on and on. I kept running, and it kept climbing. It was super hot, and I was kicking myself for leaving my sweatband sitting on my kitchen table back in Quincy. The course doubles back on itself, so the faster runners were all coming down the hill I was still trying to climb. I was jealous of those folks who had already made the turn.

When that hill finally did let up, I was treated to a glass of lukewarm water, and then started making my way back down the hill. The relief was only temporary though, because I was approaching Lover’s leap.

The “You Can’t Handle this Hill” sign was only the beginning of the Cannibal’s biggest weapon’s assault on me. The sign’s barb had me fired up, and I charged with renewed energy. Talk trash to me, will you, Hill? I’ll show you!

But it just kept coming! The grade increased to what seemed like 90 degrees, and the next sign teased, “Feel the burn?” I did feel the burn, but I wasn’t about to walk.

The Hill, unperturbed with my continued insolence, informed me, “Even your car can’t make it up this hill.” I’ll admit, the thought of my Camry and its very capable air conditioner caused me a great deal of mental anguish, but I was determined to keep going.

My calf muscles had worked themselves into a ball by the time the Hill hurled its next dagger, “Free Oxygen Ahead.” This one was a significant blow, because I’d completely forgotten what it was like to breathe.  I had to walk past the next warning, “Yes, there is a Cannibal at the top.” I resigned myself to my imminent demise and thought, “At least if the waiting Cannibal devours me, I won’t have to run all the way back downtown.”

MaryAnn Cornwell and Laura before the race.

Suddenly I was there at the top. Some saintly volunteer had a water sprayer and I reveled in the cool mist as I jogged past. I grabbed a glass of water and then saw the Cannibal himself! He was gnawing on a bone that I assume was a human femur (or possibly a turkey-leg, but we’ll go with femur.) He was distracted! It was time to make a run for it!I dashed past the distracted barbarian and didn’t even look over my shoulder to see if I was being pursued! It wasn’t long before I was turning the corner back toward the finish line. I’d made it! It was hard, and it was hot, but I was very proud. I clocked a time of 39 minutes and change. That was slower than my Bridge the Gap time, but I’ll tell you this, I’m not a bit disappointed. Running the Hannibal Cannibal was every bit of the challenge that they bill it to be, and I’m excited to have survived in one piece.

To view race results and to see lots more photos, visithttp://hannibalcannibal.com

Also, congratulations to all the runners who participated in this race, especially my friends MaryAnn, Amy, Melissa, and Jeff. Well done, everyone!

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Katy Trail Trailhead in St. Charles, Mo.

It was one hot weekend, but that didn’t stop the Green Machine (that’s my bike) from hitting the trail for a serious cycling adventure! My husband and I left Quincy in the predawn hours of Saturday morning and headed south to catch the Katy Trail in St. Charles, Mo.

The Katy Trail is a Missouri Rails-to-Trails project. The Rails-to-Trails program converts defunct railroad right-of-ways into multi-purpose recreational trails for public use. In this case, more than 240 miles of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT, or Katy for short) Railroad line have been redeveloped with wide hard-packed limestone trails that are primarily used for cyclists, hikers and runners. The current trail runs from Machens, Mo., (North of St. Charles) and follows the Missouri River west across the state through towns like Augusta, Herman, Jefferson City,  and Columbia, and ends in Clinton, Mo. This trail is already the longest Rails-to-Trails project in the nation, but plans are in progress to extend the trail through to Kansas City and beyond.

We picked up the trail at the St. Charles riverfront early in the morning on Saturday. The St. Charles trailhead to Katy is very endearing. The city has refurbished its train station and even has an old engine and caboose sitting near the start of the trail. I couldn’t help but make choo-choo noises as we set off toward Augusta.

It was hot, but not yet unbearable, and as we left the St. Charles Station, there were many bikers, hikers and runners using the trail. It wasn’t more than a few miles down the road that the crowds thinned out and we had left the city behind. The country roads are charming. In places, the trail would be bordered on either side by tall wildflowers and wooden fences. There were more birds than I can even recall, but the ones that stood out the most were the Indigo Buntings. The dazzling turquoise birds against the sunny black-eyed susans were as pretty as a picture.

The biking itself started out very easy.  After all, trains can’t run up very steep grade, so the Katy Trail is virtually flat. The 240 miles of flat trail seems like a cyclist’s dream, until you realize what flat trail really means. You may not ever be going up a hill, but you are also never going down one. Our speed was almost constant at 13 mph, and we were always pedaling. It was more exhausting than I expected! The surface adds some resistance as well. Though the limestone “pug” is hard-packed, it’s still gravel, and the feeling for my tires was a bit like riding through shallow sand.

Only seven miles from St. Charles, we pulled into the first stop along the trail at Green’s Bottom, Mo.  Each of the 30-odd towns on the Katy feature small roofed “stations” with informative dioramas about the sections of trail immediately adjacent to the station. Much of the trail is built along the Lewis and Clark exploration route, and many of the graphics explained the historical significance of their journey. The gravesites of frontiersman Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca lay along the trail, as do several Native American points of interest. The effort the Missouri Parks have put into making this trail both fun and educational cannot be overstated. There is even a guided cell phone audio tour at some stops. To hear the recording about the Katy Trail in St. Charles yourself, call (877)767-0603 and then press 10#.

Further down the trail there was so much to explore. It seemed like there was a new vista around every corner. The Missouri River was running high and fast on our left for many miles. The bluffs on our right were imposing and beautiful, at one point, they formed a natural shelter wall that was at least 150 yards long and 120 feet tall. When the trail steered us away from the river, some of the backwaters of the Missouri backed up into primordial looking wetlands, complete with bullfrog symphonies. The wildlife of the trail included several large turtles, lots of frogs and fence lizards, hawks, turkey buzzards, deer, herons and much more. There is even a small chance of spotting a black bear along the Katy, though it would be rare.

Another highlight of riding on the Katy Trail is the chance to explore the small towns of Missouri. Many of the stops had wineries, antique shops, bed and breakfast cottages and more. I especially liked that there were almost always “hitchin-posts” meant for horses but repurposed to chain up bikes. At our destination, Augusta, there was a brewery with craft beers and house-smoked meat sandwiches for lunch. If a micro-brewed IPA and smoked brisket aren’t reason enough to bike 28 miles, then I don’t know what is.

After over-indulging in Augusta, my husband hopped on his bike (The Blue Meanie), and we headed back to St. Charles. The same trail we had just ridden took on an entirely different character as the late afternoon descended. The golden colors of the fading light made the cornfields look graceful and the rock walls come alive. The butterflies and other bugs became active as the temperatures finally dipped into the 80s, and it was magical to ride through the clouds of fluttering color.

Our 57-mile round trip on the Katy Trail was supposed to be the beginning of a three-day trip, however, after only seven miles in the heat on Sunday, (Trail temp. was 102 with a heat index of 115+) we decided that the rest of the trail would have to wait. I am very much looking forward to riding the Katy again though, and we are planning to complete the entire 240 miles this autumn. Whether you’re headed down for a short ride or to take in the full length of the Katy Trail, I know that you’ll enjoy your trip. I think next time, I’ll bring one of those wooden train whistles to blow on at each stop…

For more information including mileage charts and attractions along the trail, visit www.bikekatytrail.com For the Missouri Katy Trail State Park information, visitmostateparks.com/park/katy-trail-state-park. To read more about Rails-to-Trails projects nationwide, visitwww.railstotrails.org.

Laura Sievert (Original post 7/14/11)

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