Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Murphy-Hanrehan park and long intervals

I would like to recommend this park as a great place for dryland training (just in case the winter ever ends). Why? Lots of hills, little or no visitors, great scenery (completely in the woods with lots of small lakes and swamps), low maintenance (feels wild, but the trails are still good for training).
The park also has an abundant wildlife. I see deer and turkeys all the time, and often I see some large birds (raptors?) siting on the trail and then quietly flying away as I appear over the hill. Once I was skiing (the ski trail is great and probably the hilliest in Midwest, but you need to check for the grooming reports on Three Rivers website), and on one of the downhills noticed a turkey loudly flying right above me. My first move was to protect myself with a pole, but then I realized that she was not attacking me but was just frightened of the branch and could only fly downhill due to weight/power ratio. Luckily for her, the hill was steep and long enough to make her motor going and avoid crashing the ground (perhaps it was not the case with the now famous Wirth turkey).
Fall at Murphy
Fall is the best time to visit. Parts of the trail are closed in summer, not to mention an enormous amounts of bugs (many swamps). I once made a mistake of going there for a long run in late June and for the entire three 10K loops had an air fleet making 5 feet loops around me (I am not sure if that were the same guys or if they made a relay, but their endurance is amazing). In summer I prefer Afton SP as it is almost bug free.
As for the workouts, I like the park for long runs but even more for long tempo intervals. Those could either be running or bounding (with running downhills). I use the 4.5K loop shown on the map below (green dotted). This loop consists of ups and downs only, and many of those are quite steep!

Portion of the map from
I really like those 20 min intervals for various reasons: 1. the overall pace is under threshold (1-1.5h race pace) and the workout is overall aerobic. 2. Local pace on the hills could be anaerobic, but since many of the hills are under 30 sec long, I do not accumulate lactic acid. Very ski specific I think. 3. It is easy to maintain the moderate pace alone (compared to shorter 5-10K race pace intervals). When I am in shape, I can do three of those.
Here is a Fasterskier article about Babikov doing similar type intervals. He does the downhills and flats at lower intensity which allows him to do four 5K intervals.

So check this out. It is 30 min south of Metro. Best parking is at the horse trailhead (#29), as it is always open and could be accessed from I-35 without traffic lights (and you can also go green and arrive to a workout on a horse).

P.S. I have been “closing” my ski season for a few times already: first on March 31 in Elk River, but next weekend took Friday of and joined two teammates for a trip to Giants Ridge. Friday was terrific! Everything was groomed and icy fast but with plenty of edge. I skied over 80K that day. The big snowfall on Saturday provided some great winter views as all the trees and branches were covered with snow. 180K over three days!
Classic skiing with Mike and Dave on the Bronze trail
This weekend I skied at Elk River. 50K both days! Despite the forecast, today was even better than yesterday (12 min faster). Woodlands, with its winding, hilly and perfectly groomed trail, became my favorite place for weekend skiing this year. I would be curious to see how it looks in summer.
Mt. Everest, April 14 (which of the two is easier to believe?)
Now I see reports of street skiing in Duluth and forecasts for more snow there tonight. Might be worth a trip next weekend. I will wait with the storage wax for now…

P.P.S. Anybody in the snowland hiring a PhD chemist (organic/physical-organic) later this year? As a new graduate I will have work authorization for 29 months (as a practical training).

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