Grass Lake Running Adventures

It has been an inconvenient year of running for me. I’ve fought off some injuries and battled back with physical therapy to the point where I was starting to feel stronger than I have in a couple of years. Then I bounced off some rocks and roots on a little trail race a week and a half ago. I listened to my body for a change and took it easy for eights days with no runs over four miles. I noticed during my two-mile run yesterday that it no longer hurt my ribs to take deep breaths. Must mean it’s time to ramp up my training miles!

So after work tonight I decided to try an eight to ten-mile loop run. This loop runs in a rough oval from my house in northern Shoreview to the southern part of the suburb. I left home about an hour before sunset, so I did think to bring a headlamp for the late miles. I thought of a route that would give me about nine and a half miles, but was feeling good when I reached the point where I’d need to turn to make that loop. I knew the next major cross street could add a couple of miles to the loop, so I continued. Of course when I got to that intersection, I realized I could extend it another mile and a half while running around beautiful Grass Lake. Grass Lake is so named because it has some grassy islands that are not well anchored to the lake floor. When the water and winds are high, they sometimes drift part way across the lake surface before settling in a different spot with the next low water.

grass-lake-dusk

Twilight at Grass Lake.

I stopped on the east side of the lake and took a photo of the dim dusky light over the Lake (it wasn’t really as dark as the photo suggests). About a half mile further I crested a hill only to notice the paved pedestrian / bike trail had some standing water covering it. I knew there was a tunnel under a roadway ahead that would necessitate climbing the embankment next to the tunnel to cross over the top of the elevated road and then make my way back to trail on the other side of the road. I’ve had to wade through thigh-high water on other runs after storm drains clogged from heavy rains. This didn’t look too deep.

The path was a little damp.

The path was a little damp.

So I started running into the water with much splashing. I flushed a paddling of ducks. Once knee-high I slowed to a walk. I noticed minnows swimming under my feet. I kept going till it was thigh high. At this point I could see around the corner of the path and the tunnel under the roadway in the distance. The seven or eight foot ceiling had about a foot of air space at the top. There was no access to the embankment to climb to the roadway. I knew if the water was that high, the path on the other side would be hard to reach. I didn’t want to have to back-track to go back the way I had come or that would add more miles than I wanted to run.

Considering my options I knew the path forked here and I could head west instead of north to finish the circuit of the lake. Since my cell phone was in my hip-pack and I thought the water might get even a little deeper, I fastened the hip pack around my neck. I forged on. I knew that asphalt path zigged and zagged, but if I could feel that hard surface of the path under my feet I could keep from sinking deeper off the sloped sides. The water kept creeping up until it was armpit high. More and more of my steps were not hitting underwater asphalt. At this point I realized I would have to start swimming soon. I couldn’t see the point at which the path emerged from the expanded lake around the curves in front of me. My recollection was that there were more high and low spots to the trail ahead and it veered farther from the roadway. Since I wasn’t sure I could keep my cell phone dry, I cut my losses and turned around. Here I had my second avian encounter and scared up a gaggle of 20 geese who didn’t appreciate my company.

Once I extracted myself from the submerged path, I had to remove my shoes and the swampy flotsam accumulated in them. Once put back together, I donned the my headlamp and headed back around the lake in the reverse direction. So I trudged back home with wet clothes and squishy shoes. My mid-range run of eight to ten miles ended up at fifteen. No time like the present to train for my fall races.

Although pretty dark by the time I left the lake, I’m pretty sure the grass islands were floating tonight.

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About bwcaguy

I'm an avid runner who probably runs too many marathons. My wife of over two decades is quite tolerant of my obsessions and has put up with me thus far. My grown daughters gave up trying to understand me long ago.
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