Sunday, December 31, 2006

What's up for 2007

With the 2006 running season coming to a close, what does 2007 have in store? Well, I am not entirely sure! I have some aggressive goals in my mind, but I don't have much scheduled right now, and I don't know how they are going to play out!

This year I would like to focus on some longer races, and also do some more trail races. So far, here is what is on the schedule:

January 1 - Resolution Solution 5k - Why not kick off the New Year with a low-intensity 5k fun run? This race is taking place in White Bear Lake, a town very close to me. I have not done this race before, but I think it is a pretty laid back intended to start out 2007 on a positive, healthy note by doing something good for yourself.


March 18
- Human Race 8k - Registration hasn't opened yet, but I will be signing up for this annual St. Patrick's Day weekend race in St. Paul because it represents an anniversary of sorts; it will mark the beginning of my racing career! Three years ago, this was the first organized race that I signed up for, and I have been hooked ever since. The course is flat and fast, and it brings out some of Minnesota finest elite runners, so I will be finishing deep in the pack here!


April 21
- Trail Mix Race 25k - Here we go, my first 25k trail race! It is run in Bloomington, MN, at the Hyland Lake Park Reserves. Sounds like an interesting mix of grass and wood-chip trails with some hills to contend with. I am looking forward to it. There is also a 50k ultra taking place at the same event, but I will stick with the shorter one for now!


May 19
- Scheels Fargo Half Marathon - Being of Norwegian stock, how can I not sign up for a race that serves the traditional lefse at its prerace meal? :) And, since I have now run in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, I felt the need to pay attention to the states west of here. Sounds like this race is quite a party, and you get to finish inside the Fargo Dome. Cool!

That is where I am at with my scheduling so far. I'm no elite athlete (even though I might try to convince myself of that when I am flexing in front of the mirror!), but I still feel like I am capable of much more. I believe I have built up a more solid base of fitness this running season, but the keys to a successful season will still be for me to train smart, add mileage gradually, and getting adequate rest.

Happy New Year to all, and all the best in 2007!

Jean

Saturday, December 30, 2006

1170

No, 1170 is not a new station on your AM radio dial. That is the total mileage I ran this year!

Since tomorrow will be an off day, this morning I did my last run of 2006. Today it was 9 miles on the bike path in the early morning fog and mist, which gave me 109 miles for December. It was dark when I started, so I used my headlamp for the first half. I even met a few other runners out getting their early morning exercise. It was a steady, comfortable run, and I felt absolutely fantastic afterwards.

As 2006 comes to a close, I think it is common for all of us to reflect on the year that has been, and to look ahead to the year to come. This was my second full year of running in organized races, and I was able to accomplish more than I imagined. I participated in thirteen races in four different states, set new personal records in the 5k, 8k, 10k, and half marathon distances, placed in my division five times (1st place twice, 2nd place once, and 3rd place twice), and I even got to do some unique and cool stuff like run through Lambeau Field in Green Bay and munch on a freshly cooked bratwurst at the finish line! :)

Very happy with my progress this year? Yes. Satisfied? Not even close! I am really looking forward to 2007 so I can work toward some new and interesting races and running goals to further explore what I am capable of.

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Who needs Advil?

Today was a rough day at the office. I won't go into specifics, but it was challenging and stressful, and I left work absolutely drained with a raging headache. You know, one of those that radiates from the back of your skull all the way down to your shoulders. I felt like crap.

But when I got home, I laced up the running shoes and went for my run. It was a relatively pleasant evening, a bit windy, but comfortable in the mid 30's. I ran easy (not too fast, but not too slow, either), and it completely cleared my head. The stress is gone. My head feels great. I am relaxed. Running is my Advil! :)

On another note, I can't believe I forgot to mention this in my rambling post from the weekend, but I really enjoyed my new Vasque trail shoes with the Montrail inserts. I ran in them all four days over Christmas, and they performed well on the trails. Fantastic grip, great stability, and a lot of comfort, too. Heck, they even performed fine on a brief stretch of paved road. So far, I am pleased with them.

Until next time,

A very relaxed Jean :)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dog issues

Some days I struggle with what to title my posts, other days it comes so easily...

Back to reality today. Since I am home from Christmas, that means I am back to running in my neighborhood again. While certainly not bad, it is almost borderline depressing after running the last week in the wilderness and not seeing a soul. Oh well!

My run was fast this afternoon. I pushed myself pretty hard in order to stretch out some muscles that were a little tight from last week’s rugged terrain. It felt great.

Admittedly, I am not much of a dog person. While I do like the idea of dogs (they can be cute, smart, entertaining, etc.), I find them far too needy, and I have never been all that comfortable handling them. Cats are more my speed because they have a certain swagger about them. They aren’t easily impressed by anything, and if they want your attention, they will let you know. Cats are independent. I like that.

That being said, I seem to be a magnet for dogs. It is like they can sense fear and discomfort.

Tonight just past the three mile mark, I passed a house where a woman was scolding someone. I didn’t pay much attention and kept running. I still heard her calling out as I continued on my way.

Soon I realized the lady was screaming at her dogs that were following me! I turned and there was a cute little springer spaniel puppy dragging his leash. He was followed closely by an exuberant Brittany and a golden retriever. The dogs had gotten away from her as she was preparing to walk them.

I quickly stopped for fear that if I didn’t, they might follow me all the way home. The springer greeted me with enthusiasm, licking my hands and jumping up on me. The other dogs just stood there surrounding me as I led them back to their apologetic owner who came running to get them.

She said, “I am so sorry. I have dog issues!”

I told her there were no worries, and that the puppy was a cute little guy. She corralled her hounds, and I headed for home.

Not more than a hundred yards later, I see a man walking a Jack Russell terrier off his leash, and he came tearing after me, too! Thankfully, the dog obeyed his master and stopped as I turned at the fork in the trail.

What an afternoon for canines. I beg to differ with the lady, however. I think I am the one with dog issues. :)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

King of the Ridge

I have returned from Christmas! It so happened that I went up to Mom and Dad’s earlier than expected due to the threat of some freezing rain and snow on Thursday. Because of that, I never got a chance to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! So I hope your holiday season was fantastic!

We had a wonderful Christmas. The weather was nice so we could spend a lot of time outside hiking and exploring. We ate extremely well (seafood chowder, prime rib, home smoked BBQ ribs, venison stew), Mom and I made our traditional lefse, I received many nice gifts (too many, in fact, including some awesome NASCAR flannel sheets, a Kasey Kahne polar fleece blanket, a T-shirt of Milton from "Office Space," and some wonderful running gear and food items), and as always, it was fun to spend time with the family.

Over the last several days, I got to do lots of trail running through the network of dirt roads, ski, snowmobile, and hiking trails near Mom and Dad’s. According to my altimeter, I logged more than 2200 feet of accumulated elevation over the course of four different runs, so I got in some great hill work (at least, for me!). As per usual, I was treated to some beautiful sights and wildlife, including the somewhat rare black-backed woodpecker. It was so much fun.

My most exciting run came on Christmas Eve Day. I challenged myself to run to the top of the ridge where there is a snowmobile trail and a shelter that overlooks Lake Superior. As there is almost no snow (notice I said “almost”...more on that later!), there would be no danger of getting run over by any snowmobiles. Therefore, I decided to take Robert Herrick’s advice and “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” :) I took a camera with me to record my journey.

I had remembered this route from several years ago when my brother and I were hiking, and I had been wanting to do this as a run for some time. The entire run would be approximately five miles, with the first half being almost entirely uphill.

Trekking up the dirt road at the start, I found the little unmarked trail that my brother and I had taken, which would lead me to the snowmobile trail on top of the ridge. The first thing I noticed was that the trail was steep, even more so than I remembered. Second, whereas there was virtually no snow at Mom and Dad’s house, there was actually more and more snow at the higher elevations. Some areas were as much as 4 inches deep. So not only was the uphill climb difficult, but that difficulty was compounded by the snow. I felt like I was running in sand!

Snowy trails



Slowly, I made my way up the ridge. It was hard, and there were areas that were so steep that I was reduced to hiking them. A curious red squirrel in the middle of nowhere stopped what he was doing to watch me struggle with the climb. I doubt he had seen a trail runner before!

After much sweating, I found the snowmobile trail and continued onward. The snow on the trail had many animal tracks, including those of deer and red squirrels. But I had to stop for a picture of this one.

The Big Dog



A timber wolf had been walking right down the middle of the trail the day before and left his prints. I was amazed by the size of his foot. To offer some perspective, my shoe is a size 13. Clearly, this was made by one big puppy dog. Of course, I made sure to make a lot of noise so as not to surprise this large critter in case he was in the area. Then again, he would probably be more acutely aware of my presence that I would be of his. I had best keep moving!

I kept on running until I reached an oasis of sorts. The snowmobile club had built a “lean-to," which offers shelter and a place for snowmobilers to take a break. This is the spot I remembered hiking to with my brother. The view of the lake has changed because the trees have grown taller since I was last here, but it was a spectacular sight nonetheless.

I had made it to the top! I stopped to admire the view and propped my camera up on a log for a few cheesy Leonardo DiCaprio-esque “I’m the king of the ridge!” pictures. In the photo to the left of me and just below the cloud line, you can see a little bit of Lake Superior, which should give you some idea how high above the lake I was.

King of the Ridge



The trip back down the ridge was rapid, to say the least. It was pretty easy to get some good footing going downhill, thanks to the crunchy layer of snow, so I absolutely bounded through the woods. This just in: running downhill is fun! :)

The time it took me to get from the “lean-to” back to the dirt road was approximately 13 minutes. I am sure it took twice that to go up! I made my way down the hill and through some winding single track trails, returning to Mom and Dad’s place. What a fun and challenging run!

So that was my Christmas week! Again, I wish all of you and yours a belated but very Merry Christmas, as well as a Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So I lied

Remember yesterday when I said I wasn't going to run today? Well, I lied. I went running!

I had a long day of training and meetings, and I really needed to unwind. That, and tonight was beautiful, and the next couple might not be, as there is a storm system moving in sometime between Wednesday and Thursday. I am hoping things are fine by Friday since I am traveling north for Christmas!

Anyhow, I did my two laps around the lake, enjoyed the weather and all the Christmas lights. I will take tomorrow off. Really, I will! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bring on the trails!

A nice 31 degree and sunny afternoon. Very comfortable running weather.

I did a pretty fast run around the lake today, putting in a little extra effort since I am taking tomorrow off (I’m staggering my running schedule to more easily accommodate my trip up north for Christmas this Friday!).

The new Montrail insoles got their first test tonight, and they are really nice. They definitely bring some arch support and stability to the party. I ran with them in my road shoes, but I did take them on some dirt trails for a test drive. On the uneven terrain is where these things will shine. I can’t wait to throw them in my new trail shoes and hit some “real” trails up north!

In running news, I have talked extensively about Dean Karnazes and his run home after The North Face Endurance 50. Well, his run has ended. No, he didn't run all the way to San Francisco. He ended it in Missouri, where the Endurance 50 started back in September at the Lewis and Clark Marathon. He cited numerous reason (lack of planning and infrastructure to support his journey), but most important was that he missed his family. Who can blame him? The guy hasn't been home since September, and it's the holidays! It does sound like he wants to do something big next year, so stay tuned.

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Talkin' trail running in the St. Croix River Valley

I’ve had a fun and busy day so far.

This morning I did a 9 mile out-and-back down the bikepath in my neighborhood. It was a great day to run, with temps staying unseasonably mild in the upper 30’s. Once again, it felt good to go long.

After a quick breakfast, I decided to venture to Stillwater to do a little shopping and exploring.

A shot of downtown Stillwater



For those who have never been there, downtown Stillwater is a pretty river town located on the St. Croix, with Wisconsin being just across the bridge. The downtown area is like a beautiful old Main Street with many gift shops and restaurants.

My first stop was at a store called 45 Degrees. I have been wanting to go here for some time, as they are the only Minnesota store I see advertising in Trail Runner Magazine. I ended talking about trail running and trail shoes for quite some time with the store staff.

The famous Stillwater lift bridge connecting MN and WI



Two different members of the store staff recognized that I was wearing Keen trail shoes, and they asked how I liked them. I told them they were great for walking around, but that they were too soft and unstable for trail running. Both of them couldn’t have agreed with me more. The guy I talked to (presumably the manager or owner) said he quite carrying them because they weren’t up to par with the other trail shoes. Good to know!

I ended up getting myself a new pair of shoes. I got some bright red Vasque trail runners that felt very stable and supportive. I also picked up some Montrail Enduro Sole inserts that I can heat-mold to my feet for extra comfort and support.

I even met the two “shop dogs” who came over to greet me as I was paying for my shoes. Very nice, knowledgable, and helpful folks (and dogs).

After that, I did a little Christmas shopping and had a tasty burger at Brine’s Bar & Restaurant. Now I am home, doing laundry, soaking some beans for my bean soup tomorrow, and contemplating making some pizza dough. Whew! It has already been a full day!

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, December 15, 2006

Potlucks and Poodles

Today was the holiday potluck at work. While we did not have the margarita machines like they did at the Christmas party on last night's episode of "The Office," my whole department brought in all sorts of great food. I gorged on curried chicken salad, potato chips, taco dip, hot roast beef sandwiches, sloppy joes, chicken casserole, Thai noodles in peanut sauce, and Christmas cookies, to name a few things. Good stuff!

I paid for it on my run, though. It would appears that eating a whole bunch of curried chicken salad, potato chips, taco dip, hot roast beef sandwiches, sloppy joes, chicken casserole, Thai noodles in peanut sauce, and Christmas cookies a few hours before a run can weigh you down a little bit. Ugh! By the third mile, I felt like myself again and caught a second wind of sorts, finished my run quite strong. But I think I will be eating light this evening!

While running on the trail, I got jumped on by a giant poodle! I met a gentleman walking this enormous dog, and the dog was apparently very happy to meet me. The man assured me the dog was gentle, and he was. Good thing too, because I would hate to have to report to you that I got my butt kicked by a giant poodle tonight! :)

Happy Friday!

Jean

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

We need a little Christmas! Right this very minute!

I got home late from work today due to a holiday gathering, so I got to do my run at dusk and ending in the darkness. It was pleasant out, still in the upper 30’s. I happily ran my 4 1/2 miles to help work off my "ziti al forno" from lunch at Biaggi's!

It was fun to run at that time because so many homes around the lake had their Christmas lights blazing. Quite a colorful neighborhood. I even turned on the Christmas lights in my window before I left.

My run finishes on the street that leads directly to the side of the apartment building where my place is located, and you know what? I am the only person displaying Christmas lights on my side of the whole complex! How depressing and disappointing. Where is the Christmas spirit, people?

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A misty run, and Krissy's eyes

Strange weather. I ran in the mist and the fog this evening. Temperatures were comfortable in the mid 30’s, and the lake that was previously frozen over is starting to open up again. At the rate we are going, we might not have a “White Christmas!”

It was a good run again today; a couple of laps around my lake, and a quick romp down my newfound trail, which I love. The trail has some curves, a bridge crossing over a swamp, and some rolling terrain that makes it interesting and fun. The great part about this revised route is that it keep me on nothing but quiet side streets, and I go nowhere near the busier main roads. Quiet is good!

In other running news, one of my earlier posts talked about ultramarathoner Krissy Moehl and her blog. This past weekend, she ran in the Hellgate 100k in Virginia.

Check out the race recap on her blog where she experienced some very frightening issues with her vision during the race. I did not know this, but apparently running extreme distances in very cold weather can freeze your eyeballs! It seems that all is well now, but that has to be pretty alarming, to say the least.

Oh, and even with her vision problems, she only managed to win the women’s division, finish 5th overall for the whole race, and set a new women’s course record in the process. Wow!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reindeer lessons

No run today, but I failed to mention that yesterday I surpassed 1100 miles for the year. I did not realize that until I updated my training log. That is roughly the equivalent of running from Minneapolis to Atlanta! I am hoping that the distance I have put in this year will serve as a great base for heading into the New Year.

Somewhat off topic, I watched the Christmas classic, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", on Friday night. In an age where animation has become so computer-generated and technologically advanced, this old "clay-mation" show is timeless and wonderful, and in so many ways superior to the new stuff. As the old saying goes, "They don't make 'em like they used to."

Rudolph's story is really an inspiring one, too. I can't imagine I will be spoiling this for anybody (we've all seen the show, right?), but as we all know, every little reindeer's dream is to one day be part of the team that leads Santa's sleigh. Rudolph, born with a shiny red nose, was deemed as a "misfit" and was ostracized by the other reindeer because he was different.

Dejected, he sets off on his own to find where he belongs. Rudolph encounters several other "misfits" along the way, such as Hermie (the elf who wants to be a dentist), and the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys. Each of them have their own dreams and aspirations.

Through persistence, perseverance, and overcoming many obstacles (including outwitting the dreaded "Bumble," as Yukon Cornelius puts it!), Rudolph, Hermie, and the toys all achieved their goals. Not only that, but Rudolph proved to be the most valuable reindeer of all, because his unique gift helped to light the way and guide Santa's sleigh through a fierce storm!

To tie this back to running, Dean Karnazes had this insightful quote in his blog when talking about the statue called "The Awakening" in Washington, D.C.:

"It is so easy to live a life that has been scripted for you by others, to fall into the mire of conformity by following a path that others deem appropriate, rather than heeding your own unique calling."

Rudolph teaches us that we should not be held back by anyone or anything, and the only person who should be in charge of your future is you.

Find your gift, dream big, and never settle; I will try to remember these reindeer lessons as I work towards my goals in 2007! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A path in the woods

Another gorgeous morning to run. It was 35 degrees and clear. I was also greeted with a brilliant pink, purple, and blue pastel sunrise.

I did the usual route, for the most part. That is, until I discovered a path that I had not noticed before. And when one finds a path, one must explore!

It was a well camouflaged city trail that cut through a residential area and led to yet another wooded park. It wasn’t a very long trail, perhaps a half a mile or so of single-track dirt. But it will be nice to incorporate this into my regular route to get a little trail running fix!

Today has been anything but lazy. After my run, I made breakfast, baked a batch of homemade cookies, and got my venison meatballs prepped for dinner tonight.

Currently, I am watching the Vikings search for new and interesting ways to blow a big lead. We will see if they can hang on...

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

Wow, what a day! It was 28 degrees, clear, and beautiful for my early morning run. It is supposed to get into the mid 40’s today, so it is quite a departure from earlier in the week.

I felt so good, I ran nearly 9 miles (OK, actually, it was 8.74 according to my Internet mapping tool!). I went a new route straight south along a bike path. The route goes past an open prairie area with a large lake, so it was scenic. And the sunrise was spectacular. Very comfortable outside, and nice not to have to wear a ski mask for a change!

The rest of the day will probably be a little lazy by comparison. I got all of my grocery shopping done, and tonight I will make pizza, and for tomorrow’s menu there will be Swedish meatballs with venison. Should be interesting! And if I am really motivated, I may get started on baking some cookies for a company potluck next week. We will see!

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cold! And...well, cold!

I went out during lunch today to run a few errands. While putting gas on my car, I was trying to think of the last time I was this cold! It was a positively bitter 5 degrees with a fierce wind. Lord only knows what the wind chill was!

Thankfully, it was slightly warmer and less windy. A sweltering 14 degrees! :) Needless to say, there were few signs of life on the route today; only one other runner and a rather loquacious pileated woodpecker. That’s about it!

In running blog news, I have been reading the rather fun blog of Krissy Moehl. She is a big time trail runner and ultramarathoner, one of the elites in the sport. In her blog, she has been capturing her amazing running and traveling experiences since this summer. She is even running in a short little 100k race this weekend in Virginia. An inspiring and adventurous woman!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wind! And cold!

Wow, it was slightly breezy this afternoon. 20 degrees outside, but we had a 25 MPH wind, which brought the wind chill down to 5 degrees. Brrr! I guess I should not complain too much. The wind chill is expected to hit -15 tonight! I did two laps around the lake. The run was quick, but it was rather challenging when I headed directly into the wind.

I am not the only one complaining about the wind. Poor Dean Kanazes is continuing his journey from New York to San Francisco. The thing about running from east to west is that quite often you are going into the wind. According to his latest blog entry, Karnazes has been battling a headwind for 5 days! But he keeps putting one foot in front of the other, and continues to inspire. Go, Dean, go!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, December 04, 2006

Snow! And cold!

Last night's prediction of "flurries" amounted to a little more than anticipated. We had a good 1/2 an inch of white stuff on the ground when I got up for work this morning. Just enough to screw up the sidestreets. And, it never made it out of the teens, so most of it stuck around.

I don't have my "winter legs" yet, so running was a bit slower and more cautious on the slicker spots. But on the edges of the roads, the undisturbed layer of snow offers nice traction and cushioning, so I try to run in that whenever possible.

I ran my normal 4 1/2 miles, and it was equally as cold as yesterday. Strong northwest winds made it chilly and challenging, as I finished heading right into the stiff winter breeze. Tomorrow will be a well deserved day off from running!

By the way, last night's duck and wild mushroom ragu was really yummy. I will have lots of leftovers for lunch this week! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, December 03, 2006

There is no bad weather, just bad gear

I once read a quote by an elite trail runner, skier, and triathlete from Duluth named Rod Raymond. He said in the November 2005 issue of Trail Runner magazine, “We like to say there’s no such thing as bad weather. Just bad gear.”

This morning I definitely needed the “good gear!” It was 12 degrees with a strong NW wind, and a wind chill of -2. Because I have "good gear," I was able to go 8 1/2 miles. I dug out the full face mask for my run, along with some base layers, my Illuminite jacket, and my winter running tights, and I was good to go. It may sound strange that you can be perfectly comfortable running it weather like this, but it is true. You are not cold once you get going!

I ran my loop on the Rice Creek West regional trail, and then I broke off and ran a lap around my lake. It was a great run, very peaceful. I did see two other runners, as well as two other walkers (including one with a golden lab puppy who completely disobeyed his owner and chased after me!). But those were the only signs of life. Not very many people braving the cold on this day.

Yesterday, for a relaxing Saturday, became kind of busy. I did my grocery shopping (at the beautiful Kowalski’s Market in White bear Lake), did my shopping for the essentials at Target, went out for lunch at The Bierstube, baked a wonderful loaf of 7-grain honey-wheat bread to have on hand for the week, made a killer homemade pizza with venison sausage , and got my Christmas cards done. Whew!

After my run, I decided I will be staying in for the day. Today I have no plans to go anywhere or do anything, other than watch football and make a duck and wild mushroom ragu with a couple of duck breasts that my brother gave me. Love those relaxing Sundays that involve football and cooking! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, December 01, 2006

"Christmas Vacation" in the making

It was slightly warmer today at a balmy 21 degrees! I ran a couple of laps around my lake again. A pretty nice night, even though the breeze was a little stinging on the face.

Lots more Christmas decorations are being put up along my route, too. There are a few ”Clark Griswold houses” along the way. One place even had a 30 foot tall maple tree wrapped entirely in white lights. Every day there is something new to be seen.

The most interesting and elaborate Christmas decoration I saw is something that must be relatively new on the market (at least, I had never seen one before). It is a giant, inflatable snow globe lawn ornament. It is like a life sized version of those little water-filled snow globe toys that you shake to make it snow. Crazy.

‘Tis the season to try and one-up your neighbor... :)

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, November 30, 2006

2007 Race Index

Below are links to my 2007 races:



January 1st - Resolution Solution 5k - White Bear Lake, MN

February 11th - Heart of St. Paul 5k - St. Paul, MN

March 18th - Human Race 8k - St. Paul, MN

April 15th - Pike Island Rundezvous 10k - Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul, MN

May 19th - Scheels Fargo Half Marathon - Fargo, ND

June 24th - Big Lake Lakes Run 8k - Big Lake, MN

August 4th - Talking Lake Wild Goose Chase 30k - Watson, MN

September 15th - Walker North Country Marathon - Walker, MN

October 20th - Big Woods Run Half Marathon - Nerstrand, MN

November 4th - Rocky's Run 5k - Falcon Heights, MN

November 18th - Turkey Run 5k - St. Paul, MN

Chilly day, and a cool photo

Brrrrr! Winter is here!

Tonight was the coldest run of the season. The temperature plummeted last night and was in the single digit readings. When I got home from work, it was about 17 degrees! I bundled up and had a brisk couple of laps around the lake. It took me a good mile to get warmed up, and once I did, it was pretty comfortable running. I had some ice on my goatee when I finished, though! :)

Here is a photo from a slightly warmer day! This is from my Des Moines race. I ordered one from the company that photographed the event and had Dad scan it while I was home at Thanksgiving. Normally I don't order pictures from events, but I thought the photo was kind of cool, and it was a special day. This was me crossing the George Washington Carver bridge coming back into downtown at about the 11 mile mark.



Trying to stay warm,

Jean

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A rainy day for Christmas specials

A strange weather day; we had some big thunderstorms rumble through the metro this morning, and the drizzle persisted throughout the afternoon.

I ran in shorts and a regular running cap for what will probably be the last time for 2006. It was 48 degrees when I went running. It was a little windy and wet, but that’s not too much of an issue. A decent run; I took it kind of easy today.

With it being so warm outside, it seems somewhat surreal that ”A Charlie Brown Christmas” in on tonight at 7 PM. I am excited, though, and I will be tuning in! This is the best of all the Charlie Brown specials, in my humble opinion. Thankfully the elections are over with, so we run no risk of the show being preempted by a political debate the way the “Great Pumpkin” was... :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, November 27, 2006

3000 Miles to Graceland

My apologies for using the title of a mediocre movie as the title of my post, but I hit another milestone today. :)

Since I started running in April of 2004, I have kept track of my mileage. I did so in order to track progress and set new goals. Today on my run, I passed the career 3000 mile mark! That is almost equal to a coast-to-coast journey across the United States. I can’t say I imagined such a distance when I started.

It was a fairly mild, but somewhat blustery day. 41 degrees, overcast, with a strong wind coming out of the east. In spite of that, I had a very good, quick run. With the wind being from the east, it gave me a nice push home, too!

But things are starting to get pretty, and people are getting into the Christmas spirit. I generally run at dusk during the week, and there were lots of homes with their Christmas lights on. I even saw a huge inflatable Grinch on a lawn!

Right now I am a little bit tired, as it is always hard to get back into the swing of things after a vacation! Tonight’s agenda contains two things; 1.) and easy chair, and 2.) Monday Night Football.

To the next 3000 miles and beyond,

Jean

North Country Nature Notes

My Little Chickadee

One of the thrills of spending time at Mom and Dad's is that they have created a true haven for the birds and animals. There are several bird feeders in the yard, complete with sunflower seeds for the songbirds and squirrels, suet for the woodpeckers and jays, and a heated birdbath that is enjoyed by all. In the nighttime, the nocturnal flying squirrels even show up to partake in some good eats and put on an aerial display under the yard lights!

Without question, their faithful resident bird is the black-capped chickadee. Virtually everyone recognizes them, as they are common, abundant, and seen at bird feeders everywhere all year long. They are friendly birds, too. So friendly, in fact, that it isn't unusual to have them actually land on people.

Whenever I visit, I like to try and feed the chickadees by hand. It is not very hard at Mom and Dad's, especially in the colder months. I was successful, and this time I even got to learn a few things about this fantastic bird.

Armed with a cup of sunflower seeds, I walked down the hill from the house. I would stand in a spot for a little while with a handful of seeds extended. It didn't take long before a little chickadee found me. He was a cute and particularly chatty guy with a lot of personality, and he was recognizable because his tail feathers had a slight bend to the right (nothing disfiguring, mind you, it was just a feature that easily distinguished him from others). We seemed to develop an instant rapport, and immediately he flew down to my hand and started taking seeds.

Me with my little buddy, photo by Dad



That day I wandered all over the woods, and the chickadee would follow. It didn't matter where I went, or how far. He would find me.

It was interesting to see the feeding habits of the chickadee. When he was taking seeds, he wasn't eating most of them. Rather, he was storing them for winter. Each individual seed was taken to a different location, be it wedged in the bark of a spruce tree, the fork of a branch, or even a broken off tree limb. There was no pattern or system, and there would be no centrally-located cache of seeds for him to revisit later. Every single seed was placed in a different spot.

I figured these efforts had to be, for the most part, in vain. How would the chickadee keep track of where he was putting of these seeds? I mean, they were truly all over the place! After doing some reading, I learned that chickadees are capable of remembering thousands of locations where they store food. And how many of us would be completely lost if we didn't have a list when we went to the grocery store? Amazing!

For the rest of the week whenever I would go outside, my little chickadee would find me. He was in the yard most of the time at the feeders with the others (again, easy to spot because of his tail). But if I didn't see him right away, it didn't take long for him to locate me. It got to a point where here would fly straight to my hand from deep in the forest as if he were a trained falcon. On a couple of occasions he missed my hand and landed on my hat!

Great fun. Dad now has the task of keeping my buddy entertained until I return at Christmas! :)

In Search of the Black-backed Woodpecker

In one of my posts from October, I described my first sighting of a black-backed woodpecker, one of the more elusive birds of the northern boreal forests. It has apparently been a good year for them, as there have been many reported sightings, including those by my Dad and brother very close to the house.

I was walking down a trail in the woods on a morning bird watching/chickadee feeding excursion. Out of the corner of my eye, a dark bird flew in and landed on a tree perhaps 15 feet from me. It was a female black-backed woodpecker! I couldn't believe it. After watching her for a minute or so, she flew down the hill to another location.

I was within sight of the house, so I ran back to get Dad. I knew he would want to se this bird, so I thought we could possibly track her down since she was in the area.

Venturing back down the hill, I pointed out the place I had seen the bird. All was quiet in this area, so we continued on the trail.

Not far from the spot of the first sighting, we heard a gentle tapping sound coming from a dark stand of cedars and spruce. We headed into the forest to check it out.

A large spruce tree had fallen into another one, and at the top was a gnarled mess of twigs and branches. In that mess, we could see a shadow of a woodpecker happily working. It was difficult to see. From some of the preliminary markings, we thought we had found the black-backed again, as I did catch a glimpse of the trademark barring on its side beneath the wing. However, when the woodpecker did come into view, we were astonished at what we had found.

This was not a black-backed woodpecker. Rather, it was the cousin, the American three toed woodpecker!

Both the black-backed and the American three-toed woodpeckers have something in common; they are our only two woodpeckers with three toes instead of four! But one feature on the American three-toed that distinguished it from its relative in the "ladder" pattern on its back. We were looking at a female American three-toed woodpecker. She pecked away for a good 15 minutes or so, seemingly oblivious to us while Dad attempted to snap some photos.

This is significant for me because I had only seen the American three-toed woodpecker once in my life, and that was more than 20 years ago near Grand Rapids. And how crazy is it that I saw both of these rare, unique birds within 30 minutes of, and perhaps a hundred yards away from, each other? Awesome!

The woodpeckers, along with my friendly chickadee, represent birding moments at their finest. It doesn't get much better.

Eating to run, running to eat

Thanksgiving eats

With any visit home, there is always good food. When Thanksgiving rolls around, things just get kicked up a notch, as Emeril might say!

Over the course of the week, we feasted on pot roast, BBQ ribs, grilled tri-tip, and Dad's famous seafood chowder (a Thanksgiving tradition). Mom and I made lefse, the Scandinavian potato pancake (think of it as a Norwegian tortilla!). And we went to town one day and had lunch at a new restaurant called The Crooked Spoon Cafe. It was good eating all the way around.

Mom and me making lefse



On Thanksgiving Day, we never do a turkey (turkey always comes later in the weekend). We have always opted to do something different. This year, the theme was wild game. A successful hunting season gave my brother plenty venison and grouse. A friend of his gave him some pheasant and duck as well, so the meal would truly be a feast.

The venison roast and duck were roasted in the oven. But my brother decided to do something different with the pheasant and grouse. Those were injected with a flavorful marinade and went into his turkey fryer! The meal was excellent. Everything tasted great, and the pheasant and grouse were truly juicy and moist (both are hard birds to cook because they are so lean).

The Thanksgiving Feast



The Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend is when we usually have our turkey. And with that, we usually do something a little different, too. For years, Dad has put the turkey in his smoker for just a couple of hours. Then, Mom will finish the roasting in the oven. This way, the bird gets a hint of smoke flavor, and because you finish it in the oven, you also get the turkey juices for a slightly smoky gravy (something you would not get if you finished the bird in the smoker). It is simply the best. I look forward to this every year, and it certainly did not disappoint!

Over the trail and through the woods

During the holiday week, I went running several times to work off the massive amount of food I consumed! It was ideal running weather all week with morning temperatures in the low 30's, for the most part.

On Monday, I did long, slow 8 miler on the flat service road. For the rest of my runs, I broke out the trail shoes and went through the woods and up the hills!

One of the woodland trails



I did three runs in the woods, two 5 milers, and one 6 1/2 miler. I hit some of the ski trails and dirt roads behind my parents' house and worked my way north. At that time, there was no snow, so it was a good time to take advantage of the trails before they succumb to the wrath of winter!

According to my altimeter, on my 5 mile route through the woods there is nearly 500 feet of elevation gain. On the 6 1/2 miler, there is close to 800 feet of elevation gain, so I got in more than my fair share of hills!

It was very quiet and peaceful in the woods, and it made running seem like fun as opposed to work (which is a good thing when you are running uphill for a half an hour straight!). I got to see some spectacular sunrises, as well as some outstanding views of Lake Superior when I was running back down the ridge. I can't think of a more enjoyable way to burn calories from the week!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

RACE REPORT - 2006 Turkey Run 5k

I have returned from my Thanksgiving vacation. It was a fantastic week with a lot of fun stuff that took place, so it might take me some time to get the blog updated! Let’s begin with how my vacation started; with a race!

On Sunday, November 19th, I participated in the Turkey Run in St. Paul, MN.

The columns at the entrance of Como Park Elementary



The Turkey Run is a 5k run/walk headquartered at Como Lake Elementary School on the east side of Como Lake. The race isn’t a particularly serious one. It is intended to be fun as a way to encourage people to stay active during the holiday eating season. That being said, there are always some fast people who show up, too.

It was a very chilly morning with temperatures in the upper teens when I arrived at the race headquarters. There was frost all over the ground, and the lake was frozen over enough to offer support to the geese and ducks that were standing on it! Thankfully, as the sun came up, it warmed to a pleasant 32 degrees with calm conditions. A fantastic day for running!

Chilling out at the 2006 Turkey Run



I didn’t have any set goals for the Turkey Run aside from “just go out there and do your best.”. The last race I was in was the half marathon, and this race would be a full 10 miles shorter. I had not run a 5k in 6 months, so I just decided to go out there, put one foot in front of the other, and see what happens.

The horn sounded, and 400+ runners and walkers hit the streets of St. Paul. Faster runners were off like a shot. I quickly found my way out of the congestion at the starting line and settled into a quick but comfortable pace.

The race course is a clockwise loop around Como Lake, mostly on the walking paths. It is a route I am now familiar with, as this would be the third race I have run on the same course.

I won't bore you with a mile-by-mile recap. For the sake of brevity, let's just say I had one of my fastest races ever. I finished in 21:18, which is a new 5k personal record by 20 seconds.

What an unexpected surprise, and a great way to kick off my Thanksgiving holiday. And really, a very nice way to close out the 2006 racing season. This is my final race of the calendar year, and it will give me some incentive to start setting some new goals for 2007!

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ready for Thanksgiving

Tonight after work I went for my run, doing two laps around the little lake in the neighborhood. This is becoming my semi-regular "usual" route for my runs during the week. The sidestreets and trails are very quiet, and I don't have to cross any of the major county roads during rush hour (which isn't that bad in my neighborhood, but it just seems more prudent). I ran pretty easy today, as I was a little tired after the strange schedule this week, but I made it productive with a strong finish.

After being caught up in the whirlwind that has been the last several weeks with the move and my weird schedule, my next race kind of snuck up on me! This Sunday, I will be at the Turkey Run in St. Paul. This is a short one; just a 5k fun run/walk that goes around scenic Como Lake. I did this one last year, and it was a really good time, so I am looking forward to it.

Immediately after the race, I will head home, shower up, hop in my car and head north to "The Shore" to visit the family. That's right, folks, I am on vacation for the whole week of Thanksgiving! I understand we have quite a menu planned for the week, so I can't wait.

Blog updates will be sporadic at best until after Turkey Day, but I will have plenty to talk about the following week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and I will talk to you when I return!

Jean

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Run early, wings at night

I had a gathering to attend tonight that was closer to my office than it was to my home. Therefore, I opted to run in the morning and come to the office a little later.

At 5:30 AM, I put on my headlamp and my Illuminite running jacket and did close to 5 miles (actually, it was 4.85 when I traced my route on Google's Gmaps Pedometer mapping web site!). It was a crisp, cool 25 degrees; very comfortable for running.

Today I took a different route and simply stuck to the bike paths along the main roads. Nothing but long, straight stretches here, so it was easy, flat, consistent running with no tricky hills or turns to negotiate in the dark. It was a very good run, and I clipped along at a pretty brisk pace on this frosty morning.

Tonight's gathering that I spoke of earlier was the end of the year banquet for the fantasy golf league I am in (yes, I said fantasy golf league!). It is pretty simple; during the course of the PGA season, we pick one player a week, and you cannot reuse that player during the season. Whatever money that player earns, you get. The league player with the most money wins.

Anyhow, as is tradition, we always meet at Buffalo Wild Wings for our year-end celebration. Most of us have been visiting this place long enough that we still remember when it was simply called "BW3" and wasn't such a family-friendly franchise! But, we feasted on chicken wings, and our commissioner passed out the winnings, including the traveling trophy that goes to the winner.

A fun night, for certain. I am glad I ran this morning, because I don't think I would feel so great running with a stomach full of "Asian Zing" flavored wings... :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

One headlight

I am home right now waiting for a delivery from Slumberland, so I thought I would update my blog!

Since I am going in to work a little later than normal today, I did my run early. I did another two laps around the lake. It was a nice, crisp, frosty. And as it was dark when I started, it gave me a chance to test out my new Petzl headlamp.

Basically it is a small, lightweight beacon that is attached to a strap, and you wear it around your head like a sweatband. It is really slick. The lamp is adjustable, so you can angle it however you like. Plus, it is really bright and sure lights up the road in front of you so you can see where you are stepping. And, you can certainly be seen, too. A neat invention.

Not sure if this is what The Wallflowers were thinking when they sang the words, "We can drive it home with one headlight," but I think it is applicable for running in the dark! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, November 13, 2006

Around the lake

Yesterday was a relaxing Sunday, and a day off from running. I didn't do much except hang out, watch sports, and simply enjoy my new apartment. I made a delicious meat loaf for dinner, so I also dined very well!

Overnight we got a little dusting of snow, but nothing significant. It got up to a pleasant 39 degrees, so none of it stuck around for my afternoon run.

Today I did two laps around the lake behind my place, which I mapped out at 4 1/2 miles on the nose. I now have a couple of different options to do my “normal” 4 1/2 mile runs, so that is great. Today’s route was all done on quiet neighborhood sidestreets and trails. Nice!

There was even a cute female runner that I ran past. I am sure she was thoroughly impressed with my combination of running tights, a neon green windbreaker, and a bright red NASCAR Dale Jr stocking cap. I think is a fantastic ensemble myself, but it fails to win points from anyone with fashion sense. Oh, well! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dean's Run Home

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about Dean Karnazes deciding to run home from New York to San Francisco after he completed the Endurance 50.

Anyhow, I wanted to pass along that Dean has started a new blog to chronicle the experience of this new journey. As of his last entry on Day 3, he is in Philadelphia.

There is also a neat tracking tool so you can pinpoint his location on the map.

He is quite the guy. Amazing!

1000 miles on a frosty morning

I checked my running log, and this morning I passed 1000 miles for the year. Always kind of neat to hit a milestone like that!

It was also the coldest run of the season thus far. 25 degrees, with a wind chill of 16! I had frost on my goatee by the time I was finished.

Still, what a pleasant morning. As you know by now, I prefer cooler/cold weather, and the run was very good. I continued my exploration of the area and figured out a couple of loops on the Rice Creek West Regional Trail. I learned a few more routes today and went about 7 miles.

I went early enough that I got to see some wildlife before more people showed up. There were lots of ducks still hanging around in the creeks and ponds, and I scared up a pretty nice white tail buck along the park trail. I am loving my new neighborhood.

No real plans today. I will probably go somewhere for lunch, I will watch sports and make some homemade beef jerky this afternoon, and I will hopefully be having homemade pizza tonight. I say “hopefully” because I have had some dough-making issues since I got to my new apartment. The dough is coming out weird, so I am not sure what is going on. Maybe I need to revisit my recipe?

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, November 10, 2006

Trails!

It was significantly cooler today than it was when I last ran on Wednesday. 40 degrees cooler! It was only 32 when I ventured out for the afternoon run.

I found some honest to goodness dirt trails to run on today. I think I went through four different parks in a 4 1/2 mile run. Yes, I said four parks! This city has a ton of them. I wound my way through winding streets and quiet neighborhoods that were all intersected by these trail, What fun! The exploration continues.

You know what I am looking forward to doing this weekend? Nothing! For the first weekend in a long time, I don't have to pack or drive anywhere. I am looking forward to doing some cooking and enjoying lots of sports; two things I have greatly missed in recent weeks!

Enjoy the weekend!

Jean

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Karnazes update, and a little bit of exploring

A bit of running news; While I was moving, Dean Karnazes completed his 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days odyssey. Which ended in New York last Sunday at the New York City Marathon.

How is Dean celebrating this incredible achievement? Well, not only did he go for a 28 mile run on day 51, and run another marathon on day 52, but now he had decided to run home from New York to San Francisco! Wow…the guy is an inspiration.

I did not run as far as Dean did today, but I had fun exploring in my new neighborhood. It was an unseasonably warm 72 degrees this afternoon! I ran with no set route, running only by my watch so I had some idea as to how far I went. I took some trails through the park which led to a school, through a neighborhood, past a golf course, around a lake, and down a trail that led right back to my place. It was a very pretty route. I figure I went a little more than 5 miles. Not a bad way to enjoy one of the last truly warm days of the year!

Tonight I can finally catch up on "Bones" and "Lost." It is nice to have TV again! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Getting settled

Today was a big day; I vacated the old apartment, so I am officially moved! What a great feeling. I had lived in the same neighborhood for 10 of my 12 years in the metro, so I have a lot of history there. But after I signed off on the final paperwork and tossed them the keys, I left the place like it was on fire. I am just terribly excited about the new digs!

There is some semblance of order starting to take place. The living room and kitchen are pretty orderly, but I still have numerous boxes stacked up in the bedroom that I am not quite sure what to do with. The internet is hooked up (high speed, too...wheeeee!), as it the cable TV, although for some reason, Comcast doesn't provide you with all of the necessary cables to receive an HDTV broadcast, so I had to go out and buy those today. All is well now, though (and there was much rejoicing!). It is starting to feel like home.

I went for a run in the drizzle this evening. It was 57 degrees though, so the temperature was pleasant. I did 5 miles on the park trails again, smiling the whole time. I am really going to like my new running routes!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, November 06, 2006

Is your furniture Swedish?

This has nothing to do with running, but everything to do with moving!

Chaos in Swedish furniture land

Question for you; is the word “Ikea” Swedish for “chaos?”

When I moved, I tossed the couch because it has seen better days. I decided I would get new furniture. With grocery shopping out of the way, and not wanting to spend another night watching movies on a pile of blankets, I set out to find a chair.

I went to Ikea in Bloomington. I had never been there before, but everyone says this Swedish store has great, cheap furniture.

Upon arrival, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was a little after 10 AM, and the parking lot was jammed. This massive store is right by the Mall of America, but it is separate. They even have their own parking ramp.

I joined the parade of people heading in. You march through this labyrinth of a “showroom” area where they have all of their products on display. It was nuts! There were so many people, it was almost hard to move.

As if things weren’t crazy enough, I found the chair I was looking at online, but I was trying to figure out where to get one. I didn’t see any stock. Upon close inspection of the tag, you have to somehow remember the aisle and bin numbers written on the tag and go to the “furniture self service” area; which is on another floor, at the other end of this enormous building! Ugh...I just want to buy a chair!

Positively bewildered at my impending journey to find the “furniture self service" area, I decided I needed nourishment. I swung into the Ikea Cafe for one of their really cheap breakfasts.

Breakfast at Ikea



Not every department store serves food, but Ikea does. I was too early for lunch (I would have like to try the Swedish meatballs), but I had their breafast of scrambled eggs, bacon, some sort of tater tot-like potato rounds, and some really delicious pancakes with Swedish lingonberries served on top. I am not a big pancake guy, but these were awesome! They were thin and delicate, almost like a crepe, unlike the thicker pancakes that I typically don't care for. And how can you not appreciate the lingonberry preserves? With a bottle of OJ, it cost me $3.70, or something riculously cheap like that.

Satisfied, I set off to the other side of the world to find my chair.

After more complex naviagtion, I made it to the self service area (which resembled any aisle at a Home Depot; quite different from the luxurious showroom area), and I found my chair. I am glad I looked more closely because I didn't realize until that moment that the cushion for the chair was sold separately! Wow, that would not have been fun. So I gathered all the parts and trudged over to the checkout area, which was stacked up 5 people deep at every register. Ugh!

My new chair



Anyhow, I made it out of there, got home, assembled the chair quite easily (which for a mechanical genius such as myself is really saying something!). The chair is very comfortable, and I am happy I got it. Ikea is weird. What a strange experience! But I will go back now that I have a better idea of what is going on.

Until next time,

Jean

He's back!

After a breif blogging hiatus, I have returned! Lots to talk about from the past week’s event:

Everybody celebrate!



It has been an exhausting week that involved several trips from the old apartment to the new one, as well as having to make special trips to accomodate delivery people.

But over the weekend, I officially moved into my new apartment. On Saturday morning, my buddies showed up with big vehicles and we got everything out of there and up here in no time (Brett, Scott, Timmy, and Eric; you guys were lifesavers. Thanks a million!). After treating the movers to lunch at a local bar and grill, I headed back to the old place to clean. I spent 4 hours going over the place top to bottom, so I am ready to turn in my keys.

Exhausted, I dined at Arby’s because it was nearby and I just wanted something quick (note; if you ever want to feel like a loser, dine alone at an Arby’s on a Saturday night!). I also stopped at one of my local liquor stores to pick up some beer since I had nothing in the new fridge except for (strangely enough) hot sauce.

A true "guy fridge" - nothing but beer and hot sauce! :)



With that, I bid farewell to the old neighborhood and headed north. I arrived at my new apartment and promptly opened my first beer to celebrate!

The building is very nice. I face directly east, and I am on the 4th floor, so I have a pretty decent view. It ia delightfully quiet, unlike my former Minnetonka place. I didn’t hear a soul as I slept on my first night here (and my new bed absolutely rocks!). The kitchen is huge, and I will enjoy cooking here (I made Bolognese sauce with spaghetti last night!). I have laundry in the unit, which is something I have not had in a long time. And I love the neighborhood. Speaking of...

A run in the park

Sunday morning I got to do my first run in the new neighborhood, and to say I am excited is an enormous understatement. There are parks and trail everywhere. It is a runner’s paradise.

I ventured down the road on a paved bike path to the trail access point for the Rice Creek Park. There are miles of trails to explore along this mix of creeks, rolling prairie, and mixed woodlands. It is a beautiful oasis in the middle of a developing metro.

On this day I did a typical 4 1/2 miles in the early morning. I had the trail virtually to myself except for a lady walking a dog. I saw ducks sitting in the chilly creek as I ran by. A pileated woodpecker took flight from a low lying area.

Oh my, this is going to be fun.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Living in squalor!

I know I said no more posts until next Monday or so, but I just had to share. This is what my apartment looks like right now, the day before the move...



Ugh...wish me luck! :)

I will talk to you from the new place!

Jean

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ready to move!

This will my last blog update until I get moved and get my new Internet service up and running, so perhaps you will be hearing from me by next Monday!

There has been a tremendous amount of stuff going on related to the move. I have so many boxes of stuff just waiting to be moved, and I start transporting my things on Wednesday. There are all kinds of appointments this week to turn in cable TV equipment, hook up cable TV equipment, and to receive furniture. Some of my buddies are coming over on Saturday to help me with my big items, and I sincerely hope that by next I will be at least somewhat settled in. As exciting as the prospect of moving is, I am anxious for the week to be over with!

And in between all of that, I hope to get in a few runs. Good grief… :)

Until next week when I am in my new place,

Jean

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Running, cleaning, packing

Still reeling from what will always be remembered as "The Charlie Brown Incident," I went out for my long run this morning (I haven't been this upset about a programming blunder since Channel 9 interrupted Rusty Wallace's breakthrough NASCAR victory at Martinsville a couple of years ago for two full hours with storm coverage when it was still sunny and beautiful in the Cities...).

It was a cool and crisp morning, 37 degrees and a little overcast; perfect for running! And it was a pretty morning, with the sunrise trying so hard to peek through the clouds, coloring the sky with shades of pink, purple, and orange. I did 6 1/2 miles on one of my routes that goes through a rather upscale and quite hilly neighborhood in Minnetonka, which eventually joins up with part of my normal route. It was a good, comfortable run, and the hills proved to be a good workout.

More cleaning and packing today. Ugh! I can't wait until I am done with this.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, October 27, 2006

My letter to KSTP

I was so looking forward to watching ""It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" I had my Charlie Brown sweater, a glass of wine, and I eagerly turned to ABC at 7 PM

However, the folks at our local ABC affiliate, KSTP, decided it would be be more fun to show us a political debate instead.

To rub even more salt in the wound, KSTP is going through the trouble of rebroadcasting this television classic, but at 2:35 in the morning. You know, when everyone is awake....I am not a happy camper.

My letter to KSTP:

Dear KSTP TV,

Add my name to what is hopefully a growing list of people who are in disbelief that you would preempt a Halloween classic like "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" to show us a political debate between Wetterling, Bachman, and the Independent guy who doesn't have a chance of winning. The least you could have done is broadcast the debate in the 8 PM time slot of that horrible show with Anne Heche and left Charlie Brown at 7 PM where he should have been.

At least you are going to be replaying "The Great Pumpkin," but at 2:35 in the morning? The 40th anniversary broadcast of this classic show deserved much better than that.

Anyhow, I just wanted to give you my two cents and say that I am very disappointed, and I wish more consideration would have been given to your viewers who cherish these family-oriented holiday classics.

Spoke too soon, and it's the Great Pumpkin!

Remember in my previous post how I mentioned that my last run could have been on the last nice day of fall? I was wrong. Today was even nicer! It was 56 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, with a gentle breeze. Absolutely delightful!

Normally my route is pretty quiet. But not today! I met numerous runners and walkers; people clearly taking advantage of this fantastic day. And the weekend looks pretty good, too. I will not complain!

Not much excitement on the agenda for the weekend. This is my last full-fledged weekend of packing and cleaning before I can start moving into the new apartment, so I will be busy trying to get things wrapped up. It is getting a little stressful trying to keep up with all the details and figure out the logistics, but I will get there eventually.

However, tonight I will be taking time out to put on my Charlie Brown sweater from high school and watch the 40th anniversary of the greatest Halloween special ever, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" They don't make 'em like this anymore, and it is one of those "must see" classics!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The last nice day of fall?

I wasn't going to run, but it was so beautiful outside that I had to. 52 degrees, hardly a cloud in the sky, and just a slight breeze. God was smiling on the runners today. And this time of year, you just never know. It might be spring before we get a day like this!

I ran easier today, but it was still a very good run. I did the usual 4 1/2 miles, and there was a lot of activity along the route. Many folks were out doing yardwork, putting the leaf blowers and rakes to good use. Kids were tossing a football around. I even saw a couple of red bellied woodpeckers, and got chastised by a fiesty red squirrel, so the wildlife was enjoying the day as well!

This is Minnesota fall weather at its finest.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A great run, and knee deep in boxes

Today was another ideal fall day to run; 45 degrees, a little overcast, and very little wind. It was so comfortable out there.

I did my normal route, and I did it pretty quickly today. I ran at a pretty rapid pace, so I put in a solid effort today. I think the every-other-day schedule that I am on is keeping my legs fresh and helped me recover pretty quickly.

You should see my apartment right now. In preparation for the move, I have boxes stacked up all over the living room. It is getting very hard to walk around, and I even had to creatively stack some of them so I can see my TV. I'm really anxious to get out of here! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, October 23, 2006

Karnazes in Minneapolis

No run today, so I just thought I would pass along a note about Dean Karnazes' quest to run 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days.

Karnazes was actually here in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" today to run the Twin Cities Marathon course. This will be his 37th consecutive day of running a marathon, so he now has 13 events to go to complete this running odyssey. I've said it before, but this guy is amazing!

He has been updating his blog after each day, and it contains some pretty inspiring moments. Check it out if you have a chance.

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A cold and frosty morning

Brrrr! It was all of 26 degrees with a windchill of 19 when I went for my run this morning. I broke out the winter running geat for this first time this season; the thermal shirt, my winter tights, and even my Thinsulate gloves. Even with it being pretty chilly, I love running in weather like this.

I did my full 10k route along the trail in Minnetonka today, and it felt great. I think I have recovered from Des Moines quite nicely, and I am planning to keep doing a "long-ish" run on the weekends in the winter. Nothing too crazy, probably between 6 -8 miles. I have gained a lot this year, and I would like to try and keep a solid fitness base so I will be ready for better and bigger things in 2007.

Yesterday was a busy day of packing and cleaning in preparation for the big move, which is a week and a half away. I got a lot done, and I have made very good progress, and I am starting to get excited about my new place. I worked pretty hard yesterday, but I did take a time out to treat myself to a great burger at the Lions Tap in Eden Prairie (hey, all work and no play makes Jean a dull boy, right?).

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, October 20, 2006

Perfect running weather

Today was absolutely ideal out there. 45 degrees, overcast, and calm. What great weather to run in! I could still wear shorts and a long-sleeved running pull-over, and I was more than comfortable.

I did the usual 4 1/2 miles, and I feel really quite good. Any lingering stiffness from the race is starting to subside, and I am starting to feel like my normal self (however normal that may be). There were lots of coots, geese, and some scaups out on the pond today, big flocks of blackbirds, and lots of fuzzy gray squirrels. You can really tell some big changes in the weather are on the horizon!

Not much on the agenda this weekend except for packing and cleaning. Only a week and a half until I can start moving into my new place, so I am starting to get both excited and a little stressed! I'm looking forward to getting the move over with, and I can't wait to get settled into the new pad. Anyhow, this weekend I will be busy preparing for that, but I will also make time to squeeze in some football, NASCAR, and a little cooking!

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Winding down the season, setting new goals

Today is a day off to allow for my continued recovery. I found myself doing a little extra stretching last night, as I still had a bit of tightness in my calves and hamstrings. But I feel much better than I did last year when I completely overtrained. This year's training schedule was much smarter and pain-free, so I think I am going to stick with what works!

Now that the race season is winding down, I plan to do a few more fun runs, all of them 5k's. I am signed up for the Turkey Run in St. Paul the weekend before Thanksgiving, but there will be one or two in December as well. And today I started setting some new goals and objectives for 2007.

In May I am going to cross the North Dakota border and run the Scheels Fargo Half Marathon. This is a rapidly growing event that has gotten rave reviews. Since it is one of the few marathons in N.D., I think it is also a big draw for the 50 States Marathon Club folks. And as person of Norwegian-American descent, I have to appreciate any race that offers a "lefse feed!" :)

It is a ways off, but it will be something to look forward to.

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Des Moines notes, and back on the horse

A couple more notes from Des Moines:

-Proof that nothing is sacred anymore: Along Locust Street in downtown Des Moines, there is a plaque on a building denoting a historic site. The place was the Katz Drug Store, and in 1948 it became an early flashpoint in the battle for civil rights. An African-American was refused service at the soda fountain, and it sparked a series of protests and demonstrations against the drug store. The owner was eventually convicted of violating Iowa's civil rights laws. Keep in mind this is long before the heydey of such notable Civil Rights Movement figures as Rosa Parks and MLK, Jr. Anyhow, the reason I even mention this is because this site is now the most historically significant Quiznos Subs location on the planet. Just fabulous.

-Here is an article from the Des Moines Register covering the races. I stuck around for awhile and got to see the women's marathon winner, Robyn Friedman of Lambs Grove, IA, cross the finish line and absolutely demolish the previous course record. I snapped a quick photo as she was coming down the home stretch. She was all smiles. It was very cool!

Robyn Friedman coming home 1st



Anyhow, I went for my first run today since the race, so I am slowly getting back on the horse! It was an easy 4 1/2 miler today. I am still a little tight in some places, but it felt good to get out and run again. I am going to do an every-other-day schedule for a little while to allow for additional rest and recovery.

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, October 16, 2006

Recovery day

The day after the race; wow, am I glad I took a vacation day! Not that I couldn’t function. It is just much nicer to be sitting here relaxing in my sweatpants allowing for a bit of recovery before venturing back into the real world.

I feel pretty good, but I am a little stiff in the quads and calves. To be expected, I suppose! I am planning on taking a couple of days off before I start running again, and those runs will be easy and nothing crazy. It is time to dial back the training.

By the way, the online race results have been posted, and you can find them here. Just click on the “half marathon overall” link and you will be able to track me down.

I have done virtually nothing today except I assembled a pan of homemade lasagna to be baked later. And I watched the original ”Police Academy” movie that I recorded earlier on my DVR. But that it about it. Rest and relaxation is good. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Des Moines 2006 Index of Posts

Index of posts for my trip to the 2006 IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend

We’re off on the road to Des Moines!

Fashion statements, National Anthem, reasons for running

RACE REPORT - 2006 IMT Des Moines Half Marathon

The journey home, and some reflections

The journey home, and some reflections

Heading home

The journey home was a pleasant one. A few more observations from the road:

-I stopped for lunch at a Maid-Rite in Ankeny. For those of you who don’t know, Maid-Rite is Iowa’s gift to fast food. Since 1926, these restaurants have been serving their famous “loose meat sandwiches” (stop snickering, that is what they call them!), which are kind of like sloppy joes without the sloppy, if that makes sense. They consist of well-seasoned, crumbled ground beef served on a bun with the optional ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions. They taste pretty good, but I do think a burger makes for a more substantial meal. But, I had to stop because these places are a rarity in MN (I can only think of one location, and that is in Brainerd).

The famous Maid-Rite



-The Iowa Highway Patrol must get a blank check for their budget because I-35 is infested with troopers. Every time I go through Iowa, I am astonished at the number of cops. I always see several motorists pulled over. Judging by the fact that very few people are driving more than 2-3 MPH over the speed limit, these guys aren’t very forgiving, either. And, I couldn’t help but notice that some of the troopers are driving shiny new hot rod Dodge Chargers for their squad cars, so the IHP has got a "Hemi" now! Just a helpful hint to those of you traveling south; watch your speed.

-If someone says they are from the Boondocks, have you ever wondered where that was? Well, it is located off of I-35 near the town of Williams, IA, at a filthy truck stop! I have photographic evidence.

Welcome to the Boondocks!



Reflections

“There is nothing noble in being superior to some other man. The true nobility is being superior to your previous self.” - Tim Twietmeyer, 25-time Western States 100 finisher

I read the above quote earlier this summer, and I thought this was a perfect statement about runners. Everyone out there has their own goals and aspirations for what they hope to achieve, and in the end, it is really all about trying to be better than yourself. That is what everyone here today was shooting for.

When the race was over, I went back to the hotel, showered up, and headed to the lobby to check out. As I was on my floor waiting for the elevator, the wall where the up/down buttons are located was mirrored so I could see my reflection.

I looked at the person staring back at me, and I wondered to myself; “Who are you?”

Not the physical me. Rather, who is this crazy person who has started driving all over the Midwest to run in races, all the while considering it a “ vacation,” and where did he come from?

I know exactly why I took up running, and I remember making the decision to start. But running in races? I have no idea! All I know is that I ran a fun run at work a couple of years ago, and now I am hooked. However it came about, I am glad it did. I have found something I love to do, I have learned an awful lot, and I am having a heck of a lot of fun. Hopefully this will keep inspiring me to strive to be better than myself.

Now that my “big race” for the year is over, I am finding myself searching for another one. I spent the bulk of my trip home contemplating my next “big” running event. I think I know what it is and when it will be, but online registration isn’t open yet, so I will let you know if I get signed up! :)

In the meantime, there will be some 5k fun runs in the future, so I hope that any faithful readers I have will continue to check in!

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Jean

RACE REPORT - 2006 IMT Des Moines Half Marathon

A gunshot goes off in downtown Des Moines and we are underway. And when I say “a gunshot goes off,” I mean “without warning.” We didn’t hear a “ready...set...” or anything. It nearly caused a couple thousand heart attacks, but regardless, we are now off and running.

A shot of downtown Des Moines



I started out feeling very comfortable, running an easy pace. The crowd at the start of big races is always congested in the early going, so it is best to just relax and let things sort out. The first mile passed at 8:30 for me. A good pace, faster than I thought I would go, but I felt fine. I figured if I could settle in at this pace, I would end up with a pretty good day.

This race, like other big city races, has “pace teams,” or runners talented enough to run a set pace who will run at a tempo to help the participants achieve a certain time goal. My goal; stay ahead of the girl carrying the sign that said “2:00” for the half marathon! So far, so good.

The course winds its way out of downtown and into the scenic Waterworks Park. Here, we literally have miles of roads that wind thorough lakes, fields, and woods. The trees were just starting to show a hint of color. Des Moines is really a beautiful city, and anyone who says otherwise has never been here.

I keep clipping off miles, reeling off consistent times in the low 8:00 per mile range. Normally I don’t run with my watch, and this may sound strange, but when I am on a training run and want to check my race pace, there is a song I go over in my head. It is by a band called The Sundays, and the song is entitled “I Feel.” The song happens to have a three-count rhythm where the beats fall in synch with my footsteps during my race tempo. Sounds weird, but it works for me. I would be doing that today to periodically check my pace.

At about the 5 mile mark, I ended up having a several minute long conversation with another runner regarding the water bottle I was carrying. My Amphipod bottle has a strap that hooks right over the back of your hand hand, so you really don’t even have to grip it. This gentleman was asking me if it felt awkward to carry it, did I have to get used to it, etc. I told him how much I loved it, that it took virtually no time to get used to, and I think I could have sold him one!

Even though I had my bottle, I grabbed some Gatorade at the next aid station and promptly splashed some into my eyes by accident. A word of warning to all of you; Gatorade stings! That was unpleasant to say the least, but the situation resolved itself quickly enough. I kept plugging away.

Between miles 8 and 9, the course took a new route different from last year. We did a lap around Grays Lake Park, which was on a beautiful path and over a long footbridge crossing the lake. I thought this change to the course was a great addition. Very pretty!

I was still feeling good, even this deep into the race. I remember looking at my watch at the 10 mile mark and seeing 1 hour, 22 minutes. And, I had just passed the pace team leader carrying the "1:50" sign. This was great. I was well on my way to achieving my goals with only a 5k distance to go!

With the downtown skyline in sight, the runners crossed over the dramatic George Washington Carver Bridge and headed back into the city. At the 12 mile split, my watch was showing 1 hour, 37 minutes and some change. I was finally starting to feel some fatigue now. The lactic acid was building up, and I felt like my pace was slowing. I was starting to drag. Cue The Sundays:

”I....feel...fine...
Don’t...wake me up yet...."

Finally we made the turn on to 3rd Street where the finish line was in sight. That was exactly what I needed to see! It makes it so much easier to suck it up when you see the big banner at the end. With that, I mustered up what strength I had to try for a little extra kick at the end. The guy on the P.A. even announced my name as I was approaching the finish.

Finished!



I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 46 minutes, and 42 seconds. That was almost 15 minutes better than last year’s time, and I established a new personal record for the half marathon. I was absolutely elated, and I couldn’t stop smiling. There is nothing like the feeling of finishing a big city race with hundreds of people cheering at the finish line. It was so much fun to see a summer’s worth of hard work pay its dividends. And I was proud to be able to do this in honor of my family on my Grandpa's birthday.

Mary, Louis, Bernice, and Ogden; this one was for you.

Fashion statements, National Anthem, reasons for running

Waking up at about 5:30 on Sunday morning, I looked out the window to see the streets were wet. Strange, considering that hours earlier, the local Des Moines weatherman said it wasn’t going to rain until Sunday night! And they say meteorology is a science... :)

A quick check of the Weather Channel comforted me a little bit, as it looked like we would be in the clear. Even better, it would be cloudy, somewhat humid, and cool; ideal conditions for distance running.

Not making the mistake I made in Green Bay, I came armed with every article of clothing I would need for virtually any kind of weather. It looked like it was going to be in the 40’s for most of the race, so I settled on shorts, a light long sleeved top, and a short-sleeved running shirt over the top of that. Perfect. I also decided that this year I was going to carry my Amphipod water bottle filled with Propel (the bottle that I usually carry during trail races when there are few aid stations). This way, I can bypass most of the water stops and just keep running. I threw a couple of Clif Shot gels into my waist pack as well.

I wandered down to the starting area and noticed the fashion statements were all over the map. Numerous runners appeared to be dressed for a snowstorm; stocking caps, earmuffs, gloves, tights, expensive Gore-Tex jackets, you name it. Others were dressed in nothing more than a singlet and shorts. There was even someone running in a striped inmate’s outfit. But the real prize went to the Grizzly Adams-looking guy who was running barefoot wearing nothing but a loincloth (no, I didn’t just make that up...I really need to start carrying my camera with me at races).

A few thousand runners began to flood into the streets in downtown Des Moines. What follows next is what happens at every race; The race director is on a loudspeaker trying to give instructions and update. There is a loud buzz and a lot of chatter and commotion among the runners, so nobody can hear anything.

However, then something very cool happened.

Over the loudspeaker, a young lady started singing a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, and the crowd fell absolutely silent. To use the old expression, you could have heard a pin drop. Seriously, it was almost erie to have that level of quiet in a crowd of thousands. And when she finished, the runners responded with a deafening ovation. It was awesome to see that kind of respect and appreciation.

We were minutes away from the start, and you can feel the excitement. There are those who are in it to win the race. You see the Team In Training folks running for a good cause. Some are participating simply because of fitness goals. Others got talked into it last summer at a drunken party (like the guy who was standing next to me at the starting line!). My point is that everybody who was participating had their own reasons for running.

For me, this day held some significance because October 15th would have been my grandfather Ogden’s 90th birthday. As my family and friends know, I lost my two remaining grandparents on my Mother’s side of the family last fall. I wanted to run a big race in the memory of all my grandparents, so this race on this day seemed especially appropriate. I have been working towards this day all summer, and I was looking forward to the start.
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