Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The heat is on

For the past several days I was up on the North Shore enjoying my morning runs with temperatures in the 50's. Today I am faced with a high of 86. It is always kind of a shock to the system when that happens!

Last week in his blog, KARE 11's Sven Sundgaard was raving about running in the warm weather (as well as showing more pictures of his pet goat). To each his own, but I couldn't disagree more. I would rather run when it is 20 degrees than when it is 80. But, summer is here, so I guess I had better suck it up and stop complaining!

Despite my incessant whining, I had a really nice run today. There was not much humidity at all, and there was a slight breeze, which was helpful. The run seemed downright speedy after running the weekend on rough terrain, so I kind felt like a track star today. A very good workout.

Since I have been away for the past two weekends, I didn’t have much in the fridge, so I had to go slumming for tonight’s dinner. I had a grilled cheese sandwich (but a darn good one!). Must go grocery shopping... :)

Until next time,

Jean

Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

Hiking in God's Country

As if trail running wasn't enough exercise, I also got in plenty of hiking over the weekend. We went hiking every day (sometimes twice) in search of furry creatures, butterflies, birds, and whatever flora and fauna we could find. I spent a lot of time in the woods (as my numerous blackfly bites and welts would attest to!), and we did a lot of hiking in the National Forest with many great sightings.

Mom and I also took a trip over to Oberg Mountain to hike around on Monday morning. The trail at Oberg Mountain is a spur off of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Photo of Mom on the trail leading up to Oberg Mountain



The hike is steep in some areas, but it is not terribly difficult. And the entire loop is only perhaps two miles at the most, so it is easy to accomplish in a couple of hours. Your reward comes in the form of spectacular views. The trail makes a loop around the top of the mountain through sections of beautiful hardwood forests, and there are at least a half dozen overlooks, each offering a different perspective. It is really quite amazing, and the birdwatching wasn't bad, either (more on this in a second).

Photo of yours truly on top of Oberg Mountain



Furry creatures, and flying flowers

One of the pleasures of hanging out in God's Country is getting to see all the animals, and it was a good weekend for seeing them. I mentioned previously the deer and the snowshoe hare that I encountered on my runs. Additionally, I got to see a pair of gray foxes, as well as a solitary red fox who strolled out of the woods while we were on a birdwatching trip. The adorable flying squirrel was busy raiding the bird feeder in the evenings. And Dad and I even encountered a moose while we were driving around in the back county. Very good wildlife watching over the weekend.

Perhaps some of the most entertaining animals are the red squirrels. The red squirrel (affectionately nicknamed "Jumpy" by my family because of his twitchy mannerisms) is a cute little guy who is very territorial. Actually, "very territorial" doesn't quite do it justice. They are ornery little buggers, and they rarely ever stop their chattering! But, even in spite of their mean streak, they are really very cute and have an awful lot of personality. We spent hours watching several of them wrestle and chase each other all over the yard and through the woods, trying to keep each other away from the bird feeders. It is endless entertainment watching their antics.

Spring also marks the return of the butterflies as well, and they thrive in Mom and Dad's wildflower garden. The picture to the left is of a striking Canadian tiger swallowtail (a phase of the Eastern tiger swallowtail that is slightly more pale yellow). We were also inundated with many of the infamous monarchs (there seemed to be more around this year than ever). We also saw the gray comma, the delicate mustard white, the velvety mourning cloak the tiny and dark dreamy duskywing, the cute little hobomok skipper, and the pretty pastel blue-colored spring azure. There will undoubtedly be more (and different) butterflies as the summer rolls on.


Warber Mania!

Spring in Minnesota is a joyful time to be a birdwatcher. Every year around Memorial Day, this means the return of the warblers, which are colorful little jewels of the northern woods that are among my favorite birds.

Seemingly the most abundant of them in my parents’ back yard is the pretty and cheerful black-throated green warbler. Pictures do not do this little guy justice, as his greenish-yellow head practically glows. He sings from sunup to sundown, and can usually be seen in the treetops. So we got to see plenty of him.

Other great warbler sightings included the ever-popular and faithful Myrtle warbler (now known as the “yellow-rumped warbler,” but will be forever known to me as “Myrtle”), the “fire throat” Blackburnian warbler, the spectacled and necklace-wearing Canada warbler, the sweet singing chestnut-sided warbler, the Halloween-colored American redstart, the sleek and handsome black-and-white warbler, the brilliant and distinctive magnolia warbler, and the dainty little moss-dwelling northern parula warbler.

I got to add three new warblers to my life list this weekend, which is always cause for excitement for any birdwatcher:

I finally got to identify the ovenbird, and I feel kind of silly because this little guy is absolutely everywhere. Previously, I had mistakenly identified his piercing call as that of some sort of vireo. However, I finally learned who this voice belonged to, and was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this noisy-but-cute little bird.

The mourning warbler was also a new sighting for me, and I was really lucky to see this guy. He was singing away in some low shrubs on top of Oberg Mountain, but he was staying out of view. Luckily, he showed himself to me long enough that I could see some definitive markings and characteristic which later helped me identify him.

My favorite discovery of the weekend was finally getting to see the black-throated blue warbler while at Oberg Mountain. This is a warbler that is somewhat elusive up in this region, because he reportedly likes to frequent maple forests (much of the North Shore consists of coniferous trees and birch). Oberg happens to have a lot of maple, and there have been numerous sightings of this bird there over the years. Sure enough, he made his presence known, and even granted us to a long look at this classy little bird. What a rare treat!

That pretty much wraps up my experiences in the "Wild Kingdom." I felt like Marlin Perkins’ able-bodied and often endangered assistant, Jim, by the end of the weekend because I was so beat up and swollen from blackfly bites. But it was worth it!

Until next time,

Jean

Good eats from the weekend

A quick note on food: When we get together as a family, there will always be some good food, and this time was certainly no exception.

On Friday, Dad and I went to Grand Marais to the Dockside Fish Market in search of the oh-so-delicious Copper River salmon that is now in season. It turns out the Copper River salmon missed its flight, so they didn't have any that day. But they did have some wild king salmon that was so tasty (and not to mention cheaper) that we didn't miss it. Dad threw this on the grill basted with a honey-garlic-soy sauce mixture, and the results were really incredible.

You would have to know my Dad and brother, but they are an awful lot alike when it comes to food. It wasn't enough that we were having salmon. Brett decided we also needed some grilled venison sausage patties as a side dish! Good stuff, all around.

Other meals included home-smoked BBQ ribs on Saturday and a prime rib with herb-roasted vegetables on Sunday (sorry, no pictures of those, as I was too busy eating to care!). We capped off the weekend with a summer cookout of smoked polish sausages with all of the fixings. Not to be outdone, my brother also felt we needed a marinated venison tenderloin to throw on the grill as well (which was awesome, by the way)!

Needless to say, it was a good weekend of eating.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Being tourists in Grand Marais

Playing the Tourist

On Saturday, Mom and I went in to the town of Grand Marais to do a little shopping, have a little lunch, and pretend we were tourists.

Grand Marais is a beautiful little village on the shores of Lake Superior. There are lots of sights to see, things to do, and good places to eat (photo to the left is of yours truly in full tourist-mode along side Grand Marais harbor).

We stopped in at the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op, a place I always go to when I am in town. This is great opportunity for me to pick up some various pantry items that I cook with frequenty, things such as organic green split peas, whole wheat pasta, as well as some treats like trail mix and chocolate-covered almonds!

Afte that, we visited the Cook County Farm and Craft Market, where we bought a loaf of artisan buckwheat bread from one of Mom’s friends (wonderful stuff!).

Following a quick walking tour of the harbor, where we said “hi” to a few of the resident and ever-present ring-billed gulls, and after taking a few pictures, it was time for lunch.

Today we dined at Chez Jude, a place Mom had been wanting to take me to for some time now, as she thought it would be the kind of restaurant I would appreciate.

Chez Jude is a cute little resturant that was created in an old house with a lovely view of the harbor. This is the kind of place that focuses on serious food made with locally-produced ingredients, and artfully presented.

Mom had the breast of chicken tartine, which was essentially an open-faced baguette sandwich with wood-roasted and sliced chicken, tomato, and onion, served with a cucumber salad and pommes frites, a meal which she liked very much. I had the wood-fired pizza balsamico with strip steak, boursin cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and asparagus spears, drizzled with a reduced balsamic vinegar syrup. It was absolutely excellent.

I would highly recommend this restaurant. The food is of top quality and presented beautifully. But be warned; it is not the kind of place to go if you are looking for a simple burger or sandwich. This is a place for foodies who are looking for something more along the lines of an upscale dining experience on the North Shore. If that is your kind of thing, by all means, go.

Photo below: Mom and me dining at Chez Jude



And that concluded our morning as tourists! Once we got home, it was off to the woods for a little birdwatching (more on that in another post!).

Until next time,

Jean

Why I love trail running

I love trail running.

If I could, I would run on trails every day. And I am not talking about trails that are paved, or made out of an old railroad bed. I am talking about rugged, challenging trails that go deep into the forests. There is something different and special about this kind of running.

For instance, here is what happened on my Friday morning run; My buddy, the sharp-shinned hawk, swooped down from the trees in a feeble effort to dive-bomb me (probably protecting a nest). I scared up a white-tailed deer who snorted and ran off into the forest. And, I scared the heck out of a snowshoe hare when rounding a corner on the ski trail. And the woods was absolutely alive with the sound of birds singing. This all occurred in the first 10 minutes of my run.

Of course, nature itself is probably why trail running appeals to me, but this also proves to be a tremendous workout as well. It seems to work muscles that don’t get worked as hard when you run on flat, consistent surfaces, as my stiff legs can attest to. Plus, the varied foot-strikes and softer surfaces also help to prevent repetitive, overuse injuries because virtually every step is different (especially on the rugged trails where you are dodging rocks and stepping over fallen trees!).

I got in three runs over the weekend, and I logged more than three hours on the trails. My altimeter told me that in those three runs, I accumulated more that 1500 feet of elevation, so I got in some really good hill workouts. And, it was just plain fun, I saw some fantastic wildlife (by the way, an unwritten rule of trail running is, if you see something spectacular, it is more than OK to stop and take a look - in fact, that should be mandatory!), and I didn’t see a single person on the trails. I had the forest to myself. How awesome!

As far as running is concerned, one of the great things about visiting my family is that I have access to a network of trails the moment I walk out the door. I thought I would show you some pictures of these trails that I have the privilege of running on while visiting them. These trails also serve us for snowshoeing in the winter, as well as plenty of birdwatching in the summer:



Above is the trail that takes me into the National Forest from Mom and Dad’s house. As you can see, it is a narrow path, and there are lots of downed trees, rocks, and twigs to contend with. You don’t move very quickly through this stretch, but it is my favorite little trail to run on.



This is a shot of the “Cathedral of the Cedars,” a stand of enormous, old-growth cedar trees. This is my Mom’s favorite part of the trail. We frequently see deer in this area, and the trees themselves are quite amazing.



Part of my running is done on a network of cross-country ski trails. As you can see, they are wider, but not without their own challenges. The grasses tend to get overgrown in the spring and summer, some areas are almost permanently wet or muddy (or so it would seem), and trees fall down across these trails, too!



There is a creek that intersects the ski trail, and seen above is a pretty waterfall that I get to cross over.



Here is a shot of the ski trail as it heads downhill towards Lake Superior (Dad is hanging out there in the background!). This is a fun section to run, as you can really move as you run down the hill!

Until next time,

Jean

The North Shore - Memorial Day 2006 Index of Posts



This post will serve as an index for my various notes from my recent Memorial Day weekend visiting the family on the North Shore of Lake Superior. I will talk extensively about the wildlife, some touristy things I did, eating well, and of course, trail running.

Part 1 - Why I love trail running

Part 2 - Being tourists in Grand Marais

Part 3 - Good eats from the weekend

Part 4 - Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom

Enjoy!

Jean

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hot in the city

We are in a bit of a heat wave! Today was a lot like yesterday, except the temperature was slightly cooler at 79 degrees, and there is still that strong wind coming out of the south. However, it was noticeably more humid than yesterday, which made for yet another challenging run. I ran fairly steady and easy again today, still working out some of the kinks from the race weekend. The skies were starting to darken in the west, so I think we are in for a little rain. But I managed to get my run wrapped up before any drops came down.

There were lots of green darners cruising around today. These big, pretty dragonflies look like small helicopters. I also saw Mrs. wood duck fly up out of a swamp, so it was a decent nature day!

The season finale of "Lost" tonight, and I just know they are going to leave us with a gigantic cliffhanger! :)

This will be my last update until after Memorial Day weekend. I am leaving straight from work tomorrow and pointing the car north towards God’s Country to see the family and have a good ‘ol time. I look forward to chatting with you once I return.

Until next week,

Jean

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Blast furnace

On Sunday morning in Green Bay, I was running in a frost advisory, and today it was 85 degrees, windy, and felt like a blast furnace! Don't you just love spring in the Midwest? This is certainly the warmest day we have had in a long time. Given the difference between the wind chill and the heat index, that is more than a 50 degree swing since the last time I went running!

It was a bit of a struggle today. Not only was it really hot with an incredibly strong south wind, but I was still a bit stiff from the race and the long car ride home. I took it very easy today, more out of necessity than anything. It is always tough to run on hot days because the heat just saps the energy out of you.

This is going to be kind of a short week for me. I had Monday off to recover from my race and trip to GB, and I have Friday off since I will be heading up to the North Shore to visit the family for the Memorial Day weekend. I am looking forward to doing a little trail running, hiking, bird watching (the spring warblers are returning right now, which is awesome), eating some really good food, pestering the red squirrels, and just generally having fun. Mom and I will go into Grand Marais one day as well to act like tourists and probably have a little lunch. Of course, I will provide you with a report of my various activities. It should be a lot of fun, and I can't wait!

Until next time,

Jean

Running Food: Roasted Chicken with Dill and Lemon

Yesterday I made a roasted chicken with lemon and dill that was absolutely awesome, if I do say so myself. I didn't really use an exact recipe, but the inspiration was from a recipe in Norwegian chef Andreas Viestad's "Kitchen of Light" cookbook that accompanied PBS's New Scandinavian Cooking series (an awesome show, especially for anyone who would appreciate Scandinavian cuisine).



There are conflicting opinions about dill. Emeril Lagasse of the Food Network thinks fresh dill can be overpowering, and that a little bit goes a long way. However, Viestad says fresh dill is delicate and fragile, and that you can feel free to use a whole bunch of it. It is all personal preference, really, and perhaps it is the Norwegian in me, but I agree more with Viestad. I like a lot of dill, so I use a lot. If you side with Emeril, use less. If you hate dill altogether, you could easily substitute other herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme…or all three in combination!).

All I did was take a 3 1/2 lb whole chicken, and stuffed the cavity with a head of garlic (cut in half), several lemon wedges, a bundle of fresh dill, and then truss the bird. Then I took about a 1/2 a stick of butter and mixed in a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh dill, about a tablespoon of lemon zest, some salt, and fresh black pepper. I rubbed the chicken with the butter mixture. Using my fingers, I took some of the butter mixture and went under the skin of the breast (very gently so as not to tear the skin) to help add flavor and moisture. I drizzled some fresh lemon juice over the chicken just before putting in the oven.

Then, I roasted it in a 350 degree oven for 90 minutes, basting every 30 minutes (feel free to use a meat thermometer if you want confirmation it is cooked through). You should end up with a golden, brown, moist, and delicious bird. Let it rest at least 15 minutes before carving. Enjoy!

(By the way, the leftovers stay quite juicy and make for excellent sandwiches!)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Green Bay Trip - Index of Posts

Below is a listing of the posts from my 2006 Green Bay trip in chronological order, which should make it easier to read than having to read from the bottom up:

Part 1 - The Road to Green Bay - Where the Real Runners Are

Part 2 - Green Bay Legends

Part 3 - Adjoining rooms, and no small potatoes

Part 4 - Racing for bratwursts on the “Frosty Tundra”

Part 5 - Searching for America, and being a real runner

Searching for America, and being a real runner

Searching For America

The race was over, so I showered up and checked out of my hotel. How could I keep my most excellent adventure going? How about going home the scenic route?

On my way out here, there was some construction on I-94 in western Wisconsin promising up to 1 hour delays heading to the cities on Sunday afternoons as the weekenders returned home. This seemed like a good enough of an excuse to go another way. I decided to take nothing but 2 lane roads all the way to Minnesota. I hopped on Wisconsin State Hwy 54, which took me to US Hwy 10, which takes you all the way to the border. This would give me the chance, as Simon and Garfunkel might have said, to “look for America.”

And boy, did I find it!



The route was stunningly beautiful. You pass through countless little towns that have maintained, preserved, and celebrate their past. The countryside is amazing, and was obviously touched by the glaciers during the ice age, as there are numerous rolling hills, peaks, and valleys. The area around Neillsville, WI was particularly scenic with some impressive views. But really, the whole way from Stevens Point to the Minnesota border was like this. Winding, lightly traveled roads, taking your through a mix of forests and farmland. How come nobody ever talks about this area?

I stopped for 2 different trains, and I had to get around 3 different tractors pulling farm equipment. I bought gas at a station that had old pumps that you couldn't use a credit card on. And, when you stop for gas in a small town, all of the customers are chatting because they all know each other. Every little town has what appears to have been at one time a residential home that has been converted into a cute little bar, and they all have very direct, to-the-point names, such as “Walter’s Beer.” And I even got to see the world’s largest talking cow (Chatty Belle in Neillsville!). These are things you miss out on when you travel the freeways.



Going this route took me 6 hours. The trip to Green Bay took 5, but had there been an hour delay on the interstate going home, the difference was negligible, but defintely more scenic. I found America today, and what a wonderful country she is.

After a 600+ mile round trip and 154 songs on the iPod later, I arrived home a tired, but happy, guy! What a great weekend. I think I am going to put this event on the schedule for 2007. And this time, for the half marathon.

Being a "real runner"

Now that this weekend has passed, I recalled my initial thoughts when I picked up my packet for the race. Thoughts that perhaps I was not among the "real runners" because I was only participating in the 5k. I concluded that it is all a matter of perspective.

Two years ago when I started running, a 5k seemed like an impossible distance. Since then, I have completed numerous races from 5k's to a half marathon, on roads, trails, and cross country. In the beginning, I never dreamed I could run a couple miles without stopping, and the thought of placing in my division at a race was laughable to me.

There is a writer for Runner's World magazine named John Bingham. He is not an elite runner. He represents the everyman, and writes very poetically about it. Known over the years as "The Penguin" because of his running style, Bingham has a quote that has, over the years, become the battle cry for other "penguins" everywhere:

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."

That statement really puts things in the proper perspective. There were somwhere around 6000 runners in Green Bay this past weekend, and every one of them had the courage to start, regardless of how far they were going. And that makes for a lot of "real runners" in my book!

Thanks for reading my lengthy weekend travel and race posts! I hope you enjoyed.

Until next time,

Jean

Racing for bratwursts on the "Frosty Tundra"

May 21. 2006

The Frosty Tundra of Lambeau Field

I woke up at 4:55 AM to get prepared for the race. I turned on The Weather Channel to see what was going on.

“Frost Advisory???” Oh, my! It was all of 39 degrees with a NW wind that was giving us a wind chill of near freezing. I knew Lambeau was often referred to as the "frozen tundra," but today it might actually be frosty! I was wishing I had brought some gear in addition to my shorts, long-sleeved running shirt, and a light top! Note to self; pack for all kinds of different weather next year.

I went down to the hotel lobby at about 6:00 AM, and it was positively buzzing with runners! Kind of funny to get out of the elevator that early and feel like you are walking into a party. Everybody was getting fired up for the races!

I wandered down to the starting area with nearly 1300 of my closest friends. I did my best to stretch out and warm up, but it was plenty chilly. It was one of those days where it was so cold that your face muscles really didn’t want to cooperate when you were talking to someone!

The Green Bay Boys and Girls Choirs got us going with a beautiful a cappella version of the National Anthem. Soon after that, the starting command was given, and we were on our way.

The race starts right in the heart of the Green Bay Packers’ training facility, makes a lap around Lambeau Field, eventually running through Lambeau Field, and finishes at the start.

It was difficult to get moving because of the crowds and the cold, and my first mile was slow. There is a bit of a hill on Lombardi Avenue in the first half mile, and we were also going right into the wind. The second mile went faster, however. It cut through a residential neighborhood on the south side of the stadium, and there was a nice downhill stretch where I made up some time.

Now for the cool part; As you get past mile 2, you make your way towards Lambeau Field. They route you into the player tunnel, and you get to run a lap around the perimeter of the football field. What a feeling that was to emerge from the tunnel into what is arguably the most historic football field in the NFL, the very same field where “The Gunslinger,” Brett Favre, has pulled off numerous feats of football brilliance. They even allowed spectators into the stands to cheer on the runners. How awesome! I am sure I slowed down a bit in the stadium to savor the moment as best I could.

Once out of the stadium, it was pretty much a straight shot back to the finish, so I pretty much gave it what I had down the homestretch. I crossed the finish line in 22:35. This was not one of my fastest races, but given the slow start I had, as well as taking in the experience of Lambeau Field, I was pleased.



I finished 49th overall, and to my surprise, 3rd in my age group. But the interesting part was that someone in my age group finished 1st overall for the whole race and received the award for that. In order to be fair and balanced, they don’t give two awards to the same person for overall and division, so I ended up getting the 2nd place medal for my age group by default! As Homer Simpson once said, “The two sweetest words in the English language; default! DE-FAULT! DE-FAULT!” :)

Afterward, they had all of the usual food and drink items for the runners; Gatorade, fruit, bagels, etc. But being this is Green Bay, they also had free bratwursts for the runners! So I enjoyed a hot bratwurst while I watched some of the half marathon leaders finish. A run through Lambeau, a medal, and fresh cooked sausage at the finish; how could it possibly get any better?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Adjoining rooms, and no small potatoes

Adjoining rooms at the Paris Hilton

With mixed feelings that some of my money might be helping to fund Paris Hilton’s lavish lifestyle, I stayed at the Green Bay Hilton Garden Inn, which was mere blocks away from Lambeau Field and the start of my race. After a long drive and a fun tour of all that is the Green Bay Packers, I decided to rest for a little while and watch some PGA golf before dinner.

My room was (unfortunately) an adjoining room, and the door to the other room seemed rather porous. You could hear everything that was going on next door. The reason I know this is because there was a younger guy and girl in the room (in town for a wedding), and I gathered they were “friends,” but the guy was looking for a little more out of the relationship. I was treated to a conversation involving this young Don Juan trying to smooth-talk his way out of the fact that he reserved a room with a single bed, which was not going over very well with the aforementioned girl (nice going, Slick!).

After hearing their conundrum, I have to believe they were both equally at fault. The guy was clearly not communicating his feelings effectively and let his clumsy hotel reservation-making skills do the talking for him. And it appeared as if the girl had been sending him mixed signals, as was evidenced by her “you are the best friend I have ever had, but here is why I am uncomfortable around you” statement (and no, I wasn’t eavesdropping...I could hear this conversation from across the room with the TV on at a pretty good volume!). Those crazy kids. Sounds like they were having a fun time in Green Bay!

Thank goodness it was dinner time so I could get the heck out of there.

Meat and a whole lot of potato

Normally before I race, I have a meal of pasta or pizza. But when in Green Bay, why would I go anywhere but Brett Favre’s Steakhouse? It was also literally right next door to the hotel (located on Brett Favre Pass, coincidentally enough!), so it made for an easy choice.



Since I was by myself, I grabbed a seat in the bar. The menu, as you undoubtely guessed, consists mainly of steak, and lots of it. No frills, no fuss. Just big cuts of meat, and even bigger potatoes.

I ordered one of their specialty steaks, the Italian crusted N.Y. strip, which was coated with basil, oregano, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It came with a loaded baked potato that was only slightly smaller than a football. I tried to take a picture of it without the flash so as not to draw attention to my geeky habits of photographing food. It is not focused very well, but it should give you some idea of the size of the potato (in case you need a point of reference, the steak is 14 oz.).



The food was quite good and fairly reasonable for a steakhouse, I thought. I enjoyed my meal (even though I barely dented the massive potato!), and I particulary liked the preparation with the herbs, garlic, and parmesan. That was new for me, and I would certainly like to have a steak like that again sometime. Afte washing it down with a Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark (hey, when in Wisconsin, do as the Wisconsinites do!), it was time to retire to the hotel room for some rest, a little NASCAR racing (which got rain-delayed so late that I missed the ending!), and to get ready for the big race tomorrow!

Green Bay Legends

You’re In Packer Country!

Downtown Green Bay is quite compact and is pretty easy to get around. In a matter of minutes, I found myself driving down Lombardi Avenue towards the what is one of the NFL’s greatest shrines, Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.

This city is absolutely defined by its NFL franchise. When you think of Green Bay, one thing, and one thing only, comes to mind; the Packers. It is nothing short of a religion, and everything about this city just screams green and gold.



I pulled into the famed Lambeau Field. I walked by a fenced-off section that was either the players’ parking area, or it was a Hummer dealership overflow lot (I am guessing the former, as there were several kids mobbing an unidentified man for autographs). Statues of the legendary Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau flank the entrance. Inside the atrium there is a sports bar and a pro shop where you can buy anything Packer related. You can even get a guided tour of the whole facility. But what was really neat was getting to visit the Packers Hall of Fame.

Located deep in the basement of Lambeau, this state of the art facility effectively encapsulates the history of the Packers organization. There are tons of interactive displays, game memoribilia, and everything Vince Lombardi. Visiting the Hall of Fame would likely make any dyed-in-the-wool Packers fan a bit misty-eyed. Perhaps the coolest part was getting to walk into the Hall of Fame room where all of the honored players and personnel are immortalized, and the three Lombardi Trophies from their Super Bowl wins are prominently displayed.



Curiously enough, Don Majkowski is in the Hall, which makes me think that the criteria for getting in is a bit lenient. This guy was one of the biggest flashes-in-the-pan and one-hit-wonders of all time. What kind of world do we live in where the "Majik Man" gets in to the Packers Hall of Fame, and poor, unappreciated Terdell Middleton gets left out in the cold? Is there no justice? ;-)

Seeing this place makes me want to be a fan of the Pack. The Vikings have nothing that even remotely resembles this kind of fervor and passion. This visit certainly increased my appreciation and respect for Green Bay's storied franchise.

Having soaked in enough of Lambeau for today (I will be seeing it again tomorrow), it was time to check in to my hotel.

The Road to Green Bay - Where the Real Runners Are

May 20, 2006

The Drive to Titletown

I left the apartment at 5:53 AM with my running gear in tow and my iPod charged up. I pointed the car east. Tomorrow was the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon weekend's 5k Race in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This was my first-ever trip to “Titletown,” and I couldn’t have been more excited.

It was a beautiful, sunny day to drive. And central Wisconsin does not get near the credit it deserves for being so beautiful. There are green fields, rolling hills, plenty of trees, and picturesque farms that dot the landscape. It is really pretty country.

I couldn’t help but notice the Amish buggy road signs, and actually saw an Amish buggy in the town of Curtiss, WI, where I stopped for breakfast. A “western skillet” breakfast at the Abbyland Restaurant was enough to tide me over until dinner, so I got back on the road (all the while watching out for reckless Amish buggies).

As I got deeper into the state, I realized I forgot something. How could I be so stupid not to have brought a cooler? Every little town I passed seemed to have its own country meat market! And how could I have not known that the maker of some of my favorite smoked meat products, Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats, is headquartered in Wittenberg, WI, right off of Hwy 29? I am such a fool. Note to self for next year; bring cooler.

At about 11:00 AM, I was getting close to Green Bay. In fact, I saw a sign that said “Green Bay 8.” 8 miles to the heart of the city, yet I was in the middle of farm country! There is no such thing as urban sprawl around here. You don’t have a clue you are getting to Green Bay until you are IN Green Bay!

I arrived in Green Bay and found my way downtown to the convention center to pick up my race packet. The place is busy, with many fit-looking people, various vendors, and lots of helpful volunteers. There are three events going on tomorrow; full marathon, half marathon, and the 5k.

Several months ago when I signed up for this event, I had envisioned running in 5k races all year simply as a way to do a whole bunch of races without the wear and tear of the longer events. I hadn’t put much thought into possibly wanting to do another half marathon, or maybe even something longer. When I arrived in Green Bay, I found myself wishing I had trained for the half marathon. I wasn't sure if I felt like a "real runner" amongst all these others who put in more dedication and effort. I sheepishly walked over to the 5k packet table (hoping none of the half marathoners or marathoners would stop, stare, point, and laugh!) to gather my belongings.

After picking up my stuff, I ventured out of downtown in search of (trying to do my best Chris Berman impersonation here) ”The Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Here comes the sun, and off to Green Bay

Wow, what a day! It is spectacular. 67 degrees, abundant sunshine, and a nice, cooling breeze. What is not to like? This is how every spring day should be!

I did my run after work, and my knee felt good. So I am a bit more optimistic than I was yesterday, and I am hoping it was just an anomaly. Today I made sure I stretched really well before a started (which I must confess is something that I have not been very religious about!). I also looked back at some notes from last year when I had my “runner’s knee,” and I found a good tip; shortening my stride helped, because it reduced impact and made for a smoother ride. So I focused on that today, and it seemed to be beneficial (chalk that up as a really good reason to keep a running journal!).

I managed to have a good, pain-free run. I took it fairly easy, concentrating more on my stride and form more than my speed. I felt comfortable out there, and had an enjoyable and relaxing run, which is always a nice way to end a work week. I ran by what must have been the high school track team doing some hill repeats, and I felt like a was faring better than many of them, so that made me smile, too! :)

Tomorrow I am off to Green Bay, Wisconsin for my race on Sunday morning. I am really looking forward to the weekend, and I will give you a full report on the tourism, dining, and the race, once I return from “Packer Country!”

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wounded knee

Today is a day off from running, which is probably good because my right knee is a little stiff. I am not sure if it is my “runner’s knee” returning, or if it is due to the bruise I sustained from smacking my knee into a piece of furniture (OK, I’ll confess, it was actually a precariously placed beer cooler that was, at the time, sitting in the hall!).

I am hoping it is the latter, because I have barely started my training, and if I have runner’s knee now, it is going to be a long summer. I do have a patella strap to help stabilize the kneecap, and I did swap out the gel inserts in my shoes to see if I can get better cushioning. Stay tuned.

Since I have nothing else to talk about, how about a photo of tonight’s dinner? Pepperoni and mushroom pizza with fontina, mozzarella, and aged provolone cheese. Yum! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Happy Syttende Mai!

Happy Syttende Mai to you all!



For the non-Norwegians in the crowd, today is Norwegian Constitution Day. "Syttende Mai," as it is commonly called, literally means "May 17th." This was the day in 1814 when Norway declared itself an independent nation, and it is considered their 4th of July. There will be all kinds of parades and celebrations going on throughout Norway. Even the Norseland Lutheran Church in Norseland, MN, will be hosting its annual Syttende Mai smorgasbord, serving up some traditional Norwegian fare.

Since everyone claims to be a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, I challenge you all to be a little bit Norwegian on Syttende Mai. Have a little lutefisk, maybe some Jarlsberg cheese, drink a shot of aquavit, and tell a few good Swedish jokes! :)

Today’s run was a jog around my usual route, once again. All in all, I took it pretty easy today, trying to save a little energy for the busy weekend ahead of me. It was 72 degrees, sunny, and generally very nice. The 80 MPH north wind was a little hard to deal with (OK, I am slightly exaggerating, it was only 30 MPH!). Also having difficulties with the wind was the first Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly I have seen this season. Always fun to see these yellow and black beauties!

This evening's agenda includes the second to the last episode of "Lost," which is getting really intense. In my humble opinion, this could be the greatest TV show ever, and the creators are nothing short of geniuses. I am anxious to see if they have another cryptic "commercial" for The Hanso Foundation tonight!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Instant summer

Remember on Saturday when I was complaining about having to find a stocking cap? Well, what a difference a few days makes!

It was 75 and sunny today, with big, puffy clouds and a nice breeze. Instant summer! The sad part is, that is almost too warm for comfortable running! :) I am such a complainer!

I ran the normal route today, and in all seriousness, it was nice out there. It even felt like summer with the sun and warmth, but with some welcome relief from a northern breeze. Tons of people were getting their yardwork done today, presumably because the weather was so awful this past weekend. Birds were singing. Painted turtles were sitting on their logs enjoying the abundant sunshine. Not a bad day.

An administrative note; you might notice there are some new features on my blog. If you scroll down the page and look on the right hand side, you will see some additional “archive” sections.

First, I have added an archive for the recipe posts. Since current posts drop off the main page in a week, anyone interested will now have quick access to the recipe and food-related posts without having to scroll through the monthly archives manually. Second, there is now an archive for any future travel or trip-related posts, if for no other reason than to simply keep them all in one place.

Nothing too wild and crazy on the agenda this evening. Dinner will consist of some leftover pizza, and then (since season finale time is upon us) I will be settling in for the finales of two of my favorite shows, "NCIS" and "The Unit". Should make for some good viewing tonight!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, May 15, 2006

Running in the Wolverine State

Today is my day off from running. And what better to do on a day off than scheme about a trip and another race?

This weekend I made plans for a little summer vacation. While thumbing through one of my Trail Runner magazines, I discovered something called the Keweenaw Trail Running Festival in Copper Harbor, Michigan, on July 7th - 9th.

A trip to the U.P. to run in a race? It really isn't that far away. And as my Dad said, "That's a good way to see this country...run through it!" Why not? Sign me up!

The Keweenaw Trail Running Festival sounds like a very cool event. Not only are there are a number of different races going on over the weekend (I am entering the 25k race on the 9th), but there is a trail running expo with various shoe and gear vendors. Also, the event places a big focus on the environment and conservation, as well as healthy, organic, locally-grown foods. Plus, I have never been to Michigan before (this seems like a good excuse to go), and the Copper Harbor and Keweenaw Peninsula areas look absolutely gorgeous.

The course sounds pretty interesting, too. They call it a "highly diverse trail" (which is a kind way of calling it "hilly"), and it even involves a stream crossing in the later stages of the race (stream….crossing?). I am sure this will prove to be a good test for me as I prepare for the Moose Mountain Marathon in September.

Of course, before going I will have to rewatch the classic movie, "Escanaba in da Moonlight," to brush up on my knowledge and understanding of "Yooper" culture. I might even have a pasty or two. :)

My summer plans are starting to take shape, and I am getting pretty excited!

Later,

Jean

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Running Food: Good Eats Meat Loaf

What could be better on a cool, dreary day than some good comfort food? Not much! And after a couple of good, long runs this weekend, I thought I would treat myself. So today I made meat loaf. This is one of the ultimate ”Blue Plate specials” from the diners of yesteryear.

My favorite recipe is that of Alton Brown on the Food Network. I follow most of the amounts pretty closely, but as with many recipes, I don’t do everything exactly as written!

-For one, I make my meat loaf with 2 parts beef and 1 part pork, so I ground up some fresh beef chuck roast and some pork shoulder this morning.

-Also, I mince the vegetables by hand and like to cook them first before adding them to the meat mixture, just sweating them in a skillet for a few minutes. This way, it softens them up a little, and it makes for a more complex flavor, I think.

-I add a little squirt of ketchup (a few tablespoons?) and a splash of Worchestershire sauce to the meat mixture.

-I use two eggs instead of one.

-I bake it right in the loaf pan (I don’t care, I like it that way!). And no need for a fancy probe thermometer. Increase the temperature to 350 and bake for 1 hour (adding the glaze after 40-45 minutes) and your meat loaf will be right in the 150 - 155 degree wheelhouse.

OK, maybe I don’t follow the recipe that closely. But hey, Alton always says, “play with your food,” so I will! Whatever the case, this stuff is delicious. But what I am really look forward to is tomorrow, because leftover meat loaf is almost better than freshly baked. Can you say cold meat loaf sandwiches for lunch this week? :)

Enjoy,

Jean

An "Ultramarathon Man" update

Earlier this week I had posted a book review of Dean Karnazes’ Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner.

Here is a recent article on Karnazes in the Monterey County Herlad that talks about what he did at the Big Sur Marathon, and it touches upon his upcoming attempt at the Endurance 50.

This guy is incredible!

The Weather Channel is not always right

Guess what? It is still raining!

I got up this morning, turned on The Weather Channel, and they said it was cloudy and 45 degrees. Great, I thought. I would throw on my long-sleeved running shirt and head on out.

When I walked outside, I couldn’t help but notice there was a steady drizzle coming down. I went back to the apartment for a jacket. I guess I should come to expect these things when I get my local weather from a network based in Atlanta!

It was kind of one of those “tweener” days. It was almost too cold for shorts, but not cold enough for tights. I ended up being almost too warm in my jacket, but I think I would have been miserable without it. Oh well, you just have to suck it up and run!

I ran a new route today, one that uses part of my “usual” route, but added a section west of me that runs through an old, established neighborhood with many big trees and curvy roads. There are also a lot of hills to contend with, which is good because I need to do more hill work. After I got done, I clocked the route with my car, and it is a 6.2 miles, so a perfect 10k.

Lots of great wildlife this morning! The beautiful cardinals were out in full force, happily singing in spite of the rain. And there were so many cottontail rabbits running around that I thought I was in a Monty Python sketch.

Perhaps most exciting was seeing that my buddy, the green heron, was back. He and I have this little game we play. I run by the pond, and he flies out of the reeds. This seems to happen almost every day like clockwork, and it is always a treat to see this cute little heron. I look forward to rousting him from his hiding place numerous times this summer!

Today should be a restful and relaxing Sunday. Meat loaf is on the menu tonight, and I think I have earned it after my longer runs! I will share the recipe later, because it is a tasty one!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Running Food: Maple-Glazed Salmon

Salmon is a such a wonderful, healthy food, and this is a dish I have been making for years now. I got the recipe idea from Bob Blumer, who is known as ”The Surreal Gourmet.” However, I have significantly altered the recipe to give it my own twist.

Blumer's original recipe just called for maple syrup and soy sauce in the marinade. I tried that, but I thought it turned out too sweet and candied. I felt it was missing some spice and a certain zippiness to balance out the sweetness.

So, over the years I have tinkered with the recipe, and I think I have something pretty good. I mixed in some balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and a little bit of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce to add a smoky, spicy element. I also started dusting the top of the fillet with a little ancho chile powder, along with the cracked black pepper that Blumer uses.

The overnight soak in the maple mixture violates every rule there is about marinating fish, but this recipe is the exception. The results are great. This process almost "cures" the salmon. When cooked, you will end up with a sweet, spicy, and tangy fillet of salmon with a firmer texture on the outside, but a moist texture inside. By the way, the marinade is enough for probably up to 4 fillets, so no need to increase the amount of marinade for a few more pieces of salmon.


Maple-Glazed Salmon with Ancho Chile Crust

Marinade:
-1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup (the real stuff, not Aunt Jemima!)
-2 T. Dijon mustard (feel free to experiment with other gourmet mustards!)
-1 T. soy sauce
-1 T. balsamic vinegar
-A few shots of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce (or some other chipotle-based hot sauce)

Remaining ingredients:
-6 oz. fillet(s) of fresh salmon, skin removed
-Fresh cracked black pepper
-ancho chile powder

Instructions: Mix up the maple syrup, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and Tabasco chipotle sauce. Place salmon fillet(s) in a large Ziplock bag, pour the marinade over the fillet(s), and refrigerate overnight, turning the fillets occasionally. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 475 F. Place some aluminum foil over a baking sheet and brush with a little olive oil. Remove the fillet(s) from the marinade. Put the salmon on the foil-lined baking sheet. Crack some fresh black pepper on top of the salmon, along with a dusting of ancho chile powder, to form a flavorful crust when baking. Bake for 7 minutes, no longer (trust me!). Serve immediately.

Enjoy,

Jean

Sunless Saturday

Back in college around 1991, I remember a song entitled “Sunless Saturday” by the relatively obscure alt-rock group, Fishbone. What a perfect description of today! It is gray, gloomy, overcast, damp, and cold. A wonderful day for the Minnesota fishing opener, wouldn’t you say? :) When Dad and I were talking last night, he said there is no cold like the cold you experience when sitting out on a lake in a boat during weather like this. Given some past "opener" experiences with my brother, I would have to agree. And to think that back in my hometown there are thousands of people on Mille Lacs Lake right now in search of the elusive walleye. Brrrr!

On to my run; At 6 AM it was 40 degrees (with a 36 degree windchill). There was also a northwest wind and a barely perceptible mist. It was enough to make me dig out some heavy duty clothes that I had put away for the season (obviously too soon). Namely, that included the running tights, my Illuminite windbreaker, and my stocking cap.

Since I did a 7 miler last weekend, I thought I would go a little longer today. I took a package of Clif Shot gel (I dined on the "Razz" flavor this morning!) and hit the road. Today I ran on the Southwest Regional LRT Trail through Minnetonka. This was a route I became familiar with last summer as I trained for my half marathon.

The trail is an old railroad bed that I think (eventually) is going to become part of a light rail network. But for now, it is maintained by the park system, and you can go all the way from Hopkins to Victoria or Chanhassen, if you so desire. It is perfect for walking, running, or biking.

I enjoy going this route on the weekends. It takes me through scenic Minnetonka Mills past Minnehaha Creek and the historic Burwell House. I ran to Tonka Wood Road, which is exactly 4 miles from my doorstep. Turning around and coming right back made for a satisfying 8 miles today.

The mist in the air was kind of pleasant, and your certainly aren’t cold once you get moving. So all in all, it was a good run day. And the great thing about running at 6 AM is there are very few others who are up that early. I saw a total of 4 people on my run today.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, May 12, 2006

Gearing up for Green Bay

Today is my day off from running. That is fine with me because it is 45 degrees and pouring down rain (which my new watch successfully predicted, by the way!). I just talked to Mom and Dad, and they were seeing some snow flurries this evening in northern Minnesota. On May 12th? Keep in mind we are only 17 days away from Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. Wow!

I am starting to get excited. A week from tomorrow I will be loading up the Jetta and venturing east into America's Dairyland. I'm participating in the 5k race during the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon weekend in Green Bay, WI. I am really looking forward to the trip.

Why go all the way to Green Bay just to run 3.1 miles, you ask? Well, I have never been to the epicenter of "Packer country," and I figured any football fan should do that at least once. But one of the main draws for all of the races is that the runners get to do a lap around the inside of historic Lambeau Field during the last mile! A chance to run around the infamous "frozen tundra" is bound to be a treat for anyone who follows the game. Of course, I will provide a full report when I return from my weekend in GB, so stay tuned.

As stated earlier, I am looking forward to doing a little cooking this weekend. I think I have settled on salmon for Saturday night during the Dodge Charger 500, and Sunday will be some good, old-fashioned meatloaf. Recipes will be shared! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, May 11, 2006

More new gear

Once again, from the Running Gear Geek's Corner, I picked up a couple of new toys yesterday:

First, I got a new pair of sunglasses for running. I am kind of excited about the Julbo Magic shades, and I never would have heard about these sunglasses were it not for a review I read in Trail Runner Magazine. The Julbo Magic has 4 sets of interchangable lenses (clear, amber, gray, mirrored) that you can customize to your liking for different light conditions. It took me a little while to figure out how to change the lenses (there were no instructions!). But once I did, the process was pretty easy. I am particularly happy to have the amber len option because those should be great for lower light conditions when running through the woods. It comes with a virtually bulletproof case, too. Best of all, it was half the price of the last set of Oakleys I bought (which have only 1 set of permanent lenses!). These are going to be great.

Second, I got a new watch. Or should I call it a "wrist computer?" The HighGear Axis has a ton of features. Of course, it tells you the time and has a stopwatch. In addition to that, it will save my last 20 run times. It tells the temperature, too. The Axis also has a compass, an altimeter (that will also track accumulated and maximum altitude), and it measures the barometric pressure in an effort to predict the weather. Right now I can tell you the temperature reading is not exactly spot on because it picks up the body heat generated from your wrist! And, the altimeter does need to be calibrated often because it relies on the barometric pressure, so you need to set it before you intend to use it. But the barometer is right on the money when comparing it to my local weather information on the National Weather Service website. It will be fun to see how this performs, because there are some cool bells and whistles. I look forward to trying it out over the summer.

Later,

Jean

Against The Wind

I have been a long time listener to the local "classic rock" station, 92 KQRS FM in Minneapolis, and I have developed a deep appreciation for the quality rock 'n roll of the 60's through the 80's. Today I could not help but think of that old Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band song, "Against The Wind." Except for the green leaves, it looks and feels like November rather than May. It is gloomy and gray, and there is a 25-30 MPH wind to contend with. And let me tell you (quoting Bob Seger), "we were runnin' against the wind."

Needless to say, she was a wee bit breezy on the run tonight! The pond I run by actually had waves on it, and the little red-winged blackbirds were doing all they could to hang on to the cattails and reeds. I couldn't tell if the wind was coming from the north, northwest, or northeast. Sometimes it seemed like all three, because I never felt like I got a break! On those rare stretches where I was going with the wind, I was really moving, but those spots were few and far between.

That being said, days like today are a really good workout. I always feel like I got something accomplished on windy days, because you definitely have to work harder when you are getting beat up by the elements. And it is a satisfying feeling when you are done.

Tonight is the last of my leftover Schmidts ring bologna for dinner (still yummy), and then I will be catching the new episode of "The Office." Tomorrow is Friday, which marks not only the start of the weekend, but it is also the infamous Minnesota fishing opener starting at midnight Saturday. This year, I will not be fighting the traffic heading north. Instead, I am staying put to do some running, some cooking, and watch a little NASCAR racing and PGA TOUR golf, and I am really looking forward to it!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A good day to be a meteorologist

Ever experience one of those days where it is a mix of bright sun and gray clouds, the wind is blowing 20-30 MPH, and even when the sun is shining brightly, you are getting pelted by raindrops? That pretty much describes today! Weird weather at best. How could a meteorologist not be smiling on a day like today? You could have pretty much called for anything except snow and you would have been at least partially correct! :) Strange day.

Speaking of meteorologists, check out the blog of KARE 11's Sven Sundgaard. My folks are still upset that he left their Duluth NBC station for the Cities. Sven is also a big time runner, and for some reason, he has a pet goat.

Anyhow, I had a very solid run tonight. Despite the odd weather, it was 60 degrees outside, so the temperature was ideal. It was the usual route, once again, and I felt really strong today. A good all-around run.

Worth noting is that the baby Canada geese have hatched! There were some little, fuzzy, yellow puffballs on the shore of the pond when I ran by this afternoon. I know, they are regarded as somewhat of a nuisance bird these days, but the babies are still adorable!

Tonight's dinner is some leftover oven-roasted ring bologna from Schmidts Meat Market (yum). After that, I will be tuning in to "Bones" on FOX, and I absolutely cannot wait for the new episode of "Lost" on ABC. Things are getting pretty wild as we approach the season finale!

Until later,

Jean

Norseland in the news

Not at all running related, but I thought I would share this:

Following up on my post from Sunday, I wrote about my visit to St. Peter and Norseland, and I mentioned the fact that the Norseland Country Store was closing after 148 years of operation.

WCCO TV in Minneapolis did a very nice story about the store's closing on their evening news last night. Please check it out and read a little bit about Norseland's history!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Ultramarathon Man: A book review

From the Jean's Running Blog Literature Corner... :)

I just finished reading Dean Karnazes' memoir, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, so I thought I would write a brief review.

You might think this guy is nuts. While that remains a distinct possibility, Dean Karnazes is still a pretty amazing specimen. How many people do you know who could run 100 miles to the START of a marathon, and then run the marathon in 3 hours and 15 minutes?

Karnazes was a driven, successful young professional in the San Francisco Bay area. Something happened to him on his 30th birthday which caused him to experience a mid-life crisis of sorts. After an evening of boozing and partying, he got home in the middle of the night and put on a pair of old running shoes. Dean, who had not run since high school, ran off into the darkness. He did not stop until he reached Half Moon Bay, which was 30 miles away!

This led to some incredible changes in his life and fueled his quest for adventure. Karnazes began a regular training schedule and started to seek out more challenges. The more difficult, the better. Eventually he started entering himself into the most extreme races he could find. His first Western States 100 (a one-day, 100 mile trail race that is regarded as one of the most grueling tests of endurance in the world) is covered in great detail. Subsequent chapters deal with other unbelievable events, such as a marathon in Antarctica, the truly insane Badwater Ultramarathon (a 135 mile race through Death Valley!), as well as attempts to run 200 miles and beyond. His achievements are simply mind-boggling.

The writing style is pretty straightforward, making for an easy and relatively quick read. Even so, Karnazes still does a good job of capturing his spirit, motivation, and acts of charity, as well as his thoughts and emotions during the races. It is an enjoyable book for runners especially, but also for anyone who is interested in reading about human potential and striving towards seemingly unrealistic and impossible goals.

As a side note, Dean's newest adventure is starting this fall. As a promotion for The North Face, Karnazes is attempting the Endurance 50, an event where he will run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days! He is scheduled to run the Twin Cities Marathon course on October 23, 2006.

Running Food: Thai Basil Chicken

All right, since today is a non-running day, it's recipe time as promised!

First, a disclaimer; yes, I fully admit that I frequently photograph the dishes I cook. The digital camera I bought even has a "cuisine" mode, which was its main selling point for me! Hey, I think it is fun. Weird? Perhaps. But, I am not to the point where I am becoming the next Tucker Shaw. This guy has a book called Everything I Ate: A Year In The Life Of My Mouth. Shaw photographed every piece of food he ate in 2004, even documenting the time, location, and who he was with (he even had a dinner at Bellisio's in Duluth, a restaurant that I love!). He didn't miss a thing. It is really quite an impressive undertaking.

Anyhow, on to the recipe! I love making stir-fries. They are easy to make, very nutritious for a runner's diet, and they cook quickly. This is my Thai basil chicken recipe, which has evolved from a combination of recipes I have tried. It is loosely based on a more authentic Thai dish called holy basil chicken, but who can find fresh holy basil? I have never even seen it. You can simply substitute the widely available fresh basil you would use for Italian dishes.

This dish is healthy and lean, with lots of nice vegetables and carbohydrates. It is a flexible dish too, so feel free to try it with other veggies if you like, or substitute pork or shrimp in place of the chicken. Make it as spicy or mild as you like. All of the ingredients should be available at any large supermarket. There are instructions for making this either a rice dish or a noodle dish, if you prefer.


Jean's Thai Basil Chicken

For the sauce, combine together:
-5 T. Thai fish sauce
-3 T. light soy sauce
-3 T. white wine
-1 T. oyster sauce
-1 T. chili-garlic sauce
-1 t. roasted red chili paste
-2 T. sugar

The chicken and veggies:
-1 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
-1 T. Thai fish sauce
-1 T. vegetable or peanut oil
-1 T. garlic, minced
-1 T. fresh ginger, grated
-1 T. jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
-1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
-4 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
-8 oz. crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
-6 oz. rice stick noodles, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes until, drained (optional)

To finish:
-A handful of shredded fresh basil

To serve:
-Steamed jasmine rice (if not using noodles)
-A bottle of sriracha chili sauce on the side

Assembly:

Make the sauce (this can be done well in advance and refrigerated until needed). Cut up the chicken and marinate in the Thai fish sauce for about an hour in the fridge.

When ready to cook, heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken, garlic, ginger, and optional jalapeño if using.  Stir-fry the chicken until no longer pink and set aside.

Add the remaining vegetables and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken to the vegetables and stir fry for a couple more minutes.

If using the rice stick noodles, add them now and give everything a good stir. Pour in the sauce, allowing everything to come up to temperature. When ready to serve, add your basil at the last possible minute to maintain its freshness.

If you are not using rice stick noodles, serve it over steamed jasmine rice. Keep a bottle of sriracha chili sauce on the side for those who like a lot of heat. Serves 4 hungry people.

Enjoy!

Monday, May 8, 2006

Pure Energy

A quick note from the "Running Gear Geek's Corner"...

My friends who went to high school during the 80's might remember a Minneapolis band called Information Society. They had a one-hit-wonder dance song called "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)." Not sure if this is the pure energy that "InSoc" had in mind, but for runners, pure energy now comes in gel form!

In anticipation of the longer runs this summer, I recently stocked up on a bunch of energy gels. I used them last summer when I trained for my half marathon, and they really do help. Basically what they are is concentrated packets of carbohydrates in gel form that you can take while you are running. Think of it as gooey Gatorade! The packets are nice and small, so you can carry them in a waist pack. When you need a pick-me-up, you squeeze a packet of gel into your mouth and chase it with a little bit of water. They come in numerous flavors that actually taste pretty good.

This year I found a bunch of Clif Shot on sale, but last year I used PowerGel almost exclusively, which also performed well (the raspberry cream flavor comes highly recommended). And you really don't need to be a runner to use these. Any active outdoor participants from bikers to hikers to golfers would appreciate the convenience of this concentrated energy boost. Although if you are a golfer, you might be defeating the purpose if you wash down your energy gel with a cold Miller Lite from the beverage cart! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Oh, the humidity!

Kind of a weird, overcast day where it looked like it really wanted to rain, but never quite got going. It sure FEELS like it wants to rain. The temperature was in the upper 60’s today, which is generally pretty comfortable. But man, was it humid on the run today!

Humidity at any temperature seems to be my nemesis. The air is so stagnant and thick, and it feels like I am exerting more, even when in reality I am not. I did the normal route today at a pretty easy pace (since I did the longer run yesterday). When I finished, I must have looked like I showered with my running clothes on! Tougher sledding today, but I had better start bracing myself for summer because things are only going to get warmer!

Despite the humidity, things sure are getting pretty in my neighborhood. The maple leaves are almost completely out, and some of the flowering trees are starting to shed their flowers. Chipping sparrows are hopping around all over the place. And, I can’t believe I forgot to mention this yesterday, but I saw my first wood ducks of the year, a male and a female. I have been waiting to see them this spring, because they are arguably the prettiest of all the ducks.

Tomorrow is a day off, so perhaps I will have to share a recipe with you or something! :)

Later,

Jean

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Down on the farm

I had the opportunity to get out of the Twin Cities this weekend, which for a displaced country boy like myself is always a treat. I got to go visit my Aunt Ann and Uncle Jim down on the farm near St. Peter, MN, a beautiful city nestled along the scenic Minnesota River Valley.

My Mom's side of the family, the Olmanson's, came from a small Norwegian community on the outskirts of St. Peter called Norseland. Norseland consists of a couple of quaint churches, a feed store, and a general store that is (sadly) closing after its 148th year of operation. It is an area with some beautiful countryside, and it is steeped in Norwegian tradition.

Most of you know that my Grandparents passed away last fall, so this has been, without question, a year of change. I always enjoyed their farm, and I can recall many family holidays and summer vacations as a kid visiting my Grandparents, hanging out in the barn or the machine shed, riding on the tractor with Grandpa, helping Grandma make the traditional Norwegian lefse at Christmas, and playing with all the dogs and cats. It was great fun!

There is still no shortage of animals on the farm. Along with Maggie, the golden lab, and the numerous kitty cats, Jim and Ann have four beautiful Percheron horses. It is astonishing to me how big these animals are, and they are really gentle giants. Jim will actually use them as work horses, and they have made appearances at various local parades and events.

I had a really nice time visiting with Jim and Ann. It was great to see the old farm again, and the weather couldn't have been any nicer this weekend. Lots of sunshine and blue skies, which we really appreciate here in Minnesota! And, to keep an heirloom in the family, I got to bring home the writing desk from my Grandparents' kitchen. An honor, indeed.

One of the other benefits of my trip was getting to stop at Schmidts Meat Market in Nicollet, MN. If you were raised in rural Minnesota, chances are good that you know where there is an excellent country meat market. There are plenty of good ones, and everyone has their favorite. Our favorite is Schmidts.

Schmidts is a shrine, as far as I am concerned. It is an old-school German meat market. How old-school, you ask? Well, they don't even have a web site, as far as I can tell! :) But seriously, going there is nearly a religious experience for any meat aficionado. The moment you walk in, you are hit with this ethereal, sweet, smoky smell. It is absolutely intoxicating. The place is always busy and packed with people. They make the best sausage products I have ever had, and they have a meat counter than is second to none. If you ever find yourself anywhere near St. Peter or Mankato, you need to seek this out. I promise you, it will be worth it!

OK, I know this blog is supposed to be about running. But, life is about more than just running, so I hope you don't mind me going off on a tangent, because that is likely to happen a LOT! :) I did squeeze in an "accidental" 7 mile run on Sunday. I say that because I had intended to only do about a 10k distance, but the creek had flooded a portion of the trail I was running on. There was just no way to get across. I had to backtrack, which added at least another 3/4 mile! It still felt good. That was one of the longer runs I had done in some time, and I did it without much effort, so that was reassuring. This gives me confidence that I have a solid fitness base in order to begin my marathon training. Also, it was just plain fun! It reminded me of my training runs last summer, so I am starting to look forward to some of my longer weekend runs now.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, May 5, 2006

"Mmmmm....ButterBurger!"

For years now, my folks (Dad in particular) have been extolling the virtues of Culver's, citing it as one of the best fast food burger joints out there. Believe it or not, up until last Friday I had never been one, even though there are a couple of them within five minutes of my office. Now I have been there two weeks in a row for lunch! Their famous "ButterBurgers" are really quite delicious and taste very much like homemade. And the prices really aren't all that different from that of, say, a Wendy's. Anyhow, Culver's has my endorsement. Check 'em out if you haven't already. Good stuff!

Since "ButterBurgers" do not come without calories, I might have to impose a new rule on myself; those days that I dine at Culver's, I must go running! So, tonight I ran.

Not the warmest of spring days today. A note from the parents said they actually had SNOW FLURRIES up in the north county this morning. Happy Cinco de Mayo, Mom and Dad! :) But this afternoon, the clouds gave way to some sunshine. Cool and in the lower 50's, it was perfect for running.

Again, it was the usual route, but there is always something new to see. Tonight the barn swallows and tree swallows were gracefully skimming the surface of the calm, glassy pond in search of small morsels to eat. And either the western metro is under siege, or there is (or will be) an air show in town. Several vintage military airplanes flew over me today, including five of them in a perfect "V" formation. Very cool!

On the docket for this weekend is a trip to St. Peter to visit my Aunt Ann and Uncle Jim. I have not been to their farm in several months now, so I am really looking forward to seeing them. I also plan on doing a little shopping at an old fashioned German meat market along the way. More on that when I return!

Enjoy your weekend,

Jean

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Coolers days, and a little hardware

Windy, cloudy, cool...welcome to spring in Minnesota!

The wind was blowing pretty good. If fishing season was open, they would have said there was a little "walleye chop" out there on the lakes today! That being said, it was comfortable running. Temperatures were in the mid 50's, which is really just about perfect for a runner. I did the "usual" route once again. The trees are getting so pretty, and the smell of lilacs blooming is absolutely everywhere. This is a glorious time of year.

Let me just preface ths by saying I run in races simply because I enjoy running in races. It is the thrill of the experience that I enjoy the most. But, every so often, something fun and unexpected happens, too. Today I opened my mail and found that the race director from the Run The Valley 5k sent me a bronze medal for finishing 3rd in the 30-39 age group! I wasn't expecting that, so it was a cool memento from the first time I ever placed in my divison. I now officially have two pieces of hardware to show for my racing efforts, the other being my Des Moines Half Marathon finishers medal. I won't be signing any endorsement deals as a result or anything, but hey, that was really fun! :)

Have a great night!

Jean

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Talking about gear

Today is a day off from running. Kind of a shame, since it is gorgeous out! But over the last several months, I have been trying to stick to a fairly regular schedule of two days running and one day off. This way, I get to run at least 5 days a week while still getting adequate rest. It ensures I am not overtraining like I did last summer. My marathon training will begin later in May. I am still looking at different training plans to find one that I think will work best for me. I am hoping to find one that offers a similar pattern of rest while still getting adequate mileage.

I need something else to discuss today since I am not running, so let's talk about gear! I will fully admit to being a geek, and I love having all the right stuff. So here are some of the things I have learned over the last couple years that help to make running more successful and enjoyable:

The old cotton T-shirts and gym shorts are out! The new "microfiber" running gear is the best. It is thinner, lighter, slicker, and actually wicks moisture away from the body to help keep you cooler. Cotton clothing holds on to moisture, becomes heavy, could cause chafing, and will not dry quickly. Virtually every shoe manufacturer makes their own line of clothing that would fit the bill nicely.

Believe it or not, socks actually make a difference! Gone are the 6-packs of of the plain white tube socks. There are some really great running socks out there that have reinforced heels and toes that offer extra cushioning in the strike zones and help to prevent blisters. They also wick moisture away, helping to keep your feet dry. Current favorite brands of mine are Thorlos and PowerSox.

Avoid buying shoes just because they look cool, and go somewhere with a knowledgeable sales staff. A specialty running store will give you the best service. There, they will put you on a treadmill and watch what your feet do to help determine what type of shoe you need, and they will make sure you are fitted properly. That is service you will not get at a sporting goods superstore, and the prices are really no different. Most importantly, you will know you are getting the right shoe for you. The store I go to is the Start Line in Minnetonka. Very nice and helpful folks there.

All right, enough babbling! Time to get dinner ready. Tonight is really exotic; a box of Annie's Macaroni and Cheese! Actually, the stuff is pretty good, and it is organic, too. Then later on is the much anticpated new episode of "Lost," accompanied by a glass of wine! :)

Later,

Jean

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Mother Nature is a tease

Weather this time of year is always such a rollercoaster. It can go from a miserable 50 degree days like on Saturday to a 70 degree and sunny day like today in no time at all. Everything is so green and lush. The flowering trees are blossoming. The birds are singing, and the sun is shining.

Or, at least it was shining.

The moment I walked out of the office, a bank of gray, ominous clouds moved in from the west. The wind increased, and it looked like the heavens could open up at any second. Huh? Where did the sun go?

The lesson is, as always, if you don't like the weather in Minnesota, wait for 5 minutes!

That being said, I had a nice run tonight. The legs felt good after the race weekend, so I am resting properly. It was the usual 4.5 mile route again today. Thankfully, I did not get rained on (it just looked like I was going to!), and the cloud cover actually does make for more pleasant running. And while Mother Nature teased me with the earlier sunshine, she sure treated me to some great wildlife during today's run.

There were a pair of hooded mergansers swimming around on the pond today very close to shore. They are beautiful little ducks, and the male even puffed up his magnificent crest for me. And, not more than two blocks later, I got to see the resident albino gray squirrel. He is pure white and stands out like a sore thumb! I had not seen him in some time, so I was happy to see he was still around. Always nice to see some fun and interesting creatures while putting in the mileage.

Speaking of mileage, I found a great Internet tool powered by Google called the Gmaps Pedometer. It allows you to point and click on different spots on a map to record a route and calculate its mileage. I traced my running route, and it is almost spot on.

Until next time,

Jean

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