Friday, June 30, 2006

Hot! Hot! Hot!

This has to be the hottest day of the year. In my neighborhood, it was 92 degrees, sunny, and windy. Throw in a dewpoint that is hovering around 68 degress, and you have a pretty damp and humid day.

So, what better to do on a day like this than run 6 1/2 miles? Yeah, I am not too bright. But, I reasoned that because tomorrow will be a travel day for me, I might not get a run in. So I thought I would put in a little extra today to compensate. It was brutal out there. And it was slow. But, I made it, and I feel really good right now in the comfort of my air-conditioned apartment!

This was a good month of running. Adding up the numbers, I hit 102.1 miles for June, and I had a very successful race three weeks ago. July promises to be busy, with two trail races on the schedule in the next week and a half alone. I am looking forward to challenging myself a little bit more as we get deeper into the summer!

I mentioned that tomorrow is a travel day. I decided to wait until Saturday to head up to Mom and Dad's so I could avoid the brunt of the traffic. This proved to be an excellent decision. I couldn’t help but notice that the 494/694 interchange was almost at a standstill at only 2 PM this afternoon because all of the people heading north for the 4th. Insane!

Because I was not too motivated to cook this evening, I treated myself to a little takeout from The Lone Spur Grill & Bar. A “Burrito Grande” with beef brisket....mmmmm! Man, did that hit the spot. A little more packing, a little NASCAR night racing from Daytona, and my evening is complete.

As mentioned earlier, I will try to post some updates between now and the next 10 days, but no promises. For sure, you will be hearing from me when I return from the Wolverine State!

Have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend, everyone!

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Preparation and Organization

It was my day off from running (I will do one more run tomorrow night, and then on Saturday morning, it is vacation time!), so this is my opportunity to try and get organized for the trip!

The laundry is done, the packing had started, the duffle bags are out, clothing is being sorted; things are coming together nicely! I still have quite a bit to do, but progress is being made, and I will be ready to roll by the weekend!

Tonight’s dinner was pretty basic, however I did make a kicked-up version of a Boca veggie burger with sautéed mushrooms and honest to goodness Emmentaler cheese (who says veggie burgers have to be boring?).

If I have any dedicated readers in addition to my Mom, you will be sorely disappointed because my posts will become quite sporadic at best for the next week and a half. I might try to chime in and at least give you a "Tofte Trek" report from the 4th. But after tomorrow, you won't be hearing much from me until I return from Michigan, hopefully with a few cool stories!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Are all local TV newscasters runners?

Here in Minnesota, we have yet another local TV personality and avid runner with a blog! Ealier I mentioned Sven Sundgaard, the weekend meteorologist and running enthusiast over at KARE 11. But we must also talk about WCCO's Karen Leigh. She is the weekday morning news anchor at Channel 4 in Minneapolis, and Karen recently wrote in her blog about her decision to enter in the Twin Cities 10 Mile Race, an event that occurs in conjunction with the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon this fall. She has done a couple of half marathons previously, so she should have no issues with a mere 10 miler!

In the strangest of coincidences, her blog post just prior to the post about the race talks about vacationing in New York City and eating dinner at Trattoria Dell'Arte. I've literally spent less than 48 hours of my life in NYC (a business trip a few years ago). However, I happened to eat at the very same restaurant, which was right around the corner from my hotel in the heart of Manhattan! It was definitely as good as she described (I still remember the dish I had…a wild boar ragu with pappardelle noodles…mmmm!).

Hey, now…an attractive female runner with great taste in food and dining? Karen…call me… ;-)

Until next time,

Jean

Go-Go's lyrics, and running with the big dogs

Lately I have been singing the lyrics from the Go-Go's 1982 hit single, "Vacation," to myself:

”Vacation
All I ever wanted
Vacation
Had to get away”

My vacation is only two days away! WOOHOO!

While I am mentally prepared ("vacation mode" is starting to set in!), I can't say that I am physically prepared in that I have not packed a thing yet. And I really need to start thinking about that.

Before I go, I need to pay some bills, possibly do some laundry, and pretty much get everything organized and packed. I will need my regular clothes, running clothes, a few hats, camera, iPod, sunglasses, cooler, binoculars (sorry, this post is going to serve as my list…I need to write it all down somewhere so I remember!), several pairs of shoes, a road atlas so I can find Michigan, copies of my race registration, and my lodging reservation confirmation. I am going to be away from home for 10 days, which is the longest trip I have taken in some time.

I have said it before, but I can't wait. However, I had better get my act together!

Hey, I suppose I could mention my run today! It was yet another day in the paradise that is Minnesota in the summer. 78 degrees, with big puffy clouds and plent of sunshine. Not too bad!

I did another 5 mile run today. It was slightly warmer today than it was yesterday, and there was less wind so it definitely felt hotter. I ran relatvely easy, but I ran well, so it was productive.

On the run, I saw the strangest combination of dogs. A lady was out walking a little Beagle and an enormous Great Dane. Talk about a difference in size! Those Great Danes are huge. I think you could have put a saddle on this one! Anyhow, it was cute and kind of cartoonish to see these two dogs side by side.

Until next time,

Jean

Article: Adding variety to your diet

I just thought I would pass this along:

I found an interesting food-related article on Active.com's website talking about adding variety to your diet. Granted, some of the nutritional suggestions in the article might seem a bit elementary, and we have all heard a similar song and dance before. However, it does give us some nice tips for mixing things up a little.

Bottom line; not only is varying your diet good for you, but it helps to keep things fun and interesting!

Check it out!

Jean

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Shooting for 100, and a WS100 update

It was a nice day for a run. Surprisingly cool at 73 degrees, it was a little hazy and overcast with a fairly strong north wind. Even though it was a bit breezy, the cooler temperatures made up for it.

Lots of bird activity today; mallards, Canada geese with their babies, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, and the pied-billed grebes were out and about. Even the birds were enjoying this beautiful summer day.

I ran a little longer than normal today, extending my usual route to 5 miles. I realized that if I added a few more footsteps to my last scheduled runs in June, I would top 100 miles for the month for the first time since last September!

Speaking of 100 miles, I read some news articles about last weekend's Western States 100. Poor Brian Morrison from Seattle, WA. He was the first runner to cross the finish line, however he was stripped of the title due to a rules infraction . Morrison was staggering and fell several times in the last 1/4 mile. His crew apparently helped him to his feet each time, which is a violation because the only place a runner can receive aid is at an aid station. The title was subsequently given to Graham Cooper, the guy who finished second to Morrison.

How bad would that suck? You just ran 99 miles and change faster than anyone else, and you get DQ’ed with the finish line in sight. Wow, what a bummer! Despite the fact the the crew broke the rules, the race officials actually praised them because their helping him got him to the medical tent faster and could have prevented a life-threatening seizure. Yikes!

(And no, Mom, I am not thinking of entering this race someday....you can relax.) :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, June 26, 2006

Running Food: Italian-style Meatballs

Let me clarify something; this is not the healthiest dish, but it is definitely comfort food! There are few things that smell better than a pot of red sauce with some sort of meat simmering in it. Every so often, I make spaghetti and meatballs, and why not? It tastes great, everyone loves it, there is a lot of protein and carbs for us runners, and it is quite possibly even better the next day, so the leftovers are awesome.

I have never really had a standard recipe for meatballs, as there is an awful lot of leeway here. If you like more or less of something, by all means, add or subtract freely. But, I tried to keep track of what I did yesterday so I could share!

A few notes:

I like adding sun-dried tomatoes to the meat mixture. You can just as easily do without them, but I think they add a lot of flavor. Be sure to use the sun-dried tomatoes that you buy in a bag, as opposed to the kind packed in oil (too greasy for this kind of recipe, I think).

Regarding the bread crumbs, it is hard to give an exact amount, because all batches of meatballs are different. A half a cup is a good starting point, but you might need a little more. You are looking for everything to bind together nicely without being too wet. Be sure not to skimp on the bread crumbs, though. Chef Mario Batali from the Food Network said on his show, "Molto Mario," that the bread is the key to keeping the meatballs soft and moist!

Yesterday I made a homemade red sauce with crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, red wine, basil, and various dried Italian herbs. But nowadays there are some downright fantastic store-bought sauces out there, so don't be afraid to use those as a convenience (believe me, I keep several jars in my pantry!).

I do like to fry my meatballs before simmering in the sauce, however. I know, some recipes simply have you drop the uncooked meatballs right into the sauce. But I think frying them brings so much more flavor to the party, because you get all of those wonderful bits of caramelized goodness that contribute to the complexity of dish.

Good grief, I've talked long enough! Here is what I made yesterday, with excellent results:



Jean's Italian-style Meatballs
makes 18-24 meatballs

-1 lb. ground beef
-1 lb. ground Italian sausage
-1 T. fresh rosemary, minced
-1 T. fresh thyme, minced
-2 T. fresh Italian parsley, minced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-10 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in warm water and chopped
-2 whole eggs
-1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
-Salt and pepper
-1/2 to 3/4 cup of fine bread crumbs (the amount may vary)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the bread crumbs. Stir together until things are well distributed. Add the bread crumbs to the mixture a little at a time. Keep mixing together until the ingredients are well incorporated, everything binds together, and the mixture is not too wet (keeping in mind you might need additional bread crumbs to bring it all together). Using your hands, roll out individual meatballs. Make them whatever size you like (I generally make them slightly larger than a golf ball). Fry the meatballs in a large skillet until browned on all sides. Then transfer them to a pot of your favorite red sauce and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally, taking care not to break them up. Serve over your favorite pasta and open a bottle of red wine.

Enjoy,

Jean

Living like I'm on vacation

The legendary hard rock band KISS once said, “You’ve gotta live like you’re on vacation!” Therefore, acting upon the principles of the "KISS Army," I am taking those words to heart. Allow me to tell you about my upcoming vacation plans!

I am starting to get excited because I have all of next week off. Saturday I will be driving up to the North Shore to spend several days with the family over the 4th of July holiday. While I am there (in addition to hiking, birding, and eating well), I will be running in the 2nd annual Jan Horak "Tofte Trek" 10k Wilderness Run in Tofte, MN. While they call it the "2nd Annual," this is actually the 27th running of the race (they simply changed the name last year to honor the long-time race director). It is a very difficult course that is run on snowmobile and hiking trails, and to say it is a bit hilly is an understatement. There will undoubtedly be plenty of mud, too. Whatever the case, I guarantee some fun will be had.

Just so I can see Lake Superior from a different angle, the following Friday I am driving to Copper Harbor, MI, to participate in the Keweenaw Trail Running Festival. Since I decided against the marathon this year, and because I am running in race 4 days earlier, I switched to the 10k event. It should still be very scenic, but more manageable! I have never been to Michigan before, so this will be a new state for me, and the Copper Harbor/Upper Peninsula area looks absolutely gorgeous in the pictures.

It is bound to be a great week with some interesting stories to tell. I can't wait.

(And, in case you didn't guess, there was no run today...it was my day off!)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Western State Endurance Run news

Some time ago, I posted my book review of ”Ultramarathon Man” by Dean Karnazes.

This weekend was in infamous Western States Endurance Run, the grueling 100 mile mountain trail race from Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA. Karnazes unofficially finished 16th overall with a time of 21 hours, 38 minutes, and 33 seconds.

Another ultra running legend that I have not talked about before, Tim Twietmeyer, finished the event unofficially in 12th place with a time of 20 hours, 33 minutes, and 49 seconds. The significance of this is that the 47 year-old Twietmeyer just finished his 25th and final Western States 100!

25 of them? Oh, my!

Wow, 100 miles, on foot, over the most rugged terrain imaginable, in less than a day? Unreal!

My run on the flatlands this morning seems terribly insignificant right now... :)

Until next time,

Jean

A lovely morning for ducks

The Twin Cities was experiencing the "wrap-around" of a low pressure system that plagued us over the weekend, with the remnants of the rain moving through early in the morning. It was raining steadily, and there were moments where it was really coming down.

Not willing to let the weather hold me back, I did 8 miles on the trail through Minnetonka Mills to Tonka Wood Road and back. It was a good run in spite of the rain, and I was kind of quick today, completing it in about an hour and 10 minutes (perhaps I was just anxious to get back inside?!)

Running in the rain actually is not as awful as it might seem. About the only major drawback is that it soaks your clothes and makes them kind of heavy. Otherwise, at least it helps to keep you cool. And, another benefit was that I had the trail all to myself. I didn’t see a soul!

Predictably, after I showered up and headed out to do a little grocery shopping, it is now gorgeous with abundant sunshine. The rule, as always, is; if you don’t like the weather in Minnesota, wait 5 minutes... :)

Tonight I am making spaghetti and Italian sausage meatballs for dinner. I will let you know how it goes!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Humid running, and a quest for smoked meats

Sweltering in the 70's

I did an abbreviated run this afternoon, as I was in Brainerd earlier this morning and had to wait until I got back to put in my miles. I only went about 3 1/2 miles, because I was planning to go longer tomorrow anyway. I ran harder than normal to make the shorter distance a productive one, though.

Another good reason for the shorter run is because it wasn’t all that pleasant as far as the weather is concerned. The temperature was only 76 (which I would typically considered cool in late June), but it was really humid and felt hotter than it was. Very soupy out there today! Not terribly surprising with weather like this, we are in for some rain this afternoon. Currently, there is a storm watch, and I see some clouds brewing in the west.

Another great small-town meat market

One of the great things about driving from Brainerd back to the Twin Cities is that it enables you to make a pilgrimage for smoked meat products. On the way home, I stopped at McDonald’s Meats in the small village of Clear Lake, MN.

McDonald’s Meats (a.k.a. “The Jerky Stop") is about the only thing in Clear Lake. It is a tiny town located on Highway 24, which is the only road that crosses over the Mississippi River between St. Cloud and Elk River, so it is one of the main gateways to the north country. They are known for their jerky, and they have many varieties. But they also have the full meat counter and sausage products galore. McDonald's does all their own smoking on site, and the place smells fantastic. Just another example of a great, rural Minnesota meat market!

$70 later, my cooler was full of smoky, beefy, and porky goodness. St. Louis style smoked ribs for dinner tonight, baby! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Who let the dogs out?

The second day of summer continues to treat us well. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. 78 degrees, sunny, and spectacular. My run was a very good one today. As it was a little cooler, I clipped right along and made great time on my route. There was not much humidity, and we had a nice breeze, so there wasn't much not to like out there!

Even the critters were enjoying the weather. I saw a muskrat taking a leisurely swim out on the pond, a cottontail rabbit was busy raiding a garden, and several of the neighborhood dogs all came out to bark at me. All in all, a great day to be outside, even for our furry friends!

Speaking of furry friends, tomorrow is Take Your Dog To Work Day. I have an e-mail in to my brother and sister-in-law asking if I could borrow their three hounds so I could turn them loose in the office tomorrow morning. I have not heard back from them yet...

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Running Food: Honey Wheat Bread

Loafing around

Every runner knows that carbohydrates are an important source of energy. Recently, I have been getting into the habit of baking my own bread, since I usually have some toast for breakfast, and I like to have sandwich bread on hand. Making it yourself is a great thing because you can use all natural ingredients and eliminate the preservatives found in store-bought loaves.

I got a great recipe from my Mom that that I have been having a lot of success with, and I even altered it ever so slightly with the use of honey as the primary sugar. And, by the way, I am now a huge fan of instant yeast! This stuff is great. There is no proofing necessary. You just throw everything together. It couldn't be easier.

Honey Wheat Bread
makes 1 loaf

-1/4 c. milk
-1/2 c. water
-3 T. honey
-2 T. molasses
-2 T. butter
-1 t. salt
-1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
-1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
-1 1/2 t. instant yeast
-Extra butter for the loaf pan and for brushing on top

With the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer, mix all ingredients for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough comes together with a smooth surface. Allow to rise in a bowl, covered in a warm place, for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size (alternatively, for bread machine users, you could do this on the "dough" cycle up to this point). Punch down and transfer to an 8 1/2 inch buttered loaf pan. Cover and allow to rise again until doubled in size. Brush the top of the loaf with some melted butter. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove from the loaf pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy!

Until next time,

Jean

Summertime!

Happy first day of summer! The days get progressively shorter from here on out, so make the most of it! :)

A pretty warm day in the metro, once again. It was 83 degrees with a rather stiff wind that caused me some issues on the run. I felt like I ran slower than I did today. It took me about the same amount of time it always does, but it just felt a little slower. Hot days tend to do that to you.

Not much new to report on the route today. The birds were all of the usual suspects, and there were (sadly) no sunbathers either. But hey, summer is just starting, so there is still hope! :)

Tonight’s dinner was a homemade pizza with prosciutto, asparagus spears, and Moroccan black olives. Delicious.



I think I am starting to get pretty good at this pizza-making thing...

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Little pieces

One of my favorite female singer/songwriters, Juliana Hatfield, wrote a song called “Little Pieces,” and I thought that would also be an appropriate title for this post!

A little while ago, I mentioned my racing scrapbook. With no run to discuss today, I thought I would tell you more about it, since it has become a lot of fun for me.

When I started running races, I kept all of my bib numbers, figuring I would save them as mementos. And, as most race results are now published online, you can get a really detailed printed summary of your finishing results. Hey, why not start a little scrapbook to keep this in, I thought? So I did. It is not so little anymore and continues to grow, race by race!

In addition to my number and results, I began saving virtually anything and everything I could find related to the race. At some of the bigger events, you are given a "goodie bag" when you register. It is filled with all kinds of scrapbook-worthy stuff, such as printed copies of the course maps, souvenir booklets with the race details, as well as advertisements and fliers for various things in the city. Of course, there are also personal pictures, newspaper articles, and other trip mementos (like Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame tickets!). My first scrapbook is just about full, and I will be starting a second one later this summer.

One of the more humorous items I kept was from last year's Des Moines Half Marathon.

In my goodie bag there was a flier advertising, of all things, a water stop along the course that was being manned by the Des Moines "Parrot Heads” (a Jimmy Buffet fan club). They were all dressed in tropical garb, playing Jimmy Buffet music, dancing, singing, and handing out water and sport drink to the runners. It was at a point later in the race, so they were in a perfect spot to lift runners' spirits. Sure, you see other silly and fun things like this at other races. But these guys and girls took the time to advertise their water stop! I thought that was kind of cool, so I kept the flier. Now every time I flip to that page, it reminds me how great it was to run through that water stop being serenaded by Buffet fans!

The little pieces like that have made scrapbooking my races a blast. I look forward to filling more and more books!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, June 19, 2006

Taking advantage of the weather

I had debated whether or not to take today off from running since I went long yesterday. However, I couldn’t resist! It was in the upper 70’s with a nice breeze and very little humidity. And, the weather forecast for tomorrow afternoon included a chance of some thunderstorms, so that made the decision easy. I threw on my running gear and hit the road after work!

After the long run yesterday, I was surprised that I was not really very stiff or sore. I felt quite good, so I did my usual 4 1/2 miler. The run was most enjoyable. I was quite strong today, and feel like I am training better than I did last summer. There has been more of an emphasis on doing quality runs while making sure I am getting the proper rest days, and I think that is paying dividends this year. So far, so good.

The weather was really pleasant, and the lack of humidity was a blessing. I even got dive-bombed by the red-winged blackbird again, so that was good for a laugh!

Tonight’s dinner was a panini sandwich with leftover balsamic chicken, tomatoes, bacon, baby Swiss cheese, and honey-truffle mustard on my homemade honey wheat bread that I baked over the weekend (the bread deserves its own post another time!). Delicious. I am telling you, Giada's chicken makes for awesome leftovers! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, June 18, 2006

These go to eleven

Some of you might remember a movie in the early 80’s called "This Is Spinal Tap," a mock documentary (or, “mockumentary,” if you will) about a really bad heavy metal band. In the movie, Christopher Guest’s character, Nigel Tufnel, is describing the amplifiers to the film director, Marty DiBergi. The exchange is as follows:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

The only reason I am even mentioning this noteworthy, albeit geeky, series of quotes is because my run went to eleven today. 11 miles, that is!

It was a beautiful morning, and I thought I would do my 8 mile route today. The sun finally came out after two days worth of clouds, haze, and occasional rain. I took off at 6 AM to run through Minnetonka Mills and down the bike trail. At that time, it was 67 degrees, but it was still rather humid, so I was glad I had the opportunity to run early while it was at least a bit cooler.

I got to my turnaround point for my 8 mile run, and I felt so good that I just kept going. I ended up running all the way to Highway 101. Best I can tell from my trail map is that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 1/2 miles from my doorstep. So today, I went to 11!

Lots of birds out and about today. There was a great blue heron stalking his prey in Minnehaha Creek. The cardinals and the American goldfinches were absolutely everywhere. And I even got to see a Baltimore oriole happily singing away, so it was a great day for birds.

With my long run out of the way, I intend to put my feet up, flip between the U.S. Open and the NASCAR race, and just relax!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Running Food: Giada's Balsamic Roasted Chicken

It was a day off from running today. I am glad, because the weather is about as miserable as it was yesterday! So today, how about another food-related post?

Tired of the same old roasted chicken? This dish from Giada De Laurentiis of the Food Network gives an old favorite a new twist.



Giada is one of my favorite chefs on the Food Network. She is actually the granddaughter of the famed movie producer, Dino De Laurentiis, but she opted for culinary school instead of the family business. Her show, Everyday Italian, really demonstrates the simplicity of Italian cooking. Most of her dishes are very easy to make with ingredients that can be easily found just about anywhere. Plus, she is really cute, too! :)

Her roasted chicken with balsamic vinaigrette has fast become a favorite of mine. By marinating it overnight (be sure to marinate this overnight, if at all possible) in the mixture of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and olive oil, it becomes tangy, flavorful, and moist, but it also gives the skin a really nice and dark color.

As with most written recipes, I do some things differently:

The ingredients for the marinade aren’t written in stone (the amounts for this same recipe are different in her cookbook!), so feel free to play with the amounts of balsamic vinegar, mustard, lemon, and oil, if you so desire. I also add fresh thyme to the marinade because I love the flavor.

Also, I don’t mess around with making a sauce with the pan drippings. I find that there aren’t all that many drippings to work with anyhow, and I prefer just to drizzle it with some aged balsamic vinegar and have a little mustard on the side.

And, I find that the chicken will be done in 45 minutes at 400 degrees, but use a meat thermometer if you aren’t sure.

I have tried a number of Giada’s recipes, and I haven’t made anything that I didn’t like. This chicken is great stuff, and the leftovers are fantastic, too.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, June 16, 2006

Running in a sauna

Remember yesterday when I was complaining about the heat and humidity? Multiply that times 10 and you have today. Ugh!

It was a mere 89 degrees, hazy, overcast, and windy as heck, with a stifling 66 degree dewpoint. I felt like I was running inside a sauna with a fan blowing on me. This is horrible weather to run in. It was positively miserable, and one of the worst running days I have had (weather-wise) since last summer. I took it very slooooow around my regular route today.

Curiously enough, there were two different TV news helicopters circling over my neighborhood while I was on my run. I am not sure what that was all about, but I was beginning to suspect they were watching me, hoping I would keel over from heat exhaustion so they would have some breaking news footage. Thankfully, I did not accomodate them!

I did get home before the big thunderstorms exploded over the Twin Cities. Good grief, were there some boomers! And did it ever pour. We got a lot of rain in a very short amount of time. I guess the suburb just south of me sustained 60+ MPH winds and has trees down. I am really glad I didn’t get caught in that!

Tonight I will watch the recap of the U.S. Open golf tournament (go Phil!), and I will also marinate some chicken for tomorrow’s dinner. It is an Italian twist on roasted chicken, concocted by one of my favorite Food Network personalities. I will give you the details tomorrow!

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sweating, Sunbathing, and Shakespeare

Wow, a hot and sticky one today! It was 85 degrees, pretty humid, and there is a strong wind coming out of the southeast. Looks as if we will be getting some rain soon. It was a challenging run today in the heat and humidity, and I was absolutely sweating like a madman. It was really warm, but I made it around my route in good time.

In nature news, today I spotted the rare and elusive female sunbather on a blanket in a yard. An attractive creature normally seen by a beach, this was a fairly unusual sighting on my running route. I attempted to attract her attention with my elegant and graceful stride. Unfortunately, this courtship dance went unnoticed. A wily and mysterious creature, the female sunbather... :)

However, some creatures did pay attention to me! There was a family of pied-billed grebes on the pond near the shore. The kids didn’t quite have the drill down yet. When they saw me, the parents dove under water. The little ones just sat there and stared! They will figure it out soon enough. Also, the green heron made his presence known. Just another good day in the wild kingdom!

And finally, there was another nice story in the news; Shakespeare once wrote “Bid me run and I will strive with things impossible.” This quote has been kind of adopted by the running community, and I think it can definitely be applied to Sheri Eke. Sheri is an amputee who will be walking in her first organized event this weekend, the Minneapolis Hope & Possibility 5K Run/Walk at Hyland Park in Bloomington. Pretty inspiring and amazing stuff.

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

MN running news: Running for curling

No run this afternoon, as it is my day off. It is kind of warm and hazy out, too, so I am glad to take a break today!

Since I have no run to talk about today, I thought I would pass along this little tidbit...

In Minnesota running news once again, here is an interesting web site I came across; A runner named Gordy Savela from Grand Rapids ran 300 miles across Northern Minnesota in a mere 12 days to raise money for the sport of junior curling (while carrying a curling broom)!

Wow! That is 11 marathons in 12 days!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A warm run with the twelve-spotted skimmers

A little bit of a different day today, more of a return to summer! It was warm and windy, about 84 degrees, and there was definitely a little humidity in the air. I ran a little bit harder than yesterday, but nothing too heroic. The heat didn’t bother me too much today for some reason. Whatever the case, the run felt good.

In nature news, I did not get attacked by any blackbirds today! However, I saw these interesting dragonflies along the pond. Best I can tell, they were twelve-spotted skimmers, these bright blue dragonflies with very spotted wings. They were absolutely everywhere, and I don’t think I had ever seen them before. Cool stuff!

Not too much on the agenda tonight. It will probably be just a “BBT” sandwich for dinner. I did finally receive my pictures in the mail from my last couple of trips, so I need to put them away in the album, and I should also add a few things to my racing scrapbook (I keep a scrapbook with mementos and pictures from every race I have been in...perhaps I will talk more about that sometime!).

Until next time,

Jean

Local running legend featured in Star-Tribune

Here is a running story of local interest!

There was an article in today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune featuring a Minnesota running legend. I have never met Dan "Digger" Carlson of White Bear Lake personally, but he has run in several of the same races that I have participated in. This guy is awesome. If he isn't winning the race, he usually finishes very high on the list!

Carlson is being honored at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN this weekend where he will be given the 2006 Ron Daws Ambassador Award for his support of, and participation in, Grandma's over the years

Anyhow, I just thought it was a nice article worthy of pointing out. Always good to see local folks get recognized!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Running Food: Roasted Tomato Sauce

Over the weekend I did a lot of cooking, and one thing I made was this experimental roasted tomato sauce. It turned out quite nice, so I thought I would share those results.

I don't have precise amounts, but here are the ballpark figures (this could really be altered or multiplied any way you see fit): I took 5 roma tomatoes and cut them in half. They were tossed in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with two large cloves of garlic (thinly sliced), perhaps a teaspoon of fresh thyme, about a 1/2 teaspoon of dried marjoram, some salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. I slow-roasted them (cut side up) in an ovenproof pan at 300 degrees for about 75 minutes. I pureed everything until I had a slightly textured sauce (the tomatoes could be roasted even longer for deeper concentration, but since I wanted to make a sauce, I didn't want to lose too much moisture).

The roasting process shrinks the tomatoes slightly and creates little caramelized brown bits on both the tomatoes and garlic slices. What you end up with is a very concentrated tomato sauce with a nice roasted garlic flavor. This made for about 1 cup of sauce (so I think I will multiply the recipe so I can make a larger batch next time). Admittedly, this is a little involved and time-consuming just to make a simple tomato sauce, but the extra effort is worth the trouble.

I made this for a pizza topping (and tonight it was awesome on my pizza topped with prosciutto and caramelized onions...by the way, are you sick of my pizza pictures yet??). But it would also work exceptionally well tossed with pasta, or even spooned over something as simple as a grilled chicken breast.

It would serve as a great "all-purpose" tomato sauce; it is really tasty, and there isn't a thing in it that is bad for you!

Until next time,

Jean

When blackbirds attack

All right, since I had my lazy day off on Sunday where I did nothing but cook and eat, it was time to get back on the horse!

Today was my first run since the race on Saturday, so I rewarded myself with an easy run along my route. And what a beautiful day! It was about 73 degrees with a mix of sun and clouds, and a slight cooling breeze. How awesome! Not even an attempted dive-bomb attack from a ferocious red-winged blackbird (I must have come too close to his nest!) could detract from my enjoyment of the day!

Normally after a race I am a bit stiff in the legs on my first run afterwards, but not today. I felt really loose and relaxed. There was no tightness at all, so I am beginning to think I am training smarter and incorporating the right amount of rest, so I think I will stick with my current routine.

And I can’t possibly describe how much I love my new shoes. I am going to write to Brooks and tell them they can never, ever stop making this particular model. It is as if they were made especially for me, and they are wonderful!

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Running Food: The “BBT” Sandwich

Since I am not running today, I thought I would tell you about what I had for lunch today!

Years ago, I saw this idea on some cooking show, and I have been making a “BBT” sandwich ever since; bacon, basil, and tomato. Instead of the traditional iceberg lettuce, you substitute a few big leaves of fresh basil, which brings a lot more flavor to the party. And we all know how well basil goes with tomato.

There is no real recipe, but all you need is five ingredients:

-Two slices of good bread
-A few slices of good bacon
-A couple slices of tomato
-A few big leaves of fresh basil
-Mayonnaise for the bread

This is a quick and easy summer staple for me, and it is especially fun later in the summer when you can get some really good tomatoes, and some quality sweet corn on the cob to go along side. Yum!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, June 10, 2006

RACE REPORT: 2006 Easy Does It 5-Miler

Ready to run

I awakened at 5:00 AM to get myself all gussied up for the 2006 Easy Does It 5-Miler, the 25th and final running of this race.

The dire predictions for the weather proved to be unfounded. We were blessed with an absolutely ideal morning to run; temperatures in the 50’s, and mix of overcast and sunshine. The only quibble might have been that it was rather breezy with strong winds coming out of the east. But really, who could complain? There was bound to be a good showing for this event.

I arrived at the registration area on the Hazelden grounds to pick up my packet and number. The race director was there shaking hands with all of the runners, thanking them for their support over the years. A very nice gesture.

A clumsy self-portrait of yours truly arriving at the race today!



After I picked up my goodies, I munched on some of Jelly Belly’s new “Sport Beans” (mmmm...orange-flavored!) and wandered around the grounds since I had some time to kill. Medicine Lake was looking quite beautiful this morning. I also saw two families of wood ducks with a total of 20 ducklings (yes, I counted...20 of them!). Yes indeed, it was going to be a really nice day to race.

Prior to today, I had not run a race longer than a 5k since last October, so I really had no idea what to expect. I was fearful that I would start off at my normal 5k clip and then crap out over the last couple miles. My goals were to A). not start too fast, B). run comfortably, and C). save something for the end. With any luck, I could improve on last year’s time.

Let’s Go Racing!

A little before 8 AM, the street started to fill with runners. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is a pretty competitive race. Because of the MDRA affiliation and points race, this one brings out all the heavy hitters. All the local elite runners, various teams sponsored by local running stores, they all show up.

The race course runs east down 36th Ave in Plymouth and turns through a residential area that eventually points you towards Medicine Lake. Then you do an out-and-back down E. Medicine Lake Blvd. before returning to the Hazelden grounds to complete the 5 miles.

The horn sounds, and we are off! The starts of races are always a little congested and chaotic, but I managed to get around some slower folks and settled in to a pace where I felt comfortable.

36th Ave. runs ever so slightly uphill to the turning point into the residential area, and today it was also into the wind. The mile 1 checkpoint was right at the turn, and I checked my watch. 7:22. OK, that was a little bit quicker than I had intended, but I felt good, so I decided to keep up that pace.

We make a few turns through the neighborhood, and soon I am at mile 2. 14:30. Hmmm...that mile was quicker than the first. But, all was well, so I stuck with it.

Soon I emerge from the residential area and make the sharp left on to E. Medicine Lake Blvd. There is a nice, steep downhill stretch at the start that is perhaps the length of a football field, and it is a tremendous amount of fun to run down (of course)! Then things level off, so I settled back into my pace. This is an interesting stretch because you run down the road, eventually making a 180 degree u-turn, returning on the bike path all the way to Hazelden. What I am trying to say is that you get to see all of the leaders absolutely screaming past you in the opposite direction!

I hit the mile 3 checkpoint. 21:30. Yikes! Now I was slightly concerned. I am running at a pace that would have rivaled my best 5K time. This was too fast, I thought. Was I going to hit the wall before this finish?

But I was still in really good shape. I didn’t feel like I was exerting too much, and was quite comfortable, seemingly with something left in the tank. Onward!

For some reason, I missed the mile 4 checkpoint. I have no idea where it was or when I went past it! Oh, well. All I knew was that I was moving along rapidly towards the hill. Remember that fast downhill stretch I told you about? Well, we have to run back up it! Still feeling pretty spry, I attacked the hill, passing several people who were running out of gas.

Once you crest the hill, it is only about a half a mile to the finish, so I gave it hell and put the hammer down. Picking up the pace, I passed a few more people on the bike path. I couldn’t believe I still had this much energy. I rounded the corner back into Hazelden and immediately got goose-bumps when I saw my time.

A shot near the finish line at Hazelden with Medicine Lake in the background



Numbers, statistics, and personal records

I crossed the finish line in 35 minutes and 13 seconds. Overall, I finished 148th of 589 total runners. Among my gender, I finished 120th out of 328, and was 12th out of 30 in my age group. I bested last year’s time of 39:06 by a whopping 3 minutes and 53 seconds. More significantly, I also eclipsed my personal best 5-mile time by 1 minute and 46 seconds, and in doing so established a new personal record! I couldn’t be more excited.

This race was a fantastic learning experience. I learned that I can sustain my 5k pace over the course of 5 miles, something which I did not know I could do. I also learned valuable lessons about managing my race. Even though I thought I might have started too fast, it turns out I didn’t. In doing the math, I felt totally comfortable and kept getting faster as the race went on, so I ran exactly as I needed to.

Perhaps most importantly, I realized (once again) that we are capable of doing things bigger than we can imagine. I never dreamed that I would run my fastest 5-miler today. It reminds me that I need to keep setting goals, no matter how ridiculous or far-fetched they seem at the time.

Hello, Goodbye

The Beatles hit song “Hello, Goodbye” appropriately crossed my mind as I headed home from the race. Last year was the first year I ran in the Easy Does It, and this year, after 25 years, this race is no more. How sad that I only got to run in two of them! Hello, goodbye, indeed. This race will be missed.

There will undoubtedly be other races to take its place, but at least I saved my best for last.

So tonight, I celebrate! Copper River salmon for dinner, a little NASCAR night racing, and a glass of something really good. Here is to dreaming big! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, June 9, 2006

A change in the weather?

Suddenly, the weather forecast for tomorrow is not looking so good.

What was supposed to be sunny and cool has now turned into a chance for some storms and rain early in the morning. My buddy Sven Sundgaard is using scary sounding words like “retrograding,” and “polar vortices” (sometimes even in the same sentence). Who knows what tomorrow will bring? All I know is that I am running a race, whether it is dry or damp!

No plans this evening except to relax, stay off my feet, and see what shows I have saved up on my DVR. Then it is early to bed, early to rise, and as NASCAR’s Darrell Waltrip would say with great enthusiasm, “Boogity! Boogity! Boogity! Let’s go racin’, boys!!!”

By the way, has a meal that is rich in carbs and whole grains ever looked this good? (my vote would be "No," and I would add that it tasted as good as it looks...)

;-)

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Relaxing run, big butterfly, and breakfast for dinner

A very nice day out there today. It was 80 degrees, but it was quite dry with a nice breeze, so it almost felt cooler than it really was. It looks like we are in for a bit of a cooling trend as we head into the weekend too, so it might be some favorable running weather for the race on Saturday morning.

I took a very easy jog around the 4 1/2 mile square today. I didn’t push myself at all, just a nice, relatively effortless run to stay loose and save some energy. It was very relaxing out there, especially after a busy day at the office.

I had a good wildlife sighting as well; a big, beautiful black swallowtail butterfly was zipping around in a yard near the lake. This butterfly is awesome. He looks like a little stealth bomber! :)

For dinner tonight, I had breakfast; hash browns, and scrambled eggs with proscuitto. I just wanted something quick and easy, because I am saving the last hunk of pizza dough in the fridge for tomorrow night. Must carbo-load before the race!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Race Preview: 2006 Easy Does It Five-Miler

The Five-Miler Finale

Since I am not running today, I thought I would at least talk about something running-related. So how about a preview of this weekend's race?

On Saturday, June 10th, I am running in the Easy Does It Five-Miler in Plymouth, MN. This race benefits the Hazelden Foundation, an organization which is recognized as a world leader in drug and alcohol addiction, rehabilitation, and recovery, so we will certainly be running for a worthy cause.

This event is part of the Minnesota Distance Running Association's "Grand Prix," which is NASCAR-style individual points race for Grand Prix participants (points are calculated based on their results at selected races over the course of the season). Because of that, this event draws some very talented and fast runners.

The race starts just outside of the Hazelden complex, winds through residential neighborhoods in eastern Plymouth, eventually going along the shores of scenic Medicine Lake before returning to Hazelden. It is a very pretty route, especially by the lake.

They have given this race the ominous nickname of "The Five-Miler Finale" because after 25 years, they are calling it quits. I am not sure of the reason (perhaps the race committee decided it was just time?), but it will be sad to see this race go, because it is a fun one.

Anyhow, you can expect a full race report later on Saturday!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Running strong

Today was another warm one, a little bit cooler than yesterday at 83 degrees, but equally as windy (although coming from the northwest instead of the southwest).

I was almost wishing today was the day of my race, because I felt very strong and fast. I am not sure if the combination of new shoes and a dinner of pizza made with whole wheat flour is to me what spinach is to Popeye, but I felt invincible out there. I was cruising right along, attacking hills, and had a very strong kick at the end. It was great run today.

One more easy jog on Thursday and I should be ready to race this weekend!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, June 5, 2006

Book Review: Duel In The Sun

The 1982 Boston Marathon is arguably the greatest road race in the history of American distance running. As an 11 year-old, I actually remember seeing it on TV. This was at a time when my whole family was into running. Dad did a lot of racing in the summers, so there were many times the family would pile into the car to head to a little town for a race. So it was no surprise that we would be watching the Boston Marathon.

Being a little kid, I had no idea who the two frontrunners, Dick Beardsley or Alberto Salazar, were. During the race I learned that Beardsley was from Minnesota, so naturally I was cheering for him. What unfolded was a race for the ages. These two men broke away from the pack with miles to go and battled each other all the way to the finish, where Salazar just edged Beardsley for the win by a mere two seconds. It has since become a legendary race.

I just finished reading the book "Duel In The Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America's Greatest Marathon" by John Brant, which chronicles the lives of Salazar and Beardsley before and after this great race. Both men had remarkably different upbringings. Salazar was the son of a Cuban immigrant, a born runner, and a prodigy who was destined for greatness. Beardsley was a plucky, hard-working kid from Wayzata who left the city to become a dairy farmer, of all things! Both had vastly different personalities, and differing approaches to running and racing, yet these two opposites both took center stage in greatest Boston Marathon battle ever.

The book not written in chronological order, and it jumps around to different times in each of these individuals' lives before and after the race. The author also spreads out details of the race as it unfolded. I thought this approach helped to build suspense, both in terms of the race, and also in documenting the unraveling of their personal lives.

I enjoyed this book very much, although I think it would be more appealing to people who are runners. It talks a lot about running and racing, however there is a strong human element to the book as well, illustrating the desperation of these two men in the face of adversity. After this great race, each man experienced more than his share of hardships and setbacks (Salazar with unexplained injuries and depression, and Beardsley with a bizarre series of accidents and drug addiction). The chapters I found most intriguing were those dealing with Beardsley, perhaps because of the Minnesota connection. Salazar is certainly a compelling, rather high-strung figure, however I thought it was easier to relate to Beardsley, because throughout his running career he was a bit of an underdog, which I like.

"Duel In The Sun" offers an interesting perspective on the greatest Boston Marathon ever, as well as an in-depth look into the lives, hardships, and attempts at redemption for these two elite runners.

Quick administrative update

Some administrative changes of note; you may have noticed that I have condensed all of my food and recipe posts, as well as my travel posts, into individual posts to serve as central indexes for these topics. This should offer a little more convenience and will be a bit of a space saver in the side column as the blog grows. Plus, it will save me some time since I will only have to update a single post each time I something new, as opposed to the more cumbersome process of having to change the blog template.

Links to the Index of Food and Recipe Posts and the Index of Travel and Trip-related Posts will be kept permanently on the right hand side of the page.

Until next time,

Jean

Index of Food and Recipe Posts

In order to keep things neat and orderly, I will keep this post to serve as an index for all of my food and recipe-related posts. This post will be continually updated as new recipes are added.

Index of Food and Recipe Posts

Breads

Honey Wheat Bread
Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread
Alton Brown's Homemade Pizza

Meat

"Good Eats" Meat Loaf
The "BBT" Sandwich
Shredded Pork Tacos
Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Poultry

Roasted Chicken with Dill and Lemon
Giada's Balsamic Roasted Chicken

Fish and Seafood

Maple-glazed Salmon
Salmon with Honey-Ginger-Soy Glaze

Pasta and Noodle Dishes

Thai Basil Chicken
Singapore-style Rice Noodles
Italian-style Meatballs
Venison Ragu over Whole-Wheat Spaghetti

Miscellaneous

The "Minnesota Platter"
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Two reason that bacon, basil, and tomatoes are awesome

Index of Travel and Trip Posts

In order to keep things neat and orderly, I will keep this post to serve as an index for my travel posts and trip notes. This post will be continually updated as any new trip notes are added.

Index of Travel and Trip-related Posts

May 6th, 2006 - Norseland and St. Peter, MN - A visit to the farm

May 20th - 21st, 2006 - Green Bay, WI - Cellcom Green Bay Marathon weekend

May 26th - 31st, 2006 - The North Shore, MN - Visiting the family!

July 1st - 8th, 2006 - The North Shore, MN, and Copper Harbor, MI - Trail running in two states!

September 1st - 5th, 2006 - The North Shore, MN - Labor Day Weekend 2006

September 30th - October 3rd, 2006 - The North Shore, MN - Charity golf tournament, and running with wildlife

October 14th - 15th, 2006 - Des Moines, IA - IMT Des Moines Half Marathon trip notes

December 23rd - 26th, 2006 - The North Shore, MN - Christmas with the family, and some trail running

January 20th, 2007 - Hudson, WI - Day trip to the St. Croix River Valley

February 16th - 18th, 2007 - The North Shore, MN - Presidents' Day weekend with the family

May 18th - 19th, 2007 - Fargo, ND - Fargo Half Marathon weekend

May 25th - 30th, 2007 - North Shore, MN - Memorial Day weekend with the folks

July 19th - 23rd, 2007 - North Shore, MN - Visiting the family

August 3rd - 4th, 2007 - Watson, MN - Wild Goose Chase 30k weekend

August 31st - September 4th, 2007 - North Shore, MN - Visiting the family over Labor Day

September 14th - 16th, 2007 - Walker, MN - Walker North Country Marathon weekend

December 21st - 26th, 2007 - Christmas with the family

Running Food: Singapore-style Rice Noodles

Time to share another recipe! Yesterday I made a Singapore-style rice noodle dish with assorted vegetables, shrimp, and curry powder that turned out quite nice. I looked at a few different recipes for ideas, but this was pretty much improvised. This dish had a whole lot of flavor and hardly any fat, so it makes for a tasty, healthy, and very colorful meal (Remember as a kid when you were told to "eat your colors?" Here is the perfect opportunity to do that!). You could use whatever veggies you like, and you could also easily substitute chicken for the shrimp. I tried to document what I did as best I could, so here goes nothing:

Jean's Singapore-style Rice Noodles

Sauce:
-6 T. soy sauce
-1/4 c. chicken broth
-3 T. white wine
-1 T. rice vinegar
-1 T. fresh ginger, grated or minced
-1 T. sugar

The rest of the ingredients:
-1 T. peanut or vegetable oil
-2 T. garlic, minced
-1 T. fresh ginger, grated or minced
-1 1/2 T. curry powder
-1 tsp. red chile flakes
-1 lb. mixed fresh vegetables (carrots, peppers, bok choy, snow peas, mushrooms, etc...the choice is yours!)
-1 lb. shrimp 40-50 count raw shrimp, peeled
-7 oz package rice stick noodles (soaked in hot water until soft, drained)
-Sriracha chili sauce to taste.

Instructions
1. Mix up the sauce ingredients, and set aside (if you like a slightly thicker sauce, consider adding a tsp. of cornstarch)
2. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan over high heat and add the garlic, ginger, curry powder, and red chile flakes. Stir for about 15 second, just until fragrant.
3. Add all of the vegetables and stir fry for a couple of minutes until warm, but still crisp.
4. Add the shrimp and give everything a good stir.
5. Pour the sauce over the veggies and shrimp, allowing everything to come up to temperature.
6. Toss in the rice stick noodles and stir until everything is and heated through and coated with some of the sauce.
7. Serve immediately with a bottle of sriracha chili sauce on the side for some added heat if you so desire.

Enjoy!

Jean

Riddle me this...

...what do you get when you cross sweltering heat with humidity, and add an occasional 30 MPH headwind?

Why, you get today’s run, of course!

It was a mere 88 degrees today, and it felt kind of sticky out. That is absolutely miserable running weather. I was sweating buckets after only the first quarter mile. Couple that with the fact that the last mile and a half was going pretty much right into an awful wind, it was not pleasant out there, kids! On days like this, it is very hard work. You tend to feel sluggish and slow (like I did). It is quickly turning into a summer like last year when nearly every day in June and July was hot, humid, and gross. Yuck!

The good news is that my new shoes rock! They ride so smoothly, and they roll off the toes beautifully. I feel like I am simply gliding when I run, so I am really digging them. I can’t wait to put some more miles on these bad boys.

I took yesterday off from running so I could stagger my days off before my race this weekend (I always like to have a full day off before a race). So this week will be a somewhat lighter one. I ran today and will run Tuesday, Thursday, and then Saturday at the race!

Tonight’s dinner was a homemade pizza with prosciutto, pepperoni, garlic-marinated black olives, crimini mushrooms, and fresh marjoram. I am not sure if it is the whole wheat flour milled from honest-to-goodness Norseland wheat that Mom gave me, or if it was due to the new yeast, but this was the best batch of dough I have ever made. Wonderful stuff!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Daddy needs a new pair of shoes

So I got my grocery shopping done at the cost of $93.80! Wow, just for little ‘ol me. I think that could be the most I have ever spent on groceries in one shot. Oh well, at least I have some ingredients to cook with now!

After grocery shopping and a little breakfast, it was time to do some more shopping. This time, for shoes.

My parents will laugh at me, because I am developing a bit of a shoe problem. Honestly, I can count the number of casual/dress shoes I have bought in the last 10 years on one hand. In the last two year, I am sure I have eclipsed the dozen mark with running shoes alone. And, since this is a running blog, let’s talk about running shoes!

The thing is, running shoes break down and lose their cushioning at around 500 miles (more or less), so the more you run, the more you need to replace. And my last pair was rapidly approaching that mark, with some noticeable wear on the soles.

So I headed on over to the Start Line in Minnetonka. This is the specialty running store I first went to last winter when I realized I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to selecting shoes.

On my first visit, they diagnosed what my feet do when I run and determined I needed a stability running shoe. My feet tend to roll inward as I run (as it turns out, I am a mild pronator, which I did not realize), so a stability shoe offers some beefed up support on the arch side of the shoe to help minimize the pronation. They put me in some Asics GEL Kayano XII’s, which served me quite well, but I felt like I should be looking for some extra features for my next pair.

When I came in to the Start Line today, I brought my old shoes so they could analyze the wear pattern, which confirmed for them that they did indeed put me in the right kind of shoe. They asked me how I liked the Asics. I told them I did like them and that they offered me great support, however I was wondering if there might be something with a little more cushioning, especially in the front.

The lady assisting me literally brought out every pair of stability running shoes they had in my size (seven different models, I believe!). I tried on each of them and trotted around the store a little bit to help weed out the ones that worked better vs. the ones that just didn’t feel right at all. Once we did that, I narrowed it down to three that I preferred, and then it was time to hit the treadmill!

One by one, I tested each pair out by running on the in-store treadmill to determine which worked and felt the best. Some felt better than others. Some offered noticeably more support. One pair actually sounded clunky, like my feet were slapping and not riding smoothly. It is amazing that similarly styled shoes can vary so much.

Eventually I decided on the pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6’s, which felt awesome. They seemed to have more of the forefoot cushioning I was looking for, and they rolled off the toe so much nicer than my old shoes. She even had me try on a new pair of my old Asics just to confirm my decision, and I still preferred the Brooks. I can’t wait to get these out on the road.

I will bet I spent 45 minutes in the store, and the personal service I received was awesome (heck, I even got a brief workout on a treadmill, too!). They are very friendly and knowledgeable, and they take the time to make sure you get the show that is right for you. The salesman helping a young lady next to me actually talked her out of a really expensive pair of shoes because he insisted they would not be right for her. That is pretty cool, and says a lot about the integrity of the store and staff.

So the lesson is, if you need running shoes, go to a specialty running store. You won’t get this kind of service at Footlocker, and the prices won’t be much different, if at all.

And my new shoes were actually cheaper than my groceries this morning... :)

Until next time,

Jean

When U2 predicts the weather

When the band U2 penned the lyrics, “It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away” (from the song “Beautiful Day”), they must have been talking about the weather on a day just like this. What a morning to get outside and enjoy day!

I hit the road at 6 AM, and it was 60 degrees, sunny, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky. Birds were happily singing (some were actually still sleeping on the power lines!). I even saw some wild roses in full bloom along the bike trail. An absolutely perfect morning to run.

I did the 8-miler again this morning where I run through Minnetonka Mills along the bike trail to Tonka Wood Road. On these long runs, I generally try to take it pretty easy so that I pace myself properly. I concentrate on keeping a steady, even pace, kind of like putting yourself on “cruise control,” if that makes any sense. It took me about 1 hour and 10 minutes today (which, interestingly enough, is about how long one of my 6 mile trail runs took me last weekend...what a difference the surface makes!). A good, solid run today.

There were a lot of other friendly, happy runners out and about this morning. Who could blame them? They must have been taking U2’s lyrics to heart as well.

Until later,

Jean

Friday, June 2, 2006

Sunny days

Wow, what a nice day! It truly feels like summer.

I went out for lunch simply because it was too nice to sit in the office all day. Today I stopped at Noodles & Company. I hadn't been here in ages, and for a fast food joint, you can find a pretty healthy and reasonably priced meal, compared to other alternatives. I had the "Bangkok Curry," which was basically vegetables and rice noodles in yellow curry. It was tasty.

Today is my day off from running. It looks like we have a beautiful weekend in store, so I will be spending some of it outside. I am doing a longer run on Saturday morning. I will probably take Sunday off (because my vacation threw my schedule off kilter and I need to stagger my rest days for my race next Saturday). I also plan on doing some cooking and baking. Since I haven't been home for the last two weekends, it will be fun to get back in the kitchen. I will probably make some pizza dough to have on hand, and I also going to try making some homemade whole wheat bread. And I am finally going grocery shopping tomorrow!

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Looking back on May, looking ahead to June

All right, since today is the first day of June, it is time to recap the last month! According to my training log, I ran 99.1 miles in May (man, couldn't squeak out another 9/10ths for an even 100, Jean??). I got in a couple of nice, longer runs on the weekends, had one really fun race, and did a few excellent trail runs as well. There was a lot of variety last month, which always helps to keep things interesting.

Looking ahead to the month of June, I have one race coming up in 10 days, the Easy Does It 5-Miler in Plymouth, MN. This really marks the start of the summer racing season for me, and I will probably not be running another 5k until November. This will also be my first race of 2006 longer than a 5k, so I will have to be careful to pace myself properly! Additionally, I will be adding some longer weekend runs to prepare for July, since that will be a busy month of racing with a couple of 10k's and (possibly) a 10-miler.

Today’s run was a lot like yesterday; warm and breezy, with a high of 83 degrees. It is still faily dry with a relatively low dewpoint though, so the heat is not so stifling. I managed to run quite well and even pushed myself a little bit harder than normal, since tomorrow will be a day off.

There was even a good bird sighting along the route; a red-bellied woodpecker was chirping away in a big oak tree by the pond. We used to have several of them at the old house by Mille Lacs. They loved corn and would always be busy taking some from the bird feeder. Fun to see this guy again.

I still have not been to the grocery store, so tonight’s dinner was a Boca Burger with sharp cheddar cheese on buckwheat bread. I really need to go shopping...

Until next time,

Jean

Retractions and Revisions

Sometimes I tend to do things on impulse, so please ignore several of my earlier statements because I recently changed my mind. Call me a "marathoner wanna-be" if you must, but I have decided not to enter the Moose Mountain Marathon this year.

Thoughts of altering my plans started when I was in Green Bay hanging around the finish line at this big city race. I realized how much fun these events are with the party-like atmosphere and the thousands of other runners. As much as I enjoy trail running, I really wanted to do another big city event.

I also have decided not to attempt a full marathon this year, especially one conducted on a rugged trail. After spending Memorial Day weekend running on trails, I realized (quickly) that I would really need to train on that kind of terrain to be successful. I can't replicate that here in the flatlands. Taking this on would be too much, too soon, I fear.

And while in Green Bay, I realized is that I don't have to run a marathon to prove anything to myself or anyone else. Bottom line; I like to run for fun, and I want to run several races over the summer. Therefore, a half marathon makes more sense. A marathon training program would force me to skip some other events that I want to run this summer (because the races are too short to fit into a meaningful marathon training program), and I am not willing to give those up.

OK, those are all of my lame excuses! :) Now, here is the revised plan; I am now scheduled to make a return trip to Iowa to run in the Des Moines IMT Half Marathon. That will be my big race to end the season. One of the main reasons is because the race date, October 15th, would have been my grandfather's 90th birthday. I thought this would be a more meaningful race to run as a tribute to all of my grandparents. Plus, it will give me a chance to try and better last year's time of 2:01:11, so there will be a personal goal to shoot for, too.

So please, stick with me as I revise my goals and set my sights on some different races. There will still be some great adventures along the way, even if they only go to 13.1 instead of 26.2!

Until next time,

Jean

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