Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Living in squalor!

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



Ugh...wish me luck! :)

I will talk to you from the new place!

Jean

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ready to move!

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

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

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

Until next week when I am in my new place,

Jean

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Running, cleaning, packing

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, October 27, 2006

My letter to KSTP

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

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

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

My letter to KSTP:

Dear KSTP TV,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The last nice day of fall?

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

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

This is Minnesota fall weather at its finest.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A great run, and knee deep in boxes

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, October 23, 2006

Karnazes in Minneapolis

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A cold and frosty morning

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, October 20, 2006

Perfect running weather

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Winding down the season, setting new goals

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Des Moines notes, and back on the horse

A couple more notes from Des Moines:

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

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

Robyn Friedman coming home 1st



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

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, October 16, 2006

Recovery day

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Des Moines 2006 Index of Posts

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

We’re off on the road to Des Moines!

Fashion statements, National Anthem, reasons for running

RACE REPORT - 2006 IMT Des Moines Half Marathon

The journey home, and some reflections

The journey home, and some reflections

Heading home

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

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

The famous Maid-Rite



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

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

Welcome to the Boondocks!



Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Jean

RACE REPORT - 2006 IMT Des Moines Half Marathon

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

A shot of downtown Des Moines



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finished!



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

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

Fashion statements, National Anthem, reasons for running

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

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

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

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

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

However, then something very cool happened.

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

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

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

We're off on the road to Des Moines!

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby never did one of their "Road to..." movies about Des Moines, but perhaps they should have. As I learned last year (and would realize again this year) it is really a fun place!

Saturday morning I was off on the road to Des Moines to run in the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon. It was a beautiful, albeit windy, day to travel. A couple of brief notes about the drive down:

-I had a great breakfast in downtown Faribault at Bernie’s Grill. It was a cute little cafe in the old part of the city, where they still park diagonally on the streets. It was a like a trip back in time.

-I stopped in Clear Lake, IA, to see the Surf Ballroom. I have been through this town on numerous occasions, so I thought it was time. Astute music historians will know that the Surf Ballroom was host to the last concerts of Richie Valens, the Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly, a tragic event in 1959 that became known as ”the day the music died.”

Arriving in Des Moines, I went immediately to the packet pickup area. This was at a huge sports expo with athletic vendors, speakers, and displays. I went through the line and got my number, timing chip, and the coolest shirt I have ever received at a race. They gave everyone long sleeved, microfiber running shirts. This is great! Something I can actually use for running, as opposed to the normal cotton blend shirts you get at most races.

Having some time to kill before checking in to my hotel, I wandered into the “East Village” of Des Moines where Wells Fargo was hosting a World Food Festival. This was intended to showcase some of the diverse offerings in Des Moines, and they had all kinds of Indian, Asian, and Latin American cuisines to offer. I did not partake, since I would be eating dinner in a few hours. That, and I because most of these foods are, shall we say, aggressively seasoned, I wanted to be careful because I was running tomorrow. When it comes to racing, bland is better! :) But it all smelled so good that it was hard to pass up.

The World Food Festival in the shadows of the Iowa State Capital

I finally checked in to the Renaissance Savery Hotel. This is easily one of the nicest hotels I have stayed at. I was on the 9th floor and had a view overlooking the State Capital building. The room even had two bathrooms and featured such exotic toiletries as mint-thyme shampoo and lemongrass scented soap (it is not everyday that shower soap makes you hungry for Thai curry...hey, perhaps I should have eaten something at the World Food Festival!). Anyhow, it was a beautiful room and a quiet hotel, which was nice. The start and finish of tomorrow's race was just outside the door, too.

Dinner this evening would be at the Raccoon River Brewing Company. A little carbo loading with some lobster mafaldine, and I would retire to my room to watch a little NASCAR night racing and some rest. Tomorrow would be a busy day.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Onward to Iowa

I am feeling much, much better today, so I think whatever mystery bug I had is on its way out. Good thing, too, because I am getting pretty excited for the weekend. I am going to make this my last post before the race because tomorrow night I will have to get in one final run, pack for the trip to Iowa, scare up some dinner, and watch the NASCAR Busch Series race! :) So, a quick post before I hit the road:

The Des Moines Marathon race director sent out an e-mail today to all of the participants. Apparently the marathon has over 1200 registered runners, and the half marathon race currently has more than 1700 signed up. These numbers are up from last year, and with the last minute registrations, there will be more than 3000 runners in pounding the pavement in Des Moines on Sunday. Should be a fantastic event with a great crowd.

The hotel reservation was confirmed today, and I have printed out all of my maps, registration confirmation, and instructions. Still haven't decided where dinner will be on Saturday night, but I have a couple of places in mind. And the preliminary weather forecast is looking excellent for running with morning temperatures in the 40's and going into the 50's. Not bad!

I look forward to talking to you when I return, and I will have a full report on the trip, the race, and the all the happening in Iowa!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In praise of bourbon

When feeling under the weather, most people reach for decongestants, cold medicines, or even cough syrups. Me? I drink whiskey.

OK, that is not my usual cold remedy, but it was last night! I had no cold medications on hand. However, I did have a long forgotten bottle of Baker's 107 proof Kentucky bourbon in the back of the liquor cabinet. It has been sitting there for years in case I needed to thaw out a frozen gas line or start a small fire. :) I figured this had to kill something, so I choked down some Baker's on the rocks.

I must say that my congestion is virtually gone today, and I feel remarkably good. My nose isn't running, and my head isn't stuffed up. I am breathing clearly. Still not sure if I am quite at 100%, but I am infinitely better than I was yesterday. At this rate, I am confident that I will be ready for the weekend.

Of course, all credit shouldn't be given to the bourbon. I did try to take care of myself yesterday, drinking gallons of green tea, and I also made a spicy chicken lo mein stir-fry dish that was full of great ingredients for colds such as garlic, ginger, and chile peppers. So hopefully, this is the end of it and I am on the mend!

I did do a run this afternoon when I got home from work, and that went very well. Brrr, it was cold today; 35 degrees with a howling wind, and I even got to run in the first snow flurries of the season! There were some big, fluffy flakes falling down all around me. I have lived in Minnesota virtually all of my live, yet seeing that first snowfall is always such a foreign, surreal thing! Anyhow, it sure was pretty. And I felt quite fresh on my 4 1/2 miles, so I am feeling much, much better than I have been.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Of all the weeks to catch a cold

While I was cleaning and packing this weekend, I stirred up a lot of dust in the apartment. I was attributing that to some burning sinuses yesterday morning. However, now I think I actually have developed a head cold. I would like to point out that I have not had a head cold in six years, and I get one the week before my big race of the year. Unbelievable!

Everything is in my head, so that is the good news (if there is any). I am just stuffed up with the runny nose. So I have been drinking hot green tea like the are going to quit making the stuff. Tonight's dinner will be a hot and spicy chicken lo mein dish loaded with chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and tons of veggies so I get some good nutrients in an attempt to flush the evil from my system. And, I am just going to take it easy tonight and try to rest. I really hope I can shake this fast.

Ugh...

Jean

Monday, October 9, 2006

Pizza, elite runners, and...snow?

No run tonight. Instead of running, I ate homemade pizza! :)

But, let’s talk about running a little bit: Here is an article from Sunday's Des Moines Register. It talks about how the race director is trying to toughen up the field for this year's race. Des Moines has been trying to grow this event, and they are expecting greater numbers this year, including more elite athletes competing in the marathon.

The forecast for Wednesday is calling for possible...snow? Good grief! This happens every year; you know it is coming, but you are just never quite ready for it!

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, October 8, 2006

One week

Just about one week from this very moment, I should be crossing the finish line in Des Moines!

Today I did my last "long" run. An easy 8 miler down the trail in Minnetonka. Now I will wind things down this week in preparation for next Sunday.

It occurred to me as I was on my run today that this could possibly be my last run on the Southwest LRT trail in Minnetonka. This is where I always went to do my long runs. Since I will be dialing things back a bit after the race, and because I am moving, I probably won't be going this route anymore. This trail has treated me well. But it is time to move on.

No worries, though. I couldn't be more excited about my new neighborhood, as I will have even more routes and trails to choose from, which will help me train for new goals!

Today will involve a lot more packing and cleaning. I tore apart the bedroom yesterday, packed a bunch of stuff, and even made a trip to Goodwill to donate some old clothes. Someone is going to get a heck of a deal because I had a lot of Tommy Hilfiger stuff from my pre-running days that no longer fits! Anyhow, progress is being made.

And of course, I will be taking breaks for football and NASCAR! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, October 6, 2006

Closer to Des Moines

Now that I am pretty much caught up with events from the last week, I can look forward to the future a little bit.

The lease has been signed at the new apartment, so everything is official. I start moving my stuff on November 1st. My apartment is an absolute disaster area covered with boxes and crap that needs to be packed. I am going to try and get a lot done over the weekend since I will be gone for the next.

And the reason I am going to be gone the following weekend is because of the Des Moines IMT Half Marathon, which is only 9 days away! I make the journey to Iowa next Saturday morning, and I will return after the race on Sunday, so it will be a bit of a whirlwind trip. But I am really looking forward to it because I had such a great time last year. I've already printed out my hotel reservation and race confirmations. My hotel is right in the heart of downtown Des Moines, approximately a well-struck 9-iron away from both the race expo and the starting line, so everything will be very conveniently located.

This year features a slightly different course. Most of the half marathon race course is similar to last year, however they cut off the loop that led us to the steps of the beautiful Iowa State Capital building due to some road construction in the vicinity. To make up for the loss of that route, they have added a segment around Grays Lake Park along the Raccoon River, which ought to be pretty scenic.

And, I have been trying to figure out where I am going to dine while I am there, which is always the most fun thing to research! Last year I had a damn fine plate of penne with smoked chicken and wild mushrooms at the Raccoon River Brewing Company, so that remains a distinct possibility. However, for the sake of variety, I might try another establishment. Decisions, decisions. We will see!

The experts always advise dialing back your training leading up to a big race. So this week I will be taking it pretty easy with runs on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Nothing too crazy, just my normal distance for most of those days, and perhaps nothing more than a 5k on Friday. I will do an 8 mile run this Sunday, and that will be my last "long" run before the race. Plus, I will be eating a lot of carbohydrates over the course of the week. All of the hard work has been done, so I will do my best to save some energy for October 15th!

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Catching up from the weekend

Long time, no post!

It was a busy and fun weekend, and I seemingly have blog material for days. I am not even sure where to start, but I will just begin my rambling and see where it goes! I spent a long weekend up on the North Shore visiting family and friends. The weather was great, as was the food, I got to do some running, and we had a fantastic time.

First of all, I have several updates on my Searching For Minnesota blog, as well as some new “road food” pursuits on my Food and Cooking blog. Most of these posts are from my weekend up north, so feel free to read them at your leisure.

Teeing it up

On Sunday, I played in a charity golf tournament at Superior National in Lutsen. The tournament benefits health care in Cook County, and they have raised well over $200,000 from this event over the years.

Fall colors at the Superior National Canyon Course



Viking Hall of Fame safety, Paul Krause, was also on hand hitting a "celebrity mulligan" shot for all the teams on the 5th hole of the Canyon Course (Paul absolutely corked one for us, nearly driving the green on this short par 4). Needless to say, Mr. Krause's appearance brought out a faithful Viking fan or two.

Zubaz are fashionable once again! Unfortunately, this was not the real Tommy Kramer… :)



It was a glorious day, and I got to play the scramble with my Dad, brother, and our good friend Marc. We hit the ball well from tee to green, but had difficulties on the green. This is a challenging course with putting surfaces that are very hard to read ("everything breaks towards the lake," they say!). Never in danger of having to scramble for a par, we finished at -6, which was 7 shots back of the winners.

Despite our putting woes, a great time was had by all. We couldn't have asked for a much better day weather-wise. October in Minnesota has been known to produce snow, so we really enjoyed temps in the upper 50's/low 60's with a little bit of sunshine. Not bad.

The Team Photo



Afterwards, they served us some wonderful appetizers and snacks at Lutsen Resort. Not your typical golf tournament fare, either; salmon, radicchio stuffed with walnuts and bleu cheese, hot artichoke dip, baby octopus. Quite a spread! A tasty conclusion to a very fun day.

Running to stand still

I got in three runs over the course of the weekend, my longest being a 10-miler. And what a 10-miler it was. I saw so much wildlife that the run took much longer than I thought it would. I felt a little like the old U2 song from The Joshua Tree album in that I was "Running To Stand Still."

Immediately after leaving the house, I surprised three deer at the end of my parents' driveway (I would see eight more deer during the course of the run, raising the total to eleven for the morning). They bolted into the woods with their white tails raised.

Making my way down to the wooded service road, I saw all kinds of birds. The yellow-shafted flickers were out in full force, as were the blue jays, chickadees, crows, merlins, and ravens, so the bird watching was already fantastic just a short distance into my journey.

About two miles in, I saw someone familiar. It was my old buddy, the gray jay (known as the "Canada jay" in some circles, or simply as "CJ" amongst my family), so I stopped to say hello. The CJ's are starting to move back into the area for the winter months, and my folks usually have one or two of these at their bird feeder. They are very friendly birds (unlike their cousin, the blue jay), almost like a great big chickadee, and they have been known for their fearlessness, especially when it comes to food. Always fun to see CJ!

A picture of me with "CJ" last November



Down the road at my 5-mile turnaround point, I stumbled upon a yellow-bellied sapsucker, who is a really colorful member of the woodpecker family and a summer visitor to Minnesota. I would see several more of them over the course of the weekend, so these guys were beginning their migration south.

Shortly after my encounter with the sapsucker, I stopped in my tracks when a furry critter scampered across the road about fifty feet in front of me. It was the pine marten, a rare, funny, playful, and especially cute member of the weasel family. He ran like a big Slinky across the road and leaped into the ditch, attempting to clear some tall weeds (he was unsuccessful, landing on the ground with a clumsy splat, eventually loping off into the woods).

Astonished at the sheer variety of birds and animals out and about today, I felt very lucky to have seen all of these creatures. It was a very good day of wildlife watching, and spotting a pine marten would normally be my highlight on any nature hike. Little did I know I would see something else that topped everything.

At about the seven mile mark, a woodpecker in the treetops made a small chirp. I never would have noticed him had he remained silent. I looked up and gave a passing glance, initially dismissing it as the relatively common hairy woodpecker. But something wasn't right. It was a somewhat muted call that didn't really resemble the sharp, exclamatory voice of the hairy, I thought. This sound was different. I broke off my run, did a 180 degree turn, and went back to investigate.

Silhouetted in the shadows of a dead birch tree, the woodpecker gently scraped the bark in search of bugs. When the bird emerged into the sunlight, I couldn't help but notice a solid black back that covered him like a cape. This was no hairy woodpecker; it was his rare northern cousin, the black-backed woodpecker!

The black-backed woodpecker is native to the boreal forests of extreme northern Minnesota. They are considered a fairly rare bird since they don't appear in any large numbers and birders consider themselves fortunate to even see one. In fact, this was the first one I have ever spotted in all my years visiting the North Shore!

With that, I got to add the black-backed woodpecker to my birding life list this weekend, and I have now seen every woodpecker native to Minnesota. I was so excited that I stood there for more than five minutes just watching him work until he eventually flew off into the woods in search of another tree.

I resumed my run, laughing out loud. At the rate things were going, I was wondering what else I might encounter? A moose? Timber wolf? Maybe a lynx? Anything was fair game, I thought! However, nothing else too terribly exotic made its presence known as I continued the journey home.

When I got back towards home, I met Mom coming down the driveway in the car. She was going to go look for me because she was worried. As it turns out, I was gone for almost two hours because I stopped so many times to look at birds and animals!

I told my folks about all the wonderful things I saw, and they understood. Mom and Dad know the old saying; If you encounter unique sights and sounds, the prudent thing is to stop and look. Otherwise, you might miss the black-backed woodpecker.

OK, I don’t know if that is an old saying or not, but it should be... :)

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