Sunday, December 31, 2006

What's up for 2007

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

Jean

Saturday, December 30, 2006

1170

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Who needs Advil?

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

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

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

Until next time,

A very relaxed Jean :)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dog issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

King of the Ridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowy trails



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

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

The Big Dog



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

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

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

King of the Ridge



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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So I lied

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bring on the trails!

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Talkin' trail running in the St. Croix River Valley

I’ve had a fun and busy day so far.

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

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

A shot of downtown Stillwater



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

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

The famous Stillwater lift bridge connecting MN and WI



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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, December 15, 2006

Potlucks and Poodles

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

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

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

Happy Friday!

Jean

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

We need a little Christmas! Right this very minute!

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A misty run, and Krissy's eyes

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reindeer lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A path in the woods

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Cold! And...well, cold!

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Wind! And cold!

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, December 4, 2006

Snow! And cold!

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, December 3, 2006

There is no bad weather, just bad gear

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, December 1, 2006

"Christmas Vacation" in the making

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Jean

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