Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's like deja vu all over again

Oh, what a tiring day! As I have mentioned earlier, my department at work is moving to a new office next week. Originally, we were supposed to have all of our stuff packed up by Thursday. Earlier this morning, they changed the deadline to today due to the impending snow storm. They figured (perhaps correctly) that folks might not be able to make it in if the forecasts come true.

So we were scrambling. I had all of my stuff taken care of, so I spent most of the day helping the department box up everything. I helped pack a couple of offices for people who were traveling, I got to shrink-wrap several huge carts full of books and binders, and I did a lot of heavy lifting and pushing boxes around. I think we got everything all taken care of, and I am a little bit tired this evening as a result.

You might also recall that I moved last fall, so this whole moving process is like deja vu. Seeing piles of cardboard boxes, carts, and doing all that lifting was giving me flashbacks! :)

Even though I was a little wiped out, it didn’t stop me from running when I got home! The legs were kind of heavy at the start, but I managed to have a surprisingly zippy run on my usual stomping grounds. Even after a tiring day, it always feels good to run. A nice stress reliever!

The weather forecast is pretty interesting right now. I made it home before anything started, and as of this writing, nothing has. Latest report are that the first wave could hit the Cities later in the rush hour (how convenient), with 2 - 4 inches overnight, and we might have a foot or more by Thursday evening. Thankfully, I am equipped to do my work from home, if need be, so I will not have to venture out if the weather is as bad as they say it could get.

Watching for the first snowflake,

Jean

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Batten down the hatches

Today was a day off from running, but I didn’t get a chance to post. I got home really late after a long Monday at the office. The whole packing and moving to a new office is starting to get to me! But next week it will be done.

Last night I ran at dusk. It was extremely pleasant outside, with comfortable temps in the low 30’s. A nice, easy 4 1/2 miles around the lake, as per usual. It was great stress relief.

So it would appear that we recovered quickly from our big snowstorm last week, but guess what? The National Weather Service says another one is on the way! It’s going to snow from Wednesday afternoon into Friday morning, and we are supposed to get at least another foot.

Good grief! Nothing like making up for lost time. Looks like we will have to hunker down once again.

Battening down the hatches,

Jean

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Snow!

Now THAT was a good, old fashioned Minnesota snowstorm!

The view from my balcony (as I type this, they just dug out the car you see in the picture that was buried by the plows!)



Yesterday we go socked. There is no other way to put it. I spent all of the day inside, baked some bread, did some cooking, and watched the snow come down hard! The neighboring town of Andover was claiming 13.5 inches of snow as of this morning, and after being out and about already today, we are certainly in the ballpark.

I tried to do a little snowshoeing this morning. What I hadn't anticipated what that the snowplows threw all of their loose, chunky snow up onto the bikepath. With every step, I post-holed up to my knee, so the snowshoeing was short-lived. I went running instead, and I took my camera with me.

A shot of the neighborhood



As you can see in the pictures, we got dumped on. Most of the streets had already been plowed, however, so there was a decent, crunchy layer of snow for me to run on. Wearing my trail shoes helped greatly for traction as well.

I hopped onto the trail for a short jaunt, as as you can see in the photo below, I was the only person who had been on it. It was at least a foot deep coming through here, and there were a couple of drifts I had to negotiate through that almost came up to my waist!

Breaking trail



I had a really fun time running today. The blanket of fresh snow looks beautiful. There were a lot of people out shoveling and snowblowing, the chickadees were singing, and I even heard the pileated woodpecker chortling deep in the trees. Nice!

Not much on the agenda today except for golf, NASCAR, and homemade enchiladas for dinner. :)

Digging out,

Jean

Friday, February 23, 2007

Ridin' the Storm Out

Tomorrow is a scheduled day off from running, and because the weather looks pretty sketchy this weekend, I decided to get in my long run today while the roads and trails were still clear. After work, I did an 8 mile run around the lake and through some of the various trails in the neighborhood. It was a relatively mild temperature, but we had a wind out of the east-southeast that was positively howling. The run was pretty comfortable, however. It felt good.

But now, as REO Speedwagon once sang, I'm "Ridin' the storm out!" :)

As I type this, virtually all of southen and central MN went under a winter storm warning. Latest projections for the Twin Cities are for 12-15 inches of white stuff accumulating through Sunday, with some isolated areas getting up to 18. Wow! We will see if that materializes, but it looks as if it is going to be a doozy.

I am just glad I don't have to travel anywhere this weekend. It is the perfect excuse to just stay hunkered down, watch some sports and maybe a few movies, do some cooking and baking, and watch the snowflakes fall. And maybe I will break out the snowshoes for a run around the neighborhood on Sunday!

I lifted the following from the local National Weather Service office in the Twin Cities. Here are some interesting figures documenting some of the Twin Cities' biggest snowstorms in history (or at least, since they started keeping track!):

Top Snowfall Events for the Twin Cities

THE TOP TEN SNOWFALLS FOR THE TWIN CITIES ARE LISTED BELOW. ALTHOUGH THERE ARE NUMEROUS EVENTS WHERE OVER ONE FOOT OF SNOW FELL...A SNOWFALL EVENT WITH MORE THAN 12 INCHES HAS NEVER OCCURRED IN THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY. HERE IS A LOOK AT THE BIGGEST EVENTS:


TOP TEN SNOWFALLS FOR MINNEAPOLIS-ST PAUL (KMSP):
• October 31 - November 3, 1991 (28.4 inches) -HALLOWEEN BLIZZARD
• November 29 - December 1, 1985 (21.1 inches)
• January 22 - January 23, 1982 (20.0 inches)
• January 20 - January 21, 1982 (17.4 inches)
• November 11 - November 12, 1940 (16.8 inches)-ARMISTICE DAY BLIZZARD
• March 3 - March 4, 1985 (16.7 inches)
• March 11 - March 14, 1940 (16.7 inches)
• December 27 - December 28, 1982 (16.5 inches)
• January 20 - January 21, 1917 (16.0 inches)
• March 8 - March 9, 1999 (16.0 inches)

NOTE: OBSERVATIONS BETWEEN 2000-2004 WERE TAKEN AT THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE IN CHANHASSEN.

We have a shot at cracking the top ten! :) I will keep you posted. Pictures will be forthcoming if it gets really interesting.

Sing it with me, now..."Ridin' the storm out!"

Jean

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Finally, some snowshoeing?

What a gorgeous evening! It was 32 degrees, sunny, slightly breezy, but still most pleasant outside.

The weather definitely contributed to a positive attitude on my run. I felt very spirited. It is nice to have streets that are clear of snow and ice, and the ground on the trails was slightly frozen, so it was not as muddy as the other day. Hard not to get excited about running this afternoon.

This is, as they say, the “calm before the storm,” however. The NWS Forecast Office in the Twin Cities is predicting our biggest snowstorm of the season starting on Friday night and lasting into Sunday. We are currently under a winter storm watch.

It would not take much to be called the “biggest snowstorm of the season,” as we really haven’t had a huge one this year. But this could prove to be significant. Depending upon where it tracks, we could get anywhere from 6 inches to a foot, based on the latest projections.

Since I am not entirely sure what the weather will bring, I got my grocery shopping done tonight. And, I dug out my running snowshoes just in case! :)

Bracing for the snow,

Jean

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Temperature swing

On February 3rd, I went running when it was -11 degrees. Today I went running and it was 40. Nothing like a 51 degree swing in the span of a few weeks!

Today was a rather hectic day in the office. Not only were my projects crazy, but we are in the process of moving to a new building, so things have been extra stressful with the packing involved. It will be nice to get that over with.

Anyhow, it felt good to hit the streets when I got home. It was so comfortable that I got to ditch my running jacket for the first time in months. I could have run in shorts, but that didn’t even occur to me until I was on the road (putting on the tights has become a habit this winter!). There was so much melting going on from what little snow we have that it turned a few of my short trail segments into mud! Haven’t seen that in a while. It made me anxious for spring, but I know all too well that we have a long ways to go.

Nothing on the agenda tonight except for the easy chair, along with "NCIS" and "The Unit."

With Spring fever setting in,

Jean

Monday, February 19, 2007

Running, hiking, eating (and not necessarily in that order)

Hi, all! I am back from Presidents’ Day weekend up north! I actually came back yesterday due to the threat of some possible snow/freezing rain (which likely never materialized), but better safe than stranded, I always say.

Despite cutting the trip short, I had a great weekend with the family. There was lots of running, some hiking, and as always, great food.

I did two runs while up there; one, a hilly 5 miler through the woods on trails and dirt roads, and a 7 miler along a frontage road on the shores of Lake Superior. The hills proved to be a tough workout, and my lower back is still feeling a little tight (hills are tough on us flatlanders!), but both runs were incredibly fun and scenic.

On my 7 miler, Dad actually drove to pick me up. My run ended at Cascade Lodge next to the Cascade River State Park. We went down to the shore to take some pictures. As you can see, it was a gorgeous day!

Yours truly on the shores of Superior



I got to do a little bit of hiking, but it was still somewhat chilly during the days I was up there. I had some very successful birding, however. I finally got to see a male black-backed woodpecker! He was so cute with the little dollop of yellow on the top of his head. And, I got to observe a pair of pileated woodpeckers happily cackling away and looking for food. Along with the usual suspect chickadees, nuthatches, deer, and red squirrels, I got to see some pretty fun wildlife. I also got to see the family cat, who took a liking to my parka, as you can tell. :)

Happiness is a warm parka!



Of course, we managed to eat quite well. Dad made classic, roasted prime rib on Saturday night, so I got my fill of perfect, medium-rare beef for the weekend! Dad truly has the seasoning roasting process down. His prime ribs keep getting better and better!

And Mom made a really fun dish on Friday. It was Giada de Laurentiis’ braciole, which is a rolled, seasoned flank steak braised in marinara sauce (Mom and Dad’s homemade marinara sauce, mind you) and wine.

An Italian feast



What a wonderful dish. Tender, flavorful meat, a sauce the was absolutely outrageous, and some good red wine to drink; not a bad meal! I had to stop myself from licking the plate. I will be making this dish on a lazy Sunday sometime.

So that is my weekend in a nutshell. Tomorrow it’s back to the grind. Ugh...

Finally, unrelated to anything, a big shout out to Kevin Harvick for winning the Daytona 500! Harvick has been my favorite driver for a number of years now, and it was great to see him get the biggest win of his career yesterday, and in such dramatic fashion. Way to go, #29! :)

Wishing I had more vacation,

Jean

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hey, Dog

Lots of dogs the afternoon on my run. The cocker spaniel who hates me was letting me have it, I passed two others who both gave me just a passing glance, but then there was a border collie in a house standing on a table in the picture window barking at me! Clearly, they were a little whipped up over the results of the Westminster dog show. :)

It was a pretty easy run, otherwise. It was colder today in the single digits, but the sun was out, so that felt pretty good. But, I didn't exert myself too much. Just putting in the miles!

Well, I am heading out of town tomorrow right after work. I hope everyone has a great Presidents' Day weekend, and I will be back on Monday with hopefully some good reports of running in the North Country!

Enjoy the weekend,

Jean

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Muskrat Love

It felt like summer today.

OK, 20 degrees isn't exactly summer! But with the sun shining brightly, it felt really nice on the run the afternoon. It was back to doing the usual route once again. I felt really good after racing on Sunday.

While running on the east side of the lake, I saw a funny little animal running down the quiet street ahead of me. I caught up to it and ran along side of it for a second. It was a muskrat! While not terribly surprised to see one (there is a large swamp on this side of the lake), I don't think I have ever seen one during the winter before. I asked him what he was doing out, but he ignored me, turned off the road, and headed to the swamp. Always fun to see some cute little wild critters on the run!

I am getting excited because I have Friday off. I will be going up north to visit the family for a long Presidents' Day weekend. I have not been home since Christmas, so I can't wait. It sounds like Mom and Dad have quite a menu planned for our various dinners, so that will be fun. And I look forward to seeing all the cute little wild critters on my runs in the North Country, too! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Heart of St. Paul is still beatin’!

When thinking about the words "Heart of St. Paul," the 80’s hit song, “The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll” by Huey Lewis & the News, kept popping into my head. Even though Huey never mentioned St. Paul in the song, I thought perhaps he should have, because St. Paul rocks!

Sunday morning I found myself running in the Heart of St. Paul 5k. The race runs a clockwise loop around Como Lake in the scenic Como Park area. It is a pretty course, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, this is the same course as November’s Turkey Run.

130 diehard runners were greeted with delightful temperatures in the middle teens. That may sound chilly, but when looking back at my running journal, I had to go back to January 29th run to find a run with a comparable temperature. Otherwise, it has been much colder. I am officially calling this a heatwave. :)

I tried something different today and decided to leave my watch at home. I thought I would just run by feel. This way, I figure, it takes pressure off, I am not concentrating on time, and I could just run.

And run, I did! Right from the start I settled into a pace I felt good about and kept clipping right along. There was nobody calling out splits at the mile markers, and therefore no need to wonder how I was doing, so I just focused on running.

It was a little strange because I was running the race virtually alone. When the pack got sorted out, I could see one guy perhaps 70-80 yards ahead of me that I wasn’t gaining on, and I stopped hearing footsteps behind me after the first mile. It seemed like I had the course to myself for the last 2/3rds of the race!

I crossed the finish line in 21:46, which was good for 10th place overall, and 1st place in my division. Whenever I can get under 22:00, I am very happy, so that was a good 5k time for me. And I did it without really knowing how I was doing. I like running by feel. Perhaps I will leave the watch at home from now on? :)

Cool shirts at The Sporting Life's events!



The Sporting Life does a really nice job with their events, no matter how small or how large. These are among my favorite local races to run in. They are well organized, the courses are pretty and fun, and (being a fan of race T-shirts) they have some of the coolest race shirts in my wardrobe. For this race, we got a really neat wicking long-sleeved T-shirt. Fashionable and functional. Nice!

A fun morning. I ran well, had a great time with the other runners, enjoyed the beautiful sights and sounds of St. Paul, and indulged in a little bit of chocolate at the finish. As I said earlier, St. Paul rocks!

So, no worries, Huey; I’ve got it covered for you...

The heart of rock ‘n roll,
heart of rock ‘n roll is still beatin’...
in ST. PAUL!

Jean

Thursday, February 8, 2007

For that special someone

Today's run; 10 degrees, cold, windy, the usual 4 1/2 miles, blah, blah, blah...The days seem to run together lately. I feel sort of like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day."

In more exciting running news, this weekend I have a local fun run on my agenda. It is the 2nd annual Heart of St. Paul 5k in, coincidentally enough, St. Paul, MN! I ran here last year as well, and the course is the exact same as that of last November's Turkey Run, so I am very familiar with this jaunt around Como Lake. The Heart of St. Paul is a low pressure, Valentine's Day-themed event that entices runners with the promise of chocolates afterwards. Nice! I have no desire to be fast, I am just planning to bundle up, run, and have some fun with other members of the local running community on a frigid Sunday morning.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, a friend of mine sent me this delightful and amusing non-running related item today:

Ladies, in lieu of going to a nice restaurant, what would you think if your man brought you to White Castle for a "Cupid's Crave Kit" for your Valentine's Day dinner? Now, I am single, but if I had a girlfriend or wife, I can't imagine the guts it would take to pull this off, even if it was intended to be a joke. She would look at you like you were a real-life Homer Simpson. Furthermore, I am not even sure I would want to know what the "keepsake items to heat up your homespun romance" are that come with this kit. Wow. And then there is the whole issue of wine pairing. Do you make up for your cheapness with an expensive bottle of something like a Castello Banfi Summus, or do you "slum it" with a 5-liter box of Franzia to fully complete this culinary ensemble?

I could go on and on. But at the very least, you could be slightly more upscale and go to Culver's for their famous "ButterBurgers"... ;-)

Mmmmm...ButterBurgers,

Jean

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Weather matters

It occurred to me that I talk about the weather an awful lot in my blog. Well, after all, this is Minnesota, where our state motto is "Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Lakes and One Month of Poor Ice Fishing!" :)

Of course, that is not true, but our weather is certainly interesting and diverse. Take this past weekend, for example; the local Fox News affiliate reported on their evening broadcast that last weekend's cold snap consisted of 64 consecutive hours where the temperature was below zero!

Keeping with the theme of interesting weather, we got some snow early this morning. We didn't get much, perhaps two inches, but that was enough to really screw things up. I made to work before the heavy stuff came down (I'm an early riser!), but several of my coworkers were exchanging tales from their commutes, and they were none too pleasant. Some people's 20 minute drive turned into an hour and a half! Ugh. But the drive home from work wasn't a lot of fun, either. Still plenty of slick spots, and the secondary roads were horrible. I love Minnesota, but these are the days your must put up with from time to time!

This afternoon, I ran in my trail shoes to give myself some extra grip. The streets in my neighborhood still had a layer of snow on them, so the shoes helped greatly. The small section of trail that I was only only had one set of footprints, so I enjoyed the fresh, soft powder. And despite being a mere 7 degrees, it almsot felt warm! Very little wind and plenty of sun made things quite comfy.

Finally, another local weather-related news item: While I have professed my enjoyment of running in colder weather, I know I have been clear that it is important to be prepared and have good gear. You don't want to do what this guy did.

A kid from Buffalo, MN, got severe frostbite on his feet from running around the block barefoot in the 17 below zero weather on Sunday! Apparently, the family had a tradition of doing a run around their garden during the halftime of the Super Bowl. When Dad declared it was too cold to do the run, the youngster decided to keep the tradition going in his own style; that is, without shoes or socks. What part of that sounded like a good idea, I am not sure, but it certainly appears that it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature!

Warming up nicely,

Jean

Monday, February 5, 2007

Trusting your instincts

We had a heatwave today; the temperature actually hit zero this afternoon, so it was a little more pleasant running. I had an uneventful, enjoyable run around the lake. Sure, I was still bundled up, but it was much better out there.

Yesterday was pretty lazy, but it was a great day to stay inside. I did nothing but lounge around, watch sports, and cook. I made a pot of beef and chorizo chili with red and black beans that turned out delicious. Perfect food for a bitter cold day, and for eating during the Super Bowl!

I did something stupid, however. Twenty minutes before the start of the game, I changed my pick in the pick'em league to the Bears. I saw how hard it was raining, and I figured the dome team might have troubles! Oh well, live and learn. But I was very happy to see Dungy and Peyton get their Super Bowl. Nice to see classy guys succeed!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Less Than Zero

Here is what you wear to go running when it is -11 degrees with a -33 wind chill:



I wore my base-layer long underwear with my Under Armor “cold gear” tights, and a pair of shorts. I had my Under Armor “cold gear” shirt, a technical long-sleeved T-shirt, my New Balance long-sleeved shirt that I usually wear on cool fall or spring days, and my Illuminite jacket. Add a full face mask, a stocking cap over that, and a pair of running “glittens” (combination gloves/mittens made of Thinsulate material). I was the running equivalent of Randy in ”A Christmas Story” when his mother dressed him up to walk to school in the winter.

So yeah, it was a little cold outside! I kept it short, running my typical 4 1/2 on my usual route, not venturing too far from home. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it wasn’t that bad. Streets that went directly into the wind were bitter cold. My face mask and hat got completely frosted over. My eyelashes were encrusted with ice to the point where I had to brush them off so I could see.

Otherwise, it wasn’t that bad. :)

Out of the wind, I was pretty comfortable wearing my multiple layers of clothing. And I ran pretty quickly today. I had a lot of energy, and perhaps the cold weather motivated me to finish faster!

As you can imagine, I was the only runner out and about this morning. In fact, I saw very few signs of life. There were some chickadees singing and a downy woodpecker peeping (tough birds, the lot of them). I saw an elderly couple that had the motorhome loaded up with the car in tow (clearly, they have had enough of the cold and were getting the heck out of Dodge), and there was one gentleman letting his dog in the yard out who enthusiastically shouted to me “You are a diehard!” That was about it.

I don’t have too much on my agenda today. I might venture outside for some errands later on (when it warms up to today’s projected high of -4!), and tonight I am making a Moroccan-spiced Cornish game hen for dinner, so I am looking forward to that.

Thawing out,

Jean

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Bracing for the cold

This afternoon, I did my usual route during a light dusting of snow. It was a strange snow because it was 11 degrees out, yet the snow was incredibly fine and created a somewhat greasy running surface. You wouldn't think that would happen when it was so chilly outside! I had to pay attention to my footing in some spots, but it wasn't too bad.

I can't complain too much about the weather, because the weekend will be much worse. Currently, the projected high temperature for Saturday is -2 (yes, I said the "high), with overnight lows in the teens below zero. I will get in a run on Saturday (I've actually gone running in much worse before), but otherwise this weekend will be a great excuse to stay indoors, do some cooking, and watch a lot of sports. :)

Speaking of sports, for my pick'em league, I am going with the Colts, 27-24 (Vinatieri at the buzzer?)!

Nothing on the agenda tonight except for the easy chair and the new episode of "The Office."

One more day 'til the weekend,

Jean

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