Thursday, May 31, 2007

Norris and friends

Perhaps our family is strange, but we have often given nicknames to our various favorite woodland critters. We’ve done this for years. I have talked about her before, but one example is “Bottlebrush,” the resident red squirrel with the unusually flared tail. I think the assignment of nicknames was born out of a need for more efficient communication. Instead of saying, “Hey, our favorite red squirrel with the really strange tail is here,” it is much easier to simply say “Bottlebrush is here.”

The infamous “Bottlebrush” enjoying some sunflower seeds



And then there is Norris.

Back in Mom and Dad’s woods, there is a rather friendly red-breasted nuthatch who we call “Norris.” There is nothing significant about the name, it is just that “Norris Nuthatch” seems to have a nice ring to it! :)

The red-breasted nuthatch is a tiny, rotund little masked bandit of the northern forests. They, along with the black-capped chickadees, are among the most common birds seen at the bird feeder all year long. One fun thing about both the nuthatches and the chickadees is that they can be friendly to the point that (if they get used to your presence) they will go so far as to take seeds directly from your hand.

A lot of my weekend was spent in the woods, and whenever we would approach Norris’ territory, he would eventually find us. I had to keep sunflower seeds with me at all times as this little guy would fly right to my hand, take a single seed, and fly off to store it. This would be a continuous routine, and I am sure I fed him hundreds of times over the course of the weekend.

Norris was often accompanied by a roving band of chickadees, which created some competition. A number of times I had a pair of chickadees sitting on my hand at the same time trying to eat. However, Norris is the more aggressive of the species, so if he wanted his seed, he would just bulldoze his way in there, flap his wings, and make his distinctive nasal chatter to clear out the chickadees. This would prompt the chickadee to fly to a nearby branch (or occasionally to my arm, shoulder, or hat!) to patiently wait his turn.

Yours truly with Norris



A funny thing happened on my last day. A chickadee was in my hand when Norris came barging in, causing the chickadee to jump to my wrist. While this was going on, a large mosquito landed on my thumb. I certainly knew I would not be able to smack it with these birds in my hand, so I was prepared to suck up the sting until the birds departed.

Just then, Norris (sitting on my fingertips) casually leaned forward, snapped up the bug, grabbed his sunflower seed, and left! It happened so quickly, and Norris didn’t hesitate for a second. It was as if he saw the mosquito and said, “Ooh, snacks!” and quickly disposed of the insect before returning to his business. And when Norris left. the chickadee patiently waited his turn and took his food to go. I was in hysterics!

So that was much of my weekend; feeding Norris and the chickadees. Perhaps you think I am nuts, but that was some of the most fun I have had in ages. And if you ever see a red-breasted nuthatch, please give him a round of applause. Not only is he a great little bird, but he is also on "mosquito patrol!" :)

Running and hiking and birding...oh my!

Over the course of the weekend, I went running four times; three 4 1/2 milers, and one 10 miler on Saturday. Most of my running was done in the mornings, and the weather was ideal in the upper 40's to lower 50's. Very comfortable!

All of my running was done on trails and dirt roads, which was fun. I wish I could run on these surfaces all the time. The entire time I only met two other people riding bikes, otherwise I didn't see a soul. And this was on a holiday weekend, too. Nice! Otherwise, I just ran and enjoyed the sounds of nature.

Just to make sure I got plenty of exercise, there was lots of hiking as well. Every day we went out on our bird watching excursions, and usually more than once. And this is a fantastic time of year to watch birds.

Mom and Dad on one of our many hikes



Every spring I look forward to the arrival of the wood warblers, the colorful little songbirds that winter down in the tropics. They were out in droves, and I saw 13 different species over the weekend (including 10 in one day!). Finding the warblers was often very easy. According to my Dad's theory, all you have to do is find the chickadees and you will find the warblers. Not sure if it is a power in numbers kind of deal, or if it is the easy-going nature of the chickadee, but they seem to enjoy hanging out together (more on the chickadees in another post). I could write for days about each of the warblers, but instead I will highlight a couple of unique ones.

My folks are lucky enough to live in an area where usnea moss is present in the woods. This is similar to the long, flowing Spanish moss you see hanging from the trees in the southeast. The reason this is cool is because the northern parula warbler uses this moss exclusively for nesting. They will find a suitable strand of this moss and weave together an intricate hanging nest. It is quite remarkable. The parulas were out in great numbers this year, and we were fortunate to locate two nests being built. It was fun to watch these beautiful little birds at work.

Also, one day we took a hike at Oberg Mountain near Tofte, MN. Oberg is a scenic trail that spurs off of the Superior Hiking Trail and offers spectacular views, along with some great bird watching. Oberg is an excellent location to see the black-throated blue warbler. This bird is not found in very many places in Minnesota, but Oberg Mountain is one of them. I am happy that we got to see several of these classy birds on our hike.

The view of lake Superior from Oberg Mountain



Of course, I must mention one of my favorites. the black-throated green warbler. This pretty little guy seems to be the most abundant of all the warblers in the North Country (or so it seems). I saw them everywhere, and their light, buzzy song kept me company on my morning runs. A true jewel of the forest.

All in all, I saw 42 different species of birds, which is a pretty good weekend for me. We spent a lot of hours in the woods, and it was well worth it!

Good food from the weekend

As per usual, there was no shortage of food over the weekend. Mom and Dad pulled out all the stops and dished up some pretty good chow.

Dad's famous applewood-smoked ribs and Mom's vegetable casserole



Dad made prime rib and his excellent Applewood smoked BBQ ribs. Mom took a few pages out of Giada De Laurentiis' cookbooks and made some awesome Parmesan-crusted pork chops and a vegetable casserole with fresh basil. And we did the bratwurst cookout on Memorial Day, which was a great way to kick off the summer. As you can see, I ate quite well at home!

I also went into Grand Marais one day to have lunch at a new restautant. The Wild Onion Café just opened earlier this month and is located in the Harbor Inn Hotel. They have a menu that is familiar but creative, with lots of great looking sandwiches. I had a Rueben that was excellent.

My Rueben sandwich at the Wild Onion Café



On the way back to the Cities after my trip was over, I couldn't resist stopping for a bacon cheeseburger at Gordy's Hi-Hat in Cloquet, MN. This place is a landmark that has been serving delicious fast food during the summer months since 1960, so it is pretty hard to pass up when in the area. And the burger and fries were wonderful.

Needless to say, all that eating gave me great fuel for running and hiking! :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Long weekend in the North Country

Hello everyone,

I have returned from my long weekend up in the North Country!



I had a fantastic vacation, ate very well, spent a ton of time outdoors, and didn't shave for a week. It was so much fun being able to hang out with the family, and the weather cooperated quite nicely for our activities.

A full report with pictures will follow once I get my act together. There will be stories about running, the spring warbler migration, BBQ ribs, hiking, Italian cooking, furry creatures, local restaurants, and a little fellow we affectionately refer to as "Norris."

Until then,

Jean

Memorial Day Weekend 2007 - Archive of Posts

Good food from the weekend

Running and hiking and birding...oh my!

Norris and friends

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Perfect timing

Some wicked storms moved through the metro this afternoon. Aside from some heavy rain in my neighboor, most of it missed us to west. I understand the cities of Plymouth and Brooklyn Park have several areas with lots of damage and many trees down. The TV news just showed some really big trees down on the Plymouth area, so they had some huge winds. Here is hoping eveyone is safe.

I managed to get in my run this afternoon without even getting rained on much. There was a bit of light drizzle when I started, but it soon stopped. The air was thick with humidity, with a fresh after-the-rain scent, making it quite pleasant. There was a gray catbird I scared up on the trail (he appeared to have been taking advantage of some worms on the dirt trail!). And I met only one other pedestrian, so I had the trails virtually to myself. I did my normal 4 1/2, and the moment I walked into the apartment, the heavens opened up and the rain began to pour again. Perfect timing.

Tomorrow I am off to the Great White North to visit my family for an extended Memorial Day vacation. I can't wait to get up there! I look forward to my time up there, and I will be back next week to share any good stories about running, bird watching, eating, and hanging out with the family!

Until next time,

Vacation Boy

Monday, May 21, 2007

Easy miles

According to the Fargo-Moorhead news, a total of 9350 runners participated in all the various events this past weekend. This was easily the biggest race I have been a part of, and I am still pretty excited with how everything went. What a great race!

Today it was back to work after my fantastic weekend out of town. Ugh. It is always hard to get back into the swing of things!

Was was not difficult was running today. I feel really good after the half marathon on Saturday and went out for a lazy 4 miles. It was warm today at 84 degrees, and there was a very strong southerly wind, but I still had a great run. There is no lingering stiffness, and my energy level is high.

That being said, I am still planning to take it pretty easy the remainder of the week. Tomorrow will be off, I will run Wednesday, and Thursday will be off because I am traveling to the North Country for some vacation time at Mom and Dad’s! I get to spend six days up there, and I can’t wait!

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Will run for lefse

PART II

When I said “cool things down for tomorrow,” I had not envisioned upper 40’s with a raging north wind for the start of the race. Good golly, was it blowing! But the cold weather is somewhat appropriate. Given that the Fargo Marathon embraces the area’s Scandinavian heritage (“26.2 miles? Uffda!”), I think it is only right that it be chilly! :)

We lined up on the streets outside the Fargodome to await our command. Prior to the race, there was a prayer for the runners, as well as a moment of silence for a well-respected Fargo area runner named Mark who was killed by a car during a training run. Some runners were wearing T-shirts in his honor. The silence of this crowd was incredible, and afterwards the race director said, “Everyone here has a reason to run, but in case you don’t...run for Mark.” A very touching moment.

A local Fargo a cappella group led us in a couple of stirring renditions of the Canadian (hey, we are close to the border up here, folks!) and US National Anthems, and a flyover by a helicopter capped off the pre-race festivities. The loudspeakers were blasting some loud rock music, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. And with a gunshot from the starter’s pistol, we were on our way!

The route would take us all over the city; through the North Dakota State campus, beautiful residential neighborhoods with stately oak trees, and even a quick jaunt across state lines into Moorhead before returning to the Fargodome.

If you work in an office setting, chances are you know a thing of two about negativity and pessimism, ambiguous and constantly changing rules and goals, as well as people who would throw you under the bus just to cover their own ass or make themselves look good.

Why do I bring this up? Because races are exactly opposite. Races exude a positive energy that is indescribable. The goals are simple (run, and finish). People are smiling. Complete strangers are pulling for you (spectators, as well as fellow runners), cheering you on, encouraging you to do your best. How come this doesn’t translate into other aspects of society? More people need to take up running, and not just for the health benefits.

The people of Fargo turned out for this event. The newspaper reported 9,000 runners in all of the various races, but there were also thousands along the course. Entire neighborhoods had streets lined with cheering, screaming spectators. Little kids were giving high-fives to the runners. Bands were playing. People were polka dancing. Heck, even the police officers who were doing traffic control were cheering and clapping. This was going on along the entire route. I have never seen anything like it. What awesome support from the community!

As for me, I ran my own race, and I ran pretty well. The first 2 miles were sloooooow! It was pretty congested at the start, and it took a long time for things to sort themselves out. I remember making it to the 3 mile mark in 26 minutes, and the 6 mile mark in 50, so I was able to make up some time.

At around the 4 mile mark, I got passed by a very pretty brunette. I mean, she was stunning. Just as she went by me, she cleared the phlegm in her throat and hocked up a big loogie. Perhaps it is just the runner in me, but somehow this made her seem even more attractive! Alas, she was too quick, and I could not catch her. :)

Remember how I mentioned it was windy? Funny thing, the wind was at our backs for about the first 5 miles. But then the half marathon course turned north! It felt like we were going into it for the remainder of the race! Ugh. It was challenging at times, but the good thing is when you are running in such a large pack, it is not quite as bad as it could be.

The miles felt like they were clicking by pretty quickly. I felt strong and fairly relaxed for most of the race, taking a drink from my bottle and popping some Jelly Belly “Sport Beans”....mmmmm, “berry blue” flavor....whenever needed. Of course, a little anxiousness always sets in during the last mile because I am so close, but I just kept telling myself to keep it steady.

The finish was awesome. Not only was it at the Fargodome, but it was in the Fargodome! You ran down the ramp into the building to the cheers of spectators. They have a camera focused on the finish line, and they play it up on the arena jumbotron! Very cool!

My traditional geeky self portrait back in the hotel room



Following the race, I hung out in the Fargodome for a little while to soak in the atmosphere and watch some of the other runners finish. It was fun watching the runners on the jumbotron! People were really into it, and there was a big party going on inside.

I was pleased with my results. I finished in 1 hour, 47 minutes, and 55 seconds (that was my chip time), which was only 1 minute 13 seconds slower than my half marathon PR. I obviously picked up the pace after my first 3 miles, and I was happy to have a strong finish at a big race early in the season. You can see all the half marathon results here.

This is the only race I have been to that served lefse as part of the post race chow (Norwegian-Americans, throw your hands in the air and rejoice!). I happily munched on some lefse as I washed down some Gatorade. Really, lefse is a fantastic post-race food; lots of carbs, and extremely portable. God bless the Norwegians! :)

The beautiful half marathon finishers medal



So that was my weekend. Fargo was a blast. This was, hands down, the best organized race I have been to. Everything went so smoothly, the course was beautiful, and the people of Fargo were amazing.

Thanks so much, Fargo! You have a first class event, and you were a most excellent host!

Until next time,

Jean

The road to Fargo

PART I

Most people hear the word “Fargo,” and they probably think of the movie with the bad Minnesota accents that didn’t even really take place in Fargo.

However, when I think of Fargo, I will think of a beautiful city, great people, and one fantastic race.

I have returned from my adventures at the Fargo Half Marathon in Fargo, ND, and I had the best time!

I arrived in Fargo after a journey across west central Minnesota trying to locate some interesting pieces of roadside architecture for my Searching For Minnesota blog. And west central Minnesota has some fine examples. Did you know we Minnesota was home to the statue of a large American coot? :)

Ashby, MN, home of one large American coot!



Packet pickup was at the Fargodome, which served as the race headquarters. A gorgeous arena, and although it is smaller in scale, it is light years nicer than the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

My hotel was right next to the Fargodome, and I think everyone staying there was here for the race. Nothing but fit looking people checking in and milling around the lobby! In fact, I saw this SUV in the parking lot that was appropriately pimped out for the weekend.

SUV complete with the motivational option package



Packet pickup was smooth, the volunteers were awesome, and the schwag was sweet! Runners not only got a long-sleeved technical running shirt with a zip collar, but we also got an Adidas gear bag. Nice!

On the way out, some folks from Scheels (the race title sponsor) were taking pictures of the runners against a backdrop of some Adidas elite athletes, so I stopped for a pic.

Yours truly hanging with Becks and Gilbert



With my packet successfully picked up, it was time to search for some food. It seems there are few Italian restaurants in the area (at least ones that don’t rhyme with “Olive Garden” or “Carino’s”). Thankfully, my family tipped me off to one across the river in Moorhead, MN.

I ate at the Speak Easy, a popular old-style, Italian-American red sauce joint. A fresh salad, some garlic bread, and a plate of mostaccioli with meat sauce (topped with fried mushrooms as well!) was just what this runner needed to fuel up for tomorrow.

The mostaccioli at the Speak Easy in Moorhead, MN



After dinner, I retired to the hotel to rest up. Rest did not come easy as some big time thunderstorms rumbled through the area. There was some seriously heavy rain and lots of lightning, and the satellite TV actually got knocked out for a time. It had been a hot day (I saw 91 on my car thermometer), so I figured a front was moving through, which would cool things down for tomorrow.

Fargo Half Marathon Index of Posts

May 18th-19th - Trip Notes from the Fargo Half Marathon in Fargo, ND

PART I - The road to Fargo

PART II - Will run for lefse

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Onward to North Dakota

A 4 mile run after work today. Just a nice, easy pace, nothing strenuous at all. This is the last run before the weekend, so I took it slow.

It was a picture-perfect day; low 70’s, sunny, low humidity, and a nice breeze. A little warm for running, but how can you complain? The run was still quite enjoyable. I even saw the gray catbird again, and one of the ospreys was flying low over the lake. A great day to be outside.

Tomorrow I go west to North Dakota for the Fargo Half Marathon. I am getting pretty excited. Currently I am doing laundry and getting packed, and in the morning I will take off. I am staying in a hotel right by the Fargodome, so I can walk to the start of the race. It ought to be a good weekend. I look forward to sharing some stories and pictures when I return!

Have a great weekend!

Jean

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cooler, and perfect for running

We are back into some cooler temperatures after out freakishly warm Monday. Today was in the upper 50’s with sunshine and a nice breeze. Perfect running weather.

The weather has been favorable up north, too, and firefighters are still working hard to contain the Ham Lake fire. Currently it is 25% contained, and the area has received some rain, humidity, and cooler temperature in the last few days. A great combination of things. Keep up the good work, guys and girls!

I did my 4 1/2 this afternoon and had a great run. I was full of energy and felt very strong, so I clipped around my regular route at a pretty good pace. It is getting harder to see birds with all of the leaves now, but there are plenty of them singing! Lots of butterflies and wildflowers have emerged as well. Looks great around here.

Fargo is only 3 days away, so I am starting to get very excited! It looks like thye weather is calling for lows in the low 50's and highs in the low 70's on Saturday. Given that the race is at 8 AM, I think we should have some favorable temperatures. Should be fun!

The second to the last ”Lost” of the season is on tonight, so I am looking forward to that, too. I am sure they are going to leave us with an awful cliffhanger, but at least they are promising “Lost” fanatics with 3 more seasons and a definitive conclusion. Yay!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gonna make you sweat!

OK, now I know my body hasn’t acclimated to this yet:

-89 degrees.

-Dewpoint of 63 degrees.

-Winds gusting to 32 MPH.

Hotter than blazes on my run this afternoon. This is kind of what late July feels like in these parts. Wow, I was sweating buckets after only a mile. I did an easy (relatively speaking) four miles, just taking a jaunt through the park and an abbreviated lap around the lake. I’m trying to wind things down before the race on Saturday, so I will have a couple more easy runs before then, and I should be good to go!

One new arrival to add to the bird list; I saw a pair of gray catbirds hanging out in a thicket in the park. Even though they are not colorful, they are still quite striking with their dusty gray feathers.

I am looking forward to the new episode of ”24” tonight. The season is winding down, and things are getting wild!

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Power to the people

The wind was really cranking down here this morning as I went out for my run. It is a blustery one out of the southeast, and the skies were overcast with a few stray raindrops.

My run started out pretty interesting. A short distance into it, I heard this horrible buzzing and snapping from the power lines along side of the road. I looked up and saw one of the guy-wires that connects to the top of the pole and is anchored to the ground was glowing an eerie neon orange. It looked like a branding iron, so something was wrong. I ran down to the local gas station and used the pay phone to call 911 to report it.

It must have been OK, because by the time I returned the situation had been resolved. Perhaps it was no big deal, but I was worried that the wire was going to melt, start a fire, or even worse, injure a passerby. Anyhow, I have performed my civic duties for the day, and all’s well that ends well!

Anyhow, back to my run; having to alter my route to call 911 turned out to be fortuitous, because it enabled me to have the wind at my back for the last 5 miles (I had slightly misjudged the direction!). The run was solid, and I felt great. This was the last “long” run before Fargo, so I feel as if I should be well prepared to have a fun experience.

I saw one new bird today, the green heron. I also used to see this guy on my running route back at the old place in Minnetonka. In fact, I could almost predict where he was going to be, because he flew from the same spot every time I ran by. It must have been a good fishing hole! I am pleased to see I have one of his buddies in my new neighborhood.

Not much on the agenda today. The weather forecast is kind of spotty, so that may hamper any outdoor activities. Last night’s NASCAR race was postponed until noon today due to rain, so with that and the PGA PLAYERS Championship, I should have plenty to watch. Also, I am making a meat loaf for dinner tonight (mmmmm....meat loaf....).

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, May 11, 2007

Still burning

It was a beautiful day in the Cities. Low 70’s, lots of sunshine, and low humidity. Quite a difference from the 86 degree scorcher we had yesterday!

I ran 5 1/2 miles this afternoon just because I felt like going a little longer. For the most part, it was a pretty easy run, but I threw in a couple of good speed bursts to make it more productive.

A new bird today; the rose-breasted grosbeak showed up. I stopped running for a minute to take a good look at him. He’s a beauty! Also, while I have already seen him this year, a broad-winged hawk flew over me and did his wheezy whistle. It is always cool to see the hawks.

To follow up on my last post, the Ham Lake Fire is still burning on the Gunflint. Even more evacuations have occurred, and last I heard my brother is still up there fighting the fire. Still, nobody has been hurt, which is good. Here is a link to the Minnesota Incident Command System that has all the details of this fire, along with some surreal pictures.

Please continue to keep the area residents, and all those fighting this monster, in your thoughts.

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

To protect and serve

Another warm day in the metro. 81 degrees, sunny, and it feels like summer. Wow, my body is so not acclimated to the heat, so running was somewhat sluggish today. But I had better get used to it! Our warmer months are just ahead.

Unrelated to anything, I just wanted to offer a tip of the cap to the brave firefighters in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region. Those outside of the state may not be aware, but there is a really bad and huge wildfire (now known as the Ham Lake fire), burning in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area along the Gunflint Trail. Nobody has been hurt, but dozens of structures have been lost, so we are all hoping it can be contained.

There are a few hundred firefighters up there right now, and my brother is a member of one of the volunteer fire departments in the area. He spent some time battling the blaze over the weekend. I talked to him last night, and the stories were pretty incredible. I can't believe the stuff that firefighters do.

So to the good folks of the Gunflint Trail, you are in our thoughts, and we will keep hoping for the best. And to all those firefighters, police, and rescue personnel, thank you for what you do, and keep fighting the good fight!

Here are the blogs of a couple of the businesses along the Gunflint Trail who were impacted by this ongoing fire, as well as a link to the Star-Trib’s photo gallery. Some amazing stories and pictures.

Tuscarora Lodge and Outfitters News

Boundary Waters Blog

Minneapolis Star-Tribune photo gallery

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Looks like summer

A warm one today! 75 degrees with a mix of sun and clouds, and a slight dose of humidity. I ran my usual 4 1/2, and it felt like July!

The maple leaves have fully emerged already, so the woods and forests are starting to look spectacular. I saw my first painted lady butterfly of the season. Also, the marsh marigolds in the low-lying swamp areas are in full bloom. This is such a great season in Minnesota. Everything looks so pretty down here.

Only a week and a half to Fargo! I am looking forward to it. Of course, this being the upper Midwest, I am fully prepared for any kind of weather. You may recall last year at this time, I ran through Lambeau Field in Green Bay under a frost advisory! You just never know. :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Blowing in the wind

It is looking like rain here in the Cities, but I got in my run this morning before any of that starts. The wind out of the southeast was fierce! That made for tough going at the start, but I planned my route so the wind would be at my back (or at the very least, helping me) for the last half of my run.

I did a little over 11 miles today, trying to taper back a little bit since my half marathon is just two weeks away. It was a good, steady run, challenging at first with the wind, but I managed to finish strong. Very comfortable temperatures in the upper 50’s as well. I love running in weather like this!

Some new wildlife to report today. The great egret has returned. I saw a few of them while I was out and about on Saturday, and I saw more on my run this morning. Also, I was surprised to see a coyote emerge from a wooded area and run across a yard. He was a pretty healthy looking one, too (some of these guys are pretty scruffy). “Wile E.” was off on his morning hunt, but alas, we do not have roadrunners up here in this neck of the woods. (Well, except for me, but I don’t think I am his type of "roadrunner!")

Last night’s NASCAR race in Richmond was postponed until today, so I have something to watch this afternoon. Also, I will be cooking up some of Giada de Laurentiis’ chicken ragu for dinner tonight. Giada’s recipes rock!

Enjoy you Sunday!

Jean

Friday, May 4, 2007

Speedy in the rain

We have a weather system moving in just in time for the weekend. The rain started this afternoon, and while the local TV meteorologists insist the weekend will not be a complete washout, they have a chance of rain in the forecast every day through Tuesday! Well, we do need the moisture.

I ran in a steady drizzle this evening, which I don't mind, and I ran particularly well. I mixed in three pretty good sprints during the course of my typical 4 1/2 miles, which was kind of fun and really stretched out the legs. I have never been very good about incorporating speed work into my routine. Normally I just run a steady pace. I think I will try to do this more regularly.

For wildlife this evening, I encountered a mama deer! I ventured out of a neighborhood cul de sec and onto a park trail. As soon as I rounded the corner, there was the deer, no more than 10 feet away. I startled her, and she startled me, but I just kept running and she never moved! I turned to watch her, and she just stared at me as I ran out of sight. Clearly, she didn't think this runner was much of a threat.

Enjoy the weekend,

Jean

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Big wheel, keep on turning

Another gorgeous spring day in Minnesota! 70 degrees, sunny, with a nice breeze. I am loving this.

I ran my usual 4 1/2 after work. It was fun. I didn’t run very hard, just took things at a steady pace so I could enjoy all the leaves and flowers that are starting to pop up. I noticed numerous little purple violets along the trail, the flowering trees are looking great, and the lilacs are beginning to blossom. They smell great! The whole neighborhood had a wonderful perfume wafting about today. I finished the run with a good quarter mile sprint back to my place, so I had a productive workout.

I had a fairly adventurous day, too. I brought my car in because I had a tire with a slow leak. Turns out I had actually cracked a rim! Not good. And I have no odea when that would have happend. Perhaps it was when I was playing ”Dukes of Hazzard” and tried to jump that dirt pile in order to clear a moving train, but I can’t be certain... :)

My rims are fairly specialized too, as they are low-profile and brand-specific. Not exactly something they had on the shelf, if you catch my drift. Unbelievablyly, the good folks at Tires Plus were able to locate a rim that matched my car in a matter of hours, so they got me taken care of quickly. That was $370 I would rather not have had to spend, but they pulled some strings, took pretty good care of me, and my car is safe again!

Anyhow, I am looking forward to a little relaxation and the new episode of ”The Office.” Looks like it could be a chaotic one, and Phyllis gets flashed and Dwight and Andy try to track down the perpetrator. Also, be sure to check out the cool desktop wallpaper on the NBC website.

Running on new shoes and driving on new wheels,

Jean

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

May Day

Last night a few thunderstorms rumbled through the area, but today was nothing short of spectacular. 66 degrees, sunny, and not a cloud to be seen. Awesome!

It is amazing how the leaves have unfurled in the last week. Today I noticed parts of the trail were a canopy it starting to form, and it is becoming difficult to see the sky. Also, in the last day, many of the plum and apple blossoms have popped out. I ran through several areas where I could smell flowers for the first time since last summer. I ran 5 1/2 miles today just because it was so beautiful. A nice way to ring in the month of May.

Unrelated to anything, this story has been making the rounds; check out how the kids celebrate graduation at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. Skinny dipping in northwestern Minnesota on April 30th is a chilly proposition, to say the least. But hey, we Minnesotans are a tough and crazy bunch! :)

Until next time,

Jean

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