Saturday, June 30, 2007

25k and a burger

It was a gorgeous morning in the metro. Mild temperature, and not a cloud in the sky.

I went for my weekend long run and did my longest run to date. It totaled 15.7 miles according to Gmaps Pedometer mapping web site, so it was just a shade over a 25 kilometer run. Woohoo! :)

The run started out blissfully cool, but without a cloud in the sky, the temperature rose quickly. It was close to 70 degrees by the time I had finished, so it got a little warm. I had my two Amphipod hand-carry bottles with me one filled with water, the other with Gatorade (the new “Fierce grape” flavor is particularly tasty), and I drained both of them. I also ate an entire package of Clif Shot Bloks en route for some calories (“Cran-Razz” flavored to compliment the grape Gatorade).

Despite being warmer than I would have liked, it was a fun morning to run. There were a lot of people on the trails and bike paths because it was such a beautiful day. Runners, walkers, bikers, even a guy pulling his kayak (hopefully to a lake somewhere!). I saw lots of wildlife. Baby bunnies are still everywhere, and they scatter on the trails as you approach. A number of birds were seen carrying food back to the nests, so many youngsters have hatched. Just a great day.

I was a little tired afterwards, but feel really good. I feel like I am making some good progress. Still have a ways to go with my training, but I am pleased with how it is going so far.

My reward was lunch at Meisters Bar & Grill in Scandia, MN.

The “Bacon BBQ Meisterburger” at Meister’s Bar & Grill



I had the “Bacon BBQ Meisterburger,” which was absolutely excellent and was topped with more bacon than should be allowed by law. :) They do real, hand-cut fries here, too, which is a rarity in today’s restaurant scene, but always appreciated when you can find them on a menu. What a great meal!

A little NASCAR and golf on TV this afternoon, a nice dinner later on, and this turned out to be a pretty fine day. Tomorrow will be a well-earned day of rest!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

That's more like it!

It’s been kind of a long, busy week at work. One of the projects I am on is ramping up for a big deliverable in a couple of weeks, so there are a lot of people visibly stressed. At times like this, it always feels good to go for a run! :)

Compared to yesterday, this afternoon’s run was 100% better. Low 80’s, low humidity. It felt about 25 degrees warmer, no lie.

I ran a little extra today, doing 5 1/2 instead of the typical route. Why not? It was so beautiful outside. More bluebirds, tons of butterflies, and mama and papa osprey were atop their nest. Just a picture perfect summer day.

Here is a link to the results of Sunday’s race in Big Lake. I was two seconds off in my original race report (I must have stopped my watch early!). I was pleased to see that I at least finished in the top 1/3 of the field. Not bad on such a hot and muggy morning!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

99.9 Fahrenheit degrees

Today I was thinking of the lyrics to a Suzanne Vega song called “99.9 F°”:

You seem to me
Like a man
0n the verge of burning
99.9 Fahrenheit degrees

We have a scorcher, folks. Not quite 99.9, but the temps this afternoon were in the low 90’s, coupled with a downright tropical dewpoint in the mid 70’s. That pushed the heat index somewhere between 98 to 101. Yikes!

Needless to say the run was kind of slow. I took my time and put in my usual 4 1/2, and I even carried a water bottle with me. Not so much to stay hydrated for such a short run, but rather to dump over my head to help cool off!

Very difficult running in these conditions. Breathing becomes labored, your clothes get absolutely soaked, and the heat really takes its toll quickly. It is always best to take it kind of easy on days like this, which I did.

I suppose I had better get used to the heat. After all, we are only a few days into summer! :)

I am starting to notice birds that are busy gathering food for the newly hatched youngsters. Today I saw a beautiful eastern bluebird with a mouthful of insects heading back to the nest. Also, there continue to be huge numbers of butterflies in the park. I have never seen so many red admirals. This must be a banner year for them. They are everywhere, clearly enjoying all that the park has to offer!

Plenty warm down here,

Jean

Monday, June 25, 2007

Runnin' at the Spud Fest

After a sleepless night courtesy of my drunk, loud, idiot neighbors (different ones this time...oh, joy!), I got in the car, rubbed my bleary eyes, and pointed the car northwest to the town of Big Lake for the Lakes Run 8k.

The race, in its 21st year, was one of the events associated with the Big Lake Spud Fest, the annual summertime town celebration. The course begins in front of the schools, meanders its way through some neighborhoods, and would take us on a counterclockwise loop around the lakes before returning to the schools for the finish.

As previously noted, I was very tired. I called the cops again (that's twice in 11 days, for those of you keeping score) to put a stop to the revelry next door at 2:15 AM, and I never really got back to sleep. Sitting on the edge of my bed at 5:30, I said to myself, “Do I really have to run today?” Even right before the start of the race, I didn’t feel like my heart was in it. The weather wasn’t helping either (mid 70’s with a dewpoint in the mid 60’s). It was starting to get steamy an hot. Yuck!

But the race director gave an inspiring pep talk before the race, and that made me perk up! He acknowledged a number of runners who were just up in Duluth last weekend running at Grandma’s, and reminded us to be sure to thank all of the volunteers. This was a relaxed and loose crowd, which often makes for the best races. I was starting to feel more inspired to run.

The gun went off and we were on our way! All I wanted to do was settle in to a comfortable pace and have a respectable finish. Immediately, I began sweating like a kid on his first date. It was warm out there! I was reeling off miles in the 7 1/2 minute range, so I did my best just to stay right there.

The lap around the lake was very cool. It is a picturesque lake with many beautiful homes, and there were a number of folks out enjoying the water early on a Sunday (a great day to be on the lake, for certain!).

I did something in this race that I have never done in a shorter race; I took water at an aid station! Took a little sip, but the rest got dumped right over my head to help cool me off. Running was tough, but I kept plugging away trying to maintain my pace. the miles seemed to be clicking by slowly. Coming down the home stretch, I managed a little burst right at the end (just to make sure nobody passed me at the finish line!), and I finished in 37:40.

That’s almost two full minutes off of my pace from last spring’s Human Race 8k. However, I was very proud of this finish. It was a good exercise in perseverance and gutting it out when it was hot, and when I didn’t feel like I was at the top of my game. I hung in there and got an OK finish, which made me happy. Still tired, but happy. :)

Hey, I will bet this weekend’s Western States 100 finishers are tired too! I guess I really don’t have much to complain about in comparison. Wow!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer, summer, summer!

As The Cars sang in their 1984 hit song, “Magic”...

“Summer, summer, summer!”

Happy first day of summer, everyone! :)

Yay, Friday is here! It was a long (but good, and productive) week at work, so it is nice to see the weekend arrive.

Strange weather this afternoon; very cool at barely 70, but still incredibly humid. I ran just a shade over 6 miles today, and that humidity caused me to sweat like a madman. One of those days where it felt hotter than it really was, if that makes any sense!

Not much on the agenda for the weekend. I discovered last week that my DVD player no longer works (it is quite old), so I really need to replace that. I have yet to watch the DVD of ”The Muppet Movie” that I purchased a couple weeks ago! Also, I have the 8k race in Big Lake on Sunday, but that is about it. Looks like it is going to be warm that day, so hopefully it will remain somewhat cool for the morning race. Should be a good time.

Enjoy the weekend!

Jean

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wanna get married?

I went running on both Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Wednesday was supposed to be a day off, but I needed the stress relief.

Both runs were quite nice. I did 5 1/2 on Tuesday, and 4 1/2 yesterday. Nice weather, a little hot yesterday, but I ran well on each day. Again, I saw lots of butterflies, so apparently it is a good time of year for them!

On to my home buying research; I met with my bank on Wednesday and found out kind of what I had feared. On my income, I can’t afford a traditional house. About my only option would be to look at townhomes (which don’t really interest me because I don’t want to share a common wall with anyone).

Even still, to get into a modestly priced townhome, when you add up everything including the house payment, property tax, insurance, heating, electric, and the outrageous “association dues” (which based on my research run between $150 to $200 per month, essentially to have someone mow the grass and shovel the sidewalk!), it would amount to more than half of my monthly take-home pay. That’s awfully steep, and I feel like that would leave me strapped for cash. Needless to say, I am quite frustrated.

The way I figure, my only solution is to get someone to join me in this home buyng adventure. A second income would be most helpful. So if there are any single runner girls out there who want to get hitched, let me know. Even though I am not much to look at and love NASCAR, I have a fun and quirky sense of humor, I'm relatively intelligent, and man, can I ever cook. :)

See, I told you I can cook? This entirely homemade pizza could be yours! :)



Until next time,

Jean

Monday, June 18, 2007

Morning storms, nice afternoon, lots of butterflies

Yesterday was pretty lazy after my 13 miler on Saturday. I pretty much sat around, cooked up some spaghetti and homemade meatballs with red sauce (yum!) and flipped between NASCAR and the US Open. The US Open was a particularly great tournament, although it is kind of interesting that Tiger (perhaps the fittest golfer on tour) lost to Angel Cabrera (a notorious chain-smoker). This is not doing anything to help the "golfers are really athletes" argument! :)

Some storms blew through the metro this morning. We got absolutely dumped on around my office. But the front moved through, making for a moderately pleasant afternoon.

It was 75 degrees at the time of my run, with overcast skies, and a stiff, swirling wind. For some reason, it was one of those days where you always felt as if your were running directly into a breeze! I had a great run. I felt strong, and even mixed in a few sprints along the way.

I saw a number of butterflies. I saw the mourning cloaks (who are in the same spot along the trail every day!), several of the infamous and popular monarchs, and the most prevalent were the red admirals. There were dozens all over the trail, no doubt enjoying the moist dirt from this morning’s rain. The butterflies certainly made the run more colorful today! :)

I have meeting on Wednesday at my bank to talk to one of their consultants and get the wheel in motion for purchasing a home. This will be the first step; to find out what I can afford before I start fantasizing about what I can’t afford! I am expecting this will be an arduous process, but I can’t stand it here anymore. One way or another, I will be in a new home this fall.

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, June 16, 2007

13.1, just for fun

A large number of Minnesota runners were running in the Grandma’s Marathon/Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon today, which is one of the biggest and most historic races in the state.

Obviously, I wasn’t there. But I ran my own half marathon this morning just for the heck of it. I used the Google Gmaps Pedometer web site to map out a perfect 13.1 in my neighborhood, so I hit the streets at 5:30 this morning.

We had received some storms and rain overnight, so the streets were wet. And even that early, it was 70 degrees with a dewpoint of 70 degrees, which means two things; muggy, and foggy! The air was very thick, and high humidity always kicks my butt. I plodded along, saw very few people, and finished up in about 2 hours, so not exactly a blistering pace.

When I was done, every article of clothing on me was completely saturated. I am sure I looked like I had fallen into a lake. And this is the lighter, microfiber running gear that supposedly dries quickly. Nothing was drying out in this humidity!

I saw a number of cottontail rabbits today, well over a dozen, including several baby bunnies. They were darting all over the trails this morning. And I also saw a couple of swans quite a distance from me on a marshy lake. They were too far away to tell if they were the trumpeter swans or the tundra swans, but it was still cool to see these giant white birds!

Afterwards, I did my grocery shopping for the week, and then I treated myself to lunch at Miller’s on Main in Lino Lakes. I have eaten here several times now, and they have some pretty good chow. Today I had the walleye sandwich, which was huge and quite tasty.

Now I am just kicking back. The US Open is in full swing (pardon the pun), and I can't wait to see how the course plays today. Yesterday was possibly the most brutal test of golf I have seen, so it is shaping up to be an interesting weekend on the links.

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The time has come for someone to put his foot down...

Apartments suck.

Originally I was pretty excited to find this place. Luxurious amenities, a neat area, lots of parks, and great running trails. Well, the novelty has worn off. I can’t wait to get out of here.

I figured this apartment would have been expensive enough to weed out the riffraff, but apparently the riffraff makes more money than I thought. The floor I am on seems to be infested with younger, 20-somethings. I hesitate to call any of them “young professionals,” because I can’t imagine many of them are smart enough to make it through (or, for that matter, be admitted to) college. There are a number of the “party ‘til you puke” crowd living here. Drunk, loud, inconsiderate, and stupid. When I was awakened at 4:30 AM this past Sunday by revelers in the street below me, I thought “Maybe it is time to look for a house?”

Well, last night was the killer straw. The woman across the hall from me decided that 3 AM on a weeknight was an appropriate time to have a loud, drunken after-bar party at her place, complete with the booming stereo. She was wrong. I finally got the nerve to call the cops to put a stop to this crap. I also called the apartment manager, just to make sure this moron got yelled at by two different people. I only wish John Vernon, who played Dean Wormer in “Animal House,” was still alive so he could have stopped by to say one of his classic lines from the movie. (Such as, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son!")

What I am trying to say is I am done with apartment living. Enough of this communal B.S. I’ve had it, and I want my own space. I have no idea what I am doing, or where I will be going, but it is time to make some new plans this summer. All I really know is that there is a zero percent chance I will be renewing my lease at this dump.

On to happier things...

In spite of having no more than 4 hours sleep, my run this afternoon was really quite good. Perhaps I was still worked up from the events of the day, but I ran well, even though it was 92 degrees with a strong wind out of the southeast.

There are a number of gorgeous wildflowers blooming in the park, I saw both ospreys on the nest, a great blue heron flew overhead, and a gray catbird even squawked at me with his catlike “mew!” After a day of being completely pissed off, that made me smile. It made me remember that there are a lot of cool and beautiful things out there, and I need to keep looking for them. That includes better places to live.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Now what?

The heat is still on here in the metro. 91 degrees when I got home from work! That made for another sweltering run. I ranthe typical 4 1/2. Thankfully, much of my route is tree lines, so there was ample shade. And we had a pretty good breeze that offered a little bit of cooling, so it didn’t feel quite so hot.

I didn't tell this story in my rambling posts about the Fargo half marathon, but I made reference to a storm knocking out the satellite TV in my hotel. Dish owners will understand what I am talking about. During heavy rain, satellite TV will lose its signal. You may get a warning message indicating the signal was lost, and occasionally the screen will simply freeze up, leaving you with a pixelated mess and a still life of whatever was on your screen at the time.

So I was watching TV and the screen froze during a commercial break. I'm not sure what the commercial was for, but the screen was stuck on some text from the graphics. My TV screen showed the following words:

"NOW WHAT?"

Those words were burning into the screen for about five minutes before the signal was completely lost. Here I was in Fargo, running the half marathon, with no other race plans on the horizon. It was as if someone was talking to me, telling me to get my act together for the rest of the summer.

So, now what?

Well, here's what! I have a local race on June 24th, the Big Lake Lakes Run in Big Lake, MN. This is a shorter one, an 8k, which should be a good time. After that, the real fun begins.

On August 4th, I am planning to run a race in Watson, MN. Where in the hell is Watson, you ask? That was my question, too, but I learned it is a small town in Western MN near Lac Qui Parle State Park. The race is the Wild Goose Chase 30k, an inaugural event that runs all the way around Lac Qui Parle Lake. The course looks to be very scenic, as the whole lake is a wildlife refuge.

I figure the Wild Goose Chase will be a good test for my ultimate goal, the Walker North Country Marathon on September 15th. This event is in the town of Walker in north-central Minnesota on the shores of Leech Lake. It is a trail race that should be rather challenging, but also quite beautiful as it winds through state forests during a particularly pretty time of year.

Anyhow, that is the plan. Clearly, I have my work cut out for me, but I look forward to the challenges.

So...that’s what! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, June 11, 2007

Crazy From The Heat

I’ve referenced David Lee Roth here before, and I thought the title of his 1985 solo album was an appropriate title for today’s post.

It was 90, humid, and windy. Whew! That is getting pretty steamy for us here in the Twin Cities. To bring some perspective to this, exactly 2 months ago on April 11th, we had 31 degrees and sleet. Welcome to Minnesota! :)

I did my usual 4 1/2 today, and it was kind of slow going. At least it felt like it was slow going! The heat and humidity always seem to sap my energy pretty quickly. But, I managed just fine, and a cool shower felt mighty good when I got home.

Unrelated to anything, I just saw on TV that today is the birthday of actor Gene Wilder, star of such classic comedies as “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” “Young Frankenstein,” and “Silver Streak,” to name a few of his films. He is...good grief, 74 year old?!? Perhaps it is because of the heat, but for some reason this shocked me. It doesn’t even seem possible! Happy birthday, Gene...you are one of the best!

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I’m a ramblin’ guy

As Steve Martin might have sung, “Well I’m ramblin’, I’m ramblin’ round, I’m a ramblin guy...” :) I have a lot of assorted rambling notes from today, so I will just put them in bullet form:

-I ran 14 miles this morning. I had intended to run 12, but it was so nice out that I kept going. It was a good, long run at an easy pace, and I brought along enough water and Clif Shot Bloks gels to keep me going. Great day outside, and I saw a green heron and lots of baby cottontail rabbits!

-When I got home, the French Open tennis match was on TV. Normally I consider myself fairly savvy with sports, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about women’s tennis. Belgian Justine Henin was the winner, and apparently this is her 4th win at the French Open. I was thinking only 3 words; she’s kinda cute! (Justine, call me...we’ll go running)

-For lunch, I took a road trip southeast of the metro to a tiny little town called Miesville, which is south of Hastings. I ate a bar called King’s Place. They are know for burgers, and have perhaps a couple of dozen options for toppings. I had the “Mudhen Burger,” which has bacon, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and raw onions. Fantastic!

My “Mudhen Burger” at King’s Place...delicious!



-On my way home, I found this beautiful church in the town of New Trier, which was west of Miesville. This is St. Mary’s Catholic Church. I learned the building was constructed in 1909, and it is done in the French “Beaux Arts” style of architecture. The congregation itself dates back to 1856, which is two years before Minnesota even became a state! A beautiful church, no?

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New Trier, MN



-Still on the way home, I swung in to a Best Buy to pick up ”The Muppet Movie” on DVD. Earlier this week after some rain, there was the most beautiful rainbow visible from my deck. It was a perfect arc, and it was so wide I could not photograph the whole thing. Anyhow, it made me think of Kermit’s sweet song from “The Muppet Movie” called ”The Rainbow Connection.” I decided I needed to have this classic film, so I might be watching this tonight...along with the NASCAR Busch race, of course!

A perfect rainbow, taken from my deck earlier this week



That’s about it! A full day so far, and it ain’t even over with yet. I think I will sleep well tonight.

Until next time,

A Ramblin’ Guy

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

TV doldrums

Extremely windy this afternoon! It was roaring out of the southeast, and there is the threat of some storms tonight and tomorrow.

But today was very cool, only about 62 at the time of my run. That made for pretty nice running, even with the big winds. It was the usual 4 1/2 and had a good day on the trails. I even planned it so I had the tailwind on the way home! :)

With summer upon us, we have entered the TV doldrums; all of the regular shows are on hiatus, so we get to see a whole bunch of repeats, as well as a few new summer shows that the networks have thrust upon us (most of it seems to be garbage reality shows).

There is a new summer show that I am really enjoying, however. It is called ”Traveler” on ABC. Think of “The Fugitive” but with college punks and a government conspriacy. The thrid episode is on tonight, and the first two were most entertaining. I’m just telling everyone I know about it in hopes that it catches on and gets renewed!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Excellent weather and a great sandwich

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. “ - Sir Roger Bannister

Bannister’s quote could not have been more appropriate today. It was gorgeous outside, and a runner could not help but enjoy himself on a day like this!

It was 67 degrees, low humidity, with a pleasant breeze. In the shade, it felt delightfully cool, so running was incredibly comfortable.

There were a number of wild critters out an about. Robins chirping, the familiar yodel of the red-bellied woodpecker, and other happy songbirds everywhere. The twelve-spotted skimmers were all over the place, darting across the fields and swamps. Just a fantastic day to be outside. I did the normal 4 1/2 miles and enjoyed it immensely.

Since the summer months are upon us, it is becoming time for my famous ”BBT” sandwiches! This is a summer staple for me, basically a BLT with fresh basil leaves used in place of lettuce. I just had one for my dinner, and I can’t wait until the summer tomato really season kicks in, because this is some seriously good summer comfort food! :)

Loving this weather,

Jean

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Drizzly Sunday

Today I ran 12 miles in the early morning a steady drizzle. Actually, I don’t mind running while it is raining. It was fairly pleasant out there, with temperatures near 60.

I had the trails and bike paths all to myself, and I only saw one other pedestrian along my entire route; a guy walking two huge poodles!

There was some wildlife to report; wood ducks, American goldfinches, a great blue heron, and even a large snapping turtle sitting on the bank of a creek (I will try and stay clear of him!).

As I did not run yesterday, I took a short road trip to a town just northeast of the Twin Cities. I went to Taylors Falls, MN, a pretty little town on the bluffs overlooking the St. Croix River.

Taylors Falls has a number of historic buildings, as this region saw some of Minnesota’s first settlers. I got to see Minnesota’s oldest existing schoolhouse, which was built in 1852. It is great that these buildings are being preserved.

Minnesota’s oldest schoolhouse



I had lunch at a really cool drive in restaurant (which was called the Drive In Restaurant, coincidentally enough!). It was wonderful; real drive in food, carhops in poodle skits, and root beer served in a frosty mug. Life is good.

An absolutely awesome burger at the Drive In Restaurant in Taylors Falls



Today I am doing nothing else but cook a little pork shoulder ragu for dinner (it is simmering on the stove as I type, and it smells great!), watch a little golf, and hopefully some NASCAR (if it ever quits raining in Dover).

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, June 1, 2007

Back to reality

With the holiday weekend behind me, the last couple of days have been all about getting into the old routine. Vacations always go by so quickly! Now it is back in the Cities, a return to the office, and back to my regular running routes.

It was astonishing to get out on my trails again after nearly a week away from them. The trees seem more lush and full. The wild roses along the trail have begun to bloom. It is like we are at the height of summer. Very pretty!

The last two nights, I ran the usual 4 1/2. Yesterday I ran quickly, today I took it easy. Both days were pretty decent weather-wise, if not a bit warm in the mid 70’s. But I had better get used to it, because it only gets warmer from here.

No real plans for the weekend. I will do a longer run on Sunday, and I need to go grocery shopping. This is actually my first full weekend at home in nearly 4 weeks, so I am desperately low on food! Otherwise, I will tune in to NASCAR and golf. That’s about it. Oh, and God bless iTunes for finally adding the Paul McCartney & Wings catalog to their selections. I will be downloading some of those this weekend, too! :)

Until next time,

Jean

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