Monday, July 30, 2007

Warm day, shorter run

I went out for a shorter run after work today. Just a 4 miler. I debated whether or not to run, given the long run yesterday. However, tomorrow is supposed to be sweltering, and if I ran today, I would keep my days off properly staggered leading up to the 30k this weekend. So I ran.

Not that today was cool or anything. 92 degrees with plenty of sunshine. It was warm! But at least it was not very humid. The run went fine. I was a little stiff from yesterday’s journey, so I dialed it back and put in some easy miles.

This is a somewhat short week for me. This coming Wednesday, my department is having a fun little off-site outing. My boss is treating us to lunch at the local Big Bowl, and then we are going to take in a St. Paul Saints baseball game. Should be a good time. Then on Friday I am leaving early from work to head out to my race on Saturday. Love these short weeks!

Oh, and last night’s spaghetti with Bolognese sauce? Viva Italia, baby! :)



Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Long run with plenty of wildlife

A lovely morning in the metro. There was not a cloud to be seen as I ventured out early for my long run. It was in the upper 60’s when I started, and mid 70’s by the time I finished, so fairly comfortable, but on the verge of getting warm. I do feel like I am getting more acclimated to the heat, which is good because we have a few months to go before it gets cool!

I ran 18 miles today for my longest run to date, keeping a steady pace the whole time (nothing very fast, mind you...it took me almost 3 hours). It was a different route this time, and it ended up being about a little longer than I had anticipated, but it was good. Saw some new areas, and found some different trails. It felt great to go that far!

I saw three beautiful deer, including two bucks who were shedding the velvet from their antlers. I have seen these two in the park before. One is a forkhorn, and the other a six-pointer. Nice looking deer. I started talking to them, and they didn’t run. They just stared at me like I was a moron! Oh well, at least they know I am harmless.

Many songbirds were out, and I am starting to hear and see woodpeckers again. They seem to disappear during the nesting season, so the kids must be out of the nest. I heard or saw the pileated, red-bellied, hairy, and downy.

In other bird news, a sharp-shinned hawk swooped over me on the east side of Turtle Lake. I love these little hawks. They are like ghosts; you rarely see them before they fly, and when they do, they quickly disappear into the forest.

And, I saw 18 bunnies today for a perfect “one bunny per mile ratio.”

For the rest of the day, I am putting my feet up. There is a pot of homemade Bolognese sauce simmering away on my stove as I type this, so that, over some spaghetti, will be tonight’s dinner. This afternoon is the NASCAR Allstate 400 at Indianapolis, which is probably the second biggest race on the circuit behind the Daytona 500. You can be sure I will be tuning in!

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, July 27, 2007

Once more, with clarity

While the humidity was blown out of here be a so-called cold front, it did not bring much in the way of “cold!” A mere 91 degrees this afternoon, but at least it was not so muggy.

I did the usual route (still upset with all the berry patches that were thoughtlessly mowed down), and had a decent run. Not very easy to run in the warmth, but I managed to do much better than yesterday.

So you might remember last November, I pulled up stakes and moved to be closer to my new office. You also might recall how I have expressed some dislike for my current apartment. Things are about to change.

Today I signed the papers on a new place, and I will move (again) this October! I am actually moving back to the west side of metro, so my drive will be longer to work. But I will be closer to some things I missed since moving out here to the northeast. My running store, my favorite Byerly’s grocery store, more restaurants, shopping, and most of my friends live over here, too!

The place I am moving to seems as if it will be much quieter. I asked some really good questions, paid close attention to the sound, and received some good answers from the manager (who lives on site). The apartment is beautiful, bigger than my current place, has more storage, a deck I can actually use, and even has a fireplace. And it is only a few bucks more per month than I am paying right now. Sweet!

Oh, and the running scene; Hennepin County has a huge network of trails, some of which will be practically right outside my door, taking me past lakes, streams, and through numerous parks. I think this will afford me even more running opportunities, which leaves me positively giddy.

So it will be yet another fall season of packing and moving, but hopefully to better and more comfortable surroundings. I am looking forward to the change.

Movin' on,

Jean

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sweating like a madman

So it was only 95 degrees today with a large dose of humidity thrown in for good measure. Ugh! Tough running today.

I took it very easy this afternoon, putting in my regular route, but at a relatively slow pace. It is just so hard to run well on days like this, so it is always better to err on the side of caution and dial things down.

I was a little upset during my run. Along the bike trail, the park maintenance folks apparently decided to take a brush cutter and mow down an 8-foot swath along each side of the trail. This effectively wiped out countless mature raspberry and black raspberry patches. What the hell? Why would they do this? The cute little wooded trail now looks like it has a freeway going through it. I just don’t understand.

In positivie nature news, the ospreys were in their nest tonight, and there appears to be at least one chick with them, so they are proud parents. Great to see! And I also saw a white admiral butterfly. I had seen these up at Mom and Dad’s, but this is the first one I have seen in the metro this year. A very pretty insect!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

July, northern Minnesota style

I have returned from my long weekend up in the North Country with the family, and what a great weekend it was! As per usual, central themes include wildlife, good food, running, and even a little bit of golfing.

The weather could not have been more ideal. Comfortable temperatures, very little wind, and abundant sunshine. Not bad! This made it very pleasant for walking around in the woods, which I did every day.

This time of year, the bird watching is not as diverse as it is in early spring. However, we did get to see a lot of the usual suspects. Our buddy Norris is still hanging out, and he/she had a youngster in tow. The chickadees kept us entertained, as did a number of warblers that nest in the area. Particularly abundant was the chestnut-sided warbler, as well as the black-throated green. These birds were quite busy hunting for insects to feed the hungry youngsters.

Of course, the squirrels and chipmunks are all over the yard, demanding their sunflower seeds. I got to sit with our favorite, "Bottlebrush," while she enjoyed her meal.

Hanging out with Bottlebrush



The wildflowers are in full bloom. Daisies and black eyed Susans are all over the place. The wild raspberries are just starting to ripen, and I even found a few lingering wild strawberries and dewberries to munch on while hiking. Also, butterflies were everywhere, and the various fritillaries started showing up in just the last week, according to my folks. The forest is a colorful place.

A female great spangled fritillary in the garden



Good food is never a problem with Mom and Dad! They always feed me pretty well when I come home. We had some Thai shrimp stir fry, grilled tri-tip, Dad's famous applewood-smoked ribs, and the neighbors even had us over for some awesome BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. I also should mention that one night my brother and sister-in-law brought over some brook trout and fresh-caught lake trout that they grilled up for an appetizer. Wow. What a feast!

Dad's home smoked ribs…and yes, they taste as good as they look!



With all the good food, calories need to be burned off! I got in a few good runs over the weekend. A couple of them were just my typical 4 1/2 milers, but on Saturday I did a challenging 15 miler that was a heck of a lot of fun.

I needed to do a long run, so I headed straight up the ridge utilizing a network of trails, dirt roads, and a county highway. This is a very hilly route (by my "flatlander" standards, anyhow!), but oh so beautiful. It was a glorious and calm day, and the cooler temperatures were appreciated. I passed Caribou Lake, and it was like glass. I saw several neat birds including the pileated woodpecker, a pair of indigo buntings, and even my old friend, the Canada jay.

A runner's shadow on the road



The run took me 2 hours and 40 minutes, partially because of the hilly terrain, and partially because I stopped to take a few pictures here and there! According to my altimeter, my route involved 1250 feet of elevation gain, so it was a good amount of climbing for me. I just kept a steady pace and managed to run pretty well. At least, I still had the energy to go hiking later in the day! :)

A winding, sweeping downhill on my run



The final piece of outdoor activity included some golf at Superior National. The course is looking absolutely beautiful right now, so it was a lot of fun to play. Long gone are the days in college when I played every day, so that means long gone is any sort of touch that I used to have! I can't putt for anything. But I did manage to par the two par 3's on the Canyon Course, so that made up for a few errant shots. Regardless, it was fun.

Yours truly on the Superior National "Canyon Course"



After golf, a little lunch with Mom and Dad at the Coho Café in Tofte, and I would be on my way back to the Cities. And I am just in time for our most oppressive heat wave of the summer. Ugh! But what a great weekend.

Dreaming of the cooler weather on the Shore,

Jean

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Running for raspberries

A warm, humid one out there today. A hazy 84 degrees, but the dewpoint was around 70, so it was very sticky and muggy.

I was surprised, but I managed to run well this afternoon. I felt pretty energized, even with all the humidity. Of course, I stopped for another rasspberry break, also finding some deliciously ripe black raspberries...yum! Perhaps that is why I had a strong run? :)

I am starting to get very excited because I am talking a couple of vacation days this weekend. Since I was sort of deprived of a 4th of July weekend (given the Wednesday holiday and a weird work schedule), I am heading up to Mom and Dad’s on Thursday. I can’t wait! I am looking forward to getting out of the city for an extended weekend and seeing the family. It will be fun to run in the woods, bird watch, hike, and there is bound to be some tasty food.

As this might be my last post until next week, since tomorrow will involve laundry and packing. So, allow me to wish you all a good weekend a few days early!

Until next week,

Jean

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A fun summer day

A rather full and fun day today.

I got up at 5:30 and did a 14 mile run. Dare I say it felt great. I paced myself well, hydrated and nourished myself well (including another raspberry break at mile 11...they are getting more ripe and delicious!), and generally enjoyed the whole experience. The temperature was comfortable in the mid 60’s with a slight bit of humidity, so it was pleasant. Much better than last weekend, weather-wise!

Lots of birds were active this morning. I saw egrets, a pair of common loons, and even a couple of belted kingfishers hanging out on a power line over a creek. I had not seen any kingfishers yet this summer, so that was a treat. Of course, the were plenty of bunnies as well (no shortage of those guys).

After my run, I headed to Minnetonka to my running store, Start Line. Time to replace the shoes! Actually, I still have a few good runs left in my old ones, but I was not sure when I might get to Minnetonka again in the upcoming weeks, so it seemed prudent. As always, they took good care of me.

Since I was in Minnetonka, I had to have lunch at the Lone Spur. I really miss living so close to this place! The enchiladas with beef brisket were as good as I remember.

The enchiladas with brisket from the Lone Spur...yum!



Being such a lovely day, on a whim I decided to take a short road trip to parts of southeastern Minnesota. I drove down to the town of Wanamingo, which is where my Dad’s side of the family comes from. I didn’t stay long, just did some sightseeing and took a walk around town. I had not been here in years, so it was fun to see the familiar sights, and to see what has changed. Lots of fun and very nostalgic! A gorgeous day to do such an excursion.

Downtown Wanamingo



I think I should sleep pretty well tonight after the long run, shoe shopping, enchilada eating, and the road trip. A great day!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hard to complain

What a fantastic day! 75 degrees, low humidity, and a good breeze. Really nice. With the exception of a freak, solitary dark cloud that passed over and spit a few raindrops, there was nothing to complain about. An ideal day

A gorgeous summer day on the trail



I had a great, strong run this afternoon. I did a full 10k because it was so comfortable outside, and so I could enjoy some additional distance on the trails.

Once again, I stopped for a “raspberry break.” Yummy! They are starting to get picked over, and you can see paths being worn in the berry patch by dedicated raspberry pickers. At least they were kind enough to leave a few for the runners! :)

I saw an abundance of wildlife as well. Birds included cardinals, robins, mourning doves, catbirds, red-winged blackbirds, a red tailed hawk riding the currents, and the osprey soaring overhead. Furry creatures include gray squirrels, bunnies, and even a pair of muskrats along the edge of a pond.

A sensational summer day!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, July 9, 2007

Summer storms and raspberries

We had a few storms rumble through the metro yesterday afternoon. It wasn’t too bad where I live, but some areas just got dumped on with heavy rain, hail, and damaging winds. Welcome to the summer storm season in Minnesota.

Scary looking clouds



The above picture was taken from my deck as the first wave moved through. Pretty scary looking! It even got published on the WCCO web site as part of a slideshow of the storm.

With the storms pushing through, it led to a much nicer day today. Slightly cooler at 85, but much less humidity.

I went for the usual 4 1/2 miles this afternoon. My legs felt really good after the 12 miler yesterday, so I got in a somewhat spirited run. The heat didn’t even feel too bad.

I forgot to mention this in yesterday’s post, but I found a wild raspberry patch along the trail with ripe berries! Over the last two days, I have stopped for a brief "raspberry break" during my runs. Hey, you have to, right? The season is short, plus they make for a nice little natural sugar boost! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Counting rabbits

So I survived my Friday/Saturday meetings...barely. Driving downtown is stressful (I narrowly missed getting creamed by the light rail). My hotel was noisy thanks to an infestation of junior olympic volleyball players (somewhere around 8000 of them, with some loud ones right next door to me), as well as some idiot who decided that 1:30 AM is a great time to get into a fight with his girlfriend. I can’t repeat what he said because it was so offensive it might make Alec Baldwin blush. But let me just say if the person who was staying in room 1545 of the Minneapolis Hilton on Friday night is reading this; you, sir, are a colossal loser, and your mother would be ashamed of you.

(Incidentally, some of you might remember a slightly more amusing situation I had at the Hilton in Green Bay last year. I am not sure I want to stay with the Hilton family anymore.)

That being said, I think the meetings were successful. I met a lot of nice folks that I will be working with in the coming years. There was also plenty of food, but apparently I missed out on the really good stuff at Thursday night‘s event (full buffet with sushi...damn!). Anyhow, it was a busy couple of days, and accomplished a lot, so I was pretty tired when I got home yesterday. I managed to get a good night’s rest, and I was up and at ‘em this morning for my weekend long run!

It was hotter than blazes yesterday (97 degrees), and it didn’t cool off much overnight. I did a 12 miler starting at 5:15 AM. When I returned home I checked the temperature, and it was 81 degrees already. No wonder I was so sluggish! The run was a bit of a struggle with the warmth, but I am glad I went out when I did because it is only getting hotter as the day wears on.

To take my mind off the heat, I decided to count rabbits. I had mentioned in a couple of earlier posts that I had seen lots of cottontail rabbits lately, so I thought I would tally them up. Over the course of 12 miles, I saw 21 rabbits. Can you believe it, 21? That breaks down to an average of 1.75 bunnies per mile! I have to believe that is an impressive bunny-to-mile ratio no matter how you slice it. :) They are cute little buggers.

Also worth noting in the nature category, I saw two green herons along the swamp edges. Even more impressive, I saw something I had never seen before in my area; a wild turkey! I couldn’t believe my eyes, but this turkey was walking across a yard near a wooded area. He was huge, nearly 4 feet tall, and was very stately. I tried a weak attempt at making a gobbling sound, but he could have cared less and kept on trucking across the yard. How awesome!

It’s back to the grind tomorrow, and hopefully it will be a somewhat normal work week after this past one, which was rather discombobulated. I don’t really feel like I had a weekend! Oh well, normalcy shall return soon enough.

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Kudos, fireworks, running, and meetings

First of all, I want to give a shout out to my buddy, Brett. He ran his first 5k fun run last weekend, completing it in 27:35. Way to go, dude! :)

Last night being the 4th, I was treated to an impressive fireworks display from my balcony. Understand that fireworks (at least, the good one) are illegal in Minnesota, unless they are put on by a professional outfit. There were some awesome fireworks going off to the east of me coming from a residential neighborhood, so these clearly fell into the illegal ranks! Still, I enjoyed them. There were some pretty big boomers, too!

This afternoon’s run was kind of warm at 87 degrees, sunny, and windy. I ran 5 1/2 miles today, putting in a bit of an extra effort so I could run on some more trails! Nice day out there. Saw a few mourning cloak butterflies, the catbird, and the osprey. Always a treat to see some wildlife!

Tomorrow I will run in the morning and then head downtown Minneapolis for a couple of days of meetings. I actually get to stay in a hotel tomorrow night, so that is a decent perk for having to work on Saturday. Anyhow, I am sure it will be interesting, and the food is usually pretty good (and plentiful) at events of this nature!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

My 4th

Happy 4th to all!

Today was a day off from work, as well as from running, so I pretty much got to sleep in a little and goof around all day.

I took a short road trip into Wisconsin to the town of Hudson. It was a gorgeous, warm summer day in the mid 80’s, so nobody should have any complaints about the weather!

I took a walk down to the park along the St. Croix river in downtown Hudson. There was a lot of boating activity, as you can see, and what a perfect day for it. A lot of people were enjoying their 4th on the water!

Wisconsin on the left...Minnesota on the right!



My main reason for going to Hudson was to make a return trip to Barker’s Bar & Grill. Currently, this is my favorite burger on the planet; the “Tyson Burger, coated with blackened seasonings, as well as bleu and Monterey Jack cheeses. It is cooked to order, and it is magnificent. As good as I remembered. The fries are homemade, too. Simply awesome!

For my money, this is as good as it gets



I took a leisurely drive home through the St. Croix River Valley. It was very pretty, and many little towns along the way were having celebrations. A nice day to be out enjoying the countryside.

No plans tonight, as I have to work tomorrow. Ugh! (There should be a rule that the 4th of July can never land on a Wednesday! Is there a "4th of July Task Force" we can talk to about this?) I guarantee it is going to feel like Monday when I arrive at the office in the morning. Oh well, it will get me to the weekend quicker, I suppose!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, July 2, 2007

A peculiar week

A very overcast and humid day. It looked like it could rain at any second, yet we only managed a few stray raindrops, so nothing significant.

The temperature was somewhat cooler, around 78, but the dewpoint was in the low 60’s, so it was quite sticky an muggy. I ran the usual 4 1/2, taking it relatively easy after my long run on Saturday. Everything feels pretty good. I had a little bit of stiffness, but nothing that didn’t work itself out with a little stretching.

I saw a number of gray catbirds along the trail today. I kind of like these guys. They are pretty nondescript in color, but they are very sleek and have a lot of personality. Also, once again, there were many, many bunnies. A bumper crop this year, I think.

This is sort of a strange week for me. With the 4th of July landing on a Wednesday (a worst possible scenario), a lot of folks at work took the week off. I chose not to, since I would have had to burn at least two days of vacation on either side of Wednesday to make the holiday weekend worthwhile. And, I have a two day long meeting downtown Minneapolis starting on Friday, which is not typical either.

So, a holiday on Wednesday, and some work on Saturday. Oh,well. I will just have to do my long run on Sunday! :)

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