Thursday, August 30, 2007

Off to the Great White North

Yet another grogeous day in the metro. 77, and not a cloud in the sky. I put in another 6 miler today just because it was so nice! The run was a good one, performed at a moderate pace; not too fast, but not too slow. A great day to be outside in Minnesota.

I am starting to see some different birds again, some that I have not seen since spring. Today I spotted an eastern kingbird in an open area of the park. I also saw a few small flycatchers, likely the least flycatcher, as well as an eastern phoebe. The migration south is starting to pick up!

Sorry to keep this short but I have lots of packing to do. Tomorrow after work, I am heading north to Mom and Dad's place for the Labor Day weekend. I am looking forward to seeing everyone, as well as doing some running, hiking, birding, and of course, eating! Should be a great time, as always.

Everyone have a safe and fun holiday weekend, and I will talk to you next week!

Until then,

Jean

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fantasy football aftermath

What a spectacular day today. 75, sunny, and almost a fall crispness to the air. Unfortunately, it was a scheduled day of rest from running! :(

No run to report today, obviously, but I had a great one yesterday, even in the rain. We had a steady drizzle for much of the day, but I got in a fun 6 miler on the bike paths and trails. The rain helped to keep me cool, and I ran strong. I was the only other pedestrian of any kind out there, so the neighborhood was all mine. By the time I was done, I look like I fell in the lake. Soaked from head to toe.

I tried to run quickly as well, because as soon as I was done, I had to hustle over to the west metro for the fantasy football draft!

The draft was a lot of fun. I got to see some friends that I had not seen in awhile. A couple of guys could not attend in person, so one of them loaned out his conference call dialup information so we could have an interactive session. It was a good time. Lots of laughs, with plenty of good natured ribbing (like when Jeff took the Baltimore defense with his 5th round pick...huh?!?). And the chicken wings were mighty tasty at Buffalo Wild Wings. (I opted for 6 of the "hot" and 6 of the "Caribbean Jerk" flavored...yummy...and, ouch!)

I ended up with a few good players (Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Randy Moss), and a some rather suspect players (Jake Delhomme, Muhsin Muhammed). We will see how things go. These fantasy football teams are always a crapshoot! :)

Bring on the NFL Week One!

Jean

Monday, August 27, 2007

Are you ready for some football?!?

Some thunderstorms roared through the area last night, leaving us with a humid, sticky day today, and the promise of more rain tonight.

The run was very nice this afternoon. I feel great after the 21 miler on Saturday, and I had a lot of speed and stamina today. I am happy that I recovered so well. I hope this means I have been doing the right things over the course of my training.

Not too much new in the way of wildlife. A few catbirds, some egrets, and there is still an osprey hanging out. Not much in the way of people, either. I only saw one woman on the middle of the trail carrying a big bag of apples (a strange thing to be carrying in the middle of a trail!). Otherwise, the neighborhood was all mine.

Are you ready for some football? I am! Tomorrow night is my fantasy football draft. The group is meeting at a local Buffalo Wild Wings. This is sort of a default location for my circle of friends for various social gatherings, trip planning meetings, or, in this case, fantasy drafts. Many of us have been coming to these places when they were simply known as “BW3.” There will be some spicy chicken wings, lots of jokes, and plenty of trash talking, I am certain! :)

Oh, and last night a made a delicious dish. I cooked up some venison stroganoff, completed with crimini mushrooms and caramelized onions. I added some peas, and served it over whole-wheat vegetable rotini pasta, because it there ever was a dish that could use some color, it is stroganoff. Yum!

Venison stroganoff with some added color!



Ready for football season,

Jean

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blackjack!

I went out to lunch today at the Ole Piper Inn in Blaine. Inside the restaurant there was an enormous gentleman proudly wearing a T-shirt that said in huge, bold letters:

“I’m out of bed and dressed - what else do you want?”

Seeing this made me want a customized shirt of my own that says:

“I am out of bed, dressed, got my shopping done, ran my errands, stopped for lunch - oh, and I have already run 21 miles this morning - what else do you want?”

That’s right, I said “21 miles.” Twenty + one. In French, "Vingt et un." In Spanish, "Veinte y uno." Or as the Vegas dealers would call it, “Blackjack!” :)

Today marks three weeks before the Walker North Country Marathon, therefore it also meant that I needed to do my longest training run to date in preparation for it.

I was blessed with a fantastic day for running. Temperatures were in the mid 60’s, with a layer of cloud cover. It felt almost cool and fall-like. Perfect weather for a long run.

I ran a very easy pace, and had an enjoyable morning on the trails and bike paths. I brought enough water and Gatorade with me (but I had money with me in case I had to stop at a convenience store!), as well as a veritable buffet of energy gels, Clif Shot Bloks, and Jelly Belly “sport beans” (just seeing what worked best...and the answer is “gels”). The run was steady, and my only stops were to tie my shoe, and to wait for a couple of crosswalks. Otherwise, I was moving the whole time. I was very happy with how it went.

There was some fun wildlife along the route. In addition to the usual suspect songbirds that I see on a daily basis, I noticed huge numbers of mourning doves that seemed to be gathering in flocks, obviously setting themselves for their southward journey. Also, I saw a giant red-tailed hawk swoop down from the trees and land on, of all things, the bird observation deck along side of a local lake. This begs the question, is the deck for people to observe birds, or for birds to observe prey? The hawk seemed to think the latter! :)

Also, I had a funny encounter with a deer in Snail Lake Park. I was running a trail, rounded a corner, and there was a doe standing at the trail’s edge. I startled the deer, as she raised her head, but she did not move. I started talking to her, asking “Hi! How’s it going?” (Yeah, yeah, I know...like the deer was going to respond!) She just watched me as I plodded on by. I was no more than 10 feet from her, but obviously did not feel threatened (after all, she is a city deer, and she sees people all the time, I suppose). That was fun, and I wished I had my camera. One thing I did notice was that her reddish summer coat was starting to disappear, and the gray winter fur is setting in. Another sure sign of fall!

And, when you run longer distances, and see fewer cottontail rabbits, it has a profound impact on the "bunny per mile" ratio. Today, it was a paltry 0.57 BPM... ;-)

Overall, it was a productive run, but certainly nothing fast (it took me around 3 hours and 40 minutes). Time goals were not too important to me. Time on my feet, however, was. Obviously, I felt a little tired at the end, but it was a good tired. I don’t feel sore at all, and as I pointed out on my fantasy T-shirt design, I am feeling quite energized, at least enough to go out and do some shopping and have lunch. I think I can talk myself into another 5.2 miles! :)

So now, as M.C. Hammer might have said if he was a runner, “STOP! Taper time!”

Yes, folks, I am breaking out the M.C. Hammer parachute pants and will be doing the “taper dance!” (Which could be interesting...thank goodness I live alone!) The hard training is more or less over with, and I will begin to reduce my training in order to be somewhat rested and recovered before the race. Hopefully, I have done enough!

Tonight, I plan on relaxing, and I will be tuning in to the NASCAR race at Bristol. This is Saturday night short track racing at its finest! Of course, My hapless Minnesota Vikings are playing at the same time as the race, so I will probably have to flip to that during commercials.

Ready to run,

Jean

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More signs of fall

Most of today was rainy, and I don’t think I have seen the sun since last Friday! It has been quite a stretch of damp, foggy weather we have been having lately when most of the summer was so dry.

I ran a little more the 5 miles today, running through the raindrops. It was actually very pleasant; a cool 65 degrees, and a little bit of rain to cool you down. Running in the rain is kind of nice.

So today marks the beginning of the Minnesota State Fair. This is a very well attended event, and people come from many miles away to see all the exhibits, ride the rides, and eat deep-fried food on a stick. I must confess that I am a bad Minnesotan. I have only been there once (nearly 20 years ago, and it was because I had to!). I was in a singing group that performed in the talent competition, so I was obligated to be there. But it is a big deal. The fair is incredibly popular, and some people at work actually take vacation days to go!

The point I am trying to make is that, much like seeing the migrating warblers and northern flickers during my previous runs, the State Fair is a sure sign of fall. Summer is almost over, friends! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Of meetings and fall migrations

Meetings, meetings, meetings...this week has been nothing but meetings. Get this; I had nothing on Monday, and (so far) nothing this coming Friday. But from Tuesday through Thursday I have fourteen meetings scheduled! Good grief. Sometimes I wonder where we actually find time to get stuff done. Of course, you know the old saying about meetings! :)

Anyhow, there is more rain in our forecast for tonight and tomorrow, but today remained dry. It was about 75 degrees, somewhat overcast, and still fairly humid.

Another good run this afternoon, and less bugs to deal with! I went 6 miles tonight just to get a little extra time on the trail. I ran easier today than I did yesterday, keeping things at a comfortable pace.

I saw a sure sign of fall today. There was a northern flicker (a.k.a. “yellow-shafted” flicker) sitting in an open area along the trail’s edge. Starting about this time of year, you will start to see these guys gathering along the edges of roads and paths looking for ants as they make their journey south for the winter. I also saw many songbirds, as well as a Cooper’s hawk that swooped down from a tree right over my head! A good time to be a bird watcher right now.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A bug's life

The last couple of days have been wet in the Twin Cities. One thing that I had taken for granted during our dry summer was the lack of bugs. Well, the damp weather seems to have brought them out in full force!

On the run this afternoon, I was greeted by clouds of little moth-like insects, smacking me in the face, flying up my nose, etc. I didn’t have to deal with this all summer, and now I am coughing and sputtering, trying to brush them away as I ran along the trails!

Even with the bugs, the run was very good tonight; just the usual route, and I felt strong and quick, with a nice speedy finish. Comfortable weather, too. 74 degrees, overcast, and a few raindrops mixed in for good measure.

When I started running almost 3 1/2 years ago, I started keeping a log of my mileage, which I have maintained to this day. On today’s run, the odometer clicked past 4000! Always kind of cool to hit a milestone like that! Here is to the next 4000. And the next, and the next, and the next...

Oh, and unrelated to anything, my kung pao chicken from Sunday was outstanding. Very tasty, and loaded with enough dried chiles and chile sauce that it made my nose run. Hot, hot, hot! But oh-so yummy! :)

Or should I call it “Kung POW!”?



Adding some spice to my life,

Jean

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Play Misty For Me

The Twin Cities has finally been getting that much needed rain. The last two days have been rather wet. In my neighborhood, the rains have been of the good, gentle soaking variety. However, there has been some terrible flooding in SE Minnesota as a result of this system. Some areas received as much as 12 inches of rain. That is absolutely insane! Out hearts go out to the folks down there.

For this morning’s long run, I was treated to cool mist. Low hanging clouds blanketed the area, so thick that I was not able to see the tops of the radio towers in Shoreview. The temperature was around 59, so it was almost ideal for running.

According to my Internet mapping tool, I did 18.2 miles today, although I am utterly convinced that it was much longer than that. I found myself slightly lost in a park trail system that I was unfamiliar with, so I was twisting and turning every which way, eventually finding my way out into familiar territory. That portion of my run was impossible to plot out on the map! And, this 18 mile training run took about 10 minutes longer than a previous 18 mile training run, and I wasn’t that slow today! :) Whatever the case, it was a good run. One more week of hard training, and I can begin my taper.

I saw 17 cottontail rabbits on the run, so the bunny-per-mile ratio is dropping. We were down to 0.93 BPM today! The ospreys are indeed still here, although not in their nest. The mom and pop were circling over the park, no doubt getting Junior acclimated to the wild. And I saw some Nashville warblers along the wooded trails. My Mom and Dad have been seeing them in droves at their place up north, so they have started working their way south for the migration.

Not much on the agenda today. Looks like NASCAR might get rained out (it is in Michigan, and they are dealing with the same weather we had), so I might have to force myself to watch golf, even though my fantasy league golfer (Brett Quigley) hacked miserably and missed the cut! :) I am also making a chicken stir-fry for tonight, so I have plenty of chopping to do.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, August 17, 2007

Celebration time

It has been a crazy, busy week at the office, but it ended quite nicely. A project team I work with received some very good news, so there was an impromptu celebration held outside the office in one of the picnic areas, complete with some Champagne for a little toast. That was kind of cool, and a nice way to wrap up the week.

Mind you, I just had a small sip of bubbly, because I still had to run when I got home! It was really a gorgeous day. Low 70's and almost no humidity, so much cooler temperatures than we have been having. This made for a very comfortable run.

I just did my usual route and enjoyed the crisp, almost fall-like air. A few catbirds were flitting around in some shrubs, and I even scared up a green heron along a trail next to a swamp. It would seem that the ospreys might be out of there. Nobody hanging around by the nest anymore, so I wonder if they have begun their journey south? Anyhow, an enjoyable day to be outside!

Not much on my agenda this weekend. Tomorrow is a day off of running, which is probably OK since it is supposed to be quite rainy. It might be a good opportunity to get some packing done in preparation for the move (which is really only about 6 weeks away). Sunday morning I will do my long run for the weekend (and hey, the marathon is only 30 days away!).

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A perfect summer day

A picture perfect summer day in the metro; 81 degrees with plenty of sun and blue skies, low humidity, and a gentle breeze. Nice!

I had a pleasant run after work. Just the usual route today, and nothing too strenuous. I saw (and heard) the gray catbird again (he has been out there virtually every day for the last month), and I saw four great egrets wading in the shallow creek in the park.

Last night we had a good time at our celebratory dinner for work. There were eight of us who went to Biaggi’s in Maple Grove. I’m not a big chain restaurant guy, but this place does a very nice job. I had the “Penne Sardi,” which contained grilled chicken, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and penne pasta in a sun-dried tomato and cream sauce, which is thrown under thr broiler with some bread crumbs on top before serving. Quite tasty! It was a fun event, and it was enjoyable getting to know some of my extended team members a little better.

It’s been a busy week, and tomorrow is Friday. Woohoo! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer storms

Holy cow, did we have some wild thunderstorms move through the metro last night! About 9:30 PM, it started pouring down rain and hail (with “golf ball sized” reported in my neighborhood), and the wind was blowing like crazy. It was one of the more severe storms I have seen in some time.

This afternoon on my run (a comfortable 83 degrees and less humid), I got to see what the storm left in its wake. I was pleasantly surprised that not many trees were taken out, which is good. The roads and trails were covered with leaves and twigs that were ripped down by the hail, and there were a number of trucks in the neighborhood emblazoned with the names of roofing and siding companies, obviously inspecting homes for damage. Many people were out raking, and the leaf blowers were humming, cleaning up the debris. As wild as it was, I was glad to see that the area appears to be in relatively good shape.

As for my run, it was a good one. I did 5 1/2 miles at an easier pace than yesterday. It felt great, and I appreciated the cooler day.

Tomorrow is a day off from running, and I even get to go out to dinner. Several of my team members are heading out for some Italian food for a work-related celebration, so I would imagine it will be fun. And hey, it’s free! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, August 13, 2007

Busy day, speedy run

Do you ever have one of those days at work where it starts off fast and furious, and it just keeps compounding? That was my day today.

Without getting too specific, we had some consultants in the office this week helping us to prepare for some work with regulatory agencies, so I spent about 2 hours with them answering questions and receiving training. That, and I am covering for someone who is out of the office, so I had to keep up with those duties in addition to own. I felt drained by noon! I was glad to get out of there today.

In spite of my hectic day, I managed an excellent run when I got home. Sneering in the face of an 88 degree temperature with a sticky dewpoint in the upper 60’s, I ran strong and fast. Perhaps that was just my way of sorting through the day’s events, but it sure felt good!

Or maybe it was the new shoes? I finally laced up the pair of Brooks I bought a few weeks ago. New shoes always feel sweet! :)

As for wildlife, I still saw one of the ospreys soaring overhead, so they are still hanging around. I would imagine they will soon begin their journey south. My folks have been seeing tons of migrating warblers already, so I am hopeful that a few of those guys will make a stopover in my neighborhood before they head to their winter destination in the tropics.

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A long, humid run

Another good long run this morning. I put in just over 16 miles. The run was somewhat challenging, as the temperatures were getting warm (74 degrees), and the humidity was high (67 degree dewpoint).

I took off just before daybreak after some storms rumbled through. so I was treated to a pretty impressive lightning show to the south and east. My pace was steady, just sort of an easy “cruise control” speed so as not to burn myself out too early.

On the east side of Turtle Lake, I could not believe the traffic! I am so used to not seeing anybody at this time of day on a weekend. But here it was a little after 6 AM, and there was an absolute parade of cars streaming down Hodgeson Road. Turns out the Turtleman Triathlon was taking place today, and Turtle Lake Park was already packed! Their running route shared some of my route, but I would be long gone by the time the running portion of the race started.

I saw a lot of wildlife today. The kingfisher was sitting on a powerline, intently watching the creek for prey. I saw the swans out on the lake with three of their rather large children in tow (I am unsure if they are tundra or trumpeter swans because they are too far away). There was a Cooper’s hawk being chased by a crow. And I even saw a black phase gray squirrel.

The run was pretty challenging with all the humidity (I don’t like humidity!). But I kept shuffling along and eventually wrapped it up in about 2 hours and 40 minutes, so it was an OK pace for a long training run.

Afterwards, I ran errands, did some shopping, and treated myself to a little lunch at Wagner’s Drive In in St. Louis Park. A really excellent California cheeseburger, with a bit of nostalgia at an old time drive in. How could a summer day be any better? :)

My California cheeseburger at Wagner’s Drive In



Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A little heat, a little osprey, and a little help

The heat was on today in the metro, along with some humidity. 92 degrees with a pretty good breeze that felt a little like a blast furnace!

The run was tougher today, but I ran easy on account of the heat. Days like this are difficult, but you always feel great when you are done! Just the usual route, nothing crazy.

The baby osprey has left the nest! There was nobody in it when I ran by this afternoon, so the little guy has taken flight. They are still around though, because I heard the familiar peeping sound, so I would imagine they will be hanging around until the season changes. But it was fun to see him grow up. Good luck, little buddy! :)

I was really touched by a story on the local news about a gentleman who was involved in the 35W bridge collapse last week, and I thought I would share that story here. His name is Marcelo Cruz, a jewelry repair man and stone setter at a jewelry store in the Twin Cities. Marcelo is in a wheelchair, and he was on the bridge when it went down. He purposefully crashed his wheelchair-accessible van into the cement barrier to prevent from going over the edge (check out this video from FOX 9 to see how close he was to the edge).

So his wrecked van is still sitting on the bridge more than a week later. Inside of the van is Marcelo's racing wheelchair. He is a 9-time marathoner currently in training for the Twin Cities Marathon this fall, and he has been unable to train since the incident. A local bank has set up a trust fund to help him out with getting a new van and a new wheelchair so he can resume his training. You can click this link to find out more information about the fund if you are interested.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Beware of Moose

Over the last two nights, I got in a couple of runs over the usual route. Yesterday I took it really easy, and today I had a pretty spirited run (even with it being 92 degrees outside!). I feel very good after the long race on Saturday, so I am recovering quite nicely.

I saw a lot of cardinals on my run today. I seem to be seeing them more and more again as the youngsters are out of the nest. And the baby osprey is getting nearly as big as his parents, so I wonder how long they will stick around? It has been fun watching them this summer.

Tonight, believe it or not, the packing has begun! I already got a few boxes of things put away for my upcoming move, so I am bound and determined to get out of this place as soon as possible. Tomorrow I sign the lease on my new place, and I will be able to start moving on October 1st. Can’t wait! Hopefully, the pastures are greener.

Unrelated to anything, I saw this bizarre clip on ESPN. Who had the bright idea of giving the moose an ATV? :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A brush with greatness at the "Lake that Speaks"

Given that Watson, MN, is the “Goose Capital of the USA,” it seemed only appropriate that that race I entered was named the Wild Goose Chase. The race was a 30k that made a counterclockwise loop around Lac qui Parle Lake. There were runners participating in a 3-person team relay (10k a piece), and there were others like me doing the whole thing solo.

The name “Lac qui Parle” is French for “Lake that speaks.” The lake was undoubtedly named as such because of the amount of noise made by the migratory waterbirds, especially the Canada geese who either call this place home or make it pit stop during migration. The entire lake is considered a state game refuge. You will find no homes dotting the shoreline here. And there is a state park on the southern end of the lake. It is an area of great history, fantastic wildlife viewing, and the lake is an impressive and imposing body of water.

The historic 1835 Lac qui Parle Mission, just south of the start/finish line



I knew right away that I was going to like this race. The parking instructions read as follows: “Parking will be near the finish line, which is on the SW corner of Co. Rd. 32 & Co. Rd. 33 by a tan machine shed.” Clearly, this would be smaller, low stress, and fun event!

According to the race director, the area has had no rain in nearly a month. Of course, Mother Nature decided that the day of the race would be a perfect time to start making up the deficit. (But really, the area needed it badly, so it was hard to complain too much) Temperatures were in the upper 50’s with pouring down rain at the start, and there was about a 20 MPH southeast wind. I literally left the confines of my warm car 5 minutes before we got going!

At 7 AM, we hit the road. The crowd dispersed very quickly, and it wasn’t long after that I found myself running more or less by myself. Occasionally a runner would pass me or I would pass someone and we would strike up a conversation.

The rain actually subsided somewhat and stayed somewhere between light drizzle to a fine mist for most of the race. This, I found, was really a blessing in disguise. As much as I had been complaining about the hot weather lately, running in near 60 degree temperatures with some light rain to keep me cool was a treat.

The course did not have a great deal of elevation change, but there were a number of gradual hills that we had to climb. Nothing steep, just persistent and long. The first part of the course was a mix of farmland and game refuge, and the latter stages included some spectacular lake views.

My pace was comfortable and deliberate. I wanted to make sure I didn’t fry myself early and have nothing left for the end. I passed through the first 10k and relay checkpoint in 54 minutes. Perfect.

There were aid stations set up every couple of miles. I made it a point to greet and thanks the volunteers at each of them. Running in the cool rain and wind is easy. Standing in the cool rain and wind while pouring water for runners had to suck. But they were troopers; very enthusiastic and supportive folks.

The first great view of Lac qui Parle Lake came at the Milan bridge, shortly after the 7 mile mark. The lake looked eerie through the dark clouds and low hanging fog, almost like a scene out of Scotland. I half expected “Nessie” to raise his head out of the water!

Then, I had my brush with running greatness.

Shortly after I crossed the Milan bridge, I made the turn to head down the west side of Lac qui Parle Lake. Just past the 8 mile mark, I heard the sound of quick footsteps behind me. I was a little surprised, because I had just looked back a couple of minutes ago when I was on the bridge and there was nobody in sight.

I was greeted by a cheerful voice, saying “Hello! How’s it going?”

I turned to look, and I immediately recognized the smiling runner, even though we had never met. My inner voice spoke to me and said:

”Holy crap, it is Carrie Tollefson!”

Yes, Carrie Tollefson. The Minnesota-born speedster, 2004 Olympic runner, member of the USA Track & Field team, featured on the January 2007 cover of Runner’s World, and spokesperson for the Minnesota Grown Program. She is one of the finest runners not only in the state, but in the country. And here she was running as part of a relay team at this little race! (It turns out she grew up in this area of the state, which helps explain her presence here)

“It’s going pretty good!”, I said, trying to hide my shock that I was running with and talking to this elite athlete.

“Are you doing the relay or the whole 30k?” she asked.

“I’m doing the whole thing,” I replied.

With boundless enthusiasm, she said “That is AWESOME! Keep it up, you are looking great!”

As she promptly left me in her dust, I responded with, “So are you!” And when I say “left me in her dust,” I mean she was gone! I could not believe her speed, and the relative ease at which she was burning up the road. She was so nice. I saw her chatting with other runners ahead of me as well. Eventually I lost sight of her on a long stretch of road in what seemed like a matter of minutes.

Now, if a compliment from a running superstar doesn’t inspire you, nothing will. Onward! :)

Running towards the next major checkpoint was a challenge. Remember I said there was a strong southeast wind? We were running directly into it now! However, inspired by my encounter with one of the great runners in America, I sucked it up and kept digging.

My pace slowed while going into the wind, but I did enjoy some beautiful views of the lake, even spotting several American white pelicans on the water. I made it through the 20k checkpoint in 1 hour, 49 minutes, so the second 10k took somewhere around 57 minute.

With 2/3rds of the race done, I felt quite good. Over the final 10k, I passed three runners and made my way around the south end of the lake. Shortly before the 16 mile mark, a deer ventured out of the woods to greet me, and a large bald eagle sitting in a tree top looked on, seemingly unimpressed. It was nice of the wildlife to come out for the race!

The finish was a little bit sinister. The final two miles were almost all uphill. Again, nothing especially steep, but it was the steepest hill of the course. With tired legs and a shortened stride, I kept after it. Soon the familiar tan machine shed at the parking area was in sight, and I tried to keep my pace up to bring it home to the finish.

The “Lake that Speaks,” which I ran all the way around



I finished in 2 hours, 43 minutes, and 33 seconds, good for an 8 minute, 46 second per mile pace. In a way, I saved my best for last, because the final 10k was my fastest of the three, even with the hills that led up to the finish. I am very excited about my performance!

After the race, there was a cookout with grilled hot dogs, assorted fruits, and plenty of water and Gatorade. Music was provided by a local folk band. And the warm shelter provided by the Lac qui Parle State Park headquarters was greatly appreciated by all the runners.

A fun event, a beautiful course, I got to run and chat with an Olympian, and I finished my longest race to date. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Ain't that America

So I spent my Saturday running around a game refuge in the rain.

But before we get to that...

Friday I took off from work early to head to Watson, MN. Where is Watson, you ask? It is near Montevideo in west-central Minnesota.

It is worth noting that Watson proclaims itself the “Goose Capital of the USA,” given its close proximity to Lac qui Parle Lake, a prime breeding ground and migratory pathway for the Canada goose. It also struck me as I drove through Watson that the skyline kind of reminded me of the town in the movie ”Footloose.” I resisted the urge to roll down the window and shout, ”Let the kids dance!!! :)

Watson, MN, the “Goose Capital of the USA”



Anyhow, before I got to Watson, my trip to western Minnesota was uneventful, but quite pretty. I find farm country to be beautiful, with the vast expanses of corn and beans, country churches, and the tall grain elevators off in the distance. As John Mellencamp said in his song, “Pink Houses”: “Ain’t that America, we’re something to see, baby.”

There were, as always, a few diversions along the way. Lunch at the Peppermint Twist in Delano, I stopped to see the world’s largest ball of twine in Darwin (it is as you would expect...a big ball of twine!), and I also took a detour to Madison, MN. Any place that declares itself the “Lutefisk Capital of the USA” is a place that any Norwegian-American should make a pilgrimage to, if for no other reason than to bow reverently towards the statue pictured below.

The World’s Largest Cod in Madison, MN



Also in Madison, I found this beautiful piece of Americana; an old Skelly gas station. It did not appear to be in business, rather it seemed as if it was preserved for the sake of history. The attention to detail is positively amazing.

A far cry from the gas stations of today



I stayed in nearby Montevideo and got to bed early. Tomorrow morning I would get to chase the goose.

Wild Goose Chase Index of Posts

Trip notes from the Wild Goose Chase 30k in Watson, MN



PART 1 - Ain’t that America
PART 2 - A brush with greatness at the “Lake that Speaks”

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Ready to run, and a sobering day

I didn't run for the last two days for three reasons; one, I tweaked some muscles in my lower back. Actually, kind of where your butt muscles meet your lower back ("butt muscles"…can you tell I didn't major in biology?). I was a little stiff from my long run on Sunday, plus I probably shouldn't have run the following day, which exacerbated things a little bit. Two, yesterday when I went to the St. Paul Saints game, I had to park nearly two miles away (I'm not exaggerating) because they have hardly any freakin' parking around Midway Stadium! So I got in a really good long walk to and from my car, which I actually think was very helpful for my stiffness. And three, it was like 95 degrees, hot, sticky, and disgusting outside!

My Dad, the old coach, gave me some stretching tips to isolate the stiffness and loosen things up, which has been helping greatly (thanks Dad!). I had a nice run after work this evening. The usual route, nice and easy, and the stiffness is beginning to dissipate. Hopefully this will have me in fine shape for the race this weekend.

Anyhow, back to the Saints game; I am not a big fan of baseball in the least, but it was fun. It is almost a carnival atmosphere at these games, and they have all kinds of crazy contests going on between innings. Also, the guy announcing the game was hilarious. I have never been to a game where the announcer openly razzes the other team. When the other team was up to bat, he would announce the batter and say something like, "Representing the second out of the inning,…" Or when the second baseman threw out a guy at first, "I am kinda surprised he could throw it that far!" It was all in fun. Plus, the game was a hit-fest, and the Saints won it 10-9 in the bottom of the 9th. Good times.

Not to conclude on a somber note, but if your were anywhere near a TV or on an internet news site, you undoubtedly heard about the Interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis. The national media has descended upon us like vultures to cover this tragedy, so Minnesota is all over the news right now.

Everyone I know personally who travels that way is fine. The closest call I heard of was a coworker of mine who crossed the bridge at 5:58 PM. The bridge collapsed shortly after 6 PM. I don't get down that way much, but I did cross that bridge a couple times when I went to my meetings downtown a few weeks ago. It is an area I have never liked driving through.

Things very surreal in the Twin Cities right now, and this incident seems to have brought out the best in people. The response from the rescue workers has been, by all accounts, phenomenal, and I am always amazed at what kind of person it takes to run towards danger when everyone else is running from it. Amazing stories of heroism are emerging from the scene of the accident, as well as selfless acts of generosity. Even in the office, we got several e-mails from colleagues in other locations checking on all of us to see that we were OK.

To those who have lost loved ones, or who were directly involved in this horrible accident, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Until next time,

Jean

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