Sunday, September 30, 2007

The lawnmower man

This morning I was awakened at 5 AM by thunderstorms, but they cleared out quickly enough so I was able to run in their wake.

Today I put in 12 miles because this would be my last “long” run in my current neighborhood. By this time next week, I should be settled in at my new place, so the long runs will resume over there.

The temperature was a comfortable 64 degrees, overcast, and only a little bit of drizzle in the last mile or so. Pretty nice for running.

I encountered a mama deer and her twin fawns munching on some grass along the bike path. As per usual, I started talking to them, and all three just stared at me as I trotted by. I told them to be careful, as they were getting kind of close to a road, so I hope they heeded my advice.

Also, I saw a rogue red-breasted nuthatch. You might recall this is my buddy up at Mom and dad’s whole we refer to as “Norris.” They are much more common up north, and I don’t see very many of them down here, so that was a treat!

Unrelated to anything, I need to share a humorous story from yesterday. On my way back from lunch in Scandia, I took a roundabout route back home through White Bear Township, and I saw an older gentleman...driving a John Deere lawn mower (complete with the leaf bagging attachment)... down the highway...in the rain...and talking on his cell phone!

Now, if you have ever been on a riding lawn mower, you know that these are not exactly quiet vehicles. How a person could carry on a conversation is beyond me. But it is nice to see that the information age has finally reached the lawn mowing community... :)

All right, the computer gets disconnected tonight and will hopefully be reconnected at the new place on Tuesday. I will try to find time to chime in and maybe share some photos from the move if I am able to. In the meantime, enjoy the next few days, and I will talk to you from the “west side!”

Movin’ out,

Jean

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Living in squalor, part 2

Less than a year ago, I was in the process of moving. Today, I am in the process of doing it all over again! Ugh...

I have been packing and lifting many boxes. The apartment is a complete disaster area. I disassembled my kitchen table and have been stacking boxes in the dining room area just to get them out of the way. As you can see, I am having fun!

The Happy Mover!



And as annoying as packing is, to make matters worse, the smoke detector in my apartment decided today would be a fin opportunity to start beeping every freakin’ minute to let me know the backup battery is shot. Of course, there isn’t a 9-volt battery to be found anywhere in this place (and if there was, I would have no idea where I packed it!). Thankfully, the caretaker was here this afternoon and was able to bail me out. Now all is well.

But not all is work, and not all is annoying. I managed to sneak out for lunch. Because by next weekend, I will be officially living in the west metro, I decided to venture east to a place I probably will not be getting to very often, barring a road trip.

My “Mushroom & Swiss Meisterburger” at Meisters Bar & Grill



I went to Meisters Bar & Grill in the town of Scandia, MN. Meisters is a great little bar with even better burgers (and real, homemade fries!). Today I had the “Mushroom & Swiss Meisterburger,” and it was absolutely awesome.

The day was kind of crummy and overcast, but that didn’t stop me from snapping a few photos of this quaint village that is steeped in Swedish tradition.

The grounds of the Gammelgården Museum, Scandia, MN



The grounds of the Gammelgården Museum were looking particularly pretty with the changing leaves. Scandia was the first Swedish settlement in Minnesota, and this museum serves to preserve Swedish immigrant history and demonstrate what the lives of the early settlers were like.

The historic Hay Lake School near Scandia



And, there is a beautifully preserved, one-room schoolhouse near Scandia called the Hay Lake School. It was built in 1896, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

(I am just brimming with knowledge today, aren’t I?)

Anyhow, that enough packing and moving preparation for today. Tonight will consist of a relaxing dinner, and a potentially humorous football game between the powerful Ohio State Buckeyes and the hapless Golden Gophers of Minnesota. Could be interesting.

Knee deep in boxes,

Jean

Friday, September 28, 2007

Gainfully unemployed

Today was my last day at the old job! And it was actually a fairly crazy one, too. A lot of trying to sew up some loose ends, trying to make sure I left everything in good shape for those taking over. Aside from a slight bureaucratic run-around involving some documentation, it was a good day, though.

I was a kind sad to be saying farewell to some of my coworkers. One of them even brought in homemade apple crisp (oh my gosh, it was yummy!) for my last day! While it was somewhat bittersweet, I know I will be staying in touch. They are a great group of people who I have a lot of respect for, and we will be seeing each other again; just not as frequently!

So for the next five days, I am officially unemployed! However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be working. I can start moving into my new apartment on Monday, so I have this weekend to get ramped up. Then I can spend three days transporting some of my crap over to the new place before reporting to the new job on Thursday. My work is cut out for me, but I am getting excited.

What a spectacular day weather wise. Upper 60’s, no humidity, bright sun, and crisp air. I took advantage by doing my afternoon run, which was very liberating, given the closure today brought for me. The old job is done and in the past. Now I can just focus on the road ahead. A pretty happy guy, I clipped along on the roads and trails in my neighborhood at a solid pace.

A lot of packing and cleaning is in store for the next couple days, but I will be sure to mix in some football, good food, and running as well. After all, moving sucks, so you have to have some fun, right? :)

By the way, Toby won the Dunder Mifflin 5k last night. Michael did not fare quite as well.

Getting ready to toss some boxes around,

Jean

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fuzzy squirrels

Another lovely day in the metro; low 70's, puffy clouds, plenty of sunshine, and no humidity. Nice!

I did a 5 mile run after work, and it was most enjoyable. Just a really pleasant day. Most of the usual suspect birds were out and about. The leaves continue to change rapidly. I rescued a woolly bear caterpillar from certain doom on the bikepath. And I noticed that the gray squirrels are starting to get their fuzzy winter fur.

Longtime readers might recall my theory about fuzzy squirrel in September equating to a long winter. While last winter was not exactly snowy, it was cold, and we didn't get a lot of snow until March. I think I need at least another year to see if this theory can be proven. :)

Runners of the world, be sure to tune in to the season premiere of NBC's "The Office" tonight at 8 PM CST. Apparently, Michael organizes a 5k fun run for charity. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have a T-shirt from a Dunder Mifflin-sponsored race!

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A fantastic fall day

With only three days left at my current job, a group of friends at the office took me to Panino’s in North Oaks for lunch today. Great little restaurant, serving a multitude of different grilled flatbread sandwiches. I had the “Sicilian.” Yum! A very nice treat from my coworkers! They are a great group, and I will miss working with them.

Since I did not have a scheduled run today, I had the good intention of coming home and doing a little packing in anticipation of my move. However, in looking around the place, I have made more progress than I had originally thought. With that, I decided very quickly to forget about packing for the meantime and to go outside and enjoy this beautiful day!

The temperature was in the high 60’s with wispy clouds and a great, fall crispness in the air. Arguably, one of the nicest days of the year. I went for a 3 mile walk around the neighborhood in lieu of a run.

Amazingly, I only met three other people my whole time on the trails. How can people pass up a day like this to be out and about? The trails were all mine.

The fall colors continue to emerge at a rapid rate. Some pretty reds are starting to blend with all of the yellows. It is easy to see why this is a favorite time of year for many Minnesotans.

Signs of fall along the trail



Lots of birds today as well. Similar to previous days, there were many flocks of sparrows, and large numbers of blue jays continue their journey south. But today was a great hawk day. Not only did I see the neighborhood osprey, but I rustled up a pair of red-tailed hawks that were sitting in a treetop on the trail’s edge. They were enormous! And later on during my walk, a pair of bald eagles passed overhead. One of them was even doing the classic, high-pitched eagle whistle. Awesome!

What a fantastic fall day in Minnesota. Time to open a bottle of wine, throw open the windows, enjoy the cool, crisp air while watching a little TV, and to save the remainder of the packing for another day! :)

Cheers,

Jean

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bright as yellow

It is astonishing how quickly the leaves start turning in the fall. Just this weekend, I talked about how the colors were just starting to appear. A few days later, they are really starting to pop out. The trees are getting very pretty.

Bright yellow fall colors



Today was a much more comfortable day to run as well. 58 degrees, overcast, and cool. I felt fantastic, and ran well. I did 5 1/2 miles this afternoon and had a fun time on the trails.

Blue jays continue to fly through here in droves, and I even saw one of our resident red bellied woodpeckers flying around the neighborhood.

Tonight really marks the start of the new TV season for me. Although, I must say I am a little upset. Two of my regular shows, ”Bones” and ”NCIS,” are now on opposite each other! Ugh. That means I am subject to a full season of having to record one of them and watch the other. How come nobody ever consults me on these things?

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, September 24, 2007

Return to summer, and some good cooking

Some unseasonable warmth has been thrust upon us today. 83 degrees, with a hefty dose of humidity. Ugh! It feels like July. And it made for tougher running.

I did the usual route today, and it felt somewhat labored with the heat and humidity. It was only about 35 degrees cooler when I last went running on Saturday morning! But I managed just fine. Sometimes runs like that are more satisfying because they are more difficult.

There were a number of birds today, and it continues to look like fall (even though it didn’t feel like it!). Countless blue jays are on the move, as are flocks of cute little song sparrows as well. And it seems like the color of the leaves have intensified, even since yesterday. A great time of year!

Changing gears completely, I got an opportunity to get away from my packing and moving preparation and cooked some mighty fine dishes over the weekend.

Mom had given me some great tomatoes and hot peppers when I saw them the previous weekend, so I decided to make a homemade salsa. One thing I did not realize was that the blender had already been packed away in a box underneath a pile of boxes! So this salsa was chopped by hand (which was fine...it made for great texture!). Anyhow, the salsa was a great topping for some simple beef and bean tacos. Fantastic football-watching fare!

Beef and bean soft tacos with homemade salsa



And, my brother had recently given me a pheasant, so I decided to go Italian and make a pheasant cacciatora with it. The sauce was loaded with olives, garlic, fresh rosemary, mushrooms, and fantastic chunks of flavorful pheasant. A wonderful dish, if I do say so myself!

A delicious and rich pheasant cacciatora



As I type this, dinner time is approaching. Thank goodness, because all this food talk is making me hungry! :)

Getting ready for leftover tacos,

Jean

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The leaves, they are a-changin’

There was a fall-like crispness in the air on Saturday morning. I grabbed my camera and took it will me on my run.

Rice Creek, with a layer of mist



As I noted in and earlier post, the signs of fall are popping up everywhere. You are starting to see some colors emerging in the leaves on the trees. We still have a lot of green, but the change of season is beginning.

A touch of red



Most noticeably, the sumac bushes and the soft maples appear to be the first to make the transition. They are the ones showing the most color at this point. The season is nowhere near peak as far as the colors are concerned, so the scenery should be getting even prettier over the coming weeks.

A small maple showing some colors



As for my run, it was a gorgeous morning. I ended up doing a lazy 10 miles (lazy in the sense that I ran an easy pace and stopped a lot to take pictures!). A full week after the marathon, and I feel great.

The temperature was in the upper 40’s, so it was just ideal, and right on the cusp of needed a little more than the tank top and shorts, but still comfortable once I got going. Still, I encountered a number of other runners wearing jackets, tights, even one guy wearing stocking caps and gloves. Hey, we still have a way to go before we will be needing that kind of attire! :)

I haven’t done too much over the weekend. Mostly, I have been packing and getting ready for my move. Progress has been made, and I don’t feel like doing much today except for cooking a little dinner, watching some NASCAR, as well as viewing the Vikings game. And after watching the Gophers football game on ESPN2, I was able to practice my expressions such as “What on earth are you doing?!?” and “Why would you call THAT play?”, so I should be all tuned up to watch the purple and gold stumble around on the field this afternoon! ;-)

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, September 21, 2007

A wild week

This week has been rather busy interesting.

Following my marathon weekend, I had to turn in my letter of resignation at work on Monday morning. Not easy to do, as I really like my supervisor. Then we started the process of notifying those people who needed to know, and we made arrangements for other people to take over my projects.

Shortly thereafter, word trickled around the office that I was leaving in two weeks, so I have been receiving a lot of e-mails, phone calls, and visitors to my cube to wish me well. I got taken out to lunch three times this week! My colleagues have been very supportive, and their kindness has been quite flattering.

That being said, I am glad it is Friday! I am looking forward to a somewhat relaxing weekend. I say “somewhat” because I have a fair amount of packing to do with my move coming up in a week an a half. Otherwise, it will be fun to hang out and just watch football and NASCAR!

I am happy to say I recovered very quickly from the marathon. Going into last weekend, I wasn’t sure how I would feel afterwards, but in fact, I have been running three times this week! Nothing too stressful, mind you, just some nice runs around my usual route (I even ran pretty well today after gorging myself on Thai hot pepper chicken with basil and peanuts at Big Bowl!). No ill effects from the big race, and I feel great. This confirmed for me that I am going about my training the right way.

It is really starting to look like fall here in Minnesota. The trees here in the metro are starting to show a yellowish tint, and I the next couple of weeks should be gorgeous. We are entering my favorite months of the year right now, and I am looking forward to the change of seasons, not to mention, the favorable running weather as well! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From Me To You

If there's anything that you want,
If there's anything I can do,
Just call on me and I'll send it along
With love from me to you.
-The Beatles, from the single “From Me To You”

After I crossed the finish line, I was greeted by the incredibly nice volunteers, who took off my timing chip, and placed the beautiful finisher's medal around my neck. I then joined my family and friends. How great was it to have them all here? Hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and stories of the race were shared. What an experience!

Post race with Mom, Marc, and Brenda. Notice I am still upright! :)



Eventually we wandered back over to the hotel. Mom, Dad, Marc, and Brenda went over to the Lucky Moose Bar & Grill, which was right next door, for a drink while I showered up. I joined them a short time later for some food (which, by all accounts, was quite enjoyable).

I felt a little bad, because, well, my stomach felt a little bad! I think it was due to the consumption of all those energy gels throughout the race, and I was kind of queasy. I picked away at my salad, and ended up getting a box for my BLT sandwich. But the diet Pepsi tasted good! And it was great to hang out with my family and friends. What a treat to have such special people join me for my first marathon. Thanks, you guys! :)

(Incidentally, it took a couple of hours and a little rest before I came around and was able to eat my sandwich back in the hotel. Any tips from you experienced distance runners? I may need to find an alternative to gels!)

Later that afternoon, my folks and Marc and Brenda took off, allowing me to head back to the hotel for some rest. I came to life after I finally ate, and spent the rest of the evening lounging on the bed enjoying plenty of college football. A nice way to end one of the greatest days ever!

Before they left, Mom had asked me if it was too soon to ask if I would ever try this again. Without much hesitation, I said "Oh, no, I'll be doing this again!" The day was just fantastic. How could I not want to do this again? :)

Needless to say, I slept quite well! The hotel I stayed in was the Country Inn, which was incredibly quiet. Generally I have pretty good luck with hotels at these destination races since most of the people staying there are part of the race. These place are usually fairly quiet because everyone is pretty much on the same schedule! But this was especially restful. Nice hotel.

I checked out on Sunday morning and started my journey back to the Twin Cities, but not without doing a little bit of sightseeing first. As I noted earlier, this is beautiful country up here, and I enjoyed some of the curvy roads in my sporty car. Plus there is plenty of interesting roadside architecture as well, and I was not going to stay within 15 minutes of the world's largest tiger muskie and not go to see it!

The World's Largest Tiger Muskie in Nevis, MN

 

I stopped for a really good breakfast in Akeley, where I learned that the town of Akeley proclaims to be the "Birthplace of Paul Bunyan," the legendary giant lumberjack of the north woods. To commemorate this, they have this enormous sculpture of Paul in the town park. Most impressive!

Akeley, MN, the "Birthplace of Paul Bunyan"



With that, I had an uneventful the trip back home to the flatlands. What a weekend! A new job offer, and finishing my first marathon, all within a span of less than 24 hours? I can still hardly believe it.

From me to you, I have truly appreciated everyone's kind words of support and encouragement during my training. To my fellow running bloggers Rick and Addy, thank you for all the positive comments you have left on my blog, and for sharing your inspirational running stories and unbelievable race tales. You two are rock stars in my book! And to all my family and friends, especially Mom and Dad, you are the best, and I love you guys! Thanks for believing! :)

So now I slide into the "off season" for running! No more 16 - 20 mile training runs, at least for awhile. Now is the time to slow down, do a couple shorter fall races, enjoy the change of seasons, and start searching for some new goals and pursuits.

With that, here is to a little bit of a break, but also, here is to the next running adventure! :)

The finisher's medal, featuring the Minnesota State Bird



Until next time,

Jean

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Destination

And I
I've taken so long, I know
Never had so far to go
It's not where you can be, it's what you can see
That takes you there
Your destination
Boston, "My Destination" from the Third Stage album

(So are you enjoying all the cheesy lyrical references in the last few posts? I know I am!)

Now you know where my head was at the night before the race. Surprisingly, I slept pretty well. Perhaps there was some solace in the fact that a little bit of weight was lifted off my shoulders regarding my job situation? Things will hopefully be looking brighter, and now I could just focus on running.

So, let us (finally!) talk about running!

On the morning of the race, the temperature was...GOOD GRIEF, 35 degrees and frost, with a strong southwest wind? Brrrrr! I was hoping it would be cool, but perhaps not that cool! This was creating a bit of a wardrobe conundrum for me, because it was supposed to warm up as the day went on, but I did not want to overdress, either. I ended up wearing shorts, a long-sleeved technical shirt with a light top over that, my running gloves, and a cap.

The race start was at 9 AM on the track at the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley High School. Milling around before the start, I would have to say I didn’t feel terribly nervous. Sure, there were some butterflies, but I didn’t feel any sort of panic, like “Oh my gosh, I have to go 26.2 miles today!” I just kept telling myself to treat it like a long training run!

Also, an added bonus was that my parents were making a day trip to come over an watch the race, They wanted to see me finish my first marathon. But because they were coming from so far away, they would not be there for the start. However, that would certainly give me a reason to make it to the finish!

After the US and Canadian National anthems (we are getting close to the border up here after all!), the starter’s pistol was fired. After a lap around the track, we hit the streets for our adventure.

Starting from the school, we went downhill, wound our way through downtown Walker, and eventually headed south down State Highway 34, which was mostly uphill and into the wind. (In literary circles, they call this “foreshadowing,” by the way!)

Eventually at around the 5 mile mark, we turned off onto a dirt road. I popped a gel at the aid station and downed some Gatorade (my plan was to take a gel at every 5 miles or so). Here is where the course started getting very scenic. The road twisted and turned, also going up and down, and was surrounded by beautiful forests. And, on at least three occasions that I remember, I saw runners emerging from those forests like a hibernating bear. (Obviously, unplanned bathroom breaks!)

The real fun started when we crossed the Shingobee River and hit the North Country Trail shortly after the 7 mile mark. This was a well-maintained hiking trail, wide enough for two runners to run side by side, that was consistently going up and down. Nothing too technical, but there were some rocks and roots to look out for. It was here between the 8 and 10 mile marks that I felt I had some of my best running of the day. Perhaps it was because I had to slow down to navigate the terrain, but I felt absolutely great on these trails.

At the 9 mile mark, I had a young lady pass me and we struck up a conversation. “Oh, it is so beautiful out here!”, she said. She was right. Cool, crisp air, leaves starting to change colors...what was not to like? We talked a little while longer before wishing each other a good day, and she was off.

This girl was pretty speedy and she was absolutely bombing the downhills. I tried to keep up with her for awhile before I nearly had an encounter with dirt. A rock snagged my toe and I almost ate it in a big way! Hey, better dial it back there, champ. You are never going to catch her! She disappeared quickly as we progressed down the wooded trails.

Approximately 12 miles in, we hooked up with the Paul Bunyan Trail, a paved bike path that would take us west. With the exception of a flat section between miles 12 and 13, hills were the theme of the day. In fact, there was a little sign on the trail warning inline skaters, bikers, and “people of limited ability” of the steep uphills and downhills. The words “people of limited ability” couldn’t possibly refer to first-time marathoners, could they? :) At least here, the wind was hitting us in a crossways fashion, so we were not running directly into it!

On the paved stretch, I felt like I was moving along pretty slowly. Lots of uphill running here, and I was really beginning to appreciate the softness of the grass and dirt trails I had just left behind. So I chugged along as best I could for the next 5 miles.

Nearing mile 17, we turned on to a road, which brought the runners back to the North Country Trail again. (Yay! Back to the dirt!). It was at this point I decided to start walking the hills I encountered. I was really gaining nothing by trying to run because I could walk them just as fast!

I thought miles 17 through 20 were the prettiest sections of the course. It was also quite possibly the most hilly! Here we ran through dark pine groves, and crossed a bridge overlooking a scenic swamp. Spectacular wilderness! And I had caught a second wind, running this segment quite well. Perhaps I had those uphill walking breaks to thank?

From miles 21 and on, we had moved off of the network of trails on to a dirt road and were headed north back towards Walker. The wind was finally at my back! Unfortunately, my energy was starting to fade. I kept shuffling along as best I could, continuing to walk the hills. My breathing was good. I didn’t feel exhausted. It was just that my legs were feeling heavy.

Heck, even my sense of humor was completely intact. At the aid stations, I was joking with the volunteers (who were absolutely incredible all the way around, bless their hearts). One station had a wide array of snacks, including oranges, bananas, cookies, and even lemon drops. I complimented them on this veritable “buffet” of goodies. One lady told me some runners enjoyed it so much that they spent about 5 minutes hanging out there! Another station volunteer told me I looked like a bumble bee in my yellow and black outfit, which made me laugh out loud! Yes, the humor was in check, but the legs were fading.

The 25 mile mark was a sight for sore eyes (and legs!). There was an aid station being manned by a group of high school kids. It was right by a lake, and they were getting pummeled by the wind from the southwest. I told them they were troopers for hanging out here all day, and they responded by enthusiastically cheering me on.

Shortly thereafter, I ran into the young lady who passed me at mile 9 on the trails. She was walking back towards the 25 mile mark, perhaps to meet another runner. I decided to razz her a little bit and said, “Oh, I suppose you finished about an hour ago?”

She laughed out loud, saying, “Ha! No way!” Offering me some additional encouragement, she replied with, “Keep it up, you are almost there!”

Approaching the finish



The final mile was the most sinister. The high school sits on top of a hill, so of course you have to run back up the hill, AND into the wind! Ugh. Thoughts of a Sean Connery line from the movie, “The Untouchables,” crossed my mind. (“Enough of this running sh&t!”), but I decided it was the home stretch, so I was going to run. I plodded my way up the hill, rounded the corner, and the track was in sight!

Finished!!!



I entered the gates, and I immediately saw Mom and Dad. And to my surprise, our good friends, Marc and Brenda, were there with them. Holy cow, I had an honest to goodness cheering section! As I ran by, I apologized for making them wait so long. :) And I finally made my way across the finish line, crossing it it 4 hours, 41 minutes, and 52 seconds.

WOOHOO! I AM A MARATHONER!

A hug from Mom

Hammer To Fall

Toe your line and play their game yeah
Let the anesthetic cover it all
Till one day they call your name
You know its time for the hammer to fall
Queen, “Hammer To Fall” from The Works album

On Friday, I got in my car and pointed it north. I would be heading to the town of Walker, MN, to run in my very first marathon, the Walker North Country Marathon.

Walker sits on the shores of Leech Lake, the third largest lake in the state. It is a majestic body of water that is known far and wide for its muskie fishing. The area is gorgeous with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, as well as abundant wildlife. This is one of Minnesota’s prime fishing and vacation destinations.

Leech Lake on a windy day



The Walker North Country Marathon route is comprised of a mix of streets, highways, dirt roads, bike paths, and hiking trails, all winding their way through the Chippewa National Forest, so it was bound to be a challenge. It was fun to see the event was finally here after a busy summer of training, and I was extremely excited for the race.

But before we get to that...

Rarely on my blog have I ever talked in any great detail about work and my job. Mainly that is because this blog is intended to be about all the fun things that happen outside of work! :) However, in this case I need to discuss it to provide a proper context for the weekend.

The company I currently work (which will remain nameless...many of you know who it is, anyhow) has been performing poorly, and has endured a number of huge setbacks (some market-driven, others brought upon ourselves) over the past year or so. Consequently, they are losing money hand over fist.

Over the last week of August, an e-mail went out to all employees announcing that they were going to be doing some “headcount reductions” (a clever, PC way of saying “layoffs”) before year’s end, and that these reductions would be significant. None of the powers-that-be have given an official number, but all the rumors are pointing towards a number that would indeed be significant. Positively jarring, in fact.

In a meeting with our director last week, we received a speech that was without fluff and very much to the point, and it doesn’t sound like anyone in my group would be immune to these “reductions.” Bottom line; if the rumors are true, I figured there is a 1 in 5 chance I am going to lose my job before the year is over with.

One thing that I have learned from running is that you never have to settle for anything or be satisfied with the status quo. YOU have the power to make changes in your life. I originally started running to lose some weight and get back into some sort of respectable level of fitness, and now I am off to attempt my first marathon. So if I am to take that lesson to heart, that means when the CEO of my company tells me that the hammer is going to fall and I could possibly be canned (even though none of this is any fault of my own), it is OK to say, “You know what? This is complete B.S. I’m going to find a new job!”

Shortly after that e-mail was received, I reached out to a friend of mine who works at a small company, basically just looking for some ideas. His organization is in the same industry as mine, but they come at it from a different angle. This company was founded by former colleagues of mine, people I have enormous respect for, from the very first job I landed when I moved to the Twin Cities. It was kind of a shot in the dark, really, but what did I have to lose?

His response? “Send me your resume.”

A few days go by, and on Monday, Sept. 10th, I got an e-mail from a person in HR at this company asking me to give her a call. I did so, we discussed a few things, and much to my bewilderment, I had an interview scheduled for Friday.

Friday I had already taken as a vacation day with the intent to travel up to Walker, so I arranged to have the interview in the morning. I met with three different people over a period of two hours. When that was done, I found myself chatting with the company President in his office (he was one of the people I worked with years ago). Overall, I was pleased with how the interviews went. I thought I did a good job selling myself and my skills. Perhaps if all the people I talked to liked me, then maybe I would hear something in the next week or so once they decided how to fill the position.

And with that, I was off. Ran home, stopped for lunch, gassed up the car, and hit the road for Walker.

At about 2:30 in the afternoon, I am on Highway 371 near Fort Ripley in central Minnesota when my cell phone rings. It was one of the people I interviewed with earlier in the morning. We exchange pleasantries, and then she says the following:

“I am calling to offer you the job.”

Now, when you are looking to make some changes in your life that will hopefully lead to better financial stability and upward mobility, is there a sweeter phrase to hear? I was astonished that this was happening, and only a few hours after my interview, no less. They wanted me that much! In fact, in talking to one of my references today, I learned that she was contacted minutes after I had left the building, so the wheels were in motion that quickly. It so happens the people that I had enormous respect for also felt the same way about me.

I had one hand on the wheel and one on the phone, but internally, I was doing a wild-ass, Tiger Woods-esque fist pump like he does when he sinks a huge putt. Without hesitation, I accepted the job on the spot while cruising up the road at 70 MPH heading deep into the North Country! I couldn’t wait to call my parents to share the good news.

The “Kitchen Sink” combo pizza at the Village Square; a great way to celebrate!



My day was capped off by celebrating in my own style; by downing a delicious “Kitchen Sink” pizza at the Village Square in downtown Walker! (Mmmmm....pizza!) My head was positively spinning over all of the events that transpired in such a short amount of time. This was the fastest job search I have ever had, and I can't believe how everything came together. The hammer will not fall on me anytime soon. Absolutely incredible.

I suppose I could have just summed up the last several paragraphs and saved you a whole bunch of reading by simply saying “I GOT A NEW JOB!!!” But I felt it was somewhat significant to share all of the details since...

Oh yeah, I still have to run my first marathon in the morning, don’t I? :)

TO BE CONTINUED...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Feeling like Superman

I am, I am, I am Superman
And I can do anything.
-REM, “Superman” from the Life’s Rich Pageant album

OK, I know, I know...I am not really Superman. But what is kind of cool is that I feel like Superman! :) I have returned from northern Minnesota, and I am ecstatic to say that I was a finisher in the Walker North Country Marathon!

Still smiling after 26.2!



I don’t even know where to begin! I have a lot to talk about, and much of it has absolutely nothing to do with running. I received some incredibly exciting news while I was en route to Walker, so I look forward to sharing that, as well the details of the race, in the days to come.

In the meantime, my results are here if you would like to see how I did. It was quite an unforgettable experience!

Please bear with me because it is going to take some time to get the blog updated! Thanks to all of you out there who have offered your kind words of support and encouragement leading up to this event, and I can’t wait to tell you more abut this amazing weekend!

Until then,

Jean

Walker North Country Marathon Index of Posts

Part 1 - Hammer To Fall
Part 2 - My Destination
Part 2 - From Me To You

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Onward to Walker!

Our autumn-like weather continues. There was some heavy rain that moved through the Cities this morning,, and the afternoon remained somewhat overcast. However, the day was very pleasant for my last run before the big race! :)

I did an easy 4 miles this afternoon at a relatively casual pace. Just saving up my energy at this point. It was a very enjoyable run with a number of interesting birds. I saw a flock of northern flickers near an open area along the trail. There must have been at least eight of them. Also, some birds I have not seen in a couple months, the eastern bluebirds are working their way south. There were a dozen or so near the edge of the golf course. A lot of northern Minnesota had some frost the other day, so I am sure that is why these birds are on the move. They are going where the insect are!

Anyhow, race day is nearly upon us! Tonight I am busy doing laundry, getting packed, and making all my last minute preparations. Tomorrow I hop in the car and head north to Walker. I am very excited! I’ve been kind of restless this week, as my training has been lighter, and basically because of my anticipation of the weekend. I am ready to have a good time!

Have a great weekend, everyone! I look forward to sharing my experience with you when I return.

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A fall crispness, a couple birds, and hugs at work

Today, it officially started to feel like fall; barely 60 degrees, and a wild wind out of the northwest. Now this is football weather! I had the day off from running, but I did get out yesterday to do my normal weekday route. I felt very strong and ran a solid pace. Monday was a crisp day as well, but not nearly as cool. But still, very favorable for running. I love this time of year.

During my run, I encountered a green heron sitting on the edge of a pond. He was doing his routine where he stood completely motionless in hopes I would not see him...but I did! And, I saw one of the ospreys still hanging around. Soon all of our summer birds will be out of here.

I really don't share my running exploits with many of my coworkers because I don't think most of them are interested. Anyone who asks, I will discuss it, but I rarely volunteer anything. But there are a few people who know about my upcoming race and have been helping me count down the days.

One of my friends, Sara, is a runner who has done marathons and coached track. We used to work in the same department, but a couple of years ago she transferred to another group, so I don't see her nearly as much as I used to. Anyhow, I ran into her today when I was grabbing my lunch and told her I was doing a marathon this weekend.

Her face just lit up. She gave me a huge hug right there in the breakroom and said "Oh my gosh, you are going for it!" It was very cute. She wished me well, gave me a few tips, and wants to hear all about it. Almost two years ago after I ran my first half marathon, she is the one who gave me the encouragement to do a full one. "Just a few more long training runs," she told me. :)

Well, here we are, four days away from the full one! It is coming up quickly.

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Birthday boy

You say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too--yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.

-The Beatles, “Birthday”

Yes indeed, happy birthday to me! It is hard to believe I have been buying beer for 16 years now. Legally, that is... :)

And what a nice day for a birthday. It is a cool, crisp one today and was 50 degrees when I went out for my run. I did 11 very comfortable miles. This was my last double-digit mile day before the big race this coming weekend (wow, 6 days away!). My run was good, but felt almost lazy or incomplete, given the distances I have been running lately. It is all part of the taper, though. Got to try to stay fresh!

The weather is definitely changing. Hints of color are starting to appear in the trees. Ducks and geese are flocking together. I even saw a flock of approximately two dozen American white pelicans on a nearby lake. What a sight that was!

The rest of the day is going to be pretty lazy. Sunday in September means “football,” so I am currently watching the Vikings, patiently waiting for them to disappoint me once again. :) I am also preparing my dinner for tonight. It was kind of a conundrum, because I always like to prepare something nice on my birthday, and I had a duck in the freezer that my brother gave me. But it is also football season, so I was craving some football food. I compromised and I’m preparing a duck chili con carne! Football food with flair! It sure smells good in here.

Oh, and my birthday present to myself? How does a new car sound? :)

The Silver Hornet



Yesterday I picked up my new Volkswagen, and it is awesome with a capital “A.” I now have a 200-hp turbo at my disposal, it handles like it is on rails, the stereo sounds like I am in a symphony hall, and it even has little paddle shifters on the steering wheel so I can pretend I am a Formula 1 race car driver. Those who know me are aware I am completely in love with VW’s (this is my 5th one), and when I am not driving, I tend to face the east and bow reverently towards Wolfsburg, Germany. :) Needless to say, I am excited!

Shifting in to “sport mode,”

Jean

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Football season is upon us

A warm and humid afternoon down here. A sunny 87 degrees and humid...yuck! It is worth pointing out that during my last run up at Mom and Dad’s, it was 30 degrees cooler and overcast! :)

This afternoon I ran just a little more than 5 miles at a relatively easy pace. The heat and the humidity were definitely energy sappers today, and I was a sweaty, soaked mess by the time I was done. A good and productive run. The taper is going fine, and I am trying to keep patient. It is so tempting to want to do more, but I have to remember this is part of the preparation.

Kind of strange that football season starts tonight. I always associate football with cool, crisp weather and leaves turning colors, and here it feels like July!

Whatever the case, I am deliriously excited for the start of the NFL season tonight because 1.) I love football, 2.) I am in a fantasy football league, and 3.) I am also in a weekly pick ‘em league through KQRS in an attempt to kick Stretch’s butt! Tonight the players I am watching with great interesting include Reggie Bush, Dallas Clark, and Olindo Mare. Score lots of points, gents! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day weekend in the North Country

I have returned from a spectacular weekend in the North Country.

The weather was really nice, especially in the mornings when it was nice and cool for my running. I got in three runs, an 18 miler and two 5’s. The 18 was my last really hard run before the really hard run in a week and a half! And the 5’s I ran were both very good, with the legs feeling especially fresh on the last day. Great running up there, soaking in fantastic views of Lake Superior, encountering various forms of wildlife, and the joy of running on trails and dirt roads. Does it get any better?

Well, the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” In addition to the great running, I had an excellent weekend with my family. My trip reports from home probably sound like a broken record by now, but there was plenty of hiking, golfing, and eating to keep us entertained!

Yours truly, exploring a creek bed



Every day involved hiking, and we enjoyed all that the woods had to offer this time of year. You are starting to see the signs of fall everywhere, with the foliage changing colors on the ridge, and especially the bird migration.

The hawks are starting to migrate, and we saw a large number of Merlins and broad-winged hawks over the course of the weekend. We noticed large flocks of blue jays heading south. (I’m talking hundreds of these guys)

I cannot forget to mention the warblers. They are on the move, and we would occasionally encounter waves of these little birds that I have discussed here before; Nashville, Tennessee, chestnut-sided, black-throated green, parula, black and white, magnolia, and the ovenbird. Of course, some of these went unidentified, as they can be very nondescript in their fall plumage, but it was fun to see them anyhow. And I added a new bird to my life list; the very striking blue-headed vireo. Very exciting!

As for non-migratory birds, our buddy Norris the red breasted nuthatch and his roving band of chickadee friends met us in the woods every day for their handout of sunflower seeds. They are a friendly lot, and they kept us amused for hours.

Norris is cool



I played a little golf with Mom and Dad. We went out for a quick 9 at the Superior National “River Course.” Most of my family and friends know that I worked at a golf course all throughout high school and college (which means I played more than I actually worked!), and while I would not say I was good, I could usually post a score in the mid 40’s for 9 holes. These days, breaking 50 is something to celebrate.

Well, I reclaimed a bit of my youth and carded a 42 this weekend. Not exactly sure what got into me, but the drives were straight, I was hitting some greens in regulation, and I made a few putts. Were it not for a couple of incredibly careless putts on the par 5’s, I was legitimately flirting with breaking 40. Dad referred to it as a ”Caddyshack round.” You remember, where Bishop Pickering was playing in the rain storm and said, “Anyway, the good Lord would never disrupt the best game of my life.”? Yeah, I was hitting it that well. Anyhow, it was a lot of fun, but I have played long enough to know that the next round might not be as pretty!

Bring on Tiger! :)



The meals over the weekend were exceptional. Mom made a baked penne dish with Italian sausage and roasted vegetables (yum), grilled ribeye steaks (delicious), Dad’s signature applewood smoked BBQ ribs (wow), and for Labor Day, grilled burgers and some Italian sausages from Thunder Bay that were unquestionably the hottest Italian sausages I have ever eaten in my life (spicy!). I’m not kidding, pass me the fire extinguisher! These had a serious burn to them, but they were oh-so tasty. What I am saying is we had seriously good eats over Labor Day. Mom and Dad did not disappoint!

The Labor Day feast with a potentially dangerous sausage



There you have the weekend in a nutshell. It is back to the grind tomorrow, and I keep working on my taper for the Walker North Country Marathon on the 15th. The hard work is essentially out of the way, so now I am concentrating on some productive shorter runs and getting some good rest. Only 10 more days to go!

Until next time,

Jean

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