Friday, November 30, 2007

Winter storm!



Our first winter storm of the season is upon us! The local weather geeks are saying we here in the Twin Cities could get anywhere between 6 to 12 inches of the white stuff by the time this thing rolls out of here on Sunday. Wow!

I am really glad I don't have to go anywhere this weekend. I'm home from work, the grocery shopping is done, and there is a ton of football on TV.

Perhaps I will get to use my snowshoes this year? :)

Battening down the hatches,

Jean

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Running, wildlife, and food

The Thanksgiving weekend was a very fun time for me. I got to go running four times (which was probably good considering the amount of food I consumed!). Nothing too crazy and all of the runs were between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 miles. It was great to run on dirt roads and real trails again! The weather was the coldest I have experienced so far this season, with the chilliest being Thanksgiving Day morning when it was 8 degrees. But hey, I had better get used to it, because winter hasn't even officially started!

Gone are all the birds of summer, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some action in the woods. All of the resident chickadees, nuthatches (including our buddy Norris, as well as his new antagonist and competitive counterpart, "Norbert"), woodpeckers, jays (both Canada and blue) were very busy at the bird feeders. Of course, they were quite happy to see me out in the woods.

Charlie Chickadee stopping for a quick snack



Also, I am happy to say that "Bottlebrush" is still hanging in there. She has been mentioned here a couple of times before and is my favorite of the many red squirrels in Mom and Dad's yard because of her unique tail. On a couple of mornings she met me in the driveway hoping for her allotment of sunflower seeds.

Bottlebrush



Our Thanksgiving Day feast was, as is our tradition, non-traditional. We had baked scallops, jumbo stuffed shrimp, and grilled tri-tip. Everything was incredible. Other meals throughout the weekend included roast pheasant, Dad's signature applewood-smoked ribs, and the turkey dinner you saw in the earlier post (which, as always, we ate on a day other than Thanksgiving!).

The Thanksgiving Day feast



Mom and I also made our traditional batch of lefse, as we always do around the holiday season. I have talked about lefse on this blog before, and Scandinavian-Americans in the audience already know what I am talking about. Basically, it is a "Norwegian tortilla," an unleavened flatbread made from potatoes. For us, no holiday dinner table would be complete without it. And, in my humble and completely biased opinion, the stuff Mom makes is the best.

Lefse makers



Needless to say, I brought home a ton of leftovers (I enjoyed a combination turkey-pheasant sandwich for lunch today!), as well as some venison that my brother gave me from a successful hunting season. In addition, he bought himself a fancy new smoker and bestowed upon me some of his own homemade venison summer sausage, which was absolutely excellent. I did not have to do much grocery shopping when I got home!

That is a quick recap of the weekend up north. It was a very good one, and it is clear that I have a lot to be thankful for this year; a new job, a new apartment, a beautiful place to visit with an abundance of nature (and food!), and a great family. It is a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and here is to many, many more!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Happy post-Thanksgiving, and welcome to winter driving!

Hi all,

I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I have returned from the long weekend, and as always, it was tons of fun and consisted of a ton of food!

Our Sunday platter of traditional Turkey goodness



Lots of stories to tell, so how about I start with my trip to Mom and Dad's last Wednesday. All was well until I got to Sturgeon Lake, MN. There was some snow that was starting to accumulate on the roads. Hmmmm, our esteemed running meteorologist never said anything about this in the previous evening's forecast!

A few more miles down the road, conditions deteriorated rapidly. Just past Barnum, I saw the first sign of trouble; about a half dozen emergency vehicles attending to a pickup truck that was on its roof and in the woods. Ick!

The stretch between Carlton and Esko was the worst. Roads were completely ice-covered. Dozens of cars were in the ditch, police vehicles were everywhere, and traffic was crawling along. It was scary.

I was cursing wildly. This seems to happen every Thanksgiving, from the time I was in college coming home from break all the way to two years ago when I got stranded in the above-mentioned town of Barnum during an ice storm. Unbelievable. Travel at Thanksgiving absolutely bites!

Already making plans to find a hotel, I called the folks to let them know where I was and what was going on. Dad told me this was a result of "lake effect" snow off of Lake Superior. When you get a northeast wind off of the lake, there is sort of a geographical perfect storm in that the lake creates it own weather and blows it southwest over the hill in Duluth. In all seasons, it can really screw things up and produce anything from dense fog to freezing rain and snow. Dad said if I can get through Duluth, it should be smooth sailing because they had clear skies up on the North Shore!

Anyhow, Dad was right. I crawled into Duluth and the roads progressively got better. By the time I hit the expressway on the outskirts of the city, I was back up to cruising speed, and it was a fantastic drive the rest of the way. I had the roads virtually to myself and the iPod playing classic rock on the stereo. Driving at its finest!

I arrived close to an hour late, but I was greeted by the family, and we sat down to a steaming hot kettle of Dad's famous seafood chowder (a pre-Thanksgiving Day tradition. Yum, by the way!) and a cold beer. A great way to wrap up a fairly eventful drive, and to start off the Thanksgiving weekend.

Even the cat was happy to see me!



More to come...

Jean

Sunday, November 25, 2007

2008 Races

Below are links to my 2008 Races:



March 16, 2008 - St. Patrick's Day Human Race 8k - St. Paul, MN

April 12, 2008 - Dr. Steven Fetzer Memorial 20k - Rochester, MN

May 3, 2008 - Runnin' in the Ruff 10k Trail Run - Milaca, MN

May 17, 2008 - Superior Trail Race 25k - Lutsen, MN

June 7, 2008 - Chester Woods 10 Mile Trail Run - Rochester, MN

July 4, 2008 - Firecracker Run 10k - Excelsior, MN

July 26, 2008 - Freight House Road Race 10 Mile - Stillwater, MN

September 21, 2008 - Community First Fox Cities Marathon - Appleton, WI

October 11, 2008 - Autumn Woods Classic 10k - Maple Grove, MN

November 2, 2008 - Rocky's Run 5k - Falcon Heights, MN

November 23, 2008 - Turkey Run 5k - St. Paul, MN

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving!

The results are in from the Turkey Run! I was one second off in my earlier post. My actual time was 22:09. This is really interesting (to me, at least), because that is the exact time I clocked at the 2005 Turkey Run. And, with my time at Rocky's Run being only one second slower than two years ago, that either means I am really consistent or I am not improving! :)

We are quickly approaching Turkey Day! I am getting terribly excited. I took a half day off of work this coming Wednesday, so I will be packing up the Silver Hornet and leaving for Mom and Dad's around lunchtime. I think the menu is more or less set, too. Wednesday night when I arrive, there will be a pot of Dad's seafood chowder simmering away on the stove (this is a day-before-Thanksgiving tradition). And for the big day, I believe we are grilling some tri-tips, and we are also having a dish with shrimp and scallops. Not bad!

I am guessing I might be too busy packing tomorrow night to get on the computer, so I wish a happy Thanksgiving to you all! travel safe, have fun, and I will talk to you when I return from the North Country! :)

All the best,

Jean

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Several wrongs make a right at the Turkey Run

As far as race preparation goes, I did everything pretty much wrong yesterday.

I generally try to eat "bland" the day before a race. "Spicy food is not good the day before a race!" or so they say. So what do I eat? A grilled chicken burrito with hot salsa at Salsarita's for lunch, and some homemade spicy beef stir-fry with Japanese udon noodles for dinner. (Yum, by the way!) For breakfast this morning (because I am running out of breakfast items since I have sort of cleaned out the fridge in preparation for being gone over Thanksgiving) I had a piece of leftover cold pizza. Yikes!

The pre-race meal of champions?



Normally, I will lay out everything I need (shoes, clothing, accessories) for my race the night before. I didn't do that this time. Of course, that means I left my watch behind.

But no worries, because this is the Turkey Run 5k, after all! It is meant to be a fun kickoff for Thanksgiving, as well as a low-key close to the racing season.

A gray November day over Como Lake



It was a cold and gray day here in Minnesota, with temperatures right around freezing, with a fairly brisk southeast wind. But it would be perfect for a few hundred people running the clockwise loop around Como Lake.

This is my 3rd Turkey Run, and actually the 5th time I have run this route because the course is used by the Heart of St. Paul Race in February. It is flat and fast, which is welcomed after the hills during Rocky's Run! With no watch to time myself, and nobody calling out splits, I would just be running by feel today. The horn sounded and we were off!

The pack takes off like a shot, and I settle in where I feel comfortable, knowing I will pass a few of these folks later on. I feel like I am running fast, and it feels good.

It is a cute course that utilizes the excellent biking and walking trails around Como Lake. While it is was not the prettiest of days, I did enjoy the sights of several ducks, as well as some playful coots who were taking turns diving along the shore.

After about a mile, the pack really spread out. I maintained my brisk pace and realized once again that 5k's are hard! Man, it is tough to be fast. I like long races. I feel less rushed. :)

There was a runner about 20 feet in front of me who I ended up following from about the first mile all the way to the finish. And happily, I finished in 22:08. (Or something like that...the official results have not been posted yet) That is a pretty good 5k time for me, so it was hard not to be pleased, especially considering I had no idea how I was doing.

In honor of Dale Jr's last ride in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet at this afternoon's NASCAR race, I wore my Dale Jr. stocking cap! I felt is was appropriate, since it was the last race of the year for both of us. ;-)

Driver 8



So, a very nice close to the racing season, no ill effects from the previous day of spicy food or pizza for breakfast (my new pre-race breakfast-of-choice?), and no need for a watch since I felt kind of speedy without it.

Here is looking forward to the upcoming holidays, as well as the 2008 racing season! Time to set some new goals and aspirations.

Cold pizza for breakfast, anyone? :)

Jean

Friday, November 16, 2007

I am glad I are well educated

I have decided the American education system is failing miserably.

Thursday when I got home from work, I decided to watch the game show "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader." Last night's show was a special "celebrity edition" for charity where they had a ditzy southern girl named Kellie Pickler. Apparently she is famous for being on "American Idol" at some point in time. (I had no idea, but it seemed to me that this was somewhat of a reach in the "celebrity" genre).

As we would have said back in my hometown, she was a few logs short of a cord. (Some logging humor for you this evening!) Here were some of her responses:

-A roadrunner is a bird, true or false? Believe it or not, she had to debate this. Although, I must give her credit; she did correctly settle on "true" after recalling the old Looney Tunes cartoons.

-Given a choice of A). Woodwinds, B). Strings, or C). Percussion, Kellie was asked what musical instrument family the piccolo is from. She actually said "percussion," but was bailed out by a correct answer from one of the kids. (This is a girl who is supposedly a musician, mind you)

-Budapest is the capital of what European country? Now, I might be willing to give her a free pass here. Geography is not everyone's favorite subject, so I would imagine a lot of folks might not know we are looking for the old Soviet Bloc country of Hungary. However, it is hard to let this one slide because she went on to say that she thought "Europe" was a country.

Oh…my…goodness. How did this girl make it through high school?

I was trying to imagine the poor charity she was playing for (sorry, can't remember who it was) watching this and saying, "You've got to be kidding? We left our funding in HER hands?!?" These days, they must just hand out diplomas if you can successfully fog up a mirror. I couldn't watch anymore, so I have no idea how it ended up. Disgusting!

Of course, with her "celebrity" status, she is probably amassing a small fortune compared to me. So who is the real idiot here? :)

Anyhow, the run this morning was a good one. Temps were around 32 frosty degrees, and there was a fairly stiff breeze for the first half. But the good news was that it pushed me home over the second half of the route. Always a nice treat!

It was good I went running today to help preemptively burn some calories for the company pre-Thanksgiving potluck! People brought in a veritable buffet of goodies; meatballs in red sauce, pasta salad, "Little Smokies" in BBQ sauce, a shrimp and rice stick noodle stir-fry, 7-layer taco dip, the list goes on! And one guy even did some pork tenderloins and set up a carving station in his cube! That was awesome. What an effort!

Of course, there were lots of desserts, too. And I suppose this is as good a time as any to tell everyone that I really dislike pumpkin pie. I know I am definitely in the minority, and everyone seems to think Thanksgiving would be ruined without it, but pumpkin pie is not for me in the least. Aside from simply not enjoying the taste, I have long held the belief that a dessert should never be made from a vegetable. Fruit? Yes. Chocolate? Definitely. Custard? Without question. But not vegetables, please! The only time when it is acceptable to have vegetables in a pie is when the words "shepherd's" or "chicken pot" precede the word "pie." Mom, I will take the usual apple pie this Thanksgiving. :)

Good grief, I have rambled long enough! Time to wrap this up!

No real big plans for the weekend except for doing a little shopping in preparation for Turkey Day, and I have the Turkey Run on Sunday as a closer to the 2007 racing season. This is the course where I hold my 5k PR, but I really have no goals to break that. As I found out at Rocky's Run, speed is not exactly my forte this year! So I will just run and have fun. That is what it is all about anyway, right?

Until next time,

Jean (who passed high school with flying colors)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Prepping for Turkey Day

Regarding the last race I was in, Rocky's Run, the race director had a very thoughtful blog entry on 11/13 that tried to make some sense of the deaths of Rocky Racette and marathoner Ryan Shay. Please check it out if you get a chance.

Being it is the "off season," I have taken to running on an every other day schedule. My mileage is down significantly for the month, but that is OK. I am learning that you need to reduce training after long periods of high-level training in order to let the body rest. Sort of a "build it up/break it down" methodology, if you will.

This morning I did my usual 4 1/2. The weather has still been relatively mild. Low 40's today in the AM, but very windy and gusty. I continue to meet more runners and walkers on the trails and paths with me than I did in my old neighborhood, so there are seemingly greater numbers of people dedicated to fitness over here. I wonder if
anyone has done any studies whether or not Hennepin Country residents are more fit than Anoka County residents. :)

The countdown is on! My Thanksgiving starts in one week. I am taking a little vacation time and will be heading up to Mom and Dad's next Wednesday afternoon. Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday, and I haven't been up north to see the family since Labor Day. I have missed hiking in the woods and visiting with all the feathered and furry creatures as well. I can't wait!

The menu is still being tweaked, from what I understand. We always have a turkey at some point over the weekend, but never on Thanksgiving Day itself. We've developed a tradition of doing something different, be it wild game, seafood, or prime rib. And
usually what happens is Dad will set the menu, and then my brother will say something like, "Well, we need to have a duck and a pheasant to go along with that!" :) That pretty much ensures that there will be no shortage of anything. Whatever it ends up being, I am sure it will be really good!

Oh yeah, and my spaghetti and meatballs from Sunday turned out awesome. For the sauce, I used a combination of crushed tomatoes and a can of Trader Joe's "Sugo di Pomodoro" marinara sauce. Very tasty.

Viva Italia!



Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Football, food, and fun!

It has been a fairly uneventful weekend. Just lots of food, football, and fun!

Friday night right after work, I headed over to the local Buffalo Wild Wings for the annual fantasy golf league "awards ceremony!" Basically, it is just a good excuse to get together with friends and have some hot wings and a couple of "Black & Tans." Good times! I had two flavors of wings; the Caribbean jerk, and the plain old "hot." The jerk is really flavorful, and the hot is...well, hot!

Saturday morning it was time to run, so I did my 6 1/2 around the lake. I went at a pretty easy pace because it was kind of a mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain in the form of little ice pellets! Nothing like getting stung when you are trying to run. Other than that, it was a pleasant run. Cool temps, easy pace, very nice!

Following a little grocery shopping, I had lunch at the Mainstreet Bar & Grill in Hopkins. Perhaps over a decade ago when I worked in this area, we would go here for lunch on occasion. The bar has a lot of character, and tt was fun to return. The burger wasn't bad, either!

Good burgers at the Mainstreet!



The rest of the weekend has been all about sports. There were countless football games on yesterday. I always try to watch the games that Mike Partick and Todd Blackledge are calling because they have been doing this segment called "Todd's Taste of the Town." In a nutshell, Blackledge visits a local restaurant in whatever town they visit, and they film it for some filler during them games. They are always some good local joint. Last night in South Carolina, he had some sort of sandwich with two kinds of gravy on it! Classic.

Anyhow, today is more football with the Vikings-Packers rivalry game at noon, there is the second to the last NASCAR race of the season later on, and I am making some homemade spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I am taking a bit of a shortcut with the sauce in that I found a large can of Trader Joe's marinara that I wanted to try. But the meatballs are homemade, and I just got done rolling them out. They contain beef, pork, garlic, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pictures will be forthcoming.

Until next time,

Jean

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ramblings

I took a couple of days off from running after Rocky's Run. I figured
what the heck, I had earned it! But it was moderately chilly on
Monday and Tuesday, and the wind was absolutely cranking out of the
northwest. There were some reports of 45 MPH gusts! Anyhow, that was
a good enough reason for me!

I did run this morning though, and it was crisp. And frosty! The coldest night of the season so far, I believe. I wore the stocking cap, winter tights, my "glittens," pretty much the whole ensemble. It was great. I love running in the chilly weather!

Tonight's dinner was a fantastic homemade pizza. Pepperoni, black and green olives, green peppers, mozzarella and parmesan. Yummy! The dough was exceptional, and the toppings didn't suck, either. I am looking forward to making more of these.

Masterpiece pizza!



In TV news, I can't possibly express how much I love the CBS show, "The Big Bang Theory." I find it hysterical, and I actually see a little
bit of myself in Sheldon. Not the genius aspect of Sheldon (please!),
but rather the neurotically punctual, set in his ways, comfortable
with routine side of Sheldon. What a great show!

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Running for Rocky

We were greeted with a glorious fall day here in Minnesota. Crisp, cool air, abundant sunshine...can you think of anything better to do than run in a race?

Go Gophers!



Sunday morning I participated in the Rocky's Run 5k. The race is a cross country event that takes place on the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Rocky's Run is held in honor of Rochelle "Rocky" Racette, a University of Minnesota cross country runner with wonderful spirit who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1981. The race benefits the Rocky Racette scholarship fund. Please check out this fantastic story on Rocky for more information on her inspirational life story.

And now, to change the mood completely, here is one of the funniest things that has ever happened to me at a race:

Before the race, I was wandering around and was approached by a smoking hot runner girl. We struck up a conversation, and she was asking me questions about the start and finish, we talked about racing, marathoning, etc. Then we looked over at a tent that was being raised where the U of M cross country team was setting up shop. The conversation went something like this:

Runner girl: "The cross country team is here. Are they running today?"

Me: "I think so. At least they did the last time I was here."

Runner girl: "Oh, are you a member of the team?"

Five minutes later, after I picked myself up off the ground from a fit of hysterical laughter, I said no and indicated I was just an average runner with plans of finishing deep in the field! However, I was deeply flattered that I could somehow be mistaken for a Division 1 college running stud... :)

Anyhow, as I said, it was a gorgeous day, and we lined up for the start of the 5k. This race brings out a lot of the great local cross country runners, as well as a lot of local race teams, so there would be some speedsters out there. The U of M women's cross country coach gave the prerace speech and introduced his team, who had just won the Big 10 championship!

There was also a moment of silence for Ryan Shay, the runner who collapsed and died during the US Olympic marathon trials this weekend, along with some parting words instructing us to enjoy every day.

A shot of the course, still showing some colors




The race started, and all those speedsters disappeared in front of me. I had forgotten two things:

1. Trying to be fast is not easy
2. This course is really hilly!

All summer long, I had been training for distance, not speed, so I felt like I was laboring a bit. And, the course is constantly going up and down. So I was trying to be fast on hills. Not a good combination for me!

But that is not to say the race was not fun. It was immensely entertaining! The course looped around this beautiful golf course. Some of the leaves on the trees were still hanging in there, the sun was shining, and the weather was ideal. Minnesota was blessed with a fantastic day for running.

For most of the race, I was tagging along with one of the members of the U of M team. We kept trading spots. I passed her on downhills, she passed me on uphills, and eventually she pulled away from me at the finish. Hey, at least I was kind of hanging with a collegiate runner!

A photo from the start of the 8k



I haven't seen the official results, but by my watch I finished in 24:14. That is EXACTLY the same time I had when I ran this two years ago! How funny. Hey, at least I am consistent, right? :)

A celebration of life expressed through running on one of the most beautiful fall days ever, and all for a good cause. Does it get much better? I will run for Rocky any day.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, November 2, 2007

"The office is currently closed for lunch."

Today at work I needed to contact one of the medical facilities we work with to have them resend some documentation. When I called the number, a recorded message starts playing and goes through the usual information. "You have reached the office of blah, blah, blah," and "If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911," etc. But then the message says the following:

"The office is currently closed for lunch."

What the hell?

You mean to tell me there are medical offices serving patients that just completely shut down for lunch? Good grief, there is some great service for you! I am reminded of the line that Dr. Beeper had in "Caddyshack" when he was talking to his office from the golf course: "Just snake a tube down her throat and I'll be there in about 4 hours!"

Anyhow, my morning running has been uneventful, and I think I have adjusted to my new schedule quite well. I have many nice, quiet routes I can take, and I usually meet a few other crazy runners or walkers out in the early morning hours. While I am still running the usual 4 ½ during the week, there won't be any really long weekend runs in the near future. This is the time to wind things down and rest the bones and muscles after a season of some big races! Sort of a "winter break," if you will.

But that doesn't mean there won't be races! I have one on Sunday, a little 5k cross country race in Falcon Heights called Rocky's Run. This one usually brings out a lot of current and former cross country studs and studettes, so I have no doubts that I will be finishing deep in the field! But the race will be fun nonetheless. And the weather forecast looks great.

Unrelated to anything, but very related to my earlier "JeanTV" post, I was pleased as punch to see that "Hot Shots! Part Deux" was on TV last night. A definite slapstick comedy classic from the "bad, but oh-so good" movie genre if there ever was one. This is the perfect example of the kind of programming that will run rampant on JeanTV once my network takes to the airwaves. :)

Until next time,

Jean

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