Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The weekday training run

On Steve’s blog, he pointed out that running bloggers often describe their races in great detail, but talk very little about their regular training routes, often just listing a distance and perhaps a time. He posted a fantastic description of his regular route and suggested that others do the same.

I thought this was a great idea, so here is a synopsis of my typical weekday training run, complete with pictures (avid readers have seen all of these photos on my blog before, but I thought I would do a compilation of some views from various points along the route!):

I start out at my place on a bike path that parallels a 4 lane road (this is the least scenic part of the run). Just shy of a half mile, I turn at a cemetery and head into a neighborhood filled with large homes, making my way towards the park trails.

Some lilacs from May, near the corner where I turn into the neighborhood



As I take a sweeping downhill right hand turn, at approximately .7 miles into my run, I get barked at by a feisty wire hair terrier (this is a given, every day...he hates my guts and wants a piece of me). A couple of homes later, I hang a left and I am on the Three Rivers Park District trails.

This particular trail is winding with a couple of small hills. It passes by a pond and a low-lying swampy area. I occasionally see deer here, and in the summer the pond usually has an egret or a heron hanging out. This is also where I heard the great-horned owl the other week. At almost exactly the 1 mile mark is the eagle’s nest. Over the summer, I got to witness them successfully raise two young ones, so that was a treat. Always fun to see the eagles.

A sunrise near the 1 mile mark



A blooming swamp smartweed near the 1 mile mark



The trail loops around a meadow. There were tons of tree swallows nesting here, and you will see them putting on their impressive aerial displays all summer long. This was also a popular spot to see some eastern kingbirds and eastern bluebirds. I have flushed ring-necked pheasants from the trail’s edge and will occasionally hear them crowing. Later this fall, the goldenrod was beautiful.

Meadow full of goldenrod shortly after the 1 mile mark



At the 1.5 mile mark, I cross under the bridge of the Interstate and end up on the edge of Rice Lake, and now I am on the Rice Lake Trails. The bridge under the Interstate was a veritable rookery for barn and cliff swallows, and there would be dozens of them buzzing over your head as you ran through. Just out in the bay of the lake, I saw dozens of loons and a variety of ducks in the spring. This fall, the cormorants were all over the place.

Rice Lake sunrise at the 1.5 mile mark



A woolly bear caterpillar rescued somewhere between the 1.5 and 2 mile mark



From here, I head east on the trail. This is a rather diverse stretch of trail, as it starts out as a swampy lake edge and ends up running through some beautiful hardwoods, mainly maples and oaks. Along the lake edge, this was a haven for red winged blackbirds that would occasionally dive-bomb me during nesting season. Also, this seemed to be a wonderful breeding ground for song sparrows. I even saw a coyote in this area last spring. And, this is the primary location where the "woolly bear rescue mission" took place! Eventually I crest a large hill that takes me into the most heavily forested area.

Looking down the hill at approximately the 2 mile mark



There is always a lot of activity the woods. I have seen an abundance of wildlife in here, things such as catbirds, cardinals, chickadees, cedar waxwings, downy and hairy woodpeckers, squirrels, deer, bunnies (including one of my “usual” bunnies who almost always sitting in the same spot), raccoons, and also “Disco Stu.”

The trail starts going slightly downhill and I run through the woods and come out by the lakeshore once again. I end up at a bridge where a creek flows into the lake. This is exactly 2.4 miles from the start.

A view of Rice Lake at my turnaround point



I turn around and run the same route in reverse. The only difference is that as I get closer to home, I take an extra spin around the block to put me over 5 miles (5.2, to be precise). This is an enjoyable route to run, and there is always something interesting to see any season, from the height of summer to the depths of a -15 below zero day!

OK, fellow running bloggers...what say you? Let's hear about your regular routes!

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Surreal TV

Years ago I was surfing late night TV and came across a Martha Stewart cooking show. It was something like 1 AM. I was pretty tired and getting ready to go to bed. Then I said to myself, "Who is that she is cooking with? The Rock?!?"

Indeed, she was cooking with Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a., "The Rock." This was during the height of his fame as a professional wrestler and before he really started getting into movies. They were baking cookies. Martha even goaded him into saying his signature catch phrase, "Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?" Martha baking cookies with this bruiser of a wrestler; it was one of the most surreal, bizarre on-screen pairings I have seen.

(P.S. - This did really happen, and I am not making it up. Here is proof.)

On Sunday I came across a show that was not quite as strange in terms of the combination of personalities, but it was close. I still paused and said, "Huh? How did that happen?"

I stumbled upon "Spain...On The Road Again" on PBS. The show is essentially a culinary road trip across Spain with four people. It stars celebrity chef and walking Italian food encyclopedia Mario Batali, noted food writer Mark Bittman, and...Oscar winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow? I'll be darned, it is really her! The fourth member of the cast is a Spanish actress I had never heard of, Claudia Bassols (hello!).

Now, I really like both Batali and Bittman. Over the years, I have throughly enjoyed Mario's "Molto Mario" shows, I've purchased several of his books, and have learned a great deal about Italian cooking. I also own a couple of Bittman's "Minimalist" series cookbooks, so I have appreciated his writings as well.

When I joined the episode, Bittman and Paltrow were just finishing up grilling some stunning looking fresh vegetables over an open fire at a winery. There was an extended scene were the two of them were in a car driving away through the Rioja wine region, observing the grapes being harvested. Paltrow was lamenting about how drunk she was. And judging by the abundant sunshine, there was an awful lot of daylight left, so she was plowed pretty early in the day! In a later scene, Bittman was with the kitchen of one of the most famous chefs in Spain, Juan Mari Arzak. The purpose of this mission was to give a cooking lesson to the drop-dead gorgeous Claudia Bassols.

How this show came about, and how they sold the idea to Gwyneth and Claudia I have no idea. Let's face it; neither Batali or Bittman are what you might call "lookers." Yet, here they are road tripping around Spain with two extraordinarily beautiful women, all the while eating, drinking, and carrying on, teaching stunning Spanish women how to cook, and getting Gwyneth trashed on Tempranillo in the early afternoon. Batali and Bittman must be evil geniuses.

This is just fantastic TV. The DVR is already set for next week's episode.

Can you tell I had a day off from running yesterday? :)

Unrelated to anything, here is yesterday's pizza for dinner (made with Mom's homemade pizza sauce)!

Mmmmm....pizza!



Until next time,

Jean

Monday, October 27, 2008

Party time! And, here comes the snow!

The King lives! A couple of my work buddies at this weekend's party.



This was a pretty full weekend. When I last left you, I had spent the better part of my Saturday running, shopping, as well as doing a lot of prep work in the kitchen. Satuday night I attended a friend's party.

I was not in costume, but many were, and there were some creative costumes at that. This was a really fun evening with lots of good food and drink. It was nice to hang out with several of my friends from work in a social situation away from the office. They are a fun (and funny) bunch!

More friends from work; Wonder Woman, Dr. Brennan from "Bones," and a 50's couple



The weather on Sunday was more than interesting. I ran 7 miles in the morning. Temperatures were relatively mild in the low 40's, but they were dropping fast. A strong wind had developed out of the northwest, and occasional gusts would almost stop you dead in your tracks. This was a tough run.

Around 10:30 or so, the first snowflakes of the season made their presence known! Even though I have lived in Minnesota all of my life, seeing the first snowflakes always seems quite surreal. There was no accumulation since it was far too warm, and the picture below taken from my deck doesn't do it much justice (nor does it show the 50 MPH wind gusts!). But you can at least see that the weather sucked! :)

Flurries on October 26th



So what does one do on a dreary, cold, and windy Sunday? You make chowder, of course! I whipped up a batch of seafood chowder, a recipe that is a creation of my Dad. The best way I can think to describe it is a kind of like a gumbo with no roux, and something of a cross between a Manhattan-style clam chowder (the red stuff) and cioppino. We have a tomato-based soup that is full of shrimp, crab, clams, as well as an assortment of veggies like potatoes, onions, garlic, celery, mushrooms, and carrots. It is seasoned with a Cajun seasoning blend, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, bay leaves, and some herbes de Provence.

Sunday's seafood chowder



This is a tradition in our family to have a kettle of this the day before Thanksgiving, but I couldn't wait a month! A warming, comforting meal to dine on while watching the flurries fall outside.

The low temperature is supposed to be 18 tonight. Brrrr! Perhaps I will need to have another bowl of chowder this evening to warm me up? :)

Update: While we did not get any accumulating snow, they did get a little bit on the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota. Check out this post from Tuscarora Lodge. Gotta love October in Minnesota! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The animals and birds know something

This morning I did my 11 mile run; a couple of laps around the lake. It was comfortable and in the low 40's, but a southwest wind was picking up. I ran well today and felt pretty spry.

Usually I see some interesting bird or animals, even if they are the usual suspects. I mean, there is always something to see, but today was a different story. Aside from a few ducks, sparrows, and juncos, I saw next to nothing. No bunnies, no chickadees or cardinals, and I don't even remember seeing a squirrel for that matter.

I am convinced that animals know more than we do when bad weather is upon us. Here is the latest forecast from our local National Weather Circus office:

Sunday: Scattered snow showers after 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 41. Breezy, with a west northwest wind between 18 and 28 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Sunday Night: Scattered snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 24. Blustery, with a west northwest wind between 15 and 22 mph, with gusts as high as 38 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%

Wow, tomorrow I had better hold onto my hat! Anyhow, I have observed this in the past, particularly during autumn. On days before some inclement weather is set to strike, the wildlife activity seems to diminish. Bear in mind this is just a personal observation without any real data to back it up. It just seems like they know something is up.

Of course, I only encountered four people during my run today, so that might mean everyone else is clued in, and perhaps I am just a little dense? :)

Following the run, I ran some errands, bought some groceries, stopped at Dehmer's Meats in St. Michael (awesome little German-style meat market, very old school) for some goodies, and had lunch at Culver's (mmmmm...ButterBurger!). Once I returned home, I prepared some beef to make homemade jerky tomorrow, and I whipped up a batch of pizza dough to have on hand for some dinners this week.

Whew! Busy Saturday thus far. But my day is not finished! I have a party to attend this evening. One of my coworkers is having a little shindig over at her new place overlooking Lake Minnetonka. Should be lots of friends from work in attendance and it promises to be a good time.

Bracing for the wind and snow flurries,

Jean

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More signs of winter

The latest weather forecast from WCCO. Here we go...



Forecast Details from the Weather Team
Sunday - Colder. Mostly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of snow showers. Highs around 40.
Sunday Night - Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of snow showers. Lows 25 to 30.

Winter is on its way. Guess how I know?

The lobby of my apartment building has a piano. Back on Monday, I returned home from work and was walking to the lobby to pick up my mail. I heard some really beautiful music being played.

As I got closer, I realized it was...Christmas music! The woman playing was just finishing up "Silent Night" and was launching into "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing." She was actually quite a talent. I just found this kind of funny, given that we aren't even to Halloween yet. But, I guess Christmas decorations are starting to show up in some stores as well, so why not? :)

Also, the weather forecast for the weekend includes our first possible chance of snow on Sunday! It won't be the accumulating variety, I don't think (the air and the ground will still be too warm).

Whatever the case, the days of warmth are numbered. But, that does mean it is the season for soups, stews, and other comfort foods, so there is an equitable trade. Or at least I think so!

Yesterday it rained most of the day, but it stopped in the afternoon so I could run without getting wet. 41 degrees, overcast, and a little humid. This is the first run in a long time where I did not encounter a single person on the trails. I suspect the less than perfect day might have kept a few folks away, but I literally had the trails to myself.

I am seeing lots of juncos, as well as large numbers of robins that are flocking together. Most of the summer birds are out of here, so it has primarily been these later leaving birds that I have spotted on my runs around the neighborhood. Another sign that winter is upon us, I suppose! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, October 20, 2008

My weekend cooking projects

I managed to do some good cooking over the weekend.

On Saturday, I made shredded pork tacos. I took a pork shoulder roast that I coated with a variety of southwestern spices, seared it, and then braised the meat in a crock pot with beer. I shredded the pork and made tacos with refried black beans, chopped onion and tomato, cilantro, habanero-jack cheese (spicy!), and my homemade guajillo chile salsa.

My shredded pork tacos with guajillo chile salsa



Oh, baby! Tender, flavorful pork with an assortment of fresh flavors and textures, topped off with a mild, yet complex, smoky red salsa; a perfect accompaniment to an evening of college football!

Sunday, I whipped up a batch of my Norwegian meatballs. For all intensive purposes, these are what everyone knows as Swedish meatballs. It’s just that I am Norwegian, so I will call them what I want! They are a blend of beef and pork. I add sautéed red onion and seasoned with a variety of what I consider to be "Scandinavian spices" (allspice, ground ginger, nutmeg, mace, white pepper). Bound together with egg, moistened bread crumbs, and a little honey, I sear the meatballs in a hot skillet and simmer them in beef stock and half & half, which is eventually thickened to make cream gravy.

My Norwegian (not Swedish) meatballs



Of course, traditional Swedish meatballs always have lingonberry jam served as a condiment. As these are not really Swedish meatballs, I changed the rules. A $6 jar of lingonberry jam from the grocery store can’t possibly be better than my Mom’s homemade wild raspberry preserves, can it? I think not. No question, this was a wonderful Sunday supper!

To burn off some excess calories from a lunch consisting of the aforementioned Norwegian meatballs, I went running this afternoon. A gorgeous fall day! 55 degrees, bright and sunny, and a bit of a breeze. It was a delightful scamper around the neighborhood.

I wish this kind of weather would stick around for awhile. However, during my drive to work today I saw the first ominous symbol that indicates winter is on the way; a lawn sign advertising snow plowing! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colder morning run with bunnies and owls

One more story from work last week:

I was having a conversation with a coworker. She is a newer employee who had been living in the southeastern US until this past summer when she joined our company. With the weather turning cooler, she was lamenting the our recent "cold" mornings. (We have yet to even have a hard freeze in my neighborhood)

I actually expressed my appreciation for the colder weather and decided to regale her with a story from last winter. I told her I kept track of the temperature during my runs in my running log, and I calculated the average temperature during my runs from mid December to mid February, which came out to be a balmy 14.8 degrees. She looked at me and said:

“OK, you were actually outside during that? I now think you are crazy!”

Perhaps. But this is Minnesota, and if we wait for the weather to get nice before we go running, you could be waiting an awfully long time! :) Besides, they have gear for this.

I mentioned this because my Saturday morning run started at 6 AM when it was still around 35 degrees in my neighborhood. There was patchy frost in the low lying areas, and a wee bit of fog in the air, but you could still see the stars and a bright, 3/4 moon shining brightly. I needed to wear a stocking cap, gloves, my running jacket, and some long pants.

Yup, the season is changing!

Also, it is remarkable how dark it is so early these days. I broke out the headlamp for the first time since last spring. (The batteries still worked!)

But it was a wonderful run. I did 11 miles, and it was oh, so comfortable. Running in temperatures like this is so nice because you never overheat. I feel like I can run forever. Very few people were out. I only encountered six other pedestrians the whole time I was running, so the trails pretty much belonged to me. Awesome!

A wildlife note; while I was running along the edge of a swamp, I heard an owl. From the sound, I am certain in was the great horned.

It has been awhile since I have heard an owl. I tried shining my headlamp up in the trees to see if I could spot him, but no luck. As I ran onward with the moon shining brightly with wisps of fog hanging in the air, I could hear the classic, low-pitched "who-WHOOO" growing fainter. What a beautiful setting.

And people wonder why I run outside when it is "cold." :)

Oh, and there were bunnies, too. Four of them on my journey, so the ratio is down ( .36 BPM). Perhaps Mr. Owl has something to do with that? :) Hmmm....

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, October 17, 2008

Serenity now, dammit!

A shot of the extremely calm lake on a beautiful Thursday run



So this was my Thursday:

I work in clinical research on the technology side of things. We have drug/device companies (sponsors) that use our products and services to help conduct clinical trials.

Yesterday I get a call from a sponsor that is conducting a drug study. The study is blinded, which means that the patient, research site, and most people in the sponsor organization have no idea what particular treatment the patient received.

The call was rather panicked. I was told that a patient in the study was moved to intensive care, and that there was an urgent request from the site to “unblind” the patient (meaning, to reveal to all what drug the patient was randomized to receive). There is only one unblinded person at the sponsor organization who can tell exactly what treatment was received; however, this person was apparently traveling or somehow not available.

They asked if I could find out what treatment this patient was randomized to receive.

HOLY...CRAP...no pressure here.

After some digging, sweating, and most likely some swearing, I was indeed able to determine what drug the patient received. So, I was the one who unblinded the patient. Needless to say, I was relieved, and I am hoping we were able to get the information to them in time to do some good.

Shortly thereafter, I was really mad that the sponsor didn’t have adequate backup coverage, or at least a contingency plan for emergency situations. Think about this; you are patient who is potentially dying, and your hopes of finding out what drug you were taking rest not with your doctors, not with the clinical staff, and not with sponsor personnel, but with some stupid project manager in the Twin Cities? Give me a break!

What I am saying is that Thursday was a little stressful!

The calm lake, taken from a different bay



It was not a scheduled run day, but I felt I needed to after the day’s events. I was really glad I did. Not only was it great stress relief, but it was also a gorgeous day. Cool in the lower 50’s, sunshine and puffy clouds, and not a breath of wind. I stopped on the bridge, snapped a few pictures, and just marveled at the lake. It is rare that it is ever this calm and reflective. I picked up a few more woolly bear caterpillars off the trail and moved them to safety. I chased a few sparrows and juncos down the trail as I ran.

A great way to end a tough day at the office. And it concluded by watching the new episode of “The Office.” Seeing Dwight putting a baby stroller through a stress test completely pushed me over the edge and had me in hysterics!

Looking forward to the weekend,

Jean

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

You shook me all night long

Fall colors, still hanging in there



A quick story from the past weekend; On Saturday, I was driving around running some errands. The local classic rock station, KQRS, has been playing the recently released song by AC/DC, “Rock 'n Roll Train.” It is as you might expect from AC/DC; powerful, guitar driven, and just good ol’ hard-charging rock music.

The song happened to be on, and as any classic rock fan knows, when AC/DC is playing on the radio, it is mandatory that you play it loud and “turn it up to 11,” as the guys in the movie "This is Spinal Tap" might say.

While sitting at a stoplight, I looked in my rear view mirror and noticed that the world was blurry. That is because I was playing my car stereo so loud that it was vibrating the mirror!

I felt so immature. I’m the guy who complains about all the kids and their loud car stereos, and here I am just as bad! What can I say? I guess when the mood strikes, you just need to rock! :)

More colors along the trail. Leaves have really begun to fall.



The fall colors are beginning to fade somewhat. I am calling last Saturday as the official "peak" of the fall colors. Monday's rain appears to have taken its toll, and many leaves have begun to drop. This has been a most colorful and long-lasting fall, however!

Running has been outstanding. High temperatures have been in the mid 50's, which is ideal for me. Love it when it is cool. And on my runs, I am still seeing some migrating birds that are in the process of bugging out of here. There are a few chipping and song sparrows that I noticed on the trail, and the American coots are starting to show up on my lake. It won't be long and all of our "summer tourists" will be out of here!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, October 13, 2008

Running with weasels, and weekend cooking

Sunday morning I went for a run. It was the day after the Autumn Woods Classic, so I took things pretty easy.

I saw an abundance of wildlife that morning. In a mere 5 miles, I encountered a deer (actually saw the same deer coming and going on my out-and-back route), as well as 3 bunnies (.60 BPM ratio).

The funniest encounter, however, was with the American mink. I ran into him near the creek along the lake. As I was running down the trail, I saw the mink scurry across the path. He spastically hurled himself into the tall grasses on the swampy edge of the lake.

If you have ever seen a member of the weasel family try to leap, you will know this is good entertainment. They don't have much of a vertical leap, so this guy landed with a splat when he hit the grass! In all the time I spent out here on the trail, I can't believe I hadn't seen him before. It was fun to see the mink.

Since I didn't get to do any cooking last weekend when I was visiting the family, I made up for it this weekend by whipping up two fantastic dishes.

On Saturday, I made a Thai coconut curry shrimp with rice stick noodles.

Thai coconut curry shrimp



This dish had a curry sauce made of coconut milk seasoned with nuoc mam (Thai fish sauce), red onion, coriander, cumin, dried red chiles, fresh ginger, and lemongrass. I found some beautiful 26-30 count shrimp on sale, so they got cooked up in the curry sauce. I added some frozen peas and fresh basil at the last minute and served it over thin rice stick noodles.

A delicious meal, and SPICY! Whew, my nose was running after eating this one. Incredible flavors, very fragrant, and somewhat exotic. This proved to be a nice treat following my race earlier in the day.

Sunday, I decided to make a stew, since the upcoming week is supposed to be chilly. So I made stew. But not just any old stew. I made a "Black & Tan" Irish lamb stew.

In the past, I have made some version of a Guinness stew, which uses stout beer as one of the liquid ingredients. A black & tan is a drink that is made with a combination of stout beer and either a pale ale or a lager.

There are a few different ways to pour it, but this is the one I am familiar with; the ale is poured into a glass, filling in half way. The Guinness will be carefully poured into the same glass over an upside-down spoon. As the Guinness is not as dense as the ale, it creates two distinct layers, one black, the other tan.

Earlier in the week, I saw a recipe for "Black and Tan" leg of lamb. Inspired, I figured this can be easily applied to my own stew recipe.

My homemade "Black & Tan" Irish lamb stew



So I made braising liquid with a combination of stout and pale ale, along with beef stock and some tomato paste (for body, as well as flavor). I used some excellent lamb stew meat and combined a lot of my usual stew veggies; onions, carrots, garlic, barley, mushrooms, potatoes, and peas. It was seasoned with fresh thyme, bay leaves, and herbs de Provence, and I served it over gemilli pasta.

One of my best stews ever, if I do say so! It turned out fantastic and rich, barely needing anything to thicken it. I will love having this for lunch over the course of the week (as I did today at work). I am not sure if the combination of the two different beers makes all that much of a discernible difference. You can definitely taste the stout in the finished product. If nothing else, it does create some fun "menu poetry," as Mario Batali might say.

Incidentally, I only learned after cooking this that the black & tan probably wasn't even an Irish invention. This was likely a creation of British pubs back in the late 1800's. Oh well. At the very least, I am sure an Irishman would appreciate the spirit for which it was intended! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A run in the Autumn Woods

A beautiful maple at the Elm Creek Park Reserve



On what was the most gorgeous Saturday of fall, I found myself running a local race. I, along with hundreds of Twin Cities runners, participated in the Autumn Woods Classic 10k at the Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove.

The Elm Creek Park Reserve is a beautiful piece of land. At over 4900 acres, it offers year round recreation in the northwest metro, and as you can imagine, the scenery is quite striking this time of year. Whoever had the foresight to preserve this land was a genius.

I arrived early before the start of the 5k, and I was kind of glad I did because parking was chaotic. And they have a LOT of parking here! The announcer at the race made it sound like this was their largest turnout ever. Who would not want to run in such a fantastic fall say? It was sunny and 70, after all!

Start of the 5k race



This event is in its 18th year, and it obviously receives a great deal of support from the community. It was quite family-oriented and had a lot of kids activities. Many of the sponsors had tents set up. There was a large corporate team competition going on with the races as well, so a lot of prominent local companies were well represented.

I think this race draws a lot of first-timers. How do I know this? Large numbers of runners had their bib numbers pinned to their back (a classic no-no). One couple even had their timing chips (which are supposed to be affixed to your shoe) tied to their bib numbers (and, their bib numbers were also on their backs!). And, when I lined up for the 10k, I put myself a fair distance back from the starting line, because I know my place. The race director asked, "How many of you are running your first race?" Honest to goodness, half of the field ahead of me raised their hands. Oh, no! I should have lined up closer to the start.

The horn sounded, and it took forever to get through the traffic at the start. After weaving my way through a host of slower runners, thankfully everything sorted itself out after a half mile or so. And the rest of the race contained many pleasurable sights.

Some colorful sumac on the park grounds



The 10k course ran clockwise around the park on a network of bike trails (mostly paved, except for a small section of dirt road). It was also surprisingly hilly. Not so much in a dramatic sense, but there were a number of rolling hills to contend with.

Fall colors have to be at or near their peak. The reds, yellows, gold, and oranges were simply glowing as we ran through the forest. We have been very fortunate this fall. Sometimes, the colors change rapidly, and then we get a storm that wipes out the leaves. This year, we have been treated to a few weeks of gradual change. Very nice! The race course weaved its way through this beautiful wooded park.

Another brilliant maple tree at the park. Aren't the colors amazing?



The race course was really fun, although it actually felt almost too hot! Hard to imagine saying that in mid October, but I was feeling very warm during my run. And the hills, while nothing terribly steep, were rolling and offered just enough resistance to slow you down on the ascent.

I ran an OK race for me, finishing in 49:14, so I was not displeased (results are here). Considering I spent most of the summer training for distance, I really didn't concentrate on speed, so it was fun to run some sub 8 minute miles!

The post-race crowd at the Autumn Woods Classic



All in all, it was a fun day. There were more than 1500 runners combined in both events, everyone enjoying the park and all the race festivities. It was a banner day, for certain, and the fall colors were nothing short of stunning.

As we always like to say in Minnesota, "we won't get many more days like this!" :)

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, October 10, 2008

You've got mail

Fall colors from my deck on Wednesday



The colors are gorgeous in the Twin Cities right now. This is one of the nicest fall seasons I remember. Relatively mild temperatures, pretty days, and the air is starting to smell of dried leaves. It is hard to complain!

It has been a busy week, but the runs have made for welcome breaks from the craziness. I have seen a number of different birds, including juncos, cormorants, and many sparrows, all of them making the move south. The woolly bear rescue mission goes on, as I seem to pick up a half a dozen off the trail every time I go out!

So as of this past week, I have been with my company for a year now. And, just this week I finally got my own mailbox in the break room! My company is quite small, and they were out of mailbox space until recently when some of my colleagues moved to a different office space. That freed up a box, so now I can get mail.

I joked with my boss that at some companies, they give you things like a watch on your anniversary. Instead, I got a mailbox. Sweet! I guess that means I am official now! :)

Enjoy your weekend!

Jean

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fall golfing in the North Country

Fall colors abound! A shot of a brilliant moose maple.



I just returned from a fantastic weekend up north with the family. It involved family, friends, running, birding, great food, fun, and maybe a little too much fun!

I'll start with running. I went on two runs while I was visiting my folks, a 10 miler on Saturday, and about a 4 1/2 miler today.

On the 10 miler, it was all of 32 degrees when I started and maybe reached 40 by the time I finished. While that may sound chilly, I absolutely loved it. One can seemingly run forever on days like this.

While on this run, I was treated to some excellent bird sightings, including a new life lister. There were flocks of Lapland longspurs, which are beautifully marked buntings of the north. The migration was in full force, so I got to see many of them along the dirt roads. I would imagine I had probably seen these guys before but perhaps dismissed them as snow buntings. Therefore, a new bird to check off the list!

There was also an encounter with a ruffed grouse. He was sitting along the shoulder of the service road I was running on. I was perhaps 30 feet away and got to watch him for a minute before he grew wary of me and split. As it was hunting season, I told him to be careful and went on my way.

One of the most exciting moments was seeing two black-backed woodpeckers together. It happened to be two years ago to the weekend that I saw my first black-backed, and on this day I was treated to seeing two of them working over a bead birch tree. I suspected that one might have been a youngster still tagging along with the parent. Whatever the case, I was really glad to witness this, as it adds so much fun to a long run!

Of course, there were plenty of birds up at Mom and Dad's place, too. Norris, the resident red breasted nuthatch, was hanging out close to the house, so he stopped by to say hello. :)

Our buddy Norris



One of the main purposes of this trip was to play in a charity golf tournament for the North Shore Health Care Foundation. Our good friends Marc and Brenda were also coming up to partake in the festivities. This tournament is played at Superior National, and the event is in its 13th year. I would be playing with my Dad, brother Brett, and Marc.

The morning of the tournament, I felt like absolute crap. In an age where it has become fashionable to avoid taking any personal responsibility for one's own actions, I am placing the blame squarely on my brother Brett.

The night before, Dad made an awesome pasta dinner (shrimp and scallops in vodka sauce over spaghetti!) for all of us. There were many laughs over the course of the evening, lots of reminiscing, as well as a few drinks. Needless to say, a great time was had by all.

I was staying with Brett and Blythe, so when we went back to their place, this is where the trouble started. "Should we have a beer?" asked Brett. Of course, I should mention that the beer being offered was an absolutely excellent pale ale straight from a keg in the garage. This beer was home brewed by my brother and some friends. "Amarillo pale ale" they call it, since it was made with Amarillo hops. Just a wonderful beer; flavorful, hoppy, and darker in color than most pale ales I have had. It reminded me a lot of a Summit IPA, for those of you familiar with Minnesota brews.

How can I possibly pass this up?

Fast forward to Sunday morning on the putting green where the world is still spinning. Ugh...damn you, Brett! :)

After a couple holes, I managed to shake out the cobwebs. Following a diet Pepsi and some food, I started to rally and ended up feeling really quite good by the end of the round. We had a great time on the course, and while we didn't shoot as well as we had hoped (-6 in the scramble), we had a much better second 9 where we reeled off 5 consecutive birdies. Considering I hadn't played since last summer, I hit a few decent shots and made a couple of putts, but I had some...well, shall we say "interesting" shots as well (see photos below). Aside from the wind, it was a banner day with temperatures in the 50's (once you get into October, you just never know what you are in for). All in all, a great weekend with family and friends.

Some photos from the tournament, also showcasing some of the fall colors:

Marc, swinging away on the Mountain Course



Dad, Marc, and Brett on the Mountain Course



Where one of my drives ended up. Needless to say, the team opted not to use this shot in the scramble!



The beautiful 5th and 6th holes at the Canyon Course



So, that was the weekend. But, I would probably be in trouble if I didn't mention the biggest news; I am going to be an uncle! My brother and sister-in-law are expecting their first child in March! I think this puts a lot of pressure on me too, because I will be this child's only uncle, so I had better be a good one. :)

Congratulations Brett and Blythe! We are looking forward to his/her arrival this spring!

Until next time,

Jean

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Heading up north!

Just a quick note that I am heading out of town tomorrow. I am going up to Mom and Dad’s for the weekend, and I am playing in a charity golf tournament on Sunday (which ought to be interesting considering I have not swung a club since last year!).

It promises to be a good weekend, and I guess the fall colors are still hanging in there to some degree. A full report to come upon my return!

And, good luck to all participating in the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend! :)

Until next time,

Jean

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