Sunday, November 30, 2008

2009 Races

Below are links to my 2009 Races:



March 22, 2009 - St. Patrick's Day Human Race 8k - St. Paul, MN

May 3, 2009 - Minnesota Landscape Arboretum "Bud Break" 5k - Chaska, MN

May 9, 2009 - Scheels Fargo Marathon - Fargo, ND

May 30, 2009 - Northern Lakes Run 10 Miler - White Bear Lake, MN

June 6, 2009 - Manitou 15k - White Bear Lake, MN

June 13, 2009 - The Udder Run 5 Miler - Goodhue, MN

July 4, 2009 - Firecracker Run 10k - Excelsior, MN

July 25, 2009 - Freight House Road Races at Lumberjack Days 10 Mile Run - Stillwater, MN

September 12, 2009 - Get Ready To Rock 20 Miler - White Bear Lake, MN

October 18, 2009 - IMT Des Moines Marathon - Des Moines, IA

November 8, 2009 - Rocky's Run 5k - Falcon Heights, MN

November 22, 2009 - Turkey Run 5k - St. Paul, MN

Monday, November 24, 2008

"My roommate is hung over, and she's running today!"

This past Sunday, I (along with a few hundred other Twin Cities runners) participated in the Turkey Run 5k in St. Paul. This is the fourth year in a row I have done this race, so it has become something of a Thanksgiving tradition for me.

Lake Como with a dusting of snow on the frozen water. Does this look like a November day in Minnesota or what?



The Turkey Run is a very relaxed event; a "fun run," if you will. It is a great way to wrap up the racing season for many. You will also see many casual runners (and even walkers) just getting out to be active during the holidays.

And if you really pay attention, you might hear wonderful snippets of conversations such as, "My roommate is hung over, and she's running today!"

What I am saying is that the Turkey Run is for everyone; from hardcore runners, to novice joggers, and even those of questionable sobriety. :)

We were greeted with a relatively mild day, roughly 33 degrees at race time with gray, overcast skies. There was still some remaining patches of the dusting of snow we received Saturday, and Lake Como was just about frozen over. While mild and not that cold, it was also quite humid with a decent breeze, making it feel colder than it really was.

(Incidentally, I think the weather is like this every year. Every Turkey Run I have done, I recall the day being overcast, chilly, and gray. It is a sign that winter is just about upon us, I guess!)

A clumsy self portrait of yours truly at the Turkey Run



The course is the same as always; leave Como Lake Elementary School, run north on East Como Lake Drive, then turn around and run a clockwise loop of the trails around Lake Como. It is a scenic and fast course.

The race started, and we were off like a shot. It was a relatively clean and fast start. I made sure not to get boxed in by anyone that seemed hung over! :)

Settling in at a pretty brisk clip, I felt very good and comfortable the whole time. Actually, I also felt efficient, which is a really nice feeling to have at a race.

Even though I was exerting a lot of energy, there was a certain sense of effortlessness. I even had a nice kick at the finish, passing a couple of folks in the last quarter mile, and I crossed the finish line in 21:58 (results here).

This was a very good 5k time for me. There have only been a few occasions where I have gone under 22 minutes. Considering I don't really train to be fast, the race was quite satisfying.

Perhaps I owe this performance to my pre-race meal of spaghetti with homemade meatballs? Mmmmmm....meatballs! :)



And, with that, another racing season comes to a close. It was a fun a memorable year with 11 more races in the books; some new adventures, a few really challenging races, some extremely rewarding races, and just a lot of fun overall.

In a sense it is sad to see the year end. However, part of the fun with the 2008 season ending is that I now get to start all over again and plan for a new season in 2009!

I am heading up to Mom and Dad's on Tuesday for a little vacation over the holiday, so this will be my last post until I get back next week.

I want to wish you all a happy, safe, and memorable Thanksgiving!

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, November 21, 2008

9

...degrees, that is.

That was the temperature on my drive in to work today. 9 degrees. Brrrrrr!

The last two nights have been somewhat chilly on my runs. Wednesday was in the low 30's and yesterday in the mid 20's, but the wind was raging out of the northwest, producing a fairly significant wind chill. I actually wore a ski mask yesterday because it was so raw. 'Tis the season to bundle up, I guess.

Not too much to report in the way of wildlife over the last two days, either. Yesterday there was a solitary deer that peeked her head of of the brush to check me out before retreating to the safety of a grove of trees, but that was about it.

Our potluck at work yesterday was a tremendous amount of fun, and my calico bean hot dish (complete with the Denny Hamlin-sponsored pork and beans mentioned in the previous post) was a huge hit. There were no leftovers to take home, so they were apparently enjoyed by all.

We had all kinds of your good, typical office potluck fare; an assortment of salads, sloppy joes, cocktail weenies, chips, dips, and plenty of desserts. Needless to say, I ended up having a pretty light dinner last night!

Have a great weekend!

Jean

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The official beans of NASCAR

Thursday we are having our Thanksgiving potluck lunch at the office and I am bringing my famous calico bean hot dish. I picked up my ingredients at the grocery store last night. My recipe requires six different types of canned beans.

You all know by now that I thoroughly enjoy NASCAR, but I was actually laughing out loud in the store when I saw this. Check out the can of Van Camp's Pork and Beans. Is there anything these guys won't put their faces on?

"I'm Denny Hamlin, and I heartily endorse these beans."



This absolutely cracked me up; I mean, Denny Hamlin trying to look tough on a can of pork and beans? It seems so absurd and reminded me of a Simpson's episode where they were in a home improvement store and there was a display for "Jaclyn Smith's Axe Heads." I am hoping that next season another driver like Carl Edwards endorses a rival canned bean (maybe Bush's "Grillin' Beans," for instance) and the two start feuding. :)

Anyhow, I had a nice run this evening. Temperatures were in the low 30's, but a strong south wind gave us a wind chill of 20, so I was bundled up pretty good! The good thing was that I had the wind at my back for the second half of the run, which was sweet. I clipped right along. I even saw three eagles riding the currents. They were having a tough time in the wind, and at times they looked almost stationary like a kite. Quite beautiful.

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chicken soup for the runner's soul

Sunday was fairly overcast and cool. Why not make some homemade chicken noodle soup? Here is how to do it:

Soup is good food



What you will need:

-Chicken
-Carrots
-Celery (be sure to save some of the leaves)
-Yellow onion
-Garlic
-Olive oil
-Fresh thyme
-Fresh rosemary
-Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (not the curly kind)
-Herbs de Provence (dried)
-Frozen peas
-Pasta (whatever small pasta you like)

-Salt and pepper
-Oyster crackers


For the stock, take a chicken (organic is good if you can get it), along with four carrots (peeled), two stalks of celery, one yellow onion (cut in half), and a head of garlic (also cut in half). Rub the the chicken and vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes. (Just to get some color and caramelization, which will add a little hint of roasted flavor to the stock)

Everything gets thrown into a stock pot with a bouquet garni. With some kitchen string, tie together some sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, flat-leaf parsley, and some leaves from the celery. Chuck it into the pot. Pour in 10 cups of cold water. Cover the pot, bring it to a near boil, reduce to a simmer. In an hour or so, you will have a very flavorful chicken stock. (Trust me, you do this right and you will not need any bouillon or chicken base to boost the flavor)

Remove the chicken and vegetables, setting the chicken aside, allowing to cool. The vegetables have given their all, so they can be discarded. Strain the stock into another large pot. Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours so the fat will rise to the top, making for easy removal. (Or, if you live in cold climates, do as I do and use nature's refrigerator; set the whole stock pot outside on your deck...it was about 31 degrees today, so that was perfect!)

Once the fat is removed, return the stock to your large stock pot. Since the veggies that were spent and used up have been removed from the stock, I want to add some more back in. Take four carrots (peeled, sliced), two stalks of celery (diced), and saute them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes (just to release some of the liquids and aromas). Add to the stock pot. Bring to a boil (covered), and reduce to a simmer to help soften the veggies.

Remember that chicken you had cooling? Remove the meat from the chicken and chop into bite-sized pieces. By all means, do not be afraid to nibble on a few pieces of the moist, delicious chicken while you are chopping. You can't resist, can you? Anyhow, add the chicken to your simmering soup, along with a couple more sprigs of fresh thyme, a sprig of rosemary, and a couple teaspoons of dried herbs de Provence. Salt an pepper to taste. Allow to simmer.

Bring another pot of water to a boil and season the water with salt. Cook the pasta for a couple minutes less than the recommended time. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. This may seem a little involved, but I have found that if you add dried pasta directly to the soup and allow it to cook, it becomes kind of mushy. By cooking and cooling the pasta before adding it to the soup, the noodles seem to maintain their integrity and will retain a better texture. (Especially for leftovers the next day!)

A few minutes before you are ready to serve, add your pasta and the frozen peas to the soup. Allow to heat through, and you are ready to go. Garnish with some of that fresh parsley you have. Serve with oyster crackers. Enjoy a steaming bowl while watching football on a chilly Sunday evening.

Yours in chickeny goodness,

Jean

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Looking like November

It is certainly looking like November. There are no leaves left on the trees, and the landscape is growing stark.

A gray November day with ducks on the pond



Saturday morning I ended up going for a 13.5 mile run. The temperature was around 30 degrees, it was slightly overcast, and an occasional ghostly flurry of snow would drift by. There was a slight breeze, but I was really comfortable, hence my decision to run as far as I did. Great run.

I didn't see too much in the way of wildlife on the run. Just the usual mallards, geese, and winter songbirds. But I did see plenty when I went shopping following my run.

I was driving through what is still a fairly rural area in the northwest suburbs when I saw a beautiful deer running through a field. A nice buck with at least 6 points. A very healthy, good looking deer.

Not far from there, I drove past a freshly plowed field that butted up to a small woodland. In the field were five wild turkeys feeding! I was the only car on the road, so I slowed way down to take a look at them. They are huge, and actually quite majestic. What a sight! I have seen wild turkeys before, but never than many together.

Saturday's dinner was shrimp pad Thai. I broke from the traditional flat rice stick noodles and opted for the round, thin ones instead. Why? Because it is my dish, that is why! :) But seriously, I like the thin noodles better. While perhaps not as traditional, they are lighter, retain more of an al dente texture than the flat, thicker noodles, and they are just more fun, I think. A great meal. This could be my favorite Thai dish.

Saturday's shrimp pad Thai



Sunday I did 7 miles, and there was a little more activity. I scared up a bunny near the cemetery, chased a red fox through a neighborhood (he kept running ahead of me and stopping, but I kept catching up to him), found a few hooded mergansers mixing it up with some mallards, and the resident eagle flew over me.

It had snowed overnight, so there was just a light dusting on the trails. I came across something intriguing. There was a spot on the trail that looked like it had been swept away in sort of an erratic motion. In the center of the sweeping was a half-eaten mouse carcass. My theory is that this was the work of an owl, since it had to have happened overnight, and its wings brushed away the snow. Interesting stuff.

There is always something to see, in any season.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, November 14, 2008

An unexpected new bird

Lately I have been talking about how all of the summer birds have taken off, and that it is just the usual suspects that I have been seeing.

On Wednesday, I had the most unexpected surprise. On my run, I stopped on the bridge where the creek flows into the lake because I saw a small waterbird. I knew what species it was, but it wasn't until I got home and reviewed my field guide that I could positively identify it.

It was a horned grebe in winter plumage. The only other possibility would have been its relative, the eared grebe, but it was not. The large white cheek was the giveaway. This was a new bird for my life list, too. Very exciting!

The middle of our week has been somewhat mild. It was actually 45 degrees on Thursday, which made for great running. I am afraid the weather is starting to bottom out, however. Tomorrow the temperatures aren't supposed to get above freezing, and the long range forecast seems to have us solidly in the 30's for the foreseeable future. Winter is approaching! :)

Enjoy the weekend, all!

Jean

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Freezing rain, dough, and flaming deer stands

Winter Weather Advisory

The National Weather Circus has us under an official “Winter Weather Advisory” today, calling for freezing rain, sleet, and snow. Again, we are at that time of year where we are on the cusp of near freezing temperatures, making for a veritable potpourri of weather possibilities.

So I drove home in freezing rain. The roads were still OK, so there was nothing treacherous. However, running was most interesting. For the most part, the footing was good, but there were some places on the wooden bridges and deck that were slippery with slushy accumulation. Ice pellets were absolutely stinging my face the whole time, so my face is still radiating a bit. Surprisingly, I encountered no other runners tonight. :) Just me and the chickadees along the trail, who I am convinced are the toughest birds on the planet.

When I am running on the trails in the park, I don't have worry about traffic. Or so I thought. I am running on the 8-foot wide bike trail and I see some lights approaching from behind. It was a police SUV! I had to move over to let the officers by, and they smiled and waved. I am guessing they were on patrol checking out the park. In the countless hours I have spent out here in the last year, I had never seen them before. Or perhaps they were just looking for a shortcut to circumvent the Interstate, which was at a standstill due to the weather? ;-)

Dough is weird

Sunday I made a batch of pizza dough to have on hand for the week. Normally I can make my dough recipe in my sleep with consistently good results, but something went horribly wrong and I don’t know why. The dough never really came together, and it almost refused to rise, turning out dense, heavy, and had the texture of Play-Doh. It just sucked.

In an attempt to redeem myself (and, to get something made for dinner), last night after work I made another batch. The difference was night and day. In fact, I think it was the finest batch of dough I have ever made! The dough was light, pliable, flexible, elastic, and just a joy to work with. The resulting pizza had a marvelously airy, yet crispy, crust. I love it when things go right in the kitchen!

I really can't pinpoint exactly what went awry with the first batch. Conversely, I am not entirely sure what made the second batch so outstanding, either. The recipe is the same, and how I can go from one of my worst cooking efforts in recent memory to one of my best ever is perplexing. Not sure if perhaps I got careless with some measurements, or maybe like Tiger Woods, I didn’t bring my “A” game on that day? Dough can be a very strange and temperamental thing.

Last night's pizza with Canadian bacon, green olives, and mushrooms



News from the deer camp

It is currently deer hunting season. People hunt deer everywhere, but it truly is a cultural thing here in Minnesota. Hunters look forward to this season much like Minnesota fisherman eagerly await the fishing opener.

Thankfully nobody was hurt in the following story, but something about it just struck me as being wonderfully Minnesotan, given the hard core nature of our local hunters. Knowing what a typical deer stand looks like (generally, little more than a platform built up in a tree), I have to think it is fairly uncommon for someone to have a heater in one. That being said, it is even more uncommon that you would hear about a deer stand catching on fire, necessitating a call to the fire department!

You can be sure that the guys involved will be telling this story over and over again at the next deer camp. And, like good wine, it will get better with age!

Until next time,

Jean

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cassoulet and traveling trophies

Sunday morning was quite chilly and brisk. 24 degrees, a few flurries in the air, and there was still a relatively strong wind coming out of the north. For my run, I broke out a face mask for the first time this season! Brrr!

I managed a good run in spite of the wind. And I saw a couple of interesting creatures. One was a black phase gray squirrel. He was quite a beautiful animal and was coal black in color. The other was a golden-crowned kinglet, who was obviously one of the last migrating summer songbirds to get the heck out of here for the winter. Otherwise, it is the "usual suspects" that I spoke of in an earlier post. Winter is definitely setting in.

This was an interesting week weather wise, given that it was 75 degrees on Monday, and then 24 for my Sunday run. That is a pretty impressive swing. And because the weather is getting colder, that means you need to take measures to help warm you up. So, let me tell you about my cassoulet from Saturday. It turned out fantastic!

The finished cassoulet with a nicely browned crust



Three kinds of beans were used, mostly Great Northerns, but also some cranberry beans and a few heirloom Christmas lima beans for added texture and color. The aromatics consisted of carrots, celery, onions, leeks, garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme, herbs de Provence, and bay leaves.

For the meats, I had four varieties of sausage; smoked Farmer's-style sausage (a smoked ring sausage common here in MN), wild rice bratwurst (another MN specialty), a smoked bratwurst with beer and sauerkraut, as well as some boudin noir. A couple of small lamb shanks rounded it off.

The cooking liquid was primarily whiite wine and tomato paste, along with a splash of beef stock to level it off. I baked it in my cast iron Dutch oven at 300 F (covered) for 3 hours. Following that, I cranked the heat up to 400 F, tossed on some dried bread crumbs, and cooked the cassoulet uncovered for about 15 minutes, allowing a browned crust to form.

My cassoulet with lamb shanks and four sausages



Admittedly, this is not the prettiest dish in terms of presentation. But what do you expect from something so rustic? This is peasant food! And what tasty peasant food, at that. Warming, comforting, filling, hearty, delicious; wow, name your favorite positive descriptor. A delightful contrast in textures and flavors with the variety of beans and sausages, and the meat from the lamb shanks was unbelievably tender and moist. Throw in a hunk of baguette to sop things up, and this was a winner. I will be making cassoulet again in the winter months as the snow flies.

Oh, and slices of leftover baguette made for excellent breakfast fodder the following morning; wonderful little medallions of cinnamon French toast! :)

Mmmmmm....cinnamon French toast!



On Sunday night, I went out on the town to meet up with friends. We had our fantasy golf league awards ceremony at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, as is tradition (we've been going to these places since they were still known as "BW3"). I have been in this league with my friends since 1999, and it is such a good time. We try to pick weekly winners on the PGA Tour, and you get their money winnings for that week. The winner is the person with the most cash at the end of the season.

One funny aspect of the league is our trophy. It is a "traveling trophy," so the winner of the league gets to keep it for the year. A tradition has emerged where the winner has to add to the trophy to personalize it in some fashion. Here is what it looks like after last night:

The fantasy golf league traveling trophy



We have joked that one year someone is going to mount this to the hood of a car and the winner will have to drive the trophy home. That might not be out of the question knowing this crew! :)

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, November 8, 2008

11 miles in the wind and the snow

The snow from the pictures in my previous post never stuck around. Just a little too warm. But it sure was pretty yesterday. The trees looks as if they had been spray painted white!

This morning I awoke to some brisk, blustery conditions. The temperature was around 33 degrees, and I ran 11 miles in light snow flurries (nothing was accumulating on the trails) and occasional 30 MPH wind gusts. Actually, most of my route is fairly well sheltered except for the east side of the lake. The strong northwest wind made that stretch a wee bit chilly. I do love this time of year, and running in weather like this (perhaps with the exception of the wind) is delightful.

We are getting to that time of year where the only birds I see are my "usual suspects." That would be the chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, and various woodpeckers who are year round residents. There were a few lingering cormorants, coots, and ducks on the lake, but they should be hitting the road (in fact, that is what I told them...it's getting cold!).

Aside from some shopping, I haven't done much today. Being an overcast, windy, cold day, it seemed like the perfect excuse to stay inside and cook.

Tonight I am making a cassoulet for dinner, and it just went in the oven a few minutes ago. It isn't authentic French (I don't exactly have duck confit hanging around in my fridge), so I am using some good ingredients that I can find here; three kinds of dried beans, some beautiful lamb shanks, and four different kinds of locally-produced sausages!

I have never made cassoulet before, and of course I am not following any one particular recipe. I either have a disaster in the making, or it could be something special. If nothing else, it should be some warming comfort food to eat by the fireplace on a chilly night in Minnesota.

Until next time,

Jean

Friday, November 7, 2008

It was 75 degrees on Monday...

...and here is what it looks like outside of my office this morning! The pictures aren't the greatest, but they at least illustrate what is going on.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Some early November snow in the Twin Cities.



Light snow, clinging to the trees



This won't stick around, as the ground is too warm. But you just have to love the extremes in this state. I think I will put away my summer running gear! :)

Planning to use the fireplace this weekend,

Jean

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Our first dusting of snow?

The forecast as of this morning, from WCCO



Forecast Details from the Weather Team
Today - Widespread showers and isolated thunderstorms. Temperatures warmest in the morning... in the mid-upper 50s... then steady or slowly falling through the day. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph with gusts to around 30 mph.

Tonight - Rain tapering off to scattered showers. Rain showers will mix with and change to snow showers in areas to the west of the metro area. A light coating of snow is possible in a few spots by morning. No accumulation in the Twin Cities. Lows around 40. Southeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70 percent.


Friday - Cloudy with rain and snow likely. Little or no snow accumulation. Highs around 45. South winds 5 to 10 mph shifting to the northwest 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 70 percent.

Friday Night - Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of snow showers. A coating to 1" of snow accumulation is possible across the region by morning, including in the Twin Cities. Lows 30 to 35. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph.

The weather this time of year always seems to be extreme. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wedensday, the temperatures were 75, 70, and 65 respectively. And now we might get our first dusting of snow on Friday night!

Of course it will not stick around, as it is still too warm. But it is always strange to see that first blanket of snow. We will see if it transpires.

With the warmer temperatures this week, running has been quite enjoyable. I ran on Monday and Wednesday. The leaves have almost completely fallen, so my view of the lake along the trails has greatly improved. There are still lots of juncos, sparrows, and a few ducks hanging around, and I even saw two deer in the park yesterday afternoon. Great runs on both days. I suppose those could have been my last opportunities to wear shorts and a light shirt until next May? :)

Until next time,

Jean

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The honorary Italian

Today is a day off day from running. In lieu of that, here are some of my recent culinary creations:

On Friday, I made a homemade pizza. My whole-wheat pizza dough was topped with a locally made Canadian bacon, black and green olives, green peppers, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. But the star of this pie was my Mom's homemade pizza sauce. Mom and Dad canned a whole bunch of various tomato products this fall, and this chunky, spicy pizza sauce was one of their concoctions. Delicious stuff!

Friday's pizza with Mom's homemade pizza sauce



On Sunday, I made a chicken ragu. The sauce consisted of ground chicken (thighs, that is), pancetta, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and chicken stock. It was flavored with aromatics such as carrots, celery, onions, fennel, garlic, crimini mushrooms, dried porcini mushrooms (with the soaking liquid added), fresh rosemary, herbs de Provence, Italian seasoning blend, and a healthy dose of crushed red pepper. I ended up with a delicious, somewhat lighter version of a Bolognese-style ragu that was complex, rich, and somewhat spicy.

Sunday's Chicken ragu over fusilli



I served it over tri-colored fusilli pasta. I know the Italians would probably regard it as a culinary no-no to serve colored pasta with a red sauce, since the color of the pasta sort of gets lost. However, this particular box of pasta was taking up valuable space in the pantry, so I wanted to get rid of it. That, and it is my dish, so I will do whatever I want! :)

Working towards becoming an honorary Italian,

Jean

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rocky's Run

The maroon and gold flying high at Rocky's Run



On Sunday, I had the pleasure of partaking in the Rocky's Run 5k with a number of other local cross country enthusiasts.

Long time readers of my blog will remember that I ran this one last year. In fact, this is my third time. It is a great way to wind down the racing season.

The finish line banner at Rocky's Run



Rocky Racette was a beloved University of Minnesota cross country runner who died tragically in a car accident back in 1981. This race has been run every year since in her honor, and it benefits a scholarship foundation in her name. It is a celebration of cross country, fall running, and the life of Rocky.

The event brings out the local cross country hotshots. Many members of the University of Minnesota women's cross country team (the "A" squad was off running at the Big 10 championship...more on that later), a number of kids who were in town for Saturday's State High School League championships, as well as a lot of past cross country runners were on hand as well.

Clumsy self portrait of yours truly, ready to run at Rocky's Run!



Of course, there were also mere mortals such as myself running in the race. Basically I am doing a little foreshadowing here to set you up for the inevitable result of me finishing deep in the field! :)

The race is run on the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course, and it was a gorgeous fall day. Sort of hazy sunshine with temperatures near 60. Spectacular for the first week of November, no doubt.

Some signs of fall still present on the U of M Golf Course



The 5k runners all lined up at 10 AM. After some quick instructions, we were given the start command. The field quickly dispersed, and the U of M women who had been lined up near me were off like a shot. With the faster runners out of here, the pack thinned out rapidly.

Runners milling around at the start of the 5k



It is quite amazing because the course has very little flat ground. There are no huge elevation changes, but you are constantly going uphill, downhill, or (to use some golfing parlance) running on a "side hill lie."

Same as in years past, I made it through the first mile in the low 7 minute territory, but this is the flattest part of the course (if there is such a thing). From there on out, it is a rolling, twisting, up and down battle that slowed my pace quite a bit.

I ended up crossing the line in 24:10 (results here). Believe it or not, in the three times I have run this race, I have done in in 24:10, 24:14, and 24:15. How's that for consistency? This is a challenging little 5k, and a fun one at that.

Following the race, I enjoyed a homemade cranberry-orange muffin. Rocky's family members famously bring baked goods such as muffins and cookies for post race snacks. It was oh, so yummy!

Suddenly a cheer erupted from the tent where the U of M cross country girls were hanging out. They had just received word that the U of M women successfully defended the Big 10 championship title at the race in Ann Arbor, MI, on Sunday morning morning! There was much rejoicing from the team and the U of M faithful. Even more cheers went up as the announced it over the loudspeaker. A cool moment for Minnesota sports!

I stuck around for awhile to watch some of the 8k run which followed my race.

Rocky's Run 8k start line



It is fun to watch the "good" runners run, be it the people shown here leading the 8k race, or the U of M women's cross country team that I quickly lost sight of in my race. They make it look so easy. Some people are just born to run, I guess. Truly an impressive sight.

The lead pack of the 8k runners



Following the race, I got home, watched some football and NASCAR (Carl Edwards is the MAN!), and cooked up a chicken ragu for dinner. What a fantastic way to spend a fall day in Minnesota.

Until next time,

Jean

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Even more signs of winter

I witnessed more signs of winter this week.

On Wednesday, I had an extremely long day at work. I got home late and ended up running in the dark with my headlamp. Some guy was out in his driveway testing out Christmas lights! He had a long strand of red lights and a giant electric wreath on the pavement and was dragging out more extension cords. Wow...not even Halloween yet at this point!

(As a side note, this is a couple doors down from the house where the wire hair terrier barks at me on a daily basis...and even he was outside at this hour, letting me have it! I tell you, my furry nemesis never misses a day!)

Friday was Halloween. On my drive into work in the early morning, I observed Christmas lights actually adorning the deck of an apartment. Clearly, the Christmas spirit has arrived early in Minnesota this year, which can only mean that winter will be upon us soon. :)

That being said, the weather has been gorgeous this week. We have hit 60 for the past few days, and on Thursday we had 72 degrees! It was nice to be able to run in shorts and a light shirt for perhaps one of the last times this year.

This morning I awoke to around 35 degrees, and I did a little more than 7 miles. Very crisp and cool, with frost in the low areas. I got to see a beautiful sunrise on what was a calm day. Even though the wildlife was somewhat quiet today with just a couple of ducks, a coot, and one lone bunny, I saw no people at all; no bikers, runners, or even people walking their dogs. The trails were all mine, and it was a fantastic, spirited scamper around the lake.

Not much on the agenda. I am just kind of decompressing from a busy week at the office. Aside from the run this morning and some grocery shopping, I have no plans but to do some cooking and watch sports. And that is how weekends should be!

Until next time,

Jean

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