Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday report

I'm checking in with two tidbits of good news:

1) We went to a wonderful wedding last night in Minneapolis. It was big--maybe 300 people?--but the bride and groom made it feel very personal, and there were tons of family and friends and love and good spirits. There were also tons of friends from our alma mater, which Josh and I share with the bride and also the groom's parents.  We went to a small college where it was easy sometimes to grouch about feeling like everyone knows your business.  But the upside of spending four years in a close-knit community is that the ties are so close-knit.  It makes these weddings so much fun, like a college reunion weekend.  A lot of us still live in the Twin Cities, but many others live all over the world, so it is extra-special for everyone to see so many people at a wedding like this. 

I mean, check out the picture below of alumni in attendance.  I think there were easily 45 alumni there, including some friends who missed the photo.

2) This feels like the best kind of Sunday so far. I found a recipe for baked ziti with summer vegetables while flipping through Cooking Light this morning and set off to gather ingredients, stopping first to wander around the farmer's market in downtown St. Paul to get basil and then over to the less-mellow Super Target for the rest. Upon return, I sat down to read the Sunday paper. Some movement by the window caught my eye, and I looked over to see this sight.  The nerve!

Originally, I was going to classify this as bad news, seeing this animal's devil-may-care attitude so boldly exhibited on the window well's ledge.  But I decided that it counts as good news, since if he's munching on hamburger buns that were apparently strewn around the backyard by someone, it means my mint and basil are safe for now!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A mechanical mishap

Today I'll pretend that I am a salacious gossip blogger and open with the following sensational statement:

Miles and Laurel author thrown into police van!

Rats.  The first roadblock to my new gossip blogger voice is that the most salacious font I have is, like, Courier. Bold and big will have to do.

Now I will keep you in suspense for a little bit.

Before the race, blissfully unaware
of what might unfold.
I opened my summer/post-marathon racing season this morning with a duathlon: a 5K run, 14-mile run, then another 5K run.  It's a race I've done three times now, and today I decided that I think I love this race.  It's hosted at a park where I spent several summers as a dutiful gate attendant in high school, and running on the beautiful trails is a treat but also a little dose of nostalgia from all the miles I ran there around the turn of the millenium.  It's a fun, low-key race, and it's limited to 500 people.

I wasn't sure how to approach the run segments, since I apply a no-speedwork policy to my running mileage for a month after a marathon - and thus have done no speedwork since mid-May.  The first 5K of a duathlon is also a tricky thing because it's super easy to forget that you still have an all-out 5K on the other side of the bike, so it works best for me to try to hold back some energy for that second run.  I started out comfortably hard.  If my legs could've talked, they would've been chirping the classic Minnesotan "Oh, that's different!"  After the first few minutes, though, I started to feel like I was at a good, strong effort.  Whenever I looked down at my Garmin in the last two miles, I'd see a pace in the mid-7:xx range, which is off my 5K PR pace but not by much.  I was really happy with this and booked it into the transition zone to hop on my bike.

Between marathon training and marathon recovery, I didn't spend as much time on the bike this spring as I would've liked, so my expectations for this section weren't too high.  It felt good, though.  I was motoring along and feeling comfortable on my aerobars, which help you get into a more aerodynamic position by making your forearms parallel as you grip handlebars that are in the center and farther out above the front wheel.  (They are treacherously scary at first but become very fun and fast with practice.)

Then, four miles in, I started feeling every tiny bump in the pavement on my wheel, which felt strange because I was actually on a section of new pavement.  I knew right away what was happening: a flat tire.  I said a choice couple of words quietly, got flustered for a minute while I figured out what to do, and then cruised to a stop and unclipped from my pedals.  I've flatted before in training but never in a race, and the trouble is, the times I've flatted are so few and far between that I'm embarrassed to admit that it takes me a long time to change a bike tire.  I tinkered with the tire, tube, and the tools I have stashed in a little bag under my seat, to see if I could make the bike rideable to finish the race or at least get back to the start area.

But it became pretty apparent to me that the time it would've taken to fix the tire (a fix that wasn't guaranteed to work, either) would possibly be greater than the walk back to the start area. Either way, I think most triathletes would agree that a flat means the race is over. 

So I started walking back, which was awkward partly because I had bike shoes on, which have a clip on the toe that essentially works like a small heel, except under your toe.  I was also dragging along a bike that did not want to be dragged.  It is surprisingly difficult to push a bike with a flat tire than a bike with two ready-to-go tires.  I walked for probably 20 minutes or so when the last biker passed by...and I knew who would be next.

The sag wagon!!

The sag wagon, which brings up the rear of a race to check for mechanical failures or injuries or just ensures general order and well-being at the back of the pack, was a police minivan. An officer leaned out the window and asked if I was okay.

Two minutes later, my bike was nestled in the trunk of the van and I was cozy in the back seat of the police van, instead of dragging my poor bike through the yards of Anoka County.  We drove slowly (but much faster than my walk) behind the last cyclist and picked up traffic cones for a couple of miles, and the two officers dropped me near my car before they resumed more duties as course marshals for the second run. (Thank you, of course, to the great volunteers out there today and especially to the police officers!)

This is my "Oh, well, what
can you do?" face, I guess.
It occurred to me during my ride in the van that not only was it my first time in the back of a law enforcement vehicle, but it was the first time I've ever not finished a race.  Between skiing, running, cycling, and multisport events, I must have finished more than a hundred races since I started in eighth grade, right?  It definitely felt weird.  But besides the momentary inital four-letter-word reaction, I'm not mulling or stewing or over-reacting about it.  Flatting sort of just happens to everyone sometime.  And every time you ride by a cyclist in a race who is frantically working on a flat tire or walking his or her bike, you cringe and think "Man, that's a bummer." But the tire gets fixed, and there are more flat-free bike rides.  All I can really do is move onto the next race and cross my fingers that I don't start a DNF streak.

Um...are they eyes?

As an aside, I want to share the t-shirts from this race.  This race company puts on a lot of local events, and they must have hired a new t-shirt designer this year.  Whoever it is, I'm getting a kick out of his or her work.  In the spring, I ran a 10K called "Jump to it 10K" and the t-shirts were bright orange with a green frog with big googley frog eyes on the front.  Today I got an even kookier souvenir (see right).

After the race, I had plans for pancakes at Mom and Dad's house, which also served as really good motivation during my walk. Right away, Mom said, "How did it go!?" and I said, "I didn't even finish! I got a flat tire and walked back until I rode in the police car!" She took a look at me, deduced I wasn't utterly distraught, and burst out laughing. Pancake time!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Flopping around in the water

Along with promising not to post loads of food pictures, I promise not to post too many inane details of my workouts. I have four triathlons on my calendar for the summer and the Chicago Marathon in the fall, and most of my workout log comments range somewhere between the scintillating "felt tired" to the thrilling "felt good!" I'll spare you from that, I swear.

But last night, I had a very pleasant swim. It was one of those workouts where you feel so comfortable and relaxed that you just want to add on a little more...and then a little more after that. I loved it.

I wanted to write about that because this has been a long process.  As a triathlon coach I know says, swimming is my third-best sport. My well-intentioned mom signed me up for swimming lessons in the next town over when I was a kid, and I failed Level 2 over and over, until my Level 2 classmates started to get so young that I felt really sheepish.

(And there's no neat segue for this story, but it must be told. I have also never been a fan of lake swimming, primarily because of my oddly deep fear of weeds and the things that lurk within them. One summer, my friend Sara was also training for a triathlon, and she coaxed me into doing an open water swim with her for practice.  We went to Lake Nokomis a lake that shall remain nameless on a gorgeous weekend morning and waded into the deep end of the public swimming area. I was scared, but started to get more comfortable with each step out. "I'm feeling good!" I remember telling Sara, and got ready to put my face in the hip-deep water and start the freestyle laps. Then, an arm's length away from me, I saw this thing poking out of the water. It was a muskie head, attached to a huge muskie body, and he was downright leering at me with his nasty teeth. Obviously, I ran screaming out of the water, with Sara running and screaming a second behind me, and we sat on the beach and watched this odd fish cruise around with its head above water for a long time. I have not gone swimming in that lake since then. I do not sign up for triathlons that involve this lake.)

I've probably done 8-10 triathlons, but for the first handful, I'd freak out in every swim. The swim was always a long and terrifying and frustrating exercise in flopping around in the water in a full panic before settling down enough to get the swim done on my back or on my side, so I wouldn't have to put my face in the water. My main swimming goal became minimizing the duration of the freak-out.

Obviously, that's not really conducive to even marginal triathlon success.  A couple of years ago, I started visiting the pool more to build up my skills and endurance, but staring at a black line at the bottom of the pool lap after lap isn't really adequate practice for swimming in a lake with dozens or hundreds of people kicking around you. That comfort tolerance just came with practice for me.  Finally, last year, in my last two triathlons of the season, I was over the moon that I finished the swims without freaking out at all. My last triathlon was my first Olympic-distance triathlon, and finishing the mile-long swim, freestyle the whole way and feeling happy, is one of my proudest athletic achievements of my life. I came out of the water and started running toward the transition to the bike, saw my mom on the sidelines, pumped my fist and yelled in the most corny way possible, "I did it, Mom!"

By no means would I even call myself a strong swimmer yet, by the way. But each summer, I hope I'm getting a little bit closer.  I hope I'd even pass Level 2 now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vicious predators

Photos charting my plants' progress (or lack thereof) don't count as food pictures, do they?

Ever since I set my pots outside, I have been dealing with a ferocious enemy who presumably only does damage under the cloak of darkness.  I have not been able to catch him in the act.  But several mornings every week, when I step outside to nurture the herbs, I see his handiwork and then get really frustrated for such an early hour.

I've even started elevating the plants to higher locations, to no avail.  Look at what I found today:

The camera doesn't quite do justice, but an Animal (I have my eye on you, Squirrel) has been rooting around in the pots--not actually eating the basil or mint plants, but what appears to be just digging for the sake of digging.  Then he must gleefully chuck the soil out of the pot and onto the ground or chair, just to rub it in my face.  I'd actually prefer that he at least eat the plants so I can clearly identify a reason for the mischief.

Of course, there are bigger fish to fry in life.  But I would love to get to the bottom of this, especially since this is shaping up to be a summer-long battle.

I'd like to end this post on a positive note. In the face of adversity, who keeps truckin' along, (very) slowly but surely?  I love you, Basil.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My new collection

I love children's books.

I could go on and on.  I love young adult fiction, too--in fact, a little dream percolates about writing it someday--but there's a soft spot in my heart for the really young adult fiction: the Cliffords and Madelines and Berenstain Bears.  My own collection is still with my parents: the tattered, dog-eared, mangled pages.  I got my first copy of a favorite childhood book last week, and then struck gold over the weekend, in a separate incident.

The book I bought last week was A Chair For My Mother, which is about a family who regroup after their apartment burns.  (Typing this out makes it sound like a surprisingly mature theme.)  The mother works very hard to rebuild financially, and she and her daughter save their spare change in a big old jar to someday buy a comfy chair for the mother to sit in after her long shifts.  Anyway, I've preserved the image of the chair that they eventually buy (see, a happy end!) as one of the most truly beautiful pieces of furniture I could ever see in my life.  Is it?  Looking at the picture of the chair now, I'll spare you the truth.  But part of my love for these books is because my interpretation of those stories and characters were completely frozen back in the late '80s, so I get a little peek at how I saw the world at that age. As an aside, after I bought that book, Amazon suggested Miss Rumphius, another major childhood classic in my home, so I should probably let them know that something in their recommender algorithm is working real well.

So I added A Chair For My Mother to my bookshelf just days before Sunday, when a gigantic garage sale set up shop in our neighborhood--and what's even kookier, it was advertised as free, free, free.  (I guess that just skips straight to the point that somebody's junk is usually still, well, junk even if it gets a new home, right?) Obviously, it called for investigation. 

The usual assortment of weird stuff was present (I later learned that my brother claimed the prize of a new doorknob) but right in the middle were cardboard boxes full of children's books.  Oh, it was wonderful!  I knelt down to check out the scene, and mixed with fabulously outdated sports and cultural tomes were some of my old favorites: a Clifford, a Little Critter gem called Just Me and My Little Brother and James and the Giant Peach.  The best one, though, is a book known in our family as "Mr. Plumbean" (after the main character) but actually called The Big Orange Splot.  This book, upon modern review, was written in 1977, presumably by a total hippie.  It's about this guy who teaches his neighborhood to appreciate diversity and individuality when he chooses to paint his house totally wacky colors, and his neighbors eventually follow suit with their own zany paint jobs.  My family loves this one.  Daniel Manus Pinkwater, if you stumble across Miles and Laurel in your own leisure reading: two major thumbs up.

I also went home with this gift, a piece of literature that seems decidedly not for children based on the preview I read on the inside cover:

What's that sound? Oh, it's just "Freshman Scandal"
sidling past actually good books in my summer queue.
Later, I moved on to admiring Stacey McGill's fashion sense and Elizabeth Wakefield's journalism skills, wondering if my life in high school would be like theirs.  (In a word: no.) But for lots of nights of bedtime reading, I just admired Mr. Plumbean's neighborhood in The Big Orange Splot: "Then all the people would say, 'Our street is us, and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams.'"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Taking pictures of food

Here is a typical exchange when I show my significant other a camera full of food photos:

Me: "Look at these beautiful foods!  Aren't they so beautiful?"
Him, politely: "Oh, nice food."

Needless to say, he does not share my curiosity about food photography. There is monster backlash in foodie circles about bloggers snapping photos at a restaurant table with their camera phone, and I get that.  (Also, I am also probably too shy to actually do that in real life.) But get me next to a pile of fruits or vegetables, or my own cooking projects, and I go a little crazy.  I think there's something so tremendously beautiful about the different colors of vegetables and fruits all mixed together, and the fact that gardens here seem to spend six months under a pile of snow might have something to do with my enthusiasm. 

I promise, promise to spare you from copious amounts of photos from summer farmer's market hauls.  But today I picked up our weekly CSA box (which comes to St. Paul from a farm two hours south of here) and couldn't resist.  There were some of my late-spring favorites: sugar peas and green beans and good salad mix. That wasn't what got me running for my little camera, though.

I'll share just one teeny picture, of the teeniest, sweetest little strawberries I could ever hope to see:

Oh, look! I stumbled across these berries in this grass!
Wash and eat.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Last night, my dad and I met at Target Field for what has become an annual tradition of catching a Twins game together.  This usually happens in May or June because his birthday falls in one month and Father's Day in the other.  My dad and I have loved the Twins for a very long time.  Most summer nights, I fell asleep to the game broadcast on the little radio next to my bed, and on the sporadic nights that the game was on network television, I would plunk myself in front of the TV with a Twins t-shirt, Twins pennant, and Twins teddy bear (and even sometimes my glam Twins earrings) as though good luck charms could propel the Twins to a W.  

Dad taught me how to score the games on a little yellow notepad and taught me the seven ways a batter could get on base. We didn't actually go to the Metrodome that often--if memory serves me, once or twice a season--but whenever Dad went with his friends and came home after I had gone to bed, I'd find a little Twins bat or a Kirby bear sitting on my desk in the morning. We've seen the Twins through very good times and very bad times, from the bottom of the AL West to the top of the AL Central.

One of the fun things about being some semblance of a grown-up is being able to take your dad out to the ballgame and start to balance out all of the times he brought you there.  Dad usually takes the train in from the suburbs and I take the bus, and we meet at Gate 6 at Target Field.  The tickets are either a birthday or Father's Day gift, but he insists on paying for the ice cream cones (with sprinkles) in the fifth or sixth inning.

Last night, for the first time in person, in all of the years we've been Twins fans, we both witnessed the bane of baseball schedules: the rainout.  It was raining when I got on the bus to Minneapolis, raining when I walked up to Gate 6, and raining as we watched the grounds crew tend to the tarp from a cozy, dry, wonderful spot in the stadium.  We chatted and caught up, talked about family, talked about baseball, took bets on whether the game would be played.  After an hour, the game got called: there would be no baseball that night. 

Sad faces for the rainout announcement.
 Dad headed back to the train, and I headed back to St. Paul. We'll keep our tickets and wait for the makeup game in August or September.  After all, another trip to Target Field with Dad is never, ever a bad thing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A snail's pace

Today I attended a local nonprofit's volunteer orientation. I left the session feeling like I had learned a lot about this fantastic organization, and I also left feeling inspired and excited to get started with my duties--although it's probably a bad sign if a volunteer orientation doesn't   leave you feeling that way.  I believe strongly in the nonprofit's mission and am eager to play a role, however small, in making it happen.

I found myself thinking, I wish I would've known about this a long time ago, and then admitted that it had been on my radar for at least two years and maybe more, when I first learned of a colleague applying the same job skills I had to this volunteer opportunity.  It took me another year of deciding that it was just about time to file my volunteer application before I actually dropped it in the mailbox.  But there I was today, watching a videotape about the organization and feeling like a bozo for not taking action sooner.

And what makes my cheeks turn red is that I've ignored this lesson in the past.  For two years, I have been a mentor in a youth program with a physical fitness component.  I would, without exaggeration, call it life-changing and would also call it one of the most rewarding experiences that the last few years have held for me. Yet filling out that volunteer application also took a full year of seeing this program advertised at events, and that was the first experience where I really felt silly that my hemming and hawing about making the commitment had taken so long.

By now, the reader is probably urging me to get to the point and quit dawdling, which I find kind of ironic.  In some ways, my indecision has been healthy, because committing to something on an uninformed whim is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.  The absolute worst thing, I still believe, would've been to commit to a mentoring relationship, build trust, and then back out a few months later because of the time or challenge.  If I jumped on board every time I heard about a nonprofit doing good work in my neighborhood (or a kooky Community Ed class or neat triathlon club), I'd end up full of commitments to which I wasn't doing justice--the breadth, if you will, but not the depth.

But for all that time I spent mulling-but-not-acting, what did I have to lose?  Once I decided that I truly believed in the organizations I wanted to join, what was holding me back? The thought of trading a few weeknights per month and the boundaries of a cozy comfort zone?  We're talking about a two handfuls of hours per month here. I hope that as I get older, I'm able to sort out these types of decisions more readily, with quicker recognition of what is a good fit for my skill set and my values.

There's a crystal-clear test lurking in my short-term future, and it's utterly unrelated to social justice but serves as the potential hat trick for my mulling-but-not-acting tendencies.  There's a running club based in Minneapolis that looks great, and I've kept the club's flier for two years in my reference file pile.  Seriously, it says 2009 on it. I've held back for a number of reasons in the past: their workouts might not match my training schedule, I don't know anyone there, it's kind of far away (20 minutes), and of course, it might be hard.  Now that I've documented this habit in writing, it's time to break it. This summer, I'll join the darn running club, and I will keep my eyes open for other ideas that leave me feel like treading water with floaties on my arms instead of swimming.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The results!

It's midday Sunday and we've already deemed the project successful, which is some sort of achievement in itself.  Josh and I are now the proud owners of a black metal patio set.  This is how it all unfolded.

On Saturday morning, we walked around the neighborhood and ended up at the local hardware store, where we bought a wire brush, sandpaper, and two cans of black spray paint, plus a mint plant for me.  I have been coaxing a pot of basil from seed, and the plant just started to pop out of the soil.  I've become very protective of this little plant, ever since a squirrel or some other animal gobbled up my pot full of marigold seeds.  Buying the mint plant for a mere $2.49 seems a lot more productive but also feels a little bit like cheating.  I mean, in this picture, the basil (left) is on day, like, 12, and this is day 1 (to me) for the mint:

Anyway, we scraped and sanded and sanded some more, until the chips of silver paint had fallen away.  Has anyone in the world ever found that a home-related project took less time than previously anticipated?  I think the inevitable answer is no.  I learned that it takes longer to sand down six chairs and a table than you might guess, and it also takes a lot more spray paint than you might guess.  My hands are so thoroughly exfoliated from the sandpaper that I'm not sure if I'll never want a manicure again or am in desperate need of one.

Note that after all of my references to
nurturing my poor, frail basil plant,
it was used as a doorstop!!
Two more trips to replenish the paint supply later, we were making real progress.  Josh tackled painting the table while I finished sanding the chairs, and we split the chairs.  As previously mentioned, this was the first home project we've taken on together, and honestly,we had fun with it.  There was just one minor communication breakdown, when the good intentions behind "Honey, are you sure you won't spraypaint the nearby cars accidentally?" went unrecognized.  As soon as the table's finished product started to emerge, I started to get really excited:


And by lunchtime, it was done.  We got some tomato-red cushions at Target on clearance last week that I'll put on as soon as the paint is all dry.  I'm so excited to spend breakfasts and dinners outside through the summer and as long into the fall as I can stand. Friends and family, consider this your al fresco invitation for dinner. 

The before and after view, recreated to show contrast:

Happy days!

Friday, June 10, 2011

This weekend

In the name of accountability, I am posting this afternoon to note that Josh and I will attempt our first home-related project this weekend (well, besides actually moving).  We had the good fortune of coming into a patio furniture set this weekend--not new, but new-to-us.  We love it for lots of reasons, but it needs a new coat of paint.  The trouble is that we are not real fussy and are sort of content to just lounge in it on our patio rather than renovate it.  On the first night we got the furniture and ate dinner outside, the sky looked like this:

Here is the furniture now:

You will note Josh sitting in the upper-right corner of the photo
and a small cameo by my pot of basil, too.
And next time I talk about it, it will be black!  I think.  Wish us luck.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Driving a car (or lack thereof)

It's somewhat fitting that my car decided that an impromptu trip to the shop was just the ticket yesterday, because it's Bike/Walk to Work Week in the Twin Cities. Many friends and family know I am pretty disinterested in driving my car, a sweet little 2000 Mazda Protege that really doesn't deserve any ill will or neglect. I know many people who have cars either simply enjoy driving or correctly choose to drive to work via a cost-benefit analysis. It's just that it feels kind of strange to depend on a car when most days of the week, it's not a necessity to me, given where I am both in life stage (no children) and neighborhood (more on this below). Given a choice, I'm usually walking or biking.

In December, the alternator went out the day before a work trip to California. Most sensible people would have dropped it in the shop and retrieved it upon return, but I waited until April, when my dad started asking me gently if I was still paying insurance on it (yes) and also when Josh and I completed the painstaking (but now funny) task of charging my battery multiple times for the mile-long trip to the repair shop and pushing my car with his car when that didn't work.

My car has been back in action ever since, but during its hiatus, I got used to walking or busing home from work this winter, and Josh and I grew to actually enjoy the drive together in the morning.  I am lucky to live in a neighborhood with well-maintained and constant sidewalk presence, bike lanes on the major route to work, and a dependable bus line that drops me three blocks from my front door. Of course, once I got my car back, I slid back into the comfortable routine of driving when post-work social engagements or errands presented themselves, instead of being creative about how to walk/bike/bus myself there.

On Tuesday, the hottest day in Minnesota since 1988, I was cruising along the St. Paul streets en route to an ice cream cone.  My car had been making a finicky squealing noise for the past couple of weeks, and it had worsened to the point that I was planning to be proactive reasonable and actually take it into the shop to get it checked.  As I was driving, I noticed that the battery light had flashed on. "Oh, it's just hot out," I thought, glancing at the temperature gauge to confirm that I was okay. Two minutes later, the temperature gauge meter was waving way at the top, at the hottest part.  Oh, bugger.  I pulled into my parking spot at home without stalling or incurring any other noticeable mishaps and was in for the night, with plans to drive it to the repair shop in the morning if the battery light was still on.

The next morning, I jumped into my car, which still had the battery light flashing but started up cheerfully. I even noticed on the way to the shop that the squealing had stopped, and I identified that as a serendipitous little silver lining and a sure sign that things would be okay. The mechanic told me that I definitely shouldn't drive on it, they'd run a diagnostic check, and would let me know the course of action later in the day.

Later, my phone rang, and the man informed that my belt had stopped squealing, well, because it had plain ol' fallen off.

Some car intuition I've got, huh?  Anyway, the car's fixed now, and that small misjudgment is in the rearview mirror. (Yes, I went there.) The thing is, part of knowing me (and by extension, Miles and Laurel, which sort of makes Miles and Laurel sound like alteregos) is to know that I derive a lot of joy out of walking the streets of my neighborhood. A walk home energizes me and lets me people-watch and neighborhood-watch in a different way than when I run, and definitely in a different way than when I drive. I am grateful to be in a place where I love both my work and my home, and very lucky that they (along with  friends, the library, the gym, and the local Target) are within an easy walk, bike, or bus.  But I hope from now on that I'll know the signs for when the belt's about to break, too.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sweat and so on

Remember when I was warbling about how gorgeous the springy weather was over the weekend?  As people say in Minnesota, wait an hour and the weather will change.  (I actually dislike that expression because I feel like people say that in a lot of cities.) Today my alarm went off at 6 a.m. for my run--the first back-to-back days of running since the marathon--and I pulled up the current conditions on my phone, only to learn that it was already 81 degrees.  Ouch!!  I'm hoping this blog will chronicle my cheerful and fruitful maturation into a gutsy hot-weather runner this summer, but I'm sooo not there right now.  Take a temperature above 65 and add a splash of humidity to the air, and I start to wilt.  Over the course of five sloggy miles this morning, I realized that my heart rate was 40 (40!) beats per minute higher than it would normally be at that pace in more typical weather.  So, I threw in a smattering of walk breaks, which turned into more leisurely walk breaks up the hill on St. Clair by 35E.  Does anyone remember the little "mood" emoticons one could select on MySpace for each entry?  I think mine this morning would've been some hodge-podge of a red face, sweat and a wavy line for a mouth to show my displeasure.

Bottom line: I'm finally cooled down, but the mercury might hit 100 today, and that means it's an ice cream kind of night...or at the very least, watermelon.  As someone told me over the weekend, it's the kind of weather where you gotta stay liquidated!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Spring, spring, spring

In Minnesota, the weather this spring left much to be desired--especially on the weekends.  As soon as Friday afternoon came around, it felt like clouds rolled in every week, leaving Saturday and Sunday damp and cool and even rainy for what felt like every single weekend.  That's good long run weather, so it didn't get me down too much, since I was logging miles on most Saturday mornings and spending a lot of Saturday afternoons planted on the couch in various stages of slumber.  But it definitely wreaked havoc on the spring sports schedules for the colleges around here and also for the general public's recreation and traditional emergence from a long, long winter inside. 

All of this context is necessary to convey how gorgeous today was.  The stats: 82 and not humid with partly cloudy skies and a light breeze.  My great friend Ellie and her boyfriend Andrew were in town for Reunion, and Ellie wanted to head over to Lake Calhoun, part of the Twin Cities gem known as the Chain of Lakes.  There's a massive trail system around all of the lakes and the Mississippi River, so you can make a 30-mile loop around the Twin Cities on bike trails, and each of the lakes (Harriet, Calhoun, and Isles) have a distinct little personality. 

Josh loved the dogs in particular and
snuck a photo with my camera.

One thing's for sure: Calhoun draws the crowds.  Today, with the perfect weather, there were hundreds and hundreds of people laying out on the grass and beach, dozens of dogs chasing tennis balls and splashing around by the lake's shore, and tons of beach volleyball games going back and forth. 

We walked over to Lake Harriet to get ice cream at the bandshell's concession area, which is named Bread and Pickle and is so much nicer than the concession stands of my youth.  It also featured an enticing list of some of my favorite treats:

Ellie and I both got vanilla ice cream--the wonderful kind with vanilla bean flecks--and the four of us sat on a picnic table in the sun.  Here's a peek at what Harriet looked like today:

We finished the walk, jumped in the car, and waited in a long line of cars crawling along Calhoun Parkway--no surprise, given the number of people actually hanging out in and near the lake.  There's one hill on the parkway, and as we crept up it, I saw a view of Calhoun glittering in the sun framed by the leafy trees.  I never thought I'd actually see that again, I thought dramatically, remembering all of the miles around the lake in the fall and winter and cold spring.  Josh obliged my request to open the driver's side window to try to get it on camera, for memory's sake.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It is so. much. fun.

I attended a small college, which I will nobly attempt to keep anonymous, but odds are good that I'll spill the beans within the month.  Much of my life and identity are still tied to this place.  Today, though, I experienced seeing Reunion unfold in front of me, in a totally different way than when I attended Josh's five-year party with him last year.

For the afternoon, I volunteered at the check-in table for the Class of 1961's 50th Reunion.  My job was to hand out welcome packets, and it was quiet for an hour or two.  But then alumni starting coming in, people whose freshman year of college was 1957, and the stories came out in full force, covering the trip back to Minnesota, their families, and of course, their college days.  (How we managed to do this efficiently during the dance of ticket and information exchange, I'm not sure.  Maybe I'm not welcomed back next year!) 

One trio of women confessed that, along with five more of their closest pals, they had left their husbands at home for the weekend to (for lack of a better phrase) party with their best friends.  Later, they planned to go over to the Green Mill, a nearby restaurant that they say used to be a much seedier bar, to revisit their old stomping grounds.  They used to go there regularly to sing ("not dirty songs, just songs!" one clarified), and one woman, well, did end up dancing on the bar one night.

That was a big contrast to my conversation with another alumna a few minutes later.  She had flown in from the west coast, walked into the check-in area alone, and admitted that she had little sense of who would be attending and that she had actually lost touch with most of her classmates.  I wondered for a second: would I have the guts to fly halfway across the country to show up at my alma mater, 50 years after I received my diploma, without the security blanket of my closest friends?  But extrapolating the answer to that question isn't the point of this blog entry.  The bottom line is that it was so cool to watch her head back into the sitting room and be surrounded right away by people who recognized her face and knew her name before she prompted them.

By the end of the afternoon, I was downright enthusiastic about my reunion, which starts tomorrow night.  It would've been hard not to be, after hearing the Class of 1961 scream and shriek and seeing them hug each other.  I mentioned to two women that my own five-year reunion was this weekend, too, and that being around their classmates had really made me excited.  There was a tiny pause and then both women burst out laughing. 

"Five?  Five?!" one said. 

"Gosh, we're 10 times that!" said the other.

Later, a member of the girls' weekend crew came back to the table to ask another question.  As she was leaving, she looked at me and said:

"Don't ever be scared to be my age, because it is so. much. fun."