Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday afternoon

A very good Sunday in my book usually includes an afternoon nap. Luckily, the little wolf is 100 percent on board with this idea.

We are rested and ready to start the week. What about you, Reader? If you are in Minnesota, did you enjoy the spectacular weather? Wish and I went for a long and leisurely walk this morning, and we were both loving the perfecto temperature - and the leaves, too, although he mostly just enjoys sniffing them. To each his or her own!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The second to last 20

This morning, about 18 miles into my run, I realized that today's 20-miler is the second to last time I will run 20 miles or more in 2012. (The last one, of course, I'm planning for my marathon in three weeks and one day.) I found it amusing that I was feeling a tad sentimental about this, considering the amount of time I had spent dawdling early in the morning before getting out the door.

Before I left, I'd told Josh my planned route, and his (sleepy) response was, "Oh, you'll like the scenery on that one!" He knows me well, Reader. I had rigged up a route that made use of one tried and true winner (the river road) as well as one of my new route discoveries from a couple of weeks ago: over to Fort Snelling, with a loop around Pike Island inside the state park.

When the fall colors are this good, I can't help but tuck my camera into my fuel belt. Here's the Mississippi River, with the Minneapolis skyline in the top right corner:

The run was broken up nicely into four or five distinct sections, which I like to do for all of my long runs if I can help it. I've only run at Pike Island once before, for a race. It's truly a wonderful trail, tucked no more than 15 minutes away from the airport, the Mall of America, and probably downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis, too. The trail (between three and four miles, I think) is a dirt path that winds around the outside perimeter of the island, so it would be very hard to get lost. (Another definite bonus in my book.) It also struck a good balance between being quiet and peaceful but seeing enough people out there to feel safe. I would love to bring Wish out there for a walk.

I was kind of captivated by this tree. Both of 'em:

That's not the river, though - it was part of a little pond in the middle of the island:

This is a view of the river:

For parts of the run, I could see across the river, and I was actually looking straight toward the Big Rivers Regional Trail I discovered recently on the other side of the river - but of course, it felt like a completely different place.

Other parts of the trail wound through the woods, and I really liked the sun on the bright green leaves on the river banks, shining through the darker tree silhouettes:

I am so happy that I explored this trail in the fall first. It was gorgeous.

Another highlight happened near the end of my run, when I was out of the wilderness and working my way through the neighborhoods toward home and the can of root beer I was dreaming about procuring. (This is two 20-milers in a row, by the way, that I have finished with a hankering for root beer. I also felt this after the Chicago Marathon last year. I need to remember to pack a little can of root beer in my bag for my marathon this fall.)

Anyway, this guy was running toward me with his hand up in a wave, but for a prolonged moment. A couple of days ago, I saw two guys who were running on Summit Avenue high-five each other, and I spent a few minutes imagining whether they were friends or total strangers. So that's where my mind went: Is this dude going for a high-five? The trouble is, everything takes a little longer to process after 17 miles or so, and I put all the pieces together a little too late. I raised my hand in a wave (I usually nod or say hello, but a wave isn't totally weird) but stopped short of the high-five, missing it by several totally awkward inches. The guy groaned good-naturedly and I burst out laughing because I knew I had in fact just botched a high-five with a stranger.

Is the high-five between runners a thing now? I obviously need some practice, but I kind of love it!

My last 20-miler of the training cycle is in the books! Let the taper begin!

Friday, September 28, 2012


The highlight of yesterday afternoon's run was seeing the leaves lit up from the sun setting behind them.

I think that's backlighting, isn't it?  Someone who knows more about photography: please correct me. Anyway, these are some of the many views on the River Road overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. Someone was having a leisurely run yesterday. (!!...LEAVES!

It was simply amazing out there.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

This Side of Paradise: A Summit Hill tour

Another neighborhood tour! Can you believe it?!

Recently I read in the newspaper that the Minnesota Historical Society was hosting tours of the Summit Hill neighborhood where F. Scott Fitzgerald grew up in honor of the writer's Sept. 24 birthday. This is the same organization that coordinated the walking tour Nat and I attended back in July, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. I clipped the event listing enthusiastically, posted it on my fridge, begged Natty to come back to Minnesota for the tour (my plea didn't work) and called that week to reserve my place!

(Can you tell, Reader, that there's absolutely no neutrality here? In the last year or so, I've figured out that I simply adore tours - and really, it's no surprise, because the idea fits so nicely with what Miles and Laurel is all about. I love walking around a neighborhood with an expert who tell me all kinds of things about the layers of history behind each place. Some bloggers want to get sponsored by companies that sell running gear or beauty projects or food or whatever. Can I figure out a way to get sponsored by historical societies and then just go on every tour in Minnesota?)

The tour started at the Commodore, a building near the intersection of Western and Summit. There were four tour times available for the weekend, and about 20-25 people had signed up for the early afternoon time slot. We split into two groups and got started.

Scott and his wife, Zelda, lived in the Commodore after being evicted from their White Bear Lake residences because of their raucous parties. Our guide said that his income spiked to coincide with the Jazz Age - a term that Wikipedia says Scott actually coined himself - and Scott and Zelda really lived it up during that era, including a great year in New York. (If the tour had been longer, I would've loved some more elaboration on that year!)

What I didn't realize before the tour was how many places in St. Paul connect to Fitzgerald, his family and his friends. Why is that, you ask? Well, Scott's maternal grandmother invested in real estate and had property around the area, his parents moved frequently, and he also simply just had a fab social life. He was born in St. Paul and left several times for reasons like boarding school, but St. Paul was a nostalgic place for him: after all, he brought Zelda back to St. Paul so their baby could be born here.

The tour was full of stories about how he spent his years in St. Paul, from attending dancing school before he was a teenager in the space on Grand Avenue now occupied by Ramaley Liquors to hanging out with friends on a porch that I run by often.

Here's our guide elaborating on those topics in front of one of his old girlfriend's houses:

Even though the tour covered some of the same ground from the neighborhood walking tour I took with Natty, I was surprised how little content was duplicated. I don't think the other one, for example, mentioned author Sinclair Lewis's former house!

My favorite stop was a building a few steps away from Summit and Dale. He had been away - in New York, I think - and moved back to Minnesota to live with his parents after a bad period of rejection, both personally and professionally. He told everyone he was ready to write a novel, and it sounds like his friends and family essentially smiled and nodded gently in response. He buckled down and wrote all summer in the third floor of their home, posting chapters on the walls, and soon got a letter that This Side of Paradise had been accepted for publication. Take that!

We also walked past some of the schools in the neighborhood, including the early campus of St. Paul Academy - again, close to Summit and Dale. (Excuse the power lines in the photo. Oops.)

I loved this part of the tour, too, because even though Scott was several years older than Coco from Through No Fault of My Own (the book I just read about a girl growing up on Summit during the Jazz Age) the tour connected some of the places Coco references in her diary entries. It felt like puzzle pieces fitting together right in front of me.

It was also fascinating because of what happened to the Summit Hill neighborhood after the Jazz Age hey-day. The whole neighborhood fell into terrible disrepair for many years - in fact, as one person on our tour told our guide, his parents basically called the streets we were walking through off-limits to him growing up because of the crime rate.

It's hard to get my mind around that idea, because today's Summit Hill houses are by and large beautifully restored. Beginning in the 1970s, an era of urban renewal began, and people began investing in the neighborhood again and restoring its houses. Before that time, our guide told us, even some of the houses with Fitzgerald connections could be bought for next-to-nothing, including the place where he wrote This Side of Paradise. I need to learn more about this era in St. Paul's history.

And maybe that's the mark, Reader, of a really good tour: one that simultaneously gives a lot of answers and begs more questions to dig into down the road. Tell me: What's the best tour you've ever taken, and why was it so good?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No surprises here

It's Wordless Wednesday, but if I were to use words, I would suggest that every autumn Wednesday might include a photo having to do with trees and leaves.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Apples to applesauce

You know how you'll scan a recipe (or whatever) in a magazine, and you just can't let go of it? It's like an earworm, ideaworm. I am very prone to this. (Awhile back, I read the words "chocolate chip cookies" in a book and Had To Make Them.) Back in the summer, I read about making applesauce in a crock pot, and I haven't been able to let go of the idea since.

And wouldn't you know it? My route home from the race on Saturday had the option of passing not one but two apple orchards. (My friend Sara's eyes might be flaring at this point in the post because we have a standing orchard date for the fall, after our magnificent trip last year. But rest assured, Sara, that I am still ready to collect more apples, because I didn't actually pick my own on this trip.)

Yes, that's right. After the race, I arrived at Aamodt's Apple Farm in Stillwater full of energy and ready to harvest some apples. But as soon as I got out of the car, even with the sweatshirt and my uber-warm pink fleece, I was still bombarded with the inevitable post-race chill. (It's nothing fancy or dramatic. I just get really, really cold.)

Thus I decided to grab a bunch of apples instead from the orchard's store, which was pretty crowded and pretty cute.

And maybe it was a little bit of a cop-out to pick apples from the comfort of a cozy store instead of venturing into the orchard, but it was still exciting to have this as my option instead of the grocery store:

I selected 17 Haralsons, paid for them and headed back toward the car. I might have ended up with a box of freshly-popped hot kettle corn to take home with me. Oh, my.

The next day, I got to business. I used this recipe, which I had randomly chosen via Google because I liked the ingredient list: eight apples, a cinnamon stick, brown sugar, lemon peel and lemon juice.



Ready for cooking!

Caution: This makes one's home smell like apple pie for the better part of a Sunday afternoon, which makes one actually want apple pie.

The final result? Almost as good as apple pie, especially if your first serving is served hot in a bowl with a little scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top. (It's also good mixed into oatmeal.)

This is just about the easiest project in the world: I chopped the apples, and you don't even have to do that - even if they were just sliced, the apples just break down into applesauce texture over time in the crock pot. I didn't even have to blend it.

I have the feeling this is going to become a regular Sunday routine around Miles and Laurel.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Marvelous Monday: Week 39

Hey! Recognize anyone in this picture?

HA! It's me!

That's my shadow overlooking the Mississippi River on yesterday's run.

Five marvelous things about the weekend and upcoming week: go!

1) I dusted off my sewing machine last night and completed a project that has me bouncing off the walls in excitement. I was talking to Nat earlier in the week and waxing poetic about finding a pair of straight- or skinny-leg cords for fall, because all of my pants seem to be boot-cut. She told me she had stumbled on a blog post about how to convert boot-cut pants into straight/skinny cut pretty easily on the sewing machine. WHAT?! I was intrigued.

I have a general policy of not doing a step-by-step blog post when I am doing projects that I culled from other blog posts already in existence, so again, go over to that post for the full scoop. But here's the abbreviated version:

You place a pair of pants with a narrower-cut leg over the boot-cut pants and pin the line you'd like for your new width. I sewed from the inside seam up to the knee.

And then sew it! (I used a red-orange thread because I didn't want to change the spool just for fun.)

There you have it!

This is really, really marvelous because I did that to another pair of cords and now do not have any desire to buy new pants at all this season.

2) I have been referencing my love of fall weather relating mostly to leaves lately, but it deserves another mention because running is so much more fun now that the temperatures are cooler. The temp was in the upper 30s (with lots of sun) when I started yesterday's run, and it was exceptionally pleasant. And finally some goal paces are feeling attainable instead of lurking loftily in outer space!

3) Reading report: I am working on In the Garden of Beasts, which is a book by Erik Larson about the time leading up to World War II in Germany. He also wrote Devil in the White City (which I was fascinated by) and when I was talking to my dad's cousin a couple of weeks ago, he said that In the Garden of Beasts was better. Both books are in the genre called narrative non-fiction, so they're composed from an enormous amount of historical research but read like fiction. I find this style amazing and admire it to no end. (Don't worry - I did fetch Gone Girl from the library, and that's next. In the Garden of Beasts just arrived first!)

4) The Twin Cities Marathon banners are up in downtown St. Paul! That means the race is almost here.

I'm working with my committee that day in the media tent, not running it, but it's one of my favorite weekends (and events) of the whole year. I believe there are some Miles and Laurel readers participating in the race weekend events, and I'm excited to cheer them on, too!

5) I would call this weekend the one when Wish decided to like watching football on TV, based on this photo. Either that, or the dog is thinking about dinner. Or he has figured out that football equals getting to sit on Josh's head during the game. Either way.

What's marvelous about your Monday, Reader? What are you reading? What is your favorite part of fall? Do share!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Old Dog

Reader, we have art!

Last night, Josh and I went to the Boys and Girls Club fundraiser at Target Field. A key part of this great event is the silent auction, which has an enormous amount of items on which you can bid - including paintings by some of the kids at the area Boys and Girls Clubs.

We were looking through the art, and all of a sudden, we both knew exactly what we wanted in our home: "My Old Dog," a painting by nine-year-old Molly from a Boys and Girls Club in St. Paul.

Josh bid on it - and then upped the bid after he was outbid. And then we won it!

I love everything about it: the old dog, the exclamation point about his head, the signature at the bottom when Molly ran out of room four letters into her name.

We brought it home, and it's going to be featured in a central location. Maybe even in our living room, above the TV:

(Don't worry, that's not an ethereal ghost in the TV - it's just Josh taking off his suit jacket.)

We discussed the possibility of Wish seeing it and ramming his head through the back of the canvas so his face was the featured dog. I'll show you a dog! Luckily, Wish was indifferent.

My Old Dog. I am so thrilled.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jon Francis 8K Race Report

Oh, Reader, I'm afraid I'm becoming a broken record on Miles and Laurel. Clouds! Running! Skies! Leaves! Races!

Well, being that a whopping six days have elapsed since my last race report, I think it's time for another. If it seems to you like I'm racing a lot, you're right. I don't usually schedule this many on my calendar, but I explained a couple of weeks back that my marathon training plan has three weekends for which you run a race on Saturday (between 5-9ish miles, or 8-15 kilometers) before your regular long run on Sunday. This weekend is the second of those three, and I found a race in Stillwater: the Jon Francis Half-Marathon and 8K.

Proceeds from this race go to the Jon Francis Foundation. Jon's name was one I knew back in high school because he was a standout in the Minnesota prep running scene around the time when I was running cross-country. He died in a mountain climbing accident when he was 24, and the foundation is dedicated to supporting wilderness safety education. In a way, it was sobering - that's not quite the word I want, but it comes close - to participate in a memorial race named for someone who was born only a couple of years before you, on a course chosen to include the roads on which he trained for years. But even though I never met Jon Francis, given what I had read on the race website, I thought that he would have loved seeing hundreds of people gathering at beautiful Square Lake Park on a September Saturday morning for a run together - which is exactly what happened.

And indeed the park was gorgeous. I had never been out there before today, but it has a great reputation among Minnesota triathletes for the lake's water quality, which means a triathlon held there every September has always been on my radar.

The lake didn't look so appealing this morning, though. It was cold! 43 and windy, to be specific.

I got there with plenty of time for a long warm-up, so I jogged around some of the roads bordering the park. I wore a long-sleeved quarter-zip black shirt and 3/4-length tights for the race. For my warm-up, I brought along a pink fleece jacket that I basically wear with one or two layers in the most severe of winter weather conditions, so I was being a little dramatic. But when the wind was in my face, I have to admit that I didn't mind having that jacket along.

The views from the warm-up, I'd like to note, were lovely. Lots and lots of golden cornfields:

I love the light against the birches in this photo. Doesn't it say fall?

The race started a few minutes after 9:00, and the 8K (my race) and the half-marathon fields were together for the first three miles or so on a course that included both paved and dirt roads. (My first time racing on dirt roads since the Pork Chop Trot!) My pacing was, in a word, erratic. The hills were rolling, and I'd feel like I was trudging up a long incline, especially the ones on the softer dirt roads. But then we'd zoom along a gradual downhill for what felt like ages. I had no idea what my final time would end up being, or how I would feel at that point.

But - whew - I crossed the finish line feeling good, and my Garmin tells me I averaged a 7:43 pace per mile, which is consistent with other recent races and speedwork. I probably need to sprinkle some more hills into my miles for the last few weeks of training, but overall, thumbs-up.

And a thumbs-up to this event, too. I so wish I could have run the longer distance instead as part of my weekend long run, because I would've loved to explore more of that course! The volunteers were wonderful, the course was clearly marked, and the post-race food and drinks were great. (My favorite cheer from a volunteer was a man who said, "'Morning!" like he and I had just crossed paths on a stroll.)

Not to mention the fact that we got participation ribbons! Sweet, sweet, sweet.

Don't worry - I didn't race in the super-winter fleece jacket.
Okay, you got me. I really did to show you the ribbon, but I also wanted to show you that orange tree behind me!!

Bottom line: There are so many great events around the Twin Cities at this time of year, and this is one of them. I will keep this one on my list for next fall - the half-marathon next time!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A lost bid

I got this email yesterday and actually felt a pang of disappointment.

And then I brought my smartphone into the room where Josh was sitting and I said woefully, "I bid on something and lost!" I handed him the smartphone and got to hear him mumble "Jester...scrunchie collar...bells and skulls!?" out loud to himself.

Happy Friday to everyone, including my dog, who doesn't know that he just missed out on the chance to wear a scrunchie collar for Halloween.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Night at the museum

I used to travel a lot for work, especially in the fall, and one of the many takeaways from that experience - in addition to a precise ranking of my favorite Hampton Inn breakfasts - was how to get around completely by myself. (I'm sure I've written about this before, but it's teeing up the story of my evening, okay?) Part of that was the actual logistics: carrying a folder full of Google maps, navigating different regions of the United States in a rental car, and mapping out a schedule for each day that would fit everything in. But another part was learning, more broadly, about how to be an independent traveler on her own for long stretches of time. I grew comfortable with going to a restaurant on my own and carving out sightseeing during sporadic windows of free time alone.

That lesson has been a valuable one, and it stayed with me. Even without that travel schedule now, while I obviously love spending time with the great people in my life, I also quite like time spent puttering around town solo: checking out movies, exhibits, the farmers market, and so on.

Tonight was just one of those nights. My friend (and M&L reader) Katie had given me a heads-up, based on my love of Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, that tonight was Third Thursday: TypoGraphic at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. (Love, love, love tips and recs that come from things I post on this blog. Thanks, Katie!)

Every Thursday, the museum stays open until 9 p.m., and there are fun themes every third week. This month's was the result of a partnership with AIGA Minnesota, basically a professional association for design. There was a pop-up exhibit featuring some of the organization's award winners, a printing studio, a public font creation project, and so on. It was really neat to see the award-winning design projects collected in the span of a few tables. It was a great way to learn more about design - not just seeing billboards and magazine spreads and television ads every day, but in an intentional space showcasing some top-notch work. Super cool.

What turned out to be my favorite part of the evening, though, happened when I got to the museum a little earlier than I expected. I had brought a book in case I wanted to sit outside and read, but then the little lightbulb went off in my head. Hello! You are at an amazing art museum, open for visitors, to which you rarely go. Only you would think about reading a book instead of going into the museum.

As it turns out, a museum such as the MIA is the perfect place to let your mind wander and wonder and stretch. I felt more creative just being in that space.

I perused all kinds of art, from all different eras and places. Sometimes I paid attention to the context next to the art. I love the tidbits each card reveals, like this one:

The figure it's talking about, the man in the red coat, is a pretty key feature of the painting. I tried to imagine the thought process behind adding him in, two hundred years after the original was finished. You know what this painting could really use? A man in a red coat.

Other times I looked around at the museum itself:

The light and layout are just gorgeous.

All this beautiful space, about a mile away from bustling downtown Minneapolis!

It was a really nice way to spend a Thursday evening: a little out-of-the-ordinary but still relaxing, a quiet place to see hundreds of years of creative work from all over the world in one space.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's starting!

Fall doesn't officially start until Saturday, but along the Mississippi River, the fall colors are really starting to accelerate. I have been watching the sumac leaves change very gradually, and in the last week or so, they've really started to resemble the colors of Fruit Stripe Gum. Does anyone besides me remember that stuff? Red, yellow, green.


This morning was dark, dark, dark. I tried to snap some more photos of the sumac, but they are all feeble and blurry because I didn't want to use a flash.

But here's one more leaf picture, just for good measure. Because it's Wednesday? If you are new to Miles and Laurel, you should know right away that I'm deeply fond of fall leaves.


Consider this the first installment of many-many leaf-related thoughts yet to come.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I resolve... use our mantel more. (If that's not a cue that a terribly dramatic post is about to unfold, I'm not sure what else I need to do.)

And yes, I just had to look up its proper spelling of mantel. That just shows how underused this piece of real estate in our home is!

Sure, it holds our TV. And a music box that plays "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" when you twist it up, a gift from my grandparents from a long, long time ago. (I love that music box.) And last winter, it held a basket of scented pinecones.

But as I learn more about how I'd like to decorate my home, I need to really get the proper mileage out of this mantel. I've been chopping away at paper with a pair of scissors for another craft project anyway (more details on this later, perhaps) and got this brainstorm yesterday. It took all of five minutes!

I have to concede that it must not have been too helpful, because the Broncos lost their football game last night. But I would like to swap out this message regularly! Even before the holidays come around and I can deck the mantel with stockings, garland, leaves, gourds, etc., the possibilities are endless:

Honestly, even though I was the one who made the sign, it still brought me a little cheer when I opened the front door after work that day. It's the little things.

What three-word pep talk would you most like to see on the mantel?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Marvelous Monday: Week 38

This week is starting out in a marvelous way, especially because I haven't had to google "my dog ate part of a baseball" yet in Week 38.  Sigh. Wish is fine. I don't know how we're going to make our home baseball-free, but it's going to happen.

Anyway, here are five more marvelous tidbits:

1) Josh and I have stocked up on a bunch of soup staples, and as I was browsing recipes over the weekend, I realized I had every ingredient except sweet potatoes already on hand for a crockpot soup recipe. (I love when that happens, mostly because I'm not too many years removed from having to go to the store and buy every single ingredient for a recipe whenever I wanted to cook.) Eight hours later: Jamaican Pumpkin Soup! Like the author says, it is really good with a little drizzle of whipping cream.

Other recipes last week: the black bean dip from yesterday, which I will definitely make for parties (or for myself) many times in the future, and another pumpkin-black bean soup. This week I will work on the Moosewood vegetarian chili that we love. (We eat a lot of soup in the fall.)

Also, can you tell I am trying to go to the grocery store only once this week?

2) Reading report: I am wrapping up The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang. She writes about her family's experience, from their journey from Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand to arriving in the United States (St. Paul, actually) several years later. The Twin Cities has the second-highest Hmong population in the U.S., and I wish I had read this book a long time ago, because I am learning so much. I recommend it to anyone.

Next up: Gone Girl is waiting for me at the library!

3) There are exciting things coming up this week: Twin Cities Marathon prep with my committee, dinner with a friend, a possible trip to a museum and another race this weekend. Also, all of this is happening with the backdrop of fall, which I love!

4) There's a lot that will happen between now and Halloween (going to Montreal, running a marathon, etc.), but the seasonal switch has me considering what I might do for Halloween: for the Gray Ghost 5K, for the home, and, um, for the dog.

5) After a long time resisting it, I have officially leapt onto the Greek yogurt bandwagon. (Just what you were coming to Miles and Laurel to read, right?)  I love Chobani with fruit! I love the protein! That's all.

What is marvelous about today for you, Reader? What are you reading and cooking? Can you predict when I'll settle down about fall's arrival?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekends with Wish

A Keeshond like Wish is known for being a family dog who loves to hang out with his people, and we love relaxing with him at home, especially on the weekends. He definitely naps more than we do, but he also likes to see what we're doing and be part of the group (especially when it involves grilling, cooking, opening bags of food or eating).

(Also, remember when I said I'd only blog about Wish once per week? Sara makes fun of me every time I break that rule, which I admit has become often. Sorry, Readers.)

Anyway, on Saturday, I tried a black bean dip recipe for the big, epic Tennessee versus Florida football game, and he eagerly supervised to make sure we were eating our snack neatly:

Alas, later that night, the game unfortunately went terribly far out of Tennessee's favor. While Josh and I were cringing, I looked over at Wish, who had decided he couldn't even bear to watch anymore:

After a leisurely walk this morning (+5) he found out that today was Get Wish's Nails Clipped Day (-100!!). He did not love this experience, but he got through it and his nails are much nicer. (And it was over so quickly that I only had a chance to grab him a new toy - read on - and didn't get to thoroughly peruse the pet Halloween costumes!) On the car ride home, he was all smiles.

Later, when he was snoozing, we played with his funny little mullet ear fur (-2, if he would've been awake).

The day also included another long walk...and a new squeaky football! (+100)

He hasn't even torn it apart yet, so it has lasted at least five hours (another +50).

Hope your weekend included some time to kick back, too, Reader. Did you watch football this weekend? Do you support Halloween costumes for animals, or do you think they're ridiculous? (Hint: I think you probably know my answer.) And what are you looking forward to this week?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bear Water Run recap

I wrote a big old preview of this race yesterday and decided to save it for today's recap instead. Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about my feelings on the Bear Water Run!

I'd been excited all week for this event, which is put on by the White Bear Lake Lions Club and offers a 10- or 20-mile distance. A lot of people approach it as more of a run than a race, though: it's always held three weeks before Twin Cities Marathon, so most people are running their last 20-miler before Twin Cities on this weekend anyway and so you get a nice crowd of fall marathoners.

More signs of fall
Do you ever have those memories of events that you only remember as fun and nice and you block out anything that wasn't fun and nice? That's how I feel about this race. I've run it twice before, once on my own and once with Molly, who I missed this year! It's lowkey but always draws a good crowd, is well-run, and offers a change of scenery (on a beautiful course, no less). It's usually the time of year when the weather turns wonderful, and I always picture this race as peaceful and beautiful and fun, thus completely forgetting about the running-20-miles part. I really like this one.

This weekend, my marathon training plan had called for 14 miles of the long run done at marathon goal pace. This is tougher than a normal long run, which you'd ideally run considerably slower than your goal pace, so I tried to find a half-marathon or longer on the race calendar. It's easier to practice racing in a race setting than all by your lonesome! I leapt at the chance to run Bear Water. My plan: 3 miles easy, 14 miles at goal pace, 3 miles "cooldown" to round out 20 miles.

Other basic details: Weather was perfect again, with temps in the low 50s. Breakfast: my fall pre-long run breakfast: oatmeal with peanut butter. Outfit: tank top, shorts, sun glasses, visor. (There needs to be a less-weird word for visor.) I arrived with just enough time to get to the check-in area, pick up my number, go back to my car to grab race stuff, and make it back to the starting line.

The first 14 miles or so went by really quickly. The course is two loops, essentially circling White Bear Lake, and the hills are pretty rolling (a detail I'd apparently forgotten). There are great cheer zones at the water stops, which are stationed every two miles. Those are always run by school or community groups and are always themed: this year included zombies, '80s and pool party/under the sea.

(By the way, the whole morning was a little extra-fun this year because I had just read Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl's Diary of Life on Summit Avenue During the Jazz Age - which, if you didn't already catch me raving about it in a previous post, is wonderful. Anyway, the girl in the title is Coco, and Coco's family summered on White Bear Lake in the 1920s, so I daydreamed a little about that in different parts of the race.)

I settled into my goal marathon pace three miles into the first loop and actually kept purposely slowing myself down to keep myself on pace. I felt great but knew it was a long workout, and I didn't want to get mentally tricked by running too hard to close the first loop with a big, long second loop waiting on the other side. The second loop definitely did get tougher, but I stayed on my goal pace and finished the 14-mile workout with an average about 10 seconds per mile faster than what I'd been aiming for. Hooray!

The last three miles were no joke, though. Luckily, I had a water stop to look forward to at Mile 18, and then it was an "eight-laps-around-the-track-left" kind of countdown that went by fairly quickly.  I crossed the finish line feeling pretty good.

Hi! All done.
Then I almost immediately saw my friend Meghan, who was there cheering for her husband. I got into the food line and remembered that this race includes jumbo pickle spears in their selection. (Yum. Don't knock it til you've tried it!)

I walked past one of White Bear Lake's beaches on the way back to my car, and the temperatures had warmed enough so there were a few people sitting on the sand. Minnesota in September can be so wonderful.

So there you have it! I can't believe I only have two more long, long runs before I start my three-week taper. I told Molly last night that even though my marathon falls several weeks after the big Midwest marathons (Twin Cities and Chicago), I kind of love training for a marathon later in October because I get to run all the way through the best weeks of fall in the Twin Cities. If today was any indication, I think those weeks are right around the corner.