Wednesday, April 30, 2014


One of my favorite ongoing 101 in 1,001 projects is the monthly photo project, which requires taking one photo per month in the same location to see how the place changes over the year. (I shared the halfway point report back in January.) I appreciated the project again this week, in the midst of steady rain (and even some snow).

Ready for the difference between March and April? I could hardly believe it. Here it is:

I like that green grass.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tiny leaves

In this part of Minnesota, rain is falling and the wind is howling.

But from a walk earlier in the weekend: a little, welcome sign of what's to come.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Art crawl

On Friday night, my brother, sister, sister's boyfriend and I went to the semi-annual St. Paul Art Crawl to see two of our cousins, who are among more than 300 artists exhibiting their work this weekend in more than 17 buildings. We walked all over St. Paul's Lowertown and Downtown neighborhoods on a pretty spring evening.

 Along the way, we peeked inside the recently (and beautifully) renovated Union Depot, learned more about the neighborhood and Art Crawl's history, and got to see our talented cousins and their work. I've visited the Art Crawl before, but this year's visit (and reading about it afterward) gave me a better understanding of its significance, scope, and how it showcases the vibrant arts community here. It's a remarkable event.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

For one of the marbles

Spotted on a rainy walk:

My grandma has jars and jars full of these pretty little marbles at her house, and I was fascinated by them when I was a kid. I'm glad they are still around.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A few Colorado miles

Curious to explore my surroundings, I ventured out for a couple of short early morning runs during our time in Colorado.

On the first run, with no particular plan beyond a basic out-and-back adventure, I trotted up the road by our hotel. The mountains were farther away than they look, I think, but the view still served as pretty great motivation to keep moving forward (to get closer to the mountains):

I was running parallel to another mountain, so I never got closer to the next one (but still admired it):

And a few of the peaks (but not the cows) reminded me of the vistas in the Great Smoky Mountains:

On my next run, the peaks were completely obscured by rain clouds and fog. I felt lucky that I had gotten the chance to see a glimpse of them earlier.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Our Colorado visit

Tonight we're back in Minnesota after a few days with family in Colorado.

We usually stay in Josh's hometown, but this time we stayed in a city about an hour away so we could spend lots of time with his mom, who is receiving treatment at the hospital there. She is in good spirits and being well cared for by the wonderful hospital staff and many friends and family members who stopped by for visits. Our time in Colorado also included celebrating our nephew's eighth birthday, the first year we've gotten to celebrate in person with him.

It sounds like spring has been feisty in Colorado, too, bringing some late snowfall to parts of the state. During our visit, though, the transition to the new season felt a week or two ahead of Minnesota:

We are grateful to have been able to spend this time with our family.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A new skyline view

This evening I was over in Minneapolis for a meeting, and I squeezed in a run before the meeting. I looped around Dinkytown and part of the University of Minnesota, and on a whim I ran up a trail to the Witch's Hat Water Tower in Prospect Park.

You can only go all the way up once a year (and I do believe I'll mark my calendar), but even the view from the water tower's base was striking:

I liked this new-to-me peek at the Minneapolis skyline.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A different season

In this stretch of weeks after the snow cover has melted but before the leaves pop out and summer stampedes into town, it's looking a lot like autumn around my running paths. Today I meandered down to the river, and the slope down to the riverbanks was still covered with a blanket of leaves. Add a gray and chilly day (and some snowflakes), and it did feel like fall.

The buds on the trees, though, tell a different story: spring is on its way.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Trail Mix 25K report

Last week, I opened the pre-race email from the Trail Mix 25K organizers. An excerpt: "The course at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve presents classic spring conditions, which makes running both fun and messy."

That sentence perfectly captured the spirit of the morning.

Molly and I ran this race two years ago when the course was at Hyland Lake Park Reserve, and we decided to sign up for this year's event not because we were overly prepared to run 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) but because we wanted to try out the trails at Lake Rebecca, this year's site. Because of our schedules, we did our last few long runs separately but both worked up to 12 miles or so. (And along the way, Molly also recruited another running buddy, who had also worked up to 12 miles, so we were a well-matched trio.)

With a plan to complete the 25K distance at an easy, relaxed pace, the three of us drove over Lake Rebecca (about 40 minutes west of Minneapolis) in a steady rain. The forecast called for some rain in the race's first hour, and with a gusty wind at the start, I decided to keep a light jacket on, at least for the first lap. I was never actually cold but ended up wearing it the whole time and was grateful for it when we ran through more open stretches. The rain stopped just before the 25K started.

We figured out quickly that course was not too technical. It was primarily on soft, wide horse trails that looked like this:

We were able to run side by side by side most of the race, which was great for our conversations. Also great for our conversations: the race field spread out quickly, so for most of our time out there, it felt like we were running trails by ourselves.

Some sections were wide open:

In other parts, the course was winding through big woods.

In one wooded section, we watched a deer bounding along the course, and we were amazed by its speed.

In lower areas and more shaded sections, it was muddy. Forgive this blurry image, but I had to get one photo of one of the muddiest stretches, and stopping for a better-composed photo was not an option in this section of the course.

Our race (there was also a 50K) was two 12.5K loops, with three aid stations per loop, so that structure alone broke the distance up nicely. (I took a liking to the flat Coca-Cola at the aid stations. I also ate some trail mix later in the race because I love that the Trail Mix race provides trail mix among its snack options.) With the three of us chatting, the miles really flew by. Truly, we had finished 11 or 12 miles before I even started to wonder how much was left. The other neat part about the later miles was that after mile 13 or so, it was the longest distance our friend had ever run, so we were celebrating her accomplishment.

With a mile to go, all of a sudden, I was tuckered out and ready to be done with the run. The sun popped out as we approached the finish line, and I felt that quiet little jolt of pride that sneaks up on me at the end of long races. And then we were done!

We picked up our finisher shirts and selected some snacks (salty potato chips and chocolate milk sounded good to me). Then we sat down for a few stretches and to take stock of the mud we had accumulated. (Thanks to Molly for taking this picture.)

We also appreciated that, before the race, all three of us had an inkling to replace our running shoes sometime soon.

I really appreciated this event. It was low-key but very well-organized, the volunteers and park staff were helpful and kind, and while it was not particularly spectator friendly (especially on a cool, gray day), exploring the Lake Rebecca trail system was a big draw for us. My friends and I had a great run, "classic spring conditions" and all, and I would do this race again in a second.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Morning clouds

I typically carry my camera with me for about half of my running mileage, but it has accompanied me more than usual lately. I think it's because I find the changeover to this new season so striking: buds on the trees, stronger sunlight (and more sunlight), rain instead of snow. (It's hard to believe that a week ago today I was snowshoeing.)

Because I'm running a long (long for me right now) trail race tomorrow morning, I wanted to squeeze a few miles in before work so I could rest this evening. (I usually take a rest day two days before a race or longer run and then run a few gentle miles the day before.)

The sky was beautiful and unusual as the sunrise interacted with all kinds of clouds: purple rain clouds in one direction, wispy cirrus clouds against deep blue skies in another.

And guess what? Less than an hour later, it was raining.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Around town

In the last week, I have been grateful for fresh air, long walks, sunrises, a furry dog, and - most of all - the immense kindness of our family and friends.

A few of the recent sights around town:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Chain of Lakes

For a change of pace, I decided to drive over to the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis for yesterday morning's eight-miler. Though I volunteered at events at Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun this winter, I don't remember the last time I ran around the lakes (as far back as last fall or even last summer?) and the spring weather had me wondering what it was like over there.

Even though there was more snow than I expected, I was glad I went. I love my St. Paul routes, but the views of the lakes, the yellow willow trees, and the Minneapolis skyline were a treat.

I looped parts of three lakes (Calhoun, Isles and Harriet) before heading back to St. Paul. I won't wait as long for my next visit.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April snow

From what I can tell, the meteorologists called this snowstorm right. On Thursday evening overnight into Friday, 7-8 inches of snow piled up in our backyard.

Look at the transformation in 24 hours:

I went out to look around. My mode of transportation:

Honestly, I had hoped to snowshoe more this winter than I actually did, but I couldn't have imagined that I'd have another chance on April 4.

Some peeks from my trek:

With temperatures soaring into the 50s (and beyond?) by the end of the weekend and into next week, this snow cover shouldn't last long. We are all ready for that warmer weather's arrival, but I liked tromping around the neighborhood on snowshoes during what may be the season's last snowstorm.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Art on a snowy evening

Tonight Sara took me to the Matisse exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. On loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art, it's a massive collection of prints, paintings and sculptures from a career that spanned six decades. I did not know much about Matisse before we went, and I was still struck by how much I learned about the artist, his process, and all of the context behind his art (as well as the Baltimore sisters who amassed a large collection of Matisse's work during the Gilded Age). This exhibit runs through mid-May, and I do recommend it.

After the exhibit, we went outside and learned that the freezing rain has switched over completely to snow. It's true that it did look more like December than April - but it made for a pretty walk back to the car.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shadow mural

On this morning's run, I was watching the sun rise and marveling at the view.

And then I turned around and saw something maybe even prettier, in a quieter way: