My crazy running friends…

The group of runners that I hang out with here in the northwest metro are a… special bunch. Or maybe I should say they’re “interesting” in that Minnesota “interesting” sort of way. Granted, I’m one of them, so I guess this could also be self-analysis, but what a couple of them came up with for yesterday brought it to a new level.

They decided that it would be wild to run a marathon… around a baseball diamond. That means 384.55 laps around the bases, all in the same direction. Hence, the inaugural Sandlot Marathon was born. I hadn’t planned on running it myself, as I felt like I needed more traditional training at this point in my build up. However, I figured I’d show up for my recovery run and get a few miles under my belt. Jacking up my back on Friday meant that any miles I did at the sandlot would be walking.

IMG_2361.JPGI arrived just as they were launching. My friend Brian did a lap in a T-Rex suit before stripping it off and sprinting to get back into position. For most of the time, the main group of guys stuck together, with an occasional person deciding to sprint for a lap to gain a slight advantage. I grabbed my coffee and started some laps, deciding to try and get in at least two miles of base walking.

IMG_2367.JPGAs the day warmed up the snow on the diamond melted and deformed. Shelly, Amy and Julie worked with shovels and rakes to get things smoothed around, and since I was walking, I decided to drag the rake behind me as I lapped around. It was actually a lot of fun, and hopefully it helped keep things a bit smoother for the crazy folks.

PC: Shelly

After my two miles were done I took a break and hung out for a while. I then got a text from my wife that she was finishing up her 25 mile run and was only 3.5 miles away. At that point I decided to hang out for a bit longer and wait for her. Since I was going to be there for a bit I decided to keep moving and managed to knock out another 2+ miles of tiny baseball diamond loops.

Eventually Lisa arrived and we needed to get going to get to the MN United FC home opener game (another amazing part of this weekend!). I bid farewell to everyone and walked back to our car. Throughout the day I kept tabs on progress, and sure enough all of the guys who started the race managed to finish a full marathon around a small baseball diamond. This is an amazing, and crazy feat, and I’m proud to call these guys friends. A little bit of crazy sometimes makes life fun and enjoyable, and these guys brought it in spades yesterday. Congrats Tim, Mark, Andy, Brian and Matt!

PC: Tim


The year of 44

Today marks another milestone of another year around the sun. Today I turn 44. When you’re a kid you (for some reason) decide that you need a favorite number, to go along with your favorite color. I don’t remember why, but I chose 44. I’ve used ’44’ many times in online handles or game personas, and in general I smile when I see the number. Now that 44 is my age, I feel compelled to make this year significant.

I started out the day on a high point. I had to do a 24 mile run this week for my training plan, and so I decided to shift my schedule and take Friday off of work and do it for my birthday. I put up a quick event in my running group and sure enough I had a handful of people join me for the early morning start. In fact, my friend Wendi came out and stuck with me for the full distance, despite never wanting to get up before 9am to run.

IMG_2344.jpgWe started out nice and early, with the plan to do 3 full horse trail loops, adding in a little extra where we could to make them close to 8 miles each. The first loop flew by, and I nailed my scheduled itinerary on the nose. For my second loop my friend Tim M. came out to join us. Despite being much, MUCH, faster than me, he stuck with Wendi and I and we once again nailed a solid 1:40:00 loop. This was once again exactly where I said I would be, and I was pleased. About mile 20 my friend Mark met up with us and we continued on our way. At mile 21, everything fell apart.

IMG_2343.jpgRight now, because of all of the melt and re-freeze, there is a LOT of ice on the horse trails. Until the ground softens more it doesn’t have many places to go, and so it ends up turning into a crunchy, uneven mess, or glare ice. I had slipped a bit at one point, but wasn’t too bad. However, at mile 21 I stepped the wrong direction, to avoid a different patch of ice, and planted my foot on a mound of perfectly clear glare ice. Next thing I knew my right butt-cheek was smacking hard into the ground. I rolled over and winced in pain.

I got up slowly, my hands slightly scarred from trying to catch myself, and I knew I had jammed my back really good. It cause enough of an impact on my body that for a few moments my ears were ringing. Hopefully, that doesn’t mean a concussion, but for sure I know my back is going to be very sore for a couple days. I got up and we kept moving. I tried running a couple steps and knew that it was all done. The final miles would all have to be walking.

The amazing thing is, my friends are amazing. I told them to feel free and go on without me, but they stuck with me. When we met up with Andy a mile from the finish, he also joined in and we formed a walking pack for the final stretch. I had originally planned on finishing out the leftover portion of the 24 miles when we got back to the parking lot, but at that point I was done. I stopped my watch at 23.58 miles and called it a day. That was close enough, considering I was in a lot of pain.

IMG_2348.jpgWendi then went to her car and pulled out a yummy cake, and we pulled some beers from the trunk of our cars and enjoyed a mid-day birthday snack. Getting to spend time with amazing people like this, who are willing to stick with you after things go wrong, is a true testament to how caring trail people can be. We enjoyed out snack and then headed out our separate ways.

I made a couple stops on the way home for food and such, and then made my way to my house for a shower and recovery. Once I was cleaned up I eventually took a nap to try and recover some more. Rest felt good, and I’m hoping that rest is all my back needs, so that I can get back at it. Once I woke up it was nearing the time for my wife to get home and go to dinner. Both of my kids have been recovering from being sick, so we postponed the big family dinner till Monday, and Lisa and I just headed to a fast-casual place for burgers.

IMG_2350.jpgAnd now it’s time for me to sit, relax, drink more beer, and reflect on the day, and the year to come. I feel like there are going to be some changes this year. I don’t know exactly what they will be, but it’s starting to feel like things are coming together. Maybe a job change, or perhaps some new adventures in places we hadn’t planned. My running might really stick this year and I’ll run some events that I’ve only dreamed of. I feel like the options are open, and for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling hopeful.

Maybe it’s just the beer, but perhaps I can make this hopeful feeling last a bit. My life is only half over, so there’s plenty of time for new adventures, and new experiences with the people I love. Bring it on 44. I’m ready.

When the run feels good

My running schedule this week is a bit off. My birthday is Friday, and I’m taking the day off of work. Because we have the MN United home opener on Saturday, I’m going to move my long run to Friday this week instead of Saturday. That will give me more time Saturday morning before the 1:00pm game. Because this shifts my entire week a bit, I decided to do my Tuesday morning run tonight (Monday).

This worked out for a couple reasons, the first being that my run was scheduled to be 9 miles. That normally means I need to get up at 4am to get it done before work. Secondly, the temps tonight were amazing, in the mid-30s. It would be in the 20s at 4am, so tonight sounded much more appealing. Therefore, I packed up after dinner and headed out.

My plan had been to do my traditional 6 mile loop, followed by my 3 mile loop. However, about a mile into it, I made the choice to take a left instead of a right and take a slightly bigger loop. As I proceeded out of my neighborhood the loop got bigger and bigger, until I managed to swing all the way down to Columbia Heights and turn the entire evening into one big 9 mile loop.

I ended up having a blast doing some urban exploring through neighborhoods, and thinking on my feet as to where to turn next to keep the loop nice and big. At one point my headlamp batteries died, and as luck would have it I was only a block from a Walgreen’s. They take Apple Pay, and so I grabbed some new AAA’s and was off again. My eventual goal was to make it over to Main Street in Fridley, crossing back over 694 on the new pedestrian/bike bridge they just completed this summer.

I stopped on the bridge and snapped a quick selfie with the freeway as the backdrop. The grin on my face tells the story of how much fun I was having. I wasn’t going quite as fast as I wanted to, but that was mostly due to a lot of patches of refreezing ice. My slightly slower pace also meant that I was pretty well rested and felt amazing. I was relaxed, my feet felt good (partially thanks to some brand new shoes), and I was able to just lock into cruise control.

Soon I was back into my subdivision, only to receive a call from my boss about something at work I needed to take care of. That put a bit of fire back in my step, and my 9th mile was sub-10, my fastest of the night. I arrived home feeling really good and strong. I’m tired for sure, but I know I could have kept going if I had wanted to.

I love it when a run feels good, and you feel the joy of the endorphins. Tonight was one of those nights that makes me remember why I do this crazy stuff. I got to get a great run in, and I combined it with a bit of urban exploration, which always a bit of fun for me. I know every run won’t feel like this, so I’m going to savor this one for a bit and try and remember it for as long as I can.

Quick Review: Coco

The wife and I finally got around to renting Coco, the most recent film from Pixar. In the past I used to be a stickler for seeing Pixar films in the theater, as they were one of my favorite studios for storytelling and stunning visuals. However, as the kids got older, and life got busier, we just don’t get to the theater as much as we want.

We had heard a lot of great things about Coco, but I was lucky enough to go into it now really knowing anything significant. All I knew is that it involved a young boy who liked to play music, and somehow ended up in the land of the dead. I didn’t know anything else about the story, and I liked it that way. From this point on **** SPOILERS ****

Continue reading “Quick Review: Coco”

The lessons of winter

There are many things that winter teaches you in Minnesota. How to dress appropriately, the difference between types of snow, and often, how to simply have fun and enjoy it. However, one lesson that we were reminded of this year was that it’s always better to deal with the aftermath of a snowstorm in the morning than in the middle of the day.

Back in January we had a big storm roll through; nothing out of the ordinary, just a basic 6-8 incher. The problem was that it started around mid-day, after everyone had gone to work already. St. Paul Public Schools didn’t decide to end the school day early until it was far too late, and they paid the price. Many of their busses got stuck on the streets, and some kids didn’t make it home until after midnight. It was a complete debacle and PR nightmare.

This weekend the weather started to predict a big snow for Monday. As the hours got closer and closer it appeared that we were in for another repeat performance with a heavy snow hitting around mid-day again. After having learned their lesson in January, almost every school district in the area announced on Sunday eventing that they closed for the day Monday. Frankly, it was a wise move.

However, the weather decided to take it’s time, and the apart from a bunch of freezing drizzle, the main snow didn’t start to fall until late afternoon in the cities. Having lived in Minnesota almost my entire life, I know that tomorrow will be cries of complaint that there was no reason for school to be closed. Despite the fact that even the slightest shift of the storm track could have caused a repeat of January.

You see, in Minnesota our memories are short and selective when it comes to weather. We complain about the cold, or the snow, or the horrible job that the snow plows do. But then we forget that we’ve done this over and over, every year for all of the lives that we’ve lived here. Nothing we’re experiencing this winter is that different from any other winter in our history. In fact climate change has made things even a bit milder than when we were young.

Yet, we keep thinking that weathermen are all-knowing seers who can predict a storm path to the very minute and square foot. We believe that All-Wheel-Drive means we’re invincible and can ignore all road conditions. And we think that our lives are so busy and important that we can’t be inconvenienced, even a bit, to just let nature do it’s thing.

Fellow Minnesotans, let’s try, just this once, to remember what winter here is like, why we respect it, and why it’s an important part of what makes us who we are. Tough, bold, and hearty.